tv 2020 ABC July 29, 2016 10:00pm-11:00pm EDT
anytime. like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. that's our program. but don't go anywhere. "20/20" starts right now. [♪] >> action news, delaware valleys, leading news program, with metrologist, [indiscernible]. >> friday night and a truck slams right into the lobby of a center city hospital, we are on the scene with the latest. >> for the first time in the united states, the seek cay virus has been spread by a mosque toe. hear what doctors here say what that means. >> a dramatic rescue played in and out of the streets in huntington park. >> police and crews flooded the area, either a man fell or
jumped into a sure we are. bob brooks was on the scene, and he joins us live with more what happened, bob. >> ryan and sherry, and the man -- a man jumps into the sewage, he is a spent two and a half, and he is alive here at hospital. he will be able to tell you his tale. >> finally, 46 year-old, david bar was pulled out of the city's sewage system, and an entire neighborhood, erupted in cheers. no doubt a huge relieve for bar on the stretcher, and certainly for the brave team that intersection of 9th street, a witness a says -- >> we are told by neighbours, go goes by the name, they call
him. >> officials won't say how he ended up in there. >> we don't know that now. >> just before 5:00 o'clock someone jumped into the sewer. >> they suited up and went in after. >> just so everyone has a picture of what happened, makes his way through a pipe, that is 18-inches in came at the underneath pike and theth street, and retrieved out of the hole here. >> as you can imagine, and in -- [indiscernible] >> bar was pulled out at 7:30 tonight. that's more two and a half hours in philadelphia sewage, we see him breathing oxygen, and had to feel pretty good. >> crazy, only in philadelphia. >> only in philadelphia is right. we only got to about 30 feet
where it is going on, and it smelled bad where we were, and i can only imagine where what it smelled like. he is he will spend the the night detoxing with many showers. book brook action news 10, wphl17. >> all right, bob. want thank you. developing news, from center city philadelphia, where a truck smashed right through the front of the mcgee facility tonight ended up in the lobby and leaving five people hurt including the driver. of this all happened 8:00 o'clock in the facility which is located in the 1500 block of ray street. the driver of of the truck a woman, complaining of chest pain, it's not clear if that caused her to lose control. the rest are said to be in stable condition tonight. >> at just about this minute,
24 hours ago, hillary clinton was making history, and 101 days until the election, and she did not reflect and rest, instead she and running made started a bus to your with with -- action news this is dane care rather are has the story. >> hillary clinton, running meat item kan1e, you -- tim kaine call a bus to your. >> and the clinton's and the kan1e's took the -- in this bastion of -- >> i find it highly amusing that donald trump talks about make america eric great again. he doesn't make a thing in america, exempt many bankruptcies.
>> next stop the factor in hatfield. the toy manufacturer which employs about 200 people, is being lauded by creating jocks, and clinton told people here, if elected, she would invest $10 billion to -- >> the strengther own would be more good paying jocks for more persons americans. if you are working hard, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. >> she was a beauty for sure, yes. >> reporter: classmates and sorority sisters remember college days at mcneese state with mary like it was yesterday. >> not only pretty on the outside but pretty on the inside. people really were drawn to her.
>> reporter: felix works in a chemical plant, and he has she just kind of fell in love from the get-go. >> i had one woman tell me that felix vail looked like he'd been kissed by heaven. he had this charismatic aura. >> reporter: funny thing about felix, though. >> i think felix was the bad boy. >> reporter: mary's friends say they didn't like him much. can't remember why. >> for some reason we didn't care for him. i do remember that. >> reporter: now in the fall of '62, after a year of marriage, mary and felix have a baby, billy, and some unexpected good news. >> reporter: and they thought, or she thought she was pregnant again? >> she did. she thought she was pregnant again, told her friends she thought she was pregnant. >> reporter: were they happy at the beginning, do you think? >> oh, absolutely.
