tv Dateline MSNBC June 17, 2018 1:00am-2:00am PDT
every day. they are close, these two. >> she's gonna be on my mind every day, you know. i wanna keep her with me. she was there. >> she'd walk into the room and kind of brightened. >> and then she wasn't. >> my initial reaction was what happened. >> the mother they adored. missing. in her place, a trail of blood. >> my biggest fear was we were going to find her. >> what police found instid. >> a puzzle. >> in my 28 years, i have never seen that before. >> a missing woman. mystery with few clues. did you find dna? >> no. >> fingerprints? >> no. >> hairs, anything? >> no. >> did one man have a motive.
>> you stole $300,000 and are about to be exposed of it. >> how could anyone convince a jury? >> you don't think they had any evidence against you? could anyone name anything? >> we, the jury, find the defendant, david martin hawk -- >> the disappearance of debbie when someone goes missing one of the hardest things is not knowing the truth.
the truth of what may have happened may have been the hardest thing of all. here is keith morrison. >> the key was waiting for them under the mat, that evening in june, 2006, outside their mom's house. silence. no one home. where was she? she was always on time to pick them up from their dad's place. but tonight he had to drive them. this just wasn't like her. where was she? conrad, the eldest, put the key in the lock, opened the door, chelsa, in the middle, crossed the threshold, stopped. what was this? >> once we took a few more steps in we realized there was something wrong. >> this was the moment, the defining one.
nothing the same after this. >> and there was a lot of blood everywhere. >> then the adrenaline kicked in, instinct took over. >> we dropped our stuff. >> panic rising now. conrad was 15 now, his little sisters chelsa 14 and savannah 10. three kids trying to make sense of a horribly frightening scene. >> my mom keeps it spic and span. >> now things were anything but. >> where the desk was you could see there were papers scattered around, drawers were, you know, ripped open. >> you went into the bedroom? >> that was the first place my sister ran into. she quickly called us in and we followed her. >> what did you see there? >> there is blood on the ground. >> a lot? >> yeah. >> her mom's bed, it was made, but -- >> it was half hazardly thrown together. >> she would have done it differently. >> yeah. >> at that point you were upset,
i imagine. >> my biggest fear is we were going to find her. that is what scared me the most. we would find her somewhere in the house. >> but they did not. no debbie hawk, not anywhere. >> there were some drag marks, some kind of smear marks leading out to the garage where they stopped. >> and debbie's van was gone, too. >> my initial reaction was, oh, my god. what has happened. who could have done this? >> sure. the girls ran to a neighbor's house. conrad called 911. >> we are in my mom's room n the bathroom, there is blood on the carpet. after the initial shock i start to be reasonable and think, let's not overreact here. clearly she cut her hand with a knife and she was bleeding and raced out to the car to go to the emergency room. this is all just a big misunderstanding. >> but it wasn't.
there were plenty of misunderstandings to come and questions that stubborn forly refused to be answered like where was debbie hawk? what happened to her? what happened to the sacred bond that once held three children together? back at the beginning, even the police were confused. >> this case seemed very unusual from the start. >> police investigator darren madison and police investigator have worked other faces in hanford, california. out among the suburbs and almond orchards and giant, odor rouse dairy farms that spla across the miles of flat valley floor. but this one did not smell right at all, said madison. >> it appeared she was drug out of the house against her will. in 28 years i have never seen that before. >> whatever happened here must have been planned, thought out. >> it looked like a staged crime scene. her jewelry in her bedroom neatly laid out. nothing was missing but her and
her van. >> was someone trying to make it look like debbie hawk had been kidnapped or intention, failed intention, perhaps, that she just left home. >> i think it was designed to make like a missing persons case. the bed was made. most crooks don't do that. >> had the perpetrator been looking for something. >> there was paperwork normally put away at least stacked up. it wasn't. it was skatderred and this
financial document was on top. >> significant? maybe. certainly significant with the sounds the neighbors reported hearing the night before debbie's kids arrived at her doorstep and found her missing. >> several neighbors heard a loud scream, a blood curdling type. >> why did nobody call 911? >> that is not the type of
>> which is why the ribbons that suddenly bloomed everywhere around hanford were royal purple and the people who put the ribbons on and up also joined a search to find her, hundreds of them combed through the miles and miles of farmland around town. they walked the riverbanks. they peered among the trees. not a trace. ♪ protect your pet with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus. trusted by vets for nearly 20 years.
