The teenagers who pass down stories about Betty are too young to remember the Kiss and Kill Murder, as it was christened by the press in 1961, but it was the most sensational crime in West Texas in its day.The notoriety of the case has long since faded, yet 45 years later, something lingers.She too liked to get a rise out of people, and she thrived on attention, whether she got it by arriving at Tommy’s Drive-In dressed entirely in black but wearing white lipstick or in jeans and a T-shirt, under which she didn’t bother to put on a bra.
Some nights, Betty would slip out the back door after her parents had gone to bed and walk the four blocks to Tommy’s Drive-In, where there were always boys to talk to.
Plenty of girls were flirts, but few of them were as assertive as Betty.
Some claim to have seen her pacing the balcony or heard her footsteps behind them, only to find no one there.
Rumors have flourished that a coach who knew the real Betty is visited by her, on occasion, in the field house and that a former vice principal who once caught a glimpse of her after hours was so spooked by the encounter that he refused to be in the school again by himself.
The oldest of four children, she knew that her parents could not afford to send her away to college, and her part-time job at Woolworth’s barely paid enough to finance any kind of getaway.
While she aspired to one day appear on the Broadway stage, in the meantime she planned to live at home after graduation and attend Odessa College, just up the street.
“I hear her name on a daily basis,” says theater arts teacher Carl Moore, who has taught at Odessa High for four years.
“Whenever something unexplained happens—a book falls on the floor in my classroom or the light board goes out during a technical rehearsal—someone always jokes, ‘It’s Betty.’” What may be nothing more than just a ghost story can also be seen as something more complicated—as a metaphor, perhaps, for the way that one crime has lodged, uneasily, in Odessa’s collective memory.
When Ronnie White, who graduated from Odessa High the year that the murder took place, returned to his alma mater to teach history, in 1978, he was astonished to hear students talking about the former drama student named Betty whose spirit supposedly haunted the auditorium and the popular football player who had had a hand in her killing. “I thought, ‘Good Lord, they must be talking about Betty Williams.’” WHAT MOST PEOPLE REMEMBER ABOUT BETTY WILLIAMS is that they hardly noticed her at all.