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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  April 18, 2021 12:00am-1:00am PDT

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no longer play baseball for the local college. the days when they look towards the bleachers where their parents, always sat side by side, are gone forever. on >> that's all for this edition of dateline. i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. >> i'm craig melvin and i'm natalie morales, and this is dateline. >> no one is going to get murdered in my family, that is in the movies. who would want him dead? someone who came here with the intention to murder him. and then i'm thinking this person is still on the loose. are we safe? >> she was a southern belle. >> little lady, very fun, just someone you could have a good
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time with. >> and he was her longtime beau. >> he adored her and he adored her. >> united in life, divided in murder. >> this is nothing but green lights. and it's not good. >> she was with him that night, found bruise, and wrapped in duct date. >> he said if you say anything, i'll kill you. >> so what was the motive was it money or maybe revenge? >> there was a thick file of suspects. >> he could definitely have a laundry list of people who would want to kill him. >> but was his killer and enemy or a friend? >> those could be fighting worse for somebody. >> pretty strong words i can see where someone could be upset. >> and the mystery that haunts a small southern town is a killer still walking free. >> i would say tiktok, you're coming. and we're not giving up.
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>> hello and welcome to dateline. melvin roberts was a vip in his tight-knit community, and julia phillips was the light of his life. the couple seemed inseparable, then, a murder shattered the love affair and exposed the dark underbelly of a zip code, where it's considered polite to smile at your friends and your enemies. here is andrea campaigning with death in the driveway. awesome >> york, south carolina, a town seeped with american history and southern manners. its charm is deeply embedded as the pride of the people who live here. >> it's a nice southern count, it's very quiet. >> it's not the sort of place you'd expect evil to come knocking. >> my life just changed, forever. >> and these are not the sort
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of people you'd expect to be victims of a vicious crime. >> he's a prominent man in a small town. she's a good christian woman. sweet southern belle. >> and in the end, what would forever haunt this peaceful place was the who, and the why of it all. >> shock. complete shock. >> it all started around dinnertime february 4th, 2010. on the outskirts of town at the end of a long winding drive way. >> your county 9-1-1. do you need police? >> it was 7:30 pm when the call came into police dispatch. >> listen to me carefully, i've been robbed, he tied me up. >> between sobs, a female caller described her brutal attack, she begged for help. >> oh please -- please come and help me. >> police on-duty raced through the rainy night, dashboard cam
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rolling, expected to investigate a robbery. but what they found, had this detective ringing as he sat down to dinner. >> i was called at home and i was told that i needed to come in and there was a robbery that occurred. >> when the detective one of the driveway to the back of the house, he discovered a woman, huddled in her car. she had been bound and duck taped. i >> walk up to the car and i noticed she had ducked or on her head and she still had some duct around her wrist. >> and not more than a few feet from this blue and white suburban, police found a bloodied and lifeless gray haired man. it was a bit of a shot for detective, the victim was someone he knew well. for >> it was pretty surreal. the >> man on the ground was melvin roberts, and everybody knew him. he was a former mayor of york, one of the towns wealthiest businessmen, and the legendary defense attorney. >> i had a few cases with him, he's a stern man, but always
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friendly. >> and the woman who called police to the scene, was julia phillips. melvin's longtime girlfriend. >> she was worried that melvin was dead. she said she didn't know what had happened to him. >> investigators at the scene told julia the devastating news, melvin had been murdered. >> is that a little jolt, melvin roberts is the victim? >> yes, because melvin is not the type of person to be a victim of anything. >> melvin was the longest practicing lawyer in south carolina, he had defended both the rich and poor for 55 years. >> he sounds like a small town celebrity, rather he liked it or not. >> the thing about melvin is that he was friendly to everyone. >> the street where he lived was named after him, roberts avenue. >> a true renaissance man devoted to his family. >> he was everything to me. he was my best friend, he was my mentor. >> melvin had two sons. >> david and ronny. >> he was instrumental in
