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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  January 9, 2022 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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i'm craig melvin, and i'm natalie morales, and this is dateline. >> three people come to me wings tooth and one of them tells me that he hadn't made it and i was like, no, he did. just go check. they come back and tell me, mrs. hall, your husband didn't make it. >> two women racing down a texas highway. >> she saw me, and then made the u-turn. >> bonnie, the mistress, in one lane. >> i looked in my rearview mirror, and it was frances.
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>> frances, the wife in the other. >> i get her little finger. >> the middle finger? >> right. >> i start following her. >> i said, what the hell? >> she brakes. and i brake. and i heard a thump. >> he's pronounced dead at the hospital. >> a case of road rage? or a love triangle racing toward tragedy? >> she goes, i'm having an affair with your husband. >> two women in love with one man, hating each other. >> you're getting text messages from bonnie of the two of them having sex? >> uh-huh. >> a hollywood love story? >> this was the man i wanted to marry. >> or, a fatal attraction? >> he goes, i can't get rid of this person. >> and so many about to lose so much. >> why? >> i will live with that for the rest of my life. hello and welcome to dateline. they grew a successful trucking business together. but their seemingly perfect life collapsed after learning he has been hiding an ifair from her for three years. it was a love triangle and that revolution would have far reaching and tragic consequences.
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here with "collision" is andrea canning. >> this is the story of two fiery women battling for the heart of one much-loved man. it's about sex, secrets and lies. red-hot texas passion and a bitter feud. all leading to a final showdown on a two-lane highway. >> bexar county, 911. >> i got a black escalade and a black range rover. they're hauling ass, acting like idiots. >> a high-speed chase that went horribly, horribly wrong. >> it was a nightmare. >> when the dust settled, one life would be over, many others shattered. >> we all lost here. >> and the final chapter? passion would write that one, too. san antonio, texas, home of the alamo, the riverwalk and the hall family.
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three generations of truckers with deep roots in the city. it was here that bill hall met the love of his life at the tender age of 16. her name was frances. what happened the first time you laid eyes on bill? >> i just fell in love with him. i knew this was the man i was going to marry. >> at 16? >> at 16. >> they married right out of high school. a year later, daughter nikki was born. were your parents in love? >> oh, yes. we definitely saw love growing up in the house. >> i love my baby. >> what was your relationship like with your dad? >> not your typical father-daughter relationship. like, a best friend, almost. i could tell dad anything. >> four years after nikki came justin. did he really want a son? >> oh, my god. when they pulled that baby out and they said, mr. hall, you have a son, that man cried. >> bill worked hard to give his young family a better life. >> bill used to clean airplanes.
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he went to college. and on the weekends, if he was off, he'd go dig ditches. we made ends meet. >> but his true passion was big rigs. so one day he up and quit school, started his own business. bill hall jr. trucking. >> that's what his family did for a living. so it's in their blood. >> bill got his first truck and went to work delivering topsoil. while frances hit the phones to drum up new business. >> he was a dreamer. and he always said, i'm going to go big, vieja. vieja is a hispanic term which means "old lady."
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>> after just a few years, bill and frances turned that one truck into a fleet of 130. at its height, their empire was valued at more than $15 million. all his dreaming paid off. >> and hard work. he put his life, his heart and soul into it. bill was bill hall jr. trucking. >> but for bill, it wasn't all work and no play. >> he was a daredevil. he loved racing. in his later years, he loved hunting. he was a man's man. >> and also a bit of a ladies man according to bill's cousin hank. >> you know, beautiful women. you work hard, you play hard. and you do things, you know, that you're not supposed to be doing. he was great man, but he was not a perfect man. >> bill's imperfections became
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painfully clear nearly 32 years into their marriage when frances says she got a call from a mysterious woman. it was september 13, 2013. friday the 13th. >> she goes, you don't know me, but i'm having an affair with your husband. >> wow. >> i was in shock. >> heartbroken, furious. frances says she confronted bill and asked, was it true. >> by that time, he is crying and telling me that he's sorry, that it's true. i was devastated. >> this is three decades of marriage. >> i finally asked him how long has this been going on? he cried again and told me, three years. i go, this is not an affair. this is a relationship. >> about that and only that, she and the other woman agreed. you don't like the word "mistress" do you? >> no, i don't. >> this is bonnie contreras. what is it about that word that bothers you? >> mistress, it just sounds like -- i don't want to say yeah, that i was the side person because i was more than that to him. this man is the man i wanted to marry and spend the rest of my
