tv Dateline MSNBC August 15, 2021 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
i fell to the floor, i just remembered, she's dead, she's dead i was so confused. i was like, what's going on? why happened? >> a small texas town, two super close friends, and a summer night in the park. >> they have this lookout, and you could see the harbor bridge lit up. it's really pretty when the stars are out. >> it was the next morning that
they found them. >> i could see two girls laying there. it was horrifying. there was duct tape on their mouths, on their hands. >> a mystifying scene. >> the only thing we have are cigarette butts and suspicion. >> dna would point one way. >> he's like, serge, you've got to take a look at this. >> a bombshell message would point another. >> i read the letter and immediately knew this was something very important. >> a twisted trail leading to a sinister suspect. >> it takes a special kind of mind that wants to do something like that. >> to crack a case this convoluted, it might just take a miracle. >> that was extraordinary. >> i just couldn't believe it. welcome to "dateline. " two young women were discovered in a park bound and gagged. both were sexually assaulted and shot in the head. one died, but the other miraculously was still alive. some wondered, could a secret relationship have been the motive for murder?
here's josh mankiewicz with "a texas twist. " >> named for the body of christ, corpus christi sits on the texas gulf coast and just east of the bay is a park known for bird watching, and that's what chris seymour was doing there when he came across something very unnatural. >> to me, it just looked like a pile of debris, to be honest. and then he looked, and he said, oh, my god, it's two bodies. >> a crime so shocking that years later they're still talking about it. >> i can't even imagine what was in that person's mind that evoked his violence, his rage. >> two young women. who wanted them dead? and why? >> it was a true whodunit-type
murder. >> and along with who and why was the question of why here? >> this was definitely something that we weren't used to or accustomed to in our town. >> this part of texas isn't exactly ground zero for murder. it's known more for roping, riding, and friday night lights. here life is pretty simple, as are the values its people hold dear, like friendship, family, community. this is where 19-year-old mollie olgin grew up. >> tell me a little bit about what she was like. >> she was really funny. she had a weird sense of humor. always smiling, laughing. she was just a really good person.
>> megan olgin was mollie's older sister, just two years apart. they were, says megan, fiercely competitive. >> she was really smart, which i was always kind of jealous, because math came so easy to her. all the subjects came easy to her. she didn't even have to study, try, nothing. >> mollie also played drums in the high school band, but her friends, brooke ostrum and stephanie chaestic say what mollie really loved was cruising down the highway singing along to bands like the spice girls. that's mollie behind the wheel. >> she loved her car a lot. i remember one night when she decided, i'm going to name my car jabbar. and after that, she called her car jabbar macar, and it was the funniest thing for no reason. >> smart, funny, and a car owner, all of which made for one very popular teen. she had a lot of friends? >> yes. >> oh, yeah. >> a lot of friends. >> yeah. >> she never let anybody leave from hanging out with her
without giving them a hug and saying "i love you, " ever. >> which was certainly true when it came to the newest member of mollie's unusually large posse of friends, 18-year-old kristene chapa. >> could you tell they really liked each other? >> yeah. >> oh, yeah. >> mollie talked about her a lot. >> she lived in a neighboring town where she was earning a reputation as a softball superstar. >> kristene was a softball icon for this time. >> britney selby was kristene's close friend. >> she was like the comic relief in on you are group of friends. >> she says her sense of humor was a perfect match for mollie's. >> mollie definitely brought out kristene's crazy side. it was never a dull moment for those two. >> but for this group of girls, crazy and dull were relative terms. >> we were not the party kids. we never drank or anything like that. we would go to taco bell. we would go to coffee shops,
and we would go to parks. >> which is exactly what mollie and kristene decided to do on a warm summer night back in june of 2012. their destination, violet andrews park. that place seemed safe to you? >> yeah. >> yeah, it did. >> all of the parks were -- i mean, we would go -- >> we would go at night all the time. >> before heading out, the two called britney, asking if she would join them. britney took a pass. >> i had a volleyball game the next morning, so i wasn't able to. >> it was a decision that still haunts her. >> i just know, because they, like, you know, they called me that night. i'm like, if i was there -- >> the next morning, chris and stan seymour were strolling through violet andrews park. >> we started looking around for birds in general, didn't see a thing. this place was as quiet as we'd ever seen it.
