Forensic Files - Tight-Fitting Genes   View more episodes

Aired at 04:00 AM on Thursday, Apr 29, 2010 (4/29/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:00>> Narrator: Snyder was bothered because this accident didn't seem bad enough to have caused a fatality as he had seen in so many other accidents.
00:00:10>> I've been to accidents where people -- actually, their head had went clean through the windshield, and they're speaking to me when I get there, and this windshield wasn't broke out.
00:00:18It was barely cracked.
00:00:20>> Narrator: And snyder thought the amount of blood in the car was inconsistent with deborah's injuries.
00:00:27>> There was a lot of blood in the vehicle -- more blood than I'd ever seen at any accident in my life, and I've been to hundreds of accidents.
00:00:36>> Narrator: But so had local traffic investigators, and they disagreed with snyder.
00:00:41They came to the same conclusion as the coroner -- that the car crash was an accident.
00:00:47Tony snyder's options were dwindling until an anonymous telephone call shed new light on an already-mysterious case.
00:03:40>> Narrator: Deborah hollerman's family was angry with policey learned some of the details surrounding the car crash that took her life.
00:03:48>> How can there be a car on the side of the road for a couple of days?
00:03:53I mean, isn't it somebody's responsibility to take a car off of a state highway?
00:03:57>> Narrator: Highway patrolman tony snyder was less concerned about the abandoned car and more concerned with steve hollerman's driving skill.
00:04:07He was convinced there was more to the story than steve was telling.
00:04:12>> And I asked him if a deer jumped out, if he was playing with his radio knobs, if he was on the cellphone.
00:04:18I'm asking him if he passed out, blacked out, was dizzy, fell asleep.
00:04:23And none of those things were the reason he was off the roadway.
00:04:27He just said he didn't know.
00:04:29>> Narrator: Steve told investigators that he and deborah had been shopping and were heading home when the accident occurred, so snyder chked steve's story by reviewing the videos taken by the store's security cameras.
00:04:44They show the hollermans at the store that night, but they left several hours earlier than steve claimed.
00:04:52>> The last store he left was , and I got a call to come to the crash at , so there's quite a bit of time missing to drive 18 or 20 miles.
00:05:03>> Narrator: In addition, the items the hollermans bought at the store weren't in the jeep at the time of the accident, so where were the hollermans ?
00:05:15An anonymous telephone call gave tony snyder a clue.
00:05:19>> There was no name, no way to get ahold of anybody -- but just so you know, somebody called and said, "steve hollerman's been having an " >> that piqued our interest even more to say, "jeez, there's some more pieces to this that we're unfamiliar with and that we want " >> Narrator: Surprisingly, deborah's friends all knew about the affair -- and apparently, so did deborah.
00:05:43>> She was aware there was an affair going on, and she was going to confront him.
00:05:47That was made clear.
00:05:49Her girlfriends have told us that.
00:05:51>> Narrator: Investigators eventually discovered the identity of steve's girlfriend.
00:05:56She was employed by the local hospital where steve worked as a lab supervisor.
00:06:02When questioned, she openly admitted the affair.
00:06:07>> She basically said that they had been seeing each other for a year.
00:06:10They were in love with each other.
00:06:12They went on outings together, and she admitted that they had sex that day in his cabin.
00:06:19>> Narrator: The cabin was the hollermans' summer home at green lake.
00:06:22It was just a mile and a half from the crash site.
00:06:26With a warrant, investigators searched the cabin and found evidence confirming the story they'd heard from steve's girlfriend.
00:06:35>> You could see a bed where it looked like it had been recently slept in or used in some way.
00:06:40>> Narrator: And they also discovered that steve and deborah had been in the cabin before the car crash.
00:06:47Several items they had purchased that night were in the cabin, so snyder decided to take a closer look at the hollermans' jeep, as well as the accident scene.
00:07:00Steve said he was driving 60 miles an hour when the accident occurred.
00:07:04Accident-reconstruction experts have a way of confirming this.
00:07:09If a parked car is hit, the distance it moves after impact can tell you the speed at which it was hit.
00:07:18It's based on sir isaac newton's laws of physics, specifically conservation of momentum.
00:07:25When one object strikes another, as in this demonstration, its momentum is transferred to the other.
00:07:32All things being equal, the speed of the first ball is equal to that of the last.
