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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  March 3, 2018 2:00am-3:01am PST

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>> so he was. so he is. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is da"dateline". i felt guilty. i couldn't live with that. i said, "i know something and it's terrible." i'm the only other person who knows the truth. i had to do something. >> he swept her right of her feet. >> i was drawn to him right away. >> he was handsome, he was super athletic. >> a dreamy single dad. wealthy. charming. smitten. >> i'd never been spoiled like that. i remember thinking i was like julia roberts in "pretty woman." >> he'd been through so much.
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a mysterious accident at sea. >> he went under, and when he came up, he said he no longer saw his wife. >> he was just hysterical. >> they were never able to find her. >> it was a heart-wrenching story. so why then were so many people so suspicious? >> no one knows exactly what happened on that boat. >> an accident? a disappearance? >> you thought, what? she faked her death? >> or maybe a murder? >> there's no way. absolutely no way. >> i felt like the police were just trying to frame an innocent man. >> now, she would be the one to unravel it all. >> i thought, i could do this. >> in a dangerous undercover operation. >> tell them everything. >> what? >> my heartbeat was going so fast. i said, "you need to tell me the truth." >> i'm lester holt and this is welcome to dateline.
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they were a good looking couple an expanding family and a booming business. when he whisked herd away on a birthday boat cruise, disaster struck and she was gone. was it an accident or was it perhaps something more stiniste. here's josh with troubled waters. >> if you crave money or fame, or if you want to meet beautiful people, maybe even become one of them, you will find your way to southern california. it's where everything is possible, or seems to be. this is the story of two women, drawn for different reasons to the sun, to the bright lights, to the blue water. both chased that promise of success. both saw what can go wrong. it was a gorgeous summer day in newport beach, california, the last of fourth of july weekend. some lucky tourists aboard an eight passenger boat called the
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greene machine were marveling at a school of dolphins playing in the water when they came across the unexpected. >> we've got a loose boat out here about five miles out of newport beach. >> reporter: the captain radioed the coast guard that a small speedboat was circling, out of control. in the water nearby was a man holding on to a body board. >> i have a husband, apparently fell off the boat and the wife apparently fell off the boat. >> reporter: the man in the water was frantic. >> copy. and does he still look like he's pretty distraught? over. >> absolutely, very. >> reporter: his name was eric bechler. his wife was pegye. but she was nowhere to be found.
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>> what is he doing at this time? >> he's just kind of yelling out, just laying on his boogie board and yelling out. >> roger. can you make out any words that he is yelling out? over. >> no, he's kind of slurring his words. >> it'll be anytime now a unit should be on scene. >> reporter: it was a stunning end to what began as a perfect day. this newport beach couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary and pegye just turning 38. >> it was her birthday, you know, so she was in good spirits. >> reporter: glenda slosser was one of the friends they'd invited to a big party a couple of days earlier. >> she's talkin' about how much she loves eric, how great life is. >> reporter: and maybe life was great, because pegye had it all. her story begins in a small town, dexter, new mexico. this is where pegye made her entrance. >> i've often said that she was born winking at the doctor and swingin' on the chandelier. >> reporter: pegye was june and glen marshall's fourth child.
