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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  November 20, 2021 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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>> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is dateline. >> they were high school sweethearts. >> we both expected to spend the rest of our lives together. >> but when she was murdered, sympathy turned to suspicion. his palm print was on the murder weapon. >> no question, it was his. >> but the mystery was just beginning because -- >> the dnc was some other male. >> as a town chose sides and families fought for justice. more startling developments in a horrific murder. >> where you've got something that was this bad -- >> somebody's got to pay.
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>> somebody has to pay. >> hello, and welcome to "dateline." >> nona and kevin jones were a couple with a bright future. she was a self-confident 19 -year-old known for her beautiful voice. he was her devoted boyfriend with big ambitions. then, a brutal attack and shattered their dreams. it was a crime that would shake a small southern town to its core. and pit a family against the community they called home. here's keith morrison with "what happened to the beauty queen? " >> look at her. look at the young woman at the heart of our story. you can see how lovely she is. the young beauty queen. can you see her vulnerability? by now your first impression is probably locked in. it's very unlikely to change.
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and certainly, that's how it was in russellville, arkansas. our town were a first impression hardens like a patch of summit. about her and also about -- for better or worse, the young man accused of killing her. >> the boyfriend who found the body. >> the boyfriend found a body. >> first impressions die hard. including first impressions of murder. and years later in the small southern town we had to ask candy ever change. of course that question is quite obvious now to kevin. jones but years ago, he didn't care who he impress or didn't. all he knew was this, he was going places. he was from a good family. lived near a wonderful city near called russellville, and was well liked. oh, and was adored by one girl in particular. his high school sweetheart, nona dirksmeyer. so she was kind of like a soulmate i suppose? >> yeah, i was closer to her
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than anybody else. he was going to marry her someday. she was after all about the prettiest girl in town. local beauty pageants were rounded by her looks employees. they had already crowned her as such. but here's another troops truth her boyfriend came to realize. beauty really isn't anything. nona was a sometimes troubled girl. given to bouts of emotional turmoil. her mother carol was grateful to kevin for making her daughter happy. >> kevin was a interested in helping nona get through some of these hard times she was having. he seemed to be a really caring person. >> he even brought nona into his own family. his mom janice and dad hiram treated her as one of their own. >> she was not a girlfriend. she was our family. >> but it was when it was time for kevin to go off to college
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she and nona stayed in touch and in love. through a wireless world of late night cell chats and of checks and emoticons. when he didn't respond promptly, she wagner finger at him. >> she would send text messages saying, are you still alive? sarcastically, trying to get my attention. >> which is why he was so taken aback that day, a little more than a week before christmas of 2005. it was december 15th. nona uncharacteristically hadn't reached out to him or answered him since morning. at one point he turned her old taunt back on her texting, you will life? even then she didn't respond. this was not like nona. >> four and a half years we had made a pattern. and that's what we did every day. and that pattern is broken, it just kind of raises a red flag in my mind. why is she network responded?
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>> were you worried? >> i was concerned. >> who knows why things work out the way they do. on that particular night, kevin was supposed to drive his mom, janice, to a christmas party. he remembers being in the car with him. >> i was said you know, there's a lots of reasons why she might not be answering her phone. maybe her plans changed. >> but right now kevin could think of nothing else. he called his buddy brian who delivered peeper pizza near nona's apartment. asked him to check on. her and ryan call that was something. erie nona's was in the law, her house lights were on, but she was an answer the door. >> i said okay well i'm coming over there. >> they pulled up and ryan was still there. >> ryan and i knocked him knock and right through doorbell and nobody came. and we started to get a little frantic. >> so the two men ran around the condo tune nona's back door. kevin says he rushed up to the sliding glass door without taking a moment to look inside. >> so when i was grabbing the
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handle, ryan touch me and said do you not see her. and i looked at him and said -- and he said dude there she is. and she was laying in her front room. >> nona wasn't moving. kevin through open the unlock door and russian side. >> ryan at one point let my mom in the front door. they called 9-1-1 pretty soon after that. >> her name is nona dirksmeyer. >> nona dirksmeyer? >> i straddled her midsection -- my knees were on the ground above her midsection. >> he tried cpr. but she was a breathing. and her eyes, usually so luminous, there was no light. there was nothing at all. >> and i talk to her and just prayed that everything was going to be okay. until the ems got there. >> soon the little apartment was overwhelmed by paramedics,
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police. it was a long before an officer took having a side. janice listened as her sons voice suddenly rose above the chaos. >> then i heard him cry out -- >> how? >> yeah, that's what it was. >> and he asked them if she was dead? and they affirmed, yes she was. >> nona was gone. nothing kevin could do about it. as he tried to absorb the enormity of what happened, he heard a policeman ask, could he come downtown police. they wanted to know what happened to nona. >> coming up, did kevin know what happened? police seem to think so. >> you have been in a fight recently or anything? >> i've never been in a fight. >> and watch what happened when police were not asking questions. >> oh, my god. please tell me what am i going to do? >> when dateline continues.
