tv Dateline MSNBC October 28, 2017 3:00am-4:00am PDT
>> i can still hear her voice and see her smile. i know she's here. that's all for this edition of dateline. i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this the dateline. she was home with the kids, her husband out with friend when it happened. >> he said something about the kids saying there was a robber. >> all they told us there was an intruder. >> their home so deep in the woods now shrouded in a mystery even deeper. police had suspects. >> i remember kelly not wanting to be home alone. >> they also had a problem. >> why would this guy go up and kill this woman? >> her family had questions of their own.
>> something is not right here. something is wrong. >> and then someone remembered a phone call and a fib. >> i pulled out my phone. i'm like that's strange. >> a killer living two lives. >> it hurts when you thought you knew was all a lie. hello and welcome to dateline. kelly and tom clayton seemingly happy life together came to an abrupt end when she was found brutally murdered. investigators set out to uncover the truth, finding stories of bestral andb betrayal and a witness who may have seen everything, the clayton's daughter, charlie. in this case, not everything was what it seemed. here with the house in the woods is andrea canning.
>> knees ones are not fun to do. >> finally he found it. down a secluded driveway. a man in the front lawn waiving him in. >> what's going on. >> i'm the neighbor. >> inside the deputy could see signs of a struggle. blood on the floor. >> blood on the wall. blood on the steps. >> a broken wall. he searched the house. >> the kid's room. this one is clear. he had been a local star of sorts. kelly, she was a hometown girl raised right here in the finger lakes region of new york state.
when you grow up, it chal took for me to move away and go to college before i came back and really appreciated how pretty it is. >> how did you see kelly's sense of humor. >> she was very goofy. always happy. loved to have fun. loved to laugh. sarcastic. witty. she always made thijs fun. >> funny and beautiful. couldn't keep a girl like that in a small town forever. after college, she broke news to her big sister kim. >> she was very entitled by bright lights out west.
>> did you see her off. >> absolutely. i remember she parked at her mom's house. i remember just running down the street. >> did you have any parting words or advice for her when she left. >> i actually have a photo of us hugging it. was like -- it's such a sad photo to me. it's like the saddest day of my life. >> kelly came home to visit often enough. including christmas of 2003. by then, all mie ra had a new attraction, a minor league hockey team. we enjoyed watching him skate. he was fun. he really was. >> he was tom clayton. he served as the instigator. the guy who starts fights.
he and kelly locked eyes. it was game over. >> she met him that weekend. she met him. >> she met the bad boy. >> yes. >> was it instant. >> yes, it was. >> they were married about two years later and after that came the kids. almost ten years into the marriage, kelly still gushed about her tom. >> she was just talking about he's the greatest guy. i hit the jackpot with him. >> did it make you happy hearing
that. >> yes. really did. it was like, wow, there's something out there like that. >> greg and linda miller got to know the clayton's well over the years. hosted poker games with tom as a frequent guest. affectionally called the former skater hockey puck. one thing they didn't envy about the claytons. >> because it's out in the middle of nowhere. we both said we could never live out in the woods like that. just being out in the woods is scary enough stiemometimes, youw what i mean. >> no one remembers kelly feeling uncomfortable. even at night, even alone. except one evening. andrea was chatting on the phone with kelly. she wasn't her usual happy self. she was like, all right. i'm tired. good night. all right. leave me alone. >> why was it odd she might want to go to bed early one night. >> i think she was really stressed out.
but she didn't -- she was a night owl. she stayed up. her kids stay up late, you know? it wasn't normal. >> reporter: neither, of course, was what followed. >> sir, you need to calm down so i can help you, okay? >> yes. >> what's your name? >> my name's tom. >> reporter: tom clayton was on the phone to 911. something about his wife. she wasn't breathing. >> how long has she been down? >> i don't know. i don't know. i just got home. >> reporter: the clayton home tucked down a pocket of a long dark road. it would never be home again. >> what had happened? when we come back -- coming up, what had happened to kelly. >> police discover the disturbing scene in the home. >> he pointed to the kitchen area. okay. >> when dateline continues. th? i switched to geico and got more. more savings on car insurance? yeah bro-fessor, and more. like renters insurance. more ways to save. nice, bro-tato chip.
