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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  July 17, 2021 2:00am-3:00am PDT

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the deputies were taking him away, and alison motta was trying to convince the deputy or talk him into letting him speak to his parents because he'll never get to speak to them again. what about all the other victims here that can't speak to shirlee or thomas or roger or mary. ry trying to solve this murder, we were going to set a trap for three people, and i wasn't sure it was going to work or not. it had to be perfect. the world. right up until the night he was murdered. >> there was evidence of a violent struggle between jack and his killer. >> someone was keeping secrets, and police thought they knew who. >> her tone was just scary. >> they thought they knew the motive, too. but -- >> matter of proving it is a different story. >> until someone found the perfect bait. en
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>> hey, dude, it's me. you need to [ bleep ] call me asap. de >> could they set the perfect trap? >> these people might literally get away with murder. >> "deadly conspiracy." hello and welcome to "dateline y extra." i'm craig melvin. with doting grandfather jack jessee at the helm his big and blended california family seemed like one happy bunch. then jack was found stabbed to p death in his living room and police wondered if the jessees weren't as close as they seemede the case went unsolved for years until an ace detective hatched an unconventional plan to catch jack's killers. here's keith morrison. with deadly conspiracy. >> reporter: the game is called "mousetrap."
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a little ball on its track. the tiny taunting mice which, unless every lever works in unison, will not be caught. and how often things go wrong to allow the mice to get away. so odd that what really happened could so eerily mimic a children's game. >> oh how nice! >> reporter: these are the people it happened to, the jessee clan of orange county, california. they vacation together -- >> i'm tired, i'm ready to go home. >> reporter: share birthdays -- >> this one's for bev. te >> happy new year! >> reporter: even got together for a monthly game of 10-pins.te what these grainy home videos don't show is what is yet to come. which is murder, conspiracy. one branch of the family against the other. a game so twisted, mice so clever that crafting a trap to catch the plotters just might be impossible.
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to begin with, it was 1998. "shakespeare in love" won the oscar. monica lewinsky was freshly r. famous. it was a sweltering august night, hottest of the year, when cheryl deedham got a strange call from her dad, jack jessee. >> i was getting ready for bed and my phone rings and it's my dad on the phone. >> what time was this? >> 9:20. >> reporter: he was worried about his wife sandra. she was missing. hi >> he thought she may have got in an accident or something. >> reporter: she'd run to this nearby mall on a quick errand, said cheryl's dad, but was gone so long.sa would cheryl please find her, asked her dad. >> went through there, the lucky's, the burger king where she was supposed to be, walmart, back 15 minutes later. >> reporter: when she went back into her dad's house she found -- >> one of the worst sights i've ever seen in my life. he was laying facedown on the floor in a pool of blood.
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it was horrible. >> what did you think happened? >> i thought he had fallen because he had a big gash in the back of his head. i went to the kitchen phone and called 911. >> reporter: when she rolled him over, she could see wounds all across his chest. he'd been stabbed many times. >> every time i started doing cpr, every time i'd breathe into him, i could hear bubbling. air escaping. then i started to -- feeling iti on his chest. >> reporter: it's not often little placentia, california, has a murder. r: >> 10:00 p.m. when i got the call. >> reporter: aaron wyatt was the sole homicide detective. >> what did the crime scene itself look like? >> it was pretty bloody. there was evidence of a violent struggle between jack and his killer. >>the kind of thing that might happen if it was a hope invasion, robbery, or something? >> or assault between people who knew each other. e >> reporter: protocol told him
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look at the person who reported the crime, daughter cheryl. e >> the daughter, we had to look at her as a potential suspect. she was the one who found him. >> reporter: back at the station, wyatt interviewed all of jack's relativees, including cheryl, and jack's wife sandra, who hadn't been missing at all, just out on a shopping trip. >> mrs. jessee came to the station with us voluntarily, told us she would cooperate, wanted to help us solve the murder of her husband. >> reporter: she told him about life with jack, married 14 years, blended family, four kids between them. jack was a patriarch in the jessee clan, she said, a teddy a bear of a man, well liked, well to do. >> jack was a very, very loving person who doted on his children, doted on his stepchildren, doted on his grandchildren. >> reporter: jack was ill. housebound after colon cancer surgery. sandra told the detectives she'd been running a bit of a mercy mission for jack and dawdled too long at the mall. >> five minutes one direction, five minutes in traffic, maybe i