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>> in pictures, nona dirksmeyer forever radiates promise and beauty. but there is something ugly that list on to. her death and the way she was so brutally taken. nona's mother carroll knew it was bad. the moment she arrived that night to see police at nona's apartment. >> i told them i wanted to see her and they said you can't.
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they had the crime scene tape up. >> the police told carroll it was horribly obvious. nona had been murdered. they were on the case they told her. in fact, they were already trying to break down nona's last moments on earth. >> when did you last spoke with her? >> about 1:00 last night. i called her from my house phone. >> questioning the man who may have known her best. >> you have been in a fight recently or anything? >> i've never been in a fight. >> and kevin jones seemed eager to help the police figure out who killed his girlfriend. he readily agreed to go to the station that night to answer a few routine questions. >> what happened? >> i called her all day and she didn't answer. i thought maybe her phone was just. >> as kevin careened from what looked like disbelief -- >> to grief. >> noah, i love you.
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>> to anger. back again. >> couple of questions i want to ask. >> a few questions turned into many. >> did you have a key to the apartment? >> yeah. >> and more pointed. >> i'm not accusing you of anything. did you hurt her tonight? >> no, i promise you. i wouldn't. i would never -- i would -- i would kill myself before i hurt her. >> they would leave me alone in the room. they would ask me questions. oh, my god. please tell me what am i gonna do? >> after a while the police told kevin -- >> well you're out here. >> you could go home. they had other people to talk. two young men nona have been seeing well kevin was away at college. but it was a long before the detectives determine the alibis for those other men checked out. and six days later, as he prepared to say goodbye to nona at the funeral home, police asked him to come back to the police station. >> can i get a drink of water? >> you bet. >> after about 20 minutes where
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the questions they asked me if i take a polygraph test. what >> did you say? >> i said sure. >> kevin, i'm going -- attach. >> so they strapped him up and ran through the innocuous questions. and then -- >> did you cause the death of nona but dirksmeyer? and then they went out analyzed it, came back and said what? >> the man who gave it to me said that he had not seen anybody feel the test worse in his 28, or some odd years of giving light a tech protests. >> kevin, there's no doubt in my mind that you killed her. >> the murder of the beauty queen was very big news in russellville. and given the nature of the crime and the victim, so young and pretty and vulnerable, the pressure to solve it from the public and the press was quite intense. so, imagine how it was for the lead detective, mark frost, given that this was his very first homicide case. >> okay, we're done. we are done. >> though as he talked to kevin, frost sounded like a veteran who had seen it all. and was disgusted.
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>> you did this. >> no, i'm telling you. >> i'm telling you you're dead wrong. >> you killed her. >> i'm telling you right here. >> point blank. >> no, i'm telling you right here. >> at this point it was really questioning -- it was more of them yelling at me, telling me that they knew that i did it. >> yet the police did to arrest kevin that night. here's what they did instead. they told nona's mother that the young man she thought would be her son in law one day was in fact her daughter's killer. >> the first thing that i was told was that he was a sociopath. with a narcissistic personality. >> nona had been stabbed repeatedly around the neck and chest and bashed on the head. the medical examiner said that was what killed nona. the police told carol that this had to been a very personal attack on. not a something a stranger would've done, but kevin could have. so now carroll had to shocks to absorb. >> i knew he had done it. i knew in my heart was something you it was someone she knew. she would never let anyone in the apartment she didn't know.
