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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  April 28, 2019 2:00am-3:00am PDT

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happy-go-lucky free spirit on the radio. the man they called stevie b. >> have a good weekend. bye. >> that's all for this edition of daylig"dateline." thank you for watching. trying to solve this murder. >> we were going to set a trap for three people, and i wasn't sure if it was going to work or not. it had to be perfect. >> he was a family man who didn't seem to have an enemy in the world. right up until the night he was murdered. >> there was evidence of a violent struggle between jack and his killer. >> someone was keeping secrets, and police thought they knew who. >> her tone was just scary. >> they thought they knew the motive, too. but -- >> matter of proving it is a different story. >> until someone found the perfect bait. >> hey, dude, it's me. you need to [ bleep ] call me asap. >> could they set the perfect trap?
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>> these people might literally get away with murder. hello, and welcome to "dateline." jack jessee was a grandmother and the helm of his big and blended california family seemed like one happy bunch. then jack was found stabbed to death in his living room and police wondered if the jessees weren't as close as they seemed. they never gave up hope, neither did the relentless detective that hatched an unconventional plan to catch jack's killers. here's keith morrison. >> reporter: the game is called "mousetrap." a little ball on its track.
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the tiny taunting mice which, unless every lever works in unison, will not be caught. and how often things go wrong to allow the mice to get away. so odd that what really happened could so eerily mimic a children's game. >> oh how nice! >> reporter: these are the people it happened to, the jessee clan of orange county, california. they vacation together -- >> i'm tired, i'm ready to go home. >> reporter: share birthdays -- >> this one's for bev. >> happy new year! >> reporter: even got together for a monthly game of 10-pins. what these grainy home videos don't show is what is yet to come. which is murder, conspiracy. one branch of the family against the other. a game so twisted, mice so clever that crafting a trap to catch the plotters just might be impossible. to begin with, it was 1998.
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"shakespeare in love" won the oscar. monica lewinsky was freshly famous. it was a sweltering august night, hottest of the year, when cheryl deedham got a strange call from her dad, jack jessee. >> i was getting ready for bed and my phone rings and it's my dad on the phone. >> what time was this? >> 9:20. >> reporter: he was worried about his wife sandra. she was missing. what did he think happened? >> he thought she may have got in an accident or something. >> reporter: she'd run to this nearby mall on a quick errand, said cheryl's dad, but was gone so long. would cheryl please find her, asked her dad. >> went through there, the lucky's, the burger king where she was supposed to be, walmart, back 15 minutes later. >> reporter: when she went back into her dad's house she found -- >> one of the worst sights i've ever seen in my life. he was laying facedown on the floor in a pool of blood. it was horrible. >> what did you think happened?
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>> i thought he had fallen because he had a big gash in the back of his head. i went to the kitchen phone and called 911. >> reporter: when she rolled him over, she could see wounds all across his chest. he'd been stabbed many times. >> every time i started doing cpr, every time i'd breathe into him, i could hear bubbling. air escaping. then i started to -- feeling it on his chest. >> reporter: it's not often little placentia, california, has a murder. >> 10:00 p.m. when i got the call. >> reporter: t time, darin wyatt was the sole homicide detective. >> what did the crime scene itself look like? >> it was pretty bloody. there was evidence of a violent struggle between jack and his killer. >>the kind of thing that might happen if it was a home invasion, robbery, or something? >> or assault between people who knew each other. >> reporter: protocol told him look at the person who reported the crime, daughter cheryl. >> the daughter, we had to look at her as a potential suspect.
