tv Dateline MSNBC October 15, 2017 1:00am-2:00am PDT
and that they're together. you know, it's not my time yet, but i just can't wait to see them again. [music playing] and i'm natalie morales. and this is "dateline." i couldn't live with that. i said, i know something, and it's terrible. and i'm the only other person that knows the truth. i had to do something. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): he swept her right off her feet. i was drawn to him right away. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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." josh mankiewicz (voiceover): he'd been through so much-- 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): it was a heart-wrenching story. so why, then were so many people so suspicious? no one knows exactly what happened on that boat. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): an accident? a disappearance? you thought what? she faked her death? josh mankiewicz (voiceover): or maybe a murder. there's no way, absolutely no way. i felt like the police were just trying to frame an innocent man. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): now she would be the one to unravel it all. i thought, i could do this. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): in a dangerous undercover operation. eric bechler: tell them everything! tina new: what? my heartbeat was going so fast. i said, you need to tell me the truth. [theme music] welcome to "dateline." they were a good-looking couple with an expanding family and a booming business.
but when he whisked her away on a birthday boat cruise, 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." josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 4th of july weekend. some lucky tourists aboard an eight passenger boat
called the greene machine were marveling at a school of dolphins playing in the water when they came across the unexpected. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): the captain radioed the coast guard that a small speedboat was circling out of control. in the water nearby was a man holding onto a body board. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): the man in the water was frantic. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): his name was eric bechler. his wife was pegye, but she was nowhere to be found.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): it was a stunning end to what began as a perfect day. this newport beach couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary and pegye just turning 38. it was her birthday, so she was in good spirits. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): glenda slosser was one of the friends they'd invited to a big party a couple of days earlier. she's talking about how much she loves eric, how great life is. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): and maybe life was great. no, no, be real gentle, be real gentle. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): because pegye had it all. her story begins in a small town, dexter, new mexico. this is where pegye made her entrance. i have often said that she was born winking at the doctor and swinging on the chandelier. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): pegye was june and glen marshall's fourth child. and june says pegye was going places from the very day she was born. she was never stale.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 the bear. mm-hmm. josh mankiewicz: but it also kind of ended up motivating her, didn't it? it really did. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): pegye's doctor talked with her about a career in physical therapy. she volunteered and loved it. then she made up her mind right then that she wanted to be a physical therapist, and she wanted to move to california and be a beautiful blonde. so she did. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 that i've ever met. she was happy, and she was always smiling. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): and, says glenda, pegye was driven to establish herself
as a successful physical therapist. she had almost everything she wanted. she did want to find a guy. and the clock was ticking a little bit. it was. and tn one da 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? and i said, well, i'm going to go down and watch dave play some volleyball on the beach. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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's that? josh mankiewicz (voiceover): eric bechler, then in his early 20s, was a walking commercial for the california beach life. josh mankiewicz: i'm going to guess that when she notices a guy playing beach volleyball, he's good-looking and in great shape. indeed, he was. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): and he was available. he was also eight years younger. josh mankiewicz: was that a problem for either one of them?
it was not a problem for either one of them. pegye, when she sets her sight on something, she's going to make it happen. and it developed really quickly, really, really quickly. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. their business was doing good, and she was happily married. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): until that summer day in 1997, when the unimaginable happened.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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? where was pegye? and what had gone wrong on that boat? josh mankiewicz (voiceover): coming up, there would be a sea of questions to come. you thought what? pegye faked her death? josh mankiewicz (voiceover): when "dateline" continues. just walk right in and pay zero dollars with most insurance.r. plus, when you get a flu shot at walgreens, you help provide a lifesaving vaccine to a child in need through the un foundation. it's that easy to get your flu shot and make a difference.
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josh mankiewicz (voiceover): it's said there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline. this was supposed to be something like that-- 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. and i said, what do you mean you can't find her? where is she? what are you trying to tell me?
