tv Dateline MSNBC January 15, 2023 11:00pm-1:00am PST
why when she was ready to start her brand-new life? i'll never know that answer. >> the calls kept coming. >> hi diane. it's 2:00. just wanted to check to make sure you're okay. >> by 2:00, it was too late. >> someone had killed her. >> we had her body and we have the singing, that was old. >> she had a fiancée, -- >> we had our ups and downs, no question. >> and, a coworker with a crush. >> he was an odd character, and was always very smiley to her. she didn't like it. everybody was a suspect. >> then, a break, tips from other women's who had been targeted to. >> he wanted to get me in there and i didn't budge and all the bills were going off. >> i don't in my car, and i took off, i felt they dodged a
bullet. but the y was much worse. >> in my wildest dreams, i never is managing that something like this could even exist. you >> certainly had your motive. >> yes we did. it was the afternoon of november 15th, austin texas, 4 pm, there was something ominous in the air and suddenly the smell of, if the familiar field up against the skin of a storm coming. something big. >> they did tell us on the news if you don't have to go out tonight don't. >> in the sky overhead turned dark by midnight in the afternoon. >> when it gets like that, it is pitch blackout. you have the fear of tornadoes. >> sure enough said the announcers on tv, twisters had been spotted headed to parts of the city. >> diane lived in the northwest. i said hey girl, they said
there was a tornado heading in your direction. she said my direction. she is like i don't know what to do. i have never been in a tornado. >> she must have been freaked out. >> very freaked out. >> the ferocious rain and hellish win and funnel clouds dipped and swirled around the city. the next morning, a friday, it was all over. friends checked on friends but nobody could reach diane, the freaked out one. diane worked from home. worked for ibm. the friday morning, so unlike her she missed a conference call. >> it is 2:00. worried about you. >> all day phone calls from ibm and friends went to voicemail. >> diane, i was calling to see if you were going to show up tonight or not. >> she didn't. >> i got to the club and i was waiting and she didn't come. i spent all of my time wondering when she was going to show up. >> was she caught in the storm.
was the house hit? a co-worker called the police who cruised over to diane's exclusive neighborhood and found her fine, big house unscathed. peered through windows. saw no one. they secured a key. they went upstairs. and there, all but hidden behind a guest room bed they found diane. >> someone had killed her. i actually had a scream of some sort. it's not true. that is not what happens. >> of course it was. diane, 43 years old, suddenly the unlikely center of a strange and disturbing mystery and a most unlikely victim of murder. >> absolutely lived a life with gust gusto. >> lynn had known diane since the 90s. >> we would vacation together and have so much fun and laugh and laugh and laugh. >> a lot of things that we like to do is that we hit the clubs a lot.
>> lots of dancing. >> in the ladies room of an austin bar. >> you have on cowboy boots. you must know where a country bar is. i said my best friend is coming and we are going to go there. she said cool, i'm going to go with y'all. >> she had only been in town three weeks. >> diane said i am not dressed for the club. she starts pulling out western wear and putting it out right there in the parking lot. she was crazy. >> she was throwing on things. right there in the parking lot. we all went dancing all night long. she was having a blast and so happy she met the two of us because she said now i have me
some dancing buddies. >> so, magnetic. which, said her colleague, lynn, helped to make her a fine recruiter for ibm. >> i would send her off to colleges and the kids would gravitate to her. she had a personality that stood out. >> and her attitude? endlessly adventurous. >> she pulled me out and said i need a half day off. she said i'm jumping in a balloon and going. >> she would always test the
edges. >> yes. >> she would throw all kinds of parties at her house and invite everyone she knows. where are they may not know each other, but everybody knew her. >> yes. she was great. she just loved to have all of these wonderful people around her. >> in any room, any crowd, diane was the lure. especially to men. >> that was never a problem going out with her. she was like a magnet for all of us. >> always men around whenever diane was there. always. >> so, there were. now she was dead. and the one thing that seemed obvious there in that second floor bedroom. what happened to diane bore the mark of a man. coming up, a killer as calm and cool as he is cold-hearted. >> you commit the act of murder and you leave. you don't want to get caught. this person did not do that. that was odd. >> a suspect emerges, someone close to diane. >> interesting thing happened when she hits 40.
she decided i need a partner and i need a marriage. >> when dateline continues. trying to control my asthma felt anything but normal. ♪ ♪ enough was enough. i talked to an asthma specialist and found out my severe asthma is driven by eosinophils, a type of asthma nucala can help control. now, fewer asthma attacks and less oral steroids that's my nunormal with nucala. nucala is a once-monthly add-on injection for severe eosinophilic asthma. nucala is not for sudden breathing problems. allergic reactions can occur. get help right away for swelling of face, mouth, tongue, or trouble breathing. infections that can cause shingles have occurred. don't stop steroids unless told by your doctor. tell your doctor if you have a parasitic infection. may cause headache, injection site reactions, back pain, and fatigue. talk to your asthma specialist to see if once-monthly nucala may be right for you. and learn about savings at nucala.com
just look around. ♪ this digital age we're living in, it's pretty unbelievable. problem is, not everyone's fully living in it. nobody should have to take a class or fill out a medical form on public wifi with a screen the size of your hand. home internet shouldn't be a luxury. everyone should have it and now a lot more people can. so let's go. the digital age is waiting. just look around. this digital age we're living in, it's pretty unbelievable. problem is, not everyone's fully living in it. nobody should have to take a class or fill out a medical form on public wifi with a screen the size of your hand. home internet shouldn't be a luxury. everyone should have it and now a lot more people can.