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making me into who i am. >> the three men shared an unusually strong bond. >> dad, david and myself, it was our normal routine to have lunch every day. >> you all sound thick as thieves, the three of? you >> absolutely. the last thing i did every day was i gave dad a big hug and told him i love him, and he told me the same thing. every single day. >> he loved to take me out to the farm. >> melvin's only grandchild, recalled how her granddad had our way of keeping the family close. >> we would always go vacationing, different countries, fishing in costa rica, for my graduation, from college, or scuba diving and really bonding together. it was an amazing relationship. >> and then there was julia. she and melvin started dating ten years earlier. he was divorced and she had recently been widowed. >> they quickly become a
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fixture around town? >> yes, immediately. he adored her, and she adored him. she loved travel, she spunky, she's fun, what he thought was his perfect match. >> she fit right into the tight-knit family. >> she was bubbly, she was a good cook -- >> away to a man's heart. >> or woman. >> they became a team. melvin even help julia start her own business. >> he eventually bought her her own store, so that she could sell her cosmetics and women's clothing. >> she opened the store in this town where she had grown up, she called it julia's. >> she started to become part of the family? >> yes. we were really happy for that. >> but now, everything has changed as investigators work the crime scene, tommy jenkins, then your police captain knocked on brawny's door. >> he says ronny i have to tell you something, your father is dead and i said no tommy, that
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is not true. and he said it is your father, i've known him most of your life and it's him. >> wrong and his brother david drove to the father's house hoping it was all a mistake. >> i looked over to the side and i see coroner written on the back. and that's when you know. that's when you know, he's not coming back. >> as the news of julia's attack in melvin's murder spread, so too did fear. if it could happen to this prominent couple, who might be next? >> someone came here with the intention to murder him, and then i'm thinking, this person is still on the loose. are we safe? >> coming up. police had one thing going for them, a witness. >> he pushed me back down on the ground and he said, if you say anything, i'll kill you. >> but there was a lot investigators did not have. this would not be an easy
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murder to solve. >> everything was taken from the scene. there were no cutting instruments, no rolls of tape, no gun, nothing, it was all done. >> when dateline continues. her own dog. plus, its delicious beef flavor is #1 with dogs. ask your vet about nexgard. advanced non-small cell lung cancer can change everything. but your first treatment could be a chemo-free combination of two immunotherapies that works differently. it could mean a chance to live longer. opdivo plus yervoy is for adults newly diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer that has spread and that tests positive for pd-l1 and does not have an abnormal egfr or alk gene. opdivo plus yervoy is the first and only fda-approved combination of two immunotherapies opdivo plus yervoy equals... a chance for more starry nights. more sparkly days. more big notes. more small treasures. more family dinners.
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feel the clarity, and live claritin clear. >> detective billy stood on the driveway that cold february night trying to figure out who killed prominent lawyer, melvin roberts. the -- he got a close look at melvin's body. >> could you tell immediately what had happened? >> he had a couple of abrasion, one on top of his head, one next to his ear, and they were
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good licks, somebody beat him up pretty good with a metal object. >> the detective could also tell that melvin was shot at, the bullet had only grazed his ear. so what killed him? >> as i'm looking down at him he had a zip tie that was wrapped around his neck and it was cinch down pretty good. >> 79-year-old melvin roberts had been strangled. police quickly searched the scene and spotted their first clue. the prosecution who would handle the case, thought it was a big one. >> they found footprints back to his house, they were in mud and muddy water and still had tread. that told us that it was super fresh. >> investigators believe that the footprints most likely came from a man, they quickly called in the canine unit hoping dogs could track down the killer if he was still in the woods around melbourne's house. >> the dogs had picked up on fresh scent, they go out to an enjoining neighborhood where the dog loses the scent, which
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implies that the person got into a car and left. >> and that's where the trail vanished. >> everything was taken, from the scene. there was no cutting instruments, no rules of tape, no empty tape, certainly no zip ties, no gun, nothing, it was all gone. >> but detectives did have a witness, maybe she could help solve the crime. julia was gently escorted away, still wrapped in duct a. >> have a seat for me. >> she arrived at the police station. >> are you okay sweetheart? >> cold and shaken. she had cuts on her arms and elbows and bruises on her hands and face, but despite all the trauma, julia told investigators she was ready to help find melvin's killer. >> she's your best witness at that point? >> correct. and she's our only witness. >> i can see that man. >> she took detective through the details of the attack.
