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The plot was hatched, this dreadful plot, and it's like a movie script, it's family rivalries, a betrayal and murder was so horrific. What were the last hours on Earth like for her? It lurks here on this storied family estate, a mystery as tangled and gnarled as the trees that reach for the sky.
I think she's dead, but it's happening. I can't sleep. Most of us have a crime like a storm. Everyone could see it coming.
Everybody in the town has their suspicions. She was missing the matriarch with a grip on her powerful family's fortune. Did someone have a powerful motive to do her harm? I saw bruises on Bonnie's arms like somebody had grabbed her. She looked at her and said, you tried to kill me.
Who was behind this? A search in the dark room of a secret in the family and a jailhouse interview to make your jaw drop. You said you wished you were dead. And then later she became dead.
I'm Lester Holt. And this dateline is a twisted tale.
Deep in the heart of Texas, people who are desperate will do desperate things.
Tonight, Josh Mankiewicz with Queen of the County. In this country, we've always loved stories about power, money and the struggle to get our hands on both. The story you're about to hear is like that. It's an epic tale of greed and betrayal, and it's set in San Saba.
A tiny town in the Texas hill country. And it stars a family that learned how to make money grow on trees. Four countries at the heart of the matter, a feud fueled by a lust for land, stoked by a battle of generations and front and center the life and times of the matriarch, Bonnie Harkey, who controlled a family fortune a century in the making. Well, I always say she was queen of the county because she was she really was a big fish in a small pond.
Hi, this is Theresa Cook, Bonnie Haughey's niece.
They were well-off and they were property owners and by local standards, very wealthy by local standards.
Sure. They were so prominent, in fact, that the Harkey name is carved on monuments painted on roadsides in San Saba.
I'm the sixth generation of my family here in the county.
Dwight Haqi says all the Iraqis descended from two brothers who came to the Hill country in the 1950s.
Well, there was two boys that came in. They were cavalry scouts and they found this country and nobody lived here.
A proud family history, to be sure. But on March 25th, 2012, a new and bloody chapter was added.
I remember that Sunday morning because of what happened the rest of the day, the events that would forever fix that day. And the Reverend Sam Crosby's memory centered on eighty five year old Bonnie Hauraki, an active member of the First Baptist Church of San Saba. You could set your watch by Bonnie Harkey coming to church.
You could she'd be right here. She'd be right here. Right. And even after she had to have twenty four hour care, a caretaker would bring her.
The trouble began a few hours after church out of the marketplace, a few miles west of town, nine one one was syllogistic. It was about five thirty when the San Saba Sheriff's Department dispatcher received this call from a young boy.
I found my mom before. I think he did. I'm at the Harkey residence.
Turns out the 11 year old mother was Karen Johnson, Bonnie Hierarchy's caretaker.
And you don't know the address? No, no, ma'am. I'm just really, really worried for its you using I'm using Bonnie's house phone. I can't find Bonnie anywhere.
Within minutes, the San Saba Sheriff's Department had deputies on the way.
All right. I'm going to Bonnie Hawkins. Right. I don't want any less.
If he is in a rural area where locals listen closely to police scanners, some worry deputies might be chasing some dangerous desperado.
Is there somebody loose that I should be? Oh, no, no, no. Okay. I'm just wondering. Yeah, they're supported by the Harkey place was a local landmark. And John Wilkerson, a San Saba sheriff's deputy in 2012, was among the first investigators to arrive.
When I walked in, of course, Karen Johnson's body was lying face down in the doorway, which raised some suspicion, a sign of a struggle. There really wasn't any clear signs of struggle and there was some questionable issues that were at play. Like what? The fact that she was dead right by the front door. That just didn't make a whole lot of sense. The fact that I found a broken fingernail on her hand.
Karen Johnson's son, the boy who called nine one one, told investigators he'd been playing a video game in a spare bedroom all afternoon and had not heard or seen anything unusual. Strange, but what also concerned the law man was the fact that Bonnie Harkey was not there. So you're thinking, well, Iñaki is out there somewhere, maybe in the orchards. That was the thought with with Sheriff Brown.
Bonny had serious health problems. She was frail, suffered from dementia. In short, she had to be found and fast.
Sheriff Brown called in prison dogs. He the DPS helicopter out. She can't have gone very far. Correct. And that's what our thoughts were.
By nightfall, word of Bonnie Haughey's disappearance had spread far and wide. Her stepson, Bruce Harkey, who'd been visiting his brother in Fort Worth that weekend, called the sheriff's office wanting to know some details.
This is Bruce Harkey. I'm getting some awful, strange phone calls. I'm trying to figure out what the hell is going on. What are these calls? In reference to her, he said they found some lady dead and Bonnie was mentioning something about them having a road blocked off and everything.
Even Bonnie's niece, Teresa in Memphis heard the news within a few hours of that first 911 one call.
