tv Dateline MSNBC November 22, 2018 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
did, but i know he loved me. call me ignorant, call me stupid, but i loved bill hall jr. until the day i die. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. g melvi thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." it was a small new year's eve party. we took off and then we saw the police car. my gut was telling my feet to run back to the house. this can't be happening. >> when the party ended, the mystery began. >> it was just crazy. i didn't understand what was happening and why.
>> his wife, the hostess had seemed fine all night and then -- please help me! >> her death was ruled a suicide, but not everyone agreed. >> i always was afraid he would hurt her, always, always. >> did a fight that night lead to something much worse? >> i knew that ashley wouldn't take her own life. >> a troubled woman or a troubled marriage? >> that wound on the back of her head isn't where she can do it herself. >> suicide or murder? >> i didn't do this. >> i just knew that my whole world is never going to be the same again ever. >> hello. welcome to "dateline."
it was december 31 and by all appearances ashley was in the mood to celebrate, a vibrant mother of three, she gathered her friends and family to ring in the new year. but as her guests began to count down until midnight who could have known that they were marking the last hour of ashley's young life. here is keith morrison with after the party. >> what is so optimistic as a party on new year's eve? what night is hopeful, as full of anticipation as the clean slate midnight brings? >> it was a small new year's eve party. >> just family and friends. >> disappointment is inevitable. clean slates are messy all too soon. >> we noticed there was a lot of alcohol. >> we celebrate possibilities and drown past sorrows and watch the clock that ticks towards our
new beginnings and our ends. on december 31, 2011, an hour north of denver ashley and tom phallus danced to the music that brought them together, their wedding song. >> they decided to get up and dance in the middle of their living room. >> with everybody watching. >> romantic. >> i think i said this is sweet. >> it was their party, ashley's and tom's. she invited her co workers. >> it was casual but she verbally told everybody at work. >> they worked together at a rehabilitation hospital where ashley was a respiratory therapist. >> crazy, nice, spunky, full of energy. she was a happy person, laughed a lot and joked.
>> their friendship was new. andrea didn't know a lot about ashley but had listened to her chatter about jobs and marriages and three kids, one born with hydrocephalus which causes fluid buildup in the brain. >> she talked about it a lot. i didn't get the impression that she felt burdened with it. >> she embraced the challenge said ashley's mom, became a public advocate. >> she went to washington, d.c. in the fall of 2011 to speak before congress for funding for hydro cephalous. >> tom was a pretty good guy, very intelligent. >> jeff rodriguez was tom's boss. they were corrections officers. >> he was a good employee. he had a son that was sick. he did miss more work than what most fellow officers liked.
>> stressful thing caring for a sick child. maybe their new year's eve party was a way to hope for better times and take a break, too. ashley's adoptive dad was at the party. >> there was dancing going on and people were having a good time. >> ashley seemed to be having a fine time, said andreandrea. >> they seemed to be getting along fine. >> that's when they went off into the kitchen and had a little party of their own. >> what were you drinking? >> jungle juice and jello shots. i was having a good time. >> there was one unusual thing, though, said andrea. ashley had just gone through something kind of awful. >> she found out that she had a miscarriage that day. i said i'm sorry, are you okay? it's fine. >> did it strike you as odd? >> i didn't think it was odd. >> was she unhappy about the miscarriage?
