Forensic Files - Writers Block   View more episodes

Aired at 11:00 PM on Sunday, Apr 04, 2010 (4/4/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:00Ent nancy's urine samples for testing, but her condition began her organs failed, and she was put on life support.
00:00:10>> It was clear that she was not going to recover.
00:00:14It was clear it was really beyond -- nobody could really understand it.
00:00:20>> Narrator: Six days later, nancy dillard lyon was dead.
00:00:26>> I didn't quite understand what it was that had killed her.
00:00:29So there was a great deal of sadness for what was lost.
00:00:35>> Narrator: But doctors were suspicious, and they weren't the only ones.
00:00:42>> I was married to a nurse.
00:00:43She had taken care of nancy dillard in the trauma center.
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00:03:32>> Narrator: When the daughter of a wealthy dallas family, nancy dillard lyon, died under mysterious circumstances, her doctors made two telephone calls.
00:03:42One was to the medical examiner to suggest a thorough autopsy.
00:03:47>> And I told him, "listen, i have a patient here, and i " >> Narrator: The other was to police.
00:03:55>> Now, they thought the death was suspicious, and it needed to be investigated.
00:04:00And it was suspicious, and it was investigated.
00:04:04They were absolutely correct.
00:04:05>> Narrator: Investigators learned that nancy was about to testify at the embezzlement trial of her former boss from trammell crow.
00:04:15Nancy told friends she was uncomfortable at the thought of testifying against her former colleague.
00:04:21Part of that may have resulted from a threatening letter she received.
00:04:26>> "Stay out of the bagwell case or you and your family will face " >> it was a, I guess, kind of a veiled threat.
00:04:34No one ever knew where it came from.
00:04:37>> Narrator: At nancy's autopsy, the pathologist found no signs of disease in her internal organs.
00:04:45But toxicology tests revealed some surprising results.
00:04:51Nancy lyon had been poisoned with arsenic.
00:04:55>> Well, all the specimens showed significant amounts and levels of arsenic.
00:05:00And what that shows is that the poison was absorbed through the tract, that it was distributed through the blood.
00:05:07>> Narrator: Patients often don't know they're poisoned, since the symptoms are so common.
00:05:11>> You know, people don't think about a poisoning immediately.
00:05:15They think it's just some natural thing, and when you have nausea and vomiting, that certainly is a common symptom.
00:05:22>> Most of the poisonings that you see nowadays are of a much more sophisticated variety that are harder to detect initially or even after doing tests, so arsenic was a surprise.
00:05:38>> Narrator: The manner of death was ruled a homicide, but questions remained.
00:05:44Investigators discovered a receipt among nancy's papers -- a receipt for arsenic.
00:05:50Nancy's husband richard said she bought the poison to kill a colony of fire ants in their yard.
00:05:58>> Fire ants can be a really big problem and a bad problem, especially with individuals who have really small children.
00:06:07Fire ants can get all over you and almost cover parts of your body before they even start biting and stinging.
00:06:15>> Narrator: And friends also revealed nancy had been depressed over the past year.
00:06:20She discovered her husband was having an affair, and the couple briefly separated.
00:06:26>> Richard had met anoer woman, and she felt he was going through a midlife crisis.
00:06:32So she said, at first, her take was, "hey, I'm going to stay patient.
00:06:37I'm going to get some counseling," because she was just devastateeally.
00:06:42>> I wouldn't discount a woman making herself ill or even taking something to make herself ill to get the attention of her husband.
00:06:54>> Narrator: Yet, medical experts were skeptical that nancy committed suicide.
00:06:59>> I don't believe that for a minute.
00:07:02I mean, you've got someone who's dying a very, I would consider, hideous death, certainly capable at any time of voicing that she had taken the poison, because the symptoms are both painful and you certainly are deteriorating with this.
00:07:19>> Absolutely ludicrous.
00:07:20She had two children she loved very dearly as a mother.
