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tv   Forensic Files  CNN  June 19, 2014 1:00am-1:31am PDT

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on the initial day eventually is what ended up absolutely placing her within the scene and being the thing that convicted her up next, a beautiful, young up next, a beautiful, young woman is found dead under a bridge. >> did she jump from that bridge or did somebody push her? >> and police learn she had a secret life. >> she was dancing under the name roxanne and they were calling her foxy roxy. >> police find a surveillance image of a truck near the bridge on the night she disappeared. >> you can see an apparent body in the back of the pickup truck. >> but who is driving the truck and what is the motive? >> there was something more going on than just a woman leaping from a bridge for no apparent reason.
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it was early on a saturday morning underneath a bridge in burlington township, new jersey, when an atv rider found the body of a young woman. he assumed she'd taken her own life. >> we just see a young girl, she looks like she's about 20 to 30 years old, about 100 pounds. she had no i.d. on her. >> the damage to her body was consistent with a drop of about 12 to 14 stories. >> insect activity indicated she'd been dead several days. but who was this woman? police released a description to the media. >> her manager from work called in, an ex-boyfriend called in saying that they recognized the description of the jewelry that she was wearing. >> from the victim's butterfly pendant, she was identified as 21-year-old rachel siani. >> i kept telling myself that it wasn't true.
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and i told myself that all the way up until her funeral, until i actually went up and looked at her. >> nancy knew something about her cousin, rachel siani, that few other people knew. rachel was a college student by day and an exotic dancer by night. >> she was only doing it just to pay her way through college, and the way she described it to me was that she was dancing in an extremely skimpy bikini. >> rachel worked at a place called divas international gentlemen's club across the bridge in pennsylvania, just three miles from where her body was found. her stage name was roxanne. >> divas is your typical gentlemen's club, where guys go in, mostly guys, and you know, sit down and have some drinks and watch the girls. >> rachel's friends and
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relatives could not believe she committed suicide. they said she exhibited none of the typical signs of depression. instead, she was focused on a career. >> she was studying psychology because she said she really wanted to focus on that and help people. >> and rachel had a good relationship with her family, despite some disagreements about her employment. >> her father absolutely did not approve of it. they obviously loved her very much as a daughter, but i think that they had resolved themselves that rachel had to find her own way through life and figure out what was going to be best for rachel. >> but was this a suicide? evidence on the bridge revealed a disturbing clue. >> there were some fibers that were consistent with the sweater that she had on, but there was also some bloodstains on the outside wall of the bridge. >> if the blood on the bridge was rachel's, then this might have been murder.
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in a small town on the outskirts of philadelphia, a young exotic dancer found dead beneath a bridge was front-page news.
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>> i mean, if she worked at an ice cream stand, it wouldn't have said, "ice cream girl," you know, "murdered." it was unsettling because everything was "exotic dancer murdered" or "stripper thrown off bridge." it was never her name or that she was a bucks county community college student. >> since rachel was found at the bottom of the bridge without shoes, wearing clean socks, investigators suspected she had been carried to the bridge and thrown over the side. >> up on top of the bridge, there were no shoes. there was no car. there was a lot of road debris and other dirt that would have become embedded in her socks if she was walking around up there. >> fibers from her sweater wedged in the concrete of the bridge also made it clear she didn't jump. her body scraped along the side of the bridge.
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dna testing on blood found near those fibers confirmed it was rachel's blood and that she was bleeding before she hit the ground. >> so, the police had to work backwards. they had to find out, you know, how did that blood and how did that fiber get on the pennsylvania turnpike bridge rail? >> there were no marks on rachel's neck, so investigators didn't believe a ligature or even the killer's hands were used to strangle her. >> if it's a large surface, like a forearm, pressing against a neck or a large just flat of the hand pressing against the neck, you're going to get bruising. >> significant internal bleeding told medical examiners rachel was still alive when she was thrown from the bridge. >> the victim had blood spatters on the side of her face, and it wasn't consistent with a fall from the bridge. >> two broken fingernails made it clear she tried to defend herself.