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life with. >> bonnie was a 28-year-old single mom when they met. about 20 years younger than bill and frances. she said their love affair bloomed in the most unlikely of places. >> i met him at a spinach festival. >> spinach? >> spinach festival. i was helping my aunt sell chicken on a stick. i know it sounds kind of corny, but that's how i met him. >> bill happened to stroll by that chicken stand with some friends. >> as soon as i saw bill, we kind of just locked eyes. >> bonnie was intrigued enough by this handsome older gentleman to sneak a peek at his ring finger. >> no wedding ring. no mark. you know, i figured, he's single. >> according to bonnie, the two started to spend nearly every day together. >> i fell in love with him. i didn't expect it. it's not something that i was looking for at all. >> bonnie said bill told her he
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was separated from his wife and going through a divorce. >> and i took his word. i never again bothered him about it. >> he affectionately called her his gorda, his chubby lady. and during their three years together bill lavished bonnie with attention. spa days, vacations. >> bonnie, come and feel the dolphin. >> and even breast implants. >> i wasn't that big. i was maybe a small "b." and he goes, go do them. we'll pay for them. >> and then she says, a 5 carat diamond ring. >> it meant love, it meant friendship. it meant a future together. >> bonnie denies calling frances out of the blue. she says frances had known about the relationship for years and that the two women even spoke by phone about the financial arrangements of a divorce. >> who was going to keep what. and she was just going on and on about the properties and about money, about the company. and i said, i'm not even asking for none of that stuff.
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i don't want none of it. >> whichever version was true, the two women had never met. cousin hank told bill he needed to break it off with bonnie before something bad happened. >> i said, you need to get out of that relationship. don't turn back. >> did you find of feel like, hey, bill, you're playing with fire? >> that's exactly what i told him. i said, you need to go fix this, man. fix your house. frances threw him out. he went back to bonnie. and he would go back to begging frances to go back. it was very confusing. i have never seen bill like that. never in my life. >> frances was conflicted, too.
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take bill back or kick him out for good? the morning of october 9th, her anger boiled over. >> he was brushing his teeth, and i glanced over and i just -- i was enraged. >> she started pulling his hair, tussled with him all around the house. bill appeared to take the assault as a joke. >> he was doing these little dancing he does. and it upset me so much. and i kicked him. and he goes, stop already. i go no. >> she went after his prized possession, knocking over his prized custom harley davidson and hitting their new range rover with a stick. >> he pushed me down. i fell down. and he took off and waved at me. smiling. >> the following day was rough for frances. her family coaxed her out of the house to watch her niece's volleyball game. then, on her way home, driving her cadillac escalade -- >> i see bill, in back of bill, i see the range rover. and i'm like, who is that? >> the vehicles were coming toward her in the opposite lane. and as they passed, frances did a double take. sitting behind the wheel of her family's brand-new range rover was bill's mistress, bonnie contreras. frances said they locked eyes for the first time. >> and, of course, i get her little finger. >> like the middle finger?
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>> right. and i keep going. >> furious, she called her daughter nikki. >> she said i'm turning around, i'm going to confront her. >> what did you say to your mom? >> i said good. just be careful. >> not likely. all hell was about to break loose. >> coming up. >> i make inbiggest choice of my life. i pulled over and i fern around. >> moment said later, horror. >> i brake and i turn. i brake. trelegy for copd. [coughing] ♪ birds flyin' high, 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,... ♪'s time to make a stand. start a new day with trelegy. ♪...and i'm feelin' good. ♪ no once-daily copd medicine... has the power to treat copd in as many ways as trelegy. with three medicines in one inhaler, trelegy helps people breathe easier
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this stretch of san antonio highway, two women vying for one man spotted each other for the first time. frances, the wife, and bonnie, the mistress. >> i make the biggest choice of my life. i pulled over, and i turn around. >> turned around to chase down her romantic rival. how fast are you going? >> i'm doing about 65, 70. she's in a super sport range rover. this thing will go fast. my range rover. >> frances stepped on the gas and soon had bonnie in her sights. >> i'm asking her to pull over. she tell me no.