the family was beginning to start, you know? >> reporter: but behind those backyard smiles, something dark. one of her sorority sisters remembers a mysterious premonition. >> i remember in the dorm that mary had always told us she was going to die young by drowning. i never forgot that. >> reporter: one sunday evening, felix gets the notion to take mary fishing out on the river they stay out late past dark. something until this day, her brother says, he can't figure out. >> reporter: can you tell me a little bit about the fear of the water? >> she could go in a swimming pool. she was fine as long as she could see the bottom. >> reporter: you call that dark water down here, right? >> dark water. >> reporter: and that means you can't see the, see through it. and yet there's mary. you can see her in your mind's eye. all those years ago dutifully cruising up that corkscrew of a river with felix. then mary's fear comes tragically true. felix describes a freak
accident. he says mary spots a stump in the water, he swerves to miss it, throwing her into the river. >> she saw a stump, said something, he whipped the boat, she fell out. that's -- that was his story. and then he dove in the water and tried to save her, and couldn't save her. >> reporter: the young mother, so lively and loved, taken by the river, vanishing in the dark water of the louisiana delta. gone. when we continue -- police evidence photos, missing for 50 years. until bulldog reporter jerry mitchell finds them. >> this is the autopsy report. >> reporter: what they reveal about the disappearance of mary horton vail. as the search for justice begins. when you don't get enough sleep...
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>> well, this is the autopsy report of mary vail. >> reporter: investigative reporter jerry mitchell has been dredging up a secret that folks here in lake charles have been whispering about for half a century. the death of mary horton vail while out on a boat with her husband felix in 1962. ruled by the coroner an accidental death, but now it's all being reeled up through the depths of time into the daylight. did his friends and the people around believe the story that he had been out fishing? >> the people i talked to didn't believe it. his neighbor, who was a fisherman, he was like, "i never went fishing with felix. he had a water skiing boat, he didn't have a fishing boat." >> reporter: the local "lake charles american press" covering mary's death, the search for her body, shadows of doubt falling on her husband even back then. deputies said felix had been unfaithful to mary. her brother, will horton, says she was ready to leave him. >> even though back then divorce
was a ugly word to use and looked down upon, i think she was leaning strongly in that direction when she died. >> reporter: with mary lost in the river, you might think felix would be frantic to find help, but deputies say he took the time to go miles downriver. >> according to the deputy's report, he passed a lighted tugboat, didn't, like, wave at -- "hey. hey. you know, i need help. my wife's just drowned." and there were other lighted places, but he went more than five miles, all the way back to lake charles. >> reporter: before he said anything? >> yeah -- before he sought help. >> reporter: and then there was the life insurance -- always the life insurance. two policies worth half a million dollars in today's money. one taken out, paid in full, just months before. and then, two days after she disappeared, mary's body is recovered, still dressed in her sorority sweatshirt. >> where they found her body was about where her body went down. it's right up here, on the
right. >> reporter: in his quest to find out what really happened to mary, mitchell discovers that most of the police records have vanished. in fact, the most important evidence in the case came from a civilian who was on one of the boats that found mary's body -- two gruesome photos. >> these are the photographs, he had held onto for like more than 50 years. >> reporter: these photographs raise 1,000 questions. the odd positioning of the body, the existence of oil stains on her clothes. experts later say it doesn't seem to fit with a drowning. and perhaps most importantly, the photos reveal something quite dramatic that to investigators today make mary's death look less like an accident and more like a murder. >> she has a scarf in her mouth, like four inches into her mouth. and there's a bruise on the back of her head.
the theory of the deputies at the time was that felix vail may have hit his wife with an oar. >> reporter: mary's brother will says felix seemed to handle the catastrophe remarkably well. >> if i'd have been in that situation, i'd have gone running to my wife's parents saying, "oh, forgive me, please. i'm so sorry. i should have never put her in that boat. it's all my fault." never saw anything remotely similar to that from him at all. and that was the first warning sign, i guess you could say that i saw. >> reporter: instead, what was his attitude? >> he was somber. but he was silent. >> reporter: mary's sorority sister, judy turney, drove felix to his wife's funeral. >> he just seemed to be very flippant and not, not in mourning at all. >> reporter: and here's something that still galls, even after felix collected insurance money, he failed to pay the funeral home. >> he got money, enough to cover the funeral and never put a penny towards the funeral.