so let's go. >> i got a page saying a woman the digital age is waiting. was found deceased in her home. >> the detective learned if the call out did not tell them much, the crime scene probably would. when diane was murdered. >> we had the body. we had the scene. that was all in the beginning. >> they looked for evidence of forced entry, and there was none. >> the doors were locked. windows were all intact. >> either the killer knew her or she let the person in. in any event it did not look like a robbery turned deadly. >> she still had the watch on and her tennis bracelet on and a charm stuck in her hair that
was on a necklace that wasn't around her neck and she had money sticking out of the pocket. >> maybe diane's body would tell the story. the killer had hidden her under a bedspread. >> it appeared she was strangled. >> could have been a rope or flex bands used to exercise. >> clearly not somebodies hands. >> no. >> what about her eyes and face. >> she had it in the eyes. she appeared to have a bruise on the cheek like a rubbing type of a bruise. she had four of them on her stomach. >> a rubbing type of bruise. >> as if you were being dragged across the carpet. >> we also found a spot of urine where her body would have been. >> she must have been killed there and dragged behind the bed where they found her body.
>> any indication she was sexually assaulted in any way? >> no. >> her clothes were not messed up. nothing to indicate that. she had no scratch marks. as we look at the body we notice faint red marks on the lips. that was interesting. there was no tie. there was no rope. there was no tape. >> just red marks. >> yeah. >> just red marks. >> little red marks that somehow looked familiar. >> it looked like two parallel lights and then perpendicular to those were little lines probably 1/16th of an inch apart. i have seen these before. wow, he used zip ties to bind her. >> he cut them off afterwards. he did we knew that immediately. >> the detective's mind went to the darkest of places. diane must have been restrained, helpless and terrified as she
watched her killer prepare the ligature and put it around her neck and the killer must have stayed for a while, carefully erasing any sign of his or her presence. >> that was odd. you commit the act of order and you leave. you are scared. you want to get out there. you don't want to get caught. this person, male or female, we dont know, but they did not do that. >> who was the person, so deliberate and cold-blooded? this was no straightforward case or nothing simple about it. as they chased down their endless questions. what does that lead you with? was it a targeted killing? somebody was angry with her? >> those were all possibilities. sometimes you're killed by someone you know very well.
we are all familiar with domestic violence. you know, we want to see who is in the immediate inner circle of her life. >> diane friends learned she was married years before and spent most of her adult life as a single woman and happily so until she changed her mind. >> she loved her single life and loved her independence. when she hit 40 she decided i need a partner. i need a marriage and i want the things my friends have. >> diane set out to find a mate with the help of the dating service it's just lunch. pretty soon met a divorced father of two named dennis conley. >> i think they truly immediately had a chemistry and i think they were in of love. he was successful businessman, handsome and took her everywhere. >> two months later dennis presented diane with a $20,000 engagement ring.
>> he loved her. he treated her like a queen. >> she liked his daughters and cared very much for them. >> they made plans, as lovers do. dennis moved from austin to houston. the idea is that diane could sell her big house and move down there too. it was a down market then. diane said she met at least one potential buyer. but now diane was dead. and there were all those questions. not a robbery. yet as the detectives soon discovered, something was missing. that $20,000 engagement ring. nowhere to it be found.
so police wondered where was fiance dennis during the violent storm, and did he know something? coming up, the storm outside and in. >> they argued a lot. >> we had our ups and downs no question. >> no physical fights? >> nothing, never. >> when dateline continues. ♪ i gotta good feeling about this, yeah ♪ ♪ i'm with it ♪ ♪ i gotta good feeling about this ♪ ♪ yeah, ♪ ♪ so let's get it ♪ ♪ i'm feeling good vibes ♪
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friends knew it. diane was in love with the man that she met through the dating service, smitten like a teenage girl. but the road of love we know isnt always smooth. they were engaged so quickly. too quickly? before long they encountered serious issues said her friends anita and cheryl. >> they argued a lot. >> about, one example, her dogs who were like children to diane. but she told her friends dennis did not want any dogs in the new house in houston. they fought, said her friends, about what he seemed to want her to be. >> she was always talking about
how he didn't want her to do this or that and that would cause arguments. >> she would not go along with it. >> yeah, right. no she wouldn't. >> she was independent. >> what was he? >> controlling. very controlling. >> that could be a difficult combination. >> yeah. >> so it was confusing. she proudly wore the spectacular ring, but the engagement was off and then maybe on again. and yet that very week, said her friends, diane told her she still didn't know what to do. >> so, she was going back and forth? >> yeah. emotionally a roller coaster. we couldn't see how it would work and none of us could see how it would work. >> she told sharon she made a date with another man. >> we kept telling her if you are still wanting to do these things, you are not ready for that.
>> she had her house for sale. >> she was going to downsize. if she didn't get married to dennis she would downsize because the house was way too big. >> waffling on her plans with dennis, a date with another man? anita said she had seen dennis angry. after diane was murdered she wondered. >> maybe he just lost control this time and killed her. that was my first thought. >> the detective asked dennis to come into the station where he agreed to speak to him without the aid of a lawyer. the detectives focused on the timeline. they believed diane had been killed the stormy thursday afternoon or evening. her body was discovered 5:30 p.m. on friday. >> we were interested where he had been for the last few days. >> at the station, dennis seemed upset but composed as he told investigators he was in the office in houston the night of the big storm. but exchanged online messages in austin that afternoon. >> it was just like i am working late. i am getting ready to go home. she sent me an i love you. that was it.
