Forensic Files - Home Evasion (The Judy Southern Case)   View more episodes

Aired at 12:00 AM on Saturday, May 01, 2010 (5/1/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


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00:02:45[ Siren wails ] >> Narrator: No one knew the motive for judy southern's murder, but the evidence indicated the killer entered the home planning to do violence.
00:02:56>> The phone lines had been cut so that someone entering the residence would not be able to call out for help -- 911 or for any matter.
00:03:06>> Narrator: It appeared that the killer was inside the house, waiting.
00:03:11>> She comes home.
00:03:12It is an average day for her.
00:03:15There is nothing to indicate that there is someone in the home.
00:03:17>> Narrator: It appeared that the killer fired twice -- one bullet hit judy in the abdomen.
00:03:23The other missed.
00:03:26>> The shot that took place in the hallway traveled across the hall and actually lodged in an adjacent bedroom in the box spring, and we believe that is the shot that struck judy.
00:03:35>> Narrator: When investigators searched through the crime scene, they discovered something unexpected in allen southern's private office.
00:03:44>> Once inside the house, we discovered a recording device on the phones.
00:03:49>> Allen had been recording phone conversations on the home phone about his suspicions for an ongoing affair.
00:03:55>> Narrator: Police soon learned that relations between allen and judy southern were extraordinarily strained.
00:04:02>> Marital discord is well-documented between judy and allen.
00:04:07Recorded phone calls is unusual.
00:04:10It is a sign of a troublesome marriage.
00:04:15>> Narrator: Judy's twin sister said both partners were having affairs and that judy knew allen was recording her phone calls.
00:04:24>> We kind of figured we were being recorded, so there were some things that we completely fabricated just to see if it would come back, and it did, and at that point, knowing my sister and knowing how bullheaded she is, at that point, it was almost like a game.
00:04:37>> He had had at least two affairs in the past that she knew of and that she had an ongoing affair at the time this occurred.
00:04:48>> Narrator: Allen and judy slept in separate bedrooms.
00:04:52They told friends they only stayed together for the sake of their 5-year-old son.
00:04:57>> Jacob loved his daddy, and judy wanted that love to be preserved.
00:05:01She didn't want to separate the two of them.
00:05:04>> Narrator: But their relationship became increasingly tense.
00:05:08Two days before her murder, judy told her sister she and allen had decided to separate.
00:05:14She was very afraid that day.
00:05:16She was afraid that day that allen was gonna kill her because it had gotten to the point where their relationship was maybe a little bit more hostile.
00:05:26Not in a violent way, not in a hitting way, just in a verbal way.
00:05:30>> We were learning from her friends that she had told them that if anything ever happened to her, that allen had something to do with >> Narrator: Allen denied any involvement in judy's murder.
00:05:42However, he clearly had a motive.
00:05:45Judy was seeing another man, and if judy were to die, allen would gain sole custody of their son in addition to her life insurance.
00:05:54But he had no history of VIOLENCE AND DIDN'T OWN A 9mm Handgun.
00:06:00>> I understand people's suspicions.
00:06:03There is nothing other than a husband and a wife who are having troubles.
00:06:08Lord knows if every marriage that I just described resulted in homicide, we'd have to build a lot more cemeteries than we have.
00:06:17>> Narrator: Investigators were perplexed and turned to the note found at the murder scene.
00:06:25Although the signature was illegible, the name at the top of the note was clear -- melanie binney.
00:06:32Since the note was addressed to "my wife, melanie," investigators checked marriage records and identified the woman's husband as 26-year-old jonathan binney.
00:06:43The binneys lived just three miles away from the southerns' home.
00:06:48Allen southern said they didn't know the binneys.
00:06:52>> They're not any more neighbors than people who live a mile apart in manhattan are neighbors.
00:06:57>> Narrator: Investigators needed to know whether this ..
00:07:01[ Gunshot ] ...a murder for hire, with jonathan binney as the shooter.
00:07:07>> The cellphone records -- and trust me, we checked, looking to see whether allen southern had called jonathan binney -- no -- not a scintilla of connection other than both were members of the same public library, along with the rest of spartanburg county.
