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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  February 5, 2022 12:00am-2:00am PST

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on behalf of all of our colleagues at the nbc news network, goodnight. that was just, solving a problem. >> that's what she did, solve problems. as a busy mom in a business executive. but as her career was on the rise, her marriage was on the rocks. >> i still wanted this marriage to work. i did not want to give up. >> soon, he was gone. then, without a word or a trace. >> he left a young daughter behind, he left the house. big >> was this a husband who wanted to be found? >> that doesn't sound like a missing person. >> it wasn't. >> or does he not want to be found? >> detectives would launch an
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undercover comparator station. hard that would lead to a long buried shocker. >> are you ready for this? >> i was waiting for it. i knew it had to happen. dug >> a discovery in the desert. could it be the perfect crime? >> i don't know what it would be like keeping that type of secret. >> welcome to dateline. i am lester holt. for years it was a mystery, a husband who had simply banished. hang on the surface it did not make sense, he had a great family, a job he loved, a daughter he loved. but he also had a secret. so was he missing? or was he hiding? that question would lead detectives to a dark discovery. because someone else had a secret to. >> there is an old saying, that
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two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead. >> we never talked about what happened or why it happened. >> every marriage has its secrets, and this one was no different. but what if the secret becomes bigger than you? >> i was just, solving a problem. >> they were two people who had been unlucky in love the first time around. back then, she was ellen sheffield. in her early 30s, divorced and with a young child. looking for someone to share the next chapter of her life. and then, quite literally, in walked mike. >> and i said, hi mike, how are you doing? >> it was the fall -- of >> auto mechanic mike snider was visiting an auto shop where his friend worked. he was curious about the big
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redhead with a big hello. >> he didn't know who i was, but he got back to work. and then called back over to find out who i was. >> turns out, they had met years before. this time the quick encounter men of fixed up between mutual friends. >> great guy. he showed interest in me. >> opposites attracted. the quiet and introverted mike hated off with the confident and outgoing, allen. >> he'd leave flowers on my car, we would go out to dinner, he was nice to my son. >> that was important to you? >> it was very important to me. absolutely. >> and ellen herself was smitten with mike. he was a skilled mechanic. regarded as one of the very best in albuquerque. >> he went at least six days a week. he was the first when they're in the last one to leave. >> ben cider worked alongside mike for a while. >> if you own the jeep, my
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could fix it. he had lots of experience with the g product. >> and that wealth of experience owned him a six figure salary. >> were you happy with his success? >> absolutely. >> i was excited to say mike snider is my birth friend. >> she was the automotive service advisor at a neighboring dealership. >> it doesn't help to not really know about cars. >> exactly. it irritates me to know and. >> and she knew how to make the customer happy. jim calls her a problem solver. >> what can we do to fix the problem and make it go away? all you want to do is take care of the customer. >> this made her rising star at work. and as her personal life? well they were running on all cylinders. >> six winks after we started dating, he bought me diamond rings after christmas. it was also fast.
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>> so fast, that after a few months of dating, ellen and michael moved in together. >> did he seem like he was happy? >> he did seem like he was happy. >> mike didn't have children of his own. now he was filling a void in young michaels life. >> he treated him almost like his own son. they shared the same interests. they would tinker in the garage together. >> but ellen says she noticed that mike's affection was not all she wished for. >> i'm all happy. where in love. we're gonna have -- . he didn't come home. he decided he was gonna go out with his friends on valentine's day. he couldn't understand why i was upset about that. >> but let's get it, not every guy makes a big deal on valentine's day. so she talked it up for him not being the most sensitive of men. >> so you're sad?
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>> i'm not sure sad was a word for it. i think i was confused. >> confused or not, they stay together. and a few years later they married. and then ellen became pregnant. they began to build a four -- house in the subdivision in the foothills of the albuquerque mountains. >> that house was our dream house. >> it was ready just in time for the baby. only mike was not ready. he wanted to stay at work on the day that ellen was given birth. >> so i called his boss. i said i'm in the hospital having the baby. he said mike is here. i said yeah, if you could send him. >> once again, maybe not the most sensitive husband. but he loved the baby girl. they named her elizabeth. >> she was the joy and my brother's life. he thought the world of that child. >> -- my could get a balloon candy so,
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and just give his time for her. everything else stopped. >> but behind closed doors, their marriage was starting to unravel. ellen said, mike seemed jealous of her success at work. >> once i was promoted to service manager, it basically became hurtful, and he was standoffish. >> ellen says that from the time elizabeth was conceived, mike had moved out of the bedroom. permanently. >> never slept together again. >> and so my can and began living to separate lives in that dream home with their children. but still they say together. >> i still wanted this marriage to work. i did not want to give up. >> that is, until she learned about that secret. the big secret. that would ultimately tear this family apart. >> i found out after christmas,
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and everything was done, that i would tell him when i knew. >> dateline returns after the break. dateline returns after th to us, the little things are the big things. which is why we do everything in our power to make buying a car an unforgettable experience. break. we treat every customer like we would treat our own moms. because that's what they deserve. nyquil severe gives you powerful relief for your worst cold and flu symptoms, on sunday night and every night. nyquil severe. the nighttime, sniffling,
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marriage and it was a great marriage. you go in that door, that's not how it was. >> ellen snyder said it had been eight years. >> he made the rules. you followed them. >> in a marriage that was near their equal or loving. >> and you decided to stay with him. >> absolutely. >> even though it was a lie to the outside home. and that big home where she and mike had worked so hard to build. but ellen would not leave. determined to make her marriage work. >> i wasn't going to be a failure in another marriage. >> mike thought that as well.
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>> but his sister terry says that he was going to end it. >> i think he was in the process of going to leave her. he was moving belongings to my mother's house. >> their daughter was six years old. and very much that these little girl. and michael, her son from her first marriage was only 17. a high school junior. >> how was he to michael. >> the older michael got, the more harsh he was with him. >> but then mike schneider got sick. and life inside the home grew much worse. for just about everyone in the family. >> his body would go numb. he would pass out. he was in severe pain. >> it was a summer of 2001 when mike went to go see a doctor. >> the doctor said, it's an onset in case of multiple sclerosis. >> multiple sclerosis. there is no cure. and it would go from a
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manageable disease to paralysis, and even death. mike was put on injection treatments to slow the progression of the disease. ellen was distraught. >> i was his wife, i was to take care of him. >> as time went on, his work colleagues like chuck, notice a physically weaker mike. >> he was just kind of struggling to make it through the day. we were not told what he actually had, or what was going on. why he was not coming to work often, or any day. >> when he couldn't work at the level he expected himself. he went on disability. >> he was trying to face it. and trying to understand how his life is going to be within this. >> which only added more stress to his marriage. >> i thought that he was going through incredible emotional turmoil about his condition. >> maybe that's why he began waking up ellen in the middle
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the night to vent his anger. >> he was yelling, and screaming. telling me how worthless i was. he didn't want to necessarily have the big fights in front of alyssa, so he would wake me up at two or three in the morning to yell at me. >> but she was not gonna tell her colleagues about this. she was boss to a couple of men. and she felt like if she had a chink in her armor, she would never again be effective. >> they see that you are emotional, and that becomes the focus. it is all because of the woman thing. >> and they won't respect you anymore. ? >> right. >> but mike was sick. and she said that she would be there for him. in the good times in the bad. >> she has to see him through this. because what's kind of wife would i be? >> in sickness and in. health >> right. she was not gonna leave him. >> but ellen says that he had
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no problems leaving her. in fact mike had been spending more time away from her and the family. he was going back and forth between albuquerque and phoenix. that's where they were beginning education classes on a mechanics. he still wanted to go to training, because he had been going to training all along, throughout his work history. >> but a two-day trip became three days, then four days, than a week. ellen was becoming increasingly suspicious of exactly what mike was doing on those long trips away from his family and from her. >> and i felt hurt and betrayed, that i had gone along all this time, being the good wife. >> and then one night, mike was in the shower and his cell phone was sitting there on the table, next to allen. curiosity, she says, got the best of her. she picked up his phone and opened it. so you listen to the messages?
