An estranged spouse calls 911 to say she shot her husband in self-defense. But as detectives look at the crime scene and begin digging into the history of the relationship, they start to doubt the caller’s story. Was this a fatal case of domestic violence, or did something more sinister take place? Detective Robert investigates.
The Detective: Detective Robert has been in law enforcement for over 20 years. Prior to becoming a detective, he spent nine years on patrol, where he served as a Field Training Officer (FTO) and an FBI-trained hostage negotiator. As a detective, he worked in a unit that investigated crimes against children, including sex crimes, serious physical abuse and child homicides. He was later re-assigned to the violent crimes unit, where he investigated homicides, robberies and other serious felonies. He was an active member of his county’s major crimes team, which investigated homicides and officer-involved shootings. After 10 years in investigations, Robert has been promoted to sergeant, where he currently supervises a graveyard patrol shift.Read Transcript
Robert: [00:00:03] She started to run out of the master bedroom to get her cell phone, which is charging in another room. As she did this, she heard the slide rack on a firearm. She says in this short amount of time she grabs her gun from her fanny pack, pulls it out, fires, striking him multiple times.
Yeardley: [00:00:21] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:00:23] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:00:24] And I’m Dave.
Yeardley: [00:00:25] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:00:28] Dave and I are identical twins, and we’re retired detectives from small town USA.
Dave: [00:00:32] Together, we’ve investigated thousands of cases. From petty theft to sex crimes, from child abuse, to murder.
Dan: [00:00:38] Every case on our podcast is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they broke the case.
Dave: [00:00:46] Names, places, and certain details including relationships have been altered to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan: [00:00:54] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved, out of respect for what they’ve been through.
Unison: [00:01:04] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:12] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:18] Happy to be here. I knew you’re coming to me first.
Yeardley: [00:01:20] Did ya? Did ya? You look like a deer in the headlights.
Dave: [00:01:23] I know. I didn’t have my response. But I knew I was getting teed up first.
Yeardley: [00:01:27] And we have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:30] Happy to be here.
Yeardley: [00:01:31] Happy to have you. And Small Town Fam, I hope you’re sitting down, because we have one of our best, favorite most incredible guests returning to give us a case today. We have Detective Robert.
Robert: [00:01:45] Hey, thanks for having me back.
Yeardley: [00:01:47] Robert, we are always so excited when you’re in the house. So, Robert, you’re an old hand at this. I am just going to hand it over to you and let you tell us how this case came to you.
Robert: [00:01:57] Well, I appreciate that you said I’m old handed. I feel old most days.[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:02:02] Same. So, we have that in common.[laughter]
Robert: [00:02:05] Well, I’m sure you’re much younger than I am.
Yeardley: [00:02:07] I don’t think so. How old are you?
Robert: [00:02:10] Well, we’ll go on with the case here.[laughter]
Dave: [00:02:16] Sorry, you’re breaking up.
Robert: [00:02:17] Yeah. I’m closer to retirement every day. So, I’m happy to talk about this case. I think it’s the last murder case I worked on. This case happened. And then during the lengthy investigation that went on, I was promoted to sergeant and I went back to the patrol division. So, I think this was the last murder case that I worked on.
When this case came to me, it was on a Monday afternoon, and it was about 01:20 in the afternoon, I’m just sitting at my desk and my sergeant comes over and says, “Hey, patrol is investigating a shooting. I need you to head out there and you’re going to be lead on this investigation.” In other words, it just happened.
[00:02:54] So, I load up my car, and I head out to the scene, which is in a rural part of our county. But they’re building new housing developments, they are getting closer and closer and closer to the rural areas. This house sits on, I think, a couple-acre lot, and it’s not particularly nice. It needed a lot more TLC than it was getting. But it’s a house, and then there’s a barn, and then there’s a couple of outbuildings, again on a couple acres that kind of jut right up against where these new neighborhoods are being built. Even though the house and the property isn’t very nice, it’s worth a lot of money, because the builders would love to build on that. So, that’s what I go out to.
[00:03:36] Basically, I know a little information as I’m driving out to the scene, I’d call and talk to the deputies that are on scene and learn that a woman named Teresa had called 911. And she reported that she shot her husband. Again, it’s a rural area, but deputies happen to be pretty close by. In fact, our first deputy was on scene in under four minutes, which is pretty good, when you’re out in the sticks a little bit.
Yeardley: [00:04:00] Can we just back up for a second about the woman who calls 911 and says, “I shot my husband”?
Robert: [00:04:06] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:04:07] That seems like a call you don’t get every day. Usually, it’s like, “My husband’s been shot. I don’t know who did it.”
Robert: [00:04:12] Right. Yeah, she calls and explains that she shot her husband. Basically, the information that the deputies that are on scene tell me as I’m driving to the location, is that Teresa and her husband had been engaged in some domestic violence incident and she shot and killed him, and that’s the information that I have as I’m driving to it. When deputies first arrive on scene, they basically find Teresa seated on the front porch of her home, they notice that she’s wearing what appears to be like a taser holster on her right hip. She also tells them that there’s two guns, two handguns on the ground just inside the front door of the home. She’s compliant with deputies. She does everything they tell her to do, stand up, turn around, face away from us, put your behind your back. She’s compliant and they detain her in handcuffs.
[00:05:00] As they start talking to her, she explains that she and her husband, Paul, are going through divorce. He moved out several months earlier, and he’s been coming over here and there to basically get some of his things out of the home over time. He’s not doing it all at once. He doesn’t have a big moving truck or anything. He just has a small SUV and he’s coming over every once in a while to get some of his things. Since Paul no longer lives there, the house presents more as a hoarder house right now. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen, but there are piles and stuff everywhere. It’s kind of hard to navigate through the house and through the different rooms, just because this stuff’s being stacked. She has a couple of little dogs, she has some cats. Teresa is really into goats. Goat breeding and making goat soap and–
Dave: [00:05:54] Wait a minute. What did you just say?
Yeardley: [00:05:56] Goat soap.
Dave: [00:05:57] Goat soap. I didn’t even know that was a thing.
Robert: [00:06:00] Yeah. So, goat milk soap. Let’s just say that once Paul no longer lives there, Teresa is a little more lenient about the goats being inside the home too, and the baby goats being in there. So, she’s not quite the housekeeper that Paul is. So, things kind of go downhill with this house when Paul moves out.
Yeardley: [00:06:20] Was there anything in particular that Teresa like to hoard? Set the scene for us.
Robert: [00:06:26] You’re going to be sorry, you asked. [chuckles] Goat semen. She had these big storage things of goat semen, and they keep track of the pedigrees of the animals and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, mostly just really bad housekeeping and stacking and once something’s in the house, it stays in the house kind of thing. But yeah, she had goat semen, and she was very interested in making sure that we didn’t mess with that, and I tried to assure her we are not interested in that in anyway [laughs] at all.
Yeardley: [00:06:59] [laughs]
Dave: [00:07:00] Not refrigerated?
