Cold Case Files - The Killer's Tattoo   View more episodes

Aired at 12:00 PM on Thursday, May 13, 2010 (5/13/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:17>> KURTIS: Hard by a stretch of railroad tracks, ten miles down the line from Fort Worth, is a spot on the map known as Saginaw, Texas, a place most people pass through on their way somewhere else.
00:00:30On February 3, 1988, however, something happens in Saginaw that provides a moment of pause.
00:00:38At 10:00 AM a call comes in to the police department: the report of a possible homicide.
00:00:43It is Saginaw's first murder.
00:00:46Nancy Wright is a rookie detective assigned to follow up.
00:00:50>> We were called to the scene of an apartment complex where a man lived alone.
00:00:59His sister had been trying to reach him for a number of days by phone and she had not been able to do so.
00:01:05She called the apartment management.
00:01:08They went using their passkey and located the body of the victim.
00:01:13>> This is February 3, 1988.
00:01:16I have traced down the cord which runs from the telephone.
00:01:21It goes into the bedroom, is wrapped arouound the subject's neck.
00:01:28>> KURTIS: The victim is 73- year-old John Dobbs, found nude in his bedroom, beaten and strangled with a telephone cord and a belt.
00:01:38His body hangs limp from a doorknob.
00:01:43Detective Wright works the apartment, room by room.
00:01:46In the bathroom near the back, she finds a message, apparently from the killer.
00:01:53>> There was a writing found on the bathroom mirror that read, "Fags die." It appeared to have been written with a type of ointment or cream and there was a tube of hydrocortisone cream on the bathroom vanity.
00:02:11>> KURTIS: Within minutes, crime scene investigator Tom Ekis arrives and begins to gather evidence.
00:02:16>> I prefer when I process a scene to begin with the body, the objects closest to the body, so the bedroom would be the main point of interest to start with.
00:02:27After the body is removed, we'd look for maybe the telephone cord, things that may have caused death, and then we begin processing for latent fingerprints.
00:02:36>> KURTIS: Ekis brushes a thin layer of black carbon dust onto surfaces throughout the apartment, beginning with objects strewn around Dobbs' body.
00:02:46Ekis then moves to the bathroom, where he lifts a print from the tube of hydrocortisone cream used to write on the mirror.
00:02:54>> You never know if it's really the perpetrator, but we did have prints that we felt could very easily be what we'd call "hot prints," that are probably the perpetrator.
00:03:04>> KURTIS: In all, hundreds of fingerprints are found at the scene.
00:03:08The prints on the cortisone tube match lifts taken off beer cans found in the kitchen, indicating that the killer might have known John Dobbs and spent time in the victim's apartment.
00:03:21Without an identified suspect, however, and in the days before computer searches, there is little Ekis can do with the unknown prints.
00:03:30Meanwhile, Detective Nancy Wright develops a profile of the victim.
00:03:35John Dobbs' family tells the detective that Dobbs was openly gay, but they know of no one who might have wanted him dead.
00:03:43>> We also learned from neighbors in the area that somebody had been staying with him over the last week or so, prior to us finding him, but nobody in the apartment complex knew who the man was.
00:03:56>> KURTIS: Police are just beginning to search the apartment for some clue as to the identity of John Dobbs' new roommate when suddenly the dead man's telephone rings.
00:04:07>> While we're there, the phone rang.
00:04:12And one of the sergeants answered it.
00:04:15It was a person, a female caller, asking for Terry Green.
00:04:18>> KURTIS: The female at the other end of the line is a restaurant manager named Helga Woogk.
00:04:22She tells police a man named Terry Green had filled out an application for a job earlier that week and gave Dobbs' phone number as his local contact.
00:04:31>> Well, he was telling me that he just came down here to Texas and that he needed a job, he wanted a job, he's living with his old uncle, and he needed to support him, and that he wanted a job.
00:04:50>> KURTIS: Woogk provides as much detail as she can about her prospective employee.
00:04:57When she finishes answering questions, the restaurant manager has one of her own for police.
00:05:03>> I said, "Might I ask you what did he do?" And the police officer told me that they'd just found the body from that murder victim.
00:05:10My heart fell down.
00:05:13It almost ripped.
00:05:14I could not believe it.
