tv CNN International CNN June 16, 2015 12:00am-1:01am PDT
and protect the community. that was done in this case, and that's all that they need to know. that's what our job is and we that's what our job is and we did our job. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com in 1995, carolyn killaby of vancouver, washington, got into a heated argument with her husband. she then went to a local bar alone. no one has seen or heard from her since. but some saliva from an envelope and a speck of blood on a wristwatch helped solve the mystery of her disappearance. in 1990, carolyn and dan killaby were married, each for the second time.
dan managed a furniture store. carolyn was a medical technician employed by the u.s. military. carolyn and dan each had a daughter from their previous marriages and they moved into this home in vancouver, washington. >> my mom was basically the backbone of my whole family. i mean, she was very strong-willed and she just like she held everybody together. she was a problem solver, she was the supporter, she was the happiness, the joy, she was like everything you could ask for. >> on saturday night, november 11th, 1995, carolyn and dan got into an argument. >> she had been in a fight with her husband because her husband had decided instead of doing something with her that night that she'd counted on, they were going to go out -- he was going to go out with his brother and have some food and drink. and she objected significantly to that. i don't know whether she stomped out of the house or drove over there or how that transpired.
but she ended up at omar's and she was doing some serious drinking there. ♪ >> a waitress said carolyn was dancing but was there alone and was obviously intoxicated. >> the other indication was that she was alone at the table and that her head was down and that she had her head on the table and was basically passed out at the table, not functioning, not talking to anyone, very, very clear to everyone in the bar that she was highly intoxicated. >> that night, around 11:00, witnesses said they saw carolyn leave the bar and she was never seen again. >> i came home sunday morning and she was gone. >> the next day, dan killaby called police to report carolyn missing. family members, friends and volunteers searched the surrounding area without success.
>> i knew that she would not leave unless somebody made her. there was no way she would have left us. >> caroline's car was found in the bar's parking lot. the killaby family hired their own search dogs. the dogs tracked carolyn's scent from the bar directly back to her home. the police believed this might be evidence that carolyn returned home from the bar before she disappeared. no one else was home that night. dan and the two girls spent saturday night elsewhere. >> they were concerned about whether or not dan's alibi, that he was out drinking with his brother, was solid. i think that they stayed out real late and got real drunk. and so the police were not 100% convinced that that could have
been the case. >> creating further suspicions was the fact that carolyn had a $230,000 life insurance policy payable to her husband. >> i always stood behind dan. there was no doubt that he had -- i could never conceive the idea that he had actually done something like this. >> dan killaby denied any involvement in his wife's disappearance but police discovered there were problems in the marriage. >> we found out that it wasn't the perfect marriage, by any stretch of the imagination. i think we figured there were some difficulties and some strains in the marriage. >> two hours after carolyn left the bar, the police received two calls from people who said they heard a woman screaming for help in a field about a mile from omar's lounge. police searched the area, using night vision goggles, but they found nothing.
with no solid leads, the killaby family offered a $10,000 reward for any information on carolyn's whereabouts. and then a bombshell. a customer at omar's lounge said he saw dan killaby with carolyn in the parking lot on the night she disappeared. will damage your teeth? introducing listerine® healthy white™. it not only safely whitens teeth... ...but also restores enamel. lose the nerves and get a healthier whiter smile that you'll love. listerine® healthy white™. power to your mouth™!
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and ask about free activation when you order. call this number. call now. when 34-year-old carolyn killaby didn't return home after spending the night drinking at a local bar, her husband, dan, was an immediate suspect. prosecutor david seely says there's an old saying in missing persons cases, before you look at outlaws, you have to look at the in-laws. >> one of the things they look at to begin with is the husband in a missing person case like this because i think a large percentage of the crimes are committed by family members. >> police found no evidence of foul play in the killaby home.