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and, june says, pegye was going places from the very day she was born. >> she was never still. >> reporter: she danced, sang, played sports and, it seemed nothing could hold her back. she had scoliosis as a kid. young pegye had to wear a brace around the clock. >> that's a terrible burden for a young kid like that to bear. but it also kind of ended up motivating her, didn't it? >> it really did. >> reporter: peyge's doctor talked with her about a career in physical therapy. she volunteered and loved it. >> and she made up her mind right then that she wanted to be a physical therapist. and she wanted to move to california and be a beautiful blonde. >> and -- >> so she did. >> reporter: a farmer's daughter with big dreams. so pegye left the small town of
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dexter for sunny caliornia. and settled in newport beach. that's where she met glenda, who was also from new mexico and they immediately hit it off. >> pegye was probably one of the most gregarious people that i've ever met. she was happy and she was always smiling. >> reporter: and, says glenda, pegye was driven to establish herself as a successful physical therapist. she had almost everything she wanted. >> she did wanna find a guy. >> and the clock was tickin' a little bit. >> it was. >> and then one day on the beach, you found somebody for her. >> we did. so one afternoon on -- on a weekend, pegye called me and said, "what are you doin'?" and i said, "well, i'm gonna go down and watch dave play some volleyball on the beach." >> reporter: dave was glenda's husband. >> i asked pegye if she wanted to come down with me and she said absolutely. she immediately spotted eric and said, "who's that?" >> reporter: eric bechler, then in his early 20s, was a walking commercial for the california beach life. >> i'm going to guess when she
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notices a guy playing beach volleyball, he's good looking and in great shape. >> indeed he was. >> and handsome. >> very. he was all those things. >> reporter: and he was available. he was also eight years younger. >> was that a problem for either one of them? >> it was not a problem for either one of them. pegye, you know, she -- when she sets her sight on something, she's going to make it happen. and it developed really quickly, really, really, quickly. >> reporter: within a year they were married. within four years they had three beautiful kids. pegye and eric went into business together. she opened up her own physical therapy business and eric, a computer whiz, managed the technical side of their venture which quickly became very profitable. >> her business was doin' good. and she was happily married. >> reporter: and the happy couple was also happily spending a lot of money. on a german sports car, italian clothing and a spectacular bluffside home in newport beach. >> they were the little dream story. beautiful girl, good-looking guy, drive nice cars, beautiful
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children. >> reporter: until that summer day in 1997, when the unimaginable happened. >> male, kind of distraught, said that his wife fell overboard. >> reporter: it was a boating accident, said eric, and the coast guard agreed. something they see all too often. but soon, secrets emerged that would make some people wonder what really happened to pegye bechler? >> reporter: when we come back -- >> i absolutely thought they'd find her. >> reporter: where was pegye and what had gone wrong on that boat? >> there would be a sea of questions to come. >> you thought, what, pegye faked her death? when "dateline" continues. yaaassss! we're the new light & fit greek nonfat yogurt with zero artificial sweeteners.
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s ♪ it's said there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline. this was supposed to be something like that. a romantic outing, an anniversary and birthday gift eric bechler planned for his wife pegye, but it turned into something else. and now pegye was gone. >> and the wife apparently fell of the boat. >> reporter: the coast guard immediately launched a search. but by nightfall no sign of peyge, alive or otherwise. and so eric called pegye's mom, june. >> he says, "we can't find pegye." and i said, "what do you mean
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you can't find her? where is she? what -- what are you trying to tell me?" >> reporter: eric told june that pegye was driving the boat. towing him on a body board when all of a sudden a wave wiped him out. when he came up from under the water, he said, he could no longer see pegye inside the boat. >> we thought they should be finding her because we really just thought she would swim out of it. >> reporter: you see, pegye was quite at home in the water. growing up, it was the only time she didn't have to wear that back brace. and she became a very accomplished swimmer. >> she wouldn't panic. she would swim because she loved the water. >> reporter: the next morning june and glen marshall were on the first flight out to california. pegye had been missing almost 24 hours. >> of course, that ocean is just bigger, bigger, bigger than you think about if you're in new mexico. >> reporter: pegye's friend glenda tried to stay optimistic. >> absolutely thought they'd
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find her. >> maybe alive. >> uh-huh. i did because she was a fabulous swimmer. >> reporter: glenda went to the bechler house to see eric. >> how did he look? >> hysterical, a little bit. you know, he'd been crying and, you know, his face is red and, you know, all of those things. he looked upset, as you should be, one would expect. >> the best. the best person. >> reporter: this video from local news shows a devastated eric. it was now day two of the search for pegye. still nothing. the next day, the coast guard interviewed eric. >> we're just going to do an inquiry into the boating accident. ok? >> ok. >> reporter: eric bechler could barely speak.
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>> what did you take with you on the boat? >> we had a couple bags and a cooler. >> we wanted to see catalina, but it was so hazy. i told pegye that it was, you know, it was too hazy, we shouldn't go too far out. >> reporter: eric told the coast guard he tried to body board on their way out and said there was a "pretty good swell" in the ocean. >> was it as high as the side of the boat? >> probably. >> it was, you know, big enough to notice. >> reporter: eric said they stopped out here on the water to enjoy some margaritas pegye had made. and then later in the day they decided to try the body board again, this time on their way back to the harbor. pegye was driving. eric was being pulled on the board. >> well, i mean there's a wave and all of a sudden it got real big, and of a sudden it just jerked out of my hand. >> oh, ok. >> you know, i just couldn't hold on. so i came up. i thought pegye would be right there. she wasn't. the boat was just going in circles, and i couldn't see her. i could just see that pegye wasn't standing there on the wheel.