his own wife's funeral. >> reporter: felix was arrested for three days. >> i think we all suspected felix from the get-go. >> reporter: the prosecutor brought the case to a grand jury, but then dropped it. and felix vail moved on with his life until his past, and jerry mitchell, caught up with him, 50 years later. finding a damaging witness. >> and he just started talking here out of the clear blue about mary and calling her his ex-wife and -- >> reporter: wesley turnage says on the way to work one day, a year after mary died, felix told him something so bold and incriminating, investigators had to hear it for themselves. >> he said "well, that damn [ bleep ] wanted another baby, thought it might help save our marriage. but said, 'i didn't want the one i got and i sure didn't want another one.'" he said, "i fixed that damn
[ bleep ]. she won't never have another one." and right then i knew that i was sitting beside a murderer. >> reporter: it wasn't just wesley turnage. mitchell found other witnesses who say felix vail confided in them. the reporter led prosecutors to robert fremont, who befriended vail in california in the late 1960s. >> he talked about something about a lake and a boat and all this stuff and he had killed his first wife. i thought it was maybe some kind of b.s. story. the second time he told me, it was very graphic and it really troubled me. >> what did he say? >> it sounded like he whacked her on the head and threw her in the water. >> reporter: unfortunately, neither man reported those conversations to police at the time and felix went on to marry again. what are the chances something suspicious might happen to his new wife? stay with us. here's how it feels to get fifty percent off most national carrier rates too. ♪
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she's 17 years old. her husband is more than twice her age. >> this is your friend, annette, and here is your long-awaited tape. hope you like it. >> reporter: annette is a headstrong, energetic teen who writes poetry, plays guitar and sings. ♪ >> reporter: how old is she, about? >> she's 15, i think, when she made this. >> reporter: annette, who had just lost her dad in a car crash, met felix when she was just 15 years old. he was driving his motorcycle through her neighborhood and stopped to chat up the high school girl. annette's mother, mary rose. >> i didn't know enough about him for it to raise alarms.
and i thought it was casual. >> reporter: when annette and felix meet in texas, she doesn't know a thing about what happened back under that dark water in lake charles or the questions about felix's first wife's death. so what was the bond there between felix and annette? >> it was almost like a father figure. >> reporter: while annette is away at an out-of-town special music school, mom figures out it's her that is being played. felix and annette start out secretly dating and end up taking a cross-country adventure on his motorcycle. >> letting her go off with felix is not something i'm proud of. yeah. and i trusted her. and i didn't know he was a bad guy. >> reporter: but the man mom says is a bad guy is about to take her daughter on an long trip through california and down to central america. when annette returns home two years later, it's without felix. she tells mom she has had a painful abortion, wants a divorce and to move back in with her. >> annette's staying here and we're making a room out of this garage.
>> reporter: annette and mary rose are turning the garage into a bedroom for the married, but separated teenager. she remembers her daughter telling her she had to bolt from felix, her free spirit dominated by a much older man who was jealous and controlling. >> i cant do anything without checking with felix first. >> reporter: anything? >> anything. >> reporter: after the room is finished, annette says she needs what she calls silent therapy and isolates herself inside, talking to no one. felix is calling on the phone repeatedly, but mary will not let them speak. >> i heard her singing and i heard her crying. and, you know, she was just trying to get her life back together. ♪ >> reporter: annette tells her mom she will emerge soon, and when felix hears that, he shows up. it does seem as though he was trying to alienate your daughter from you, right? >> oh, well, it's very clear he did. >> reporter: now everything spirals out of control. all three are living together,
but soon mary says felix and her daughter all but demand she vacate the property. it was a house and a cottage, mary bought with her life insurance money left to annette when her dad died. >> all of sudden annette puts felix on the deed with her and then months after that she actually deeds the house completely to felix. >> reporter: so felix has his young wife back, a new house and money in the bank left from annette's life insurance payout. time for another trip through the midwest, but this time it's annette who doesn't come back. >> he said they were in st. louis camping and she decided to go back to mexico and leave him. so he put her on a trailways bus. and that was his story. >> reporter: did that make sense to you? >> no. no. but i wanted to believe it. and i wanted to believe that i would hear from her. >> reporter: years later, new owners head up to the attic of the house where felix lived with annette.
