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I'm Lester Holt and this is Dateline. Gossip can rip through a small town in minutes, ruining reputations as it goes, but sometimes it can also lead to the truth. I could see the victim lying in the back door area through the hallway. It was devastating. He was just a console. Did he have any enemies? I really don't know. The elders of the church said that they had seen them in the car together. We had some complaints that people were having sex in the parking deck.


She told me that none of it was true. That was the red flag moment for you, that Cindy didn't stay and eat her fries, as bizarre as it sounds. Yes, he was grabbing the arm so tightly that his knuckles were white. Who do you feel like you're looking in the eyes? A cold blooded killer. Here is Andrea Canning with even the devil went to church. Out here in rural sweet home Alabama, where churches outnumber streetlights, faith is a way of life.


I grew up in the church.


Everyone that I knew went to church, Sunday sermons, Wednesday services, church picnics. Faith is a huge part and always has been a huge part of Southern life.


It's how the people of Morris, a small town outside of Birmingham, come together to celebrate life and the word the values are integrated into every bit of Southern society.


So when salacious rumors involving a church started swirling, the God fearing folks who live here hoped the whispers weren’t true, but they had to wonder if even the devil went to church.


And on a cold February night in 2015, the truth began to emerge. Please, Margaret. I mean, I just got home and walked in the front door and I don't know if the house has been broken to or for the table's been knocked over. OK, I could hear a little bit of this. OK, who are you? Cindy disagrees. In the brief, she said she couldn't find her husband who was supposed to be home.


Police arrived quickly, very quickly. The station was right across the street, small town, remember? Officers entered the home and then made a call of their own.


We've been called for assistance by Morris Police Department.


Sergeant Detective Brian Street was on call that night for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. You arrive on the scene.


What do you see at the whole scene taped off with crime scene tape? I walk in the front door and there's a table turned over and sat right inside the door. And I could see the victim lying in the back door area through the hallway. A victim? Yes, a man shot to death. It was clear to the detective he had a murder on his hands. Are there many murders like this in Morris?


No, it's very rare. Morris is a small town. This must have been a big deal for Morris.


Yes, it was. So who are you told is the victim?


Michael Reese? Michael Reese, just 40 years old, had been killed in his own home. The only potential witness was his wife, Cindy Reese, who had called 911 when she was outside being cared for by police officers while Detective Street took in the crime scene.


I needed to see what the scene looked like and wanted to see where the body was, what the position was, anything that I could tell right away. Where was the body?


There was a new construction area that was being built on to the existing house. His feet were right at the back door and he was leaned forward into the unfinished room.


Michael had been shot once in the back of the head. Does that say anything to you when someone is shot from behind like that in the head?


Well, it gives us an indication that somebody did this to him, not that it was self-inflicted. Was the House telling you anything?


When we walked in the house, it was consistent with what Sandy had reported on the 911 one call. There were things turned over. Did it look like a burglary? Yes, ma'am.


Whatever happened, it was soon after Michael got home. Investigators noted that his dinner, a burger and fries from a popular fast food joint sat untouched on a table. Detective story had to wonder if Michael had surprised a burglar and paid for it with his life, or did someone have it out for him?


What are you being told about Michael Reese? Nothing at this point in time. The Marsh police officers, they knew him from living across the street, but not on a personal basis.


Michael's friends and family would fill in those gaps for the detective and in the process lay bare secrets that would rock this small religious community. Could one of those secrets lead to Michael's killer? When we come back, it seemed like Michael was loved by everyone. He was a huge part of so many people's lives. He was just a console. But investigators wondered if his wife knew something different. Was this about figuring out if there was anyone that they had issues with, that kind of thing?




The investigation into Michael Rhys's murder was just hours old, but news of his death was already spreading. I could even really fathom what was going on.


Josh Freeman was one of Michael Rice's best friends. He was like an uncle to my kids.


You know, he was a huge part of so many people's lives, you know, such a rock to so many people. And then he was just gone. I mean, nobody had a chance to say goodbye. I talked to him. Three days before he died, you never think that I was going to be the the last time that you talked to him.


