tv Dateline Extra MSNBC June 30, 2019 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT
about her and i can remember her again. >> that's all for this edition of dateline extra. i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i was around my sister. i had to grow up without one. in an instant she was gone. it changed everything. >> she dreamed of a career solving crimes, but crime cleaned her first. >> the gut wrenching pain. my daughter, please, please don't let this be true. >> home alone on a sunny afternoon, she vanished. >> we said oh, my god, isn't
this one of her earrings? >> tire tracks on the lawn. >> there was evidence of a violent struggle. >> what happened and who was behind it? >> everything was a mystery. was she still alive? was she not? >> it tore us apart. >> for years they demanded answers. a struggle each day. then came the cold case squad with a new bag of tricks. >> i always felt that this was a case that could be solved. >> they wanted justice as bad as we did. >> as a mother, she fought and fought and fought. >> we're never gave up. don't mess with a mother bear. >> the knock at the door. hello and welcome to dateline extra. i'm craig melvin. tara orr was the oldest in a tight knit family of five. the whole crew moved to florida with a 19-year-old planning to start college and then tara was
snatched from the safety of her own home. it would take years and a team of tireless cold case detectives to uncover the clue and the story that would blow this case wide open. here's keith morris. >> it was among the afternoon, a baking sun, a school bus made its methodical way on the residential streets of punta gourda, florida. stop and start and stopped again. it was inland now. miles from the harbor, the river, the center of town whose warmth had drawn them to the gulf coast. the bus stopped in the middle of the neighborhood and the driver opened the door. it was 3:45 p.m. >> we got off the bus and walked home. >> we means veronica and then almost 14 years old and her younger brother, paul. >> halfway down the road, i remembered i forgot my key.
the closer we got, i had seen my sister's car. i said cool, i don't need the key. she's home. >> then she noticed the door was not quite closed. >> it was closed, but not latched. you could pull on it and the door would open. i remember walking in and oprah was on the tv. >> what did you assume when the door was open and the tv on? >> maybe she left in a hurry or went with a friend and didn't close the door all the way. >> she was tara. veronica's older sister, not quite 20 then. veronica called out and walked through the house. the bathroom light was on. >> i went in the bathroom and our bedroom and i had seen her purse and where would she be without her purse? that was unusual and i called keith. >> keith mcphillips was her mom's fiance and he told
veronica he was thinking of stopping for coffee with a friend on the way home. veronica said tara's purse was home, but she wasn't. >> what did you think when she told thaw? >> something was not right. if tara was going to go somewhere, she wouldn't leave her stuff on her car. that's how responsible she was. >> keith canceled the coffee plan and drove straight home. >> there was all kinds tracks on the floor and i said what are these marks and she said i don't know. >> tracks? >> muddy footprints. >> in the living room and master bedroom. and something else. something only those who lived there would know. >> in the med room, our tv would be turned a certain way because when you lay in bed you want to see it. i noticed it was straight and jewelry and money was gone.
>> what was going on in your head as you noticed things were missing? >> i knew something bad. >> oh, and it was. what happened to that grown up girl in this modest house in the middle city by the sea? on the first of october, 2001. a mystery for so many years. >> she was such a sweet, loving, kind, caring, full of life. >> sharon mcphillips is tara's mother. >> she had dreams and ambitions. she was a cheerleader, a catcher for solftball. she loved art. most of all, we were a family. she loved her family and we loved her. right back. >> they were new to punta gourda and had moved from scranton, pennsylvania. tara, almost grown up said she
would stay behind and make her own life. >> she didn't want to come down. i'm sure it was a change when you are older. we had a bet going on how long it would be before she got here because we are so close. we had a bet going. i think she lasted three weeks? >> i'm going to stay here on my own. >> yes. >> she got a job and made plans to start college and decided she wanted to be a crime scene investigator. >> she her books and everything? >> yeah. >> sharon's then fiance, keith, was not officially her stepdad, they had a father-daughter relationship. >> we were very close and always hung out together and would make our peanut butter and jelly triple decker sandwiches. she was my buddy. >> now he didn't know where she was.
