Love on the Rocks

They lived -- and some of them died -- in small towns on the plains of Colorado, Texas and Kansas. They had one woman in common.

Even then, the case remained, officially, a mystery. "The autopsy couldn't determine the cause of death," recalls Ford County sheriff Arlyn Leaming. "We know he sustained some head trauma. But it could've been from a fall. Or it could have been a blow."

So the unsolved case of the death of Cynthia Phillips's first husband was filed away. Someday, the police hoped, they'd get a break; until then, Kinsley's first murder in a decade would stay unsolved.

Situated on the old Santa Fe trail near the confluence of Coon Creek and the Arkansas River, Kinsley reached its pinnacle of fame sixty years ago when the cover of The Saturday Evening Post featured a sign in the town park. Still there, it shows arrows pointing east to New York City and west to San Francisco, indicating the distance to each at exactly 1,531 miles, a geographical anomaly that gave Kinsley its nickname: Midway, U.S.A.

Cynthia Nau was born there on February 9, 1965, the oldest of three sisters. Her father, Jim Nau, was an auctioneer who bought and sold antiques on the side; her mother, Darlene, worked odd jobs at local restaurants. The couple divorced when Cynthia was young. In 1974, according to friends and relatives, Cynthia's mother and the girls moved 350 miles west to Colorado Springs. Several years later they returned to Kinsley, where Cynthia attended high school.

Despite the homey, small-town surroundings, Cynthia's childhood was far from idyllic. Her mother had remarried another man, Dan Sigwing, who brought to the union four boys from a previous marriage. Sigwing's ex-wife had remarried, too, but her new husband was well-off. Acquaintances of the families say that resulted in a clear disparity between Cynthia and her sisters, who always seemed to be wanting more money and possessions, and their stepbrothers, who always seemed to have both. "Darlene's girls were real bitter toward them," says one person close to the family. "You could just feel it."

Cynthia grew up fast, falling into adulthood just out of high school. When she married Leslie Konrade in a small, family-only ceremony at a relative's house on February 27, 1983, she was less than three weeks past her eighteenth birthday and already eight months pregnant. Among her neighbors and relatives, there is still some question as to who the baby's father was. A month later, Cynthia's first child, Magon, was born and adopted by her new husband.

The Konrade clan had been one of the first to settle in the new town of Kinsley after it was founded in 1873 by emigrants from Massachusetts. One hundred years later, much of the family still resides in and around Edwards County, where they continue to raise families and work, mostly in farming.

The sixth of eight children, Les Konrade was a soft-spoken man with curly blondish hair and blue eyes. Although he'd never astonished anyone with his intelligence, he was diligent and responsible; since his teens, he had worked only one job, at Midway Manufacturing, a local company that makes hydraulic systems for farm implements. He spent most of his spare time with fellow members of the Knights of Columbus and hanging out at the VFW, one of Kinsley's two bars. It was there that he met Cynthia, who waitressed at the hall.

Cynthia was his first real girlfriend, and he fell for her hard. The fact that she was already pregnant didn't seem to bother him. "I think my brother was just looking for somebody to love," says Beverly Jensen, one of his sisters. "We just wondered why he was getting involved with her."

By the time the two were a couple, Jensen explains, Cynthia already had something of a reputation among many Kinsley residents. Marriage and a new family didn't seem to change her. "The first sign of trouble began soon after they were married," Jensen says. "She started running around on him. It wasn't hard to figure out. This is a small town; people see you. We would try to tell him, but he just wouldn't believe it. He said, 'Even if it is true, I don't care.'

"It's like he was hypnotized. Les would accept anything. He loved her. He forgave her."

Even after the birth of her first child, Jensen says, Cynthia was soon back out in the bars. "She didn't care who she went home with," she says. "Les stayed home with the baby. He knew she'd come home eventually."

Despite the birth of a second daughter two years later, the young couple's marriage deteriorated rapidly. By 1985, Cynthia had met a Colorado man working in a meatpacking plant in nearby Dodge City. His name was Ron Phillips. Within a year, she divorced Konrade and married Phillips. The wedding took place on October 10, 1986.

"After they were divorced, Les took it pretty hard," recalls Jensen. "We were all pretty glad about it. But we told him, 'You aren't the first person to be divorced.'"

Cynthia kept in contact with Konrade, although the meetings were anything but amicable. "Even after the divorce, she wouldn't leave him alone," Jensen remembers. She says Cynthia often would come to the VFW hall on weekends where Les was drinking and yell and scream at him. "Mostly," Jensen says, "it was over money."

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1 comments
boogiemandj
boogiemandj

After almost 16 years, its feels almost like a bad dream, rather than reality. I'm not exactly sure what tripped my memory wire about this. Just been thinking about it lately. I remember when Toby was killed, and the boys in our family immediately dropped everything to rush to Corsicana in support of our cousin Toby.

As we pulled up to the funeral home, the scene was almost surreal. As we left the funeral services, a a smug, seemingly put-out smallish framed man waited impatiently in a older model Camaro. That man was Richard Boyd. As Cynthia Phillips was entering the passenger side, music blaring, with smoke billowing out of the car. My brothers and I barely had time to get out of the way in the gravel parking lot before Boyd slammed on the gas pedal, sending gravel flying in every direction.


When we finally arrived at Toby's home, my brothers, father, grandfather and I immediately looked at each other. Hardly a word was spoken. We just knew. I hadn't seen Toby's dad, my Uncle Orie in years. Immediately we all hugged as he just looked hollow, disgusted in anger.


As we made our way inside, there was Cynthia. She was crying, sobbing, jittering about uncontrollably. At the time, I thought: "My God! What a scene she is making. Quite the spectacle of herself".. After reading this story, and her apparent penchant for the theatrical, I guess it was to her character.


It was a almost a full four years later that Phillips was sentenced: 60 years for murder. And that was 12 years ago. I have no idea if she is still serving, or if her sentence was shortened. I'm afraid to look. It will make me visibly ill to know the truth.


What I do know is that without the help of the other murdrers, and and attempted others, she probably would have never been caught. Save for one extremely weak Richard Boyd, she may have been still wreaking her brand of promiscuous havoc upon our great State. Or someone else's.


It's funny, the things you remember in life. I don't remember my college graduation. My first day of school. Heck, I don't even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.

But I will never, ever forget the look on that monster's face in the parking lot of the funeral home in Corsicana that day in April, 16 years ago.


The look of smug, defiant guilt. On both of their ignorant, hillbilly faces.




 
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