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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  January 2, 2022 9:00pm-10:00pm PST

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>> i'd tell her how much i miss her and that i love her. and that she's the reason why i am who i am today. i'd tell her thank you. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. and this is "dateline." it almost made me sick. i was on the floor. and then i kind of got myself together and i said, we have to go over there. i have to go over there. >> she was a commander who cared. >> i was like, what are you doing? >> she said i'm writing birthday cards to all my soldiers. >> her husband was a charming sergeant and devoted dad. >> he was just as loving and doeth as lynn was. >> no one could believe it when this decorated officer was found
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dead in her own home. >> an army commander being murdered was unheard of. >> the first suspect, as usual, the husband. but this one had a rock-solid alibi. >> it would have been very difficult for him to have committed this murder. >> did this soldier have enemies off the battlefield? her brother-in-law had a grudge. >> rodney was going around calling her names, vulgar names. >> her husband had a girlfriend. >> roger was sitting with a young lady. and they were cuddled up. >> we found out that she was pregnant. >> who killed the commander? in a place where loyalty is prized above all, one clue -- >> that palm print was a key part of the case. >> -- would reveal a breathtaking betrayal. >> i don't even have the words. what a monster. hello and welcome to
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"dateline." members of the military risk their lives every day. but a high-ranking army officer was dead in her own home and not killed by an enemy of the u.s., but by someone she knew and trusted. here's andrea canning with "deadly devotion." >> reporter: in the hot and dangerous middle east, she held her own in the company of men. a captain and a commander whose devotion never wavered. >> she inspired people. and that's maybe why she made such a great commander. she inspired her troops. she inspired those that worked for her to want to do well. >> reporter: she was captain lynn armstrong reister. army veteran debbie moore was one of her best friends. >> lynn was very intelligent. she knew how to bring out the best in people. i just loved her. she was someone to be inspired by. she inspired people. >> reporter: she had a big role in the military. >> very big role, yeah.
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>> reporter: she was in charge of the air defense artillery in saudi arabia. >> when they were in saudi and we had the patriot missiles, she would be the one that would make that decision on what was coming in, if it needed to be taken out of the sky. >> reporter: captain reister earned medals and promotions and the loyalty of the men and women under her command. that loyalty cut both ways, according to her assistant megan ayers. did she take good care of her soldiers? >> absolutely. she did welfare checks where you would, you know, she would visit with families. she would meet with the different wives and things like that. >> reporter: was she the perfect candidate for the army? >> she was, in my opinion. she didn't let stress get to her too much. i think that she was probably one of the best commanders i've ever worked under. >> reporter: lynn grew up with a brother and two younger sisters in the military town of pensacola, florida. while she was away at school, she sent her sister some advice on tape for her 16th birthday. >> don't argue. avoid arguments. just be happy. don't let anyone spoil that for
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you, and you'll be happy and you'll find it in your heart. anyway, i hope that helps. >> reporter: she graduated with an officer's commission from norwich university in vermont, one of the oldest military colleges in the country, and then began the globetrotting life of a soldier. >> i met lynn over in germany. >> reporter: debbie and lynn were both stationed over there. they met at a birthday party through mutual friends. >> i snapped a picture of the four of them sitting there at the table. >> reporter: young women serving their country, savoring life overseas. and being surrounded by guys in uniform, sometimes love entered the picture. it certainly did for lynn. how did lynn and roger meet? >> they met over in germany at the k club. >> reporter: is that an army club? >> that is an army club. it's in ansbach. and we would go there on saturday nights because on saturday nights they had country music. >> reporter: sergeant roger reister and lynn hit it off at once, and the romance blossomed.