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>> and what a shock that was. one message in particular from a man she never heard mike mention, someone named dave simmons. a man allen believed was the reason mike was spending so much time in phoenix. >> he would talk about how satisfied he was with their sexual contact. there would be -- they would be explicit to what each had done to each other. >> so there really wasn't any question? >> there was no question. >> it was january 11th, 2002, ellen says that like so many nights before, mike woke her for their nightly screaming match. this one was around two or three in the morning. ellen, who had never directly confronted mic about anything, not told him she knew all about the affair mike was having with dave simmons, the man from phoenix, who left those
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explicit voice messages on mike's cell phone. there was, allen says, a heated argument. and then mike left the next morning. at the jeep dealership, were mike worked, colleagues knew that he'd been out sick for a while. >> we did know if it was cancer, or he had come back, or not come back. we had no idea. >> this was like losing a star player. >> pretty much, yes. >> but, mike's toolbox was still at work, worth around $40,000. so, everyone assumed he'd returned. that is until ellen broke the news about mike leaving town. >> i would ask allen, how is michael doing? she would say, mike moved to feign iskp's. he's living in arizona >> it was also puzzling to mike's family. they could understand why mike wasn't talking to ellen, by why wasn't he talking to them? their calls went straight to voice mail. >> we knew that he was not doing well, and we knew that he
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was thinking about leaving ellen, so we were very concerned as to why we hadn't heard from him. >> was everything as it seemed? was mike really in phoenix? if so, what was he doing there? coming up -- >> i was hearing rumors that he went to the caribbean. he had just disappeared. >> where was mike? suspicions begin. >> i believed he fell victim to foul play. >> when dateline continues. roger that. one more slice. it can be a lot. oh, good, the manager. uh, brian in produce -- very helpful. progressive can't save you from becoming your parents, when you bundle home and auto with us. -pulls to the left a little bit. -nope.
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earth, is in the middle of a bad marriage. which is exactly what ellen's night and found herself. but in the early morning hours of january 11th 2002, she had confronted her husband nick slider with her knowledge of him with another man. and in a way, she says, mike left his home and his family and disappeared. >> it was so calm in the house. it had been a very long, lonely time. to be married, and to be lonely every day. and that loneliness was gone. >> but would disappeared along with mike was ellen's second marriage. which she says she fought so hard to save. and now it had failed, just like her first. on the plus side, she says,
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mike was no longer there to tormentor. to belittle her. >> your husband was waking up in the middle of the night to yell at you. >> that is right. >> it was just you in the kids? now >> just mean the kids. >> ellen said she tried to reach him, but couldn't. and neither could his family. he wasn't returning their calls either. mike sister, mary. >> so -- >> right. >> and you're thinking, his a messes -- >> terry so she knew that mike was planning on leaving ellen soon. the family knew that much, or soon get. but he wasn't supposed to leave everyone. >> he would never have done that to his family. he would have at least given her, i don't want to be contacted, please leave me in my space. i mean to be okay. >> but they said that ellen seemed more relaxed. like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
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>> she seemed happier. she seemed more content, more at ease. >> and, her collapsing marriage was the top of office gossip. >> she did not want anyone to know what was going on in her life. >> she did talk about her marriage, but other people did. and they said it wasn't working. >> well, they said mike was not happy. >> mike had a reputation at work for having a hard temperature. for being intimidating. his friend worked with him for a decade. >> it was a lot of tension. you could just feel it from him. and a lot of people were very careful around him. what they said, what they did. >> because my excuse could blow. and when it did, you didn't want to be around. >> he did blow at its dispatchers, and -- . the dispatcher would be crying. >> so it wasn't a big surprise
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when ellen announced that mike had left her. >> he packed up his stuff to move to phoenix. >> he probably ended up living in phoenix. the marriage must of been over. >> and rumors spread through the albuquerque auto business, quicker -- than >> mike -- took the money out of the house, took all these things and just disappeared. and later on i was hearing rumors that he was gay, had a male lover. went to the caribbean. >> did you ever hear where the source of these rumors? was >> no, everyone heard it. it was just passed along throughout the dealerships. >> did you believe? it >> disappearing? that was kind of one thing. but being gay? no. >> several months passed with no word from mike. now his side of the family was so concerned, they decided to go to the police. >> i knew at some point we had
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to move on. we had to not just hold what was out there, but to at least explore the options. >> at the police station, his sister carrie, filed a priest report. she thinks that something happened to her brother. it was one thing to leave a bad marriage. but quite another to end contact with the daughter mike loved. >> i know my brother remain steadfast in the love for his daughter. she was the joy of his life. i really did not have a concrete explanation besides that's how i felt. that was it. >> but carrie wouldn't believe the response the officer gave them. >> the officer who you took the report was arrogant and said, you know he is a grown adult. he can come and go as he pleases. he really at that time did not want to write our report. >> the police are making the same argument element is making. >> right.
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>> he was entered into a national missing persons database. but there was nothing else that police could do, or frankly, would do. >> it is not against the law to be a missing person. unless there is suspicious circumstances. >> and chief was right in saying that he was totally within his rights to walk out and cut off tights with everybody in his life. the people that he loved, and the people that he no longer loved. so the investigation was limited to that someone of a missing person. fast forward to -- in the spring. no one heard from him. his expensive tools laid and use that work. ellen, now a single mom. filed for divorce. she was awarded the house, the money, the joint account, and sole custom-made of their daughter elizabeth. >> when your daughter would say to you, where's daddy?
