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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  January 14, 2018 11:00pm-1:00am PST

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it was like a scene out of a movie. there was tape. there were cops with dogs, and they were searching all around the crime scene. i just ran toward the cops and started yelling, "shelley, shelley." >> reporter: a young art school student, drawn into danger. >> she said, "your daughter's been found in blood." and then the phone went dead. >> this was brutal and this was savage. >> reporter: the killer, careful and clever. >> you had no fingerprints. you had no dna. >> reporter: with few clues to go on, detectives would focus on a small group of shelley's fellow students. >> he had daggers. knives. swords. who collects that kind of stuff?
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>> reporter: there was the guy always hoping to get her attention. >> trying to corner her in the hallways at school. texting her on the phone. she said, "he's really weirding me out." spelled just like the country. but they pronounce it "it-ly." >> she drew a butterfly in her art class when she was in elementary school. and all the little girls are like, "oh, that's so good. draw me one. draw me one." >> reporter: her name was samantha michelle nance, but
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everybody called her shelley. and her mother, cynthia, loves to tell this story about her. >> everybody was just so impressed with her butterfly that she said, "well, i think i'm gonna be an artist 'cause i think i can do this." you know? so she just started honing her -- her artistic talent from that point. she would draw everything, anything, everything. she just loved to draw. and she'd draw and draw and draw. >> reporter: shelley was different than the other girls at school. and at home, said her dad, sam. >> the other two girls we couldn't keep in the house. she didn't wanna go out of the house. she was perfectly happy to be at home on the weekends, staying a long time by herself. >> reporter: which, as you can imagine, did not make her very popular in the intensely social world of growing up. but it didn't seem to matter much to shelley. >> what was it she said in the yearbook? >> they had 'em write a little epilogue for the seniors, all the seniors.
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and she wrote, "you laugh at me because i'm different. i laugh at you because you're all the same." >> reporter: she wasn't like you two. >> no. >> she's the total opposite. >> reporter: these are her sisters, shauna nance and rachel david. >> i was the wild child. >> got into trouble. >> reporter: shelley, however, did not raise hell. not ever. >> she's very artistic, smart, non-athletic. did not like athletics. that was more me and her department. >> reporter: yeah. >> just very shy. >> she was the one that would sit in her room, read a book, play video games. >> never had to worry about her. she wasn't into, like, tattoos and piercing and alcohol and sex, for sure. she avoided the majority of everything that could've got her into trouble, and i was so happy because of that. >> reporter: and then when shelley was a senior in the italy high school, her teacher suggested she enter an art contest sponsored by the art institute of dallas.
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>> and she's like, "well, you know, i'm not that good." and the art teacher said, "no, i think you are, shelley." and she won. >> that same piece of art they took and put in the national competition. and it won her fourth place there. so she got a total of $13,000 to a scholarship toward the art institute of -- >> reporter: that's quite remarkable. so she -- this is an -- a major talent. >> and she was so excited about getting to go. >> reporter: the art institute of dallas is an urban school. everything about it and around it as different as can be from little italy, 45 miles and a whole world away. but here, finally, was a world in which shelley felt like she belonged. >> just being around people that had her same objectives and her -- their same mindsets. and a lot of the boys which have never really paid much attention to her in high school noticed her in college because she knew
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her stuff. so they were quite impressed that she was so knowledgeable in her field already. like, caught a lot of their eyes. >> reporter: well, maybe they were each other's kind of people. right? >> yeah, yeah. >> reporter: they worried about her, of course. this was the first time shelley had ever been away from home. >> this is what she wanted to do. and she wasn't homesick. and i said okay. >> reporter: it was only an hour's drive away if she needed them. her first year was just fine. and so, in september 2009, when shelley was into year two, with a circle of friends, even a boyfriend, her parents felt free to set off on their first real adventure alone, far from home, just the two of them. a road trip to yellowstone national park, more than 1,400 miles up the interstate from italy. >> cynthia was texting that on her phone, you know, "we're leaving texas now."
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and she sent it to each one of the girls. rachel and shauna responded almost immediately. and no -- no word from shelley. and we thought, "well, she's probably still asleep, you know, 'cause she didn't have class today." so that wasn't really unusual at the time. it wasn't till later in the evening that we thought something might be wrong 'cause we hadn't heard from her, and that wasn't like her at all. >> reporter: what's that like? >> it's torture. >> she had a premonition that something was wrong. but i -- what would happen to shelley? she never goes anywhere. she stays in her room. she only goes out when she has to. >> reporter: yeah. >> so the next morning, when she still hadn't called, that's when we both got worried. >> reporter: the first thing the next morning, cynthia called the art institute. >> to find out if shelley was in class. and actually and they, well, they wouldn't go check on her. they said they can't leave the office alone and go check on a
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class. they'll have her call us -- >> when she gets a break. >> as soon as she has a break, they'll have -- >> and -- >> -- her call us. >> reporter: then they phoned shelley's sister shauna. >> i told her really, i was like, "stop worrying about it. she's 20 years old. she doesn't want to talk to her mom." you know. i really didn't think anything bad would ever happen to her, so i just kind of brushed it off. >> reporter: so they kept driving. by now they were almost a thousand miles from dallas. that's when the school called back. >> when they finally sent somebody to the classroom, and she wasn't there. well, i was ready to turn around right there 'cause i knew something was wrong. >> reporter: then relief. someone from the school ran into shelley's roommate, ashley olvera. >> she said, "i just saw her last night at the room. she was fine." >> reporter: but relief didn't last.
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>> no, she was not. >> reporter: the school called shelley's parents yet again. >> we're on the highway and about 200 miles from our destination in the mountains. and phone reception was really bad. >> reporter: so, through the static, she couldn't tell. was she hearing or imagining the words? >> and she said, "your daughter's been found in blood." and then the phone went dead and i'd lost reception at that point. >> reporter: daughter's been found in blood. >> yeah. >> yeah, i was asking him, "what does that mean?" >> but i knew what it meant. i just didn't wanna accept it.
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the only thing that made sense was a sexual assault. that's all i could think of because she didn't have any money. she didn't have any enemies. >> no. >> that we knew of. >> reporter: what was it like driving through the mountains so far away and you get that call? >> panic. i wanted him to stop the truck. we were in the middle of the freeway. there was no place to cross. i wanted him to cut across the median and go back. we needed to get back. not that we could do anything, but we should've been there. we should've been there. >> it kind of feels like your guts were kicked out from the inside. that's about the best description i can -- it -- it hurts your whole soul. >> reporter: as they raced back toward texas, cynthia's cell service finally cleared. she called the police and got the confirmation. shelley was dead. so, again, she phoned shauna. >> i had to tell her her little
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sister was dead on the phone. i needed somebody to be there, be my -- be me in my place. to be, you know, there if the police needed to ask questions and stuff. somebody needed to be there. so i called her. and of course, i hated to devastate her that way over the phone, but she had to know. >> and i just hit the floor. i couldn't stand up, couldn't do anything, couldn't talk, just shocked. >> reporter: did you have any idea what happened? >> none. i got to the scene first 'cause i lived closest to her. it was like a scene out of a movie. there was tape that had everything taped off. there were cops with dogs and they were searching the garbage cans. they had cops on golf carts and they were just searching all around the crime scene.
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i just ran towards the cops and started yelling, "shelley, shelley." >> reporter: they wouldn't let her in, of course. but they had questions. >> well, they just wanted to know, like, if i knew her boyfriend and if i knew her roommate and who could have done something like this to her. >> reporter: meanwhile, you're flying down the highway as fast as you can go. >> yeah. >> we were trying to get back. we were still trying to put it together in our minds what happened. who took our little girl from us? and at that time, you're so torn up that that's you don't know what to do. what happened to this talented, modest, innocent young woman would be all too obvious very soon. but as for who did it, and why -- >> for the case to have the twist and turns that this one did was something that i wouldn't have dreamed in 100 years. and i'm seasoned. i've seen a lot of things. >> reporter: no kidding. >> but not like this.