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was on the road almost 15 minutes --es >> she was very, very specific about where she had gone, at what times, and why she had gonh there. >> reporter: as for cheryl, she told detectives she'd do anything to find out what happened to her dad in those 15 minutes she was away from the house. >> her actions were very, very consistent with somebody who understands, the police are looking at me right now, i know i didn't do anything, i'm going to do everything i can and give full disclosure. >> the day after the jack jessee murder, a guy walked into a bar, sat down on the barstool, and told the bartender a story about how the murder happened, about who did it, about what the motive was. the whole story. but of course that was just a story in a bar. detective wyatt didn't hear anything about it. and as he continued to dig for clues, he hit an unexpected
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wall. sandra announced she had now helped as much as she could. she was done. >> i was referred to her attorney and she refused to meet with us again. >> reporter: same thing happened with sandra's kids, jack's stepchildren.th while jack's blood relations practically begged to help solvl the case.ca so what happened to that big happy family in the video? a mirage, perhaps?fa in fact, living with sandra, pe said jack's daughter cheree and cheryl, was a fairy tale, the er kind britain by the brothers grimm. >> she was mean to me. she wanted me completely gone. she did everything she could to try and get rid of me. >> reporter: when it came to her own children, they said, sandra was indulgent, eerily so with son tom. >> he was a really good mama's boy, to the point it was strange, very weird. >> very weird. >> weird thing to watch.we >> they're always walking into the other room and closing the door. >> yeah.ot >> reporter: though jack seemed quite happy with sandra. until the spring of '98, that is. just a few months before the murder when jack was diagnosed with colon cancer.
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a shock, of course. but one of two shocks for sandra. and to those around her, the second seemed somehow worse.ho her beloved son, tom, up and moved to arizona. >> and she was flipping out about it. >> yeah. he >> just -- she had to go there. >> reporter: she demanded jack move to arizona too. te >> that woman was off her rocker.wo her tone was just scary. it was like somebody else's voice coming out of her. >> reporter: but surely that wasn't motive enough for murder? and with plenty of suspicion but little else to go on, wyatt spent months poring over sandra and jack's phone records, bank statements, credit card bills, searching to -- well, he didn't know exactly what he was searching for. but he was getting basically nowhere. >> we couldn't establish a pattern that was suspicious. >> reporter: then as wyatt's investigation sputtered, sandra left. sold jack's house here in
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california, moved to arizona to be near her son tom, and soon her daughter followed too. and they all lived within a couple of blocks of each other in homes sandra helped purchase with jack's insurance money and savings. >> when everything was said and done, she got close to $700,000. >> reporter: and as the months slipped past, leads failed to r: connect, the investigation hit t one dead end after another. wyatt was promoted out of homicide. e the case bounced from the placentia pd to the orange county's sheriff's department, where before long it became a case to avoid, toxic, an unsolvable career killer. so five years after his brother's murder, when david ar jessee met a detective named tom dove who said he picked up the case -- >> i said, oh, really? well, that's great. let me ask you a question. yeah. what are you going to do? are you going to get the case for three, four, five months, a year, then move up? f
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become a sergeant or something and move on? and tom dove says to me, listen, buddy, nobody likes me in my department.od he says, i'm not going nowhere. he says, i got five years to put in your brother's case. he says, i retire and i'm out of here. he said, but i'll give it my all. i will give everything to this case that i have. i looked over at him, i said, you're the man. >> reporter: what david didn't know but clearly sensed was that detective tom dove was the real deal, a legendary law man who seemed to have stepped out of his own primetime drama. >> there wasn't a whole lot to go on. there wasn't any physical evidence, there wasn't any sn eyewitnesses. >> in other words, the perfect challenge. >> correct. . >> coming up. bartender with the customer who liked to talk.