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what did you say? >> i didn't know. that he left because he was mad at mommy. >> a year after mike left her, she says she could no longer for the home that they built together. now that she only had her salary. so she sold the house, and her and her kids, michael and elizabeth, move to a much smaller one. it was fall 2003 when she received a follow-up call from the police department. the investigator wanted to know she had spoken with mike. >> and you say wet? >> i say i do not consider him missing. he is right where he wants to be. he left me with his gave boyfriend. and i have not heard from him since. >> police seem to police seem to find it understandable that perhaps funded understandable that that you care about like -- they roads are bad for it. -- know. >> whatever suspicions mike side of the family may have had, police apparently didn't share
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them. so, with a few computer keystrokes and without the family's knowledge, or any further investigation, mike snider's name is literally wiped out of the missing persons database. ellen had said, he was not missing. back then, that was good enough for the police. >> there should've been a little bit more investigation done, other than just the word of ellen schneider. >> all this time you saw -- turns out they weren't looking for him. >> they were looking for him at all. >> dateline returns, after the break. don't stop taking eliquis without talking to your doctor as this may increase your risk of stroke. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. while taking, you may bruise more easily
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happening, a rebuke of president trump, from his former vice president, mike pence. pence, during a speech, told the crowd, he did not have the authority to overturn the 2020 election, and that, quote, president trump is wrong. the u.s. economy added a whopping 167,000 jobs last
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month. a number three times higher than anticipated. job numbers for november and december, 2021, we're also -- a sign of continued recovery, despite the recent omicron wave. now, back to dateline. we would call missing persons, they would say somebody was going to get back with us. almost in a three-year span, we had a little to no contact with the police department. >> turns out, they weren't even looking for. him >> right. during that time, he was not even in the database. >> it was now 2005, it had been three years since mike snider had left his home, his family, his whole life in albuquerque. no one had heard from the master mechanic, not even his little girl, who is now nine years old a, third grader. >> that was one big red flags for me, and maybe that'll -- because i knew there would be
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no way that my brother would ever have left his daughter, ever. >> at the jeep dealership for mike had worked for ten years, his name was rarely mentioned in conversation. after three or four years of my being gone, it didn't come too much anymore. >> we knew he was sick, wouldn't really know if he was still in the hospital somewhere, or if he had actually just passed away from his illness. >> his tools were no longer lying there, unused. ellen's son, michael, was using them. he followed mike shoes and had become a mechanic himself. on those rare occasions when ellen would come by the shop, were my cat ones worked, his old colleague, dave styler, would ask -- >> have you heard from? mike >> she would say, no. there seem to be no concern for mike. she would just say, no, i haven't seen. mike >> it's often said that the happiest inside of civic asians are what brings families
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together. when mike's family gather together to mourn the death of mike's father, any hope the family had left for mike's return, evaporated. >> that deafening was probably the final straw where we were all on board that my brother would death we have shown up for his own father's funeral. >> but ellen and her children did show up. they no longer kept in touch with mike side of the family, but they'd seen the death announcement in the newspaper and came to pay their respects. >> we weren't expecting them, so it was a little strange. it caught us off-guard. once again, we're in a state of mourning, we don't want to create any kind of issues, we certainly we're going to have them escorted out. >> after all, mike's deceased father was the grandfather to elizabeth and step grandfather to alan son, michael. look >> we let them come up to the casket, you know, have their bereavement time, and then, all of a sudden, we notice that michael was just hysterical. he was crying uncontrollably.
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at that point, my sister and i are just looking at each other and poking each other, thinking, what? >> michael cried so stereotypically that's mother, ellen, had to escort the 20-year-old out of the room. were he in your father close? >> not close, per se. i mean, he was no closer to my father than he was to my mother. >> it was a very odd occurrence that we all just took note. of >> there was something else that terry remembers about that day, something that enraged her. >> allen, at some, point comes to my sister and asks about my father's will. she wanted to know if there was anything in her will provision for his daughter, for mike's daughter. >> and she's asking about money? >> and she's asking about money. >> and the more she thought about it, the more terry had a sinking feeling that ellen knew something about mike's disappearance. >> she certainly wasn't acting
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like a woman who was trying to find the father of her child. we cannot understand why she didn't seem the least bit concerned about her child not having a father. >> it just didn't make sense to mike side of the family. they pleaded with police to take a fresh look at the case. in the spring of 2005, the albuquerque police agreed. mark wilson, a cold case detective, was assigned. >> the department said, yes, will look into it. it's been three years, he left a young daughter behind. he left a house. >> the detective began digging for any information on the missing mechanic. did any record of him exist? >> first, we look into the criminal law idea and see if maybe he'd been stopped, or maybe there's a police report on him somewhere. >> and there's nothing? >> right. >> we also look into the fact, could you be dead somewhere? >> check the metal go
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investigator's office -- >> he's not there. then, i started looking into see if there might be any indication of financial records that might indicate he was working somewhere. once again, we came into a dead end. >> the detective did discover a one very curious thing, it turns out, mike snider had filed state tax returns in 2004 and 2005, years after his disappearance. >> that doesn't sound like a missing person. >> no, it doesn't. >> with that sounds like to me, off the top of my head, a guy who doesn't particularly want to be found. >> it suggests the possibility that he might be alive. >> as you brother the kind of person who would either know how to, or want to, sort of, live off the grid? >> he certainly had the financial means. did he have the know-how, i wouldn't think so. i don't know what it takes to live underground, so to speak, and be a person of a different identity.
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i don't know if he would even have considered something like that. >> could mike snider be hiding, not missing? if so, why? and, from home? >> coming up, the search for mike, from the caribbean. >> that's where he was with dave simmons. >> correct. >> to his own backyard. >> the neighbor said she remembered michael and allen digging out behind the garage. digging a hole. >> when dateline continues. ontinues
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out here in the new mexico
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desert, the land is dry and vast. there are roads that lead nowhere, and mysteries that go unsolved. cold case detective, mark wilson had been trying to unravel one of those mysteries. the disappearance of albuquerque native, mike snider. >> he could've had a successful drive anywhere in the country. >> one that would've showed up on research. >> yes. >> but there was no trace of him, not anywhere. it was as if the master mechanic had simply vanished. >> there wasn't any indication of anything that would match up to him. >> but, mike snider had filed income tax returns in 2004 in 2005. years after he disappeared. it was quite simply, very, very
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odd. with the investigation seeming to stall, detective winston called the local paper, the albuquerque journal, asking if they'd filed a story on the cold case. maybe the attention would shake loose some leads. jeff proctor, a reporter for the paper. >> police were finally willing to say, publicly, that they believe this may have been a homicide. >> it's no secret that in any homicide investigation, the spouses always the first to be questioned. before the detective had a chance to reach out to allen, she was calling him complaining about the article. >> she said, where did you get this information? she was upset that it portrayed that he was just an innocent man, a father that had disappeared. >> the article did it implicate you? >> oh, yes it did. >> i mean, i read it. it doesn't lay the blame at
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your feet. >> yes, it does. >> what did she tell? you >> she and michael had a heated discussion and that the next morning when she woke up, he was gone, and he hadn't taken a vehicle. >> ellen told a detective that she was pretty sure that mike had initially moved to phoenix, home of his lover, dave simmons. but, more recently, she believed he had moved on to the caribbean. >> she said, he's probably on an island somewhere. >> we had looked at land on saint craw. as far as i knew, i forget that he had gone to saint crawl. >> and that's where he was, with save simmons? >> correct. >> in fact, ellen said she'd actually spoken with mike over the years. >> mike had called a couple of times. >> yes. >> and that wherever he was, he was, maybe not angry, but at least the two of you weren't talking, and a non angry way about tickets. >> oh, i think we were still angry. i think i told him that we were
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still angry. >> but that he was gone, and he wasn't coming back. >> right. >> mike's sister, terry, hadn't yet learned about mike sister with the mysterious dave simmons, or about the accusation that her brother was secretly gay. ellen didn't share any of that with terry, until a few years after mike had disappeared. she told other people about it, at the time. >> but, not us. she did so that out to us at first. >> and if that make any sense to you? >> oh, goodness, no. i don't believe for one minute them a rather is gay. >> that was only one of the components to ellen story that detective wilson wanted to check out. he says he asked allen to come down to the police department, to meet with him in person. only, she wouldn't. >> she said, he's not missing. >> we said, well we want to find him. even asking her to come in to help us find him, she would not come in. >> so, ellen and detective wilson never did meet face to face. she claims she was giving him
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all the information she had. you weren't giving him what he needed, he want to meet with you. >> he never said that. >> he says he did. >> he never asked me to come down, ever. >> instead, ellen male the detective some paperwork that she had found in mike's desk. a western union money transfer from mike snider today simmons, and the amount of $200. a u-haul receipt was dave simmons's name and number, and a copy of mike's cell phone bill, from december 2001, right before he disappeared. it showed a number of phone calls to that same telephone number. you gave detective wilson all the documentation that you had on examines. >> yes. >> unfortunately, ellen no longer had the voice mail. the one she claimed to have discovered on mike's cell phone, the sexually explicit one from dave simmons. i mean, the only proof that they had a relationship is the voice mails, which don't exist anymore. >> well, i think if people knew
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mike, they would know he would never send anybody money, unless there was some sort of relationship there. >> mike was supporting this guy? >> i never found enough money that he was supporting him, but he was deadly helping him out. >> police tell us allen's information didn't lead anywhere. the detective didn't locate mike in the caribbean, and when he tried to contact dave simmons from phoenix, he never got a response. but that same albuquerque journal article, the one that so infuriated ellen, also got ellen's former neighbors talking about something we had seen years before. >> they'd seen michael in ellen digging out behind the garage, digging a hole. >> one was? that >> around the time the michael went missing. the neighbor said she remembers seeing them out behind the garage with shovels. >> that was pretty intriguing to the detective. it sounded like a viable lead.