>> you were at the office when she sent that to you? >> dennis said he got home from work late thursday and was back at the office early friday. >> we looked at it, could he have driven down to austin, murdered diane and driven back in time for work. and yes, he probably could have. >> they checked diane's answering machine and found messages from him. this one was left on friday the day after the big storm. she was dead by then. >> hey, you. if i don't hear from you in an hour i am calling the freaking police. i have to go by your house, okay? >> another message saturday morning. >> diane. what is going on? give me a call. you have me worried to death. bye. >> that could have been some sort of cover-up. dennis admitted their relationship was, iffy. >> we ran into rough spots.
we were going to build a house in houston. and i decided that, given the fact we were not getting along together very well. i mean there was no fight. we don't fight. everybody carries baggage into your relationships at this age. our baggage was clashing. we were working on it. we decided not to be engaged anymore. we stopped building the house. >> he said they were going to therapy, which was helping. >> i mean we were really, really making breakthroughs. >> about diane's dogs. >> she thought i was accepting the fact that her dogs were going to be in the house. >> not long before diane was killed- >> i remember her saying, you know, that she loved me. that she would jump at the chance to be in a relationship and marry me. you know, no matter how long it took. we had our ups and downs, no question. >> no physical fights? >> never. never angry or loud words. it was just -- it's stupid you
know. she thought i should be more of a handymankind of guy, like her dad, right? i thought that she should be more appreciative. >> was she faithful to you? >> i would be shocked if she wasn't. i would be stunned. >> everyone has his or her version of the truth. dennis'story not at all what the friends have been hearing from her. >> i wanted to say so many times to say that dude, you are stupid. the detective took fingerprints, collected his dna and checked his alibi.
dennis, before he left dennis brought up another name. >> has anybody gotten a hold of ray? >> ray was a colleague of diane's at ibm. >> he seemed to worship the ground she walks on and seems to be attracted to women not attracted to him. honestly, if i were a woman he would give me the creeps. >> according to dennis, ray and diane were not on good terms. >> they had a falling out a month or so ago. i don't know the exact nature of it. >> time for a talk with ray. coming up, a co-worker with a crush, but did he want something more. >> always very affectionate. she didn't like it. when dateline continues. now, skyrizi helps me get going.
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what about this guy? what about ray? >> there was a man she worked with by the name of rafeal and she hired him at ibm. >> he was johnny on the spot. >> it seemed off to dennis. ray's happy with diane said it was cozy ... obsessive, maybe. >> he would always offer to take care of her dogs when she was out of town and wanted her to be close to him. dennis thought that maybe he had too much of an interest in diane. >> what's more, ray had his own personal key to diane's house and, remember, there was no forced entry. the killer was invited in or had a key. the detective asked ray to come into the station to answer a few questions, except it was
ray who seemed to be full of questions. >> unfortunately i didn't know anything about diane holik until i went to her house last night. >> he seemed excited to share what he knew. >> how long have you knew diane? >> two years. he was an odd character. >> i would take always care of her dogs. >> i always had a crush on diane. >> in the beginning, always was very spoiling and affectionate to her and she didn't like it. >> they played good cop, bad cop. >> did you have a relationship. >> no. not even kissed her. >> did you want to? >> always wanted to, never did.
no our friendship was a little more formal than that i guess. >> you never had a sexual relationship with her? >> never. >> your dna shouldn't be found on her. he was at work the day the day she was murdered. even for the record. >> ray said he stayed late at work and drove home through the terrible traffic created by the storm. after that he stayed. >> last night i stayed at home and didn't go anywhere. i don't know what time. back to work the next morning. got to work, i guess, 8:00. >> of course, they would need to verify all of that. when they asked him about dennis, the fiance.
>> that is a loaded question. >> uncomfortable. they were having problems. >> diane had complicated relationships with dennis and ray. just as they had done with dennis, police fingerprinted ray and took a dna swab. sharon told the detectives diane had a date with a man the very night she was killed. they couldn't figure out who the man was but they tracked down every man they met from the dating service it's just lunch. >> i interviewed every date she had through that service. police wondered if diane was strangled by a man she met through the dating service? yet something seemed to be missing. but what? this wasn't going to be easy. coming up, the funeral and a wedding and what some say was a former fiance's extremely strange behavior. >> oh, god.
he did a morbid thing. i mean beyond belief. >> and finally, a clue. >> was this one of his mistakes? >> when dateline continues. that is an affluent neighborhood. it is not normally where you find murder victims. >> darla davis was worried. diane's body was barely cold when the prosecutor, davis, jumped on the case and encountered the problem. >> the fact that she lived by herself. are you tired of clean clothes that just don't smell clean?
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idea who did it. >> exactly. and i decided we were going to monday morning quarterback the crime scene right away. >> that meant, she and the investigators went back to diane's house and took a more in-depth look. >> went over it with the alternate light source. to do it in the dark you would take it and put it on carpeting and any kind of fabric or the wall or anything and certain things will flores. >> the ultimate -- we were looking for semenal fluid. >> it did not look like diane was sexually assaulted, but they had to know for sure.
when they tested. >> there was no indications that there was any semen. anywhere. in that room or different parts of the house we checked. >> nothing. no semen. no blood. no evidence of sexual assault. apart from her missing engagement ring, nothing in diane's house seemed out of place, expect in the middle of the otherwise pristine living room. >> and there on the love seat is a towel, just thrown over. >> weird. >> it was definitely out of place. >> it was maybe left behind by the killer. >> was this one of the mistakes? >> was there anything found on that towel? >> hairs.