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): eric told june that pegye was driving the 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 they should be finding her because we really just thought she would swim out of it. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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, bigger, bigger than you think about if you're in new mexico. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): glenda went to the bechler house to see eric. how'd he look? hysterical a little bit. he'd been crying, and his face is red and all of those things. he looked-- he looked upset. as he should be, one would expect. (crying) she was the best-- she was the best person. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): eric bechler could barely speak.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): eric told the coast guard he tried to body board on the way out and said there was a pretty good swell in the ocean. eric said they stopped out here on the water to enjoy some margaritas pegye had made. and then 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.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 was sure that they would find her, that it would all turn out well. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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? or disappeared deliberately? uh-huh. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): coming up, pegye's secret-- what was it? she stopped me on the stairway and said,
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try head & shoulders instant relief. for cooling relief in a snap. a brilliant pacific ocean sunset closed out day three of the search for pegye bechler. and 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.
i kept thinking that she was, but how could she for that length of time? josh mankiewicz (voiceover): unless, of course, what appeared to be an accident was not. the coast guard conducted a re-enactment at sea to try to understand how pegye could have fallen off the boat, and they couldn't do it. they said it just doesn't appear to be feasible to them given the sea conditions. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): if pegye's disappearance was no accident, murphy's job was to find out what did happen. detective started by re-interviewing 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.
no. in our game, we don't take anyone's word for anything. we look into it, and that's what we did. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): they met with the improbably named kobi laker, eric's best friend, and kobi backed up eric. they had a terrific marriage, and there was no problems whatsoever. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): but if the marriage seemed solid, there were questions about pegye, at least according to linda bechler, eric's mother. linda says pegye told her something in confidence just before she disappeared. she stopped me on the stairway as i was leaving and said-- and came running up 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 a million dollars.
so when linda heard pegye had vanished-- i started thig about how disturbed she was about going to jail. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. but if you're wrong about that-- mm-hmm. then maybe the idea that she faked her death to escape possible prosecution for that-- maybe that's a little bit more plausible. but white collar crime, and faking your death and leaving your children and your family are two really separate issues. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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
that might happen to them. i believe that, but not pegye. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): glenda did 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 had a pretty high lifestyle to keep up with. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 four. and a new player was about to enter the story. you were drawn to eric right away? yes. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): like countless young women before her, tina new had drop-dead looks and hollywood dreams. she'd done some bikini modeling and had a small part on the tv show "baywatch nights." there, i just saw, he went down right there.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. we played russian roulette between me and him. i was held over the balcony by my neck. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): tina, who was broke and near rock bottom, was desperate. i got down on my knees, literally begging, and i 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): she had taken a modeling gig, eye candy at a trade show. eric was there promoting his new 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 night, and then i moved in the next day, really fast. you don't wait, do you? no. not then. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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'd never been spoiled like that. i remember thinking i was like julia roberts in "pretty woman." josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): she couldn't help noticing how great he was with his kids. he would sit on the floor and play with them, and i actually thought he was a great dad. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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've lost their mom, they need someone to step in and not be their mom, but do things their mom would do for them. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): but when they took the kids to visit pegye's parents-- there was a lot of animosity towards me, and i understood why.
all they saw was this hot young woman who had been brought in to replace their missing daughter. right, right, and exactly three months to the day. i can't even imagine what they were thinking. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): pegye's family wasn't alone. detective sean murphy had also noticed the new woman in eric bechler's life. she was just a hot number, as they say, and she was cohabiting with him right after this horrible boating accident with his wife. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): so murphy arranged to bump into tina. and said, hey, if you have any information about this boating accident involving eric, your boyfriend, just give us a call. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): nothing came of it. tina didn't call. but someone else did. coming up, the best friend has second thoughts and goes undercover. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): when "dateline" continues.
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# welcome back. i'm craig melvin. with a new live-in girlfriend, eric bechler seemed to be recovering quickly from losing his wife pegye. and that did not sit well with quite a few people, certainly not with the police or pegye's family. but eric's best friend, what exactly did he know, and how far would he go to get proof? let's return to josh mankiewicz with "troubled waters." josh mankiewicz (voiceover): to detective sean murphy, 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 have 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): kobi laker, eric's best friend and volleyball buddy. he told sheriff's detectives the bechler marriage was great.