Yeardley: [00:07:02] Refrigerated. Yeah. Some kind of specialized locker for it, I guess. I was just going to say, I think, just general accumulation of stuff. Nothing particular. Just really messy and if you walked in there, you’d be pretty disgusted.
Dave: [00:07:16] I’d say that’s typically what we see in law enforcement when we go into these houses. It’s not always specific things. I have been in houses where it’s specific things, newspapers, where it actually creates like little five-foot-high walls through the house where these little passageways go, but usually, it’s just stuff. They just accumulate stuff.
Robert: [00:07:38] Yeah. Teresa tells the deputies on scene– Again, this all before I get there. She says that, “Paul no longer lives there. He’s been coming over to get his things.” She explained that she was fine with him coming over to get us things that day, but she explained to him that she didn’t want Paul going into the master bedroom because she knew that that’s where his handgun was stored in a safe in the master bedroom closet. At her home, she has multiple cameras inside and outside the home. We noticed these are few different brands and systems, but she’s got cameras at the front door, other places on the exterior of the home and then inside the home in several locations also. Deputies also notice from dealing with Teresa, when they arrive again, she had a holster on her right hip, which had what was like a taser. They noticed that she also has a fanny pack on the front of her side, so kind of below her stomach and that’s where she explains that she had her handgun. She had her hand on her handgun and her finger on the trigger while she’s watching Paul collect his things.
[00:08:45] She claims that she was very scared of him and just wasn’t quite sure what he was capable of. At one point, Teresa goes to another room, she says, to charge her phone because her phone was dead. In that brief amount of time, she realizes that Paul is now in the master bedroom. And she says that she sees Paul in the master bedroom closet, and she confronts him and she basically says, “Hey, I told you I didn’t want you in here. You’re not supposed to be here.” She says that when Paul turns around, he has a gun in his hand and she is very much afraid that he is going to shoot her. She says that Paul is calm and tells her that they need to talk. They need to talk about the trust and that she needs to fire her attorney.
[00:09:26] And so just a little bit of background, while they were married, Paul’s father was not able to care for himself and so he created a trust to take care of his estate and financial matters. Basically, Teresa is placed in charge of all that. Teresa tells the deputies that she started to run out of the master bedroom to get her cell phone, which is charging in another room. As she did this, she heard the slide rack on a firearm. She says in this short amount of time, she grabs her gun from her fanny pack, pulls it out, fires at Paul multiple times, striking him multiple times. And that’s when she calls 911.
[00:10:04] We don’t get to hear the 911 call immediately. I know it’s different in different jurisdictions, but our dispatch center is not part of our office. It’s a separate county agency. We have to make a request. So, I don’t think I hear the 911 call for several days, but the 911 calls interesting when I do listen to it. Teresa is emotional, kind of sounds like she’s crying. She talks about confrontation with her husband, and shooting him and send help, but in the height of her emotion, you also hear her saying in a normal voice something to her dog, like, “Sit down,” or, “Stay there,” or whatever. So, the crying and the tears goes away and she’s saying multiple things to her dog which are non-emotional in nature.
911 Operator: [00:10:49] 911, police, fire, medical.
Teresa: [00:10:50] Um, police and medical.
911 Operator: [00:10:52] What’s the problem?
Teresa: [00:10:54] Um, uh, I-I shot my husband. He came at me with– [sighs]
911 Operator: [00:10:59] What’s your address? [beep] Okay. What happened?
Teresa: [00:11:03] He came at me with a gun. We’re estranged. He came here to get household goods.
911 Operator: [00:11:10] Okay. Is he conscious?
Teresa: [00:11:12] Yeah, just breathing.
911 Operator: [00:11:13] How old is he?
Teresa: [00:11:15] Uh, 62.
911 Operator: [00:11:17] Is he conscious or is he unconscious?
Teresa: [00:11:20] His eyes are open, not talking to me.
911 Operator: [00:11:22] Okay. Is he breathing normally?
Teresa: [00:11:24] He’s breathing, but I don’t think he’s breathing normally. [exhales]
911 Operator: [00:11:28] Where did you shoot him?
Teresa: [00:11:30] In the chest.
911 Operator: [00:11:32] How many times?
Teresa: [00:11:33] Um, um, three times.
911 Operator: [00:11:35] Where’s the gun?
Teresa: [00:11:37] It’s by the entrance.
911 Operator: [00:11:39] By the front door?
Teresa: [00:11:41] Sort of, yeah.
911 Operator: [00:11:43] Okay.
Teresa: [00:11:44] Oh, God.
911 Operator: [00:11:45] Okay, don’t touch anything. Okay?
Teresa: [00:11:47] Oh, okay. Okay. Oh, God. Oh, God.
911 Operator: [00:11:51] Okay, I want you to come out with your hands up out the front door, okay? Any guns, anything like that, they need to stay in the house.
Teresa: [00:11:59] Okay. Okay. All right.
911 Operator: [00:12:02] Can you go out the front door?
Teresa: [00:12:04] Yes. Yes. [unintelligible] All right. Oh, God. [unintelligible]
911 Operator: [00:12:12] Are there dogs there?
Teresa: [00:12:14] Yeah, yeah.
911 Operator: [00:12:15] Okay.
Teresa: [00:12:15] But [unintelligible] and the big one is in the crate because, [sighs] she’s protective and my husband’s abusive. And–
911 Operator: [00:12:25] Okay, that’s fine. Are you going outside?
Teresa: [00:12:27] I’m outside.
911 Operator: [00:12:28] You’re outside? What color clothing are you wearing?
Teresa: [00:12:31] I’m-I’m-I’m wearing a gray shirt and-and, uh, [unintelligible].[police sirens]
911 Operator: [00:12:40] Okay. You can keep your phone in the hand, but your other hand up, okay?
Teresa: [00:12:46] Okay.
911 Operator: [00:12:45] I just want to make sure that the deputies can see you.[police sirens]
Teresa: [00:12:50] Okay.[call concludes]
Robert: [00:12:57] Deputies enter the home. Obviously, they’re treating it like an active crime scene like it is. They go in with guns drawn. Once they get Teresa detained, they try to render aid to Paul. Paul is obviously deceased. So, they stop life-saving efforts. Typically, on these, we like to have as few people go into the home as possible. So, typically, we’ll have one medical first responder come in, basically put the sensors on, confirm death, we’ll call the time of death and then no more firefighters and paramedics need to come in. We don’t need a whole team when someone’s obviously deceased. So, they leave the home. And deputies find on the floor, between the front door and the master bedroom– again, this house is cluttered, but they find two obvious handguns on the ground. They’re both the same make and model. They’re both 9-millimeter handguns. They noticed that one handgun is out of battery. And what that means is that the slide has not locked back like it’s supposed to. So, basically, one gun is not able to fire again.
Yeardley: [00:13:59] The gun doesn’t actually take a battery, does it? That’s just an expression?
