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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  September 10, 2016 5:00pm-6:01pm PDT

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i'm tamron hall. thank you for watching. xxxx i felt guilty. i couldn't live with that. i said, i know something and it's terrible. i'm the only other person that knows the truth. i had to do something. >> he swept her right off her feet. >> i was drawn to him right away. he was handsome. he was super athletic. >> a dreamy, single dad, wealthy, charming, smitten. >> i had never been spoiled like that. i remember thinking i was like julia roberts in "pretty woman." >> he had been through so much.
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a mysterious accident at sea. >> he went under and when he came up, he said he no longer saw his wife. >> he was just hysterical. >> they were never able to find her. >> it was a heart-wrenching story. so why then were so many people so suspicious? >> no one knows exactly what happened on that boat. >> an accident? a disappearance. >> you thought what, she faked her death? >> maybe murder. >> there's no way. absolutely no way. >> i felt like the police were just trying to frame an innocent man. >> now she would be the one to unravel it all. >> i thought i could do this. >> in a dangerous under cover operation. >> my heartbeat was going so fast. he said, you need to tell me the truth. >> welcome to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. they were living the dream. a good-looking couple with an expanding family and a booming business. he whisked her away on a
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birthday boat cruise, then disaster struck and pegye bechler was gone. was it an accident? or was it perhaps something more sinister? here's josh mankiewicz with "troubled waters." >> if you crave money, or fame, or if you want to meet beautiful people, maybe even become one of them, you will find your way to southern california. it's where everything is possible, or seems to be. this is the story of two women drawn for different reasons to the sun, to the bright lights, to the blue water. both chased that promise of success. both saw what can go wrong. it was a gorgeous summer day in newport beach, california. the last of fourth of july weekend.
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some lucky tourists aboard an eight-passenger boat called "the green machine" were marveling at a school of dolphins playing in the water, when they came across the unexpected. >> we've got a loose boat out here about five miles out of newport beach. >> the captain radioed the coast guard that a small speedboat was circling in a boat out of control in the water nearby was a man holding on to a body board. >> the husband apparently fell off the boat and the wife apparently fell off the boat. >> the man in the water was frantic. >> he's still looks like he's pretty distraught. >> absolutely. >> his name was eric bechler. his wife was pegye. but she was nowhere to be found. >> what is he doing at this time? >> just kind of yelling out. laying on his board and yelling out. >> roger. can you make out any words he's yelling out? over. >> no. he's kind of slurring his words.
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>> any time now units should be on scene. >> it was a stunning end to what began as a perfect day. this newport beach couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary, and pegye was just turning 38. >> it was her birthday. so she was in good spirits. >> brenda was one of the friends they had invited to a big party a couple of days earlier. >> she was talking about how much she loves eric, you know, how great life is. and maybe life was great. because pegye had it all. her story begins in a small town, dexter, new mexico. this is where pegye made her entrance. >> i've often said that she was born winking at the doctor, and swinging on the chandelier. >> pegye was june and glen marshall's fourth child. and june said pegye was going places from the very day she was born. >> she was never still.
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>> she danced, sang, played sports, and it seemed nothing could hold her back. she had scoliosis as a kid. young pegye had to wear a brace around the clock. that's a terrible burden for a young kid like that to bear. but it also kind of ended up motivating her, didn't it? >> it really did. >> pegye's doctor talked to her about a career in physical therapy, she volunteered and loved it. >> she made up her mind right then she wanted to be a physical therapist, and she wanted to move to california and be a beautiful blond. so she did. >> a farmer's daughter with big dreams. so pegye left the small town of dexter for sunny california, and settled in newport beach. that's where she met glenda who was also from new mexico, and they immediately hit it off. >> pegye was probably one of the most gregarious people i've ever met. she was happy, and she was always smiling.