sharon was just finishing her work day. >> i will never forget that call. i remember saying i have to leave now. it was a 40-minute ride. i cried that whole way home. please don't let nothing be wrong. please, please. >> i remember my mother pulling up. >> how did she look? >> panicked. >> keith called 911 as sharon rushed home. an officer was there when she arrived. >> my thing was you need to do something. my daughter is not here. i just knew. >> coming up -- what had happened to tara? earrings in the carpet. ribbons on the ground, tire tracks on the lawn. >> it was obvious we had a serious problem. >> when the knock at the door continues. >> when the knock at the door continues. when people get toge. we're there. so you can be too. holiday inn. holiday inn express.
i would feel like a cool dad. it's just really chic. i love this thing. it's gorgeous. i would pull up in this in a heartbeat. i want one of these. that is sharp. the all-new chevy blazer. speaks for itself. i don't know who they got to design this but give them a cookie and a star. at comcast, we didn't build the nation's largest gig-speed network just to make businesses run faster. we built it to help them go beyond. because beyond risk... welcome to the neighborhood, guys. there is reward. ♪ ♪ beyond work and life...
came home to find her car and purse, but no sign of tara. later their mom's fiance noticed muddy footprints tracked through the house and cash and jewelry missing. the moment tara's mother got the call, her intuition told her tara was in trouble. but could she convince the police? here again is keith morris. >> there they were as evening deepened, pacing around the little house, frantic about tara. what happened? where was she? >> it was getting late. why wasn't she home. >> the policeman was only concerned about the missing jewelry and cash and not her daughter. >> they concentrated on the burglary. >> they didn't understand her panic. >> they were not getting us or what was going on. they said maybe she's at a football game. >> there was a game that night.
>> yeah. then they went through her friends and actually they called one friend and this person was dating a tara. >> sharon almost shouted it wasn't her tara. the officer tried a different tactic. >> we will put a bolo out. be on the look out. >> tara's family knew if she had gone to the football game or anywhere, she would have told them. since tara was an adult, they would wait 24 hours before calling her a missing person. maybe she left on her own. >> if my daughter was a run away or a troubled child or whatever the case may have been, i would have told you that. i know my child. >> how frustrated were you? >> so very frustrated.veronica,
terrified. >> i was figuring out where she was. >> keith and sharon called everyone they knew in town. their best friends offered moral support and came to the house and one of them noticed anything on the floor. >> we said oh, my god. she was bending over pulling it out of the carpet. it was embedded in the carpet. >> it wasn't just laying there. >> she pulled it out and said sharon, isn't this one of her earrings? she said yeah. >> so then? >> then eventually we found another one and -- >> and then the third. >> ground into the carpet? >> we had to pull them out. >> they noticed a small palm tree in their yard had been damaged along with the decorative bricks around it. >> tire tracks across the lawn. >> hour close it was to the house? >> it wasn't a big yard, but they went up to the door.
>> then two ribbons, the kind tara wore in her hair and scuff marks on the bedroom dresser. >> what did the scuff marks look like? like somebody moved it or rubbed something against it. >> like if you took your shoe and kicked something and left a mark. if you drag your feet on the floor, it left a mark. that was on the dresser drawers. >> one of the missing pieces of jewelry was a ring tara gave to keith. >> i didn't care about anything else but that. >> the officers left with nothing resolved and still no tara. sharon and keith didn't sleep a wink that night. >> what are goes on as you sit up all night? >> gut wrenching pain. >> big hole. >> praying that oh, please, please don't let this be true.
>> before the sun came up, sharon called 911 again and a new officer arrived. >> a woman deputy. i will never forget that and i said please help me. and she did. she got the ball rolling. she listened to me. >> the deputy called in crime scene investigatorinvestigators. >> i remember my mother waking me and my brother up and i saw so many people there. the crime scene van outside. >> deputies were taking the disappearance seriously. mike gandhi was a captain at sheriffs office back then. >> sometimes you respond where someone is missing and you can tell from the family interaction it was not a big deal. this was not the case. it was obvious we had a serious problem. >> first thing, find out the last time anyone had seen or spoken with tara. they knew by the time veronica got home, tara was gone.