>> her hair? >> no. >> there were seven hairs found on the towel. >> they sent the hair to the dna lab and waited. while her friends planned the details for diane's memorial service here in austin-- >> the sheriff found the funeral home and the lady to do the makeup. we went in and helped her pick out the casket. >> and her dress for an open casket. >> i need to make sure that whatever we got looked right, and covered the appropriate parts. seeing where the wounds and the marks were is as difficult as the day i found out she passed. >> dennis came to the service as expected, but--. >> he tended not to speak with
anybody. which i found strange for a man who was so in love with diane. >> didn't come and sit front and center? >> no. he did not come sit front and center. that somewhat surprised me. >> they watched him through a haze of grief and suspicion. when diane's parents flew her in for the funeral, diane's friends went along as did dennis. as diane lay in her casket- >> he did a morbid thing that infuriated her parents, beyond belief. >> dennis brought a minister with him to the funeral. >> to say the marriage vows to him as she was laying in the coffin. took her hand and put that gold band on. i thought my arm would come unglued. >> diane's parents removed the ring said a friend. diane's family was a pppalled a the friends suspicious, investigators were looking at all kinds of possibilities.
wouldn't be the first time that love turned to murder. but that word prosecutor davis talked about. was killer some random red tape. >> you will have to expand into the possibilities of something that it was a stranger to her because that makes it so much harder. >> the second search confirmed everything, being that the killer had been chillingly careful and had prepared for what he or she was going to do. >> this person who is trying to avoid being captured. >> he cut off the zip tie and took it with him. and thus, removed the evidence but just a passing comment. as the huge storm was rolling
through austin. >> she said they had somebody that came back and looked at the house and was impressed with it. she said that is good, i might finally sell this thing. >> could that visitor be connected to diane's murder somehow? or the discarded wet towel with the seven tiny strands of hair. coming up, a stranger knocking on doors. what happened next still haunts the woman who answered >> i jumped in the car, locked the car. >> i stood there. he wanted to get me in there and all of the bells were going off. all of the bells were going off. >> when dateline continues. mom, look! a clown! ♪♪ if ocean spray can make a juice drink with only one gram of sugar, then i cran overcome my fear of clowns! hi. (screams) ♪♪ what will you do with all that power? (baby babbles quietly) ♪♪ - shh. shh. shh. so hungry. - the usual? - yes. (phone clicks) (positive winning music) - [narrator whispering] go for grubhub. (triumphant music) (baby sighs quietly)
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the death of diane were all too aware that stranger killings are among the hardest to solve. >> when you were driving around and talking to people did you have any idea what you were looking for? >> no. none. >> especially if the stranger is as careful as diane's killer appears to have been. >> it was a true, who-dun'-it.
>> the medical examiner looked carefully for evidence of sexual assault, semen, the killer's saliva, dna under the fingernails. and, there was none. none at all. police 101, maybe one of the neighbors saw something or someone suspicious. they agreed he was tall, dark slicked back hair and a big nose and said he wanted to pay cash for a nice house. is he the man that toured diane's house the day of the storm. >> you always want to find the last person to see the victim alive. we thought this person could be the last person to see the victim alive. >> did anybody get a name? >> we did get a name, walter miller and a number. >> walter miller? they looked up the walter millers around austin and found two of them and neither fit the
description. the phone number ended up being a fax machine. he did have a background that involved some drug addiction, assaults. he had a restraining order put against him. we eventually tracked down matthew. >> they realized right away he couldn't be the killer. >> he was in a neck brace and was in a bad accident and had paralysis in the armarms. >> the visitor had left a fake name and phone number. who would do that? then they found another neighbor who talked to the guy and heard his story. got a good enough look at him to help with the composite
sketch. >> austin police asked for help in solving a murder. police want to question a man seen in the area a few days before the murder. white, between the ages of 35 to 45. 6'0" and neatly dressed. >> hoping to get tips. >> before long, women started calling with tales about a man who wanted to buy a house. what were you hearing from people that may have had a visitor, was it the same story? >> we are getting a story about a guy who sold his ranch in south austin. he wanted to pay cash. they were looking to do it quick.
the physical description, they were all the same. >> some callers added curious details. >> he had on brand-new jeans that were three sizes too long. >> it was the kind of strange thing that you remember, said the real estate agent, tammy. had on a striped shirt with wrinkles in it. he just bought clothes, i am sure of it. suspenders on which nobody wears suspenders. not like his pants were falling off. >> it is when she showed him into the house her nerves went on alert. >> he said after you. after you. there was a stand off at the bottom of the stairs. my stomach was tight inside. >> she was weary. years earlier she was raped at an armed customer at a store she
managed. >> i knew my instincts and all i had been through was the reason that i was nervous about him. >> he said his name was jim sage and kept trying to get her into the upstairs rooms. >> he wanted to get me in there. i didn't budge. all of the bells were going off. >> the next day tammy called the police to report the jim sage. >> did he hurt you? did he threaten you? did he put his hands on you? i had to say no. he said i'm sorry. there is nothing we can do. >> now diane holik had been murdered, strangled and with a shutter tammy remembered the man's odd suspenders that he
used them on diane holack's neck. >> when did that hit you? >> after i found out she was strangled. >> the calls kept coming in. women with stories of a strange man posing as a home buyer. some hair raising stories about what happened to the ex real estate agent six months before diane was murdered. a man called her about one of her houses. >> it was a vacant listing. i asked if he was prequalified by a lender. i am paying cash. i drove over to meet him at the house. i go to the door to greet him. and immediately he was behind me. he would never walk in front of me. >> that made melanie uncomfortable, especially because he only wanted to see vacant houses.
>> the whole time that i was showing him the home, he was never looking at any room. he seemed to be more interested in looking out of windows than he did the actual room. >> she said something else seemed off about him. >> he has a tick in his neck, he is constantly popping and cracking his neck and breathing very heavy. >> melanie wanted to leave. then the man noticed an attached garage. >> he was adamant about getting in the garage saying i really want to see inside the garage and he started the neck popping. >> her hands shook as she tried to work the key into the door. >> she drove home still shaking.
