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tv   Forensic Files  CNN  June 23, 2014 12:30am-1:01am PDT

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>> science was this case, pure and simple. i mean, there was -- there's really nothing else. that's what sealed it for her. >> you can plan and plan and plan, but you'll never plan for everything. . up next, a young woman is missing and someone has stolen her identity. >> no one saw her leave, no one saw her back at her apartment. >> but who wanted to harm her? >> she had received some harassing phone calls before her disappearance. >> everybody was trying to make a deal with the devil. >> let he who has no sin cast the first stone, let me tell you i would have no problem casting all the stones. >> life was an adventure for 28-year-old denise o 'neil. there was no trip she wouldn't take, virtually nowhere she
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wouldn't travel. >> she always had a game of tennis, scuba diving, going to the museums, she just loved life. she really loved life. >> after graduating from college, denise took a job as a waitress in palm beach, florida, while she looked for a job teaching english. denise was a punctual employee, but after missing two consecutive days of work without calling in her manager grew alarmed. >> denise had been employed at this restaurant for two and a half years and had never missed a day of work at all. >> her employer notified the police department and they began a missing person's investigation. >> police went to denise's apartment. her car was missing. but there were no signs of a break-in. >> her apartment was extremely neat.
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in order. nothing seemed to be in disarray. >> they also checked the phone answering machine which provided a clue. >> there was an early alert from a credit card company saying there was some unusual spending on one of her cards. >> later that afternoon, police found denise's car in a parking lot across the street from her apartment. >> they immediately felt that someone else must have been in the car. because ms. o'neill was a very fastidious person and the car was just the exact opposite. >> a pink jacket belonging to denise was on the back seat and there was a soda bottle. >> there was a cigarette butt on the floor and ms. o'neill didn't smoke. >> we had a small amount of sand on the passenger side. >> in florida, sand is quite common. but not this kind of sand.
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>> it was not beach sand. it was not black mud. it was not course brown sand. it was unique. it was consistent with limestone. >> police dusted the entire car inside and out for fingerprints. >> we found over 20 prints in total. they were all over the car. they were on the inside. they were on the trunk. on the outside of the vehicle. >> on the day that denise went missing her credit card revealed she bought a pair of women's sneakers at 2:30 in the afternoon but failed to show up for work at 5:30. >> so somewhere in between that window something must have happened to her. >> this was one of the best pieces of evidence for the police because it gave them a time frame. >> no one at denise's apartment had seen or heard anything suspicious. but then a chilling call came in to 911. >> what is your emergency? >> apparently there is a body in
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the canal right by our house, the house where i'm at. >> what kind of body? >> a human body. >> the body was very visible to the neighbor. it looked like it had had been wrapped up in some large pink sheet. >> dental records confirmed the victim was denise o'neill. >> the body was bound, her hands and feet were tied up with several implements. shoe strings, a dog leash, a multi-colored dog leash. >> we were numb for like days. you think you're in a dream, going to wake up. but you don't wake up at all. >> the horror, the fear that that poor girl went through prior to her death. the total disregard no human life. >> it puts a lot of pressure on police to come up with the murderer. because you know, people feel like you know this could happen again to any one of us.. ix, we know you can't afford wrong turns on the road to your future.
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the medical examiner determined that the cause of denise o'neill's death was asphyxiation. she had been strangled to death.
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they also found evidence of sexual assault. >> when the victim was analyzed, a male profile showed up. >> investigators were puzzled by the two electrical cords used to tie the sheet around the victim's body. >> these objects i had never even seen before. i was very suspicious as to what they were. i had never seen them before. >> researchers identified them as a heat rock. >> a heat rock is a fake rock heated up by electricity. and people use it to heat up warm-blooded animals like a pet snake. >> investigators also found unusual black hairs on the bed sheep. microscopic analysis showed these were dog hairs. >> the killer is going to own a black dog. my killer is also going to own a reptile, whether it is a snake
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or lizard. the killer will have association with the size 36 belt, because that is what we found around the victim's body. >> the sand found in denise's car was similar to the sand found near her body. proof, denise's car had been used to transport her body. investigators knew that she had been kidnapped somewhere between 2:30 and 5:30 on the day she disappeared. her neighbors say they didn't hear or see anything suspicious. >> strange, i have no clue. >> later that same day someone used denise's atm card to withdraw $700 from her checking account. >> the working assumption at this point for the cops was that whoever used that atm card probably killed denise o'neill.