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the mother of three who vanished from her home in hanford, california, leaving only traces of blood. before long, in her absence, debbie was famous as if everyone had known the woman. >> she would walk into her room and it would brighten. >> never a dull moment. >> these are her parents, angie and bud. >> hard worker. she was just -- to me, she was perfect. she was the perfect daughter. and i dearly love her and miss her.
>> there's a lot of lives that have been shattered because of her demise. >> demise, yes. no getting around it now. in july of 2006 the case was reclassified from missing person to homicide. a formality, really. they knew from the moment they arrived at the house, said d.a. investigator aaron lebleu, somebody killed debbie. >> it was clear she wanot alive based on the crime scene. >> investigators poked around debbie's life history looking for clues. >> she was very talkative, friendly, likable. she was kind of the life of the the party. >> this is debbie's sister, diane, who recalled how friends set her up on that blind date years ago.
>> firecracker. >> he was the date, dave hawk. >> she was short and attractive and a lot of fun and pretty good sense of humor. you'd say something and, man, she would pop back with something you didn't quite expect. >> they were married within a year. they built a home among his family's almond groves. >> i think they both wanted to have a family. i think that was like the impetus for the acceleration, i guess you would say, of the relationship.
>> though debbie's big sister wasn't sure what she saw in him. >> he seemed very quiet. very opposite of my sister. >> then before long conrad arrived and chelsa and savannah. >> i still remember christmass where my brother and i would run around and deliver gifts to everybody. everybody was getting along. those were some happy memories there. >> sadly, a lot of unhappy ones, too. >> pretty much from when i can remember, fighting and arguing were pretty routine. >> after nearly nine years this marriage, like so many others, fell apart. >> we might have been a little bit more different than we were willing to admit early on. >> even at that age i could definitely see, yeah, the water was about to boil over. >> kids were 9, 8 and 4 when the divorce was finalized in 2000. young conrad, chelsa and savannah learned how to navigate the choppy waters known all too well of children of divorce. >> they just couldn't talk to each other really. i tried to step in and help resolve that. >> you were kind of the mediator in a way. >> yeah. >> kind of a tough role for a kid to play?
>> it was easier to be the mediator than have them yelling at each other on the phone. >> living apart, said conrad. >> mom was happy. all of our lives improved. >> debbie did well enough she was able to buy her own home. >> she could finally start living her life the way she wanted to. >> except there were issues. once she claimed he tried to choke her. >> she said he just looked like a crazed animal and i thought he was going to kill me. and not too long after that she had said to me, you know, if anything ever happens to me you know where to look. >> dave said that choking thing just never happened. that he was never violent with her. >> i've never choked anybody. >> things settled down eventually, though there was always some dispute and the things conrad said he heard his dad say about his mom. >> awful. she needs a taste of her own medicine. she's going to get hers. she's going to get what she has coming to her. >> in fact, the very night he discovered debbie had vanished
conrad told police his dad might have done this. >> i didn't see anything that would disqualify him from being able to carry that out. >> which is why just hours after the kids discovered debbie was missing it was 2:20 a.m. by then. police called dave, woke him up. asked him to drive down to police headquarters for a talk. the phone call was curious, thought investigator madison because dave didn't ask why. >> i've received calls in the middle of the night. my first thought for me is family. what's going on, especially if it is the police department.
