tv Honeymoon from Hell MSNBC October 31, 2015 1:00am-2:01am PDT
report for tonight. thanks for watching. i'm john seigenthaler. 911 emergency. >> has the jury reached a verdict? >> we the jury, find the defendant -- >> there's got to be more to this story. it doesn't make any sense. >> it was a crime that would haunt a city, police detectives and families for decades. >> this seems to be the classic love triangle case. >> on the shores of lake huron, a picture postcard town, one woman was on her honeymoon. >> she said, we made love, we went to bed, we got up the next morning, we walked on the beach. >> while miles away, another woman lay dead.
>> i knew it was never going to be the same again and it never was. >> connecting them both was one man, but was he a happy newlywed or a murderer? >> a party guy. sold drugs, used drugs. >> in this hour "the honeymoon from hell." it was the summer of 1974. patty hurst had just been kidnapped by the symbionese liberation army. >> for an hour, the battle raged. >> the watergate scandal was near its peak. >> in an hour's drive from a lake front honeymoon cottage in saginaw, michigan, lived a beautiful young woman named cheryl miller. she was 21 and popular. she just moved into an apartment with a roommate and worked part time at a bakery to make ends meet while attending college art classes. cheryl's aunt, donna duquette. >> she was a very caring and considerate person, and i loved her to death.
>> how proud of cheryl were you? >> i thought she was the perfect person. she just had all -- all the qualities that i think that most people would wish they had. she was -- she was a shining star. >> but on a rainy saturday morning, cheryl miller's roommate returned to this home from a night of partying to find miller murdered. an autopsy would conclude that she had been raped and strangled. time of death, between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. >> how do you even process that information? >> well, i felt like somebody had just shot me with a scatter gun in the stomach. >> dead in your tracks? >> oh, oh, yeah. oh. >> the first thing you think of is, of course, probably someone that knows her. >> now-retired police detectives
ron hersburg and tom reeder worked the case. and in the days after the murder, a clear picture of a suspect emerged. an exchange student from iran, a former boyfriend named abbass esfehani. >> interviewed the parents. and they had had a conversation with their daughter a couple days before this homicide that she did not want to see him anymore. that she was scared of him because of his temper. >> two critical pieces of evidence linked esfehani to the crime scene. his fingerprint on a rail leading upstairs to the room where the body was found and dark hairs left on cheryl miller's body, found to be similar to those found on a hair brush belonging to esfehani. >> they were strikingly similar according to the michigan state police. >> strikingly similar? >> right. >> did you get a chance to interview esfehani? >> we never did get a chance to interview mr. esfehani. >> it turned out that just days after miller's murder, he had sold his car, left many of his belongings in saginaw, and a week ahead of schedule got on a plane in detroit and flew home
to iran. a warrant was issued. esfehani was arrested. although he denied committing the murder, hair samples were sent from iran to michigan. the hair samples, said to have come from esfehani, sent by the police were examined and found not to be similar to the hairs found on the victim's body. but something strange was going on because the hairs said to be esfehani's did not even match the hairs taken from his own hair brush, left behind in his hasty departure from michigan. did that seem fishy to you? >> i would have rather been there when the hair samples were taken from mr. esfehani, but when he's in iran and we're here, you do the best you can. >> because the hairs didn't match and police had little other evidence against him, five months after cheryl miller's murder, abbass esfehani was no how frustrating was that for you as a detective at the time? >> very frustrating.