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she was the one who found him. >> reporter: back at the station, wyatt interviewed all of jack's relatives including cheryl, and jack's wife sandra, who hadn't been missing at all, just out on a shopping trip. >> mrs. jessee came to the station with us voluntarily, told us she would cooperate, wanted to help us solve the murder of her husband. >> reporter: she told him about life with jack, married 14 years, blended family, four kids between them. jack was a patriarch in the jessee clan, she said, a teddy bear of a man, well liked, well to do. >> jack was a very, very loving person who doted on his children, doted on his stepchildren, doted on his grandchildren. >> reporter: jack was ill. housebound after colon cancer surgery. sandra told the detectives she'd been running a bit of a mercy mission for jack and dawdled too long at the mall. >> five minutes one direction, five minutes in traffic, maybe i was on the road almost 15 minutes --
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>> she was very, very specific about where she had gone, at what times, and why she had gone there. >> reporter: as for cheryl, she told detectives she'd do anything to find out what happened to her dad in those 15 minutes she was away from the house. >> her actions were very, very consistent with somebody who understands, the police are looking at me right now, i know i didn't do anything, i'm going to do everything i can and give full disclosure. >> the day after the jack jessee murder, a guy walked into a bar, sat down on the barstool, and told the bartender a story about how the murder happened, about who did it, about what the motive was. the whole story. but of course that was just a story in a bar. detective wyatt didn't hear anything about it. and as he continued to dig for clues he hit an unexpected wall. sandra announced she had now helped as much as she could. she was done. >> i was referred to her attorney and she refused to meet with us again. >> reporter: same thing happened with sandra's kids, jack's stepchildren.
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while jack's blood relations practically begged to help solve the case. so what happened to that big happy family in the video? a mirage, perhaps? in fact, living with sandra, said jack's daughter cheree and cheryl, was a fairy tale, the kind britain by the brothers grimm. >> she was mean to me. she wanted me completely gone. she did everything she could to try and get rid of me. >> reporter: when it came to her own children, they said, sandra was indulgent, eerily so with son tom. >> he was a really good mama's boy, to the point it was strange, very weird. >> very weird. >> weird thing to watch. >> they're always walking into the other room and closing the door. >> yeah. >> reporter: though jack seemed quite happy with sandra. until the spring of '98, that is. just a few months before the murder when jack was diagnosed with colon cancer. a shock, of course. but one of two shocks for
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sandra. and to those around her, the second seemed somehow worse. her beloved son, tom, up and moved to arizona. >> and she was flipping out about it. >> yeah. >> just -- she had to go there. >> reporter: she demanded jack move to arizona too. >> that woman was off her rocker. her tone was just scary. it was like somebody else's voice coming out of her. >> reporter: but surely that wasn't motive enough for murder? and with plenty of suspicion but little else to go on, wyatt spent months poring over sandra and jack's phone records, bank statements, credit card bills, searching to -- well, he didn't know exactly what he was searching for. but he was getting basically nowhere. >> we couldn't establish a pattern that was suspicious. >> reporter: then as wyatt's investigation sputtered, sandra left. sold jack's house here in california, moved to arizona to be near her son tom, and soon
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her daughter followed too. and they all lived within a couple of blocks of each other in homes sandra helped purchase with jack's insurance money and savings. >> when everything was said and done, she got close to $700,000. >> reporter: and as the months slipped past, leads failed to connect, the investigation hit one dead end after another. wyatt was promoted out of homicide. the case bounced from the placentia pd to the orange county's sheriff's department, where before long it became a case to avoid, toxic, an unsolvable career killer. so five years after his brother's murder, when david jessee met a detective named tom dove who said he picked up the case -- >> i said, oh, really? well, that's great. let me ask you a question. yeah. what are you going to do? are you going to get the case for three, four, five months, a year, then move up? become a sergeant or something and move on? and tom dove says to me, listen, buddy, nobody likes me in my
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department. he says, i'm not going nowhere. he says, i got five years to put in your brother's case. he says, i retire and i'm out of here. he said, but i'll give it my all. i will give everything to this case that i have. i looked over at him, i said, you're the man. >> reporter: what david didn't know but clearly sensed was that detective tom dove was the real deal, a legendary law man who seemed to have stepped out of his own primetime drama. >> there wasn't a whole lot to go on. there wasn't any physical evidence, there wasn't any eyewitnesses. >> in other words, the perfect challenge. >> correct. coming up, that bartender with the customer who liked to talk. now he's talking, too. >> this person had specific details unknown to the general public. >> not only that he's naming names when "dateline" continues.