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pull over. and no. but she kept playing this cat and mouse game. she kept braking. >> she said bonnie repeatedly slammed on the brakes, forcing frances to slam on hers. frances had a large slab of granite in the back of her escalade from a home renovation project. >> i can hear this piece of granite every time i brake because it moves. >> as bonnie accelerated, frances stayed on her. it was as if she had developed tunnel vision, could focus on only one thing. >> i'm going to confront her. i'm done. i've had it with her. i'm going to tell her, you want him? keep him. >> the "him" in all of this, bill, had been riding his motorcycle in front of bonnie. but as the chase unfolded, he suddenly slowed down. >> all this time, bill is in front of us. and i see bill pulling over. then she's passing him. >> then, frances said, bill dropped back to her right. >> and i'm passing bill. i see bill from my passenger window. and she brakes.
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and i brake. and i heard something. i heard a thump. >> that piece of granite again, frances thought, and she continued to chase after bonnie, still hell-bent on confronting her. suddenly, bonnie made a u-turn. >> and as she makes a u-turn, i make the u-turn. she takes off. >> i got a black escalade and a black range rover they're traveling at high rate of speed. i don't know, 90-100 miles an hour that black range rover was. >> an off-duty officer spotted bonnie and frances and called it in. >> they're hauling ass driving on the wrong side of the road acting like idiots. >> frances was still on bonnie's tail, when -- >> i hear this wind coming in. >> the howl of the wind snapped frances out of her trance. she looked back and realized her third-row passenger window was shattered. and then, she realized something else. she couldn't see bill anywhere.
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frances called her sister connie, who lived close by. then she called her daughter nikki. >> she goes, i can't find your dad. i don't know where your dad is. i'm turning around. >> frances started to make her way back down the highway. she spoke to connie again. >> my sister tells me, i found him. >> connie had jumped in her own car and soon came upon bill and his bike by the side of the road. he'd crashed and was in bad shape. police were already at the scene when frances arrived. >> and then as i'm running to him, an officer grabs me. and i yank him. i heard somebody yell, that's his wife. leave her alone. and i get down to where he's at. and he's alive. >> do you say anything to him? >> i was just in shock. and he kept telling me, i can't breathe, vieja. and i told him calm down, dad. calm d>> bill had internal inju. whatever happened, the wreck
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was so severe it even knocked his boots off. >> sierra 4, here comes your bird. >> they took him away in the helicopter. >> they got a gurney. and he grabbed my arm. and he goes, vieja, come with me. i go, i'm coming, dad. and they take him. and i remember he told them, she needs to come with me. >> but officers wouldn't allow frances in the chopper, wouldn't allow her to go anywhere, in fact. >> and i told the officer, i'm his wife. and he said, turn around. and he handcuffed me, put me in the back and they left with bill. >> it was only then, frances says, that it all came together in her mind. the thump, the broken window, somehow bill's bike and her escalade must have collided. i think some people might find it hard to believe that you wouldn't realize that you had hit a motor bike. >> i didn't feel anything. i heard a thump. i thought it was in piece of granite. >> police detained her for
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questioning while the rest of the family took up a vigil at the hospital. bill's cousin was hopeful he'd pull through. >> we had been in so many wrecks on bikes and stuff. i said, he'll be all right. he had worse accidents than that, so -- >> but bill wouldn't be all right, not this time. >> when they told us that he had passed away, it was just complete shock. >> i kind of screamed out and i just couldn't believe it. i didn't want to believe it. >> frances was still in the back of the patrol car when she got the news. >> i noticed three people come to me wearing suits, and one of them tells me that he hadn't made it. and i was like, you're full of it. i go, no, he did. i go, just go check. they come back and tell me, miss hall, your husband didn't make it. >> with bill dead, frances was not only a grieving widow, she was now clearly a suspect. police took her to the station for questioning, but she wasn't
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ready to answer anything. >> i completely understand, okay. >> i'm terrified. >> frances appeared to be in denial. >> bill, please. bill, come back. >> but if frances wasn't talking to the police, the other woman in bill's life was. and she said bill's death was no accident. coming up -- coming up -- so is screening for colon cancer. when caught in early stages, it's more treatable. hey, cologuard! hi, i'm noninvasive and i detect altered dna in your stool to find 92% of colon cancers even in early stages. early stages. it's for people 45 plus at average risk for colon cancer, not high risk. false positive and negative results may occur. ask your provider if cologuard is right for you. (all) to screening! oh hey there!