because to actually have him probably would have shortened this investigation quite a bit. >> during the next two years, saginaw police would offer rewards for tips on the miller murder case. they'd question more than 150 people and the list of past and present suspects would expand to three. in addition to esfehani, this man, antonio alvarez, a cousin of the victim's roommate. he lived at the house for a time and the dark hairs found on the body were also similar to his hair. then there was suspect number three, gabriel ferris. >> a man about town. party guy. sold drugs. used drugs. >> 27-year-old gabriel ferris came from a well-to-do family in saginaw, but had spent time in prison on drug charges. ferris had dated the victim. detective reeder met with ferris several times and something about the guy didn't seem right to him. >> i received a call from gabe ferris, and said, i understand you're the investigator, i would
like to talk to you. and then he's asking me all kinds of questions about the homicide, and he became very suspicious to me at that point. >> did you think that maybe this guy was the killer? >> absolutely. >> just by his behavior? >> right. my instincts. he was very nervous. i was really suspicious of him. >> although he didn't have the dark hair that matched what was found on the victim's body, other pieces of the puzzle seemed to fit. ferris admitted to having a sexual relationship with cheryl miller up to the week before her murder. and police found ferris' fingerprints on a dresser near cheryl miller's body. still, ferris seemed to have an alibi as solid as any imaginable. he said the night of the murder, he was 65 miles away in a cottage by lake huron, celebrating his honeymoon, making love to his new wife. >> i went to the prosecutor with all my evidence and laid out the whole case. and he said, bring me one more piece of evidence that we can come up with and we will
definitely issue a warrant. just give me one more piece. >> were you ever able to find that one extra piece? >> i was not. >> did there come a point when you thought that perhaps this case would never be solved? >> yes. it changed forever the way i looked at the world. >> cheryl miller's murder would enter the cold case files and it would stay there for nearly two decades, until 1994, when an interested police detective in saginaw reopened the case, quickly zeroed in on a suspect, and made an arrest. but after all these years, would the evidence stand up? >> give me a sense for the relief that the family felt when there was an arrest in the case finally after 20 years. >> it gave me a certain amount of peace, i can tell you that. i think it did my sister. we didn't know it at the time, but she was already sick. >> your sister sadly died of cancer. do you think she was more at peace because when she died she knew there had been an arrest?
nearly 30 years after her death, a suspect is on trial for the murder of cheryl miller. surprisingly, it's the man who seemed to have a rock solid alibi. gabriel ferris who was on his honeymoon when the crime was committed. no longer a carefree hippy in his 20s, the 55-year-old was facing a trial that could send him to prison for life for strangling his former girlfriend so many years before. >> those years had taken a toll on cheryl's family. her mother and father were now dead, but her aunt donna felt a duty to be in court every day. >> why did you feel that responsibility? >> she would have done it for
me. >> was this a slam dunk case? >> no, not at all. it is a difficult case from the beginning. >> what's the biggest challenge of prosecuting a case that is more than 20 years old? >> we had at least two witnesses pass away. the age of the case, the nature of the case, and the evidence that we had, evidence that we didn't have. all were -- made it a very unique case. >> saginaw county prosecuting attorney, michael thomas, and assistant prosecutor, jeff stroud. >> you were a kid when this murder took place. >> i was 14 years old, yes. i don't even think i ever anticipated being a lawyer at that time. >> he killed her. he choked her. he squeezed the life right out of her. >> and when ferris' trial began, it quickly became clear why police had focused on him. first, the state called the detective who was credited with cracking the cold case. >> tell us your name, please. >> roy allen walton. >> retired saginaw police
detective roy walton took the stand. he's the one who reopened the case in 1994, 20 years after the murder and zeroed in on ferris as a suspect. >> did you ask him questions about the death of cheryl miller? >> i did. >> how did he describe his relationship in that december of 1994? >> he indicated to me that she was just one of about five girls he was [ bleep ] at the time. >> and that was his compression? >> that was his terminology, yes. >> prosecutors were trying to portray ferris as cold-hearted and they would next present a parade of witnesses who said that in the years since the crime, ferris had a habit of making odd and incriminating statements about the murder. >> he said that when he was making love to her, he didn't mean to do it. >> like those heard by ferris' former roommate. >> he said he wanted to know how close they were getting to him. >> wanted to know how close they were getting to him? >> right. >> do you recall what he was talking about on the telephone? >> cheryl miller's murder.