00:07:39The weight of the two cars plus the friction between the tires and the road surface factor into the analysis.
00:07:47>> The coefficient of friction is basically just a measure of how slippery that surface is, so that's a very important piece.
00:07:55The other thing is the angles that are involved with approach and departure from the impact area for vehicles that are involved in a collision like this.
00:08:06>> Narrator: Skoglund used surveying equipment to measure the distance the parked car moved afteimpact, as well as the angles of impact.
00:08:15A computer program performed the physics calculations, and the result -- steve's jeep was traveling between 38 and 42 miles per hour when it hit the parked car, not 60 miles per hour as he claimed.
00:08:33These calculations also proved that steve had enough time to avoid hitting the parked car.
00:08:40>> He had slightly over two seconds from the time that he left the pavement till the impact.
00:08:46>> He admitted he saw the taillights of the vehicle.
00:08:50Ted he didn't swerve.
00:08:51He admitted he didn't brake, saying he didn't have time.
00:08:54>> Narrator: It was obvious that the crash didn't happen the way steve claimed, but would evidence found inside the jeep prove it was murder?heck this out.
00:10:11Good gravy, bill.
00:10:11Our insurance company doesn't have anything like it.
00:10:14Magnificent, isn't it?
00:10:16With progressive, it's easy to cover all of your favorite rides.
00:10:19Progressive has truck insurance?
00:10:21Number one in truck and motorcycle.
00:10:23Is that a golf cart?
00:10:24YEP. WE ALSO COVER RVs, Boats, snowmobiles.
00:10:27Don't tell me, you insure pink ponies?
00:10:31I just like to ride that sometimes.
00:10:33[ Chuckles ] save on all your rides.
00:10:34Now, that's progressive.
00:10:37Call or click today.
00:12:45>> Narrator: Investigators now suspected that deborah hollerman had been murdered.
00:12:51Her family couldn't believe her husband, steve, had anything to do with it.
00:12:56>> It was disbelief, going, "my god, the poor guy lost his wife.
00:13:00He's gone through a month of mourning, and now they do this to him?
00:13:06>> Narrator: But patrolman tony snyder feared steve may have committed the perfect crime.
00:13:13>> I literally didn't sleep that night -- several nights.
00:13:16Easter dinner at my mom and dad's -- I hardly ate, and they thought I was mad at them or upset with the family or sick or something.
00:13:22I was just so obsessed by this that I couldn't eat, and I was worried that I was running out ..
00:13:33To get this figured out.
00:13:35I was running into a lot of dead ends.
00:13:37>> Narrator: Since the original autopsy ruled deborah's death as accidental, snyder asked janis amatuzio for a second opinion.
00:13:46>> As I looked at those photographs of the vehicle, which I'd not seen before that -- and I looked at the injuries, I said, "you know, there's something we don't know here, and I think this case deserves more investigation.
00:13:59There's way too much blood " >> Narrator: amatuzio wanted to examine the hollermans' jeep herself.
00:14:07>> Because, let's face it -- steve hollerman's future was at stake here, and the truth about deborah hollerman's death was at stake.
00:14:17The most important thing for everybody to remember is that what we were trying to get at was the truth.
00:14:22>> Narrator: amatuzio was approximately the same size and weight as deborah, so she did something extraordinary.
00:14:31She donned protective clothing and climbed into the blood-stained car.
00:14:37>> It was a little creepy.
00:14:39[ Laughs ] it was sobering.
00:14:42I realized I was sitting on the last spot deborah hollerman had been sitting before she died.
00:14:49>> Narrator: The first thing she noticed was the blood smear on the windshield had what looked like a fabric pattern.
00:14:57In fact, it looked like the heavy-knit sweater that deborah had been wearing at the time that she died.
00:15:03>> Narrator: This was a key finding, because it proved that deborah was bleeding before the crash occurred.
00:15:12>> The only way that that much blood could have been deposited on the inside of the vehicle at the time of the crash was if deborah hollerman had been bloody before the crash.
00:15:24In other words, she had been injured before the crash.
00:15:28That is the only way that she could have gotten that much blto her hair, onto her face.
00:15:36>> Narrator: And there was more evidence that deborah was bleeding before the crash.
00:15:42>> On the passenger-side rear window, you could see where blood had came from the seat and was running down the window.
00:15:49>> Narrator: The l-shaped pattern demonstrated once again the physics of momentum.
