Captured - The Secret Life of John Smith   View more episodes

Aired at 07:00 AM on Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 (1/28/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:00How up.
00:00:00It seemed like yourtypical missing-persons case where the wife mighthave taken off.
00:00:06But sherrie gladden-daviswas certain this was nota typical missing-persons case.
00:00:11She called the police herself.
00:00:14( Sherrie ) I SAID, "SHE'D HAVE NEVER DONE It without us " and I think at that moment mike dansbury said, " this seemed to be a very close-knit family that kept in constant touch with one another.
00:00:29And the fact that they hadn't heard from their sister and mother, it's-- it was a red flag, so to speak.
00:00:36John didn't seemnearly as concerned, and he all but ignoredthe police as they began to investigate.
00:00:44But it wasn't long beforethe police had gone about as faras they could go.
00:00:49They'd interviewed all the occupants that had lived around them.
00:00:52Nobody heard anything, nobody saw anything.
00:00:54They just couldn't put a crime scene together.
00:00:56So they had to assume that possibly she had left.
00:00:59Sherrie and dedy, however,weren't giving up.
00:01:04They decided to launchtheir own investigation, starting with fran's newhusband, john smith.
00:01:09( Sherrie ) DEDY AND I JUST MADE IT A POINT To start checking into everything we could find.
00:01:15I had always felt that john smith was a very convenient name.
00:01:19Sherrie learned that johnwas from seville, ohio, so she decided to see if hewas indeed who he said he was.
00:01:27So the next weekend,my husband, dave, and i got in the car, and we took offfor seville, ohio.
00:01:34It was a weekend,so the courthouse was closed.
00:01:38But she figured if he went tohigh school there, he'd be in a yearbook.
00:01:43I went to the library, pulled out the yearbooks, found out that, yes, he was john smith.
00:01:49He was from seville.
00:01:52It was a dead end,but sherrie didn't give up.
00:01:57Then, in february of 1992, she and dedy went tovisit john in princeton.
00:02:03( Dedy ) WE FELT IT WOULD BE THE BEST OPPORTUNITY That we had to see my mom's things, to see what was missing, what was there.
00:02:09It would be the best opportunity to see their life together.
00:02:13It also gave them a chance todo what the police could not, since john hadno idea the visit was really a fact-findingmission.
00:02:21( Sherrie ) IF HE INVITED ME TO STAY IN THAT House, it is by presumption that I am welcome to anything in that house.
00:02:32So we armed ourselves with cameras and we took pictures of everything that was left in the condo.
00:02:39There's limitations on what the police can do, but as private citizens, they were within their rights.
00:02:45Even so, the visit wasespecially difficult for fran's daughter.
00:02:51( Dedy ) IT WAS VERY, VERY OVERWHELMING, To see her clothes, to smell her.
00:02:55I literally fell down to my knees and I could hardly breathe.
00:03:00And I've never had an anxiety moment like that.
00:03:04In one of fran's drawers,they found something strange.
00:03:08We found a pair of under-panties and pantyhose like they had just been stripped off together, and these would've been dirty underwear and they're in my sister's drawer.
00:03:20You don't put dirty underwear in your dresser.
00:03:22It goes in a dirty-clothes basket.
00:03:26THEN, ON FEBRUARY 22nd, The day after theyarrived in princeton, sherrie and dedy went to visitfran's former employer.
00:03:34What they found there would send the investigation ina whole different direction.
00:03:42We went to joe and nancy's office and sat down and talked to them.
00:03:46That incident still gives me cold chills.
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00:07:41( narrator )BY FEBRUARY OF 1992, 49-YEAR-OLD Fran smith had been missing fornearly five months.
00:07:48While the copscontinued to work the case, her sister, sherrie, along withfran's daughter, dedy, had launched aninvestigation of their own but kept in constant contactwith the police.
00:07:59( Sherrie )BEFORE DEDY AND I REALLY GOT INTO Something, we would call them.
00:08:04If they said,"we're handling that," that's all they had to say,that was our cue.
00:08:08"You back off.
00:08:09'Cause you could really mess upsomething " that february,sherrie and dedy had traveled to princeton, new jersey, to stay at the condowith fran's husband, john, to find out what they could.
00:08:23ON FEBRUARY 23rd, THEY PAIDA VISIT TO FRAN'S Employers, joe and nancy mazotas.
00:08:30( Sherrie ) DURING THAT CONVERSATION, Nancy mentions that fran and john's marriage, being john's second marriage.