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>> unfortunately, the surveillance camera at the atm was not functioning properly so it was impossible to tell who made the withdrawal. then, investigators noticed something on the local news cast. this man, one of denise's neighbors, kept turning up in various news stories about her disappearance. >> this behavior raining struck police as odd because he wanted to be in front of the camera. and he wanted to be interviewed. >> in an interview given before denise's body was found he made a surprising reference. >> she was very quiet, you know. i would talk to her, say hi, sometimes, she just wouldn't say nothing. she always kept to herself. >> what was most interesting was he referred to denise in the past tense. >> his name was luis caballero. and he was denise's next door
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neighbor and was unemployed. but when police went to interview caballero he wasn't home. >> i happened to knock on door 737 which was right across the hall from her apartment, 738. while knocking on the door i heard a dog bark. >> through a window, investigators saw the dog and its coloring. >> seeing a black chow with my own eyes the hair on the back of our necks stood up. >> detectives asked another neighbor about caballero. >> the guy said the only guy i know is the guy and he points up to the guy that lives up there. you know, the guy with the chow and the boa constrictor. i said wow.
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>> in the search for denise o'neill's killer, investigators' prime suspect lived just a few feet away from denise's her apartment. it was luis caballero. >> when we first walked up to luis caballero, he told us, he really didn't like denise. he described her as being snooty. >> caballero denied being
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involved with her murder and said he had no relationship with her other than saying hello. >> we discovered that caballero was in serious financial trouble. he had a phone bill of $6,000 from phone sex lines that he had had been calling. that he was behind on his rent and that he could be evicted at any time. >> detectives obtained a search warrant for caballero's apartment. >> what struck me immediately was the large amount of pornography in the closet. the type of pornography that was there dealt with a lot of violence, was real, real sick stuff. >> we did not find denise o'neill's fingerprints inside caballero's apartment. >> but they did find other clues. >> i walked into the actual bedroom area and as i started to turn to the left i observed what appeared to be and that it was a
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fish aquarium. >> they found impressions at the bottom of the tank and it looked like they might be where the heat rocks had been. >> a pair of heat rocks and the electrical cords were wrapped around denise's body. police also found a pair of black sneakers in caballero's body. >> didn't have any shoe laces in them. ms. o'neill had been bound with black colored shoe laces. >> there was also a reddish-brown stain on the carpet that might be blood. to be sure investigators turned out the lights and sprayed the stain with luminol. three very distinct blood stains emerged. >> it appeared to be consistent with the outline of the buttocks area of a human being. >> also in caballero's bedroom, investigators found several other important items.
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>> we found a pair of scissors and trapped within the hinge of the scissors appeared to be blue colored fibers. we knew that ms. o'neill had been wearing a blue colored garment that had been cut. >> caballero maintained denise had never been inside his apartment. but under a cardboard box investigators found a gym membership card. >> and when i picked it up and turned it over and it had denise o'neill's name on it, i was ecstatic. >> detectives believe this clue was left at the scene by a desperate denise o'neill. >> my first question was, have you ever detailed denise's vehicle? luis caballero's response was he never has been in her car or never detailed her car. >> but analysts found caballero's prints inside denise's car.
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when faced with his evidence, caballero changed his story. he now claimed he was an unwitting accomplice. he said the real killer was his friend, 19-year-old isaac brown. brown, who had no criminal record also confessed but said the killer was caballero, who was broke and desperate for money. brown said caballero had been planning to rob denise for months. >> there was just loose talk from caballero saying that man, i need to come up. i need to hit somebody. i need some money right now. and only person i could think of that has got some money right now is right there. and he would always point across the hallway. >> everybody and their brother was trying to make a deal with the devil. in other words, every bad guy in this case was wanting to confess and plead out but get the best deal they could. >> brown's prints were found on
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a soda bottle in denise's car. proof he was involved. despite brown and caballero's conflicting versions of what happened their stories were identical on one count. they had breakfast together just hours after dumping denise's body in the canal. >> they went to an i-hop restaurant. >> investigators tracked down the receipt for that meal. >> when it asked for the waitress to enter how many customers were present, it didn't say two customers. it said three customers. >> this explained why the 36 inch belt used to wrap around denise's body didn't fit caballero or brown, and why the shoes without the shoe laces in caballero's apartment also didn't fit either one, as well. >> that led me to believe very strongly that i had a third killer.