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so, in late spring 2006, with the current homeowners permission, detective wilson brought to search dogs and their handlers to the snyder's old property. a neighbor showed them where a flowering tree had been planted in 2000 into, a year after mike disappeared. >> my suspicion was that there was a body under the tree, that they planted a tree to hide the body. >> the handlers let the dogs loose on the property. at first, they showed little interest. that is, until they went under the flowering tree. incredibly, both dogs, independently of one another, gave their cadaver alert. >> the dog handler said, this is an indication that possibly the scent is coming up through the tree. but she did say, well, the body could be ten feet down there, or 30 feet in that direction, if indeed there was a body there. >> detective wilson had a new theory, maybe mike snider had
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never actually left home, after all. was this the big break that the case needed? the detective discussed it with mike sister. >> of course, i get both excited, intrigued, anxious, and i start asking him about some questions. >> the team tried to dig deeper, but the ground was hard. when did you find? >> we don't find anything. the dogs didn't -- they were excited about the whole itself. >> soon, the chokehold. the tip seemed like gold, and mike sister, terry was crushed. the detective was deflated. >> i had to think that, well, there's a possibility that maybe his body was somewhere else. i did have a feeling that mike snider was dead somewhere. >> the digging was over. but metaphorically, at least, detective wilson still held a shovel. he was trying to get to the bottom of what ellen snider had been doing around the time her
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has been mysteriously disappeared. it wasn't long before he found someone that ellen worked with, who had offered some very unusual. help >> a coworker said, i have a gun if you do have to use it, if that will help. >> dateline returns after the break. turns after th break. my auntie called me. she said uncle's had a heart attack. i needed him to be here. your heart isn't just yours. protect it with bayer aspirin. be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen. - oh...oh. - what's going on?
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ask your doctor about once-daily trelegy. it had been four years since mike snider had gone missing. four years since he left his family, including his young daughter, in his hometown of albuquerque. in 2006, the albuquerque general ran an article on the missing mechanic and father. the cold case, which had been virtually dead for years, was suddenly picking up steam. reporter jeff proctor. >> it triggered some ticks to the police department, and they got some people, you know, talking about this as something
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other than ill husband who had walked off on his family. >> for the first time, albuquerque parolees were publicly calling the case a homicide investigation. and, that caught the attention of a man named frank. he said, on the one that lender the gun. good >> if you think she's a suspect in this, i don't want my family in danger, so i want to turn the gun over to you. >> frank was a retired military. a straight, by the book guy, who had befriended and ellen snider when they were together, in 2001. >> she was telling people that he yells it or all the time. >> it was christmas, 2001. ellen says, the daily fighting in the snyder home had escalated. mike's multiple scroll oasis had grown progressively worse, and with it, his anger. >> he would push me around, he would hit me. >> he hit you how many times? >> three or four.
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>> ellen now held an executive level position at a large dealership. she was the boss to 30 mechanics, and making upwards of $90,000 a year. >> she put your feet to the fire, to make sure you get the job done and move on. >> she was no pushover. >> she was no pushover. >> she stood up for herself. >> right. >> inside the walls of that nice home, allen's rank was near the bottom. >> he became very condescending, controlling. where i could go, who i could see. >> at home, mike made the rules and ellen obeyed them. >> you had a significant executive job at a big company. >> yes. >> so, you're not some little shrinking violet, whose home cowering under her husband's direction? >> but, when it came to being home and opening that door, i was that shrinking violet. that's how things were, he ran the show. it was two different ellen's,
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two different lives. >> detective wilson interviewed ellen's old boss, a man named, james cost so. he told the detective he remembered an incident when ellen came to work with bruises. >> she was wearing her sunglasses. i said, why are you wearing sunglasses? she finally took her sunglasses off, she had a nice big shiner. i asked her, i said, you know, with the heck happened to you? she had stated to me that supposedly mike and michael got into some big old battle, and michaels beating the crap out of him. so she jumped in the middle of, it and of course, she took the brunt of it. >> where she giving the classic battered wives explanation for her bruises? a few days later, gazelle says he heard yelling coming from allen's office. >> i hear world war three breaking news in the office next to me. there was a guy screaming. >> turns out, the loud and angry voice belonged to mike
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snider. >> he standing on this side of the desk, she standing on her side of the desk, and he's just screaming. he stops, when i bargain, and he looks at me. i told, and i said, you know, you can do this. he basically told me i needed to mind my own business. >> her colleague frank, having nothing but good intentions volunteer to loan ellen a 32 caliber semiautomatic pistol. >> showed her how to use, it explained a bunch of things tour, you know, a ten minute please don't shoot yourself lesson. >> i had never had one before. he offered me the gun. i took it home, put it in the back of a closet. >> why not just gather up the kids and leave? >> it was christmas time, we had a six-year-old daughter. >> detective wilson checked for any police reports of domestic abuse or calls to 9-1-1. he found none. >> they have altercations throughout their marriage? i would imagine, most couples
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do. but, i have never seen any violent temper and my brother. >> you know, there are no documented visits to police or house >> i know that. >> it was a few months later, when ellen would turn the gun to her colleague. >> he looked at it, he looked at her, and said, was the bullets? >> ellen said her friend had taken her gun range in showed or how to use it. dateline returns after the break. pulls in on parking alone? alright, no more talking about parking lots. a lot of these are compact spots. it's not pretty. progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents, but we can protect your home and auto when you bundle with us. we still planning to head out around the third quarter? let's not talk about leaving before we're actually at the game. some home fragrances can be... overwhelming.