>> none of it looked very interesting to me, except a suitcase back in that corner. >> reporter: inside, bathing suits, lingerie, and annette's birth control pills -- all left behind, even though felix claimed she had run off to mexico to have sex with other men. >> finding her birth control there convinced me that he had really done this. because what woman runs away and doesn't take her clothing or birth control with her? seemed very suspicious to me. >> here's a letter i wrote to the d.a. he didn't -- they didn't respond, so -- >> reporter: for more than 20 years, mary rose goes to prosecutors, police, private eyes, even psychics to try to turn her suspicions into a case against felix vail. >> i never let go of hope that maybe, maybe, maybe he would -- people, somebody would believe what i knew to be true. >> reporter: nothing until
2010. >> let's go to jerry mitchell now. >> reporter: that's when mary heard dogged investigative reporter jerry mitchell interviewed on air. >> a light went off and i just said, "this is the man that's going to be interested in this story." >> reporter: and he was polite? >> he was polite. my approach was, "if i -- if you knew that there was a serial killer living as a free man in mississippi, would you like more information about it?" he said -- >> i was kind of like, "yeah." >> reporter: it was a match forged by mutual determination, mary's desperate sorrow, mary's desperate sorrow, jerry mitchell's know-how. >> i was going to mississippi. i said, "i'm going to confront felix, would you like to meet me there?" >> reporter: they link up in a field in remote northern mississippi where felix grew up. mary's relentless sleuthing had led her to this trailer where felix was now living. he wasn't home but while jerry waited outside, mary -- camera in hand -- sees an opening. >> the window was broken and he had plastic over the window. i just ripped it right off and
climbed in. i was looking for any evidence i could find. >> reporter: you're a 64-year-old woman. >> slithering through the back. >> reporter: determined? >> determined. >> then the next thing i know, here comes this machete -- just clank on the floor. and then another machete clanks on the floor and then another one. >> yup. i just kept pulling them -- pulling them out. yeah. >> reporter: a machete collection. jerry is more than intrigued now. >> it was just like, oh, wow! >> reporter: "i don't know what the story is yet, but there's a story here." >> there's a story here. >> reporter: a story that features a first wife drowning suspiciously, and a second underage bride's mysterious disappearance, both last seen alive by their husband felix vail. are there others? mary rose will stop at nothing to find out. >> and she said, "oh, by the way, there was another woman that felix was with.
and i think her name was sharon," she said. >> reporter: next -- who is sharon and what deep, dark secret was felix's son holding for 40 years? stay with us. it's the beauty of a well-made choice. trouble can pop up anywhere. the ford fusion can detect a pedestrian, alert you and if you don't brake, it can brake for you. introducing the 2017 ford fusion with pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection. it's the beauty of a well-made choice. fact. there's an advil specially made for fast relief
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donald trump: i could stand in the middle of 5th avenue i'm hillary clinton and i approve this message. and shoot somebody and i wouldn't lose any voters, okay? and you can tell them to go f--- themselves! you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever... you gotta see this guy. ahh, i don't know what i said, ahh. "i don't remember." he's going like "i don't remember!"
"20/20" continues, in partnership with the clarion ledger/usa today network. >> reporter: felix vail, suspected of murdering his first wife, is leaving the winding dark waters of the louisiana delta for a completely different lifestyle. in california. it's the late '60s and felix has decided to tune in and drop out. his young and now motherless son billy says dad is going through "more girlfriends than i can count." eventually discovering a 21-year-old fresh face named sharon hensley. her brother brian. >> if anyone would describe her, the first word that comes out of their mouth is "beautiful." >> reporter: 8-year-old billy was obviously plenty for felix to handle on his own. kids didn't exactly mix with daddy's hippie lifestyle. but sharon is willing to help. a midwestern beauty with the looks of a model.
the legs of a dancer and a wholesome north dakota sensibility. >> she was very popular with the boys. she dated the quarterback in high school. >> reporter: but it all seemed to bore her. california beckoned. she met felix at a party in san francisco, totally changing her life. neither had jobs or a home. hitchhiking the coast, stealing from orchards to eat, dropping acid. young billy is in tow. he's not in school? >> he's not in school. >> reporter: he's wearing hardly any clothes, right? >> yeah. his only possessions are shorts and a sleeping bag. and so one day basically the son marches to the police department and, and tells the police my dad keeps giving me drugs and i don't want drugs. >> this is "national enquirer," dated january 10th, 1971. >> reporter: the story of a boy being fed drugs and little else makes the "national enquirer" and back in a north dakota
grocery checkout line, brian hensley spots it and his sister sharon's picture. >> i said, "hey, mom, sharon's in this paper here." >> reporter: but one thing wasn't in that article. the boy told the police he heard a terrible revelation. his father confessing to sharon. dad had killed billy's mom. >> bill was dismissed by the sheriffs there as just some crazy story. >> reporter: authorities from calcasieu parish, louisiana, fly to california, but felix isn't talking and no murder charges are filed. bill's widow janet. >> he knew what he had heard and he never wavered on that. never. >> reporter: janet vail says before her husband died of cancer in 2009 he purposely left that story on a church podcast so others could hear it. >> can you share that story with me? >> yeah, that's when i found out the truth of my mother's death. >> he wanted the truth to come out here for the victims. >> he didn't even know i was in the house.