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hall was staying with girlfriend bonnie contreras. the two had plans to pick up bill's motorcycle at a storage facility for a bike rally they'd attend the next day. >> and he was laying in our bed taking a nap, and that was two hours before he died. i woke him up and i said, hon, it's getting late. we've got to go pick up the bike before it gets dark. >> and that, bonnie said, is how she and bill ended up on the road that fateful evening, with bonnie behind the wheel of the range rover, bill in front of her on his baby blue motorcycle. neither of them knowing that frances, quite by chance, was coming from the opposite direction. but bonnie's version of events would differ sharply from the tale frances told. >> he's driving, i'm driving. somewhere along the way we stopped at a light, and he
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pulls up beside me in the other lane. he tells me, i love you so much, gorda. i'm so happy. and that was the last time i heard his voice. >> the light turned the green and everything changed. >> he was in front of me and i'm driving and i feel somebody hit me from behind. at first i thought it was an accident. >> a sudden jolt, then another. >> i feel another hit. and i said, what the hell? and i looked in my rearview mirror, and it was frances. >> bill's wife. they'd spoken by phone but never met. bonnie said she never saw frances on the road before she felt those jolts, never taunted her with her middle finger, as frances claimed. now, bonnie said frances wasn't just chasing her. she was actually repeatedly ramming her cadillac escalade into the back of the range rover. >> i started screaming because she wouldn't stop hitting me. she kept ramming her vehicle
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into me. >> she said frances'story that bonnie kept slamming on her brakes was nonsense. you were accused of brake checking her. >> no, i was trying to get away from that woman. so i started speeding up. and she kept ramming me from behind. and she through me into oncoming traffic. >> bonnie said she was hit so hard her purse fell off the front seat. >> and my stuff flew to the floor. >> and here, another significant difference from frances'version. bonnie says that when she swerved back into her lane, she looked in her rearview mirror and saw bill was now riding behind her between the two suvs. >> and i see her coming up behind bill, and i'm yelling at the top of my lungs. and i see her hit bill, and i see bill fly, then i see the bike fly. >> according to bonnie, she saw frances deliberately hit bill from behind, then keep chasing her. >> i was shaking, and i was in
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shock. i didn't understand why she hadn't stopped when she hit bill. i couldn't understand it. i still don't understand it. i felt like stopping, but i didn't know if she had a gun. and my first instinct is to make a quick u-turn. >> so she does a u-turn too? >> right. she continues to hit me. we even pass the scene of where bill was clinging to his life, and even at that she didn't bother to stop hitting me. >> bonnie eventually made her way back to where bill lay by the road. >> and i see just hecticness everywhere. police cars, detectives, ambulance. >> she said she tried to get to bill, but the officers wouldn't let her near him. >> i wanted to hug him. i wanted to hug him. i wanted to tell him everything was going to be okay. >> bonnie watched the helicopter take bill away. hours later, a police officer gave her the news she was dreading. >> he goes, bill has passed away.
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and i just let out a big old scream. >> so there was bonnie's version. this was no accident. frances purposefully rammed her repeatedly and fatally knocked bill off the road. is there only one person to blame for this, in your eyes? >> of course. it's frances. she started that high speed chase. she chose to turn around. why? you know you're going to cause some sort of trouble. >> and when investigators looked at the evidence and heard bonnie's version of events, they came to the same conclusion. nico lahood, district attorney. >> we do not support this behavior. >> frances was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. and for the death of her husband, bill hall jr., she was charged with murder.
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>> we felt there was an attempt at an aggravated assault and at that point life was loss, which gives felony murder. >> but frances said the real aggressor was bonnie, and she said she had proof. coming up -- frances says bill told her that bonnie was obsessed with him, but that he wanted out. >> he goes, i can't get rid of this person. when dateline continues.
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around 100,000 troops at the ukraine border. a meeting is also set when state with nato and russian officials. now, back to dateline. back to dateline. frances hall was out on bail, facing a murder charge for the high speed chase that ended with the death of her husband, bill. the key witness against her, bill's mistress, bonnie contreras. but according to frances and her daughter, if anyone should be blamed for what happened, it was bonnie. >> she has a lot of responsibility or full responsibility in causing this. she ruined a family. >> the way the hall family tells it, bonnie was a golddigger, a stalker and a liar who had been manipulating and threatening bill for years. frances said that after she learned about the affair, she learned the truth about bonnie from bill himself. >> he laid it all out.