>> my impression of it is she already has her beautiful family. it seemed like her life was already complete. i don't think she was devastated that she had found out that she had a miscarriage. >> no tears andrea said, just a quick casual mention and then the conversation moved on. >> went on to talk about other things. >> probably got another jello shot. >> midnight arrived. there were as there always are kisses and smiles and toasts. by 12:30 the party was over. >> i gave her a hug, told her bye. we talked about future plans. >> how did she seem? >> happy. >> how quickly the new year's clean slate darkened. as an uncle prepared to leave, ashley asked him for a bit of his marijuana to smoke later she said. tom, the sheriff's department employee was furious and reminded ashley's family that her employer required regular
drug tests. was it the alcohol that amped up the family's screaming match? whatever. ashley's parents have their own recollections. >> he walks by me and he says that he hated us all and that he wished we would all bleeping die and went into the bedroom and slammed the door. >> ashley came out of the bathroom and was like what is going on. we said we are going to leave. >> she is like i'm having a super bowl party in a couple weeks. don't forget about that. >> ashley's parents were rattled. they drove away and pulled off to the side of the road to talk. ashley's mom sent a text to tom. >> i'm like there are kids in the house, calm down. >> their young granddaughter was involved in quite another discussion with 911. >> can you open the door and let the officers in?
>> the new year was less than an hour old and off to a very bad start. coming up -- >> chaos, shocking. >> a frantic race to save a life. what happened in that house. >> i knew that my whole world is never going to be the same again ever. >> when "dateline" continues. en ever. >> when "dateline" continues. to historians, victorians, and all the targaryens. to gastronomers, astronomers, and new cinematographers. to wizards, to witches, to those who cross stitches. if you're a dreamer, big thinker, or discovery seeker. through these doors, more wonder awaits. nobody knows books like we do. barnes & noble. they work togetherf doing important stuff. the hitch? like you, your cells get hungry. feed them...
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2012 is not even an hour old, new year's celebrants have poured them selved into their cars to head home. in a little house in colorado it was already the worst year ever. >> what's your emergency? >> my wife just shot herself in the head. please help me. >> the man on the phone was tom phallus begging for help and willing his wife to live. >> sir -- >> tom told the dispatcher she shot herself and then he put the phone down. he was trying in vein to stop the bleeding. he had his 9-year-old daughter pick up the phone. >> are you there? can you go open the door and let the officers in? >> yes. okay. we're going to -- >> brian spencer was a sheriff's
deputy back then. he arrived within minutes to discover that the local police had beaten him there. >> i believe there were three there ahead of me and more sirens coming. >> a pretty fast response. >> very fast. >> and this bit of news was going around fast, too. >> this was a jail employee. >> not that that should matter. the effort then was save ashley phallus's life. this was recorded by a police body camera. >> chaotic? >> very. frantic that officers located her somewhere in the home. >> he saw tom. that's him in the background in the white t shirt. >> he was pacing around in the front yard frantic, screaming.
>> screaming what? >> i heard him say she's dead, a lot of mumbled stuff. he would put his hands over his face and screaming and crying. >> by this time, ashley's parents had pulled off the road home and talk and worry about the fight that ended the party. when they heard the sirens and saw the lights headed that way. >> something automatically felt bad. >> he didn't have the car stopped and i was running to the house. >> were you able to see ashley? >> no. i could hear what was going on. i had all three kids and just crying and screaming and i'm crying. >> it was just crazy. it was like a nightmare. i can see blood splatter on the wa wall. chaos. it was shocking. >> did you understand it was your daughter? >> yes. i do recall just being hysterically upset and crying
and thinking this can't be happening to my daughter. this can't be happening to us, but yet it was. >> inside the master bedroom ashley was alive but the wounds to her head were catastrophic. >> paramedics went in and made a decision to do what we call a load and go which means they are not going to spend time doing life support stuff. >> ashley's mom huddled with her grandchildren in a neighboring bedroom listening to it all through a closed door. is there anyway to describe what it is like for a mother to be in that situation? >> no. your brain does funny things. i just knew that my whole world is never going to be the same again ever. >> outside brian spencer watched tom pacing back and forth crying
