Buried SecretsDateline NBC
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- 12 Nov 2020
In this Dateline classic, a Florida man disappears into thin air, leaving behind a young son and a grieving ex-wife. When his bones are identified years later, a rookie detective is determined to uncover the truth. Keith Morrison reports. Originally aired on NBC on July 6, 2012.
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He's just my first love, the guy who disappears, except in her case, he really disappeared. He's going to call me in a couple of days. He never called. His family in agony wrote letters to Oprah Winfrey to America's Most Wanted, a rookie detective finally broke the case. I said, Oh, my gosh, I think I've hit pay dirt. A strange phone call revealed a secret.
David needed to be gotten rid of a killer. Revealed. Case closed. Not quite. And we got the real story. A bombshell revelation. Was she really a bereaved ex? Oh, a lot of people or just maybe a black widow.
Barbara Britton is in the middle of buried secrets.
It's a strange thing that happens among the bogs and marshes, the soft soil here in coastal Florida, things have a way of coming up, things buried in the ground in the past or both.
It was July 2003, beaches quiet, snowbirds back up north. So no one noticed at first what was starting inland, a little in a town called Pembroke Pines, where Dawn of Alaska was just three months.
A detective, a rookie really had just been assigned to a brand new cold case unit.
The sergeant came into the office and dropped a box of papers right on my desk and said, here, see what you can do with this. And I began to wonder, hmm, is this a test to see? Can she really do this or that?
The case was a challenge was understatement. And now all but forgotten mystery. The disappearance 15 years earlier of a young man named David Jackson. And the file offered no hints, no pointers, nothing reading beyond the basic bio to unearth the truth. Even the rookie cop knew she'd have to learn about the victim. So she began with something easy. She found David Jackson's mother, Judy Carlson, found Judy's son, actually, who called his mom and your sitting.
And I said yes.
He says the real case, the detective and the mother talked about David for hours wasn't a problem for Judy. She loves talking about her boy even now.
To us, David was my first child. He was just loved everything and everyone.
He would walk in the room and everyone would just be a magnet to him. David Jackson was the eldest of Judy's three children and Mark Jackson idolized his older brother. He looked out for me and he was that way with his friends, with everybody.
Bill Brown was one of those friends. In 1982, after high school, Brown and David Jackson worked together at a Burger King where David became a manager. Brown also had a front row seat to the budding romance between Jackson and a pretty 16 year old co-worker named Barbara Britt. They were together, and that's awesome. I mean, if you can find love, I mean, it was what we all want. And so all these years later, Detective Alaska was paid a visit to the woman who had been the girl who'd fallen in love with David Jackson.
Happy to help. She told the detective the same thing when we called on her to talk about the David she knew.
It was a very good looking man. You know, we just had an attraction for each other and started talking sweet, nice kind, swept me off my feet. It was a good guy.
And she talked. It became clear deep emotions would not stay beneath the surface.
I was young. I was still going to school, just my first love to youngsters in love. And then. Well, things happen, don't they? Mom, I got something to tell you.
I said, what? And they said Bioprospecting.
Judy was surprised. A little worried, maybe, but nowhere near as worried as Barbara's parents, particularly her dad, an ex Marine who was not very impressed with young Mr. Jackson or so Judy heard. Mr. Burton did not like them.
I don't know why.
Still, David said his mother was walking on air.
He came home one day and said, hey, man, I'm going to have to sell the truck. And I said, Why? I said, I'm going to be a father and a husband. And that's not appropriate to have a truck and I'm going to have them.
So the pretty girl and the handsome boy got married, big wedding, too, even though they were just kids and very soon parents also to a son, John Jackson, and they fought a made up fight against babies having babies.
So we think we were just too young and to have a baby all the time.
You know, he was it was difficult for him and it was difficult for me.
So who is the first person to say you've got to get a divorce? My dad, David, take it.
He was just kind of like, OK, let's just find somebody, some lawyers and, you know, see what we have to do. And that was that the two divorced in 1985.
David arranged weekend visits with John.
How were they together? Oh, wonderful. Johnny just clung to them.
They loved each other and they all moved on. A couple of years later, Barbara married again. Michael Wolff, an ex military man like her dad, about the same age as her dad to your dad and your new husband probably saw a lot.
They sure did. They had a lot in common.