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>> lynn was a wonderful person. she had a smile that just lit up the room. >> reporter: as a military wife, when i heard that roger was enlisted and lynn was an officer, that's a no-no in the military. >> yeah. back then it wasn't as critical as it became a couple years later. he was a charmer and she -- [ laughter ] she fell in love. >> reporter: and they got married. debbie liked the fact that he was an elvis fan. >> and i was, like, amazed. i was like, really? you're into elvis presley, too? i was kind of surprised by that, yeah. so, yeah. he was a lot of fun. yeah. >> reporter: roger admired lynn's devotion to her country and her strength. >> you have to be mentally strong. with the military, especially with the women in the military, you have to be, you know, mentally strong. be able to go toe-to-toe with some of the men. >> reporter: lynn and roger had chosen a soldier's life, and that meant a marriage full of separations. roger even missed the birth of his son triston. >> it was unbelievable. as soon as i came back, i
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stepped off the bus and she held him and she said, this is your son. and that was a really -- it was really a great moment. it really was. and i just held her and held him at the same time. >> reporter: was he a good dad? >> he was. he would bring him up to visit. and, you know, they would play. and he seemed very happy being a dad. >> reporter: when triston was 4, the family was stationed at ft. bliss in el paso, texas. and it was lynn who got called away. >> lynn found out she had to deploy to saudi arabia. >> mm-hmm. >> reporter: you were going with her? >> yes, ma'am. >> reporter: was she okay with that? i mean, she had to leave triston behind. this is her first deployment without him, correct? >> to the best of my knowledge, yes. i remember her telling us that it was hard, that she was having a hard time with it. she was sad, and that she just kept telling him that she'd come home. it won't be that long. >> reporter: and it was how long was the deployment? >> it was about six months. >> reporter: and then she did
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get home. but her old life was about to change. about four months after she got back, roger convinced lynn to let his 24-year-old brother rodney come live with them. rodney had gotten into some trouble while his brother was serving his country. maybe roger and lynn could set him straight. >> he was on probation in florida, and for him to be able to leave the state, she had to write this letter, you know, saying how she would take on that responsibility. roger asked her to do that, and so she did. >> reporter: right about the same time, lynn found out she was pregnant again. the tug of motherhood was getting stronger, so this globetrotting army captain made a decision. she put in for a transfer to teach rotc in minnesota. good for her career. good for her family. and no travel. was she doing it at all to be with triston more? was that part of it? >> yeah. that would be part of it. yes. she wanted to -- it's more relaxing. >> she was going to be a teacher. it was something that she was
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really looking forward to. >> reporter: just days before moving time, lynn was saying goodbye to ft. bliss. lynn was having a going away party? >> any time a commander resigns a command, the unit will put together and buy her a going away gift. usually a plaque or something to commemorate the accomplishments of the unit. >> reporter: megan didn't go but her husband did. >> my husband came home. and i asked how it went. you know, did she like the gift? and he said, you know, she never showed. and that was very odd. >> reporter: something else was odd. roger had been calling lynn at home throughout the day. no answer. late that afternoon, he came home from work with triston, and it was all too clear why lynn hadn't answered the phone. >> 911. >> oh, oh. i just got home. my wife is dead.
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>> reporter: lynn armstrong reister, mother, soldier, beloved commander, was in her bedroom, lying dead in a pool of blood. coming up -- where will investigators start? >> could be a neighbor. it could be a lover. it could be anybody. >> you had a killer on the loose. >> yes, who was out there. who did this? >> when "dateline" continues. ons
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roger reister and his little boy triston had just come home at dinnertime to something no child should ever have to see. >> i'm the one that found her. whenever i walked into the -- had triston with me, and we walked in. it was tough. it was tough seeing that. >> reporter: lynn, six months pregnant, had been stabbed to death, her throat slashed. >> my first instinct was to grab triston and run out of the house. and then i knew i was screaming and yelling. i probably looked like a madman out there. but it was -- i didn't know what to think. she's pregnant. you need to send somebody there. i can't even take her pulse. >> he immediately called 911 and brought triston out. triston in his statement says my daddy took me out fast, and, you know, those kind of things. >> reporter: gonzolo chavarilla was the lead detective. did you think about this poor woman's last moments in this house?
