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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  February 18, 2018 11:00pm-1:00am PST

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they stayed together, and a few years later they married, and ellen became pregnant. they began to build a 4,000 square foot house in the foothills of albuquerque mountains. >> that house was our dream house. >> it was ready just in time for the baby, only mike wasn't ready. he wanted to stay at work on the day ellen was giving birth. >> he said, mike is here. i said, yeah, he is, do you think you could send him? >> once again, not the most sensitive husband. but that baby girl, they named
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her elizabeth. >> he thought the world of that child. >> tellen would come by the dealership, and mike would just give her time to her, and everything else stopped. >> behind closed doors, their marriage was starting to unravel. mike seemed jealous of her success at work. >> once i was promoted to serviceman ju service manager, it basically became hurtful and he was stand offish. >> ellen says from the time elizabeth was conceived, mike had moved out of the bedroom, permanently. >> never slept together again. >> so mike and ellen began to live two separate lives in that dream home with their children, but still they stayed together. >> i still wanted this marriage to work. i didn't want to give up. >> that is until she learned about that secret, the big
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secret that would ultimately tear this family apart. >> i thought after christmas and everything was done, i would tell him what i knew. >> "dateline" returns after the break. . yea--i can read. we're done here. mucinex fast-max. 9 symptoms. 1 dose. max strength. let's end this. you don't want to live with mom and dad forever, do you? i'm making smoothies! how do i check my credit score? credit karma. don't worry, it's free. credit karma. give yourself some credit. psst, we are the new light & fit with zero artificial sweeteners. zeroooooo!! ooh eye contact. ♪ ♪ yeah girl, 13 grams of protein. yaaassss! we're the new light & fit greek nonfat yogurt with zero artificial sweeteners. advil liqui-gels minis.
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when my vehicle i wwas hit by an ied.r in iraq i looked down and i knew i was out of the fight. but playing for team usa has been a second chance to represent my country. i get to show my children and the world that, yeah, i might have been knocked down, but i'm up, and i'm honored to be able to represent the flag. comcast is grateful to all who have served our country, and we're proud to bring the 2018 olympic and paralympic winter games home to everyone.
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on the outside you look at our marriage, and it was a great marriage, great family, made lots of money. you go in the door, that's not how it was. >> ellen snyder said it had been eight years. >> he made the rules. >> he made the rules. >> you followed them? >> uh-huh. >> eight years in a marriage that was neither equal or loving. >> you were afraid of standing up to him? >> absolutely. >> eight years of living alone in the outside world, but ellen wouldn't leave, determined to
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make her marriage work. >> i wasn't going to be another failure at another marriage. >> mike hung on as well but his sister terry said mike was thinking of ending it. >> i believe he was in the process of trying to leave her. he was moving belongings to my mother's house. >> mike and ellen's daughter, elizabeth, was 6 years old and very much daddy's little girl. michael, ellen's son from her first marriage, was 17, a high school junior. >> how was michael towards mike? >> the older he got the harsher he got. >> his body would go numb. he would pass out. he was in severe pain. >> it was the summer of 2001 when mike went to see a doctor. >> the doctor came in and ed we believe that it's an onseting case of multiple sclerosis.
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>> there's no from to death. and mike was pu put on medication to slow the disease and ellen gave him the shots. >> it was my place. i was his wife. i was to take cake of him. >> as time went on, mike's work colleagues like chuck noticed a physically weaker mike. >> he was struggling to make it through the day. we weren't told what actually he had or what was going on but he was not coming in to work as often or every day. >> when he couldn't work at the level he expected of himself, mike went on disability. >> he was really starting to face it and try to understand how his life was going to be with ms. >> which only added more stress to his marriage. >> i'm sure my brother was going through incredible emotional turmoil about his physical condition. >> maybe that was the right that mike began to wake ellen in the
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middle of the night to vent his anger. >> yelling and demeaning and calling names. and told me how worthless i was. he didn't want to necessarily have the big fights in front of elizabeth. so he would wake me up at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. >> and yell at you? >> and yell at me. >> of course she was careful not to tell her colleagues this. ellen feared if she showed a chink in her emotional armor she would never be effecti. >> they see she's emotional and that is the focus. it is all about the women thing. >> and they won't respect you anymore she said that now that mike was sick she would be there for him, as she promised through the good times and the bad. >> she asked to see him through this. she said what kind of wife would i be. >> in sickness and health. >> right.
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she wasn't going to leave him. >> but ellen said he had no problem leaving her. in fact, mike was spending more and more time away from ellen and his family. he was going back and forth between albuquerque and phoenix. that's where jeep held its continuing education classes in auto mechanics. >> he still wanted to go to training because he had been going to training all along through his work history. >> a two-day trip became three days an then four days and then a week with. ellen was becoming increasingly suspicious of what mike was doing on those long trips away from his family and from her. >> i felt hurt and betrayed that i had gone along all of this time being the good wife for his ms. >> then one night, mike was in the shower and his cell phone was sitting there on the table next to ellen. curiosity, she says, got the better of her. she picked up his phone and opened it.
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>> so you listened to the messages. >> i listened to his messages. >> and what a shock that was. one message in particular from a man she'd never heard mike mention. someone named dave simmons, a man ellen believed was the reason mike was spending so much time in phoenix. >> he would talk about how satisfied he was with their sexual contact. he would be explicit as to what each had done to each other. >> so there wasn't any question what was going on here. >> no, none. >> it was january 11th, 2002, ellen says like so many nights before mike woke her for their nightly screaming match. this one was at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. ellen, who never directly confronted mike about anything, now told him she knew all about
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the aware that mike was having with dave simmons, the man from phoenix who left the explicit voice messages on mike's cell foechbl there was with, ellen says, a heated argument and mike left the next morning. at the jeep dealership where mike worked colleagues only knew he had been out is sick for a while. >> we didn't know if it was cancer or he'd come back or not come back. we had no idea. >> this was like moving the star player. >> pretty much, yes. in but mike's tool box was still at work, worth around $40,000 so everyone assumed he'd return. that is until ellen broke the news about mike leaving town. >> i'd ask ellen, how's mike doing? and she said mike moved to phoenix, or a arizona and living in arizona. >> it was puzzling to mike's family. they could understand why mike wasn't talking to ellen, but why wasn't he talking to them? their calls went straight to
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voice mail. >> we knew he was not doing well. we knew he was thinking about leaving ellen. so we were concerned as to why we hadn't heard from him. >> was everything as it seemed? was mike really in phoenix and if so what was he doing there? >> i was hearing rumors that he went to the caribbean and just disappeared. >> where was mike? the mystery deepens and suspicions begin. >> i believe he fell victim to foul play. ♪ any object. any surface.