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the cause of death was blunt force trauma, a skull fracture. >> the fracture extends from one ear canal to the other ear canal. >> rachel's car, a battered, old lincoln, was in the parking lot of divas, the gentlemen's club where she worked. >> there was food and money strewn about in the car, which led us to believe that her demise was not a result of a robbery. >> fellow dancers told police that a former cook, 26-year-old jason woods, had been bothering her. >> he seemed to have somewhat of a fixation or obsession towards rachel, where he actually told people that rachel was his girlfriend. it wasn't true, but he told people that. >> in fact, jason had been fired just a month earlier, and when police found out why, they knew they had a solid suspect. >> he was infatuated with her, and he was subsequently terminated because of his
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infatuation with rachel siani. >> when questioned by police, jason denied any involvement in rachel's murder. >> he was believable, but we still couldn't rule him out. we always have to keep that individual in mind. he could be a good actor. >> then homicide investigators got a break. on the last night rachel worked at divas, she was in the parking lot talking with a friend after the club closed, and a man, obviously drunk, started banging on the door of the club. a local police officer witnessed the incident. >> call inside divas. there's a guy banging on the door here. ask him if he has a problem or something. >> the policeman offered to help. >> one of the owners or managers came out, said it was okay, they knew jack, he was a regular customer. >> jack was john denofa, a 35-year-old businessman who been
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in the club earlier that night. according to divas' manager, rachel offered to walk denofa to the motel located right next door to the club. >> maybe she thought he had had too much to drink and she wanted to take care of him, help him perhaps get to his room. her friend had actually asked rachel if she was okay, and rachel indicated to her, it's just jack, i'm fine, i'm okay. >> motel records indicate denofa checked into room 223. the hotel clerk remembered that rachel helped denofa up to his room, but he didn't recall seeing her leave. denofa contradicted that. he claimed rachel left and that he went up to his room alone. >> he said that he was with her and she just went her way and he went his way and that was it. he said he had absolutely nothing to do with her demise whatsoever. >> but to investigators, something just didn't seem right.
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the prime suspect in rachel siani's murder was the last known person to see her alive, jack denofa. he was married with no children and owned a sign company. employees say, like clockwork,
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denofa visited divas every tuesday night. rachel was his favorite dancer. >> she had mentioned jack, and she said that, you know, she wouldn't even have to work that night if she didn't want to because he would just give her money to sit there and talk to him,. and she said that, you know, he seemed like, just like a lonely guy, and that he was basically paying for her friendship. >> we had never discovered any evidence of any kind of sexual relationships. we asked the girls that, and we have no evidence at all that rachel ever engaged in any kind of activity like that with him, or anyone else for that matter. >> jack had a previous drunk driving arrest, so it wasn't unusual for him to stay at the motel connected to the dance club. >> he would rent a motel room himself. and if he was too drunk to drive, sometimes the divas management would comp him a room. the weird thing about that was
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his wife was cool with it, and she would actually drive him to divas and drop him off. >> jack denofa had no criminal past and was well liked. >> if you could pick your neighbors, you would pick jack denofa, because there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for you. he came from a good family, was a workaholic, ace pool player, back-slapping guy, you know, chairman of his high school alumni association. great guy. >> on the night of rachel's murder, witnesses saw rachel accompany an inebriated denofa to the motel next door to the club. jack denofa didn't deny that. he simply said she left without going to his room. >> we knew jack denofa was in there, but we wanted to find out -- we wanted to place rachel in that room. >> four days had passed since denofa stayed in the motel room, and it had been cleaned repeatedly, but analysts got a break.
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on the outside windowsill, they found white fibers, and there was a tiny spot of blood in the shower stall. andrew nardelli compared those fibers to fibers from rachel's sweater. >> one of the main types of characteristics that we would look for first off would be color, and a number of the fibers from the window were a different color than the types of fibers that were from the sweater. >> though superficially similar, the fibers did not match. investigators now compared the blood sample from the shower stall to rachel's dna and got another setback. >> with the swab from the shower stall, there was no dna detected. i ran the sample twice. i tried to concentrate the sample. however, it was a small, very weak blood swab, so no dna was detected from that swab. >> on denofa's hotel registration, he said he was
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driving a 1996 red dodge pickup truck that was parked in the hotel parking lot. if he did cross the bridge that night, surveillance cameras would show it. >> they show clearly a 1996 red dodge ram pickup truck with a motionless body in the open bed with clothes similar to rachel siani's going through the toll booth at 13 minutes after 3:00 on march 29th. >> 25 minutes later, the truck returned with nothing in the back. >> what the tapes don't show, clearly, anyway, is who's behind the wheel of that truck. >> the license plate was impossible to read, but police now had probable cause to search denofa's truck. they discovered it had been thoroughly cleaned. >> we thought we possibly lost any trace evidence of rachel being in that truck.