>> the jury also heard from a jailhouse snitch that said ferris confessed to him. the snitch, like some other trial witnesses, did not wish to be photographed. >> he said he killed a woman, he said he strangled her. >> prosecutors called an ex-girlfriend who said ferris made strange statements while riding in a car in 1976, two years after cheryl miller was killed. >> he just kept saying, i didn't mean to do it. i didn't mean to do it. >> was gabe ferris his own worst enemy? >> well, i think there's no question about that. gabe ferris told enough people, enough things, to allow us to present evidence that would be corroborated in his own words. he was, in fact, the best evidence against him. >> but what physical evidence was there to back up those claims? how could prosecutors prove to the jury that ferris was the man who on june 15th, 1974, was in cheryl miller's bedroom with his hands around her neck squeezing the last breaths from her dying body?
>> see if we can replicate roughly the position of the body in relation to the dresser. >> the prosecution next used a dummy to demonstrate for the jury evidence that it said would conclusively link ferris to the murder. >> what do those circles represent? >> it represents the area with the latent fingerprints identified on mr. ferris were located. >> remember, two of ferris' fingerprints were found on a dresser in the victim's room, but the state argued that it was the position of those prints, just inches from the victim's head, that was key. the prosecutor used a police officer to show the jury that the prints could only have been left by a man who was committing murder. >> the fingers were pointing up. >> in the fashion in which the lieutenant roughly has his hands positioned? >> yes.
>> why is that significant? >> because that indicates that his hand had to be so far down the dresser that the wrist or the arm had to be perhaps along the floor. >> why was that important in relation to the position of cheryl miller's body? >> that would put him in a position of being on top of cheryl miller, either at a time when they are attempting or having sexual relations, or at the time that he's strangling her. either one of these things could have taken place, but because of the position of the fingerprints, it gets your attention. >> finally after presenting what the state said was strong, physical evidence proving ferris was the killer, prosecutors called to the stand the one woman whose testimony was crucial to the case. >> the people call terri igaz. >> terri igaz is gabriel ferris' former wife. she's the woman ferris was honeymooning with on the night of the murder. the couple split within months of that honeymoon and she took the stand not to defend her now ex-husband but as another woman
wronged by ferris. igaz, who also requested she not be photographed on the witness stand, testified that as the sun was coming up, she saw gabriel ferris returning to their honeymoon cottage. >> i heard the door to the house slamming, and gabriel coming up the stairs. >> did you notice anything at that time about his clothes? >> the first thing i said to him was how did you get the blood on your clothes? >> did he respond when you asked him about the blood on his clothes? >> he said, i hit a rabbit with your car and he got hung up in the wheel well and i had to pull him out. and that's how i got the blood on my clothes. >> ferris' ex-wife testified that same night in their honeymoon cottage ferris turned on the 11:00 news. >> he got up real close to the television and when it was talking about cheryl miller, he was touching the television and he was making noises like he was crying but he wasn't crying.
pretend crying. he told me that that was the last girlfriend he had before me. >> did he tell you that he was still dating her? >> no. >> did he tell you that he had a date with her the night before your wedding? >> no. >> and that, prosecutors would claim, was the motive behind the murder. because it turns out that gabriel ferris had set up a date with cheryl miller the night before his wedding, his so-called stag night apparently to have sex with her once more before becoming a married man. but ferris later told police that his wife-to-be had kept such a close eye on him that night, that he couldn't get away to see his girlfriend. so prosecutors theorized ferris decided to see cheryl miller at his very next opportunity, which turned out to be the first night of his honeymoon, the last night of her life. >> this seems to be the classic love triangle case. the supposition was that he left
the honeymoon to go meet and make up with cheryl miller. did he go there intending to rape her? probably not. he may have gone there very well intending to have sex with her and she said, look, you're married. i'm not having sex with you. and that angered him, and an argument ensued, and he ended up strangling her. >> and finally, to show that ferris had a propensity for choking and beating women, his ex-wife testified that he had more than once done the same thing to her, although he denied it. >> i guess you may step down. thank you very much. >> prosecutors rested their case, confident that they'd proven gabriel ferris had the means, motive, and thanks to his ex-wife's testimony, the opportunity to kill cheryl miller. the defense would now get the chance it had been waiting for, to prove that the evidence pointed not to ferris, but to another killer still on the loose. >> there's such good reasons to
