tv Dateline MSNBC May 30, 2021 12:00am-1:00am PDT
grave. that is not good enough. it's never going to be good enough. >> that is 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. >> a mystery in los angeles. a missing woman. >> he said, cindy words my mom? >> and i just instantly knew. and i just in michael, called the police, i'm on my way. >> a loving mother. >> always there for me. >> a beloved friend. >> she was just so easy to like. >> vanishes. >> some people something was very very. run >> was she murdered? was it for her money? >> how much money tissue have in the bank? >> i think it was over seven figures. >> or was it something more or someone else. >> it really threw him for a
loop when he found out that my mom had met somebody else. >> police had a suspect and a case. that was about to take an unbelievable turn. >> one of the most shocking things i have ever seen in a courtroom. >> hello, and welcome to dateline. deede keller had made a comfortable life for herself. a successful realtor in southern california, she lived in a charm neighborhood where she was surrounded by family and friends. then suddenly, deede disappeared. as her loved ones launched a frantic search, investigators would follow the trail of clues to a suspect. with a dark obsession. the final twist in this case would leave the courtroom stunned. here's josh mankiewicz with betrayal of trust. >> southern california's south
bay. a singularly stunning stretch of shoreline with familiar names like hermosa, redondo and manhattan. >> we call it the sandbox. no one thinks that this part of los angeles exists, but it does. >> this seaside playground is lined with beach front property worth millions. and nestled among these small beach towns is an oasis called, el segundo. >> its main street, usa. >> it's a great place to raise kids. >> and in 2003, one of the rain makers of the real estate business, selling those beautiful hones in el segundo and the south bay was a woman named julia keller, known as "deede". >> she really just embraced everyone that came into her
path. >> deede's best friends mortgage executive cindy ertman and real estate saleswoman linda dondero. she was doing her job? >> i love working with the. >> everybody. did >> she was just so easy to like and wanted the best for everybody. and her clients were very loyal over the. yours >> deede was loyal to. not only to our clients but as a divorce mom to her children, mike and julie. >> i remember my mom explaining to me when is about ten years old that, as you get older, we probably not going to be as close. or you won't like me tweak quite as much. and it never happen. if anything, we just got closer. >> but deede had keller a heart problem. not literally. it may have been a little too big. she loved without limits. and she simply hated to disappoint or let anyone down. she loved dog so much she literally couldn't say no to enough or one. she was surrounded by them at.
when >> i was joke that as soon as i graduated college, that's when she started replacing us with dogs. you know? she never stopped being a mom. >> and she never stopped loving everybody. i guess? >> no, she never. did she was ready to be embraced and to embrace a new, whenever you wanted it. >> but there was one area of her life in which deede keller's honesty and embrace hadn't got gold. >> your mom was so lucky and life was so easy. but she couldn't quite make the man in her life thing come out right? >> she had a wonderful. life but no, i guess you found that person. >> she did have a long term relationship, but that ended sadly in 1997. soon after, she met someone new. he was a real estate client named erwin howard, a pilot an airline mechanic. originally from bolivia. >> i remember deede telling me that she was not going to day anyone else unless they loved,
treasure than adored her. and she did feel loved treasured and adored by erwin. you know? he tweeted her likened queen. >> when erwin pop the question, deede said yes. at deede's bridal shower in march of 1998, erwin dutifully delivered his fiancée to the surprise party. but the smiles did not last. after the engagement was over, and the marriage began. >> it wasn't more than six months after they mayor were married, she just blurted out that she had married him on the rebound. >> and was having second thoughts? >> apparently so. >> it was very hard for her to think about ending it because of what is going to do to him. because she knew he loved her. >> so much in fact, that the marriage lasted another four years. after that conversation. ultimately, their divorce was amicable. and a year after the split, in the summer of 2004, deede
seemed to be finding her footing once again. she had begun dating a well-known south bay carl salesman named bobby lowe. that new relationship was going so well, and on the evening of thursday, july 8th, bobby lowe took deede out to dinner at this restaurant, to meet his father. >> i talked to her before her date. >> any sign of she was nervous about anything? >> she was in a happy state when i talk to her. we had made plans to hopefully get together the following night. so i could get the update on the date. >> but that conversation never took place. >> i called her on friday and she didn't call me black back, which was not unusual for deede. i called her on saturday, and she didn't call me back. that was pretty typical. but by sunday, i started getting concerned. >> concerned, to, was doctor julie. she talked of meeting her mom that same friday during a label