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now he's talking too. >> this person had specific details unknown to the general public. >> not only that he's naming names. y when "dateline" continues. when "dateline" continues. with a pad made like no other to protect like no other up to zero leaks because it locks blood in up to zero bunching because it flexes up to zero feeling because it's made of flexfoam no worries for real just always flexfoam available with a 100% pure cotton top sheet hey shaq. oh hey. remember when you kept saying we should check out the general for auto insurance, and we buried you in cement? turns out you were right about the general. they're actually a quality insurance company. let's chip you on out.
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. >> after five years and a string of homicide detectives, the jack jessee case had been one to avoid. one day it was hand off, to tom
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dove. >> yes i can't tell you, move on. >> there was no hope of new evidence or fingerprints or dna, just the infuriating puzzle, which had become more difficult with each passing year. >> >> after i reviewed the case, i had no feeling for the family, no feeling for jack jessee. >> reporter: so to get his hand in the game, dove met with the people closest to jack. like his brother david. >> and when i met with david, he inspired me. his determination not to let the love for his brother go was a big motivating factor. >> reporter: but david also had some provocative information. something jack told him after arguing with sandra about moving to arizona. >> if anything ever happens to me, he says, it's her. >> reporter: not the only time jack said such a thing, it turned out. >> he actually told me, i wouldn't be surprised if the bitch killed me. he said that. >> reporter: so dove picked
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through all the original files, hoping he might come across something that had been overlooked. and buried inside, he found this. a simple two-page report apparently unread by any detective. remember the guy who walked into the bar, the one who told a story about the jessee murder? well, years later when the case had gone cold, the bartender decided to call the placentia cops. an officer took the call, typed up the report, and stuck it away in the file where it sat unseen until tom dove came along. >> two things caught my mind. when i read it. one, whoever the caller is knew how many stab wounds were involved. and two, the caller stated that the person had used a backdoor or a window to enter the residence that night. that was significant in that this person had specific details unknown to the general public about the murder of jack jessee.
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>> reporter: most of the tipster's information was frustratingly vague, like a riddle, yet another game to be played. there were two killers, though he gave no names. one had a knife, the other had the getaway car. both worked at a big box department store. the man who told the story in the bar that day had been the driver of the car and with the blood money he had bought a truck and a sea-doo. but on the question of who was behind the plot, that's when the story named names, two of them. they were sandra's son, tom, the mama's boy jack raised as his own. under the direction of the mastermind herself, jack's wife, sandra. so with that new perspective on the case, dove revisited sandra's old interview. the hours of mostly useless chatter. >> how many times did you listen to that interview? >> at least ten times. >> reporter: and then it jumped out at him. right about here on the tape. sandra is going through slips of paper in her day planner.
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she looks at one and says -- >> this is my son's friend. >> reporter: listen to it again. >> this is my son's friend. >> reporter: "this is my son's friend." one phrase in hours of material but it got dove's mind racing. if the bartender was right that the killers were friends of sandra's son, could that slip of paper hold the key to the case? dove tore through bags of evidence, and there it was. the day planner. seized five years earlier just after the murder. >> i went through that day planner for probably a day or more. went through every scratch, piece of paper, every notation, there was everything that was put into place in that day planner was looked at. there was a small piece of note paper with the name which appeared to me at that time to say schreiber with no telephone number or no significance to it. >> just said schreiber, that's all it said? >> i thought schreiber, yes. >> reporter: but where would he find this schreiber? doug went back to sandra's interview.