They would talk a lot, Wolf, to Barbara and John to live with him in Arizona. But David wanted to be a part of his son's life. So he traveled out west to see the boy. He went up there with a friend of his and they saw Johnny for three days. I got pictures of Johnny and like the old Western town and everything.
And maybe it was something about the distance, said Barbara. They and I became very good friends when I was out in Arizona and we used to talk a lot.
In fact, what she felt deep in her heart, she said, never did go away.
Oh, Hislop. And then it was June 25th, 1988, David's brother Mark was flying into town to visit the family. David was to pick him up at the airport. But when Mark arrived, he waited late. You know, David and Mark Jackson had a terrible feeling, no matter what, he'd have been there for me.
I knew something was wrong. I knew something bad. Oh, yes, very bad. And is the rookie detective?
Donna was poked around deep in the past that something was reaching up through the mud to tell her its long neglected story. When we come back, just maybe nature could do some of the work with the crazy weather and the water table that we have, if he were ever buried anywhere, somewhere along the line. You're going to pop up. When Buried Secrets continues. It was June 25th, 1988, Fort Lauderdale, the day the mystery began when a young man named David Jackson failed to meet his brother Mark at the airport.
It was a gut feeling. Something was wrong and I knew it.
But here it was, July 2003, and Detective Donna Velasquez relived that puzzling time. David's ex-wife, Barbara, by then remarried and living in Arizona as she told the detective, I got a call from David's worried mother.
Barbara said she wasn't worried about them.
I thought, OK, he was with one of his girlfriends and she was like, no, we're doing a missing person report. And I said, no, he's he's going to call me in a couple of days. I know he is going to call me a couple days. Oh, he never forgot one day turned into the next police family. Everybody tries to find him, couldn't they started looking, searching through canals, swimming through pipes, under the little bridges, on a little dirt roads.
Anywhere you see a car that look like his go by, you do a U-turn, you chase the wound that go on that went on until they found his car.
Which more than three months later turned out to be at the airport. So did he just take off his close friend? Didn't think so.
Maybe he got on a plane and he maybe he wanted to do something different and then was like, no, he wouldn't do that. For one thing, David had been preparing for the arrival in two weeks of his five year old son, John. This was a big one, a month long summer visit. He was preparing for this visit for originally.
You wanted everything perfect and right in the middle of preparations, he vanished. Didn't make sense. But the days turned into weeks, months, years. Not a sign of David.
The police went on a Newark cases, but his mother never let up, phoning, nagging, writing. She knew David was out there somewhere.
Letters to Oprah Winfrey everywhere and to America's Most Wanted. And then I thought, OK, maybe I can have the semis, put a picture of him at the back of the store, take out a list of all the big trucking companies that did all the letters. But it it took me a long time to finish any letter about him because I didn't want the ending to be like I thought it was.
It was, she said, a horrible limbo, little piece of her still hoping for good news, part of her mourning a loss.
I found a therapist right away. She said, take like twenty minutes out of every day, either scream and cry in the morning and scream and cry at night.
Can anybody who hasn't been in your shoes understand what it's like for a mother to know?
Now, years later, the investigation was back in high gear.
Judy told Detective Velasquez that in some corner of her mind, she still hoped David might just turn up safely someday. The detective, however, was not inclined to false hope. She did not for a minute think he was still alive. Had he died accidentally, surely a sign of him would have appeared.
No, she believed when bodies aren't found, it's because someone has intentionally hidden them.
But David Jackson might show up, just not alive.
And my wheels started turning and I started thinking, you know, we live in Florida with a crazy weather that we have and a water table that we have.
If he were ever buried anywhere, something somewhere along the line, you're going to pop up.
Maybe the detective thought remains had popped up, after all, it had been a decade and a half since he disappeared and so she Googled unidentified remains. It led her down an endless Internet trail.
And it's probably going on 10, 11 o'clock. And I'm sure my husband saying, well, where the heck is that old girl? One side after another, dead end until she got to one created by a Florida medical examiner. Promising but exhausting.
I'm there typing away and typing and typing, and it pops up about 100 matches.
And she was determined. She finally winnowed it down to a possible three. One of them really stands out for me that says white male and says over six foot Davids, a tall guy, he's a white male, possibly those particular bones.
Just a few partial skeleton turned up during construction of a Wal-Mart parking lot not far from the place where David Lee surfaced just a year after David died. I've been gathering dust in storage for 15 years. The detective went to see a forensic anthropologist.