>> and that's when just below one of the overlooks they made their terrible discovery. in the tall beach grass lay the bodies of two young women. >> it just looked like they had both been molested or mauled. >> we didn't know if they were alive or dead. we had no idea. >> the seymours ran for help. >> 911, what's the occasion of your emergency? >> we've got two dead bodies down here. >> are they male or female? >> two females. >> first responder travis wieseman had never seen anything like it. >> it was horrifying. there is blood. i could see that the clothes are off both girls. there is duct tape on their mouths, on their hands. you could see they were clearly bound. >> duct tape also covered their eyes, and each girl had been shot in the back of the head. >> i went and checked for the pulse on first girl. i could feel her body was cold and didn't feel a pulse. >> and then something no one expected. >> i went to reach for the second girl, and that's when she started to sit up and moan. >> it looked so hopeless, and to think that one was alive was
just a miracle. >> which girl had survived? could doctors keep her alive? and what story could she tell? the questions were just beginning. >> one victim surviving, the first surprise in a case teeming with twists. investigators focused on one particular clue. coming up -- >> sometimes that can suggest somebody who knows the victim. >> yes. >> when "dateline" continues. >> when "dateline" continues. >> when "dateline" continues ofe what's possible.
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that june day in 2012, news of a double shooting in one of the parks began to slowly spread throughout the texas gulf coast. stephanie chasick and brooke ostrum learned about it on facebook. >> didn't say who it was, didn't say male or female or anything along those lines. >> you didn't think it would be anybody you knew. >> i didn't think it'd be anybody i knew. >> britney selby tried to call both kristene and mollie. >> neither is picking up, so that's when i started to get worried. >> kristene's parents, grace and larry chapa, were worried, too. grace had been pacing the floor ever since she discovered kristene hadn't come home the night before.
>> that was unusual. >> that was very unusual. >> by now, how many times had you called your daughter? >> i would say four or five times i called her. i even told her, i'm going to call the police if you don't call me right now. >> which is just what grace did. that's when she learned kristene had been hurt, but the officer wouldn't say much else, only that grace needed to get to memorial hospital. he wouldn't tell you what happened? >> no, he doesn't know what happened. >> it was only after arriving at the hospital that the chapas learned kristene had been shot, but they still didn't know if kristene was alive or dead. >> the nurse walks in and tells us, one girl died and one girl is on the second floor, and we need to identify her. >> and they don't know who died and who lived? >> no. >> it was up to the chapas to identify the survivor. >> you couldn't go? >> i couldn't go. i couldn't do it. >> so, grace assigned her eldest daughter that grim task. >> so, the best you're going to hope for here is that it's your
daughter, but she's -- >> she's hurt, yes. >> -- pretty seriously hurt. >> mm-hmm. >> for the chapas, the wait was excruciating. and then their daughter returned with the news they had been praying for. >> she comes back down, she tells me, "mom, it's grace. " family and friends took turns at kristene's bedside, wondering if she would ever regain consciousness. >> i was talking to her, telling her that i was there, you know, that we loved her, you know. >> how'd she look? >> it was bad. it was so bad that you couldn't even -- you didn't know it was her. >> the bullet had entered the right side of kristene chapa's head and shattered, destroying some of her brain tissue. during a lengthy surgery, doctors decided not to try to retrieve the bullet fragments. but at least kristene was still alive. by now, the other victim had had been identified as mollie olgin, and news of
mollie's death had reached her family. >> i was in shock. i remember crying really hard, and i was throwing stuff in my room, because it just didn't seem real to me. >> how were your parents? >> really emotional. i'd never seen my dad cry. they took it really hard. >> so did mollie's friends, stephanie and brooke. >> i just remember, like, she's dead, she's dead! and everyone was like, who's dead? and i said, mollie. >> over the next few days, neighbors here began asking the same question -- who had pulled the trigger, and why? finding those answers fell to portland, texas, police detective roland chavez. >> mollie can't give us any information and kristene's in the hospital and she can't give us any information. >> at that point, it's not even clear whether kristene's -- >> going to survive, right.