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it began here behind melvin's house in the large circular driveway surrounded by a red brick wall. she was getting groceries out of the back of her suv when she realized she was not alone. >> and that's when the man came. it and he grabbed me. he put his hand over my mouth. and shocked me to the back of the car. >> then, he made a demand. >> he kept saying, money, money. >> the next thing she knew, he was tying her up with ducked a. >> and then he taped up my eyes, my mouth, put my hands together. >> she said he dropped her 60 feet to the back of the parking area behind the brick wall. >> he drugged me to the brick wall, and he pushed me down. >> lying on the wet ground, she soon heard melvin's car pull up. >> i could see the car lights. and he pushed me back down on the ground and he said, if you
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say anything, i'll kill you. >> a short time later, she heard a violent struggle. >> i thought i heard something like a pipe or something that somebody picked up. >> why do you think you heard something that sounded like a pipe? >> i don't know because i heard it hit the ground. >> okay. >> and then, i heard a shot. >> you heard a shot? >> it had to have been shot. >> after that, julia did not hear anything else. she stayed behind the brick wall, hoping the killer was gone. then made her escape. >> and if the tape hadn't got wet from the rain, i don't know if i had gotten off. >> with the duck tape loose, she was able to use a key to break free. >> i never let go of my car key. >> julie explain to police, she wanted to get help for melvin, but a part of her new it was too late. >> he was laying on that
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concrete, and i knew that was him. and i knew with my heart that he wasn't alive, but i didn't want to believe it. >> still wet and muddy, she told the police should stayed at this long as she needed to, she was grateful to be alive. >> i'm the type of person comes up at 5:00 in the morning reading my bible. and i honestly believe that god protect me from all of this. i really do. >> she said -- i believe she left at around one, two or three in the morning. >> a few days went by and the cops were no closer to finding the killer. so they did something unconventional. >> i'm driving home. >> since julia was ready and willing, they took her back to the crime scene. >> i'm pulling my car, here. >> we believe that if we took her back to the scene that we could get a more clear, concise picture of exactly what happened. >> they wanted julia to show them where the assailant had
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thrown into the mud. >> he put me in a position like this. >> maybe they had miscues behind the wall. they also wanted to revisit the sound of that pipe she'd heard. detectives asked her to close her eyes. just listen. >> it's not the type of sound you heard? >> not exactly. >> they were hoping it might unlock any suppressed memories from that night. she did remember more details about her attacker's voice. >> he said it with a dialect. he wasn't american like i am, speaking with english. >> detectives continue to gently guide julia through the crime scene, but she often became emotional. it all seems to be taking a toll on, and melvin's family worried about her. >> i called julia on several occasions to check on her and she was shaken up a bit. >> she was worried that someone was still out there? >> yes, to the point where at
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her store, they would leave the door locked and not let anybody in until they saw who was at the door. >> so who could've done this to julia and melvin? detectives were about to discover the number of possible suspects was daunting. >> turns out, melvin was a man with a lot of friends and a lot of enemies. coming up. >> putting a list together, anything or anyone who could've had a conflict with that. >> how long was the list? >> it was at least 75 names. >> was melvin's killer on that list? when dateline continues. ues.