over at l.a.x., as julie headed for kabul st. louis, mexico. >> she's like you know what, i might have an appointment that morning. if i don't, welcome. via text. you will have to coffee. so we would be laid over in los angeles. i didn't get a text, it was a little on. but didn't think much of it. >> deede's some michael was beginning to worry. after he returned from a business trip to the san francisco area. >> when i called her cell phone, the voice mail was full. and that had never happened with my mom. she prided herself on being responsive. >> so you you go over to your mom's house. >> so i went in the back gate and instantly it was clear that she had not been there for a while. >> what made that clear? >> the dog's water dish was bone dry. my mom would die of thirst before her dogs went without water. >> mike's first call was to cindy. >> and he said, cindy, where is my mom? and i just instantly knew, in
that moment, that something had happened. i just knew. and i just said michael, call the police, i'm on my way. >> where was deede keller? not only was there no water left outside for deede's beloved dogs. but detectives notice lots of other things wrongs inside the house. her purse was there but her wallet was missing. and this was a woman with money, a lot of it. >> was deede's hefty bank account the factor in her disappearance? investigators follow the money trail. coming up -- >> who got that money from her death? >> the beneficiaries were her children. >> and detectives wonder where we're deede's son and daughter when she vanished? >> both out of town at the time that she went missing. >> when dateline continues. dateline continues
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l.a.'s south bay, clouds were rolling in over one household. it was july, 2004. el segundo real estate agent julia keller, known to the world as deede, was missing. 's senate mike had gone to her home when she hadn't he hadn't heard from her from three days. the biggest red flag, deede's beloved dogs left without food or water. what did you think had happened? >> i didn't know at that point.
i just knew that something was very, very wrong. >> mike called his mom's best friends, linda dondero and cindy ertman. cindy, who had last spoken to deede three days before as deede prepared for a date, rushed to the house. >> you could tell just the dogs had been running around for days. but the way the tv was on and the way the sheets were, i felt like thursday night had never ending. i felt like friday morning never came. >> cindy immediately phoned deede's new boyfriend car salesman, bobby lowe. he reported they had dinner on thursday at a local restaurant then returned to deede's house for a nightcap. >> he said he had had a little bit too much wine and she lay down on the couch. she was starting to fall off to sleep and, so he just said goodnight, and let himself out. >> anything about what bobby lowe said sounded in any way
suspicious to you? >> not at all. >> the next call, two el segundo police. and soon on the scene, now detective sergeant carlos mendoza. >> this is not happen in el segundo. especially people known as well as deede. >> and what detectives found in their initial search of deede's home only deepened the mystery. >> in the kitchen, deede's purse, herself and still inside, but no wallet. a vodka bottle that police learned was usually kept in the freezer, was out on the counter. and in the living room, the tv was on cnn. >> we discover that whenever she left the house, she would always put the tv on to a classical music station. so, it would relax the dogs. but it was on cnn when we came into the house. >> so, deede was watching cnn, had the dogs there, is having a drink and then, left for some
reason. suggesting whatever happened she left in a big hurry. >> she didn't have time to do the routine that she loves usually does before she leaves. >> and it appeared deede had left in her car. the garage was empty. her silver 1999 mercedes, gone. the strangely, police found the car keys sitting on deede's patio. >> we decided to call the l.a. county sheriff's sheriff's homicide borough to assist. yes >> jimmy gates was the detective who answered that call. >> there was no force injury, whatsoever. we started walking through the house i noticed several articles that were very valuable. >> so she lay in whoever it was and it was a robbery? >> absolutely correct. if she didn't let the man, that person let themselves in. and they may have had a key. >> gates wondered, had deede left in her car with someone she knew? and how did her car get taken
without its key? if you don't have a key, is it easy to steal a car as the movie depict? >> it's certainly not a 1999 mercedes. it's hard to hot-wire, it's just hard to steal. it you almost need a key to gain access to it. >> if your car doesn't have a key, the next stop is a car dealership to have a new one need. but first, gates and his crew searched the house looking for deede's spear mercedes key. without success. and gates quickly became convinced of one thing -- you thought finding deede's car was going to be the key to this? >> that was going to be extremely important. >> deede's friends and family pointed out posters. and along with law enforcement launched a massive search. >> an army of people band together to try to help find her. and then we broke up into teams and we met everything out in one mile increments to start to search every parking lot, to look for her car. >> we would ask people, have you seen this woman?