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she just never got into any trouble at all. so that's what makes this so much harder 'cause nothing like this should've ever happened to
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her, you know. >> reporter: especially to her. >> especially to her. >> reporter: what was done to shelley nance, just 20 years old, was viciously ugly. that it was murder was all too obvious. the girl had been attacked as she lay -- probably asleep -- in bed. her killer stabbed her again and again and again. >> over 40 times. in the back. she was stabbed in her back. she was stabbed in her neck behind her head. i mean this was brutal and this was savage. >> reporter: overkill, said detective paul ellzey. as will be clearly apparent, detective ellzey has deep roots in old-fashioned police work. starting as a kid, then 36 years with the dallas p.d. dad was a cop. wife and sisters, too, worked in law enforcement. that's over now; he's retired from the force. but he cannot get over the sight that greeted him in shelley nance's bedroom. >> this was tragic, this was
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horrific. >> reporter: that sight sticks with you. >> yes. very much so. >> reporter: murder, as detective ellzey knew from long experience, takes something from the investigators, too. makes them hard sometimes. but when he learned about the victim, about her decent family, her quiet modest life, her innocence, the murder of shelley nance hit him personally. >> i mean that was doin' nothin' wrong. she was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. she was not associatin' with somebody that she shouldn't -- been associated with. the stars lined up just right that somebody, an animal, decided to take her life. >> reporter: sounds like it got to you, this one? >> well, you know, i've got two daughters. and yeah, it's -- it's hard. >> reporter: shelley died here, in "the falls", a large housing complex where the art institute arranged for some of its
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students to live. seemed like a perfectly reasonable place, looked quite safe, when we stopped to take some pictures one sunny afternoon. but -- >> i wouldn't let my daughter live there. >> reporter: really? >> absolutely not. >> reporter: dallas, like any big american city, suffers from its share of crime. and the falls? >> you go there during the daytime, it looks very nice. but at nighttime, totally different story. >> reporter: innocent 20-year-old girl out on the street in that neighborhood at night, you'd worry about her? >> no way would i let my daughter walk that neighborhood at night, no way. >> reporter: the nances didn't know any better. little italy, after all, presents few of the issues a person can encounter in the middle of a place like dallas. anyway, on that september day when detective ellzey arrived at the falls, he had no idea what sort of scene would confront him in there. all he knew was that a female had been murdered.
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directions and i have to make some assessments. when i walk in that door and i make a left hand turn and i see that girl there, then i can eliminate things relatively quickly. she still had her panties on, which generally-- >> reporter: means no sexual assault. >> exactly right. it -- it relieves the sexual assault part of it. she has a t-shirt on. so i'm not thinkin' that -- that it's a rape. i'm not thinkin' that. and when i see the stab wounds in the back then i start thinkin' personal. this is probably gonna be somebody -- that she knew. i checked the windows. i checked the door. you wanna look for forced entry. i didn't see evidence of that. >> reporter: so somebody she knew. and from the looks of it -- the wild, repeated, ferocious stabbing -- somebody consumed by an uncontrollable rage. but aside from all the blood, they found no useful fingerprints, and, eventually, no dna to help them either.
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whoever did this had managed to erase any sign of who he or she was. except there was one tiny bit of -- well, was it evidence, what was it? they found it under shelley's left wrist. >> a little bitty tiny sliver of plastic. about this long. and probably a quarter of an inch in width. >> reporter: hmm. any idea what it was when you found it? >> it wasn't confirmed until -- after the completion of the autopsy of what the material actually was. was latex, a latex material. >> reporter: a -- a kind of material that -- that a pathologist would be rather familiar with doing his autopsies. it appeared to be a fragment of a disposable glove. of course they tested it to be sure it did not come from the medical examiner or any of the officers at the crime scene. and it did not. must have been left by the
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otherwise careful killer. but who would want to hurt her? and so horribly? the first person detective ellzey talked to was shelley's roommate, ashley olvera, who'd found shelley dead in her own bed. that's how ashley became possible suspect number one. >> she wasn't sexually assaulted, shelley. that was my initial opinion. it was later confirmed. >> reporter: yeah. >> why couldn't a woman do this? >> reporter: sure. >> it's her roommate. there's a lot of things happen between roommates that we don't know about. so it very well could have been. >> reporter: sure. what happened, if anything, between these roommates was something detective ellzey was determined to find out. even if he had to get rough. coming up. right away, he would become convinced that something just wasn't right between the two girls. >> what else can you say? it's weird. it's not -- natural. it's not normal.
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>> reporter: when "dateline" continues.
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i kept thinking i was asleep, it was a really bad dream. and this wasn't really happening. i couldn't imagine anything like that ever happening. >> definitely a shock. >> reporter: the first stage was denial. that shelley nance, their innocent wisp of a sister, had been murdered, was almost beyond
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comprehending. but maybe worse --quite possibly they weren't going to know who did it. the first and most obvious mystery --jumped right out at the experienced eyes that cased her bloody bedroom. shelley had been dead a while. >> we could tell by lookin' at her that she had not been there longer than 24 hours. >> reporter: but --this was curious --her roommate was in the apartment for much of that 24 hour period, and claimed she saw and heard nothing amiss. like shelley, roommate ashley olvera was also 20 years old and from a tiny town -- taft, texas -- not far from corpus christi, on the other side of the state. her interest at the art institute was --animation. she was shy like shelley but more willing to be social. they took her in for questioning. >> reporter: what sort of state was she in? >> you know, she was upset. she was cryin'.
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but -- it was -- it -- it -- it wasn't anything -- i don't know. i don't think that i would have had the same reaction had my roommate met that kind of death. >> reporter: it was a little less of a reaction than you might expect -- >> i -- more -- more of like -- maybe her puppy got run over than her roommate got killed. >> reporter: detective ellzey, highly tuned to the subtle reactions of his interviewees, was still seeing in his head the image of that intensely personal murder scene. could ashley have been so full of rage? >> reporter: one of the things that can make a roommate situation between two girls deadly is if there's a romantic attachment. >> absolutely -- >> reporter: did you -- did you go down that path with her? >> you know, i went down two directions. i went down the -- the -- part that maybe they were seein' the same guy. i also -- because you have to, have to explore the fact that maybe they were romantically involved, shelley and -- ashley, because the degree of injury that that poor girl suffered, as i stated, it's
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personal, which is a lot of vent up rage. >> reporter: somethin' like a lover would do. a spurned lover-- >> absolutely. yes, sir. that's correct. >> reporter: and she could well have been that spurned lover? >> oh yes. yes. she sure could have. without a doubt. >> reporter: ashley told the detective she discovered the murder after the school sent her home to check on shelley. said she knocked on shelley's closed bedroom door, got no response --and then entered the room. >> i saw her feet and she wasn't moving. so i turned on the light, and said "hey, shelley, are you okay? she wasn't moving?" so i went in and i shook her in her bed -- >> was she covered up? >> originally the blanket was on her -- >> and you shake her -- with her blanket on her. >> yes, sir. >> and you shake her and she don't wake up. you pull the cover off of her and you shake her again? >> i saw the blood and --and i touched her arm and she was cold. and -- [ crying ] >> as soon as you seen that, what happened?