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>> and says glenda, pegye was driven to establish herself as a successful physical therapist. she had almost everything she wanted. >> she wanted to find a guy. >> the clock was ticking a little bit. >> it was. >> one day on the beach, you found somebody for her. >> we did. so one afternoon on a weekend, pegye called me and said, what are you doing? i said, i'm going to go down and watch dave play some volleyball on the beach. >> dave was glenda's husband. >> i asked pegye if she wanted to come down with me. and she said absolutely. she immediately spotted eric and said, who is that? >> eric bechler, then in his early 20s, was a walking commercial for the california beach life. >> i'm going to guess when she notices a guy playing beach volleyball, he's good looking, and in great shape. >> indeed he was. >> and handsome. >> very. he was all those things. >> and he was available.
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he was also eight years younger. was that a problem for either one of them? >> it was not a problem for either one of them. pegye, when she sets her sights on something, she's going to make it happen. and it developed really quickly. really, really quickly. >> within a year they were married. within four years, they had three beautiful kids. pegye and eric went into business together. she opened up her own physical therapy business and eric, a computer whiz, managed the technical side of their venture, which quickly became very profitable. >> her business was doing good, and she was happily married. >> and the happy couple was also happily spending a lot of money, on a german sports car, italian clothing, and a spectacular bluffside home in newport beach. >> they were the little dream story. beautiful girl, good looking guy, drive nice cars, beautiful children.
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>> until that summer day in 1997, when the unimaginable happened. >> male, kind of distraught, said that his wife fell overboard. >> it was a boating accident, said eric. and the coast guard agreed. something they see all too often. but soon secrets emerged that would make some people wonder, what really happened to pegye bechler? coming up -- >> i absolutely thought they'd find her. >> maybe alive? >> mm-hmm. i did. she was a fabulous swimmer. >> where was pegye and what had gone wrong on that boat? >> he'd be crying, his face is red. he looked upset. >> there was would be a sea of questions to come. >> you thought, what, pegye faked her death? >> when "dateline extra" continues. [monster noises] ♪
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welcome back to "dateline
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extra." i'm tamron hall. in the hours after the boating accident that left pegye bechler missing, her friends and family had high hopes that she would be found alive. they all knew something about pegye that made it impossible to think she could be lost at sea. here again is josh mankiewicz with troubled waters. >> this was supposed to be something like a romantic outing, an anniversary and birthday gift eric bechler planned for his wife, pegye. but it turned into something else. and now pegye was gone. the coast guard immediately launched a search. but by nightfall, no sign of pegye, alive or otherwise. and so eric called pegye's mom, june. >> he says, we can't find pegye.
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and i said, what do you mean you can't find her? where is she? what are you trying to tell me? >> eric told june that pegye was driving a boat, towing him on a body board, when all of a sudden a wave wiped him out. when he came up from under the water, he said, he could no longer see pegye inside the boat. >> we thought that they would be finding her, because we just really thought she would swim out of it. >> you see, pegye was quite at home in the water. growing up, it was the only time she didn't have to wear that back brace. and she became a very accomplished swimmer. >> she wouldn't panic. she would swim. because she loved the water. >> the next morning june and glen marshall were on the first flight out to california. pegye had been missing almost 24 hours. >> of course, the ocean is just bigger than you think about, if you're in new mexico.
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>> pegye's friend, glenda, tried to stay optimistic. >> i absolutely thought they'd find her. >> maybe alive? >> mm-hmm. i did. because she was a fabulous swimmer. >> glenda went to the bechler house to see eric. how did he look? >> hysterical. a little bit, you know. he would be crying, and his face is red. and, you know, all of those things. he looked upset. as he should be. one would expect. >> this video from local news shows a devastated eric. it was now day two of the search for pegye. still nothing. the next day, the coast guard interviewed eric. eric bechler could barely speak.