have you seen this car? it was frantic. it was heartbreaking. >> and it was leading nowhere. at the same time, detective gates wondered who might have a motive to have adopted deede from her home? those most common of motives, love, money, jealousy. are always the ones people hunt first like old friends. deede made a lot of money. being a realtor. >> she was successful, yes. >> how much money to share in the bank? >> i think it was over seven figures. >> seven figures, lot of murders committed for a lot less than that. >> absolutely. >> who got that money at her death? >> the beneficiaries were her two children. >> and the detective notice something about the whereabouts of deede's two children, mike and julie. at the time of deede's disappearance. >> they're both out of town at the time when their mother went missing. >> why is that significant? why would the reverse be more true? >> i thought if the mother goes missing and it just so happens that mike is gone in san jose,
and julie is gone our resort, and it's been my experience that sometimes people dissipate stress after they commit a crime in different ways. some people drink. some people take drugs. and some people leave the area, just to dissipate stress. >> and there was strangely, one more person who just happen to have been traveling near the time of deede's disappearance. her ex husband, erwin howard, had just flown to his home country, bolivia. and erwin was a mechanic who worked for american airlines in l.a.. the common thread in all of these trips, nearby l.a.x. airport. and so, the detective thought, what better place to dump a car? l.a.x. is a big place. large part of. a >> lot of parking lots and it took a few days. >> you look for them all? >> everyone. >> no mercedes and no shortage of persons of interest. a lot of people close to deede
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disappearance of el segundo realtor, deede keller, all of l.a.'s south bay seem to be looking for her. and for her missing mercedes. leading the search, her best friends cindy and linda. a lot of times when people disappear, you get the immediate family working on it. and then everybody else is like, well. >> not in this town. >> she had an army. >> deede's daughter julie rushed back to l.a. from a trip from mexico. >> it was the most surreal experience. >> only to be greeted by suspicion. >> l.a. sheriff detective jimmy gates had discovered that in the event of their mother's death, julie and her brother mike stood to inherit more than 1 million dollars. so he confronted deede's kids using one of the oldest tricks in the investigators handbook. do you remember in the interview that you did with jimmy gates? >> i do. >> in which he asked you some
pretty basic questions like, what's your name, where you live. pretty ordinary stuff. and then all of a sudden he says, did you have anything to do with her mom's disappearance? >> i think it was more, did you kill your mother? >> and your white, startled, or angry? >> it was a horrible question him, but i kind of understand why he asked. >> detectives asked similar questions of julie. next, in attempting to rule out as suspects those closest to deede, detectives turn their attention to her ex husband, erwin howard. it turned out that although deede and erwin had been divorce for more than a year at the time for disappearance, friends told police that she had recently invited him back into her life. about six months earlier, deede had been in a car accident. and as she recovered, she needed help with her dogs. deede also apparently felt bad about the pain their divorce had caused erwin. >> she called erwin to help her
because that's what he did bets, was to help and assist. or so he helped kind of nursed her back to health, to take care of the dogs and the house in her. >> and in taking a hard look at erwin howard, the detective found he had a rock solid alibi. on the night of deede's, july 8th, erwin had clocked into work for his job as an airline mechanic at the american airlines hanger at l.a.x., at 8:30 pm. he said he worked all night. but it was in just erwin's word, he had to use an electronic key card to get into the hanger. >> that's a pretty good alibi. that's not something that generally the employee can influence. >> that's correct. that's absolutely correct. >> that left the last person to admit seeing deede a life, her new boyfriend, car salesman bobby lowe. he lowe said he left deede's houston between 11 and midnight that night. then gone to the gym the next morning. what possible motive could