But when the doctor measured the bones, she comes out, she says now she says it's looking like he's only about five foot nine still.
But I had a hunch that she had finally found David Jackson and she wasn't the sort of person to give up on a hunch.
And I said, can we please do this one more time? She comes back and she goes, Honey, she says, I was wrong the first time. She says this person is anywhere between five foot nine and six foot one. I said, oh, my gosh, I think I've hit pay dirt.
You got DNA from David's mother, waited for a lab to compare the samples. And ten days later, Detective Velasquez's called the testing facility.
She comes to the phone and she says, well, I sure hope you're sitting down. I said, why? You got 100 percent match? Oh, my gosh. I said, what? Because I'm not believing that. I'm hearing what I'm hearing.
15 years after he disappeared, David Jackson had finally been found. The question was, what happened to him? How did he end up here? Coming up, a strange coincidence or was it? It's an eerie feeling, you know, that he was in that area that I didn't even know about.
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It was good detective work that identified David Jackson's earthly remains, what was left of them, but pure chance that the partial skeleton was found in all, as David's brother Mark found that they were getting ready to build a Wal-Mart. A construction worker came across some bones. People reported it. They went out and they dug up a bunch of bones and put the bones somewhere and forgot all about it. They were found about a year after he disappeared and they sat in the morgue for 15 years, sat there all those years, even as those who loved David held out a shred of hope that he was alive somewhere.
Far as I know, he was disappeared. He was missing.
But now Detective Valasco has had a hard truth to tell. David Jackson was dead, not missing.
And the way he had been hidden made it perfectly clear he had been murdered all those years ago, most likely before his friends or family even noticed he was gone, which put a final period on his mother's lingering hope for his return and apparently an ex-wife. What ifs.
Were you seriously thinking, you know, maybe someday I'll get back together with you?
When did your first love you always think you know how, you know, go to work.
What if it's strange how things turn out? Barbara had moved back to Florida, remarried again, had a daughter, took a job at Wal-Mart, but still held a candle for David, even as he lay under the ground practically next door to the very Wal-Mart where she worked. What that do to you?
It's an eerie feeling. It's, you know, that he was in that area that I didn't even know about.
Such an odd coincidence. Two or maybe time for a chat. Detective Alaska is called. Barbara got herself invited over to Barbara's house. Barbara seemed to have no problem talking about David.
She said she cared about him a lot. Then I say, well, how is David as a father? Well, David became abusive towards John physically and emotionally. Verbally. Wait a minute.
This was a whole new wrinkle. Up to now, everything about David's history had been squeaky clean. As an investigator and as a mom, I began to say, did you ever call the police? She said, oh, no, I never called the police. She says, I just thought it would taint. She proceeds to tell me that I documented the injuries with photographs. Never produced any photographs for me. For us, by the way, Barbara changed her story so that it was really her father, not her, who accused David of abusing his son.
And today she questions the allegation.
My dad was looking into counselors and having them, you know, evaluate it and stuff like that, because I would just be like, this is David, you know what you know, what are you talking about?
But of course, the detective couldn't talk to Barbara's father about abuse or murder or anything else. Harry Burton had been dead for years, but Barbara had more information for the detective. She recalled a troubling conversation she'd had with David at the time, said Barbara David was working for Coca-Cola, delivering the product.
And he told me that someone was placing drugs on his Coca-Cola truck and through his route they were being taken off of the truck. I said, wow. I said, that's pretty serious. And she says, yes, interesting.
Very true. Detective Alaskas that sounded like a made up story, almost as if she was trying to divert suspicion away from someone. An ex-wife would qualify, of course, as a person of interest in this kind of case, but as for last place and we learned Barbara had an alibi, she wasn't anywhere near Florida, she said when David disappeared.
I was not in Florida. I was in Arizona. And the apartment. I was nowhere around here and lacking any further evidence, Detective Velasquez was stalled dead in the water unless maybe the man Barber was married to at the time knew something.
Michael Wolff, although no checking, revealed Wolf had been married seven times. Number six, a woman named Nancy Graham lived in Alabama will ask was called her.
I told her I'm investigating the disappearance of David Jackson. And she said to me, how much evidence do you have against him? And I said, I can't discuss the evidence with you, but I can tell you that it's enough for me to put him away right now. I was just totally bluffing. I had really nothing. I'm just throwing it out there, you know, fish in that long line. And if something bites, I'm reeling it in.