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>> the attack on julia phillips and murder of her boyfriend, melvin roberts, look like a robbery gone wrong. but once investigators took a closer look, the clues at the crime scene told a different story. >> no money was taken, the money bag that julia had brought with her had roughly $80 in it. also melvin, i believe he had in the neighborhood $400. >> this prosecutor believe that this was a premeditated hit. >> we had to figure out who would have any motive. we had to hone in on people who knew melvin, and anybody who had a beef with him. >> that wouldn't be easy because melvin was no ordinary
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man. as detective started looking into mountains relationships with people around town, they learned that he had two sides, while he could be incredibly kind and generous, he also had an edge. >> he had no problem telling you what he thought of you or what you should do, or what you could do better. he was known to have a bit of a temper. >> police wondered if that temper might have given someone a reason to kill. they also took a close look at melvin's business dealings. besides being a defensive tierney, melvin earned multiple properties and a used car lot. they asked his sons to come up with a list of potential sub specks. anyone who might have a grudge. >> i had all the people who worked for a dad put a list together of clients that he had represented or had a case against him. rental properties, evictions, any thing that anyone could've
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had a conflict with dad about. >> how long used a list? >> it was at least 75 names, at least. >> he's been an attorney for 55 years, he had made people pay child support who may not want to pay child support. >> raise their children. in a divorce. >> there were people who may want to see harm to your dad? >> potentially. >> working from that list, police began knocking on doors. they brought people in for questioning. detectives also pursued a promising lead from their only witness, melvin's girlfriend julia. they focus on a key details she had given them. the killers accent. >> maybe he couldn't speak good english. >> one of the descriptions that she had given us is that it was an indian type, with an accent. >> he had learned about a couple who had run to the house from melvin, the husband had an indian accent and his wife had a nasty fight with melvin.
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>> i had found out about a week before that melvin had an argument with a large female tenant, she had complained that the floor was cracking near the kitchen sink. >> melvin told her that if she weren't such a fat woman she wouldn't be breaking the floor. >> those could be fighting words for someone? >> there are strong words for husband to take and i can see him getting pretty upset with that, and maybe going overboard. >> when the detective went to the house to speak to the husband, the man told him that he was at work at the time of the murder. investigators set out to check his story. this police were also very interested in someone else, melvin's handyman, jeanne moss. david said he walked in on his dad and moss having an argument in the conference room on the night of the murder. >> that had been having some issues with jean, and i thought that they were gonna have a conversation, and i said by dad, i'll see you tomorrow.
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and i walked out of the door. >> that was the last time david saw his dad alive. >> jeanne wasn't doing with dad was doing to. >> was jeanne gonna get the boot? >> i thought so. i thought that dad was being a little too hard on gene. dad maybe you should back it down a notch, if you're gonna fire him just fire him. >> he was one of the main suspects. >> police got a break. they discovered dna on that zip tie found around melbourne's neck. they immediately started swapping suspects, hoping to find a match. >> i have over 80 dna samples that i have collected from everybody connected to this case. >> did you interview all those people as well? >> all those people had been interviewed by me or at least one of the other 3 to 4 detectives that had assisted with that case. >> 80 people? >> yes. >> clearly it would be a tough case to crack. is it like fighting a suspect in a haystack? >> in a stack of her specs
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probably. >> but worthy looking in the right haystack? >> coming up. a secret kept in a bedroom. >> free found a lot of empty prescription pill bottles and a lot of pharmacy receipts. >> had the police also found the motive for melvin's murder? when dateline continues. dateline continues. der control. with less eczema, you can show more skin. so roll up those sleeves. and help heal your skin from within with dupixent. dupixent is the first treatment of its kind that continuously treats moderate-to-severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis, even between flare ups. dupixent is a biologic, and not a cream or steroid. many people taking dupixent saw clear or almost clear skin, and, had significantly less itch. don't use if you're allergic to dupixent. serious allergic reactions can occur, including anaphylaxis, which is severe. tell your doctor about new or worsening eye problems, such as eye pain or vision changes,
