tv Dateline Extra MSNBC December 26, 2020 8:00pm-10:00pm PST
members. i cry with the family members, and you feel satisfied that notwithstanding everything muth did to avoid being held accountable, at the end of the day justice was done. she hugged me. and she said she was sorry. and i bursted in tears. i bursted in tears because that to me, is a true example of humanity. >> reporter: two families torn apart by one devastating crime. >> there's a woman, she's shot, she's laying on the floor in the garage. >> reporter: a young mom named crystal taylor, murdered on her way to work, five months pregnant. >> this is breaking me! >> she pretty much gave her whole life just trying to raise
me right. >> being a mom was who she was. who would shoot crystie? >> what's going on here? >> that was our question. >> reporter: police zeroed in on the men in her life. one, two, three of them. >> we're trying to find out who would have the motivation to do this. >> reporter: to help find her killer, her anguished sisters would turn amateur detectives. >> i couldn't even sleep. i needed an answer. >> that was my sister, my baby sister. >> reporter: the twist that stopped everyone cold? there had been another attack on another pregnant woman. >> she was assaulted. and her neck was cut. >> who was targeting moms-to-be? >> in this life or the next, you're gonna pay for what you've done wrong. >> i couldn't believe what i was hearing. how does this happen? >> reporter: in the mega-sprawl of los angeles county, the city of hawthorne occupies about six
square miles, none of them especially glamorous. for decades local pride centered on the beach boys. they grew up here, and quickly left. nowadays it's tech giants like spacex with headquarters at the local airport. but the heart and soul of hawthorne was and is working families. strivers who stay close and look out for each other. this is a story about one of those families. they faced ups and downs like everyone else and always worked through them, together. until one moment, one morning, one bullet, came to tear them apart. growing up, sisters crystal, michelle, and monica taylor were always there for each other. >> we have this tradition of having a family support group. >> reporter: it was their mother, known as momo, who set
the tone. >> i thought it was the most wonderful family there was. my mom and i were best friends and my little sister were best friends. and, you know, so, i thought life was great. >> i'm the oldest. michelle's the middle, and crystie was the baby. and she was every bit the baby. she's my mom's baby. >> reporter: crystal taylor was the youngest by six years. and both older sisters thought momo loved crystie a little extra. spoiled her too, say michelle and monica. >> they talked every day. and she would just immediately start whining as soon as she talked to my mom. she could be, like, being a grownup, and as soon as the phone rang, she went right back to 8-year-old. all the time. >> reporter: tia, her niece, remembers crystie as both a homebody and a romantic dreamer. >> she wasn't flashy. she wasn't someone who, like, shopped a lot. she was just a really down to earth, simple, just happy to be
at home watching movies. >> she watched the same movies -- >> all the time. >> all the time. over. and she loved love stories. "hope floats." "ever after." "love jones." >> reporter: those are all stories of women who find love in improbable ways and end up happy. >> right. >> reporter: is what she wanted? >> yes. >> i know she wanted love. i know that she -- she wanted a fairytale life. i know she always talked about it, but, you know, she was happy with the life that she had. >> reporter: the life she had, working, being with family, and raising a son who was born the very day she turned 17. >> i went in and she was singing "it never rains in southern california" in labor, like shaking the bed. it was like, hurry! >> reporter: crystal called her little boy javonte, against the wishes of the boy's father. >> he came in the room when we were in there, and he was like, "i want his name to be junior." she just like -- in labor stop labor, "no." she said, "well, oh, no. because i'm not marrying him. and if i get married to somebody else i don't wanna have two juniors, like no." >> reporter: so she already made the decision that she was having
the baby, but she was not gonna be his wife? >> and she was not gonna be his wife. but that was crystie. she made a decision. there's no changing her mind. >> reporter: wrapped in the blanket of her big family, crystal knew she and javonte would do just fine. >> we are some baby whisperers in the sense. we love babies. strangers' babies, anybody baby. >> reporter: anybody say that's too young to be having a baby? >> no, we all had babies young. >> we'd still said it. it would still be said, but it would also be followed by, "you're still gonna finish school. you know, life isn't over. you made your bed harder, but you're gonna lay in it. and we're gonna love this baby." >> reporter: those were rules set down by momo. >> everyone finished school, started a career, and raised their children on their own successfully. >> reporter: as javonte grew, crystie grew up. >> she just really took care of her baby, went to work, and, like, brought her lunch 'cause she was never spending any money. if she went to the movies with her son, no, he knew not to ask for snacks.
she just wouldn't spend any money. >> reporter: money was for the important things, like javonte's education. >> she always talked about, you know, his prom, or when he goes to college, or what she wanted him to do with his life and -- and, you know, how she wanted him to be different. so she took her job as a mother really seriously. it was her whole life. being a mom was her whole life. >> reporter: by 2001 michelle and crystie and their kids were living in separate apartments in the the same apartment building in hawthorne. even momo lived there until her health began to fail and she moved to texas where her sister-in-law, a nurse, could take care of her. but soon came word, momo's in bad shape. come quick. that day was easy to remember. it was september 11, 2001. they couldn't fly. no one in the u.s. could. so they drove from hawthorne to texas. crystie wouldn't leave momo's
side the entire time they were there. >> crystie's like, "i'm sorry, but i came here for -- just to see mom." she wasn't leaving her room. like, she was just focused on her. >> if she can get next to my mom, she's gonna be on her like glue. >> reporter: and that worked. your mom kind of rallied. >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: after two weeks, the family drove back to los angeles, arriving in the middle of the night on september 23rd. two days later, this family learned a difficult truth. no matter how much you love, and how much you care, sometimes you can't help your loved one when harm is headed their way. >> 911. >> yes. i'd like to report a gunshot. there's a woman. she's shot. she's laying in the floor in the garage. >> reporter: soon after, a neighbor of crystie's called tia with some brutal news. >> they just said that she was shot. i remember saying, "who would shoot crystie?" >> coming up -- >> she screamed the most harrowing scream. >> reporter: a family in
anguish. i broke down crying. i just cried myself to sleep that night. >> reporter: and the first clues to the mystery. >> her purse was still intact. her clothes appeared to be intact. >> so what's going on here? >> that was our question. >> when "one moment" continues. >> when "one moment" continues shark iq robot deep cleans and empties itself into a base you empty as little as once a month. and unlike standard robots that bounce around it cleans row by row. if it's not a shark, it's just a robot. damom, look!get sare you okay?? head home this holiday with the one you love. visit your local mercedes-benz dealer today for exceptional lease and financing offers at the mercedes-benz winter event.
arrived at crystal taylor's apartment building. detective robbie williams wasn't far behind. >> i was at my desk and received a call from my patrol units that they had a young lady who was unresponsive and appeared that she may have suffered a gunshot wound to the head. >> reporter: williams arrived and quickly sized up the scene. >> there's officers already trying to revive her. she's laying down in the lobby area of her apartment complex that leads from the upper stairs, which are their apartment, and to the garage area. >> and her stuff was sort of scattered around her? >> there were a set of keys in her hands and appears the car keys are house keys just like you were coming out of the house and getting ready to go into your car, and her purse was there. and we started to get into the processing of a crime scene, making sure we identify as many witnesses and if there's also other victims.
>> reporter: but the only obvious victim was crystal. she'd been shot in the head. paramedics took her to the hospital and detective williams got straight to work finding witnesses. >> because this is early morning. there's kids walking to school. there's people preparing themselves for their day of work so a lot of people were up. a lot of people reported hearing a gunshot. >> reporter: a father making breakfast for his kids looked out the kitchen window when he heard the shot. he saw a man running. an 11-year-old girl on the sidewalk in front of the building also heard it, and saw a man holding a shiny object. he jumped a fence and ran north. anybody actually see the shooting? >> no, and there was no surveillance cameras that captured it, either. >> reporter: but the crime scene was talking to detective williams. was she robbed? >> the evidence doesn't support a robbery. her purse was still intact. the amount of time between someone hearing a shot and someone else seeing someone running away from the crime scene doesn't necessarily support a robbery. >> was she sexually assaulted?