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>> i did, looking at the scene and trying to imagine her maybe fighting for her life or pleading for her life or how scared she might have been. >> reporter: any signs of robbery? or things taken? >> no, we -- we actually did a scan. we could see valuables. there was no signs that this was a burglary or a robbery, but once we did the walk-through and looked at -- and with the help of roger because he was explaining what he had seen when he went in. >> reporter: with police and neighbors converging on the scene, the news got out quickly. lynn's friend debbie moore couldn't believe it. >> my husband and i were watching tv, and he was flipping through the channels over the remote control. and the channel flipped by. and it was her house. and i yelled and i said, you know, wait, wait, wait. what is that? isn't that lynn's house? and so he flipped it back. and about that time it came up that a woman had been found
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murdered in her home. >> reporter: did you know right away? >> i knew it was lynn. yeah, because i knew the house. then they said it was military. and i remember it almost made me sick. i was on the floor. and then i kind of got myself together. i said, we have to go over there. i have to go over there. >> reporter: roger was already talking to detectives and clearly shaken. police were sympathetic, but they knew he had to be carefully scrutinized. what's your first impression of roger reister? >> he was grasping his son, wouldn't let go of him. and i thought that maybe i saw some fear. he was scared about what had occurred, it seemed to me at the time. >> reporter: are you looking for anything in roger reister's eyes or his mannerisms or what he's saying? are you immediately sizing him
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up? >> absolutely. >> reporter: just to see if maybe he did this. >> absolutely. >> it actually took awhile for me to calm down at the very beginning because my mind's all over the place. and then once i wrap my mind around, okay, let me just go ahead and give them this. get this knocked out of the way, then they can actually get on with the investigation. >> reporter: detectives wanted to know where he was all day. roger had a good alibi. >> he had a solid alibi. yes. his son was with him all the time. he had left his house very early and stopped at a convenience store where he saw friends and talked to them. and then when he got to work, obviously, his co-workers, his supervisors saw him. >> reporter: also backing up roger's alibi was his brother rodney. he told detectives he helped roger jump start his truck early that morning and watched him and triston leave. detective steve munoz. >> he said that they were able to crank up the truck, get it going. and as he pulled away, he says that he did see roger also pull off from the driveway.
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>> reporter: later rodney visited roger at the base. he told police his older brother looked worried when he called lynn and got no answer. >> thursday, 9:58 a.m. >> hey, you there? >> 10:25 a.m. >> hey, lynn, this is roger. give me a call as soon as you get in. i'm going to need to come pick up triston. >> and then he leaves work. so we knew that it would have been very difficult for him to have committed this murder. >> reporter: so who did it? as the investigation got under way, detective chavarilla thought the possibilities were endless. >> it could be anybody. it could be a neighbor. it could be a lover. she was a captain. she was a supervisor. and we thought about her troops and her subordinates. and maybe somebody that she might have disciplined or sex offenders in the area. >> reporter: you had a wide net
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you needed to throw out. >> it was a wide investigation at the time. yes. >> reporter: you had a killer on the loose. >> yes. and the neighbors were very scared. who's out there? who did this? >> reporter: in those first few hours, the leads would pour in, and police had to move fast. lynn reister had inspired loyalty in her life. now in death, the detectives could not let her down. on base, a giant military family is hit hard by murder, but in lynn's own family, had there been signs of trouble? coming up -- >> an army commander being murdered was unheard of. >> rodney was going around calling her names, vulgar names. >> he had a little bit of animosity towards lynn. >> when "dateline" continues. ws , you know how i feel. ♪ ♪ breeze driftin' on by... ♪ if you've been playing down your copd,... ♪ it's a new dawn, it's a new day,... ♪ ...it's time to make a stand.
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the news of lynn reister's murder spread through el paso, and it was devastating to those who served with her at the army base. did this crime send shock waves through fort bliss? >> it certainly did. it was heartbreaking. it was harrowing when it first happened. we had no idea and -- scary. >> reporter: the fort bliss community packed the memorial service to say goodbye to the captain and the baby she was carrying who never got a chance. tell us about the funeral. >> the wake was extremely difficult.
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she was buried in her army dress uniform. and in order to do the open casket, they had to cover the throat. so they used her air defense artillery ascot to -- you know, it connects on the back and so that they would be able to do the open casket. ♪♪ >> lynn's mother asked me to go and buy a baby blanket. it was a little boy. and so i went and bought a little baby blanket. and so for the memorial when they laid lynn out in her uniform. the point was there that not just one person had died in this attack, that two had died. >> reporter: 4-year-old triston was there with his family and his mother's friends barely comprehending the tragic rupture in his life. do you remember how you felt towards him? >> i do. i felt sorrow.