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when asked about detective wyatt about tom's friend, sandra said the boys were once work buddies. >> met him at target when they worked together. >> reporter: detective dove crisscrossed southern california, searching through the employment records of every target store for a guy named schreiber. but nobody had ever heard of him. >> we were starting to come to the end of our rope. we were getting to a dead end there. >> reporter: that was about the time jack's daughter sherry began getting strange packages in the mail from sandra, who said they were keepsakes jack wanted his girls to have. >> like what? >> little boxes of like ashtrays. his bowling ball bag. a bunch of junk. just weird stuff that just kept coming. >> reporter: which seemed designed to provoke exactly the reaction the sisters felt. >> hatred. more than i had before. >> reporter: sandra seemed to be telling them she'd beaten them, got away with it, won the game. >> we just said, are we cursed?
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is there something with this case that's just not going to be solved? >> it's frustrating for him putting all this work in. to think these people might get away, literally get away with murder. >> oh, isn't that the -- >> reporter: patty is tom's wife, been together since high school, knows him better than anyone. she was used to his compulsive perfectionism. >> it's comforting to me, i think, to just know where things are and where we're going. >> reporter: his nothing out of place sense of order. >> he's a very stubborn man. so for him to take a case, he's going to do it and solve it. >> reporter: and so detective dove decided to start over. take a different approach this time. he immersed himself in sandra's old phone bills. seized by detective wyatt years before. >> what i did is i went through every telephone call on those phone records looking for somebody related to this case. there had to be some communication.
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>> get anywhere? >> yeah. >> reporter: what dove found that had been overlooked before was a cluster of calls not long before the murder, all short, within minutes of each other. one of those calls was to a target store, one was to a pager, one was to a boarding house. he called that last number, asked if anybody there knew a guy named schreiber. and the landlady said, nope. but there was one a tenant named schrauben, could that be the man the detective was looking for? >> it was brett schrauben. >> reporter: jack tracked him down to a distant suburb in the mojave desert. parked in the driveway was a 1999 pickup truck and a sea-doo, just what the anonymous bartender said. >> there was a huge break for us. we now have the name of somebody that's involved in jack jessee's murder. coming up -- >> often people throw away valuable evidence.
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>> detective dove finds treasure in trash. >> this is too good to be true. when "dateline" continues. en "d. so with your home & auto bundle, you'll save money and get round-the-clock protection. -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. so...
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making earth our priority. i thought i'd seen it all. ( ♪♪ ) . >> the jack jessee investigation had been six years of bad ends, blind alleys. now they were about to start a new game, one where he could write the rule book, but it
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would be very complicated, because dove wanted more than just a get-away driver, he wanted everyone to make jack jessee's murder in there the only way to tie that together in a conpier is ra says do wiretaps. >> with you wiretops taps are notoriously difficult to get. he knew he was in contact. it was a catch-22. >> it had been my experience in the sheriffs department, oftentimes people throw away critical evidence. >> he decided to search hus garbage. so what did they tell you when you came up with that idea? you're crazy? >> i think they were saying i am starting to lose it if i want to go through somebody's trash. >> so once a week, he got up another daybreak, maybe an
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hour-long journey to his neighborhood where a trash truck used just the schreubin's garbage to a nearby parking lot. >> we would have them dump it in somewhat of a people, regardless of the size. >> right on the tarmac? >> scatter everything out, sit down on our knees and look at every piece of paper that looks like a do you mean of some kind. >> >> reporter: and that's how dove's team found this coffee-stained phone bill showing call after call from schrauben to sandra's son, tom in arizona. >> and that number, tom's number, how often would that pop up? >> i think the average we figured out was about 24 times in a billing cycle about a month. >> almost every day? >> every day, correct. it was almost like going through a crime scene and finding pieces of evidence. it's an excitement that you
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realize, this is going to work. we are going to find what we're looking for. >> reporter: but there was yet again a problem. schrauben's phone was in another name. to get a wiretap, he would have to prove schraben was the primary user. >> what we ended up having to do was literally follow brett schrauben around until we saw him on his telephone. we later took that even further in that i went into the target store that he was working at one day. i noticed he was stocking shelves in a certain section of the store so i started randomly picking up items and looking like i was interested. at that point i called on my cellular phone to one of my other investigators outside and said, put a call in now to the phone. i heard him answer the phone. so i was able to say that is his phone, he talks on it. we've put the phone in his hand. >> reporter: but as they continue to sift through trash they find something more important than the phone bill, something quite unexpected. this day planner.