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>> i yelled her name -- i don't know how many times. >> reporter: ashley told the detective it was all just an innocent mistake when she told the art institute she'd seen shelley alive and well the night before --when in fact shelley was dead by then. which didn't make sense to detective ellzey. anymore than did the next thing ashley said: that it was not unusual for several days to go by without seeing shelley at all. >> she said that shelley was a very private person. that she just would put her headphones on, go into her own world, close her bedroom door and start drawing. >> reporter: and close the door from the bathroom? is that what -- is that what -- >> she had two doors. shelley did. one that would allow entry into the living room to her bedroom. and then one from her bedroom to the bathroom. >> reporter: into the bathroom. >> correct. >> reporter: and ashley claimed that door was closed. >> yes. >> reporter: you wouldn't buy that? >> no. >> reporter: your first reaction when she said that she hadn't checked on her, hadn't seen her. she lived a bathroom away from
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this girl. >> what else can you say? it's weird. it's not -- natural. it's not normal. you know, if i'm -- if i have a roommate in such a small apartment, if i don't see 'em i'm definitely gonna hear 'em. i'm certainly gonna communicate to 'em. and with two girls you would think that bathroom would be tied up all the time. >> reporter: did you suggest that the possibility existed that these two girls didn't like each other and sometimes girls can be pretty -- >> you know -- she -- ashley told me that -- they didn't have arguments but they had disagreements. and i asked her what she meant by disagreement and she said, "well, just girl stuff. you know? not fights. not -- you know, we -- we didn't hate each other. it's just like we kind of lived two different worlds." strange. >> reporter: hard to know whether to buy that or not. >> exactly. many -- many twists and turns. >> reporter: something else: something potentially huge. police found spots of blood in the bathroom the girls
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shared --a bathroom ashley used after shelley was murdered. so, did she just not see the blood? or did she leave it there herself? as you'll hear, detective ellzey used an old-fashioned strategy. he exaggerated the evidence --in the way of saying he didn't exactly tell the truth, in an effort to get ashley to cough up the truth herself. >> you got to dig in people sometimes to really see where they're coming from -- >> reporter: sometimes you can throw them off stride and it puts them off their story. >> absolutely. >> i don't see how you can miss that big blood right here on the sink right here on the sink. i don't see how you can miss that. i don't see how you can miss the big deal of blood right here on the bathtub. i don't see how you can miss it all on the trash can. how do you do that? >> i didn't see the trash can. but i remember seeing the little splotch of blood on the sink. >> when did you see that? >> when i was leaving for school. >> when? what day? >> today. >> and you still didn't, didn't even think to knock on the door -- >> no, sir.
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>> to say, hey, shelley, you cut yourself? you hurt? injured? you need something? that's weird, man. >> i know it is. i'm telling you everything i know. [ crying ] i mean, shelley was my roommate. she was my friend. she is my friend. we went to school together, sir -- there is no reason why i would harm her. >> i really believe that something terrible happened between you and shelley that you're not telling me. >> reporter: thing is, there was no forced entry. whoever killed shelley had a key. >> you know, when i talked to ashley i wasn't the nicest guy in the world. you know, i -- i dug into her pretty hard, especially when i -- i found out there's no forced entry. ashley had a key. >> i need to know what happened. i --i --i have to have an explanation as to what happened. you're the only one who can tell me. >> i know and i'm telling you the truth! >> ashley, i don't believe you, honey. >> i know. >> i don't believe you.
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>> i know! >> i don't believe you. you cut her. you stabbed her, didn't you? >> no, i did not. >> yeah, you did. i just need to know why you did it. >> i did not kill her. >> yeah, you did, i can prove you did it. something made you snap. >> i didn't hurt her. i'm looking you straight in the eye, sir. >> nobody else could have did it, nobody else could have did it. nobody! this looks terrible for you. >> i know it does. >> this looks terrible, terrible, terrible for you. >> reporter: no, detective ellzey did not go easy on shelley's roommate. but there was a murder to solve. and the first day of an investigation is crucial. time to bring in the boyfriend. >> coming up -- shelley had been stabbed to death --and guess what they're about to find at her boyfriend's place? >> what a collection he had. he had throwin' stars. he had daggers. he had knives. he had swords. who collects that kind of stuff?
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reporter: to say that murder victim shelley nance had a boyfriend was perhaps an overstatement -- at least as the term is generally used in the 21st century. his name was nathan shuck. he was a classmate at the art institute -- 20 years old, like shelley, and from a dallas suburb, where he grew up with his mom and grandmother. like shelley, he seemed
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reserved, at least to most people. but in class and with close friends, he was energetic. shelley and nathan had been going out -- if you could call it that -- for a couple of months. >> i didn't even find out till the summer, i think it was like july of 2009, that she had a boyfriend. she said, "by the way, mom, i've got a boyfriend." i'm like, "you do?" she said, "yeah, and -- and dad probably wouldn't like him too much, 'cause he's got, like, a lip piercing and some tattoos." >> reporter: but, she told her mom, they hadn't even kissed yet. >> she, as far as i know, had only hold his -- held his hand, like, once. she's just naive that way. i sheltered her. >> reporter: sister shauna was the only one in the family who'd met nathan. >> she introduced me as -- to him as her friend, not her boyfriend. >> what was he like? >> he was just a nice, goofy kid. i mean, they were joking and making jokes and laughing and having a good time. and you could tell she liked
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him. she would blush and kinda giggle, and -- >> you hadn't seen that from her before? >> uh-uh, not like that. >> reporter: it was a fellow art student, chris phillips, who saw them as a couple. >> she was exactly in the same vein as nathan, you know. they were both artists. they both loved to draw. they both, kind of, kept to themselves and, you know, they were pretty quiet. >> reporter: and then one terrible day chris heard that a female art student had been killed somehow over at the falls apartment complex. so, said chris, he and nathan and a few others piled into his car, and headed over there to see if they could find out what happened. on the way, chris's cell phone rang. it was a friend named jeremi. who told them it was shelley, who was dead. >> i hear those words and i look at nathan and it's -- you know, it's one of those defining moments in your life where it's, like, what -- what happens now?
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>> did you hand him the phone or did you tell him yourself? >> no, i told -- i told jeremi that he needs to tell him, you know, so i handed him my phone. and you know his -- [ sigh ] you kind of see this sudden shift of emotion going from worry to absolute just -- i don't think i'll ever forget the way he looked at me as he was listening to jeremi talk to him, you know. his eyes were so -- so just broken. >> reporter: in some kind of denial, at least according to chris, they knocked at shelley's apartment door. no answer. so they hurried to jeremi's place, also at the falls, to see if he knew anything more. >> and the police showed up. and they grabbed him by the arm and yanked him out the door and they started talking to him. >> not gently? >> no, no. they were talking to him and then they got in the car and went.
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and i didn't see him for the rest of the day. >> reporter: in a murder so up close and personal -- so vicious -- boyfriend nathan naturally became a person of interest immediately. when officers brought him to dallas police headquarters, detective ellzey was more than ready to ask nathan some very personal and specific questions about his relationship with shelley. >> are you a virgin? >> yeah. >> is shelley a virgin to your knowledge? y'all ever discuss sexual intercourse? never? she's been in your bedroom before with the light off. what do ya'll do? >> we were sitting there playing video games. >> you never tried anything sexual with her? [ shakes head ] >> she never tried anything sexual with you? did you kiss her? >> no, never. >> you never kissed her? she's been your girlfriend two months and you never kissed her? [ shakes head ] cop: why? it's weird.
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>> it was my first girlfriend. >> reporter: detective ellzey had never heard of a college romantic relationship like that. question was, could he believe it? >> how many 19 and 20 year old people proclaim to have a girlfriend or boyfriend who have not kissed them? >> reporter: nathan also said he hadn't seen or spoken with shelley since several days before the murder. in fact, he said, he spent much of the week back home with his mom and grandmother. was he telling the truth? standard procedure -- detective ellzey checked out nathan's body for scratches. >> all right, turn around -- okay turn back around again. how did you get those scrapes? right here, them scratches? >> oh, i actually, i scratch myself. >> reporter: again, could he believe that? >> we asked him, "can we go to your apartment?" you know? "describe your apartment. do you have knives? do you have swords? do you have this?"
