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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  November 13, 2016 8:00pm-9:01pm PST

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>> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. thank you for watching. she had missed a meeting and then not to hear from her, this isn't right. it would have been impossible to get up every day knowing that she was gone. i had to believe we would find her alive. >> text her, she always got right back. >> i've seen her step out of the shower to answer her phone. >> then one day she didn't. >> immediately my spidey senses were high.
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>> where was nailah? >> i sent her an e-mail all caps, "are you alive?" >> there was no sign of her. and such a confusing trail of clues, even the calls to 911 were silent. >> no voice, no struggles could be heard. >> this could be kind of eerie. >> yes, it is. >> in my heart, i knew she's not coming back. >> one of the suspects had an alibi, until a camera caught him in a lie. >> he lived a life of a lot of smoke and mirrors. >> and the strangest clue of all. there in an empty parking lot. >> six perfectly stacked cardboard boxes. >> why were they there? what was in them? >> it was right adjacent to a lagoon. >> i watch enough "dateline" to know that's probably not a good sign. >> welcome to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. a beautiful young woman vanished and her close-knit family was frantic to find her. nailah franklin had a thriving
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career, a handsome new boyfriend, and was building the life she had always dreamed of. then suddenly, there was silence, which was quite unlike her. a trail of clues led detectives to one of chicago's most exclusive neighborhoods. would those clues lead them to nailah? here's keith morrison with "smoke and mirrors." >> it wasn't like this, you have to understand. it wasn't gray. it wasn't cold. no flecks of snow to drift and catch the bitter breeze. no, no, it was hot and it was late, after midnight, september 27th, 2007. >> pretty secluded area next to a forest preserve. >> so it was. and it was clear and dark and still and vacant. here where the deep wood fought back against the decaying suburban sprawl, and then
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nothing was clear at all. i never cried this violent cry. >> you're experiencing everything but it's not true. >> you're just waiting to wake up. >> it just feels like you're literally in a nightmare. >> yes, still does. the name you'll want to remember is nailah. >> the meaning was one who succeeds. >> this is nailah's mother, maria. >> i wanted her to be successful and she was. she lived her name. >> quite true. as, frankly, have the rest of them in this big family. this is leah, the first born. >> we might need a graph or a chart because it's kind of involved. >> full siblings, half siblings, quarter siblings once removed. that sort of thing. very blended. >> we share one parent. so technically half siblings but that word is kind of offensive to me because to me it implies that it's something less.
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and i've never felt that way. i've never used that word. we're just siblings. >> one big, close, happy family. so said john, the youngest. >> it's simple for us because we grew up together from the time we were young. so for us, it's like we're one big family. >> not one but two ashleys. >> she's ashley with an "e" and the other one is ashley with a "y." >> that's this one. and imagine this. >> this is kind of unusual, kind of rare. >> yes. >> that everybody gets along. >> yeah, everybody gets along. it's a good thing. >> when we were kids, it was a lot more crazy to other people. >> hi. >> and in the middle of this big family was nailah. >> happy birthday. i love you. >> little moot, they used to call her because once she decided something, all arguments against were moot. >> she was very sure of herself from really the earliest time. >> yes, nailah franklin was
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going somewhere. >> she was like my hero. i looked up to her. >> she always accepted you for who you were. it was almost like she glowed when she walked into a room. >> after college, nailah came home to chicago and she began building a career eventually in pharmaceutical sales. at 28, she owned a condo in the heart of the city. >> i think everything she wanted to be she was. just as a theme fabulous was the aspiration. i think she definitely met that mark. >> but always number one really, she stayed in touch. never failed. call her, she would call back right away. text her, she would reply instantly always. >> she managed to water all of her relationships. she spent time with everyone. friends, family. >> that's a pretty special skill. >> yeah, to manage that and your career. >> there were men, of course, there were. though she was, shall we say, discerning.