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his family, his friends, his coworkers-- no one had seen mike snyder. his family, his friends, his co-workers, no one had seen mike snyder. had his illness grown worse, had he moved to another city with another man as ellen claiminged? now after all this time someone is about to step forward from the shadows to say he knows exactly what happened to mike snyder. mystery over or just beginning?
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here again, josh mankiewicz. mike snyder had been missing for eight long years. his family didn't know where he was and the detective investigating the case had a hunch that mike's wife ellen was somehow involved. a co-worker of ellen's came afford saying he had loaned ellen his gun and when she returned it a few months later, there were no bullets. >> he looked at it, looked at her and said where's the bullets. >> ellen said that she went to a gun range with a friend who showed her how to use it. and detective wilson had discovered that ellen had actually tried to purchase another gun at a local pawnshop one month earlier. she was turned down after a routine background check. >> you couldn't. what happened? >> it was a fraud charge. >> what did you do to get in trouble. >> i was working for a company that i wrote a check on.
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>> in the late '80s ellen pled guilty to embezzlement. the charges were dropped after her probation. suddenly ellen snyder's skeletons were starting to see the light of day. while detective wilson was doing his investigative work, mike's sister teri, a schoolteacher, was doing hers. she told the detective about a second home mortgage that ellen took out, teri claims, without mike's knowledge. >> we actually have a copy of that document, of the second mortgage. and it's clearly not my brother's signature on either line. >> that's true, ellen says. she did sign mike's name, but says mike knew all about it. the more teri thought about mike, the more she remembered his growing frustration with ellen in the months before he disappeared. >> he would intercede phone calls that collectors were calling wanting to know why their credit cards were past due and all of these things he had no idea of.
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>> these were bills he thought ellen run up and not identity theft. >> right. >> not long after mike disappeared, ellen found herself in debt. she had 20 creditors and owed more than $120,000 on her credit cards. did mike know about the debt before he dropped by her work? is that why mike had showed up in a rage? had he discovered the financial mess in to which she put their family? and if mike had been abusive, had ellen come to the conclusion that she could solve that problem with a gun? detective wilson was growing more and more skeptical of ellen snyder's story and so was mike's sister teri. without any real proof that ellen had something to do with mike's disappearance, there was nothing that could be done about those aching suspicions. >> there was nothing that could tangibly prove murder enough to get an arrest warrant for it
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until they had a body. >> and so another four years passed. mike's sister teri became more and more dissatisfied with the progress detective wilson was making. >> i think at first he was very zealous. he felt that, you are right, a lot of this isn't adding up and i believe at first they worked very hard to find my brother. >> as the years went by, the unknown had become unbearable for the snyder family. they wanted answers from the police. >> i think he got very upset with me that i was being pushy. our phone conversations got less and less. i would call and leave a message and my messages weren't being returned. they kind of, i think, put the case on the back burner, i believe. >> detective wilson did continue to look for mike snyder but wilson had to also focus on the 20 other cold cases that needed his attention.
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and then one day in 2010 came a phone call that would break this case. a confidential informant who said he knew exactly where mike snyder was. >>ed looked in the yard. not found anything. not found mike. not been able to talk to ellen. i'm not going to say it wasn't going anywhere, but it certainly didn't seem to be pointing immediately to any resolution. >> correct. >> and that is when you had this call? >> yes. >> detective mark wilson was sitting in his office when a most unexpected call came in. the caller, a confidential source, who said that he had information on mike snyder. >> who was this confidential source? >> somebody that was a friend with michael sheffield. >> ellen's son. >> ellen's son.
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>> it was patrick, a motorcycle technician. he and michael had gone to high school together and were close friends. >> he had been living with me in my house with my son for months. they lived there rent free. >> out of the goodness of your heart? >> because it was michael's friend, yeah. he was a good kid. they needed some break. >> not only was he michael sheffield's good friend, patrick wassal ellen's employee at the r and s cause kawasaki motorcycle dealership where she was a service manager. >> my boss was giving me a lot of heat about patrick's productivity and his comebacks. so he told me in december that i needed to let him go, but he wanted to wait until after christmas. i kept him much longer than i would have because he was a friend. >> the first week of january, 2010, ellen fired patrick. she could not have known just how life altering that decision
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would be. >> what did he say? >> didn't say much. just loaded up his stuff and left. >> of course ellen didn't know that patrick knew the secret. >> he went to the police. >> and he went to the police. >> and now patrick was sitting in a starbucks with detective wilson letting him on the eight year old secret. >> so he didn't come fort out of his heart or civic duty. this was revenge. >> yes. >> but you'll take it. >> yes. >> patrick told the detective that mike snyder had been killed and his body was buried in the yard of the snyder's former home and how did patrick know this? his best friend michael had told him and on more than one occasion. >> he said the next day he told him about it and then over the years if they were together drinking or something that he
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would break down and tell him again the story. >> you believe him? >> yes. >> so this is one more person pointing you to the backyard. >> yes. >> but you had already looked there. >> yes. seemed very believable this information and corroborated what we suspected. >> patrick agreed to cooperate with police. he drove an undercover police vehicle with a hidden microphone to michael's home and told him they needed to speak privately. he said the police contacted him about the disappearance of mike snyder and he didn't know what to do. >> they are really freaking me out. and i just wanted to come to you and what the [ bleep ] do i say or not say, you know? they were at my house for like two hours. so i just need to know from you what i should do. >> tell them you don't know anything. >> i just don't want them to get to you and stuff. >> i know how to handle myself. >> i'm just scared.
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because they seem to like know a lot of things, too. >> like what? >> they were saying something about hearing gunshots and they were also saying they might know what the weapon is. >> do you still have that? >> no. what do you want me to tell them when they come next week, or if they want to give out your number and stuff like that. should i give it to them. >> yeah. >> okay. >> then came the big question. the one the police had coached patrick to ask. >> is he still there. >> as far as i know. under a big slab of concrete. >> it was now time for detective wilson to pay a visit to michael sheffield, ellen snyder's son. mike's stepson. and begin to unravel the eight year old mystery. >> you have a place we can sit down and talk.
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coming up, the interrogation begins. >> it is time to come clean. >> but can they get at the truth after all these years? >> i can only imagine what it would be like keeping that type of a secret. >> when "dateline" continues. re. re. >> when "dateline" continuesddi! instead, start small. with nicorette. which can lead to something big. start stopping with nicorette when they're sick, they get ortable anywhere and spread germs everywhere. wherever they rest protection nothing kills more viruses, including the covid-19 virus, on more surfaces than lysol disinfectant spray. lysol. what it takes to protect. - oh...oh. - what's going on? - oh, darn! - let me help.
