Forensic Files - Black Friday (The Robert Erik Denney Case)   View more episodes

Aired at 09:00 PM on Wednesday, Dec 02, 2009 (12/2/2009)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:00Criminal databases.
00:00:03In the search for corey parker's killer, investigators discovered that she had just started dating someone new.
00:00:12His name was david wilt.
00:00:14But it didn't take long for investigators to eliminate him as a suspect.
00:00:18He was out of state at his parents' house for thanksgiving.
00:00:23And so, you know, he had a very solid alibi.
00:00:26>> Narrator: Investigators interviewed everyone corey spoke with at the ritz bar on the night of her murder.
00:00:33Most of the people corey saw that night left the bar before she did.
00:00:39But one friend, tiffany smith, 00 in the morning.
00:00:45Tiffany told police they both left the bar at the same time in their own cars and went their separate ways.
00:00:53But tiffany told friends that wasn't the only contact she had with corey that night.
00:01:00>> She said she called corey from her cellphone around and corey answered the phone.
00:01:05She said when corey answered the phone that corey was asleep.
00:01:09And she asked her what she was doing.
00:01:12" >> Narrator: Tiffany also told friends she drove to corey's and knocked on her door but no one answered, so she left.
00:01:24>> Her statement that she went by corey's house puts her at the crime scene during the time that corey could've possibly been killed.
00:01:34And that added to that suspicion that she could possibly be involved.
00:01:39>> Narrator: But when investigators checked tiffany's cellphone records, they made a startling discovery.
00:01:46Tiffany didn't call corey after they left the ritz bar.
00:01:52>> Obviously, investigators were curious as to why she would say that she had called and actually spoken with corey when it wasn't true.
00:02:02>> Narrator: But why would tiffany make up a story like that?
00:02:06>> Everybody was talking about the possibility that maybe she was sexually interested in corey.
00:02:12Tiffany mentioned to me in just a very casual conversation that she had been bi-curious.
00:02:18>> Tiffany had a real, true affection for corey.
00:02:23>> Narrator: In addition, tiffany told friends things about the crime scene that had not been released to the general public.
00:02:31>> She was describing the state of the victim's body and this scene without having been privy to either photographs or a walk-through of the scene.
00:02:40They thought it was certainly suspicious.
00:02:42>> I thought it was really strange that she would have any idea of how corey had been killed.
00:02:48>> Narrator: Tiffany denied any involvement in the murder but when asked to provide a dna sample, she refused.
00:02:57>> The fact that she did not willingly give up dna or hair samples led the police to believe she had something to hide.
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00:06:11>> Narrator: Even though corey parker's friend tiffany smith insisted she had nothing to do with corey's murder, she made untruthful statements about her activities on the night of the murder.
00:06:27She also refused to provide a dna sample.
00:06:30>> She actually put herself at the crime scene in one of her statements.
00:06:35>> Narrator: But scientists found a surprising piece of information in the blood evidence left by the killer.
00:06:42They found the telltale "y" chromosome.
00:06:47A "y" chromosome is present only in men.
00:06:52>> We did develop a male profile from this particular sample, which was a blood sample from a point of entry or exit into the apartment.
00:07:00We were optimistic that this could be from the suspect.
00:07:03>> Narrator: So tiffany was eliminated as a suspect.
00:07:06>> They believed that tiffany was saying things to kind of inject herself into the investigation to make her seem more important than she was.
00:07:14>> Narrator: Investigators believed tiffany learned details of the crime scene from a friend who worked on the emergency crew.
00:07:24Police were forced to consider the possibility that corey's murder was a random act perpetrated by a man with an uncontrollable hatred for women.
00:07:36Eventually, police performed dna tests on 38 men -- co-workers, fellow students, former boyfriends -- with no success.
00:07:45>> I was very concerned that they would never solve the case.
00:07:50What I learned from watching other crimes is that the longer it goes on, the less likely it is to solve a crime.
00:07:57>> Narrator: 18 Months passed, and police continued to work the case, poring through the file, re-reading the police interviews.
00:08:07To generate new leads, police offered a reward for any new evidence which would lead to a conviction, and it generated a lead.
00:08:16Some employees of a local steak house a few miles from corey parker's apartment called police to report that a co-worker, robert denney, behaved suspiciously after corey's murder.
00:08:30>> He just seemed to be upset and was crying, had come into this restaurant one day and told them that his child had been killed in an automobile accident in texas and that he needed to get back home.
00:08:43>> Narrator: Denney's co-workers responded generously by raising money so he could return to texas to attend his son's funeral.
00:08:51>> After collecting that money, the owner of the restaurant went over to give the money to his sister, when he was told that robert denney did not have a son and that that story was fabricated.
00:09:03>> Narrator: And there was something else about robert denney.
00:09:08He lived in the same complex as corey parker, with a direct line of sight into her apartment.
00:09:18>> Robert denney told some co-worker about this woman that lived in an apartment below him.
00:09:25And he began to talk about how he would watch her and even went so far to graphically describe that he would masturbate while watching her.
00:09:37>> Narrator: When police decided to question denney again, his sister told police that he'd left the area.