now he had a different story. eric's told me on several occasions that he's sick and tired of his wife. and he'd tell me that he just couldn't take it anymore, he was tired of it. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): about seven months before pegye vanished, kobi says he and eric had a conversation that kobi describes as haunting him ever since. eric asked me about what i thought of the idea of him killing his wife. and i, um-- i was shocked. i didn't know what to say. he told me, subsequently, that he was thinking of taking her out to the ocean and dumping her in a barrel. he said that when he saw that 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'd killed his wife. and he lied to us, he said, because he panicked, and he was afraid, and he didn't know what to do.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): detectives convinced kobi to wear a wire and to meet eric at a restaurant in orange county. eric had no idea the police were listening in. even so, he stuck to his story that pegye's death was a terrible accident. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): kobi tried again. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): a dead end. but detectives were now convinced that eric killed his wife. even though it didn't lead to anything, that conversation with kobi, that got you from suspicion to knowing. yeah, it moved it all the way over, so we knew we had a homicide.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. so that wasn't good. that hindered the investigation. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): the boat, said detective 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. there's just absolutely no way. it was unfathomable to me. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): tina new felt the same way. i felt like the police were just trying to frame an innocent man. i thought, there's no way. the way he treats me, there's no way he could have hurt his wife. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): and after about six months-- 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz: and everything would work out. and everything would work out, yep. well, you were wrong. i was definitely wrong. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): they'd 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, but then i put the videotape in. i'm fast forwarding it, and it just stops. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): purely
by chance, tina accidentally recorded a news report about pegye's disappearance. the whole screen was just a picture of her face. and i said, oh my gosh, what is this? then she turned to eric. and i looked at him. his face turned white, he literally lost the color in his face. and he said to me, how did you get that? and i said, i don't know. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): his reaction troubled her. but she hit play, and it just got worse. the news report did not match the story eric had told her about pegye's disappearance. and he told me there were three to four-foot waves, that it was really choppy out there. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): but on the report, they said, on 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. and he was just really quiet. he's sitting right next to you. sitting 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 got really quiet. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 she fell off. and he said, and i didn't get to her. and i said, you didn't get to her, or you didn't want to get to her? and 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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-- josh mankiewicz (voiceover): from model and actress to undercover agent, a secret operation to learn the truth. this is where it gets really scary.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): when "dateline" continues. and she was met by hers when my wedding dress.e door it was a wakeup call. we're not invincible at all. you think about all of the things you got over the years and in one night it's all wiped away. you got to remember. you are here. you have life. just because you lost everything materially doesn't mean that you lost everything. start the interview with a firm handshake. ay,no! don't do that! try head & shoulders instant relief. it cools on contact, and also keeps you 100% flake free. try head & shoulders instant relief. for cooling relief in a snap. for this product is overwhelmingly positive. this toothpaste sensodyne repair & protect can actually repair and protect sensitive teeth.
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moms take nyquil severe. the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever, best sleep with a cold, medicine. tina new thought she'd 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 police. no. not yet. i just felt like he wasn't telling me the truth all the way. and i was really afraid because he was always with me. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 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. all of a sudden as we were talking it just came to me and i said to him, i said, oh my god, you hit her over the head. and he goes, how did you know that? josh mankiewicz (voiceover): the fact is she hadn't known. call it intuition, or the effects 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 says, i'm going to tell you the truth. he goes, we had this huge party so everybody could see how happy we were together. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 then he goes, then i walked up behind her. and he goes, tina, i hit her so hard, she didn't feel a thing. and i'm just like, what do you mean you hit her so hard? he goes, i hit her over the head with a weight. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): she said he told her there was blood everywhere. then, tina says, eric bechler told her how he got rid of his wife. he did some knot that he knows, and he did her wrists and her ankles together so she was completely bent in half. he said he took the two trash bags that he had and put her body in it. and then he said he put the weights and tied it down to the rope, and threw her in. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): two years after pegye vanished, a stunning confession. and then do you go to sleep next to a man that you believe is a killer? no, actually, then we have 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 that he was-- i don't know-- sealing the deal with me or something.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): but the deal was not sealed. 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. we were excited about it in a morbid kind of way, because we knew it was going to go sideways. because when relationships go sideways, sometimes, people start talking. that's right. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): and that's what happened two weeks after eric's apparent confession. 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 grabbed my partner, and we went out there in the middle of the night, and we met up with tina. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): she told detective murphy and his partner, ganearly enough for an arrest..o remember, tina was pretty far from an ideal witness.