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>> what did you take with you? >> we had a couple of bags and a cooler. we wanted to see if we could see catalina. but it was so hazy. i told pegye, you know, it was too hazy. >> eric told the coast guard he tried to body board on the way out. and said there was a pretty good swim in the ocean. >> as high as the side of the boat probably. >> eric said they stopped out here on the water to enjoy some margaritas pegye had made. later in the day they decided to try the body board again, this time on their way back to the harbor. pegye was driving. eric was being pulled on the board. >> the waves would get real big and then jerk out -- i just tried to hold on. it was just going in circles.
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and i couldn't see her. the boat kept going farther and farther away. and i couldn't see any other boats. i was screaming. looking around. it was my fault. >> and so pegye bechler was simply gone. maybe even within sight of the same beach that had spawned her marriage. eric seemed devastated. fearing his wife and business partner was dead. but eric's mother, linda, saw things quite differently. >> i'm sure that they would find her and it would all turn out well. >> not just because pegye was a strong swimmer, everyone knew that. linda knew more. a secret about her daughter-in-law. and you thought, what, pegye faked her death?
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or disappeared deliberately? >> mm-hmm. >> coming up, pegye's secret. what was it? >> she stopped me on the stairway and said i have to talk to you. >> and enter the bikini model. >> she was just a hot number, as they say. >> how would she figure into all of this? when "dateline extra" continues. . we can help you retire your way, too. financial guidance while you're mastering life. from chase. so you can. we catch flo, the progressive girl, at the supermarket buying cheese. scandal alert! flo likes dairy?! woman: busted! [ laughter ] right afterwards we caught her
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welcome back to "dateline extr extra". i'm tamron hall. when eric bechler said his wife was swallowed by the ocean in a freak accident, he seemed inconsolable. but the police were wondering if eric's tears were genuine. here's josh mankiewicz again with "troubled waters." >> a brilliant pacific ocean sunset closed out day three of the search for pegye bechler. even though pegye's family and friends tried to remain hopeful, reality was slowly starting to set in. and it was painful. at this point, you didn't think she was alive anymore.
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>> i kept thinking that she was. but, you know, could she -- that length of time. >> unless, of course, what appeared to be an accident was not. the coast guard conducted a reenactment at sea. >> they said it just doesn't appear to be feasible to them, given the sea conditions. >> that's when the coast guard called the orange county sheriff's office. detective sean murphy was put on the case. >> they weren't able to duplicate even close to what was alleged by eric bechler, that his wife was tossed off by a rogue wave. >> if pegye's disappearance was no accident, murphy's job was to find out what did happen. detectives started by reinterviewing eric and asking him about his relationship with pegye. >> he said his marriage was good. there was no problems with it. >> you didn't take his word for it?
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>> no. in our game, we don't take anybody's word for anything. we look into it. and that's what we did. >> they met with the improbably named kobi lakeler, eric's best friend. >> they had a terrific marriage, and there was no problems whatsoever. >> but if the marriage seemed solid, there were questions about pegye. at least according to linda bechler, eric's mother. linda said pegye told her something in confidence just before she disappeared. >> she stopped me on the stairway, as i was leaving, and said, i have to talk to you. she said, i'm afraid i'm going to jail. >> according to court documents, about a year before pegye disappeared, the couple sold their physical therapy business to another company. but they stayed on as employees. then just four months before pegye vanished, the bechlers were fired, amid allegations they had overbilled medicare for more than $1 million. so when linda heard pegye had
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vanished -- >> i started thinking about how disturbed she was about going to jail. >> and she wondered if pegye had somehow staged her own disappearance. pegye's friend, glenda, said, no way. was pegye bechler capable of committing white collar crime, medicare overbilling? >> in my opinion, no. >> if you're wrong about that, then maybe the idea that she faked her death to escape possible prosecution for that, maybe that's a little bit more plausible. >> white collar crime and faking your death and leaving your children and your family are two really separate issues. >> glenda said pegye adored her children, and would never abandon them. i will say that people who have never been in the inside of a courtroom, or the inside of a jail cell, sometimes do pretty crazy things when they realize
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that might happen to them. >> i believe that. but not pegye. >> glenda dill tell the detectives that pegye and eric were having some issues, like how pegye was busy with work and kids, while eric seemed occupied on the volleyball court. >> she just confided in me that they were having some financial troubles. because they, you know, they had a pretty high lifestyle to keep up with. >> glenda said eric and pegye seemed determined to work everything out. but now pegye was gone. and eric was a single dad with three kids under the age of 4. and a new player was about to enter the story. >> you were drawn to eric right away? >> yes. >> like countless young women before her, tina had drop-dead looks and hollywood dreams. she had done some bikini modeling and had a small part on the tv show "baywatch nights."
