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He said, Cindy, where's my mom and I just instantly knew and I just said, Michael, call the police, I'm on my way. A loving mother always there for me, a beloved friend. She was just so easy to, like, vanishes. Something was very, very wrong. Was she murdered? Was it for her money? How much money do you have in the bank? I think it was over seven figures. Or was it something or someone else that really threw him for a loop when he found out that my mom had met somebody else.


Police had a suspect at a case that was about to take an unbelievable turn. One of the most shocking things I've ever seen in a courtroom. I'm Lester Holt and this is Dateline. Here's Josh Mankiewicz.


The Southern California's South Bay. A singularly stunning strand of shoreline with familiar names like Hermosa Redondo. We call it the sandbox. No one thinks that this part of Los Angeles exists, but it does. This seaside playground is lined with beachfront properties worth millions, and nestled among these small beach towns is an oasis called El Segundo, its Main Street, USA.


It's a great place to raise kids.


And in El Segundo, in the South Bay, more than a decade ago, one of the rainmakers in the real estate business selling those beautiful homes in the sandbox was Julia Keller, known as Didi.


She really just embraced everyone that came into her path, Dina's best friend's mortgage executive, Cindy Ertman, and real estate sales partner Linda Dondero. She was good at her job.


I loved working with dating everybody, Dad. She was just so easy to like and always wanted the best for everybody. And her clients were very loyal.


Over the years, Didi was loyal to not only to her clients, but as a divorced mom to her children, Mike and Julie.


I remember my mom explaining to me when I was about 10 years old that as you get older, where we're probably not going to be as close or, you know, you won't like me quite as much and it never happened. If anything, we just got closer.


But Didi Keller had a heart problem, not literally. It may have been a little too big. She loved without limits and she simply hated to disappoint or let anyone down. She loved dogs so much she literally couldn't say no to another one. She was surrounded by them at home, even in her real estate ads.


I always joke that as soon as I graduated college, that's when she started replacing us with dogs.


She never stopped being a mom and she never stopped sort of loving everybody, I guess.


No, she never did. She was ready to be embraced and to embrace you whenever you wanted it.


But there was one area of her life in which Keller's honesty and embrace and called hold. Your mom was so lucky and life was so easy in so many ways.


She couldn't quite make the man in her life think well-tried.


She had a wonderful life. But no, I guess she hadn't found that person.


She did have a long term relationship, but that ended sadly in 1987. Soon after she met someone new. He was a real estate client named Irwin Howard, a pilot and airline mechanic originally from Bolivia.


I remember Didi telling me that she was not going to date anyone else unless they loved, treasured and adored her. And she did feel loved, treasured and adored by everyone. You know, he treated her like a queen.


When Irwin popped the question, Didi said yes. At a bridal shower in March of 1998, Irwin dutifully delivered his fiancee to the surprise party, but the smiles didn't last.


After the engagement was over and the marriage began, it wasn't more than six months after they were married.


She just blurted out that she had married him on the rebound and was having second thoughts, apparently.


So it was very hard for her to think about ending it because of what it was going to do to him, because she knew he loved her so much, in fact, that the marriage lasted another four years after that conversation. Ultimately, their divorce was amicable. And a year after the split in the summer of 2004, Bebe seemed to be finding her footing. Once again, she began dating a well-known South Bay car salesman named Bobby Lowe. That new relationship was going so well that on the evening of Thursday, July eight, Bobby loved to be the out to dinner at this restaurant to meet his father.


I talked to her before her date.


Any sign that she was nervous about anything? She was in a happy state when I talked to her and we had made plans to hopefully get together the following night and so I could get the update on the on the date.


But that conversation never took place.


I called her on Friday and she didn't call me back, which was not unusual for Didi. I called her on Saturday and she didn't call me back. That was pretty typical. But by Sunday I started getting concerned.


Concerned, too, was daughter Julie. She talked of meeting her mom that same Friday during a layover at LAX as Julie headed for Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.