00:07:24She was young.
00:07:25She had everything to live for.
00:07:29It is absolutely ludicrous to believe that somebody would poison themselves with arsenic.
00:07:35>> Narrator: Also among nancy's papers was a diary, and it contained a blockbuster revelation.
00:07:42She accused her older brother bill of sexual abuse when they were younger.
00:07:48Nancy said she feared her brother and questioned his ability to control himself.
00:07:55"Sex, sick sex," the notation read.
00:07:59" nancy's brother angrily denied the allegation but couldn't explain why she had written this in her diary.
00:08:10Her family strongly suspected richard was the killer, since they knew he was having an affair with another woman.
00:08:17>> I did not poison my wife, nancy dillard lyon, nor did i have anything to do with her tragic death.
00:08:25>> Narrator: So there was no shortage of suspects.
00:08:29Who sent the wine to nancy's home?
00:08:32Who sent the threatening letter?
00:08:35Why did nancy accuse her brother of sexual abuse, and would he kill to keep her quiet?
00:08:42And was nancy planning to divorce her husband?
00:08:47>> In the event that this case becomes a murder charge, this will be an honest-to-goodness, perry mason-style whodunit.
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00:12:18>> Narrator: Investigators had plenty of suspects but little evidence in the poisoning death of nancy lyon.
00:12:25The only thing they knew was that nancy didn't kill herself.
00:12:30>> No way you would do it.
00:12:33It's too painful.
00:12:34It's too drawn-out.
00:12:36It's a horrible way to die, and you're very aware and very conscious up until the very end of it.
00:12:43There's no way you would kill yourself that way.
00:12:46>> Narrator: When a person ingests arsenic, the poison attaches itself to the hair follicles.
00:12:54As the hair grows, the poison residue remains he hair shaft and becomes a permanent record.
00:13:04So scientists cut nancy's hair into 7-millimeter pieces.
00:13:09Each piece corresponded to a 2-week period.
00:13:14Each piece was placed in a separate vial and then exposed to radiation in a nuclear reactor.
00:13:23>> The sample can by analyzed as-is in most cases, just simply weighed in to a radiation dial.
00:13:29Most other methods require dissolution of the sample.
00:13:33>> Narrator: When scientists examined the hair with gamma-ray spectrophotometry, they discovered a startling piece of information.
00:13:42Nancy had ingested small doses of arsenic every week starting four months before her death.
00:13:51The dose of arsenic increased four weeks before her death.
00:13:56The highest amount of arsenic was in nancy's system two weeks before her death.
00:14:03>> Her levels were anywhere from 4 to 100 times what normal levels were, so it was a very significant level, and it was lethal.
00:14:11>> Narrator: The forensic tests showed the poisoning started when nancy's husband richard moved back home after the separation.
00:14:20But richard wasn't the only person in nancy's life who had both motive and access.
00:14:27Nancy's handwritten diary alleged her brother bill had sexually abused her as a child.
00:14:34Investigators wanted to know whether this was a possible motive.
00:14:39To see if these entries were written by nancy, investigators sent the diary to a forensic document examiner, hartford kittel.
00:14:49>> Handwriting examination is based upon two distinct facts.
00:14:54No two people write exactly alike.
00:14:58Within the writing of a single individual, there's normal variation.
00:15:02It's this normal variation that we associate or we don't associate with the questioned writing.
00:15:09>> Narrator: Surprisingly, nancy and richard's handwriting looked strikingly similar.
00:15:14Friends said this was intentional.
00:15:17While in college, nancy had written some of richard's research papers, and she mimicked his writing.
00:15:24>> The similarities in these two writers was significant.
00:15:28But they weren't able to completely make their handwriting look the same because they had two different minds that were picturing things a little differently.
00:15:41But they tried to make them look the same.
00:15:43>> Narrator: Kittel first looked at known handwriting samples from both nancy and richard.