00:05:17I could not believe it.
00:05:20>> KURTIS: Woogk describes Terry Green as a thin man, 5'11", about 40 years old, with brown hair.
00:05:28Her description results in this police sketch, circulated among Dobbs' neighbors, who confirm e drawing looks an awful lot like the man who had been living with Dobbs prior to his death.
00:05:40>> We felt it was one and the same.
00:05:43The victim's car was also missing, so we believed that the suspect had fled in the vehicle.
00:05:49>> KURTIS: Back in Dobbs' apartment, detectives discover a further link to Terry Green: hotel registration receipts, filled out in his name.
00:05:59The receipts list a place of employment for Green: Monroe Trucking Company in Monroe, Louisiana.
00:06:05Nancy Wright contacts the company, which tells her Terry Green still works there.
00:06:10Wright goes on to ask what Mr.
00:06:12Green looks like.
00:06:14>> One of the office workers there provided information about Terry Green, who was described to be, like, 6'4" and 200 pounds.
00:06:24This was a vast difference from the descriptions given to us by residents and by Helga.
00:06:31>> KURTIS: Wright is beginning to suspect the man who lived with John Dobbs is using Green's name as an alias.
00:06:38She arranges a meeting with the real Terry Green.
00:06:41>> They said, "We need you to come here to Saginaw, Texas.
00:06:46We have a problem.
00:06:48We think that someone has stolen your identity and has been using it." So my wife and I went over there and they realized real quick I wasn't the one they was looking for.
00:07:08>> KURTIS: Besides the difference in physical description, this Terry Green has a solid alibi for the day of the murder.
00:07:15He was in the state of California on a long-distance trucking run.
00:07:19Detectives ask Green to search his memory and try to think of anyone who could have stolen his identity.
00:07:26>> I asked him, who would have had access to his name, his date of birth, and his social security number.
00:07:34>> KURTIS: Green ponders the people in his past and comes up with a possibility.
00:07:38He paints for detectives a picture of a man who fits the suspected killer's description, a man who could have stolen Green's name and who, according to Green, has a professed dislike for homosexuals.
00:07:51>> He said, "They're better off dead than being around me." I can see where he could have done it, because he didn't like ññññññ >> KURTIS: In the winter of 1988, Saginaw police detective Nancy Wright is called to the scene of her first homicide.
00:11:55>> It's a very rare situation in this city.
00:12:00It was pretty much a rural community, very close-knit.
00:12:04In fact, I don't even remember when there had actually been a murder prior to this.
00:12:11>> KURTIS: 73-year-old John Dobbs is found strangled to death in his bedroom.
00:12:16A message scrawled on his bathroom mirror hints at a possible motive.
00:12:23Within a few hours, Detective Wright develops a suspect-- a man named Terry Green had been living with the victim for two weeks prior to his death.
00:12:32Wright tracks the suspect to Monroe, Louisiana, where he works as a trucker.
00:12:37When Wright confronts Green, however, she discovers he has the wrong man, and that Terry Green Himself is a victim of identity theft.
00:12:46The detective asks Green who could have stolen his name.
00:12:50>> He began to describe for me a person he had picked up at a truck stop that he hired on as a lumper, which is somebody helps them to load and unload their trucks.
00:13:01>> I picked him up over at the old Fort Worth truck stop.
00:13:04I needed a lumper.
00:13:07I asked him, I said, "You got anything going on?" He said, "No, I'm kind of at loose ends right now." not adverse to running the road..." He said, "Well, I'm a truck driver." I said, "Well, get your gear and let's go." >> KURTIS: In the summer and fall of 1986, Green and the lumper he'd picked up in Fort Worth hauled furniture and canned goods, mostly from Texas to the east coast.
00:13:35Green tells police the lumper's name was Walter.
00:13:38No last name-- the lumper never gave one.
00:13:40According to Green, his employee seemed hardworking and trustworthy.
00:13:45Green gave him full access to the truck and glove compartment, wh For an experienced identity thief, the trusting Mr. Green was an easy mark.
00:14:00Green even went so far as to explain to Walter the procedure for getting a duplicate driver's license in Louisiana.
00:14:06>> I asked him if he had a driver's license.