he said he had murdered my mother. he said, no, you don't understand. i really did kill her. >> reporter: now, bill said he is afraid of his father. scared felix might try to kill him because he told police what he heard. and that fear is spreading. up to north dakota, where the hensley family believes sharon is in danger. >> i really believe because he had confessed to her that he'd made a decision that he had to get rid of her. >> reporter: brian hensley and his mother saw sharon and felix only one more time. his sister had wasted away from bad nutrition and drugs, and felix, he remembers, was in total control of her life. >> at that point, i believe she was with him out of fear. she didn't know how to get out of the situation. >> reporter: sharon told her parents they were hitting the road. maybe heading to south america. she later sent this photo captioned, "making travel plans." but the family saw no excitement in her eyes. only sadness. they get one last phone call.
>> when my mom got off the phone, she told my dad, "sharon's in deep trouble. she's crying out for help." >> reporter: but they didn't know exactly where she was. they didn't know how to help. and never heard from sharon again. if you're counting, that makes three young women gone. last seen alive with felix. his story about sharon's disappearance spelled out in a letter to her family. a letter that makes as much sense as the acid trips he liked to take. >> i haven't seen sharon, you know, last i saw her was about a year ago, we were down in key west. >> reporter: remember felix told annette's mother she'd disappeared on a bus? this time it's sharon and his story is she left on a boat with mysterious australian strangers. >> i remember plainly, clearly, just, like, oh, my god, this is such b.s. >> reporter: there was no
investigation. when felix returned home alone, his son bill says dad tells him another chilling story. >> he said she would never bother anyone ever again. i knew what that meant. i knew he had murdered her. >> reporter: the grown-up bill said he didn't know what to do with this information, but when we return, someone who did. another woman enters the story, wearing a wire. >> and then i just come in and stick it right here, in my bra. >> reporter: face to face with felix. stay with us. you've wished upon it all year, and now it's finally here. the mercedes-benz summer event is back, with incredible offers on the mercedes-benz you've always longed for. but hurry, these shooting stars fly by fast. lease the gle350 for $579 a month at your local mercedes-benz dealer. mercedes-benz. the best or nothing.
>> reporter: texas private eye gina frenzel just can't pass up a good murder mystery. her favorite author is john grisham. when one night she stumbled onto jerry mitchell's e-book "gone," just 99 cents on her kindle. she bought the ride of her life. >> and i thought, well, nobody just disappears. >> reporter: she's part super sleuth, ala melissa mccarthy in "spy."
part superhero -- at least, if you go by her nickname, batgirl, a moniker earned after she showed up at a halloween party and didn't get the memo. >> i was the only one that dressed up. i dressed up as batgirl, so, it's just a fun little thing we -- >> reporter: and do people call you that now all the time? >> oh, all the time. i can't get away from it. >> reporter: and you even like wear a necklace. >> i do. >> reporter: her specialty, getting people to talk. gina offered to help jerry mitchell with his story -- and the fact that felix vail hadn't talked to anyone in years didn't dissuade her. when she finds out he lives just an hour and half away, the keys are in the car, whether he likes it or not. >> when it comes to finding out the truth, i'm not worried about a trespassing citation. >> reporter: and she's dressed for success. you weren't wearing the normal clothes you wear. >> no. i wasn't. i was wearing a black, it's a black sundress. it was very low-cut in the front. and then of course i have to wear it in front of a suspected serial killer, you know. >> reporter: right. >> but it, it probably didn't hurt. >> reporter: felix is living in
a shack with no running water. years earlier -- before he lived there, there had been a suspicious fire. gina uses that fact to her advantage. >> i knew i couldn't walk up to felix and say, hey, i'm a p.i., did you murder these women? let's sit down and have a cup of coffee. that wasn't going to happen. i'm going to tell him i am hired by an insurance company to investigate this fire, and that's going to get me in his door. i knocked on his door and he looked a little put off at first, and then i told him why i was there and then he was perfectly fine to come out and walk around with me. >> reporter: in her ruse of investigating the fire, she takes these photos. including a rare image of felix in his 70s. she says he's been living like a hermit. >> he said, well, i'm going to come in, come inside and i was like, okay. and of course i'm immediately, where can i get out. and there was no place to get out. there was this big plastic rubbermaid tote and of top of -- it's a little toolbox and there's a hacksaw and a hammer right on top of it and that's all that was going through my mind was, holy crap.