çyyyñ÷óñó gabriel ferris had spent six days in a michigan courtroom listening to the state label him a scoundrel, a cheating husband who'd lied to his new wife in 1974 and slipped out of his honeymoon bed in a cottage on the shores of scenic lake huron to drive an hour for one final rendezvous with cheryl miller, a visit, they said, that ended in murder. >> this was somebody that wanted to make her suffer and did. >> but it turns out that there is much more to this story of gabriel ferris than what prosecutors told. in fact, this was the third time since his arrest that ferris had been tried for the murder of cheryl miller. in the previous trials, there'd been one hung jury and one conviction, later tossed out on
appeal. have you ever seen a prosecution quite like this? >> well, not only the prosecution, it was the judge. there was prosecutorial misconduct and ineffectiveness of defense counsel, and that's the trifecta of injustice. >> attorney david nickola and law professor david moran are among those that have represented ferris during his odyssey through michigan's justice system. >> how would you characterize this case to somebody who is totally unfamiliar with the twists and turns? >> it's a prosecution theory somebody on their honeymoon night for no apparent reason sneaks out and rapes and kills an ex-girlfriend is so strange that when i was first assigned this case on appeal, i thought, there's got to be more to this story. it doesn't make any sense. >> michigan's court of appeals had come down hard on the saginaw authorities who prosecuted ferris. >> the star witness was a man named rodney mays, who was a jailhouse snitch. and one of the reasons that the conviction was overturned the first time was that rodney mays lied, and we proved that. >> the appeals court ruled that mays falsely testified because he expected a deal in exchange
for his testimony against ferris. >> the rest of the case was similar smoke and mirrors. >> not pretty but the point i want to make. >> now ferris had another chance to convince a jury of his innocence, and they believed that the jury could only concluded that ferris was not guilty. why? a lack of physical evidence. was there any of gabe ferris' hair found at the crime scene? >> none. >> semen? >> none. >> blood, skin tissue? >> nothing. >> what does that say about this case? >> i think it's a very weak case. >> a weak case, the defense argued, even though ferris' fingerprint was found on a dresser a few inches from the victim's head. ferris said they had sex all over the bedroom and fingerprint analysts forced to admit they couldn't prove the prints were left the night of the murder.
>> you said you could not place a time on it, correct? >> that's true. >> so you don't know when it was made? >> i don't. >> that was the one piece of physical evidence they had. the problem with that piece of physical evidences that fingerprints last. that fingerprint could have been left there any number of prior occasions. >> the defense's argument was simple -- there was far less reason to believe that ferris had committed the murder and more reason to believe that someone else had done it. first, the defense brought up the original suspect, abbass esfehani. you'll recall he was the victim's former boyfriend, described as hot-tempered, who made a hasty return to iran in the days after the murder. esfehani's fingerprints were found on the banister leading up to the murder scene. >> i'm telling you straight out, the guy was cold about it. >> and the exchange student's former roommate remembered a strange reaction when esfehani discussed cheryl miller's death. >> i remember saying to him, you're acting as if nothing even happened.
>> okay. >> it was really -- it was shocking to me that he could care less. >> what do you think really happened to cheryl miller? >> well, i think the most plausible theory, in my opinion, is that abbass esfehani was the one that committed the crime. they were lovers. they had just broken up a week before. she had called her parents -- this is in police records -- a very bad blowout. >> what do you think happened? >> well, miss miller was not only beautiful, but she was very bold. and mr. esfehani was from a country culturally where men generally dominated and manipulated women. and miss miller dumped mr. esfehani. >> dumped him? >> dumped him. and i don't believe he could take that. he was a jilted lover. that has all the ingredients for the recipe of murder. >> did abbass esfehani get away with murder? >> he's a very likely suspect. i don't know if he did it. >> while the facts point to him, and the case ended with him, as the primary suspect. and because of the government
and politics, we can't go back and get him now. we don't have any relationship with that government anymore. >> next, remember the second suspect police had focused on? >> antonio alverez. >> tony alverez was the cousin of the victim's roommate, he was older and perhaps grayer but still 30 years later answering questions about the case. after all, he'd been in the house many times, and prosecutors now admitted the dark hairs found on the victim's body belonged to him. >> were you in the room when cheryl miller was murdered? >> no. >> any explanation, any at all, for your hairs being there? >> no. >> it turned out the hairs weren't the only thing linking alverez to the murder. because, listen to what alvarez once told an undercover cop. >> i know who did it but i won't tell the [ bleep ] pigs. >> just something -- >> shoot your mouth off. >> yeah, exactly. >> you know you were being investigated at that time, so why were you running your mouth? >> just to run it, i guess.