00:09:44>> She had actually kicked him out of the home she shared with her husband, because of his odd behavior -- staying up all hours of the night, his -- what she described as an addiction to pornography.
00:09:56She told one law-enforcement officer that she had awoken to him looking over her bed and staring at her.
00:10:03>> Narrator: Then, police learned another disturbing piece of information.
00:10:09Robert denney's older brother was serving a life sentence in texas for stabbing a woman 97 times.
00:10:17>> Corey parker was stabbed 101 times.
00:10:21What are the chances of two young men coming out of the same family committing such heinous, heinous and atrocious murders?
00:10:28And did he get that idea from his brother?
00:10:31Was he trying to emulate his brother?
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00:13:26>> Narrator: 18 Months after corey parker's murder, investigators found robert denney 800 miles away in maryland, where he was living with a 52-year-old married woman.
00:13:39>> Robert denney had struck up an e-mail relationship with a married woman and eventually had convinced her to let him come up there and live with her and her husband.
00:13:51He and this woman had a sexual relationship right under the husband's nose.
00:13:57>> Narrator: When police questioned denney, they told him they were investigating his possible involvement in a differentcrime, hoping he'd let down his guard.
00:14:09>> They told him that they were investigating a potential allegation that he had been involved in a fight in easton, maryland, which they thought that he would voluntarily give his dna to prove that he had not been involved in the fight.
00:14:23>> And we were not leaving easton, maryland, until we got his dna.
00:14:26>> Narrator: This proved to be harder than investigators anticipated.
00:14:32Denney smoked during his interrogation, but always made sure to keep the cigarette butts.
00:14:40Detectives offered him a bottle of water, but he wouldn't touch it.
00:14:46Finally, they asked him to sign a document saying he refused to provide his dna.
00:14:52>> We ask him to put the letter into the envelope and seal the envelopes.
00:14:57He refused to seal the envelopes, and at that point, basically told us, "look.
00:15:01You've tried three times to get my saliva on something.
00:15:05First the cigarette butt, then the water bottle, and now the envelopes.
00:15:09Seal it yourself.
00:15:11Is there anything else I can do " >> Narrator: So investigators put denney under surveillance at his home and at the computer store where he worked.
00:15:22He took a cigarette break every 45 minutes but was careful to keep the evidence.
00:15:30>> When he smoked his cigarettes, he would put out the butts and then put the butts in his pocket so they could not be collected.
00:15:36>> Narrator: Two days passed, and investigators finally got a break.
00:15:42Just after a brief rainstorm, denney came outside to smoke, but this time he did something different.
00:15:53>> He walked around and then, all of a sudden, began spitting on the sidewalk -- not once, not twice, but six times.
00:16:01>> Narrator: Because of the rain, the saliva was sitting on top of the rainwater, making it easy to collect.
00:16:09And the barrier helped reduce contamination.
00:16:13>> It was very easy to designate where it was.
00:16:17>> From that point on, it's the same as testing for a hair or a bloodstain or a semen stain.
00:16:21>> Narrator: The results left no doubt.
00:16:24The unknown dna from corey parker's apartment belonged to robert denney.
00:16:32>> The fact that he denied ever having been in her apartment made this evidence all the more incriminating.
00:16:40>> Narrator: And there was one other piece of evidence that ..
00:16:45The gold-plated lighter found in corey's bedroom.
00:16:49He said it wasn't his, but a former girlfriend told police it was his lighter.
00:16:56>> She was able to identify the emblem on it.
00:16:59She was positive that it was his lighter.
00:17:02>> Narrator: Prosecutors believe robert denney was obsessed with his beautiful neighbor, ..
00:17:10And monitored her comings and goings.
00:17:13He also looked inside her apartment whenever he could.
00:17:18Prosecutors believe denney saw corey get ready to go with her friends on the night before ..
00:17:27Then, armed with a knife and wearing gloves, he entered corey's apartment through the kitchen window.
00:17:39The evidence suggests he hid somewhere, possibly in her closet, and waited for her to return.
00:17:59Corey had no hint that anyone was inside, and went to bed.
00:18:13That's when denney attacked.
00:18:19But corey fought back -- much harder than he'd anticipated.
00:18:24In the process, she pulled out some of his hair, which contained his dna.
00:18:29His lighter slipped from his pocket during the struggle.
00:18:34He stabbed her repeatedly.
00:18:37At some point, he cut himself and bled inside his gloved hand.
00:18:45As he left the apartment through the kitchen window, he left a blood smear on the windowsill, providing his dna.
00:18:56Robert denney went on trial for first-degree murder.
00:19:00The jury deliberated for 45 minutes.
00:19:03>> We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree as charged in the indictment.
00:19:09We, the jury, further find that the killing was done with premeditation.
00:19:12>> Narrator: Since he was only 17 years old, a minor, when he committed the crime, denney was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
00:19:24>> Robert denney is a hard person to understand.
00:19:26There was obviously some dysfunction in his family that is far greater than most of us probably know.
00:19:34>> He was methodical in cleaning up, he was careful, and he almost got away with murder, but for that one drop of blood and hair that he shed that he didn't ever expect to be discovered.