he didn't. >> and when he arrived in the interview room. >> what's going on? >> dave didn't seem to have much of a reaction at all to learning his ex-wife, the mother of his three kids, was missing. >> at this point i have no clue as to where she might be. >> i can tell you what has been going on the last week. >> what did you expect? >> more surprise. any surprise. >> mm-hmm. >> i didn't see that at all. >> of course, people do react in different ways to traumatic news. besides, dave told them he was at home asleep in the early morning hours when police believe debbie must have been killed and the kids say they didn't hear him leave the house. they were there, too, at the time. there was no evidence dave was ever at the crime scene. did you find any dna? >> no. >> did you find any fingerprints. >> no. with the largest selection of audiobooks. audible lets you follow plot twists off the beaten track. or discover magic when you hit the open road. with the free audible app, your stories go wherever you do.
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it was a frustrating summer back in 2006 here in the farmlands of california's central valley. the purple ribbon search teams came up empty though they looked everywhere for weeks. police named dave hawk a person of interest. he seemed to have an alibi. all three kids were with him in his house the night debbie vanished. and besides there wasn't a shred of physical evidence to tie dave
to the scene of an apparently violent abduction. his own daughter who spent the day after the abduction with dave told police it couldn't be him. >> i don't believe he would be capable of doing something like this. >> then they started poking around in the relationship between debbie and her ex-husband and there some curious things began to emerge. for example, in the months before debbie disappeared dave took debbie to court and she was fighting back. her attorney. >> the issues she was dealing with were custody and support. >> dave asked the court for a reduction in $553 a month child support payment. why? because he claimed he only earned $6,000 a year. his salary came from his dad, who paid him $500 a month to work on his almond farm. his only income, apparently, but debbie's attorney found that hard to believe. >> he lived in what i understood to be a nice home, drove a late model suburban. that is hard to do on $6,000 a year. >> debbie asked the court for
more time with the children. >> his response was to ask for half custody. the percentages were 65 with debbie and 35 with dave. he wanted to make it an even 50-50. and that is when the battle moved to these, trust funds set up for the childrens' futures the mon came from dave's father but dave controlled the funds and debbie was sure dave was stealing from them to support his own lifestyle. why would she think that? well, this was actually the second set of trusts established for the children. several years before a judge caught dave's hand in the cookie jar of the first trust which listed both dave and debbie as trustees. dave was removed of trustee of those funds. during the divorce dave's father gave him sole control of a second quite generous trust fund. but when investigators ran the numbers on that second fund
administered only by dave. >> basically there was supposed to be several hundred thousand dollars in each account, instead there was a couple thousand dollars. he had been living off it up to five years at that point. >> something like $300,000 was missing. dave cried poverty, he bought his girlfriend, mary, a $27,000 lexus, took her on vacation to hawaii and used $60,000 to pay off divorce costs and what he owed his kids from the first set of trusts. here believed detectives was the heart of the motive for murder. debbie, if she hadn't
disappeared was about to expose all that in court. >> you steal $300,000 and you are about to be exposed by it -- >> by a woman you despise? >> certainly another piece of the puzzle. >> there is another strange piece to the puzzle. remember the mess around debbie's desk, documents scattered everywhere were the records from the first set of trusts the one only debbie controlled. >> there was $166,000 in those accounts.
>> the investigators in hanford now focused hard on dave, searched his home several times, carted off lots of stuff including a stun gun which, it turned out, he bought a month before debbie disappeared. he told detectives it was for protection for his daughters and mary. >> he never discussed it with mary and the children. they did not know it existed. >> they couldn't find anything to connect the stun gun to the crime but it was odd. they also took his computers, of
course. and since dave did volunteer work at a local church they seized the church computer, too. even cuffed him outside his house in full view of local television cameras which were now buzzing around endlessly asking, did you do it? >> for the last time, no. i'm getting tired of answering that question. no means no. but the fools at the hanford police department don't seem to understand that. they are on a witch hunt is what is going on.