>> i never cried or prayed so hard in my life. because i felt like i dodged a bullet. >> melanie called the police too. >> did he touch you or hurt you? no he did not. >> i looked at the sketch and immediately knew it was the same man. >> meanwhile, the police and the prosecutor investigating diane's murder were working
every angle they could think of. >> we were coming up with a zero. >> whoever the killer was knew what he or she was doing. >> that is the impression that we were getting. and that is what was increasing our anxiety. >> so, they waited for dna results from the tiny hairs found on the towel in diane's living room. they listened to the women that called in talking about being frightened by a mysterious would be home buyer. who was he. one more call. and they knew that this could be their break through. >> she said she had seen the news and thinks the man came to her house and possibly had a flyer he handled that he had
left behind. we were really excited about that. >> that means there could be fingerprints. >> she picked it up and put it in the back of the stack. >> what happened is a story that sounded too familiar. she followed him into one of the bedrooms. she was excited to sell her house. she said there was an awkward silence and just stared at her. >> and just then in a nearby room, the woman's baby cried. >> it gave her the opportunity to break the encounter with him to grab the baby and he followed her into the room and was standing behind her and it must have spooked him rmpt are he just left leaving behind the flyer. >> they picked it up and brought in a latent fingerprint expert. they found no prints in diane's house to compare them to and even diane's own prints were hard to find. saying the killer may have wiped them clean. >> not even the fingerprints you would think you would find in a house that was occupied. >> that was very rare, and scary. >> scary because they couldn't know who he was or if he was a
stranger looking for a convenient target he had seen the stories on tv and knew they were looking for them. but then there was one more. >> she immediately got a creepy feeling from him. this woman wrote down his license plate. coming up, on dateline. ♪it's a new dawn,...♪ ♪...it's a new day,♪ it's time to make a stand. ♪and i'm feelin' good.♪ start a new day with trelegy. no once-daily copd... ...medicine has the power to treat copd... ...in as many ways as trelegy. with three medicines in one inhaler,... ...trelegy makes breathing easier for a full 24 hours, improves lung function, and helps prevent future flare-ups. trelegy won't replace a rescue inhaler... ...for sudden breathing problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it. do not take trelegy more than prescribed. trelegy may increase your risk of thrush, pneumonia, and osteoporosis. call your doctor if worsened breathing, chest pain, mouth or tongue swelling, problems urinating,... ...vision changes, or eye pain occur. take a stand, and start a new day with trelegy. ask your doctor about once-daily trelegy... ...and save at trelegy.com.
diane holik had something to do with the attempt to sell her house was gaining traction, and even the friend who remained so suspicious of diane's fiance wondered about that. >> i thought maybe it was somebody dealing with the reality and the selling of the house. there were a few people that came in. husbands with wives and stuff. i thought maybe a husband found her attractive, you know. made a move and she didn't go for it. >> calls were pouring in from women who all shared a similar story. they described a man claiming to be in the market for a few home but seemed to be shopping for something more sinister.
one woman provided police with the man's fingerprints. detectives thought the crime scene was wiped clean. so there wa sno way to match it back. but there was a new caller and she was about to give them more. >> she basically told us that months earlier that this man, with the same story, had come to her home but in a different neighborhood. >> very affluent, so it kinda matched. >> he was very insistent about wanting to go in and see the house. she immediately got a creepy feeling from him and told him no. and her husband said if he ever comes back you need to call the police or get his license plate. it really scared her. about six months later, he came back. he was very insistent on going in to see her house. she told him no. she would not allow him to come
in. so she called the police. >> nothing happened then. the reaction that she got was, like the other women. the police could hardly arrest some guy for just seeming creepy, but this woman wrote down the name and the phone number and more important his license plate number. stuck it on her fridge. instinct? luck? maybe both. >> she didn't know if he would come back. she thought it was concerning enough she would leave it on the refrigerator just in case and gave us the original piece of paper she wrote his license plate down with.
>> and-- >> well, we immediately ran his license plate, and it was a minivan. and it was registered to patrick russo and his wife, janet russo. >> patrick russo, could he be the guy that creeped out all of the women and could he also be the killer? the last known address was in a rural area a half-hour outside austin. they decided to pay a visit. it is a pretty drive to bastrop county. the live oaks, cypress trees. but at 4:00 a.m. the detectives were not exactly taking in the view as they drove to russo's home, hoping it was a lead that would shed light on the murder of diane holik. all they had were stories about a creepy guy looking at houses for sale. was patrick anthony russo that guy? maybe. maybe not. dawn was hours away when they knocked on his door. the man who woke up to answer it looked like the sketch. coming up, patrick russo seemed an unlikely killer. >> i got my ged. i went to college. i studied for theology to become a minister. >> odd coincidence, he was in diane's area the day she was killed. >> do you remember ever talking to her? >> when dateline continues. >> when dateline continues. along with clearer skin, skyrizi helps with less joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and fatigue in just four doses a year after two starter doses.
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to the doorstep of patrick russo, a man matching the description of the mysterious stranger seen in diane holik's neighborhood the day of the murder. >> we said his name came up in an investigation in austin and told his wife these things will happen from time to time because he is a convict and out on parole and not to worry that he would be back in a couple of hours and he left. >> he said he went by his nickname, tony. he wasn't surprised they wanted to talk to him. >> things go wrong in the town it is a possibility that people will look at you. that's okay. i understand that. >> he seemed eager to help and wanted detectives to know he
turned his life around when he was in prison. >> i spent my entire eight years in prison doing nothing but engulfing myself in a better life. i got my ged, i went to college. i studied for theology to become a minister. >> it was behind bars where tony met his wife, janet, a church volunteer. since his release he published an auto biography about his tough childhood, battle with drugs and his redemption. >> i have a ministry i go into prisons with. i go into churches and i share testimony with them on how they can deal with youth or whatever that is headed the wrong direction. >> at his local church he said
he was the minister of music. >> what is the job at the church that they pay you for? >> my job is to make sure that the music or any kind of music being done for church services is handled whether i play it or have someone play it. >> in the spare time he fronted a christian rock band. >> what is the name of the band? >> broken silence. >> broken silence. good name. >> again said tony russo he was more than willing to cooperate with the investigation any way he could. >> i would be happy to do whatever it takes to do whatever you guys need. i don't have any problem with it at all.