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after five years and a string of homicide detectives, the jack jessee murder case had become a game to avoid. then one day the whole impossible business was handed off to tom dove. >> i can't tell you how many times that i thought just move
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on, give up, move on. >> there was no hope of any new evidence, of course, like fingerprints or dna. there was just the infuriating puzzle which had become more difficult with each passing year. >> after i reviewed the case, i well no feeling for the family. no feeling for jack jessee. >> to get his head in the game, dove met with the people closest to jack like his brother david. >> and when i met with david, he inspired me. himself determination was a major factor. >> reporter: but david also had some provocative information. something jack told him after arguing with sandra about moving to arizona. >> if anything ever happens to me, he says, it's her. >> reporter: not the only time jack said such a thing, it turned out. >> he actually told me, i wouldn't be surprised if the bitch killed me. he said that. >> reporter: so dove picked through all the original files,
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hoping he might come across something that had been overlooked. and buried inside, he found this. a simple two-page report apparently unread by any detective. remember the guy who walked into the bar, the one who told a story about the jessee murder? well, years later when the case had gone cold, the bartender decided to call the placentia cops. an officer took the call, typed up the report, and stuck it away in the file where it sat unseen until tom dove came along. >> two things caught my mind. when i read it. one, whoever the caller is knew how many stab wounds were involved. and two, the caller stated that the person had used a backdoor or a window to enter the residence that night. that was significant in that this person had specific details unknown to the general public about the murder of jack jessee. >> reporter: most of the tipster's information was frustratingly vague, like a riddle, yet another game to be
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played. there were two killers, though he gave no names. one had a knife, the other had the getaway car. both worked at a big box department store. the man who told the story in the bar that day had been the driver of the car and with the blood money he'd bought a truck and a sea-doo. but on the question of who was behind the plot, that's when the story named names, two of them. they were sandra's son, tom, the mama's boy jack raised as his own. under the direction of the mastermind herself, jack's wife, sandra. so with that new perspective on the case, dove revisited sandra's old interview. the hours of mostly useless chatter. >> how many times did you listen to that interview? >> at least ten times. >> reporter: and then it jumped out at him. right about here on the tape. sandra is going through slips of paper in her day planner. she looks at one and says --
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>> this is my son's friend. >> reporter: listen to it again. >> this is my son's friend. >> reporter: "this is my son's friend." one phrase in hours of material but it got dove's mind racing. if the bartender was right that the killers were friends of sandra's son, could that slip of paper hold the key to the case? dove tore through bags of evidence, and there it was. the day planner. seized five years earlier just after the murder. >> i went through that day planner for probably a day or more. went through every scratch, piece of paper, every notation, everything that was put into place in that day planner was looked at. there was a small piece of note paper with the name which appeared to me at that time to say schreiber with no telephone number or no significance to it. >> just said schreiber, that's all it said? >> i thought schreiber, yes. >> reporter: but where would he find this schreiber? doug went back to sandra's interview. when asked about detective wyatt about tom's friend, sandra said the boys were once work buddies.
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>> met him at target when they worked together. >> reporter: detective dove crisscrossed southern california, searching through the employment records of every target store for a guy named schreiber. but nobody had ever heard of him. >> we were starting to come to the end of our rope. we were getting to a dead end there. >> reporter: that was about the time jack's daughter sherry began getting strange packages in the mail from sandra, who said they were keepsakes jack wanted his girls to have. >> like what? >> little boxes of like ashtrays. his bowling ball bag. a bunch of junk. just weird stuff that just kept coming. >> reporter: which seemed designed to provoke exactly the reaction the sisters felt. >> hatred. more than i had before. >> reporter: sandra seemed to be telling them she'd beaten them, got away with it, won the game. >> we just said, are we cursed? is there something with this case that's just not going to be solved? >> it's frustrating for him putting all this work in.