but in carolyn's bedroom, they found some potent painkillers, >> my sister was having some problems with prescription drug medication. i had confronted her and talked to her about that. she had acknowledged the problem and was working on that. the whole family was being supportive of that. >> my understanding of the mixture of alcohol and vicodin is it makes you comatose and that's what happened to carolyn in the bar. >> witnesses at omar's lounge said carolyn passed out at her table. one of the regular customers, dennis smith, helped her to her car. what smith told police was disturbing. he said that he and carolyn left the bar and engaged in consensual sex in his truck. as he walked her to her car, a man approached them, hit smith with a bat, called carolyn a
bitch and forced her to leave with him. when shown a photographic lineup, smith identified carolyn's husband, dan, as the culprit. dan killaby angrily denied this and offered to take a lie detector test and passed. dan said he and his brother were out drinking together that night in a bar, which the bartender there confirmed. when police looked closer into dennis smith's background they discovered that smith had been convicted for the murder of his sister, patricia ann johnson in 1982. smith served 10 years of that sentence and had recently been released on parole. and a witness told police that she saw mud on smith's truck on the night carolyn disappeared. >> he came to a shell station in
clark county. his truck was all dirty. he asked the attendant there who was a friend whether or not he could go to her parents' house and wash his car. >> the employee also thought she saw a blood smear on smith's shirt. with this new information, smith's truck was confiscated and police noticed that the inside of the truck had been wiped clean, no fingerprints, hairs or fibers, even though smith said carolyn had been in the truck for consensual sex. investigators did find a tiny speck of blood on the steering wheel. and there was evidence of a recent fire. smith said a cigarette butt accidentally ignited the upholstery. an alert homicide investigator also confiscated smith's wristwatch. in the forensics lab, scientists found a tiny speck of what appeared to be blood in the crevice of the wristband.
tests indicated it was human. but whose was it? since we get half our dna from our mother and half from our father, scientists could identify whether it was carolyn's blood in the truck by analyzing dna samples from carolyn's parents. but carolyn's mother delivered some shocking news. despite raising carolyn as his own, the man carolyn called dad wasn't her biological father, a fact withheld from carolyn during her upbringing. carolyn's biological father had died years earlier. this made the blood stain analysis much more difficult. >> we didn't have any solid dna. we didn't have a piece of skin or a blood sample from her -- from her body that we could compare to the blood stain. so we were a little up in the air about what to do. >> without a body, scientists
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we had the thought maybe she was in the hotel and angry and found out she had been seen leaving with this guy, dennis, and we didn't know what that meant. and then we found out he was a murderer that had been out on parole and that took away some hope. >> while the fbi searched for smith, forensic scientists analyzed his truck. arson experts discovered hydrocarbons on the upholstery of smith's truck. they're present when an accelerant or flammable liquid is used to start a fire. a clue that the fire was intentionally set. the damage was extensive and smith's story didn't match the evidence. we got a similar car seat and tried to recreate the fire in three or four different ways. each time, we couldn't come up with that type of damage that we saw in this car.
>> in a small crack in the steering wheel, a phenolphthalein test identified a tiny stain as blood. and on dennis smith's wristband, scientists found another speck of blood. but without carolyn's body, scientists had no dna sample for comparison. so detectives searched for a sample of carolyn's dna and they found it in alaska. ten years earlier, carolyn mailed a letter to her girlfriend in alaska, and her friend had never thrown it away. on the envelope flap and stamps was carolyn's saliva, still a rich source of dna even after ten years. the samples were too badly degraded for traditional dna testing, so scientists used a newer and less exact dna test
called mitochondrial dna. traditional dna testing analyzes the nucleus of the cell. but outside the cell nucleus are what are known as mitochondria, cells that can be identified, although not as precisely as in traditional dna testing. >> mitochondria dna is inherited from a mother to her children. therefore, if you want to make a match between a sample of evidence from a missing person, as was in this case, blood stains from someone whose body is not available, you need only go to a maternal relative. >> the dna from the envelope flap and stamps matched the dna from the blood found in smith's truck. and with dna samples from carolyn killaby's mother and daughter, dr. melvin concluded that the mitochondrial dna in dennis smith's truck was that of carolyn killaby.
it was a dna profile that existed in only 1 out of 200,000 caucasians. >> because there was no body found in this case and i believe the remains of miss killaby are still missing, it was very important to place her in the presence of mr. smith. and of course a blood stain on his watch band that comes back to her would be very powerful evidence. >> for over a year, dennis smith had been on the run. then the television series "unsolved mysteries" profiled the case, asking the viewers for help in bringing smith to justice. four days later an anonymous tip revealed that smith was living in florida. the trick now was to find him.
family waited for some word on the search for dennis smith. law enforcement searched all over the country and an informant said smith was living in florida. police there stopped a vehicle on the suspicion it was stolen. the man driving the car was dennis smith. smith tried to get away. there was a fight and smith was shot in the scuffle. >> i was hoping that he was in a lot of pain. i wanted him to hurt. i crossed my fingers, though, that he didn't die. as much as i hate him and don't want him in this world, if he were to die, there was really no hope of finding my mom's body or for him having to suffer in prison. >> smith survived the gunshot wound and returned to washington state to stand trial for kidnapping, rape, and the murder
of carolyn killaby, even though police still hadn't found her body. smith pleaded not guilty and stood by the story that he was attacked by carolyn's husband in the parking lot of the bar and carolyn left with her husband. the defense reminded the jury that smith identified dan killaby from a photographic lineup, but prosecutors said smith probably recognized killaby from television news reports about his wife's disappearance. >> it amazed me how the defense always tries to twist the victims in this horrible person when they never did anything to ask for what they got and didn't deserve it. >> prosecutors believe that carolyn was inebriated in omar's lounge and that smith offered to drive her home.