She said, you know, I might have an appointment that morning, but if I don't, I'll come by, I'll text you. We'll have coffee. So we laid over in Los Angeles. I didn't get a text. It was a little odd, but didn't think much of it.


Dee son Mike was beginning to worry after he returned from a business trip to the San Francisco area.


When I called her cell phone, the voicemail was full and that had never happened with my mom. And she prided himself on being responsive.


So you go over to your mom's house.


So I went in the back gate and then instantly it was clear that she had not been there for a while.


What made that clear? The dog's water dish was bone dry. My mom would would die of thirst before her dogs went without water.


Mike's first call was to Cindy and he said, Cindy, where's my mom? And I just I instantly knew in that moment that something had happened. I just knew. And I just said, Michael, call the police. I'm on my way. Where was he killed? Not only was there no water left outside for Deedes beloved dogs, but detectives noticed lots of other things wrong inside the house.


Her purse was there, but her wallet was missing. And this was a woman with money, lots of it. How much money do you have in the bank? I think it was over seven figures who got that money in the event of her death. The beneficiaries were her two children. On a sun splashed sun in L.A. South Bay, clouds were rolling in over one household. It was July 2004. El Segundo real estate agent Julia Keller, known to the world as Didi, was missing.


Dee son Mike had gone to her home when he hadn't heard from her for three days. The biggest red flag deeds, beloved dogs left without food or water. What did you think it happened? I didn't know at that point. I just knew that something was very, very wrong.


Mike called his mom's best friends, Linda Dondero and Cindy Ertman. Cindy, who last spoke in the free days before as Didi prepared for a date, rushed to the house, you could tell just the dogs had been, you know, running around for days.


But the way the TV was on and the way the shades were, I felt like Thursday night had never ended. I felt like Friday morning never came.


Cindy immediately phoned the new boyfriend, car salesman Bobby Lowe. You report reported they'd had dinner on Thursday at a local restaurant, then returned to his house for a nightcap.


He said she'd had a little bit too much wine and she laid down on the couch and was kind of starting to fall off to sleep and. So he just said good night and let himself out anything about what Bobby Lowe said sound in any way suspicious to you? Not at all.


The next call to El Segundo police and soon on the scene, then Detective Sergeant Carlos Mendoza.


This does not happen in El Segundo, especially people that are known as well as Deedes.


And what detectives found in their initial search of his home only deepened the mystery in the kitchen purse. Her cell phone still inside, but no wallet. A vodka bottle that police learned was usually kept in the freezer, was out on the counter and in the living room. The TV was on CNN. We discovered that whenever she left the house, she'd always put the TV on to a classical music station so it would relax the docs. But it was on on CNN when we came in to the house.


So Didi was watching CNN, had the dogs there, was having a drink and then left for some reason suggesting kind of whatever happened happened in a big hurry.


She didn't have time to do her routine that she usually does before she leaves.


And it appeared Didi had left in her car, the garage was empty, her silver 1999 Mercedes gone. But strangely, police found the car keys sitting on this patio.


We decided to call the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, homicide bureau to come and assist us. And answering that call, veteran Detective Jimmy Gates, there was no forced entry whatsoever, and when we started walking through the house, I noticed several articles that were very valuable.


So she let in whoever it was. And it wasn't robbery.


Absolutely correct. If she didn't let them in, that person let themselves in and they may have had a key.


Gates wonder, had Didi left in her car with someone she knew and how did her car get taken without its key?


If you don't have a key, is it is easy to steal a car as movies depict it?


Certainly not in nineteen ninety nine Mercedes. It's hard to hotwired. It's just hard to steal it.


You almost need a key to gain access to it if your car doesn't have a key. The next stop is a car dealership to have a new one made. But first, Gates and his crew searched the house looking for spare Mercedes key without success. And Gates quickly became convinced of one thing.


You thought finding this car was going to be the key to this?


That was going to be extremely important.