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i wanted so bad to fix it for him. and i understood that this little 4 1/2-year-old boy will never know how great his mom was, how much she loved him. >> reporter: did your heart just go out to this little boy? >> yes. absolutely. and still does. >> reporter: but the detectives had to put emotion aside and drill down to the facts. roger wasn't home at the time of the murder, and neighbors weren't reporting any suspicious activity. so detectives wanted to know if anyone held a grudge against lynn. they quickly learned that at least one person may have, roger's brother rodney. things started to go south with rodney pretty quickly after he moved in? >> yes. there was times where he would just lay around all day long. >> reporter: rodney idolized his big brother, but he was something of a disappointment to roger and lynn. >> well, he just wasn't -- he wasn't working. he was, basically, you know, just living off of us, stuff
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like that. >> she would go to get milk out of the refrigerator for triston, and the milk would be gone because rodney had drank it all and didn't bother to replace it. and yeah, it was becoming not a very good relationship. >> reporter: lynn didn't want him to stay? >> i think lynn was ready to have her house back. you know, it's very difficult when you have another adult living in the home. i think they talked and they ended up -- roger ended up telling rodney it was time to go, that you needed to leave. you've been here long enough. we've tried to help you. you know, you're not really helping yourself, so you need to go. >> lynn and i came to that decision together. but it was just one of those things that just had to be done. he held that against her. mine and his relationship continued on. but i could tell he had a little bit of animosity, you know, towards lynn, even after that. >> reporter: a closer look at rodney showed a young man with a dodgy past. he'd done time in florida for crimes like petty theft, forgery, grand theft auto. nothing violent. but still, he was no fan of
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lynn's. >> and then i remember lynn telling me that roger had told her that rodney was going around calling her names, you know. calling her vulgar names that she's the reason that he got kicked out, that she's the reason that all these things happened and stuff. >> reporter: did you see that as a motive? >> i never thought that that in itself would have been a motive to kill her or that he would have been that angry just because of that to kill her. >> reporter: why in the world would rodney want lynn dead? >> i don't think rodney wanted lynn dead. >> here was a person that was willing to help us in the investigation. and he was very cooperative initially and throughout. >> reporter: the search for suspects continued. lynn's neighborhood turned up nothing. same with fort bliss. lynn had no enemies there. >> you couldn't imagine that it could've happened. it seemed unreal.
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an army commander being murdered was unheard of. >> reporter: but then one name cropped up. rodney mentioned it to police. >> we asked him who else would have wanted to do this to lynn. did she have any enemies? rodney tells us that there's this one girl. her name is april. and this girl has a crush on my brother. and so he mentions her. and that's important. coming up -- crush? this was way more than that. >> i was kind of playing detective for her. >> a bold confrontation with the other woman. >> we knock on the door. she opens it. i said my understanding is you're pregnant. >> when "dateline" continues. nus ♪ [band plays] ♪ a place where everyone lives life well-protected. ♪♪ and even when things go a bit wrong, we've got your back. here, things work the way
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i'm cori coffin. harry reid will lie in state in the capitol rotunda this wednesday. the ceremony will be limited to only invited guests due to the pandemic. reid died last tuesday at his home in nevada after battling
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pan cre80 cancer. two people remain missing after a wildfire destroyed nearly a thousand homes in boulder county. law enforcement officials announced that one other missing person had been found, quote, alive and well. now back to "dateline." it was a lead that would take the lynn reister murder investigation in a new direction. roger reister's brother had mentioned a young woman who had a crush on roger. detectives quickly learned this crush was an open secret around town. >> we went to the village inn, and i walked in the door and there was roger. >> reporter: it was about nine months before the murder. lynn's assistant megan had just gotten back from saudi arabia. lynn was still there, with a week and a half to go. >> roger was sitting in a booth with several other people. i didn't know any of them.