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but that turned out to be the peak of her career. soon tina found herself slipping into the darker side of showbiz. she started doing drugs and lost custody of her two young children because of it. and fell for a succession of guys who did not treat her kindly. >> i had an ex-boyfriend put a gun to my head, playing russian roulette between me and him. >> tina, who was broke and near rock bottom, was desperate. >> i got down on my knees, literally begging and said, i'll do whatever you want, lord, just help me. i can't do this anymore. i need you to show me a sign. >> and the universe sent you eric bechler. >> the next day, i meet him and all my problems are gone. >> she had taken a modeling gig, eye candy at a trade show. eric was there promoting his in you business. it was three months to the day since pegye had disappeared. >> i just thought he was really handsome. >> so there was some serious chemistry from the beginning? >> yes. we went out that night, actually, he asked me out that
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night. i moved in the next day. really fast. >> you don't wait, do you. >> no. not then. >> eric lived in a giant house and drove a porsche. and he was a gentleman in her life, after a long string of men who were not gentle. >> i had never been spoiled like that. i remember thinking that i was like julia roberts in "pretty woman. ". >> tina was moved by eric's story. >> he said to me that his wife died in a tragic boat accident and that they were never able to find her. >> she couldn't help noticing how great he was with his kids. >> he would sit on the floor and play with them. i actually hot he was a great dad. >> and she was eager to help, taking care of the kids while eric went, as usual, to the beach to play volleyball. >> i thought, they lost their mom, they need someone to step in, and not be their mom, but do things their mom would do for them. >> but when they took the kids to visit pegye's parents -- >> there was a lot of animosity toward me. >> all they saw was this hot
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young woman who was brought in to replace their missing daughter. >> exactly three months to the day. i can't even imagine what they were thinking. >> pegye's family wasn't alone. detective sean murphy had also noticed the new woman in eric bechler's life. >> just ostentatious. i mean, she was just a hot number, as they say. and she was cohabitating with him right after this horrible boating accident with his wife. >> so murphy arranged to bump into tina. >> i said, hey, if you have any information about this boating accident involving eric, your boyfriend, just give us a call. and i gave her my card, with my number on it. >> nothing came of it. tina didn't call. but someone else did. >> coming up, the best friend has second thoughts. kobi laker goes undercover. >> i protected you. i basically made you look like a saint. >> and the new girlfriend is
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about to see this case in a whole new light. >> i put the videotape in, and i said, oh, my gosh, what is this? >> when "dateline extra" continues. hmmmmm... [ "dreams" by beck ] hmmmmm... the turbocharged dream machine. the volkswagen golf gti. named one of car and driver's 10best, 10 years in a row.
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both donald trump and hillary clinton are expected to be at the world trade center site tomorrow for the 15th anniversary commemoration of the september 11th terror attacks. neither candidate is expected to make public remarks. the cdc said it could soon lift a travel advisory warning pregnant women and their partners to stay away from a one-mile-square zone connected to the zika virus. it will be lifted september 19th if no new cases are discovered. now back to "dateline extra." welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. with a new live-in girlfriend, eric bechler seemed to be moving
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quickly with removing his wife pegye. that didn't set well with the police, or pegye's family. what did eric's best friend know? and how far would he go to give proof? here again is josh mampg ewits. >> it sounded more than suspicious. eric bechler taking up with a gorgeous redhead just three months after his wife was lost at sea. but murphy didn't maf much more than a gnawing in his gut until his phone rang. >> we got a call from kobi's lawyer, said he wanted to arrange an interview again with kobi. >> kobi laker, eric's best friend and volleyball buddy. he told sheriff's detectives that the bechler marriage was great. now he had a different story. >> eric's told me on several occasions, he's sick and tired of his wife. and he would tell me that he just couldn't take it anymore.