00:07:24>> Narrator: Investigators decided to pay jonathan binney a visit, and by all accounts, what they found was beyond description.
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00:10:24>> Narrator: At the scene of judy southern's murder, investigators found a suicide note addressed to, "my wife, melanie binney," and on the note was her address, just a few miles from the southerns' home.
00:10:40A background check revealed melanie's husband, 26-year-old jonathan binney, had recently been arrested.
00:10:48>> Jonathan binney is out on bond for the rape of his 3-month-old daughter.
00:10:58>> Narrator: In the suicide note, binney said he planned to kill himself because the thought of going to prison for the rape of his child was too much for him to bear.
00:11:10>> "The pressure I am or was under was intense.
00:11:14" >> certainly found to be a vital piece of evidence in the case.
00:11:20Knew that we would be able to get handwriting analysis.
00:11:24>> Narrator: Document examiner gaile heath compared the handwriting on the note to jonathan binney's handwriting samples.
00:11:31>> In this particular case, we were looking at hand-printing, and hand-printing can also be extremely identifiable back to an individual.
00:11:39Most individuals, when they first learn to write, do learn to write from something called "copybook style," which is printed letters within a textbook.
00:11:48>> Narrator: There were a number of clear similarities.
00:11:51The lower-case "g," especially at the end of words, was unusually open.
00:11:57The lower-case "f" was almost always tilted at an angle to the rest of the letters in the word.
00:12:04>> In examining the question to the known, I pretty much was able to account for each and every pen movement and pen characteristic that I saw in the question.
00:12:14>> Narrator: Gaile heath concluded that jonathan binney most likely wrote this note.
00:12:19>> On the nine-point scale, this was at the first position of total identification of the handwriting.
00:12:25That's pretty much it -- that's the top of the scale.
00:12:28>> Narrator: And prints on the note matched binney's.
00:12:32When police went looking for jonathan binney at his home, he was gone.
00:12:40>> We used a helicopter which has a flare during the night, trying to get thermal imaging of anyone that would be out in the woods, as well as continued with the k-9 teams, trying to track the suspect, jonathan binney.
00:12:54>> Narrator: The next morning, investigators returned to binney's house and this time found him hiding in the basement.
00:13:02He was shirtless with six nicotine patches on his chest.
00:13:07>> Jonathan binney indicated to us that he had applied numerous nicotine patches to his body in hopes that he could overdose and eventually commit suicide.
00:13:15>> If you would have bought six boxes and put on 50 nicotine patches, then I'll hear you out on your bona fide effort to kill yourself.
00:13:25Uh, I know people studying for ..
00:13:29Just to stay up.
00:13:31>> They were bringing him out of the basement, and jonathan binney made what we refer to as a spontaneous utterance of "she's dead, isn't " and the deputy just replied, " " >> Narrator: But without saying anything more, jonathan binney asked for an attorney, and he recanted his confession.
00:13:55The cigarette butts at the scene were given to analyst ken bogan.
00:14:00He cut them open to extract any cells that might be present from saliva.
00:14:06>> There usually is no problem in extracting dna from cigarette butts.
00:14:10It's just usually a matter of how much dna is deposited on the cigarette butts.
00:14:15>> Narrator: The saliva on the cigarettes came from jonathan binney -- proof he was at the scene.
00:14:23Investigators found a 9-millimeter weapon in the open field in between the binneys' home and the crime scene.
00:14:32Scientists fired a test ..
00:14:34[ Gunshot ] ...and compared it to the bullet from the crime scene.
00:14:38>> Just like looking through a pair of binoculars.
00:14:42You're actually looking at one specimen on the left stage, one specimen on the right, and you're looking for commonality of markings between the two items.
00:14:49>> Narrator: The test left no doubt.
00:14:52The gun found in the field was the murder weapon.
00:14:57Investigators discovered evidence in binney's room that proved the gun was in his possession.
00:15:05>> We found blue jeans that had one unspent 9-millimeter makarov bullet in the pocket.
00:15:11We found a holster, magazine holders, and a security badge, as welitems that related to the possession of a gun.
00:15:25>> Narrator: All the evidence pointed to bi but what was his motive?