00:14:09He said, "No, I lost mine." And I said, "Well, I don't know about Texas, but in Louisiana, you can send off five dollars with the information and tell them you lost your driver's license, and they'll send you a copy." I thought he'd just send off to Austin and get his.
00:14:26But the boy done pulled a good one on me and sent down to Baton Rouge and got mine.
00:14:35>> KURTIS: Detective Wright questions Green further about his friend the lumper.
00:14:39Green tells her about a conversation he once had where Walter expressed a strong dislike for homosexuals.
00:14:46>> He said, "They're better off dead than be around me." You know, and I never connected that with him, but now that it's been brought out in the open, I can see where it could have happened, especially if he'd had a little Jack Daniels helping him.
00:15:07>> KURTIS: The picture Green paints fits Wright's suspect profile.
00:15:11She asks Green what else he can tell her about Walter.
00:15:14Green replies with the name of a woman.
00:15:18>> Terry told me that he had introduced Walter to a female by the name of Fay Reeves in Georgia, and that to his knowledge that they had dated for a while.
00:15:31>> KURTIS: Wright gets Fay Reeves on the phone and asks about her old flame.
00:15:35>> She recalled that he had given her the name of Walter Confer.
00:15:40She said that whenever they were in town they would stop by, and she would go out with him.
00:15:46>> KURTIS: Faye Reeves tells Wright that Walter Confer had one distinguishing feature-- a rose tattoo on one of his arms.
00:15:54>> She couldn't recall which, but she did recall that the tattoo had the name "Phyllis" incorporated in it.
00:16:02>> KURTIS: When Wright runs a check on the name Walter Confer, a red flag comes up at the Social Security Administration.
00:16:09>> They were showing him as having unreported earned income.
00:16:12He did not know why they were having that difficulty.
00:16:16>> KURTIS: Walter Confer's unreported income is being earned by a phantom, one who takes on a person's name, uses it for a while, and then moves on-- one who Detective Wright suspects might also be a killer.
00:16:30After years of searching for this invisible man, one who has lived under the stolen names Walter Confer and Terry Green, Wright is still no closer to his true identity.
00:16:44>> We had no way of tracking down who this person really was, so basically we had exhausted every avenue known to us.
00:16:52It began to look like we were never going to solve the case.
00:16:57>> KURTIS: What the Texas detective doesn't know is that the phantom has already moved on to the state of Louisiana, where he takes on the identity of a full-blooded Cajun.
00:19:31Michael Bertinot is a Louisiana Cajun.
00:19:34Husband and father of five boys, Bertinot was born and raised on the Bayou, where his family gathers every Sunday for a cajun party.
00:19:43>> Yeah!
00:19:45>> KURTIS: In the spring of 1989, just like every other year, Bertinot files his tax return with the IRS.
00:19:52This year, however, something is not quite right.
00:19:56>> Well, when I filed my income taxes, I had W2 forms coming in from California, Colorado, Wyoming, Ohio, Florida, and I never worked in any other state but Louisiana.
00:20:13I called the IRS and told them, and they couldn't understand that it wasn't me.
00:20:20>> KURTIS: The IRS hits Bertinot with a penalty, and tells him to pay up on the unclaimed income.
00:20:26Bertinot chalks the mess up to bad luck, pays the fine, and goes on with his life.
00:20:33The following year, Bertinot sends in his return, expecting a refund.
00:20:38The Cajun, however, doesn't get his check.
00:20:41Instead he gets a letter telling him that once again, he owes the IRS money.
00:20:47Again, Bertinot appeals, to no avail.
00:20:52>> I was real aggravated.
00:20:54It's like they didn't care about nothing except the money.
00:20:59And it just... it kept on for years and years.
00:21:031998-99, $1,214.
00:21:08>> KURTIS: Each tax season, Bertinot and the IRS do battle over heaps of money Michael Bertinot never saw, but must now pay taxes on.
00:21:18Bertinot insists that someone somewhere must be using his name and social security number.
00:21:25The IRS just keeps sending notices and imposing fines.
00:21:29>> I mean, it's like nobody believes you.
00:21:33You're waiting for a refund check, it doesn't come in.
00:21:37They've taken your refund check.
00:21:38And then you owe three times what you were supposed to get back.