talking to himself. >> i notice he is wear ing a white t shirt. he is covered in a large amount of blood. >> it was odd, brian thought, that the police officers didn't take tom's clothes or bag his hands for gunshot residue. >> he had evidence on him. he needed to be preserved and controlled. >> he needed to be processed. >> clothing removed, everything. >> that's not what happened, not at all. soon after ashley was rushed off to the e.r., tom got in the back of a squad car and was driven away, but surprisingly, not to the hospital. t surprisingly, no the hospital. coming up -- >> tom tells his story. >> i looked out. i was like what are you doing? >> police don't seem to believe it. >> the wound on the back of her head isn't where she can do it
herself, tom. >> when "dateline" continues. herself, tom. >> when "dateline" continues. hy type 2 diabetes pill proven to both reduce the risk of cardiovascular death for adults who have type 2 diabetes and heart disease... ...and lower a1c, with diet and exercise. jardiance can cause serious side effects including dehydration. this may cause you to feel dizzy, faint, or lightheaded, or weak upon standing. ketoacidosis is a serious side effect that may be fatal. symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, tiredness, and trouble breathing. stop taking jardiance and call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of ketoacidosis or an allergic reaction. symptoms of an allergic reaction include rash, swelling, and difficulty breathing or swallowing. do not take jardiance if you are on dialysis or have severe kidney problems. other side effects are sudden kidney problems, genital yeast infections, increased bad cholesterol, and urinary tract infections, which may be serious. taking jardiance with a sulfonylurea or insulin may cause low blood sugar. tell your doctor about all the medicines you take and if you have any medical conditions. isn't it time to rethink your type 2 diabetes medication? ask your doctor about jardiance- and get to the heart of what matters.
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they could see that. she was going to die. >> i just sat down and held her hand. >> tom wasn't there to hold her hand. tom was at the evans police station answering questions. >> i don't know what is going on. i have no idea. that's why i'm asking to speak with you. it was 2:00 a.m. and tom was wearing blood stained clothes, the ones that a sheriff's deputy should have already been bagged as evidence. >> how is your relationship with your wife? >> really good. >> but, said tom, ashley was devastated when she miscarried the very day of her new year's eve party. >> it was hard for ashley. it was hard for me, but i didn't think that it was getting to this point. >> still at the party itself said tom she seemed all right. they got on fine until the
argument about the marijuana. tom admitted he was furious that ashley's family saying he was trying to protect her and they weren't. >> i told ashley i was like you don't need to get high. i was like if whatever happened today with the miscarriage, it happened. i was like [ bleep ] your mom and everybody. >> there was no love lost between tom and ashley's parents, that was clear. tom admitted that he and ashley kept arguing as they got ready for bed. then he turned around and went to the closet he said and it was all over. >> when i was in the closet i heard the gun coming. i was like what are you doing? i didn't have a chance to finish my sentence or close the door --
the smoke. i just ran over to her and grabbed her head. >> tom told detectives that he had been worried about this sort of thing for more than a year because ashley had threatened suicide before. >> what was she saying she wanted to do to herself? >> she wants to end it. you and the kids would be better off without me. >> she said those words but never acted on anything? >> no. >> so -- >> never once has she grabbed a gun or loaded it or made this type of gesture whatsoever. >> by this time while the doctors try to save ashley, tom had been answering questions for hours. >> i have to ask these questions that i have to understand -- >> the problem is that i have been here since 2:00 and now
it's already 5:00 and i don't know what's going on with my wife. >> but then the detective noticed something else about tom. >> the scratch mark on your chest, what is that? >> you have like a -- >> probably because i have been doing this all night. >> this goes straight across here. >> i don't know. it's just me. >> the detective left the room and spoke with ashley's parents who had arrived with the purpose of telling officers just one thing, their daughter did not shoot herself. >> we had just seen her seven minutes before this. she was completely fine. she wouldn't do anything like this. >> she was in good spirits when they left, they said. she was already planning her next party. but tom, he always had an awful temper. >> i was always afraid he was going to hurt her, always. always.