>> no evidence supported that she was sexually assaulted. her clothes appeared to be intact. >> you go to her apartment? >> it didn't appear there was a conflict, any sign of physical confrontation. >> so what's going on here? >> that was our question. >> reporter: it was the first of many questions detective williams would have. crystie's family was gathering at the hospital. later, they'd have questions too. but right now, they were all in shock. >> i got there first. they were like, go in that -- go in this room, that was off to the side. well, i had already been to the hospital a lot with my mom, so i knew that they took the family to a side room. so i told them, like, "no, no, no, i don't want to go in there, i just want to see about my sister." then the doctor came out and he told me, he was like, "well, she didn't make it." >> and i'm driving on the freeway, and all of a sudden, i just felt like she wasn't here.
i hadn't talked to anybody else, i just literally started -- and i got in the carpool lane and started screaming in the car, no, no, this isn't happening. >> reporter: the news that they lost their baby sister was unbearable. crystal taylor was just 27. >> when i got in, michelle was on the floor. i'm just, like, looking at her. i try to hug her. >> reporter: now they had to tell their ailing momo her baby was gone. >> when i had to call my mom to say, "somebody killed crystie," and she screamed the most harrowing just scream. i just knew this is gonna kill mom, too. >> there's nothing worse than burying your kids. i mean -- >> no. especially when you're already so sick. >> so sick. >> i -- i remember when -- i was talking to my -- my mom. i was like, "don't you leave me." because i saw her -- i saw my mom just give up. she loves all her grandkids but i know she was fighting to make sure christie's baby would be all right. >> reporter: telling crystal's 10-year-old son was even harder. >> and we kind of sat next to
like, "javonte, your mom died." and he crossed his arms like this -- >> and screamed. >> and he just kind of laid-back. >> my poor little mommy. >> reporter: "your mom died." they didn't say how. you all kind of shielded javonte from what had happened. >> yes. >> yeah. >> how'd that work? what did you tell him? >>. >> he hnever really asked. >> we were older and couldn't grasp what had happened to her. so why give it to him? >> so in one day, his whole world goes away. >> goes away. >> no more mom. no more home. no more life as he knew it. >> yeah, and he taught himself to just be -- like, not even talk about it. >> you don't even know javonte's in a room. he learned to just -- i don't know. he just shut down. >> reporter: even now, javonte seems almost numb when talking about the worst day of his life. >> that night i pretty much -- i broke down crying.
i just cried myself to sleep that night. >> you remember that? >> yes. >> you remember what she looked like? >> yes. >> i heard you can't remember the sound of her voice. >> i cannot remember what her -- she would sound like, no. >> that bother you? >> a bit, yes. >> reporter: this family tragedy would only get worse. because crystal taylor wasn't the only one killed by that bullet. coming up, police drill down in the search for a suspect. >> we tend to focus on relatives or relationship partners. >> the men in crystal's life. one, two, three of them. >> we're trying to find out who would have the motivation to do this. >> when "one moment" continues. >> when "one moment" continues get fifty dollars toward your home deductible. it's a policy perk for being a farmers customer. (customer) do i have to do anything? (burke) nothing. (customer) nothing? (burke) nothing. (customer) nothing? (burke) nothing. (customer) hmm, that is really something. (burke) you get a whole lot of something with farmers policy perks. see ya.
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than ordinary antiperspirants. with secret you're unstoppable. no sweat. try it and love it or get your money back. secret. ♪ all strength, no sweat as crystal taylor's family tried to figure out how to cope with her murder, detective robbie williams tried to figure out who might have wanted her dead. >> when we started recreating that person's life, you know, we're trying to find out who would have the motivation to do this. and oftentimes, you know, a civilian like she was, not involved in any criminal enterprise, we tend to focus on relatives or relationship partners. >> reporter: the 11-year-old girl who'd seen the shooter running told cops just before the shot rang out, she heard a man and a woman arguing.
was that a clue? detective williams learned crystal had a boyfriend named dino. >> just a hard-working guy. was in a relationship with crystal on and off. and this is coming from the family and friends that knew about dino. >> reporter: and there was kenneth woods, father of crystal's 10-year-old son javonte. >> javonte's father's got to be somebody you're gonna look at. >> most definitely, and we did. trying to identify if there was a ongoing conflict. >> kenneth wasn't helping with javonte and there had been conflict over child support in the past. crystal had obtained a court order requiring kenneth to pay. so two possible leads. a third surfaced when williams went to crystal's office. >> we get to her place of employment and we talk to several young ladies that identified themselves as being her friend. and they're shocked that this has happened. >> they told him the day before she was killed, crystal received a phone call at work that seemed
to upset her. and then they dropped a bombshell. >> that a, she was pregnant, and b, the person that she was pregnant by did not want her to be pregnant any longer. >> you couldn't tell crystal taylor was pregnant when you saw her lying on the ground? >> i couldn't tell. i couldn't tell. >> in fact, she was five months along. her unborn son died when she did. crystal had told friends the father of her child was a guy named derek smyer. so you want to find out where derek is. >> most definitely. we want to find everything about him right now. >> the detective learned crystal and derek had a quick fling. it only lasted a month or so. they'd met at anderson park, which is near both their jobs. by now, it was lunch time. derek wasn't in his office. so williams drove to the park. bringing crystal's work friends with him. and one of them immediately noticed something. >> she points out a car that derek drives.
>> reporter: his car was easy to spot. it had vanity plates that said "my whip" slang for a fancy car. then crystal's friend pointed out derek. and detectives brought him in for a talk. >> go ahead and compose yourself. what is your last name, sir? >> smyer. >> and your first name, sir? >> derek. >> do you have a middle name, derek? >> paul. >> he freely answered your questions? he didn't ask for an attorney? >> no. no, he -- he never requested an attorney during our interview time with him. >> when was the last time that you saw her at her apartment that you can recall? >> last time was not recently. >> okay. >> i haven't seen her physically in about -- let's see, a couple months. >> about two months? >> longer than that. >> he kind of discounted it as "yeah, we were on and off really quick." >> does derek offer any theory of what he thinks might have
happened to crystal? >> at some point in the interview, he talks about her being involved with other people. >> did she mention this other boyfriend at all? >> she mentioned that sometimes he'd pop up at her apartment. sometimes she'd say, i wish this guy stop calling me, or he's trying to get back with me. at least that's the impression from what i got. >> right. >> it might be true. she might have been trying to make me -- >> jealous or something? >> i don't know. people say things. they're not always the truth. you know what i mean? >> right. >> did he acknowledge that crystal was pregnant with his child? >> he acknowledged that she was pregnant but came short of acknowledging that the child was his. >> you're the father of her child or she thinks you are? well, anyway. [ laughter ] >> you had a basic description of someone that witnesses saw running from the scene. >> yes. african-american male wearing a dark-colored hoodie with a scarf around his head, or handkerchief around his head. small build. wearing dark clothing. with light facial hair. >> that description resemble derek smyer?
>> it does. we ultimately authored a search warrant for his house. >> find anything in his house? >> no. >> no murder weapon? >> no murder weapon, no ammunition, no clothing that matched the suspect that was seen running away. >> what about his car? >> we searched that and found no evidence in terms of blood droppings or any type of weapons or anything that would suspect that crystal had been in there recently. >> derek smyer had no criminal record. he had a white collar office job and he came from a close-knit, loving family, said his sister, danielle. >> i really -- i looked up to my brother growing up. i was really quiet in school. but everyone knew who derek smyer was. >> he had your back? >> he had my back. and there is no doubt that if anything happened, they would be there to take care of me. he was 4 years older than i was and so he had the pleasure of getting to middle school and high school before i did.
>> so he'd kind of tell you here's what's coming. >> and when i got there everyone accepted me with open arms because they'd already accepted daring. derek was a great guy. >> so when she heard police were interviewing her brother about a murder, she questioned him herself. >> and i asked derek, what is this? he said, i don't know. i said, what happened? he said, i don't know what happened. >> he didn't say that he knew anything about crystal taylor's death? >> nothing about crystal taylor's death. >> it sounds to me like you were pretty fixated on derek pretty early. >> well, he was -- he was one of our -- our top three. because remember, we're looking at the son's father, we're looking at her love interest on and off guy. dino. and we're looking at now derek. >> how did javonte's father react when you told him crystal had been murdered? >> his reaction was shock. he was shocked. >> and her boyfriend dino was devastated, police said. more important, both men had alibis. witnesses put them no where near crystal's apartment at the time
of the murder. the same was true for derek smyer. his neighbors saw him at home at 7:30 that morning, meaning he couldn't have shot crystal. doesn't sound like there's enough to hold anybody on at that point. >> no. >> but soon enough there would be another person police would be looking at. coming up -- >> and i came around the corner and it was a guy. he was sitting on the stairs and he startled me a little bit. i kind of got this instinct that said remember what he looked like. >> sisters turned investigators? >> we had been watching "cold case" and "criminal files." so we thought we were real detectives. he wasn't going to get away with killing our sister. >> when "one moment" continues. >> when "one moment" continues b, it's not just a job, it's our mission. from our expert technicians armed with state of the art tools and technology, to genuine parts made for the perfect fit. whether it's our place... ...or yours. we're there.