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to think these people might get away, literally get away with murder. >> oh, isn't that the -- >> reporter: patty is tom's wife, been together since high school, knows him better than anyone. she was used to his compulsive perfectionism. >> it's comforting to me, i think, to just know where things are and where we're going. >> reporter: his nothing out of place sense of order. >> he's a very stubborn man. so for him to take a case, he's going to do it and solve it. >> reporter: and so detective dove decided to start over. take a different approach this time. he immersed himself in sandra's old phone bills. seized by detective wyatt years before. >> what i did is i went through every telephone call on those phone records looking for somebody related to this case. there had to be some communication. >> hit anywhere? >> yeah. >> reporter: what dove found that had been overlooked before was a cluster of calls not long
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before the murder, all short, within minutes of each other. one of those calls was to a target store, one was to a pager, one was to a boarding house. he called that last number, asked if anybody there knew a guy named schreiber. and the landlady said, nope. but there was one a tenant named schrauben, could that be the man the detective was looking for? >> brett schrauben. >> reporter: jack tracked him down to a distant suburb in the mojave desert. parked in the drive way was a 1999 pickup truck and a sea-doo, just what the anonymous bartender said. >> there was a huge break for us. we now have the name of somebody that's involved in jack jessee's murder. coming up -- >> often people throw away valuable evidence. >> detective dove finds treasure in trash. >> this is too good to be true.
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beyond fast. the jack jessee investigation had been six years of dead ends, bad breaks, blind alleys. now on the trail of a suspect, tom dove was about to start a new game, one where he could write the rulebook. but it would be very complicated
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because dove wanted more than just the getaway driver, brett schrauben. he wanted everyone connected to the murder. >> the only way to tie the conspiracy was to get a wiretap. >> he needed to get approval from a judge and needed to prove that schrauben was still in touch with tom and tom's mother, sandra. it was a catch 22. time to get creative. >> it had been my experience when it had worked in the narcotics section of the sheriff's department that often people through away valuable evidence. >> reporter: dove asked his fellow detectives to help him because he decided to search schrauben's garbage. what did they tell you when you came one that idea, you're crazy? >> i think their first idea was i'm really starting to lose it now, i want to dig through somebody's trash. >> reporter: so faithfully, once a week on gar back pickup day, dove got up at day break and made the hour-long journey to
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to brett's neighborhood, where a trash truck used just for schrauben's garbage brought it to a nearby parking lot. >> we'd have the truck dump the trash somewhat in a pile here, regardless of the size. >> right on the tarmac? >> right on the tarmac. scatter everything out, open every bag, get down on our hands and knees and slowly sift through every piece of paper that looked like it might be a document of some kind. >> reporter: and that's how dove's team found this coffee-stained phone bill showing call after call from schrauben to sandra's son, tom in arizona. >> and that number, tom's number, how often would that pop up? >> i think the average we figured out was about 24 times in a billing cycle about a month. >> almost every day? >> every day, correct. it was almost like going through a crime scene and finding pieces of evidence. it's an excitement that you realize, this is going to work. we are going to find what we're looking for. >> reporter: but there was yet again a problem.
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schrauben's phone was in another name. to get a wire top dove would have to prove schrauben was the prima final one. >> what we ended up having to do was literally follow brett schrauben around until we saw him on his telephone. we later took that even further in that i went into the target store that he was working at one day. i noticed he was stocking shelves in a certain section of the store so i started randomly picking up items and looking like i was interested. at that point i called on my cellular phone to one of my other investigators outside and said, put a call in now to the phone. i heard him answer the phone. so i was able to say that is his phone, he talks on it. we've put the phone in his hand. >> reporter: but as they continue to sift through trash they find something more important than the phone bill, something quite unexpected. this day planner. >> from the years '96, '97, 1998.