00:15:31>> We looked for every conceivable connection.
00:15:35DID SHE BANK WHERE HE WAS÷xññññ Briefly a security guard?
00:15:39Did they shop at the same place?
00:15:42The closest we could ever find was that they may have both had public-library cards at the same library, which is not very close at all.
00:15:51>> Narrator: But there was someone who had a motive -- judy's husband, allen.
00:15:58>> Some domestic problems that they were having in their relationship.
00:16:02We immediately began to investigate that aspect of it.
00:16:07Was jonathan binney the go-between to end judy southern's life for allen southern?
00:16:15>> Narrator: Did binney and allen southern know each other?
00:16:19As police attempted to answer that question, they got a call from the jail.
00:16:24Jonathan binney wanted to talk.
00:16:28>> We were expecting him to tell us that her husband had hired him to do it and that he was - knock, knock. - who's there?
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00:19:43>> Narrator: Police had to consider the possibility that allen southern hired jonathan binney to kill his wife, judy.
00:19:52Quoted as saying that she expected something to ha to her and she expected the culprit to be allen.
00:20:00>> Narrator: Police checked everywhere but couldn't establish a connection between jonathan binney and allen southern.
00:20:07>> There was no phone record or anything to indicate any type of relationship between the two.
00:20:13Allen actually took a polygraph test and was able to pass that.
00:20:17>> Narrator:ECAUSE OF THE Forensic evidence against him, jonathan binney was in jail.
00:20:23After several days, he told police he wanted to talk without his lawyer present.
00:20:30>> He wanted the death penalty.
00:20:31He was wanting to plea to the death penalty.
00:20:33He was ready for it then.
00:20:35He told us -- everything we asked, he told us and even added more.
00:20:40>> Narrator: What binney proceeded to tell investigators ranks among the most bizarre confessions any of them can recall.
00:20:49>> He is the most sexually -- forgive my lack of psychiatric finesse -- ..
00:21:02Screwed-up-in-the-head defendant that I have prosecuted in my 15 years as a prosecutor.
00:21:08Something is wrong inside his head.
00:21:12>> Narrator: Binney admitted to the rape of his 3-month-old daughter.
00:21:17He knew he was going to prison, and it scared him into murder.
00:21:22>> He didn't want to go to prison as a child molester because he said he would be somebody's bitch in prison.
00:21:27He wanted to go as a murderer.
00:21:28>> Narrator: Binney said he didn't know the southern family and that allen had nothing to do with the murder.
00:21:34>> He was at the bowling alley.
00:21:36He could not have been the shooter.
00:21:38There is no forensic evidence.
00:21:39There's no circumstantial evidence.
00:21:42There's no evidence no matter what modifier we use that he was present when his wife was shot.
00:21:47[ Gunshot ] >> Narrator: Based on the forensic evidence and his confession, binney chose the southerns' home at random while driving down the street on his moped.
00:22:04He entered the empty home through an unlocked window, then cut the phone lines.
00:22:12Since his intent was murder, he would have killed whoeve home, and he had no way of knowing whether it would be allen, judy, or their 5-year-old child.
00:22:28While waiting, the evidence ..
00:22:36Went through the family's ..
00:22:42And even took a shower.
00:22:4930 from her mail-carrier job and probably found binney's suicide note.
00:22:55She and binney stumbled upon each other.
00:22:58As she tried to run, he fired two shots.
00:23:01One missed.
00:23:02The second hit her in the abdomen.
00:23:12Binney got on his moped and fled through the fields.
00:23:20Judy used her cellphone to call her husband, who arrived a short time later and rushed her to the hospital.
00:23:27Since she saw the suicide note, she knew the perpetrator's name.
00:23:33>> She gave me a name of somebody "Barry." >> Narrator: She died later in the hospital.
00:23:39>> Apparently, he felt like that he was not gonna go to prison as a child molester.
00:23:44He decided that he was gonna be a murderer.
00:23:47And from what I understand, he was supposedly gonna be a mass murderer.
00:23:51Me and my son just didn't come home at the right time.
00:23:55>> Narrator: Jonathan binney was convicted of judy southern's murder and for the rape of his infant daughter.