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>> the young men she dated were of a caliber that, you know, we expected of her. >> what sort of guys did she like? >> successful, nice, respectable men. >> professional men. >> she was dating a plastic surgeon guy and this guy and that guy. >> she took up briefly with a dashing investor who drove a white bentley. and then in july, 2007, nailah attended an art gallery opening, and he came. this lawyer from milwaukee, andre wright. >> she had big beautiful smile. she was a very pretty woman. very warm personality, and we just kind of walked around the space looking at different pieces, talking about my interests. what i was looking for in a piece of art. obviously, i tried to engage her. >> suddenly this is a different search than it was before. >> i mean, the artwork became of little interest to me at that point. >> just like that, it was all over. for both of them. >> you know, i don't want to go all hallmark card on you or
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anything like that. >> that's okay. >> but i mean, this was clearly kind of a transcendental moment or something. >> yeah, absolutely, definitely. >> nailah's family loved andre. what family wouldn't? >> she brought him to my child's first birthday party. he brought my baby a gift. i was like who does that? because he's a nice quality person. >> they liked you. >> i think so, yeah, yeah. due to her influence, though. >> you started planning on moving in together, right? on being together? >> we did. >> it was happening pretty fast. >> it felt good though. it just felt natural. >> it was long distance, he in milwaukee, she in chicago. they stayed connected by phone and e-mail and text all day long. >> i would call her every morning. >> and no one seemed to notice any dark force, any unseen thing festering in the heat of that hot, late summer. didn't feel the warning. didn't know who said what to whom.
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it was september 18th, a tuesday. >> that tuesday morning, i thought i had called her on my way to work but i was interrupted. she called me and said hey, what happened to my call. i said, oh, i thought i had. so we spoke for a bit, exchanged e-mails later and then kind of went about the day. >> evening came. he, in the flush of love, called again. no answer. >> i left her a message saying i was heading home and got a text message back from her phone saying she was at a dinner and would reach out later. >> wait a minute. you had been calling her every day, talking all the time. >> yeah. >> and she said i'm at dinner? i'll call you later? but she didn't. then, 9:00 p.m., one of the ashleys called nailah. nailah who always picked up the phone for a sister. >> i got a text message that said something along the lines that i'm at dinner and i'll call you in a few.
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>> did that sound like her? >> no, it wasn't like her to not answer the phone. i've seen her like step out of the shower to answer her phone. >> i send her an e-mail all caps, "are you alive?" one of those half in jest, half worried things you say without knowing what a good question it was. >> coming up -- >> not only was nailah increasingly hard to reach, even worse, she didn't show up for work that day. >> immediately, my spidey senses were high. we see her eggs and coffee she had just left there. just out. >> something's wrong. >> just like you know what? this isn't -- this isn't right. >> and one more ominous sign. three calls to 911 from her cell phone. >> no voice, no struggles could be heard. light music in the background. >> it could be kind of eerie to hear that, huh? >> yes, it is. >> when "dateline extra" continues.
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welcome back. here's keith morrison with more of our story "smoke and mirrors." >> september 19th, 2007, dawned in chicago like any other late summer day. hot, humid, windy. the usual. except for one thing. nailah franklin, ambitious, dependable and always on her phone was suddenly radio silent. even with her new love, andre. >> i called her that morning. e-mailed her. called her again. called her again early afternoon. >> and that's when he sent her that all caps e-mail. are you alive? and you probably didn't mean it the way it really was. >> no, like you say to someone, are you there? >> at the end of the workday, big sister leah did get a call. not from the nailah, but from nailah's boss. >> he said she had missed a meeting.
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immediately my spidey senses were high. so of course, i tried to call her. didn't get her. >> so leah called her friends and other siblings. had anyone heard from nailah? >> i didn't speak with her the -- that day. i didn't speak with her the day before. >> i said, no, i've been really busy. i haven't talked to her. >> nicole feared. she called the chicago p.d., filed a missing person's report and then she drove over to nailah's condo, knocked on the door. she got a key. she went in. >> you see her eggs and coffee she had just left there just out. >> something's wrong. >> just like, you know what? this isn't right. >> and then leah got professional. she knew how. she's a public relations executive. and she called every media contact she had. >> you kind of went wide on this thing. your p.r. impulse really kicked in. >> yes. >> leah's experience told her not to hope too much from media help.