bobby lowe have to want deede either dead or out of the picture? >> there was no motive that i could determine, whatsoever. >> and lowe provided investigators with two important clues. first he said, while he was at deede's that night, the dogs had all started barking at something outside. as if someone were lurking. and the next morning, he discovered someone had keyed the side of his ford explorer. leaving a long scratch. we suggest what? somebody is following them on that date? >> absolutely. that's what it meant to me. >> but who was following deede and bobby? who was that angry? that act of vandalism pointed away from bobby lowe. >> i was an investigator for several years. i've never known anybody to vandalize an old car. >> that kind of thinking is what makes a perfect ally. >> sure. sure. if he sophisticated and the. but his background indicated
that he was well liked guy. kind of successful himself. and didn't have a lot of enemies. >> and then, even as investigators looked at suspects, came the news that all who knew deede had at once hoped for and feared. deede's car had been found. not at l.a.x., not in l.a. but. two and a half hours down interstate five, in san diego. that silver mercedes had been parked on this street in downtown san diego for days. earning it several parking tickets. when the local police department around the plate, it came up as belonging to a missing person. and when the trunk was finally opened, there was a body, wrapped in sheets. covered by a blanket. which was itself decorated with dog paws. deede keller was no longer missing. police asked to meet with deede's family. >> it was just a wide range of emotions.
there was almost some type of relief that they had found her, because we are starting to think at that point, how long could this go on? >> worst days of my life. one of the hardest days for my children. and all of her friends and her family. >> deede keller was dead at age 54. an autopsy showed she had been asphyxiated. and the clues that were and were not left in her car, we're about to take this case back in a familiar direction. >> coming up -- just days before she was murdered, deede had a visit from a soccer. >> she said that she was in the shower, he pulled out of the shower, and they had this huge altercation. he was calling her every name under the sun. >> when dateline continues. get pataday once daily relief extra strength. the first and only 24-hour eye allergy itch relief drop
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i'm craig melvin. she was missing and when she was found, her family's worst fears were realized, didi was gone, the apparent victim of a gruesome crime, but with the discovery detectives would uncover a crucial crew, one that would convince them deede killer was someone close to them. here again is josh mankiewicz with betrayal of trust. >> on a downtown street in san
diego, in july 2004, deede had finally been found, dead in the truck over silver mercedes. the car had been the subject of a massive search ever since she had been discovered missing a week earlier from her home, two hours north. homicide detective jimmy gates who always thought finding the car would be the key to finding deede, now gave the mercedes a thorough going over. fingerprints and dna in the car? >> there wasn't one fingerprint either on or on that car or was there any partial prints. >> deede's or anybody else? is >> nothing. >> what does that say, professionally? >> someone went to great lengths to make sure that they were not going to be identified through fingerprints. >> the killer did leave a clue, in the tape wrapped around didi's body. >> it appeared to us to be consistent with red duck to.