00:08:38" I said, "when they married," I said, "john said that "he was a 40-year-old bachelor, " but she said, "i am almost positive " which meant john had liedabout his first marriage.
00:08:55When sherrie told the policeabout the conversation, they confirmed that franwas indeed john's second wife.
00:09:03His first wife was namedjanice hartman, and john had metand married her in ohio.
00:09:09" and he said, "she had two brothers, "ross, who is in the military, " " " and I just became obsessed.
00:09:27I had to talk to this girl's family.
00:09:29But that was easiersaid than done.
00:09:33They made phone callafter phone call after phone calluntil they eventually received a call backfrom a gary hartman.
00:09:41And what they learned fromgary hartman was chilling.
00:09:46( Sherrie ) GARY CALLED ME BACK And he said, "i-- may I ask what this is " and I said, "was your sister married to john " " and I said, "my sister was married to john smith " and he said, "my god, lady, you've got a problem.
00:10:09"My sister disappeared in november of 1974, " the new jersey investigatorsimmediately got in touch with the wayne county,ohio, sheriff's department, the county where janice haddisappeared from.
00:10:25They were amazed.
00:10:26Janice's report and fran's report-- they laid them side by side, and they were almost identical.
00:10:33When police questioned john,he wasn't much help.
00:10:36( Michael )HE SEEMED LIKE HE COULD CARE LESS Or he was not concerned.
00:10:40" but she wasn't back.
00:10:43It was like pulling teeth to getany kind of information that wouldhelp this investigation.
00:10:47While the coincidencewas remarkable, that alone wasn'tenough for the d.a.
00:10:53To issue an arrest warrant.
00:10:54( woman )THE ELECTED OFFICIAL THOUGHT THAT It was not the proper time to present the case togrand jury.
00:11:00He thoughta more prudent approach would be to wait a littlelonger, see if we could come upwith any additional evidence.
00:11:08My aunt and i, of course,asked the next question: " the district attorney said,"three.
00:11:14" " without a body,or some other proof that a crime had been committed, there was littleanyone could do.
00:11:25On january 3, 1997, aftershe'd been missing for 6 years, her family had fran declaredlegally dead.
00:11:33Sherrie and dedycontinued to investigate, but made little progress.
00:11:39We're still plodding along, opening up every door, trying to find anything we can find.
00:11:44( Sherrie ) WE WORKED AND THE POLICE DEPARTMENTS Worked diligently.
00:11:49But it got to the point there was nothing left to investigate.
00:11:53Then in september of 1999,they got some news: John had moved tocalifornia and remarried.
00:12:02We wanted to contact this woman.
00:12:05We wanted her to know she was in danger, we wanted her to know who she was living with.
00:12:10Eventually, they managedto get a letter to john's wife,dianne, at work.
00:12:15At first her attitude was somewhat "go to " but after talking to dedy and I several times, all of a sudden, what we were telling her was making a lot more sense than what john was telling her.
00:12:28But she wouldn't leave him.
00:12:33"This isn't a murder mystery for you.
00:12:36"I mean, this is real life.
00:12:37"There's no one there to protect you.
00:12:40" she did, however,agree to help sherrie and dedy with their investigationin secret.
00:12:48She turned over a suitcaseand a briefcase to us, and in them there was anaddress for hammond, indiana.
00:12:58Which meant that john had,at some point, moved toindiana from ohio.
00:13:03It was new information.
00:13:05No one had ever looked forjanice in indiana.
00:13:08But they'd beendown so many dead ends-- would this be justanother one ?
00:13:13Sherrie and her niece suggested to law enforcement, "hey, we've looked all over the state of ohio "to see if we could find this missing person.
00:13:23"Why don't we try looking in the state of indiana since that's where john was working at the " in february of 2000,sherrie and brian potts of the wayne county, ohio,sheriff's department sent letters toindiana coroner's offices, asking for information on any unidentified femalehuman remains.
00:13:42Three days later, he got a call from jerry burman, from newton county, and his words to brian were: " the mysterious"lady in the box" leads to a killer.
00:13:57They told us for yearsall we need was a body.
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00:18:43( narrator )IN FEBRUARY OF 2000, Convinced her sister fran'smysterious disappearance was at the hands of her husband, sherrie gladden-davishad helped police locate what they believed werethe remains of his first wife, janice.
00:18:57( Sherrie )ON MARCH 3rd, Which was janice's birthday, they exhumed her froma jane doe grave in, morocco, indiana, and she was immediatelytaken to the f.b.i. labfor d.n.a. testing.