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>> so now, kevin's horrifying discovery was subjected to a dark and troubling spin. detective mark frost said that to him, the crime scene up their looked staged. and a week later, there was a press conference at which the police told the russell public don't worry, we know who committed this crime. police didn't mention the suspect's name just then. but it was a long before everybody in russellville new perfectly well that it was kevin jones. this was what appeared in the russellville career three months after nona's murder. but nona's remains fear. and it's russellville police to court might request formal charges against one suspect. but hiram it's jones is kevin's father. >> they tried convicting kevin within 90 days of it happening. if he was a stranger walking in a coffee shop would you read that?
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what would you think? >> it bothered but kevin's awful when -- bumper sticker saint justice for four nona started public coming up. >> the assumption that i formed, and i think many people formed was that justice for nona meant convict kevin. >> topping our news the police make an arrest in the murder of 19 year old arkansas beauty queen. >> on march 31st, 2006, not a long after that career article, police finally did announce the arrest of kevin jones for the murder of nona dirksmeyer. whether or not kevin was convicted in the court of public opinion was now apparently irrelevant. he is about to stand trial. quite possibly be convicted where it really mattered, a court of law. >> coming up -- a palm print in blood on the lamp used to kill nona. guess who? >> no question it was his. >> no question it was his. >> but on another key piece of evidence -- >> the dna was some other males.
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boyfriend accused of a crime, it is hard to be in a civilian 2007. and not be steeped in the story of nonna. >> this case probably had more
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statewide publicity then a criminal case in many, many years. perhaps ever an arkansas. yet kevin had a right to a fair trial and an impartial jury. his lawyers argued that would be impossible irascible. so the venue was changed to the nearby city of always arc. >> the spotlight is on always arc as jury selection begins -- >> to the prosecutor, the trials location mattered little. what mattered was the evidence. he believed there was enough of that put kevin jones away for years. jeff phillips was the deputy prosecutor. >> we believed and i believe that the morning of her death, kevin jones came in unexpectedly. >> when the trial opened in 2007, the prosecutor told the jury the reason for this crime was as old as the bible itself. jealous rage. kevin jones had walked into his lovers apartment that day in december, 2005, and found
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within a cheating heart. >> while there he discovered either a text message from another person and or a used condom wrapper on the counter. and things escalated from there. escalated out of control. >> and the prosecutor said with jones repeatedly stabbing nona then crushing her skull with a lap base. ,. >>? >>. . >>,,. . ,,. >> in my opinion, an intentional attempt to be -- to have someone else find her but him. >> trying to make himself look
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innocent. if that wasn't telling enough the prosecutor said, then surely this was. kevin jones police interview. right there, the prosecutor told the jury, was kevin's capacity for violence. in full view. sitting and listening to this, kevin's father word how easy it might be for juries to convict his son. >> it was a nightmare. >> yet, kevin's parents never wavered in their belief that their son was just as innocent as he told the police he was. they even bet the family farm on it. >> we put it up as collateral. >> and use the money to buy their sound the best defense they could. and he needed it. kevin's lawyers knew their client had become the local poster boy for evil. >> when you've got something that was this serious. that is this bad, this girl was brutally murdered -- >> somebody's got to pay. >> somebody has to pay.
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>> somebody, but not kevin, said attorney michael robins. they sent the read out of that polygraph to an independent expert, who reported that the questioned questions seem designed to make kevin fail. the rest of the states evidence didn't wash either. the palm print on the light bulb of the lamp? the murder weapon? attorney bill russell agreed it was kevin's print. he was trying to frantically save his girlfriend's life. so of course he could have touched the light bulb. >> it's a totally innocent situation. the blood got on the light bulb at the time the body was discovered. >> when he's trying to revive her, you are saying? >> yes -- the emt said the lamp was within the foot of the body. >> more disturbing, the evidence not collected by the police. >> said the defense? first time homicide defective detective, mark frost, and
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other officers mocked up the case royally. >> the only area that was fingerprinted was the area around the body that there was blood near the front door. there was blood on the venetian blinds. empty condom wrapper a short distance from the body. the police go upstairs to see if that's been flushed. they do not fingerprint the flush handle at the commode, don't dna that, don't dna anything up there. >> in fact, the defense did its own dna testing. on that condom wrapper. by the prosecution's account it was a key piece of evidence. the thing that lightly set kevin off on his murderous rage. but think about it, said the attorney kevin johnson. if kevin actually saw the condom wrapper, he would have picked it up, and left his own dna on it. but -- >> we sent the prophylactic rapper to a lab and they found the dna. the dna with some other males.
