When wife No. 2 died of a gunshot wound to the chest in 1978, her husband said it was suicide.

When wife No. 3 was found floating face down in Lake Whitney eight years later, Jack Reeves said it was an accident - she had fallen off her air mattress and drowned.And then, a year ago, wife No. 4 disappeared. Reeves said it was perfidy - she had probably left him for a lover.

But when police began the search for Emilita Reeves - a 26-year-old mail-order bride from the Philippines - they also dusted off the case files of Reeves' dead wives. And what they found raised their suspicions.

At the time of their deaths or disappearance, each wife was planning to leave Reeves, telling friends they could no longer stand his peculiar sexual habits and physical abuse. And when police arrived to investigate each case, Reeves had a habit of appearing unconcerned or bragging about his sexual prowess with other women.

Is Jack Reeves a luckless widower? Or is he something more sinister?

"Some people say nobody's that unlucky. I will concede it is an unusual and bizarre set of circumstances, but if you look at each one on its own, they're not that suspicious," says Reeves' lawyer, Wes Ball.

The year is 1978. Jack Reeves stands in the doorway to the master bedroom. His 10-year-old son, Randall, leans against him, looking at his mother's naked, bloody body on the bed, a gaping hole in her chest.

A shotgun is propped between her legs. To all appearances she is dead, but as Copperas Cove police officer Johnny Smith approaches the bed, it seems Sharon Reeves' eyes are following him.

What happened next haunts him to this day.

"I reached down and checked her pulse by her wrist and she grabbed me. She reached up and took hold of my wrist with her last bit of air. It startled me," he says.

"It was a tight grip. I had to pry her fingers from around my wrist."

Now, 17 years later, he wonders if this was just a muscle reflex. Or was Sharon trying to tell him something - that her tumultuous marriage had culminated in her murder?

Reeves told police he had received divorce papers from Sharon while he was stationed with the Army in Korea. Instead of signing them, he said he came home immediately to try to salvage the marriage.

It was the second marriage for Reeves. The first, to a 15-year-old girl when he was 18, lasted only a few months and was annulled in 1960.

He married Sharon the next year. In 1967, while stationed in Verona, Italy, Reeves shot and killed an Italian he said was peeking in the couple's bedroom window.

He was convicted of manslaughter and spent four months in prison before a petition drive from his home town of Wichita Falls, Texas, and intervention by then-President Lyndon Johnson persuaded Italian authorities to drop the charges.

The couple ultimately moved to Copperas Cove where they raised their two sons. To friends, they seemed to be a happy couple - Jack, a handsome young sergeant, and Sharon, a sweet, church-going homemaker.

It was Jack who called police to report that his wife had committed suicide. He told them he had been in the kitchen when he heard the gunshot. His youngest son was playing in the driveway. The older one wasn't home.

As Reeves' wife of 18 years lay dead in the bedroom, he boasted to police outside about his sexual conquests in Korea.

A will was found on the dresser, signed by Reeves and his wife the night before Sharon died.

Reeves handed police a suicide note he said he found. It said she was in love with Reeves and another man and because she couldn't decide between them, she wanted to "end it," according to a police affidavit. It was illustrated with a sketch of a sex toy.

The note never underwent a handwriting analysis and an autopsy was never done. Police ruled it a suicide.

And the case remained closed, until Emilita disappeared and Arlington police detective Tom LeNoir was assigned to the Reeves case.

Looking at old photos of the crime scene, LeNoir thought the gun's position looked staged. A blood-splatter expert, looking at the same photos, determined that Sharon had been wearing a bra and underwear when the gun was fired. Yet she was found naked.

Seventeen years after she was laid to rest - just two months after Emilita disappeared - LeNoir had Sharon's body exhumed.

An autopsy analyzing the angle of the gunshot wound determined the "high improbability" that Sharon killed herself or had the physical ability to pull the trigger with her toe as originally believed.

In March, while the search for Emilita continued, Reeves was charged with murdering Sharon.

Eight years after Sharon's death, Myong Reeves' body lay in an open casket.

Her sister noticed something strange. Myong had bruises on her face. Drowning wouldn't cause that, she thought.

She looked at Jack Reeves, who moments earlier had been taking pictures of Myong in her casket. This was the man who beat Myong and forced her to engage in humiliating sexual acts. Myong said so in a letter she wrote days before her death.

But something else bothered her. She knew Myong couldn't swim, was afraid of the water and would never float on an air mattress for fun.

She confronted Reeves, demanding an autopsy be performed. Instead, he canceled burial plans and had Myong immediately cremated, leaving no evidence to further investigate the case.

But a disturbing pattern exists nonetheless, says Arlington police officer Dee Anderson: "Whenever someone gets ready to end the relationship, something drastic happens."