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>> reporter: car accidents, drug overdoses. those are the kinds of emergency calls deputy dean swan of the steuben county sheriff's office responds to. the one he and his partner got after midnight on september 29, 2015, that was a first. >> how long has she been down? >> i don't know. i don't know. i just got home. >> we received a dispatch from our 911 center. unknown possible medical situation. i responded. to be honest with you, en route
i did not feel -- i felt there was something wrong here. just -- >> reporter: why? >> cop intuition i guess is -- >> reporter: that -- >> -- what it was. >> reporter: that maybe this isn't medical. >> that yeah, there was something more to it. it just seemed that way. >> reporter: his instinct proved right. still, he didn't expect what came next inside the home of tom and kelley clayton. this is footage from the body camera swan was wearing that night. he arrived to find a man outside coming towards him. it was a neighbor. >> hi, how you doing? >> i'm okay. >> what's going on? >> tom just came. i'm the neighbor. tom just came over and got me out of bed. >> why? >> there's -- he's right in the house. he's -- >> okay, what happened though? >> his wife is in there. >> i went in, located mr. clayton. and he was kind of down on his knees. kind of bobbing up and down, visibly upset and in the hallway between the hallway and the transition area between the hallway and the dining room. >> anybody else in the house, tom? just you? >> oh, my god the kids are at the neighbor's house. >> i say, "where's your wife?" and he pointed to the kitchen area. and that is when i walked around and i located the victim on the kitchen floor.
>> oh, oh. okay. >> reporter: it was tom's wife kelley. right away the deputy knew she'd been murdered. what did you see? >> the victim. there was blood, blood spatter on walls, ceiling. victim had blood pooling around her head. >> tom, where were you when this all went down? >> playing poker with my buddies. >> reporter: tom said he had just come home from a poker game to find kelley dead on the floor and his 7-year-old daughter, charlie, saying something about a break-in. >> i came home and my daughter said there was a robber in the house and she saw them. >> okay. come on out here, man. come out here. i want you to have a seat. you don't need to see that any more okay? >> reporter: his kids were home? >> kids were home when this occurred. >> reporter: where were they? >> when i got on scene, he had taken them to the neighbor. so i never saw the kids. >> reporter: what did you think about the person capable of doing this to this mother with
her children at home? >> this -- it was -- it's -- there's no way to describe a person like that. they're not a person. >> reporter: the officer led tom to his patrol car. >> alright, come on. >> can i get that water? >> yeah. we'll get you a water. take it easy, bud. take it easy. come on over here, tom. i'm just going to -- you're not in trouble. i'm just going to have you take a seat so we can talk to you, alright? take it easy. you're not in trouble, just sit right down. i'm going to leave the door open. just sit right there and relax. >> reporter: then the deputy and his partner went back inside the house to make sure the killer wasn't still hiding inside. >> ok. kid's room. this one's clear! >> reporter: as they searched, guns drawn, it became clear how the crime unfolded. >> there's blood all over up here. >> from what i could see, the attack started in the main bedroom, went out into the main hallway. a fight ensued. looked like there were pictured
knocked off the wall. there was a landing. the stairs go straight down. and then there's a left turn landing. and there was a big hole in the wall, like where a body part of some kind had gone into the wall and broke the wall. i knew that just from my experience, training that, "okay, this started up here and worked its way down there." >> reporter: and she was fighting. >> she was fighting. yes, she was fighting. >> reporter: next they searched the basement and the rest of the house. >> i don't see any blood down here at all. nothing there. >> reporter: were you able to clear the house? did you find a robber? did you find -- >> nope. >> reporter: -- an intruder or any evidence of an intruder? >> yeah, we cleared the house. and we found no -- nobody in the house. >> reporter: and no sign of forced entry. but when they went into the garage they realized how the killer might have gotten in and out. >> side door to the garage was open with the inner door open that goes into a laundry room. that door from the laundry room into the kitchen was also open. >> reporter: by then, more officers had arrived. and tom clayton, outside by a police car, was still a mess. >> come on over here and sit down. >> i can't, i can't. i'm shaking. >> well, that's what i'm saying. you want to sit down somewhere.