>> reporter: 20 minutes later, gina excuses herself and is out the door. but she's laid the groundwork. and one week later, she's back. heart beating a little bit that time? >> yeah. yeah. >> reporter: what are you worried about? >> well, i was nervous for my safety, because i was going to try to get a little more in depth in conversation with him and engage him. >> reporter: this time she gets a warm welcome. >> he comes out, comes around, and as soon he saw me, he just lit up. he was grinning, i mean, genuinely happy to see me. >> reporter: then you know you're in. you're in. >> yeah, i knew. >> reporter: gina tells him she needs to take more photographs. but he has no clue she's got her audio recorder rolling too. you also hide your recorder in a very interesting place. >> i just come in and stick it right here in my bra, ready to go. you can't see it, you don't know it's there. i know it's there. >> reporter: they speak for the next six hours. sipping wine in the small room with no bathroom. and there's another problem. >> he had some wicked b.o.
so you just hope you don't hurl. >> reporter: felix thinks he's made a new friend, maybe more. and starts spinning long-winded stories about his philosophy of life. >> as long as your ego is the main power in your brain, it is not going to let the spirit have equal power, equal time, anything. >> i mean he's bat[ bleep ] crazy but nothing makes sense, you know? >> reporter: she says she's bored stiff, but feigns interest in order to gather the clues. >> he has in his mind that he is the perfect specimen of a human being. i thought, if i play off of that mentality. i'll be honest with you, i'm fascinated by this whole ego. >> reporter: gina gets him to open up but he never directly confesses to anything. no smoking gun, the most telling tidbit, she says, is this one when he seems to admit he knows a lot about killing. >> he doesn't know how much i know about killing myself.
you know, about killing people. >> yeah. that's, that was pretty -- >> reporter: strong, huh? >> interesting when he -- >> reporter: so your eyes must have lit up at that point. >> little bit, yeah. >> reporter: another alarming moment -- when gina asks him about a woman he's been discussing at length. he won't name her, but she thinks it's the still missing annette. >> i said, do you ever see her anymore? and man, his body language completely changed, his color went, he stepped towards me and his eyes turned black and it was all instant. man, i hit a nerve. >> reporter: felix tells gina that he's been with hundreds of women. but it's been a while. a situation he seems bent on curing. >> i was worried that i could only take it so far without him ready to jump in the sack. there would be one time i made one statement and he thought, oh, this, let's have sex, and he goes, you want to have sex? i mean, he's ready to get up and i'm like whoa, i don't know you that well. >> reporter: he in fact thinks you're his girlfriend at some point. >> i'm thinking to myself i don't know what the hell he
thinks is going to happen but it ain't. >> reporter: gina visits felix four times. no physical contact except for their good-byes. >> he hugged me and i thought, aw, crap. and it caught me off guard because i'm worried about my recorder right here. and he was feeling up my back, not like super-pervy but a little on the pervy side and i was like, whatever. you can cop a feel if you want but that's all you're getting, you know? he never said a word, he just wanted to cop a feel. and i was just like, you panicked for nothing. >> reporter: that unbroken trust proves important later when felix asks gina to do some chores for him in his house when he's not there. it's a perfect opportunity to snoop. and batgirl, the private eye gina, takes it. and oddly, finds this collection of women's earrings. why would a 76-year-old man have women's earrings in his -- >> yeah, he's probably got 13, 14 pairs of earrings here. and kind of makes you wonder whose were they and why does he keep them? >> reporter: and she makes another discovery, a bin filled with more than 20 journals. >> that was the rubbermaid tub where i found the journals.