00:21:43I mean, that's hard for a working family.
00:21:53>> KURTIS: After seven years of fighting the IRS, Michael Bertinot has nearly given up hope.
00:21:58His credit is ruined, his financial life a constant struggle to prove who he really is.
00:22:06>> Delicious.
00:22:09>> KURTIS: Then one day in 1996, fate takes a hand.
00:22:12Bertinot is cooking up a batch of alligator stew when he drops to the floor.
00:22:20The Cajun wakes up in intensive care, the victim of a massive heart attack.
00:22:25During his recovery Bertinot decides to do a little investigating of his own, and catch the con man that has made his life so miserable.
00:22:34>> Well, after I had my surgery, I had a lot of time on my hands.
00:22:38I started making calls to every company that he worked for, and I explained to him, I says, you know, "I'm the real Mike Bertinot." I said, "The one that was working for you stole my identity." >> KURTIS: Bertinot is fishing for an identity thief.
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00:25:44x@ @ @ @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@>@x@ @ @ @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@>@ >> KURTIS: Michael Bertinot is a Louisiana Cajun, and fighting mad.
00:27:27For seven years, someone has been using his name and social security number, earning money and leaving Bertinot to pay the tax bill.
00:27:36>> I told the IRS, I says, "This man is only working three, four months out of the year on different jobs." I said, "He had to have done something that he's trying to hide." And it's like they weren't worried.
00:27:51All they were worried about was the W2s and the income.
00:27:54>> KURTIS: Fed up with past due tax notices and penalties, Bertinot decides to see if he can track down his alter ego and put a stop to the scam.
00:28:03Bertinot even has a notion as to who the identity thief might be.
00:28:08In the winter of 1988, he met a man named Walter at a truck stop.
00:28:14The stranger was down and out with car trouble.
00:28:17Bertinot lent a hand, loaned him some money, and even let Walter stay with his family.
00:28:23>> He'd sleep in his car.
00:28:24He didn't want to sleep in the house.
00:28:27But, you know, he'd come in, take a shower, eat supper.
00:28:30So I mean, he might have seen my old driver's license sitting on a... or he dug through one of the drawers and found it.
00:28:40>> KURTIS: Bertinot is convinced that the man he knows as Walter is traveling the country using Bertinot's name and social security number.
00:28:50The real Michael Bertinot decides to try and track down the suspect himself.
00:28:55Using W2 forms, Bertinot calls the identity thief's employers and asks where he might find the man.
00:29:02The latest W2 comes from the state of Wyoming.
00:29:05Listed employer, Yellowstone National Park.
00:29:09The Cajun learns that a man named Bertinot is still working there.
00:29:13He passes this information on the to IRS, and asks them to check it out.
00:29:18>> And I told the IRS, I says, "Look, he's working in Yellowstone National Park as a mechanic in a garage." I says, "If y'all can't find him," I said, "Do y'all want me to go over there and hogtie him and bring him and put him on your steps?
00:29:34Do you think then you'll be able to catch him?" >> KURTIS: According to Bertinot, the IRS waits a month to act on his tip.
00:29:42By the time agents arrive at Yellowstone, the man calling himself Mike Bertinot is long gone.
00:29:49After eight years of red tape, the IRS transfers Bertinot's case over to its criminal division.
00:29:58While Michael Bertinot waits for an answer, IRS agents follow the identity thief's paper trail to a small town in Wyoming, and a woman who thought she knew her stepfather.
00:30:16For three years, Patricia Hackett's mother was married to a man who worked as a mechanic in Gillette, Wyoming, and called himself Mike Bertinot.
00:30:25What no one in Patricia's family knew was that the real Michael Bertinot had never set foot in Gillette, and that the man they knew was a fake.
00:30:35One fall afternoon, Patricia Hackett gets a call from the IRS, and the identity scam is laid bare.
00:30:42>> They just told me that they thought that Michael Bertinot had stolen the identity of Michael Bertinot, and that they were looking for him for that, and also a... income tax fraud.
00:30:56>> KURTIS: Hackett tells investigators the man she knew as Mike Bertinot is nowhere to be found.
00:31:02Two years earlier, he went fishing and never came back.
00:31:06>> This is a man who walked out and left everything.