00:19:13The test revealed that the bodyfound 20 years ago in indiana was indeedjanice hartman-smith.
00:19:22For now, sherrie and dedy'sfocus shifted to finding john smithresponsible for her murder.
00:19:28They had told us for yearsall we need was a body, or at leastthree missing people.
00:19:32We need a series and nota coincidence-- a coincidence being two,a series being three-- or we needed a bodyand now we had a body.
00:19:43ON OCTOBER 3rd,AFTER AUTHORITIES PRESENTED All the information that hadbeen compiled on both cases to a grand jury, john smith was arrestedwithout incident in california.
00:19:54It was like-- you don't know whether to sit down, you don't know whether to laugh, you don't know whether to cry.
00:20:00Since they had a body inthe janice smith case, law-enforcement officialsdecided the best chance to get a conviction was toprosecute that case.
00:20:10But at a pretrial hearing, the judge refused to even letfran's case come up at trial.
00:20:15( Dedy ) AT FIRST, I WAS ABSOLUTELY INFURIATED, But he knew what he was doing.
00:20:20He was giving john smith and his case everything that he could as a judge, so that this man could not ask for it to be looked at again.
00:20:32Appeal-- good shot at that.
00:20:34There's nothing to appeal on.
00:20:36On july 3, 2001,john smith's trial for the murder of hisfirst wife, janice hartman-smith, began.
00:20:45Everyone knew it was anythingbut an open-and-shut case.
00:20:49Even with janice's body, we didn't know how she died.
00:20:53There was no evidence of how he killed her.
00:20:54There was nothing to tie this directly to him.
00:20:57There's no crime scene, there was no witness, there was no anything.
00:21:00The work was cut out for them to make a case against this.
00:21:04But the prosecution did have oneace up its sleeve: The testimony ofjohn's brother, michael.
00:21:12Not long after janice'sbody had been found, michael hadapproached the f.b.i.
00:21:17With a horrifying story.
00:21:20In 1979 michael was called tohis grandfather's house.
00:21:25His grandfather found this box that was hidden insome shelving.
00:21:28He asked michaelif he knew what it was, and he didn't, and theyopened it up, and they recognizedjanice's body in the box.
00:21:38Michael said he wantedto call the authorities, but his grandfatherwouldn't let him.
00:21:44So he called john.
00:21:46John came to the house several hours later and tried to explain to michael that it was the remains of a goat that john apparently claimed to have owned at some point.
00:21:57And michael was certain that it was not a goat.
00:22:01John loaded the boxinto his car and left.
00:22:06The following spring, the box was found byan indiana road crew.
00:22:11Janice had disappearedover five years before that, so the connectionwas never made.
00:22:17Dubbed "the lady in the box"by the local media, the body wasn't identified until the indiana coroner gotsherrie's letter 21 years later.
00:22:27When "the lady in the box" wasfirst found in indiana, they buriedthe remains in a pauper's grave, and she was just labeledas "jane doe" from 1979 until march of 2000.
00:22:39On july 20, 2001,john smith was found guilty and sentenced to 25 yearsto life in prison for the murderof janice hartman.
00:22:50Sherrie gladden-davisand dedy weiss received much ofthe credit for the conviction.
00:22:55( Michael )THEY WERE GREAT COPS, The both of them.
00:22:58I just-- they-- and I learned a few thingsfrom them.
00:23:01They were very diligent and just hard workersand they were driven.
00:23:06I've always said that if, god forbid something were to happen to me, I would hope that they, dedy and sherrie, were looking for me, because the effort that they put into this is remarkable.
00:23:19Even so, the disappearance of fran gladden-smithremains unsolved.
00:23:25It was very hardbecause we had worked so hard thinking that we were going tobring closure to our case.
00:23:35But at the sentencing hearingfor janice hartman's murder, sherrie gladden-davis did manageto get some kind of closure.
00:23:43( Jocelyn ) THE LOCAL JUDGE GAVE SHERRIE The opportunity to make a statement at john david smith's sentencing.
00:23:50She looked at him and said, "i can live with my last memory of my sister.
00:23:55" it was like all of a sudden-- john smith, you ruled my life for so long.
00:24:06It's mine now.
00:24:22Captioning made possible byOXYGEN MEDIA, L.l.c.
00:24:25Captioned bySoundwriters™™ ( narrator )PHYLLIS NELSON HAD BUILT A LOVING Family with her husbandof 33 years.
00:25:00The nelsons were the kind of family that everybody would like to be.