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>> from the years '96, '97, 1998. >> reporter: what were the chances of that? here, six years later, was the day planner for 1998, the year jack jessee was murdered. crucial evidence tossed in schrauben's garbage. >> a treasure we didn't expect to find, but what that day planner did was connected all the people back in 1998 that were associated with brett schrauben >> what did you think? >> this is too good to be true, i thought, good things were going to happen. somebody's back on our side again. >> reporter: with this evidence, dove was able to get a judge to approve a wiretap on brett schrauben's phone. then as dove waited for his wiretap to go into effect, he continued to go through the trash, he'd been lucky so far, maybe he'd find something more. indeed he did and it turned the case upside down. he found rental listings in arizona. brett schrauben was moving out of the state, would be gone before the wiretap ruling took
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effect. and in arizona, a california warrant was worthless. >> this completely took all that work, and we're talking probably six months of work, and just threw it out the window. >> reporter: the killers had slipped the trap. game over. but the detective was not giving up. his team built a new and better mousetrap. and guess who took the bait? coming up -- >> hey, dude, it's me. you need to [ bleep ] call me asap. . >> when "dateline" continues. continues >>
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♪ dream until your dreams come true ♪ . hello, i'm dara brown. here's what's happening biden is planning to evacuate 2500 afghans directly to the u.s. some will be flown to military bases overseas or to third
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countries. new york governor andrew cuomo will be investigated by his alleged sexual% conduct and harassment. cuomo has repeatedly denied the claims. now, back to "dateline." >> welcome back to "datedline" i'm craig melvin. they had decided to put a warrant on a suspect's phone, he was moving to arizona, so the detective has yet another plan. an elaborate trap using anonymous letters is the bait. could he slew his targets or could his prey slip through the snare yet again?
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>> after two years of work, they had generated enough evidence to fill this mail cart. all apparently for naught. the suspect and his key to cracking the case had skipped the state, and detective dove's jurisdiction. >> we were so close. >> reporter: the jessee family sensed dove had been beaten and sandra jessee had won. had gotten away with murder. >> i put his pictures away. i couldn't -- it's tough. because he was so -- he was so fantastic. >> put his pictures away? >> i had to. it just was too much. >> couldn't look at them? >> i couldn't look at them. >> reporter: at the dove home, tom's wife patty began to worry about her husband's health. >> he tends to hold things in. you can't hold in that kind of frustration and emotion without starting to affect you. with that kind of stress, it takes a toll on them physically and mentally. >> that's what you worry about? >> uh-huh, exactly what i worry about. >> reporter: because she knew if he didn't solve the jessee case, he might die trying. >> he's like a dog with a bone.
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he's going to take it and he's going to do it until it gets done. >> reporter: dove was not alone, mind you. there was a prosecutor too who shared his dogged conviction. a man named michael murray who wanted sandra jessee and her group just as badly as dove. >> this case seemed to be full of obstacles. >> it would have been probably forgivable just to let it go at that stage? to some people? >> maybe to some people. >> reporter: so murray and dove cobbled together a legal long shot. they flew to phoenix, presented their evidence to the state attorney general, pleaded for an arizona wiretap warrant. and they got it. the game was back on. if they could make it work. >> we were going to try to set a trap for three people and keep track of those three people, and i wasn't sure if it was going to work or not. >> if it didn't? >> in the back of my mind, i gave it probably a 30% chance of
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success. >> but you're giving yourself a 70% chance of being a goat at the end of the day. >> it had to be perfect. we were only going to get one try. >> reporter: so tom began to compile a team of investigators, even called darren wyatt, the first detective on the case, to see if the plascencia pd wanted in. >> i said, let me fall at your feet and do what we can to help. i felt like hey -- look, this is going to be good. >> reporter: the phoenix pd also provided scores of officers, so on game day dove had close to 100 cops working the case. >> i reminded them of that mousetrap game you played when you were a kid. in that this huge ball bearing was going to have to go through a tremendous amount of obstacles that were kind of thrown together. in order to lower the trap and catch the mouse. and anywhere along the line there could be a snag. there could be something that we hadn't planned for that could throw this ball completely off the board.