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>> someone else's dna, not kevin's. and probably, said the defense, the condom was used by the killer. but who? needed events or prosecution had an answer. the dna didn't match anyone in the database. and kevin's lawyers did have this, an alibi for their client. kevin's grandmother told the court he couldn't have killed nona, because he was with her. miles away in the town of dover, around the time the state said nonna died talk. >> and he is a genuine, levelheaded person, and credible witness on the stand. >> but there was one compelling piece of evidence in the prosecution's case. they wanted the jurors to see more of it. that police video of kevin. >> she didn't deserve this. she deserved a life. >> the defense had jurors watch all of it.
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it was this image that convinced jurors that they should change when they have been that first impression, and decided that kevin was not the killer by degree struck and young man who is innocent. so, what to believe? in the courthouse, the jury wrestled with its verdict. 50 miles down the road in russell ville, the crown town cried for justice. if that meant conviction, well, so be it. >> would jurors convict kevin jones of murder? and whose dna was on that key piece of evidence? coming up -- >> i said it matches. he said, well, it matches gary done. >> who was gary done? and what's, if anything, did he have to do with known as murder? when dateline continues. eline continues.
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airport, after a discharge of a weapon. the transportation security administration says a prohibited item was identified by x-ray. the passenger was advised not to touch the property as he opened the compartment. but the passenger lunged, grab the firearm and is discharged. the passenger fled but has been identified. no one has been injured. now back to dateline. back to dateline >> welcome back to the "dateline." i'm craig melvin. kevin jones was on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, nona dirksmeyer. prosecutors painted kevin as a jealous boyfriend whose bloody palm print found at the scene, was evidence he committed the crime. the defense countered that kevin left the print while trying to save nona's life. it was chimed him for the jury to decide the young man's faith. here again is keith morrison with "what happened to the beauty queen? ".
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>> kevin jones sat in the courtroom and watched the fight for his life swirl around him. and felt in that uncomfortable chair a withering stairs of the jury. >> they can all look at you and if you do one thing wrong, that they deem is wrong, that might sway them the opposite way. >> one facial expression -- >> one click of a pen. one bite off of your fingernail. you never know how people are going to take things that you do. he had every reason to worry. later, jurors would recall how the images of the crime haunted them. >> blood all over him in the pictures. >> the palm print in her blood -- >> bye to the jurors, the evidence, or the lack of it, looked bad for police as well. >> the glass door, for example, where the perpetrator went out, it was not fingerprinted inside or out. the kitchen floor would have been excellent for footprints.
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he obviously walked across there. no prints were taken. >> they said, that kind of sloppiness made them wonder, what else did the police miss? >> what other suspects? but the police claim that they had checked the alibis of all these potential suspects. >> as well as the gathered evidence? but [laughs] >> what's stuck with them was kevin sitting in the interrogation room, looking genuinely were distraught. >> i felt bad, watching him in this little cubicle of a room. >> they agreed, the evidence pointed more to innocence than guilt. after eight hours, they had their verdict, not guilty. kevin was free. enormously relieved, of course, but also furious at detective mark frost and the russell ville police. >> it frustrates me, angers me that the police didn't care enough but to do their jobs the
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right way. it frustrates me that they didn't find the person who did this. but known as mother carroll believed her daughter's old boyfriend had possibly gotten away with murder. >> if you think somebody else did it, why are you out there trying to find? >> and now who can begrudge a grieving mother's bitter challenge? certainly not the jones family. on the day kevin was acquitted, they stood here on the steps of the courthouse, they vowed they would do whatever it took to find known as killer. kevin's father, jerome, financially wiped out by the cost, asked his son's legal team for one more favor. >> i said, this is what's i've got, don't know how i can pay you, but i need this. >> the lawyers agreed to help. they asked an investigator, this man, to keep working the case. >> his name is todd stuffy, part-time policeman in kevin's hometown of dover, part-time
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detective and full-time preacher. would an odd combination. >> i used to say, ultimate good guy. >> right away, he knew there was a key piece of evidence demanding a closer look. that condom wrapper found in known's apartment. it held somebody's dna, but whose? steffy wondered if police cleared those male friends and neighbors of nona too quickly in the early days of the investigation. >> do you think they have a valid alibi? because either i'm missing something or, you know -- i began to feel that some of those people maybe need to have their dna compared. >> so kevin's legal team rolled up its sleeves and slacks and went diving through trash belong to those young man. they got some dna samples. but none matched the dna on the condom wrapper. steffy, the policeman, preacher, needed a lead. you could say he needed a miracle. and wouldn't you know, he got it. it came in the most mundane
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way. two months after kevin's acquittal, and more than a year after nona's death, steffy police chief told him to question a suspect and recent burglary. a man by the name of gary dunn. steffy's eyes widened at that. >> my chief said do you know who he is? he said yes. he was one of the neighbors to nona dirksmeyer. >> gary dunn, a neighbor of known as. he was among that handful of men who had been questioning and cleared by police. steffy new that done certainly would've had the opportunity to kill. his bedroom window look to actually across the small parking lot unknown's bedroom window. now he had to get that man's dna. >> how do you do that? >> i asked him for. >> and he said? yes >> basically. i asked him if he'd be willing to give me his fingerprints.