sit down. >> i keep doing it. i keep sitting down and getting back up. >> i say calm him down and say, "calm down. sit down. relax." and just tell him, "hey we just need you to stick around becau we have talk to you, try to find out what happened here." >> reporter: but to find out what happened, they'd have to go to another house where one of the county's top lawmen was about to perform one of the most difficult interviews of his career. >> it took me, personally, a long time to get to work through in my own mind. it stayed with me quite awhile. coming up -- a child witness. >> she observed mommy fighting with what she termed as "the robber." >> reporter: and a chilling suspicion. >> i just remember corey walking up and down the road the whole time, something's not right. something is not right. >> when "dateline" continues.
>> reporter: kelley's sister kim raced to the scene. she'd gotten the call, kelley had been hurt badly. >> so it's pitch black. and all you see are new york state trooper cars, sheriff cars, corning police cars. i see ambulances. all these lights. >> oh, god, where's my sister? >> i first run to the ambulance, because i think they're going to be working on my sister. i'm like, "where's my sister? where is she?" >> reporter: police explained the awful truth, kelley was dead.
>> we were screaming, wailing. i mean, i was throwing up on the side of the road. >> you can't believe she's dead. i mean, it's, like, it's inconceivable that she could be dead. >> they wouldn't let you see kelley either, right? >> no. they just kept saying, "kim, you don't want to see her." >> was your first instinct that maybe there was some kind of a home invasion? >> yes, it was. >> some stranger. >> yes, it was. >> reporter: kelley's best friend got a call from kim's husband corey. >> and my dad drove me there. and by the time i got there,
everyone was there. >> i just remember corey clenching, keep clenching his fists, and walking up and down the road the whole time. something's not right. something's is not right. something doesn't add up. and we were all just so confused. they wouldn't tell us anything. >> nothing, you knew nothing. >> nothing. >> can one of you stay with him? that's the husband. >> reporter: one comfort, officers told the family that kelley's children were safe at a neighbor's house. they didn't mention what the eldest, charlie, had been through. >> she saw everything. and she saw it happen. >> reporter: steuben county sheriff jim allard interviewed the 7-year-old that night. he was astonished by her poise and bravery as she gave him the details of what had happened. >> her story begins that she was in her room playing on her tablet, and she said she heard, mommy, yelling run, charlie run, repeatedly screaming it. run, charlie, run. mommy got to her door and got the door closed. then she heard more commotion. she opened, went into the hallway, followed the commotion down the hallway to the steps and to the kitchen and observed mommy fighting with what she termed as "the robber." she got up and pantomimed for me of a person standing over another person with an object in
their hand, striking that person that was on the ground. and she described the object as a cylinder that the robber, as she kept calling him, used. >> reporter: she went on to give the sheriff a detailed description of the so-called "robber's" appearance. >> she described the person to me as a male wearing jeans and a dark shirt and a mask. and i officially asked her, you keep saying it's a man. how do you know it's a man? and she told me, "because of his eyes." and i said, well, what about his eyes let you know it's a man? she said, his eyes are just like daddy's. so then i stood up and i said, how tal was the guy? was he taller than me or was he shorter than me? she said, "he was same height as daddy." and i said, okay. and then i said, how much did he weigh? does he -- was he heavier than me? was he thinner than me? he was the same as daddy. and she says, "and the mask he
had on is just like daddy's mask that he wears hunting." >> reporter: after the robber left charlie said she rushed to hug her mother and then knew there was one more thing to do, she had to go upstairs and take care of her 3-year-old brother. >> reporter: to the sheriff, the 7-year-old's story was both chilling and heartbreaking. >> it was a memory i'll have with me the rest of my life. it's one of those that takes a little part of you with them or with it. here's a little girl who does remind me very much of my own daughter. and she's working through, "i just watched mommy brutally attacked. it could be daddy. where am i? where does this leave me? >> reporter: but could it be true? did she really just see her father kill her mother? this had been a very bloody murder. and deputy dean swan had looked tom clayton over carefully. >> did tom have any blood on
him? >> i did not see any on him. no. nope. i actually checked him for any injuries, or any blood, or anything on him. and he had nothing. >> reporter: tom had told the deputy he'd only just come in the door to find his wife dead. he'd been gone all night at his friends' house, the millers, playing poker. so that's where investigators went. >> i heard the banging on the door and ringing of the doorbell. and i woke him up. i'm like, somebody's banging at the door.