they are on a witch hunt. >> whatever they were on, they couldn't find the evidence to arrest him. dave remained a free man, something that made his own son, conrad, very nervous. >> my suspicion was growing stronger and stronger. >> conrad told the police about the night after his mother was found missing his dad was sharing a bottle of wine with his girlfriend. >> i didn't want to jump to conclusions but at the time i thought my father and his girlfriend had really poor taste. it's like so true. you know what i mean? [ grunting ] the moment you realize a good back yard party requires a good backyard. at lowe's we have everything you need to create the outdoor space you've always wanted. ♪ all projects have a starting point. start with lowe's. ♪
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convinced themselves dave was responsible. prosecutor crouch would not budge. not yet, anyway. >> we're going to wait until we find the body or give the body more time to come up. >> instead, a year after debbie vanished, dave was charged with em bezling, stealing more than $300,000 from his own childrens' trust funds. he pleaded not guilty, was released on bail. >> dave, how does it feel to be out of jail? >> and waited for the other shoe to drop. now, imagine this, the police, not to mention most of the town, believed their father killed their mother leaving three children caught in the middle. conrad had no doubt his dad killed his mom, a dad he began referring to as dave. >> i tried to cut all ties that i had with him as much as i could. he was nothing to me now.
>> buthelsa has been and is her father's staunchest defender. >> why do you think your siblings have chosen the other path? >> i think they're just very upset by what happen and their relationship was not as close to my dad. they were not home or not awake when i was awake. and they were not around him the next day like i was around him. >> chelsa says dave was acting perfectly normal the day after whatever happened happen, no odd behavior, nothing to suggest he had been up all night committing a terrible crime. >> i think they are defending my mom so much, though, that it is like they are going to point to
the most obvious suspect. >> chelsa isn't the only one in this small town who believes dave hawk is innocent. >> i believe what he says, that he had nothing to do with her disappearance. >> sandy brown is dave's longtime pastor and friend. >> this person who is portrayed as such a monster just simply isn't. he is a man who has worked hard in the church. he is a good father. >> as their son prepares to face serious financial charges, dave's parents took over the care of chelsa and savannah. not the way they expected to spend their 80s. >> he made some mistakes, but nothing of the scope that is generally accepted in the community. >> stan established those trusts for his grandchildren and said dave had the right to use the
money how he saw fit to benefit the children. were you surprised to discover how it was used? >> yes. apparently his financial situation was worse than i knew. >> a year passed in this gossipy limbo. now it was may, 2008, nearly two years after debbie's disappearance. her body still hadn't been found and there was no new evidence tying dave to her murder. but prosecutor larry crouch heard disquieting reports from his investigators. >> they started surveilling our office, the police offices, eventually starts driving by an investigator's home. it was getting pretty concerning out there. >> time to move. on may 29, 2008, dave hawk was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and a special circumstance murder for financial gain. he pleaded not guilty. when the trial finally began more than a year later dave faced murder and the earlier embezzlement charges together.
prosecutor larry crouch offered the jury this theory, that dave snuck out of his house in the middle of the night without waking his sleeping children, maybe even used a ladder to get out of the window, and got someone to give him a ride to debbie's house and entered her bedroom. >> i think he tried the stun gun on her and she screamed very loudly and he struck her with something more than once. at that point, i assume he suffocated her. >> then, said the prosecutor, he must have dragged debbie's body to the garage, put her in her own van, disposed of her somewhere and drove to fresno. how did he get back home? that accomplice, said the prosecutor, must have picked him up and driven him the 40 miles back to his farm. but really, there was no body, no dna, no forensic evidence to show dave had even been at the murder scene. everybody in town seemed to have a theory, apparently the prosecutor did, too. but proof? so the state tried to build a bridge from dave's alleged financial crimes to a murder, painting him as an evil man who
decided to eliminate his ex-wife when he knew the misuse of the trust funds was about to be exposed. enough? well, we shall see. >> there's a number of other explanations for what could have happened other than dave. dave was a convenient ex-husband. >> coming up -- one of his children is convinced he's not guilty, but can dave hawk convince a jury? >> i told them i wanted to testify. >> when "dateline" continues. the alignment of the stars with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus. trusted by vets for nearly 20 years.