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if you've got a life you gotta swiffer
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>> perhaps the loneliest place on earth is in the middle of a bad marriage, which was exactly where ellen snyder found herself. but in the early-morning hours of january 11th, 2002, that came to an end. she had confronted her husband mike snyder with her knowledge of his love affair with another man and in a rage, she says, mike left his home and his family and disappeared. >> it had been a long, lonely time to be married and lonely every day and that loneliness was gone. >> what disappeared along with mike was ellen's second marriage, which she says she fought so hard to save. now, it had failed, just like
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her first. on the plus said, she said, mike was no longer there to torment her, belittle her and shout at her. your husband wasn't waking you up in the middle of the night to yell at you now. just you and the kids now. >> just me and the kids. >> she said she tried to reach him and so did his family. he wasn't returning their calls either many your mother called and said i haven't heard from michael in a couple of weeks and you are thinking his ms is getting -- >> we were concerned. >> she said she knew that mike was planning to leave ellen soon but he wasn't supposed to leave everyone. >> he would have never done that to his mother. he would have at least given her, look, i don't want to be contacted. please give me my space but i'm okay. >> at work jim noticed his boss ellen seemed more relaxed as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
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>> she seemed happier. she seemed more content, kind of more at a ease. >> and unbeknownst to ellen her collapsing marriage was the topic of office gossip. >> she didn't want anybody to know what was going on in her life. >> she didn't talk about her marriage, but other people did. >> yeah. >> what they said was what, it one working? >> they said mike was a hot head. >> mike had a reputation at work for having a hot temper, for being intimidating mechanic dave sigher will worked with him for a decade. >> there was a lot of tension. you could feel it. a lot of people were careful around him, what they say and did. >> because mike's fuse could blow and when it did you didn't want to be around. >> he could blow up at dispatchers and supervisors and the dispatcher would be crying.
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>> so it didn't come as a big surprise when ellen announced that mike had left her in he packed up his stuff and moved to phoenix. >> probably end up living in phoenix. and marriage must be over. >> the rumors spread through the albuquerque auto business, quicker than the latest recall. >> mike had left town. took money out of the house, took all of these things and just disappeared. and then later on i was hearing rumors that he was gay, had a male lover, went to the caribbean. >> do you have any idea who the source of the rumors was? >> no. everybody heard it and it was passed along throughout the dealerships. >> did you believe it? >> disappearing? it is one thing but being gay, no. >> several months passed with no word from mike. now his side of the family was so concerned they decided to go to the police.
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>> i knew at some point we had to -- we had to move on. we had to not just hope that he was out there, but had to at least explore other options. >> down at the albuquerque police station, sister teri filed a missing person's report. she had a feeling that something had happened to her brother. it was one thing to leave a bad marriage, but quite another to end contact with the daughter mike loved. >> i know my brother remained steadfast in his love for his daughter. she was just the joy of my brother's life. i believed he fell victim to foul plachl i really did not have a concrete explanation but that's how i felt. that was my gut. >> but teri wasn't too pleased with the response the officer gave them. >> the officer that took our report was a little arrogant and said, you know, he's a grown adult and that he can come and go as he pleases. so he really at that time didn't even want to write our report. >> police are making the same argument that ellen was making.
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>> right. >> mike snyder's name was entered in to a national missing person's database but not much else the police could do or frankly would do. albuquerque police chief ray shultz. >> it's not against the law to be a missing person unless there is suspicious circumstances. >> and chief shultz was right in saying that mike was totally within his rights to walk out and cut off ties with everyone in his life. the people he loved, the people he no longer loved. and so the investigation was limited to that of a missing person. winter 2002 turned to spring. no one heard from mike snyder. his expensive mechanics tools lay unused at work. ellen now a single mom filed for divorce. she was awarded the house, the money in their joint account, and sole custody of their daughter elizabeth. >> when your daughter, mike's
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daughter, would say to you, wrds daddy? what would you say. >> i didn't know. that he had left because he was mad at mommy. >> a year after mike left her, ellen said she could no longer afford that home they built together. now that she only had her salary. so she sold the house and she and her kids, michael and elizabeth moved to a much smaller one. it was fall 2003 when ellen received a followup call from the albuquerque police department. the investigator wanted to know if she had spoken with mike. >> you said what? >> i say that i don't consider him missing. that he is right where he wants to be. that he left me with this gay boyfriend and that i haven't heard from him since. >> police seemed to find it understandable that perhaps ellen didn't really care much about mike's whereabouts at that point. >> they never asked me anymore questions. >> ever show up at your house? >> nope.
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>> whatever suspicions mike's side of the family had police apparently didn't share them. so with a few computer key strokes and without the family's knowledge or any further investigation, mike snyder's name was literally wiped out of the national missing person's database. ellen had said he was not missing. and back then that was good enough for the police. >> there should have been obviously a little more investigation done other than just the word of ellen snyder. >> all of this time that you thought police were looking for him, they weren't looking for him at all? >> they weren't looking for him at all. >> a new investigator takes the
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>> a new investigator takes the >> we would call missing persons and they would say someone would get back with us. i believe almost in a three year span we had it will toll no contact with the police department. >> turns out they weren't even looking for most of the time. >> right. during that time he was not even in the database. >> it was now 2005. it had been three years since mike snyder left his home, his family, his whole life in albuquerque. no one had heard from me master mechanic, not even his little girl who's 9 years old, a third grader. >> that was one big red flag for me and maybe the leading one because i knew there would be no way my brother would have ever left his daughter, ever.
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>> at the jeep dealership mike worked for ten years, his name was rarely mentioned in conversation. >> after three or four years of mike being gone, it didn't come up too much anymore. >> we knew he was sick. we didn't really know if he was still in a hospital somewhere or if he had just passed away from his illness. >> his tools were no longer lying there unussed. ellen's son michael was using them. he had followed in mike's shoes and had become a mechanic, as well. on those rare occasions when ellen would come by the shop where mike had once worked, his old colleague dave would ask -- >> have you heard from mike and she would say no. there seemed to be no concern for mike and she would just, to no, i haven't seen mieng. >> it is often said the happiness and saddest of occasions bring mike's family together.