as it moves inland over texas. but it's still dumping heavy rain. it caused damage but only one injury is reported. and barack obama ended his mideast visit with a predawn stop in jerusalem. he then headed to germany. now, back to our special. 30 years after she was strangled to death in her bedroom, cheryl miller's former boyfriend, gabriel ferris, was on trial, now for the third time for the murder. he was facing a life sentence and his attorneys were on the attack. after pointing to other viable suspects, the defense was about to drop a bombshell. because it turns out that when the physical evidence was gathered from the crime scene 30 years ago and detectives began following leads, those dark hairs on the victim's body of evidence that pointed away from gabriel ferris. the medical examiner also found something highly unusual, left behind, he believed, by the man who raped and murdered cheryl miller. >> he told the two detectives that he found a large quantity of semen, and what was remarkable was not finding sperm. >> indicating whoever raped cheryl miller was sterile. >> right. >> it was true. police and medical reports said whoever raped and murdered cheryl miller was sterile. for years, detectives pursued that lead, looking for a sterile killer. you had ferris tested? >> we did. and the test results came back
he had a normal sperm count. >> could a person with a normal sperm count have raped cheryl miller? >> almost impossible. only way it could have happened if he had had a vasectomy before 1974 and then had it reversed. >> the defense called one of the nation's leading experts on male reproduction to back up the claim that ferris could not have been the killer. >> if he's fertile today, would you expect that in 1974 he would have been infertile at any time? >> if he's fertile now, he almost certainly would have been fertile then. >> the original medical examiner had concluded that whoever raped cheryl miller was sterile. >> the problem with that turned out to be abbass esfehani is not sterile. tony alverez is not sterile. gabe ferris is not sterile. so even of the pool of suspects that the defense argued could have committed this crime, none
of them were sterile. >> maybe none of them committed the crime. >> well, there's always, i suppose, that possibility. and again, if you take just that single piece of evidence you can create whatever doubt you wish to create. >> the defense was focused on presenting hard, physical evidence to show the jury that gabriel ferris could not be the killer. what it said were hairs and semen that didn't come from ferris, and the defense argued that the state had a shaky case based on two old fingerprints, circumstantial evidence, and witnesses whose stories had changed over three decades. >> all right. you may proceed. >> the defense argued the case never would have gone to trial if it had not been for one man. >> that's what you say he told you. >> that's what he told me. >> roy walton, the retired saginaw police detective that had reopened the cold case in 1994, 20 years after the murder, and quickly zeroed in on ferris as a suspect. so where's that statement then? >> i don't know. i never had it.
>> the defense pointed out that walton didn't follow up on crucial evidence that could have led to other suspects. >> you got a valid reason? can you give me an explanation why it's not there? >> sure. i'll give you the explanation i gave you before. i don't know. there's approximately 40 lab reports in this file. hundreds of pieces of information in the reports and so forth. and that one, i would have felt important to get in the book. just did not for whatever reason. it just apparently was overlooked. >> why would the police want to fix a case on gabe ferris? what's the motive? >> gabe ferris' worst enemy is gabe ferris. he is abrasive, he's sharp tongued, he's got a hot temper and he can be annoying. and right off the bat, with detective walton, he basically skewered him, hung up the phone and within a few days, detective walton was down there in chicago arresting him, before the
investigation was really even concluded. >> next, the defense argued if the jury couldn't believe the detective's word, neither could it believe the witnesses he turned up, including that jailhouse snitch who claimed ferris confessed to him. >> you know what the penalty is for perjury in a murder trial? >> objection, your honor. >> i know the penalty for lying. >> he's already had one snitch take him down, and you're going to tell me that he's going to sit in a cell with a kid for five minutes and tell him how he killed this woman? it's totally unbelievable. >> what are the odds that two different snitches would tell two different lies about the same guy? >> they had several snitches. and they chose the best one. that's what they did. the guy that would testify the best. in any high-profile case, you have guys busting out of the woodwork trying to get a deal. even if they're just trying to get you to send them money every month here in jail. i put absolutely nothing into that. >> and the defense claimed equally unbelievable was the ex-girlfriend who testified that ferris had said he, quote, didn't mean to do it.