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as well as a young lady. and they were cuddled up. and roger had a look of sheer terror on his face when he saw me walk in and realized who i was, because, you know, we knew each other. he stopped, and he gave me a hug, and, i didn't know you were back. well, i am. >> reporter: the young woman's name was april. she was 19 years old. what exactly was going on between roger and this young lady? they look like a couple? >> they did. >> reporter: megan decided it wasn't her place to tell lynn. but over in saudi arabia, lynn knew something was up. roger never seemed to answer the phone. >> hey, roger. it's lynn again. i don't know where you're at. i've been trying to get ahold of you for over 24 hours. >> reporter: and word had traveled halfway around the world that roger had been having parties at their home, drinking with people as young as 18, acting like a teenager himself.
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lynn left him this voice mail before she got her flight home to texas. >> hey rog, it's lynn. i need to be sure that i have a ride when i get home. our marriage cannot withstand another deployment like this, period. you're not single anymore, roger. you need to stop hanging out with those guys. i've never let you down on a deployment, roger. i've always been there. >> reporter: lynn rarely gave up on people she loved. when she got home from saudi arabia, she wanted to patch things up with roger. >> you're talking about somebody who was in a marriage that she wanted to keep together, and she fought hard to keep it together. >> reporter: one night lynn decided to surprise him at his favorite country bar. but the surprise was on her. roger was there, surrounded by his new gang of young friends. >> she came over to me and started talking to me and asking me questions about roger, if i saw him over there and if i'd seen him before. and i had told her that yeah, i had seen him there one other time.
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and she goes, well, do you know who these people are? >> reporter: and april was in the bar that night? >> yes. >> reporter: how was he acting around april? >> they were out dancing on the floor doing flips and turns and, yeah, things that he never danced with lynn. >> reporter: but he's doing this in front of lynn? >> oh, yes. oh, yes. she was so angry. and what made it worse was he was so disrespectful. i mean, she was trying to talk to him and he just -- every time she'd start walking towards him, he'd walk away. >> reporter: it sounds like lynn was trying to be the grown-up and roger had reverted a little bit -- >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: -- back to the sort of good old days? >> oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. >> reporter: detectives learned that night at the country bar ended badly. a messy, drunken argument broke out between roger and lynn. and roger moved into the barracks. after that lynn asked debbie for some help. >> i was, kind of, playing detective for her. so i went up there, and i remember sitting and watching outside the barracks. and april ended up coming up there and hanging out at the barracks. >> reporter: this wasn't just a
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crush. this was full-on affair. and then it got worse. lynn heard a rumor that april was pregnant with roger's baby. >> and so i told her, i said, you know, i know where april lives. i said, lynn, why don't we go over there? i said, why don't we just go talk with april? >> reporter: that's gutsy. >> yeah. well, we were older. we were -- and you know, i knew lynn would be -- lynn wasn't going to lose it. i mean, lynn, she was a commander. >> reporter: so what's it like when you knock on the door? >> well, we knock on the door. she opens it. she's a little bit surprised, and lynn, like i said, lynn was very nice. we sat down and we started talking to her about her relationship. and she tried to say that, yes, that she had, but it was over now. that lynn was back. and i finally said, but my understanding is you're pregnant. >> reporter: april denied she was pregnant, insisting the affair was over. so you both left april's not really knowing for sure if she was or wasn't pregnant?
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>> yeah. but then, of course, later we found out that she was actually pregnant. >> reporter: and telling people the father was roger. a lot of women would have cashed in the marriage at this point. but not lynn. she let roger come home. does lynn still want to make things work with roger despite this bombshell? >> she does. >> reporter: why? >> i think probably because of triston. i think that it was important to lynn that her family stay together and that triston be raised with, you know, a mother and father, and that she would work it out. >> reporter: and they were working on things. >> she was, yes. >> reporter: marriage counseling? >> they did try marriage counseling, yes. >> reporter: they had moved back in together? >> yes. >> reporter: police heard that after roger reconciled with lynn, her car was vandalized. april was never charged, but at the time lynn and roger told police they thought she did it. so this is very complex. >> very. >> reporter: this april situation. police had to put this woman
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scorned on the list of possible suspects. >> roger had pushed april aside to a point where he was telling everybody, oh, that's not -- you know, denying that was his baby that april was carrying. >> reporter: you want to get a woman angry -- >> yeah. >> reporter: -- that's a pretty good way to do it. >> absolutely. >> reporter: but as detectives were sorting through this tangled love triangle, they got news of a break in the case. the forensic lab came back with something. a trace of the killer on lynn reister's arm. coming up -- >> this is the smoking gun. >> it is. >> a tell-tale palm print. whose could it be? who was behind this killing? >> does everyone's jaws drop? >> yes. >> when "dateline" continues. >>s '. with rybelsus®. the majority of people taking rybelsus® lowered their blood sugar and reached an a1c of less than 7.