Did his friends and family printed up posters and along with law enforcement, launched a massive search, an army of people band together to try to help find her? And we broke up into teams and we mapped everything out in one mile increments to start to search every parking lot looking for her car.


We would ask people, have you seen this woman? Have you seen this car? It was frantic. It was heartbreaking.


And it was leading nowhere. At the same time, Detective Gates wondered who might have had a motive to have abducted from her home. Those most common of motives love, money, jealousy are always the ones police hug first. Like old friends, Didi made a lot of money being a realtor. She was successful. Yes, sir. How much money do you have in the bank? I think it was over seven figures, seven figures. A lot of murders committed for a lot less than that.


Absolutely. Who got that money in the event of her death? The beneficiaries were her two children. And the detective noticed something about the whereabouts of these two children, Mike and Julie, at the time of his disappearance.


They're both out of town at the time that their mother went missing. Why is that significant? Why wouldn't the reverse be more true? I thought that the mother goes missing and it just so happens that Mike, you know, is gone in San Jose and Julie's done in a resort. And it's been my experience that sometimes people dissipate stress after they commit a crime a different way. Some people drink, some people take drugs, and some people leave the area just to dissipate stress.


And there was strangely one more person who just happened to have been traveling near the time of this disappearance. Her ex-husband, Irwin Howard, had just flown to his home country of Bolivia. And Irwin was a mechanic who worked for American Airlines in L.A., a common thread in all these trips nearby LAX Airport. And so the detective thought, what better place to dump a car away? It's a big place, very big parking lot, a lot of parking lots.


And it took a few days.


You look through them all, every one of them, no Mercedes and no shortage of persons of interest. A lot of people close to the killer were about to be hugged like old friends. Coming up, Deed's daughter Julie rushes back from vacation to help find her missing mother. It was the most surreal experience. Never suspecting detectives have questions for her when Dateline continues. In the days after the disappearance of El Segundo realtor Didi Keller, all of L.A. s Bay seemed to be looking for her and for her missing Mercedes, leading the search, her best friend, Cindy and Linda.


A lot of times people disappear like you get the immediate family working and then everybody else is like, well, not in this town.


She had an army daughter. Julie rushed back to L.A. from a trip to Mexico. It was the most surreal experience. Only to be greeted by suspicion, L.A. Sheriff's Detective Jimmy Gates had discovered that in the event of their mother's death, Julie and her brother Mike stood to inherit more than a million dollars. So he confronted Deedes kids using one of the oldest tricks in the investigators handbook.


Do you remember an interview that you did with Jimmy Gates idea in which he asked you some pretty basic questions like, you know, what's your name? Where do you live? Pretty ordinary stuff. And then all of a sudden he says, Jim, anything to do with your mom's disappearance?


I think it was more did you kill your mother? And you're what, startled or angry? It was a horrible question, but I can understand why it needed to be asked.


Detectives asked similar questions of Julie. Next, in attempting to rule out as suspects, those closest to DEEDI detectives turned their attention to her ex-husband, Irwin Howard, it turned out that although Didi and Irwin had been divorced for more than a year at the time of her disappearance, friends told police that she had recently invited him back into her life.


About six months earlier, Dedede been in a car accident and as she recovered, she needed help with her dogs. He also apparently felt bad about the pain their divorce had caused her when she called her, went to help her because that was what he did best, was to help and assist her.


So he helped kind of nursed her back to health and take care of the dogs in the house and her and in taking a hard look at her one hour.


The detective found he had a rock solid alibi. On the night of his disappearance, Julia Irwin had clocked in a work for his job as an airline mechanic at the American Airlines hangar at LAX at eight thirty p.m. He said he worked all night, but it wasn't just Irwin's work. He had to use an electronic key card to get into the hangar. That's a pretty good alibi.


That's not something that generally the employee can influence.