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and the boat kept going farther and farther away. and i couldn't see any other boat. i was screaming and looking around. it was my fault. if only i could see her right now. >> reporter: and so pegye bechler was simply gone. maybe even within sight of the same beach that had spawned her marriage. eric seemed devastated fearing his wife and business partner was dead,but eric's mother, linda, saw things quite differently. >> i was sure that they would find her, that it would all turn out well. >> reporter: not just because pegye was a strong swimmer. everyone knew that. linda knew more. a secret about her daughter-in-law. >> reporter: and you thought, what? pegye faked her death? or disappeared deliberately? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: coming up:
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pegye's secret. what was it? >> she stopped me on the stairway and said, i have to talk to you. when "dateline" continues. ? ? do what i did. ask your doctor about humira. it's proven to help relieve pain and protect joints from further irreversible damage in many adults. humira works by targeting and helping to block a specific source of inflammation that contributes to ra symptoms. humira has been clinically studied for over 20 years. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers, including lymphoma, have happened; as have blood, liver, and nervous system problems, serious allergic reactions, and new or worsening heart failure. before treatment, get tested for tb. tell your doctor if you've been to areas where certain fungal infections are common, and if you've had tb, hepatitis b, are prone to infections, or have flu-like symptoms or sores. don't start humira if you have an infection.
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>> reporter: a brilliant pacific ocean sunset closed out day three of the search for pegye bechler. and even though pegye's family and friends tried to remain hopeful, reality was slowly
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starting to set in. and it was painful. >> at this point, you didn't think she was alive anymore? >> i kept thinking that she was. but how could she, you know, that length of time? >> reporter: unless, of course, what appeared to be an accident was not. the coast guard conducted a reenactment at sea to try to understand how pegye could have fallen off the boat. and they couldn't do it. >> they said it just -- it doesn't appear to be feasible to them, given the sea conditions. >> reporter: that's when the coast guard called the orange county sheriff's office. detective sean murphy was put on the case. >> they weren't able to duplicate even close to what was alleged by eric bechler, that his wife was tossed off by a rogue wave. >> reporter: if pegye's disappearance was no accident,
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murphy's job was to find out what did happen. detectives started by re-interviewing eric and asking him about his relationship with pegye. >> he said his marriage was good. there was no problems with it. >> you didn't take his word for it? >> no. in our game, we don't take anyone's word for anything. we look into it. and that's what we did. >> reporter: they met with the improbably-named kobi laker, eric's best friend. and kobi backed up eric. >> they had a terrific marriage. and there was no problems whatsoever. >> reporter: but if the marriage seemed solid, there were questions about pegye, at least according to linda bechler, eric's mother. linda says pegye told her something in confidence just before she disappeared. >> she stopped me on the stairway as i was leaving. and said, "i have to talk to you." she said, "i'm afraid i'm going to jail." >> reporter: according to court documents, about a year before pegye disappeared, the couple sold their physical therapy business to another company, but they stayed on as employees.