>> tips were coming in. someone said they saw a white car speeding from the park the night of the shootings. that led nowhere, so chavez and his team focused on the crime scene. there was no murder weapon. they did find two spe spent. 45-caliber casings. and near an observation deck just 30 feet away from where mollie and kristene were discovered, police found an empty monster energy drink can and five cigarette butts. and the girls didn't smoke? >> the girls did not smoke. >> chavez sent all that for dna testing. as for the duct tape used to cover the girls'eyes, chavez thought maybe that was itself a clue. >> sometimes that can suggest somebody who knows the victim, didn't want to see them? >> yes, mm-hmm. >> as far as you know, either of them have any enemies? >> no. that's what was so confusing. >> everyone loved them, you know? >> and that's probably why they were also discrete when it came to kristene and mollie. now as a murder investigation began,
friends revealed something that not many knew. >> they began to tell us they were in a relationship. >> these weren't just two friends. they were dating? >> yes. >> that had many here wondering if a romance that was hidden from many might have in some way been a motive for the attack. >> conceivable that this was some kind of hate crime? >> i mean, i'd be lying if i said that thought didn't cross through my mind. >> three days later came news from the hospital, kristene chapa had regained consciousness. >> we're hoping now we're going to be able to really get the ball rolling. >> the story kristene eventually shared with police provided intriguing clues about the identity of her attacker, and it's a story kristene will also share with you. coming up, kristene's harrowing account. >> the first thing we asked her, of course, is did you know the person that did this?
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and began to stir. >> that's an incredible little girl here. i'm telling you, she is something else. >> we asked her questions, she would squeeze our hand. >> that must have been a wonderful thing to see. >> it was. >> for police, the pressure to find the shooter was intense. detective roland chavez hoped kristene, now conscious, would be playing a big part in that, but kristene still could not speak. >> it was either a squeeze of the hand and then the blinking of the eyes. >> so chavez kept his questions simple. >> the first thing we asked her, of course, is did you know the person that did this, and she said no. >> how tall was he? >> she described him as about 5'8", 5'9". >> within the first two weeks of her recovery, kristene helped police draw this sketch
of the man who shot her. she said he smelled of cigarettes, which made chavez think about those cigarette butts found at the crime scene. he asked that the dna tests on those be put on the fast track. >> one of the things that kristene was also able to give us was that the assailant wore gloves and under armour gloves specifically. >> she saw the logo? >> yes. >> and she was a softball player, so she's saying under armour gloves, then under armour gloves is probably exactly what we're looking for. >> but during those sessions with kristene, chavez wasn't the only one asking questions. kristene struggled to ask a few of her own, tough ones. >> was kristene asking you about mollie? >> she did. we did not initially give her any of that information. >> both chavez and kristene's parents were afraid that the truth about mollie would upset kristene and maybe jeopardize her recovery. >> i would just tell her, mollie's got sent to another hospital. >> of course, kristene
persisted, and eventually, everyone decided she deserved to know mollie's fate. family and doctors assembled in kristene's room. when detective chavez revealed the truth. >> she was distraught and crying and we told her, you know, just i need you to stay strong so that you can help us and we're going to catch him. and so, she did. >> as the days passed, kristene's communication skills steadily improved, enabling her to share with police more details of that horrible night. >> it's supposed to be peaceful and safe. >> we wanted to hear her story, too. >> you look great, and it's great to see you. >> thank you. >> kristene began by describing her relationship with mollie. >> i met mollie at the mall. >> was there some chemistry right from the beginning? >> oh there was. we're both like very sarcastic and we would just amuse each other and make each other laugh a lot. >> six months later, the two had become a serious couple. then came that june night in
the park. >> why'd you go to the park that night? >> well, because we had missed our movie, and so we're kind of driving around and just trying to figure out what to do. >> when they got there, kristene said, she and mollie walked to one of the overlooks. >> and we weren't even there for five minutes when we ended up seeing, like, this guy walk by. i got this weird feeling, and we wanted to hurry up and get out of there. and the next thing you know, he's right there on mollie's side with a gun. >> she said the man then forced the two girls down a steep embankment and into the tall beach grass below. and she recalled the odd way he referred to them both. >> he called mollie girl number one and i was girl number two. >> and he referred to you that way, by numbers, all the way through it? >> he did. >> what'd you say to him? >> i asked him if he was going to take us anywhere, and he just told me, like no, this
