A woman is found dead on her couch, a gun by her side. It appears maybe she shot herself in the head. More than a decade later a woman is found dead in her bed, a gun nearby. What did they have in common besides the manner of death? A man who stalked the first woman and married the latter. Investigators are able to tie the two shootings together and arrest the doc for murder.
Special Guest: Det. Tracey
After reading her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 7 Inv. Tracey knew that she wanted to solve real life mysteries. She graduated from Auburn University with a BS in Criminal Justice/ Law Enforcement. She attend the police academy in 1983 as one of only a few females in her class. For the next 30 years she was a Criminal Investigator for the Solicitor General and District Attorney’s offices. She is married to a retired Federal Special Agent, has two grown sons and a Jack Russell fur baby
A family finds the dead body of a woman on a remote logging road. It’s wrapped in a blanket. Police at first don’t know what happened, though foul play is suspected. They figure out who the victim is and then find her boyfriend, who happens to be in jail for a separate assault. Despite thin resources, detectives begin to build a case.Read Transcript
Tracey: [00:00:06] They always believed that he had done it.
Yeardley: [00:00:08] Even though he was never convicted.
Tracey: [00:00:10] Right. It was ruled an apparent suicide.
Yeardley: [00:00:13] The family said, “Bullshit.”
Tracey: [00:00:15] Correct.
Yeardley [00:00:18] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them, tell us how it happened.
Dan [00:00:44] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:00:45] I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan [00:00:48] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave [00:00:55] Dan investigated violent crimes. He’s now retired. Together, we have more than two decades’ experience and have worked hundreds of cases. We’ve altered names, places, relationships, and certain details in these cases to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan [00:01:10] We ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:29] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:36] Happy to be here again.
Yeardley: [00:01:37] So happy to see you. Thanks for coming.
Dave: [00:01:40] It’s great to be here again.
Dan: [00:01:42] Way to do your job.
Yeardley: [00:01:43] Again. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:46] Good afternoon.
Yeardley: [00:01:47] Good afternoon, sir. We are thrilled to welcome back one of our favorite guests, Investigator Tracey.
Tracey: [00:01:54] Thank you so much. I’m glad to be here.
Yeardley: [00:01:56] We’re thrilled to have you. Tracey, you always bring us really interesting cases. And this one in particular is one that’s actually quite well known. I’ll just leave it at that and let you take it from there.
Tracey: [00:02:12] Sure. Ann Rule, one of the most famous true crime authors, wrote a book about this case, and was at the DA’s office for quite a number of months writing about this case. So, I think that your listeners are going to be familiar with this case once I start talking about it, but hopefully, I can give them some information that they don’t know.
Yeardley: [00:02:35] Excellent. Let’s do it.
Tracey: [00:02:37] This is really two murder cases involving two women and one man. The first case was in 1990 and involved a woman named Dolly. And Dolly was in her third year of dental school. Her father was an oral surgeon. Her plan was to join his practice after she graduated from dental school. She was going to dental school and a very well-known medical college in my state. She was quite bubbly, quite beautiful, quite attractive, smart. She just had everything going for her, and she brought a lot of attention from men. And one man that she attracted was a senior in his fourth year in his dental schooling. His name was Dr. Bart, and his MO according to other women that he had been involved with was when he set his sights on a woman, he moved and really quickly wanted a commitment really quickly, was controlling over her.
[00:03:51] After six months of dating Dolly, he asked her to marry him, and she turned him down. She said, “Let me get through dental school. Let me get my practice with my father established and then we’ll talk about that.” Apparently, he didn’t take that very well. As time went on, the relationship lasted from beginning to end for about a year. About six months after he asked her to marry him, she had determined that she was not going to marry him and broke it off. Strange things started happening to her, including hairspray in her contact lens solution, her car tires were slashed, and her beloved cat goes missing. She is absolutely distraught about this cat. She asked a friend, “Do you think it’s Bart that’s doing all of this?” So, I think that she kind of had an inkling that it was not exactly random.
Yeardley: [00:05:03] I’m assuming he didn’t take the breakup well, and that’s why Dolly suspected he might be behind these weird things happening?
Tracey: [00:05:10] He did not take the breakup well, and he continued on in dental school after the breakup because he was nearing graduation. As part of her junior year project, she had to make a pair of dentures, and it was very important to her graduation. It takes these dental students three to four months to make these dentures. They’re judged by the professors, and it can delay your graduation if you don’t pass making these dentures. She had made her dentures, was ready to present them to the faculty at the dental school, and they disappeared. She went to the dean and according to the dean, she was distraught, and she actually accused Bart of stealing them to mess with her schooling.
So, she is becoming increasingly wary, unhappy, distraught, scared. On June, the sixth, her roommate comes home, and Dolly is sitting cross legged on the couch in her apartment, and she is shot in the right side of her head, and the gun is laying in her lap.
Yeardley: [00:06:38] Oh, shit!
Tracey: [00:06:40] Yeah, the initial thinking was suicide. The body was positioned that way, sitting on the couch, gun in the lap, a head wound on the right side of her head. But her friends and family said, “There’s no way, she would never commit suicide.” She was too close to graduation. She was looking forward to joining her father in this family oral surgery practice. She just had too much going for. The family always insisted that she would never do this. But, again, we’re talking about back in the 90s, there was no way to prove any differently, but the case was ruled an apparent suicide. Not a suicide, but an apparent suicide.
Dan: [00:07:33] It’s good that the medical examiner labeled it an ‘apparent suicide’ rather than just flatly, “This is a suicide.”
Dave: [00:07:42] But now you’ve gotten an official document from a medical examiner that the ‘suicide’ word is on there. And sometimes that’s difficult to overcome later on. The defense attorney capitalizes on that says, “Well, you ruled it a suicide.” “Well, it was an apparent suicide,” that can be hard to overcome.