Robert: [00:14:02] That’s just an expression. Yeah. Again, Paul’s located, he’s on his back in the master bedroom. He’s on the floor. The room again is cluttered. And Paul’s feet are wrapped around this ladder, just this full-size ladder that’s open and extended. His feet are wrapped around this ladder which was interesting for us. We were trying to figure out what that was all about. There’s a shell casing located near his head, there’s another shell casing located near the bedroom door. Again, he presents with multiple gunshot wounds and there’s visible blood around his chest and abdomen area.
[00:14:38] When I arrived, deputies are still talking to Teresa. She’s staring out the field at her goats and she’s still talking. One of the deputies who has been dealing with her and has some rapport with her, he gets her to sign a written consent form authorizing us to search the house, which is nice. That written consent prevents us from having to get a search warrant. So, she signs consent, we’re able to search the home. We’re able to go into the barn, the outbuildings, and there’s two or three cars parked at the property. Again, my colleagues quickly see that there’s cameras inside and outside the home. I’m really happy as the investigator on that, because I’m thinking that this disturbance may have been captured on camera, including audio. So, I’m pretty excited about that.
[00:15:22] I looked quickly to see if we’d been out to the home before, and I run the address. And we’d never been out to the home for any calls whatsoever, like for domestic violence or anything like that. Best as I can tell, we’d been there one time, and that was because one of the goats had gotten loose, it was out in the roadway. So, pretty important stuff. [Yeardley giggles] But certainly no domestic violence, no crimes of violence, no other reason. I introduced myself to Teresa and I let her know that I’m going to be investigating the case and I would love to interview her, ask her if she’d be willing to go back to our station for a video interview, and she says that she’s willing.
Robert: [00:16:13] So, we get back to the station, and we’re sitting in the interview room, me and my colleague and Teresa. Again, at this point, everything is pointing to this being kind of a self-defense death. We turn on the video recorder, get the sound system going. And we’re just a couple minutes into the interview when there’s a knock at the door, and this is highly, highly unusual. This is still a homicide. First of all, when detectives are doing an interview, you don’t want interruptions. If you have an interruption, it’s because you are intentionally taking a break or offering a break or you have some kind of reason. But anyway, there’s a knock at the door and it kind of throws me off, and I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit irritated, I’m like, “Who’s knocking on the door?”
[00:16:56] I open the door, and it’s one of our administrative staff. And she says, “There’s a lawyer here for Teresa.” I’m completely befuddled by this. I’m shocked. Who would know that Teresa was at our office? A lot of questions are forming in my mind. I said, “Well, who is it?” She tells me who it is. It’s an attorney that I’ve dealt with on lots of cases, and I have a good rapport with him, and I trust him. He’s a good guy. He’s respected by our prosecutors too. I happen to know that he and his wife and his dad have a law firm together, and it’s right next to the courthouse. They’re pretty close by. I know that this particular attorney happens to handle– he’s appointed on criminal cases for people. But I know that’s not this case, because first of all, obviously Teresa’s not in custody. She’s there voluntarily talking to her, she hasn’t been charged with any crime. I’m just– “How the heck did you know about this? And how did you get over here?” I’m talking to him, and he basically tells me that his father who practices civil law is Teresa’s attorney for this trust and this estate matter.
[00:18:03] Our county, we don’t have tons of murders, so it’s a big deal, and the news picks up on it, and they have gone out to the scene. Our public information officer was posting on social media, “Hey, our deputies are investing in a shooting in the blah, blah, blah block of this particular street.” Well, this particular street is rural and the lots are large. When this gets out on social media, this trust and estates attorney, he hears about this and knows based on that location, “Hey, that’s where that client is.” He essentially dispatches his son, the criminal attorney, head over there and shut this down. So, because this criminal attorney and I, we know each other, I tell him, I say, “Look, all we’re trying to do is get a statement from Teresa about this thing.” She’s never met him before, he’s never met her before. It was just kind of a weird dynamic. He also was, not to be mean, but I think he was in a little bit over his head. I don’t think he normally handles murders.
[00:19:04] He asked for some time. He goes in and meets with Teresa and comes out and talks to me. There’s a lot of in and out, back and forth. Ultimately, he comes out and he says, “Look, I’ve got to play this completely safe. We’re not going to answer any further questions.” And through him, Teresa revokes her written consent for the property and the cars. Again, I’m still just asking myself questions. I’m like, “What is going on here? There must be more to the story.”
Yeardley: [00:19:32] When you first get to the house, and the officers have secured the scene and Teresa’s sitting on the porch and the guns are on the floor inside the house, and you ask her for consent, she gives you written consent. You take her back to the station, and there’s a couple of hours, I’m assuming, between the written consent at the property, to the time when you’re interrupted in the interview room. Had your officers not already started to search the house? Were they able to use anything that they might have found if they had started to search the house already?
Robert: [00:20:06] Yes. Anything that they found and seized under the authority of her written consent, we just included in our search warrant anyway, just to make it nice and clean.
Yeardley: [00:20:15] I see.
Robert: [00:20:16] In the meantime, our public information officer, who’s on scene at her home dealing with the media, he’s basically telling the media on scene what we thought it was at the time and he says, “This was a domestic violence incident, self-defense, and we don’t believe there’s any danger to the public.” That’s what went out to the media, is that she was protecting herself when she shot Paul. Anyway, Teresa does consent, however, to go to a nearby hospital and provide some blood and some urine samples. Several months later, we learn when we get the lab results that at the time of this incident, she had multiple prescription medications in her system. She was on a muscle relaxant, an antidepressant, an anticonvulsant. Nothing that wasn’t prescribed.
[00:21:02] Of course, when Teresa revokes consent, we’re back to square one. I’m at the office. It’s my case. So, I sit down and I start working on a search warrant, and it takes a couple hours, there’s a lot to it. I’m collaborating with one of our prosecutors who’s on scene. I basically I prepare a draft of that search warrant affidavit, send it to him, he reads it, suggest some changes, I make the changes and we get it signed by a judge. So, we’re now into the nighttime hours. In the meantime, I have folks canvassing. Again, it’s rural, but there are some homes in the area, so I have a colleague going around and canvassing the different farm properties. Basically, some people who are working outside, they heard gunshots. Some of these neighbors knew that Teresa and Paul were going through a divorce. But that’s all they knew. None of them were close enough to know anything else, or have seen or heard anything else other than the gunshots.
[00:21:52] While deputies are on scene, and I’m writing a search warrant, one of Teresa’s friends shows up on scene, and her name is Cassie. And Cassie shows up, and she is happy to help. But she tells us that Teresa was deathly afraid of her husband, Paul. She explains that Paul had been physically abusive to Teresa for years. She tells us that Teresa and Paul had gone into couples counseling. She told us that Teresa was managing the trust for Paul’s father’s estate, and that Paul wasn’t really happy with Teresa’s work doing that. She provides a lot of good context and a little bit of background.