00:31:10You could basically say he was at work one day, and the next day he was gone, and there was no trace of him.
00:31:18>> KURTIS: Patricia does provide the IRS with photos-- the first glimpse the IRS has had of the elusive con man.
00:31:25Patricia then gives agents a further piece of evidence.
00:31:28>> The only thing that I could remember that really made him stand out is that he had a tattoo on his arm with the name Phyllis in it.
00:31:37>> KURTIS: An identity thief with a tattoo and a string of victims in his wake.
00:31:42IRS investigators poke a bit further, and uncover one more piece of information-- a whisper of rumor.
00:31:50That Mike Bertinot, professional con man, had bragged he once killed a man, and that it had happened somewhere in the state of is nothing if not a city of contrasts.
00:32:12At once a state capital, university town, and home to a varied music scene, Austin remains steeped in trahe tradition of Texas.
00:32:22At its core, the Texas Rangers, keeping peace in the Lone Star State for more than 175 years.
00:32:29In December of 1997, Ranger Dusty McCord takes a phone call at headquarters.
00:32:35An agent from the Internal Revenue Service is on the other end of the line with a long shot-- one that involves murder.
00:32:42>> He interviewed associates of the person who had stolen Mr.
00:32:48Bertinot's identity.
00:32:51These associates told him that on occasion, when this person had been drinking, he made the comment that approximately ten years previous, he had committed a homicide in Texas and that he could not go back there.
00:33:04He did have some photographs of this individual, and this man had a tattoo on his upper left arm, approximately three roses, with the name Phyllis.
00:33:17>> KURTIS: It's not much of a lead, but the cowboy in McCord tells him to give it a try.
00:33:22He begins searching for a murder committed by a man with a rose tattoo who also operates as an identity thief.
00:33:29Several days later, McCord comes across a detective who happens to have a cold case that fits the bill.
00:33:37>> There's no statute of limitations on murder, so there's always that hope that something's going to turn up where it's going to be a case When sleepwith I get tosleep faster, stay asleep and wake refreshed.
00:35:30Melt to sleep fast.
00:35:31Unisom sleep melts.
00:35:45>> KURTIS: The Texas Rangers are a tough bunch.
00:35:48Since 1823, they've made a habit of getting their man and bringing him home dead or alive.
00:35:55They're a breed of lawman who don't take kindly to failure, and Dusty McCord is no exception.
00:36:03In 1997, he's on the trail of a killer.
00:36:06He doesn't know exactly where the murder happened, or exactly when.
00:36:10He doesn't have a name.
00:36:11But he does know the suspect bragged about his deed, has a tattoo made up of three roses and the name Phyllis, and uses the alias Mike Bertinot.
00:36:23McCord takes this information and puts it on a teletype.
00:36:28The missive goes out to every police department in the state exas.
00:36:34Ranger McCord is not exactly hopeful.
00:36:41>> I thought that the chances were very slim that we would get a match.
00:36:45>> KURTIS: McCord, it turns out, is wrong.
00:36:59Nancy Wright is a captain with the Saginaw Police Department.
00:37:02In April of 1997, Wright happens to glance at the teletype sent out by Dusty McCord.
00:37:09Something in it rings a bell.
00:37:12>> We received a teletype from a Texas Ranger asking for information on unsolved murders that had possibly been committed ten to 12 years prior.
00:37:25>> KURTIS: Wright believes this teletype might be describing Saginaw homicide case 88F068-- the unsolved murder of John Dobbs.
00:37:35Her suspicious are triggered by McCord's description of the suspected killer, including the mention of a rose tattoo with the name Phyllis on in.
00:37:46>> When I first saw it, I just had a gut reaction that this was... this was going to be him, this was going to be the key that was going to open the doors for us to be able to learn what the identity was of this man.
00:37:59>> KURTIS: Ten years earlier, witnesses had identified John Dobb's killer as bearing the same tattoo.
00:38:05The link is enough to peak Wright's interest, and prompts a phone call to Ranger McCord.
00:38:10>> I was surprised that the message actually got to someone who might have knowledge of an old homicide that was that old.
00:38:19Again, I didn't want to get my hopes up too high, because still the chances of this being matched up were very slim.