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all right, richard lui with your hours top stories. the european union has received shipments of the covid-19 vaccine. it planned to role it out sunday to the organization's 27 nations, germany, hungary and slovakia began giving out their first vaccines saturday. and woman is in serious but stable condition after her vehicle she was driving went over a cliff outside san francisco. a fire crew rescued the woman from the overturned vehicle located on a beach below. it's unclear how that vehicle went over the cliff. now back to "dateline."
sometimes, the things people have to deal with after a loved one is murdered only intensify the agony. there was the bloody mess left at the crime scene. crystal's pastor and a family friend stepped in to clean it so the family wouldn't have to. the sisters were asked to donate crystal's organs. that proved too difficult a question to answer quickly. and there was one more thing. somebody told you you had to name the baby? >> she was already going to name him jeremiah, so we just stuck with it. >> reporter: jeremiah taylor wasn't supposed to be born for 20 more weeks. he never got a birth certificate. only a death certificate. then the coroner released his body along with his mother's, so their family could say goodbye. >> it was an open casket. i remember i wanted to reach out and touch her. i just kind of sat in the chair looking down at the floor, waiting for it to be over. >> reporter: in the days after
crystie died, everyone in the family spoke with police. hoping they could help in some way. any way. michelle had a story about the day before crystie died. as she left with the kids that morning, there was a man in the lobby of their building. >> and i came around the corner, and -- it was a guy. he was sitting on the stairs. and when i came around he startled me a little bit, so i stopped to ask him what was he doing there, and then he told me he was waiting for someone. her apartment building like it's not that big. everybody pretty much know each other. so when i got to the bottom of the stairs i told the person he was waiting for carlos gones, she's not there mch >> reporter: michelle had a bad feeling about him. >> i kind of got this instinct that said, remember what he looked like. and then i froze on what he looked like, and went on about
my business. >> reporter: and she warned crystie about the man. >> i called her to tell her that it was a strange guy that was on the stairs, just be careful when she came out. >> what about this guy made you scared enough that you thought to call your sister? >> because he didn't belong there. >> and he was just kind of hanging around? >> he looked more street than the people that lived in her apartment complex. that would be a good way of explaining it. >> reporter: so was the man michelle saw on monday the same man witnesses saw on tuesday, running from the scene after the murder? >> what i'd like to do chavonna is know a little bit about -- >> reporter: police brought in chavonna hall, the 11-year-old schoolgirl who saw the running man. >> did he have anything on his head? >> yeah. >> reporter: with her mom at her side, she worked with a forensic artist from the los angeles sheriff's department on a sketch of the suspect. >> what can you tell me about his nose, his eyes his mouth? >> reporter: michelle worked with the same artist. >> does the description of the
guy crystal's sister says was waiting on the staircase, does that match the description of the guy people say were running away after the shooting? >> almost identical. >> reporter: here's the sketch drawn from both their descriptions. >> were you happy with the final sketch? it looked like the guy? >> oh, yeah. it looked like him. >> reporter: but he didn't look like any of the men in crystal taylor's life. not derek. not dino. and not javonte's father kenneth. cops would have to figure out who he was, and where to find him. monica and michelle didn't want to wait for that. >> we had been watching "cold case", and "criminal files" and all that, so we thought we were real detectives. >> reporter: too much tv can be a dangerous thing. or maybe this was the dynamic of the taylor family. the sisters who were going to together help crystal raise her son were now helping solve her murder. so, sketch in hand, they canvassed the neighborhood. >> you? not the police?
>> she became so obsessed. it worried me how obsessed she was with -- and she would say, "he's not gonna get away with doing this to my baby sister." >> reporter: tia was afraid her mom and her aunt were putting their own lives in danger. >> i threatened to tell the police. like, "you guys are not supposed to be doing that. like, you guys don't have weapons. what are you going to do if -- what are you looking for, and then what are you gonna do if you find it?" >> reporter: but there's no arguing with success. michelle and monica's amateur detective work paid off. after showing the sketch around, they got a tip. the guy in the sketch was a gangbanger who went by the street name c-styles. now the sisters wanted to find him. if you're right, if this is the guy, he's a killer and a gangbanger, and you're just going to, what, walk up on him and say -- >> he wasn't going to get away with killing our sister. >> i wanted to be able to tell the police where he was and like, "come. come. let's go get him." >> reporter: they didn't find him.
but they did tell detective williams, who ran the name through a gang database and discovered, unfortunately, there was more than one c-styles. >> there's big c-styles, there's a little c-styles. >> reporter: eventually williams found a c-styles who'd been on probation at the time of the murder. >> our first goal was to identify the connection between the c-styles and crystal taylor. any gang affiliation, any relatives, was he a boyfriend, ex-boyfriend? the sisters say no. her friends say no. there's no evidence to support that they even knew each other. >> although maybe they knew each other and she didn't tell anybody. >> exactly. and we have to also keep that as a card on the table. okay. so how can we start proving this up? i start examining where their lines may have crossed. crystal taylor works in carson. oh, she goes to anderson park. oh, there's information that c-styles hangs out at anderson park. okay.
>> they brought in c-styles. legal name skyler moore. you say to him, "what do you have to do with the murder of crystal taylor?" and he says? >> "i don't know her. i did not do this." but he's studying her photo. >> reporter: and then, c-styles continued to talk. >> he's coming up with an analysis of the person who would have done this. and he refers to the person as, "this person had a lot of rage. this person has a lot of rage in them to do that." >> as opposed to just saying, "i didn't do any murder. i don't know who this is. i don't know what you're talking about." >> exactly. exactly. >> reporter: that seemed rather strange. but so did this -- there was no obvious reason for c-styles to kill crystal taylor. true that if you're worried about becoming a victim of gang violence, you're probably safest in the morning because these guys stay up very late and don't roll out of bed until late morning or noon? >> now i'm not going to say that
that's a fact, but it's more true than not. >> if somebody is up and working at 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning, they -- >> their paths just wouldn't cross. not normally. not a hardcore serious type of person like a c-style. >> reporter: so, was he the man in the parking garage? on that question, c-styles wasn't terribly helpful. but then he did something surprising. after staring at crystal's photo and floating theories about her killer, c-styles suddenly confessed to a different murder of a rival gang member. i don't do this for a living, but he wasn't even being charged with that, and you weren't even asking him about that. >> i didn't even know there was a murder. >> why would he blurt that out? >> you have to understand c-styles' mentality. c-styles' mentality is that there's nobility in killing the enemy.
there is no nobility or honor in killing a lady who's pregnant. >> someone who is innocent. >> yes. >> because it goes right in line with building your résume. so if your résume as a gangster is i go out and i put work for my gang including killing, including robbery, well eventually you're going to have prove, okay, when was the last time you killed somebody? when was the last time you did a robbery? well, this is his advertisement by taking claim for, craw, i shot these guys. i shot this guy, i killed him. but i wouldn't do her. i wouldn't kill her. >> reporter: detective williams was convinced c-styles was only copping to the other murder to distance himself from crystal's. and then all the witnesses in
crystal's murder picked him out of a lineup. two months after crystal taylor's death, skyler moore, aka c-styles, was charged with murdering her and her unborn baby jeremiah. justice seemed close at hand. it was not. >> coming up -- >> i'm looking for this guy day and night. >> and then you see him. and he's in court right in front of you. face-to-face with a confessed killer. you weren't afraid to testify? >> oh, yes, i was. >> i was praying and asking god to make us strong enough. but i was really scared. >> when "one moment" continues. >> when "one moment" continues eh unstopables in-wash scent booster downy unstopables
>> i was afraid opening the door in the morning. like -- like, there's a blind spot when i first walk out. like, i'm literally looking out like this every morning. >> reporter: you all looking over your shoulders? >> oh, yeah. >> looking over our shoulders. really bad. >> i was in almost a post-traumatic stress syndrome kind of thing. just nervous all the time. >> reporter: with skyler moore, aka c-styles, charged in the murder, there was some sense of relief. >> to know that this guy was off the street was some comfort, 'cause he was the one that could show and up and kill anybody. >> reporter: even so, the sisters were still afraid to face him at the preliminary hearing. tough to be in the courtroom and see him? >> oh, yeah. we were crying, as soon as we walked through the door in court, but we thought like, "oh, i don't know what i'm gonna do when i see him," you know, the shooter. >> i'm looking for this guy day and night. >> reporter: and then you see him -- >> i'm obsessed -- >> reporter: finally. >> -- with him.