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and when they gathered to mourn the death of mike's father, any hope of return evaporated. >> that was the final straw. we were on board that my brother would have definitely shown up for his own father's funeral. >> but ellen and their children showed up. they no longer kept in touch with the family but seen the death announcement in the newspaper and came to pay their respects. >> we weren't expecting them. so it was a little strange, kind of caught us off guard but once again we are in a state of mourning. dedon't want to create issues. we weren't going to have them escorted out. >> after all, mike's deceased father was the grandfather to elizabeth and step grandfather to ellen's son michael. >> we let them come up to the casket, have their bereavement time and all of a sudden we noticed michael was hysterical, crying uncontrollably.
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at that point, my sister and i are just looking at each other and poking each other thinking, what? >> michael cried so hysterically that his mother ellen had to escort the 20-year-old out of the room. >> were with he and your father close? >> not close, per se. i mean he was no closer to my father than he was my mother. it i was a very odd occurrence that we all took note of. >> there was something else that teri remembers about that day. something that enraged her. >> ellen at some point comes up to my sister and asks about my father's will. and wanted to know if there was anything in the will provision for his daughter, for mike's daughter. >> and she's asking about money. >> and she's asking about money. >> and the more she thought about it, the more teri had a sinking feeling that ellen knew something about mike's disappearance. >> she certainly wasn't acting like a woman who was trying to
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find the father of her child, and we could not understand why she didn't seem the least bit concerned about her child not having her father. >> it just didn't make sense to mike's side of the family. they pleaded with police to take a fresh look at the case, and in the spring of 2005, the albuquerque police agreed. assigned was cold case detective mark wilson. >> the department said, yes, we'll look in to it. it's been three years. he left a young daughter behind. he left a house. >> the detective began to dig for any information on the missing mechanic. did any record of him exist? >> first, we look in to obviously the criminal end to see if he had been stopped or maybe there might be a police report on him somewhere. >> there was nothing. >> right. there's nothing. we also look in to the fact could he be dead somewhere. >> checked the medical investigators office and he's not there. >> right, he's not there.
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then i started to look in to see if there might be any indication of financial records that might indicate he was working somewhere and there was -- once again we came in to a dead end there. >> but the detective did discover one very curious thing. it turns out that mike snyder filed state tax returns in 2004 and 2005. years after his disappearance. >> that doesn't sound like a missing person. >> no, it doesn't. >> what that sounds like to me, off the top of my head, is a guy that doesn't want to be found. >> it suggests the possibility that he might be alive. >> is your brother the kind of person who would either know how or want to sort of live off the grid? >> he certainly had the financial means. did he have the know how? i wouldn't think so. i don't know what it takes to live underground so to speak and be a person of a different identity. i don't know if he would even
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considered something like that. >> could mike snyder be hiding, not missing? and if so why and from whom? the search for mike from the caribbean. >> that's where he was with dave simmons. >> correct. >> to his own backyard. >> the neighbor said she remembered michael and ellen digging out behind the garage, digging a hole. oikos triple zero greek non-fat yogurt gives me fifteen grams of protein and zero added sugar. whether i'm on the field or off, every decision matters... including how i fuel. oikos. fuel your hustle.
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>> out here in the new mexico desert, the land is dry and vast. there are roads that lead nowhere, and mysteries that go unsolved. cold case detective mark wilson had been trying to unravel one of those mysteries, the disappearance of albuquerque native mike snyder. >> he could have had a successful job anywhere in the country. >> one that would have shown up on your sglerch right, yes. >> but there was no trace of him. not anywhere. it was as if the master mechanic had simply vanished. >> there wasn't any indication of anything that would match up to him. >> but mike snyder had filed income tax returns in 2004 and 2005, years after he disappeared. it was quite simply very, very odd. with the investigation seeming
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to stall, detective wilson called the local paper, the "albuquerque journal" asking if they would file a story on the cold case. maybe the attention would shake loose some leaves. journalist jack proctor. >> police were willing to say publicly that they believed this may have been a homicide. >> it's no secret that in any homicide investigation, the spouse is always the first to be questioned. but beforeheecve had a chance to reach out to ellen, she was calling him. complaining about that article. >> she said, where did you get this information? she was upset that it portrayed that he was just an innocent man, father that had disappeared. >> the article didn't implicate you. >> yes, it did. >> i read it. it doesn't like lay the blame at your feet. >> yes, it does. >> she and miked a had a heated discussion and the next morning when she woke up he was gone and
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he hadn't taken a vehicle. >> ellen told the detective i have she was pretty sure he moved to phoenix, home of his lover dave simmons but more recently she believes he moved on to the caribbean. >> she said he's probably on an island somewhere. >> we had looked at land on st. croix. as far as i knew, i figured he had gone to st. croix. >> and that that's where he was with dave simmons. >> correct. >> in fact, ellen said she actually spoken with mike over the years. >> mike had called a couple of times. you heard his voice. >> yes. >> and wherever he was, he was maybe not angry at you anymore but at least the two of you were talking in a sort of non-angry way about the kids? >> i think we were still angry. i think i told him we were still angry. >> but he was gone and wasn't coming back. >> right.
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>> mike's sister teri hadn't let yet learned about mike's relationship with the mysterious dave simmons or about the accusation her brother was secretly gay. ellen didn't share any of that with teri until a few years after mike di appeared. she told other people about it at the time. >> not us. she didn't seem to throw that out to us at first. >> any of that make any sense to you? >> oh, goodness, no. i don't believe for one minute that my brother is gay. >> that was only one of the components to ellen's story that detective wilson wanted to check out. he said he asked ellen to come down to the police department to meet with him in person. only she wouldn't. she said he's not missing. we said we want to find him and even asking her to come in and help us find him she would not come in. >> and so ellen and detective wilson never did meet face to face. she claims she was giving him all of the information you had. you weren't giving him what he needed. he wanted to meet with him.