00:15:49Despite their similarities, there were differences.
00:15:53>> She used her ampersands quite extensively through her writing, SO EVERY 5th, 6th LINE WILL HAVE An ampersand on it in her known handwriting.
00:16:05Whereas richard always used the " >> kittel also noticed that nancy and richard made their CAPITAL "I"s DIFFERENTLY.
00:16:17>> Richard just used one downstroke, like a one, whereas nancy used a downstroke, like the one, and then a cross at the top and the bottom.
00:16:28She was willing to take a lot more time in executing them than richard was.
00:16:33>> Narrator: Their lowercase "F"s WERE DIFFERENT, AS WELL.
00:16:37>> Richard used a clockwise motion, coming down from the top of the "f" down to the bottom.
00:16:45He'd swing off in a clockwise motion to finish off the lower loop of the "f," whereas nancy always came down and went counterclockwise to finish off " >> Narrator: Kittel concluded richard wrote the diary entries about nancy's brother bill.
00:17:03>> Absolutely.
00:17:06Certain that he had written that.
00:17:09>> 100% Certain.
00:17:10>> Yes.
00:17:11>> Narrator: Prosecutors now believed richard lyon had forged nancy's diary to cover up the murder.
00:17:19>> It never crossed his mind he was going to be caught.
00:17:22He thought he had it aced, and he certainly didn't think it'd be his own handwriting.
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00:20:33>> No one granted him the power of god to take her life.
00:20:36She was slowly poisoned to death, probably one of the most hideous things that you can do to someone.
00:20:42This wasn't done in a moment of passion or anger of picking up a weapon that was handy to him.
00:20:50This was done with slow premeditation and over a period of time.
00:20:55And it's a hideous, hideous way to murder somebody.
00:20:58>> Narrator: Richard lyon insisted he had nothing to do with the poisoning death of his wife nancy.
00:21:05As proof, he offered a receipt for arsenic that he said nancy had signed.
00:21:10Prosecutors asked forensic experts whether this was, in fact, nancy's signature.
00:21:18>> I wasn't able to reach a conclusion as to authorship.
00:21:21>> Narrator: But the owner of the company listed on the receipt told prosecutors all they needed to know.
00:21:26>> "Did you seller these " " "is this a receipt?
00:21:30" " "is this your receipt from your " "no, it's a forgery.
00:21:38" >> Narrator: Investigators also discovered that arsenic was not shipped to the lyons' home, but to a post-office box richard opened.
00:21:47>> There was no reason in the world to have a post-office box set up at preston center for him to get this arsenic.
00:21:55If everything is completely legitimate, why aren't you having it delivered at home or where you work?
00:22:01It's because it's nefarious reasons of having it delivered to a post-office box.
00:22:06>> Narrator: In the hospital before she died, nancy lyon told her doctor about a suspicious incident that occurred several months earlier.
00:22:16>> She said one time, when they were separated, they had gone to the movies together.
00:22:22And richard had gone and got her a drink.
00:22:24And when he brought it to her and she drank some of it and she said it tasted awful and she looked in there, there was a white powder on the top of the drink.
00:22:32>> Narrator: Nancy said she became violently ill later that night, and she told her doctor something else.
00:22:42>> "My husband, he's been giving me these capsules for the last several months, and he says, 'nancy, go take these.
00:22:52These are like vitamins.
00:22:54'" >> Narrator: Police confiscated every pill in the lyons' home and sent them for forensic testing.
00:23:02Two pills tested positive for barium carbonate, a toxic chemical used in the production of glass.
00:23:12Despite her suspicions, nancy never directly accused richard of poisoning her.
00:23:18>> Nobody wants to believe that they're married to somebody that can murder.
00:23:23I mean, because then what are you saying about yourself?
00:23:28>> And it's kind of outside the realm of most people's reality that someone would poison you.