That's correct. That's absolutely correct. That left the last person to admit seemed alive. Her new boyfriend, car salesman Bobby Lo Lo, said he left his house between 11:00 and midnight that night, then gone to the gym the next morning. What possible motive could Bobby Lowe have to want either dead or out of the picture?


There was no motive that I could determine whatsoever. And low provided investigators with two important clues. First, he said while he was at diddies that night, her dogs at all started barking at something outside as if someone were lurking. And the next morning, he discovered someone had keyed the side of his Ford Explorer, leaving a long scratch, which suggests what, somebody following them on that date? Absolutely.


That's what it meant to me. But who was following Deedee and Bobby? Who was that angry? That act of vandalism pointed away from Bobby? LOL. I was an investigator for several years.


I've never known anybody to vandalize their own car.


That kind of thinking is what would make it a perfect alibi.


Sure, sure. If he's sophisticated enough. But his background indicated that, you know, he was well-liked guy, kind of successful himself and didn't have a lot of enemies.


And then even as investigators looked at suspects came the news that all who knew he had at once hoped for and feared the car had been found, not at Elex, not in L.A., but two and a half hours down Interstate five in San Diego. That silver Mercedes had been parked in downtown San Diego for days, earning it several parking tickets.


When the local PD ran the plate, it came up as belonging to a missing person. And when the trunk was finally opened, there was a body wrapped in sheets covered by a blanket, which was itself decorated with dog paws. Dee Keller was no longer missing. Police asked to meet with his family.


There was just a wide range of emotions.


There was almost some type of relief that they had found her because we were starting to think at that point, how long could this go on her stays in my life and one of the hardest days for my children and all of her friends and her family did.


Keller was dead at age 54.


An autopsy showed she'd been asphyxiated and the clues that were and were not left in her car were about to take this case back in a familiar direction.


Coming up, just days before she was murdered, Dee had a visit from a stalker.


She said that she was in the shower, kind of pulled her out of the shower, and they had this huge altercation. He was calling her every name under the sun. On a downtown street in San Diego in July 2004, De Kellar had finally been found dead in the trunk of her silver Mercedes. The car had been the subject of a massive search ever since he had been discovered missing a week earlier from her home two hours north in El Segundo.


Homicide Detective Jimmy Gaits, who'd always thought finding the car would be the key to finding Didi, now gave the Mercedes a thorough going over fingerprints or DNA in the car.


There wasn't one fingerprint either on or in that car, or was there any partial print? Nothing divvies or anybody else's? Nobody's. So what does that say? Professional? Well, someone went to great lengths to make damn sure that they weren't identified through fingerprints, that's for sure.


But the killer did leave a clue in the tape wrapped around his body.


I had never seen tape like that. It appeared to us to be consistent with red duct tape that started gaits in one direction.


But he also looked closely at the way Dede's body had been placed in that car. Someone took great care to place her in that car, and that indicated to us that someone cared deeply about her.


So part of this is professional and part of this is somebody that knew her. That's that's exactly correct.


But the suspicions that said professional soon fell away in favor of those that said someone who knew her, not her children, but someone who would reenter life in the months before her death, her ex-husband Irwin out.


Did you ever think of Irwin as violent or dangerous? No, I never suspected. That he would do something physical, but detective soon learned something had changed in Irwin Howard in the months before diddies murder. Remember, after a car accident in January 2004, Dedi had invited Irwin back into her life to help care for her and her dogs. That request had apparently been misinterpreted by everyone we know. He started wearing his wedding ring again.


Irwin wanted back into her life and sounds to me like on some level she sort of appreciated that part of him that adored her and wanted to take care of her, even if it's somebody that you're not going to be with anymore. Yes. You think she made that point clear enough to him now? She was too nice, always too nice and very trusting.


And that may be why investigators thought Irwin seemed surprised when just two weeks before Dede's murder, Irwin gained access to this computer and found emails referring to a relationship with a new man, Bobby Lowe. And I think that really threw him for a loop when he found out that my mom, you know, had met somebody else. And that's when things started getting scary.