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>> reporter: what were the chances of that? here, six years later, was the day planner for 1998, the year jack jessee was murdered. crucial evidence tossed in schrauben's garbage. >> a treasure we didn't expect to find, but what that day planner did was connected all the people back in 1998 that were associated with brett schrauben. >> what did you think? >> this is too good to be true, i thought, good things were going to happen. somebody's back on our side again. >> reporter: with this evidence, dove was able to get a judge to approve a wiretap on brett schrauben's phone. then as dove waited for his wiretap to go into effect, he continued to go through the trash, he'd been lucky so far, maybe he'd find something more. indeed he did and it turned the case upside down. he found rental listings in arizona. brett schrauben was moving out of the state, would be gone before the wiretap ruling took effect. and in arizona, a california
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warrant was worthless. >> this completely took all that work, and we're talking probably six months of work, and just threw it out the window. >> reporter: the killers had slipped the trap. game over. but the detective was not giving up. his team built a new and better mousetrap. and guess who took the bait? coming up -- >> hey, dude, it's me. you need to [ bleep ] call me asap. >> when "deadly conspiracy" continues. with advil liqui-gels, you'll ask... what stiff joints? what bad back? advil is... relief that's fast. strength that lasts. you'll ask... what pain? with advil liqui-gels. show your gut some love. only activia has billions of our live and active probiotics. a delicious way to enjoy probiotics every day. with 20 years of devotion to gut health.
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i'm dara brown. here's what's happening -- police are investigating an open letter allegedly posted by a suspect in a deadly synagogue shooting outside of decision. it left one dead and three others including the rabbi of the synagogue. president trump held a rally in green bay, wisconsin, running counter to the annual white house correspondents dinner.
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it was the third year in a row the president skipped the event, instead opting to attack the press and some of his democratic opponents. now back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. detective tom dove had just secured a warrant to wiretap murder suspect brett schrauben's phone, but he was moving to arizona. so the detective hatched yet another plan -- an elaborate trap using anonymous letters as the bait. could he spook his targets, spurring them to talk about jack jessee's slaying, or would his prey slip through the snare yet again? here again is keith morrison with "deadly conspiracy." >> reporter: after two years of relentless police work, tom dove's investigation of the murder of jack jessee had generated enough evidence to fill this mail cart.
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all apparently for naught. the suspect and his key to cracking the case had skipped the state, and detective dove's jurisdiction. >> we were so close. >> reporter: the jessee family sensed dove had been beaten and sandra jessee had won. had gotten away with murder. >> i put his pictures away. i couldn't -- it's tough. because he was so -- he was so fantastic. >> put his pictures away? >> i had to. it just was too much. >> couldn't look at them? >> i couldn't look at them. >> reporter: at the dove home, tom's wife patty began to worry about her husband's health. >> he tends to hold things in. you can't hold in that kind of frustration and emotion without starting to affect you. with that kind of stress, it takes a toll on them physically and mentally. >> that's what you worry about? >> uh-huh, exactly what i worry about. >> reporter: because she knew if he didn't solve the jessee case, he might die trying. >> he's like a dog with a bone. he's going to take it and he's going to do it until it gets done. >> reporter: dove was not alone,
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mind you. there was a prosecutor too who shared his dogged conviction. a man named michael murray who wanted sandra jessee and her group just as badly as dove. >> this case seemed to be full of obstacles. >> it would have been probably forgivable just to let it go at that stage? to some people? >> maybe to some people. >> reporter: so murray and dove cobbled together a legal long shot. they flew to phoenix, presented their evidence to a state attorney general, pleaded for an arizona wiretap warrant. and they got it. the game was back on. if they could make it work. >> we were going to try to set a trap for three people and keep track of those three people, and i wasn't sure if it was going to work or not. >> if it didn't? >> in the back of my mind, i gave it probably a 30% chance of success. >> but you're giving yourself a 70% chance of being a goat at the end of the day.