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that i had a third individual involved with the murder of denise o'neill. >> but if there were a third perpetrator, luis caballero and isaac brown were not talking. ll so that was our first task, was getting him to wellness. without angie's list, i don't know if we could have found all the services we needed for our riley. from contractors and doctors to dog sitters and landscapers, you can find it all on angie's list. we found riley at the shelter, and found everything he needed at angie's list. join today at everin a day is building up layer, upon layer, of bacteria. and to destroy those layers? you need listerine®. its unique formula penetrates these layers deeper than other mouthwashes, killing bacteria all the way down to the bottom layer. so for a cleaner, healthier mouth,
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>> investigators now had two men in custody for the abduction and murder of denise o'neill. luis caballero and isaac brown. not surprisingly each man identified the other as the killer. complicating things further, investigators discovered that a third man was with caballero and brown on the morning they disposed of the body. >> it is absolutely shocking. the defense now can say the real culprit is out there. the real culprit is the person who you haven't charged. >> but who was this third man? when police did a background check on luis caballero they learned he had been arrested a month earlier for car theft and he had an accomplice. >> he was with an acquaintance of his. >> 23-year-old robert messer's
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fingerprints were on file. >> lo and behold, some of mr. messer's fingerprints were on denise's car. >> when police arrested messer, he too denied any involvement in the murder. >> he said i didn't kill her, i'll tell you what happened. i was there. >> messer said he did nothing. but that caballero and brown were both involved. messer said he was in caballero's living room when caballero and brown raped and murdered denise o'neill in the bedroom. >> i sat there with my fingers in my ears. the tv was up loud. i could barely hear the tv but i heard her screaming. i heard her screams. >> all three men were charged with first degree murder. but when dna results came back only one of the three, luis
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caballero, was tied to the sexual assault. based on the forensic evidence and witness interrogations, investigators believe that caballero planned the attack on an afternoon when denise was doing her laundry. when no one was around. he grabbed her and forced her into his apartment. and with isaac brown's help gagged and tied her up. he took her atm card and forced her to divulge her pin number. caballero then left to get some money and on the way back picked up robert messer. isaac brown stayed behind.
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at some point, denise was able to remove her gym membership card and hide it underneath a cardboard box, leaving proof that she had been in caballero's apartment. when caballero returned with messer he sexually assaulted her. then used electrical cords from the heat rocks to strangle her to death. the trio wrapped denise's body in the sheet using the belt, shoe laces and the electrical cords. they used denise's car to drive to the canal where they dumped her body. they tracked sand into the car and left their fingerprints behind. later, the three went to breakfast. >> they should have been burned
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alive. all three of them. and i make no bones about it. they say let he who has no sin cast the first stone, let me tell you i have no problem >> robert messer was convicted and sentenced to 15 years, isaac brown was convicted of five counts, including second degree murder. luis caballero was convicted of kidnapping and murder and he now sits on death row. >> i thank god for forensic science. and thank god for the men and women who donate their time to study it. to bring to justice these monsters. i am very grateful for forensic science. >> denise o'neill is one of a few victims that i have encountered through my tenure with this agency that have affected me. i still think about denise. i still think about her family.
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up next, an exotic dancer vanishes. >> it was driving me crazy that she didn't come home. >> was a jealous boyfriend involved? >> he was kind of vague. >> or was she simply a runaway? >> she could have met someone who had money, someone who would improve her life. but a police cadaver dog and a burned key point to a violent confrontation. >> i watch "forensic files" and "csi," and i feel like there's no hope, there's no hope. ♪ >> instead of finishing high school shamia smith dropped out and worked at a gentleman's club


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