Scary because Irwin detectives learned he had started doing things that pointed to an obsession with Deedee. And how did they know that in one of those only in a small town, coincidences did Son Mike lived just down the block from Deedes new boyfriend Bobby Lowe.


One night, Mike was sitting in his living room when he saw a familiar green Range Rover driving by. And inside was Irwin.


As the evening went on, he continued to drive by the house.


You call your mom and say, by the way, Irwin's driving around the block while you're with Bobby Lowe. I didn't I didn't really put two and two together, but the very next day now, just ten days before her murder, Beattie would call her friend Cindy Ertman in a state of panic.


She was crying hysterically. She said that she was in the shower. Irwin came into the house without her knowing, pulled her out of the shower, and they had this huge altercation and that he was calling her every name under the sun.


Dee Dee told the same story to her friend Linda down there. And I said, Do you realize that Irwin's behaviour is escalating, Didi?


And she said, yes. And you said, call the police. No, I said, have you changed your locks? And she said, no, I'll do it on the way home. And of course, she never did.


But investigators soon learned that in those conversations with her friends, Didi had left something out, a detail she mentioned only to her daughter, Julie, that during that argument, Irwin Howard had also slapped her.


I said, Mom, you have to call the police.


You have to get a restraining order. And then I remember her asking me not to tell Michael. And that she was going to handle that, and I remember being torn like, OK, this is my mom telling me I got it. But also thinking maybe she didn't have it and a few days later it was clear Julie was right the very night her mom went missing, Julie got another phone call, this time from Irwin that got on the phone.


And he's like, Jules, Jules, Jules, what is your mom thinking? And I said, Irwin, you know, I really I don't want to talk about this. I feel like, you know, this is between you and my mom. And he's like, well, you just need to pray for her soul. And I remember thinking that was a little odd. But then you know what I mean, given his you know, his grasp on the English language, sometimes he'd say some funny things or, you know, get something wrong.


But I just remember thinking that was an odd comment.


Detective Gates now felt Irwin Howard's motive for killing DEEDI killer was clear, but proving Irwin had the means to commit the murder was another matter.


And Irwin steadfastly maintained his innocence to investigators from the moment he stepped off the plane as he returned from Bolivia after the murder through the months after. Even though he was clearly the prime suspect and the case against Irwin was not without its problems, it's one thing to stalk someone, quite another to kill them. There was no physical evidence tying Irwin Howard to the crime, and there were those key card records showing him clocking into his job at American Airlines the night of the murder.


Still, Detective Gates took the information he had gathered to the L.A. County district attorney's office and asked for a warrant, and they declined to file charges. They won't file. They won't file. Did Jimmy Gates have the wrong man in his sights? Was there ever going to be enough evidence to arrest a killer, any killer? Coming up, finally, a break.


That's like lightning striking twice. Make that three times one of the most shocking things I've ever seen in one of my cases in the courtroom when Dateline continues.


Summer had come and gone in L.A. South Bay without an arrest in the murder of beloved El Segundo real estate agent Didi Kallet.


And as the months dragged on, Detective Jimmy Yates kept pounding the pavement, building what he thought was a strong circumstantial case against Keller's ex-husband, Irwin Howard.


But the L.A. County DA's office had so far declined to issue a warrant for Howard's arrest. Did his son Michael wanted answers? There was a long time when Irwin was walking around free, seemed like decades.


It was so frustrating, painful, emotional.


Jimmy Yates was feeling all those same things. And soon his hard work started paying off that unusual red tape found on his body. A specially trained dog found Irwin's scent on it, and detectives found similar tape at Irwin's workplace, that American Airlines hangar at LAX.


But what about Irwin's alibi? Computer records showing him at work in that same hangar the night of his disappearance and that he'd worked a 10 hour shift? It turned out that the more detectives dug into that alibi, the less solid it seemed.


Detective Gates painstakingly dissected the procedures at the hangar and he found this Irwin Howard could swipe in to work at the employee parking lot using a key card, then clock in inside the hangar.