>> that started gates in one direction, but he also look closely at the way deede's had been placed in that car. >> someone took great care to place her in dakar, and that indicated to us that someone cared deeply about her. >> part of this says professional and part of this says someone who knew her? >> that is exactly correct. >> but the suspicions that said professional, soon fell away in favor of those that said someone who knew her. not her children, but someone who had re-entered deede's life in the months before her death, her ex husband, or when howard. do you ever think of him as dangerous? >> no. >> i never suspected that he would do something physical. >> but detective soon learn something had change in erwin howard in the months before, deede's murder. after the car and accident in january 2004, deede had invited
erwin back into her life, to help care for her and her dogs. that request had apparently been misinterpreted by erwin, we know he started wearing his wedding ring again. erwin wanted back into her life, and it sounds to me like on some level she sort of appreciated that part of him, that adored her and wanted to take care of her. even though it is somebody that you're not gonna be with anymore? >> yes. >> do you think she made that point clear enough to him? >> no. >> she was too nice? >> always too nice, and very trusting. >> and that may be why investigators thought erwin seemed surprise, when just two weeks before deede's murder, he gained access to her murder and found emails referring to a relationship with a new man. bobby lowell. >> i think it really threw him for a loop when he found out that my mom, you know, had met somebody else.
that is when things started getting scary. >> scary because erwin, detectives learned, had started doing things that pointed to an obsession with deede, and how did they know that? in one of those only in a small town coincidences, deede's son, mike, lived just down the road of duties new brochure and. one night he was sitting in his living room when he saw familiar car drive by, inside, was erwin. >> as the evening went on he continued to drive by the house. >> did you call your mom and say, by the way, erwin is driving around the house while you're with bobby lowell? >> no, i didn't between two together. >> the very next day just ten days before her murder, deede would call her friend cindy, in a state of panic. >> she was crying hysterically. she said that she was in the shower, the erwin came into the house without her knowing, pulled her out of the shower
and they had this huge altercation and that he was calling her every name under the sun. >> deede told the same story to our friend linda. >> i said, do you realize that erwin the's behaviors escalating, and she said yes. >> and you said, call the police. >> no. i said have you changed your locks? and she said no. i'll do it on the way home. and of course she never did. >> but investigators to learn that in those conversations with her friends, deede had left something out. a detail she mentioned only to her daughter julie. that during that argument, erwin howard had also slapped her. >> i said mom, you have to call the police. you have to get a restraining order, and that i remember her asking me not to tell michael. and that she was going to handle this. i remember being torn, okay, this is my mom telling me, i got it.
but also thinking, maybe she didn't have it. >> and a few days later it was clear truly was right, the very night her mom went missing, julie got another phone call. this time from erwin. >> i got on the phone and he was like, jules, what is your mom thinking? >> i said irwin, i really don't want to talk about this i feel like this is between you and my mom. and he was like well, you just need to pray for her soul. i remember thinking it was a little odd, but then, you know what, given his grasp on the english language sometimes, he would say some funny things or get something wrong -- but i just remember thinking that that was an odd comment. >> detective gates now felt like erwin howard motive for killing deede was clear. but proving that he had the means to kick due to murder was another matter. and irwin maintained his innocence to investigators from the moment he stepped off the
plane after returning from bolivia. through the months after, even though he was clearly the prime suspects. and the case against erwin was not without its problems, it's one thing to stop someone, quite another to kill them. there was no physical evidence tying erwin howard to the crime. and, there were those key card records showing him clocking into his job at american airlines the night of the murder. still, detective gates took the information he had gathered to the l.a. county district attorney's office and asked for a warrant. >> they declined to file charges. >> the did jimmy gates have the wrong man in his sights, was there ever going to be enough evidence to arrest the killer? and he killer? >> coming up. >> that's like lightning striking? >> twice. >> make that three times. >> one of the most shocking things i've ever seen in one of my cases in a courtroom.
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tellers ex-husband erwin howard, but the l.a. county da's office had declined to issue a warrant for howard's arrests. the de-son michael wanted answers. >> there is a long time when erwin was walking around free. >> it was so frustrating, painful, emotional. >> jimmy gates was feeling all of the same things, and soon his hard work started paying off. that unusual red tape found on deede's body, a special train dog found erwin's sent on it and detectives found similar tapes at erwin's workplace, that american line hanger. but what about his alibi? computer records showing him at work in that same hanger the night of deede's disappearance, and that he had work a ten hour shift, it turned out more detectives dug into that alibi, the less solid it seemed.