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the alignment of the stars in this case was just stacked against us. stacked against dave hawk. >> at least in the harsh court of public opinion it looked bad for dave hawk as his murder trial approached in hanford, california. dennis peterson and mark coleman were dave's attorneys. >> this guy allegedly stealing from his kids, saying bad things about this sympathetic victim and all these things being widely played in the press. >> if there ever was a case for change of venue, this must be it, said the defense. after all, almost everybody seeped to have heard the
accusations about dave and every time he had a court appearance purple clad friends of debbie crowded into the public gallery. in fact, during jury selection said attorney coleman he heard jurors tell the judge they had already decided dave hawk was guilty. >> the judge asked them, if i order you to set those opinions aside, can you do it? well, i guess so. >> still, defense application for change of venue was denied as well as the separation of financial charges from the murder charge. defense argued that the embezzlement charges were unfairly prejudicial. >> they wanted to make him look like a bad person, a person who was likely to take money from his kids would murder his ex-wife. >> debbie was about to reveal the theft of the kids' trust funds is a powerful reason for murder. >> that was already exposed. >> he would have gained nothing by getting rid of her at that stage?
evidence dave even left his house the night debbie was abducted and presumably murdered. his daughter insisted he could not have left the house without her having heard him. >> it doesn't seem at all possible. >> even though investigators would tell the court the kids slept so soundly it was hard to wake them up when they went to see them one morning, the defense claims that the prosecution's theory of what
happened just didn't add up. >> that is just beyond belief that somebody would take that kind of risk, he would sneak down the hallway, open the door, drive the ten or 12 miles over to debbie hawk's house, subdue her, bludgeon her, load her into the van and drive to fresno and get back to his house without getting any blood on him, without being discovered. >> so what did happen to debbie hawk? the defense floated this theory. debbie worked in pharmaceutical sales. perhaps a drug addict had gone after the samples she kept in the van. all of the pharmaceuticals in her van were missing. somebody took them. >> that was a ludicrous idea, countered the prosecution. debbie carried very few samples. anyway, if drug theft was behind it why didn't the thief take any jewelry or electronics. no. it seemed to come down to dave. his character, his behavior and his own words and a conversation with a friend police recorded when dave speculated what might have happened to debbie. the defense played it in court. >> hey. >> he basically offered i don't think she is ever going to be found. >> did it work? listen to prosecutor larry
crouch. >> oh, no. why are they putting it in? i thought it was harmful. there was a conversation about whether or not dave would testify. >> i told them i wanted to >> coming up -- dave hawk speaks out and so does the jury. with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus. trusted by vets for nearly 20 years. before people invite something they want to know who you are. we're almond breeze. and we only use california-grown blue diamond almonds in our almondmilk. cared for by our family of almond growers. blue diamond almond breeze. the best almonds make the best almondmilk. from the first moment you met, it was love at first touch. and all you wanted to do was surround them in comfort and protection. that's why only pampers swaddlers is the number one choice of hospitals to wrap your baby in blanket-like softness and premium protection. so that all they feel is love.
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dave hawk on trial for the murder of his ex-wife debbie did not testify, didn't tell the members of the jury what he was thinking. he had a sinking feeling he knew what they were thinking. it was an awful problem the day his ex-wife disappeared in a trail of her own blood. the number one suspect was him. that is what the police had been saying all along. that is apparently what a great many people thought in hanford, california. even as he sat here as a defendant in a murder case. even though -- >> i didn't have the motive and i didn't have the capacity. >> you know how it can be, said dave. once people get it in their heads you did something, they will tend to misinterpret everything to make you look guilty. >> i was home with my children in another town all night.