Josh had known Michael since the seventh grade, he says his friend was smart, a computer whiz who worked in I.T. at a hospital in Birmingham.


He was that our computer nerd, as we called him.


More than that, says Josh. Michael was funny and kind and was always there if you needed him.


Think about the fact that he's not going to be there anymore. You don't even know how to work that out.


Dylan Mullins, a cousin to Michael's wife, Cindy, was also reeling from the news.


It was devastating. He was just a console.


Dylan's heart broke for Cindy. Her husband was gone and it was a tragedy Cindy had experienced before. She lost her first husband to suicide eight years earlier.


She just sort of withdrew within herself more than anything. I think that she just didn't have any motivation or maybe any hope that that life was going to get any better any time soon.


But all that changed in the spring of 2008, Dylan and a mutual friend of Michael's. But he might be a good match for Cindy. His first marriage had ended in divorce, leaving him shattered.


My best friend said, hey, you know, he's a he's a good Christian guy. He's very involved in the church, very family oriented.


The two started dating much to the delight of their family and friends. Were you happy for him? Oh, absolutely. Yeah.


If anybody deserved to be happy, it was Michael. These were two people who were now coming together for a fresh start.


Absolutely. They both had their bad times in their lives. We thought that this was good.


The couple married a little over a year later with the blessing of Cindy's younger brother, Chris Henderson. How did you feel when Cindy told you she was going to marry Michael?


It was a great guy who wouldn't want to have him as a brother in law. Everything I knew about him, every interaction I had had with him had been great.


So. So, yeah, that was exciting.


Did Cindy seem happy again later after everything she'd been through? Oh, absolutely. My husband even said that he had not seen her that happy in many, many, many years, like many couples in this Bible Belt community.


Faith was the cornerstone of their relationship. Soon after they married, Cindy asked Michael to join her church, Sardis Baptist, where she served as music director. He didn't hesitate.


He decided to get baptized in the Baptist Church, even though he'd grown up Methodist.


I felt like that that was probably going to allow he and and Cindy to grow even closer, both in their marriage and as Christians.


But five years later, the love story between Michael and Cindy had ended in sudden and shocking violence. It was Detective Street who told Cindy the awful news of her husband's death. Now he needed her help solving Michael's murder.


I report all my interviews to Detective Street and a colleague spoke with her just five hours after the murder. Was this about figuring out if there was anyone, you know, that they had issues with that kind of thing?


Absolutely. We went over of what they did that day.


Cindy told the detective. The day had started like any other. Michael dropped her off at the courthouse where she worked as an accountant for the county before heading to his IT job. After work, he swung by to pick her up at 5:00.


Where did you go with Michael? Oh, we went by my mom's house because today was trash day, Cindy said.


After helping her mother, she and Michael went to church from six to seven hours after that.


Oh, we stopped at Marlos to get something to eat.


Milo's is an Alabama fast food chain known for its size and French fries as soon as the couple got home with their food.


Cindy said she realized they needed a few things from the grocery store.


She went inside and set the food down and hollered at Michael saying, I'm going to run to Piggly Wiggly and get some items.


And when she returned, I just saw the purse and grabbed the lamp on the cordless phone. Did you holler for Michael? Did holler for Michael.


The detectives asked Cindy if she had any idea who could have done this. I really don't know. Honestly, did he have any enemies? Oh, I really don't know.


There had been a contractor at the house, Cindy said, building the extension. She doubted it was him, but it was a potential lead for detectives to run down. And there was someone else.


Detective Street needed to ask Cindy about it, heard rumors, gossip. People had seen things, things that might reveal the motive for Michael's murder.


He was a pastor at Sardis Baptist.


Coming up, it was the kind of gossip that spreads fast, especially in a small town. We had some complaints that people were having sex in the parking deck.


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The murder of 40 year old Michael Reese had investigators scratching their heads. Homicides didn't happen in Morris, Alabama, especially not across the street from the police station.