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>> he never said that. >> he said he did. >> he never asked me to come down, ever. >> instead ellen mailed the detective some paperwork that she found in mike's desk. a western union money transfer from mike to dave for $228 and a december of 2001, right before he disappeared which showed a number of phone calls to that same phone number. >> you gave detective wilson all of the document you had on dave simmons? >> yes. >> unfortunate ly ellen no longer had the voice mail, the one she claims to have discovered on mike's cell phone. the sexually explicit one from dave simmons. >> the only proof they had a relationship are the voice mails which don't exist anymore. >> i think people, if they knew mike, would know that he would never send anybody money ever nlts there was some sort of relationship there.
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>> mike was supporting this guy. >> i never found enough money that he was supporting him but he was definitely helping him out. mr. police tell us ellen's information didn't lead anywhere. the detective didn't locate mike in the caribbean and when he tried to contact dave simmons from phoenix he never got a response. but that same albuquerque journal article, the one that so infuriated ellen also got ellen's former neighbors talking about something they had seen years before. >> they'd seen michael and ellen digging out behind the garage, digging a hole. >> when was that? >> around the time that michael went missing. the neighbor said she remembered seeing them out behind the garage with shovels. >> that was pretty intriguing to the detective. it sounded like a viable lead. so in late spring 2006, with the current homeowner's permission,
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detective wilson brought two search dogs and their handlers to the snyder's old property. a neighbor show wrd a flowering tree had been planted in 2002, a year after mike disappeared. >> my suspicion was there was a body under the tree. that they planted a tree to hide the body. >> the handlers let the dogs loose on the property. at first they showed little interest, that is until they went under the flowering tree. incredible. both dogs, independently of one another, gave their cadaver alert. >> the dog handler said this is an indication that possibly the scent is coming up through the tree. but she said say, well with, the body could be ten feet down here, 30 feet in that direction if indeed was there was a body there. >> detective wilson had a new theory. make mike snyder never left home after all. was in the big break that they needed?
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mike discussed it with his sister. >> i get both excited, intrigued, anxious and start to ask him a buchblg of questions. >> the team tried to dig deeper but the ground was hard. >> what did you sniend. >> we didn't find anything and the dogs weren't excited about the hole itself. >> and soon the trail went cold. the tip that seemed like gold and mike's sister teri was crushed. the detective was deflated. >> i had to think that, well, there's a possibility that maybe his body was somewhere else. i did have a feeling that michael snyder was dead somewhere with. >> but digging here was over. but metaphorically, at least, detective wilson still haeld shovel. he was trying to get to the bottom of what ellen snyder had been do doing around the time her husband mysteriously disappeared and it wasn't long before he found someone ellen worked with who had offered some very unusual help.
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>> it had been four years since mike snyder had gone missing. four years since he left his family, including his young daughter, in his hometown of albuquerque, fm new mexico. albuquerque, fm new mexico. in 2006, the albuquerque journal ran an article on the missing mechanic and father. a cold case which had been virtually dead for years was suddenly picking up steam. reporter jeff proctor. >> it triggered some tips to the police department, and it got people you know talking about this as something other than a husband who walked off on his family. >> for the first time albuquerque police were publicly calling the case a homicide
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investigation, and that caught the attention of a man named frank. >> he said, i'm the one who lent her the gun. if you think she's a suspect in this, i don't want my family in danger, so i want to turn the gun over to you. >> frank was retired military. a straight by the book guy who had befriended ellen snyder when they worked together in 2001. >> she was telling people that he yelled at her all the time. >> it was christmas 2001. ellen says the daily fighting in the snyder home had escalated. mike's multiple sclerosis had grown progressively worse and with it so had his anger. >> he would push me around. he hit me. >> he hit you, how many times? one time? >> three or four. >> ellen now held an executive-level position at a large dealership. she was the boss of 30 mechanics
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and making upwards of $90,000 a year. >> she put your feet to the fire. make sure you get the job done and move on. >> she was no pushover. >> no pushover. >> she stood the up for herselves. >> right. >> inside of the walls of the nice home ellen's rank was near the bottom. >> he became condescending, controlling where i could go, who i could see. >> at home, mike made the rules and ellen obeyed them. you had a significant executive job at a big company. >> yes. >> so you are not some little shrinking violet whose home cowering under her husband's direction. >> when it came to being home and opening that door i was that shrinking violet. that's how it was. two different ellens, two different lives. >> they interviewed ellen's old boss. he told the detective he
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remembered an incident when ellen came to work with bruises. >> she was wearing her sunglasses. i said why are you wearing sunglasses. she finally took off her sunglasses and she had a nice big old shiner and i said what happened to you. she stated to me that supposedly mike and michael got in to a big battle and mike was beating the crap out of him and she jumped in the middle of it and took the brunt of it. >> was she giving the classic battered wife explanation for her bruises? a few days later, cassell said he heard yelling coming from ellen's office. >> i hear world war ii i breaking loose in the office next to me. there was a guy screaming. >> turns out the loud, angry voice belonged to none other than mike snyder. >> he's on this side of the desk. she's on her side of the desk and he's just screaming and he stops when i barge in and he
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looks at me. i told him, i said, you know you can't do this here and he basically told me i needed to mind my own f'in business. >> frank volunteered to loan her a .32 caliber pistol. >> i explained how to use it, please don't shoot yourself lesson. >> i never had one before. he offered me a gun after he saw my bruises. i took it home and put it in the back of the closet. >> why not gather up the kids and leave? >> it was christmastime. i had a 6-year-old daughter. >> police looked for calls to 911 and found none. >> did they have altercations throughout their marriage? i would imagine. most couples do but i have never seen any violent temper in my brother. >> there are 0 no documented
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police visits to your house. >> i know that. >> a few months later ellen returned the gun to her colleague. >> he looked at it and her and said where's the bullets. >> ellen said a friend had taken her to a gun range and showed her how to use it. these birds once affected by oil are heading back home. thanks to dawn, rescue workers only trust dawn, because it's tough on grease yet gentle. i am home, i am home, i am home oikos triple zero greek non-fat yogurt gives me fifteen grams of protein and zero added sugar. whether i'm on the field or off, every decision matters... including how i fuel. oikos. fuel your hustle.