Yeardley: [00:08:01] I’m sure the family pointed to the fact that Dolly suspected Bart of doing these horrible things to her.
Tracey: [00:08:08] He was questioned and he denied doing it. There was no way to prove otherwise. And so, yeah, he went about his life. Fast forward 14 years–
Yeardley: [00:08:23] Oh.
Tracey: [00:08:24] Dr. Bart has moved to my county, and is a dentist in my county, and actually was a member of my family’s dentist. He is married to Jennifer. Also, very attractive, bubbly, well-liked woman. They have two children, two sons, Dalton and Dylan. They live in a beautiful home in the suburbs. On December the 4th of 2004, a 911 call comes in to our dispatch, and it’s a neighbor across the street who says that Dalton, Jennifer and Bart’s son, who is aged seven, knocked on her door, it’s about 7 o’clock in the morning and said he couldn’t wake his mommy up. She went over there with him and saw Jennifer in her bed. She was on her right side. She had been shot about two to three inches behind her right ear, but her right hand and the gun were laying in the blanket, comforter area in front of her. The 911 call, the 911 dispatcher asked the neighbor to put Dalton on the phone. That’s a very sad call.
Yeardley: [00:09:57] It is a heartbreaking call and we listened to it before we started the interview today. Even in person, these tapes have deteriorated over the past 16 years, pretty badly in some places, so we will paraphrase what everyone is saying where necessary.
Dispatcher: [00:10:18] 911.
Neighbor: [00:10:20] My girlfriend’s dead.
Dispatcher: [00:10:22] Okay, what do you mean by that?
Neighbor: [00:10:24] She’s been shot. I just turned her over and (unintelligible) We live across the street from here.
Dispatcher: [00:10:31] Okay. Do you think that she can be helped?
Neighbor: [00:10:34] No.
Dispatcher: [00:10:36] Okay. A responding team came over to your house?
Neighbor: [00:10:38] Yes.
Dispatcher: [00:10:40] Okay, listen. Okay, is the boy there?
Neighbor: [00:10:42] Yes.
Dispatcher: [00:10:43] Okay. Does he know who shot her?
Neighbor: [00:10:45] Not at this time.
Dispatcher: [00:10:46] Okay. Was it just him and his mother in the house?
Neighbor: [00:10:49] Yes.
Dispatcher: [00:10:50] Okay.
Neighbor: [00:10:51] Uh, no.
Dispatcher: [00:10:51] Who else is there?
Neighbor: [00:10:52] Uh, Dan.
Yeardley: [00:10:53] The dispatcher confirms with Jennifer’s neighbor that it’s Jennifer’s son who came over to her house. The dispatcher asks, “Is the boy there now?” “Yes,” she says. “Okay. Does he know who shot her?” And the neighbor says, “Not at this time.” “Was it just him and his mother in the house?” And the neighbor stammers a bit saying that the dad was at the house too.
Dispatcher: [00:11:16] His father’s there?
Neighbor: [00:11:18] He’s not here right now.
Dispatcher: [00:11:19] Okay, where’s the father?
Neighbor: [00:11:21] I don’t know.
Dispatcher: [00:11:22] Okay. All right. Does anybody want to attempt to go over there and try CPR anything with her?
Neighbor: [00:11:31] No, she’s gone. It’s been a while.
Dispatcher: [00:11:34] Okay.
Neighbor: [00:11:34] Last night.
Dispatcher: [00:11:36] Did you go over there?
Neighbor: [00:11:37] Yes, I did.
Dispatcher: [00:11:38] Okay. All right. Ma’am?
Neighbor: [00:11:41] Yeah.
Dispatcher: [00:11:42] Where’s he at now? Is he with you?
Neighbor: [00:11:45] Yeah.
Dispatcher: [00:11:45] Okay. All right. How old is he?
Neighbor: [00:11:48] Seven.
Dispatcher: [00:11:49] He’s seven?
Neighbor: [00:11:50] Uh-huh.
Dispatcher: [00:11:53] All right. Are you able to put him on the phone?
Neighbor: [00:11:58] Yeah. Dalton, can you can talk to this nice man here? He wants a little bit of information from you.
Dalton: [00:12:10] Hello?
Dispatcher: [00:12:12] Hello. What’s your name?
Dalton: [00:12:14] Dalton.
Dispatcher: [00:12:15] Excuse me?
Dalton: [00:12:17] Dalton.
Dispatcher: [00:12:17] Dalton?
Dalton: [00:12:18] Yes.
Dispatcher: [00:12:19] Okay. Do you know what happened there?
Dalton: [00:12:22] I got up from bed, I woke up, and I went to my mom’s room, and then I tried to wake her up, but she wouldn’t, and there’s a gun right by her.
Dispatcher: [00:12:35] Okay.
Dalton: [00:12:36] She might be dead.
Yeardley: [00:12:39] Dalton says he woke up, he went into his mom’s room. He tried to wake her up but she wouldn’t wake up, and then he saw a gun right by her. And then, Dalton says, “She might be dead.”
Dispatcher: [00:12:52] Okay. Was anybody out there with you last night? [crosstalk]
Dalton: [00:12:58] My brother.
Dispatcher: [00:12:59] Your brother?
Dalton: [00:12:59] And my dog.
Dispatcher: [00:13:02] Okay, how old is your brother?
Dalton: [00:13:05] Five.
Dispatcher: [00:13:05] He’s five? Where is he now?
Dalton: [00:13:07] He’s in (unintelligible).
Dispatcher: [00:13:09] At the house that you’re at now?
Dalton: [00:13:11] No. Our next-door neighbors.
Dispatcher: [00:13:15] Okay. He’s with your next-door neighbor’s?
Dalton: [00:13:17] Yes.
Dispatcher: [00:13:18] Okay. Was there anybody home last night? Was dad home?