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and i said, if i can roll them out, they are done. >> but there was a problem. to get that sample tested, he needed to get the cash strapped jones family to pay for it. i first kevin's mother hesitated, the test costing about $600. but the investigator insisted. what did she say? >> eventually she said something like, oh, shucks, it's just money. >> so she paid for it. and what a good investment it turned out to be. because because weeks later, steffy got a call from one of kevin's lawyers. the dna tests were back. and when you know -- >> he said, well, it matches gary done. >> the result strongly suggested that the dna on the condom wrapper was left by known's neighbor, gary done. now now steffy needed to check out dunn's alibi for the day nona was killed. dunn had told police he was out shopping with his mother.
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that was his alibi. so stephanie went looking for copies of receipts to back up the alibi. so this is the store where supposedly gary down to came to do some shopping? >> one of the places we had to check out his alibi. the store had boxes and boxes of records, the old-fashioned sign slip kind of mercy. >> he's not kidding. boxes going back years. steffy rooted through piles of forgotten paper. >> how many boxes did you go? through >> i have no idea. >> i don't remember. >> hours an hours? >> i think i've tried to forget that. >> and just when steffy felt it was all a wasted effort, he pulled out this scrap. did you find it? >> i found it. i found it. >> there it was. a receipt that showed gary and his mom route shopping, all right. on december 13th. not the 15th, when they said
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they were. when don't know is murdered. but it wasn't the same day at all? >> no. >> in fact none of the receipts we're done and his mother said they were shop and gave them an alibi. police and prosecutors didn't mention that it kevin's trial. but now, a new prosecutor was on the case and he found the dna result on a faulty alibi compelling. and one year after kevin's acquittal, gary dunn was charged with murder. many people in russellville struggle to know what to think. their first impression was that kevin jones murdered nona dirksmeyer. could they believe this list latest arrested was the real killer? and could the state of arkansas prove? it >> coming up, but gary dunn was the one on trial. so why did it seem as if kevin jones was as well? >> the first thing you get hit with this is your son is on trial again. even though he's not on trial. he is. >> when dateline continues. go walter! after you.
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♪ when you have nausea, ♪ ♪ heartburn, ingestion, upset stomach... ♪ ♪ diarrheaaaa.♪ try pepto bismol with a powerful coating action. for fast and soothing relief. pepto bismol for fast relief when you need it most. [coins clinking in jar] ♪ you can get it if you really want it, by jimmy cliff ♪ [suitcase closing] [gusts of wind] [ding] >> kevin jones parents have won and lost. they won freedom for their son, kevin, but had lost the young woman they considered a daughter. they wanted justice so badly they spent their last dime to find her killer. they believed their sacrifice finally paid off, when police arrested her neighbor, gary dunn, for her murder.