00:24:02He was sentenced to death.
00:24:04>> What is most troubling about jonathan binney's case is that he picked a total stranger, and that's what the jury and others and even judy's family members have such a hard time with.
00:24:18>> Narrator: It ranks among the strangest and most senseless of crimes, and it almost resulted in the arrest of allen southern, a victim, not a killer.
00:24:31>> That's what the evidence is for.
00:24:35And I feel like the evidence pretty much speaks for itself as far as my involvement is concerned.
00:24:43>> Narrator: Despite the unusual nature of the crime and the lack of witnesses, science proved that jonathan binney murdered judy southern despite having no connection to her whatsoever.
00:24:58>> They could prove without a doubt that, yes, he was there, so the science that's out there today is more than any can -- actually knows until you're going through it because you never think about it, but you're way happy that it's there.
00:25:11You're glad that they do have that knowledge.
00:25:14>> We were genuinely concerned that we had too much evidence, that there were no missing links for the jury to have to -- you know, sometimes jurors like to >> Narrator:..
00:25:25>> This is the story of my life as a defenseless woman in the navy.
00:25:29>> Narrator:..A naval officer alleges a cover-up and threatens to go public.
00:25:33>> Very soon, I'll have enough evidence to send to the media, and then something will be done.
00:25:39>> Narrator: But before that can happen, she's murdered -- some say by the man she named as her rapist.
00:25:45>> And I started suspecting that something is amiss, that this may be all a setup.
00:25:50>> Narrator: Can forensic science separate fact from fiction?
00:25:55>> The videotape is startling.
00:25:56It is scary.
00:25:57She is foretelling her own death.
00:26:08>> Narrator: After a long, stressful day working as an air-traffic controller at one of the largest naval jet bases in the world, elise makdessi went to dinner with her husband at an italian restaurant in virginia beach, virginia.
00:26:23Eddie makdessi worked in the computer business.
00:26:26>> He did a lot of contract work, and some of it was for the u.s. navy.
00:26:30And that is when he met elise makdessi.
00:26:33>> Narrator:00 , when the couple returned home from dinner, someone was waiting for them.
00:26:43When eddie regained consciousness, his hands were bound behind his back.
00:26:48He saw his wife tied to the bed, and a man raping and stabbing her.
00:26:53Somehow, eddie managed to free his hands, grab the handgun he kept in the nightstand, and shot the assailant.
00:27:00[ Gunshot ] then he called 911.
00:27:16But the intruder wasn't dead.
00:27:20>> The assailant leaped up, lunged towards him with the knife, and eddie shot the individual again.
00:27:26>> Narrator: When paramedics arrived, elise was barely alive.
00:27:31>> Her dress had been pulled up.
00:27:32Her pantyhose had been ripped.
00:27:34She had multiple stab wounds to the chest, and her throat had been cut ear to ear.
00:27:40>> She's trying to talk.
00:27:41They absolutely believe she was trying to communicate, and could never get the words out.
00:27:46Before anybody could really give her any significant help, she died on the way to the hospital.
00:27:50>> Narrator: The assailant was identified by his driver's license as 37-year-old quincy brown.
00:27:57>> He was laying with his legs pinned underneath him, laying on his back, and he had three gunshot wounds to the chest.
00:28:05>> Narrator: Brown was one of elise's co-workers at the oceana naval air base.
00:28:10>> Quincy brown, military man, worked at the same command where elise worked.
00:28:14So it wasn't a random crime.
00:28:16Something happened to bring co-workers into the same room, and neither one of them left alive.
00:28:22>> Narrator: Elise's husband, eddie, was treated for his head injury and released.
00:28:28As incredible as eddie's story seemed, evidence at the scene appeared to support it.
00:28:34The entranceway floor was littered with takeaway containers of leftover food from the restaurant.
00:28:41Electrical cords used to tie eddie's hands were on the bedroom floor.
00:28:46Underneath the intruder's right hand was the knife used in elise's murder.
00:28:52And eddie gave police a videotape that elise made before her death.
00:28:57It contained some shocking allegations against her superiors in the navy -- allegations that perhaps the navy didn't want to be made public.
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