they learned tara's last phone call began at 11:49 and ended at 12:05. she talked to a colleague at the mall jewelry kiosk where she work and she said she would be by to pick up her paycheck and go shopping. their landlord arranged for a septic repair company and maybe the owner knew something. >> one of the criminal investigation sergeants on the way into work stopped by this guy's house and asked him had he been to tara's home and he said yes and he said he had contact with a female there. >> and he said she was perfectly fine when he left the house. assuming that was true, who else came to that little house on the afternoon of october 1st and took away their tara? >> a methodical police investigation was now under way, but could they bring tara home
before it was too late? as the days tick by, tara's anxious mother hatched her own plan to find the missing teenager. >> something needed to happen. >> a frustrated family reaches out to something new. >> if you met sharon, you wouldn't tell them no. i said i would do everything i could to help them. >> a turn in the case was coming, when a knock at the door continues. coming, when a knock at the door continues. a car thief... what?! i'm here to steal your car because, well, that's my job. what? what?? what?! (laughing) what?? what?! what?! [crash] what?! haha, it happens. and if you've got cut-rate car insurance, paying for this could feel like getting robbed twice. so get allstate... and be better protected from mayhem... like me. ♪
since my dvt blood clot i was thinking... could there be another around the corner? or could it turn out differently? i wanted to help protect myself. my doctor recommended eliquis. eliquis is proven to treat and help prevent another dvt or pe blood clot... almost 98 percent of patients on eliquis didn't experience another. ...and eliquis has significantly less major bleeding than the standard treatment. eliquis is fda approved and has both. don't stop eliquis unless your doctor tells you to. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve
or abnormal bleeding. if you had a spinal injection while on eliquis call your doctor right away if you have tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness. while taking eliquis, you may bruise more easily... and it may take longer than usual for bleeding to stop. seek immediate medical care for sudden signs of bleeding, like unusual bruising. eliquis may increase your bleeding risk if you take certain medicines. tell your doctor about all planned medical or dental procedures. what's around the corner could be surprising. ask your doctor about eliquis.
>> welcome back. where was tara orr? police believe she was a victim of foul play and investigators were questioning anyone who had seen her that afternoon. soon they would launch a massive search through the woods and open fields, but first, detectives planned to take a hard look closer to home at tara's family. here again is teeth morrison. >> how to explain how a mother feels when her child vanish and all signs point to something
bad. >> what are did this do to her? >> tore her apart. everybody crumbled. >> though the family appeared to be close and loving and distraught, they still needed to be looked at as possible suspects. >> there was a cruel reality that they start close and widen out and always start with members of the family. to eliminate them. >> yes. >> it winds up often being somebody close to them. >> i asked myself to check us out. they said they did. >> they said don't worry, we did. >> sharon and keith pushed through the fear and anxiety and did what they could. >> we looked through garbage bags. >> anywhere we could. in the woods, dumpsters. >> i would do it every day. >> we didn't know where we came out half the time. we didn't know where we were. >> the captain searched for tara as well.
>> the investigation shifted this morning with deputies searching 500 acres of pasture. >> if someone said we saw a suspicious vehicle or there are buzzards and vultures, we would go and search. a couple of times we used cadaver dogs in certain areas. >> four weeks after tara vanished, she turned 20 and they tried to stay positive. >> huh a birthday party? >> had to. and we had the presents and i'll never forget this. i went to open one and my son said you are not opening that. he said she's coming back. i didn't open it. >> months went by. they couldn't accept, but their heads kept telling them tara was snatched away and murdered, but nobody was telling them
anything. >> something needed to happen. >> didn't feel like it was happening. >> exactly. not at all. >> so out of sheer desperation about six months after tara vanished, they hired a civil attorney, a woman named amanda downing. >> what did they want you to do? >> they wanted anyone's help. a lawyer's help, the media's help, civilians's help and neighbors' help. anyone help in finding their daughter. they believed i could somehow assist them in fact finding, finding their daughter and searching for anything. they were grasping. >> what did you tell them? >> looked them in the eye and i told them i would do everything i could to help them. >> you would have been perfectly within your rights to say i'm sorry, that's not what i do. >> if you met sharon, you wouldn't tell her no.