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>> it had to be perfect. we were only going to get one try. >> reporter: so tom began to compile a team of investigators, even called darren wyatt, the first detective on the case, to see if the plascencia pd wanted in. >> i said, let me fall at your feet and do what we can to help. i felt like they -- look, this is going to be good. >> reporter: the phoenix pd also provided scores of officers, so on game day dove had close to 100 cops working the case. >> i reminded them of that mousetrap game you played when you were a kid. in that this huge ball bearing was going to have to go through a tremendous amount of obstacles that were kind of thrown together. in order to lower the trap and catch the mouse. and anywhere along the line there could be a snag. there could be something that we hadn't planned for that could throw this ball completely off the board. >> okay, so what was the plan? what was the nature of your trap, of your mousetrap? >> we believed that if we did
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something to get these people uptight, if we were able to rattle the tree, if we were able to put some fear into them that maybe the police were on to them. that they would talk about the murder of jack jessee. >> so what was the little piece of cheese you put into that trap? >> we nailed a simple copy of the newspaper article when jack jessee was murdered anonymously to sandra jessee, tom aehlert, and brett schrauben. the significance of that was they didn't know we knew about brett schrauben. they're going to know something's up. >> reporter: sure enough, as soon as tom heard brett got an anonymous letter, he called his mother, sandra. >> whoever was sending out all that crap sent one to brett too. >> give me a break. >> really. >> you're kidding. >> no. why would i kid about something like that? >> sent one to brett? >> yeah. >> why would they send one to him?
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how could they even -- >> i have no clue. >> reporter: next, dove started poking brett's friends in california. who of course called brett. >> leave your name and number and i'll get back to you, thank you. >> hey, dude, it's me. you need to [ bleep ] call me asap. this is no [ bleep ] joke. some guy from the sheriff in orange county sheriff's department homicide division was calling me, asking about you. >> reporter: brett in turn called tom. >> hello? >> hello, tom? >> yeah, hey, what's up? >> i got a call from scott. the orange county homicide division -- >> uh-huh. >> called scott, they want to talk to him about me. >> about you? >> yeah. >> what are you on right now? >> i'm on my cell phone. >> are you comfortable or no? >> no. >> that little mousetrap ball was making its way through the maze. after a few days of the game,
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sandra, tom, and brett began to wonder if they were getting played. suspected their phones were tapped. maybe even their houses bugged. >> i want to talk for a couple of seconds -- >> okay. >> no, i'd rather pick you and up go back to the church or -- >> church? >> well, just somewhere outside. >> oh, okay. >> away from your place and my place. >> okay. >> not on the cell phone. >> okay. >> when would you have time? >> now. >> reporter: so they started meeting in shopping centers. >> we decided to put surveillance teams on each of the individuals, sandra, jessee, tom aehlert, and brett schrauben. during the duration of the wiretap, to capture some things they may do that may not be normal while the wiretap was in place. >> they'd stand shoulder to shoulder in a parking lot, watching out in the parking lot, and not looking at each other. >> reporter: there it was, like a scene from some mafia movie. the suspects out of range of recording devices, apparently
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deep in conversation as they peered out into the parking lot. >> i think the photographs of tom aehlert and sandra jessee was worth a million words as to the depth of their involvement and how far they would go to conceal what they had done. in their minds they had thought they got away with the perfect crime. >> reporter: meanwhile, dove would hop on flights back to orange county to pressure schrauben's friends for information. he was, of course, relentless. chased down anybody who knew the man. followed one tip to another. until dove finally encountered the man he'd been hunting for years. the bartender who called in the anonymous tip years earlier. >> and the first words out of my mouth were, hi, mike, i'm here about brett. and his face went completely flush. and he said, i knew you were going to find me sooner or later. >> what story did he tell you? >> that schrauben, for whatever reason, had confided in him and
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told him specific details of the murder of jack jessee, including his involvement. that was a huge, huge quantum leap for us in putting this case to rest. >> reporter: now the time had come to spring the trap. brett schrauben was arrested and soon thereafter sandra jessee herself was in handcuffs. finally to be held accountable for jack jessee's murder. >> that was wonderful. >> best three-day weekend i had. >> oh, me too. that was a pretty good day, yes. >> reporter: didn't last. for one thing, tom was not arrested. insufficient evidence, said the prosecutor. and then as he rolled out the case against the others, that little ball came off the track again. this time it happened at sandra's preliminary hearing. judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence to hold her. she was free to go. >> oh, i sobbed all the way home. i don't know how i made it back to marietta from santa ana. >> reporter: only brett schrauben was to face a murder trial.