[00:22:29] Again, I knew that we had never been to the home before for any kind of domestic violence situation, which I know that, not every victim reports every time, and sometimes domestic violence can go on for years without it being reported. I totally get that. I totally kept an open mind on this. Another friend showed up. Obviously, there’s a lot of police vehicles out at the location. So, people are stopping by and basically just saying, “Oh, I know her. Is everyone okay?” Other friends were showing up and saying, “Teresa and Paul are super kind. They’re a great couple.” No one really had any other information about domestic violence or anything like that.
Yeardley: [00:23:03] About how old are Teresa and Paul?
Robert: [00:23:05] Teresa, the day this happened, she was 46 and Paul was 62. So, there’s an age difference there. Paul and Teresa had met at a racetrack in another state. They were both into the car races, and they hit it off.
Yeardley: [00:23:19] How long were Paul and Teresa married?
Robert: [00:23:21] They were married about 15 years. Paul is retired from the high-tech industry, which we have a lot of in our area. So, he’s retired from a global company. He has made a lot of money in his career. You would never know by looking at this property though. They live humbly, but there’s a lot of money involved. Paul had also inherited from his father who passed away where Teresa was managing kind of the assets. There’s tax advantages of having kind of like a farm property. So, Teresa and Paul came from a large metro area in another state. I think someone told them, “Hey, grow Christmas trees, or get some goats. Make it a farm property and get your tax incentives.”
[00:24:05] So, Teresa and Paul bought some goats and they loved goats, and they started breeding them and getting involved in the show community and all kinds of stuff. They enjoyed having this rural property. My search warrant for this house, I wrote it for obvious things, like the guns and ammunition and gun ownership info and all the normal stuff that we do, the holsters, the taser device that she had. But with the very limited information we had about the trust, I thought it would be helpful early on to write the search warrant to cover financial documents and records.
[00:24:38] What we knew is that Paul and Teresa were actively going through divorce, and so finances are often a motive for crimes, and so I wrote it, so that we could get all these financial records and documents. When a judge signed the warrant, we seized boxes and boxes and boxes of financial documents from the house, in addition to the guns and ammo and all that kind of stuff. We also are able to learn that since Paul has moved out, I was curious, where was he living now? Some of the nice people that stopped just driving by the house, and also Cassie, Teresa’s friend, were able to tell us that Paul had just rented a new apartment five or six miles from the crime scene. So, I sent a detective and we sent a city officer over to that apartment to do a search. But we also learned that Paul had been coming back and forth from a neighboring state. He had been putting kind of the final touches on being able to sell his father’s house. So, he’d been living in another state at his dad’s house, and was finishing that up and had now rented an apartment locally in our state, in our jurisdiction.
[00:25:47] When they went over to search Paul’s apartment, they found out from management, he had only moved in less than a month earlier. The apartment was extremely clean, and just sparsely furnished. Basically, it looks like someone who just got it a day or two before. Management there were very helpful, and they told us that Paul seemed exceptionally happy. They said he was a genuinely nice man. They were happy to have him. While there, we seized some electronic items. I think we found a laptop, a tablet, cell phone, and we see some keys. And then, there were also several thousand dollars in cash there.
[00:26:24] Back to my office where I am with Teresa. I had told this attorney, and I believe this, I was acting in good faith, I was like, “Hey, she needs to talk to me, and she needs to assert self-defense and kind of tell me what happened. Otherwise, it’s still homicide. I’m inclined to hang on to her.” And he talks to her about it. He basically says, “Yeah, we’re not talking. Out of abundance of caution. I’m advising her not to make any statements. She’s not talking.” I get the prosecutor on the phone. He’s now at the crime scene, and I’m at my office, and I tell him what we have. And neither of us feel really good about this. But he says, “Hey, this is early stages. We’re not quite sure how this is going to play out. And we don’t want this to look like we are arresting a domestic violence survivor. And so, until we know more, we are going to release her. And we will follow up and take this case to grand jury.”
[00:27:22] While I was not happy with that decision, I realized that it was a conservative and safe decision. And he’s the boss, he’s the prosecutor. And so, I was happy to listen to his advice. Now what that meant practically was that I drove her home myself. This is now in the middle of the night, and I’m driving her home all by myself. I have a detective car, so it doesn’t have a cage in the back. She’s sitting next to me in the passenger seat, this woman who I know just shot and killed her husband. To make it even worse, while we’re driving, she says and I quote, “Having PTSD is the worst, but sometimes the emotional numbness comes in handy.” She says that just extremely flat with no emotion. I think I probably just made sure my gun is still next to me on my right hip, and I just don’t want anything to do with this lady. She kind of creeps me out.
Yeardley: [00:28:16] Do you know what she was talking about? What’s the PTSD reference?
Robert: [00:28:20] Yeah. When she says, “Having PTSD is the worst, but sometimes the emotional numbness comes in handy,” she basically said that in reference to this years and years of Paul abusing her. The cumulative effect, it caused her PTSD, which actually was helping her now in this difficult moment.
Yeardley: [00:28:39] I see.
Dan: [00:28:40] It’s the middle of the night, Teresa can’t go back to her house because I still have investigators there. At this point, we have our tech people from our crash analysis reconstruction team, and they are doing a scan. They do this 3D scan of the crime scene in the house. And basically, it just makes it where we can create really accurate diagrams of the crime scene with exact measurements, and that takes them a little while. They were still doing that, she couldn’t go home yet. So, I dropped her off at a neighbor’s house a few houses down. And that’s the last I see of Teresa for that day.
[00:29:14] The next morning when I come to work, I am starting to get calls from Paul’s relatives who live out of state. I also learn from these relatives that Paul had consulted a couple of divorce lawyers, one in my state and another attorney in the adjoining state where he was kind of back and forth taking care of his father’s affairs. These family members and also some of Paul’s friends who called in, they all were telling me something in common. They were telling me that Paul had some really serious concerns in the days leading up to his death that he shared with them. And his concern was that Teresa was intentionally emptying all of his bank accounts. Paul again had substantial assets.
[00:29:56] One of these friends told me he made his first million before he was 40 and spent it before 41, and he just had a great career, it was very productive, very successful in his particular field. Again, you would never know it. I mean he wore dirty jeans and flannel shirt, and you would never know like if you ran into him that he was well off but obviously Teresa knew that. There’s possibly a financial component here, especially headed into a divorce. And Paul’s attorney from this other state, again, he was telling me stuff that these other friends and relatives were saying too. They told me that Teresa had an online gambling addiction, and was basically in the hole about $500,000. And they were all sharing concerns that Teresa was paying her bills, and basically living from trust money that she was only supposed to be– she’s basically the executor. She’s not supposed to be using it for personal use, but that Paul had caught her and had told this lawyer in this other state, “Let’s hire a forensic accountant. Let’s get to the bottom of this. She’s clearly up to stuff that she shouldn’t be.”