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>> okay, so what was the plan? what was the nature of your trap, of your mousetrap? >> we believed that if we did something to get these people uptight, if we were able to rattle the tree, if we were able to put some fear into them that maybe the police were on to them. that they would talk about the murder of jack jessee. >> so what was the little piece of cheese you put into that trap? >> we nailed a simple copy of the newspaper article when jack jessee was murdered anonymously to sandra jessee, tom aehlert, and brett schrauben. the significance of that was they didn't know we knew about brett schrauben. they're going to know something's up. >> reporter: sure enough, as soon as tom heard brett got an anonymous letter, he called his mother, sandra. >> whoever was sending out all that crap sent one to brett too. >> give me a break. >> really. >> you're kidding. >> no. why would i kid about something
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like that? >> they sent one to brett? >> yeah. >> why would they send one to him? how could they even -- >> i have no clue. >> reporter: next, dove started poking brett's friends in california. who of course called brett. >> leave your name and number and i'll get back to you, thank you. >> hey, dude, it's me. you need to [ bleep ] call me asap. this is no [ bleep ] joke. some guy from the sheriff in orange county sheriff's department homicide division was calling me, asking about you. >> reporter: brett in turn called tom. >> hello? >> hello, tom? >> yeah, hey, what's up? >> i got a call from scott. the orange county homicide division -- >> uh-huh. >> called scott, they want to talk to him about me. >> about you? >> yeah. >> what are you on right now? >> i'm on my cell phone. >> are you comfortable or no? >> no. >> that little mousetrap ball was making its way through the
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maze. after a few days of the game, sandra, tom, and brett began to wonder if they were getting played. suspected their phones were tapped. maybe even their houses bugged. >> i want to talk for a couple of seconds -- >> okay. >> no, i'd rather pick you and up go back to the church or -- >> church? >> well, just somewhere outside. >> oh, okay. >> away from your place and my place. >> okay. >> not on the cell phone. >> okay. >> when would you have time? >> now. >> reporter: so they started meeting in shopping centers. >> we decided to put surveillance teams on each of the individuals, sandra, jessee, tom aehlert, and brett schrauben. during the duration of the wiretap, to capture some things they may do that may not be normal while the wiretap was in place. >> they'd stand shoulder to shoulder in a parking lot,
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watching out in the parking lot, and not looking at each other. >> reporter: there it was, like a scene from some mafia movie. the suspects out of range of recording devices, apparently deep in conversation as they peered out into the parking lot. >> i think the photographs of tom aehlert and sandra jessee was worth a million words as to the depth of their involvement and how far they would go to conceal what they had done. in their minds they had thought they got away with the perfect crime. >> reporter: meanwhile, dove would hop on flights back to orange county to pressure schrauben's friends for information. he was, of course, relentless. chased down anybody who knew the man. followed one tip to another. until dove finally encountered the man he'd been hunting for years. the bartender who called in the anonymous tip years earlier. >> and the first words out of my mouth were, hi, mike, i'm here about brett. and his face went completely flush. and he said, i knew you were going to find me sooner or
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later. >> what story did he tell you? >> that schrauben, for whatever reason, had confided in him and told him specific details of the murder of jack jessee, including his involvement. that was a huge, huge quantum leap for us in putting this case to rest. >> reporter: now the time had come to spring the trap. brett schrauben was arrested and soon thereafter sandra jessee herself was in handcuffs. finally to be held accountable for jack jessee's murder. >> that was wonderful. >> best three-day weekend i had. >> oh, me too. that was a pretty good day, yes. >> reporter: didn't last. for one thing, tom was not arrested. insufficient evidence, said the prosecutor. and then as he rolled out the case against the others, that little ball came off the track again. this time it happened at sandra's preliminary hearing. judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence to hold her. she was free to go. >> oh, i sobbed all the way home.