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then, just four months before pegye vanished, the bechlers were fired. amid allegations they had overbilled medicare for more than a million dollars. so when linda heard pegye had vanished -- >> i started thinking about how disturbed she was about going to jail. >> reporter: and she wondered if pegye had somehow staged her own disappearance. pegye's friend glenda said no way. >> was peggy bechler capable of committing white collar crime? medicare over-billing? >> in my opinion, no. >> but if you're wrong about that -- >> uh-huh. >> --then maybe the idea that she faked her death to escape possible prosecution for that, maybe that's a little bit more plausible. >> but white collar crime and faking your death and leaving your children and your family are two really separate issues. >> reporter: glenda said pegye adored her children and would never abandon them. >> i will say that people who have never been in the inside of a courtroom or the inside of a jail cell --
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>> uh-huh. >> --sometimes do pretty crazy things when they realize that might happen to them. elieve that, but not pegye. >> reporter: glenda did tell the detectives that pegye and eric were having some issues, like how pegye was busy with work and kids while eric seemed occupied on the volleyball court. >> she just confided in me that they were having some financial troubles because, you know, they had a pretty high lifestyle to keep up with. >> reporter: glenda said eric and pegye seemed determined to work everything out. but now pegye was gone, eric was a single dad with three kids under the age of four. and a new player was about to enter the story. >> you were drawn to eric right away? >> yes. >> reporter: like countless young women before her, tina new had drop-dead looks and hollywood dreams. she'd done some bikini modeling and had a small part on the tv
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show "baywatch nights." but that turned out to be the peak of her career. soon tina found herself slipping into the darker side of showbiz. she started doing drugs and lost custody of her two young children because of it and fell for a succession of guys who did not treat her kindly. >> i mean, i had an ex-boyfriend put a gun to my head, play russian roulette between me and him. i was held over the balcony by my neck. >> reporter: tina, who was broke and near rock bottom, was desperate. >> i got down on my knees, literally begging. and i said, "i'll do whatever you want, lord. just help me. i can't do this anymore. i need you to show me a sign." >> and the universe sent you eric bechler. >> and the next day i meet him. and then all my problems are gone. >> reporter: she had taken a modeling gig, eye candy at a trade show. eric was there promoting his new business.
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it was three months to the day since pegye had disappeared. >> i just thought he was really handsome. >> so there was some serious chemistry from the beginning. >> yes. we went out that night actually. he asked me out that night. and then i moved in the next day. really fast. >> you don't wait, do you? >> no. not then. >> reporter: eric lived in a giant house and drove a porsche. and he was a gentleman in her life after a long string of men who were not gentle. >> i'd never been spoiled like that. i remember thinking i was, like, julia roberts in "pretty woman." >> reporter: tina was moved by eric's story. >> he said to me that his wife died in a tragic boat accident. and that they were never able to find her. >> reporter: she couldn't help noticing how great he was with his kids. >> he would sit on the floor and play with 'em. and i actually thought he was a great dad. >> reporter: and she was eager to help, taking care of the kids while eric went, as usual, to the beach to play volleyball. >> i thought they lost their mom, they need someone to step in and -- and not be their mom, but do things their mom would do for them. >> reporter: but when they took the kids to visit pegye's parents --
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>> there was a lot of animosity towards me. and i understood why. >> all they saw was this hot young woman who'd been brought in to replace their missing daughter. >> right. right. and exactly three months to the day. i can't even imagine what they were thinking. >> reporter: pegye's family wasn't alone. detective sean murphy had also noticed the new woman in eric bechler's life. >> she was just ostentatious. i mean, she was just a hot number, as they say. and she was cohabitating with him right after this horrible boating accident with his wife. >> reporter: so murphy arranged to bump into tina. >> and said, "hey, if you have any information about this boating accident involving eric, your boyfriend, just give us a call." and i gave her my card with my number on it. >> reporter: nothing came of it. tina didn't call. but someone else did. >> reporter: coming up -- the best friend does an about has second thoughts. kobi laker goes undercover! >> i protected you. i basically made you look like a saint.
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the man hunt for 19 either university student wanted for killing his parents has ended with his arrest just after midnight. accused of shooting his parents. happened as his parents arrived to take students home for the spring break. flu season has reached peak and number of cases is falling. flu is still widespread in 45 states. that's what's happening, now back to "dateline." welcome back. with a new live in girlfriend, eric seemed to be recovering quickly from losing his wife. that did not sit well with quite a few people, certainly the police or her family.
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eric's best friend, what exactly did he know and how far would he go to get proof. let's return to troubled waters. >> reporter: to detective sean murphy, it sounded more than suspicious. eric bechler taking up with a gorgeous redhead just three months after his wife was lost at sea. but murphy didn't have much more than a gnawing in his gut until his phone rang. >> we got a call from -- kobi's lawyer said he wanted to arrange an interview again with kobi. >> reporter: kobi laker, eric's best friend and volleyball buddy, he'd told sheriff's detectives the bechler marriage was great. now he had a different story. >> eric's told me on several occasions that he was sick and tired of his wife. he would tell me that he just couldn't take it anymore. he was tired of it.
