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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  December 29, 2018 3:00am-4:01am PST

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affect us? i want to know why he thought it was okay for him to do this. i feel like money and power is what got to him. >> he cared more about money and power than he did about -- >> his own family. that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline". >> it's gut wrenching. this young woman was shot three times. this was a murder. >> a young single mom out with friends on game day. >> it was packed. >> but as night fell, fear grew. >> they're asking us, do you know anybody that would want to harm your sister? >> i just had this weird feeling
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there was something she was hiding. >> tucked away in her kitchen, a clue to it all. >> on top of the refrigerator this was a manila folder. >> did that give you chills? >> why didn't she tell us? >> did that lead to murder? >> it's got to be unimaginable. ♪ welcome to "dateline." when the body of brook morris was discovered by the side of the road, her family started looking for answers. they were surprised to discover that she may have been involved in an allegedly violent relationship. could that revelation be the key to solving her murder? here with "nightfall" is andrea canning. >> i'd ask that you all close your eyes for a few minutes this morning. i'd like for you to envision rome county in the middle of
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october, the leaves are changing, there's a little bit of a nip in the air. now envision brook morris standing there and -- brook feels like she's been punched in the throat. she's been shot. brook feels like a bomb goes off in her body. this is the second shot and it tears through her chest. she's terrified and she's in extreme pain. thank you. you can open your eyes. >> the final minutes of a young woman's life detailed in a tennessee courtroom, a tragedy that devastated her family and friends. >> this cannot be happening. >> it was the worst day of my entire life. >> it was awful. it was horrible. >> secrets exposed. but would justice be served? >> it was never ending, never
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ending. and i was so frustrated. >> most people who knew brook morris remember her radiance and zest for life. >> she was always, always, always dancing everywhere she went. >> caitlyn met brook when they were teenagers growing up just outside knoxville, tennessee. brook the yen to caitlyn's yang. >> we kind of balanced each other out. she was a girly girl. i was more of the tomboy so i'd go to her house and change into a thousand outfits and try on makeup and do our hair. and she'd come to my house and we'd ride four-wheelers and play on the farm. >> sounds like you two were like sisters. >> oh yeah. we even fought like sisters. >> this is brook's real sister
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britney and their mom tina. what did she like to do, clothes? >> very, very girly. loved doing hair and stuff like that. >> she was just a girly girl. >> little southern belle? >> yes. >> she grew into a beautiful young woman, sometimes blond, sometimes brunette. brook always drew people into her lively orbit. >> really spontaneous, fun, hilarious, just the life of the party, could literally make friends with anyone. >> dana renee was one of them. >> she would come over to my house, we're going out tonight, we're going to have fun. >> that meant one thing on fall saturdays in knoxville, volunteers football at the university of tennessee. >> the strip is completely packed. there are ball fans everywhere. it is so much fun, lots of cooking out, lots and lots of fun. >> lots of orange. >> lots of orange. >> was this something brook
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looked forward to on saturdays. >> oh yeah. all of us at that age. that was what you did on saturday. you wanted to get your orange and white out fits and figure out where you're going to be. >> october 15th, 2011 started out as one of those fun days. the vols were taking on louisiana state and brook was tailgating with friends. by nightfall, something was terribly wrong. >> 911, where's your emergency? >> we're down here on blair road. >> 40 miles away from knoxville a couple was driving down a country road. they were keeping an eye out for crossing deer when their headlights illuminates something else. >> there's a body lying off the side of the road. >> i need to check for a pulse. >> she's a body, ma'am. >> i understand. >> tim had just finished watching the football game when dispatch called him at home. >> what information were you
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given? >> a white female that was deceased laying on the side of the road. >> the body had been found just after 8:00 p.m. the woman had not been dead for very long. >> when you arrived what did you see? >> the victim's body was over here on the side of the road close to the intersection here at old blair. >> right on the road? >> right on the white line. >> what could you see? >> she was well dressed, wearing blue jeans, boots, a bright orange shirt. >> identifying the victim was the easy part. her driver's license was found right in her purse at the scene. it was 23-year-old brook morris. the hard part would be unraveling the mystery that led to her death on this lonely country road. >> was it someone that was a stranger to us? was it someone that we knew? all kinds of things were coming into our heads trying to figure