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and he answered kind -- some -- some weird stuff. >> funny thing is, he did. >> he did. and what a collection he had. he had throwing stars. he had daggers. he had knives. he had swords. who collects that kind of stuff? >> reporter: then detective ellzey learned something very interesting from shelley's mom -- something shelley had told her mom not long before she was killed. >> she said, "mom, i'm thinking about breaking up with nathan. she said, "i just don't have the feelings for him that i think i should. you know, i just don't, you know, don't see the relationship going anywhere." >> reporter: had a furious young man struck back at the woman who rejected him? a not uncommon motive for murder, as the detective knew very well. he confronted nathan. >> shelley told her mom that she told you that ya'll were through. >> no. >> ah, yeah. >> no, she didn't. >> her mama told me that. son, i talked to her mama.
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don't call me a damn liar! i just talked to her mom -- her mama, shelley told her mama that ya'll had had nothing in common. and that it was over. that it was through. [ shakes head ] >> she never said that. >> boy, you sound like mad. you're a damn psychopath. are you like coo-coo-coo and la la land? does [ expletive ] not register to you? >> nothing makes sense. i'm just -- i'm just waiting to wake up. >> that's right -- you're waiting to wake up. >> now what did you do with the knife? >> i wasn't there. >> nathan, you -- >> i didn't do anything with a knife. >> yeah, you did. >> reporter: detective ellzey made no apology for the aggressive tone of his interrogation. there was more to learn about this closed off young man, for whom questions about knives would have an extra special meaning. >> reporter: coming up --
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the murder of shelley nance set off a wave of deep anxiety around the apartment complex called "the falls." this is where some of the art students lived, and now where one of them was murdered. was the killer out there somewhere? or worse -- even among them? if this could happen to a sweet, quiet homebody like shelley, surely none of them was safe. >> i think a lot of people, immediately after hearing about this, kinda went into this panic mode. and it's like, "okay, if it was her, is it gonna be me next?" in fact, in short order, the art institute of dallas moved its students out of the falls --
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and into a more secure apartment complex in a safer part of town. but -- with the investigation just days old, they didn't know what police were thinking. that this was no random crime -- that it was personal, an "inside job," so to speak. they were looking at people close to shelley. someone who had a key. like a boyfriend -- or a roommate. someone who knew she'd be asleep, and then surprised her, attacked her with a knife. she was small in stature. she was a little girl. it wouldn't take much. >> but who? as tough as detective ellzey was with roommate ashley and boyfriend nathan, he was not much farther along than when he started. and so he spent some time with a few of nathan's friends, like his roommate, daniel willyam. >> reporter: you were a little older than the other kids? >> i was -- >> reporter: i mean, they were all kind of 18, 19 and you were -- >> yes, i was 26 years old. >> hadn't always been easy for daniel. he, too, was a little different.
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for one thing, he'd been born in indonesia and struggled with some rude culture shocks when his family moved to america. still, he put on a brave face, served in the navy, and then signed up to study interactive media at the art institute. if anybody knew what nathan was up to, it would be daniel -- whose role in the student apartment was, well, almost like den mother. >> i became a big brother to him, you know? it was like, "do your homework," take him to school, pick him up from school and things like that. >> reporter: well, yes. i mean, you were. you were helping him with his homework, you were making his lunches, you were, you know, cleaning up after him. you were driving him to school. he was afraid? >> yes. i was like -- >> reporter: little nervous? >> -- a father to him, yes. >> reporter: or -- or the way -- >> but he -- >> reporter: but the way it was described later was more like you were a mother to him. i mean, you were -- >> well, yes, that was his own -- his own words. >> daniel worried about nathan, he said. saw early red flags in nathan's behavior toward this first girlfriend of his.
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nathan, he said, seemed obsessed with shelley. maybe dangerously. >> i started to notice that nathan had missed his classes. and finally, i talk to shelley's roommate, ashley, and what she told me shocked me because from her own words, nathan was actually stalking shelley everywhere she goes. and after shelley was murdered, he said, he saw scratches on nathan's body. which, in fact, the police had noticed, too. and then daniel added something very interesting -- he picked up nathan from school on thursday night, that's the day of the killing. it was more than 12 hours before shelley's body was discovered, he said, and nathan behaved like someone who felt -- what, guilty? >> he had like a bad mood or something. >> for what? did he tell you? >> no. right before i went to sleep, i
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heard him crying in his room. >> what was he crying for? do you know? did you approach him about that? >> i knocked on his door, he -- i asked him if, like, "are you okay?" and he said, "yeah, why?" "'cause i heard you crying." and he was like, "no." but his face was red because like, you know when people cry and their faces are red -- >> he didn't tell you why he was crying? >> i didn't know if he was or not -- because he said he is not crying -- >> in any case he was upset - you lived with this guy for so long and you'd know obviously if something was bothering him. >> which is what their friend, chris phillips, thought, too. daniel knew nathan well. in fact, said chris, daniel kept a helpful eye out for a lot people at the school. >> he was very bright, friendly -- eager to help anyone out. he -- you know, he was -- he was that kinda -- he was that guy that a lot of people knew. and he would walk into, say, the student lounge, and other -- everybody would be like, "hey, it's daniel," you know. >> reporter: hmm, nice guy?
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>> yeah, very nice guy. >> a nice guy who was telling detective ellzey he was troubled about nathan. and then, when the detective dug a little deeper among other people who knew nathan, he began to hear a different take on the kid who was supposedly too shy to kiss his girlfriend. >> some people would describe him as a little bitty, scrawny kid, kind of introverted who just lived and breathed his artwork. other people would say, "the guy had a temper." >> ashley said she'd heard the same thing. >> one of my friends would say just like you know, "i would never want to see nathan angry." and i asked him, "why?" and he said, "ever see him play a video game? because he just kind of pops if he doesn't get something." >> then the police searched nathan's bedroom -- and found his collection of knives -- which was not the only thing nathan liked to collect. he also kept a very unusual costume -- which anybody who searched social media could readily see.
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>> just google his name at the time and his myspace page came up and he's dressed as a ninja. and he clearly has an obsession with ninjas. >> reporter: and knives. >> and knives, yeah. >> former reporter scott goldstein covered the case for the dallas morning news. >> as the investigation went on, there were some other pieces of key evidence that pointed to him even more so. perhaps the most startling was a remarkable piece of evidence that police discovered in daniel and nathan's apartment. >> i'm paying attention to what was found in the bathroom. >> reporter: in your bathroom? >> no, not my bathroom, nathan's bathroom. >> a plastic baggie. with blood on it. in nathan's bathroom. >> that changes this whole case, and when he's asked about that piece of evidence, he locks up. now he's not that little boy i've been talking to. now he's a man and he understands his situation and he says, "i need a lawyer." >> reporter: just like that? >> absolutely. >> reporter: and clammed right up?
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>> locked up tight. he sure did. >> also, remember, whoever killed shelley must have had a key to her apartment. there was no sign whatever of forced entry. nathan may well have had a key. and shelley told her mother she was thinking of breaking up with nathan. did she tell him? did he use one of his many knives to get even? is that why the bloody baggie was in his bathroom? >> the kid, being a boyfriend's, got a motive. he could very well did it. he could have very well had a key. he could have very well slipped in there undetected, been in there from -- you know, she could have invited him in for all we know. did what he did for whatever reason he chose and then left. >> it was not looking good for nathan. not at all. >> coming up -- the focus widens to include another student. someone shelley had once expressed concerns about. >> trying to corner her in the hallways at school. texting her on the phone.
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saying, "we need to talk." she said, "he's really weirding me out."
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reporter: they took shelley nance's body back to italy, texas, not quite a week after the murder. held her funeral at the family's church. and it seemed like the whole town was there, along with many of shelley's fellow students from the art institute of dallas. >> it's the most horrible thing we've ever been through. the day after the funeral -- i was ready to kill somebody. >> reporter: the institute held a memorial, too. and it was there shelley's parents met nathan for the first time. >> he come up and wanted to shake my hand and i couldn't do it. i didn't wanna look at him, i didn't wanna touch him because if he had somethin' to do with killin' my shelley i didn't wanna pretend that it was okay.