And she says, Honey, she says, let me call you back.
The minutes tick by. The last was waiting by the phone. And when Nancy called back, what she said blew the case wide open.
She started telling me about who was involved, how it happened, where it happened, what they did, how they did it, how they planned it.
They why, yes, they. And by the way, beware the sting of an ex wives tale.
She says, I'm going to tell you everything you need to know when we come back.
The ex-wife ready to spill it. The first shot. When Buried Secrets continues. David Jackson was murdered in 1988 in Florida, that much detective done at the last question could say for certain, but the rest, after more than a year of phone calls and late nights, all the last words had come up with was an increasingly complicated web of stories and relationships. David Jackson was married to Barbara Britton. Her father, Harry, disliked David. Barbara went on to become the fifth wife of a man named Michael Wolff.
They divorced and he later married two more times at the time.
But now, finally, one of Wolf's ex-wives, woman named Nancy, was sitting with Detective Velasquez, telling police she knew everything about what happened to David.
Can you tell me again if I know how he was killed? I think it was.
How did she know? According to the ex, Michael drank a lot every night.
He was almost down the whole bottle of scotch. I guess they just needed to talk. And the story Wolf told, according to the ex, implicated more than just himself.
Here's what happened as Nancy heard it, Wolf and Harry Britton, Barbara's father, rented a motel room on that long ago July night, invited David to a meeting there.
And when he gets at the hotel, they have a very small conversation. And Michael shot David in the head.
They've got to do it in that the first shot, David killing him again, after which, as Nancy relayed the story, I did take his car to the airport and left it there.
Then they took him over to I mean, there was an empty lot there.
And that's when he did he did not spare the detail, said Nancy. And he did tell me he poured so corrosive. And I think it was like what he said.
And sure enough, I mean, that was consistent with the investigation.
Along with that story came what sounded like a motive. David disappeared, remember, as he was preparing for a visit from his five year old son, John.
They decided that David needed to be gotten rid of because they never wanted David to be in Johnny's life. David was murdered in cold blood just to keep him out of his son's life.
And boom, it clicked for me. All of a sudden I said, wow, I said, that's over child custody. That's why he's not here today. That was the motive. That was the motive.
But was Wolfe's confession to an ex-wife a true story or just alcohol fuelled bravado?
There was no way to know for sure, but it was enough at least to bring about the arrest in October 2004 of Michael Wolf, now living in Ohio. But an arrest is not a conviction.
And as Michael Wolff called his very sober heels in an Ohio jail, he protested his innocence to anybody who would listen, including the local police, to whom Wolf sent a letter in which he claimed all he knew of the crime centered on a conversation with his ex-wife, Barbara's father, Harry, a few months before the murder.
Reporter Stefan Camp writes for the Broward Palm Beach New Times and read Michael's letter all Michael would admit to his meeting, Harry in a park near the Wal-Mart, overlooking the place where David's bones would later come out of the ground. Michael Wolff said that he had basically pointed over to that plot of land and said, well, if you needed to bury a body, that would be a good place to do it. And then he concluded this letter with and I don't know if he had listened or not.
Apparently he did.
If Michael Wolff had really not known anything beyond that point, it would get him off the hook and it would leave it all in the hands of Harry.
So Michael was pinning the murder on no one but Harry, who was safely dead and could tell no tales. But now, Detective Alaska believed she had enough evidence to bring Michael Wolff back to Florida to stand trial for the murder of David Jackson. We did the arrest warrant and within a couple of days, we were flying out to Kettering, Ohio, to extradite Michael Wolf back to Florida. How did he react? He said some pretty harsh words. It's not really like if I say it, you can say it.
He said this was it. The last words had her moment. Finally, after 15 years, she had made sure someone was going to be held accountable for the death of David Jackson.
It was the culmination of 16 months of such a long, grueling, up and down, tiresome investigation of nights of not sleeping, of days of going to work and living off of coffee. And I thought, you know what? This is what it's all about.
It was November of 2007 when Michael Wolff went on trial for murder. After so many years, any physical evidence that might have tied into the crime was long gone. But what prosecutors did have was the verbal confession, the drunken story. His ex-wife said he had told her, I'm sure that Jack made another ex-wife told police virtually the same story. He told me he had it in my head. He told me that he had finally found the gun. Now she, too, was called to the stand.