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this all out. coming up -- >> what happened to brook? >> they're asking us do you know anybody that would want to harm your sister? and we're like, we don't have a clue. >> the hunt for a killer begins and it starts close to home. and it starts close to home. -♪ he's got legs of lumber and arms of steel ♪ ♪ he eats a bowl of hammers at every meal ♪ ♪ he holds your house in the palm of his hand ♪ ♪ he's your home and auto man ♪ big jim, he's got you covered ♪ ♪ great big jim, there ain't no other ♪ -so, this is covered, right? -yes, ma'am. take care of it for you right now. giddyup! hi! this is jamie. we need some help. i need a new book for my son. stories. stories or quotes? time for a rhyme? or not rhyming's fine. no rhymes. skivvies. gadgets or skivvies? boxed set? perfect! nobody knows young readers like we do... barnes & noble
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brooke morris had been found dead on the side of a rural road 40 miles away in knoxville, her
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older sister brittany felt a sudden wave come over here in the middle of the night. she woke her husband. >> and i said, i just feel really sick. just like all of a sudden really sick to my stomach. she's like, well what do you think's going on? i was like, i don't know, i just feel really nauseous. it wasn't 20 minutes later i get a phone call. >> sheriff's deputies were looking for her mother tina. >> he didn't want to tell us much until he talked to mom first. >> tina was at a friends house. both chief philips and britney headed over there. >> mom comes to the door and she looks at me and she's like, it's brooke isn't it, and i'm like, yeah. >> how did you know? >> i knew it had to be because britney was there. >> yeah. >> it had to be. >> i've delivered more than my share of death notifications and this particular one was -- i'll never forget it. i just asked her to sit on the
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couch and we sat there for a second. and i said, is brooke morris your daughter. and said she is, and i said, well, she's been murdered. >> she passed out cold, so we had to get her to come back to and i think we were just all shocked. >> when tina came to she could hardly process what had happened. >> it was almost like it was not real. you know. you've got the wrong person, it's not her. >> but it was real. brooke was dead. she'd been shot three times, once in her neck, once in her chest and then execution style shot to the back of her head. >> i could not believe that another human could be so heartless. >> you know, they're asking us these questions like, do you know anybody that would want to harm your sister? we're like, we don't have a clue. >> i could not even think of someone that would want to hurt brooke in any way.
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everybody loved brooke. >> but investigators had to start somewhere. although only 23 years old, brooke already had an ex-husband, clayton morris. she met him soon after high school. >> he was kind of country, you know. they just hit it off. they just had fun together and started dating. then the surprise popped up. >> she comes home with some news, big news? >> uh-huh. she was totally excited, of course. i was not so much excited. >> brooke then 20 years old was pregnant. >> i thought brooke was too young for one thing, and, you know it's just -- it's not what i had hoped for her at that time. >> brooke and clayton were determined to make a go of it as a family. so, before they became three, they got married. >> they may have this sweet baby that just stole my heart in an instant.
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>> did that make it all better? >> it absolutely did. >> how was brooke as a mom? did she just take right to it? >> oh yeah. >> oh yeah. >> they moved into a house and both had jobs. but the young couple soon realized that family life came with grown-up responsibilities and problems. >> did she confide in you at all about how thing were not great at home? >> yeah, of course she talked to her friends about it. tried to be as supportive as we can but we were on such a different level than she was. here we were still single and she was married with a baby. so hard pressed to kind of relate in that area. i think she knew that it wasn't going to work, you know? >> after two years, the couple split. brooke moved out and clayton stayed in the house with their son. but brooke's family says she and clayton were committed to raising the child together. >> she lived a few doors up from
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clayton and they had shared custody of the baby. >> was it an amicable divorce or did they fight? >> they had some disagreements, you know. they definitely had disagreements. >> ex-husbands, husbands, spouses are always looked at? >> they are. >> did you feel he was an person important to talk to as well? >> we did. >> did you call him right away? >> we actually went and seen him. >> it was the middle of the night just hours after brooke's body was discovered when investigators arrived at clayton's house, chief philips woke him up. >> what did you say to him then? >> we didn't tell him that brooke was deceased. and our goal was to fine out what he was doing this evening. >> you wanted to hear the story as it relates to brooke? >> that's right. >> clayton told investigators he had their son that weekend.