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josh mankiewicz: it was friday, january 29, 2010, it was friday, january 29th, 2010, and it was business as usual in the service department at this albuquerque saab dealership located on the west side of town. that is until detective mark wilson and three of his colleagues from the cold case team showed up. >> you wouldn't happen to have some place we can sit down and walk, would you? thought i'd chat with you a bit. >> they were there to speak with 25-year-old mechanic michael sheffield, ellen snyder's son, mike snyder's stepson. >> he didn't seem to be surprised that the police showed up at his work and he said, sure we have a break room we can talk in. so we went to the break room and conducted an interview there.
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>> we are going to ask you questions, all right, that we already know the answers to. you knew this day was coming ever since you were 17 years old. how you answer the questions and your honesty here is really going to change your life from this moment on. okay. all right. detective wilson here has been investigating the disappearance of your stepfather. >> why don't you tell me right now what you know what happened to your stepdad, michael snyder. michael snyder who helped to raise you. >> at first, michael tells the same story that ellen has told since the day michael disappeared. >> remember what i told you. that's what your mother told you. think of when you were 17 years old and what you woke up to one
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night, are you pretty sure that is what you want your statement to be to the district attorney. we're not going to find his body out there? michael, it's time to come clean. it's over. >> i am. he left us. he left my sister and i. you know what it's like trying to raise her? i was 17 she had no father figure anymore. >> he said as far as i know he ran off with a guy and left my mother and sister and i behind. denied that he knew anything. >> so he's still telling the story he's been telling six, seven years. >> yes. >> we have information, all right, that you assisted your mom in burying your stepfather in the backyard. no? you think we're here by chance?
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you think we are making this up. >> i don't know where you got your information but i would never -- no, no terrible crime. >> repeatedly the detective tells michael it's time for him to confess. >> i need you to be honest with us. i need you to right here on this picture show us where you buried the body. >> i didn't bury a body. >> yeah, you did. >> how long did it take him to come off that story? >> after we told him that we had information that he knew where the body was and went a little further and told him we heard him talking about it, he came forward after we showed him that we had evidence. >> tell us what happened and exactly where you buried the body. >> the detectives have broken him and the story came spilling out after eight years of lies. it was early morning, january
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2002, michael said, when he woke to the sound of gunshots and he called 911. >> he must have hung up just in time because there's no record of a 911 call from the snyder home that day. a few days later in a second interview, michael told police this -- >> mom tells me what happened. >> what did she tell you. >> she told me she shot him in defense. she was scared. >> okay. >> told me she shouldn't have done it, sorry, but could you help me with this. i was scared at the time and didn't know what to do. >> so, he says, he reluctantly
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helped his mother wrap mike snyder's dead body in a waterproof tarp, place it in a hole in the backyard and put some construction waste on top of it. >> what's going through your mind at this time? >> i don't want to get caught. i don't want to go to jail. what am i doing? >> and michael told detectives about the breakdown he had at mr. snyder's funeral. the one that the snyder family thought was so peculiar. >> i couldn't handle it. i had a breakdown. the family was staring at me and she's outside talking to me. she said is this my fault, is this about what happened? and i don't remember saying anything back. but now it was about that. >> i had the feeling that he was glad to finally get it off of his chest. he broke down somewhat.
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i can only imagine what it would be like keeping that type of secret. >> the detective showed michael photographs of the snyder's property as it looked in 2002. and had michael circle where he believed his stepfather's body was buried. >> did michael believe he was on the hook for his part in this? >> i think he probably knew that he was. he knew he was an accomplice in the case. >> a few miles away, michael's mom, ellen snyder, was ending her workday. >> when i came out from work, his girlfriend came by. she was sitting in her car next to my car. she said you need to get in the car. >> she told ellen that michael had called. the police had shown up at his work and they knew the secret. >> so i called my mom and said i need to come over. she is like, are you okay and i said no. >> and with that ellen's mother phoned an old acquaintance of
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hers, a defense attorney named penny adrian. >> her mom calls me up and says, i think we have a problem. there was apparently something very wrong. >> next morning ellen went to meet with adrian. by then the story was breaking. >> albuquerque police have an active crime scene investigation going on right now. >> police tell us a confidential source told them the remains of snyder are buried under the garage of this home. >> she sat stiff in front of me. she said, have you heard about them digging for a body in the northeast heights? and i said, well, you couldn't not hear about it. it was on all of the television stations and all over the newspaper. and she said, well, my ex-husband is buried there because i shot him. "dateline" returns after the break.
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here is what is happening. after criticism from health care advocates that medicare recipients do not have access to free at-home covid tests, the biden administration announced that they will be available to those on head care in the spring. and protestors in minneapolis took to the streets in their cars after the police killing of ameer lock, a 22-year-old black man who was asleep when officers conducted a no-knock search warrant. that led to putting a moratorium on such warrants. now back to "dateline." north albuquerque acres is known for its large subdivisions of its foothills. not for helicopters and news vehicles. but in february of 2010, this was the scene in front of the home where ellen and mike snyder once lived.
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>> out in the street it was a zoo. >> reporters were staked out for three days while men with jack hammers and backhoes began tearing up the garage floor. >> we continue following the breaking news -- >> if you lived in albuquerque, you would have had to wear ear plugs not to hear about it. >> the police chief told us that police is here and they are looking for the remains of michael snyder. >> and a longtime friend of ellen's was at work when the news broke. >> i couldn't believe it. >> so you really believed that he left her and he was in phoenix? >> yeah. >> police begin to cut through the concrete of what was now a six-car garage. the job of finding mike snyder's remains proved difficult. the garage floor was a solid foot of steel reinforced concrete. >> police will resume digging tomorrow. >> the excavation went on for
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two more days. finally on the third day, searchers uncovered a waterproof tarp. inside were the remains of mike snyder. >> she had been saying mike was in phoenix and mike this and that and all along mike wasn't in phoenix. >> for mike's family the finality is devastating. >> to not know eight years and hold on to hope and have that pulled out from under you was very difficult for all of us. >> ellen snyder sat in defense attorney penny adrian's office knowing an arrest was imminent. >> they found the body and she wanted to get it over with. she said you can't go on like this. >> so adrian informed the police that ellen snyder was ready to turn herself in. >> that following friday, i met with the police detectives at her office, gave a full
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statement. >> before we ask you questions, i want you to understand these are your miranda and constitutional rights. >> she gave police a 2 1/2 hour confession and her version of events is quite a story. >> woke me up. it was 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. we were arguing. pushing back and forth and i told him, i know all about you and dave simmons. i know that you are gay. >> ellen said she had recently grown more courageous in her dealings with mike, and on this night she confronted her husband over what she says was a secret gay affair. >> i am yelling at him and he's yelling at me and i said i'm going to tell everybody. i'm going to tell everybody about you and he's telling me, you will never tell anybody about me. you are not going to tell anything. there's nothing to tell. he's denying it. he's screaming at me. i have never seen him so angry.
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ever. >> she says she ran to the bedroom and got the gun from the closet. the gun that her colleague frank had loaned her. >> i said i have a gun. he's laughing at me. telling me i'm a coward and i'm never going to tell anyone. >> she is taunting you. >> he's taunting me. >> saying you don't have the courage to shoot me? >> calling me, you know, a [ bleep ] and telling me what a rotten person i am, screaming at me. >> in that moment of fear, ellen says, she pulled the trigger, not once, not twice, but repeatedly. >> i emptied the gun. i have never been so afraid in my life. >> he turned around and ran away from you. and you kept shooting. >> i did. i kept shooting. >> how far did he get? >> ten feet. >> then what happened? >> then he fell down.