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a troubled marriage. a doomed affair. a pregnant mistress. detectives did the math, and suddenly april and roger were each looking like possible suspects. but then results came in on a clue found at the crime scene. a bloody palm print on lynn reister's arm. did roger give his palm print? >> roger gave his palm print. yes. >> reporter: was he a match? >> he was not a match. >> reporter: did april give her palm print? >> yes. >> reporter: was she a match? >> she was not a match. >> reporter: and then they checked the prints of someone else. someone lynn reister had once tried to help.
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her brother-in-law, rodney. >> and he's a match. those prints belong to him. and they're in blood on lynn's arm. >> reporter: this is the smoking gun. >> it is. >> reporter: rodney was brought back to police headquarters by detective steve munoz. >> he was still a person, like, nothing fazed him. here i am. whatever you want from me, you want to talk to me, i'll give you whatever you need. >> reporter: when rodney sat down with detective chavarilla, he was confronted with the print evidence. and he denied everything. >> as we talked to him and broke down those denials, he became very emotional. rodney cried a bunch of times during the interview. and he revealed that he had, in fact, killed lynn. >> reporter: case closed? >> not even close. we had to answer the question of why did rodney kill her. why did rodney get involved in something so heinous and so horrible, so violent?
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>> reporter: detectives continued to press. they never thought the spat between rodney and lynn was a good motive for murder. there had to be something else. rodney finally broke down. he admitted there was. >> he did it because roger asked him to do it. >> reporter: he said big brother roger was behind it all. does everyone's jaws drop? >> yes. >> reporter: at this statement? >> absolutely. >> reporter: roger was arrested and charged with murder. >> there was such this big shock with his friends and their mutual friends because they thought, no, no. because he looked like this perfect husband, perfect father. >> reporter: according to rodney, roger suggested, then begged, then bullied him into killing lynn. he offered money. he'd pay off rodney's bills and then some. but mostly he offered love. >> reporter: and then roger's feeding all these things into his head about she wants to
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move, she wants to take me away from my friends here, you. i love you. she wants to separate us. >> reporter: rodney told police his brother had no shortage of reasons for wanting lynn dead. prosecutor john gibson. >> roger wanted the life insurance policy. he wanted custody of his young son. he knew that if his affair with april became apparent, that he'd face consequences in the military to include prosecution and military jail. he didn't want to move to follow lynn in her career to minnesota. he wanted to stay and he wanted to party back here in el paso. >> reporter: and rodney said roger didn't just talk about why he wanted his wife killed. he says roger talked about how and when. >> he describes roger preparing the weapon, preparing extra clothes for rodney to change. >> reporter: rodney said the plan was for roger to call him that morning to say his battery was dead. was that the signal?