That was enough. The jury was out less than an hour. The verdict was guilty. At the sentencing life in prison, David Jackson's family confronted Michael Wolff just to condemn him. But to ask a question because there was still a piece missing, something that still didn't make sense. What was David doing in that motel room the night they killed him? Why did he walk into that trap? Why would he go to a motel to meet Mr. when Mr.
Barrett was ten minutes down the road? I mean, David, it's not a stupid child at twenty four. Why would Mr. Barrett want to see him in a motel?
Tell what you know. They demanded there'd be no justice, they told Wolf, unless everyone involved was held accountable. Outside the courtroom, David's brother encountered the state's attorney and said, he's going to tell you.
And he said he's not going to tell me anything. I saw it in his eyes. He'll tell you. And then we got the real story. In fact, it was just two days later when Wolf finally confessed the true measure of his guilt and gave police first hand his unedited version of events the night he said they buried David Jackson in the shifting Florida. Clay, was someone else involved? Oh, yes, said Michael Wolff. She certainly was.
Coming up, what made David go to that motel? Was a woman who is on the phone. David takes the phone, comes out a little while later. He's all spruced up, ready to go out. When Dateline continues. We get support from one of the coolest sponsors ever, fight camp, fight camp brings the boxing gym to you with at home boxing and body weight workouts taught by real fighters because it's made for all levels from first time boxers to seasoned fighters.
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In November of 2007, the man who shot David Jackson to death was found guilty of the crime and sent to prison for the rest of his life. But a couple of days after he was sentenced, Wolf sent out word he was ready to tell the rest of the story.
Sure. He said he was the triggerman. And, yes, his father in law was determined to get rid of David permanently. But to set their trap, to lure David to the kill site, the motel. They needed bait. That bait, said Wolf, was Barbara Barbara, who did not require persuasion. Quite the contrary, said Mr. Wolf.
Barbara Britton is in the middle from what I was able to learn about David.
He would have never gone to that hotel room to meet Harry Britton. He would have never gone to that hotel room to meet Michael Wolff.
He agreed to come meet Barbara, the woman who wept tears of love for her long lost.
David, who profess to have held the torch all those years, was the very same woman, said Wolfe, who called David on the phone and enticed him to go to that motel room to be killed.
They needed to use Barbara as the lure because David still had feelings for Barbara evidence.
David had a roommate, reporter, journalist, Stephanie Camp. And that roommate heard David take a phone call just before he went out that night and was pretty sure it was a woman who was on the phone.
David takes the phone, goes into his room, comes out a little while later. He's all spruced up, ready to go out. He's got a smile on his face. He's combing his hair. He's put it on his Drakkar Noir cologne. And David Jackson left the apartment at that point. That was the last that any of his friends saw him at that point. What really happened at the motel, Wolf said he hid in the bathroom when David arrived, Barbara answering he was glad to see her.
So they walked in. They sat down on the edge of the bed and Barbara had a stun gun. And Barbara hit David with a stun gun, but the stun gun malfunctioned. So Wolf stepped out of the bathroom with his gun, he said. So he had the gun wrapped in a towel. And he showed me like this. He said Pathet got up and I fired one shot. And about that time, Harry Britton came into the room and said, he's not dead yet.
He's still breathing. Shoot him again. So he says, I shot him again and said that shot killed them. And they put David's body in the back of Harry's VW and transported it to the site where they had already pre dug the grave. So all they had to do was just lay his body in there and cover him up.
But that wasn't the end of Wolf's tale. A year after the murder, he said he got a call from Harry Brickie.
He had learned that they were going to build a new Wal-Mart right there at the corner where they were, where the bones are buried, the bones were. And Harry Michael, Wolf said told him, you have to come back down here and move the bones almost as an order will flew back to Florida.
Michael says that he went out there in the middle of night collecting what he could find and put them in a trash bag.
And then he went back to Barbara Britton's family's house and put the bones out for the trash and a plastic bag.
Michael Wolff story seemed to tell it all and to catch Barbara Britton in a leading role. And once she heard that story, Detective Velasquez was convinced Barbara, determined to keep David away from their son, was a full partner in his murder.
What are the chances that either Michael Wolff or Harry Britten forced her to take part in the scheme?
Yeah. You don't have to force a willing participant.