00:15:55When blood drips down the window of a jeep traveling at 40 miles per hour and it stops abruptly, everything in the jeep, including the blood, continues to move forward.
00:16:07Scientists believe that's what caused this l-shaped pattern.
00:16:14The final three pieces of evidence were crucial to understanding events before and after the crash.
00:16:22Deborah's blood was found on the lever used to adjust the driver's seat.
00:16:27>> The driver's seat where steven hollerman was seated was pushed as far back as the seat could go.
00:16:33>> Narrator: The steering wheel was bent and investigars found steve's bloody shoe print on the passenger-side window.
00:16:42This indicated that steve moved his seat back after he was in contact with deborah's blood, then grabbed the steering wheel to brace himself for the crash.
00:16:55The evidence also proved that steve hollerman tried to break the passenger window after the crash.
00:17:03>> My opinion is he was trying to break the window out at the accident scene.
00:17:08He needed glass, because there was a lot of blood and there was no glass anywhere.
00:17:14>> Narrator: Lastly, amatuzio discovered what really caused deborah's death.
00:20:00>> Narrator: Forensic experts found what they believed was the murder weapon used to kill deborah hollerman.
00:20:08It was the knob used to adjust the passenger-side mirror.
00:20:13>> That adjustment knob was caked with blood and long, brown hairs.
00:20:18It was clear to me that that adjustment knob was the instrument that created the injury pattern of the four lacerations, or tears, on her scalp and, in all likelihood, caused the depressed skull fractures.
00:20:36>> Narrator: This proved that steve killed deborah by hitting her head repeatedly against the knob.
00:20:43>> It was a severe beating.
00:20:45It was severe.
00:20:47>> So when death is the result of an assault, we classify it as a homicide.
00:20:52>> Narrator: Steve hollerman was arrested and charged with deborah's murder.
00:20:57>> He acted surprised, dumbfounded that he was under arrest.
00:21:02When I cuffed him and put him in my car, he was like, "tony" -- he wanted to talk to me.
00:21:06" you know, "why's this, why's that?" -- like we were friends.
00:21:10>> I drove down to a park and sat in my car and read the criminal complaint, word for word, and the visions of the pictures really showed themselves when you read what they had discovered.
00:21:33>> Narrator: Steve hollerman's lover admitted spending the afternoon with steve at the couple's summer cabin.
00:21:41Later that night, around , steve and his wife, deborah, went shopping together and took their purchases to the cabin.
00:21:49Deborah may have found evidence that steve had been there earlier with his lover.
00:21:54Regardless, the forensic evidence suggests an argument ensued, and it turned violent.
00:22:00>> We're through!
00:22:02>> Narrator: While in the jeep, steve repeatedly smashed deborah's head into the mirror knob and side window causing the brain injuries that killed her.
00:22:13Then steve tried to devise a plan to cover up the crime.
00:22:20While driving home, he saw the parked car along the side of the highway and decided to stage an accident.
00:22:27He got the jeep into position, moved his seat back with his bloody hands, made sure his seat belt was fastened while deborah's wasn't, then braced himself for impact.
00:22:42The jeep traveled 130 feet at 40 miles per hour directly into the back-left side of the parked car.
00:22:50Deborah's arm and bloody sweater struck the windshield -- proof that she was bleeding before the crash.
00:22:58After the crash, steve tried to break the side window to make the crash look worse, but a passing motorist stoed to help before steve could do it.
00:23:08>> I'm convinced that he contrived a plan to try to cover it up.
00:23:12Whether he had that already figured out before he assaulted her and killed her, I believe that he did come up with a plan to cover it up, to make it look e found out a lot of things pretty quickly, as far as the speed limit he was traveling at and the positioning of his seat and a lot of the things, you you know, I -- I guess after we found out about the beating and that stuff that happened that night, I guess nothing was really aprise after that, you know?
00:23:44>> Narrator: At the trial, steve pleaded not guilty.
00:23:48He admitted striking deborah during an argument but said he was driving her to the hospital for treatment when the accident the judge didn't buy it.
00:24:00Steve hollerman was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
00:24:07>> The most fascinating case that I've dealt with in my 15 years as an attorney.
00:24:13>> If you look long enough, pretty soon the scene begins to speak to you.
00:24:17It realljust depends on the amount of attention that you give it.