Dalton: [00:13:23] Yeah. He is the one who killed my mom.
Yeardley: [00:13:26] When the dispatcher asked if Dalton’s dad was home the night before, Dalton says, “Yeah, he’s the one that killed my mom.”
Dispatcher: [00:13:35] Okay, where’s he at now?
Dalton: [00:13:37] I don’t know.
Dispatcher: [00:13:38] He’s not there?
Dalton: [00:13:39] Uh-huh.
Dispatcher: [00:13:41] Okay.
Dalton: [00:13:41] He came homelast night, and then got in his car around back (unintelligible)
Dispatcher: [00:13:51] Okay. Does he live there or does he live somewhere else?
Dalton: [00:13:55] He lived in our house and then he killed my mom, and then he left.
Yeardley: [00:14:03] When asked if his dad lives with the family full time, Dalton says, “Yes. Then, he killed my mom and then he left.”
Dispatcher: [00:14:12] How do you know that?
Dalton: [00:14:14] Because I saw a gunright by her.
Dispatcher: [00:14:18] Okay, how did you know that he did this? I mean were you awake when it happened? Did you see him do it?
Dalton: [00:14:25] Uh-huh. But he comes up every night and then I see his car is moving.
Dispatcher: [00:14:32] Okay, were they arguing or anything last night?
Dalton: [00:14:37] No. They just started in a big fight.
Dispatcher: [00:14:41] They had a big fight last night?
Dalton: [00:14:43] Yeah. Everybody is taking everybody’s stuff. My dad’s taking my mom’s stuff.
Yeardley: [00:14:51] Dalton tells the dispatcher that his parents had a huge fight the night before, and that his dad wasn’t there the next morning. Then, he adds, “Everybody’s taking everybody stuff. My dad’s taking my mom’s stuff.”
Dispatcher: [00:15:05] Now, did you see the gun?
Dalton: [00:15:07] No.
Dispatcher: [00:15:07] You didn’t see the gun?
Dalton: [00:15:09] I saw the gun.
Dispatcher: [00:15:10] Okay. Was it a little gun? Was it a big gun?
Dalton: [00:15:13] It was like a little BB gun.
Dispatcher: [00:15:17] Okay, like a small gun? Like something that you can hold in your hand okay?
Dalton: [00:15:20] Yeah.
Dispatcher: [00:15:21] Okay.
Dalton: [00:15:22] I can (unintelligible) one hand.
Dispatcher: [00:15:24] Okay. You didn’t move it, did you? Did you leave everything where it was?
Dalton: [00:15:33] Yeah. I just looked– I just saw it and I knew was dead.
Yeardley: [00:15:38] Dalton describes the gun is being small enough to hold in one hand, like a BB gun, he says. And while he says he didn’t touch the gun or move it, he says he knew his mom was dead.
Dispatcher: [00:15:51] All right. Well, I want to keep you on the phone. Okay, we have people on the way over to help, okay?
Dalton: [00:15:58] Okay.
Tracey: [00:16:14] I have to back up a little bit, and that Jennifer and Bart were going through marital problems. One thing I forgot to mention where there were divorce papers shoved up underneath her body. She was laying on top of divorce papers that she had filed against him. So, initially, the crime scene at first glance, “Okay, this could be a suicide,” but it has to be investigated as a potential homicide.
Yeardley: [00:16:44] Dave is nodding sort of knowingly.
Dave: [00:16:47] A couple of things here. Marital strife, the entry of the bullet wound is not in a place that someone had commits suicide, whatever get to behind their ear. I’m wondering what the trajectory of that was. And the divorce papers, that’s kind of a signature of where Bart is coming from. It’s a fuck you.
Yeardley: [00:17:11] It’s a fuck you.
Tracey: [00:17:12] Yeah. The autopsy was done. The location of the bullet, as Detective Dave said, was not in typical place that if you’re going to commit suicide. Plus, if you did commit suicide and you shot yourself behind your ear, the gun is going to not fall forward and get wrapped up in the covers.
Yeardley: [00:17:40] So, they say it could be a suicide, but we’ll investigate it as a homicide. Meanwhile, the seven-year-old has said, “My daddy killed my mommy.”
Tracey: [00:17:49] Correct. He was interviewed by a child forensic interviewer, and it was learned that while he didn’t actually see that happen or hear it or anything, he slept through it. His parents had been fighting so viciously over the past few months, that in his little seven-year-old brain, he was already connecting the dots, that this is what happened.
Yeardley: [00:18:17] That’s crazy.
Tracey: [00:18:18] We hear about the case, but it’s being worked by the police department. I work for the district attorney’s office. We generally don’t get a case until charges have been made. Like Detective Dan and Dave, they’re doing their thing, but there’s no charges yet. There’s nothing for us to do at this point. But we got a call from Dolly’s family. They heard about it, and they said, “Did you know that he killed our daughter, sister back in 1990?” That was the first that we had learned about this connection. They always believed that he had done it.
Yeardley: [00:19:01] Even though he was never convicted?
Tracey: [00:19:03] Right. It was ruled an apparent suicide.
Yeardley: [00:19:07] And the family said, “Bullshit.”
Tracey: [00:19:08] Correct.
Dave: [00:19:09] From the police side of this, law enforcement, I’m thinking about information systems, how far is Dolly’s case– what’s the geographical relation to Jennifer’s case? How close are they?
Tracey: [00:19:23] I would say it’s about 100 something miles.
Dave: [00:19:26] These two agencies don’t share the same case management system?
Tracey: [00:19:30] Not at all.
Dave: [00:19:31] So, when you pull up Jennifer’s name or Bart’s name, he’s not going to have anything on his record that associates him with Dolly?
Tracey: [00:19:38] Correct. Initially, my police department was leaning towards a suicide.