>> what time is this? >> this is, like, 6:00 in the morning. >> 6:00. >> right. >> that's pretty early to get a knock on the door. >> "nothing good happens from answering the door--" >> right. >> at 6:00 in the morning. >> reporter: when greg realized it was the police at his door, his first thought was that his daughters had been in a car accident. >> the investigator told me, "no, nothing is wrong with your daughters. did a guy named hockey puck, as you know him, or tom, play poker here last night?" >> hockey puck is tom's nickname? >> correct. and i said, "yes, he did." he said, "well, when he went home he found his wife murdered last night." >> wow. >> and instantly it was, like, we're looking at each other and it was like we're in a state of shock. and i said, "obviously you probably want to come in." >> reporter: greg gave the officers the details of the previous night. tom had been in his basement playing poker until around midnight. >> and normally what time did the game wrap up? >> usually the games would go at 1:30. but we quit at 12:00, and by the time everybody got out of there, it was about 12:10. >> reporter: it sounded like tom was telling investigators the truth about where he'd been at poker night. they later determined the murder happened before the game wrapped up. >> this is a real whodunit? >> yeah. very much so.
>> come on over here, tom. you're not in trouble, okay? i'm just going to have you have a seat so we can talk to you. >> reporter: so despite what the little girl thought she saw, the investigation was far from over. authorities were asking, who on earth would want kelley clayton dead? coming up -- >> i remember kelley, you know, not wanting to be home alone if he was there. a suspect who's no surprise to some. and a second suspect who is. >> it doesn't feel like a slam dunk here. >> no, it does not. when dateline continues. who've tried an fda-approved targeted therapy, here's a question: who wouldn't want a chance for another...? who'd say no to a...? who wouldn't want... a chance to live longer. opdivo (nivolumab). opdivo demonstrated longer life versus chemotherapy. over 40,000 of these patients have been prescribed opdivo.
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of justice by president trump. we'll keep you on top of the latest developments. now, back to dateli"dateline." welcome back to dateline. she said kelly clayton's attacker had the same eyes as her father and the mask resembled one he wore while hunting, but tom clayton had an alibi backed up by friends. so if tom didn't attack kelly, who did? here again is andrea canning with the house in the woods. >> reporter: investigators were trying to figure out what had happened in the murder of kelley clayton. they were looking to the family for leads. >> they were like, "listen, like, do you guys know of anyone that possibly, like, could of done this?" >> reporter: kelley's niece molly had an idea. >> i kind of, like, looked at my mom. and i was like, "yeah." >> reporter: molly, only 16 at the time, told police she'd spent the summer working for her
uncle at his restoration business, servpro. and there she met one of his employees. a man named michael beard. tom told her to keep her distance. >> he never really wanted me around michael beard. he didn't want me, like, working with him. >> reporter: michael beard was no stranger to the family. >> he actually had done work at my sister's home. my sister would give his daughter charlie's hand-me-downs, clothes, toys. my sister would make lunch for him when he was there working at her home. >> reporter: while kelley was kind to beard, she told her sister she didn't always feel comfortable around him. >> i remember kelley, you know, not wanting to be home alone if he was there. you know, he -- he was civil. he was nice. but i'd -- i don't think she wanted to be left home alone. >> reporter: now, molly told investigators that her uncle tom had recently fired beard. >> michael beard was fired september 17th.