00:38:28>> Well, I told him that we did know for sure that he had mechanic skills, we knew that he had a tattoo with the name Phyllis in it, and that our murder had happened almost ten years ago.
00:38:41>> KURTIS: Wright and Mccord agree the man using the assumed name Michael Bertinot might very well be the same man who killed John Dobbs.
00:38:52McCord initiates a nationwide hunt, searching states where the phony Bertinot had worked and lived.
00:38:58In California, the ranger hits pay dirt in the form of a California driver's license issued to a Michael Bertinot in a year when the real Bertinot did not lireve there.
00:39:09The photo shows a man who fits the description of John Dobbs' killer.
00:39:15Along with the photo is a state- required thumbprint.
00:39:20Cold case detectives home that the print will finally reveal their suspect's true identity.
00:39:36In downtown Austin, Cheryl Hubbard supervises the Texas Automated Fingerprint Identification System, also known as AFIS.
00:39:45In January of 1998, she receives a request from Dusty McCord.
00:39:51>> Texas Ranger McCord submitted a fingerprint from a California driver's license to see if we could come up with another name for the person that had given the print.
00:40:03>> KURTIS: Hubbard enters the California thumbprint into AFIS.
00:40:06Within minutes, the computer scans four million sets of prints, providing Hubbard with a list of 20 possible candidates.
00:40:15Hubbard begins with the first.
00:40:18>> I looked, and I saw a minutia point that was in the same position on the print, and then I would look for another minutia point in a similar position, and then go from there.
00:40:32>> KURTIS: Hubbar matches points of identification from the candidate print to those on the thumbprint lifted from Michael Bertinot California driver's license.
00:40:40With 16 points matched, she calls McCord to tell him she has narrowed the suspect list to one.
00:40:47>> I would not have called Ranger McCord if I weren't 100% sure that that was the match.
00:40:52And the name that came up was Robert Greer.
00:40:55>> Robert Greer appeared to be a career criminal, had been arrested on numerous occasions, had a lengthy criminal history.
00:41:01>> KURTIS: Investigators now know the name of the man who stole Michael Bertinot's identity.
00:41:07The next question, is Robert Greer also a killer?
00:41:10To answer that, detectives must return to the cold files and evidence collected from the Dobbs crime scene.
00:41:18>> There were numerous pieces of evidence that still remain from the original processing of the crime scene.
00:41:25What we were looking for is a link to indicate that Mr. Greer had been in that apartment.
00:41:38>> KURTIS: Tom Ekis has been a rensic examiner for 35 years.
00:41:41He conducted the original crime scene investigation on the John Dobbs murder in 1988, and has saved over 50 latent fingerprints collected from the victim's apartment.
00:41:53In 1998, he is contacted again, and asked to compare the crime scene lifts against a new set of prints from career identity thief Robert Greer.
00:42:04>> I received a call from Nancy Wright about ten years later that she had developed a new suspect, and she thought, "Well, this just might be it." >> KURTIS: Ekis begins with latents taken beer cans found in the victim's kitchen.
00:42:18In just a few minutes, the examiner realizes cold case detectives might be on to something.
00:42:25>> I was able to identify his right thumb on a beer can from the trash can in the kitchen.
00:42:32>> So that put him at the scene at or near the time of death of our victim.
00:42:39>> Well, we were ecstatic after that that we felt like that we had accomplished what we were wanting to do.
00:42:48>> KURTIS: The print match places Robert Greer at the crime scene, and in the crosshairs of a suddenly hot murder investigation.
00:42:56>> Detectives, however, still have no idea of Greer's current whereabouts, or what assumed identity he might be operating under.
00:43:05The best they can hope for-- circulate Greer's picture and wait for a break.
00:43:11>> He has disappeared before.
00:43:12Although we know who he is now, doesn't mean that he's not going to disappear again.
00:43:16And it will take years to find him.
00:45:27>> KURTIS: In 1988, John Dobbs was found strangled to death in his bedroom.
00:45:32Ten years later, a fingerprint found in Dobbs' home has been linked to a man named Robert Greer, an accomplished identity thief whose whereabouts and current name remain a mystery.
00:45:47Texas Ranger Dusty McCord and Saginaw Captain Nancy Wright work the case, circulating Greer's pictures with a special focus on the cities and towns he has frequented in the past, chief among them a town you'd head to if you wanted to get lost and stay that way.