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he said he was at work all day and then had their son at home. >> could we have left the child and gone out? >> he could have. >> coming up. i knew about the tremors. but when i started seeing things, i didn't know what was happening... so i kept it in. he started believing things that weren't true. i knew something was wrong... but i didn't say a word. during the course of their disease around 50% of people with parkinson's may experience hallucinations or delusions. but now, doctors are prescribing nuplazid. the only fda approved medicine... proven to significantly reduce hallucinations and delusions related to parkinson's. don't take nuplazid if you are allergic to its ingredients. nuplazid can increase the risk of death in elderly people with dementia-related psychosis and is not for treating symptoms unrelated to parkinson's disease. nuplazid can cause changes in heart rhythm and should not be taken if you have certain abnormal heart rhythms or take other drugs
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but prevagen helps your brain with an ingredient originally discovered... in jellyfish. in clinical trials, prevagen has been shown to improve short-term memory. prevagen. healthier brain. better life. i've always been amazed and still going for my best, even though i live with a higher risk of stroke due to afib not caused by a heart valve problem. so if there's a better treatment than warfarin... i want that too. eliquis. eliquis is proven to reduce stroke risk better than warfarin. plus has significantly less major bleeding than warfarin. eliquis is fda-approved and has both. what's next? reeling in a nice one. don't stop taking eliquis unless your doctor tells you to, as stopping increases your risk of having a stroke. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. while taking eliquis, you may bruise more easily and it may take longer than usual for any bleeding to stop. seek immediate medical care for sudden sign of bleeding,
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like unusual bruising. eliquis may increase your bleeding risk if you take certain medicines. tell your doctor about all planned medical or dental procedures. eliquis, the number one cardiologist-prescribed blood thinner. ask your doctor if eliquis is what's next for you. brooke morris was laid to rest at just 23 years old. while her friends said their good-byes, her mother tina
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admits to being in denial about brooke's death. >> i kept thinking, she's going to call, she's going to call. i know she's going to call and say, mom, you know it was a big mix up, you know. just couldn't grasp that she was gone forever. >> tina had a very hard time. i remember being at her funeral and tina was holding this picture of brooke, just crying hysterically. two people had to carry her to the grave site. >> along with grief there was something else. how scary was it to you that whoever did this was out there? >> very scary. i mean, because they'd taken something from you, what are the motives for us.
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>> roane county investigator taxed with bringing brooke's killer to justice smoke with her ex-husband clayton. >> were you getting any vibes from clayton? >> you know sometimes you read people and people throw off body language but he was like, what in the world's going on. >> despite the divorce those who new brooke best didn't think her ex-husband was a killer. >> clayton was a good person so i didn't think he'd be capable of doing something like that to brooke. >> more importantly, clayton's alibi checked out. investigators cleared him, if not the ex-husband, then who? who had brooke come in contact that weekend? investigators retraced brooke's steps, starting not with the game on saturday but the night before, friday. friends told investigators they had tickets to a concert. >> she was super excited about going to that, she was like, okay i got to go find something to wear i'm going to go to dinner. >> after dinner brooke left her car at a shopping parking lot at
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the restaurant and drove with friends to the concert. she spent the night at dena's house. >> i called it hotel dena. everyone just stayed. left it unlocked for everyone. >> the next day, saturday was the lsu game, everyone was looking forward to tailgating but the next day turned sour. brooke borrowed something out of dina's closet, the two girls got into an argument. >> i found out she wore it without asking. >> it was a silly fight but it stuck with brooke. she didn't tailgate for long. >> she was calling all these people to take her to her car because she wanted to change her outfit that night. >> her friend albert had been tailgating with her earlier in the day. >> we would break off and i was with some other friends of ours at that time. so i'm not really sure where she was. >> neither dina nor albert ever saw brooke again. with more than 100,000 football fans flooding the city for the
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game, finding brooke's killer was like looking for a needle in an orange haystack. >> i thought maybe someone had kidnapped her. we were all just trying to figure out who would have done this and why, what was their motive. it was a very horrible time. >> did you think that maybe it could be connected to the game? >> you never know -- you can never rule it out. it's tennessee football, you know, she so happen to be wearing a bright orange top and if anybody knows anything about tennessee football, bright orange is the color for the tennessee vols. >> but brooke's body has been discovered 40 miles from the football stadium and investigators were still sigh stymied as to how she ended up there. >> did it lead up to maybe she was dumped here or do you think she was actually shot here? >> based off of everything that was here at the scene, it appeared she was shot here. >> the crime scene itself yielded little physical
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evidence. no fingerprints, tire marks and no murder weapon. only some brass as they call it. >> they found spent ammo. they found live ammunition. >> three shell casings as well as some unfired bullets all from a .32-caliber gun. that brass was sent to be tested in the lab while investigator turned their attention to one item at the crime scene that could possibly provide some quick leads. brooke's cell phone it was right there unlocked and in her purse. >> you can find a lot out about a person within seconds of going over the person's cell phone, so it was very helpful to us. >> in fact, brooke's phone provided investigators with a major lead to pursue, two leads actually. two men. investigators wanted to talk to them but they'd have to find them first. >> it's always a concern whenever you have somebody you'd like to talk to and you can't get to them to talk to them.