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he was tired of it. >> about seven months before pegye vanished, kobi said he and eric had a conversation that kobi describes as haunting him ever since. >> eric asked me about what he thought -- what i thought of the idea of him killing his wife. and i -- i was shocked. i didn't know what to say. he told me coincidentally that he was thinking of taking her out to the ocean and dumping her in a barrel. >> he said that when he saw there was a boating accident and eric's wife was missing, he knew right then and there, he saw it on tv, he knew that he had killed his wife. and he lied to us, he said, because he panicked and he was afraid and didn't know what to do. >> the detectives convinced kobi to wear a wire and met eric in a restaurant in orange county. eric had no idea that police were listening in. even so, he stuck to his story that pegye's death was a
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terrible accident. >> i was there. i know what happened. i don't know how people could think anything else. >> you never said, hey, man, i don't know what the [ bleep ] you guys are talking about. i'm innocent. you haven't said anything about anything. >> kobi tried again. >> i protected you. i basically made you look like a saint in the interview i had with the detectives. >> a dead end. but detectives were now convinced that eric killed his wife that conversation with kobi, that got you from suspicion to knowing. >> it moved it all the way over. we knew we had a homicide. >> but knowing it and proving it were two very different things. you didn't get to process that boat as a crime scene for almost a week. >> right. right. that wasn't good. that hindered the investigation. >> the boat, said detective
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murphy, was pretty clean. crime scene did find blood, just one drop under one of the cushions. but not enough to determine whether it was human blood. it could have come from a fish. not enough evidence to arrest eric for murder, or even prove that a murder occurred. pegye's close friend, glenda, didn't believe eric was a killer. >> there's no way that eric would have done that. i mean, there's just absolutely no way. it was infathomable to me. >> tina new felt the same way. >> i foelt like the police were just trying to frame an innocent man. i thought, the way he treats me, there's no way he could hurt his wife. >> tina also noticed that eric kept photos of pegye in every room of the house. she could not imagine that a man who had killed his wife would want to see her face everywhere. eric was really the answer to all your problems for a while, wasn't he? >> yeah, he was. >> so you weren't too anxious to question him. >> no. i believed him. >> and after about six months --
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he says, will you marry me? >> yes. >> and you say? >> i said yes. >> you don't say no a lot. >> yeah. i mean, he treated me so good. >> she also admits she knew eric was due to collect more than $2 million in insurance money once he was cleared in his wife's disappearance. and everything would work out. >> everything would work out, yep. >> well, you were wrong. >> i was definitely wrong. >> they had been a couple for two years. still not married, but living together off and on. one night tina was showing eric some of her old modeling shots and tv appearances. >> we were looking at my pictures. i put the videotape in, and i'm fast forwarding it, and it just stops. >> purely by chance, tina accidently recorded a news report about pegye's disappearance. >> the whole screen was a picture of her face. i said, oh, my gosh, what is this? >> then she turned to eric. >> and i looked at him. his face turned white.