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>> reporter: shelley nance was just 20 when she was attacked and killed in her off-campus apartment here in dallas. tiny, quiet, sweet, and defenseless. the last person anyone would want dead, everyone said that. but clearly someone did. the police already had ashley on their list of suspects. >> i've interviewed her. i'm satisfied that i can set her to the side for the time being. she's not going anywhere. >> reporter: and she's not eliminated yet. >> absolutely not, no, no, no. >> reporter: but for the moment, detectives were concentrating a lot of attention on nathan. but carefully. they weren't done. not yet. gotta take it slow. >> reporter: we try to look at it from a distance. you can't let your personal emotions get involved. you can't allow tunnel vision to take over. your job is to investigate. look at the evidence and then go where the evidence leads ya. >> reporter: detectives were still canvassing fellow students, and teachers, school
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administrators. anybody who could help them nail down nathan's movements on thursday morning, the time of the murder. and again, if anybody knew, it would be daniel. who, after all, watched over nathan, drove him around, looked after him. but it turned out nathan was at home in suburban dallas the night before the murder. his mother drove him to school that thursday morning. he said he was doing homework in a computer lab at the time of the murder. but was he? >> and he was in school from what time to what time? >> i don't know. >> what time did you pick him up thursday? >> i picked him up around 10. >> reporter: detective ellzey also asked daniel what he was doing on thursday morning. routine questioning. >> starbucks. that's when i texted ashley to see if she wanted to go get lunch. from there i went to white rock
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lake because i was supposed to take a picture but i forgot to bring my camera for the assignment. and from there i went to my friend's place. >> and you forgot your camera so you went to whose house? >> jessica howard. >> what time did you get there? >> around 12:30ish, but she wasn't home. >> reporter: perfectly reasonable. no apparent reason not to believe him. but did daniel know something more than he was saying?. detectives talked to chris phillips, too. chris was daniel's roommate before nathan moved in and it was great at first, said chris. but daniel ended up doing more of the house chores. and resentments began to fester about things like trash not taken out and so on. daniel turned out to be something of a neat freak and well, needy, maybe?
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>> i -- i'm a college guy, so i wanted to -- interact with women and bring them to our apartment and stuff. and he, he wasn't very excited about that. he was -- he -- he didn't really want me to bring people to the apartment that he didn't know. and -- >> reporter: people or women? >> well, it was -- it was -- i guess it was -- it was both. >> reporter: did you understand what th -- what this was all about? >> you know, at -- at first, i didn't. but over time -- let's see. what's -- what's a good word for it? kind of needy, you know, of -- towards me. like, he needed me to h -- hang out with him more than anybody else. >> reporter: he wanted to be central in your existence. >> right, yeah. >> reporter: did you understand when you were first hanging out with him and -- and deciding to move in there that he was gay? >> no, i -- i -- i didn't know. but as time went on, he eventually came out to me. i had essentially just started to figure he was anyways.
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and, you know, it's -- i was absolutely cool with it. i had no problem. >> reporter: but did he, like, make a request? did he wanna have a romantic relationship with you? >> no, he never -- he never made any request like that towards me. >> reporter: shelley's mother cynthia had heard a thing or two about daniel as well. from shelley, who told her some stories about what happened when she started dating nathan. >> trying to corner her in the hallways at school. texting her on the phone. trying to call her and saying, "we need to talk." she's like, "what does he need to talk to me about?" she said, "he's really weirding me out." >> reporter: and she kept refusing to talk to him. >> she's not a confrontational type person. she didn't want to know what it was he wanted. she said she ended up -- askin' nathan. and come to find out he was just insulted that they weren't inviting him to go out with them on dates which i thought was rather weird to begin with, too. she said, "why did this--" >> reporter: and she found this out? >> --yeah, she said that's what he told her. said, "well, you're being
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inconsiderate of -- of his feelings." >> reporter: did she have an opinion about this? >> she just thought it was strange that he'd wanna go out on a date with them. she's like, "you know, if we -- over at his apartment and we'd be, like, playin' videogames or something in nathan's bedroom he'd open the door, and stand there in the doorway watching them," you know. she said, "that-- that-- that's just weird." >> reporter: that is pretty weird. >> yeah, she said they just got to the point where they'd go to her apartment instead. >> reporter: strange, but did it have anything to do with shelley's murder? maybe, maybe not. but just maybe there were three murder suspects now. coming up. which of them had a key to shelley's place? the roommate, ashley, did of course. but according to her, one of the others had had access to it at least once. >> you know if he made a copy of it? >> no, but it's a possibility. it's the only time i loaned my keys to somebody.
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reporter: a terrible helplessness, angry and impotent, piled onto the grief that laid low the nance family during that autumn of 2009. >> it's kind of scary that somebody could be out there that's capable of doing these type of things. and, you know, who is it? >> reporter: the answer wouldn't bring her back, of course. nothing was going to be the way it was ever again. but finding out who did it? now that was a need. intense. the dallas police department was zeroing in on the boyfriend, nathan. and so detectives decided to interview daniel a second time. after all, he lived with nathan. maybe daniel could tell them more. and then something odd happened. daniel changed his own story a little.
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remember the story of where he was day of the murder? this time, he added something. >> you're at starbucks. where did you go? >> to white rock lake. >> okay, specifically at white rock lake, where? >> well, i went to walmart first, and then to white rock lake. >> okay. you can't leave that out. so you go straight from starbucks to walmart. how long? what did you do at walmart? >> i got hair dye, soap and gloves to color my hair. >> reporter: wait, walmart? he did not reveal any stop at walmart during his first interview. and then, he amended his story again. just slightly. after the walmart and the trip to white rock lake, he said, he went to visit that friend, jessica. discovered she wasn't home. he said that already. but this time he added one little detail -- where his
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friend lived. >> you get back in your car. where do you go? >> i went to the falls to go to my friend's house, jessica howard. >> reporter: the falls apartment complex. that's where shelley was killed. daniel didn't mention the falls the first time he was interrogated. >> why did you leave that part out? >> because i was mugged over there, sir. >> reporter: mugged? and yet he somehow failed to mention that during his first, long session of questioning? >> coincidentally, while he's at this same complex, he's approached by a black male with a knife who robs him. >> reporter: the robber took $40 in cash and his backpack, said daniel. >> you didn't tell me a damn thing about getting robbed. you know why? because that's bull [ bleep ]. you didn't get robbed. the robbery never happened. that's horse [ bleep ]. >> reporter: clearly, detective ellzey didn't believe him for a
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minute. and in fact, no evidence of the claimed mugging ever turned up. but it was that little crumb of truth inside the suspected lie that caught detective ellzey's attention. daniel's admission that he went to the falls on the morning of the murder. >> what you did, son, is put yourself right there at that complex where that little girl's killed. that's exactly what you did. >> i didn't do anything. >> yeah, you did. you killed that girl. you took a knife and you stabbed her. i want to know why you did it. >> i didn't do anything! >> you killed that girl, man. you killed her. you stabbed her and you killed her. >> i did not do anything. >> yes, you absolutely did. [ crying ] >> i just want to hear the truth. i know that the evidence is going to tell me. >> reporter: he shoved a photo of shelley, dead, covered in blood, in front of daniel.