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>> the first search didn't turn up any fibers, fingerprints, or blood from rachel, but part of the truck might have withstood multiple washings, a plastic bed liner in the same area where this surveillance image showed what looked like rachel's body. >> what had happened was the black bed liner was not connected properly to the bed. >> when the bed liner was removed, analysts found what looked like blood. dna showed it was rachel siani's. >> i couldn't wait to hear how he would ever try to explain that rachel siani's blood was in the back of his pickup truck. >> when questioned by police, denofa had an incredible explanation. he said someone else must have driven his truck. >> what am i missing here? am i the dumbest prosecutor on earth that this guy really thinks he can win this thing? every day, people fall.
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this is the last-known picture of rachel siani, taken by a girlfriend just hours before her murder. >> for some crazy reason, she had a camera in the car. i guess this girl, as young girls will do, she pulled out a camera and snapped a picture of her right opposite her in the car.
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>> a surveillance photograph showed what appeared to be rachel's body in jack denofa's red pickup truck as he drove over the bridge into new jersey on the night of the murder. according to friends, rachel was denofa's favorite dancer at divas gentlemen's club. >> rachel knew him pretty well, and she told people that she thought he was a loser. a sucker is what she called him. he would give her $100, $200, sometimes $300 just for sitting next to him at divas. and so, his money did not buy her heart, but it did buy her trust, and that would prove fatal to rachel. she thought he was harmless. >> on the night of rachel's murder, denofa stayed in room 223 of the motel next door to the club, but investigators found no forensic evidence in the room, so they tracked down the guest who stayed in the room
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directly below denofa's room that night. >> there was a man staying in the room. about 3:00 a.m., he reported hearing a noise outside his room, a thud or a thunk. whatever it was, it was odd, but he did not get up to check it out. >> their rooms face the back of the hotel where there was little traffic late at night. on the sidewalk below room 223, investigators noticed a dark stain. >> and we thought that it could be oil, and we thought that it was odd that someone was changing oil or that their oil leaked up on the sidewalk, because it was -- the sidewalk was very close to the building. i took a white piece of paper and rubbed the stain, and when i looked at it, it was red. >> a presumptive test showed this was human blood. a dna test showed it was rachel siani's. >> something went south in that
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room that night. >> so, what happened to rachel siani on the night of her murder? prosecutors say that tuesday night was like any other. the regulars were at the gentlemen's club, including jack denofa. after the club closed for the night, while rachel and her friend were talking outside, jack returned, obviously drunk, and knocked wildly on the door. rachel offered to walk jack to the motel next door where he usually stayed after a night out drinking. the evidence shows she walked him to room 223. prosecutors believe jack may have made some type of advance towards her, one that was rejected. enraged, he choked rachel until she lost consciousness. denofa may have thought she was dead and tried to get rid of her
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body by putting her on the awning below his window. this way, he could lower her into his truck. but investigators believe rachel slipped from his grasp and fell to the sidewalk, leaving the bloodstain later found by police. denofa threw rachel's body in the truck, and her blood seeped underneath the plastic lining of the truck bed. he drove over the bridge into new jersey, where he was photographed with what looked like rachel's body in the back. with little traffic on the bridge that time of night, he threw rachel's body over the side, thinking her death would be ruled a suicide, but her blood and the fibers from her sweater were found on the side
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of the bridge, proof she was injured before she was thrown over, proof that it wasn't suicide. in november of 2002, jack denofa was found guilty of first-degree murder and given a sentence of 30 years to life in prison. it was a bizarre murder. two crime scenes were extensively cleaned, but a few spots of blood survived and pointed directly to jack denofa. >> they didn't have much to work with in their defense. they produced no experts because i'm sure they couldn't find any that could attack the validity of the dna or any of the other evidence. >> the evidence and the eyewitness accounts kept pointing back to jack denofa. it would have been criminal for us to not look at him. >> jack denofa certainly wasn't the big shot he pretended to be.
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he wanted to be a big shot in the worst way, you know. he wanted to own divas when he walked in there. and he is just a small little man and perhaps the most incompetent killer that bucks county's ever seen. up next, a violent thunderstorm provides cover for a brutal murder. >> an absolutely brutal crime scene. >> obviously, this was a case of an overkill. >> there are plenty of suspects with clear motives, but they all pass polygraph tests. >> it's not 100% reliable. >> if investigators didn't find the one tiny clue left at the scene, they might never have solved it. the real estate development business in texas always seems to be active. darrell north, a manager for a

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