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>> elizabeth, mike and ellen's 6-year-old daughter was fast asleep in the bedroom. she didn't wake up. but ellen's son michael 17 was in his bedroom and he did. >> he was calling 911. i told him to hang it up, michael. >> and he hung up. >> and he hung up and i sat down on the step waiting for the police to come. >> but the police never did show. >> i covered him up. i told michael to get ready for school. i told him i shot mike. you need to just go to school. >> how is michael doing at this point? >> i thought he was doing okay. >> evidently michael was not okay. he skipped school that day, and he told his friend patrick about the horror he had gone through. >> did you talk to him about this? or from the first minute that this happened, did this sort of become the thing you are not talking about. >> right. we never talked about it. >> once you said to him, i shot
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mike, go to school -- >> we didn't talk about it. >> later with michael and elizabeth at school, ellen planned to move the body in to the garage, but there was a problem. >> trying to get him situated to where i could get him, a board under him to move him to the garage. >> you couldn't do it alone. >> i couldn't do it alone. >> so you asked your son. >> so i asked my son. >> you asked michael to help you move the body? >> yes. he didn't want to. i asked him please. and he said, okay. >> 17-year-old michael reluctantly agreed. >> were you aware that you were asking him to essentially help you commit a crime? >> i wasn't in the frame of mind to believe that as such. >> yet, at the time, you were willing to do that instead of
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the other option which is call the cops and face the music. >> yes. at that point i was just solving the problem. >> so the tears and regret that i'm seeing now, you weren't feeling that then. >> no. never cried. >> because at the time ellen says she was on auto pilot and needed to dispose of the body. and how did she do that? in the want ads she found a guy with a backhoe who came out to the house and dug a hole. >> did you tell the guy why you were doing this? >> he didn't ask. >> ellen and her son michael wrapped his body in a tarp and put plastic bags on his hands and in the dark of night they move him on to a dolly in to the hole. >> is your son helping you or not. >> i asked him to help me throw some dirt on top of him. he said okay. >> they filled the hole with leftover construction waste so
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the body couldn't be seen. the next day, ellen went back to the paper. found a different guy who had a bobcat and hired him to fill in the hole. >> you buried a body. >> i buried a body. >> and then she came up with her story. >> you got better at telling that story as time went on. >> yeah, as time went on. it became a bigger and bigger story. >> it was the end of her 2 1/2 hour statement to police. and ellen snyder wanted to get one last thing on the record. >> is there anything else you want to say before we turn off the recorder? >> i want to say i'm not a horrible killer. >> and with that 50-year-old ellen snyder was charged with first-degree murder and held on one million bail. >> albuquerque police announce they have arrested the ex-wife
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of an albuquerque man who vanished eight years ago. >> an eight year old cover-up was over, but another story line was just beginning. did mike snyder have it coming? was ellen guilty of anything? and what could be proven after so many years? coming up, a startling police discovery. >> it appeared to me that michael scheider was laying in his bed when he was shot. and something more startling still. >> she could walk away from this? >> she might have committed first-degree murder and got away with it. >> when "dateline" continues. "datelis be there for life's best moments with coricidin. now in sugar free liquid. nicorette knows, quitting smoking is freaking hard. you get advice like: just stop. go for a run. go for 10 runs! run a marathon.
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josh mankiewicz: he thought he was going to kill you even though you had the gun. you thought he was going to kill you even though you had the gun? >> yes. i did. i have never seen such anger,
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ever. i shot him because i was afraid. >> there are some things ellen snyder admits. she admits that she shot and killed her husband mike snyder in the early-morning hours of january 2002. she admits that she buried his body and lied about his disappearance for years, but she does not admit to being guilty of murder. >> you don't think of yourself as a murderer? >> no, i don't. i was saving my own life. it came down that night to me or him. >> she said it was a case of survival. but ask detective wilson and he calls it something else. >> i believe this is an evil woman who planned this from the beginning. >> maybe she did fear for her life. there are people who say they saw her with bruises. >> sure. it's a possibility. possibility there was a bruise. or it could have been something she set up to look like that to
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go along with her story. because it was closer to the time she was going to kill him. >> even if it was an act of self defense that caused ellen snyder to shoot her husband, why hasn't she called police? >> usually when abused women kill their abusers, they call the police and they are sitting there with the gun when the police drive up. >> okay. >> they don't try to evade responsibility. they admit what they did and they say, i didn't have any choice. pretty much as you are saying to me now. but they don't bury the body. and tell a series of pretty good lies over a long period of time. that's pretty unusual. >> okay. >> which suggests, to some people, that there's more to the story than you are telling. >> they didn't live through what we lived through. they weren't there that night. >> with ellen snyder now sitting in jail, detective wilson was trying to determine if the
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shooting happened the way that ellen now said it did because, after all, how believable was ellen? >> we tried to gather information six, seven years later, we don't have the actual crime scene. at that time, they would have seen blood streams from where he first got shot to where the body was laying, to where the bullet projectiles had stopped. >> ellen claimed that mike woke her up yelling and they fought in the family room where mike slept. >> i'm in the middle of the family room and he's about as as far as you and i facing me. >> what happened? >> he stepped forward and i start shooting. >> using creative detective work, wilson had an idea. he remembered something that michael, ellen's son had mentioned in his interview with police. something about a stereo speaker. >> apparently not all of the
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bullets hit him. another went through a speaker, like the bottom of a speaker. i still have that speaker. >> the detective went back to the house with michael. asked him to show where the speaker was positioned on the floor and where it was in relation to where mike slept and detective wilson came to this hypothesis. >> it appeared to me that michael snyder was laying in his bed when he was shot. >> not up and advancing on ellen to do her harm. >> exactly. the office of the medical investigator reported the projectiles came up through the victim's body from down, stomach area up to the shoulder area. >> almost as if the person was lying flat and the shooter was standing at his feet? >> yes. my estimation was that the body was on the mattress when he was being fired at. he may have gotten up and started running, if it didn't
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kill him right away. >> there was something else the detective uncovered that appeared a lot more sinister than a woman in fear for her life. it seemed ellen snyder had actually made a pretty penny off of mike's death. "dateline" returns after the break. ike's death. "dateline" returns after the break. you don't know how much pressure you put on your septic system. but rid-x does. in a 21 month study, scientists proved that rid- x reduces up to 20% of waste build up every month.
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talk to your eczema specialist about dupixent, josh mankiewicz: just months after she shot her husband and filed for divorce, ellen was awarded just months after she shot her husband and filed for divorce, ellen was awarded the couple's home and the cash in their joint account. remember those tax returns that had been filed in mike's name after he disappeared? turns out it was ellen who filed them in order to get a refund. she also cashed out mike's $60,000 401(k) and continued to collect the disability checks mike had been getting because of his multiple sclerosis. >> you kept cashing those checks for a year. >> those checks were deposited in to my account. >> totaling how much money. >> 4 grand a month. >> it must have helped.