Yeardley: [00:19:46] Leaning towards suicide in the death of Jennifer, even though the location of the gunshot wound and where the gun was laying don’t really pass the smell test for suicide, like Dave was saying?
Tracey: [00:19:57] Yes. And the family was very unhappy, and they went to the media and got it on the media that this woman had been killed in a fluent suburb of our town, a dentist’s wife. It looks like a suicide, but the family is disputing that. That is how Dolly’s family saw that this had happened in contact at our office.
Yeardley: [00:20:24] I see.
Tracey: [00:20:25] I was sitting in the break room of my office, and my wonderful DA, we were talking about the case. He said, “Yeah, we just found out that another one of his women committed suicide 14 years ago.” We both said, “Holy crap!” at the same time. We don’t, in law enforcement, believe in coincidence. That’s just not something that happens. The medical examiner rule that this was a homicide on Jennifer’s case.
Yeardley: [00:21:01] Because of that press conference?
Tracey: [00:21:02] No, because of the location of the wound, the trajectory, and the positioning of the body in her bed. Where this old Smith & Wesson five-shot revolver, no one knew where this gun had come from. Her family said she didn’t have a gun. Dr. Bart lawyered up immediately. This was back when it was still being investigated as potential suicide. He immediately went out and got a lawyer and wouldn’t talk to us at all.
Dave: [00:21:37] The morning of this 911 call, Dr. Bart, is he at the house or is he already gone?
Tracey: [00:21:43] He is at his brother’s house. They had separated. They had had an altercation at a family Thanksgiving gathering, and he slapped Jennifer in front of their children and the family. She kicked him out. He went to stay at his brother’s house. When police went to notify him, “Your wife is dead.” He’s like, “Well, I’m at my brother’s house. I didn’t have anything to do with this. And besides, I have an attorney. Goodbye.”
Yeardley: [00:22:15] Wow.
Dave: [00:22:17] Jennifer is the one who initiated these divorce proceedings, correct?
Tracey: [00:22:22] Right.
Dave: [00:22:22] The divorce paper placement, if you were really that distraught over your divorce, even though you’re the one who is seeking it, most reasonable people would be like, “Come on. Really?” That’s a little bit melodrama.
Yeardley: [00:22:35] No, it doesn’t make any sense.
Tracey: [00:22:37] Well, the scene was staged somewhat. There was a bottle of wine, with a wine glass, and no alcohol was found in her system. So, that was another big clue right there. “Okay, here’s right by her bed, the bottle wine, wine glass with wine in it. And she’s got no alcohol in her system?
Dave: [00:22:58] No note?
Tracey: [00:22:59] No note.
Dave: [00:23:00] No note with Dolly either?
Tracey: [00:23:01] No note with Dolly.
Dave: [00:23:02] I’ve seen this Lifetime movie before.
Yeardley: [00:23:05] Yeah. (laughs) Indeed you have.
Tracey: [00:23:11] Once we found out about Dolly, we immediately contacted the county where her case occurred and got in touch with a detective. He pulled Dolly’s file, and his father had actually worked Dolly’s case.
Yeardley: [00:23:31] The detective’s father?
Tracey: [00:23:32] The detective’s father. The son is now a detective, and now he’s pulled out the case from 1990 that his father worked. The father is retired now, but he called his father, and the father said, “I always thought that Bart had done this, but I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Yeardley: [00:23:53] Really?
Tracey: [00:23:54] Mm-hmm.
Yeardley: [00:23:55] That is incredible.
Tracey: [00:23:57] They have reopened Dolly’s case. We’re working on Jennifer’s case, and we have two different agencies.
Yeardley: [00:24:05] And are those two agencies working together?
Tracey: [00:24:08] We are working together, staying in contact. Now, Dolly’s case is still at this point, you’ve got a death certificate that says apparent suicide. But a lot of other information now has come out, Jennifer’s death. If you look at the photographs from their two deaths, the way they were, it’s scary. It’s spooky how closely they resemble each other.
Yeardley: [00:24:38] Really?
Tracey: [00:24:39] Yes. Again, I’ve talked about this before with these older cases. We’ve progressed a lot further in blood spatter analysis and looking at crime scene photos and what they tell us. So, they hired a forensic expert to reexamine Dolly’s case, the photos, and there were only a few taken because it’s a suicide. But this expert was able to determine that Dolly’s body was manipulated after she was shot, just because of the positioning of her body, the blood spatter, etc. They were able to locate two witnesses who– why they didn’t come forward in 1990, I don’t know, but they saw Bart who they knew because he was over at her place all the time, and they were also in dental school together. They saw him near her apartment that day.
Yeardley: [00:25:41] Near Dolly’s apartment?
Tracey: [00:25:42] Near Dolly’s apartment that day.
Dave: [00:25:45] So frustrating.
Tracey: [00:25:46] I know.
Yeardley: [00:25:47] Oh, my God!
Tracey: [00:25:48] Yeah, like, “Okay, thanks for– Where have you been for 14 years?”
Dave: [00:25:54] Where’s the bullet wound on Dolly’s head?
Tracey: [00:25:56] It’s on the right side of her head. It’s not behind the ear, but it’s–
Dave: [00:25:59] Above the temple?
Tracey: [00:26:01] Yes.
Dan: [00:26:02] Were you saying earlier that Dolly had her legs crossed?
Tracey: [00:26:06] She did have her legs crossed, but she was slumped over on her right side, hands forward with a gun like right there, exactly like Jennifer’s was. Now, Jennifer was in the bed, and Dolly was sitting on a couch. But, yeah, it was very similar.
Dan: [00:26:26] I’m just trying to get my mental picture of both of these scenes to be spot on. But it’s not typical that we find somebody who shot themselves where their legs are crossed in front.