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for one very unfortunate reason. >> quite frankly, i don't know of a lot of women of color or people of color who get the same attention by the public in general. >> you know, there's that old saw in the media business and in fact, there's some truth to it. >> yeah, i think it's not just a saw. >> the good looking young blonde goes missing and the whole world wants to know about it and stay talking about it for years. >> uh-huh. >> black woman's not quite the same deal. >> no, and there is reality to that. it troubles the mind that when people of color go missing or if it doesn't fit the narrative of gun violence or gang violence or something like that, then somehow it's not -- it's not real. >> so leah knew, but leah was not to be denied. >> decided they were damn well going to cover it. >> well, they were. >> and maybe this was because of leah's media savvy. the next morning, nailah's
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picture was all over the news. >> flyers with her picture are taped to traffic posts and handed out to people passing by. >> we were in the streets and putting up any place we could, downtown, suburbs. >> they phoned and texted and e-mailed their friends. but no one reported seeing nailah. no one. nailah's sister kept replaying their last conversation. >> she called me, and she said i've got something to tell you. and before she could tell me, she got a call on the other line and she clicked over and she said she'll call me back. >> she didn't call you. >> she didn't call me back. >> awful what a person's mind could churn up in the dark as day one became two and then day three. >> i kept calling her. and kept calling her. i kept thinking she's going to answer. she's going to answer. she's going to answer. >> there's no handbook for this so you wake up and think it's a bad dream and no, it's still real.
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>> the case of the missing pharmaceutical representative landed on the desks of sergeant mia and detective greg jacobson who, right away, scanned nailah's phone records and found something alarming. just after 10:00 p.m., the night nailah vanished, her cell phone made three calls to 911. >> chicago emergency. >> no voice, no struggles could be heard. no background noise with the exception of some light music in the background. >> i guess it could be kind of eerie to hear that, huh? >> yes, it is. is the person physically unable to complete the conversation and just able to dial a 911. >> so the investigators set about talking to just about everybody nailah knew. >> there was interviews completed through doctors she had visited to try to retrace her steps and people she had encountered. >> a lot of people. >> of course. anyone we knew who had a relationship with her.
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>> maybe leah's p.r. campaign helped because -- >> we had some anonymous tips, people saying that they saw her at this location. >> but not a single one of them led to nailah. by now the detectives believed they were dealing with a serious crime, and yet -- >> she's missing. technically there hasn't been a crime committed. >> that makes it somewhat awkward when you're looking into it. >> but >> the only one that we knew she had contact with, the boyfriend she was in wisconsin with the weekend before she went missing, they were all interviewed. >> that boyfriend from wisconsin, andre, had come to chicago, was helping with the search and soon was perhaps a subject of it. they came to you. >> they did. >> the perfect boyfriend. now, to police, a perfectly obvious person of interest. >> coming up -- >> a discovery in an empty parking lot. >> it was in a pretty secluded
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area right adjacent to a lagoon. i watch enough "dateline" to know that's probably not a good sign. >> a strange sight to be sure. but what, if anything, did it have to do with nailah? when "dateline extra" continues. what? is he gone?? finally, i thought he'd never leave... tv character: why are you texting my man at 2 a.m.? no... if you want someone to leave you alone, you pretend like you're sleeping. it's what you do. if you want to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance, you switch to geico. it's what you do. tv character: taking selfies in the kitchen does not make you a model. ♪
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welcome back. 911 operators had received several calls from nailah franklin's phone, but each time, no one spoke. days into their investigation, detectives suspected their missing person may have been the victim of a serious crime. and it was time to turn their attention to the men in her life. here again is keith morrison with "smoke and mirrors." >> there's this big search. >> yes. >> how overwhelming was that? >> you don't realize how the world seems so big when you're looking for someone. >> imagine, all of chicago and nailah could be anywhere. tied up in some basement, in the
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trunk of a car. or worse. then middle of the night, 20 miles south of town in a place called calumet city, a local cop was on routine patrol checking out a golf course parking lot. his name is calvin lucious. >> as i got to this area right here, i noticed right in front of me six perfectly stacked cardboard boxes. you know, shipping boxes. >> sitting right there on the parking lot. >> sitting right on the curb. so it stood out. so i'm looking like, something's not right here. >> inside the boxes, pills. hundreds of them. >> i was thinking, okay, this might be something big as far as you know, some type of narcotics and drug-related case. >> except looked more like samples, something a pharmaceutical rep would have been handing out free to doctors. >> what were they? >> just different type of medicines. i can't even pronounce the names. >> what were they doing here? on the label, the address to a storage locker. and a name.
