This is one of my hometown’s most famous unsolved mysteries. It is a bizarre and strange tale that has become a bit of an urban legend and favorite of ghost hunters.
The Bloody Room
On February 2, 1965, around 5 p.m., a maid named Maria Luisa Guerra arrived to clean Room 636 of the Gunter Hotel in downtown San Antonio, Texas. She opened the door and immediately saw an Anglo man standing by a blood soaked bed. There was blood all over the room.
“I screamed as loud as I could,” Guerra told the San Antonio Express-News in 1965.
Guerra said the man, around 25 years of age, lifted a large package off the floor. She said he put his finger to his mouth to indicate that she be quiet. Then he walked past her with the large brown package, which Guerra described as one foot high and 20-inches wide. He apparently left the hotel and escaped into the rainy evening.
Police were called around 6:30 p.m. and Homicide Detective Steve Salas said, “there was blood all over the room. And the bathroom was a mess of blood.”
Police found bloody footprints in the bathroom and several cigar butts. One of the cigar butts had lipstick on it. The lipstick matched a smudge on a tissue found near the bed.
Police officers also found a pair of bloody women’s nylon hose and a .22 caliber shell was found on the bed. Another .22 caliber shell was found embedded in a wall by the dresser.
Also near the dresser was a chair soaked with blood, which police said might indicate a shot was fired from the bed toward the dresser.
A new suitcase was also found containing a new shirt, a package of imported cheese and a can of sardines. Four empty wine bottles were found on the floor.
“Police theorized that a woman’s body might have been dissected in the room,” according to a front page article in the San Antonio Express-News, February 3, 1965.
*A woman with small feet and blood Type A negative who smoked cigars was shot and dissected in the room.
*Her slayer methodically cut her into pieces in the bed, running to the bathroom to clean the dismembered limbs and drain the blood.
*The slayer then bundled the butchered body in a brown paper packed and escaped with it out the hotel.
“There is very little doubt a murder occurred here,” said police inspector Joe Hester.
Dr. Ruben Santos, the county medical examiner at the time, said the blood was human blood. “No one could have lost that amount of blood and have walked away from the room,” Santos told the Express-News.
Santos also cited three possibilities— that a body was dissected or that an abortion was performed or that there was a miscarriage.
The Suspect Commits Suicide
Inspector Joe Hester said the man seen with the package in the room gave a fictitious name, “Albert Knox,” and a fictitious Ohio address in the hotel’s register. He had checked into the hotel alone on February 2.
Police were able to identify the suspect by the new suitcase left behind in the room, as well as the cheese, sardines and wine which were purchased from nearby Schilo’s Delicatessen. His real name was Walter A. Emerick, a 38-year-old petty criminal who lived with his mother in San Antonio.
Employees from Schilo’s said Emerick was a regular customer, and that on February 1, he was seen dining with a tall, slim blonde haired woman.
On February 10, 1965, police tracked down Emerick to Room 536 at the St. Anthony Hotel a few blocks away from the Gunter. As police entered his room, Emerick shot himself and died, taking answers to the mystery with him to his grave.
During the subsequent investigation, it was discovered that Emerick had tried to rent Room 636 at the St. Anthony Hotel, but had to settle for Room 536. Emerick had also purchased a meat grinder the previous week at a downtown department store. He had also left a trail of forged checks in his wake in the days leading up to the bloody crime scene in Room 636 at the Gunter.
To this day, no one has ever identified a female matching the description given to police of the tall blonde woman seen with Emerick at the delicatessen. Strangely, no one matching that description was ever reported missing.
Some speculate that Emerick had impregnated a woman, a botched abortion ensued, and he had to get rid of her body. Others have speculated that Emerick’s “blonde” was not a woman at all, but a man, and that Emerick killed him to keep secret their tryst. Pure speculation.
Ironically, even with all the blood found in Room 636, there is no concrete physical evidence of a murder. According to the district attorney at the time, the only charge that would have been brought against Emerick would have been malicious mischief over $50 (the hotel spent over one-hundred dollars to clean up the mess he left in the room).