00:25:04And phyllis was with herhusband on december 12, 2001, when the cedar rapids9-1-1 dispatcher received a frantic call.
00:25:16Police arrivedmoments later, and found richard nelson onthe floor, clutching his chest.
00:25:23But richard nelson hadn'tsuffered a heart attack, and less thana year later, the 55-year-old former teacherand loving wife would be ontrial for murder.
00:25:36Captioning made possible byOXYGEN MEDIA, L.l.c.
00:25:48Born in 1947 in southernillinois, phyllis fritzley grew upan all-american girl.
00:25:55She was a farm girl.
00:25:56She milkedcows as a child.
00:25:58Quiet and religious,phyllis was 16 when she met a preacher'sson named richard nelson at a lutheranchurch camp.
00:26:05They were sweetheartsfor a long time.
00:26:07In 1965, phyllisfollowed richard to college at a lutheran school inrock island, illinois.
00:26:14The couplemarried in 1969, less than a month aftergraduation, and moved to chicago.
00:26:20Richard attended medical schoolat northwestern, while phyllissupported them.
00:26:24( Elizabeth )PHYLLIS TAUGHT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL In the inner city of chicago, and seemed to take a lot of pride in her classes.
00:26:32Over the nexttwo decades, richard worked in differenthospitals as a pediatrician.
00:26:36He and phyllis raised twodaughters, elise and emily.
00:26:41In 1987, the nelson familymoved to iowa city, iowa.
00:26:46 nelson came to iowa to head the specialtychild health clinics at the university of iowa.
00:26:53With richard's careerthriving, phyllis was nolonger teaching, and filled her free timewith volunteer work.
00:26:59She also sang and playedpiano for the church choir.
00:27:04( Elizabeth )THE NELSONS WERE THE KIND OF Family that everybody wouldlike to be.
00:27:07They were a familyto be envied not only for their positionand affluence, but because ofthe kind of people they were, and the way theygot along.
00:27:16They were always dotingon one another.
00:27:18But in 1998, after almost30 years of marriage, the dotingsuddenly stopped.
00:27:24Richard had justbeen promoted to executive dean ofthe university's medical school, and was apparentlystraining under the stressof his new job.
00:27:33( man )HE WAS ALMOST MANIC.
00:27:34He would just fly offthe handle over anything.
00:27:36He became abusive, verbally abusive, and angry, and very withdrawn and depressed.
00:27:41In april of 2001, richardmoved out of the family home, eventually renting an apartmentin nearby cedar rapids.
00:27:49He told phyllis he needed some time alone.
00:27:52He needed some time away.
00:27:53Phyllis was desperate.
00:27:55Her marriagewas falling apart.
00:27:59Hoping to find out why,in may of 2001, she snuck into richard'soffice at the university.
00:28:05Snooping around, she stumbledupon the answer: Her husband washaving an affair.
00:28:11( Elizabeth )SHE FOUND THESE PICTURES TAKEN With him andhis lover.
00:28:18The woman in the photographs was richard's executiveassistant, mary jo young.
00:28:23( William )I DON'T KNOW HOW COMPROMISING They were, but nonetheless, it clearly indicated it was more than just an employee/employer relationship.
00:28:30Phyllis confronted herhusband with the photos.
00:28:33Richard admitted to havingan affair with mary jo.
00:28:36Their relationship gradually progressed from being a merely platonic, professional one to one where he started having feelings for her, he started expressing thosefeelings, and she reciprocated.
00:28:47And that was pretty muchhow the affair started.
00:28:50( William )DR. NELSON FELL FOR HER.
00:28:52He was not a lothario.
00:28:54He wasn't a seducer of women.
00:28:56Regardless of howit started, phyllis was nothappy about the affair, and she was determinedto put an end to it.
00:29:02She took the photographs tothe university administration.
00:29:06( man )IT IS A VIOLATION OF THE RULES OF The university to have a relationshipwith someone that is a direct subordinate, nelson was in factdisciplined for this.
00:29:16( Grant )THE UNIVERSITY DOCKED HIS PAY, And she was eventually movedto another department, where she was a secretary.
00:29:23So they were separated.
00:29:25Separated at work,anyway.
00:29:27After hours, richardcontinued to see mary jo.
00:29:30But he also attempted to patchthings up with phyllis.
00:29:35Sometimes he would say, "okay, I'm readyto move back, and I'm ready to be a family again," and phyllis nelson would crack open a bottle of wine and rejoice.
00:29:42But every attempt atreconciliation failed.