will be quick and easy. i can feel, like, my heart beating so fast. i'm like, man, i want my mom. and that's when i'm just, like, praying, please, god, don't let me die, please. >> did mollie say anything? >> we both asked each other if we were okay, and that was the last thing we asked, we both asked each other. >> that's when kristene says she was raped. but the ordeal wasn't over. >> he had the gun pointed at us still, and he made me put duct tape over mollie's mouth and her eyes, and i had to do the same to myself. i was already at the stage like i'm going to die, like, this is it. and i hear the gun go off, and then i went black, and like everything went black. >> kristene's remarkable physical recovery turned out to be the easier part. >> i come out here for the anniversary of the shooting for mollie's birthday, and, like, for the day we met. >> this is not a painful place
to return to? >> it's not painful. i guess i just kind of feel closer to her, i guess, because it's the last place i saw her at. >> rehab helped distract kristene from her sadness. so did working with police to find mollie's killer. >> kristene was kind of our inspiration. seeing how hard she was working just made us continue to work even that much harder for her. >> it wasn't for lack of hard work, but police had to face the truth. the investigation had stalled. >> at this point, sounds like you're kind of nowhere. >> yeah. >> and then the dna tests of the cigarette butts and the drink can came back from the lab. >> and that changes everything? >> yes. coming up -- a mysterious message rocks the case. >> the letter is written from the perspective of the hit man who has been hired to kill the surviving victim in this case, kristene chapa. kristene chapa. >> when "dateline" continues.
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welcome back. i'm craig melvin. kristene chapa told a harrowing tale of being raped at gunpoint by a man she had never met. she remembered her assailant was wearing under armour gloves. was this a detail that could help investigators unlock the mystery? here again is josh mankiewicz with "a texas twist. "
>> day by day, inch by inch, kristene chapa walked a steady, if uneven, road to recovery. >> i couldn't move my left side. i couldn't move my hand or my arm, my legs. i had to relearn to swallow. >> you don't give up, do you? >> i don't. i try to stay motivated. >> so did detective roland chavez. he, too, was making progress. the cigarette butts and drink can collected from the crime scene had just given him his first major break in the case. >> what did the dna show? >> the dna showed that it returned to dylan spellman. >> who was dylan spellman? police learned he lived just three blocks from the crime scene, and chavez also noticed a striking resemblance to that sketch kristene had helped police draw of the gunman. >> we start trying to get background on dylan spellman.
>> some quick computer searches revealed spellman had a criminal past. >> dylan spellman had just been convicted of a violent crime. >> yes. >> an armed robbery in nevada. >> yeah. >> that nevada armed robbery occurred in 2010, a year and a half before the shootings. spellman and some accomplices broke into a home in a las vegas suburb and held a family hostage before robbing them and taking off. >> anybody get killed? >> no. >> and at the time of the shootings in 2012, dylan spellman was in the corpus christi area awaiting sentencing for the nevada armed robbery. >> he'd been sent here to stay with a friend. >> what intrigued chavez were some unusual similarities between the nevada crime and the shootings in texas. >> as we start going through that case file, we started seeing more and more things that are lining up with what we're looking at. >> for example? >> the use of numbers. >> remember, kristene had said the shooter referred to her and
mollie as girl one and girl two. >> he used numbers in that other crime? >> yes. they referred to each other by number in that particular crime. >> the similarities between the two crimes didn't end there. >> in the nevada home invasion, where the victims bound? >> yes, they were. >> he's got to be number one on the list at this point. >> he definitely jumped to the top. >> by that time, dylan spellman had had already returned to nevada to begin serving his three-year sentence, so chavez hopped a plane to las vegas, hoping to hear what mr. spellman might reveal about his brief stay in texas. spellman admitted he was in the park the night of the shootings, but he denied being anywhere near the area where the girls were found. >> he said he was never on the deck. well, we've got dna on the cigarette butts that prove otherwise. >> why lie about that unless
you're involved in the crime? >> sure. so i mean, that definitely raised more suspicion. >> chavez then told spellman police found his dna just 30 feet from where the girls were shot. that's when he says spellman's demeanor changed. >> he asked me, you know, what are the consequences? and i said, well in texas, you know, this is a death penalty kind of case. >> and then dylan spellman asked about a deal. >> normally, any person that's innocent isn't going to ask for a deal. you're going to profess your innocence. and he wasn't. now i'm thinking, this is my guy. >> so, chavez asked spellman to take a polygraph, and spellman agreed. >> and how does he do? >> he fails. >> time for handcuffs, you're thinking? not quite yet. chavez could put dylan spellman at the crime scene, but still had no way of tying him directly to the shootings. >> we have no gun. we have no usable prints. the only thing we have are cigarette butts, a
monster can, and suspicion. >> it didn't help that chavez's one eyewitness to the shootings could not identify spellman from a photo lineup. >> it was very hard because the suspects all looked the same. >> and then there was the matter of mr. spellman's height. >> he's big. >> he's what, 6'8"? >> 6'8". >> remember, kristene said the shooter was quite a bit shorter than that, 5'8", maybe 5'9". >> for me, it was always the difficulty of getting over the size. >> so chavez and his team regrouped. >> we begin getting cell phone records for him, getting hair samples or anything off the duct tape, anything off of the girls'clothing, anything that would be able to attach dylan spellman to them. >> does any of that lead anywhere? >> no, unfortunately, it didn't. >> two years passed. the case grew so cold that chavez's chief decided to give it to a new detective, hoping he might