[00:31:01] Paul had told many of these people in his life that Teresa was addicted to pain medication, and had a serious problem with pain meds. That Paul was noticing that basically all his accounts for being drained of money, and he wasn’t sure where Teresa was sending it, but that he also wasn’t super concerned, because I guess he had a retirement account from his company that she wasn’t on and he knew that he could live successfully just from that. There’s a lot going on here.
Yeardley: [00:31:27] So, basically, your team is able to confirm that Teresa is using money that isn’t hers, and she’s in massive debt, possibly from gambling?
Robert: [00:31:36] We were able to confirm that yes, she was transferring money all over the place. But that online gambling thing came up from a lot of people, and we were not able to substantiate that. Two days after the shooting, I’m able to attend Paul’s autopsy. The doctor, she finds there’s three total gunshots. One of them perforated Paul’s liver, and another perforated the heart, and another one hit his front left hip. She noted an abnormality. She goes, “Something doesn’t seem right here.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean?” She says the shot that struck the heart, after it went through the heart, it struck a hard object and did not exit the body.” She was explaining to me how the trajectory was slightly downward, left to right, it was different than the other ones. And she said it was most likely that Teresa shot Paul while he was lying on a hard surface. And she said, “What surface was he found on?” And I explained that this was an older farm home, it had really good hardwood floors. She said, “Yeah, I knew it. I was growing up, and even when I was going through college and medical school, my family had a floor and tile business. I was going to say that it was probably a hardwood floor.” But when she says that, in her professional opinion, Teresa shot Paul while he was lying already down on the ground, that’s a game changer. This is no longer a potential self-defense.
Robert: [00:33:15] We start investigating, and again, there are just so many documents and financial records. I’ve always investigated either crimes against children or violent crimes, so I do not have any expertise in financial crimes. So, I asked one of my colleagues, he’s a certified fraud examiner and all this stuff. I asked him to take an initial look at the documents with us. I wanted to know if he recommended a forensic accountant, because that’s the way we were going. We also have the issue that Paul and Teresa, are they still technically married? Are they not married? What’s community assets? Is she stealing when she’s draining these accounts? Or, is she just taking what is hers communally? So, I have a lot of questions. That’s not my expertise. So, I get some help with that.
[00:33:58] Thousands and thousands of pages and documents and statements, and different bank accounts and different brokerage accounts, and just all this stuff. The search warrant has allowed us to get Teresa’s phone, her computers, all these documents. I’m also, again, very curious about these cameras that are inside and outside the home. So, I am also working on search warrants for the cameras. Fortunately, my coworkers are way more techie than I am, and they tell me that the audio and video from these particular cameras are not stored locally on a computer, they’re in the cloud. So, we’re working with a big global company that everyone’s heard of to get that data.
Yeardley: [00:34:39] Is it preferable they’d be stored in the cloud versus locally? You prefer that they were in the cloud?
Robert: [00:34:45] I like it being in the cloud, because then even if someone maybe deletes it locally on their tablet or their computer or their phone, the company will still have it. So, in this case, I was really happy. Me and my team, we spent several days going through by boxes of paperwork and trying to determine what’s important, what’s not important. We’re trying to write down which banks, which account numbers. We’re trying to get all this stuff to get organized, and it takes a lot. We’re going through all this data and lots of information, and we come across an exchange between Teresa and Cassie, where Teresa asked Cassie to buy a GPS tracker, and she provides her with a link to do that and she asked Cassie to buy a tracker to place on Paul’s car now that he’s not living with her anymore. And I find that kind of odd.
[00:35:35] Cassie said she never bought it. And the reason she was asking Cassie to buy it was so that Paul wouldn’t see it on their order history. Cassie swears she never bought it or placed it or did anything like that, but she did confirm that she was asked to do it. Teresa’s explanation to Cassie was that she kind of wanted more notice when Paul was traveling between our state and the state where his dad’s house was for sale. She just kind of wanted to know where he was.
Yeardley: [00:36:01] I cry bullshit. I don’t think that’s the reason why she wanted to track her. I don’t think that’s true.
Dan: [00:36:07] I believe her.
Yeardley: [00:36:08] You do?
Dan: [00:36:09] I do. I think she wants to keep tabs on him and know exactly where he is at any part of the day so she can do whatever she wants.
Yeardley: [00:36:18] Oh, yeah, I get that. I just meant that it sounds like Theresa is trying to convince Cassie, she doesn’t have a nefarious motive for keeping tabs on Paul, and that’s what I don’t believe.
Dan: [00:36:30] Yeah.
Robert: [00:36:32] When we get the results from the cloud-based camera, we realize that these cameras have audio and video and it’s pretty decent quality. We’re pretty lucky. We noticed that there is lots of activity and lots of peaceful interaction between Teresa and Paul. They’re laughing, they’re very kind to each other, very cordial communication. There’s no obvious signs of fear. There’s no obvious issues between them. So, that to me is how people are when no one’s watching. It’s clear from the interior camera placement that Paul does not know there are cameras there. They’re hidden between books, and they’re not obvious. Again, the place is a hoarder home. So, you probably couldn’t tell they were there anyway.
Dave: [00:37:14] When you reviewed the video from prior occasions when Paul was over at the house with Teresa, did she have a taser holster and a fanny pack on?
Robert: [00:37:25] No, she did not. That popped up the day before the shooting. He was there the previous day, and I think she was wearing that stuff the previous day. But all the prior dates, nothing. Leading up to the day of the shooting, again, lots of activity and peaceful interaction between the two on the indoor and outdoor cameras. Now when I look at the day of the shooting, it’s interesting. The only cameras that are active are the front door that captures Teresa calling 911 after the shooting. On the main room of the house where this happened or that master bedroom where the actual shooting happened, the cameras that day are not working.
Yeardley: [00:38:01] That seems fishy.
Robert: [00:38:02] It’s very strange. [chuckles] It’s very strange. Another question we had was, did Teresa wait a while before calling 911? But thankfully, based on our canvas, when people reported hearing the shots, it was right in time when the 911 call went out. And of course, we have Paul on the camera that was working coming in and out of the house bringing stuff to his car from the house. And so, we were able to narrow down that timeline and it does not appear there was any kind of delay before her calling 911. We felt we don’t have a perfect case, but we feel we have enough to move forward. And three and a half months after the shooting, this case is presented to a grand jury. The grand jury votes to indict Teresa, and they indict her on charges of murder and unlawful use of a weapon.
Yeardley: [00:38:50] Does a large portion of that indictment rest on the medical examiner’s assessment of that bullet that went through the heart?
Robert: [00:38:57] Very much so. So, now it’s a big piece of everything. But, yes, that is important and our doctor came and testified in the grand jury. The grand jury system is very interesting. Not every state does that, but we do. I like it because it involves members of the community in the decision process. You have the police who I call the first filter, like did a crime occur, did not occur, who did it? And then we have another layer of oversight. And that’s the DA’s office. “Hey, not only did a crime occur and who did it, but can we prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt?” We have police as a filter, we have the DAs as a filter, and then boy, on these felony cases, we also have the grand jury. And these are just normal folks. These are just normal people from the community, and they get a say in whether this case goes forward or not, and they decided there was more than enough to move forward.