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coming up, who are these two men? could they help investigators unravel this mystery. coming up -- >> we do consider people a person of interest. >> and what was their relationship to brooke? >> there's still something going on that shouldn't be going on. >> uh-huh. n. >> uh-huh. jardiance asked: when it comes to managing your type 2 diabetes, what matters to you? step up to the stage here. feeling good about that? let's see- most of you say lower a1c. but only a few of you are thinking about your heart. fact is, even though it helps to manage a1c, type 2 diabetes still increases your risk
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no end in sight to the one week old government shutdown. president trump now threatening to close the entire southern border if democrats do not agree to funding for the border wall. police in southern california captured the suspect in the killing of a police officer during a traffic stop. authorities say the man was in the country illegally and was a repeated gang member trying to return to mexico.
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with very little evidence found at the scene of brooke morris's murder, data from her cell phone showed she had been in contact with two men the day she was killed. could one of them be responsible for brooke's murder, or was this another dead end? here again is andrea canning. the brutality of brooke morris's murder fuelled the search for her killer. >> we really hate they came into our community and committed such a crime. >> roan county investigators cleared brooke's ex-husband. but they had two men to look at. two men whose names and numbers were right there in brooke's phone. who was brook communicating with that day that seemed to have of potential importance? >> daniel hopkins. >> this is a man she used to date?
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>> i think they were talking. nothing too extreme. maybe a couple dates. >> albert knew daniel through mutual friends. >> we would hang out with daniel, i would text him and say, hey man are you coming out. he'd meet up with us. >> but albert hadn't spoken to daniel that weekend and didn't know daniel and brooke had been texting each other, making plans to meet up. investigators say they called the number listed for daniel on brooke's phone. he didn't answer. >> you couldn't find him? >> couldn't find him. >> investigators learned daniel lived in colorado, he was just in knoxville for the game. >> were you worried when you couldn't get a hold of him when he was out there? >> yeah. >> daniel had flown back to colorado by the time he got on the phone with the sheriff's investigator. >> basically interviewed him. >> where was he? >> from what i understand he was at the ball game. >> daniel hawkins told
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investigators he was at the stadium watching the football game as he texted with brooke on and off throughout the name. the game ended just before 7:00 p.m., brooke's body was found just after 8:00 p.m. if daniel was telling the truth, investigators had to figure out if he had enough time to get through the crush of vol fans, meet up with brooke and make the drive here to roan county to commit the murder all in about an hour. >> as investigators looked at daniel's tameline they found he was still texting brooke long after the game ended. the last text was just a little past midnight? it read, where are you darlin'? but then, brooke had been dead for almost four hours. >> until we clear him and rule him out we do consider someone like daniel hopkins person of interest. >> dan hopkins wasn't the only person texting with brooke. who else had brooke been texting with? >> shawn smoot. >> what did you learn about him?