and then kelley was murdered the, like, night of the 28th, 29th. so it wasn't long at all. >> reporter: was it possible that beard was angry about losing his job and that kelley's murder was some kind of revenge? molly went through her cell phone and her facebook contacts and gave investigators beard's address. >> i gave that to them. and they were just like, "okay, thank you." >> reporter: the steuben county sheriff's office needed all hands on deck and called in the new york state police for assistance. >> i was contacted by investigators the day of the homicide. >> reporter: investigator matt lambert was assigned to run down the michael beard lead. >> reporter: what did you know about michael beard's background? >> he actually was a pretty well-respected employee until september 17th, when -- when tom had fired him. >> reporter: why did tom fire him? >> stealing from jobs and drinking, i think, on the job and that he fired him on the 17th because there's maybe some complaints from other employees at servpro.
>> reporter: so there's some issues there? >> right. >> reporter: but beard was polite and cooperative when the investigator knocked on his door. >> we said, "hey, can you, you know, take a ride with us up to the barracks." and he said, "yeah, just let me let my wife know." >> reporter: and he already knew what it was about? >> we told him that we want to talk to him about the -- the homicide of kelley clayton. >> reporter: the investigator asked beard where he was the night of kelley's murder. he said he was home except for a beer run. >> he actually kind of alibied himself at that point saying that he was at that store the night before, and that same clerk working she could prove that he was in the store the night before. >> reporter: did -- did he express that he knew anything about kelley's rder? >> no, he didn't say that he knew a thing about the murder. >> reporter: is heelling you anything about tom clayton? >> no. just that he had worked for him. >> reporter: and beard denied any hard feelings toward his former boss, said he and tom were still friends. in fact he told the investigator it was tom's partner who fired him, not tom. and tom was even trying to help beard find another job. >> reporter: are you getting any bad feeling from him? are you suspicious of him? >> not at all. >> reporter: so you're thinking this is going to be something that we're going to cross off
the list? >> yes. i didn't expect to see him again. >> reporter: to the investigator and those close to kelley, michael beard didn't seem like a good suspect after all. >> reporter: did you think it was -- it was possible that he's a disgruntled employee? he was, you know, taking revenge? >> i didn't. because if you're disgruntled, why wouldn't you kill the person that you're disgruntled against? i mean, "i'm -- i'm angry at you, so i'm going to go kill your wife." >> reporter: but as a matter of procedure, the investigator asked beard for a dna swab and permission to look through his cell phone. >> he was very, very forthcoming. very willing, no problems. just very cooperative. >> reporter: while the state investigator was checking out the not-so-promising michael beard tip, sheriff's investigators had tom down at the station. detective donnie lewis said they still had questions. >> reporter: for the most part, it looks pretty good for tom. >> correct. >> reporter: this alibi is pretty strong. >> absolutely.
i mean, the witnesses that see him at the poker game, we know where he was all night. >> reporter: that's not the end of the story, though. >> that is not the end of the story. >> reporter: not the end of the story because there was something investigators just couldn't get around, the daughter's story. her description of the killer, it was powerful evidence they couldn't ignore. and so just hours after the murder -- >> defendant was remanded in steuben county jail without bail. >> reporter: they arrested kelley's husband tom clayton and charged him with murder. >> reporter: how can you arrest him? what are you arresting him based on? >> there -- there's a lot of suspicion. there's a lot of -- and basically we have to have probable cause to make an arrest. >> reporter: what was the probable cause? >> the biggest thing, the oldest child had made comments that it looked like daddy, it had daddy's eyes. >> and as of the end of today -- >> reporter: tanner jubenville covered the story for nbc affiliate wetm-tv. >> i don't know how they charged him honestly. i don't know how they charged him so quickly. >> reporter: he says the arrest had everyone in the newsroom scratching their heads. >> thomas had a great alibi. i mean, he was at a poker game
15 minutes away. even hours after they arrested him, i don't really know what grounds they had as far as actual evidence connected him to the death. >> reporter: if tom was killer, then there had to be a hole in that rock solid alibi. or maybe the authorities, thinking the husband always does it, had acted too fast. >> it doesn't feel like a slam dunk here, arresting this man. >> no, it does not. coming up, the mystery of the missing phone call. >> i pulled up my phone and i'm like, see if there was a number there. and there was nothing. and i'm like, "that's strange." >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. i just got my cashback match,
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>> reporter: steuben county sheriff's investigators had made a quick arrest in kelley clayton's murder, her husband, tom. to many, including kelley's best friend andrea, it didn't make sense. >> i loved him. she loved him. he was part of our family. we were part of theirs. >> reporter: the millers were also confused. they knew tom couldn't have killed kelley because he was at their house when she was murdered. >> was this a normal night, just like any other monday? >> absolutely, just like any other monday, yes.