Tracey: [00:26:37] Yeah. I think she was casually sitting on the couch, and Bart showed up, and he shot and killed her before she could react. If she had seen the gun or knew what was coming, she would have run and been found in another part of her apartment or trying to flee. She’s sitting on the couch cross legged, like, “Comfortable. I’m at home, I’m at ease.”
Yeardley: [00:27:05] That’s crazy.
Dave: [00:27:07] Yeah. In Jennifer’s case, she’s in bed. Most people don’t shoot themselves laying in bed. Maybe she’s sitting up on the edge of the bed is the theory. But Bart shows up in the middle of the night when he’s completely unexpected, just like in Dolly’s case.
Tracey: [00:27:22] Right. As a woman, as a mother, who has two sons, I would never kill myself to leave my children to find me. That’s not going to happen. And from all that we know about Jennifer, she would never do that either.
Dan: [00:27:45] Any stippling on Jennifer or Dolly?
Yeardley: [00:27:48] Why do you ask that question, Dan?
Dan: [00:27:50] Well, the stippling is going to tell you how far away the barrel was from the skin.
Yeardley: [00:27:55] Oh.
Dan: [00:27:56] So, the wider the pattern of stippling, the farther away the barrel was when the gun was fired. There will be very minimal stippling at that wound, if it was a contact wound.
Yeardley: [00:28:06] Got it.
Dan: [00:28:07] If you reach behind yourself, you’re going to try to shoot yourself behind your ear with your right arm, you can’t do it the left hand. So, your right arm, if you think about the stippling, if there’s a wide stippling pattern, reach your arm out and try to act like you’ve got a gun in your hand and try to shoot yourself behind the ear. If there’s no stippling, I could plausibly believe that it could happen, that you could shoot yourself behind the year, if there’s no stippling. But any other distance, the farther you move away from your head, the more awkward that position is.
Yeardley: [00:28:44] So, the stippling around Jennifer’s gunshot wound shows that the gun was not right up against her head?
Dan: [00:28:51] Correct.
Tracey: [00:28:53] I’m showing a crime scene photo of her in the bed.
Dan: [00:28:57] That does look like a little stippling. That’s not bruising, is it?
Dave: [00:29:01] I’m looking at the lividity and all that to make sure, like matches up. So, as Dan’s saying, a self-inflicted gunshot to that area behind the ear, it’s going to be closer to a contact wound than it is from any distance. Nobody’s going to shoot themselves behind the ear from arm’s length. They’re going to do it like, “I’m putting it right up against my head.” So, in that photo that Investigator Tracey showed, you can see the divorce papers are staged like, “I’m putting that under her too.”
Tracey: [00:29:31] Yeah, it was under her shoulder. If someone were to do that, I would think they would be spread around the bed. This was like, “Boom, here you go. You want a divorce, you just got one.”
Dave: [00:29:45] Or, Bart’s explanation is, “You killed yourself literally over this divorce.”
Tracey: [00:29:50] Right. Because Bart was noncooperative, we had to do the old gumshoe investigation, pulled his phone records, and we saw that a few days prior to the murder of Jennifer, he went to a town in the state next to ours. We learned through friends that he had a lifelong friend that lived in that town. Investigators from my office went to visit this friend, and he said, “Yeah, he came to see me. He just showed up one day, “Hey, I’m just here to visit, Jed. It’s been a while.” “Well, did you give him a gun?” Because we’re trying to link this gun to Bart.
Yeardley: [00:30:38] Because the report is that Jennifer’s household didn’t own a gun.
Tracey: [00:30:42] Correct. The ATF trace was done on the gun. It was sold in a sporting goods store in the 1950s, and that’s the last that is on record.
Dave: [00:30:56] And that’s perfect for Bart or whoever had this gun, because there’s no paper trail on this. You don’t know who it last belonged to.
Tracey: [00:31:03] No, you can trade and trade and trade and trade a thousand times again, or sell it between people and there’s no record of it.
Yeardley: [00:31:10] Wow.
Tracey: [00:31:11] We press this friend of Bart’s named Richard really, really hard about this gun. “Did you give him this gun?” We made many visits to this neighboring state. He denied, he denied it the whole time. We find out through interviews and whatnot that Bart had been with his brother and some friends at a local Wings restaurant. There’s a receipt at 1:10 AM from when they check out, the across the street neighbor, the woman is the one that called 911, that little boy ran across the street, the husband of the woman who called 911, he hears Bart’s vehicle pull up.
Male Neighbor [00:32:06] I got up last night about 1:30, and I heard a truck hauling in down the road and he went up the driveway across the street. I look out window and then I saw it was Bart’s car. [crosstalk] He was probably there 10, 15 minutes, and then he hauled ass outside here.
Detective: [00:32:25] Okay, what time was it?
Male Neighbor: [00:32:27] About 1:30.
Tracey: [00:32:31] The medical examiner said Jennifer died approximately, and it’s only approximately between 2 and 3 AM, which matches the timeline pretty close.
Yeardley: [00:32:42] Totally. Thank God for the neighbor’s insomnia.
Tracey: [00:32:44] Yes.
Tracey: [00:32:59] There was a fight at Thanksgiving, and what this fight was about was that Jennifer was a housewife, which is an honorable, noble profession. But her husband was working a lot, her kids were in school, she was alone during the day. She started online gaming, which is kind of unusual, I think, for women. Well, I’m not familiar with them. I don’t even know the name. But you play with other players that are– you don’t really know who they are.
Yeardley: [00:33:34] Like Fortnite and stuff.
Tracey: [00:33:35] Correct. but this was prior to Fortnite.
Yeardley: [00:33:38] Sure.
Tracey: [00:33:38] She connects with a guy named Chris through this game. They start going back and forth, back and forth. She starts sharing with Chris how unhappy she is in her marriage, and she really wants a divorce, and how lonely she is. And through emails, we dumped their computer, they fall in love, and she’s going to leave Bart and take her children to another state, not anywhere near our state, to marry Chris.