00:46:14Every year, thousands of fugitives find their way to a modern-day Casablanca, also known as Las Vegas.
00:46:29In the shadow of the casinos, the hunted hide, trying to avoid their past and scheme for the future.
00:46:39It falls to the Las Vegas Police Department's fugitive team to sort out the good from the bad, execute search warrants, and hunt down the missing.
00:46:50In the winter of 1998, Sergeant George Hedley is on the trail of Robert Greer.
00:46:55>> I was contacted by the Saginaw Police Department about a fugitive that they had from their jurisdiction, wanted for murder.
00:47:03He was using someone else's identification and ID.
00:47:06>> KURTIS: Hedley puts his ear to the Las Vegas pavement, and discovers Greer once lived with a woman in town.
00:47:12Hedley pays the woman a visit, and shows her Greer's picture.
00:47:15She IDs him as her former roommate.
00:47:18Hedley asks if she could give them a line on where he might be.
00:47:23>> She thought he would either be down at one of the homeless shelters, or he would have went out to Lake Meade, where she met him, due to the fact that when he first came to town, that's how he survived, was fishing out there and living out there, and knew that he could survive again.
00:47:39>> KURTIS: The fugitive team scours the city, checking homeless shelters and parks.
00:47:45Sergeant Hedley also pays a visit to National Park Service Special Agent Paul Crawford, asking if Greer might have found his way back to the Lake Meade area.
00:47:55>> And I went out by foot, boat, and car, and just looked through the area to see if I could locate him or find some evidence that he's been in the area.
00:48:05Campsite's littered and abandoned right now, so we'll do some follow-up.
00:48:09>> KURTIS: After two months of searching, Greer is still nowhere to be found, and the fugitive team hits a dead end.
00:48:25In April of 1998, a couple puts a call in to the Las Vegas PD with a story that eventually makes its way to the fugitive team, and the desk of George Hedley.
00:48:36While camping by Lake Meade, the couple had met a man who shared their campfire, and then told them a story.
00:48:44>> One night around the campfire, after doing some drinking, he basically confessed that he was on the run, and that he was put into the local newspaper in Las Vegas, and that the police were looking for him.
00:48:57>> KURTIS: Spooked by the story, the couple gets in their car and heads toward the city.
00:49:02They drive to a library and pull a series of newspaper articles from the racks.
00:49:06Sure enough, the story of Robert Greer is on page 4B, along with a picture of the man they met.
00:49:14>> They actually told us that he was so down on his luck that they bought him clothes, so we knew what kind of clothes he was wearing, and knew where he usually hung out.
00:49:23>> KURTIS: The witnesses described the spot where they last saw Greer less than 12 hours earlier.
00:49:28Hedley and the fugitive division gear up and head into the park.
00:49:33>> We flew into the area and within five minutes he was spotted on the ground.
00:49:39I mean, it was literally that quick.
00:49:42We went into one wash, came over to another one, where we were told that he was usually at, and he was right at the bottom of the ravine.
00:49:50And he saw us, he basically just put his hands up and gave up.
00:49:54He knew he was caught.
00:49:56>> KURTIS: After nearly a decade on the run, 51-year-old Robert Greer is finally in custody, and Texas authorities can't wait to meet him.
00:50:47Saginaw, Texas Police Captain Nancy Wright has been waiting more than ten years for this day-- the day she comes face to face with the man who committed murder on her watch.
00:50:58>> I told him that this meeting had been a long time coming; that, you know, I'd been working on the case for ten years, and there had been a lot of twists and turns before we got to this point.
00:51:12>> KURTIS: In 1988, Nancy Wright walked into a murder scene.
00:51:17On the bathroom mirror of the victim's apartment, scrawled in hydrocortisone cream, were the words, "Fags die." Wright has often wondered what motivation lay behind the message.
00:51:29Now she has the man she believes wrote those words, and the opportunity to ask why.
00:51:35>> It was an interesting conversation.
00:51:38He clearly wanted to talk to me, but he was reluctant to talk specifically about the murder.
00:51:45But he did talk about his life quite a bit to me.
00:51:49>> KURTIS: Greer never admits that he is Dobbs' killer.