have better luck finding the missing pieces. detective aaron veleman had been working the case, and now he took the lead. >> what we first wanted to do was expand the scope of the crime scene search because there was one crucial piece of evidence we didn't have at that point, which was a murder weapon. >> he hoped the murder weapon might definitively link spellman to the shootings. >> what'd that turn up? >> we didn't find anything, nothing of value. >> so you're back to kind of nowhere. >> that's right. >> and then? >> we received a phone call from the investigators at the sinton police department. >> those investigators in the neighboring town of sinton had just been given a letter addressed to kristene chapa's father. >> what does the letter say? >> the letter is written from the perspective of a hit man who has been hired to kill the surviving victim in this case, kristene chapa. >> in the letter, the hit man even named the person who had hired him. if you're wondering, the letter does not mention
dylan spellman. all of it was a twist as big as texas. texas. coming up -- the mysterious letter. could this be the smoking gun police had been looking for? >> immediately, i knew this was something very big and very important. >> when "dateline" continues. th dupixent i can du more... yardwork... teamwork... long walks.... that's how you du more, with dupixent, which helps prevent asthma attacks. dupixent is not for sudden breathing problems. it's an add-on-treatment for specific types of moderate-to-severe asthma that can improve lung function for better breathing in as little as two weeks. and can reduce, or even eliminate, oral steroids. and here's something important.
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continued trying to strengthen his case against dylan spellman, investigators in neighboring sinton, texas, received a mysterious letter addressed to kristene chapa's dad. >> immediately i knew this was something very, very big and very important. >> the letter-writer described himself as a hit man hired by the person who shot mollie and kristene. he wrote, the gunman had sought his services to finish the job and make the only witness to mollie's murder disappear. >> what he's saying is, i was hired to kill kristene, but i'm not going to do it. instead, i'm warning you. >> that's right. he's telling kristene chapa's father, i'm going to tell you who the murderer is, and then you can go do something about it. >> the letter contained details police had never mentioned in public.
>> that he forced the girls to duct tape themselves, the fact that he called them by numbers, girl number one, girl number two. >> then, the biggest revelation of all. >> who does he say the murderer is? >> he identifies him. his name is cristobal melchor, and he gives an address in utah. >> from layton, utah, to be precise, just outside salt lake city. he worked in the area as an army reservist. had the name cristobal melchor crossed your desk in any way during your investigation? >> in the two years in the investigation, we never heard that name. >> it even included a photograph of mr. melchor, the man he said hired him. >> this man's being handed to you on a plate. >> yeah. >> could it be real? should the police take this at a face value? >> is it possible this letter is some sort of thinly veiled threat to kristene, you know, you survived, but we know where you live? >> yes. the letter definitely contained an implied threat to
her safety, and so we moved very quickly to make sure that she was safe, that she was protected. >> and they're like, okay, you know what, you need to leave town. like, no one could know where i was at. only my family knew where i was at. >> with kristene in a safe place, volaman went straight to layton, utah. with the help of the local pd, he was soon sitting across from his new person of interest. >> cristobal melchor said he was on a training exercise in california at the time of the muferd. >> not only was he not in texas, he was on the other side of the country. >> he was. >> was there anything to suggest that he had some kind of vendetta against the chapa family? >> we were not able to find any connection between cristobal melchor and the chapa family or the olgin family. >> he then showed melchor the letter, and melchor was stunned. >> but he was even more surprised when he saw his picture on the last page of the letter. >> that was because melchor immediately recognized the photo. he knew when and where
it was taken. plus, he said, the original photograph was of two people. the missing man, he said, was his former roommate, david strickland. if the snapshot was a surprise to melchor, the name david strickland was an even bigger one for detective volaman. turns out, he had crossed paths with david strickland before. >> i had interviewed david strickland in 2012, just days after the murder. >> remember that tip about a white car seen speeding from the park the night of the murder? the tipster was david strickland. >> he came in as a good samaritan wanting to provide information. >> back then, david strickland lived just blocks from the park where the shootings took place. >> and now here he is being mentioned in connection with a guy who's been mysteriously fingered for the murder. >> that's right. >> so, just like that, basically, mr. melchor is no longer the focus of this. it's now david strickland.