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i don't know how i made it back to marietta from santa ana. >> reporter: only brett schrauben was to face a murder trial. it was the summer of 2006, eight years after jack jessee's murder. and justice? not yet, if ever. coming up -- finally, the break detectives had been waiting for. >> she wanted jack dead. >> the information that he provided would blow the case wide open. >> until something slammed it shut down. when "dateline" continues. when "dateline" continues. explore the showrooms of style at lowe's. shop the showroom styles bath event.
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>> reporter: sitting in a cell, month after month, can do a lot to alter a person's take on the world. even more so if the inmate is looking at a possible life sentence. and that's when brett schrauben had an epiphany. just days before his murder trial was to begin, he said he was finally willing to testify against tom and sandra. but he wanted out now. the deal had to be for time served or nothing at all. >> what did you think when you heard what he wanted in order to get his cooperation? >> i thought it was outrageous. but it's not a perfect world. and the people who are likely to have some of the best, most detailed information about what takes place inside a conspiracy is a coconspirator. we needed brett schrauben.
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>> so what was the story? >> the story was a pretty -- pretty detailed and amazing story. >> reporter: schrauben described the whole affair on tape, laid detail. anatomy of a murder. the conspiracy was launched with a phone call from tom. >> he told me he'd offer $50,000 to kill his dad. >> reporter: he met with sandra in a parking lot. she gave him a $5,000 deposit. >> she wanted jack dead and she wanted it done at the house and to look like a robbery. she told me she would leave for x amount of time and that's when it would need to be done. >> reporter: schrauben said he hired his good friend, a local drifter, to be the getaway driver. and on the afternoon of august 13th, 1998, while sandra was out having her nails done, schrauben claimed he and his friend drove to the jessee house to murder jack. >> i was already having a cold feeling on the way there. by the time i was walking down the street, i was really having cold feet.
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i got in the house, i'm standing in the garage now. i put on a rubber glove. and reach inside the door and unlocked it and shut it. i was chicken. i couldn't do it. i called tom. i told tom, the door's locked. and he said he would call his mom and get back to me. >> reporter: and according to schrauben, tom called back within minutes with a backup plan. >> he told me his mom was going to go out that night and that they needed it to happen tonight because his mom can't take it anymore. he said, we didn't do it tonight, his mom was going to do it. >> reporter: they returned that night about 9:00. schrauben's stor by was he schrauben's story by was he dropped his friend off and drove around the neighborhood while his friend snuck inside and stabbed jack jessee to death. >> we had walkie-talkies. afterward he called when he was done and told him to pick him up. so i'm turning to go back. he had a little blood on his legs. we looked for a place to clean
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himself up. i believe there was a del taco place. there he went inside to clean himself up. >> the information he provided, if we could corroborate what he said, would blow the case wide open. >> t.j. garrick was questioned and denied everything. he said he wasn't in the car and he didn't kill jack jessee. flvs no evidence to indicate involved at all. police let him go. investigators focused on building their case against tom and sandra by documenting money transfers, phone calls, air travel. >> so when you add all that together, what'd you think? whe together, what do you think? >> i thought we were starting to put together a pretty good case. >> good enough that murray had tom and sandra arrested. and in the summer of 2009, 11 years after the murder, the mother and son team went on trial for the murder of jack jessee. >> going to court was like going to my dad's funeral every day. i mean it russ really was. you're around people that you know killed your dad.