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it was the summer of 2006, eight years after jack jessee's murder. and justice? not yet, if ever. coming up -- finally, the break detectives had been waiting for. >> she wanted jack dead. >> the information that he provided would blow the case wide open. >> until something slammed it shut down when "dateline" continues. continues. guys, what's the matter? i heard there were fleas out here. and t-t-t-t-t-icks! and mosquitoooooooooooes! listen up, scaredy cats. we all have k9 advantix ii to protect us. it kills and repels fleas, ticks and mosquitoes, too.
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sitting in a cell month after month can do a lot to alter a person's take on the world. even more so if the inmate is looking at a possible life sentence. that's when brett schrauben had an epiphany during his before trial was to begin. he said he was finally willing to testify against tom and sandra but wanted out now. the deal had to be for time served or nothing at all. >> what did you think? >> i thought it was outrageous, but it's not a perfect world. and the people who are likely to have some of the best, most detailed information about what takes place inside a conspiracy is a coconspirator. we needed brett schrauben. >> so what was the story? >> the story was a pretty -- pretty detailed and amazing story.
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>> reporter: schrauben described the whole affair on tape, laid it out in all its chilling tale. -- chilling detail. anatomy of a murder. the conspiracy was launched with a phone call from tom. >> he told me he'd offer $50,000 to kill his dad. >> reporter: he met with sandra in a parking lot. she gave him a $5,000 deposit. >> she wanted jack dead and she wanted it at the house and to look like a robbery. she told me she would leave for x amount of time and that's when it would need to be done. >> reporter: schrauben said he hired his good friend, a local drifter, to be the getaway driver. and on the afternoon of august 13th, 1998, while sandra was out having her nails done, schrauben claimed he and his friend drove to the jessee house to murder jack. >> i was already having a cold feeling on the way there. by the time i was walking down the street i was really having cold feet. i got in the house, i'm standing in the garage now. i put on a rubber glove.
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and reach inside the door and unlock the it and shut it. i was chicken. i couldn't do it. i called tom. i told tom, the door's locked. and he said he would call his mom and get back to me. >> reporter: and according to schrauben, tom called back within minutes with a backup plan. >> he told me his mom was going to go out that night and that they needed it to happen tonight because his mom can't take it anymore. he said we didn't do it tonight, his mom was going to do it. >> reporter: they returned that night about 9:00. the story was that he dropped his friend off and drove around the neighborhood while his friend snuck inside and stabbed jack jessee to death. >> we had walkie-talkies. afterward he called when he was done and told him to pick him up. so i'm turning to go back. he had a little blood on his legs. we looked for a place to clean himself up. i believe there was a del taco place. there he went inside to clean himself up.
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>> the information he provided, if we could corroborate what he said, would blow the case wide open. >> police questioned his friend. he denied everything. there was no evidence to indicate he was involved at all. police let him go. investigators focused on building their case against tom and sandra by documenting money transfers, phone calls, air travel. >> so when you add all that together, what'd you think? >> i thought we were starting to put together a pretty good case. >> good enough that murray had tom and sandra arrested. and in the summer of 2009, 11 years after the murder, the mother and son team went on trial for the murder of jack jessee. >> going to court was like going to my dad's funeral every day. it really was. you're around people that you know killed your dad. it was a ridiculous feeling. you can't even put it into words. just soul-wrenching. >> schrauben testified against
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them. in court it was argued sandra had a variety of motives for killing jack. she wanted his money before medical bills ate up their savings. and she couldn't bear being away from her son tom. >> do you think the case had gone well? >> i thought the case had gone extremely well. >> except once again that little ball came off the track. >> what happened? "dateline" returns after the break. i must admit. i had a few good tricks to help hide my bladder leak pad. like the old "tunic tug". you know it, right? but i don't have to, with always discreet. i couldn't believe the difference. it's less bulky. and it really protects. watch this. the super absorbent core turns liquid and odor to gel, and locks it away. so i have nothing to hide. always discreet. for bladder leaks.