somewhere along the way, smith raped and murdered carolyn killaby in his truck. her blood splattered on his steering wheel, smith's watch and probably the upholstery. prosecutors suspect smith buried carolyn's body somewhere near larch mountain. a few hours later, a gas station attendant said she saw a bloodstain on smith's shirt and that his truck was full of mud. smith attempted to remove the blood inside his truck with detergents. and when he couldn't remove it all from the upholstery, he set it on fire. but he missed a tiny speck of blood on his wristband and a tiny speck of blood on the steering wheel, proof that carolyn killaby had been bleeding inside his truck.
>> some of his friends happened to be nurses. he went into great detail with his nurse friends about what is dna. how do you get rid of dna. i used pinesol and lysol and other cleaning agents in my car. is that going to get rid of dna? and the nurses say, hey, i don't think so. >> prosecutors also discovered that when smith was in prison for killing his sister, he told his cell mate how he would get away with murder the next time. >> mr. smith told an inmate that if he ever committed another murder, he would dispose of the body by digging a hole, placing the body in it, recovering the hole and planting a tree on top of it so that nobody would know that a body is under there. >> wherever she is it's most likely a dark, cold place where we can't go and visit her physically. where her remains are. >> he also told the inmate that he would dispose of the other
evidence by burning it. >> the only scientific evidence in this case was the mitochondrial dna taken from two tiny specks of blood. dennis smith was found guilty of aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. the killaby family may never recover carolyn's body for a proper burial. but they've purchased a burial plot with a headstone anyway. for carolyn's daughter, gina, not a day goes by when she doesn't think of her mother. >> she has this beautiful new granddaughter that she never got the chance to meet and be a grandmother to, but her granddaughter will always know who she is and that she will always be a part of this family and that we love her and miss her very, very much.
during the fall and winter of 1991, police searched all over new england for a woman who had disappeared from her home in maine. police were not sure whether she had run away or had met with foul play. one year later, investigators found a clue, a clue that had been right under their noses from the very beginning. portland, maine, the largest city in the state and at one time its capital.
it's a deep water port on casco bay, an inlet to the atlantic ocean, which explains its role as a major fishing center. pearl smith worked as a fish packer. every day, she boxed crates of fish for shipment around the country. it was hard work with little pay. after work, she was a frequent customer at a bar near the docks, as was bill bruns, a man 13 years her senior. bruns was a trucker. his job was hauling fish from maine to montreal. the two had a lot in common. they liked to drink, and they were unlucky in love. pearl had been divorced five times, and bill's third marriage had just ended. they fell in love and were
married in the summer of 1986. their relationship appeared to be close. they met for lunch each day at this restaurant on the docks. but on august 13th, 1991, pearl's daughter called police to report her mother missing. she said pearl failed to show up for a family gathering she had been looking forward to. >> my mother was very loving, very caring. everybody's best friend. >> south portland detective linda barker was assigned to the investigation. at the bruns home, she noticed that none of pearl's clothing, jewelry, and personal items were missing. and her prized possession, a black cadillac with vanity plates reading pearl b. was still in the garage. >> pearl really loved her cadillac, and she very rarely went anywhere without it.
that was one of the things that elaine was very concerned about, that her mother left but left her cadillac behind. >> the car being left behind in the garage said, to me, my mother never left the home. if my mother left the home, she would have been in the car. >> so my daughter lives out of town -- >> bill bruns told police that he and pearl had an argument, and afterwards he left for chinese food. when he returned home, pearl was gone, but he said he wasn't worried since she would occasionally leave with no explanation. >> it was not unusual for pearl to leave home for two, three, four, even seven days at a time. she would go stay with friends in old orchard or with family members. >> but with her car still in the garage, how did she leave? police called the airlines, bus
and taxi services, and there was no evidence that pearl bruns had left town. bill bruns told police that his wife had probably run off with another man, and the police chief agreed. >> he said, she was an alcoholic. she's been married six or certain times. she probably ran off with one of her ex-husbands. what about her current husband? could he be involved? nah. i've known him for 20 years. it couldn't have been him. >> days passed and then weeks and pearl bruns' family feared they would never see her again. a lot of peoplei didn't believe in me. but things took off when i got a domain and built my website all at godaddy. now i can tell the doubters to stick it. hey, honey. stick it! stick it! stick it! nana? hi... stick it!