detective gates painstakingly dissected the procedures at the hanger, and he found this. we erwin howard could swipe into work in the employee parking lot, and then clock in inside the hangar, but he could also leave whenever he wanted, by walking out the large doors and catching an employee shuttle back to the parking lot. there would be no record of his leaving. jimmy gates discovered that on the night of the murder, erwin used his key card to swipe into the parking lot, at a 20 4 pm, and again at 10:21 pm. and for a third time at 1:47 am. which completely blew apart his alibi. that he had been at work the whole time. so you would swipe his card to get back and, after there was no record of him leaving? >> right. >> by now you're convinced,
this erwin is the guy. >> absolutely, all the witnesses, all the evidence, everything pointed directly at him. >> that was one more key piece of evidence, the day after the murder, a witness saw a mercedes on the street in el segundo, she thought it belonged to a friend. so she sped up to catch her, -- >> she seizes not her friend and she sees a male hispanic driving the car and she remembers that license plate. >> the license plate belong to the mercedes owned by deede keller, the man driving? the witness helped the police artist draw this sketch. who does it look like? >> it looks like erwin. >> the witness was shown a photo lineup and she picked out, erwin howard. that is like lightning striking? >> twice. >> and then it struck again. six months after the murder, jimmy gates phone rang. it was deede's next door neighbor who was interviewed
once and had offered nothing of value, but now, apparently, she was having an attack of conscience. the neighbor now told the detective that she'd seen erwin on june 30th, the day erwin had confronted and slapped didi. >> she said the conversation lasted 15, or 20 minutes, and he articulate that he was mad enough to strangle her with work gloves. >> that is what deede's neighbor said erwin set to her? >> why yes. >> why do you think she did say that? you >> i have no idea why a neighbor just wouldn't say the cops the truth that he wanted to kill her. >> armed with a new and threatening statement, detective gates was able to get his warrant and soon erwin howard was under arrest for the murder of deede keller, now the case was in the hands of district attorney. would make this case different?
>> i love cases where you have a very good idea who the suspect is but it is a question of putting the evidence together. circumstantial cases where you have high motive, but you're looking at lots of little facts and saying okay, what can you turn this into. >> it would take three years for the case against erwin howard to come to trial. cameras were not present in the courtroom that day when trial began in the fall of 2008, john lewin laid out his case in a devastatingly thorough, two and a half hour long power point presentation to the jury. >> opening statements are like a check, i'm writing a check, jury hears it, and if i do my job right after opening? all they're waiting to see is if there are funds in the bank. >> if you deliver during your case, what you say you're going to deliver in the opening statements, you're gonna get what you need. >> that is my hope.
>> never in this prosecutions wildest dreams did he believe his opening statement would have the effect it did on erwin howard and his defense attorney. you hear that opening statement and something changes? >> something change. after the opening statement i went back into lock-up and i spoke to him and said listen, remember hubbub speaking about the circumstance of case and it could be powerful, i think there could be some problems now. and his answer was, i need to tell you something. >> that's something would stun deede keller's friends and families and the prosecutor himself. >> one of the most shocking things i have ever seen in one of my cases in the courtroom. >> dateline returns after the break. ter th break. -sounds great. -sure does. shouldn't something, you know, wacky be happening right now? we thought people could use a break. we've all been through a lot this year. -that makes sense. -yeah.