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welcome back to "dateline." brett schrauben struck a deal. he detailed how they orchestrated a murder for hire for jack jessee and how they carried out the plan. now the case was in the hands of the jury and there were still a couple of big surprises in store with the conclusion of "deadly conspiracy," here's keith morrison. when the jury went into seclusion to deliberate, the jessee family thought justice was just hours away. but as the sun set on the courthouse, nothing. no word. same thing again next day. and the day after that. the problem?
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there was a holdout. >> it got very heated. >> yes. >> in the deliberation room. >> these members of the jury told us 11 voted for conviction. but there was one lone juror who felt some level of compassion for sandra. >> she related to the sandra jessee concern that jack jessee's illness would eat up their nest egg. >> i felt like she was enjoying the control she had. >> there was nothing. nothing we could do or say. >> people were getting so heated and there was so much anger that she started to shut down even more. >> and that scene played out for three and a half days until the judge said enough and declared a mistrial. >> i was in tears. >> i was too. and thinking of the family and what they've gone through. that was heartache. just heartache. >> mm-hmm. >> i thought i was going to pass out.
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>> yeah. it was horrible. >> it was just -- >> like it happened all over again. >> that one juror, you know, i saw her. i went and talked to her. >> what did you say? >> i said she was an idiot. >> it was certainly difficult for me. it was far more difficult for the family. >> murray promised the family justice. spent two years putting a new case together. and just weeks before trial, he got a call. it was from tom's attorney saying his client was ready to cut the apron strings and testify against his mom. >> there's no way that we ever suspected that tom aehlert would ever turn on his mother. he was known to be a mama's boy. >> but a mama's boy who decided he didn't want to die in prison. tom pleaded guilty to second degree murder, got 15 to life. besides helping connect the crime to his mother, he had somebody else he wanted to give up. that friend of brett's. despite the fact there was no
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forensic evidence to indicate he was involved, his case went to trial. in february 2013, a jury found him not guilty. his attorney believed the jury set him up. the question was, would a jury believe tom's story? as the jury deliberated and the family waited, was there no euphoria. they knew from bitter experience that anything could happen. >> it's a lot harder this time not knowing what's going to happen. >> on the second day, they got word the jury had a verdict. >> my stomach's in knots. >> i'm shaking. >> we're just really very nervous at this moment. >> 13 years after jack jessee's murder, sandra jessee was found guilty. and finally that little ball
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stayed on its track. the key mouse was caught. >> i hope that she rots in hell. i just really do. i'm glad it wasn't the death penalty. i want her to stay there and suffer with all the other miserable people that go to prison. >> what's it feel like to get justice finally? >> oh, it feels good. it feels good, but not complete. not complete. lost a guy. the nicest guy i ever met. >> and for tom dove, he's now retired from the sheriff's department, and at his going-away party his fellow detectives gave him this. it honors his commitment to the jessee case. >> it means more to me than any other plaque or award i've ever received in my life. >> and in retirement tom says he hopes to set up a shelter for stray dogs. the urge to rescue runs deep.
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>> that's all for this edition of ""dateline."" i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. good morning, i'll phillip mena at msnbc world headquarters. here's what's happening. not again. another place of worship attacked by a gunman. >> just standing there, shooting, shooting everybody. >> the suddenly deadly nightmare that played out in a matter of minutes. new details this morning about the victims and what drove the shooter. a tale of two presidents. one at a current campaign rally rousing his supporters and the other with a warning and not so veiled


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