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nailah. and pretty soon -- >> the fbi and chicago police, everybody was out here looking. >> including detective greg jacobson. >> it was in a pretty secluded area next to a forest preserve which is right adjacent to a lagoon. >> whoa. >> i watch enough "dateline" to know that's probably not a good sign. >> was nailah down there in that murky water? >> we had light trucks out there. they dredged the lagoon. >> back and forth they went, scoured every inch of the pond and the thick woods behind it and found one weird thing. >> there was some jewelry that was on some of the bushes. >> pearls and such just hanging there. the cops checked with her friends. looked like nailah,'s they said, except nailah wasn't here. >> but remember sister leah's p.r. campaign? not far away from there, next town over.
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>> the person saw a newscast and they were like that car's been on my block for a couple days and thank god they saw that and thank god they cared enough to call it in. >> that call came from here hammond, indiana, just down the road from calumet three days after nailah vanished. a black chevy impala. >> we rushed out there to see it. >> it was hers. >> you open that trunk, the last thing you want to think is there's something in that trunk. and fortunately there wasn't. >> you obviously do a workup on the vehicle. did you find any prints, any dna? anything useful at all? >> i think our evidence technicians that processed it described it as it was wiped clean. >> including in the trunk. >> yes. >> yes. >> believing somehow she might find her sister, the younger ashley drove out there. >> the car was parked in front of an abandoned house. and i went and i banged on the door, looked through the windows. i screamed her name. i didn't want to leave.
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i had to be taken from the area. >> of course, the cops canvassed the neighbors. and what do you know? >> they had seen a male mulling around the vehicle. and then enter another vehicle and leave. and that was a few days prior to us actually locating the vehicle. >> did they give you a good description? >> male african-american, thin build. >> that description might have fit a lot of people in nailah's life, like for example her new boyfriend, andre wright. police had questioned him right away, of course, about their relationship and where he was when she disappeared. >> they asked about when the last time i saw her was, last time we spoke. >> or could that man mulling around the car have been someone else like that previous boyfriend, the investor. his name was reginald potts. but before the cops could find him, he stepped up and called them. >> he wanted to know why the chicago police wanted to talk with him. >> he agreed to stop by headquarters for a talk.
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>> he gives us a lot of the information. >> he met her a year earlier he told them. by pure chance really on the street in the ritzy gold coast. she was sophisticated. so was he. they dated briefly. realized it wasn't for life. though a girl could do worse what with his white bentley and duplex overlooking the lake. >> he lives in a large apartment complex, high-rise. >> nice place? >> beautiful. >> yes, in an upscale area in the city. >> that's where you want to live. >> wow. reginald told them everything he did the day she vanished. everywhere he went. very detailed. the day's events, early evening shopping with friends at target. bar hopping later with not one but two girlfriends separately, of course. and after that, an intimate plan with a third girlfriend. >> they make arrangements to meet at reginald's apartment around midnight on the 18th. >> this guy gets around. >> if you've got a bentley, your options are open.