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>> we found out he ran an allstate office there in west knoxville. >> married, children? >> children. no longer married at that point in time. >> what were you impressions of shawn? >> seem like a nice enough person, outgoing. typical sales, easy to get along with. >> shawn smoot, the name ring a bell with brooke's family and friends. not long after brooke's divorce, shawn had hired brooke as an assistant in the office. >> i remember the day that she had the interview, we had lunch right before and she was so excited, you know. >> it was a real job. and i said, there's going to be so much potential for you to move up in this company, you know. i was really proud of her. >> did you feel like this was kind of a fresh start brooke needed? >> yeah we did. we all thought it was going to be a good thing for her. >> did she seem happy? >> oh yeah, she loved it. i think there was a couple other ladies in the office that she worked with. everybody got along and she
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enjoyed it. >> she had formed a really -- i guess tight relationship with her boss. >> but brooke's family had no idea how close brooke's relationship with her boss, shawn smoot actually was. some of her friends did. >> well, she had told me in the beginning that she had started working for this guy, shawn smoot, and a little down the road, i had like saw them out eating or something like that. as things progressed in their relationship, i was like, what's going on here? i was like, this guy he seems a bit older. does he have a family or anything like that? >> and she was like, i -- yes, he's married. >> an affair with a married man. >> i don't think she was committed to that relationship. i think it was just her just coming through a divorce and she had attention from this man. >> but there's still something
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going on that shouldn't be going on? >> uh-huh. >> brooke left the job after just a few months. but it was clear, to investigator at least, that brooke and shawn was still in touch. her phone showed calls between them on the day of the football game and they'd been texting back and forth. >> did you call him? >> my attempt to call him wasn't successful. >> another one whose not around? >> that's correct. >> detectives decided not to wait for shawn to pick up his phone. they went to his house in the early morning hours after brooke's murder. >> is he home? >> he is. >> shawn told investigators he had seen brooke the day before. she called from downtown knoxville asking for help. remember, brooke's tailgating plans had gone awry and she wanted to go home and change her clothes. she needed a ride to her car which had been left at a restaurant the night before. shawn said he agreed to give her a lift, but said they went to a
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bar to watch the game first. >> i think they went to wild wings and buffalo wild wings. it's two different restaurants within a square mile of each other. >> he said he dropped her off at her car which was in the parking lot where she left it. >> he said he didn't know where she went. >> so, had brooke met her killer there in the parking lot or sometime later? perhaps she left to meet up with that other guy she'd been texting, daniel hopkins. as far as investigators knew, shawn smoot was the last person to see brooke alive. as investigators checked out his story something wasn't adding up. >> is this one of the first where this guy's not being straight with us? >> it was one of the many. coming up. a secret brooke never shared with her family. >> did that give you chills when you found that envelope? >> it was horrible. envelope? >> it was horrible shield℠ annuities from brighthouse financial
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investigators working brooke morris's murder case were taking a hard look at two men she was talking to the day she was killed. daniel hopkins said they tried to meet up but never did. >> were daniel's friend able to back up his alibi? >> his alibi was verified? >> he was really at the game? >> yes.
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>> because of the time the game ended, detectives concluded daniel couldn't have been in roan county at the time of the murder. he was eventually cleared by authorities. here's video of them at one of the restaurants he said they went to. here they are taking their drink on to the patio. another camera captured the couple leaving 6:30 p.m.. brooke is walking several steps ahead of shawn. something chief philips thought was telling. >> normally people were happy and all that stuff, you'd think they'd walk out together. if there was something going on, maybe she was like, i want to get away from him or whatever. i'll be glad when he droops me off at my car. >> this is the parking lot where smoot says he dropped brooke off at her car. none of the security cameras
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here had the car in view. it was still sitting here the day after brooke died. so, they decided to trace his steps. they pulled his cell phone record and found something unusual. in the 2 1/2 hours after shawn and brooke had last been seen together there was no activity on his cell phone. at 11:00 p.m. his phone started pinging off towers at this major interstate heading out of knoxville. then it lacked -- looked like shawn turned around. his phone started pinging in the other direction all the way back to his house. did he talk about why he was about to leave town and didn't or why he turned around? >> in initially talking to us he told us he was home all night. >> so that's an inconsistency for you. >> it is. >> investigators were becoming suspicious of shawn smoot. and they weren't the only ones. brooke's closest friends never suspected clayton or daniel hopkins. they knew the relationship with
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shawn had been stormy. >> she'd tell me little thing here and there. >> her friend say shawn had a temper and caitlyn witnessed it firsthand one night after a dinner. shawn was drunk, she says so she didn't want brooke to drive home with him. >> he did not like that. he'd get very angry, we drove just down the street pulled into the parking lot and i pulled up right beside her car. she opened the door and shawn was like right there. grabbed her by the arm. i told her, brooke just get back in the car and so she did. she got back in the car and drove off. >> friends say similar incidents followed. brook felt shawn was stalking her, showing up unannounced and uninvited when she was out with friends, even after she stopped working for him. >> she definitely knew something was wrong, you know, after he was obsessive with her, calling her mumble times, texting and stalking her.