>> did they want to you sue somebody or get information or what? >> i don't think their goal was to sue anyone. their goal was to find tara. >> and then nine months after tara disappeared, a man travelogue a desolate road on the outskirts of punta gourda puked through the woods and saw not a girl, bones. >> we actually sat on the steps of the crime scene van. >> out at the scene? >> yes, we did. >> you want to find her -- >> but not like this. >> you don't want it to be like this, you know? you hope and pray every day she's alive. >> but it was her. it was tara. >> enough of the teeth were there to make a positive identification. it was tara. >> sharon and keith were at
home, waiting for the results. the detective went to tell them. >> it's never easy. >> hardest thing you ever have to do. >> when they come to your door, the clergy. >> you see them coming. >> yeah. and then the reality is that's it. you are never going to see her again. so devastating. it's the worst pain ever. she didn't belong out there. >> 2484 days after she vanished they knew she was never coming back, but they were no closer to finding out how she wound up in the woods. >> now find the killers and make them pay for the crime. >> new leads at last. >> isn't that your connection? >> there was a great connection.
>> when "the knock at the door" continues. n "the knock at the d continues. is in it made it. it's amazing. oh is that travis's app? it's pretty cool, isn't it? there's two of them. they're multiplying. no, guys, its me. see, i'm real. i'm real! he thinks he's real. geico. over 75 years of savings and service. can't imagine doing it any other way. this is caitlin dickerson from the new york times. this isn't the only case. very little documentation. lo que yo quiero estar con mi hijo. i know that's not true. and the shelters really don't know what to do with them. i just got another person at d.h.s. to confirm this.
i'm dara brown. president trump arrived back in the u.s. on sunday after a long weekend overseas that ended with an impromptu visit with kim jong un at the demilitarized zone between the correas while he became the first u.s. president to stand on north korean soil. thousands took to the streets in new york city for the pride parade. the parade marked the official end of pride month. now back to dateline. >> tara orr's family was desperate to find her. it was nine months since she went missing and then she was found. not the news they wanted to hear. not at all.
the grim discovery that sent investigators on a hunt for her killer. then a clue. a previously overlooked witness statement about a stolen bracelet and ring. could it point detectives to a suspect? here again is keith morrison. >> in the end, bones and a few teeth were all they found. there was every reason to think tara was murder and then dumped in the woods, but murdered how? by whom? sharon's attorney called her as soon as she heard the news. >> she was obviously distraught, devastated, hysterical, crying. now we find out the killers and make them pay for the crime. >> dan feinberg got the autopsy results. they were not helpful. >> only half of the bones in her body were recovered and some of
more important bones like the hyoid which show if there was a choking or strangulation was not recovered. >> the medical examiner found four of tara's ribs were fractured. >> a fracture that occurred at the time of death. >> there was a big slam into her ribs. >> there was evidence of a violent struggle and evidence of blunt force trauma that would contribute to her death. >> detectives scoured the woods looking for anything that might tell them something. they found a belly button ring near the bones, the kind tara wore, sharon confirmed. one piece of clothing, a pair of panties. no dna of any kind that would help them id a killer. >> it was frustrating for the family and the detectives and the prosecutors that worked on the case, including myself. >> so detectives went back to
the beginning. they reviewed all the witness statements they had taken over nine months tara had been missing and there was a note about a man who turned in jewelry three days after tara went missing. a ring and a bracelet that turned out to belong to tara's family. >> it had been in the possession of glen st. john. he took a couple pieces of jewelry. >> he was on probation for felony burglary. did he kill tara? he insisted no. he said somebody gave him the jewelry. >> he said he received the jewelry from phil barr and he said it came from the missing girl's home. he was the owner of the septic repair business who had been at tara's house on the day she went missing. was pee wee telling the truth?