>> reporter: and he's in court right in front of you. >> and then he's in court right in front of me, and i'm expecting to have this visceral reaction to him, and i felt like -- >> like he had some remorse. 'cause i remember we told the -- the detective, i was like, "he -- he look like he has some -- he has some remorse." >> reporter: the detective didn't buy it for a minute. >> she was like, "no, he's -- he's a straight-up killer. he don't have no remorse." >> reporter: whatever the taylors saw, that hint of humanity in a cold-blooded killer, c-styles still scared them. you weren't afraid to testify? >> oh, yes, i was. >> reporter: but you went ahead and did it. >> i went ahead and did it, because i was praying and asking god to make us strong enough to be able to do it, whatever it is we needed to do. i -- but i was really scared. >> reporter: michelle testified she saw c-styles at crystal's building the day before the shooting. it was up to other witnesses to place him there the day crystal was killed, and there were several who could. the man making his kids breakfast. a neighbor who saw a man who looked like c-styles around one that same morning, watching the building. another neighbor who actually knew c-styles and thought he saw
him loitering in the area. except, all those witnesses were afraid to testify in open court, against a known gang member. all except one. the schoolgirl, who may not have known enough to be afraid. miss hall, who was a child, essentially, when she saw someone running away from the scene of crystal taylor's murder, she was willing to continue testifying. >> yes, she was. >> reporter: but her family was pretty worried, her mother in particular. >> yes, her mother was really, really concerned about that. >> reporter: the d.a had his own concerns. the testimony of a schoolgirl, and the sister of the victim, didn't seem enough to convict. and that's about all the evidence they had. police never found any dna, fingerprints, or forensic evidence that linked c-styles to the garage of crystal taylor's apartment. and while they found a .38-caliber bullet lodged in crystal's brain, they never
found the gun that fired it, let alone linked that gun to c-styles or anyone else. if c-styles went to trial and was acquitted, that would be the end of it. and so, rather than take that chance the d.a. dropped the charges. >> when the prosecutor said, "we don't want to try this case now because we don't have the evidence right now, and the witnesses are skittish. we want to wait." and you think that's gonna be a couple of months. >> couple of months. >> maybe a year. >> uh-huh. >> reporter: instead, many months passed. and nothing happened. the nation grew obsessed with the murder of a 27-year-old pregnant woman, but it wasn't crystal taylor. >> laci peterson's case is showing on the news every night, and crystie's the same beautiful, young lady, pregnant, and there's no coverage. you're offended that everybody was going on with life. like, the world kept going. just one person's gone, and people go to work the next morning. the birds are still chirping. and it -- it all offends you. and it's just weird.
>> reporter: and you're thinking, "when's our turn?" >> yeah, then i'm like, "when is our turn?" >> reporter: momo died six months after her daughter crystal. her family says the cause was as much heartbreak as heart disease. and all of that took a huge toll on the taylors. >> everyone was hurting so -- no one really wanted to be around what would bring up that sadness again. and that was us and being together, so we separated for a while. >> reporter: and so what had been a big, happy, close family kind of splintered? >> yeah. >> reporter: c-styles was convicted of the gang murder he had admitted to. his sentence -- life in prison. and crystal taylor's murder remained officially unsolved. the sisters were sure c-styles had pulled the trigger. but they were sure of something else, too. c-styles had no reason to kill their sister. someone put him up to it. and they thought they knew who that someone was.
coming up -- >> he did this to crystie. he did this to all of us. >> and he got away with it. >> the chilling clue that crystal had given her family. >> you're all kind of beating yourself up for not listening to crystie's warning. >> exactly. >> right. >> i whispered, "that's the guy. that's the guy who had crystal taylor killed." >> when "one moment" continues. >> when "one moment" continues alice loves the scent of gain so much, she wished there was a way to make it last longer. say hello to your fairy godmother alice.
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rewinding to that trip when they visited their ailing mother in texas. they arrived back in los angeles in the middle of the night, saturday into sunday.id yet crystal still woke up very early the next morning. >> she insisted on going to church. we were all thinking to sleep in, but she got up, and she prayed, and then she cried.
>> she was going through d something. she just wasn't sharing it with us. >> reporter: the next day was monday, the morning michelle sa: a suspicious man on the stairs of the apartment building. she warned crystal who went a pa different way to the garage c which might have saved her life for 24 hours. what they didn't learn until ou much later was that crystal left work crying on that last day of her life. she didn't say anything to her family that night, but she did act differently. >> she went around the room and she hugged everyone. >> and she never did that. >> i think she just didn't wannk worry anyone, and i think she yo kind of just hoped that everything would work out. what was the matter with crystaw taylor? t they rewound their mental tape a little further, and there it was.th a moment. it happened during their car trip back from texas.ne >> she was on her phone as listening to something. and she put her phone down, and she said, "if anything happens to me, it was derek." >> reporter: derek smyer, the father of her unborn child. did she go into any detail about what he had said to her to make her say that?ha >> no, she didn't.
the conversation chan -- turned into "don't worry about him." "don't worry about him helping with the baby." >> reporter: they thought that's all it was, derek didn't want to help raise his child. now they replayed that moment over and over. >> we should've said, "wait, what did he sa -- what did he say to you?" but instead of that we were like, "we don't need him. like, just hang up. don't even talk to him."en you know, that kind of just -- >> yeah, that's exactly what we said. >> showing her the kind of support.ng 'cause we're so used to just going. >> she brought on it up that she was worried, but you didn't hear it or it didn't sound bad enough. you're all kind of beating yourself up for not listening to crystie's warning. >> exactly. >> right. >> even though it sounds to me like you'd almost have to be a mind reader to know that she was really concerned. >> yeah. >> reporter: the years started : to pass. and this family thought a lot about derek smyer. crystal had said if something happened to her, it was derek. they believed he was the only one who had something to gain from her death. as they had done with c-styles,
michelle and monica now tried to find derek. >> i didn't know derek's name. i thought his name was myers. >> and i was spelling derek the wrong way. and looking for him, like, i in mean, just forever. >> reporter: if they had managed to tail derek they would have found a guy who didn't seem to fit the profile of a killer. he was doing well, says his sister danielle.oi >> he had gotten his bachelor's degree in business, he had went on to start his own company. he was doing great. he was always happy, he was always in good spirits, he was driven. >> reporter: he still had that silver mustang convertible with the custom plates "my whip." although monica and michelle never spotted the car, tia did. >> i stopped at a light, and derek pulled up next to me in a car. with the top down, listening to music. t i just felt like this was so unfair that it's a nice, sunny day, and he's going on with life. it just, like, tripped me out. like, this guy really just did this to my family. g he did this to crystie.
he did this to momo.s he did this to my mom and michelle, to javonte, to all of us, and -- >> and he got away with it. >> and he got away with it.e >> reporter: even detective robbie williams saw derek one r: day at the airport. >> my wife and i were on our way to a vacation. and i look up and i see derek walk right past us. >> reporter: williams had never forgotten crystal taylor. he'd had taken her case file with him as he moved up the promotional ladder from detective to lieutenant. he'd always shared the family's suspicions that derek was somehow behind crystal's murder. but he also knew he didn't have enough evidence to arrest him. >> i whispered to my wife, "that's the guy. that's the guy who had crystal taylor killed." >> that's got to be like a knife in you. i mean, if that's what you think, if you think that's the f guy who had crystal taylor killed, well here he is, out free, breathing the same air yoa are. maybe going on vacation just like you are.in a having a great time. he got away with it. g
>> it's about karma. in this life or the next.fe >> reporter: it turned out to be this life. help was about to come from the last place anyone expected. coming up -- >> we're looking for some help on some cases. >> a conversation with the convict. is c-styles about to come clean? when "dateline" continues. ♪ >> so if you were right, they were hanging out a couple days before thepl murder. >>da and now a decade later, the was no way to prove who the man in the park might have been.