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like he literally lost the color in his face, and he said, how did you get that? i said, i don't know. >> his reaction troubled her. but she hit play and it just got worse. the news report did not match the story he told her. >> he said there were three to four-foot waves, it was really choppy out there. >> on the report they said the day pegye went missing there were only two-foot waves. and the weather was described as ideal. >> he lied. he lied all this time to me. he was just really quiet. >> he's sitting right next to you. >> right next to me. >> how does eric look at that point. >> flushed and stressed. i yelled at him and said, why is this different than what you told me? and he just like fought really quiet. >> then she says eric bechler told her a new version of what happened when pegye fell off the boat. >> he thinks she hit a wake and fell off. and he said, and i didn't get to
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her. i said, you didn't get to her or you didn't want to get to her? and he said, at first he said, he told me that he didn't get to her. then later he changed it and said, i could have helped her but i didn't. >> now, that's completely different from what he told police. >> right. >> chilling as that sounded, tina feared it still wasn't the whole story. she was determined to get the rest. but like a career in showbiz, you have to be careful what you wish for. >> coming up -- >> i don't trust you. i'm afraid of you. >> nobody knows anything but you. >> from model and actress to undercover agent, the secret operation to learn the truth. >> this is where it gets really scary. >> when "dateline extra" continues. ean, ean, in reality they're not. if a denture were to be put under a microscope, we can see all the bacteria that still exists on the denture, and that bacteria multiplies very rapidly. that's why dentists recommend cleaning with polident everyday. polident's unique micro clean formula
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welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. tina new was granted a new lease on life when she met eric bechler. so when he opened the door to telling her the truth about her wife's disappearance, she had a decision to make, walk through that door and the good life she had come to know could be gone forever. here's josh mankiewicz again with "troubled waters." >> tina new thought she had found happiness with eric bechler. until he changed his story about what happened the day his wife disappeared in the ocean. you didn't think about going to the police? >> no. not yet. i just felt like he wasn't telling me the truth all the way. i was really afraid. because he was always with me. >> afraid, yet they continued to see each other, sleep together, and party together. about two weeks after eric changed his story, he and tina went to a club and took the drug
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ecstasy. >> we get home, we walk inside the house and we're just both laying on the bed staring straight up at the ceiling together. we were talking and it came to me, i said to him, oh, my god, you hit her over the head. he said, how did you know that? >> the fact is, she hadn't known. call it intuition, or the effect of the drug, or a random guess. but it was an opening, and tina barreled through. >> i said, you need to tell me the truth. he's calmly talking to me and he said, i'm going to tell you the truth. he said, we had this huge party so everybody could see how happy we were together. >> all their friends were there. witnesses to the happy marriage. then a couple of days later, she says, eric told her he took pegye out to sea on that rented boat, and although pegye didn't know it, he took along some weights. >> and he goes, then i walked up behind her and he said, tina, i hit her so hard, she didn't feel a thing.
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i said, what do you mean you hit her so hard? he said, i hit her with a weight. >> he told her there was blood everywhere. then tina says, eric bechler told her how he got rid of his wife. >> he did her wrists and ankles together so she was completely bent in have. he said he took the two trash bags that he had and put her body in it. then he put the weights and tied it down to the rope and threw her in. >> two years after pegye vanished, a stunning confession. >> and then you go to sleep next to a man that you -- >> no. actually, then we had sex. and i felt like i had to do it, because i think that made him feel like i was going to be quiet. and, you know, that he was -- i don't know, sealing the deal with me or something. >> but the deal was not sealed. not with anyone. the case was still open, and detectives had been keeping an eye on eric and tina all along. they knew the relationship was growing volatile.
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>> we were excited about it in a morbid kind of way. we knew it was going to go sideways. >> because when relationships go sideways, sometimes people start talking. >> that's right. >> and that's what happened two weeks after eric's apparent confection. a neighbor called 911 after hearing yelling coming from tina's apartment. when police arrived, eric was gone. but tina was angry. and she still had the business card detective murphy had given her almost two years earlier. >> i grand my partner, we went out there in the middle of the night and we met up with tina. >> she told them what eric had said. a big break, yes, but not nearly enough for an arrest. remember, tina was pretty far from an ideal witness. detectives knew they'd need more than her word against eric's. so they asked tina -- >> will you wear a wire? >> i said, yes. that's the only way gur's going to get him.