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>> reporter: about seven months before pegye vanished, kobi says he and eric had a conversation that kobi describes as haunting him ever since. >> eric asked me about what he thought -- what i thought of the idea of him killing his wife. and i was pretty shocked and i didn't know what to say. he told me subsequently that he was thinking of taking her out to the ocean and dumping her into a barrel. >> he said that when he saw that there was a boating accident and eric's wife was missing, he knew right then and there, he saw it on tv, he knew that he'd killed his wife.
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and he lied to us, he said, because he panicked. and he was afraid. and he didn't know what to do. >> reporter: detectives convinced kobi to wear a wire and to meet eric at a restaurant in orange county. eric had no idea that police were listening in. even so, he stuck to his story that pegye's death was a terrible accident. >> i was there i know what happened, and i -- it's so hard for me to understand you know that there could be another -- people could think anything else. >> you never said, "hey look man, i don't know what the -- you guys are talking about, but i'm innocent." you never said anything about anything. >> i have so. do i have to say it every week? >> kobi tried again. >> i protected you. i basically made you look like a saint in the interview i had with the detectives. >> i am. >> reporter: a dead end. but detectives were now convinced that eric killed his wife. >> even though it didn't lead to anything, that conversation with kobi, that got you from
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suspicion to knowing? >> yeah, it moved it all the way over. so we knew we had a homicide. >> reporter: but knowing it and proving it were two very different things. >> you didn't get to process that boat as a crime scene for, like, almost a week. >> right. right. so that -- that wasn't good. that hindered the investigation. >> reporter: the boat, said detective murphy, was pretty clean. crime scene did find blood, just one drop, under one of the cushions. but not enough to determine whether it was human blood. it could have come from a fish. not enough evidence to arrest eric for murder or even prove that a murder occurred. pegye's close friend glenda didn't believe eric was a killer. >> there's no way that eric would have done that. you know, i mean there's just absolutely no way. it was unfathomable to me. >> reporter: tina new felt the same way. >> i felt like the police were just trying to -- to frame an innocent man. i thought there's no way. the way he treats me there's no way he could have hurt his wife. >> reporter: tina also noticed that eric kept photos of pegye in every room of the house. she could not imagine that a man who had killed his wife would want to see her face everywhere. >> eric was really the answer to all your problems for a while, wasn't he? >> yeah, he was. >> so you weren't too anxious to question him. >> no. i believed him. >> reporter: and after about six months -- >> he says, "will you marry me?" >> yes. >> and you say? >> i said yes. >> you don't say no a lot. >> yeah, i -- i mean, he treated me so good. >> reporter: she also admits she
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knew eric was due to collect more than $2 million in insurance money once he was cleared in his wife's disappearance. >> and everything would work out. >> everything would work out, yeah. >> well, you were wrong. >> i was definitely wrong. >> reporter: they'd been a couple for two years. still not married but living together off and on. one night, tina was showing eric some of her old modeling shots and tv appearances. >> well, we were looking at my pictures, but then i put the videotape in. and yeah, we're -- i'm fast-forwarding it. and it just stops. >> reporter: purely by chance, tina accidentally recorded a news report about pegye's disappearance. >> the whole screen was just a picture of her face. and i said, "oh my gosh, what is this?" >> reporter: then, she turned to eric. >> and i looked at him his face turned white. like, he literally lost the color in his face. and he said to me, "how did you get that?" and i said, "i don't know." >> reporter: his reaction troubled her, but she hit play
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and it just got worse. the news report did not match the story eric had told her about pegye's disappearnce. >> and he told me there was three to four foot waves. it was really choppy out there. >> reporter: but on the report they said on the day pegye went missing, there were only two foot waves and the weather was described as ideal. >> he lied. he lied all this time to me. you know, and he was just really quiet. >> he's sitting right next to you. >> sitting right next to me. >> how does eric look at that point? >> flushed and stressed. i yelled at him and said, "why is this different than what you told me?" and he just, like, got really quiet. >> reporter: then, she says eric bechler told her a new version of what happened when pegye fell off the boat. >> he thinks she -- he hit a wake and she fell off. and he said, "and i didn't get to her." and i said, "you didn't get to her or you didn't want to get to her?" and he said -- at first he said -- he told me that he didn't get to her. then later he changed it and
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said, "i -- i could've helped her but i didn't." >> now that's completely different from what he told police. >> right. >> reporter: chilling as that sounded, tina feared it still wasn't the whole story. she was determined to get the rest. but like a career in showbiz, you have to be careful what you wish for. coming up. >> i'm not afraid of you. >> nobody knows anything but you! >> from model and actress to undercover agent. a secret operation to learn the truth. >> this is where it gets really scary. >> reporter: when dateline continues. with its billions of live and active probiotics, activia may help support my digestive health, so i can take on my day. activia. now in probiotic dailies. you don't want to live with mom and dad forever, do you? i'm making smoothies! how do i check my credit score?