I remember opening the Malaysian detective spoke to Cindy Reese for hours, taking her step by step through the night of the murder.


When I saw all the people and the stuff in the floor, I. Lopez help.


But there was something on Detective Street's mind, something delicate that he needed to talk to Cindy about.


It had to do with her and a man who wasn't her husband.


We had some complaints that people were having sex in the parking deck, the county employee parking deck.


The detective was told it was Cindy being intimate with a man in a pest control truck. Of all things. It was a lead the detective immediately shared with his partner, Sergeant Ellen Scheier.


Sergeant Street actually called me at home the night the homicide occurred and woke me up and said, you're you're never going to guess who's homicide. I'm working Michael Reese. And then told me that Cindy is the one that was in the parking deck.


The investigator soon learned the rumor had made the rounds. And Morris, Cindy's cousin, Dylan Mullins, had heard about it from Cindy herself.


She told me that none of it was true and I believed her. I mean, this is the woman who's in charge of the choir at church who spends many days a week going to church. Yes. And always had everything about her life up to that point was completely pure.


And what was even more outrageous, Dylan thought, was who Cindy was accused of being in the truck with. It was the pastor of Cindy's church, the pastor who baptized Michael. His name was Jeff Brown.


The elders of the church said that they had seen them in the car together and they were accusing them of an affair.


And I said, well, ergonomically, that's not even possible. Like the two of them couldn't fit in the car to have a sexual act because of their size.


Yes. Yes. It didn't even make sense at the time.


Jeff had gotten a job at a pest control company. His truck had a small two seater cab. Cindy and her cousin agreed the rumor was laughable.


Did you ask her how Michael was handling the rumors? I did. And, you know, she acted like that, that he didn't believe them either, that they were working through things.


But soon Dylan started to hear things that made her wonder if Cindy's relationship with Pastor Jeff had crossed the line. Does something start to feel a little off?


Well, Cindy started telling me that she had started working out. She said, I'm workin with Jeff. And that's when I started thinking this this really, really doesn't feel right. These two are just feel closer than pastor and parishioner RI.


Now, Cindy's husband was dead, shot in the back of the head and Sergeant Street was looking for answers, using a gentle touch. He asked Cindy about the most intimate details of her private life.


I'm so sorry that we have to talk about, again, so intimate things. And to a stranger.


Cindy quickly admitted she and Michael had been having marital problems. He just had one thing to do with me, which is. We started having sex and making love to each other. He started playing on the computer more. It was like, you know, he doesn't love me anymore. He started saying a lot. You know, it was time for me to leave.


She revealed she turned to Pastor Jeff for solace.


And I just finally asked him for a dog. And the more I opened up, the more he was seeing with him. Helping you through what you were going with at home. Is is that do you think that that's how you became closer?


Oh, probably.


She said their relationship started off innocently enough.


But when we call. No more, we just kind of fell in love with each other. So you did fall in love with jail and he. Yeah. Still, she was adamant the rumors about them having sex in the parking deck weren't true, but she said the elders in her church couldn't be convinced otherwise.


The more we tried to fight it, the worse it got. So I just resigned.


She left the church and her position as music director. The detective knew there had to be more to this story.


When did your relationship actually. Progressed to the point of. Physical or whatever else it was around the time I resigned, OK, having an affair and there it was.


What are you thinking when she tells you this? Pretty scandalous. Absolutely.


An affair in a Southern Baptist church is bad enough. And then it's coming in in the middle of a homicide, makes a suspect.


And that led the detective to his next question. Did you shoot Michael? I would not be able to do that.


Can you issue and own she admitted she was an adulterer, not a murderer. She told the detective there was no reason to kill her husband. Michael already knew about everything and had a lot of guilt.


And and I told Michael, OK, I had an affair. You did tell him about the affair.


She said they were trying to make their marriage work and had even gone back to Disney World for a second honeymoon.


We just went back for a fifth anniversary of their fifth anniversary and got the picture here to put our frame of the three people in this love triangle.


Michael was dead. Cindy claimed she was innocent. That left Pastor Jeff. What would he say? Investigators were about to find out.