>> he told multiple different stories. >> what did he say? >> he changed his story to the point where it made him an uncredible witness. he said he had seen the and it was interesting in that particular area. tara's bones were recovered within a couple hundred yards of his favorite fishing spot. >> wasn't that your connection? >> yes, but he was an incredible witness. >> that are story about getting the stolen witness from phil barr. >> no jewelry was found in possession of phil barr. >> he said tara was fine when he and his helper left her house. questions went on and on and phil barr who had a business to run didn't appreciate that kind of attention. barr complained to a local nbc
reporter about it. >> it has been very stressful. i realize the police are doing their job and looking into things, but none the less, i feel like i have been harassed. >> several times he himself confronted the detectives and insisted he was innocent. all the talk was unfair. >> i am telling you the truth. i had nothing to do with this girl's disappearance. i'm getting the shaft here. >> it was a problem. detective his their suspicions, but evidence? there was none. most everyone they questioned who knew barr was a bit shady. hard to believe. the prosecutor concluded he didn't have enough to make a charge stick. >> the dna evidence that was collected from the residence either came back to the family or was not relevant to this case. there was no indication that the perpetrators had left blood or a
body fluid at the home. >> so -- >> cases go cold when you run out of leads and information and ideas. >> tara's mother, sharon, again and again demanded to know what, if anything, was going on. prosecutor feinberg had no choice, he said. he couldn't tell her. >> the frustration was clear. you could see it on her face and hear it in her voice. the family was devastate and they wanted answers. i can understand that. you can't as a prosecutor and you can't as a detective give all those answers. you can't put that information out there. >> still sharon continued to fare out what she could. >> we never gave up. there was no stopping. >> as did her attorney. >> she would hear a piece of information from a neighbor or a news source or a detective that was not supposed to tell her and she would confirm it and run
with it and call me. she fought and fought and fought for justice. justice for tara. she said my tara. she always said my tara. >> none of these efforts turned up anything useful. the sheriffs were not going anywhere either. justice for tara was not happening. the case was growing cold. stone cold. mike gandhi retired. as did these two cops way up north. retire and moved to sunny florida. and -- >> got very bored. >> the three ex-cops were not ready to hand in their badges. with an extraordinary dedication to detail, they were about to give a heartbroken family new hope. coming up -- >> i always felt that this was a case that could be solved. >> the cold case squad un-earths
holiday inn. holiday inn express. i've always been i'm still going for my best... even though i live with a higher risk of stroke due to afib not caused by a heart valve problem. so if there's a better treatment than warfarin, i'll go for that. eliquis. eliquis is proven to reduce stroke risk better than warfarin. plus has significantly less major bleeding than warfarin. eliquis is fda-approved and has both. what's next? sharing my roots. don't stop taking eliquis unless your doctor tells you to, as stopping increases your risk of having a stroke. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. while taking eliquis, you may bruise more easily and it may take longer than usual for any bleeding to stop. seek immediate medical care for sudden signs of bleeding, like unusual bruising. eliquis may increase your bleeding risk if you take certain medicines. tell your doctor about all planned medical or dental procedures. eliquis, the number one cardiologist-prescribed blood thinner.
ask your doctor if eliquis is what's next for you. tara's family struggled. as time went on without answers and without their tara. >> it was hard. i was around my sister and i had to grow up without one. >> in 2003 after six years together, sharon and keith finally got married. >> when i was getting ready to walk down the aisle, i was very sad because my baby girl was not going to be in that wedding party, but she was there. we made sure she was there. >> woor e had a big picture mad
of her. >> year after year sharon demanded answers and didn't get them. in 2008, almost seven years after tara's murder, sharon appeared in a crimestoppers video and spoke directly to the killers, whoever they were. >> i want to know how they wake up in the morning. how do they go on with their life knowing they did this to a person. don't think for a minute you got away with it. one day and i believe this, there will be a knock at that door and they will be in cuffs. >> nothing came of it. the whole world had moved on, forgotten, apparently. a year later, 2009, punta gourda got a new sheriff and thought some of the unsolved cases needed a new look and called upon the retired detective, mike gandhi and these two who had been detectives up north before they too retire and moved to punta gourda. mike vogel and kirk male.