>> why? what about him? >> his temper. you can't go from zero to 100 and think clearly. >> i think that he was just in a fit of rage and heap shot her. >> armed with that new information, the detective went back to talk to tom and zeroed in on those scratches. officers had given him something clean to wear so they can collect his bloody clothing. >> you have scratches on your body. >> this is a shaved chest. do you know how bad this hurt and itches. when i am sitting there i do this all day. this is actually her blood. it comes off. see? it is coming off. it is her freaking blood. >> that is a scratch. that's a scratch. >> still, the detective pressed him. he had motive and opportunity. >> when you went upstairs you were arguing with her and you know you were arguing with her.
>> she was reluctant to believe the shooting happened so quickly. >> she went from saying i want to do what i want? >> yeah. yeah. she did. i'm not lying to you. >> and when the detective gave a description about the gunshot wound, a description that turned out to be inaccurate, that really set tom off. >> that wound on the back of her head isn't where she can do it herself. it is not. it is not -- >> [ bleep ]. >> and then quite suddenly in the middle of it all completely out of nowhere the detective made an abrupt declaration. >> i have to let you know, your wife did not make it. your wife did not make it. >> she was breathing. she was breathing.
she was breathing when she left the house. >> ashley died while tom was in police custody. >> i didn't shoot my wife. i didn't shoot the mother of my kids. i didn't shoot the person who i wanted to have another one with. >> what would the police believe? tom's story that the shooting was a suicide or ashley's parents' story that he shot their daughter in a fit of rage? coming up, ashley's family is outraged by the investigation's final report. >> it was incomplete. it was inconsistent, no follow up. it was unbelievable. >> when "dateline" continues. i. >> when "dateline" continues. if you're 65 or older, even if you're healthy,
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and the holiday shopping season has officially begun. shoppers poured into the store in new york city tonight for early black friday deals. back to "dateline." early black friday deals. back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline." i'm craig melvin. though covered in blood and suspicious scratches, tom insisted he did not harm his wife, that she was the one who pulled the trigger. ashley's parents weren't buying it. but would the police? here is keith morris with after the party. >> ashley 28 years old, wife and mother of three was dead. the gunshot wound in her head unsurvivable. it was suicide said her husband, tom. >> i didn't shoot my wife. i didn't do this. >> it was murder said her
parents. >> i had three grand kids that i dearly, dearly loved that i knew in my heart that tom had just killed their mother. >> the news of ashley's death spread quickly the morning after the party. >> i didn't understand what was happening and why because everything was fine that night. >> it was confusing. >> very confusing. she was happy. she didn't seem suicidal. >> andrea, new friend, co-worker, drinking buddy at the party couldn't shake a feeling. >> i didn't feel like she would have taken her life. >> for all their middle of the night questions, the police did not arrest tom nor charge him with anything. >> what were they telling you? >> that they were investigating it? >> at ashley's funeral, tom was one of the speakers. >> ashlwhat he said wasn't the
of thing people expected to hear. >> she goes i don't care when you do it, where you do it, i want it now. >> it was an unusual and not very emotional eulogy for reasons only tom my understand. her parents were furious. >> he had that opportunity to speak and share about the woman he so-called loved and called his eternal wife, all he did was degrade her. >> what was it like to hear that? >> it was shocking. it was unbelievable. >> as the days turned into weeks, tom remained free, ashley's parents became convinced that something about the investigation was not right. >> joel and i sat down and said if for some crazy reason she walked in the house and shot herself and they can show that we will accept it and support
tom. we didn't feel like that was the case. >> they weren't alone. remember, on the night it happened former deputy brian spencer saw tom roaming around freely with blood and other potential evidence all over him. >> police 101, very basic thing. any scene you respond to you want to treat it as the highest level of what it could possibly be. >> he would be a suspect. >> and he needed to be preserved. he needed to be controlled. >> but none of that was done at the scene. pretty soon ashley's parents began to suspect it was a cover up to protect tom. perhaps the so-called blue wall of silence looking out for a fellow law enforcement officer. >> it's a hell of an accusation to make, though? >> it is. it is strong, but that is how we feel. >> mind you, the evans police department strongly disagreed. both the coroner and the crime scene investigator issued reports concluding ashley's death was indeed suicide.