>> and c styles serving time for another murder and nothing is happening. >> nothing was happening to derek that i could see. but i'm a believer in karma, either in this life or the next, you're going to pay for what you have done wrong. maybe it was luck. maybe it was good police work. but whatever it was, on june 15th, 2011, l.a. sheriffs detective richardff lopez and h partner found themselves at a northern california prison with a few hours to kill. >> i wanted to talk to him about a murder. >> that would be crystal taylor's murder. he had worked with hawthorn pd on the case. she knew derek would never spill, but would c styles. coming up --
>> we're looking for help on some cases. >> conversation with the convict. >> if you tell us>> something tt you remember truthly remember and we can corroborate it, we can get you out of krochlt. >> is c styles about to come clean? when "one moment" continues. cl when "one moment" continues. from our expert technicians armed with state of the art tools and technology, to genuine parts made for the perfect fit. whether it's our place... ...or yours. we're there. rain or shine, day or night. no one knows your vehicle better. to learn all the ways we can be at your service, call, click or visit a dealership near you.
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open case. but they didn't have enough evidence to try him, and they thought the father of crystal's unborn child might have been involved as well. but there was nothing linking him do c styles except possibly the alleged trigger man himself. now they were at a northern californ california. >> i need more detail.
they questioned a lot of gang members and he knew c styles had enemies in prison. >> you're 28 years old and already tired looking over your back. 'cause that's what that's why you're in the hole. 'cause you can't go on the main yard, am i right? okay -- well, we're looking for some help on some cases. now one hand washes the other. if you tell us something that you remember, truthfully remember, and we can corroborate it, we can get you moved out of california. >> like, to where, though? >> arizona, illinois, tennessee. >> detective lopez assured c-styles this wasn't your typical police interrogation. >> we didn't read you your miranda rights, right? so anything you say cannot be used against you. we are not trying to put a case on you, but we are just trying to get the truth. >> then detective lopez showed c-styles some photos of crystal taylor and derek smyer. >> i've got a sneaky suspicion you might recognize some of them faces. okay, okay?
you're -- skyler, you're -- she, from what we know -- you know what's up, okay? it's a good act, though. it's survival. and you know, no one's supposed to talk to the police, i know that. but everybody does, dude. you know that. >> you're told from when they're young kids, you know, "snitches get stitches." and you don't talk to the police. so when they finally break that barrier and they come and you open the floodgates, they have a tendency to talk then. and all the things that bothered them when they were in the life begin to come out. >> and that's what happened here? >> yes. >> bit by bit, c-styles started to talk. turns out, that was him in the park with derek. he met derek playing pickup basketball at the same park where derek met crystal and that was the connection investigators had long looked for. between c-styles and derek smyer. and c-styles said back in the summer of 2001 derek began complaining about a problem named crystal taylor.
>> he described derek as being desperate because of this pregnant girl. he said that derek had called her "gold digger." and that by getting rid of her, that takes care of the problem of having child support. >> so he said he and derek worked out a deal. c-styles would pull the trigger. and derek smyer would owe him a favor. >> did he promise you money or did he promise you dope? >> it was just a mixture, he basically promised me loyalty or whatnot so that's why i say money wasn't really a factor cause it was gonna be more beneficial down the line. >> that's how this works? i always thought that when you wanted somebody killed, you had to pay money for that. >> everybody glamorizes it and thinks it's that way. but in skyler's mind, this was easier for him to do. he could do this and then, of course, derek would be indebted to him. >> and there would be no money trail linking the two men. c-styles said derek told him where crystal lived.
>> skyler says he scouts the location, he's there waiting for the victim to come down the stairs. in fact, he -- i believe he runs into her sister. >> the day before? >> the day before. right, exactly. and so on the day of it he goes and waits, lies in wait for her. and she comes down to the car. and he shoots her. and then he runs out of the garage area. >> when we interviewed sky lar, he says at this point he's becoming suspicious of derek, that derek might tell on him, so he was going to kill derek. >> no honor among thieves. >> no. >> you're looking at a guy who's by all accounts kind of a hardened gang banger, living that life. what's in it for him to confess to one more murder when he's already in there doing life without parole? >> i can't speak to all of them.
but i can speak to this one. he felt bad about this. and he wanted to make it right. >> killing a pregnant woman bothered him? >> yes. >> killing those other people did not? >> didn't seem to, no. >> reporter: police thought they finally had the story of who killed crystal taylor. but it was a story they couldn't tell in court. not yet, anyway. coming up -- that dynamic duo of sister detectives wasn't done yet. >> we were, you know, back on the job. >> cagney and lacey shift their focus to derek. >> we never thought he should get away with it. >> my brother is not a perfect man, but my brother's an innocent man. when "one moment" continues. when "one moment" continues. five blades and a pivoting flexball designed to get virtually every hair on the first stroke, while washing away dirt and oil. so you're ready for the day with a clean shave and a clean face. ♪
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>> but we still wanted answer. >> reporter: then the phone rang. detectives shared the big news about their prison interview with c-styles. >> they said, "well, the shooter confessed." >> reporter: and told them it was derek smyer who put him up to it. >> reporter: in his confession, mr. styles said he saw another woman on the stairs and thought maybe that was crystie. that was you. >> uh-huh. and he said he considered killing me. >> that was devastating. >> reporter: you were that close to getting killed. >> getting killed. uh-huh. yeah. >> reporter: the detectives still had to figure out how to use c-styles' off the record confession to make an on the record case against derek. in the meantime, sisters michelle and monica couldn't resist going back to prowling the streets, looking for clues. cagney and lacey shift their focus to derek? >> we never thought he should get away with it. >> when the police said, "come in. we want to talk to you, we're going to reopen the case," i have a notebook now.
i'm like, "oh smyers." so i wrote it down, and then i go back and i found, like, businesses they had. >> reporter: they also figured out where derek lived. you're regularly driving by his house? >> no, we were, you know, back on the job. making sure since the case was reopened, we, they had enough evidence this time. >> reporter: by then, detective lopez at the sheriff's homicide bureau had pulled out the old files and read everything. police reports, forensic reports, interview notes. and what he read lined up with what c-styles had told him. >> the description of the place. the description of meeting the victim's sister the day prior. the way he ran out of the place, all those things were, you know, matched what he was telling us. and we were able to corroborate. >> reporter: with all that information, lopez decided to take a chance. arrest derek, apply some pressure, and see if he would crack.
so nine years and ten months after crystal taylor's murder, derek smyer once again sat in a police interview room. >> he felt like he had to control everything that happened in the interview. he would answer a question, but before he answered it he would -- he would give a preamble as to why his answer was this. >> reporter: lopez pushed him. told derek that c-styles had confessed and implicated derek. derek denied everything. lopez thought he was lying. but what he was not doing, was cracking. >> i said, "you know, you're not a likeable person. i don't know if anybody's going to believe you." and he just didn't seem to mind. >> reporter: of course, it's possible derek wasn't worried because he wasn't guilty. during those ten years from 2001 to 2011, what's derek doing and how is he? does he seem like a guy with a cloud over his head? >> no. he seems like a man who's flourishing. >> reporter: derek's sister danielle was shocked by the arrest.
she says the way she and derek grew up was a world away from people like c-styles and from crimes like murder. >> we played, we were into sports, we had two extremely active parents that were a part of all of our sports leagues that were taking us to summer camps. >> what sports were both of you playing? >> we played everything. my parents had us involved in everything possible. derek did football, basketball, softball, baseball. you name it, we did it. >> reporter: she says derek did go off track in high school. he was just 16 when his girlfriend traci got pregnant. it was news their parents were not happy to hear. >> they were in shock, especially my dad. my dad is very traditional, you know, believes that children should be born in wedlock, as derek and i were. >> reporter: derek's daughter sydney was born in april of 1998 and instantly derek smyer
had to be an adult. >> towards the end of the pregnancy, he was very excited. you know, we had all these baby clothes at the houses. we were getting prepared. >> he dropped out of high school so that he could get a full-time job. and even though he wasn't making much, he was still doing what he could to support that baby. >> that changes your life. >> that does change your life. >> and that forestalls a lot of your options. >> absolutely, absolutely but derek, he was a hardworking guy. >> reporter: in 2002, the year after crystal died, derek smyer had another daughter with the same woman. >> if i fall, all this footage is being deleted. >> reporter: for the most part he wasn't a full-time dad, but danielle says he was in his children's lives, as was the whole smyer family. danielle insists this father of two wouldn't commission a murder
over an unplanned pregnancy. if in fact he even was the father of crystal's child. did derek tell you that he was dating crystal taylor? >> no. i never heard of crystal taylor before -- before he was actually arrested in 2011. >> did derek ever mention that he had gotten a girl pregnant and was concerned about that? >> no, he didn't tell me that. >> reporter: and she was adamant. there's no way her brother hung out with a gang-banger. skyler moore, aka c-styles. ever meet him? >> no. >> ever hear derek talk about him? >> never hear derek talk about him. >> derek friends with any gang members? >> my parents are extremely traditional. they weren't into gang violence or any of that nonsense. derek would not bring gang members to the house or affiliate himself with gang members. furthermore, no one's seen derek ever, ever, with any gang member. >> reporter: danielle said her brother had nothing to do with crystal's murder and that c-styles was a liar.
