“It was kind of eerie, between having case files and evidentiary photos in my home office in my house, it was kind of like getting inside his head and he was getting inside mine as I was writing it,” Kaye said of his new book, “Beware the Cable Guy: From Cop To Serial Killer.” “The aura around my home office the whole time I was writing was eerie. I’ve since moved (the files and photos) out of my office but it was like I moved death into my house.”
Kaye, a member of the Reno Police department from 1982 through 2006, was a patrol officer when the body of Kathy Powell, a school teacher from Sun Valley, was discovered in a dumpster in south Reno in 1985. Law enforcement agencies in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County eventually caught and convicted David Middleton, a former Florida police officer and the only known cop turned serial killer in America. In Reno, Middleton worked as a cable installer, a job through which he gained access to victim’s homes. After his capture, police found that Middleton tortured his victims in a “makeshift chamber of horrors” before killing them.
Kaye was not directly involved in most of the case but he became fascinated with it and was friends with several of the lead investigators. This weekend Kaye will be signing copies of his book at three different locations in Reno.
Middleton’s case interested Kaye for several reasons. First, there was the unusual aspect of Middleton’s former life as a cop, a career that ended when he was investigated and fired for sexual assault and kidnapping. Then there was the part of the case involving Middleton’s quiet dismissal from the Florida police force and what Kaye characterizes as bungled investigations in Colorado of another Middleton victim — which allowed Middleton to go free to move to Reno where he killed two women.
“If I gain nothing else (from writing this book),” Kaye told the Sparks Tribune from his home in La Quinta, Calif., “if somebody prosecutes Middleton for the Colorado murder I’ll be happy.”
In addition to spending many hours in Washoe County researching public documents about the case, Kaye said he got to know the parents of the young Colorado woman believed to be a Middleton victim. Kaye also interviewed police and prosecutors about the case to add personality to the characters that couldn’t be gleaned from a police report. He wrote to Middleton, who is awaiting execution at Nevada State Prison, to request an interview but never received a reply.
Nonetheless, Kaye has written a thorough account of the the grisly events that took place in 1985 in northern Nevada and the events in other parts of the country that led up to them. His writing style would make Joe Friday proud — “Just the facts, ma’am” — as the story is told in a straightforward style that leaves no doubt it was written by a law enforcement officer. Kaye said he has spoken with other authors and taken classes to hone his writing skills, but the cop in him is evident in his descriptions of crime scenes, interviews and investigations.
“Beware the Cable Guy” is Kaye’s third book and his second to be published. For much of his career, Kaye ran Reno’s Consolidated Narcotics Unit and worked undercover. His first book to be published was a work of crime fiction based on his training in the psychological effects of undercover police work. Kaye’s second book, which is yet to be published, is also a fictional story about drugs being sold across the U.S./Mexico border and funneling cash back to Mexico to fund terrorism.
When it came time to write a true-life story, Kaye said the task was more difficult.
“True crime is tough because you really have to do your homework on it,” said Kaye, who now works as head of safety for a school district in California. “If you get your facts wrong you could be open to libel.”
Once he tackled the fact-gathering, Kaye said, the nature of the Middleton story made his job as an author somewhat easier.
“Once I got done with the research on the book, going through case files here (in Washoe County) and in Colorado, the book practically wrote itself,” he said. “It already had a beginning, middle and end.”
The end of Middleton’s story is not yet truly written. He is sitting in jail awaiting his death sentence, and his most recent appeal in 2007 was denied, though there could be many more to come. From the description of Middleton by investigators interviewed by Kaye, jail is where Middleton should stay.
“One of the detectives (who worked on the case) said ‘devil’ and another said ‘Satan,’ ” Kaye said, recalling a description of the convicted killer by two Reno officers inside the investigation.
Kaye will be signing copies of his book on Friday at Dreamer’s Coffee House, 17 S. Virginia St. in Reno from 5 to 8 p.m.; Saturday at Sundance Bookstore, 1155 W. Fourth St. in Reno at 1 p.m.; and Sunday at Borders Bookstore, 4995 S. Virginia St. in Reno at 1 p.m. Proceeds from this weekend’s book sales will go to a fund for widows and children of fallen Reno Police officers. The book, “Beware the Cable Guy: From Cop to Serial Killer” is available for purchase at Amazon.com.