Dan: [00:39:48] Going back to the initial crime scene, we’ve got Paul on his back in the master bedroom, there’s a ladder there. You mentioned that there were shell casings adjacent to his body. What is she claiming was the distance between them when she shot, and when you checked the firearms, eventually, the gun that he had, was there any ammo that was expended out of that gun?
Robert: [00:40:13] Basically, what it came down to for us on the prosecution side of the house was that what Teresa said happened couldn’t happened anyway. I know Dan and Dave are probably familiar with the action and reaction. And basically, it takes a lot more time to react to a threat than it does to be the threat, [chuckles] for lack of a better word.
Dave: [00:40:32] We do scenarios in the academy where you’re holding your gun at low ready, and it’s like the suicide scenario where a person has the gun up to their head, and they see if they can beat you to the shot where they take it from here, and then they pointed at you, every time, the person holding the gun and acts first wins every time.
Yeardley: [00:40:54] So, the person who’s in this scenario threatening suicide and then decides to point the gun at you, beats the officer who has their gun at low ready?
Dave: [00:41:03] 100% of the time. That’s why we don’t mess around with guns, because I know that your action is going to beat my reaction every single time.
Robert: [00:41:11] Yeah. Teresa mentions that she’s wearing this taser on her side, and she’s got the gun and the fanny pack on the front of her and her hand on the trigger and everything. But even then, to draw from a nontraditional holster that you don’t train with all the time, to come up on target and hit something three times successfully in the short amount of time and the short distance that Teresa is describing, she says that she’s standing in the doorway of the master bedroom, and Paul’s may be six feet away. We talked also earlier about his legs being wrapped around that ladder. The best we could tell in consultation with the medical examiner and our experts were that that room was so cluttered and full of stuff that that’s him basically trying to back up and create some distance between him and her. And when he goes to the ground, the legs just kind of landed that way.
Dave: [00:42:05] And then, she stands over him and puts one right into his chest.
Robert: [00:42:08] Exactly. The next morning after the indictment is issued, judge signs it. Basically, it’s time to go look for Teresa. We know that she made all this seem like a self-defense, domestic violence death, but she’s indicted for murder and unlawful use of weapons. So, we’re not taking any chances. It’s not me knocking on the door saying, “Hey, you need to come with me.” At the end of the day, it’s still a murder. And so, we send our SWAT team to go out there. The SWAT team, they don’t roll light. They have armored vehicles, and they have Humvees and they have negotiators with them in case it turns into a barricade. You’re probably looking at somewhere between 12 and 20 vehicles go on these warrant attempts. They always go early morning.
[00:42:54] So, they go out there, because of all the goats and animals that they’ve had, there’s a fence at the property. The SWAT team rolls over the fence in an armored vehicle to get up to the front door. And they find out that she’s not there. She’s been there every time. During this three-and-a-half-month period where we’ve released her, but we’re still working on the case, I’m driving by there, I need to go by there as I’m going different places. Every time I go by there, she’s there. I noticed from the financial statements and looking through her phone that she has her groceries delivered, she has her pet feed delivered, she has hay delivered. She has everything delivered. So, she’s always there. But this particular day, she’s not there. And we find out that she is in another state. We’re wondering, “What is she doing down there?”
[00:43:42] We’ll come to find out, now that Paul is dead, she sells his father’s home. And she just had the day before, same day this case is heard by a grand jury, she has just had another almost half a million dollars deposited in her account for the proceeds of this house, which now that Paul’s out of the way, guess what? She doesn’t have to share. She is now in another state, and her neighbors have told her the cops were here looking for you. She doesn’t come back home. [chuckles] She does not come back home. What Theresa does do is, she reaches out to her attorney, and her attorney contacts us. He reiterates, “She’s not talking to you and she doesn’t consent to have you on to her property.” And we basically don’t want to provide him too much other information than that. We basically tell him, “Hey, we’re just doing follow-up on our case,” and we kind of leave it at that, because we need our resources to also be able to work.
Yeardley: [00:44:45] You wrote a search warrant for her property. Why does the lawyer say, “You don’t have consent to be on a property”? Now, that is out of her hands, right?
Robert: [00:44:54] Good question. The day of the shooting, when we started searching her home and the cars based on that authority from the court. Once we leave there, that’s considered done. And so, for us to go back in again and search for more evidence, we would just need another search warrant.
Yeardley: [00:45:09] I see. Okay.
Robert: [00:45:10] I’ve been down this road before where suspects flee the country or go to different states. I call a friend at the US Marshals’ office, and I say, “Hey, I have a murder warrant.” And that becomes number one on their list. They’re all about targeting violent offenders. This deputy US Marshal and his team, they do their work, they basically go back in canvas, and they’re trying to find out who Teresa might still be talking to, and what information might be helpful. He happens to be talking to another friend of Teresa’s, who tells him that Teresa had recently contacted this particular friend, and Teresa asked this friend to go to her home and collect certain items and deliver them to her attorney’s office in our town, which just a few blocks from my office. And this is just a few days before all this was going down.
[00:46:03] And the US Marshal says, “Well, what was it?” She says, “Well, some more cell phones, another computer, some more documents.” He relays that to me, I relay it to the prosecutor, and then we did something that I’ve never done before, and I’ve never done since and I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it. I wrote a search warrant to search the defense lawyer’s office, which was extremely awkward for me and for them, because obviously they need to comply with an order from the court. But it’s also– it opens many questions of what’s their work product, and what is covered by attorney-client privilege?
[00:46:40] Anticipating that, we wrote in this warrant that the stuff that we seized would go before the judge who signed the warrant before we looked at it. We call that an in-camera review. So, it goes off to this judge, and he reviewed what was the contents of this box that I obtained from the defense attorney’s office. The judge looks through it and says, “It’s all fair game. Here you go.” So, that becomes another source of information and data for us to look through.
Yeardley: [00:47:09] Do you think that the defense attorney is now doing something untoward, like helping Teresa escape? Why do you serve that guy a search warrant?
Robert: [00:47:19] Well, it was fresh information that something was taken from the crime scene and transported to him. We didn’t exactly know what it was. I knew enough of what it was to describe it in an affidavit that passed the judges scrutiny. But we didn’t know exactly what we’re going to find on the cell phone. But, again, we knew that there was possible financial motive to kill Paul. And so that allows us into a lot of stuff. This isn’t a drive by shooting that just kind of happens. This is actually something that I now believe was planned and orchestrated over several weeks and/or months.