>> they asked him where was he when diane was murdered. did he have an alibi. thursday, that was the big day of the storm wasnt it? i spent time at the church. i went to knle here in austin. >> a christian radio station. tony said they were helping him create a website for his christian rock band. >> okay. >> let's see, i talked to my wife and i was pulling into the parking lot. that would have been about 4:00, i believe. nobody came to the door.
i went ahead and left. >> you made the trip up there for nothing? >> pretty much. >> then he got caught in the awful storm. >> got lost for a good hour or so. i got on the phone with my wife. she stayed on the phone with me. started getting later. that is when the heavy winds started coming. the tornadoes, i guess. >> what time did you get home finally?
>> my wife is better at the timing on this than i am. 5:30 i guess or 6:00. i am not really sure the time frame. >> thing was, diane's house, where she was killed, was not far from the radio station. >> do you remember ever talking to her? >> no, sir. >> tony said he had never seen diane. >> never talked to her? >> no. >> interesting. then detectives asked if he had been doing house hunting. >> any reason why you would be in the neighborhood looking for
a house? >> no. >> none whatsoever? >> no. >> they knew a thing or two about that and the detectives leaned on him a little. >> you want me to tell you how serious this is. >> i feel like i am getting pretty banged for it, i dont even know what this is for. >> she is dead. this is the homicide unit. >> i have done a lot of things wrong in my life and i don't care what anybody says about me. i am telling you that as bad as i feel for this woman here, i am sorry. you guys are barking up the wrong tree.
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interviewed tony russo and his wife, they brought him back in. again, he was cooperative. said he was surprised to be a suspect in of all things, a murder. >> i have done everything that i can to make the best life for my family and myself, being caught up in this whole thing is such a mind boggler that i feel like i am in a nightmare state.
>> bits of information and a story about a creepy man that looked a lot like him are stacking up. detectives asked about the up scale neighborhoods where several women reported seeing him, often driving his minivan. >> any reason someone saw your minivan over there? >> surely i don't have the only pewter minivan in this entire town. in the entire state of texas that has that license plate on it. >> that is true. that is true. >> by the time the detectives interviewed tony they checked for priors. guess what, that conviction, the one he was on parole for was for kidnapping.
with a very particular twist. >> he had gone into an office where a woman was alone and tied her up with zip ties and choked her. he did not kill her, but he did choke her. >> disturbingly familiar given what happened to diane holik. a decade before the murder tony confessed to kidnapping and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. it was there he met and married janet and was soon after patrolled after serving only 1/3 of his sentence.
the kidnapping charge wasn't all they found. even earlier, years earlier there was her. >> it had actually been a quiet day. >> she encountered him in lake jackson, texas. all alone in her building's rental office and a man walked in. >> he wanted to look at a two bedroom apartment for himself and his girlfriend, he says. >> donna showed him an available apartment. >> we are walking down the hallway. we get back to what would be the master bedroom. so i opened the closet door. and i went into the closet to turn the light on and in a split second he had me by the throat. >> she struck out at him, trying to scratch and claw to
get away. >> before i knew it i was on the floor face up and he was straddling me with both of his hands around my throat. just squeezing. >> tight? >> very tight. i wasn't able to speak. i wasn't able to breathe. i was thrash. i was kicking. bucking. everything they could do until he grabbed my hands and pinned them under his knees. i couldn't move my hands. it dawned on me that this is it.
this is the end. >> is this absolute terror? >> it is absolute terror to where your life flashes before your eyes and -- >> and you think i am going to die. >> this is it. >> then she thought no. this would not be it. she thrashed about until she was able to free her hands. >> i put my hands on his forearms, trying to pull him away. i had a high neck sweater on and he kept pulling it down to look at my neck. his eyes are very different and scary. it was like flipping a switch.
a very crazy look. >> donna said that all she could think of. >> i have been gone too long. they know what apartment i am in. they will come looking for me. he would say you are lying. don't lie to me. you better not be lying to me. he would call me profanities. he would strike me. >> still holding on to you. your throat? >> yes. >> he realized that yes, there was a possibility someone would be coming to look for her. as quickly as he had become a monster. >> his expression changed again. completely took his hands off of me and he just went like this and he covered his face
and he sat back up and said i can't believe i did this. are you okay. >> like he is a different person now? >> yes. >> to the point where he was apologizing profusely for doing this. asking me if i was hurt or okay. he helped me up, off of the floor. helped me collect my necklace that was torn off. >> he begged donna not to call the police. but she did. and he confessed. he was convicted of misdemeanor assault and he was put on probation. but as the years went by he attacked five other women in similar ways, including his kidnapping victim and now being
questioned by austin police about a murder including zip ties, murder and said he knew nothing about it saying the similarities with earlier incidents are coincidences. >> is disgusting to hear you talk about being a devout christian and how much you turned your life around when one after another this whole thing goes back to similarities that i am sure are coincidental back in 1989. 1991, 1992. you are this reborn christian? you are going to sit here and lie about it. >> the truth was at that point police could only prove patterns of behavior, patterns that tony insisted he broke when he became a born-again christian. really? the detectives set up a trap and asked him it has fingerprints could possibly be found on a real estate flyer. >> have you ever handled a real estate flyer for a house for sale in west austin? >> no. >> then your fingerprints shouldn't be on it? >> correct. >> even as tony insisted otherwise they already received the test results from the real estate flyer saved by that woman. >> thank you lord, tony russo's fingerprints were positively on that flyer. >> what happens? >> well, we knew it was him. we just weren't able to put him anywhere. now we had him. >> true. they had him recently in the home of a woman who was terrified by his behavior. but they didn't have him in diane holik's house. to get that they needed time. they were worried if he would run. then the prosecutor had a idea. when tony russo said he didnt touch the flyer, that was a lie. and lying to the police was a parole violation.
