In May 1997, a brighter horizon appeared for Gary Patterson, a 33-year-old draftsman from Waco, Texas, and a single father to a 6-year-old, Crystal.
A promising job role in El Paso was on the table, a chance to ensure a stable future for him and his daughter.
Michelle Wilson, his soon-to-be wife, assisted in selecting his interview attire, which she shared with the show Buried in the Backyard, airing on Oxygen. They settled on black trousers, a crisp white shirt, and cowboy boots. Wilson went to the Waco airport and remarked, “He looked sharp.”
By the next day, with no word from Gary, both Wilson and Patterson’s parents, who were with Crystal, grew anxious. His family promptly reported him missing.
Gary had mentioned a site visit to a location east of El Paso, deep in the Chihuahuan Desert. Alarm bells rang since it was close to Juarez, Mexico.
Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon highlighted Juarez’s notorious reputation for crime and corruption. He was echoing his sentiments. Det. Steve January from the Waco Police Department voiced fears about potential harm coming to Patterson.
Gary’s brother, David Patterson, and the Mexican consulate verified that Gary wasn’t detained in any facility across the border.
Digging into Patterson’s past, the investigation shed light on a tumultuous divorce in 1992, primarily due to custody battles. Buried in the Backyard revealed that his former wife, Lisa Urick Patterson, disappeared with their daughter for nearly two years starting in 1994.
Det January confirmed her solid alibi when detectives approached Lisa, emphasizing she wasn’t on their radar.
Similarly, when Michelle Williams was questioned, she was swiftly ruled out, backed by an alibi and her evident affection for Gary.
The detectives then shifted their gaze to Gary’s clandestine job interview in El Paso linked to a housing project spearheaded by a so-called developer, Ned Wright.
A clue surfaced when detectives discovered that Wright had booked a room at the Fairfield Inn in El Paso but under a different name. Call records from the inn led to a guest contacting Patterson’s Waco office. This individual was identified as Theodore Young, who turned out to be the elusive Ned Wright.
It emerged that Young had a criminal record, including a significant $26 million fraud case in South Carolina. With Young on the lam, his intentions regarding Patterson were murky.
Soon, investigators zeroed in on Patterson’s former father-in-law, Sam Urick, known for his shady business activities. They believed a nexus existed between Urick and Young. Given Urick’s wide-reaching influence beyond Texas, the U.S. Marshals were roped in.
Eventually, Young provided a map leading to a tragic discovery of Paterson’s remains, and dental records are confirmed as Gary Patterson’s. The shocking autopsy report revealed a grim fate; Gary was buried while still alive, as Det. January sorrowfully stated.
In September 1999, Sam Urick and Theodore Young entered guilty pleas for the murder of Patterson, even as the prosecutors were considering the death penalty.
Young was sentenced to 20 years for involvement and was released after serving 17 years in 2018. Lisa Urick Patterson was handed a three-year sentence, combined with the two years she already served due to a parole violation, amounting to five years. Tragically, she passed away in 2005.
The plot’s architect, Sam Urick, now 86, was handed a life sentence and remains incarcerated.