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>> guess so. >> as investigators headed off to check reginald potts' alibi, down in calumet city, officer calvin lucius was again cruising vacant parking lots. this time a mile or so from where he found those boxes when a partner noticed something. >> he saw a pair of ear buds hanging from the tree. >> bright little baubles showed up in the dark. what else was in that place, at the edge of the midnight woods. >> coming up, it's now a different type of investigation. and detectives take a closer look at a man from nailah's past. >> one of the doors was extremely damaged like it had been forced open. >> she sensed there was something off about him. and that's probably where she decided to, you know, look a little deeper. >> when "dateline extra" continues. [burke] at farmers, we've seen almost everything,
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president obama plans to call the democratic national committee to discuss the path forward in the wake of the stunning election. the committee is still looking for a new chair. harry reid believes it should be keith ellison. calling him a man who knows how to get things done. more next hour. now back to "dateline extra." >> welcome back to "dateline extra". i'm tamron hall. what happened to nailah franklin as her family continued their desperate search, police homed in on the men in her life. and with a little digging, one of their stories started to unravel. here's keith morrison with more on our story, "smoke and mirrors." >> it's a grassroots effort by family and friends. >> through all the frantic activity, the phone calls, the flyers, the organized looking
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about, it was a rare quiet time, nine days in. when nailah franklin's sister felt it. >> we had a prayer service at our church and in my heart i knew. i was like, you know what, she's not coming back. >> and that very night in the 3:00 a.m. hush of calumet city, night patrol officer calvin lucius felt his way past the glittering ear buds his partner saw hanging from a tree to the inky black fringe of forest at the back of a long abandoned parking lot behind a derelict video store. >> i probably got like right around this area and just looked over and the body was there. >> what was that moment like? >> shock. >> you don't know if it's her or not. but you have an idea because it's a female body. >> they had to resort to dental records to confirm. it was nailah. >> i think this type of death it doesn't just kill that person,
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it kills a lot and in the family. it's the absence of a piece of you because that person is not here. >> i can't describe it. it's like, you know, it's happening but it just doesn't feel real. it just feels like you're in literally like in a nightmare. >> an autopsy confirmed the death was by asphyxiation. so now it was homicide. but who was the killer? not andre. confirmed he was in milwaukee when nailah vanished. >> everything with him checked out. >> as for being questioned -- >> were you upset by it? >> not at all, no. they would have done that. that was part of doing their job. >> so what about that investor reginald potts, the one who had been so helpful? well, this was curious. when the detectives went to visit his high-rise apartment, they couldn't help but notice -- >> the exterior to one of the doors was extremely damaged. like it had been forced open. >> huh. that's weird.
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>> maybe not so weird. there was an explanation. >> reginald potts was recently visited by members of the cook county sheriff's department in an attempt to evict reginald potts. >> of course, this was 2007, lots of people were falling behind in their mortgages. but by the look of it, reginald's problems ran deeper than that. >> he was constantly in default. 15 pairs of gucci shoes and not a bed to sleep on. >> not a bed to sleep on? >> a mattress, no furniture, not a pot or pan in the kitchen but yet what he believed were important items to surround himself with. cars, clothing, high end restaurants. they're for show. >> the bentley it turned out belonged to somebody else. and reginald juggled girlfriends and hookups and an ex-wife who was raising one of his children and an ex-girlfriend with whom he had had another. didn't take nailah long to
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figure it out, or so her friends told the police. >> she sensed there was something off about him. and that's probably where she decided to, you know, look a little deeper. >> so she ended it. and as she did, she warned whomever she could about reginald. even one of his other girlfriends. >> watch out for this guy. he's bad news and he's cheating on you. >> yeah, they were in communication about reginald. >> nailah told andre that when reginald found out, he wasn't happy. >> he got wind of that and reached out to nailah in a threatening manner. >> sent her nasty e-mails and voice mails. >> did she worry about that a lot? >> she didn't exhibit any worries to me about it. >> but she must have been worried. detectives found a report that nailah had called a nonemergency police phone number, asked about filing an order of protection against a threatening ex-boyfriend.
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she mentioned mr. potts. so yes, reginald potts was a murder suspect, but he wasn't exactly hiding from the police. remember, he had given them a very detailed alibi to check out. >> he was pretty specific on where he's at. >> and as the weeks went by, he seemed quite eager to help. >> he continuously called me on my cell phone. >> really? >> yes. >> called you to tell you what? >> to try to direct the investigation. why haven't we talked to hugh eccles. >> his friends the eccles were with him much of the day, he said. >> they were at a target store shopping. >> and sure enough, mr. eccles confirmed his account. there they are on surveillance cameras at the target store, which would seem to exclude potts as a suspect. if he was shopping, he wasn't kidnapping and killing nailah. but this was curious.