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>> it did. >> the argument could be made that you made money out of this. >> so are you implying that it was because of that that it occurred? is that what you are implying? >> i'm not implying it. i'm saying you made money off of the death of your husband. >> i did not make substantial money out of the death of my husband, no. >> it was now the job of the prosecutor to put together a case for the jury to hear. >> covering up the crime, i think would be our best evidence in terms of trying to convince a jury that her intent at the time of the killing was something along the lines of a premeditated murder. >> the prosecution found itself in an unusual predicament. eight years had passed since the shooting and in that time the statute of limitations had run out on any charge other than first-degree murder. that meant in order to get any
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conviction at all, prosecutors would have to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that ellen snyder planned mike snyder's murder and with no crime scene and little in the way of forensics, that was going to be hard to prove. >> in her view, it was self defense, but maybe she was guilty of manslaughter, second-degree murder. but you couldn't prosecute her for either of those offenses. >> that's correct. the statute of limitations here in new mexico on a state case like this prohibited us from going forward on any of those lesser types of offenses. >> ellen snyder's defense attorney penny adrian knew a first-degree murder conviction could mean a life sentence for ellen, but felt the prosecution would have a tough time making their case. >> the premeditation would be hard to prove, but even harder would be to prove that she did not act in self defense given all of the things that were going on with mike.
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>> adrian says ellen acted after years of emotional and physically abuse. >> this guy was treating her horribly. >> that's right and had been for a long, long time. >> and she couldn't leave him? >> no. no. and that's what the cycle of abuse is all about. there's an isolation. there's a dependency, there's a demeaning factor. and those things will all go together until the abuser has turned the abused in to someone who thinks that he or she, because it happens both ways, is a worthless person. >> would ellen snyder spend the rest of her life behind bars, or had she committed the perfect murder? >> is it possible she's going to walk? >> it's certainly possible in this case. >> she could walk away from this. >> she might have committed first-degree murder and gotten away with it. "dateline" returns after the break. away with it. "dateline" returns after the break.
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is genexa right for me? yes! genexa uses clean non-gmo ingredients. -we've gone vegan. -and talk about it constantly. -is genexa right for us? -yes! -well i have a gluten thing. -yes! -well... -yes! -well.. -yes! is this just another stupid big pharma ad? -no! look for genexa, the first clean medicine company. look for genexa, josh mankiewicz: mike snyder's side of the family
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had spent many years waiting. my snyder's side of the father had spent many years waiting. they waited for mike to call after he disappeared. he never did. they waited for police to call when investigators first said they looked for him. that didn't happen either. and finally years later with ellen snyder sitting in jail, facing a murder charge for killing mike, they waited for justice. mike's sister -- >> how could you look at us the family in the face and tell us that you have no idea where mike is at or you just spoke to mike and mike is doing just fine. >> thus giving all of you hope. >> thus giving all of us hope. it is beyond me how any one person can do that. unimaginable. >> finally ellen snyder would pay the price for the murder of mike snyder. and the coverup that followed. at least that is what mike's side of the family fully
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expected. but there was that problem with the statute of limitations expired on anything less than first-degree murder, there was the chance that ellen snyder could be found not guilty. mike's family was willing to risk that. >> we felt that strongly that it was premeditated and that was a gamble that we were ready to take. >> but the prosecutor isn't willing to gamble. >> maybe she gets convicted of first degree murder and maybe that is what she did all along and that would have been justice. but with an all or nothing where you are trying to convince beyond a reasonable tout 12 jurors? >> you didn't want for roll the dice. >> that is a huge risk to roll the dice and not have somebody held accountable at all for the death of another human being. >> and it was a risk for ellen too. she knew that going to trial could mean a possible life sentence. one month before the case was set for trial, prosecutors offered ellen a plea deal. which she accepted.
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ultimately ellen snyder agreed to waive the statute of limitations restrictions and plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, admitting that she shot her husband. she also pled guilty to tampering of evidence for burying and concealing his body, and one count of tax fraud for filing mike's tax returns after his death. in all the maximum sentence possible was not life but just 11 years. mike's side of the family was devastated. whether she is sentenced to four years, five years, six years, seven years, 11 years, she has still gotten away with it? >> she is definitely getting away with murder. nothing will be long enough for us. >> in july 2011, family and friends of both ellen and mike gathered in the county district courthouse for ellen's
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sentencing. ellen's son michael was there in support of his mom. just as he had been on the day she shot her husband. michael was still a minor when the killing happened. and so in exchange for his cooperation, he was given immunity and faced no charges. as we set here, you are about to go into that courtroom and a judge is going to pronounce sentence. >> yeah. >> are you ready for what is coming? >> how do you say you're ready for that? i know that it has to happen. and i know it has to happen for this to be over. so i don't know that i can say yes, i'm ready, but it is going to happen. >> we have eight years of concealment, of lies -- >> the prosecution asked the judge to give ellen snyder the maximum sentence of 11 years.
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>> she could have been looking at a total of 339 years. >> ellen's defense attorney asked the judge for leniency. >> she does ask, your honor, that the court sentence her to five years in prison which will allow her to at least be at her daughter's graduation from college. >> the judge addressed ellen directly, focusing on that construction waste she had buried on top of her husband's body. >> it was reported that you unceremoniously threw trash in the same hole that mr. snyder had been placed. >> and with that, ellen was given the maximum sentence of 11 years behind bars. >> ms. snyder, hopefully once you are released you can get things together and go forward in life. >> and she hopes to. when we spoke with ellen shortly after her sentencing, ellen said that she worried most about her children.
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her then 16-year-old daughter elizabeth was a high school junior. she was only six when her father disappeared from her life. >> you told her that you'd been lying to her all those years. >> i did. >> what did she say? >> she was most concerned about losing her mom. she's been to see me every week. she's such a remarkable young woman. she loves me. >> but ellen says the greatest regret of her life was putting her son, michael, in the middle of a coverup. >> you said that you always looked out for him and that he always looked out for you. >> i didn't do such a good job. >> you didn't. >> he's such a remarkable man. >> i know you wish you'd shielded him from that. >> yep. >> i get the feeling you have way more regret about that than about what happened. >> absolutely.
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the shooting happened for a reason. the shooting happened. but it was too much to give michael. >> no one but ellen snyder will ever know what happened inside the walls of that dream home in the early morning hours of january 2002. that will forever remain a mystery. but one thing is clear, ellen snyder is something of an expert on how to live a life of secrets and lies. one thing we know about you for sure is that you are pretty good at telling a lie. >> okay. >> and the truth is, if you hadn't fired the wrong person, i think you'd still be telling that lie today. >> you're right. i can't dispute that. >> you have some sense of regret now? >> absolutely.
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i'm sorry that it ever happened. i'm sorry for mike. i'm sorry for my family. i'm sorry for his family. r his y >> i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> we call and her phone went straight to voice mail over and over and over. i realized something was wrong. >> i had the call that they got the car. >> we pumped the trunk and there's our victim. >> a body of evidence that made no sense? she's wearing an oversized mickey mouse shirt. >> did she own any mickey mouse clothing in. >> she had long hair. >> her hair was cut. >> who can be this sick in the head to do the? >> the potential


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