Yeardley: [00:47:55] Okay, but I actually recently learned that the defense doesn’t have to turn over all of its evidence to the state, because there’s the Fifth Amendment that says, “You don’t have to provide evidence that will incriminate you.” So, why would you, Robert, get to look at these files and phone records that Teresa asked her friends to deliver it to her attorney?
Dan: [00:48:19] Well, I mean, that’s why they had the judge review it to make sure that it wasn’t violating attorney-client privilege. And that judge basically deems that, yes, this is material to the case, and it’s relevant.
Yeardley: [00:48:33] Even if it puts Teresa in a bad light?
Dan: [00:48:35] Yes. And that’s why Robert had to write a search warrant for it.
Robert: [00:48:38] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:48:39] Okay.
Robert: [00:48:53] Teresa eventually turns up. What happens is one day, I happen to be driving back from, I think, I was probably doing another interview on another case, and I hear over the police radio, that a deputy is out with her, and I hear him running her name and date of birth over the radio. I instantly call this deputy and I say, “Hey, are you out with Teresa?” And he says, “Yes.” I said, “Well, what do you got?” And he goes, “Oh, I’m just here with fire. We got called on a CPR call, and it’s her.” And so, he explains that he gets dispatched along with fire in this small town in our county to a very nice luxury car that is parked next to a park, and it’s been there about two days from our best guess.
[00:49:37] This luxury car was rented out of state. It was rented at an airport near where Teresa had gone to sell her father-in-law’s house, and she had been found with 20 fentanyl patches affixed to her chest and stomach. She was trying to kill herself, and several of the neighbors, not him, but several of the neighbors had called in her vehicle as being suspicious. Like, “There’s a woman sitting in this car across from this park. She’s been there for the better part of two days. We’re not sure why she’s there.” When firefighters go there, they have to break the window to get in. She has a suicide note with her, and she has a green notebook, 8.5 by 11, normal size notebook. It says right on there, “for my lawyer,” and some other documents.
[00:50:25] If you’ve ever bought or sold a house, you get this thing of documents from the title company. She had one of those for this house that was just sold in the other state.
Yeardley: [00:50:33] Paul’s dad’s house?
Robert: [00:50:34] Yeah. Teresa’s transported to the hospital. She stays there two or three days, I think. Basically, the doctors tell us that the fentanyl patches that she was using were older. And he said basically that if they were recent, then they probably would have killed her. But she survives. And two or three days later, she is well enough to be booked into our jail. She’s transferred over to the jail. And the same day that she was found, I had some of my colleagues go interview Cassie. Now, Cassie lives in a really rural area. She’s way out in the country. I mean it’s one or two mile long, rough driveway out in the country. Kind of one of those where you roll up and you get out of your car, and many, many large dogs come and bark at you, and there’s also goats and chickens and all kinds of stuff in the mix.
[00:51:31] My detectives go out there and talk to Cassie, and Cassie enlightens us and tells us that Teresa had been staying with her for two days. Basically, Teresa knew that our SWAT team had gone to her home looking for her, that basically we’re probably watching the house, and so she had come over and stayed with Cassie out in the country. Teresa told Cassie that she wanted to wait and collaborate with her attorney and decide when she would turn herself in, essentially. That a couple days before Teresa turned up trying to kill herself, that Teresa had left saying she was just going to run to the nearest grocery store, which is still about a 20-minute drive away. But Cassie noticed that Teresa left, she didn’t take her things with her, and then after she left, she never responded to any text or never answered the phone.
[00:52:22] So, I write another search warrant to look at the suicide note and the notebook that she had on her that was addressed to her attorney. The judge reviews it first and he again says, “Yep, this is fair game for your case. So, go ahead and review it.” We look through that. A lot of Teresa’s communication is very self-serving. It is, “Feel sorry for me. This is what I’m going up against.” She basically writes in there that she didn’t murder Paul, and that she wanted to turn herself in and fight the charges against her, that she had driven into town that day and was going to turn herself in. But then, she saw a patrol car drive by, and she began shaking with fear. And she didn’t think that she would be believed in court and she didn’t believe that things would go her way, so she was just going to kill herself.
[00:53:08] She provided instructions on what to do with her assets. She wrote that she formatted her phone and tablet and computer so they would be of no evidentiary value to the police. She wrote that she still believed she had acted in self-defense when she killed Paul. She wrote down that in case it’s helpful, she had made one visit to the Domestic Violence Resource Center in our county before the shooting. As part of this long investigation, I looked at just thousands and thousands of pages of documents, and I don’t even know how many thousands of text messages. I saw way more pictures of goats and goat births and goat breeding and goat udders than I ever needed to see. [Yeardley chuckles] But in the communications between Paul and Teresa, it was interesting. He definitely confronted her via text about, “I noticed all this money’s missing from our accounts, please replace it.” And then, there’s a lot of messages between Teresa and Cassie about how evil Paul is. And it became very clear that Teresa is basically prepping Cassie to be the greatest witness for the self-defense claim.
[00:54:13] Now, it’s important to note that of all the people we talked to and interviewed, no one had ever seen any kind of domestic violence. There are no pictures on Teresa’s devices that show any kind of injuries. There’s no medical records that show there was any questionable injuries, anything pointing to domestic violence. There was never a restraining order. Paul had no criminal history. Every one of Paul’s friends and family said, “This is the nicest man we have ever met. He is calm, he is patient,” which, of course, we have to evaluate all that independently. We’re totally aware that people have a private self and a public self. I totally get that, but we didn’t have a single person who had anything really bad to say about Paul. Everything in this investigation pointed to Teresa planning this. She basically was prepping Cassie with what to say. But there was just no basis whatsoever for any claim of domestic violence at all.
Yeardley: [00:55:21] Did you say that Teresa had a job?
Robert: [00:55:23] They had this farm property, and they had the goats and she would make soap out of goat milk. I guess, they would sell that sporadically at farmer’s markets. But she did not have any 9 to 5 job where she was out of the home. She was at home all the time.
Dan: [00:55:39] Plus, you have video and audio from inside the home on previous interactions between Paul and Teresa, where it’s cordial. So, that’s going to carry some weight there, not just these claims that Cassie is making.
Yeardley: [00:55:53] Also, no video suspiciously on the day of the shooting, that seems very deliberate.
Robert: [00:55:59] Yes, I watched hours and hours of video of my coworkers at the front door and their conversations, of course, not knowing they’re being recorded. So, that was sometimes humorous, sometimes scary, [Yeardley laughs] because that camera would activate every time anyone would move or a car would drive by, and so hours and hours of video, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. But yes, super weird that the interior cameras did not capture anything of this. I wrote to the global company, because of other devices that were in the home to see if anything had been recorded. We basically got nothing. We had no data from the actual shooting time. But yeah, going back to what Dan just said, I think if you somehow have data on how people are when no one’s watching, or you’re being recorded without knowing you’re being recorded, I think that’s how you are. I mean, I think that’s you at your core. Again, there’s just nothing that points to this being self-defense. This was a strange one. This defense attorney, he asked for a release hearing.
