The Cheaters – The Walter Scott Murder
by Scottie Priesmeyer
Publisher – Tula Publishing
Rating – 7/10
Summary – The Cheaters is a true story of rock n’ roll, infidelity, and murder. Singer Walter Scott scored a hit record with “The Cheater” in 1966. This book tells the story of his 1983 murder and the attempts to bring his killer(s) to justice. The Cheaters is an interesting true-crime story. It’s well worth a look.
Look out for the cheater
Make way for the fool-hearted clown
Watch out for the cheater
He’s gonna build you up just to let you down
So go the lyrics to Bob Kuban and the In-Men’s hit song “The Cheater,” which made it to #12 on the charts in 1966. A big part of the success of “The Cheater” came from the In-Men’s singer, Walter Scott. Scott was charismatic, handsome, and had a voice perfect for singing “blue-eyed soul.”
As luck would have it, Kuban and the In-Men turned out to be one-hit wonders. However, Scott would go out on his own and make a career singing in clubs across the U.S. But – in a “you-wouldn’t-believe-it-if-it-weren’t-true” story – Scott became a murder victim in 1983. And cheating was at the center of the crime.
St. Louis-native Scott was born Walter Notheis, Jr. in 1943. He married at nineteen and constantly cheated on his first wife, Doris. At the center of his infidelity was a young woman named Jo Ann Calcaterra, who had set her sights on prying Scott away from Doris and their children. Jo Ann succeeded, marrying Scott and then having twins with him. Then – to Jo Ann’s shock – she found that Scott was cheating on her.
Enter Jim Williams, a six-foot-six business owner with a talent for making other people like him. Soon, Jo Ann and Jim began an affair. As time passed, predictably, Jo Ann and Jim both became dissatisfied with their marriages. In October 1983, Jim Williams’ wife Sharon was found dead in her Cadillac after a car accident. In December 1983, Walter Scott disappeared. Jim and Jo Ann almost immediately started living together and subsequently married.
And then… nothing happened for four years. In 1987, events took a dramatic turn and the wheels of justice began to grind – very slowly. The legal proceedings took years and their conclusion will leave many readers ambivalent about whether justice was done. Author Scottie Priesmeyer deserves credit for providing a good, interesting description of the complex, years-long legal proceedings.
The Cheaters is a bit different from what I had expected. Priesmeyer does little to explore Walter’s music career – aside from recounting the success of “The Cheater” and noting that Scott was always on the road. This isn’t a “rock n’ roll book.” Instead, The Cheaters is structured as a fairly-conventional true-crime story, even if the tale that it recounts is amazing.
On the plus side, there is much to recommend the book. Priesmeyer has an excellent sense of pacing; the book maintains its momentum so that the reader looks forward to finding out what happens next. (I read one online review of The Cheaters that stated that the book was poorly written; while I found a few mistakes, I think that Priesmeyer’s prose is pretty good). Though the coverage of the victims – Walter Scott and (especially) Sharon Williams – is lacking, Priesmeyer does a much better job of describing Jo Ann Calcaterra and Jim Williams. (Though Priesmeyer paints Jo Ann as a self-absorbed b—-, Jim’s motivations are never fully explained and may defy rational explanation).
For me, the argument for reading nonfiction is that the “real world” is often more interesting than anything that you can make up. So it is with this sad story. The end of Walter Scott’s and Sharon Williams’ lives were tragic; no one deserves their fates. In recounting the story, Scottie Priesmeyer explains how infidelity caused otherwise-normal people to lose all sense of decency. The fact that cheating was at the center of the tragedy is the ultimate, bitter irony.
The Cheaters is well worth reading. (Readers will want to “Google” the case to find out about some interesting developments that have occurred since the book’s publication).