remember, tom told police she expressed suicidal thoughts before. she had two close relatives who had taken their own lives. investigators found prescription psychotropic drugs in ashley's purse and night stand which tom told them she quit cold turkey without medical supervision when she learned she was pregnant. so two months after ashley's death, her parents got the news they feared. police ruled her death a suicide, case closed. >> it made me angry. it made me angry because i knew that he shot her. i knew that ashley wouldn't take her own life. >> once the case closed and we got the police report, we realized they didn't do anything. >> so tell me more about the police report and what you didn't like about it. >> it was incomplete. it was inconsistent. it could have been written by a
high school student, no follow up. it was unbelievable. >> the evans police department declined to speak with "dateline" on camera but said this about the allegations against them. the investigation we conducted was thorough and complete. a conclusion of suicide was determined after an exhaustive review and analysis of all evidence, physical, forensic and testimonial by all of the five agencies involved. as for ashley's parents, there was nothing more either of them could do apparently. two years went by during which tom moved to indiana with the kids and enrolled at a local university. >> i said to him, tom, murderers always move away. >> it was important to ashley's parents to remain close to the three kids so they fought for grandparents' rights and tried to be civil with tom. they also told anybody who would listen that they believed their daughter had been murdered, like a local reporter.
>> he said do you mind if i start looking into it? i said go ahead. it didn't take him much. >> the reporter asked around, talked to neighbors and asked the evans police department to comment on what he heard. before he knew it, the chief announced ashley's case would be reopened. >> i extend my sincere sympathy to the family for their loss and for the revisited grief that can accompany the reopening of a difficult case such as this one. >> it is still a crime because it is the catalyst for opening everything up. i have someone taking it seriously. >> denver's fox 31 aired this startling discovery. in particular, a neighbor who was only 15 at the time said he heard tom admit to shooting ashley. >> it's pretty hard to forget hearing somebody confess their murder and getting away with it. >> to prevent suggestion of
taint or cover up, the case was turned over to the nearby fort collins police department. for the next seven months officers talked to witnesses both old and new and hired experts to reexamine forensic evidence. when their work was done well county d.a. decided to assemble a grand jury. >> what i want to do is put all of has the information as much as we can gather and almost use it as a test run. they indicted him. >> i got the phone call that they indicted him. i just started crying. >> tom was arrested in indiana, charged with second degree murder and brought back to colorado to stand trial. ashley's parents were finally optimistic. >> i believe that they will find him guilty. i believe that's going to happen. >> have you decided to believe it or do you really believe it? >> i really believe it. coming up -- a powerful
public were ingistterested in t case? >> the prosecution's allegation was clear he argued with his wife and in a fit of rage shot and killed her. >> after you received all of the evidence you will be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that it is him who pulled the trigger. >> witnesses say she was in good spirits. >> she was happy the whole night, laughing, smiling. she was dancing with her children, interacting with all the guests. >> tom, though, ashley's uncle john testified about tom's sudden blowup when he discovered ashley asked him for a joint. >> all of a sudden boom. >> neighbors said ashley told her how tom got physical with her. >> she told me how he had pushed her around before. he had never hit her, but he was
physical in pushing her. >> d.a. rork wanted the jury to hear that tom had a hot temper, volatile. >> anger may have been most -- >> to prove it -- the witness. >> i heard him saying what have i done? >> nick was 15 at the time. he said he remembered crouching down inside his house under an open window listening to tom speak to people in his drive way. >> you can hear one of them. i don't know who it was say what? what do you mean? and he proceeded to say i shot my wife. >> nick said he knew it was tom. he could see him out the window. >> how certain are you that the voice you are hearing is tom's
voice? >> i'm 100%. >> there was more. nick's mom testified that on the night of the shooting she got a strange phone call from a teenaged neighbor around 1:00 a.m. >> she said please tell me you called the police because your neighbor just shot his wife. and i said what? she said i can hear her screaming get off me, get off me. >> powerful evidence. and then that neighbor's testimony. >> do you recall telling kathie glover that same early morning i heard her screaming get off me, get off me? >> i do not. >> she was 16 and drinking that night, she said. that might explain her faulty memory. >> do you recall telling officer that you heard a female yelling get off of me. >> i do not. >> did you expect that from her?