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his fan after he became a suspect. >> he took all of the pinstriping off of his van, which several of the women noticed. >> he went to some trouble to make the car look different. >> yeah. changed the symbol of the christian fish, took that off. >> they searched tony's van, top to bottom and didn't find diane's engagement ring or anything that belonged to her in the van and a search of tony's house came up with nothing but outside the house they found zip ties appearing to match the markings on diane's wrist and tracked down his alibi, asked employees at the christian radio station if tony could have knocked on the door without being seen. the radio people said no, not possible. >> as part of their tornado protocol everybody in the building had to go to the front lobby of the radio station. no way he could have shown up
there without them not knowing. >> yet his cell phone pinged in the area, happening to be near diane's neighborhood. the women calling in describing a tall, darkhaired man with a big nose and a beer belly. could they make a case against tony? >> we had so many women that let him into their homes in different neighborhoods all over austin, south, north austin and even real estate agents he called. >> could any offspeed tony russo as their guy? >> we felt like we needed to do a live lineup. the phrasing that he used was so specific and the women remembered his voice and story. >> they rounded up austin police officers who looked like tony and put him and then in the lineup and brought the
women in. >> there were five guys standing like on a theater setting. >> number one. take one step forward. >> couple of feet above me and down below. >> repeat the following phrase. you have a beautiful house. >> you have a beautiful house. >> we had a script that each person had to step forward and exactly repeat what the detective was telling them to say. >> i am going to pay cash for the house. >> i am going to pay cash for our house. >> everything said to these women when he went into their homes. >> i came to the house before,
didn't i. >> i came to this house before, didn't i. >> repeat the following phrase. do you have any information about the floor plan of the house? >> do you have any information about the floor plan of the house? >> he was number one, right in front of me. i did not expect him to be right in front of me. that was extremely frightening. >> i picked him out of the lineup immediately. i was feeling a lot of guilt. i don't know why. i just feel what could i done. this man was with me. >> how many picked out the right guy? >> i believe it was 15 women. >> out of a total of how many? >> i think 30. >> eyewitness testimony is not great and does not carry a lot of weight in the trial. >> yes. >> they needed something
definitive to put tony russo in diane holiks house. >> what did the dna tell you? >> the swab on her hand was a mixture that was consistent with a combination of diane and russo. >> was it enough for sure? >> no. it is not the type of dna that you could eliminate the rest of the world. it was helpful. we sent the hair off to a lab and they did a dna test on the hair and again, we could not exclude mr. russo. >> you couldn't say for sure. >> couldn't say for sure. >> so close, just not quite the absolute proof they were hoping for. but the dna provided one helpful service. police confirmed the alibis of the fiance, dennis, ray, these eliminated them as suspects.
>> we could not eliminate mr. russo. >> six months after diane's deaths, tony russo was charged with murder. a risk? maybe. the evidence they were going to take to court did not absolutely link him to the murder of diane. then, with the trial almost upon them, they found something. something almost beyond belief. >> in my wildest dreams i never imagined that, a website like this could even exist. >> coming up.
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this giant bubble that kept getting bigger and put as many people around to be in the bubble of fun life. she lived life to be having a good time. >> two years after diane's happy, vibrant life was so suddenly asphyxiated, her friends gathered again for a murder trial. friends and a whole group of women that never met each other, or diane. >> you can see that they were all attractive women. it looked like he had a type. >> it it was obvious what the man was looking for. >> the same determination to testify against tony russo, born-again christian, happily married man. the case against him, not so easy.
>> it was the most complex murder case that i have ever tried. >> that is because without hard evidence linking tony to the murder or putting hadim im in ds house she would have to put it all into a coherent pattern for the jury. what are you going to tell them first and you script it out. >> there were the zip ties on the property. his cell phone pinged near her house. the radio station alibi was a lie. the dna could not eliminate him and all of the women could identify him as the creepy guy that wanted to buy a house with cash, cash he did not have. like this realtor who cried and prayed after her encounter with tony russo. she found it so terrifying to testify. >> i did not expect for patrick anthony russo to be sitting across from me within 10 to 12 feet. having to testify with that man looking at me was pe--petrify.
>> he starts that tick in his neck. i said there he goes. he is doing it right now. >> they called the womans from younger years. >> phone call out of the blue after all of that time. >> she was not only surprised but angry. >> why did that have to happen and someone had to be killed before this was stopped. >> and it flooded right back. >> my heart started racing. just like being blindsided. >> some of the evidence came courtesy of tony's first wife. >> the first wife said he couldn't get aroused sexually unless he was choking her. >> the second wife confirmed he also choked her while they had sex. >> i will say that he does tend to put his hand on my neck. any time i feel my airway is getting restricted he always lets go. >> the strange and potentially dangerous fetish. isn't it possible he didn't want to kill diane?