00:19:46>> This girl was a very likable, very intelligent, very beautiful 25-year-old that had a bright future in front of her.
00:19:57She came from a good family and had a good social network, had everything in the world to live for, and in one instance, this cold-blooded killer takes her life.
00:20:10>> Narrator: Up next, a young man falls ill and no one knows why.
00:20:14>> Maybe he had been exposed to something through his work.
00:20:17>> Narrator: Despite the best of medical intensive care, he dies.
00:20:22>> Was it accidental?
00:20:23Is it suicide?
00:20:24Is it homicide?
00:20:25>> Narrator: But investigators know there must be a clue somewhere.
00:20:30>> The more we looked into it, the more bizarre it got.
00:20:41The research triangle in raleigh-durham, north carolina -- home to many high-tech research-and-development companies.
00:20:5030-Year-old eric miller worked there, looking for a cure for pediatric aids.
00:20:55His wife, ann, was also a scientist working for a large pharmaceutical company.
00:21:01>> Eric and ann miller were living the american dream.
00:21:04They had good jobs, they had a beautiful baby, they lived in a nice house, they attended church.
00:21:10>> Narrator: Despite a satisfying professional life, eric developed health problems that some suspected might have been related to his job.
00:21:19>> He exhibited a lot of flu-like symptoms -- vomiting, fevers, headaches.
00:21:26And people generally thought that he had a virus or that he had a bacterial infection that they just couldn't isolate.
00:21:33>> Narrator: One night while bowling with his friends, his symptoms were so severe he had to be hospitalized.
00:21:42>> Ann miller said he was pale and white and he was holding a trash can and said he had eaten a hot dog at the bowling alley and felt like he had gotten food poisoning.
00:21:50>> Narrator: Eric was put into intensive care, but when his condition improved, he was released.
00:21:57Several days later, he was hospitalized again.
00:22:02This time, doctors found ahuge amount of arsenic in his system -- well over the lethal level.
00:22:11>> The urine test from the second hospital was really high.
00:22:17It was sky-high.
00:22:18>> It's tasteless, it's odorless, it's water-soluble, can easily be mixed in with food or drink.
00:22:25>> Narrator: Arsenic is a poison used in pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides.
00:22:31>> They asked him if he knew of anybody that would have any reason to harm him or hurt him in any way.
00:22:37And he indicated that he did not.
00:22:40>> Narrator: Within hours, eric miller was dead.
00:22:46>> It's a very, very painful way to die.
00:22:50Arsenic basically eats away at your body from the inside out.
00:22:55>> It causes you to have violent, violent nausea, convulsions.
00:23:02Your system starts shutting down organ by organ.
00:23:06>> Narrator: But where did the arsenic come from?
00:23:10A check of eric's workplace showed he had no exposure to arsenic there.
00:23:16>> We went to the lab and we looked at every chemical in the lab and checked for arsenic.
00:23:21We did not find anything that was arsenic or arsenic-derivative.
00:23:24>> Narrator: They also checked eric's home.
00:23:27>> We seized every bottle of water, every carton of milk -- everything that was there.
00:23:33>> Narrator: Again, they found nothing.
00:23:37So investigators focused on that night in the bowling alley when eric first exhibited the extreme symptoms.
00:23:47A witness said eric had a beer shortly before feeling ill.
00:23:51>> Eric had commented, during the time, that the beer tasted bitter to him, that there was a strange taste to the beer.
00:23:57And he went to the bathroom a number of times, and he became so ill that, in fact, he brought the trash can from the bathroom over to the lane where they were bowling.
00:24:06>> Narrator: Witnesses said eric's friend derril willard had given eric the beer.
00:24:11Investigators tried to speak to derril about that, but he refused.
00:24:16>> Derril said, "i can't talk to you anymore.
00:24:18" >> Narrator: Then, six weeks after eric's death, derril's wife found him on the floor of the garage in a pool of blood -- a gun in his hand.
00:24:40There was a suicide note tacked to the wall of the garage.
00:25:01>> And I think derril willard had to know something about the death of eric miller.
00:25:05>> In police work, that's what we call a clue.
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00:27:16 try our new manicotti formaggio with shrimp in creamy carbonara sauce.
00:27:20Or with chicken in homemade parmesan sauce.
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00:28:05>> Narrator: Police in raleigh-durham, north carolina, had two suspicious deaths.
00:28:11Eric miller's death was caused by a massive dose of arsenic.
00:28:17Six weeks later, eric's friend derril willard committed suicide.
00:28:26The two had been together at the bowling alley on the night eric miller fell ill.
00:28:31>> Derril -- completely out of character for him, according to everybody we talked to -- buys a pitcher of beer while they're waiting for a lane to free up.
00:28:41When eric took his first swallow of beer, you know, it doesn't taste quite right.
00:28:46>> Narrator: And shortly before derril willard committed suicide, he had confessed to his wife that he had been having an affair with ann miller, eric's wife.
00:28:55>> We don't know whether or not he told his wife anything else about his potential involvement with arsenic or eric miller at