Yeardley: [00:34:20] Has she ever met him in person?
Tracey: [00:34:22] She’s never met him.
Yeardley: [00:34:23] Oh, God!
Dave: [00:34:24] It’s just another indicator that she is not invested in the relationship with Bart anymore. So, she would not be distraught over a divorce. She’s actually looking forward to it.
Yeardley: [00:34:34] That’s well said.
Tracey: [00:34:36] Jennifer comes to find out that Chris is not really Chris. Chris is a woman named Anita [beep], the same last name as Dolly.
Yeardley: [00:34:50] [gasps]
Dave: [00:34:50] She got catfished.
Tracey: [00:34:53] She got catfished. But Jennifer said, “I’m in love with you. I don’t care. I’m still coming. I’m divorcing Bart, and I’m still going to come and we’re going to be together.”
Yeardley: [00:35:06] Now, Anita knows the connection between Dolly and Bart?
Tracey: [00:35:10] No, they’re not related in any way.
Yeardley: [00:35:12] Oh!
Dave: [00:35:13] It’s just a total coincidence.
Tracey: [00:35:14] It’s a total coincidence with an unusual last name. It’s not like Smith or Jones.
Yeardley: [00:35:19] No way. Basically, Jennifer says, “Now I know you’re a woman. I’m still leaving my husband, I still want to be with you.” Anita says, “Great. Let’s do it.”
Tracey: [00:35:29] Absolutely.
Yeardley: [00:35:30] Got it.
Tracey: [00:35:30] Jennifer buys a secret phone so that she can talk with Anita. There’s also the emails. Bart found the phone and saw Anita [beep] on there, and thinks that she, Jennifer, is contacting Dolly’s family, and he starts panicking.
Yeardley: [00:36:01] Jesus!
Tracey: [00:36:02] Yeah. That was the fight that they had at Thanksgiving. Bart found the phone at Thanksgiving dinner, and confronted her about it in the driveway and slapped her in front of the kids, and she kicked him out. And he’s in panic mode right now, because he’s thinking Jennifer’s in contact with Dolly’s family.
Dave: [00:36:27] If Anita had any other last name, Bart doesn’t jump to that conclusion.
Tracey: [00:36:32] No, he would have thought she was having an affair, but not connected with the woman he murdered 14 years earlier.
Dave: [00:36:41] When you dumped the computer, I’m guessing at some point, Bart, did have email activity on this computer?
Tracey: [00:36:49] I’m not sure about that, but we came to learn that he had been having an affair for six or seven years with his office administrator/office assistant. He had expressed to her how unhappy he was in the marriage. He only married Jennifer because she got pregnant, blah, blah, blah. He was always bitching about Jennifer. She was fat and she was ugly, which she wasn’t. She didn’t keep house like he wanted and whatnot. So, he’s out having an affair, a long-term affair, but his wife better not do that.
Initially, the other county charged Bart first with murder. They revised Dolly’s death certificate, ruled in a homicide. He was taken into custody. Then, he was indicted on 12/22/2004 in that county for Dolly’s murder, and then my county indicted him on 15/05/2005 for Jennifer’s murder.
Yeardley: [00:37:59] That’s a hell of a holiday season.
Tracey: [00:38:01] Yeah. Now, we’re in trial in 2005, we feel like we have a really good circumstantial case. But the major hurdle that we have, that gun, it’s like, where did this gun come from? We had run an ATF search on the gun, but there’s something called an offline search, and that’s where you can run a serial number, a license plate, a VIN number, a gun number, and you can see if any other law enforcement agencies have ever run that number. It turns out that the police department in the state next to ours where Bart’s friend, Richard, lived, had run the serial number of that gun.
Yeardley: [00:38:58] Oh, yes. Even though you would have asked him, “Did you give him the gun?” and he’s like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Tracey: [00:39:04] Correct. He had a friend who was a captain at the police department who had run this gun for him years ago, offline search. He visits Richard, who we had subpoenaed. He was going to come and testify to the trial. He could say, “I didn’t give him the gun. I don’t know anything about the gun.” But the captain said, “Pack a bag because you are not coming home,” because we were going to charge him with perjury. Now that we knew that he had had that gun checked to see if it had been stolen, because he had repaired a guy’s lawnmower and the guy paid him with a gun. So, that’s when that come to Jesus meeting happened and Richard called and he said, okay, Bart came. He said he was going through a nasty divorce and he wanted the gun for protection.
Yeardley: [00:39:58] Against his wife?
Tracey: [00:40:00] I guess so. I don’t know, he didn’t specify. So, Richard gave Bart the gun. We put the gun in Bart [beep] hands.
Yeardley: [00:40:12] When you say you have the gun, you have Richard’s testimony saying–
Tracey: [00:40:18] “I gave Bart the gun.”
Dan: [00:40:21] That’s the hole in the case and you just plugged it.
Tracey: [00:40:22] We just plugged it right in the middle of trial. I’m sitting in court directly behind the DA. He again was trying this case himself, and the chief investigator comes in, he hands a note to the DA. The note says, “Call a recess immediately. We’ve placed the gun.” So, the DA stood up, said, “Judge, I need a recess.” So, we go to the office, we’re high-fiving. This was our golden nugget that we’re waiting for. We’re running out of time, because we’re in the trial.
Bart had money. He hired two of the silk-stocking law firm lawyers from our area, who are nationally known. You’ll see them on TV. They had a closed-door meeting, in which my DA said, “Guess what? We can put the gun with your client.” Bart had been lying to his attorneys. I’ve seen his attorney since then, I was like, “Yeah, I was in the courtroom when you got word that we place the gun with Bart.” And he said, “Literally, the smoking gun,” was his response to me. This is just recently, a year or so ago, when I saw him.