00:23:34And I don't think she wanted to believe it, and I think that she was embarrassed or ashamed to say anything about it.
00:23:40>> Narrator: Prosecutors believe the motive was money and the desire to live with his girlfriend.
00:23:46>> He didn't want her, but he wanted the family affiliations and the alliances.
00:23:52I think that it was partly money, and it was partly just the position that he wanted.
00:23:57And he couldn't have either one with just a divorce.
00:24:02>> Narrator: Prosecutors believe richard first tried to kill nancy by putting barium carbonate in her vitamin pills and may have put it in nancy's soda at the movies.
00:24:16When that didn't work, he used arsenic.
00:24:19Forensic testing showed nancy started ingesting arsenic in september around the time she and richard reconciled.
00:24:29The fatal dose was administered two days before nancy was admitted to the hospital where she died.
00:24:38To hide his involvement, richard created the fake invoice for the arsenic, and forensic analysis proved that it was richard who wrote the sex-related entries in nancy's diary, implicating her brother as a possible suspect.
00:24:55>> I think it was calculating.
00:24:57He thought himself as a ladies' man.
00:24:59I think he was a cold-blooded killer, and he did it in the most dispiteous way possible, slowly ingesting arsenic to his wife.
00:25:08>> Narrator: When he went on trial for murder, richard lyon pled not guilty.
00:25:15But the forensic handwriting analysis, the timeline of the poisonings captured in nancy's hair, and the discovery of poison in vitamin pills found in the home were difficult to deflect.
00:25:29Richard's girlfriend even testified, claiming richard lied by telling her that nancy had a rare and fatal blood disease.
00:25:39>> Any time that you catch a defendant or any witness in a lie, and that was a pretty big one and I don't think a coincidence, that she was going to die from a fatal blood disease.
00:25:49I think that those things immediately begin to color their view of him.
00:25:53And he was a liar -- he would lie.
00:25:55>> Narrator: It took a jury less than three hours to convict richard lyon of first-degree murder.
00:26:02He was sentenced to life in prison.
00:26:06>> I've worked lots of cases like this and the question was always why not just a divorce.
00:26:11>> They may be intelligent, but they're criminally stupid.
00:26:15And for good reason, and thank god they are, because we couldn't catch them.
00:26:21>> It was hard for me to believe that he had actually killed his wife, and it had just finally brokenown based on the shape of an "f" and an "l" and an "r," and just scratchings on a piece of paper.
00:26:33--Captions by >> Narrator: A computer hard drive holds hundreds of secrets.
00:26:43Every keystroke, every download, every deletion tells a story.
00:26:48But if someone downloads a song about murder, does it make him a killer?
00:27:23It was a hot august night in jacksonville, florida, and a time of celebration for april and justin barber.
00:27:32It was their third wedding anniversary, and april was about to finish her training as a radiology technician.
00:27:39>> April barber had gone into the field of oncology, specifically radiology-type treatment for cancer patients, which was inspired by her mother's death with cancer.
00:27:52>> Narrator: Justin had good news, too.
00:27:54He had just got a job as a financial analyst for a large lumber company.
00:27:59>> He was a very good guy -- very smart, very successful, had everything going for him.
00:28:04I mean, just like my sister.
00:28:06I mean, they were two of a kind, I guess.
00:28:10>> Narrator: The couple's anniversary dinner was at an italian restaurant.
00:28:15Later, they took a walk along the beach.
00:28:22But their romantic evening ended there when a man with a gun demanded money.
00:28:29>> Give me your money and your jewelry.
00:28:31>> Narrator: April diverted the man's attention.
00:28:34Justin tried to grab the gun.
00:28:38And that's the last thing justin remembered.
00:28:43When he regained consciousness, he realized he had been shot and was bleeding.
00:28:51He found april unconscious and facedown in the water.
00:28:58Justin dragged april's body about 100 yards, toward their car, but his wounds made it impossible to carry her up the long flight of stairs.