James Fulton has been putting up billboards in a field that sits beside the 1-10 freeway as it cuts through Vidor, Texas, on its way from Los Angeles to Florida for nearly 30 years.
The signs have changed over time but the message remains the same: in 1991, Kathy Page was raped and murdered, and the local police have done nothing to solve it.
Today, Kathy’s murder is still unsolved, even though her estranged husband Steve Page was found liable for her death in a 2000 civil trial and remains the prime suspect, according to cops.
Until the case is concluded and the killer ‘put in the pen for a few years’, Fulton, now 86, says the billboards will stay – ‘until I die if they have to’.
To anyone who has seen the Oscar-nominated movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the 86-year-old’s story will sound familiar.
Although the bereaved parent in the film is a woman named Mildred Hayes, the reaction is the same – a trio of billboards slamming the local police department for their incompetence.
Fulton is now down to a single sign but his original three – ‘Vidor Police Botched Up The Case’, ‘Waiting For Confession’, ‘This Could Happen To You’ – bear a striking resemblance to those in the film: ‘Raped While Dying’, ‘How Come Chief Willoughby?’, ‘Still No Arrests’.
Kathy Page, 39, was raped and strangled to death in 1991, and her case remains unsolved. Her furious family have since blamed local police for the handling of the case in a series of billboards which inspired the Oscar-nominated film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Page’s father James Fulton is now down to a single sign but his original three – ‘Vidor Police Botched Up The Case’, ‘Waiting For Confession’, ‘This Could Happen To You’ have made their mark on the community (pictured in 1994)
Fulton believes Page’s estranged husband Steve Page killed her and he blames local police for botching the case. Ever since 1993, he has put up billboards that accuse Page and condemn the police. Pictured: One of Fulton’s billboards
Fulton (pictured), 86, told DailyMailTV that the billboards will stay – ‘until I die if they have to’. He said he acted because ‘the police weren’t doing anything. I didn’t see that I had a choice, the way I look at it’
His first three signs bear a striking resemblance to those in the critically acclaimed film: ‘Raped While Dying’, ‘How Come Chief Willoughby?’, ‘Still No Arrests’. Pictured: Still from the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri starring Frances McDormand
Among Fulton’s past efforts is a board that reads ‘I believe my daughter was raped while she was being strangled to death’, while the current sign includes pictures of Kathy and her alleged killer.
The accompanying message says: ‘Steve Page Brutally Murdered His Wife In 1991. Vidor P.D Does Not Want To Solve This Case. I Believe They Took A Bribe. The Attorney General Should Investigate. James Fulton – Her Father.’
Despite the similarities, Fulton has not seen the movie because ‘it will bring back too many bad memories’ but his daughter Sherry Valentine, 58, has and says she has no doubt the film was inspired by her father.
‘I saw that movie and I was never more proud of dad than to see those billboards up,’ Valentine told DailyMailTV in an exclusive interview.
‘In the movie, the lady was so determined and that’s like my dad also. They are the same like that. There was nothing done out of spite.
‘But you have to do something because time, it’ll creep up on you and it steals evidence – the people involved die and such. So you just have to do what you can to solve it.
‘Like I said, I’m very proud of my dad for putting up the signs in the first place. I’m ready to put up some more if that’s what it takes.’
The facts of the Kathy Page case make for grim reading. A 34-year-old mother of two young daughters, the pretty blonde spent most of her life in Vidor where she worked as a waitress.
Described by her family as gregarious and ‘a lot of fun’, Kathy’s good-looks made her popular with Vidor’s male population and in November 1981, aged just 21, she married local boy Steve Page.
An insurance salesman who loved to play basketball, Page swept Kathy off her feet and initially had her family’s approval.
‘I thought he was a nice guy,’ Kathy’s older sister Diane Daigle told DailyMailTV. Fulton added: ‘I liked him. I thought he was fine.’
The 34-year-old’s body was discovered slumped inside her black Mercury Tracer car. She had been beaten and strangled. Later, it was claimed that she had also been raped. Pictured: Page in a beauty shot (left) and with her oldest daughter Erin, now 38
The Fultons believe her estranged husband Steve Page (pictured) raped her while strangling her. Page insisted in an interview with DailyMailTV that there is no evidence of rape and said that forensic evidence showed she had been strangled by a left-handed killer
Valentine, however, claims to have nursed qualms from the start. ‘I always thought of Steve as being a pretty arrogant person,’ she said.
‘I never thought that he was her companion type person she would want to be with. I thought he was pretty much just the opposite of Kathy. I didn’t want them to ever be married.’
