Teflon Man

Now playing in River Oaks, Gary Ross has stayed one step ahead of trouble and judgments across the country.

Four days before he was found dead on his living room floor, John Kloss backed his SUV into the garage door of a River Oaks home belonging to Gary Ross.

One of the people who talked to Kloss that night in October 2009 described him as angered, panicked. Kloss believed Ross had screwed him out of serious money. It would have been easy for Ross, or anyone else who gained Kloss's trust, to rip him off, because by that time — from all accounts — Kloss was too far gone on pills and alcohol to manage his affairs. The 48-year-old Kloss was in and out of rehab, never able to stay clean for very long. Driven to bankruptcy, the former Merrill Lynch broker was reduced to fudging some insurance paperwork on a Hurricane Ike claim. He was also desperate enough to sell off his collection of classic cars.

Ross was supposed to have been helping him with both efforts, which is why Kloss granted Ross power of attorney in June 2009. But was Ross really a lawyer? Who knew. Ever since he blew into River Oaks five years earlier, he had all kinds of stories.

Gary Ross and wife Holly Colon made their way into River Oaks, Palm Beach and Virgin Islands society.
Gary Ross and wife Holly Colon made their way into River Oaks, Palm Beach and Virgin Islands society.

And now Kloss felt cheated. The insurance company investigated and then rejected his claims. And Ross was never able to squeeze any money out of the classic cars. So to hell with Ross. Well, to hell with Ross's garage door anyway. Kloss drove the SUV forward and backed into the garage door one more time.

Of course, Ross was just part of the problem. One of Kloss's River Oaks properties was facing foreclosure; he was being sued over a botched sales deal on one of his cars; and there were family demons as well.

Based on evidence police recorded in the subsequent report, it appears that after he crashed into Ross's garage, Kloss returned to his Post Oak apartment, plopped down on a tan leather sofa and tore into the first of several bottles of Liberty cabernet sauvignon. He supplemented the wine with clonazepam, used for the treatment of panic disorder, and possibly divalproex, used for the treatment of manic episodes. If, in the last few hours of his life, he took inventory of his apartment, here's what he would have seen: a laptop and box of pizza beside him on the couch; a stack of bills and other paperwork on a wrought-iron glass coffee table directly in front of him; a tan leather loveseat piled high with magazines that hid a box containing a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol; a Ducati motorcycle — sans seat — on the north side of the living room; an overflowing trash can in the kitchen; unwashed dishes in the sink; and a faithful golden retriever named Bo.

At some point, likely on October 10, the day after the garage door incident, Kloss opened a soft-side pistol case and pulled out a Heckler & Koch .357 semiautomatic. He placed the barrel in his mouth, angled it toward the ceiling and squeezed the trigger.

Kloss may have expected his body to be found right away; he didn't leave any food for Bo, who had dug through the kitchen trash can and defecated only in the bathroom and just outside the bathroom door.

The report does not state who pointed police in Kloss's direction, but the officers who discovered his body did so because they were investigating the damage to Ross's home. They tried reaching Kloss on October 10 — the day he likely killed himself — to no avail.

By the time they checked back three days later, Kloss's body was badly decomposed. He left no note. Or, more precisely, no note written on that day.

When the medical examiner's staff moved Kloss's body, they unintentionally knocked over a black briefcase, spilling its contents on the floor. Out came a piece of yellow legal paper, dated October 1, 12 days previous.

I made a decision to end my life. I have lived a life of terror due to my father. I watched him terrorize my mother, my sisters. He punched me when I was fourteen but never had the courage to face me as an adult...He is a weakling of a ["man" crossed out] child. My father is a disgusting man who should rot in hell.

Two days after the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a suicide, a man identifying himself as a friend of Kloss's called the Houston Police Department's homicide division.

"He stated that he did not know if the death was a murder or suicide, but wanted to let the police know that Kloss thought that Gary Ross had stolen over $100,000 from him in insurance fraud," the police report states.

It's not clear from the police report if detectives followed up on the tip. If they had, they would probably have looked into Ross's past. And, like everyone else in River Oaks who had come to know Ross, they probably wouldn't have believed what they saw.

About a week before Kloss's death, a few dozen River Oaks residents found a strange bundle of documents in their mailboxes or on their doorsteps.

The anonymous delivery was a sort of scrapbook dossier on Gary Ross, the man who popped up in River Oaks in 2004, seemingly out of nowhere. Six feet tall, with dirty-blond hair and a blinding smile, the 54-year-old had soap opera good looks and drove a Rolls-Royce when he wasn't driving a Ferrari or Porsche. He moved into a million-dollar home on Huntingdon that was owned by a friend's parents.

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