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september 2008, something extraordinary was taking place. the murder trial of erwin howard, expected to last three months. it was on the verge of ending in just two days. prosecutor john lewin had presented a powerful opening statement. >> i had seen the defendant during the opening and thought maybe, you know, something i've gone to him and the da was right, because after the opening, defense attorney andrew flyer had spoken with howard, who then made a stunning admission. >> for the first time in my
career, i heard a defendant confessed to a crime and i was the first one he told. >> and until that moment, his defense was, i wasn't there and i didn't have anything to do with it? >> correct. >> defensive tierney walked into the courtroom and made a statement that caused mouths to fall open. >> the defense attorney gets up and says, you're gonna see something that you will never see in a court ever and he says my client killed with deede keller, but he didn't murder her. >> what does that mean? >> they were trying to see if they could have a manslaughter out of it. >> deputy lewin asked to speak with him behind closed doors and made an offer. plead guilty to second degree murder and be eligible for parole in 15 years. >> my memory is that as i was saying this, he is nodding. >> this wasn't just about erwin admitting to you, he had to admitted to everybody in court. >> yes. >> and erwin howard did just
that. the surprising a courtroom filled with deede's friends and families. >> there was such a sense of relief to think that, oh my gosh, you know, we're gonna hear the truth, family and erwin it's going to can fence. >> no one guided him through the sequence of events, beginning with why erwin went over to deede's house on the night of the murder. >> i wanted to talk to her. >> and what did you want to talk to her about? >> to apologize. i want to apologize for my act on june the 30th. >> june 30th, 2004 when after discovering she was dating another man, erwin stormed into deede's house and confronted her in the shower, tossed emails in her face and slapped her. on that final night though, erwin says he knocked and deede
alone after her boyfriend left, he says, let him in. >> i said, please listen to me, please listen to me. at some point, i guess i raised my voice. and, the little dog, rosy, started growling. >> irwin said he threw a pillow at the dog and that angered deede. >> she told me, how dare you hurt my dog. and she slapped me. i reach towards her. i grabbed her hand. she started punching me with the other hand on my chest. i put her hand down. i grabbed her. i pulled her towards me. she struggled. we struggled. >> i erwin said he put deede in a sort of bear hug. i >> just kept holding her and telling her please listen to me. please, i don't want to lose you. i love you, i don't want to lose you.
>> how tightly were you holding her? >> i felt her body going limp. i stood there and i thought god, god, i've killed her. i've killed her, i've colder, i've killed or. >> he said he came back the next evening, to put deede's body in the car using a spare key have from the mercedes he started driving in heading from mexico, but he wonder how he would get back the border. he left a car on a street incendiary go, and hired an off-duty taxi to take him back to l.a.. the erwin admitted to the murder but he talked about it in a way that made it seem almost accidental? >> yes, he was willing to accept responsibility for the rage and for the anger he was not willing to accept responsibility that the murder happened intentionally. >> second degree murder. >> but despite that, lewin fell to second degree conviction was
the best he could secure and after. erwin left the stand and took the plea, deede friends's and family had the chance to speak to him, they offered surprising words of gratitude and forgiveness to a now confessed killer. >> thank you. we will find it in our hearts to forgive you. >> you did the right thing under the circumstances. for that, i thank you. >> thank you. thank you for doing the right thing. >> i remember thinking that something really special had happened, that you know, although nothing is going to bring my mom back. we've got the best possible outcome, given the circumstances. >> it is rare in a murder trial to hear so much of a lack of anger and vitriol towards the defendant. >> they are good people. they are not vengeful people.
i think they also realized that deede, in hindsight, had not handle things as best she could have in terms of terminating that relationship. >> with erwin howard was granted parole in february 2019. deede's friends and family, their sorrow tinge with regret now honor deede by urging other women not to ignore the warning signs of domestic violence. >> i want deede------------'s live to count for something, i hope people will reach out and asked for help. >> i know you don't blame her for this but i also know you wish that she had been more forthright with the to you, because you would've acted even though she didn't want to. >> yes, we would have. >> there is no question, i would've done things differently if i could go back and relive it. >> but for deede's france,
regrets gave way too much wonderful memories. today there is a plaque at a local doug part, both remembering and honoring a woman whose big heart wouldn't ever let her turn away a stray. >> that is all for this edition of dateline, i'm craig melvin, thank you for watching. k you for watching i'm >> craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> this is dateline. >> i see her laying there, my dad is kneeling, that was the first time i've ever seen him cry. >> they had a tumultuous marriage. >> there would be yelling, and maybe slamming doors. >> according to him, he sees lisa with a gunshot wound to the head. so initially it was ruled a suicide. her sister went to the