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for some reason, reginald did not show up on camera. >> so if you were going to commit a crime, do not do it at target because they're going to have everything down to your signing your transaction on the keypad. very clear. >> meaning either he managed somehow to avoid every camera in the store or his friend lied for him. so they hauled reginald's buddy down to the station, and after a few go rounds, he admitted not only that reginald wasn't at the target but -- >> he did receive a phone call from reginald potts and then traveled to hammond in order to pick him up because he needed a ride. >> hammond, indiana, the town where nailah's car was found. on the 6th of december, 2007, reginald potts was arrested for the murder of nailah franklin. but reginald quite vehemently denied killing her. >> this is the evidence, okay? we can put you -- >> fabrication, yes, said reginald. he was being framed.
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>> coming up -- >> a suspect bares all. >> what's that? >> okay. >> but would he reveal the truth? when "dateline extra" continues. and at progressive, we let you compare
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our progressive direct rate... great deals for reals! ...and our competitors' rates side-by-side, so you know you're getting a great deal. saving the moolah. [ chuckles ] as you can see, sometimes progressive isn't the lowest. not always the lowest! jamie. what are you doing? -i'm being your hype man.
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not right now. you said i was gonna be the hype man. no, we said we wouldn't do it. i'm sorry, we were talking about savings. i liked his way. cha-ching! talking about getting that moneeeey! talking about getting that moneeeey! savings worth the hype. now that's progressive. >> welcome back. with his alibi in question and his history of menacing messages revealed, reginald potts was arrested for the murder of his former girlfriend nailah franklin. but with no physical evidence, this case was far from closed. keith morrison continues our story, "smoke and mirrors." >> here we are in a little room
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in a chicago police station. reginald potts is under arrest for the murder of nailah franklin. the detectives are certain they have their man, but mr. potts? >> i adamantly deny that i was ever there, period. >> reginald potts appears to be insulted they even ask. >> and i can tell you you're lying. >> nailah? he was nowhere near her, he said, the day she vanished. >> i was not in her apartment on the 18th, period. >> or her apartment building? >> or apartment building. >> of course they told him they had evidence. >> distinctive bentley in her [ bleep ] parking garage or building. >> that's it. >> and i can tell you, that's a lie. >> a police frame-up to which the detectives said -- >> reginald, do you understand about videotapes? there's cameras. >> yes, including nailah's apartment building.
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and there is reginald, plain as day with nailah. arriving and leaving with her on that very day she disappeared. >> so you knew he was there? >> yes. >> but reginald? doubled down on his denial. >> i am certain that i am nowhere near inside of nailah franklin's apartment building. >> accused the police of fabricating evidence. >> you've been very creative with photoshop. i guarantee you cannot find me getting off the elevator at nailah franklin's house. if you have, you've been creative with photoshop. >> he talked and talked. denied and denied. >> we can put you there. >> all without any apparent desire for an attorney. but when they asked him to stand in a lineup so witnesses could have a look --
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>> there's no way that -- >> there's a lawyer here, the state's attorney here from cook county. >> the state's attorney is representing the people and representing the case. i would not feel comfortable at all. at all. >> so they waited for reginald's attorney to arrive, and then it got odd. >> reginald, the attorney is right there. >> yes, sir. >> why are you taking your clothes off? >> because i am. >> what's that? >> because i am. >> your attorney's right here. we want to take you for a lineup right now. will you step in the other room? >> no, sir. >> reginald removed all his clothing and refused to stand in the lineup. >> that's an interesting tactic. >> yes. >> have you ever seen that before? >> no. >> so no lineup. but they charged him anyway with capital murder. nailah, by then, had been dead three months. >> i was definitely relieved.