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he said, i'm going to tell you everything, vieja. >> the family insists bonnie told frances about the affair because she was angry over, of all things, a manicure. >> she was upset because my father wouldn't give her $100 to get her nails done. >> they said bill told them that bonnie had been stalking their whole family on facebook. >> she had created a fake account with a fake profile picture and friend requested the entire family. everyone accepted. my mom had her, i had her. aunts, uncles, cousins. >> the family said bill told them that's how bonnie gathered information, that she would use to manipulate him. >> if we went on a trip as a family or if he took my mother to las vegas, immediately after, he would have to take her somewhere. >> according to frances and nikki, bill said he wanted to break up with bonnie, but she threatened to air their affair all over the internet. >> he goes, i can't get rid of this person. she had over 2,000 pictures.
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in my 34 years of knowing bill, i don't have that many pictures. who does that? >> frances said bill told her bonnie also stalked her and her family. >> she knew where my kids lived. she knew my schedule. he said that i would go to my grocery store, and she'd be there following me. >> even, said the halls, followed her and bill into a movie theater. >> bonnie tracked them and was sitting three rows behind them. she was kind of like a fatal attraction. just, or -- or psycho. >> she claims that she was in love with bill, that he was going to leave you, they were going to start a family, they were going to be married. >> she got an abortion. tell me if she was starting a family. she got an abortion. >> bill wanted bonnie to have an abortion, said frances. but bonnie wouldn't do it unless bill gave her something in return. >> the only way she'd get an abortion, if he bought her breast implants. which he did. she got rid of the baby. >> i despise her.
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and she has not stopped embarrassing our family. it's like, can you just go away? can you just leave us alone? go find another married man. because this is what she does for a living. she strips or -- she gets with married men. >> in the end, said the halls, bonnie told frances about the affair as a final act of desperation. an attempt to hold onto bill, who was about to drop her. >> i think she finally thought, hey, i'm losing this man. i'm losing my bread and butter here. her sugar daddy. this girl was not in love with bill. i don't even think she knows what the word "love" means. >> of course, bonnie sees things very differently. they've really gone after you with names. >> of course. and i understand where the halls are coming from. it's a pretty big pill to swallow when your husband wants to divorce you after 32 years. and of course, they're never going to say anything good about me. >> do you want to clear it up? were you an exotic dancer? >> i worked at a strip club, yes. and that was way --
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>> as a dancer? >> yes. and that was a mistake. i mean, i regret that. no one's perfect. >> but the fake facebook account? stalking frances? the abortion in exchange for breast implants? none of that ever happened, said bonnie. >> for her to sit there and say that i switched a baby's life that was growing inside of me coming from a man that i love dearly for a breast augmentation? ridiculousness. >> each woman clung to her truth. the battle for bill raged. >> he couldn't stop bonnie, and he really couldn't stop frances really, you know? >> it sounds like two hurricanes. >> oh yeah. >> then, about a week before bill's death, the hurricanes collided. not on the road. not yet. this war was waged via text. you're getting text messages from bonnie of the two of them having sex? >> mm-hmm. >> the case heads to court where one witness says she deliberately rammed bonny.
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and it all led up to a confrontation about a week before his death. bill and frances met at this hotel. she said they were trying to work things out. but then bonnie showed up at the front desk. >> saying she was his wife and she needed to get access to his room. and my dad told him, no, she's not my wife. my wife is here with me. >> security asked bonnie to leave. though she insists she never claimed to be bill's wife. but all parties agree. that night an all-out war began via text. you're getting text messages from bonnie. of the two of them having sex? >> uh-huh. pictures of sexual positions. >> photos with captions like -- this is what he really likes, you fat old woman. normally the mistress keeps a very low profile. >> she wanted to make sure i knew now she was in the picture. >> did she ever. many of the messages are too graphic to show, but you can get a good sense of them from these excerpts.