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in the port city of portland, maine, police continued their search for 48-year-old pearl bruns. prosecutors were suspicious of pearl's husband since he hadn't reported her missing. >> mr. bruns' behavior in this case was peculiar. if you came home one day and found that your wife was gone without any explanation, what would you do? what would any of us do?
>> bruns did nothing. it was pearl's daughter from a previous marriage who called police. >> i knew that my mother would have been in contact with me, so there was no doubt in my mind that my mother was no longer alive. my mother was the type of person that would have gone to great lengths just to be able to contact me or my daughter. >> pearl's suitcase was found partially packed on her bed with high velocity impact blood spatter on it, consistent with a striking blow to the head. >> the blood that was on the suitcase -- there was high velocity blood spatter, low velocity blood spatter. but also smears of blood on the suitcase, indicating that the blood came from either a castoff of some kind or possibly during a struggle. somebody struck with a weapon of some kind. >> the days before her disappearance, pearl bruns spent an increasing amount of time in her favorite bar.
she told friends that she and bill were fighting, mostly about money, and that she was depressed. once news of pearl's disappearance hit the local media, tips poured in to the police. one of pearl's friends said he thought he saw her walking along the docks late at night, but none of the tips panned out. the case stalled until six weeks later when a hiker on the appalachian trail 200 miles away in new hampshire found pearl bruns' purse. >> the pocketbook was found right near where the body of another murdered woman had been found a year or two before that, in the exact same area. and that woman's murder, to this day, has never been solved. >> all my mother's identification and everything was in the purse.
they described jewelry to me and stuff that was in the purse that was definitely my mother's. >> a search of the area uncovered nothing more, but police now listed the case as a possible homicide. >> i was thinking it might be possible that my mother's body was somewhere out there also. >> it was laid there in open view with her personal belongings, driver's license, jewelry, and money inside the pocketbook with blood spatter on the outside of the pocketbook. somebody wanted us to find that pocketbook. >> meanwhile detective barker went back to the bruns' home to question bill bruns further. when she entered the bruns' home, she noticed something new. >> i remarked to bill bruns, gee, bill, you've got new carpet. he denied that. no, this is the same carpet. well, you've had the carpet cleaned. no, no, i didn't have it cleaned. i just sprinkled it with this rug refresher and vacuumed it,
and i was astounded because it was sparkling clean. >> neighbors say they saw bill bruns struggling to get a carpet steam cleaner into his house. why would bruns lie to police about shampooing his carpet? pearl's daughter confronted her stepfather with her suspicions. >> i sat down with bill one day at the kitchen table, and i spoke with him. and i told him, you know, bill, you're the last one that saw my mother. you're the only one that would know what happened to her, and he just kind of sat there and looked at me and never said a word. >> police used cadaver dogs to search the bruns' home. the dogs are trained with a chemical formula called pseudo corpse, which mimics the smell of decaying flesh. trained dogs will lie down when
they detect the smell of a body. when dr. edward david led his dog through the home, the dog headed immediately to the basement. >> i could tell by the dog's attitude, by that i mean the position of the tail, the ears, that the dog was scenting. and the dog then circled around the crawl space several times. and then near the entrance to the crawl space, the dog lay down. >> detectives began to excavate the area identified by the dog, confident that the mystery of pearl bruns' disappearance had finally been solved. but to their astonishment, they found nothing.