And you believe she was willing? Yes. The detective couldn't help remembering. She said what Barbara told her when she heard that David Bones had been identified. Strangely enough, the first thing she said to me was, how many bones do you have? Come on.
She had participated in retrieving those bones and they thought they had gotten them all when they had left about 50 percent behind all this time, said the detective.
She just knew Barbara had been lying and now she had the goods.
We asked Barbara about all this, of course, about her husband's allegations that she was deeply involved in the murder and she denied it.
And you had no part in killing David?
No, I did not. I had no knowledge. I had no part.
And, you know, little lies here and there that Mike keeps changing his story. I think it's just psychotic. I think it's just psychotic for the things that he has said. I was twenty one back then. I was very late. I don't think I could plan much, you know, I mean, I'm not stupid, but I'm not that smart, you know.
Now, said Barbara, it was all ex-husband. Michael was doing his guilt, he said, made sense of his strange behaviour during their time in Arizona, particularly the weekend David disappeared. A weekend when Barbara says her ex-husband was not with her at home. He would always go on business trips, and every time I asked, he would tell me, don't worry about his, you know, don't I got business take care of.
But she knew nothing at all about the murder, she insisted until the penny dropped during a conversation years later with her father.
I wonder, you know, wonder what he's doing or wonder if he's coming back. I wonder, you know, where he's at or what happened. And he would just be like, you know, it's you know, it's not he's not around to bother you.
What was that like to deal with? Very, very rough. You know, it's like my dad. It's my dad. I couldn't accept it. And what satisfaction did it get? You know? I mean, did it satisfy him? Because it sure didn't satisfy me.
Still, in December of 2007, it was Detective Velasquez who got what she wanted. She'd worked hard to prove what she believed to be true, that Barbara was an integral part of the plot to kill David Jackson. And finally now, Barbara Britton was arrested and charged with murder. Now, perhaps the jury could answer the question, do you believe this woman, a woman whose hands literally shook, whose tears flowed at the mere mention of her departed ex husband?
Do you believe the things she said all the time?
We thought he was. It's always been. He's missing.
Coming up, could Barbara's ex have a reason to lie about her role in the murder? She says yes. He held a grudge against her. You need to pay the price. Yeah, and. Then her day in court, I do. When Buried Secrets continues. Barbara Britton, the woman who sobbed at the mere mention of David Jackson's name, is now in jail awaiting trial for killing him. Exactly where Barbara belonged, said Detective Donna Belasco's. She made it happen.
She was the instigator as well as just being the one in the middle. I had no doubt in my mind that she was the catalyst.
Barbara, meanwhile, maintained her innocence, claimed there was a certain reason Michael Wolff lied about her that way. It was payback, she said, for something that happened when they were married. And here came another one of those odd stories earlier. Remember, that was the one suggesting drug running on David's delivery truck. Now a story about Michael and gun running.
I was putting away laundry one day and I saw the bulge in a dress shirt pocket. And there was quite a bit of money there. And when he got home from work that night, I confronted him on it and he told me that he was doing gun runs to Haiti. Barbara said she told the police about Wolfe's alleged gun running and he got mad and he even told a cellmate of his that that's it, you need to pay the price.
That I was interesting and true. Wolf hasn't commented, but Keith Seltzer, Barbara's defense attorney, suspected Wolf had a much more practical motive.
Michael Wolff was initially offered a 15 year plea bargain to take 15 years and testify against whoever his accomplices might be. Sure. And lo and behold, a week after the jury convicted him of first degree murder, there was an option at that point to maybe get that 15 years back.
That was his motivation. In other words, said Barber's attorney, Wolf would sell out Barbara any way he could to get a reduced sentence. Of course, it was the uncomfortable fact of the two unprompted confessions he made to his ex-wives, confessions in which he portrayed Barbara as a sort of black widow intent on having David killed.
Well, there are two versions that he gave to each of those ex-wives. The stories were not entirely consistent, said attorney Zeltzer.
Besides, he said Barbara was at home in Arizona the night of the murder.
How does he know that a phone bill from her mother's home placing calls to her home in Arizona that night where nobody else could have been there?
And what's a phone bill of that age doing lying around somewhere where can be grabbed for evidence by the defendant?
The father was a meticulous record keeper. What's to say that wasn't answering service had picked it up.