>> yeah. it didn't surprise me. >> it hurt you, though. >> it hurt. when you have a police officer interviews her within an hour of the shooting and she is saying these are the things i heard whether she had been drinking that night or not, to me that's the most believable version of events. >> a hiccup perhaps, but then there was the crime scene. remember, the coroner and the csi officers say the scene screamed suicide. this prosecution witness? >> priest is a former homicide detective and forensic consultant who used a miniature model of the bedroom to show her position. >> she has to be here and then bent down to fit into the trajectory. >> he was convinced that if ashley shot herself there would be more blood on the floor. >> we have indications of
bleeding, but the type of injury that we are talking about is going to bleed a lot. that's not the kind of stain i would expect to see if that is what was occurring. something is keeping that blood from reaching that area. >> he believed that something was tom. remember, his clothing was drenched with blood so priest concluded tom and ashley must have been in close contact with the gun went off. he suggested there was a struggle when the shot was fired. >> i can keep blood stains from getting on to the wall or the cabinet and i can lower her continuing to bleed on to my shirt to where i get her in this position. >> the prosecution rested its case. what possible defense could there be? well, for a start, this? >> i have so much pain on the inside i can no longer take it. >> a letter.
what a letter it was. coming up -- a troubled marriage or a troubled young woman? >> what kind of mental health issues did you observe her to be going through? >> mood swings, impulsive behaviors. >> and the verdict. when "dateline" continues. >> and the verdict. when "dateline" continues. got s to the nightclub here. and if you get lost, just hit me on the old horn. man: tom's my best friend, but ever since he bought a new house... tom: it's a $10 cover? oh, okay. didn't see that on the website. he's been acting more and more like his dad. come on, guys! jump in! the water's fine! tom pritchard. how we doin'? hi, there. tom pritchard. can we get a round of jalapeño poppers for me and the boys, please? i've been saving a lot of money with progressive lately, so... progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents. but we can protect your home and auto when you bundle with us.
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it can't be an easy thing for a juror, imagining a moment he or she didn't see. >> please rise for the jury. >> and deciding what must have happened. did tom kill his wife ashley in a fit of violent temper or what? >> tom salas did not kill his wife and mother of their three children. ashley salas committed suicide. >> remember how the prosecution talked of ashley's happy frame of mind? that ashley was a kind of lie, said the defendant. >> ashley salas was a beautiful woman but she had a terrible pain inside. she was mentally ill. >> the defense put one of ashley's close friends on the stand.