detectives knew they'd need more than herord against eric's, so they asked tina-- josh mankiewicz: will you wear a wire? would you be willing to wear a wire? and i said, yes, that's the only way you're going to get him. why would you turn in a guy who had basically taken you from a terrible life and given you a great life? because i couldn't live with myself. no way. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 up eric from his home and drove to a restaurant called el torito. were you worried about this? not really. i was more worried that i wasn't going to get him to confess it again.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): once inside the restaurant, tina tried to get eric to repeat the details of pegye's death. eric wouldn't go there. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): so tina tried to get him to say why he did it. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): remember, pegye had a life insurance policy worth more than $2 million. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): again, she tried to get him to give her a reason.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): and eric reassured tina-- she was good. she was really good. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): but the drama wasn't over. tina left the restaurant with eric, still wired up. this is where it gets really scary. so we're walking out of the car, and he says to me, let me drive. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): that was not part of the plan. we lose sight of them. now in a movie, this is where you hear the sound of gunshots. [laugh] that would not have been good. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): in the car, with eric now behind the wheel, tina cranked up her acting skills and the tension.
josh mankiewicz (voiceover): now tina tried to get eric out of the car. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): eric pulled over and got out, and tina hopped in the driver's seat. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): and 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): eric was arrested and charged with pegye's murder. what was it like to get the call that eric had been arrested? well, i just trembled all over. i couldn't really-- couldn't really believe it. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): but 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): eric bechler on trial. and tina's credibility, that's on trial too. do you think anybody would believe you? no. without that statement, they don't have anything that makes this a homicide. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): when "dateline" continues. when it's time to toddlers see things a bit differently thanks to pampers easy ups while they see their first underwear you see an easy way to potty train pampers easy ups our first and only training underwear with an all around stretchy waistband and pampers superior protection so you'll see fewer leaks and they'll see their first underwear pampers easy ups, an easy way to underwear pampers just walk right in and pay zero dollars with most insurance.r.
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welcome back to "dateline." when eric bechler confessed to his girlfriend that he tossed his wife into the ocean, he may have sunk himself. but as the trial loomed, tina's determination wavered. would she take the stand? here's josh mankiewicz with the conclusion of "troubled waters." josh mankiewicz (voiceover): beach volleyball is a kids' game played by grownups. 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 arrest came this headline in the local paper. "witness in murder case doubts suspect's guilt." tina new, who'd worn a wire and helped police nail eric, now said, maybe he didn't kill pegye. i knew that the kids had lost their mom, and now, they're going to probably lose their dad for a very long time. and so i felt guilty. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): guilty that she'd help jail a man she once thought she'd marry. i remember he called me from the jail, and he told me that he had tried to hang himself with his sheets. it was eric's frantic behavior from the lock up, 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 eric's guilt and her own checkered past, but also by one detail in the story tina says eric told her, something defense attorney john barnett says is critical. you'd expect, if pegye's head was caved in by 35 pound dumbbells, there'd be blood. quite a lot of it. everywhere. and there wasn't. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): on the stand, tina tried to defend herself. i'm a horrible witness when it comes to looking at me on paper. do 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): then there was the conversation she had recorded at el torito-- eric's own words. the jury heard all of them. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): barnett offered his own explanation. i argued that the reason he said it is to shut her up,
to calm her down. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 at-ifs, but they don't have anything that makes this a homicide. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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, but 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. i don't think she faked her death, no, i do not think that. you think she died accidentally, and her body still hasn't been found. that's right. prosecutor debbie lloyd argued pegye's death was eric's doing.
he basically had 3 and 1/2 million reasons to kill her, and that's about what he stood to gain if he had gotten away with it. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): and, said the prosecutor, the circumstantial evidence was compelling. eric had a weight tree back at home that appeared to be incomplete. investigators believed 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 them, what i did with myself has nothing to do with what he did. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): after seven days, the verdict-- guilty of first degree murder.
you're thrilled that the man who did it is behind bars, but nobody wins in this situation, nobody. the children now have no mother and no father. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): the judge sentenced 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 did? oh, baloney. i know that kid like the back of my hand. look, i can understand a mother not wanting to believe her son committed a crime.
listen, if my kid was a druggie, doper, ne'er do well, thief, rapist-- murderer. well, yeah, but he isn't. he isn't. josh mankiewicz: 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. josh mankiewicz: you all right? yeah. you discover you were stronger than you thought you were? oh, yeah. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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. completely different life now. josh mankiewicz (voiceover): 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 of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. [theme music] and i'm natalie morales. and this is "dateline." i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> this is "dateline." she was a college student found on a lonely road in texas. >> we figured she had been sexually assaulted and dumped here. >> tough questions for her boyfriend. >> i really thought he could be her killer. >> but while police try to prove it, another attack. >> he's got me by the throat and he's shaking me and yelling at me telling me not to say a word. >> you're a prisoner in this apartment now. >> yes.