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>> ellen claimed that mike woke her up yelling and they fought
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mentioned in his interview with police. something about a stereo speaker. >> apparently not all of the bullets hit him. another went through a speaker, had loaned her. purchase another gun at a local pawnshop one month earlier. she was turned down after a routine background check. >> you couldn't. what happened? >> it was a fraud charge. >> what did you do to get in trouble. >> i was working for a company that i wrote a check on. >> in the late '80s ellen pled guilty to embezzlement. the charges were dropped after her probation.
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suddenly ellen snyder's skeletons were starting to see the light of day. while detective wilson was doing his investigative work, mike's sister teri, a schoolteacher, was doing hers. she told the detective about a second home mortgage that ellen took out, teri claims, without mike's knowledge. >> we actually have a copy of that document, of the second mortgage. and it's clearly not my brother's signature on either line. >> that's true, ellen says. she did sign mike's name, but says mike knew all about it. the more teri thought about mike, the more she remembered his growing frustration with ellen in the months before he disappeared. >> he would interseed phone calls that collectors were calling wanting to know why their credit cards were past due and all of these things he had no idea of. >> these were bills he thought ellen run up and not identity theft. >> right. >> not long after mike
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disappeared, ellen found herself in debt. more than $120,000 on her credit cards. did mike know about the debt before he dropped by her work? is that why mike had showed up in a rage? had he discovered the financial mess in to which she put their family? and if mike had been abusive, had ellen come to the conclusion that she could solve that problem with a gun? detective wilson was growing more and more skeptical of ellen snyder's stoimpl and so was mike's sister teri. without any real proof that ellen had something to do with mike's disappearance, there was nothing that could be done about those aching suspicions. >> there was nothing that could tangibly prove murder enough to get an arrest warrant for it until they had a body. >> and another four years passed. mike's sister teri became more
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and more dissatisfied with the progress detective wilson is making. zealous. he felt that, you are right, a lot of this isn't adding up and i believe at first they worked very hard to find my brother. >> as the years went by, the unknown had become unbearable for the snyder family. they wanted answers from the police. >> i think he got very upset with me that i was being pushy. our phone conversations got less and less. i would call and leave a message and my messages weren't being returned. they kind of, i think, put the case on the back burner, i believe. >> detective wilson did continue to look for mike snyder but wilson had to also focus on the 20 other cold cases that needed his attention. and then one day in 2010, came a phone call that would break this case. a confidential informant who said he knew exactly where mike
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snyder was. >> must have sounded good to you. >> yes, it did. and the detective investigating found mike anywhere, not been able to talk to ellen. source who said he had information on mike snyder. >> who was the confidential source? >> somebody that was a friend with michael sheffield. >> ellen's son. >> ellen's son. >> the man's name was patrick a 26-year-old motorcycle technician. he and michael had gone to high school together and were close
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friends. >> he had been living with me in my house with my son for months. they lived there rent free. >> out of the goodness of your heart. >> because he was michael's friend, yeah. he was a good kid. they needed this break. >> not only was he michael sheffield's good friend, patrick wassal ellen's employee at the r and s kau scacchi dealership where she was a service manager. >> my boss was giving me a lot of heat about patrick's productivity and his comebacks. so he told me in december that i needed to let him go, but he wanted to wait until after christmas. i kept him much longer than i would have because he was a friend. >> the first week of january, 2010, ellen fired patrick. she could not have known just how life altering that decision would b. >> what did he say? >> didn't say much.
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just loaded up his stuff and left. >> of course ellen didn't know that patrick knew the secret. >> he went to the police. >> and he went to the police. >> and now patrick was sitting in a starbucks with detective wilson letting him on the eight year old secret. >> he came forward out of the goodness of his heart or civic duty. this was revenge. >> yes. >> but you'll take sglit yes. >> patrick told the detective that mike snyder had been killed and his body was buried this the yard of the snyder's former home and how did patrick know this? his best friend michael had told him and on more than one occasion. >> he said the next day he told him about it and then over the years if they were together drinking or something that he would break down and tell him again the story. >> you believe him? >> yes. >> so this is one more person
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pointing you to the backyard. >> yes. >> but you had already looked there. >> yes. seemed very believable this information and corroborated what we suspected. >> patrick agreed to cooperate with police. he drove an under cover police vehicle with a hidden microphone to michael's home and told him they needed to speak privately. he said the police contacted him about the disappearance of mike snyder and he didn't know what to do. >> they are really freaking me out. and i just wanted to come to you and what the [ bleep ] do i say or not say, you know? they are at my house for like two hours. so i just need to know from you what i should do. >> tell them you don't know anything. >> i just don't want them to get -- >> i know how to handle myself. >> i'm just scared. because they seem to like know a lot of things, too. >> like what? >> they were saying something
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about hearing gunshots and they were also saying they might know what the weapon is. >> you say that? >> no. >> what do you want me to tell them when they come next week, or if they want to give out your number and stuff like that. should i give it to them. >> yeah. >> okay. >> then came the big question. the one the police had coached patrick to ask. >> is he still there. >> as far as i know. under a big slab of concrete. >> it was now time for detective wilson to pay a visit to michael sheffield, ellen snyder's son. mike's stepson and begin to unravel the eight year old mystery. >> you have a place we can sit down and talk. >> the interrogation begins. >> michael, it's time to come clean. can they get at the truth after all of these years?
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>> it was friday, january 29th, 2010, and it was business as usual in the service department at this albuquerque saab dealership located on the west side of town. that is until detective mark wilson and three of his colleague actress the cold case team showed up. >> you wouldn't happen to have some place we can sit down and walk, would you? thought i'd chat with you a bit. >> they were there to speak with 25-year-old mechanic michael sheffield, ellen snyder's son, mike snyder's stepson. >> he didn't seem to be surprised that the police showed up at his work and he said, sure we have a break room we can talk in. so we went to the break room and conducted an interview there. >> we are going to ask you questions, all right, that we
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already know the answers to. you knew this day was coming ever since you were 17 years old. how you answer the questions and your honesty here is really going to change your life from this moment on. okay. all right. detective wilson here has been investigating the disappearance of your step father. >> why don't you tell me right now that you know what happened to your step dad, michael snyder. michael snyder who helped to raise you. >> at first, michael tells the same story that ellen has told since the day michael disappeared. >> remember what i told you. that's what your mother told you. think of when you were 17 years old and what you woke up to one
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night are you pretty sure that is what you want your statement to be to the district attorney. we're not going to find his body out there. michael, it's time to come clean. it's over. >> he left us. he left my sister and i. you know what it's like trying to raise her. i was 17 she had no father figure anymore. >> he said as far as i know he ran off with a guy and left my mother and sister and i behind. denied that he knew anything. >> so he's still telling the story he's been telling six, seven years. >> we have information, all right, that you assisted your mom in burying your step father in the backyard. >> no? you think we're here by chance?