>> he is known as a jailhouse snitch, and he is harassed and beaten up by people where he's currently housed at. the deal for him is that he gets relocated out of state. to a place where nobody knows him. >> reporter: she says the cops simply took the path of least resistance. >> they had it out for derek from the start. >> because? >> because he seemed like the probable person. my brother is not a perfect man, but him being pulled in, harassed by the police, his children being taken from him, that's not my brother's fault. my brother's an innocent man. >> reporter: and maybe she was right. just days after derek was arrested, the d.a. said there was not enough evidence to prosecute him. >> we had to let him go. we had to let him go and -- yeah, it was tough letting him go. >> reporter: derek smyer was once again a free man.
>> i bet he thought he was clear. i betcha he thought he was done, is -- he was never going to see us again. >> reporter: if that's true, he was wrong. coming up -- someone steps foward with a stunning new lead. >> she was assaulted. and her neck was cut. >> another attack on another pregnant woman. >> she was knocked to the ground and the assailant tried to kick her in the stomach. >> that person was never caught? >> right. >> who could be behind this? when "dateline" continues. ♪ ♪ to top. well played. (vo) add some thrill to your wish list. at the season of audi sales event. get exceptional offers now.
visit allstate.com or contact your local agent today. and my water broke. at only 23 weeks. andrew: we had to stay in the hospital for 10 weeks, 1000s of miles from family. our driver kristin came along in our most desperate hour. suzanne: bringing us home-cooked meals and gifts. andrew: day after day. we wanted to show you something. kristin: oh my god! andrew: kristin is the most uncommonly kind person that we've met. suzanne: thank you so much.
millions of people in the u.k. woke up to tougher restrictions saturday. a number of nearby countries reported their first cases of the mutated coronavirus strain. the u.s. joined the growing list of countries imposing travel restrictions on britain. the new rule takes effect monday that requires passengers to get a negative covid-19 test before their flight. testing sites on new york and california are already on the lookout for that new strain. now back to "dateline." derek smyer was out of jail. he insisted he was an innocent man. a father of two, who had no reason to commission a murder just because he got someone pregnant.
but detectives were still investigating. and what they heard made them more convinced than ever that derek had crystal killed. they spoke with traci, the mother of derek's children. early on in the case, she had avoided the cops. now she was eager to tell them what she said happened in 1998 when she was pregnant with derek's first child. >> she got lured to the back of her apartment on the promise to be taken to a doctor's appointment by smyer. and she was assaulted. and her neck was cut. >> by some other person? >> by some other person. rushed to the hospital. and she told us that she was very leery, because -- derek had never asked to take her to the doctor before. and instead of picking her up in front, he asked her to come into the rear of the alley, where it's darker and doesn't have much access to public view. >> reporter: there's the scar from the attack. and according to traci, it was just the beginning. and that wasn't the last time
she was assaulted while she was pregnant? >> no, it wasn't. >> reporter: traci told police that in 2002, when she was pregnant with their second child, she was attacked again. >> she was knocked to the ground. and the assailant tried to kick her in the stomach. >> that person was never caught? >> right. >> and whoever cut her throat in the previous incident was never caught? >> that's correct. >> reporter: traci now told the cops she believed derek was behind both attacks. she also said in both cases he wanted her to have an abortion, but that she had refused. after you're pregnant by one guy and you get lured to the back of your apartment building and then somebody tries to kill you, why you continue your relationship with that guy? >> you have to understand mr. derek smyer. and one thing he is is, he is a manipulator of women. >> reporter: cops saw a pattern. one that was reinforced by something else they learned. >> as the investigation continued, we discovered that
derek had been to prison -- for a federal offense of -- he was -- um, scamming money from a bank. >> reporter: it happened in 2004. here's derek in this fuzzy bank security photo stealing money from other people's bank accounts. turned out he had a girlfriend who worked at a credit union. he got account numbers from her and used them to move money into accounts he controlled. what happened to the $80,000 that they skimmed? >> the investigators, they didn't find it. and we tried to look for it too. and we never found it. >> you heard about derek serving federal time on that bank charge. >> yes. yes. i wasn't surprised. and i wasn't surprised at who he used as an accomplice. >> his girlfriend. >> yes. >> why were you not surprised by that? >> because derek possesses that type of selfish type of what can you do for me type of mentality. >> manipulative. >> manipulator. self-centered.
and arrogant. >> reporter: maybe that's why derek never shied away from talking with the cops and why he never asked for a lawyer. or maybe he just wasn't guilty. >> definitely he thought he was smarter than we were, anyways. i mean, you know, what did we have? >> reporter: when derek was briefly arrested, detectives asked him who he was with at anderson park on the day crystal was murdered. remember, detective williams thought later it was probably c-styles, but cops had no way to prove it. and then under questioning, derek gave them one. >> he said -- he goes, "i saw a woman in the backseat." >> reporter: the backseat of detective williams' police car. the woman derek saw was jana poletto, crystal's friend from work, who'd accompanied detective williams. derek said he saw her quite clearly. >> the look on her face was she was totally distraught, that's what he said. >> reporter: which gave
detective lopez an idea. >> if he is that close to see that she is totally distraught, then she should have a pretty good look at who he was talking to. >> reporter: at the time no one had thought to show jana poletto a photo of c-styles, but now they did. and she said -- >> "that's who derek was talking to in the park." >> reporter: that was the missing link -- a witness who could connect c-styles to derek smyer. then one last piece. the d.a. wanted c-styles interviewed again. >> how are you? >> fine, and you? >> good, good. i'm danette meyers, i'm the d.a. -- >> reporter: this time they made sure what he said could be used in court. >> you have the right to remain silent do you understand? >> yes -- >> reporter: c-styles told the same story with the same details. how he met derek and how derek wanted help with crystal taylor. >> do you talk about when you're going to kill her? >> i told him i was going to do it, but, um -- i told him asap. as soon as i got the opportunity.
>> reporter: police once again arrested derek smyer for the murder of crystal taylor. and this time they thought they had the goods. a jury, though, would have other ideas. coming up -- a bombshell from the defense, did someone else kill crystal? >> witnesses testify to hearing an argument. she was confronting her killer. >> that's when she was shot? >> absolutely. >> was this murder a hit at all? >> this is breaking me. >> when "one moment" continues. ♪
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it took police 10 years to arrest derek smyer for the murder of crystal taylor. it took another five years to bring him to trial. and detective robbie williams knew the case wasn't airtight. juries like dna. >> dna, blood trail. in this case, a money transfer. in this case, the lack of cell phone records attaching the two defendants together. >> reporter: the only thing connecting derek to the murder was the confession of the triggerman. skyler moore, aka c-styles. but there was no guarantee the jury would take the word of a gang banger over the word of the clean cut derek smyer. so it was with nervous
anticipation that crystal's family filed into the courthouse on july 11, 2016. >> the facts and the law and your common sense will lead you to one conclusion. crystal taylor died at the hands of skyler moore and derek smyer. >> reporter: prosecutor danette meyers told jurors crystal's murder, and the attacks on derek's other girlfriend traci williamson, were no coincidence. >> he has a motive to do it because he doesn't want to have the kids, he doesn't want to pay child support -- >> reporter: the prosecution claimed that while derek may have failed to stop traci from having her two children, he found the right man for the job of stopping crystal.