Nevertheless, on November 18, 1981, the couple married and soon after, their eldest daughter Erin, now 38, was born. A second daughter, Monica, followed four years later.
The relationship proved rocky, with frequent break-ups and make-ups. By 1991, it was over – with Kathy asking Page for a ‘friendly’ divorce while he had reluctantly agreed to move out.
In the 2000 civil trial, Page, now 61 and living in Houston, admitted as much, telling the jury: ‘It [the divorce] wasn’t something I was looking forward to.’
Valentine has also suggested that a ‘controlling’ Page physically harmed his wife, noting bruises on her arms in the run up to her death. Page has flatly denied ever beating Kathy.
On May 13, 1991, Page moved out to a nearby condo but returned to the house that same day to help wash the car and to care for their children while his estranged wife enjoyed an evening out.
Kathy, dressed in white jeans and a gray top, spent the evening at a hotel in Beaumont six miles away with a boyfriend named during the civil trial as ‘Tom’.
Friends – and Tom, who was later cleared of any involvement in her death – say she left at roughly 2.00am. She was never seen alive again.
Less than three hours later, the 34-year-old’s body was discovered slumped inside her black Mercury Tracer car. She had been beaten and strangled. Later, it was claimed that she had also been raped.
Kathy also had a broken nose although only a small quantity of blood was found on her body – on the back of her neck – leading investigators to conclude she had been killed elsewhere.
Fulton also put up this billboard that declares: ‘This is Orange County – City of Vidor Here you get by with brutally murdering a woman’
This sign by Fulton, in part says: ‘The Vidor Police Department that did not solve my daughter’s murder will be assisting you with any complaints or problems of this so called “park”‘
The car was discovered by a paperboy half-hidden in a ditch, a few meters short of her home. Police say the scene had been set up to look like an accident.
‘My dad came to my house at six o’clock in the morning,’ Valentine says of the day Kathy died. ‘I was waiting for him to come over to do something else, but he came in his dress clothes, not his regular overalls.
‘From that, I knew something was wrong. He told me that my sister had been killed, that she had died. He said that she was gone and I said, gone where? And he said, no she’s gone.
‘I was pregnant at the time and my heart just fell out of my soul.’
The family rushed to console Page, who had been informed the same day. In the police report, detectives noted that he stared down the road to the crime scene before being told what happened and showed no emotion on being told his wife was dead.
According to the Fultons, who say they began to suspect Page within days of the murder, this is evidence of his guilt.
Page, however, told DailyMailTV that his muted reaction was the result of shock. ‘Do you cry when you’re in shock?’ he said.
‘My only thought is what am I going to tell the damn kids about their mother? The kids are about to get up because it’s school time. They’re going to wake up and what am I supposed to say?
‘I don’t know if I cried or not. I was in shock. Sometimes you cry, sometimes you don’t. Everybody handles things differently.’
Nonetheless, by the end of the week, he had been named the prime suspect after the autopsy found Kathy’s make-up and jewelry had been removed prior to her death – suggesting she had been home.
‘Kathy had to have come home,’ Daigle, 62, told DailyMailTV. ‘The car was staged to make it look like an accident and it wasn’t one, you could tell it wasn’t one.’
In this April 1994 photo, James Fulton and his daughter Diane Daigle confront Vidor Police Chief Butch Reynolds, left, in Vidor, Texas, about Kathy’s death investigation
The Fultons insist that the Vidor Police Department was biased in Page’s favor because of his friendship with Detective Ray Mosely who grew up on his street. Pictured l-r: Sherry Valentine, Fulton and Diane Daigle
It also revealed the mother-of-two had had sex on the night she died, although no sperm was found in her body.
Page, who has had a vasectomy operation, admitted during the civil trial that he had sex with Kathy on the night of her death.
The Fultons say he raped her while strangling her. Page insisted in an interview with DailyMailTV that there is no evidence of rape and said that forensic evidence showed she had been strangled by a left-handed killer.
He says he is right-handed, although the Fulton family say he is ambidextrous – a point later accepted by the jury during the civil trial.
One thing both sides agree on, however, is that the police operation was botched. The Fultons insist that the Vidor Police Department was biased in Page’s favor because of his friendship with Detective Ray Mosely who grew up on his street.
Page, by contrast, says he was ‘smeared to hell and back’ by cops who told him he was not a suspect but would then appear on TV news saying the opposite.
There is a dispute over whether or not Page was invited to take a polygraph test, with the 61-year-old insisting he was never asked and the Fultons adamant that he refused to take it.
And there is no question that crucial evidence was lost because detectives failed to cordon off the crime scene properly.