>> reporter: but now the millers wondered, had they missed something? they started thinking like detectives. >> i'm, like, going over everything in my head. and i'm like, "what the heck? why?" you know, all this stuff. "who could it be? what's going on?" >> reporter: then linda miller remembered tom at the poker game, asking a favor. >> i was doing dishes, and he came into the kitchen and said, "hey, can i borrow your phone for a second?" he says, "i left mine out in my car. i have to call work." i said, "oh, okay. sure." i said, "oh, it's on charge. just a second." and he followed me into the bedroom. and i unplugged it, and i handed it to him. and he said, "thanks." and it seemed like just a couple of minutes later he was back and like, thank you. and he put it on the table. >> reporter: it wasn't odd at the time, but now the phone call around 11:00 p.m. seemed important. whom had tom called? >> i pulled up my phone and i'm, like -- see if there was a number there. and there was nothing. >> so there should be a number if -- >> should be a number he called -- >> he called somebody on the phone. >> right, and i'm like, "that's strange."
and i said, "greg, can you look at my phone?" >> i says, "there's -- there's -- there's nothing." >> is part of you thinking, "oh, maybe he just decided not to make the call"? >> no, because i heard him talking. you'd hear the -- like, the mumbling, just a voice speaking of sorts,ut nothing intelligible. >> reporter: as the millers struggled to make sense of that, they called the other men who'd been to their house that night. the poker players recalled the same detail. tom's phone was always with him. >> he had his phone at the poker table? >> that's what poker players are saying. yes. it was -- it was there. yes. yes. >> so he has his phone at the poker table, but he's telling you he's left his phone in the car? >> uh-huh. that's what he told me. >> reporter: more than a little suspicious, the millers kept digging. they went online to check linda's phone records. and there it was, the number tom dialed about an hour before the murder, a number they didn't recognize. investigator donnie lewis took
it from there. >> so what i did was i got the number and put it into actually facebook on my phone, and as soon as i put that phone number in there the profile that pops up is michael beard. >> reporter: michael beard, the ex-employee who'd been so cooperative with investigators. suddenly, he didn't seem so innocent. now police had to reconsider their theory of the crime. maybe it wasn't tom who'd beaten kelley to death. maybe his daughter's description of the killer was wrong. maybe it was michael beard she saw. >> this phone call, this is, like, the key. this is it. >> that's the first real connection that we had that put beard anything to do with the
murder. that kind of just alerted us right off the bat as we need to go talk to michael beard again. >> he denied any type of involvement. he even denied receiving the phone call. they never talked. >> did that seem odd to you? >> that did seem odd. he denied having any type of conversation. he said he didn't even remember receiving it, and he wouldn't have answered a call that wasn't -- that he didn't know the number. >> reporter: and when investigators looked at beard's phone, there was no sign of a call from linda miller's cell. >> it had been, uh, erased. he explained that away by saying that he, the night before, had to recycle his minutes on his phone. it was a little bit suspicious to me. >> did you start to come down really hard on him? like, i don't -- we're not buying your story? >> it wasn't hard. it was more like i was trying to say, "let the truth out," because he was having physical -- like, his stomach was rolling. and i was saying, "mike, just let the truth come out. let it come out. it wants to come out. let the truth come out. it's not adding up. you got to stop. you hear your body right now. your body's telling you that you're not telling the truth. just get it out." >> reporter: while investigator lambert was speaking with beard, he was interrupted by a colleague who had been grilling beard's wife. she mentioned a dramatic piece
of information, something about a big payment beard was expecting to get from tom. $10,000. the investigators confronted beard. >> at that point, he was just defeated. i looked at him and said, "$10,000, is that why you killed kelley?" and he looked at me and said, "yes." >> this was your big moment? >> that was the -- that was the win. >> reporter: michael beard was arrested for murder. and tom, already in custody, was now accused of orchestrating the crime. but tom's newly-hired defense attorney wasn't having it. >> he wants to be reunited with his children. he frankly is grieving the loss of his wife. >> reporter: investigators had quickly arrested tom based largely on a child's description, which turned out to be wrong. now his attorney said they seized on a confession that was anything but true. who would be believed? >> this is every innocent person's nightmare. coming up, a secret revealed. >> he told me that he was