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it was a ridiculous feeling. you can't even put it into words. just soul-wrenching. >> schrauben testified against them. in court it was argued sandra had a variety of motives for killing jack. she wanted his money before medical bills ate up their savings. and she couldn't bear being away from her son tom. >> do you think the case had gone well? >> i thought the case had gone extremely well. >> except once again that little ball came off the track. >> what happened? >> "dateline" returns after the break. that needs to change. so, i did something. i created a black business accelerator at amazon. and now we have a program that's dedicated to making tomorrow a better day for black businesses. ♪ ♪ i am tiffany. and this is just the beginning.
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welcome back to "dateline." he had struck a deal with prosecutors. he detailed how sandra jessee and her son plotted it. there were a couple of big sur prices in stores. with the conclusion of "deadly conspi conspiracy," here's keith morrison. when the jury went into seclusion to deliberate, the jessee family thought justice was just hours away. but as the sun set on the courthouse, nothing. no word.
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same thing again next day. and the day after that. the problem? there was a holdout. >> it got very heated. >> yes. >> in the deliberation room. >> these members of the jury told us 11 voted for conviction. but there was one lone juror who felt some level of compassion for sandra. >> she related to the sandra jessee concern that jack jessee's illness would eat up their nest egg. >> i kind of felt like she was enjoying the control she had. >> there was nothing, nothing we could do or say. >> people were getting so heated and there was so much anger that she started to shut down even more. >> and that scene played out for three and a half days until the judge said enough and declared a mistrial. >> i was in tears. >> i was in tears. >> i was too. and thinking of the family and what they've gone through. that was heartache. just heartache. >> mm-hmm. >> i thought i was going to pass out. >> yeah. it was horrible.
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>> it was just -- >> like the whole night had happened all over again. >> that one juror, you know, i saw her. i went and talked to her. >> what did you say? >> i said she was an idiot. >> it was certainly difficult for me. it was far more difficult for the family. >> murray promised the family justice. spent two years putting a new case together. and just weeks before trial, he got a call. it was from tom's attorney saying his client was ready to cut the apron strings and testify against his mom. >> there's no way that we ever suspected that tom aehlert would ever turn on his mother. he was known to be a mama's boy. >> but a mama's boy who decided he didn't want to die in prison. tom pleaded guilty to second degree murder, got 15 to life. besides helping connect the crime to his mother, he had someone else he wanted to give up. that friend of brett's.
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the one brett claim drove in the car and killed jack jessee. in february 2013, the jury found him not guilty. >> as for sandy, her case went one month. the question is would the jury believe tom's story? as jury deliberated and the family waited, there was no euphoria. they knew from bitter experience that anything could happen. >> it's a lot harder this time not knowing what's going to happen. >> on the second day, they got word the jury had a verdict. >> my stomach's in knots. >> i'm shaking. >> we're just really very nervous at this moment. >> 13 years after jack jessee's murder, sandra jessee was found
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guilty. and finally that little ball stayed on its track. the key mouse was caught. >> i hope that she rots in hell. i just really do. i'm glad it wasn't the death penalty. i want her to stay there and suffer with all the other miserable people that go to prison. >> what's it feel like to get justice finally? >> oh, it feels good. it feels good, but not complete. not complete. lost a guy. the nicest guy i ever met. >> and for tom dove, he's now retired from the sheriff's department, and at his going-away party his fellow detectives gave him this. it honors his commitment to the jessee case. >> it means more to me than any other plaque or award i've ever received in my life. >> in retirement tom planned to
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set up a shelter for stray dogs. the urge to rescue runs deep. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. breaking on msnbc, the first covid case just reported at the tokyo olympic village days before the games kick off, plus a big surge across the u.s. is forcing the nation's most populous county to reinstate its indoor mask mandate, and prompting a top health official to issue this warning. >> this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. we are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that has low vaccination

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