HOUSTON -- One of his favorite songs, “Bye, Bye Blackbird,” was a song of leaving, but the friends of saxophonist Darby Suiter say they never thought he’d depart the way he did.
“This is not the way he should have gone out of life. Not at all,” said Suiter’s longtime friend, Gloria Acker.
Suiter, 85, was the victim of a brutal, bloody and unsolved attack.
“Who knew that something like this would happen to anybody, let alone someone I consider a dear friend,” Acker said.
He was a friend who not only spent his life as a big band musician, but who also turned out to have another talent.
“He was a genius when it came to money, dollars and stocks,” said Acker.
The quiet, kind, frugal man, who dressed in secondhand clothes, was also an attorney and a master at investing and real estate. He’d accumulated interests in apartments, homes and even the Rice Hotel until he ended up with $50 million in the bank.
And he kept some of that money in an unusual place.
“I had seen the box. It was mostly bands of $100 bills,” said his cousin Carlton Suiter.
It was nearly $1 million in a 7x15 inch shoebox by his bed. It’s a quirk that Carlton Suiter believes led to tragedy.
“You just cannot imagine how terrible the site was,” he said.
It was November 15, 2011 and Darby was living in Montrose in the 3400 block of Roseland. He and Carlton had plans for dinner that night.
“I called about 5:30 to say I was on the way, running a little late. He answered the phone and everything was perfectly ok,” Carlton explained.
But when he arrived a mere 45 minutes later, he found Darby’s front door open. Inside was a nightmare.
“The inside of the townhome was a trail of blood,” Suiter recalled.
A trail that started where an intruder attacked him and then dragged him from spot to spot beating him.
Police investigators believe he wanted Darby’s shoebox.
Carlton eventually found Darby slumped over his desk. He was beaten and bloody.
“Where he was sitting, there were teeth on the floor,” Suiter said in disgust.
And while the shoebox was there, the money was gone.
Darby Suiter was rushed to the hospital where his mouth was wired shut. He was unable to speak or move, but that didn’t stop Darby’s longtime lawyer and friend, Bill Boyd, from visiting and talking with his client.
“We felt as if Darby could hear us,” said Boyd. “We talked about who might have done it. Of course, he didn’t respond and I made the comment, ‘Darby, it had to be a left-handed person because the right side of your face is so badly beaten,’ and he just nodded.”
And then one day, after six months in a medical facility, Darby Suiter passed away.
“This person who committed this crime has to be very, very sick,” said Boyd.
It’s a person police want to find.
Houston police detective Joel Burton says they began with the obvious: Anyone who knew about the money in the box.
“A lot of people knew about this shoebox,” Sgt. Burton told the KHOU 11 News I-Team. “Mr. Suiter made an outcry about the shoebox. It’s one thing he could say before he was unable to talk due to his injuries.”
Detectives believe the murder of Darby Suiter is a solvable case.
Just last week, police questioned more people and tested new evidence found inside Suiter’s home that they hope will lead them to his killer.
Crime Stoppers is offering a $30,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.