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i believe he committed this crime. that's my belief, based on what i saw in his trial. >> dunn's trial opened in april, 2010. jones listened as the state, which had already tried his son, now argue that don was a sexually violent man, who had been stalking the beauty queen whose bedroom he could see across the parking lot. his own wife testified he was by violent in bed with her, and that weeks before known as death, she caught him hanging around i-at night. so, said the prosecutor, the jury could be sure that done killed nona after entering her apartment with the intent of forcing a sexual encounter, and the condom wrapper proved it. >> his condom wrapper that was found, that had the dna on it, that did not have kevin's dna on it. it has his dna on it.
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>> so, dna evidence, a disturbing background, an alibi that turned out to be no alibi at all. in short, it was hard to see how dunn's public defenders could argue against their clients lies in dna. but that's exactly what they did. and with gusto. >> what you are saying is that the state was simply wrong? >> the state was simply wrong. >> what's more, they could prove it. for starters, they said, the state wasn't being honest about the dna on the condo rapper. it was only a mixed, partial match to gary done, they said, which meant -- >> many thousands, millions, millions of people are also not excluded. let me ask you, then, is what you are saying that gary dunn did not touch that condom wrapper? >> that is what we are saying. >> gary was nowhere near that condom wrapper? >> while he was across the parking lot, in his apartment. >> minding his own business when nona was murdered. it is true, the defense said
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don was not out shopping as he first claimed, he simply gotten his days mixed up. it was, after all, two weeks after the crime when detective zest for a detailed alibi. >> they asked for receipts, they found receipts, they gave him to the police department. >> except it was not for that day. >> he cooperated in fall and he gave them what he asked them to do. >> the defense soldiers it wasn't garry dunn's alibi that she questioned. if anything, they should take a look at someone else for nona's murder, her old boyfriend. in that moment jones revised realized with dread just where this trial was headed. >> first thing he hit with his, your son is on trial again, even though he is not on trial, he is. that's part of the defense that they used. >> how right he was. dunn's attorneys tried to persuade the jury that kevin jones, the first suspect of the case had one shaky story after another.
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the 9-1-1 call where kevin's mother is crying? >> her name is nona dirksmeyer. >> the defense says janice jones and kevin's friend gave police conflicting details on how they came across nona's body, and what they were doing to save her. >> it is a lie, all three of them, they are lying. >> all through the boys? kevin is lying? his mother? >> absolutely. >> in fact, the defense attorneys tried to claim, you couldn't keep up with the jones is an all their lies. even kevin's grandmother, who said she was with kevin in another town, the morning of nona's death could not be trusted. >> kevin's mother knows that kevin murdered nona? >> well i don't know if they know, but they know they are covering for him. >> the lawyers say kevin jones cannot explain one thing away, that bloody palm print in her apartment. it was his and not carry guns. did it work? yes it did. after three days of
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deliberations, the jurors said they were hopelessly -- deadlocked. the judge declared a mistrial. but the prosecutor was giving up. he promptly re-filed murder charges and gary dunn second trial began in 2011. >> now, gary dunn being trying to second time, after his first trial ended in a hung jury. >> this time, the judge allowed the prosecutor to reveal a very dark fact about gary dunn. he was a convicted felon, before nona was murdered. jurors heard from a woman kelly joe fits harris, who happen to have the grave misfortune of jogging past gary was on the wrong day, in the wrong place, in 2002. >> it's a popular trail, very isolated. kelly came running by herself and saw man running sitting here, on this bench. she heard footsteps behind her, turned around and the man had a huge stick, hit her over the
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head with it. he knocked her down and hit her repeatedly. as he beat her, the only way for her to escape was to wriggle free. so she ran up the trail that way, quickly as she possibly could, calling for help, pretending there was someone nearby. the police came a little later, they found gary hiding in the water. they arrested him. he spent 18 months in jail. >> and then, newly-out on parole, he moved into nona's apartment complex, set up house directly across the parking lot, months before nona's death, his lawyers admitted it was a blow to their defense. >> we had to deal with it, not make it any worse. do no harm. >> or was it already done? >> this time, jurors knew the man sitting in the chair was not just a man prone to violence. he was a convicted criminal. so would it towns first impression that kevin jones murdered the beauty queen finally be undone?