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she knew that this man has got some issues, i've got to try to get away from him. >> brooke reached her breaking point. and in january 2011, did something she thought would get shawn out of her life forever. >> she was like i'm done with this situation, he wouldn't leave me alone. i'm going to the wife, she needs to know about the situation. >> i think she was probable tired of living in the secret. she wanted to be free from the situation. >> the wife knows, he'll leave me alone. >> yeah, if i'm honest with the wife, then maybe, you know they can try to work out their problems and he'll leave me alone. >> but it backfired. shawn's marriage imploded. >> she was just like, i've gone to the wife, she's getting a divorce, she's made him move out. >> he lost everything after that. >> and friends say shawn continued to harass brooke. in fact, they say things only
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intensified. >> beyond emotional abuse was it physical? >> uh-huh, yes. >> she had just told me that shawn was getting violent. >> he broke into her apartment one night, came in through the bathroom window, threw her head up against the tile floor. >> brooke's family didn't know about any of this, the relationship, the alleged violence. it wasn't until after her death that her family finally learned brooke's secret. >> did that give you chills when you found that envelope? >> yeah it was horrible. >> it was brittany who discovered it when she went about the task of cleaning out brooke's apartment. >> we were getting stuff in order to pack away and send. i went in her kitchen and on top of the refrigerator was a manila folder. >> brittany opened the folder, it was an order of protection brooke taken out a year before her murder against her former boss, shawn smoot.
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>> and it was page after page of crazy stuff that he did to her. and i'm just like, this is horrifying, like i didn't even know any of this was happening. >> the document details a litany of alleged violent outbursts by shawn, including the time brooke says he broke into her apartment and attacked her. >> why didn't she just tell us, you know, that -- this is what i'm going through, i need help? >> why did you think she didn't want to share with you what was going on in her life? >> she knew we'd have a fit. i would have hunted him myself for hurting her in any way. and i think she knew that. >> brooke's friends who knew about the order of protection were surprised to find out she and shawn were talking on the day of the football game.
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>> nobody knew that she even had contact with him. >> but to investigators there was something about this particular order of protection. brooke had asked the judge to allow her and shawn to have social contact. and sure enough they had continued to talk and spend time together. so, they had to wonder if thing were really that bad between brooke and shawn. the investigation dragged on for weeks, then months. it was almost too much for tina to bear. >> i got really frustrated, yeah i did. you know, and i'm sure they had to hear my wrath a few times because, you know, i'm a mother and i wanted to know who did it, and i wanted them put behind bars. >> a major break in the case was coming. would a jury be able to put it all together. >> i said were you directly or indirectly involved. coming up, a murder charge at last. >> i wanted them to envision
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brooke morris's family and friends had come to a heart-wrenching conclusion. she had been in a violent relationship with shaun smoot, a relationship that ended with her murder. >> did it just seem so easy to
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you that, okay, they can go arrest him now, like we know who did it? >> oh, absolutely. but that didn't happen. >> hmm-mm. >> and i kept thinking, well, surely any day now, any day now. >> investigators had their suspicions as well, and they were trying to build a case against smoot. he was the last to see her alive. they had an allegedly violent relationship. he had lied to investigators, but so far they had found no physical evidence tying him to the crime. >> you were able to search shaun smoot's apartment. >> we were. >> did you find anything? >> we found an empty box that once contained a firearm with empty ammunition. >> no gun. >> no gun. >> it was the same caliber as the murder weapon. and the ammo? >> it was the same style found
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at the murder scene. >> but the case wasn't strong enough to charge smoot with the murder. but then the crime lab released a ballistics report showing that the shellings from the crime scene were found at smoot's home. his missing gun appeared to be the murder weapon. >> that's a huge connection. >> it is the connection. >> eight months after brooke was killed shaun smoot was indyed on charges of first-degree murder. >> did you identify with her, this young woman who was so vulnerable? >> oh, absolutely. >> bob edwards and tiffany star smith saw this case as a relationship turned deadly. >> we're still talking about domestic violence. we're still talking about orders of protection and all of the things that go wrong in those situations. >> you had no witnesses, no dna from your suspect, no murder weapon. that's a lot of things you didn't have.