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i'm craig melvin. melvin roberts was murdered outside his secluded southern home and investigators believed he had been targeted. police quickly learned melvin had plenty of enemies. now, they were about to uncover a suspect hiding in plain sight. here again is andrea canning with death in the driveway. >> four days after his murder, melvin roberts was laid to rest in that town he'd called home for the last 60 years. >> did it feel like the whole town came to the funeral? >> it did, yes. everybody was there. from all over. >> versus if he was the go-to guy in your. if you need to figure something out. he was afraid to take on anybody. he never backed down. he always looked out for the little guy. because i think he always saw himself as the little guy. >> but as hundreds gathered to
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say goodbye to melvin, and odd's feeling settled over the mourners. was a fear? was it suspicion? could someone amongst them be the killer? melvin's granddaughter and emily started looking over her shoulder. >> who could this be? how could this have happened? who would want him dead? >> was it putting the town on edge? >> yes, there is a killer on the loose. we've got to figure out who this is. >> detectives were working around the clock, trying to narrow down the long list of potential suspects. they learned that the angry tenet who fit the description of the man they were looking for couldn't possibly be the color. he was at work. prosecutor chris hodge. >> you had to clock in nine clock out. and his employer verified at the time he was there, that he had not left. stayed until a shift was over. so he an airtight alibi. >> then there was the handyman. jeanne mosque, who'd had an argument with melvin shortly before the murder. when detective billy mumaw question mosque, he said he was
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at home with his wife. >> that's kind of a shaky alibi, your wife? >> yes, a phone call was made to him by another fellow later. he said he heard his wife in the background. >> on the home line? >> correct. that was just after the murder. >> moss was cross off the list. detectives were running into nothing but dead ends. they spent a lot of time delving into melvin's life. now detectives wanted to look for clues in julia's background. they took a ride 40 kilometers west as daphne. to look at her business. as they poked around her store, things were exactly what they. seem >> a started out as a big, fancy store. and then basically, it had just declined into a thrift store. >> perhaps even more concerning to detectives, was the reason julian store was filling. investigators learned julia had a problem with pills. >> she was taking money out of the till. she was buying chris corruption drugs for people off the street.
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>> we found a lot of empty prescription pill bottles and a lot of pharmacy receipts. >> this was a woman with a serious addiction? >> she was. >> but it turns out, julia's financial troubles and pill addiction were no secret. a few years earlier, emily said her grandfather had even stepped in to help. >> he sent her to rehab. >> and she willingly went? >> correct. >> that must have made melvin really happy? >> that he could help change her life and spin around to be a positive, yes. >> when word got out that cops were asking tough questions about julia, many around town thought the police were wasting their time. >> everybody thought there was an outside person. there's no way that julia would kill melvin. he was the love of her life. >> and julia said that was the case, right up to melvin's death. she told police she had planned a celebration for that night. turns out, it was her birthday. and julia had a few surprises for melded. >> melvin collected matchbook
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covers and she had gotten a few of those and gotten him a present for her birthday. she >> also bought mics hard lemonade and was wearing special victoria's secret underwear. julia painted a picture of two people in love. >> how is yours and melvin's relationship? >> great. is sort of a private thing but, melvin was you know physically active, in every way. >> sure enough, detectives found evidence to back that up. >> during the investigation we did low-key a few items that suggested that their sex life was quite active. >> still, detective for mumaw's read or was. up he thought back to the first moment he saw julia huddled in her suv. there was something about the way she was wrapped in that ducked a that didn't sit right. >> the doctor that went around her hands basically looked like she had held her arms out and it all looked like it was placed on there with clear as to not hurt her. >> so right away, you could
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just tell this wasn't a typical dictate wrap? >> it was odd. the amount of duct that was around her feet did not match somebody who would normally be dumped. it was just wasn't enough of it. >> this got the detective wondering, was there anything else about julia story on that fateful night that didn't make sense? >> coming up. a strange reaction to a simple request. >> can i get some pictures, right quick. >> no, we're gonna use these four playboy? >> no. >> did yulia just reveal the naked truth? when dateline continues.