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>> that was the signal. and that's what rodney tells us. when i went to the house i knew that was the day i was going to have to kill lynn. >> reporter: the prosecutor threw the book at both brothers. >> so a decision was made to go ahead and pursue capital murder charges against both roger and rodney reister. >> reporter: and that could mean the death penalty? >> it could mean the death penalty. >> reporter: but as the day of roger's trial got closer, rodney's misguided loyalty got the better of him. he refused to testify against his older brother. >> i think rodney had a degree of loyalty and love for his brother such that, you know, he couldn't get up on the stand and testify against him. >> reporter: so a jury would not hear from the younger brother or see his confession. the prosecution was forced to drop the murder charge against roger, but that was not the end of the case. remember that pack of young people roger was running with? >> many of them were high school kids in that area. and many of the people were
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junior in rank, other soldiers at the base. so roger surrounded himself with people he knew would look up to him. >> reporter: but they turned on him after lynn was killed. one by one, six members of roger's circle told police they knew roger wanted his wife dead because he had talked to them about it. two of them even told police roger had tried to hire them for the murder. >> you know, roger reister basically told anybody who would listen that he wanted his wife dead. >> reporter: so the prosecutor charged roger with solicitation for murder, and put him on trial for that. one of roger's minions, a young soldier named patrick mueller, was a key witness. >> he was granted immunity and gave a statement explaining that he, too, had in fact been solicited by roger to kill lynn reister. >> then he asked me if i would kill captain reister, ma'am. >> what did you tell him? >> yes, i would. >> where were you supposed to
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stab her? >> mentioning something about in the throat so she would not scream. >> reporter: mueller said he went to the house one night but chickened out when he spotted a neighbor. another young man testified how roger had tried to hire him. >> he told me he wanted his wife pretty much killed for x amount of dollars, and i said, well, i don't know. >> reporter: roger's former mistress, april, now cleared of any suspicion, testified that roger talked to her about tampering with lynn's brakes. lynn's friend debbie doesn't understand why one of these young people didn't blow the whistle before lynn was killed. >> i was so angry because i thought, why didn't one of them mention it to me? why wouldn't that comment not been told to me? because i think if one of them had told me that and i would have went back to lynn with that right away. >> reporter: with all those witnesses, the prosecution thought they had a strong case,
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but roger reister had plenty to say about those witnesses and about his brother rodney. did you ask your brother rodney to kill lynn? coming up -- >> i love my wife. we were trying to build a future together. >> roger tells his story. will a jury believe it? when "dateline" continues. "dat. way for you to sell your car. whether it's a year old or a few years old. we wanna buy your car. so go to carvana and enter your license plate answer a few questions. and our techno wizardry calculates your car's value and gives you a real offer in seconds. when you're ready, we'll come to you, pay you on the spot and pick up your car, that's it. so ditch the old way of selling your car, and say hello to the new way at carvana. ♪ and i'm gonna keep on lovin' you, ♪ ♪ 'cause it's the only thing i wanna do. ♪
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welcome back to "dateline." lynn reister was murdered in the prime of her life. her brother-in-law confessed to killing her but was he the only one who wanted her dead or was her husband also planning to kill her? here's andrea canning with the conclusion of "deadly devotion." >> to take your wife, the mother of your child and the fact that she was carrying his unborn child. i don't even have the words of how sick -- what a monster. >> reporter: roger reister didn't look like a monster when he went on trial for criminal solicitation. but lots of witnesses said he talked about killing his wife to anyone who would listen. well, now 12 jurors were listening. and it took them all of three hours to find him guilty. when you hear "guilty" -- >> my legs went out from underneath me. my lawyers actually had my arms. >> reporter: roger was sentenced to life in prison. he spoke to us from behind glass at a texas state prison. the prosecutor said in his
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closing statements, who is he crying for? referring to you. he said, he's crying for himself. >> no. i was crying for my wife and my unborn child is what i was crying for. it had nothing to do with me. >> reporter: why should we believe you? >> because i didn't do it. because i loved my wife. >> reporter: he told us he may have been a terrible husband, but he never wanted lynn dead. was life easier without her in the picture? >> no. absolutely not. that's why we actually got back together. we separated. i was like, okay, well, i'll move back into the barracks. but that's why we got back together. because life wasn't easier without her. life was better with her. always has. >> reporter: but remember, the prosecution said there was a long list of motives. all right. let's run through the motives of why the prosecution said you wanted your wife dead. first was that you wanted the $250,000 life insurance policy. >> oh, no. it doesn't make much sense, because lynn was making more
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money than i was. so, you know, $250,000, all soldiers have that same amount on them. so -- >> reporter: you wanted sole custody of triston. >> no. lynn and i would have definitely been joint custody. it's something that we talked about whenever we briefly separated. >> reporter: you didn't want to go to a military prison for committing adultery. >> no. it's been a very long time since anybody was convicted of a felony for adultery in the military. >> reporter: he says he still doesn't understand why all his old friends turned on him, but he doesn't have a good explanation for why they all would have lied. you had a lot of people saying that you wanted to have your wife killed. >> and you would think i'd have come up with a really good reason for it, for all those people. and i haven't. obviously, you know, maybe some of them had their individual motive. >> reporter: but six people? >> i know. >> reporter: that's a lot of people all lying and ganging up on you. >> i don't know what their reasons are.