>> reporter: eureka. >> yeah. definitely. >> reporter: gina meticulously takes more than 2,000 photographs, documenting every page. there's no huge clue here. except when he writes about how a break-up with yet another woman he dated changed his thoughts on killing. >> "i was altered by it in a positive enough way to enable me to handle, without murder, the upcoming debacle." >> reporter: it could be interpreted that he's saying that he's murdered before. >> right. >> reporter: this is the ex-girlfriend. her name is beth field. she's relieved to have to have lived to tell her story. she met felix in the late '80s, after annette went missing. she was immediately attracted to him. >> it wasn't just the blue eyes, he kept his body in really good shape. and he was a sexy man. really a gorgeous man. >> reporter: but she says out of the blue one day, he became violent. >> he just turned around and started hitting me.
he actually broke my eardrum. he hurt me. >> reporter: so did felix hurt other women too? jerry mitchell and mary rose have spent years trying to find out. he's written article after article pushing authorities to act. the current coroner re-examined the autopsy and those lost photos of mary horton vail's body. and after 50 years, he ruled it was not accidental drowning. it was homicide. prosecutors now feel they have enough for a case. they have felix's old friends. >> he said i fixed that damn [ bleep ]. >> reporter: his own son. >> he said, no, you don't understand, i really did kill her. >> reporter: next, this cold case finally catches fire and the police are closing in. is this the end of the road for felix vail? >> i got this phone call from the sheriff's office. >> i whooped and hollered and danced like i've never danced before. >> repor
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her spa weekend. never mind the manicure, gina wants to watch felix get nailed. >> i had the best spot. cops were pissed. they didn't like that at all. and i'm like, "you know what? you snooze, you lose. i got here first." >> reporter: she and the cops follow him to the post office where he is arrested in the parking lot. >> i had my big camera, and i'm just snapping away. what happened to sharon and annette? and he looks right at me, and i'm just snapping away and i thought, "he saw me. he knows it's me. big deal, game over." >> jerry called me and said they got him. and i whooped and hollered and danced like i've never danced before. >> reporter: today he sits in the calcasieu parish jail awaiting trial on charges of second degree murder. and although felix vail is accused only of killing his wife, mary, the disappearance of his companion, sharon hensley, and his wife annette loom large. >> the thing that all three women have in common is the fact they were all last with felix vail. >> i know of no other circumstance or no other occasion anywhere where this has
happened. >> reporter: district attorney john derosier says the fact that the louisiana supreme court will allow the disappearances of these two other women as evidence in this trial is highly unusual. so this is a cold case. pretty much put to bed and closed. why do you believe this case can still be successful? >> time is a double-edged sword. witnesses disappear, witnesses die. it works to the benefit of a defendant. however in this case, over a period of 50 years, people tend to talk. >> reporter: do we know the whole story about felix? >> that's the big question for me. if he is guilty of these women's murders, are there others? are there other women or other people that disappeared too? >> reporter: felix pled not guilty, and his attorney says he didn't commit these crimes or any other, and blames his entire prosecution on an overly zealous jerry mitchell. >> people have disappeared and shown up 50 years later more than a few times.
i would not be surprised if one of these women we suddenly found out was in a nursing home in cleveland. the truth is that the state doesn't have what they need to make a normal murder case. >> reporter: but jerry, gina and mary say their mission is nearly complete, and they will join with family and friends at the trial early next month. there's a saying that justice delayed is justice denied. if he's convicted, was justice denied, or was it worth the wait? >> it's never worth the wait when other lives are lost. that's the sad part. >> all i can say is that it just brought me joy to know that after all these years justice can still be done. >> reporter: back on the dark water where mary horton vail lost her life five decades ago, jerry takes it all in. >> so, this is where it all began. this is allegedly his first victim.
>> reporter: in his element where the clues have been buried deep, satisfied that he has helped three families. >> as a reporter, what you're after is the truth. and you try your best, and -- and it takes a long time. when justice comes, it brings joy. this'll be 50-something years later, and they're experiencing justice for the first time. that's incredible. >> and just ten days from now, felix goes on trial. we'll be following it. you can watch the documentary called "gone" on the usa today network. from all of us at "20/20," have a great night and a good weekend. >> coming up on action news, a pick up truck smashes into a