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♪♪ no matter how you define it. frontline®. here. there. everywhere. >> on the night of the murder,
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julia phillips, the sassy southern belle, sat in the police station and was gently asked a routine question. >> i really don't want to ask it? >> did you do anything to melvin? >> absolutely not. >> still, investigators were bothered by a few things. besides the way julio had been gingerly wrapped with duct a, detective mumaw wondered about the amount of mud on her clothes. during one interview she said she had been dragged 60 feast and force face down into the ground. >> he's taking my face and he's pushing it down into this mud. >> so you would expect mud,
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head to toe? >> correct. >> and basically what we got was, if she would've sat down into the grass, her but and her pant legs at the bottom were muddled, like she would've sat down. >> the police weren't the only ones grown suspicious. melvin's grand daughter looked back at something that happened at the funeral home. julia, who was there with her son hunter, approached emily. >> immediately, she wants to tell her story about what had happened that night. >> the timing was a bit inappropriate, emily thought. but more disturbing, julia stun knew the story better than she did. >> she tells us that her hands were bound from behind, and he goes no mama, your hands were bound in the front. >> it wasn't surprising that julia might be confused about small details from that violent night. but when detectives went to verify one thing, she was crystal clear on, alarm bells went on. julia told police she heard a gunshots and said she was nowhere near the gun.
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but forensic evidence told mumaw a very different story. you did a gunshot residue test the moment you've got to the police department? >> correct. her hands come back negative. >> but you found it on her sleeves. >> correct. >> if she 60 feet away, behind the wall and the assailant is shooting him -- >> gunshot residue is not gonna travel 60 feet. >> an epiphany moment for the detective, when he added the gunshot residue on julius close with all the other parts of her story he found questionable, he was convinced, julia wasn't a victim but the mastermind who arranged and help carry out melvin's murder. so three months after that cold rainy night, police arrested julia phillips in the parking lot outside her store and charged with murder. >> probably the best day of my life. my dad called me and said they got her. >> police and prosecutors did not think julia actually killed melvin, but that she hired
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someone else to do it. the >> fresh footprints. that was really how we knew that she absolutely had someone else. >> their theory painted julia as pure evil. the reason she was relatively dry, they surmised, was because she stood under an embroil watching as her accomplice struck, shot and strangled melvin before carefully wrapping her induct tape. >> we've always assume that there was a second person assisting in the actual physical hands on part of the murder. >> so who could be? there was one person who police learned was close to her, had a criminal record, and, like julia, had a drug problem. her son, hunter. >> he was a suspect just for the simple fact that who, is most likely to help her? >> was he shady character? >> he was always involved with scams to get his pills. >> drugs really drove him? >> correct. >> but hunter had a solid alibi. he was with a former cop at the
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time of the murder. 40 minutes away, preparing his home computer. >> we could not put him in york at the time of the murder. >> hunter was never charged, in fact, investigators couldn't find anyone to charge. and the prosecutor worried that that would make this murder for hire case a tough one to prove. >> there is no evidence, whatsoever, linking julia to a hit man? >> that's right. nothing. we tracked her bank records, we saw no exchanges of any type. she kept her phone clean. there are no odd calls, and that was the hurdle that i felt like we faced having an empty chair. you're trying julia and the empty chair. >> after three and a half years, working to build a case, in august 2015, julia phillips went on trial for murder. the once polished bell of york was now a shell of her old self. a year since her arrest had taken a toll.