I'll come out and I ask you, did you shoot Michael in a. Coming up, Jeff Brown seemed as shocked as anyone by the death of his rival, Jeff. How you feel about Michael Bando? I don't know where's. I was just going. And this is what mattered most. He claimed to have an alibi. He wasn't around when this murder took place.


That's what he said. Less than an hour after police finished interviewing Cindy Reese about the murder of her husband, Lyle, in this interview, they brought in Jeff Brown, the man who'd been Cindy's pastor, and her not so secret lover. Jeff, how you feel about Michael Bando? I don't know where's. I was just going out there, but detectives had words they considered a suspect and told him so you pretty little kids, you also had an affair with a married woman, right?


Yes, you're absolutely right, though. I mean, I just seen this guy turn be checking back with, you know, two people that have motives. Are you and his wife so sound like a lifetime on? Sounds like a horror movie as you're watching him.


He seems sort of nonchalant as you bring up the affair.


He was very defensive about the affair. He was grabbing the arms of the chair so tightly, that is knuckles or why try not to give away any indicators of deception a year love with sandy, iron and steel.


So do you see yourself with Sandy? Absolutely.


At this point, Jeff had been fired from his job as pastor because of the affair, and he said he and his wife were getting divorced.


Did it bother you at all that you were actually following through with your divorce and Sandy was not? It concerned me.


He also admitted it more than concerned him that Cindy and Michael were still sleeping together.


I'm not gonna lie to you and me. I'm touching her because she would describe some of it to me and it was just nasty.


But he said it wasn't a motive for murder. Besides, he seemed to have a good alibi. He said he was 50 miles away at the time Michael was killed.


I was I was held up, Carson wrote, and I was trying to get to my buddy's house because I wanted to go on a storage unit.


So Jeff had no problem answering. Detective Street's next question.


Did you shoot Michael in a park? Do you know if he shot Michael? And I do not have a clue. After more than an hour, detectives let him go.


Even though I had suspicions, I did not have enough probable cause for arrest.


But the investigation was just getting started. So many leads to follow, questions to answer, like who was Pastor Jeff Brown? Detectives learned this married father of two with one on the way had an eclectic past. Where had he come from?


What kind of jobs had he done? I mean, he's driving a pest control truck. Yeah, he was in the military previously. He was a Marine. He was a Marine.


He also worked as a police officer for two years for a moving company. And he was a hairdresser.


So it was kind of a jack of all trades and good at none, I guess. As you can imagine, in tiny Morris, Alabama, Michael Rhys's murder was the talk of the town. Everyone had an opinion.


Gerry Vincent, the town's building inspector, certainly did. He thought Jeff was obsessed with Cindy.


I saw him in the park all the time, sitting on the bench, looking at Cindy's house.


Was he waiting for Mike to go to work or waiting for Cindy to come out?


I mean, you know, what was he doing down there?


There was even one story Cindy's cousin Dylan heard about Jeff literally getting between Michael and Cindy. It happened after they moved to a new church. What happens to Pastor Jeff? He starts showing up at the church and there were even elders of the church that said when he would arrive, if Cindy and Michael were already seated, that sometimes he would even come and sit in between the.


And, yeah, that's you know, that's that's what I had heard.


The police looked into Jeff. The more they found people who just didn't like him.


What had you heard about Jeff Brown around town? Can you say man whole. Yes, it is Dateline, you know, we've heard worse, I heard it one, his only girlfriend, I mean, he was a cad.


Cindy's uncle, Roy Henderson, agreed.


The only opinion I had from the very beginning is this is a con man. He tries to worm himself into environments and to make himself look better and to get what he wants.


And what he wanted was Cindy. According to her mom, Judy, Michael knew all about it.


He said Jeff is trying to take my wife.


What advice do you give to your son in law? Well, I said, Michael, are you sure? And he said he said yes. And he said, I am afraid of Jeff. And I said, Do you think Jeff might hurt you? And he said he said, yeah, I know he would if they got up to her son in law.