>> i moved to florida and came down here to hunt and fish and play golf and go boating and go to the beach and just relax. that lasted a couple of months and i got very bored. >> three bored ex-detectives put on badges to form the sheriffs first official cold case unit and decided early on they would work on tara's case. prosecutor feinberg was finally optimistic. sort of. >> i felt this was a case that could be solved if it had a new set of eyes. somebody that could put the case together and connect all of the dots. >> what requests did you make of them? >> we wanted to know more about every piece of evidence. we had to rule out every piece of dna in that house. it was closing doors and excluding other people. >> we are going to learn from the files --
>> that's what these three did. as a large photo of tara kept watch. there was no dna to help them. all they had were lingering suspicions about the work men who went to tara's house the day she vanished. the guy who owned the septic tank and his helper that day and their buddy, pee wee. nothing in this trove of investigative material proved anything. >> kirk, he organized it in such a way it was easier to understand. >> what had been difficult to understand?fusioning to the point that we didn't know we would get into court. we had to try to do the analysis and that's what took so long. >> an awful lot of detective work amounts to reading thousands of pages of reports and witness statements and this and that were followed up, every one of them. the detective chased down a
wal-mart receipt. a minor purchase except the time stamp cast serious doubt on phil barr's alibi. it caught him in a significant lie. >> that's how detailed they were getting. >> they happened to run into a guy who said he knew and mcmahonis and pee wee. >> he overheard them talking about killing the girl. he said we shouldn't have done that girl that way. if i don't get out of town, i will spend my live n jail. pee wee is talking about i only have seen a body. it's not against the law to see a body and barr said shut up or we will end up in prison. >> somebody with credibility. >> better than what we had before, yeah. >> a key problem remained. >> terrible witnesses. >> meaning detectives spoke with other people who heard the men talk about the murder, but they were not the type a jury would
likely believe. much of what they said sound like drug and booze-soaked goss it up. he had an idea. bring the key witnesses before a grand jury to see who passed the credibility test and who didn't. >> i prosecuted over 100 homicide cases and the complexity and the amount of information that we had to review to determine if we could prosecute this case was the most i had ever seen. >> the idea worked. the grand jury indicted both phil barr and daif mcmahonve mc. dave was arrested in maryland where he grew up. u.s. marshals mounted a manhunt for phil barr.
>> kind of lost track of him and we were able to locate phil in the vermont area close to the canadian border where we think he fled with the intent of leaving the country. >> the case against the men needed more and so the cold case team kept investigating and in 2014, one came across a name buried deep in an old file. the next door neighbor said she saw barr and another man at tara's house that day. she couldn't see much because her view was blocked by a fence. that went nowhere then except the neighbor happened to mention her sister in law had been visiting that day. no one had interviewed her. >> kurt i think found her name and said who is this person? mike said i know someone by that name. so mike then went out and located her and smopoke to her.
>> she floored me. >> why? that visitor was not blocked by the fence like her relatives. she was in full view not more than 15 yards from tara's front door and she saw a lot. >> she did see the vehicle pull in a couple of different times and the second time she saw the vehicle it was backed up to the front door and the two guys got out and opened the tailgate and were walking back and forth in the front door. >> how important was that? >> extremely important. she identified them being at the house and identified him there at a time when the pick up was backed up to the front door. what other reason was the pick up backed up other than to take tara out of the house. >> we went to the house to get a better idea of where this woman was sitting and what she could have seen. >> she was sitting here. >> that's like one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, a dozen steps away from where the truck is parked. that's close. >> very close. >> if the back of the truck, how far from the door? like that? >> that's correct. in this general area on the outside track, tire track was found hair ribbons. >> way out here? >> out here. >> okay. so suggesting that they put her into the back of the truck and the hair ribbons came loose as they were driving away? >> that would be a good explanation. >> well, well, well. this makes it all the more real when you see how close this must have been. >> the woman said she didn't actually see what the men were doing because the cab of the truck blocked her view, but this was way more than they had before and finally, 14 years
after tara vanished, barr and mcmahonis were going on trial for her murder. >> what happened inside that house? a jury finally hears the story. coming up -- >> we believe she confronted him. >> a mother's pierce veerns brought it this far. >> she fought and fought and fought. >> when "the knock at the door" continues. fought >> when "the knock at the door" continues. but super poligrip gives him a tight seal. to help block out food particles. so he can enjoy the game. super poligrip.