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but you'd be surprised what people will say. >> reporter: the year after roger's trial, his brother rodney was convicted of murder and sentenced to life. roger still says rodney acted alone. one of the things that's hard to wrap your head around is that rodney had this love for you. he looked up to you. and for rodney to turn on you and say that my brother asked me to kill his wife and i did it out of love for him, why in the world would he make that up? >> maybe to save his own life. i heard that they were trying to give him the death penalty. and the only thing that he could have done to even save his own life was to say something like that. maybe get a little bit of sympathy as far as why. >> reporter: but this is a man who loved you. >> well, if he loved me, he wouldn't have killed my wife. >> reporter: you do seem though like you're playing the part of victim a little bit by saying, this person made this up. this person made this up. poor me. all these people are lying.
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>> well, i'm an innocent man sitting in jail, so yeah. i do kind of feel like a victim, yes. >> reporter: he says that he's the victim in this. that all these people lied and now he's behind bars because of the lies. >> all these people lied? hmm. i don't even know what to say to that. >> reporter: debbie says lynn's profound loyalty may have been her undoing, and that lynn would want other people to learn from that. >> sometimes you don't keep fighting to keep that marriage together. that maybe there is a time that it's better just to say, you know, it's over and walk away. >> reporter: even now, this case can bring detective chavarilla to tears. can you explain it? why you have this emotion? can you put it into words? >> it's hard. it's hard. she was pregnant. and of course, you have triston.
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and triston lost everything. >> reporter: what hits you the hardest? >> she was trying to keep her family together. and i don't think she knew what kind of man she was married to. >> reporter: do you think about your wife's last moments and your unborn child's last moments? how horrific they were? >> no. i try not to think about that at all. it's not how you really want to do your time in here. >> reporter: lynn stated in her will that triston should go to her mother if anything happened. roger agreed to send triston to one of lynn's sisters instead. >> i know he's with a good home. that's probably one of the good things that i did before i got locked up was make sure that he went to that family in particular. >> he doesn't know anything about me. >> reporter: we spoke to tristan when he was 19 years old. he said he had a good group of
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friends but it had been a difficult road. >> he very clearly doesn't know anything i've gone through. and he obviously doesn't understand that most of what i've gone through is because of his decision. >> reporter: yeah. he keeps saying that you had this great upbringing and, you know, that that gives him peace essentially. but your life was not so easy. >> it wasn't. it was a very difficult place to grow up in. just in general, the very fact that i lost my parents is one thing that's traumatizing, but then to go live with my aunt who is, in effect, a stranger to me as a kid is -- it was a lot. >> reporter: still, his difficult life has pointed him in an interesting direction. you want to be a crime scene investigator. >> yes, i do. >> reporter: and is this 100% from your own experience or is there something else? >> believe it or not, i've
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always been really interested in like anatomy and how things work. but i've also wanted to have a bunch of questions answered about my own life about, you know, the situation with my parents mainly. and that curiosity kind of bled over into other situations. me and my mom. >> reporter: triston treasures the baby book his mother made for him. >> i get bigger and better. >> reporter: and he loves listening to that audiotape she made for her sister's 16th birthday. >> it's cool hearing her. >> i remember when i was 16. that was the greatest time of my life. and believe it or not, it will probably be one of the most exciting times of your life, too. >> i sometimes wonder if she would be happy with how my life is going or my decisions. or if she'd be proud of me or whatnot. >> reporter: you've overcome the odds. you're in college. you're making something of your life. >> it's not over yet. i've got a long way to go. >> reporter: how could she not be proud of that? >> i'm sure she is.
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i just -- i just wish i knew for sure. >> i miss you so much. i miss all of you. i hope you guys miss me a little bit. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm natalie morales. thank you for tuning in. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> she told archie she was dating this man. if he didn't like it, he could leave. >> he had been stabbed multiple times. nobody saw anything. >> i went, dad. and i touched him. i will never forget that feeling. >> it was just before dawn when he found his father dead in the driveway. >> there was no doubt in my mind what happened. i immediately knew. >> there was someone else who

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