because another man present during the conversation contradicted her. >> if mr. ferris would have told you that he had murdered cheryl miller, do you think you'd have remembered that? >> yes. he never told me that. >> the defense was set to wrap up its case, asking the jury a simple question -- did it make sense that gabriel ferris would on the first night of his honeymoon make love to his new wife and then sneak out of his house, drive 65 miles to visit a former girlfriend? a woman he was now accused of killing? and further, did he have time that night to commit the crime? after all, ferris' wife said she heard him returning to the house around sun-up at 6:00 a.m. and the medical examiner said the murder occurred at virtually the same time, between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. it was time now for the defense to question the credibility of the witness at the center of the prosecution's case. ferris' ex-wife. the woman who was on her honeymoon trip at the time of the murder, terri igaz took the stand. the defense attempted to portray
her as an ex-wife with an ax to grind who had before changing her story once provided ferris with an airtight alibi for the morning of the murder. >> in your very first statement, also, you mentioned that you went to bed at midnight. isn't that correct? and you got up at noon. >> that's what i thought. >> did gabe get up? did you feel him moving around or anything like that? you said, no, he didn't get up. he stayed in bed the whole night. >> two days later, she went back to police with new details including claims that ferris had left the home and returned home with blood on his clothes. >> why did you not remember that the very first time you went to the police station? your husband comes in, he has blood on his hands. why didn't that stick in your mind? >> that's the last thing i was thinking about on my honeymoon. >> that's not what i'm asking you, ma'am. i'm asking you, in your very first statement, why didn't you give out those particular
details? >> it just didn't roll off like that. >> and what about all that blood igaz says ferris was covered in? >> the big problem with that, there was no blood at the crime scene. just a little bit in her nose. otherwise, there's no blood. >> even if you believed her, that he had blood on him, you would say so what? because there's no blood at the crime scene? >> absolutely. terri's story has evolved over the years, the time switch, different details come in and out. it's never been consistent. the truth is the truth. the truth does not change over time. and her story has new details and every time it just expands. >> i thought of some other things, but i'm not sure if they really happened or not. do you recall saying that? >> yes. >> and the defense was particularly interested in how igaz qualified the events when she gave her statement. >> it seems every time you give a statement, there's something new in there. is that not correct? >> that's what i remembered.
>> what do you mean when you remembered, ma'am? >> i had to stop, rethink everything through and go by minute-by-minute to remember every single thing that happened on that honeymoon. >> okay. but when you do that, you still do that and you're still saying, geez, i don't know. this is a dream or not. is that not correct? >> i know it's not a dream now. >> ma'am, two years after this happened, did you say, i don't know if it was a dream or what? is that not correct? >> that was when i was first remembering. >> so you think your memory is better 30 years later now? >> it hasn't changed since. >> she told police at one point that this may have all happened in a dream of hers. >> yep, that's correct. that's correct. >> what does that say about her credibility as a witness? >> i think it sinks it. >> your honor, the defense rests. coming up, prosecutors take one more shot with a witness who makes a startling claim.