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>> if we didn't feel like we could prosecute it and be successful, we would have never indicted it or proceeded with it. >> circumstantial cases allow you to be creative. you can take a set of facts and weave a story together for your theory of prosecution. >> shaun smoot insisted he was innocent. he cycled through five different defense attorneys and the trial was delayed again and again. >> it was surreal. it took 22 times. >> robert jolly, smoot's fifth attorney believed the state's case was weak for one simple reason. >> i don't think that they did very shore row investigations of anyone other than mr. smoot, and
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even his investigation wasn't thorough. >> jolly told the jury just how little that investigation had uncovered. >> there are no fingerprints. there's no gunshot residue tests. no dna tests, there's absolutely no evidence that links mr. smoot to it. >> they did state the evidence they had wasn't incriminating. the weapon he owned was the same caliber as the murder weapon, but -- >> there are however many million people in this country who own guns and this was a common weapon. >> the ballistics report showed there was no actual science behind it. >> there's no scientific evidence of that or any standards that show that. >> there's not currently a
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standard that shows that every firearm makes unique marks. >> as for the volatile relationship described in the order of protection, the defense pointed out that smoot never admitted to any of the allegations, and he was never charged. >> the order doesn't mean that mr. smoot ever did anything. it doesn't mean that mr. smoot admit thad he did anything. >> and the order of protection didn't prevent them from seeing each other, which they clearly did. >> miss morris told the judge that she wanted to have social contact with mr. smoot. >> jolly argued if brooke was so afraid of smoot, why would she keep seeing him? after all, phone records showed she was the one who called him that day. >> she conned to treat shawn as a friend, as someone she could do activities with. >> were you worried that could
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be confusing to the jury? >> absolutely. i think that's the underlying question every time we talk about domestic violence. why does anyone go back? the prosecutor hoped that it would be wiped away when they called the key witness to the stand. amy who was working for smoot when brooke was worried said her impression of the nice outgoing man who hired her didn't last. >> why did it change? >> he was cold. he got angry easily, not satisfied really ever. it almost seemed like he enjoyed getting somebody riled up. >> in court she testified about what happened the monday following brooke's murder? now, on that day, did mr. smoot come into the office? >> he came in that morning. when i saw him the first time,
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he didn't see me. he was crouched down under his desk unhooking his computer, and i asked him if he was okay, and he said no. i asked him if there was anything i could do, and he said, turn back time. >> amy had already heard about the murder and that investigators had been to smoot's house. she told the jury what d defendant said next. >> at that point i asked him if he was directly or indirectly involved and he said both. >> did you take that as a total admission of guilt? >> absolutely, absolutely. >> it had taken nearly five years after brooke's murder to get her alleged killer before a jury. it took the jury less than four hours to reach its verdict. >> we the jury find the defendant shawn nelson smoot gl of premeditated first-degree murder of brooke nicole morris. >> what's your feelings of emotion when you hear that word?
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>> of course, ke can't show emotion in court. >> what's going on inside? >> inside i'm screaming. i'm jumping for joy. >> i was able to give tina gregg a hug. >> this was the moment she had been waiting for. >> yes. i think it was the moment we had all been waiting for. >> for the prosecutor, the case was more about winning a conviction. there's a lesson to be learned. >> for a woman watching this who may be going through a similar situation, what's the message from this story for her? >> get out. get help. get out. don't go back. it's not going to change. >> speak out and don't be afraid. don't be ashamed. you know, it's not your fault that you're being treated this way. you should never be treat thad way. >> the jurors also had the decide smood ice sentence. that's when prosecutor tiffany starr smith asked them to
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imagine the horror of brooke's last moments. >> i'd ask you to all close your eyes for a few minute this morning. >> were you hoping having the jurors close their eyes would have a powerful impact? >> i wanted them to try to envision this young woman out in the middle of nowhere being shot three times by an angry man she was afraid of. >> all goes silent and at 23 years old brooke morris is dead. >> the jury sentenced smootd to life without the possibility of parole. that conviction and the sentence have provided comfort for brooke's family, but not closure. >> i can't make any more memories with her. the only memories have are past memories. i mean it's hard. >> she's always in my heart. she will always be in my heart. you know, we had -- i had 23
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wonderful years with brooke. i wish i had 53 more, but unfortunately i don't. i know where brooke is. i know i'll see her again. and that gives me hope. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. and a very good saturday morning to you. i'm richard lui in new york at nbc headquarters. 7:00 in the east, 4:00 in the west. here's what's happening on this day for you. shutdown, day number eight. the president threatening to close the border at mexico while democrats dig in their heels. new indications of how this could play out in 2019. done. the president's personal attorney on why robber mueller should not expect more written answers from the

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