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♪ >> reporter: tina new thought she'd found happiness with eric bechler. until he changed his story about what happened the day his wife disappeared in the ocean. >> you didn't think about going to police. >> no. not yet. i just felt like it wasn't telling me the truth all the way. and i was really afraid because he was always with me. >> reporter: afraid. yet they continued to see each other, sleep together and party together. about two weeks after eric changed his story, he and tina went to a club and took the drug ecstasy. >> we get home, we walk inside the house, and we're just both laying on the bed, staring straight up at the ceiling together.
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all of a sudden as we were talking, i just-- it just came to me, and i said to him, i said, "oh my god, you hit her over the head." and he goes, "how did you know that?" >> reporter: the fact is, she hadn't known. call it intuition. or the effects of the drug. or a random guess. but it was an opening. and tina barreled through. >> i said, "you need to tell me the truth." he's calmly talking to me and he says, "i-- i'm going to tell you the truth." he goes, "we had this huge party, so everybody could see how happy we were together." >> reporter: all their friends were there. witnesses to the happy marriage. then a couple of days later she says eric told her he took pegye out to sea on that rented boat. and although pegye didn't know it, he took along some weights. >> and he goes, "then i walked up behind her."
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and he goes, "tina, i hit her so hard she didn't feel a thing." and i'm just like, "what do you mean you hit her so hard?" and he goes, "i hit her over the head with the weight." >> reporter: she said he told her there was blood everywhere. then, tina says eric bechler told her how he got rid of his wife. >> he did some knot that he knows, and he-- he did her wrists and her ankles together so she was completely bent in half. he said he took the two trash bags that he had and put her body in it, and then he said he put the weights and tied it down to the rope and threw her in. >> reporter: two years after pegye vanished. a stunning confession. >> and then do you go to sleep next to a man that you believe is a killer. >> no. and-- no, actually then we have sex. and i felt like i had to do it because i think that made him feel like i was going to be quiet, and you know, that he was, i don't know, sealing the deal with me or something. >> reporter: but the deal was not sealed. not with anyone. the case was still open and detectives had been keeping an eye on eric and tina all along. they knew the relationship was growing volatile. >> we were excited about in a
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morbid kind of way, because we knew it was going to go sideways. >> because when relationships go sideways, sometimes people start talking? >> that's right. >> reporter: and that's what happened two weeks after eric's apparent confession. a neighbor called 9-1-1 after hearing yelling coming from tina's apartment. when police arrived, eric was gone. but tina was angry. and she still had the business card detective murphy had given her almost two years earlier. >> i grabbed my partner. and we went out there in the middle of the night. and we met up with tina. >> reporter: she told detective murphy and his partner gary jones - what eric had said. a big break, yes. but not nearly enough for an arrest. remember, tina was pretty far from an ideal witness. detectives knew they'd need more than her word against eric's. so they asked tina. >> "will you be willing to wear a wire?" and i said, "yes, that's the only way you're going to get him." >> why would you turn in a guy who had basically taken you from a terrible life and given you a great life? >> because i couldn't live with
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myself. i mean, no way. >> reporter: police planted microphones in her car, in her purse, and on her body. and tina arranged a meeting. she told eric that after the domestic violence call, sheriff's homicide detectives came in to ask questions about eric. this dinner date - tina told eric - was to get their stories straight in case the cops questioned her again. tina - wired up - picked up eric from his home and drove to a restaurant called el torito. >> were you worried about this? >> not really. i was more worried that i wasn't going to get him to confess it again. >> i have two stories in my head, i don't want to screw up at all. >> okay, there's nothing. there's no story to tell, you weren't there, it was an accident. >> let's go have some margaritas. >> reporter: once inside the restaurant, tina tried to get eric to repeat the details of pegye's death. eric wouldn't go there. >> you don't need to worry about details, details are not important. >> reporter: so tina tried to