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at the new papa johns.com. what you just told us here just now, is that you can't do that with just one hair. >> no -- >> that is just what you said. >> gabriel ferris was on trial for killing cheryl miller 30 years earlier. the defense had challenged the credibility of the witnesses and raised serious questions about the evidence, including this one, how could gabriel ferris, a natural blonde with a normal sperm count have raped and murdered cheryl miller when forensic experts working the case back in 1974 had told detectives to look for a dark-haired killer who was sterile. >> your next witness? >> prosecutors had a chance to
explain. in the age of csi, when so many believe that criminal science is infallible and that the evidence always points to the guilty, the state was about to admit that the original detectives and scientists on the case misread the evidence and followed the wrong leads. >> these are packages that i received on the 20th of june, 1974. >> first to the stand, the former crime lab scientist who had examined the hairs found on the victim's body. even though for years he had told police they were looking for a dark-haired killer, similar to suspects esfehani and alverez, now he said this -- >> if the woman laying there were to have struggled and rolled on that rug, could she have picked up hairs on her body from that rug? >> certainly could, yes. >> in other words, prosecutors now argued that those dark hairs found on the body long thought to have been left from the killer did not come from the killer at all. the expert testified the hairs were not pulled out in a fierce struggle, but had been left
behind by people who were in the house and shed the hairs naturally. when cheryl miller struggled with the killer, the expert testified, the hairs came off the rug and stuck to her body. as further proof they came from the rug and not the killer, some of the hairs he testified came from an animal. but what about the startling defense claim that the killer was sterile and ferris was not? prosecutors now had a new explanation for that evidence as well. >> there were no sperm on that slide. >> saginaw county's current chief medical examiner testified that the pathologist who told police that they were looking for a sterile killer 30 years before was simply wrong. in fact, the m.e. testified that the substance was not semen at all, but came from the victim instead. and that conclusion was backed up by another scientist who'd examined slides of the substance taken from the victim's body. >> the test was negative for the presence of seminal fluid. >> prosecutors wanted to put ferris in prison for life
without parole. in order to do that, they had to convict him of what is called felony murder, a murder committed in the course of a felony, in this case, rape. the question for prosecutors without semen, how could they prove that a rape even occurred? >> if you have a rape case, wouldn't you have a semen sample that you could use to tie the rapist to the rape? >> if the rapist doesn't ejaculate, you have no semen sample. in this case, our supposition was that mr. ferris was choking cheryl miller to get her to participate in this act, and he killed her. and in that instance, he may very well have lost the desire to complete the act. >> you can't tell us what he was thinking, can you? >> no, i cannot tell you. >> the defense had one last chance to respond. blasting the prosecution experts. first, the medical examiner who disputed findings by the
original pathologist, now dead, that the killer was sterile. >> it's 100% pure speculation. >> no, it is not. that is my opinion. if you want to conclude it is speculation, sobeit. >> who are you going to believe? some guy 30 years later saying the clown must have been mistaken or a guy doing thousands of autopsies who saw it? the man who took it out of the woman's body. he knew what he had. he knew it was semen. >> what does it say to you that this theory has changed? >> that they don't know. they don't know what it is but want to avoid the conclusion the most obvious conclusion the guy that looked at it june 15th, 1974, was right and that it was semen without sperm. because if that's right, then gabe ferris is almost certainly innocent. and they know that. and so they want to avoid that theory. i don't think that they're knowingly prosecuting the wrong guy. i think what they're doing is they believe it. they got locked on to a theory, they believe it, and they tend to discount all the evidence that contradicts that theory.
>> finally, the defense closed its case by asking jurors this question -- if there was such a violent struggle, how come none of gabriel ferris' hairs ended up on the victim's body. >> and there was nothing of mr. ferris at the crime scene, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> does it make sense? >> no. it doesn't make sense. when you have a violent struggle with an especially hairy defendant, you would expect to find at least some of his hair at the scene. and you wouldn't expect all of the hair found on the body is dark hair that doesn't match her, and doesn't match him. coming up, ferris' fate is left in the hands of the jury.