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>> remember her looking like that? that's your handiwork. that's what she looked like when you finished with her. look at her. don't cover her face. look at her. that's what you did to her. that's what you did to her. that's what her mommy and daddy had to look at. what do you think about that? look at this! look at it! think about the last words she said. think about the last words you heard that say -- that girl say before she took her last breath. you think about it. how can you live with yourself? take your damn hand away from your eyes and look at me and
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tell me how you treat a girl like that. tell me how you do that. >> i didn't do that, sir. >> reporter: however, by then, detectives had heard that daniel was not fond of shelley because he felt she was a bad influence on nathan's studies. which wasn't true, by the way. but that's what daniel claimed. and then his friends suggested what might be the real reason -- daniel disliked shelley because he was jealous. didn't like nathan spending time with a girl. detective ellzey turned up the heat even more. >> how can you despise a human being that bad? she didn't do nothing to you. how did you hate that girl so much? >> i didn't -- >> you hated her enough to kill her? over a dude? >> i didn't -- >> you hated her that much, that she took nathan away from you, that much, that she caused you so much problems in your personal relationship, that the only answer was to kill her.
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that's it? >> reporter: two days after that interview, it was, once again, ashley's turn to talk. and she also revealed something she had not said before. remember, it was quite apparent that whoever killed shelley must have had a key to her apartment. there was no sign of forced entry. well, now ashley told the detectives that a month before the murder, daniel borrowed her car. which would have been neither here nor there, except the key to her apartment was attached to her car keys. >> you know if he made a copy of it? >> no, but now that my -- it's a possibility that he -- it's the only time i remember i ever loaned my keys to somebody. because i always have my keys. >> reporter: daniel may or may not have copied the key. but as much as the detectives wanted to make an arrest, they had to be sure they had the right person or persons. >> a lot times, you got one shot at it. and if you don't do it right,
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that killer could walk for life, and that's the last thing i want to do. >> reporter: coming up, finally detectives believe they've zeroed in on their killer. >> when all those facts comes together, there's no other suspect. before people invite something new into their homes, they want to know who you are and where you come from. we're almond breeze. and we only use california-grown blue diamond almonds in our almondmilk. cared for by our family of almond growers. ♪ maybe that's why so many people feel so good about inviting almond breeze into their homes. blue diamond almond breeze. the best almonds make the best almondmilk. official almondmilk of the u.s. ski & snowboard team. the great emperor trekking a hundred miles inland to their breeding grounds. except for these two fellows. this time next year, we're gonna be sitting on an egg. i think we're getting close! make a u-turn... u-turn? recalculating...
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reporter: a few weeks after the murder of art student shelley nance, the police were
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waiting for the results of a test they hoped would explain everything -- the dna on that bloody baggie found in nathan's bathroom. >> if it comes back to shelley, we've got a golden ticket. we know who committed -- well, we know one of two people or both committed this murder. it's not by coincidence that this girl ends up dead and her blood ends up in their apartment in the bathroom. daniel killed her, nathan killed her or they both killed her. >> reporter: hope for the investigators -- dread for art student chris phillips. >> i lived with both of them and to think that, you know, i was living with someone that would do this. >> reporter: and then finally, the lab results came in. >> dna confirmed that that blood come from shelley. and then -- then you have to sit back, scratch your head and say, "well, i wonder if both these guys did it?" and then if -- if you go with
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that theory, what is the motive? robbery? no. rape? no. i mean, how would you get these two people on the same page to kill this young girl? >> reporter: there was one other possibility -- did daniel frame nathan by planting that bag in his bathroom? after all, he lived in the same apartment. so, detectives went about the painstaking work of verifying every moment in the lives of those two young men on the day of the murder. and -- >> nathan was a hard, hard suspect. but after we do our timelines and we interview people, and we checked his phone, and we checked surveillance videos and witnesses at class, he had an alibi. he was at school when we believe shelley was killed. >> reporter: but daniel? daniel, remember, had given the police a shifting alibi.
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didn't tell them in his first interview that he stopped by a walmart store to buy hair dye. but, as detectives thought about it, that new little nugget raised more questions. >> i mean this is a young kid not old enough to have to cover, you know, whatever they're covering. i mean he -- his hair looked fine to me. i thought it a little odd. >> reporter: did he actually go to walmart at all that morning? they subpoenaed this walmart surveillance video and sure enough, there was daniel. in the walmart when he said he was. but why hair dye? could it be he really wanted the protective gloves that are generally included in a hair dye kit? >> gloves is important because there's evidence at the scene where a glove turned up. >> reporter: not a whole glove, of course, but a tiny piece of material that appeared to have been torn from a rubber glove. so they requested a copy of daniel's walmart receipt.
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and what do you know -- the type of hair dye he bought came with a pair of gloves. oh, which did not match the snippet of blue material found at the crime scene. but daniel, it turned out, bought something else that morning at the walmart. a whole box of disposable gloves in blue nitrile. was that the same material as that tiny glove fragment found under shelley's wrist? why yes, it was. >> we were able to scientifically connect that little sliver of glove found at the scene as being of the same manufacturer and consistency of that glove that walmart sold on the day that daniel purchased those gloves. >> reporter: that was huge -- real evidence linking daniel to the crime scene. >> when all these facts comes together, there's no other suspect. and the reason that shelley was killed is because she stood in
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the way of a romantic rendezvous that he so desperately wanted with nathan. >> reporter: on november 4, 2009, eight weeks after shelley's murder, they arrested daniel willyam. the arrest was, for shelley's family, a double edged thing. they were relieved, of course. but until then, the police had not told them that shelley had been stabbed 42 times. >> oh my god, i almost passed out. 42 exact. and i just thought, "oh my god." >> reporter: prosecutor dewey mitchell got the case then, and right away, could see the problem. this was a circumstantial case, in which the accused would likely say, the other guy did it. >> especially in a case like this. >> reporter: so he sent out his investigator, hoyt hoffman, to second guess the police. >> you have to make sure that no stone is left unturned. >> reporter: and then, they strategized -- >> we spent i would say half of
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th -- or more of our -- of our time actually working it the other way, saying, "okay well, let's -- let's say that the other person did it." >> nathan. >> nathan. let's say nathan did it. or let's say ashley did it, and -- and let's look at the evidence, and does that bear fruit or is that something where you look at -- at them, and it just -- it just doesn't work? because we wanted to make sure we got the right person. >> could you have prosecuted nathan? >> absolutely. absolutely. i mean, it would've been -- it would've been an easy case. >> really? >> to say --absolutely. to come in and say, "he did it, he's the boyfriend," any time you have a stabbing, you immediately look to whoever that person is romantically involved with. >> reporter: so they called in nathan yet again -- tested his answers. >> multiple times. >> ashley, too? >> yes, yes. >> reporter: they finally arrived at the same conclusion the dallas police did -- that neither ashley nor nathan killed shelley.
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had to be daniel and daniel alone. but, making the case in court? might not be so easy. >> this is one of those cases where circumstantial is -- is kind. i mean, you had no fingerprints, you had no dna, you had no bloody clothes on the suspect, you had -- >> right. >> you had no incriminating statements really, just some sort of weird stuff, but -- >> right. yeah. it's a -- >> you have-- >> tough case. >> nothin'. >> tough case -- >> it was. circumstantial is a correct word. >> reporter: question was, could they make the case -- or would a jury believe they'd reached the wrong conclusion? coming up -- motive -- it's been tricky to pin down in this case. but in court, prosecutors present jurors with a theory of everything. >> that's why this whole thing happened >> reporter: when dateline continues. lines? what lines? the chapstick total hydration collection.