friends who once loved tom like a son and brother were trying to process the idea that he might be a killer. >> the betrayal and the confusion. you don't know what to think. the fear, just because nothing is making sense and you try to make sense of something that's not logical. >> this has been such a betrayal of someone that's been in our lives for a number of years. >> were you trying to give him the benefit of the doubt at all? >> i want to say there was no looking back. you know? i believe he was involved. >> reporter: if kelley's sister had any doubt about tom's guilt, it was erased when she saw him in court for the first time. >> i was there at his bail hearing. he had a bullet proof vest on, shackles, no emotion. he doesn't look. he doesn't cry. and he gets out on $250,000 cash bail.
>> that's pretty low. >> and he's been out ever since. >> reporter: and he seemed determined to profess his innocence to anyone who'd listen. >> he said, i'd like to tell you my side of the story. i said, i really don't want to hear it. i don't want to get any more involved. and he's, like, partially crying and he's saying, you know, i wouldn't do that. >> reporter: months went by as the state prepared the case against each man. michael beard was the first to go to trial. in court, he recanted his confession and changed his account of the murder. but prosecutor weeden wetmore said evidence put beard at the crime scene. >> his dna was found where she had fled after being struck in the head with the murder weapon. >> reporter: it took jurors only seven hours to convict him. >> a jury finds michael beard guilty of what the prosecution is calling a murder for hire scheme. >> reporter: if beard's case had been a slam-dunk for investigators, tom clayton's would be anything but. the prosecutor knew he couldn't use beard to testify against
tom. >> even if he came forward and said, "i want to testify now," he had lied so many times. he had lied at his own trial. >> beard had changed his story so much at his own trial that he wouldn't have been a credible witness. >> reporter: tom and his lawyer pounced on that, telling reporters that beard acted on his own. >> this is purely mr. beard's doing, what we do know is that mr. clayton had nothing to do with the death of his wife. >> reporter: and tom's lawyer didn't stop at michael beard. he went after the investigators. he said they had tunnel vision when it came to his client. >> he said, "you'll hear it. you'll hear it from the body cam video." >> she's beat the [ bleep ] she's beat up. >> you got a suspect? >> the husband. >> the husband? reporter: the lawyer believed everything that followed in the investigation had been poisoned. >> he was simply just being wrongfully accused and police just rushed to judgment and that therefore led to an incomplete
investigation. >> reporter: and in fact, investigators never found evidence that tom paid beard for a hit. >> reporter: as far as tom clayton, there was no conversation overheard. there was no money exchanging hands. you couldn't even use the confession from michael beard. so, there were a lot of things you didn't have. >> right, but if you look at thomas clayton's conduct, he never mentioned michael beard. everybody says, "michael beard should be an immediate suspect." he never mentioned michael beard to the police. to me, that's -- there's a reason for that. >> reporter: as they prepared for trial, investigators kept digging. they discovered a flurry of calls and texts in the weeks leading up to the crime. >> clayton was contacting beard, saying, "hey, we have to meet. he was getting him a bicycle, so he was having these clandestine meetings. >> reporter: investigators also pulled surveillance footage from outside tom's business. they believed this was video
proof of a conspiracy. that's beard, they say, in a red truck that tom loaned him just hours before the murder. and that's tom following in his green servpro truck. >> also know that during that time period beard turned his phone off, turned it on, turned it off again. >> why do you think he did that? >> well, the inference to be drawn from that is that he has guys are not naive. they know that there's a possibility of being tracked with their phones. >> reporter: then, after the murder, the video shows what looks like beard returning to tom's business to drop off the truck. there are its headlights entering the lot. and investigators believe that's beard getting on the bike tom gave him, pedaling away under the cover of darkness. >> the trial for thomas clayton is now set to begin. >> reporter: the courtroom was packed as tom's trial began >> i have never been in such a tense, anxious atmosphere. the courtroom was typically tense throughout the entire trial, but as far as anxiety was concerned, i have never been in