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>> why would you turn on a guy who had basically taken you from a terrible life and given you a great life? >> because i couldn't live with myself. i mean, no way. >> police planted microphones in her car, in her purse, and on her body. and tina arranged a meeting. she told eric that after the domestic violence call, sheriff's homicide detectives came in to ask questions about eric. this dinner date, tina told eric, was to get their story straight in case the cops questioned her again. tina, wired up, picked upper rick from his 40e78. and drove to a restaurant called el to rito. >> were you worried about that? >> not really. i was more worried i wouldn't get him to confess it again. >> i have two stories in my head. i don't want to screw up at all. >> there's no story to tell. you weren't there. it was an accident. >> once inside the restaurant, tina tried to getter rick to repeat the details of pegye's death. eric wouldn't go there.
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>> don't worry about the details. details are not important. >> so tina tried to get him to say why he did it. >> it's no confession, but it's not a denial either. >> are you thinking to yourself at that point, that's it? i got him? >> i honestly thought that was good, but i still thought that wasn't enough. >> remember, pegye had a life insurance policy worth more than $2 million. again, she tried to get him to give her a reason. >> what was it about her that made you want to -- >> she was going to steal the kids away and i would never see them again. >> eric reassured tina. >> i would never do anything to harm you. >> she was good.
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she was really good. >> but the drama wasn't over. tina left the restaurant with eric, still wired up. >> this is where it gets really scary. we're walking out to the car and he says to me, let me drive. >> that was not part of the plan. >> we lose sighted of them. >> in a movie, this is where you hear the sound of gutshots. >> that would not have been good. >> in the car, with eric now behind the wheel, tina cranked up her acting skills, and the tension. >> i can't live with a lie! >> i haven't talked about it over a year and a half and you don't remember the details! >> you're making me lie -- >> i'm not making you do anything. turn me in if you want to. i don't care at this point. tell them everything. >> what? >> whatever you [ bleep ] want. >> don't you talk to me that way. >> now tina tried to getter rick out of the car. >> pull my car over now. i don't trust you.
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i'm afraid of you now. >> all i'm asking -- you don't have to -- nobody knows anything but you. you don't have to tell anybody anything. >> eric pulled over and got out. and tina hopped in the driver's seat. >> meet me at my house, that's where i'm going to be. >> just like that, tina new drove away from her old life. >> in the end, you got enough. >> oh, absolutely, yeah. >> you understand you're under arrest? >> eric was arrested and charged with pegye's murder. >> what was it like to get the caller rick had been arrested? >> well, i just trembled all over. i couldn't really believe it. >> two weeks after eric's arrest made headlines, tina made some headlines of her own that put the whole case in jeopardy. coming up -- >> i did not commit this crime. >> -- eric bechler on trial, and tina's credibility, that's on trial, too. >> did you think anybody would believe you? >> no.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. when eric bechler confessed to his girlfriend that he tossed his wife into the ocean, he may have sunk himself. the prosecution's case against him hinged on tina in you's testimony, and on the recordings she made. but as the trial loomed, tina's determination wavered. would she take the stand. here's josh mankiewicz with the conclusion of "troubled waters." >> beach volleyball is a kids' game played by grown-ups. murder for profit is played only by adults. and it's for keeps. prosecutors believed eric bechler was trying to be successful at both. detectives had put him in jail. but then two weeks after eric's
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arrest, came this headline in the local paper. witness in murder case doubts suspect's guilt. tina new, who had worn a wire and help police nailer rick, now said maybe he didn't kill pegye. >> i knew that the kids had lost their mom and now they're probably going to lose their dad for a very long time. so i felt guilty. >> guilty that she had helped jail a man she once thought she'd marry. >> he called me from the jail and told me he had tried to hang himself with his sheets. >> it was eric's frantic behavior from the lockup, that was enough to make you think twice? >> i didn't want him to die. >> you felt guilty? >> i felt guilty. >> and you tried to roll the whole thing back. >> yeah, i did. >> but she says she always believed he was guilty. and in the winter of 2000, eric bechler went on trial. the star witness? tina new, a witness who was, to be fair, compromised. not just by her waffling about