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reporter: it was at the trial when sam and cynthia nance finally came face to face with the man accused of killing their youngest daughter. or, more accurately, their eyes boring a stare into the back of daniel willyam's head. it was november, 2011. >> i wanted him to look at me and he wouldn't do it. so that -- that told me right there he had to have done it 'cause he's too ashamed to even look at me in the face. >> reporter: chris phillips saw daniel in court, too, when chris testified for the state. >> i'm very cool under pressure, but something about seeing him that day was very shocking to me. i look over at daniel and i gave him a nod, like, "i see you." and he nods back. and there was just kind of this -- this -- i don't know -- this tension. >> reporter: scott goldstein covered the trial. >> could tell right away this could be unusual. >> the opening line, i think, for the prosecutors was, "there are two people on the face of the earth who could've done this." they said up front that it's about these two -- these two
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men. >> reporter: nathan and daniel. a boyfriend incapable of murder, the prosecutor would say, and that boy's roommate, driven by jealousy. >> we couldn't just go in and say, "here's the -- here's the physical evidence, and the circumstantial evidence, and you know he did it." we had to then show all the evidence that we had that showed nathan didn't do it, because we knew that was gonna be the defense. >> reporter: and as for daniel -- >> i told them in opening statement, it is bizarre as it is brutal. and i wanted them to know that they would be hearing a case where their first reaction was going to be, "how could this happen? this -- this is -- this is crazy." >> i didn't want to be in the middle of the case and them trying to figure out, "wait, what's going on, and why are we looking at this guy and not that guy?" >> reporter: then the prosecutor presented his theory, a story of how it went down. shelley, a known night owl, had been up all wednesday night into
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thursday morning on her computer until 6:00 a.m., when she went to sleep. ashley left for school. then daniel entered the apartment, possibly with ashley's key, the one he'd secretly copied when he borrowed her car and key ring a month before. once inside the apartment, he stabbed shelley to death. he cleaned up any evidence of his presence and got out of there. but he could not erase all the evidence. like, for example, his text messages that morning. particularly his texts to ashley before the murder. he can be seen sending some of those texts while at the walmart on this surveillance video. >> timing was starting after the 10:00 hour on september 10th. and it was one minute, the next minute, the next minute, the next minute. then there was a pause. pause for an hour and something. he was asking her in those text messages if she wanted to go to lunch with him. >> he was hammer texting her. and it was one of those situations where i have no doubt
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in my mind, he was texting her to see whether or not she was gonna leave that classroom. she repeatedly told him no, that she was in class, that she wasn't interested. and the fact that he kept asking just showed that he really wanted to make sure he could get away with what he was about to do. and that she wasn't home, also. >> reporter: right. so that was key. he had to make sure that there was nobody in the apartment. >> absolutely. >> reporter: then daniel stopped texting her for almost two hours and then resumed again. and remember, in his first interview with the police, daniel lied about where he was the morning of the murder. and then in a second interview, he told them he went to the falls that morning. and that bit was true, the prosecutor said. but when daniel claimed he went there to meet another female classmate for a photo assignment? that was a lie, said the prosecutor. >> we talked to her and she said that there was no reason for him to have ever been there. he didn't contact her about coming in and doing any such project. and so then the other lie,
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though, was in that he then told the detectives about going straight home. and when the detectives started to look at the cell phone records of his location after we believe he committed the offense, he went to an entirely different location. >> reporter: didn't go home? >> he did not go home. he went 30 minutes north of town, stayed up there for some period of time before coming back. >> reporter: getting rid of his bloody clothing and the murder weapon and other evidence, the prosecutor figured, none of which police were able to find, though they searched thoroughly through the area. >> in this case, we had someone who committed this crime and then did a fantastic job of cleaning up and not leaving evidence and after the fact told multiple lies. >> reporter: in fact, the prosecutor said, daniel was so good at cleaning up it would be reasonable to assume he was framing nathan when he left that one piece of obvious evidence, the bloody baggie, in nathan's bathroom.
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and then there was daniel's complicated relationship with nathan, and by extension, shelley. >> we would hear these stories about him getting upset because he didn't get an offer to go to breakfast with people, or he wasn't invited to go to the movies with nathan and his girlfriend. and it was -- it was just a consistent, pervasive feeling that daniel would tell anybody who was willing to listen about how he was slighted by not being involved. and part of -- part of the -- the chain of events, too, was the fact that he was not invited by nathan and shelley to go to some anime festival here in dallas the weekend before this ended up happening. >> reporter: so nathan went with shelley and left him at home. >> absolutely. >> reporter: it was one weird triangle. the prosecution argued that daniel felt left out, became increasingly jealous and then angry. and then his anger turned to rage at shelley.
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>> that's why this whole thing happened. i believe he had hate in his heart for her. >> reporter: but remember, in a court of law, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. and daniel? >> my mother asked me if i killed shelley. and i told her, "mama, i'm not the one who committed this. i'm not the one who killed her." >> reporter: coming up, daniel's defense tries a single, bold tactic -- to cast suspicion on nathan. and they've got plenty of ammunition. >> what they had in their pocket is the boyfriend, who we knew the girlfriend was thinking about breaking up with, who happens to be obsessed with knives. >> reporter: what would the jury make of all that?
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reporter: daniel willyam, as was his right, declined to testify when he went on trial for killing shelley nance. so he did not himself point at nathan and accuse him of committing the murder.
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but of course he didn't have to. his attorney did it for him. it was not a surprise to prosecutor dewey mitchell. >> they said it could've been nathan, and it could've been a random person, and that by the time the state's done with its case, you're not gonna be able to know who did this crime. they just don't have evidence. i think it was a pretty good strategy. >> reporter: yeah. >> i think it was the only strategy. you know, this wasn't a self-defense case and it wasn't an insanity case so it had to be somebody else. >> reporter: well, makes sense. i mean, again, did you have blood? no. do you have dna? no. >> what they had in their pocket, my star witness is, is the boyfriend who we -- we knew the girlfriend was thinking about breaking up with, who happens to be obsessed with knives. >> reporter: and, oh by the way, he's appearing online in a ninja costume for heaven's sakes. >> when he was cross-examined by the defense, they just left the
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picture of him with the mask on up on the screen. >> reporter: make you worry just a little bit, i would think. and oh by the way that just happens to be how young women tend to die. they get murdered by jealous boyfriends who don't want them to leave. >> absolutely. >> reporter: and that's exactly what she was gonna do. >> absolutely. >> reporter: the defense attorney's strategy was perfectly clear. point out that the state's evidence was circumstantial and then blame nathan. which he did. repeatedly. we certainly wanted to know more about the reason for the defense strategy. it's opinion of the charges and the evidence. but at daniel's direction, his attorney declined our request for an interview. and in court, called just one witness. no, not daniel. daniel did not testify. the witness was shelley's mother, cynthia. >> at first they said since i was gonna be called that i couldn't sit in the courtroom durin' the whole trial. and i'm sorry, i was gonna raise
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a conniption fit 'cause i was gonna be there. and the judge decided yeah it would be okay. >> reporter: why call cynthia nance? do you remember that conversation in which shelley told her mother she was thinking of breaking up with nathan? that, said the defense, gave nathan a motive. but certainly not daniel. cynthia was incensed by the questions she was asked. >> for them to call me and ask questions tryin' to make it sound like that her conversation with me hi -- wantin' to break up with nathan would be the reason why nathan would go and kill her, you know, i didn't want 'em twistin' my words to make it sound like the things that i said made it s -- reflect more on nathan and less on daniel. >> reporter: so did that work out for them? or did it backfire? >> it didn't work out because shelley's mother also testified when she was cross-examined by the prosecution that as far as
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she knew, shelley never had that conversation with nathan. so nathan-- >> reporter: nathan wouldn't have known. >> he wouldn't have known. so that kinda kills the idea that that coulda been a motive if he didn't even know that they were gonna break up. >> reporter: still, one way or another, nathan may have felt he was on trial as much as daniel was. so in their closing argument, the prosecutors had to essentially act as nathan's defense attorneys. >> reporter: one of the prosecutors pointed at him and remarked this is basically a scared little boy who spent that week at home with his grand -- grandmommy cutting the crusts off his bread. >> i told the jury he was yellow as mustard without the spice. >> he was a scrawny little kid. shelley probably could took him in her sleep, you know? >> reporter: but was daniel willyam capable of so brutal a murder of someone he barely knew? the jurors would have to make up their minds without hearing a word from daniel. though when we spoke with him, daniel had a great deal to say about the case against him.