but i'm being accused of being in another place committing a terrible crime based on financial shenanigans that didn't exist in the first place. >> shenanigans like for example the trust fund for his kids. his father made the terms very broad, said dave, so he could spend the money as he saw fit. any way that would benefit the children. >> the money is to be used for the health, education, support and maintenance of the children. and that's exactly what it was used for and i acted legally in that respect. >> and then since they didn't have any evidence against him, said dave, prosecutors made a case based on misinterpreting things he said.
like the time he said to a friend, if i was a bad guy, i would throw somebody off a bridge. >> my point was they haven't looked for her. if someone had thrown her off a bridge it would have floated downstream. they didn't look anywhere. >> so did you throw her off the bridge. >> no. i didn't throw anybody off a bridge. >> they made a huge deal about something he supposedly said to his girlfriend about dave. dave said we won't be rid of that f'ing bitch until he is dead. >> i might have. that doesn't mean i'm going to go kill somebody. >> there was his own son conrad who believed he was guilty and told police he saw dave and mary share a celebratory toast after debbie's disappearance. dave said he didn't get it. >> whenever we open a bottle of
wine we raise our glasses and say cheers. it is just a tradition. we were not toasting anybody's anything. >> why have you never been able to persuade conrad of your innocence? >> i don't know. he knows that i was at home the whole time, never left, didn't have any involvement in anything illegal. but he's perhaps angry and needs to fill in the blanks with something. >> maybe he is angry at his dad because his dad killed his mom. >> his dad didn't kill his mom. >> he thinks so though. >> he could be wrong. >> so who did kill debbie? dave has an opinion about that, too. who else wanted her dead? >> maybe the boyfriend that was stalking her. >> stalking her? >> this is somebody who was reported to the police and the police swept it under the rug apparently. it was an ex-boyfriend. >> of course, investigators say
they did look into that and other leads, too, but they all came back to dave. and one primary motive. so some cross-examination. prosecutors said you killed your ex-wife because she was going to expose your embezzlement of the childrens' trust funds. were you afraid your father was going to find out what you were doing with that money with the trust fund? your father who lovingly put the money into the trust fund before you siphoned it out. >> i really don't like the way you are characterizing these things. >> whether you like it or not, those are the accusations. >> yeah. and they are not right. they are wrong. they are false. which part did you not understand? >> what part did i not understand? what i understand is you bought a $27,000 car using trust fund money. you took a trip to hawaii with your girlfriend.
you paid off your divorce attorneys fees and money you took from the first set of trusts by taking $60,000 out of the kids' second trust fund. >> the money was used for the children. >> which child drove the lexus? >> all three children were driven in the lexus. >> which child went to hawaii on vacation? >> perhaps that money was my own money. prosecutor never bothered to figure out what dollar went where, did they? >> you made it hard because you were mixing up the trust fund money and your money all the time. frankly, that is what scam artists do. >> i'm not a scam artist. >> why didn't you get a job. >> i had a job. >> i'm talking about a job that pays enough to support a family which is what a dad does. >> you are reading from a script the prosecutor has given you because none of these things are true. >> a guilty man or not? the jury did not take very long
to decide. >> we, the jury, find the defendant, david martin hawk, guilty of the murder of debbie hawk. >> guilty of murder and nine financial crimes. dave hawk was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars. but is it over? no. defense attorneys will appeal claiming some jurors were swayed and the children, for them, it may never end. it's complicated, huh? >> yep.
skbrienchts i'm craig melvin. >> i'm nat rnatalie morales, ans is "dateline. >> she was sooireceiving long, rambling e-mails saying her husband is cheating on her. she's telling her to watch her back. she better get out of the picture. menacing emails sent to a newlywed. >> the new wife went to authorities and said that she was being harassed. >> that's kind of when the fireworks happened. >> obviously, this hasn't stopped. >> what arrived next was far worse. >> strange men appeared at her door and tried to attack her.