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you think we are making this up. >> i don't know where you got your information but i would never no, no terrible crime. >> repeatedly the detective tells michael it's time for him to confess. >> i need you to be honest with us. i need you to right here on this picture show us where you buried the body. >> i didn't bury a body. >> yeah, you did. >> how long did it take him to come off that story? >> after we told him that we had information that he knew where the body was and wasn't little further and told him we heard him talking about it, he came forward after we showed him that we had evidence. >> tell us what happened and exactly where you buried the body. >> the detectives have broken him and the story came spilling out after eight years of lies.
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it was early morning, january twooun 2002, michael said, when he woke to the sound of gunshots and he called 911. >> my mother -- >> he must have hung up just in time because there's no record of a 911 call from the snyder home that day. a few days later in a second interview, michael told police this. >> mom tells me what happened. >> what did she tell you. >> she told me she shot him in defense. she was scared. >> okay. >> told me she shouldn't have done it, sorry, but could you help me with this. i was scared at the time and didn't know what to do. >> so, he says, he reluctantly helped his mother wrap mike
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snyder's dead body in a waterproof tarp, place it in a hole in the backyard and put some construction waste on top of it. >> what's going through your mind at this time? >> i don't want to get caught. i don't want to go to jail. what am i doing? >> and michael told detectives about the breakdown he had a at mr. snyder's funeral. the one that the snyder family thought was so peculiar. >> i couldn't handle it. i had a breakdown. the family was staring at me and she's outside talking to me. she said is this what happened? and i i don't remember remember saying anything back. but now it was about that. >> i had the feeling that he was glad to finally get it off of his chest. he broke down somewhat. i can only imagine what it would be like keeping that type of secret.
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>> the detective showed michael photographs of the snyder's property as it looked in 2002. and had michael circle where he believed his step father's body was buried. >> did michael believe he was on the hook for his part in this? >> i think he probably knew that he was. he knew he was an accomplice in the case. >> a few miles away, michael's mom, ellen snyder was ending her work day. >> when i came out from work, his girlfriend came by. she was sitting in her car next to my car. she said you need to get in the car. >> she told ellen that michael had called. the police had shown up at his work and they knew the secret. >> so i called my mom and said i need to come over. she is like, are you okay and i said no. >> and with that ellen's mother phoned an old acquaintance of hers, a defense attorney named adrian.
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>> her mom calls me up and says, i think we have a problem. there was apparently something very wrong. >> next morning ellen went to meet with adrien. by then the story was breaking. >> albuquerque police have an active crime scene investigation going on right now. >> police tell us a confidential source told us the remains of snyder are buried under the garage of this home. >> she sat stiff in front of me. she said, have you heard about them digging for a body in the northeast heights? and i said, well, you couldn't not hear about it. it was on all of the television stations and all over the newspaper. and she said, well, my ex-husband is buried there because i shot him. >> ellen snyder tells her story
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>> north albuquerque cake acres is known for the large subdivisions this the mountains not for helicopters and news vehicles. but in february of 2010, this was the scene in front of the home where ellen and mike snyder once lived. we just spoke to the police chief and he told us the police
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are here looking for the remains of michael snider. of michael snider. >> police begin to cut through the concrete of what was now a six-car garage. the job of finding mike snyder's remains proved difficult. the garage floor was a solid foot of steel reinforced concrete. >> police will resume digging tomorrow. >> finally on the third day, searchers uncovered a waterproof tarp. inside were the remains of mike
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snyder. >> she had been saying mike was in phoenix and mike this and that and all along mike wasn't in phoenix. >> for mike's family the finality is devastating. >> to not know eight years and hold on to hope and have that pulled out from under you was very difficult for all of us. >> ellen snyder sat in defense attorney penny adrian's office knowing an arrest was imminent. >> they found the body and she wanted to get it over. she said you can't go on like this. >> so adrian informed the police that ellen snyder was ready to turn herself in. >> that following friday, i met with the police detectives at her office, gave a full statement. >> before we ask you questions, i want you to understand these are your mir ran a da and constitutional rights.
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>> she gave police a 2 1/2 hour confession and her version of events is quite a story. >> woke me up. it was 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. we were arguing. pushing back and forth and i told him, i know all about you and dave simmons. i know that you are gay. >> ellen said she had recently grown more courageous in her dealings with mike, and on this night she confronted her husband over what she says was a secret gay affair. >> i am yelling at him and he's yelling at me and i said i'm going to tell everybody. i'm going to tell everybody about you and he's telling me, you will never tell anybody about me. you are not going to tell anything. there's nothing to tell. he's denying it. he's screaming at me. i have never seen him so angry. ever. >> she says she ran to the bedroom and got the gun from the closet.