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a serious setback for investigators. >> at some point during these kinds of investigations, you do reach a conclusion just based on common sense that things aren't right. this lady is dead, and we've got to prove what happened and who did it. >> there was speculation that pearl's body may have been dumped at sea or somewhere along the highway bill bruns traveled every week on his trucking route. >> bill drove refrigerated trucks. he hauled fish from maine to canada. in some of our minds we thought, how perfect. what a perfect way to get rid of a body. you have a refrigerated truck to stick it in. you haul it with the fish. there's plenty of blood anyway. >> but you've got to remember too with bill's connections with people at the docks and so on, mrs. bruns could have been taken out to sea and dumped overboard in somebody's fishing boat. >> bill bruns continued to maintain that his wife had run
off with an ex-husband, but one of pearl's friends revealed information that contradicted that. >> she said, there's one thing i want you to know. she says, if anything should ever happen to me, you tell them that bill did it. i said, pearl, what are you talking about, and then i just forgot about it. >> so police got another warrant to search the bruns' house. this time they used a chemical reagent, luminol. when luminol is sprayed on an area where blood has been cleaned up with water and detergents, it glows or fluoresces. when it was applied inside the bruns' home, the luminol told a horrifying tale. cast-off blood spatter was evident on the walls and floor. bloody footprints led towards
the bathroom. areas of the rug and linoleum floor showed where large amounts of blood had been spilled and later cleaned up. on the steps leading down to the basement, more blood. each step indicated that a bloody object had been dragged downstairs. at the bottom of the stairs, some four feet across, was a large bloodstain. most alarming was a bloodstain found in a 30x25 foot crawl space. on the dirt floor was the blood pattern of a human body, the same height as pearl bruns. it was clear that large amounts of blood had been spilled and
cleaned inside the bruns' home, contradicting bill's story that his wife had simply left. >> we know you're involved. >> detective harriman confronted bill bruns the luminol evidence. >> we asked bill, what would you think bill, who would you suspect to cause foul play to your wife. he said, i would suspect the husband. >> bill bruns continued to maintain his innocence. but when asked to take a lie detecter test, he refused. police were not sure what to do next. they had already excavated the basement floor once and had come up empty-handed. for the next nine months, the investigation stalled until police learned of a new forensic tool, one they hoped would lead them to pearl bruns' body.
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>> we couldn't give up on the fact that there may be evidence down there, but to dig this entire basement by hand was virtually impossible. >> detective harriman then learned about a new forensic tool called ground penetrating radar. he called harding ese, a local environmental engineering firm who had the equipment. 13 months after pearl bruns disappearance, the bruns' basement was searched with the radar. the gpr unit sends high frequency radio waves into the ground. when the signals hit an obstruction, a buried storage tank, for instance, the signal is reflected back up to the unit. but looking for a body created problems. >> a human body, obviously is made up primarily of water, fatty tissues, flesh, bone, did not conduct radio wave energy very well.
there was an area of whiteout on the record. there was nothing to see, meaning that something absorbed the energy. what it was, we don't know until we dig it up. >> as bill bruns returned home from work, investigators began to excavate his basement once more. >> we dig just a few shovelfuls, and it's at that point in time that i strike the plastic bag buried approximately two feet below the surface, which turned out to be the head encased in a plastic bag. >> it was a badly decomposed human body wrapped in two large garbage bags and tied with rope and tape. the individual was wearing a wristwatch with pearl's name engraved on the face and had pink shoe laces like the ones pearl was last seen wearing.
the stench of decomposition was overwhelming, and police walked upstairs to confront bill bruns for the last time. >> bill is sitting upstairs in his home in the kitchen area. he's eating a plate of spaghetti for supper around 6:00 in the evening. we walk through the door, advised bill, you're under arrest, bill, for the murder of your wife. >> when they unearthed the body, you could smell the stench for miles. and he's upstairs in the house eating spaghetti and when they come up to arrest him, he asked in he could finish his dinner before they took him away. it just kind of shows what a sick individual he was. >> bill bruns was arrested and charged with murder. x-rays showed three fractures to the left side of pearl's face, but the skin was not torn. an indication that pearl was struck with a fist. >> what do you think you're doing? >> getting out of here.
>> prosecutors believe that on august 11th, bill and pearl argued about money and the fight became physical. he struck her three times with enough force that the cast-off blood spatter landed on pearl's suitcase, on the wall, and on the floor. as she lay on the floor, pearl bled to death. bill then packed the body into plastic bags and carried her to the basement. the luminol revealed the path clearly and shows where her body lay as he dug the grave. the cadaver dog was correct about the body in the basement, and the location he identified was only a few feet away from the actual burial spot.
police believe, in an attempt to throw off the investigation, bill bruns took pearl's purse and left it 200 miles away on a hiking trail in new hampshire. bill bruns pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. >> without developments in forensic science, such as luminol, ground penetrating radar, which were used to great effect in this case, i think it is highly likely that bill bruns would have gotten away with murder. >> ironically, during the autopsy on pearl bruns' body, the pathologist found that she had terminal cancer and would have lived only another six months. >> if he had just been patient, my mother would have died of natural causes anyway and he wouldn't be sitting in jail now. i just see it as my mother getting the last laugh on him
because like i said, if he had just been patient, she would have died on her own. in 1989, a 4-year-old girl was rushed to a texas hospital. an artery in her leg was completely severed. the little girl died shortly after arrival. medical investigators believe the leg wound was no accident. emory, texas, is a small farming community about 90 miles east of dallas. with a population of less than 1,000, life is simple here.