>> that's right. >> chris melchor went on to explain that he and strickland were no longer on good terms. melchor believed strickland had stolen several of his guns, so he had strickland arrested. >> yeah, the gun robbery put a damper on their relationship. >> strickland pleaded not guilty to the gun sheft charge and was released soon after, but the charges were still pending, and volaman wondered, could strickland have written that letter as some kind of elaborate payback for melchor having strickland arrested? >> i know there was bad blood between david strickland and cristobal melchor, but to accuse someone of murder? >> if you think that letter was written by david strickland and you think the letter includes things that only the killer would know -- >> well, i think the logical inference was that strickland had something to do with the murder. >> finding david strickland was now volaman's priority. according to melchor, strickland left utah after his arrest and returned to texas, so detective volaman did the
same, hoping this man would turn out to be the investigation's third and final person of interest. coming up -- a suspect not acting at all like you might expect. >> he was enjoying this interview. >> maybe police have the wrong guy again. >> to point at him in court and say that's the guy that did it. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ breeze drifting on by you know how i feel ♪ [man: coughing] ♪ it's a new dawn, it's a new day... ♪ no matter how you got copd it's time to make a stand. ♪ ...and i'm feelin' good ♪ start a new day with trelegy. no once-daily copd medicine has the power to treat copd in
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welcome back. a mysterious letter had identified christobal melchor as the man who shot kristene chapa and her girlfriend. they turned their attention to his roommate, david strickland. police wanted to hear what he had to say and they were not the only ones. here's josh mankiewicz with the conclusion of "a texas twist. " >> first came spellman cleared by police by his height. then melchor also cleared of suspicion by geography. now detective was on the trail of another man, david strickland. the detective learned strickland was a hometown boy. he served briefly in the military and was now newly
married. then volaman saw photographs of david strickland's possessions which had been seized at the time of his arrest on the gun theft charge. >> i will never forget the first photograph that popped up. it was a glock. 45 pistol and an underarmor glove and you could see very clearly the white under armour logo. >> a glock. 45, the type of gun the crime lab suspected was used to shoot the girls. always for the black glove, kristine was absolutely certain that the shooter wore a pair exactly like that. >> i know that because i played softball and that stuck out to me right away. >> detective volaman immediately sent strickland's gun to be tested to see if it fire those two spent shell casings fired at the crime scene. he didn't have to wait long for the results. >> what that report said was that the two shell casings
found at the scene and the two shell casings from the test fire were linked to the same weapon. >> for detective volaman that report was the missing piece of the puzzle, which he believed now directly linked david strickland to the shootings. >> the day i looked at that ballistics report is the day we arrested david strickland. >> the charges, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault and capital murder. while in custody, david strickland agreed to sit down for a police interview. >> just have a seat more fe. >> the county prosecutor sam smith watched the interview through a one way mirror. >> he would claim to have committed the murder. >> you're saying you did this? >> sure, i did it, everything you said i did. >> and in the next sentence with a smile on his face saying, but that's what you wanted me
to say, isn't it? >> whatever you want to hear, boss. >> so it is like a game? >> very much so a game. he was enjoying this interview. >> four years after kristene chapa was raped and shot, four years after mollie ogene was murdered next to her, david strickland faced a jury of 12. >> were you confident, worried. >> of course i was worried. i felt horrible. i didn't know how it was going to end upcoming out. >> when you saw mr. strickland for the first time? >> i didn't know what the think to be honest. i was just thinking, he did this. >> he wasn't the monster you imagined? >> no, he wasn't. sometimes those are the scariest people though. >> prosecutor swift laid out his evidence, from gunshot to snapshot to mug shot. the gun, the shell casings and the gloves. as for the letter, smith told the jury police had found remnants of it on david strickland's computer. >> you can delete the letter off of your computer, but if