May have been right. Detectives were surprised to learn that about a month before the murder, Jeff allegedly asked two of his co-workers at a moving company to kill Michael.


He was offering up his car and some possible money.


After the deed was done, the men reported Jeff to a different police department, not the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. That's why the detective was only hearing about it. Now, this is a nice gift to your investigation.




Things weren't looking good for Pastor Jeff, but he did have that one thing working in his favor. He wasn't around when this murder took place. That's what he said. So detectives waited on his cell phone records hoping to prove or disprove his alibi. Meantime, they turned their attention back to Cindy. There was something they needed to clear up. One of the clues I know that really stuck out to you involved food, correct?


As bizarre as it sounds. Yes. Coming up. Was Jeff Brown a kept man? There was a file and inside of it was the lease for the apartment that she had rented for him. The car note she's paying for everything.


She's paying for everything.


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It's nice to get it right.


A week into the murder investigation of Michael Reese, detectives had questions for his wife, Cindy, things she told them weren't adding up. Beginning with that 911 call when she said she couldn't find her husband.


This has been kind of dumped around in the house and I can't find my husband.


What was strange to me is as soon as I walked in the house, I could see the victim lying in the back door, which was standing wide open. It would have been hard for her to be looking for her husband and not have seen him laying there and her description of a possible burglary gone wrong.


On closer inspection, the detectives weren't so sure. Was the burglary theory making some sense?


Well, the first thing that I noticed was there was no forced entry into the residence. And as for the construction worker who had access to the house, he had a solid alibi.


His alibi was that he was actually in church and we were able to verify that police were becoming more suspicious of Cindy.


They even wondered about the death of her first husband by suicide, a gunshot to the head.


We did reopen that case and look at it, but we could not find anything to validate that she was responsible.


But their list of clues in this case was growing, including a highly unusual one.


Well, here in Alabama, there's Milosz hamburgers and they have absolutely some of the best French fries, I'd have to say, in the world.


And everyone around here knows you have to eat those fries while they're hot. So police were puzzled when Cindy said on the night of her husband's murder, she dropped off the bag filled with burgers and fries and told Michael she was off to buy groceries at the Piggly Wiggly before after we had a baby.


That was the red flag moment for you, that Cindy didn't stay and eat her fries.


That's as bizarre as it sounds. Yes.


And not only that, Cindy said she raced off without eating because she needed orange juice and lunch meat for the next morning.


There was actually ample lunch, made an orange juice inside the fridge, and there was really no need to go to the store immediately.


And what happened next also made detectives ears perk up. She told them as she was headed to the grocery store, her phone rang.


Jeff called and said he left his wallet at home and he needed some gas. So I met him at the gas station, gave him fifteen dollars.


If Cindy was claiming she was trying to make her marriage work, detectives wondered why she was meeting up with her ex lover to give him money.


The wheels must be spinning now as these these stories aren't completely adding up right with a warrant in hand.


They searched Cindy's office, we walked in, and the first thing that I saw was there was a picture of her and Michael Reese in an eight by 10 frame. And then underneath it was an eight by 10 frame of a picture of her and Jeff Brown. She's basically laying out the love triangle right there in her office. That's correct. And detectives found more.


There was a file that was labeled Jeff Brown, and inside of it was the lease for the apartment that she had rented for him, the car note. And she's paying for everything.


She's paying for everything. That's correct.


Throughout the investigation, detectives were keeping prosecutors Joe Hicks and Dane Stewart in the loop.


It was becoming clear to everyone in law enforcement, to people Cindy and Jeff might be guilty of murder.


I think there was an idea that they wanted to be together and the way for them to be together was to eliminate Michael Reese.


So prosecutors set out to build a case against the former pastor and his music director. Sometimes they said the work was disturbing.


I don't know how many naked pictures I had to look at on four on a phone dump from Jeff's phone or Cindy's phone sexting between each other. Yes, sexting that continued right up to the murder.


But what was more important for the prosecutors was what the cell records showed the night Michael was shot. While Cindy sat with Michael in church, Jeff sent her a text that said, keep me posted.