[00:41:49] I’m sitting in the court. The two defense attorneys walk out from behind the judge’s chambers, and I have never seen such a look of shell shock on any attorneys face in my life. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. They know now.” So, they said, “Well, let’s have a recess for a day for the trial. We need to have a talk with our client.”
Yeardley: [00:42:13] We need to gather our ducks in a bucket.
Tracey: [00:42:15] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:42:16] (laughs)
Tracey: [00:42:29] We’re running around. We contact the other county, because we were trying our case first, they were going to try theirs next. We contacted them, let them know we contacted Dolly’s family, and the defense attorneys approached the DA the next day, and they said, “He’ll plead.” The DA said, “He’s got to plead to both cases, not just ours. He’s got to plead to Dolly’s too.”
Dave: [00:43:01] This DA–
Yeardley: [00:43:01] This DA!
Dave: [00:43:03] I want to have a beer with him.
Tracey: [00:43:04] He would love that. (laughs)
Dave: [00:43:07] That’s awesome.
Yeardley: [00:43:08] When he said, “I’ll plead I’ll plead to murder,” or “I’ll plead to–?
Tracey: [00:43:13] He had to plead to murder for Jennifer, and had to plead the murder for Dolly. And he had to accept the sentence of life in prison without parole.
Yeardley: [00:43:22] Do you have the death penalty in your state? And if he pleads to both of those murders, does it make him eligible for that?
Tracey: [00:43:29] We do have the death penalty in our state. But the DA has to announce or put on notice early on in the case that we’re seeking the death penalty, but we were not doing that in this case. Normally life without the possibility of parole is only a sentence for death penalty eligible cases, which it actually was, we weren’t seeking it. Because of the multiple murders, that makes it death penalty eligible. We could get a life without the possibility of parole sentence because of that.
Dan: [00:44:07] Bart is influenced because of that death penalty, just the slight possibility that it’s out there. Maybe compel him to just say, “I’ll take life without parole.”
Yeardley: [00:44:16] I see.
Dave: [00:44:18] Tracey’s right. You have to signal your intent to go after a capital punishment sentence.
Tracey: [00:44:24] Well, the other county, they were going to seek the death penalty. Once we convicted him in our county, they are going to go for the death penalty because they could use his conviction of Jennifer for murder in their case. So, yeah. He was, not in our county facing the death penalty, but in Dolly’s county, he was. So, that definitely wasn’t a motivation for him.
Dave: [00:44:48] Okay. So, the incentive for him is, “No, I’m not facing the death penalty if I cop a plea to both these murders.”
Yeardley: [00:44:56] Right. So, you have to announce your intent ahead of time, so you basically don’t move the goalposts in the middle of the game.
Tracey: [00:45:02] Right. No, we don’t go into a trial, and in the middle of trial, say, “We’re going for the death penalty.” That’s been established long before.
Dan: [00:45:12] Was part of this plea for him to– does he have to– By simply his pleas admitting his culpability, did he have to explain himself at all?
Tracey: [00:45:22] He just had to say, the questions, “Did you kill Jennifer?” “Yes.” “Did you kill Dolly?” “Yes.”
Dan: [00:45:32] That’s really important. Especially for probably Dolly’s family, for them to hear out of Bart’s mouth that he did it, is very important for them.
Dave: [00:45:42] Your DA calls the DA from the jurisdiction up north and says, “Hey, I just offered him a deal, and it includes your case.”
Tracey: [00:45:49] Correct. They were real happy with us.
Yeardley: [00:45:51] That’s amazing. Holy shit! Were you present when he had to say, “Yes, I killed Jennifer. Yes, I killed Dolly”?
Tracey: [00:46:02] Oh, yes. It was a huge case in our area.
Yeardley: [00:46:05] Did he have any expression on his face?
Tracey: [00:46:07] No, he was very stoic. I never saw any expression from him ever.
Dan: [00:46:13] We’ve talked about this on the podcast before, and Dave brought it up. I think it was in Season 1. The emotional event for Bart was when he killed Dolly, and when he killed Jennifer, and he’s learned how to cope with that for years now. So, he’s not going to have a reaction. He’s already dealt with all that stuff, and it’s behind him.
Yeardley: [00:46:31] Right. That’s interesting.
Tracey: [00:46:34] Ann Rule wrote a book about this case, and she is my hero. She is one of the reasons that I went into doing what I did and do. I was walking down the hall, looked into our law library, and there she is sitting there, and I about wet my pants, I was so excited. I went in and I explained to her that because of her and the books that she wrote that I started reading as a teenager, this is why I do what I do. I would always speak with her. When she wrote the book, she autographed a copy to me and all of us that were involved in in the case. I’m so sad that she’s no longer with us, but she will always hold a special place in my heart.
Yeardley: [00:47:30] That’s great. That’s amazing. I’ve been very fortunate on a few occasions, have people come up to me and say, “Oh, you affected my life this way, in a positive way.” It’s never why you do what you do, but that is the icing on top of icing, and it is incredibly meaningful. So, I’m sure that when you shared that with Ann– it just never gets old. It’s an amazing experience.
Tracey: [00:47:52] Yeah. She was just so kind and so gracious. Ann thanked me for telling her that. It was meaningful to her, I think.
Dave: [00:48:01] Did Jennifer’s kids end up someplace far away from all this?
Tracey: [00:48:04] Yes. Gosh, they would be teenagers now, but our office, the DA’s office every December holds a memorial candlelight service, victims’ service, honoring homicide victims for that year and all the past. We put up Christmas trees with the victim’s photos on there. For years, I used to see her sons come to the service for their mom. I haven’t been able to come the past few years, I don’t know if they’re still coming.