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>> the 12 people who will decide garry dunn's fate weigh the evidence. >> coming up, the verdict. >> he doesn't have any alibi, that looks really bad. really bad. >> will there be justice for nona and her family? >> i knew that they were waiting to see if they would -- >> when dateline continues. find your breaking point. then break it. every emergen-c gives you a potent blend of nutrients so you can emerge your best with emergen-c. why hide your skin if dupixent has your moderate to severe eczema or atopic dermatitis under control? hide my skin? not me. by hitting eczema where it counts,
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dirksmeyer? the first jury was deadlocked over the question. but in the second trial, they learned he was a convicted felon, and heard gripping testimony from the victim he attacked. the defense countered that the real killer was still on the loose. nona's loved ones waged a five-year battle for justice. was there fight finally coming to an end? here is keith morrison, with the conclusion of "what happened to the beauty queen? "? >> this was the third time the state of arkansas had tried someone for the murder of nona dirksmeyer. and the second time that gary dunn was to be accused. but when they started to deliberate, his jurors were not thinking about second or third. they were thinking, of first. kevin jones, the first suspect in this case. >> were any of you suspicious that maybe it was actually kevin who did this? >> the whole jury thought in the beginning that it was.
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a high probability that it was kevin. the defense did a really good job. >> once again, don's defense had retried kevin jones for the murder of nona dirksmeyer. the jurors eventually came to peace with that. >> it was gary's trial, when you look at the evidence that is against or before him. >> once they did, they were troubled. on the witness stand, the jogger described how brutally dunn had attacked her, just as nona had been attacked. >> that was a really big factor in thinking about whether he was guilty or innocent, kind of like everything else. because that's what happened, all those things. >> it showed that dunn was a brutal man, and also a convicted felon when nona died. he even lied about where he had been that day. >> he had no alibi, and that looks really bad. it looked really bad. >> they also talk about the dna on the condom wrapper found in the apartment. some believe the dna probably
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did belong to gary dunn. but that made them wonder as well. >> if this guy was supposedly so careful to not leave no other dna, or no other fingerprints in this whole crime scene, you think he would be smart enough to take the condom wrapper with him? >> so, there it was. dna evidence against dunn. interesting, if perhaps not proved. circumstantial evidence, which was compelling. they took a poll, guilty or not? several polls, actually. then, on the last round, they knew that they were finished. they went back to the court room, and looked at nona's family. >> coming up, being in front in front of her parents, was the hardest thing for me. it made me very sad, because i knew they were waiting to see if there would be closure. we could not do it, we could not give them closure. >> once again, the case of
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arkansas versus gary dunn ended in a hung jury. >> a more powerful reason for that? that first impression, among many here at russell ville, that it was kevin jones who killed nona dirksmeyer. in the aftermath of the trial kevin headed back to court. not for anything he did, but for the damage he said was done to him by police. >> they just looked at me and said he's the one that did it. kevin was always believed that the police zeroed in on him as the one that did it. >> you did this. >> i'm telling you are dead bleep wrong. >> you killed her. >> kevin sued mark frost, the detective with a case against him, and others as well for withholding evidence. a federal judge dismissed the lawsuits because the statute of limitations had passed. his lawyer, frost denied making mistakes in withholding evidence, and neither the russellville police department or prosecutor would comment on
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the investigation. meanwhile, kevin has moved on. for reasons, you may understand, he became a criminal defense attorney and get this -- decided to practice law in, of all places, russellville. the last time we spoke, kevin told us he has made peace with the one person who is opinion really does matter to him. nona's mother. she no longer believes kevin killed her daughter. in fact, she says she loves kevin. as for the others, they are more cynical. he tries not to dwell on what they think, or whisper about him, and the girl he once loved. nona dirksmeyer, the song bird, the beauty queen. the girl for who justice is denied. in 2018, gary dunn found himself in handcuffs again, after two incidents that occurred on the same night both unrelated to nona dirksmeyer.
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dunn pleaded no contest to attempted kidnapping and indecent exposure. he was sentenced to 15 years, barring new evidence, the state does not plan to file charges against him for a third time in the nona dirksmeyer killing. >> 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. >> it happens on tv, it doesn't happen to your family. to your brother. but it does. >> no one thought it could happen to him. he was a tough guy prepared for anything. >> he always would say, if anyone tries to break in here, i'll kill him. >> instead, he was a kid. stabbed in his own home. >> you sure your dad's cool to the touch? >> his son and daughter in law stumbled into a terrifying scene.


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