Yeardley: [00:57:03] What’s a release hearing? Is that a hearing to determine if Teresa can be released on bail, or kept in custody until her trial?
Robert: [00:57:12] Exactly. We had to share some more about our thoughts on the case and a lengthy affidavit in a little bit of testimony. Her release is denied, she is not allowed out of jail, and this case proceeds to trial. Now, we are more than two years after the shooting, which is not abnormal for a murder case. The trial lasts about three weeks, and Cassie comes in and testifies, and the medical examiner comes in and testify and we all testify. The end result is that a jury finds Teresa guilty of murder.
Yeardley: [00:57:49] What sort of sentence did Teresa get? And is she charged with first-degree murder, or whatever your state’s version of intentional murder is?
Robert: [00:57:56] She actually got charged with murder two. She got a life sentence with no possibility of parole until 25 years have passed. As sometimes happens, she became kind of a drama queen in the jail and needed to be pushed around in a wheelchair everywhere and just lots of attention. She was all about all the attention, was always fighting with jail medical staff about what prescriptions she should have and why can’t she have this, and ” I’ve always had this.” She just became a big headache. After her trial was done, and she was given over to the State Department of Corrections, we were all kind of happy to have her out of our jail. She’s just very high maintenance.
Yeardley: [00:58:33] Teresa has moved out of your local jail to do her time in state prison?
Robert: [00:58:39] Yes. So, that’s this case. It was pretty atypical. A female suspect, we believe, carefully planned and orchestrated to make it look like a self-defense homicide.
Dave: [00:58:50] Who was feeding the goats when she was out of state selling Paul’s father’s house?
Robert: [00:58:56] I don’t want to say a big network of friends, but she had a good network from that community. Eventually, when it was determined that she was not going to get released from custody, she basically gave all her animals. They were given out.
Dave: [00:59:08] I find it interesting she’s trying to bail out after this indictment, and you guys finally track her down. She got put in jail and the defense attorney’s trying to have her released on bail. Well, all that money is from Paul’s father’s house, probably. I mean, how insulting is that to the victim?
Yeardley: [00:59:27] That’s a good point. Like, “You’re going to use my family’s money after you killed me to help yourself out.”
Robert: [00:59:35] She knew that that is a lot of money that she could be able to use to hire the best legal counsel, and she did. She hired some top dollar lawyers. The attorney who came over initially right after the incident and interrupted us in the interview room, he was in way over his head. He realized that, and so a short time later, this very prominent criminal defense firm was hired. They represented her for a while. Paul and Teresa did not have any biological children. Paul’s niece and nephew hired attorneys in the state they live in. Those attorneys got attorneys in our state involved also. Basically, they successfully petitioned the court to freeze all those accounts and those assets because they cited what’s called the Slayer Statute.
[01:00:24] Basically, if you are a killer, you can’t benefit from the person that you killed, so you know your spouse has life insurance, and you kill them to get the life insurance. Yeah, that’s not good. And so, there’s still, I think, ongoing civil action about the assets because, like I said, there were substantial assets here. This property alone would be a lot of money for someone. So, that’s still ongoing.
Dave: [01:00:48] You’ve got a three-week trial. Initially, she’s claiming self-defense. Did she testify on her own behalf?
Robert: [01:00:54] She did.
Dave: [01:00:54] How’d that go?
Robert: [01:00:56] [laughs] Well, I’m sure, Dan and Dave, that you’ve had trials where you’re dealing with suspects and defendants where they just feel they’re smarter than everyone in the room. Especially I’ve noticed in my time, these offenders who offend against children, those kinds of cases, they’re used to have in their own way. They can manipulate a child to do anything. One’s an adult, one’s a kid, they have a lot more resources. That’s kind of how she was. She was the smartest person in the room in her mind, and she thought she could convince. Our prosecutors, man, they did a number on her. She did not present well on the stand to the jury.
[01:01:35] Teresa got a sister who flew in from far away in the country. She was present during the trial with a large dog that somehow was a support animal and able to be in there with her.
Yeardley: [01:01:46] In the courtroom?
Robert: [01:01:47] In the courtroom. Basically, Teresa, during the trial, which this is just– nothing shocks me anymore, but during that trial, this sister would come up and pretend like she was whispering to the defense attorney. She would have a cup of Starbucks coffee or whatever. And she would come out pretend to whisper something to the defense attorney, leave the coffee there. And then the coffee, the defense attorney would hand over to Teresa, which is clearly not allowed. She got yelled at by the judge that that was never to happen again. It’s just completely against the rules, but they were very subtle about it and how it all went about and it was just– there were shenanigans like that.
Yeardley: [01:02:29] What do you think was in that coffee cup, booze or just coffee?
Robert: [01:02:33] It’s just a nice cup of coffee, that’s not from the jail, but it could have been anything, right? [chuckles]
Dan: [01:02:38] Yeah. I mean, you could hide a weapon in there too.
Robert: [01:02:40] Yeah, exactly.
Dan: [01:02:41] A knife.
Dave: [01:02:41] Obviously, they have metal detectors. But it’s just a no-no. I remember in our courtrooms, you couldn’t even have food or beverage when you went inside. At the witness box, there’s a pitcher with some water in it. And at both attorneys’ tables, the prosecution and defense, but that’s it.
Yeardley: [01:02:58] Did Teresa’s family ever and/or do they today feel like she was wrongly convicted of this crime?
Robert: [01:03:06] She had a couple of sisters. Like I said, one came to every day of the trial, and I interacted with her a little in the hallway and everything. She was always very pleasant and very nice. Never gave any indication that she felt that this was unjust or anything. And then, Paul’s relatives and friends from the beginning thought this was planned. They completely thought it was planned and executed. They didn’t really have anything good to say about Teresa, which obviously we just listen and weigh that objectively. It doesn’t really count as evidence what their opinion is, but it was interesting to hear their thoughts.
Yeardley: [01:03:41] Did she ever admit, “Yes, this was financial motive”? Did she stick to her story that it was self-defense?
Robert: [01:03:49] Teresa stuck to her story. I had lots of people ask me about that, including colleagues, and they’re like, “Well, if they were married, and she would get half anyway, then why would she do this?” I ask them, “What’s a greater number, 50% or 100%?” I think there was literal greed going on here. I think that was clearly her motive. Again, with the age difference too, she probably knew that Paul wasn’t going to be around as long as she was. I think she was wondering how she was going to live the rest of her life, money wise. Again, she would have been very comfortable. She definitely wouldn’t have been hurting for money. But, again, she wanted that 100%. Not that 50%.
Yeardley: [01:04:28] Greed, it is the root of so much evil. Ugh. Well, thank you so much for sharing that case with us today, Robert. It’s really wonderful to have you back.
Robert: [01:04:39] Thank you.
Dan: [01:04:40] Thank you, Robert. It was great to have you back.[music]
Yeardley: [01:04:48] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty and Alec Cowan. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin, and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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