you have used the spell check/grammar check function, that information is still stored in the computer. >> and that's what you found? >> and that's what we found. >> why do you think mr. strickland wrote that letter. he had to know suspicion would eventually boomerang back on him. >> that's what most people would think. >> it is a foolish thing to do. >> it is a very foolish thing to do. >> before prosecutor smith rested, he called kristene to the stand, putting her face-to-face with david strickland. >> i wanted him to see me and see what he had done but he would not look at me. >> defense attorneys john gilmour and jimmie grandbury don't dispute she was a sympathetic witness but in
court she was unreliable. >> she doesn't know who shot her. she has no recollection. she wasn't able to pick our client out of a photo line-up. >> she wasn't able to point at him in court and say, that's the guy that did it. >> what's more, she initially told police that the gun was silver. >> david's gun is a glock which is black. >> they went after investigators arguing they bungled the two-year long investigation by losing documents and mishandling evidence. >> we had documentation that the evidence was mishandled from the chief of police, chastising the officer that handled the evidence. >> that detective admits mistakes were made. he is now retired. the second lead detective, volaman, was let go for sharing sensitive details of the case with someone outside the department. strickland's attorneys concede their client may have written that letter, but they argue it would only have been out of revenge for chris melchor
having him arrested. as for the confidential details in the letter. >> this is small town texas, there's any number of places this information could have come from. >> what about the lab report showing strickland's gun matching the shell casings found at the scene. >> we had our expert that said it is inconclusive. i mean there's no way that you can say for sure. >> police, they said, should never have taken their sights off the real shooting. >> well, they had the right guy. >> dylan spellman, you think that's the killer? >> he's a better match than my boy. >> he had just failed a polygraph exam and then started trying to plea bargain. >> this is a guy that kicked in a door with a group of people wearing masks, went in and held a family hostage, terrorized a family. it takes a special kind of mind that wants to do something like that. >> and strickland's attorneys
point out their client had no history of violence at all. >> david strickland did not do this. >> it was sam smith who had the last word. dylan spellman, he told the jury, might have been under suspicion but ultimately had nothing to do with this crime. david strickland, he said, was the man holding the gun. >> shooting both of these girls for no identifiable reason at all, he's certainly a psycho path. >> prosecutor smith never offered the jury a possible motive. kristene says she is should have it is about her sexual orientation. >> what is the reason for thinking it is a hate crime? >> the letter he supposedly tried to send to my dad said something about those [bleep] lesbians. >> in his interrogation strickland said he had no issues with the gay community. whether or not that was the truth, prosecutors decided not to charge him with a hate crime. after five days of testimony, the jury began deliberations. it took six
hours to reach a verdict. guilty. david strickland is appealing that conviction based on the fact, his lawyer says, the evidence presented was legally insufficient to convict him. strickland was sentenced to life in prison. for mollie's family and friends, that guilty verdict, as it often does, provided hollow satisfaction. >> we're waiting for justice, and then now it's here but we don't get her back. >> we have had so many huge, major life moments and she hasn't been there. >> what would have been our anniversary, her birthday, the anniversary of us getting shot, those days are the hardest. >> kristene still wonders how she escaped death and sometimes why. >> i do have survivor's guilt. i mean hopefully it will go away in time. >> kristene would tell me, why was it me, why didn't she survive. i told her, there's a reason she's still living and
to be happy and live on for mollie because mollie didn't get that chance. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline. " i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. she was family. a giant hole is ripped in our hearts. the first thing you want is well the police are going to go get the bad guys, right? i was not prepared for what happened. professor, artist, mom. murdered. >> that primal scream came out of me. >> and she immediately broke down and started crying pretty hard. >> police were quick to question her ex, maybe too quick. >> they focused in from the beginning.