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the gun that her colleague frank had loaned her. >> i said i have a gun. he's laughing at me. telling me i'm a coward and i'm never going to tell anyone. >> she is taunting you. >> he's taunting me. >> saying you don't have the courage to shoot me? >> calling me, you know, a [ bleep ] and telling me what a rotten person i am, screaming at me. >> in that moment of fear, ellen says, she pulled the trigger, not once, not twice, but repeatedly. >> i emptied the gun. i have never been so afraid in my life. >> he turned around and ran away from you. and you kept shooting. >> i did. i kept shooting. >> how far did he get? >> ten feet. >> then what happened? >> then the fell down. >> elizabeth, mike and ellen's 6-year-old daughter was fast asleep in the bedroom. she didn't wake up. but ellen's son michael 17 was
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in his bedroom and he did. >> he was calling 911. i told him to hang it up, michael. >> and he hung up. >> and he hung up and i sat down on the step waiting for the police to come. >> but the police never did show. >> i covered him up. i told michael to get ready for school. i told him i shot mike. you need to just go to school. >> how is michael doing at this point? >> i thought he was doing okay. >> evidently michael was not okay. he skipped school that day, and he told his friend patrick about the horror he had gone through. >> did you talk to him about this? or from the first minute that this happened, did this sort of become the thing you are not talking about. >> right. we never talked about it. >> once you said to him, i shot mike, go to school. >> we didn't talk about it. >> later with michael and elizabeth at school, ellen
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planned to move the body in to the garage, but there was a problem. >> trying to get him situated to where i could get him, a board under him to move him to the garage. >> you couldn't do it asgloen i couldn't do it alone. >> so you asked your son. >> yep. >> you asked michael to help you move the body? >> yes. he didn't want to. i asked him please. and he said, okay. >> 17-year-old michael reluctantly agreed. >> were you aware that you were asking him to essentially help you commit a crime? >> i wasn't in the frame of mind to believe that as such. >> yet, at the time, you were willing to do that instead of the other option which is call the cops and face the music. >> yes. at that point i was just solving
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the problem. >> so the tears and regret that i'm seeing now, you weren't feeling that then. >> no. never cried. >> because at the time ellen says she was on auto pilot and needed to dispose of the body. and how did she do that? in the want ads she found a guy with a backhoe who came out to the house and dug a hole. >> did you tell the guy why you were doing this? >> he didn't ask. >> ellen and her son michael wrapped his body in a tarp and put plastic bags on his hands and in the dark of night they move him on to a dolly in to the hole. >> is your son helping you or not. >> i asked him to help me throw some dirt on top of im. he said okay. >> they filled the hole with leftover construction waste so the body couldn't be seen. the next day, ellen went back to the paper.
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found a different guy who had a bobcat and hired him to fill in the hole. >> you buried a body. >> i burr riffed a body. >> and then she came up with her story. >> you got better at telling that story as time went on. >> yeah, as time went on. it became a bigger and bigger story. >> it was the end of her 2 1/2 hour statement to police. and ellen snyder wanted to get one last thing on the record. >> is there anything else you want to say before we turn off the recorder? >> i want to say i'm not a horrible killer. >> and with that 50-year-old ellen snyder was charged with first-degree murder and held on one million bail. >> albuquerque police announce they have arrested the ex-wife of a albuquerque man who vanished eight years ago. >> an eight year old cover-up was over, but another story line
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was just beginning. did mike snyder have it coming? was ellen guilty of anything? and what could be proven after so many years? >> it appeared to me that michael snyder was laying in his bed when he was shot. >> and simply more startling still. >> she could walk away from this. >> she might have committed first-degree murder and gotten away with it. ♪ if you could see your cough, you'd see all the sickness you're spreading. robitussin cf max. nothing lasts longer and treats more symptoms for your cough, cold and flu. (elevator bell ringing) robitussin cf max severe. because it's never just a cough. robitussin cf max severe. ♪ dixie® ultra's flexproof™ technology makes it twice as strong as the leading store brand.
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>> he thought he was going to kill you even though you had the gun? >> yes. i did. i have never seen such anger, ever. i shot him because i was afraid. >> there are some things ellen snyder admits.
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she admits that she shot and killed her husband mike snyder in the early-morning hours of january 11th, 2002. she admits that she buried his body and lied about his disappearance for years, but she does not admit to being guilty of murder. >> you don't think of yourself as a murderer? >> no, i don't. i was saving my own life. he came down that night to me or him. >> she said it was a case of survival. but ask detective wilson and he calls it something else. >> i believe this is an evil woman who planned this from the beginning. >> maybe she did fear for her life. there are people who say they saw her with bruises. >> sure. it's a possibility. possibility there was a bruise. or it could have been something she set up to look like that to go along with her story. because it was closer to the time she was going to kill him. >> even if it was an act of self defense that caused ellen snider to shoot her husband, why hasn't she called police?
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>> usually when abused women kill their abusers, they call the police and they are sitting there with the gun when the police drive up. >> okay. >> they don't try to evade responsibility. they admit what they did and they say, i didn't have any choice. pretty much as you are saying to me now. but they don't bury the body. and tell a series of pretty good lies over a long period of time. that's pretty unusual. >> okay. >> which suggests, to some people, that there's more to the story than you are telling. >> they didn't live through what we lived through. they weren't there that night. >> with ellen snyder now sitting in jail, detective wilson was trying to determine if the shooting happened the way that ellen now said it did because, after all, how believable was ellen?
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>> we tried to gather information six, seven years later, we don't have the actual crime scene. at that time, they would have seen blood streams from where he first got shot to where the body was laying, to where the bullet projectiles had stopped. >> ellen claimed that mike woke her up yelling and they fought in the family room where mike slept. >> i'm in the middle of the family room and he's about as as far as you and i facing me. >> what happened? >> he stepped forward and i start shooting. >> using creative detective work, wilson had an idea. he remembered something that michael, ellen's son had mentioned in his interview with police. something about a stereo speaker. >> apparently not all of the bullets hit him. another went through a speaker, like the bottom of a speaker. i still have that speaker.
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>> the detective went back to the house with michael. asked him to show where the speaker was positioned on the floor and where it was in relation to where mike slept and detective wilson came to this hypothesis. >> it appeared to me that michael snyder was laying in his bed when he was shot. >> not up and advancing on ellen to do her harm. >> exactly. the office of the medical investigator reported the projectiles came up through the victim's body from down, stomach air up to the shoulder area. >> almost as if the person was lying flat and the shooter was standing at his feet? >> yes. my estimation was that the body was on the mattress when he was being fired at. he may have gotten up and started running, if it didn't kill him right away. >> there was something else the detective uncovered that appeared a lot more sinister
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than a woman in fear for her life. it seemed ellen snyder had actually made a pretty penny off of mike's death. alice is living with metastatic breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of her body. she's also taking prescription ibrance with an aromatase inhibitor, which is for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive her2- metastatic breast cancer as the first hormonal based therapy. ibrance plus letrozole was significantly more effective at delaying disease progression
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remember those tax returns that had been filed in mike's name after he disappeared? turns out it was ellen who filed them in order to get a refund. she also cashed out mike's $60,000 401(k) and continued to collect the disability checks mike had been getting because of his multiple sclerosis. >> you kept cashing those checks for a year. >> those checks were deposited in to my account. >> totaling how much money. >> 4 grand a month.