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i was kind of surprised that it took so long, but i was relieved. >> relieved, too, that reginald potts, as was his right, demanded a speedy trial. but then -- >> reginald potts used every resource at his disposal to delay the process. >> nbc chicago's reporter watched in something like amazement as reginald turned speedy justice into something else altogether. >> he hired lawyers, fired lawyers, tried to act as his own attorney. at each step of the process, the trial had to be reset. >> one, two, three years passed that way. in the fourth year after the murder, illinois abolished capital punishment so that was off the table. and still, reginald's actions forced delays. >> this is one of the most bizarre cases we've seen in chicago. >> just as nailah's family had reached out to the media, reginald potts tried to launch a p.r. campaign from behind bars. >> his family reached out trying to convince people that there
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may be some way that he's not associated with this crime, that it might be someone else that, there was a rush to judgment. >> he talked to a newspaper columnist who wrote sympathetically about his treatment in jail. and every delay, every manipulation was slow torture. >> i very much believe that everyone should have a fair and just trial and that too often, people who are poor or people of color do not -- or most often they don't get proper representation and don't get a fair shake in our court system. but this was not that. >> and then finally on october 28th, 2015, on a crisp fall day in chicago, the state versus reginald potts began. it had taken eight years to get here. >> when it was finally happening, we were sort of like confused about how things would go down. like there's finally a trial. what type of experience will this be? >> they had no idea. how could they?
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cook county assistant state's attorneys maria mccarthy and fabio valentini brought the case against potts. >> this was a case with no eyewitnesss, no video of the crime, no physical evidence linking potts to the crime and a cause of death that was based on primarily exclusion. we don't try many cases like that. >> and not many cases with a defendant quite like reginald potts. >> coming up, an accused killer's defense. >> i'm not a monster. >> he's smarter than the average criminal. but not as smart as he thinks he is. >> and after eight years, a verdict. >> what really tormented me all these years is that there's a possibility that justice won't be done. >> when "dateline extra" continues. t out. it's going to cause a lot of problems. totally unnecessary and it triples the budget. wouldn't it be great if everyone said what they meant?
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welcome back. nailah franklin deserved justice and after a long wait, her family was ready for the trial of reginald potts. but with a largely circumstantial case, would they finally get what they wanted most, the truth? we return to keith morrison with the conclusion of "smoke and mirrors." >> for eight years, nailah franklin's family struggled through their incomplete grief. >> what really tormented me all these years is that there's a possibility that justice won't be done. >> there was no real forensic evidence. only circumstantial things. though according to the prosecutors, there was a whole smorgasbord of proof. that video of reginald potts with nailah the day she vanished? the video at the target store that did not show him and thus blew up his alibi. nailah's friends testified she showed them e-mails and played a
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voice mail in which he threatened her. >> nailah played that voice mail for them because she was so terrified. and essentially, in that voice may, he said to nailah, i'm going to have you erased. i'm going to make you disappear. >> in fact, said the prosecutors, that's exactly what he did. snuck into her building, led her terrified to the garage where he strangled her, stuffed her body in the trunk of her own car. and how do they know he took her out to the suburbs to dump her body and her car? cell towers linked their phones together. like a trail of breadcrumbs. >> from the moment they walks out of that vestibule out to the garage, she's not seen by anybody. she's not calling anybody, she's not answering calls. her texts are all odd but her phone and his phone are together lock step the entire rest of the day. >> right to the abandoned video
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store behind which they finally find nailah's body. no coincidence he chose that particular spot so far from chicago, said the prosecutors. >> we find out that the video mac store is owned by pot's brother-in-law. >> his friend the alibi witness now testified for the prosecution, that yes, he initially lied for reginald, but didn't know it was to cover up a murder. and remember those three strange hangup calls to 911 and those odd texts her family and boyfriend received? it was reginald potts using nailah's phone hours after he murdered her, said the prosecution. a clever killer's attempt to throw off a missing person's investigation. >> he's smarter than the average criminal. but not as smart as he thinks he is. >> but reginald potts was nothing if not strategic. his defense was to refute their evidence and discredit the prosecution. >> defense attorneys need to create reasonable doubt.