But Vidor Police Chief Rod Carroll, 51, says that everything that could be done was done. ‘It was investigated but it was before my time,’ he told DailyMailTV.
‘You have to realize, you need physical evidence and with the cause of death being strangulation, you’re very limited on physical evidence at the scene.
‘You’re not going to get a handprint off [the neck] and you also don’t have blood residue.’
In 1993 and enraged by the lack of police progress, a furious Fulton began his billboard campaign – starting with ‘Vidor Police Botched Up The Case’.
So far, neither the Texas Rangers nor the FBI have got involved, although the Fultons remain hopeful that they will. The family still takes out ads in the local paper for her birthday and to remind the public that her death remains unsolved two decades later (left and right)
Vidor Police Chief Rod Carroll, 51, (pictured) says everything that could be done was done. ‘It was investigated but it was before my time. You have to realize, you need physical evidence and with the cause of death being strangulation, you’re very limited on physical evidence at the scene’
Chief Carroll hopes his department can crack the case – the only cold case murder on the books – itself but says for that to happen, new leads are required
‘That was [because] I saw the police weren’t doing anything,’ Fulton told DailyMailTV. ‘I didn’t see that I had a choice, the way I look at it.
‘I’ve had the signs there [by the freeway] ever since I started putting them up and they’ll stay there until I die.
‘We can’t go to the Vidor police because they’re not going to do nothing. I know they’re not going to do nothing.
‘Everybody’s saying, to solve this case, it has to be the Texas Rangers – have someone from outside coming in and taking over.’
So far, neither the Texas Rangers nor the FBI have got involved, although the Fultons remain hopeful that they will.
Chief Carroll hopes his department can crack the case – the only cold case murder on the books – itself but says for that to happen, new leads are required.
‘I can tell you right now, the individual who is the person of interest [Page] – he’s not the only one who knows what happened that night.
‘He’s told somebody. I have no doubt he has told somebody. And now my question is, does anyone have a conscience to come forth and tell us what he’s told them?
‘Because I don’t believe anybody can keep a secret for any length of time. My question is who has a conscience out there who wants to come forward and do the right thing?’
He also says he has no problem with the billboards, telling DailyMailTV that he understands Fulton’s anger and appreciates the publicity the signs bring.
Page, however, says the signs are one of the reasons he left the area in 1995 – shortly after being convicted of desecrating his wife’s grave.
The 61-year-old, who was caught on camera booting a bunch of flowers off the headstone, says that incident came about after he endured weeks of being ‘baited’ by his wife’s family. They disagree.
Page says the signs are one of the reasons he left the area in 1995 for Houston – shortly after being convicted of desecrating his wife’s grave. Page says he was ‘smeared to hell and back’ by cops who told him he was not a suspect but would then appear on TV news saying the opposite
Page, 61, who was caught on camera booting a bunch of flowers off Kathy’s headstone, says that incident came about after he endured weeks of being ‘baited’ by his wife’s family. Pictured: Kathy Page’s grave in 2016
Kathy’s two daughters Erin (left) and Monica Page (right) split the remainder of their childhood between their father’s home in Houston, Texas, and their grandparents’ home in Huntsville, Alabama, later became estranged from the Fultons. Monica committed suicide aged 27 in 2011
Pictured: The house where Kathy Page used to live in Vidor, Texas. The house still bares the ‘Fulton’ name
He also claims the billboards caused great grief to his daughters Erin and Monica and led to them being bullied at school.
The two, who split the remainder of their childhood between their father’s home in Houston, Texas, and their grandparents’ home in Huntsville, Alabama, later became estranged from the Fultons.
Tragically, younger daughter Monica committed suicide aged 27 in 2011 after becoming hooked on prescription painkillers. A toxicology report showed she had taken 25 Vicodin.
Erin, now 38, lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she works as a computer programmer and shares a home with her two teenage sons.
She has no contact with the Fulton side of her family but has recently begun talking to her father again and, he told DailyMailTV, often has him at her home during holidays.
In a series of blog posts written in 2014, Erin writes that she believes both the Fultons and Page are liars but says she wouldn’t change her mind about her mother’s family even if the case is solved.
‘I hope that one day, Erin will talk to us,’ Daigle said. ‘Really and truly, she’s lost two parents. I don’t blame Erin. I don’t blame any of them. She’s still Kathy’s kid.’
The Fultons – and Chief Carroll – are now hoping that Three Billboards’ awards season success will help move the case forward, and finally get justice for Kathy.
‘She didn’t get to watch her kids grow up,’ a sobbing Daigle told DailyMailTV. ‘She’s not there. We lost our mom [Dorothy] and she wasn’t there. It’s a big void.’