00:51:52He does assume, however, that prison is in his future.
00:51:55>> He asked me what the gang situation was like in Texas.
00:51:59He was asking about prison gangs.
00:52:02And I asked him, "Why?
00:52:04Did you have problems with gangs when you were in prison before?" And he said, "Well, not necessarily gangs, but I had problems." And he said that, "I was cute then, and I'm not cute anymore." >> KURTIS: Greer's concern about the prison system provides perhaps a bit of incite into the twisted thinking behind the message left on Dobbs' mirror, and Greer's motive for murder.
00:52:27>> I believed that when he had been in prison before, he probably had been the victim of sexual assault, and that he was very unsympathetic to homosexual conduct.
00:52:42And we knew that our victim had been homosexual.
00:52:45So I believe that our victim made a sexual advance towards the suspect, and he became enraged over it, and killed him in that fit of rage.
00:52:58>> KURTIS: No matter Greer's motive, the evidence against him is compelling.
00:53:04He is arrested and shipped back to Texas, where he will stand trial for murder.
00:53:17In downtown Fort Worth, on the fifth floor of the Justice Center, Chief Prosecutor Christy Jack works on the murder case against Robert Greer-- a case that just keeps getting better.
00:53:29The thumbprint from a California driver's license established Greer's true identity.
00:53:35Then Greer's prints were matched to a beer can found at the crime scene.
00:53:39Now a second print has been matched to the suspect, placing him even closer to the heart of murder.
00:53:46>> To me, the very strongest piece of evidence was a fingerprint on a tube of hydrocortisone cream in the victim's apartment in the bathroom.
00:53:59There had been a threatening message to homosexuals written on the mirror in what appeared to be hydrocortisone cream.
00:54:04And the fingerprint that was found on the hydrocortisone cream was his fingerprint.
00:54:08>> KURTIS: Two weeks before Greer's murder trial is set to open, with the new print evidence weighing heavily against him, the career criminal sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and worries it might be a train headed for death row.
00:54:22Greer decides to sidestep a Texas jury and cut a deal.
00:54:27He offers to plead guilty to murder on one condition-- Greer wants to remain in the county jail until after the Super Bowl so he is certain he will be able to watch his favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings.
00:54:41Although prosecutors do not guarantee him anything, the deal is signed.
00:54:46>> He ultimately agreed to plead guilty in exchange for serving 18 years in the penitentiary.
00:54:51We did not object to his remaining in custody in Tarrant County for the next few months.
00:54:56>> KURTIS: Robert Greer is remanded to the Tarrant County Jail, where the career criminal is able to watch the Vikings in the NFC championship game.
00:55:06Even on the gridiron, however, Greer comes up a loser.
00:55:11>> The ironic thing about that agreement is that Minnesota got beat the very next week, so he didn't get to watch them play in the Super Bowl.
00:55:21>> KURTIS: One of Greer's other victims, Michael Bertinot, takes no comfort in the murder conviction.
00:55:28He believes that Robert Greer should have to pay for his identity theft, and for nearly destroying Bertinot's financial future.
00:55:36>> He should have got 11 years for what he did to me, for the 11 years he put me through.
00:55:44>> KURTIS: The man whose name Greer stole would like a few moments alone with the identity thief to administer his own brand of Cajun justice.
00:55:52>> I'd like ten minutes with him, talk to him face to face.
00:55:58I just want him to look me straight in the face and say, "I'm the real one, and you put me through hell for 11 years." Then they'd have to pull me out quick.
00:56:15>> KURTIS: For Texas Ranger Dusty McCord, Robert Greer got just what was coming to him.
00:56:22>> Yes, I think that justice was done.
00:56:25Typically in cases like this, if there are multiple violations of both state and federal law, the individual was prosecuted for the most serious offense.
00:56:34And I think that Mr. Greer is right where he needs to be, which is in the penitentiary.
00:56:40>> KURTIS: As for the IRS, they have no plans to bring charges against Robert Greer for any of the identity theft scams.
00:56:48The agency would not comment on this story, and would not allowCold Case Filesto interview the IRS agent who helped solve the case without written consent from the killer @@@@@@@@@@@@@@>@x@ @ @ @@@@@@@