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in this case, it was very difficult to determine cause of death. so immediately, the defense is going to rush to that idea and say, well, you can't really tell how they died. it's little things like that in the hopes that one juror or two jurors will latch on to that and say i can't convict. >> they even disputed the cell phone evidence the prosecution believed cinched the case. the defense has alleged that the idea that i can triangulate a cell phone signal based on the cell it pinds on a tower is somehow flawed. >> after two weeks of argument, the jury had the case. did reginald's arguments persuade them? two hours and 15 minutes after they began, the jury answered no. they pronounced reginald potts guilty of first degree murder. >> whoo. i was so relieved. >> it's like okay, that's passed. now the next thing so -- >> the next thing was sentencing nearly four months later. >> still waiting and hoping he doesn't get like four years or something stupid like that. >> mr. potts is present. >> but again, they had no idea.
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what was this man all about? there was a hearing to help the judge make a decision about sentence. normally just arguments. recommendations from both sides. but not this time. >> the prosecution called 35 witnesses to tell the judge a hair-raising story about reginald potts. reginald was not quite the gold plated success story he appeared to be. >> he lived a life of a lot of smoke and mirrors. >> he's a con man who fooled a lot of people. >> and when the con man was challenged, everybody, even law enforcement, was a target. >> he would kill me. he would kill my family, my family would never be safe. >> when he was struck three times by mr. potts in the face. >> he spent much of his adult life in prison where he assaulted guards. >> i was struck in the right eye by mr. potts. >> all of that was too prejudicial to present at trial but now absolutely relevant. >> and he took her in back by
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the elevator and i heard slap >> this guy has been an absolute menace his entire adult life. >> do you see mr. pots in court today? >> when a woman stood up to him, witness after witness testified that reginald betrayed them, bullied them and much worse. >> he choked her out and threw her on the bed. >> this guy not only had a propensity for violence against women but he had a propensity specifically to choke and strangle them. >> he's a sociopath. he lies as easily as he breathes about anything. no matter how stupid. if he tells you what time it is, look at your watch. >> that bad, huh? >> yes. >> guy's a monster. >> a monster who however briefly, fooled even the sophisticated successful nailah to her mother's eternal sorrow. >> you don't know who you're letting into your life. they don't always come looking like a monster. >> there's a kind of ceremony
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about these things. everyone gets to talk. >> nailah's murder stole from our community a bright light. >> nightmares still taunt me with her screaming. moaning and reaching out, begging for her life. >> but reginald, reginald cried. denied everything. >> the jury of my peers came back with a verdict that i believe is false. and i believe it is invalid. i believe that a court of appeals will overturn that. but for now this court has to honor what they said and impose a sentence. but i tell you, your honor, i am not the person that miss mccarthy has tried to paint in this courtroom. i'm not a monster. i'm not a monster. >> we waited to see if the judge would buy reginald's story or the prosecutor's. and here it was. >> you are a cold, calculating, conniving, coward of a con man
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who must be punished. >> and indeed he was. life without parole. >> take him away. >> so that was justice. the most nailah's family could hope for. terribly important. and strangely, empty. >> it's still not done. she's still not back. you still can't talk with her. >> no. they tried to remember nailah not as a murder victim but as a beautiful young woman she was. the vibrant center of her family. but grief, real and painful, comes to visit every day. >> you know, people say, oh, well, she's your spirit and she's your angel and she's in a better place and all this other stuff. i'm like yeah, but i want her here. i don't want my 28-year-old sister to be my angel. i want her to be right here in the thick of it with me.
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>> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. thanks for watching. life can turn terrifying in an instant. you're trapped in a raging wildfire. >> hopefully she makes it out. >> your day cruise turns deadly. you're caught in the cross hairs of a man with a gun. even ordinary routines can become struggles to stay alive. >> oh, my god. oh, my god. >> oh, no. oh, no. >> survival is not a game, but you do need a game plan. you have multiple options but only seconds to choose. what will be your split second decision?


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