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"let me know if you want some good juicy pics of me and your hubby. you stupid old person, keep fixing yourself up, maybe he'll find you more attractive. what's the worst text message she sent you? >> the hollow bitch. >> she actually called you hollow. >> hollow. >> because -- >> of my hysterectomy. >> complete with a diagram to reinforce the point. bonnie admits she sent those nasty texts. you have to imagine though that people are going to see this and they're going to think that some of those text messages are cruel. >> never sent her pictures of my and bill having sexual intercourse. what i did send her pictures of was three butt pics of me. and that's because she infuriated me. because she told me that my butt looked like a broken saddle bag. it looked like a broken toilet seat. trust me, she was going at me very hard. >> in fact, bonnie says it was frances who started the text war. >> plain and simple, i was defending myself. >> the text that frances said hurt her the most was the one
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where you called her hollow and sent the diagram of a woman who had had a hysterectomy. that is -- >> cruel. >> that would hit a woman hard. >> and i'm not happy about that. >> why did you do it? >> because i was pissed at her. she was telling me vicious, ugly things. >> did you send any back to her that were nasty as well? >> not really. no. >> because it would be hard not to engage. >> well, yeah. i started to at the hotel. i think i did one or two. >> "had him in the palm of your hand and couldn't keep him" frances wrote to bonnie. "keep sending. fatal attraction." "cops need all the pics." >> and, i mean, i couldn't keep up. i text slow. this girl's young. she knows technology. >> bonnie says frances more than held her own. "don't flatter yourself. he's been cheating on you with me." but, says frances, the nastier texts bonnie received didn't come from her. she says, bill sent them. >> bill grabbed the phone, and he said, let me take care of
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her. >> no, he didn't. that was her. it was her sending those text messages. bill wouldn't have never disrespected me like that. >> but if there was any doubt that she'd been following the halls, she seemed to confirm it herself by sending photos of their house and frances'car. why were you sending those pictures? >> to piss her off. to defend myself. >> what are you -- i mean, you're the one -- but, but -- >> her telling me that bill didn't love me. her telling me that bill was using me. >> but bonnie, you're the one who is having the affair with bill. so why are you attacking his wife? >> because she was attacking me. and i will defend myself. >> one week after that text message feud came the car chase that left bill hall dead. nearly three years after that frances hall went on trial for murder. prosecutors stephanie paulissen and scott simpson laid out the case for the jury. >> we understand why she was angry. but that's not justification to go attempt to run down your husband's mistress and kill him in the process.
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>> the star witness for the prosecution, bonnie contreras. >> i start to get hit from behind. >> bonnie told the jury how she watched with horror as she believed frances deliberately knocked bill off the road. >> i see her hit bill with the truck. and i see him fly off the motorcycle. >> bonnie said she later discovered frances'daughter, nikki hall, had left a message on her voice mail during the car chase. a message that seemed to speak to frances'intent that evening. >> told you to watch your back you [bleep] stupid [ bleep ]. >> what does that tell you? that they were out to cause harm to somebody. >> this is not an accident. >> tim lovett was the state's collision reconstruction expert. he said the evidence showed frances chased and hit bonnie. >> that escalade definitely hit that range rover at least two, maybe three times. >> but frances'defense attorneys, leigh cutter and jean brown, said investigators
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made a big mistake when they bought into the story of bonnie contreras. >> everyone got their information from one person at the scene. and that's bonnie. and bonnie lied her ass off. >> defense accident reconstructionist charles ruble said there was no physical evidence to back up bonnie's claims that frances had hit her over and over again. no evidence, he said, the suvs had even touched. >> not even once. >> and remember how bonnie said her purse flew forward off the seat when frances hit her? >> this is her purse in her car. i get hit from the rear. where's my purse go? it doesn't dump in the front. that's simple physics. >> in fact, he said, the purse falling forward supports frances'claims that bonnie was repeatedly slamming on her brakes. >> she does a sudden brake, and she's moving like this. then the purse would go into the floorboard. bonnie contreras is not telling the truth. >> what's more, both defense
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and prosecution agreed bonnie was wrong about her contention that bill's motorcycle was struck from behind. evidence showed the motorcycle actually collided with the side of frances'suv. >> you can't believe a damn thing she said on there. >> in closing arguments the defense said bill's death was simply a terrible accident. and frances hall had suffered enough. >> she's been living in hell for three years. let her go home. let her be with her family. and let her mourn her husband. >> but the prosecution told the jury frances must be held accountable for her actions. >> of course, the defendant hated bonnie contreras. we don't blame her for that. any wife would. what we do blame her for is getting in her escalade, chasing after bonnie and then veering into bill. there's your felony murder. >> the jury deliberated into the night. who would they believe?
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coming up -- the verdict. >> we the jury find the defendant -- when dateline continues.
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take the savings challenge at or visit an xfinity store to learn how our switch squad makes it easy to switch and save hundreds. welcome back. during frances's hall's murder trail, they backed up her story nat she collisioned with her suv. but they countered she may not have hit baun bonny. here with inconclusion for "collision."