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but he urged the jury not to be fooled by the for a woman in the courtroom. >> if you believe that the defendant is guilty of doing one thing, just one thing, on the night melvin roberts was murdered, to aid in that murder, then she is guilty. >> have a seat for me, miss julia. >> the prosecutor began by showing the jurors julia's interview with police. she wanted them to hear one of the first thing julia said on the night of the murder. >> here you go. >> they put a blanket on her and asked if they could take some photographs. >> can i get some pictures real quick while we're in the warmth? >> now you're not gonna use these four playboy? >> no. >> the first thing the woman says, are these going to be used for playboy? right there. boom. that was inappropriate. >> then, the prosecution dropped a bombshell. they found a witness to testify that this was not the first time julia had melvin's murder on her mind. a police informant name guy
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blinken ship, a man with a criminal past claim that a few years after melvin died, julia tried to hire him to do the hit. >> we had now an actual person who had heard her say that and even offered him money to kill mr. roberts. >> hodge built her case leading to one question most jurors wanted answered, what was the motive? the granddaughter thought she knew the answer to that. >> what did he leave her? >> the building, and any car that she wanted from his car lot. >> the building was worth about $150, 000, it housed her store, julia's, in south carolina and a small community that would take you far? >> yes. >> the state believed julia was worried that she was never going to see that money, the reason? the relationship between julia and melvin was over, said prosecutors and she knew it. they put a friend of melvin's on the stand to back up their claims.
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>> he wasn't paying her bills anymore,, and he wasn't having anything to do with her. >> and with prosecutors believe what the final straw, that witness told the jury, melvin had led julian know that he had booked a cruise with another woman. >> that must have really gotten under julia skin? >> i would think. he made it very clear to her that she was being replaced. >> and it was no coincidence that the costs cuter argued that melville -- julia had melvin killed on his birthday. do you think that this was a possibility that this was julia's present to julia? >> absolutely. >> now they thought so too. ronny and david sat in the courtroom every day hoping for one thing -- >> i wanted to hear one word. three and a half years, i just wanted one word. >> guilty? >> guilty. >> but would they get their wish? now it was the defenses turn. they have an explanation for
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the duct up, the mud, the gunshot residue. in the end, they said, the state's case was all smoke and mirrors. >> coming up. another twist, authorities wondered was there one murder or two? >> there was enough suspicion presented to me that i wanted to body exhumed. >> when dateline continues. ontinues plus an immediate cooling sensation for your throat. feel the clarity, and live claritin clear. these are real people, not actors, who've got their eczema under control. with less eczema, you can show more skin. so roll up those sleeves. and help heal your skin from within
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be more successful with payments, payroll, and banking. >> the trial of julia phillips
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had people talking, and had melvin sons worried. could julia's defense team convince the jury she had nothing to do with them earth hour of her longtime love? her attorney and his wife joy, prepared the legal case and said they had no doubt that julie was innocent. >> we believed in julia, from the beginning. she is kind, and caring and there is no question in my mind that she was in love with melvin. >> the defense set out to show the jury the very different version of julia. her comments that seemed inappropriate, they argued, we're just part of her quirky personality. >> now you're gonna use this for playboy? >> no. >> after the man you loved just die, you're gonna be making jokes about play boy? >> i can say that she was traumatized. that's just how she is and how she talks. >> they even told the jury that julio was weird.
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>> her conversation style is unlike most people, weird was something to open the jury up to -- she might be weird, she might be inconsistent but look, she's not a killer. >> the defense also reminded the jury, julia was a victim. she had been attack and that she told police there was a perfectly good reason why that deducting pushed loose. >> and if the tape hadn't got wet from the rain, i don't know if i've gotten off. >> but wouldn't have still pull some skin or some hair? >> it was raining the night of the incident, so as it's raining it's getting wet, it's not sticking as much as usually does. >> and since it was raining that buys, the prosecution had asked why wasn't julia wet and muddy? easy the defense said, she was. >> on the video, you can see her jeans are soaking wet. she is not dry. she has mud all over her pants, which was from the rain and the dirt. >> the defense also addressed the gunshot residue found on
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julius close, which seemed to undermine her story that she was behind a wall, 60 feet away from where the gun went off. julia's lawyer argued that there wasn't enough residue found on julia to do an accurate test. >> if this had been the fbi lab, any of our military labs, they could not have justified that the gunshots residue were there because a number of particles were there did not meet the trash hold. >> the defense team continued to pound home the notion that there was no physical as it and linking her to the murder. and if this was a murder for hire, they asked, where was the killer? >> they built a case based on no evidence. they want to say to you, we have no idea what happened, but we want you to guess at the victim. that's not how it works. >> next, the defense attacked the prosecution star witness guy blankenship, the man who said julia had hired him to kill melfort and.