And that came in, I think it's six fifty seven. So right, right before church lets out, prosecutors believed that text meant the two were plotting to kill Michael that night and they had even more proof.


And after they leave the church, she's immediately contacting him again.


They assumed Cindy called Jeff and secretly left the line open so he could listen in to what was happening between her and her husband.


At some point is a open line of communication for around 30 minutes that stays open all the way through, presumably to when Michael was was killed.


And they had evidence that showed when Cindy got home after going to the grocery store, she was still on the phone with Jeff even when she used the house phone to call 911 one.


What she didn't know is.


Want one call, start recording as soon as the ring starts and you can actually hear her talking to Jeff and it's a very calm, my phone's about to die right before she's acting hysterical to 911.


So while the phone is ringing to 911, when it records, it's recording. Yes. I had no idea.


While prosecutors were able to gather a wealth of information from the cell phone records, they could not tell who actually shot Michael. They could tell, however, that contrary to his alibi, Jeff was not 50 miles away.


It's not specific enough to say that it was inside of the house, but it was specific enough to say within hundreds of feet since they had no evidence placing Jeff in the house.


Their best guess, Cindy was the shooter.


Most likely he was lying in wait either around the corner or on a on a close, but nearby street because their takeout dinner hadn't been touched.


They believe the murder happened. As soon as Michael and Cindy came home, Michael headed to the back of the house to let their dog in. And that's when they think Cindy shot him in the back of the head. And even though they couldn't prove who pulled the trigger, they weren't worried. Under Alabama law, it doesn't matter if you are involved and take substantial steps in the process you're in for the whole deal. It doesn't matter who pulled the trigger.


It was now time to get these disgraced lovers behind bars. Detectives arrested them at the same time outside Cindy's office. They just come back from lunch together. Did you hope at this point that one of them would turn on the other we were counting on? Absolutely. Coming up, there's no reason to think that he was going to flee at that point. It doesn't sound like anyone is going to squeal. She looked me in the eyes, did in the eyes, and said, my lawyer says I got nothing to worry about.


They can't prove a thing. Less than a month after the murder of Michael Reese, all Eyes and Morris were on his wife, Cindy, what's that old saying? If if the spouse is killed, talk to the one that's breathing and the one she's sleeping with.


Police had talked to Cindy and her lover, former Pastor Jeff Brown, and both had now been charged with murder. And as he followed the case, Morris resident Jerry Vinson wondered if one would flip on the other. So when he bumped into Cindy, who was out on bail, I said, Cindy, first one to squeal, gets the best deal.


And I think, you know who squealing. She looked me in the eyes, did in the eyes and said, My lawyer says, I got nothing to worry about. They can't prove a thing.


Who do you feel like you're looking in the eyes?


A cold blooded killer to prosecutors? The notion that Cindy or Jeff would squeal for the best deal had all but evaporated by August 2015, when Jeffs trial was set to start.


There's no reason to think that he was going to believe that point. But just minutes before they started picking a jury, Jeff turned to his lawyer in court and told him he wanted to make a deal.


I just feel like it's one of those TV moments where you're ready to go. You've been prepping for months, and then suddenly this thing is flipped on its head.


There's some peace. And knowing that that he is going to take some responsibility for his part in this murder, Jeff Brown finally admitted he had a hand in Michael Reeses death.


He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to testify against Cindy. Her murder trial started in November 2016. Michael's family and friends like Josh Freeman were there.


We had a large group of people that were there that were just for Michael to make sure that, you know, that he got the justice that he deserved.


But there were others in the courtroom, like Cindy's uncle Roy and her mother, Judy, who held a very different view of what justice should look like.


In my heart, my heart of hearts, I know that she couldn't have done it. She is not a murderer. You believed you knew who murdered Michael beyond a shadow of a doubt.


Yes, ma'am. Who was that? Jeff Brown.


Prosecutors believed both were involved in Michael's death, but they were convinced Cindy was the mastermind.