>> it is my belief that he did. just choking and not killing, it was no longer enough. it wasn't enough anymore. >> why was she so sure in because of what turned up during a forensic analysis of tony russo's computer. disturbing is too bland of a word. >> he was a member of a website that you had to pay money to see. described as tastily erotic death scenes and mr. russo chose the subcategory of asphyxiation. >> i never imagined a website like this could exist or anybody would want to see it. >> he felt a compulsion to go and choke people? >> yes. sexually aroused by women being choked. >> they nailed him big name. >> we were all thinking, okay. here we go. we are going to hear a whole bunch of stuff and the room was
packed solid with people. his attorney stood up and said defense rests. there was a huge gasp in the room and then totally silent. >> diane's friend, lynn arrived. he said i need you to understand what happened to her. he put his hands in the air, he shook his hands like this as if he were choking someone. it took two and a half to three minutes for her to die. stood there and looked at his watch and just waited. for at least two and a half minutes, nothing moved in that courtroom. >> it was silent. he held the position with shaking hands until enough time passed a person would have died from being choked. >> all of a sudden slams his hand down on the table. i mean that's how long it took for her to die. we all broke down at that point. >> the defense did not call a single witness and made the case in the closing argument. the state failed to prove because it couldn't prove that tony russo was ever in diane's home, couldn't prove they
and won a case which remains as relevant cautionary tale as it did in 2004 when the jury pronounceds it verdict. >> that was eye-opening, the effect on her friends and the community as a whole and the real estate business. people need to see this and to be aware so maybe this will stop that from happening. >> tony russo, his hair has gone silver now. he is in prison for life. and here one friday morning he brought his bible to the barrier that separates his world from ours. his holy stamp of assurance what he was going to tell us about his role in the murder of diane holik. >> the jury comes back to say guilty. what is that like? >> devastating when you are
innocent. devastating. >> innocent? >> i hear from the warden you got your bachelors in divinity. >> yes, sir. if i have to spend the rest of my life in here, i want to use it for christ. >> he wore his christianity like a badge and like an accusation. >> i notice that in the media they love to sensationalize any christians or people that claim to be christians that somehow they just got it. there is some hidden secrets in their life. >> your victims were christians too. >> saying you are a christian and being a christian are two different things. >> you say you have to be totally honest? >> i don't think you have to be totally honest but there are
themes in your life you will exhibit whether christ is in your life or not. >> he had answers for everything. why he lied to the police when he said he wasn't looking at houses when in fact he was. >> i did deny in the interview because i felt like i was going to incriminate myself in the original interrogation. i did share with my attorneys what had been going on. >> which was perfectly innocent research. >> looking at the different
designs and things. for a long time we had talked about building a house. one of my friends from church had lived in a mobile home while he built a house on the back of his property. >> we wondered why he behaved in a way that terrified all of the women that testified against him. >> i don't know how creepy it is to look at houses. >> to tell people a bunch of lies about why you are there to follow them around the house and make them nervous. >> i preferred not to follow anybody through a house. they are the ones that want to
show you the house so they tend to lead you. >> the rental agent he attacked and half strangled. >> what do you have to say to a woman like here? >> i don't remember her at all. i don't. >> yet he actually confessed to attacking the woman back in 1989. what about the woman so frightened by the visit to his house that she and her husband saved his license plate number. >> they kept it. >> they kept about four license plate numbers of people that looked at their house or wanted to without a realtor. >> not true said darla davis. his license number was the only
one they saved. i also asked about his decision to take the pinstriping off of his van just then. he said that wasn't because police were looking for it but because it was vandalized. >> i was go to re-do the pinstriping since i originally put it on there. >> zip ties police found on his property. they belonged to a friend, he said. and the statement by his wife, janet, that he would sometimes choke her during sex. >> i will say that he does tend to put his hand on my neck. >> i never choked anybody. >> you choked your wife. >> no, i did not. >> she said you did. >> no she didn't. that is how you had sex.
>> that is not true. that is a manipulation of what she said. >> by whom? >> i am just telling you that is not what she said. >> we reminded tony he had been married twice. marriage one, same issue. >> your ex-wife said you choked her and that is how you got sexual arousal. the only way you get sexual arousal. >> i am not going to go into detail to embarrass her. i would rather not say anything about her. >> you know that is a tactic. i have seen it done a thousand times. >> you can call it a tactic. if you have something to say about the woman, but not say it. that's b.s. and you know it. >> under the world's standards it would be b.s., but as a christian it is not. >> we asked about the pornographic website, the one he had to register and pay for before accessing it on his computer. >> i cannot help porn sites pop up on the computer. >> they don't pop up unless you look at the porn site. >> there is a truth to everything. >> yes. tony russo had an answer for everything.
i am absolutely innocent and disgusted that every time that you try to say you are innocent everybody says isn't that what everybody says. >> have you confessed the ultimate sin to god? murder. >> if i murdered someone i definitely would have. >> but you say with your hand on your bible. >> i will die claiming my innocence. people can believe or not believe it. absolutely i am innocent. i don't care how guilty i look. i'm innocent. >> he couldn't convince any courts of that though. all of his appeals failed. here he will stay. well, outside the institution several women still struggle with the anxieties and fears in prisons of their own created by him. >> any time i get a call from a man that wants to see a house who is single.
every time. i could have been a victim. i was an intended victim. that is why he called me. that is a hard thing to think about. >> and they told us that the trauma lives on. >> it is comforting to know that he is in there and that he can't hurt anyone else. >> they are sorority sisters of a sort who aren't willing to live their lives at silent victims came together to get tony russo off of the street for good. >> we did our job and got him convicted. >> they did, this sister hood for the sake of a woman whose fate might be theirs. friends came together to remember how they miss her, even after all of these years. >> she was a constant friend. she was in my life every day. all of a sudden she was gone out of my life. in an instant. like blowing a candle out. >> you see the smile in all of the photographs. always smiling? >> always. always. >> she had a magic smile. it was infectious. she was smiling, everybody else had to. they had to.