The Runaway Wife: Joy Davis Aylor and the Murder of Rozanne Gailiunas
Four-year-old Peter Gailiunas, Jr. had just awoke from a nap on the afternoon of October 4, 1983, and was in search of his mother. His little eyes couldn't comprehend what the scene they were viewing, especially through the remnants of sleep fog. Lying on the floor, naked and unconscious, was his mother. Rozanne Gailiunas‘ mouth had been stuffed with tissue before she was strangled and shot twice in the head.
Unsure who else to reach out to for help, Peter frantically called his father at work. Although the doctor had moved out of the couples' marital home a few weeks before, he rushed over immediately. Realizing his wife was gravely injured, the elder Peter called 911 for help.
It was clear from her injuries, Rozanne would not survive the ordeal. Even before she had been officially declared dead, Richardson, Texas police were treating the case as a homicide.
As is typical in such a situation, Dr. Peter Gailiunas was the detectives' initial suspect and it was during interviews with him they learned the reason for the couples' separation. The new widower explained he had arrived home one afternoon to find his wife in bed with their custom home builder.
The man's name was Larry Aylor.
Larry Wayne Aylor was a wealthy and respected contractor in west Texas. He'd gotten his start in the home building trade with help from his wealthy father-in-law when he married his wife, Joy Davis.
That was many years before, however, and Larry was now in love with Rozanne. So enamored was he with his young lover, Larry had decided he was willing to give up everything he'd worked for in a divorce. When Rozanne had shown her commitment by separating from her husband, Larry had proven his by filing for divorce.
And now Rozanne was dead.
Although Dr. Gailiunas certainly had motive to want his wife dead but the man appeared sincerely shocked and grieved about Rozeanne's death. Maybe it was time to talk to her boyfriend.
During the detectives' interview with Larry, he swore he loved Rozanne too much to hurt her. Her husband, on the other hand, Larry said, wouldn’t stand for his wife leaving him and taking their son. Peter, he was certain, had murdered his wife because she’d told him she wanted a divorce.
There were certainly a lot of fingers pointing in many directions after the death of Rozeanne Gailiunas. Unfortunately, none of those fingers were pointing in the right direction.
The Aylors: Round 2
With the love of his life gone and the $25,000 reward offered by Peter Gailiunas seeming to have no effect on helping catch Rozanne's killer, Larry gave in to Joy’s reconciliation pleas.
But an ex is an ex for a reason and, by 1986, Larry and Joy Aylor found themselves again discussing divorce. This time, however, it would be Joy’s affair - with old high school sweetheart, who initiated divorce talks.
Despite his previous affair with Rozeanne, as well as his long-standing extramarital arrangement with Joy’s sister Elizabeth, Larry was outraged his wife was cheating on him. The marriage was really over for good, Larry declared, and again he moved out of their marital home.
Although there had been a great deal of animosity between the divorcing couple, Larry found himself on the receiving end of an offer from Joy to go horseback riding at their ranch. Despite his better judgment, Larry accepted but was frustrated when he arrived at the agreed upon time and Joy was no where to be found. Frustrated by Joy’s failure to show-up, Larry climbed into his pick-up truck to leave. As he came to ranch gates, he saw a battered old Ford truck blocking his path. Thinking its occupants may be having car trouble or had run out of gas, Larry slowed down to help but as the men approached Larry’s truck, they opened fire.
Shaken but otherwise unscathed, Larry was certain Joy was behind the attempted murder and expressed his suspicions to police. Although they believed Larry was correct in his assumptions, there wasn't enough evidence for police to prove it.
The Aylors divorce was finalized in 1986 and life carried on. Rozeanne's murder was still unsolved and was grow colder every day. If Joy Aylor was responsible, it would seem she was going to get away with murder.
That would all change, however, when a woman stepped forward with a confession; a confession that would prove blood is not always thicker than water – especially when there’s a hefty reward on the table.
Carol Has a Secret
Joy’s older sister, Carol Garland, walked into the Richardson Police Department in the Spring of 1988 and first inquired if the $25,000 reward was still offered in the homicide case of Rozanne. When police confirmed the reward was indeed active, Carol told them she had information about the murder.
Detectives were eager to hear what Carol had to say and she didn't disappoint. She told them a convoluted story about her young sister Joy soliciting her now-husband William Garland to kill her husband’s mistress and again to kill Larry when they had separated in 1986. It was a wild and unimaginable story and the police dismissed her claims as an attempt at revenge in some sort of family dispute.
D Magazine reporter Glenna Whitley, however, was captivated by the Gailiunas case and was intrigued by the statements Carol made to investigators. Whitley sought out Carol to ask about her statements and Carol happily shared her story; not only so she could collect the reward money but also because she was angry she had been so readily dismissed by detectives.
Unlike those detectives, Whitley wasn't so quick to discount Carol's story and wrote a succession of articles about the case for the magazine. Her articles were compelling enough to force investigators to reconsider Carol's claims.