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eric's guilt and checkered parent, but one detail in the story tina said eric told her, something defense attorney john bar net said is critical. >> you would expect if pegye's head was caved in by 35-pound dumbbells, there would be blood. >> quite a lot of it. >> everywhere. and there wasn't. >> on the stand, tina tried to defend herself. >> i'm a horrible witness when it comes to looking at me on paper. >> did you think anybody would believe you? >> no. i knew that i told exactly what he had said to me, and i knew that i was doing the right thing. and i honestly didn't care what anybody thought. >> then there was the conversation she had recorded at el torito. barnett offered his own explanation. >> i argued the reason that he said it is to shut her up, to
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calm her down. >> in any event, the defense said, eric never said on tape that he hit pegye. the only person who heard him say that was tina. a drug user. a woman with a fraud conviction on her record. >> without that statement, they have a lot of circumstantial evidence, and a lot of what-ifs. but they don't have anything that makes this a homicide. >> the defense offered another theory about pegye bechler. >> she was under a great deal of pressure, and could easily be distracted, and in combination with alcohol which she rarely drank, which she did on that day, could contribute to a lack of care in driving the boat. >> you don't think pegye bechler faked her death? you think she's dead? >> no, i don't think she faked her death. >> you think she died accidently and her body hasn't been found? >> yes. >> he basically had $3.5 million reasons to kill her.
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that's about what he stood to gain if he got away with it. >> and the prosecutor said the circumstantial evidence was compelling. eric had a weight tree back at home that appeared to be incomplete. investigators believe eric used the missing weights to kill pegye, and then sink her body. and what about the blood? a luminol test conducted on the boat indicated there might have been a lot of blood in the boat, but that it was cleaned up. matching tina's testimony about blood everywhere. and, of course, there was tina herself. >> despite her past and her criminal record, and her drug use, she rang true to you? >> yes, absolutely. >> who would the jury believe? and would tina's past make a difference? >> it doesn't matter what i did before or after i met him, you know? what i did with myself has nothing to do with what he did. >> after seven days, the verdict. guilty of first-degree murder. >> you're thrilled that the man who did it is behind bars, but
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nobody wins in this situation. nobody. the children now have no mother and no father. so there is no winner. >> but the jury did not believe eric killed pegye for the money. he was found not guilty of murder for financial gain. at his sentencing, eric bechler addressed the judge. once again, denying he killed pegye. >> the accident was a horrible tragedy. that has befallen both of our families. and as much as the marshalls are hurting, my family is also hurting, because i did not commit this crime. >> the judge sentenced to him to life without the possibility of parole. eric's mother, linda, thinks the verdict was wrong. is it possible you don't know your son as well as you think you do? >> baloney. i know the kid like the back of my hand. >> look, i can understand a mother not wanting to believe her son committed a crime. >> listen, if i kid was a druggie, doper, ne'er-do-well,
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thief, rapist -- >> murderer? >> whatever -- well, yeah, but he isn't. he isn't. >> pegye bechler's body has never been found. >> you want to know what happened, but you still don't want to hear murder. >> but at least now you know. >> that's still pretty hard to take. and even with all this information, we don't have a body. >> you all right? >> yeah. >> you discovered you were stronger than you thought you were? >> oh, yeah. >> pegye's mother and sister ended up raising her kids. and one more person who was stronger than she thought? tina new. you're leading a different life these days. >> a completely different life. >> she gave up drugs, married a nice guy, and now she's a stay-at-home mom with five kids. a hollywood happy ending? no, sometimes real life is better. that's all for this edition
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of "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. thanks for watching. i learned that he was arrested. i was shocked. i was just so confused. i didn't think it was real. i didn't think it was possible. >> in the rareified world of the ivy league, he was the total package. star student, gifted athlete, wildly popular. >> he was one of the nicest guys ever. >> no one could understand how a weekend visit to his parents' house -- >> you heard a shot? >> -- ended in gunfire.

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