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get him to say why he did it. >> you could have just got a divorce, why would you go to that degree. i mean how do i know if you don't get so mad at me, and you wouldn't want to kill me. >> tina, i've been way more mad at you than i ever was. >> i know so how could you do that. >> i don't know. >> reporter: it's no confession -- but it's not a denial either. >> are you thinking to yourself at that point, "that's it, i got him." >> i honestly thought that was good, but i still thought that wasn't enough. >> eric you do know. so there's a reason was it because the money or is it just for. >> reporter: remember, pegye had a life insurance policy worth more than $2 million. >> it's partly money, partly about the kids. >> reporter: again, she tried to get him to give her a reason. >> what was it about the her that made you want to go to that extreme. >> i felt like i was backed in a corner like she was going to steal the kids away and i'd never see them again. >> reporter: and eric reassured tina. >> all i know is that i would never, ever do anything to harm anybody again. >> she-- she was good. she was really good. >> reporter: but the drama wasn't over. tina left the restaurant with eric -- still wired up. >> and-- this is where it gets really scary. >> so we're walking out to the car and he says to me, "let me drive." >> reporter: that was not part
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of the plan. >> and we lose sight of them. >> now, you know, in a movie this is where you hear the sound of gunshots. >> that would not have been good. >> reporter: in the car - with eric now behind the wheel. tina cranked up her acting skills and the tension. >> i can't live with the lie. >> tell them just tell them -- i haven't talked about it for over a year and half and you don't remember the details. >> you are making me lie and it's not easy for me. >> i'm not making you do anything you can turn me in if you want to. >> turn you in for what? >> turn me [bleep] in i don't care at this point? >> turn me in for what? >> [ bleep ] tell them everything. >> what? >> whatever you [ bleep ] want. >> don't you talk to me that way. >> reporter: now tina tried to get eric out of the car. >> pull my car over! >> i will. >> now. i don't trust you. i'm afraid of you now. >> i'm just, all i'm asking, you don't have to, nobody knows anything but you. you don't have to tell anybody anything. >> reporter: eric pulled over and got out. and tina hopped in the driver seat.
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>> if you guys can still hear me, meet me at my house that's where i'm going to be. >> reporter: just like that, tina new drove away from her old life. >> in the end you got enough? >> oh, absolutely, yeah. >> you understand you're under arrest? >> reporter: eric was arrested and charged with pegye's murder. >> well, what was it like to get the call that eric had been arrested? >> well, i just trembled all over. i couldn't really-- couldn't really believe it. >> reporter: but two weeks after eric's arrest made headlines, tina made some headlines of her own. that put the whole case in jeopardy. coming up -- >> i did not commit this crime! >> reporter: eric bechler, on trial. and tina's credibility? that's on trial too. >> did you think anybody would believe you? >> no. >> without that statement, they don't have anything that makes this a homicide.
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want to save on mobile? just ask. want to demo the latest innovations and technology? do it here. come see how we're making things simple, easy, and awesome. plus come in today and ask about xfinity mobile, a new kind of network designed to save you money. visit your local xfinity store today. welcome back to "dateline." when eshg beck ler confessed to his girlfriend that he tossed his wife into the ocean, he may have sunk himself. but as the trial loomed, tina's determination wavered. would she take the stands? here is the conclusion of troubled waters.
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>> beach volleyball is played by kids. murder is not. detectives had put him in jail, but two weeks after eric's arrest came this headline in the local paper. witness in murder case doubts suspect's guilt. tina, who had worn a wire and helped police nail eric, now said maybe he didn't kill peggy. >> they knew the kids had lost their mom and now they're going to probably lose their dad for a very long time. so i felt guilty. >> guilty that she helped jail a man she once thought she would marry. >> he called me from the jail and he told me he had tried to hang himself with had his sheets the the. >> it was eric's frantic behavior from the lockup, that was enough to make you think twice? >> i didn't want him to die. >> you felt guilt. >> i felt guilty. >> and you tried to roll the whole thing back.