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they said he was a criminal, and not to mention he was motivated by money. you went so far to call guy blankenship a magnet? >> i don't remember. >> but this maggot fit? >> at the time much i sure did. >> finally defends had to counter the heart of the defense case, motive. the state case -- she was about to be dumped and written out of melvin's we'll. but he argued that they were a happy couple. >> she picked up lemonade and wanted to meet melvin on her birthday -- >> it was supposed to be a hot, steamy night? >> the idea that julia was broke and needed melvin's money, also not true, said the defense. julius lawyer argued, her family had plenty of money and was willing to spend it. >> her family came and paid substantial attorney fees. >> her family is paying her
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medical bills, her families bringing her food, taking care of her, taking her where she needs to go. >> in the end, the defense decided not to call julia to testify, they said she was suffering from dementia. after seven days of testimony, both sides rested. >> by the end of the trial, the question was not is she in volley? but how could she not be involved? >> the jury took less than four hours to reach a verdict. >> we're all sitting around and everyone is killing time, then, the ballot came's out and say that the jury reached a verdict. i thought i was going to throw up. i was almost high prevent prevailing. >> the granddaughter was not in the room when the verdict was read, her dad culture with the news. >> he called me and he said she's guilty, murder. >> julia phillips, the bell of york was now a convicted killer. >> i was jumping up and down, i
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remember waking up the next morning and there were double rainbows, and i just thought, this is awesome. >> julia has been called an ice queen, a femme fatale, cunning, greedy murderous women. >> yes. >> it's not what comes to mind when you just look at her? >> right. when you look at her, you think oh, she's an attractive older lady. then she opens her mouth. and you can see what's really in their. >> julia's arrest for melvin's murder triggered questions about another death. julia stepdaughter from another marriage didn't believe she just murdered one man, but to. >> my father is not here because of her as well. the daughters insist that their father, brian phillips, did not die of a heart attack, they think julia poisoned him. when the daughters heard about her arrest, they took their suspicion to the police. >> there was enough suspicion that was presented to me, that
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i want the body excellent. >> where their concerns revolving around julia phillips? >> there were concerns. >> julia denied she killed him and was not charged in that case. three years after her convention in 2016, julia died in prison, she was 72. for the family, that wasn't the end. ronny says the investigation is far from closed. >> now, we have to go after the next one. the family believes there is a hitmen still out there and is offering a 10,000 reward to catch him. lieutenant rich cuddle headed the new investigation team that took a fresh look at the case. >> either someone's gonna tell us something finally or it's going to be through digital evidence. the phone records or something like that. >> for melvin's family, only partial justice has been served. >> i will not give up until we know everybody that was involved, and what he needs to
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understand is that it's going to be a lot easier if they come over instead of police having to find them. >> the clock is ticking. >> we are coming? >> we're coming. and we're not giving up. >> i'm craig melvin and i'm natalie. mariah lewis and this is "dateline". >> when i found my mom was missing i fought tooth and nail. we searched that entire summer, day and night. i even got hypnotize wants trying to communicate with my mom to help her tell me where she was. i did everything i could possibly do. >> rachel anderson had one great passion. >> she would've had a child every year if she could. she jt


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