But he could also leave whenever he wanted by walking out the large bay doors and catching an employee shuttle back to the parking lot.


There'd be no record of his leaving.


Jimmy Gates discovered that on the night of the murder, Irwin used his key card to swipe into the parking lot at eight twenty four p.m. and again at ten twenty one p.m. and for a third time at one forty seven a.m., which completely blew apart his alibi that he'd been at work the whole time so he would swipe his card to get back.


Absolutely. After there was no record of him leaving right by now. You're convinced Irwin is the guy.


Absolutely. All the witnesses, all the evidence, everything pointed directly at Irwin.


And there was one more key piece of evidence. The day after the murder, a witness saw a Mercedes on the street in El Segundo. She thought it belonged to a friend, so she sped up to catch her.


And she says it's not her friend. And she sees a male Hispanic driving the car. And she remembers that license plate.


The license plate belonged to the Mercedes owned by Deedee Keller. The man driving the witness helped a police artist draw a sketch. Does it look like it looks like Irwin?


The witness was then shown a photo lineup and she picked out Irwin Howard. That's like lightning striking twice.


And then it struck again. Six months after the murder, Jimmy Gate's phone rang. It was Deedes, next door neighbor who'd been interviewed once, and it offered nothing of value. But now, apparently, she was having an attack of conscience.


The neighbor now told the detective that she'd seen Irwin on June 30th, the day Irwin had confronted and slapped E.T. She said the conversation lasted 15 or 20 minutes where he articulates that he was mad enough to strangle her with work gloves.


That's what did his neighbor says, Irwin said to her. Correct. Why do you think she didn't tell you for six months?


I have no idea why a neighbor during a murder investigation just went and simply told the cops the truth. He wanted to kill her arm.


With that new and threatening statement, Detective Gates was able to get his warrant. And soon Irwin Howard was under arrest for the murder of Dede Keller.


Now, the case was in the hands of L.A. County Deputy District Attorney John Lewis. What made this case different?


I love cases where you have a very good idea who the suspect is, but it's a question of kind of putting the evidence together. So circumstantial cases where you have high motive, but you're looking at lots of little facts and seeing, OK, what can you turn this into? It would take three years for the case against Irwin Howard to come to trial.


Cameras were not present in the courtroom that day when trial began in the fall of 2008.


John Louann laid out his case in a devastatingly thorough two and a half hour long PowerPoint presented. To the jury, opening statements are like a check. I'm writing a check. Jury hears it. And if I do my job right after opening, all they're waiting to see is if their funds in the bank.


In other words, if you deliver during your case what you say you're going to deliver in the opening statement, you'll get a conviction. That's my hope. But never in this prosecutor's wildest dreams did he believe his opening statement would have the effect it did on Irwin, Howard and his defense attorney, Andrew Flier. You hear that opening statement and something changes.


Something changed after the opening statement, I went back into lockup and I spoke to her and I said, hey, listen, remember how I was speaking about the circumstantial case? And it could be powerful. I think there could be some problems now.


And his answer was, I need to tell you something, that something would study the killer's family and friends and the prosecutor himself, one of the most shocking things I've ever seen in one of my cases in a courtroom. In a Los Angeles courtroom in September 2008, something extraordinary was taking place, the murder trial of Irwin Howard, expected to last three months. Was on the verge of ending in just two days. Prosecutor John Louann had presented a powerful opening statement.


I had seen the defendant during the opening and I thought maybe, you know, something had gotten to him.


And the D.A. was right, because after the opening, defense attorney, Andrew Flyer, had spoken with Howard, who then made a stunning admission.


For the first time in my career, I heard a defendant confess to a crime, and I was the first one he told. And until that moment, his defense was I wasn't there and I didn't have anything to do with it. Correct.


The defense attorney walked into the courtroom and made a statement that caused mouths to fall open the fence.