a room that was filled with so much anxiety. >> reporter: the only one who didn't seem tense to the reporter was the defendant himself. he saw tom clayton smiling and kidding around with family members. his lawyer, though, was on the attack. he told the jury how investigators had immediately labeled tom a killer on the night of the murder. >> i think he attacked her. >> reporter: and the defense said investigators refused to change their minds even after it was clear michael beard was the one who beat kelley to death. >> the defense had basically alluded to the fact that there was a psychosis in michael beard. and that he out of just hate and revenge against thomas and his other bosses went to the house that night with the intent of stealing and taking money and killed kelley in the process. >> reporter: the prosecution said that was nonsense. michael beard had no reason to
murder kelley unless he was sent there by the defendant, tom clayton. the state called linda miller to testify. she recounted how tom borrowed her phone and then deleted the number he'd dialed, never dreaming she'd do her own detective work. >> you really connected the dots. to get the police to this moment. >> yeah. >> she did good. >> if you can call it good. >> reporter: finally, the prosecutor said he knew why tom wanted his wife dead. he called kelley's niece mollie to the stand. >> he just told me a lot of stuff about their relationship. >> reporter: molly told the jury about the summer she worked for her uncle tom. she said he talked a lot about his marriage. >> that he wasn't in love with her anymore, that kelley was very lazy. and he told me about him trying to sleep with other women and that he was sleeping with other women. and he told me that he also was
getting close to a divorce. he just wanted to be done. >> reporter: the prosecutor told the jury this was tom's motive. he wanted to get rid of his wife but keep everything else. >> i think he was concerned that his wife, if they went through a divorce, that she probably would get everything and this was an opportunity just to start anew. >> reporter: the millers listened and wondered how they could be so wrong about their old friend tom clayton. >> we didn't obviously know until the trial of the affairs and stuff. >> you really didn't know tom at all? >> no. >> correct. correct. >> that's the scary part. >> reporter: after seven weeks the case went to the jury. kelley's sister and the prosecutor braced themselves. >> now we wait. >> reporter: but not for long. it took jurors just six hours to make their decision. as they filed back into the courtroom, the reporter noticed a change in tom clayton. >> that was really the first time that i saw on his face that you got the sense of this guy
final knew that, oh, god, i could go to prison for life, depending on what they're about to say. >> reporter: and then they said it. "guilty of first degree murder." outside the courthouse there were tears. lots of them. >> thank you. i believe justice was done here today. i do. >> reporter: tom clayton is awaiting sentencing. michael beard has already begun serving a life sentence. it seems so many in town want to honor kelley, even tom's old hockey team. the elmira jackals just held a tribute for her and victims of domestic violence. kelley's children dropped the ceremonial first puck to start the game. >> i'm telling you, kelley is with me. and i have a very strong faith. i hear her days, saying, get up. let's go. we have got to do this. and i do.
i have her beautiful babies and my own. you know, you have to keep on keeping on. >> that's all for this edition of dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. good morning. i'm dara brown in new york at msnbc world headquarters. it is 7:00 in the east, 4:00 out west. a remarkable development to tell you about this morning. a new report says the first criminal charges have been filed in the robert mueller special counsel probe. we're asking questions about what this means with respect to the russia probe and what lies ahead for the investigations under way. also, new reporting on who fu funded the lurid dossier on then-candidate donald trump and why it matters. plus, a new strategy being used between senator mitch mcconnell and steve bannon. weeg