proven that ferris was a man capable of leaving his honeymoon bed on the shores of lake huron and driving 65 miles for a rendezvous with ex-girlfriend, cheryl miller, a meeting that ended in murder. >> over time, years, evidence keeps pointing to gabe ferris. not tony alvarez. not abbass esfehani. gabe ferris. >> but the defense disagreed and insisted that the prosecution's theory made no sense. that even though admittedly ferris has been a scoundrel, sleeping with cheryl miller in the days before his wedding to another woman, there was no evidence that he killed her. >> it's a sleazy thing to do. but it doesn't amount to murder, people. >> soon the fate of gabriel ferris was in the hands of the jurors. among them, a retired mechanical engineer, a pipe fitter, and a marketing executive. >> what was that first, two undecided, four not guilty, and six guilty. and you were among those undecided. >> some wondered how so much of
the physical evidence at the crime scene could point away from ferris and toward other suspects. there's no blood evidence, at least physically that was available. no semen. none of gabe ferris' hair on the scene. >> yeah, there was conflicting evidence. >> i mean, it seems like everybody else's hair was there besides his. >> that was a definite question i think on a lot of jurors' minds. >> but to the jurors, the testimony of ferris' ex-wife, testimony that changed repeatedly over the years, struck a chord. >> the defense has suggested that she had it out for gabe ferris. >> she very well may have, but i don't think that had anything to do with this case. >> how credible was ferris' ex-wife to you? >> very credible. she didn't waiver. >> the defense had suggested the relationship went sour quickly and that she hated him and would do anything to fix this case on
him. what do you say to that? >> the best way to fry somebody that you're really angry with is to tell the truth if the truth is going to really hurt him. and i really think that's what happened. >> her story shifted over the years, though. i mean, initially she backed up his alibi. he was there all night. and that changed as time went on. >> i can only say, looking in her eyes when she was giving the testimony and trying to read her, as best i could, i think she -- she told the truth as she remembered it at that time, and she knew in so doing it was really going to hurt his case. >> and jurors also focused on incriminating statements witnesses said ferris made, like the woman who testified he said, quote, i didn't mean to do it. >> why would a person do that if they're innocent? i just -- it didn't add up to me. >> in the end, was gabe ferris' own worst enemy?
in terms of making all these statements? >> i think so. the statement he made from his roommate, he kept calling the police and checking on the case. that got my attention. >> for cheryl miller's aunt who sat through every day of the trial, the thought of ferris being set free was too much to take. how anxious were you? >> i don't believe i have ever been so anxious in my life. like up and down, pacing the halls. anxious. >> but on just the second day of deliberations, jurors sent word to the judge. >> ladies and gentlemen, i received a note from you which indicates that you have reached a verdict. >> the jury had come together. >> i felt very much at ease. i had no inhibitions about it. i felt we had all done the right thing. >> any second thoughts? >> no.
none whatsoever. >> and as they awaited the verdict, it might be an understatement to say that gabriel ferris and his defense attorney were anticipating good news. you thought you nailed it? >> i really did, yes. this moment? >> what is ferris feeling at this moment? >> he was talking about buying a sailboat. >> so after all this time, he thinks that he's going to be out of prison? >> yes. >> like that day? >> yes. >> i will announcement the verdict of the jury. >> yes, your honor. the find the defendant gabriel ferris guilty of felony murder. >> guilty. >> i think i gave a yell out of me. and the tears began to come down my face. thank god, that's what was going through my mind, thank god. >> 30 years after the murder of cheryl miller, a jury found gabriel ferris guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. ferris maintains his innocence. however, his latest appeal was denied in october 2006.
as we sit here today, how convinced are you that an innocent man is in prison for murder? >> i have no doubt. no doubt. none. >> but i think that the evidence in this particular case established far beyond a reasonable doubt that gabe ferris was the killer of cheryl miller and i think that justice has been done in this case. >> i think they did cheryl miller a justice. they found her murderer. i wanted the jurors to all go and put a rose on her grave after it was over. just to say, there, we did it. for you. >> for cheryl's family, ferris' life sentence is exactly what he deserves. >> he killed cheryl. he left cheryl's parents in pain for the rest of their lives. that's an unforgivable thing to do. unforgivable
unforgivable. due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. msnbc takes you behind the walls of america's most a notorious prisons, into a world of chaos and danger. now the scenes you've never seen, "lockup: raw." >> when our crews go into maximum security prisons across the country, there's a certain dynamic we observe every time. it's the inherent distrust between correctional officers and inmates and yet they have to work side by