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>> yeah, i did. >> but she says she always believed he was guilty. eric bv echler went on trial. the star witness, tina knew, a witness who was, to be fair, compromised. not just about her waffling about eric's guilt and her checkered past, but one detail she says eric told her, something defense attorney john barnett said is critical. >> you would expect if peggy's head was caved in by 35 pound dumbbells, there would be blood. >> a lot of it. >> everywhere and there wasn't. >> on the stand, tina tried to defend herself. >> i'm a horrible witness when it comes to looking at me on paper. >> do you think anybody would believe you? >> no. you know, i knew that i told exactly what he had said to me. and i knew that i was doing the right thing. and i honestly didn't care what anybody thought. >> then there was the conversation she had recorded at el torida, eric's own words, the
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jury heard all of them. >> nobody knows anything but you. >> barnett offered his own explanation. >> i argued that the reason he said it was to shut her up, to calm her down. >> in had any event, the defense said eric never said on tape that he hit peggy. the only person who heard him say that was tina, a drug user, a woman with a fraud conviction on her record. >> without that statement, they have a lot of circumstantial evidence and a lot of what ifs, but they don't have anything that makes this a homicide. >> the defense offered another theory about peggy bechler. >> she was under a great deal of pressure and could easily be distracted and, in combination with chol, which she rarely drank, but she did on that day, could contribute to a lack of care in driving the boat. >> you don't think peggy bechler faked her death. you think she's dead. >> i don't think she faked her
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death. >> do you think she died accidentally and her body still hasn't been found? >> that's right. >> the prosecutor argued peggy's death was eric's doing. >> he basically had 3.5 million reasons to kill her. that's about what he stood to gain if he had gotten away with it. >> and, said the prosecutor, the circumstantial evidence was compelling. eric had a weight tree back at home that appeared to be incomplete. investigators believed eric used the missing weights to kill peggy and then sink her body. and what about the blood? a lumi the nol test conducted on the boat indicated there might have been a lot of blood on the boat, but that it was cleaned up, matching tina's testimony about blood everywhere. and, of course, there was tina herself. >> despite her past and her criminal record and her drug use, she rang true to you. >> yes, absolutely. >> who would the jury believe? and would tina's past make a difference? >> it doesn't matter what i did before or after i in met him,
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you know? what i did with myself has nothing to do with what he did. >> after seven days, the verdict. guilty of first degree murder. >> you're thrilled that the man who did it is behind bars, but nobody wins in this situation. nobody. the children now have no mother and no father. >> but the jury did not believe eric killed peggy for the money. he was found not guilty of murder for financial gain. at his sentencing, eric bechler addressed the judge, once again denying that he killed peggy. >> the accident was a horrible tragedy that has befallen both of our families. and as much as the marshals are hurting, my family is also hurting because i did not commit this crime. >> the judge sentenced him the to life without the possibility of parole. eric's mother, linda, thinks the verdict was wrong. >> is it possible you don't know your son as well as you think you do.
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>> oh, baloney. i know that kid like the the back of my hand. >> look, i can understand a mother not wanting to believe her son committinging a crime. >> listen, if my kid was a druggie, doper, nair do well, thief, rapist -- murderer. >> well, yeah, but he isn't. he isn't. >> peggy bechler's body has never been found. >> you happen to know what happened with, but you still don't want to hear murder. >> but at least now you know. >> that's still pretty hard to take. and even with all this information, we don't have a body. >> are you all right? >> yeah. >> you discover you were stronger than you thought you were? >> oh, yeah. >> peggy's mother and sister ended up raising her kids. and one more person who was stronger than she thought? tina nu. >> you're leading a different life these days. >> completely different life now. >> she gave up drugs, married a nice guy.
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now she's a stay-at-home mom with five kids. a hollywood happy ending? no. sometimes real life is better. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." she was a college student found on a lonely road the in texas. >> we figured that she had been sexually assaulted and dumped here. >> tough questions for her boyfriend. >> where was i the night before, what had i been doing, when had i last seen her. >> i really thought he could be our killer. >> but while police tried to prove it, another attack. >> he has me by the throat and he's shaking me and he's yelling at me telling me not to say a word.


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