00:24:21It's really meticulous attention to detail.
00:24:24I've learned over the years that if we look hard, we will eventually get to the answers.
00:24:30>> Narrator: Without a careful look at the evidence and the use of science to reconstruct the crash, deborah hollerman's death might have remained an accident, and her husband would have walked free.
00:24:44>> Tony snyder is adopted as our family hero.
00:24:48Highway patrolmen don't investigate murders.
00:24:51They give out traffic tickets, and for him to do what he did -- I mean, he didn't have experience in investigating murders.
00:25:01He went to his superiors and they gave him the opportunity to ..
00:25:10Need to thank everybody that was involved in it to give our family peace.
00:25:15>> Narrator: Tony snyder is back to his old job as a highway patrolman.
00:25:20This case was his first brush with forensic evidence but might not be his last.
00:25:26>> I am sure I will probably never see anything like it ..
00:25:33But I'm ready for it if I do.
00:25:35--Captions by >> Announcer: The following program is a paid advertisement forthe alcoholism and addiction cure,brought to you by passages, the addiction cure center.
00:25:57..] >> hi, I'm bob goen, and in the course of my career, I've interviewed hundreds of celebrities across the world, but today's gonna be a little bit different.
00:26:19Today I'm going to introduce you to a man who might very well change your life.
00:26:23He is part maverick, part .. a real iconoclast.
00:26:28He thinks for himself.
00:26:29The alcoholism and addiction cure, and along with his son pax, he is the co-founder of passages, the addiction cure centersand ventura.
00:26:41Please welcome a man who thinks for himself, chris prentiss.
00:26:48How you doing? >> hi.
00:26:49>> Good to have you.
00:26:50Sit down.
00:26:52>> [Clears throat] thank you.
00:26:54Thank you very much.
00:26:58>> Chris, I spent some time with this book of yours, and what i took away from it was the fact that you use the word "cure" right in the title, and nobody in the past 70 years, in terms of alcoholism and addiction, have dared to use the word "cure".
00:27:14 >> because we actually cure people.
00:27:16[Laughter] we actually cure them of their dependency on drugs and alcohol.
00:27:21When we first started this and i used the word "cure," it was if we had uttered an obscenity [laughter] "never say that.
00:27:28.. no, sir, there's no such thing as a cure.
00:27:31" >> right. it's a disease, right?
00:27:33>> That's what they told us.
00:27:34 >> well, I had heard that for 10 years when I was curing my son pax of his addiction.
00:27:39Well, actually, when he cured himself. >> mm-hmm.
00:27:41>> Because everywhere I took him, doctors, psychiatrists, drug and alcohol counselors, addiction specialists, they all told me that same sad song that alcoholism and addiction are .. >> mm-hmm.
00:27:52>> That they're incurable.
00:27:53And they told me my son was gonna be an addict and an alcoholi.
00:27:56>> Whether he was using or not.
00:27:58>> And I didn't want to hear that, and so I kept looking and kept looking, and after 10 years of a futile search-- in and out of treatment centers, in and out of sober living houses-- I said, "pax, unless we develop a program to cure you, you're " and we began to create this program which has saved pax's life and has now saved the lives of thousands of others who have gone through the passages program and who are reading my book.
00:28:25>> We have always heard that drugs and alcohol are because of something you're born with, something you can't fix, and you're stuck with for life.
00:28:33>> Broken forever. >> yeah.
00:28:34>> That is absolutely not true.
00:28:36We cure people every day at passages, and we do it by healing the underlying conditions which are causing them to rely on drugs and alcohol to get through the day.
00:28:45It's never been anything other than that.
00:28:47Drugs and alcohol are not the problem.
00:28:49Drugs and alcohol are the solution that they have chosen for the problem.
00:28:54.. trauma?
00:28:55>> There's only four causes of all addiction-- well, sure, could be trauma.
00:28:59Underlying conditions are always the culprit, and top of the list, chemical imbalance.
00:29:04Could be childhood abuse, could be failing marriage, failing business, could be long-term illnesses, could be things that they did to someone else they can't forgive themselves for.
00:29:13>> And at passages and through the book, you figure out how to get the balance back in their mind. >> absolutely.
00:29:19First thing we do when someone checks into passages, we draw their blood, we send it off to the laboratory, they perform over 70 different tests on it, looking for the source of the chemical imbalance.