>> welcome back. phil barr and david mannis were each headed to trial for the murder of 19-year-old tara orr. with no evidence linking either man to the crime, they worried making their case would be difficult, but now they had an eyewitness. someone cold case detectives had only recently discovered. she was about to describe what
she saw the day tara disappeared. here again is keith morrison. >> it was october 2015 when the trials began. dan feinberg was joined by a coprosecut coprosecutor. 14 years almost to the day since tara's life ended. >> she is only a year younger than me. when i think back to where i was in 2001, i was just finishing college and obviously that was a goal of hers. i did feel a connection to her and thinking about her and where she would have been at my age now. >> the defendants on trial, phil barr owned a septic tank repair business. they learned that barr used his business as a cover for stealing from the homes of unsuspecting customers. here's what happened that 1st of october, 2002001. tara's landlord asked for a
repair estimate. they began by smoking crack that day. four hours before veronica arrived home, the men most likely knocked on the door and tara let them in, unaware they had robbery, not work on their minds. >> dave mcmahonis was take the property while barr was distracting her. we believe she heard something or saw something that mr. mcmahonis was doing being in a place she shouldn't have been and she confronted him. two people with impaired minds do things that normal people wouldn't do. their solution to that was to kill her. >> the woman who had been sitting in the front yard told the jury how the two men were laughing and joking when they arrived, but later when she saw them backing the truck up to tara's front door, breaking that small palm tree in the process -- >> it was like they had a
mission, that they had a plan and one went straight to the tailgate down and the other went straight to the front door. all business. >> that, said the prosecutor, is when they cleaned up and took tara's body in a bedsheet and waited for dark when one or both dumped her body in the woods. but to tell that story took two long trials. each people by witnesses the jury might not think were credible. they heard and mcmahonis say things like -- >> we rained and killed the girl. >> they are not going to find her. >> i'm going to kill you like i did the girl in florida. the girl i killed was 20. >> one testified about overhearing a conversation between and mcmahonis. >> philipp barr was saying to david i didn't want to kill her and she responded she had to die.
>> not very believable, said the defense attorneys. just people making things up said mark who represented phil barr. >> the conversations never took place. >> some were inmates, too. snitches. >> >> there is always something in it for them. >> that woman the star witness found who said she saw the two men coming and going from tara's house. >> could it be she made herself believe this over so much of a time to make sure the bad guy goes away. >> the trial attorney said in his view, those detectives focussed on the wrong man. phil barr's accomplice must have been pee wee st. john who turned in jewelry three days after she went missing.plicity to cover it
up. >> he was being a sarcastic guy. >> the majority of the statements were sarcasm at best. >> that's kind of an easy out for saying terrible things. >> it was inappropriate statements if said at all. he was known to be a jokester and sarcastic. even in the course of the trial, he said things that were sarcast sarcastic. >> the trials, two of them, dragged on for more than 15 months with delay after delay in a case that had taken more than 15 years to get to this point. sharon and keith's marriage didn't make it that long, but they attended both trials together. >> we started this together, we are going to finish it together. no matter what. >> and after all that time? in each case, deliberations took less than 90 minutes. the verdicts? guilty. both men were sentenced to life
without parole. mcmahonis filed an appeal. barr lost his. >> i think everybody would agree that but for sharon, neither trial would have taken place. she fought and fought and fought for justice. "avatar" tara's little sister veronica has two children of her own now. when we last spoke, she said tara is a strong presence in their lives. >> they know their aunt tara. they have necklaces with her pictures on it. my daughter, you would think she had met her. she dreams about her. >> never met her, but they love her. that warms my heart. >> a few weeks after the trials were over, the prosecutors, detectives and spouses got together for dinner with sharon and keith and veronica. the detective meatade a
presentation. >> she was a fighter and kept us fighting for her and you and your family. >> they had the picture hanging in their office for a very long time. and they passed it on to me. i can look at it now. we did it. we did it. >> you have given us a new chapter in our life. >> the family gave the cold case detectives and the prosecutors gifts as well. each was engraved. justice for tara. >> here's to tara. >> cheers. >> they put in so much hard work and time and respect and compassion. we want to give them a token of our appreciation and love and for everything they have done. they gave tara peace and justice. >> that's all for this edition
of "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. she mainly comes in dreams, and it's so real, it feels like her. and she just gave me a hug. christine: why'd it have to happen to our family? why'd it have to happen to michelle? why that day? lester holt (voiceover): a young nursing student disappears. she was still dressed in white hospital scrubs. something drew her out to her car. lester holt (voiceover): the cousin she grew up with, the brother she raised, desperate to find her. they were able to do what a lot of other families have never been able to do. lester holt (voiceover): text messages. security monitors. surveillance video. were they signs she was trapped, reaching out for help? one of the things i was so angry about