>> what did you know of ashley having a mental illness. >> i knew that she was on medications. we spoke pretty in depth about that. >> but even with medications, the friend testified, ashley had trouble controlling her emotions. >> what kind of mental health issues did you observe ashley salas to be going through? >> depression, mood swings, impulsive behaviors. >> in fact, the defense argued ashley was so depressed the summer before she died she wrote this letter to tom. >> i have so much pain on the inside i can no longer take it. i'm sorry to do this to you and the kids, but i find myself not even liking my children. >> every day is a chore with them and you. i have to pretend to be happy. i have to pretend to be someone i am not. please make sure you raise the kids to continue to go to the school we have chosen. i do love them. i just can't take this life any
longer. please make sure you let them know every day that i do love them and this was not their fault. suicide expert dr. michael allen studied the letter as well as ashley's medical records and testified about his review. >> do you have an opinion in this case about whether or not ashley salas was at high risk to commit suicide on january 1st, 2012? >> yes. my opinion is that she had many, many risk factors and warning signs. >> remember, detectives had learned years before that ashley had a family history of suicide. both her maternal uncle and her grandmother took their own lives. that, said dr. allen, put ashley at a higher risk for doing the same thing. >> two close family members who had died by suicide would suggest a get this particular propensity for suicide. >> the defense argued that on new year's eve, 2011, it was the
miscarriage that broke her will to go on. that she spent the night masking her pain with alcohol, that she planted marijuana after the party and that's why tom was upset. >> she was vulnerable. he was concerned about her. he didn't want her to add marijuana to this toxic system that was developing inside of ashley salas. >> the defense conceded ashley and tom quarrelled that night but insisted it never got physical. those scratches on tom's chest, the ones prosecutors believe were proof of a struggle, dna test never found any evidence to support that. >> you did not find any of ashley salas's dna cellular material on those swabs from tom's chest, correct? >> that is correct. >> the defense reminded jurors that tom told the police why he had the scratches, that he had
done a little man skapg to spice up his marriage. he had texts and photos to prove it. >> there's tom salas when he has hair on his chest all the way to the left and on december 17th, 2011, he texted ashley. there you have it. you get your way so here it is. thought you might like it. >> so the scratches, said the defense, were because it was itchy, that's all. as for the so-called witnesses of self-defense, totally unreliable. the one changed her story on the stand and the other? just months after the shooting young nick glover went camping, of all things, with tom, the very man he said he heard confess to shooting ashley salas. >> at no time during the camping trip with tom salas did you ever tell anybody that you were uncomfortable being there with tom? >> i do not recall. >> who to believe?
for example, it wasn't one but two prosecution crime scene analysts. this one you've already heard believed it was murder but this one -- >> most people that shoot somebody in an act of rage, they don't stop with one shot. >> dan gillum was the crime scene investigator from ashley's death. using a defense attorney about the same height as ashley. it showed how difficult it would have been for someone as tall as tom to shoot someone. >> is that an unnatural position for another person to be holding the gun in that manner? >> it is for me. >> okay. and mr. salas is 6 feet tall? . how tall are you? >> i'm 6 feet tall as well. >> the gun was ashley's. it was within six feet of where it's usually stored. after examining all of the ballistic and spatter evidence, gillum didn't believe the
shooting was murder. >> i believe the story that mr. salas gave is consistent with the evidence found at the scene. >> in other words, he thought it was suicide so what happened in that moment after midnight? how would a juror decide? >> upon reaching a verdict you will inform the bailiff who will in turn notify me. >> kusa's dan grossman settled in for a long wait. >> this is almost a three-week trial. you thought you were coming back to hear the verdict. >> but, no. less than four hours later a verdict. >> we the jury find the defendant not guilty of murder of second degree signed by the jury foreperson. >> not guilty. not murder. after four long years of living under a cloud of suspicion, tom was acquitted of all charges. >> he stayed straight faced.
his defense attorney was very emotional but ashley's parents, they left the courtroom fairly quickly. >> ashley's parents declined to talk with "dateline" after the verdict. their legal battle was far from over. they filed a civil lawsuit against several law enforcement officers of the evans police department who they believe falsified, altered and omitted key evidence to make ashley's death look like a suicide. despite the verdict, they continued to pursue the case, but in 2017 a u.s. district court issued a final judgment dismissing their claims. what about ashley's family, can they just accept this and go on? >> i don't think they'll ever accept it. to say they were distraught would be an understatement. they, i think, truly believe that tom salas killed their daughter and they are never going to let that go. >> an idea once so deeply
engrained, true or not, will not go away, and tom and his children make a life as best they can. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie moralis. >> and this is "date line." >> i just can't imagine to be held in captivity. >> dad, just send the money. that's all they want. >> they have an american kid, a 14-year-old kid in the middle of the jungle. they're thinking they hit the jackpot. >> they were vacationers turned prisoners. a mother and son kidnapped by terrorists. >> we need million u.s. dollar for the lives of your family. >> 10 million from me? are you losing your