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>> now i'm not trying to accuse nathan of murder, i'm just trying to -- trying to find out where was he. but i do have a suspect. >> reporter: oh. coming up. just who is daniel talking about? someone the police never even looked at? >> he put the baggie in the bathroom? >> no, i'm saying he had access to my house. >> reporter: when dateline continues. ing ... it was always our singular focus, a distinct determination. to do whatever it takes, use every possible resource. to fight cancer. and never lose sight of the patients we're fighting for. our cancer treatment specialists share the same vision. experts from all over the world, working closely together to deliver truly personalized cancer care. specialists focused on treating cancer. using advanced technologies. and more precise treatments than before. working as hard as we can- doing all that we can- for everyone who walks through our doors.
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>> it's a lot of discourtesy expressed by these kids? [ daniel laughs ] that's been a problem. >> that is. >> i mean, you see that everywhere? >> yes. >> i mean, people don't have right attitudes about respect and doing the right thing and -- >> manners and courtesy, yes. >> manners and courtesy? >> yes. >> reporter: which is what he was up against, said daniel, first with roommate chris phillips -- and then with nathan. but just as happened with chris, daniel went through an enamored stage first. >> one day, chris brought nathan home. and when i first saw him, i was like, "wow, you know? this kid is good-looking." >> reporter: daniel, who is gay, was attracted at first, he admitted. >> you were infatuated? >> not anymore. >> no, but -- not anymore by a few months into the relationship? >> no. i've never had no sexual relationship whatsoever with him except for being a platonic friend. >> did you ever try to initiate a sex -- sexual relationship?
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>> no. >> not at all? >> no, no. >> didn't hint at it, nothin'? >> no. >> reporter: friends like chris phillips, however, said they saw something else going on. >> i mean, essentially, they were saying you were obsessed with nathan, that he was becoming more interested in shelley, that it -- it -- it seemed to bother you according to those who saw you. it seemed to bother you a great deal -- >> yes. he was stalking her. >> well, or that he was actually hanging out with her a lot. >> and he -- >> they'd play video games together and they didn't include you? >> true. true. >> and they didn't include you in -- in places they went to see other people. they left you out. you were feeling like left out by these two? >> yes. i did feel left out because i told nathan, "you know, it's very rude that y - - you know, you didn't ask me if i wanted to do this or that -- to do this or to do that with you, now." >> all those things you had done for him and he is just basically shoveling you out the door?
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>> yes. actually, i came -- i came to him and talked to him about it. i told him that it was very rude. and, you know, it's not that i felt left out but it's just that it was very rude and so -- >> course -- you felt left out? >> no, not really. >> it would not be human of you if you didn't feel left out. >> well, at first, yes, i did. but let me tell you this. after i talked to him, he -- before he goes with s -- goes out with shelley, he would ask me. i was like and i said, "no, i don't wanna go. don't worry about it." >> reporter: we asked daniel about something shelley told her mom -- that daniel kept trying to corner her, speak to her alone. that it bothered her. his reply -- he did approach shelly, but only out of concern for nathan. >> i was actually asking her, i was like, "is there something wrong because he's literally failing his classes." >> so you, as his big brother, mother figure, whatever it was, felt a responsibility for him? and it was because of his obsession with shelley? >> i believe so.
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>> did she tell you to lay off? >> no, no. she actually thanked me for bringing up the issue and then that's where i left it. >> reporter: of course, it was quite easy for us to check his claim, that nathan was failing his classes. was he? no. but, listen now to daniel's central claim -- that for evidence of who killed shelley, one need look no farther than that plastic baggie stained with her blood, and found in nathan's bathroom. daniel swore he didn't put it there. >> they're telling me that i'm obsessing with -- with nathan, so therefore, i was the one who committed this crime. my question is, "okay, if that was true, why would i put it in there?" >> because once you realize it's either you or nathan, you better blame nathan. >> don't do t -- okay, that's what you would think that, right, for me to blame nathan but i didn't. i, to this day do not -- >> you just did. >> i'm not trying to accuse nathan of murder. i'm just trying to w -- trying to find out where was he.
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but i do have a suspect. >> oh. >> where was christopher phillips at this time? >> reporter: chris phillips?? now that was a new one. >> he put the baggie in the bathroom? >> no, i'm saying he have access to my house. >> reporter: by the way, chris phillips was never a suspect in the case. in fact, he was a witness for the state. but daniel was adamant that he, at least, was innocent. >> i'm not the one who killed that girl. i'm not the one who killed shelley. i have two younger sisters, sir. what if that happened to my sisters? [ cries ] what if that happened to my mom? i would kill myself before i hurt anybody else. i couldn't kill her because she reminds me of my younger sister, amanda. [ sniffs, cries ]
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what if that happens to amanda or kati? [ sniffs ] i would kill myself. [ sniffs ] >> but it happened to shelley. >> that's what happened to shelley. but i'm not the one who kill her. [ sniffs ] even if i have to go through this, i'm still tellin' you, i'm not the one who kill her because i can't. that would be like me killing my younger sisters and i love them. >> reporter: would the jury have believed him, had he testified? we'll never know. but without it, the verdict came back in just three hours -- guilty of first degree murder. >> it was a very good feeling. it's one of the cases that i'll never forget. only because of the brutality
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involved in it and at that time my daughter was exactly 20 years old. same age. so it struck close to home. >> reporter: after the verdict, shelley's mother approached nathan and apologized for ever suspecting him. >> i was grateful that he was nice to her. >> how'd he take it? >> he didn't have a whole lot to say. he just gave me a hug and said, "thank you." >> reporter: at daniel's sentencing, the state revealed a little more about his past -- about the times he reacted to what he considered to be rude behavior. >> the defense attorney had told them he was a pastry chef in the navy in -- in his opening statement, that was all they knew. >> and so what were you able to tell the jury? >> so, we were able to tell them that while he was in the navy he had repeated times where someone would upset him and he would go to a superior and let them know that he was contemplating hurting them. hurting them with knives -- >> knives. and hot oil. then we found out that once he
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was back at his house, he had gotten into an argument with his brother and taken a samurai sword to his room and torn the whole place up. what i hoped it would do was say to the jurors, "you got it right." >> reporter: because it was texas, it was also the jury's job to decide on a sentence. it took them less than an hour. he got life. no chance of parole for at least 30 years. >> i was like, "what just happened?" >> you thought you should've been found not guilty? >> yes. >> you expected to be? >> yes, 'cause i'm not the one who killed her. how many times do i need to tell you this? >> how did it feel inside? >> soul crushing. >> reporter: life in italy, texas, is not the same anymore, of course, without shelley nance. her mother founded an art scholarship in her memory, and did something very unusual for a woman her age, in a place like italy. she got a tattoo.
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of a butterfly, of course. >> i can look down and i can remember shelley every time i see it. >> reporter: she and sam are deeply religious people. their faith tells them to forgive. it's very hard. >> i haven't forgiven him for what he's done. and that's a hard thing to do. i know he has. but if he could ever ad -- admit that he did it then i might be able to forgive him. but i can't forgive him and i can't forget. >> how have you been able to forgive him? >> i just know that everybody's not perfect. but i don't know, i -- to me, if i hold a grudge like that it's gonna eat me up more than it's gonna eat him up. i just had to let it go. put it in god's hands, let it go. i miss my daughter every day. there's not a day goes by i don't think about her, that's for sure. i know i'll see her again someday.
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it's what keeps me goin'. this is a gross representation. i'm saying this is a gross misrepresentation. it's a gross misrepresentation. >> people jumped a little bit to conclusion. >> i didn't hear that word either. >> you say it didn't happen? >> i didn't hear it. >> i don't recall hearing him saying that exact phrase. i don't recall that specific phrase. >> the president reacted with pretty tough language. >> the president will use strong language when it comes to this issue. >> it was hurt


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