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>> it must have helped. >> it did. >> the argument could be made that you made money out of this. >> so are you implying that it was because of that that it occurred? is that what you are implying? >> i'm not implying it. i'm saying you made money off of the death of your husband. >> i did not make substantial money out of the death of my husband, no. >> it was the job of the pror to put together a case for a jury to hear. >> covering up the crime, i think would be our best evidence in terms of trying to convince a jury that her intent at the time of the killing was something along the lines of a premed tatd murder. >> the prosecution found itself in an unusual predicament. eight years had passed since the shooting and in that time the statute of limit takes had run out on any charge other than first-degree murder. that meant in order to get any conviction at all, prosecutors would have to prove to a jury
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beyond a reasonable doubt that ellen snyder planned mike snyder's murder and with no crime scene and it will until the way of forensics, that was going to be hard to prove. >> in her view, it was self defense, but maybe she was guilty of manslaughter, second-degree murder. but you couldn't prosecute her for either of those offenses. >> that's correct. the statute of limitations here in new mexico on a state case like this prohibited us from going forward on any of those lesser types of offenses. >> ellen snyder's defense attorney penny adrian knew a first-degree murder conviction could mean a life sentence for ellen, but felt the prosecution would have a tough time making their case. >> the premeditation would be hard to prove, but even harder would be to prove that she did not act in self defense given all of the things that were going on with mike. >> adrian says that after years
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of emotional and physically bus. >> this guy was treating her horribly. >> that's right and had been for a long, long time. >> and she couldn't leave him? >> no. no. and that's what the cycle of abuse is all about. there's an isolation. there's a dependency, there's a demeaning factor. and those things will all go together until the abuser has turned the abused in to someone who thinks that he or she, because it happens both ways, is a worthless person. >> would ellen snyder spend the rest of her life behind bars, or had she committed the perfect murder? >> is it possible she's going to walk? >> it's certainly possible in this case? she could walk away from this. >> she might have committed first-degree murder and gotten away with it.
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>> mike snyder's side of the family had spent many years waiting. they had waited for mike to call after he disappeared. he never did. they'd waited for the police to call when investigators first said they would look for him. that didn't happen either. years later, with ellen snyder sitting in jail facing a murder charge for killing mike, they waited for justice. finally ellen snyder would pay the price for the murder of mike finally ellen snyder would pay finally ellen snyder would pay the price for the murder of mike snyder and the cover-up that followed. at least that's what mike's side
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of the family fully expected. but there was that problem with the statute of limitations expired on anything less than first-degree murder. there was a chance that ellen snyder could be found not guilty. mike's family was willing to risk that. >> we felt that that strongly that it was premeditated. it was a gamble we were willing to take. >> when it comes to murder, prosecutor isn't willing to gamble. >> maybe she gets convicted of first-degree murder and maybe that's what he did all along and that would have been justice but with all or nothing when you try to convince beyond a reasonable doubt 12 jurors. >> you didn't want to roll the dice. >> a huge risk to roll the dice >> it was a risk for ellen, too. she knew going to trial could mean a life sentence. one month before the case was set for trial, prosecutors offered ellen a plea deal, which
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she accepted. ultimately ellen snyder agreed to waive the statute of limitations prestrixs and plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter admitting she shot her husband and she pled guilty to tampering with evidence for the burying and concealment of mike's body. >> and to one count of tax fraud for filing mike's tax returns after his death. in all, the maximum sentence possible was not life in prison, but just 11 years. mike's side of the family was devastating. >> she's definitely getting away with murder. nothing is going to be long enough for us. >> in july of 2011, sfrauns of both ellen and mike gathered in the courthouse for ellen's sentencing.
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ellen's son michael was there in support of his mom, just as he had been on the day she shot her husband. michael was a minor when the killing happened. so in exchange for his cooperation he was given immunity and faced no charges. as we sit here you are about to go in to that courtroom and a judge is going to pronounce sentence. >> yep. >> are you ready for what's coming? >> how do you say you are ready for that? i know that it has to happen. i know it has to happen for this to be over. so i don't know that i can say yes, i'm ready, but it's going to happen. >> we have what is eight years. >> the prosecution asks the judge to give ellen snyder the maximum sentence of 11 years.
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>> looking at a total of 339 years. >> ellen's defense attorney asked the judge for leniency. >> she does ask, your honor, that the court sentence her to five years in prison, which will allow her to at least be at her daughter's college graduation. >> the judge address ellen directly focusing on the construction waste she had buried on top of her husband's body. >> it was reported that you unser moanously threw trash in the same hole that mr. snyder had been placed. >> with that ellen was given the maximum sentence of 11 years behind bars. >> miss snyder, hopefully once you are released you can get things together and go forward in life. >> and she hopes to. but until then, ellen told us, she will worry most about her children.
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daughter elizabeth is now in her late teens. she was only 6 when her father disappeared from her life in you told her you had been lying to her all of those years. >> i did. >> what did she say? >> she was most concerned about losing her mom. she's been to see me every week. she's a remarkability young woman. she loves me. >> but ellen says the greatest regret of her life is putting her son michael in the middle of a cover-up. >> you said that you always looked out for him and he always looked out for you. >> i didn't do such a good job. >> you didn't. >> he's such a remarkable young man. >> i know you wish you had shielded him from that. >> yep. >> i get the feeling you have way more regret about that than what happened? >> absolutely.
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the shooting happened for a reason. the shooting happened. it was too much to give michael. >> no one but ellen snyder will ever know exactly what happened inside of the walls of that dream home in the early morning hour s of january, 2002. that will forever remain a mystery. but one thing is clear, ellen snyder is something of an expert of how to live a life of secrets and lies. one thing we know about you, for sure, is that you are pretty good at telling a lie. >> okay. >> and the truth is, if you hadn't fired the wrong person i think you would still be telling that lie today. >> you are right. i can't dispute that. >> you have some sense of regret now?
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>> absolutely. i'm sorry that it ever happened. i'm sorry for mike. i'm sorry for my family and i'm sorry for his family. i think it's safe to say there's been a disappointing week. >> understatement of the year from senator mitch mcconnell. this is "kasie d.c." ♪ welcome to "kasie d.c." we are live every sunday from washington 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. eastern. tonight conflating tragedy and political expediency. plus, reports just in tonight of a new plea deal in the mueller investigation. and later on, he was

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