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. as the jury deciding frances hall's fate deliberated into the evening hours of september 8, 2016, neither side felt confident. >> as time passes, you get more worried. >> did you have a gut feeling which way white go? >> no. >> nothing? >> i didn't want to think about it. i didn't want to think about it. >> then just before 8:45 p.m., the jury had its verdict. >> we, the jury, find the defendant, frances hall, guilty of murder. >> guilty of murder and aggravated assault. frances'friends and family were shocked. >> it was the worst feeling in my life. >> it was a moment frances herself did not seem prepared for. you were found guilty.
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and you were facing possibly life behind bars. >> yes, i was. i didn't want to be there. i wanted to go home to bill. i was like, i can't do this. >> but things weren't over yet for frances. there was still a second phase of trial -- sentencing. texas law allows the defendant to be sentenced by either the judge or the jury. frances chose the jury, the same one that found her guilty. four days after the verdict, the players returned to the courtroom for the final act of this real-life soap opera. the defense believed it had found a secret weapon in the texas criminal code. >> we said, this caveat, this was written for frances hall, if anyone, ever. >> the law calls it sudden passion. essential, that the defendant was immediately provoked to a degree of anger that would make an ordinary person incapable of
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cool reflection. the defense told the jury, sudden passion gripped frances when she spotted bill and bonnie on the road. >> she sees this woman who has not let up and tried to ruin her life for the last month. >> the stakes were enormous. a finding of sudden passion could drastically reduce frances'sentence, from possible life in prison to a maximum of 20 years and a minimum of just 2. relatives of frances and bill hall begged the jury to be lenient. >> if there's any way that you can find in your heart to give her a lighter sentence, i'm begging you. >> and then, for the first time, the jury heard from frances hall directly. >> you don't understand. i loved this man heart and soul. i gave him my life. i would have never hurt him, never. >> in her final arguments, defense attorney leigh cutter insisted frances hall's actions
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were a textbook example of sudden passion. >> the text messages, the calls, the taunting. those would probably make you really hate someone. but never having seen them until they drive by in your car, if that's not sudden passion where you're incapable of thinking clearly, i don't know what is. >> but prosecutor scott simpson told jurors not to be swayed by emotion. >> you shouldn't, for one second, feel ashamed or bad for doing what you believe to be right. >> after about three hours of deliberations, the jury was ready. all eyes were on bonnie contreras when she arrived to hear the sentence. and on frances hall, too. would she get life in prison or a chance at freedom? >> we unanimously find the defendant caused the death of bill hall under the immediate influence of sudden passion. we assess her punishment for a term of two years. >> two years. the absolute minimum sentence. what is going through your mind when you hear that? because things were looking bad.
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>> oh, yes. i was like, thank you, jesus. i can do this. >> and she did. after serving her sentence, she walked out of life a free woman. france's attorney says those allegations are without merit. >> bonnie is suing frances, for bodily injury and emotional distress. frances'attorney says those allegations are without merit. >> bill's never coming back. why? because she decided to make a very irresponsible decision and cause this. >> a decision which bonnie said cut short her dream of a future with bill. do you think there was any chance that he was playing both of you? >> no.
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>> he wanted his cake and eat it, too? >> no. he wanted out of his marriage. >> do you regret now ever meeting bill? >> no, i don't. i don't regret loving him. i don't regret still loving him. i will always carry that man in my heart. i love him so much. >> as for frances, she said she does regret her decision to make a u-turn that october evening. >> it was my choice that i turned around. and for that i am so remorseful. and i will live with that for the rest of my life. >> but as she serves out her sentence in a texas state prison, frances says make no mistake, there's only one true love story here -- the 32-year marriage of frances and bill hall. >> i pity her because she has to continue living and looking for the right man. i've had the best man in my life. i will never love another man like i loved bill. once you have the best, no looking back. >> except for he cheated on you. >> he had this much bad, but he had this much good. and he might have done what he
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did, but i know he loved me. call me ignorant. call me stupid. but i loved bill hall jr. till the day i die. bill hall jr. till the day i day. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. we had talked about, how would you kill somebody and get away with it? i have dark thoughts and i shared them with a serial killer. >> it was supposed to be a movie. >> aah! >> a frightening film about a serial killer. >> he'd say listen, when you're turning blade grit your teeth and really really show that you're enjoying it. >> but was it really just pretend? >> he yells, get down on the ground. he took out duct tape. life flash before my eyes. >> i have never in my life felt


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