Her motive, getting a divorce in this community is really looked down upon. And rather than her looking like someone who was having an affair and got a divorce, she can be looked at as the victim.


If her husband gets killed right off the bat, prosecutors knew they needed to shatter the image of Cindy Reese, the God fearing music director, this Christian lady grieving widow image that she was working so hard to portray. It really made sense to show that she was not that person to prove it.


They laid out all the evidence that had been gathered against Cindy, the paperwork for the car and apartment found in her office, the cell phone data, those cold Milo's fries, and, of course, her affair with their star witness, Jeff Brown, who told the jury an astonishing story.


I think what Jeff did as it relates to Cindy's trial is it filled in a major piece of the puzzle, that major piece, how the murder actually went down while he was on the phone with her, he heard a pop and then after the murder at a local gas station, she told him, it's done, he's gone.


Cindy shot Michael.


Jeff claimed he wasn't even there. Jeff then testified that Cindy gave him the murder weapon at the gas station that night and told him to get rid of it.


It pretty much was the final nail in her coffin, so to speak, as far as her trial went, or was it we hope that the jury would see that he was a liar.


Cindy's defense attorney, John Robbins, told the jury that Cindy couldn't have killed Michael. It was impossible. Michael was three inches taller than Cindy. Yet the trajectory of the bullet indicates his killer loomed above him.


The angle of the bullet is in a downward angle. Cindy is too short to create the angle, not too short.


Jeff Brown said the defense. Robbins also reminded the jury that there was no physical evidence linking Cindy to the crime, no blood, no gunshot residue. Not only that, he said Jeff had the motive, not Cindy.


Would you characterize Jeff in Cindy's relationship that Jeff was obsessed with Cindy or was it vice versa?


I would think that Jeff was obsessed with Cindy because she was kind of his gravy train, so to speak.


Do you think that gave Jeff Brown the perfect motive that he needed Michael, out of the picture to continue that gravy train?


That certainly that certainly is a motive, isn't it?


And in an effort to wrest control of Cindy's image from the state, the defense took a calculated risk and put her on the stand. She told the jury she didn't shoot her husband.


And while she admitted her marriage to Michael was rocky, she said she didn't want him dead and was adamant she knew nothing of Jeff's plan to kill him. Why did you decide to have Cindy testify?


I think she, you know, once she wanted to and two years, I think with Jeff getting on the witness stand, um, I think I think she had to.


Which image of Cindy would the jury believe, the churchgoing grieving widow or the churchgoing cheating widow? It didn't take long to find out. The jury deliberated for just 90 minutes. And the verdict, guilty of murder. How were you feeling in that moment? It was great that she was found guilty, but she's still alive, you know, so she eventually will probably get out and live her life and serve.


And Michael didn't get that chance.


On the other side of the courtroom, different emotions for Cindy's family, heartbroken, destroyed in a state of shock, really not believing what I had just heard.


She was convicted for being an adulterous and such as a murder.


But Cindy's cousin, Dillane, thinks the jury got it right.


There was overwhelming evidence that Cindy was definitely involved. The why is something she continues to struggle with. Did she just get consumed by the moment and get caught up emotionally and it got out of hand? Or is she a monster? And did she plan it?


Important questions that are unlikely to be answered. As part of his plea deal, Jeff Brown received a 20 year prison sentence. Cindy Reese got 40 years. That's for Michael Reese, the unwitting victim of a love triangle he wanted no part of all that's left of him now are memories, memories of a kind and gentle soul with a big laugh and an even bigger heart. How do you want people to remember Michael?


He was just a funny guy. He enjoyed life so much. He was just a good person. And anybody that ever knew him would tell you the same thing. That's all for this edition of Dateline. We'll see you again Thursday at nine eight Central. And of course, I'll see you each weeknight for NBC Nightly News. I'm Lester Holt. For all of us at NBC News, good night.


The Meet the Press Chuck Todd cast, it's an insider's take on politics, the twenty twenty election and more candid conversations with some of my favorite reporters about things we usually discuss off camera. Listen for free wherever you get your podcast.