his basketball buddy, c-styles. >> he's a gang member, he's a killer. and mr. smyer knew who to go to when he wanted crystal taylor taken care of. >> go right over there, have a seat. >> reporter: prosecutors showed the jury the admitted hit man's videotaped confession. >> i just seen her come down, from the, uh, front the front way stairs. it was still kinda dark. that's when i killed her. >> how'd you do that? what did you do? >> just shot her. >> when you left the area did you go back and tell derek what you'd done? >> um, after that, i seen him -- not immediately after that. >> reporter: then they called c-styles to testify. but instead of tying a bow on the case, he lobbed a grenade and blew it to pieces. c-styles told the jury, everything he said on that tape was a lie. >> people have false confessions all the time. it happens all the time. >> reporter: derek smyer's defense attorney calvin schneider says c-styles
made up a story that the cops wanted to hear. he was hoping to get better treatment in prison. >> he came in and admitted that they made these offers to him. and that -- that's why he did it. >> you think police kind of rushed to judgment here? >> absolutely, because they had a hunch, they went with my client. and they excluded others. >> reporter: schneider told the jury that without c-styles' confession, there was no evidence linking derek to the murder. >> they're alleging multiple conversations, planning, without any proof of where, when, how. there's no emails between moore and smyer. there's no text messages. there's no phone calls. >> reporter: the defense portrayed derek as a man who loved his children. not one who would try to have them murdered. >> there's mr. smyer again in the hospital holding his baby. and i think it's important when you're looking at this case that you evaluate his expression on
his face in these photos. proud father or killer? >> reporter: not only was derek smyer innocent of crystal's murder, said the defense. maybe c-styles was too. there was no physical evidence placing him in that parking garage. maybe, they said, this wasn't a hit after all. >> several of the witnesses testify to hearing an argument. and then all of a sudden the argument ended, there was a pause, and a gunshot. it is absolutely inconsistent with a hired hit. >> reporter: if not a hit, then what happened? the defense had a theory. it involves this photo of crystal's son javonte, found near her body. >> it's obvious that miss taylor was holding that picture when she got shot. >> reporter: schneider wasn't allowed to directly spell out his theory for the jury. he did for us. >> i think she was confronting her killer saying, the only thing you're going to see is a
photograph of your son until you pay child support. >> and you think that's when she was shot? >> absolutely. >> reporter: the defense suggested javonte's father killed crystal. never mind that police had cleared him early on. derek's lawyer told the jury his client was an innocent man. >> but this tragedy, it will be compounded if you convict a person that is not involved. and i'm asking for a not guilty verdict on all counts. thank you very much. >> reporter: crystal's family was worried. they could only hope the jury believed c-styles' video confession, and not his recantation of it. the wait for a verdict was agonizing. >> that was painful. >> reporter: one day passed. then two. three days in. >> i'm nervous. i don't want to do this again. i can't do this again. it's not easy.
>> reporter: then it was a week. then one week turned into two. >> i'm like i'm just praying. i just keep praying, no matter what i see or what i hear. i keep praying. >> reporter: every day the waiting was harder. that was true for derek's family too. >> i started getting nervous. i was there every day, anxiously waiting so that we could hear that verdict. so we could hear that derek was not guilty. i would see the jurors come out of there, red in the face. almost like they're arguing back there. >> like they'd been yelling? >> like they had been yelling. >> we're on the record in people v. smyer. >> the jury ends up deliberating longer than the trial. >> you thought that was the best you could hope for? >> yes. >> you always hope people will see the light, the lack of evidence in the case. but when you look at the lack of
evidence, it is hard to get to that point. >> reporter: after 21 days, the jury reassembled in the courtroom. >> the jury has not been able to reach a verdict. >> reporter: they were stuck. >> i do declare a mistrial. >> this is breaking me. hopefully by the time it's time to do it again, i'll pull it back together. but today i don't want to do it again. coming up, trial number two. this time, new evidence. and a new witness. >> when people were around he'd behave a certain way. >> derek's own daughter. what would she reveal? when "one moment" continues. momi multivitamin. so you can focus on punching above your weight. no matter how high you set the bar. try centrum minis.
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nearly nine months after the mistrial, crystal taylor's family once again entered a courthouse wondering if this time justice would finally be served. you feeling any better about the beginning of the second trial than you were at the beginning of the first trial? >> i did. i think because we kind of knew what to expect, we knew what they were going to say, we knew what we had -- >> and what you didn't have. >> right. and we had hoped that, you know, whatever mistakes were made from the first trial they'd learn from them and prepared for them and do better. >> reporter: two big differences this time around. first, skyler moore aka c-styles was on trial along with derek. although each defendant had his own jury. and second, derek's jury would not see c styles' disputed videotaped confession. it was ruled inadmissable. so prosecutors focused on derek's motive.
here was a man, they told the jury, who'd do almost anything to avoid paying child support. >> crystal and her five-month unborn son were killed with one gunshot. one gunshot to the back of her head. >> reporter: that, said the prosecution, fit a pattern. they called derek's old girlfriend traci williamson, who repeated her story that the first time she was pregnant with derek's child, she was attacked by a man she didn't know. >> he put a knife to my throat. >> did he cut you with the knife? >> yes. >> reporter: and then, during her second pregnancy, a second attack. >> somebody came and socked me in the face. and i went on the side of the car, and somebody stomped me on my stomach and my face. >> reporter: then, derek's own daughter took the stand against him. she didn't testify in the first trial, but she told this jury that derek seemed to hate being a father. >> he would come during major occasions, um, birthdays and things like that. he was very ill-tempered, he
didn't spend much time with me, um, when he did, it just seemed like it was kind of for show, you know. if -- when people were around he'd behave a certain way, and when those people left he would go back to his -- his ill temperedness and his kind of monstrous ways. >> reporter: to help explain how derek had crystal killed, prosecutors again called her sister michelle who had been through the emotional wringer when she testified in the first trial. >> do you solemnly state that the testimony -- >> i was afraid of what it was going to do to me mentally the second time. i was afraid for myself. >> reporter: nevertheless, michelle mustered the courage to take the stand and testify to seeing the alleged gunman, c-styles, in their apartment complex the day before her sister's murder. >> what did you say to the defendant, mr. moore? >> i told him that he startled me and i asked him what he --
what was he doing there? >> reporter: the jury also heard from chavonna hall, in middle school at the time, now an adult, who said she still remembered seeing c-styles fleeing the crime scene. >> and what did you hear? >> it was like a, um -- like a gunshot, like a big noise basically. >> what next occurred? >> we seen somebody running past us. >> reporter: prosecutors then had to connect c-styles with derek smyer. for that they relied on two eyewitnesses. detective williams told the jury he was pretty sure c-styles was with derek at the park on the day crystal taylor was ambushed and murdered. >> it wasn't until you actually saw him in person that you were able to remember that he resembled the person you saw at the park? >> objection, leading. >> it's overruled. >> yes. >> reporter: as before, crystal's friend and co-worker jana poletto left no doubt with her definitive testimony. >> as you sit here today, did you see both of those
individuals in the park? >> yes. >> reporter: jana also told the jurors that, while crystal was excited to have another son, she was afraid to tell derek she was pregnant. so jana told him for her via email. >> after you sent the e-mail, people's 51, to derek smyer, did you get a phone call? >> yes, i did. >> reporter: it was derek smyer, jana said, and he wasn't happy. >> he just didn't want no kids. he didn't want her to have the baby. >> did he say anything to you about trying to do something with crystal? >> yeah, he just said if i can get her to get rid of the baby, he said he will do whatever he can but he don't want to have the baby. >> reporter: and jana recalled that the day before crystal was murdered -- her first day back at work after the trip to texas, derek called again. >> could you hear anything with respect to the conversation she was having? >> no. the only thing i heard is before she hung up the phone she was
like, "whatever." because she was crying and she was like, "whatever." she got up from her desk. >> when she got up from her desk did you see where she went? >> she went to the bathroom. >> and when you followed her in the bathroom, what was she doing? >> crying. >> reporter: then detective beth smith testified about two key pieces of evidence that the first jury never saw. first, a photo of derek on his high school basketball team -- proving he did play basketball. an important detail, because police believed derek met skyler moore on the basketball court. the second new piece of evidence was security footage from the night before crystal's murder that placed derek at a 7-eleven near both crystal taylor's home and skyler moore's. it proved, they said, derek had lied about his whereabouts back in 2001 when he told police he was miles from crystal's hawthorne home that night. >> did he ever tell you that he
weren't to the 7-eleven? >> no. >> reporter: as the evidence was mounting against him, derek's defense went on offense. portraying the mother of his two children as a liar whose testimony couldn't be trusted. >> have you lied to your family members, like your aunt ms. mcmiller, your sister danielle, about things about mr. smyer? >> depends on what you talking about, you got to be specific. >> have you ever lied to them? >> lied to them period? people lie all the time. you lie. >> traci williamson was an admitted liar and untruthful. so you couldn't believe what she said. >> reporter: and as for crystal's friend, jana, who said she saw c-styles and derek smyer together? the defense says derek was with a high school friend and derek's sister danielle says the idea that derek met a gang-banger on the basketball court is absurd. but he grew up playing basketball and a bunch of other sports. didn't he play basketball in
high school? >> he did play basketball in high school. he played basketball up into his junior year. i played basketball up into my sophomore year. never touched a basketball since. derek doesn't play basketball anymore. >> reporter: in this court, everything was on the line. that's when derek smyer, who'd never shied away from explaining himself in the past, took the stand. coming up -- >> did you have anything to do with the death of crystal taylor? >> no i did not. >> derek smyer. a dutiful dad to be? >> i was prepared to take care of my responsibility. >> could the jury agree? >> it's like time froze. >> when "one moment" continues. s from our expert technicians armed with state of the art tools and technology, to genuine parts made for the perfect fit. whether it's our place... ...or yours. we're there. rain or shine, day or night. no one knows your vehicle better.