Rounding Up Suspects
Carol’s husband William Garland was charged with solicitation of and conspiracy to commit capital murder when he confessed he was hired by Joy to find a hitman on two separate occasions William said George Anderson “Andy” Hopper had been paid $1,500 to kill Rozanne and brothers Buster and William Gary Matthews to kill Larry.
With the William and the Matthews brothers behind bars, detectives went to speak with Hopper at the car dealership where he worked as an appraiser but before they could have much of a chance to speak with the appraiser, Hopper made an excuse to step away for a moment, slipped out a back door, and disappeared for the next five months.
While some feared Hopper's evasion meant there would never be a resolution to Rozeanne's murder, they need not have done so. Hopper wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed and police caught up with him in December 1988. After spending a few months in the clink and probably coming to the realization he was going down alone for Rozanne’s murder, Hopper gave a full video confession on February 27, 1989.
According to Hopper, on that October day in 1983, he went to Rozanne’s home, posing as a flower delivery driver. When Rozeanne opened the door, Hopper said he forced his way in and then directed Rozeanne to her bedroom. It wasn't part of the agreement for Hopper to rape Rozeanne and he didn't know why he had done it, he told detectives. Afterwards he had killed her.
With a murder conviction all but guaranteed with Hopper's confession, he was returned to jail.
It was now time to build a defense-proof case against the mastermind of it all: Joy Davis Aylor.
Joy Aylor was arrested soon after her brother-in-law had confessed to being the middle man in her murder plot. Arrested in September 1988, Joy had no difficulty paying the $140,000 bond.
It seemed to initiate a series of overwhelming events which left Joy feeling as though her life was spiraling out of control.
On December 27, 1989, Christopher Aylor, Larry and Joy’s only child, died from injuries sustained in a drag-racing accident in which his friend was instantly killed. The opposing car’s driver was so distraught over his friends’ deaths that he committed suicide a few days later. Joy and Larry fought over the son’s remains for weeks.
On March 21, 1990, Mike Wilson - Joy’s friend and former Dallas prosecutor, was arrested by Federal agents after he was pulled over and 46 pounds of cocaine were discovered in the trunk of the car he was driving, which was Joy's Porsche.
Joy knew she was most likely going to prison for Rozanne’s murder and her ex-husband’s attempted murder and Wilson was looking at a lengthy prison sentence on the drug charges, so the two decided it was best to skip town on May 5, 1990.
Five weeks after fleeing Texas, Wilson was arrested in British Columbia, Canada and returned to the United States but Joy was no where to be found. One report had her staying in Mexico, but when officials investigated, they found Joy was not there. She would continue to elude police for another year.
In the spring of 1991, an anonymous tip resulting from a minor car accident, led French authorities to a rented villa near Nice, France where Joy was arrested on March 16, 1991. Fearing what awaited her back in the United States, Joy attempted to commit suicide by slashing her wrists while in a French jail but was unsuccessful.
Of course, Joy was aware when she fled to France they did not have an extradition treaty with the US in cases where the death penalty was being sought as punishment. With no other choice, the Harris County District Attorney agreed not to pursue a death sentence for any convictions against Joy and she was promptly returned home.
Life and Death
Following her trial, Joy Jeannine Davis Aylor was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole. Her first opportunity was in March 2011, and that request was denied. Her next eligibility date is unknown at this time. She remains incarcerated at the Mountain View women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas.
George Hopper was found guilty of murdering Rozanne and sentenced to death which was carried out on March 8, 2005, by lethal injection. Witnesses to the execution claim Hopper was extremely remorseful for his actions.
William Garland received a life sentence for solicitation for murder. However, there are no records for him with the Texas Department of Corrections so it's possible he has been paroled.
Buster Matthews pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He was denied parole in 1996 and a new eligibility date is unknown. He is currently incarcerated at Boyd Prison in Teague, Texas.
William Matthews also received a life sentence and will be eligible for parole in February 2013. He is presently incarcerated at Mac Stringfellow prison in Rosharon, Texas.
It was discovered Joy’s high school boyfriend, Jodie Packer, had assisted Joy with her escape by procuring cash under non-reported limits and securing fake passports and other identification. He was sentenced to 27 months for his crimes.
Larry Aylor now lives in Culpeper, Virginia, and continues to work as a custom home builder.
The 1993 made-for-television movie Contract for Murder starring Cybill Sheppard as Joy Aylor, recreates the story of a Texan love triangle turned deadly and the disastrous results. While it has its fair share of creative licensing for enhanced dramatization (i.e., the role of Peter Gailiunas, Jr. has been changed to a female and names have been changed), it's an excellent movie about this case and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a dramatized recreation of the events - if you can find it. Unfortunately, the movie is sold only under its secondary title Telling Secrets and is not available for streaming nor available on Region 1 (USA) DVD. However, it is available for Region 2. Occasionally the movie is re-aired on the Lifetime Movie Network.
© 2016 Kim Bryan