Michael Wolff testified in his first deposition that they had no answer machine, could have been somebody else in the house.
We questioned Mr. Wolfe about that and he said that there was nobody there.
But as the defense prepared for trial in December of 2010, something changed. There was new evidence discovered.
Lady Bendle is the prosecutor who inherited the case and that new evidence was what we consider a jailhouse snitch.
And he came forward and stated that Michael Wolff told him he had fabricated the entire story about Barbara participating in the murder of David Jackson, in particular jailhouse snitch who was well known, the D.A. said mostly for the false information he provided until after three years in jail, it was enough to get Barbara released and placed on house arrest pending trial. And then prosecutor Bandele met Michael Wolff to ask him about testifying against Barbara didn't go well.
The blow came to me when he said, what am I getting in return? What will my sentence be reduced to now? The state reassessed its options.
I think with any case, you're taking a 50/50 chance. The lack of forensics, the lack of physical evidence that a jury wants to see. But most importantly, again, the fact that you have a co defendant who is giving the testimony, which was the foundation of this prosecution, who wanted something in return, the people who conducted the investigation, you know, deep down in their guts, are sure that she was at the center of that.
Did you think so, too?
What I think as a person and what I think as a prosecutor, I have to keep them separate. And while I may have believed that Barbara was a full participant in this, what I can prove is totally different. So you made an offer? We made an offer.
Barbara Britton was offered two more years of house arrest and eight years of probation. She would avoid trial, but she had to plead guilty to accessory after the fact in David's murder, meaning she acknowledged knowing about the crime, but only after it occurred, something she'd always denied.
You got to remember, I had that option to go to trial and take it as just taking a chance with 12 to 14 other jurors who would hear a story about a Matahari control freak who very cleverly manipulated men to get them to do this awful things right.
They already know what you're there for. So there are going to have some more of an opinion.
Even though she accepted the deal, Barbara was not happy.
Drew, there was no prison time, but she was a felon.
Now you have a title over your head. It's life changing. It's very life changing.
Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Yes, I do.
But you going to take the Velasquez's and join David's family at Barbara's sentencing hearing? You're OK with the stipulation and the fact that it's a guilty plea. Yes. OK. And Judge, for the record, David Jackson's mother would like to speak, Judy.
Of course, David's mother, rather, victim's impact statement. Because of you, Barbara, I've cried endlessly for twenty four years.
I've wanted to die myself with David for gaze fixed on the woman her son once loved.
You are guilty. Michael Wolff is where he should be in prison. The father is where he should be. And you would join him one day because that is where you should be.
And health, David's brother, Mark, was not at all sure that justice was served if you lose in trial. That's God's will. You can't control that. But I think it should have gone to trial.
We don't have a future, David. And by his mother, there is justice. Yes. And she's a felon now for life. She's got to live with all that. I don't. Oh, my God. Every time I get out of bed in the morning, one like said, guilty, and the other one says felon. And as for the detective who so doggedly pursued the case, who now thinks a murderer got away, at first I was disappointed, so I had to make peace with it.
And when I put my head down on the pillow at night, at the end of the day, she's a felon mentally. When you're in prison here, do you ever escape that Farber's house arrest is now over?
But when we talk to her, she was spending it in her father's house. That old VW, the one in which they allegedly carried off David's body the night he was killed, was still parked outside. She was surrounded by the curse of her father's alleged sin.
And many still feel coerced by the part she played in murder.
So the allegations that you took part would suggest that the two of you were living together and equally aware of your mutual guilt.
That's when it would suggest. But that's not how it is a bit of a curse. It seems like it is surrounded by it, even though you are surrounded by it. My dad, he's passed on and moved on and and I'm loving it every minute. That's all for now.
I'm Lester Holt. Thanks for joining us.
Hey, it's Chris Hayes this week on my podcast, why is this happening? I'll be talking with digital fundraiser Michael Whitney about the Wild West of online fundraising for political campaigns.
There was in 2004 a fairly big scandal where the College Republicans essentially disguised their fundraising appeals as a supporting George W. Bush's re-election. And they did a direct mail scam, essentially targeting senior citizens, getting people to donate to George W. Bush. But all the money went to the College Republicans, and that's 2004. You look 16 years later, and that is the M.O. for probably one hundred different Democratic groups. That's this week on why is this happening? Search for why is this happening wherever you're listening right now and subscribe.