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it is a calculated risk for a defendant to testify at a trial. derek smyer was willing to take it. prosecutors had painted him as a child-hating, cold-blooded killer. derek and his attorney were determined to show he was anything but. >> do you recall the birth of your daughter sydney? >> yes, i do. >> what was the date? >> it was today, actually. um, april 26, 1998. >> and you were there for the birth, correct? >> of course. >> reporter: derek told the jury he was a loving and devoted father to his two girls. >> how would you describe your relationship? >> while they were growing up it was strong, in my opinion. >> reporter: and he was adamant.
he had nothing to do with the attacks on traci while she was pregnant. >> didn't you have her attacked because you wanted the kid killed? you wanted her to have an abortion? >> no, i did not. in fact at that time i had already dropped out of school, i was working, i was buying bottles, i was very much invested in the well-being of my daughter. >> reporter: derek told the jury he was a good dad to his children with traci, and planned to treat crystal and their child the same way. >> weren't you angry that ms. taylor was going to keep this child? >> no, sir. >> wasn't this going to ruin your life? >> no, sir. >> weren't you worried about having to pay child support for 18 years? >> no, sir. >> why not? >> because i was prepared to take care of my responsibility. >> reporter: he admitted he did call crystal in the days leading up to her death. but derek said it was just to check in on her as any good soon-to-be father would. >> i asked how she was feeling. >> why did you ask that? >> i know that before she went to texas she was having morning sickness.
>> reporter: derek made sure to let jurors know that he, like crystal's family, marked time in relation to her death. >> how long did you work at bowne, inc.? >> um, i was -- well, until about two weeks after we lost crystal. >> reporter: crystal's family heard that and seethed. >> it bothered me so much to hear him say that because he never called, he never cared, he doesn't care. >> reporter: as for the prosecution theory that he hatched a plot on the basketball court with skyler moore aka c-styles to kill crystal taylor? impossible, said derek said. for two reasons. first -- >> did you ever play basketball at this park? >> no, sir. >> reporter: but more important -- >> prior to this case, have you ever seen skyler moore before in your life? >> no sir. >> reporter: derek also had an explanation for why he showed up on security video at a 7-eleven near both moore's and crystal's homes. he said he stopped for cash after being at his aunt's house nearby. >> my mother asked me to run an
errand for her, to take my aunt a cooking device, it was something round, it was either a crockpot or a pressure cooker. >> reporter: derek forcefully denied any involvement in crystal's murder. >> did you have anything to do with the death of crystal taylor? >> no, i did not, sir. >> did you have her killed? >> no, i did not. >> did you have her shot in the head so that she couldn't give birth to your baby? >> no, i did not. >> nothing further. >> reporter: but derek was not done on the stand. now came the risky part. cross examination by a prosecutor determined to show the other side of derek smyer. >> why did you ask her to get a paternity test? >> because i was being responsible, ma'am. >> oh, i see. well, wouldn't responsible be putting on a condom, sir? >> irrelevant, your honor, objection. >> it's argumentative, sustained on that ground. >> reporter: the prosecutor forced derek to admit he had tried to convince crystal to terminate her pregnancy. >> did you tell her to get an abortion? >> not directly, ma'am, no. >> so indirectly you told her to get an abortion? is that your statement?
>> yes, ma'am. >> reporter: and for all his talk about losing crystal, the prosecutor pointed out he never once tried to console her family. >> did you send flowers to the family when she died? >> no, ma'am. >> did you send the family a card, a sympathy card when she was murdered? >> no, ma'am. >> reporter: all of it was an attempt to show the jury that the calm, soft-spoken derek smyer on the stand was a con. the real derek was an unrepentant criminal amused by his failed attempt at bank fraud. >> i didn't get my cut. >> and you think that's funny, don't you? >> no. i'm very embarrassed about it, which is why i paused. i was very hesitant to say that, but i wanted to tell the truth. >> well, that smile on your face, i think mr. smyer, would you agree, said it all. >> reporter: as for derek's story about going to his aunt's the night before the murder to deliver a crockpot? the prosecution let derek and the jury know they thought it was a crock of something else. >> you didn't tell detective smith about a trip to your aunt,
did you? >> no ma'am. >> reporter: maybe he was confident. maybe he was smug. and maybe he was a little too familiar with the rules of criminal law. >> mr. smyer you didn't want another child. if crystal taylor had had that baby, you would have had to support two kids in 2001. right? >> i'm sorry. i believe that's compound. >> i don't know which one is the lawyer. what do i do? >> he tried to woo the the jury over with -- yeah, like, he just knew the law. >> so impressed with himself. >> he was very impressed with himself. >> that -- that -- arrogance almost just drives you nuts. >> reporter: then once again derek's fate was in the hands of the jury. which derek would they believe was the real one? this time crystal's family didn't have to wait nearly as long for a decision. deliberations took barely more than a day. >> they brought the jury in. >> how's derek look? >> he looks cocky and arrogant
like he -- he believes he's going to get a not guilty verdict. >> we the jury in the above-entitled action find the defendant, derek paul smyer, guilty of the crime of murder. >> i got to run out of there because now i can't even hold in emotion. i wanted to scream by then. like, ooh. i was so happy. i -- i was so happy. i was more happy than i've ever been in my life. >> reporter: across the aisle, a different emotion. >> they read that guilty verdict and it's like time froze. i was in shock. how does this happen? >> reporter: outside the courtroom, a gesture from the opposing side caught danielle off guard. >> michelle came up to me in that hallway. i didn't shed any tears because i was trying to contain my emotion. and she hugged me. and she said she was sorry.
and i bursted in tears. i bursted in teas because that, to me, is a true example of humanity, regardless of what we've gone through. and our families have both gone through a lot, lost a lot, continuing to grieve. but i appreciated the humanity that she showed. >> reporter: derek smyer was sentenced to life in prison. c-styles was also convicted in crystal's murder. his sentence hasn't been decided yet. crystal's son javonte has reconnected with his dad, but still hurts from the loss of his mom. >> i'm always going to miss her. but, you know, i don't think she'd want me to linger too, like, just let it hold me back, everything that's happened.
>> reporter: she wouldn't want you to be miserable? >> yes. >> reporter: easier said than done sometimes. >> yeah, that's true. but i had a lot of people to help me. good family. good friends. >> reporter: crystal's family, once splintered, now feel they are coming together again. it's not the same they say as when crystal was with them, but it's slowly getting better. and they have a plea for other potential crystal taylors out there. >> nothing can bring crystie back. this won't save her. this won't change anything for us. but somebody knows they're in a relationship like this. tell somebody. if it can happen to crystie, it can happen to anybody. >> reporter: if you're with somebody who makes you feel threatened, tell someone, loudly, and now. and if you hear someone else, speak up, don't let a cry for help go by.
i caught something out of the corner of my eye. it was my mom. she was laying on the ground. i went over expecting her to get up or to say something. i put my hand on her shoulder. i kind of turned her. and i could see blood everywhere. >> reporter: their family always made the best of bad times. >> my mom always looked for the good in everything. >> reporter: but no one could fix this. >> an autopsy showed a total of five shots. >> she didn't deserve to die that way. >> reporter: detectives had a suspect but not much of a case.