Dave: [00:48:39] When I reached out to Tracey two months ago, and asked her about cases. The thing that really struck me when she was telling me the story about this case was, Bart made sure that his children had to find their mother. It’s so cowardly. It’s such a despicable act to make your children find their mother in that state. There aren’t words for that.
Yeardley: [00:49:01] It’s cold blooded and it is so cowardly.
Tracey: [00:49:05] Yeah. Of everything in this case, to me, as a mother, that’s the worst thing. I mean, seven years old, and you find your mother like that? And your first response is, “My daddy killed my mother.”
Yeardley: That says it all. You can’t hide anything from children really.
Dave: [00:49:27] It informs you about what was going on in that house that this child is able to connect the dots, as Investigator Tracey says, is that he immediately attributes this, “My dad did this.” We go to domestic violence cases all the time on patrol, we deal with disputes all the time, and it’s always frustrating when you look at these adults that keep having these arguments, and they don’t realize the impact it’s going to have on their children, that this is what they’re going to grow up with, and this is what is normal to them in relationships. They’re sponges.
Yeardley: [00:50:04] Sure.
Dan: [00:50:04] When we go to these houses for domestic disputes, the child is not alarmed that the police are at the house, because they’re inoculated to it, they’ve seen it so many times. Early on in my career, I was still in my FTO phase, still with my coach, and we went to a house, and I remember a little kid coming up to my coach, the older officer, and he said, “Are you guys going to hit my dad with the flashlight again?” It’s because the previous several times that the police had gone to the house, this guy had beat up his wife, and then fought with the police when we were forced to take him to jail. And this kid attributed the police showing up to his dad was going to get hit with a flashlight.
Yeardley: [00:50:52] Ah, hurts my heart.
Dan: [00:50:54] Pretty horrible.
Tracey: [00:50:55] Well, when I would interview domestic violence victims, normally women, and of course, they’re coming to me to drop the charges, I see that there were children in the house, and I would talk to them and say, “Is this how you want your children to grow up to think is normal? Because that’s what’s happening. First of all, it’s not up to you whether to drop the charges or not. It’s up to us.” And we took domestic violence very seriously, and very rarely, would drop the charges. And oftentimes, I would say, “Okay, okay.”
Yeardley: [00:51:35] Right, I don’t want my child to think that there are no consequences for this kind of violence.”
Tracey: [00:51:40] Right. Or, to grow up and repeat the cycle.
Yeardley: [00:51:44] Sure.
Dave: [00:51:44] There’s others who don’t give a shit. Other suspects, other parents, because certainly there’s times where it’s one side, is heavy handed and causing all the issues. Usually, it takes two to tango and argue and dispute, not saying that the violence happens both ways. But typically, it’s bickering and fighting back and forth. There’s times where they just don’t care. They’re like, “Get out of my house. I’ll see you next week.”
Yeardley: [00:52:11] To you or to–?
Dave: [00:52:13] To the police, where we show up, “Did my fucking neighbor call on me again?” “Yeah, we parked 100 yards from your house and can hear you down the street. Do you think that it’s possible somebody might call on you?” And it’s just situation normal for them, and they’re inconvenienced by your presence because you stopped their fighting, and now it’s inconvenience for their night.
Dan: [00:52:35] It’s almost like we’re just referees on call to come and referee their fight forum. Hopefully, get one of them to leave. Typically, how we handle these, we want to separate the parties. So, if somebody has a safe place to go, “Hey, can you go stay at your sister’s house who lives three blocks away tonight? Just so things cool down,” sometimes neither party is willing to leave. They just want to fight and fight and fight. And it’s okay if the police show up because it’s situation normal for them.
Yeardley: [00:53:06] Are you obligated to get one of them to go someplace?
Dan: [00:53:09] Well, we can’t force them in most occasions. If there is violence and there’s been an injury, we have to identify who the primary aggressor is, and that person goes to jail. It’s automatic.
Tracey: [00:53:20] Right. The women would tell me, or I would ask them, “Well, why did you call the police? If you’re wanting to drop charges, why’d you call the police?” “Well, I just wanted them to talk to him,” or “I just wanted the fighting to stop. I didn’t want him arrested.”
Yeardley: [00:53:37] I just wanted a temporary stay, basically. That’s really tragic. Well, Tracey, thank you so much for coming by and sitting down with us again. We absolutely love seeing you.
Tracey: [00:53:50] Thank you for having me.
Dave: [00:53:51] Thanks again, Tracey. I appreciated that story as well.
Dan: [00:53:56] Absolutely, really well done.
Tracey: [00:53:58] Well, thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m honored, and I appreciate the work that you do as well, because we’re a team, and we can’t work without the team. So, thank you for your work too.
Dave: [00:54:11] Absolutely.
Yeardley: [00:54:12] I love that. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please reach out for help. There’s a National Domestic Violence Hotline. Their telephone number is 1-800-799-7233. That’s 800-799-7233, or you can reach them through their website at thehotline.org. That’s all one word, thehotline.org. There, you’ll find lots of resources. You can also find this information on our website at smalltowndicks.com. Stay safe.
Dan: [00:55:01] Small Town Dicks thanks Starburns Industries in Burbank for the use of their amazing studios to record this episode. Starburns produces a lot of cool podcasts, make sure to check them out.
Yeardley: [00:55:22] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
Dan [00:55:50] If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at smalltowndicks.com. And join the Small Town Fam by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @smalltowndicks. We love hearing from you.
Dave [00:56:05] And if you support us on Patreon, your subscription will give you access to exclusive content and merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else. Go to patreon.com/smalltowndickspodcast.
Yeardley [00:56:17] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to Small Towns across the country-
Dan [00:56:23] -in search of the finest-
Dave [00:56:25] -rare
Dan [00:56:26] -true crime cases told as always by the detectives who investigated them.
Dave [00:56:30] Thanks for listening, Small Town fam.
Yeardley [00:56:33] Nobody’s better than you.