And he gets up and he says that you're going to see something that you'll never see in a court ever. And he says, my client killed Keller, but he didn't murder her. Would that mean they were basically trying to see if they could get a manslaughter out of it? You know what?


Because so deputy D.A., when asked to speak with Erwin Howard behind closed doors and made an offer, plead guilty to second degree murder and be eligible for parole in 15 years.


My memory is that, as I was saying this, he is nodding. But this wasn't just about Erwin admitting it to you.


He also had to come into court and admit it to everybody. Yes. And Erwin Howard did just that.


I do surprising a courtroom filled with Deedes friends and family.


I was able to tell you, and there was such a sense of relief to think that, oh, my gosh, you know, we're going to hear the truth finally and everyone's going to confess.


Mr. Howard alone guided Erwan through the sequence of events, beginning with why Erwan went over to his house on the night of July 8th, 2004.


I wanted to talk to him. And what did you want to talk to him about?


To apologize for my act on June 30, June 30th, 2004, when after discovering she was dating another man, Erwin stormed into this house, confronted her in the shower, tossed e-mails in her face and slapped her.


On that final night, though, Erwin says he knocked and Didi alone after her new boyfriend left. He says, let him in.


I said, please listen to me. Please listen to me.


At some point, I guess I raised my voice and a little down, Rossie Stokoe Irwin said he threw a pillow at the dog and that anger Didi told me, How dare you woke me up and she slapped me.


I reached towards her. I grabbed my hand. She started singing with the other hand on my chest. I put her hand down. I pulled. It also makes you stronger. We struggle.


Irwin said he put Deedee in a sort of bear hug.


I just kept calling her and telling her, please listen to me. Listen, I don't want to lose you. I love you, I will miss you how tightly over my shoulder by my leg. I stood there and I thought and I killed her. You know, I feel that I do.


Irwin said he came back the next evening and put his body in the car using a spare key for the Mercedes. He started driving and headed for Mexico, but he wondered how he'd get back across the border. So he left the car on a street in San Diego and hired an off duty taxi to take him back to L.A..


Irwin admitted to the murder, but he talked about it in a way that made it seem almost accidental. Yes, he was willing to accept responsibility for the rage and for the anger. He was not willing to accept responsibility that the murder happened intentionally, second degree murder.


But despite that, Lou felt a second degree murder conviction was the best he could secure. And after Irwin left the stand and took the plea deal, his friends and family had the chance to speak to him. Stark They offered surprising words of gratitude and forgiveness to a now confessed killer.


If they knew, any of them will find out you you did the right thing with a set of circumstances. And and and for that, I thank you. And I thank you. Thank you for doing the right thing.


I remember thinking that something really special had happened that, you know, although nothing is going to bring my mom back, we got the best possible outcome given the circumstances.


It's rare in a murder trial to hear so much of a sort of lack of anger and vitriol toward the defendant. They're good people. They're not vengeful people. I think they also realized that Deedee, in hindsight, had not handled things as best she could have in terms of terminating that relationship. Now, flash forward a decade after that extraordinary courtroom scene to the disbelief of Dede's family, Erwin Howard's sentence of 15 years to life turned into just 10 years, five months behind bars.


By early 2019, Howard was a free man. Paroled family members say they were blindsided by Howard's early release, but they could do nothing about it. Since the plea deal barred the family and even detectives from objecting to Howard's parole. Didi's friends and family. Their sorrow tinged with regret, now honored by urging other women not to ignore the warning signs of domestic violence.


We wanted his life to count for something, so I hope people will reach out for help, get support.


I know you don't blame the media for this, but I know that you also wish that she had been more forthright with the two of you because you would have acted even though she didn't want to. Yes, we would have.


There's no question I would have done things differently if I could go back and relive it. But for his friends, regret's give way to wonderful memories today, there's a plaque at the local dog park both remembering and honoring a woman whose big heart wouldn't ever let her turn away a stray. That's all for now. I'm Lester Holt, thanks for joining us.