My mother and I always speak on Sunday nights, and she had called me and said, Bonnie's missing and. We both kind of went, oh, no, Theresa Cook may have been hundreds of miles from where searchers were looking for Bonnie Akie, but she says she knew right away her aunt's disappearance was connected to the decades long battle over the remains of the Harkey fortune, not home invasion.
Now her family when we come back, the search for the missing matriarch.
I saw bruises on Bonnie's arms like somebody had grabbed her.
Somebody sure seemed to know something. Well, I might have some information about where Bonnie Herkie.
Yes, I was definitely concerned. If the Hajis of San Saba were ever made into a television drama, it would be chock full of character actors. There'd be a gentleman farmer, a pair of impatient heirs in waiting, a ne'er do well grandson, his enabling girlfriend and the rock of the family would be a white haired matriarch named Bonnie Herkie.
And she had bookclub. She was Red Hat society. She just constantly, you know, socializing.
There were roughly 200 acres to the Harkey spread with valuable water rights along the San Saba River, a rambling farmhouse and nearly 3000 poor countries.
When people hear the Harkey name of that part of the country, what do they think? The Iraqis were the somebodies in town.
And, you know, I nobody enjoyed that.
And maybe that was just the way she pictured it back in 1963 when Bomi met and married Ryley Harkey. At the time, Ryley was a recently divorced father with two boys, Bonnie, a single mom with a teenage daughter of her own. It was a coup.
You know, it was a coup, especially for a single mother who is really looking at having to either find a husband or work for the rest of her life. In the early 60s, it was tough to be a divorcee. It was tough to be a single mother.
Now, nearly 50 years later, the queen of the county was missing. Searchers were still out in the orchards looking for Bonnie Akie when a resident who'd been listening to the police scanner called with a vital clue.
I know things are crazy going on right now, but I might have some information about where Bonnie hierarchy, as the caller said, she knew that Bonnie Haughey's 28 year old grandson, Carl, had visited her that very afternoon.
I'm 99 percent sure Carl Percy's involvement. Who's Carl Presley?
Carl Presley is the top rated grandson of Bonnie Herkie. Bonnie Harkey had a daughter, Connie. Connie adopted Carl Presley at a very young age.
When you hear the that calls come in, you're thinking, oh, this is what?
Well, I was definitely concerned.
Why so much concern over a grandson's visit to his elderly grandmother? That's a tangled tale, really, that begins with the way Carl Presley came to join the Herkie clan in the first place.
Connie said that she adopted him from a homeless woman, a homeless couple that were living in a car through a homeless couple. Yeah. And that they couldn't take care of him. And so they were willing to give him up for adoption. That's what I know.
Theresa says there was always something a little bit off about Carl, something that tended to make other people uncomfortable.
It was very odd and very sad at the same time as he seemed to be a very lonely, needy child, very clingy child. And nobody really seemed to want him to cling to him.
But Teresa says there was nothing Mommy wouldn't do for Carl. She by Carl a truck, and he'd wreck the truck and then she'd buy him another one and he'd get a job. He'd lose a job. She'd house him. He was stealing pecans from the the harvest and selling them. I mean, she was constantly bailing him out of one situation or another, you know, giving him money.
In spite of that, Carl, who had a harder shell than anything that came out of these trees, was known to be verbally abusive to his grandmother if he didn't get what he wanted. Teresa says that once when she dropped by to visit Bonnie, she had an unsettling encounter with Carl, who was also there. Everything I said he'd argue against, he just fought with me, fought with me.
It was like he couldn't get along with anybody. And I saw bruises on Bonnie's arms, like somebody had grabbed her.
And little old ladies bruise so easily that I said to my mother on a phone. I said I would not be surprised if Carl pushed her down the basement stairs.
Given that history, it was understandable then that investigators ears perked up once they learned that the last person to have seen Bonnie Hagy the day she went missing was Carl Pressley.
We were pretty sure that if we were able to find Carl, we were going to be able to find Bonnie Harding.
According to the tipster, Carl was with his girlfriend, Lillian King. They were riding in her car.
Do you have any information on her vehicle? All I know she's driving a 2004 Mustang soon.
Just about every lawman in Texas was on the lookout for that 2004 Mustang. But in the meantime. Deputy Wilkerson says the San Saba sheriff took a more personal approach, he's trying to call a cell phone, sending multiple text messages. You have girls under numerous brushes with the law. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
Wouldn't it be great if police could just text suspects and get them to come in? But the world doesn't work like that, except perhaps in San Saba just after midnight. Carl Pressley responded. He was in Norman G. Texas. He told the sheriff where he and his girlfriend lived in a trailer at an RV campground, though Norman is more than three hours from San Saba. Karl promised the sheriff he would be back by daybreak. I think maybe about the time I've also closed, my phone rang.
I was about about seven o'clock in the morning and dispatch told me that Karl Pressly had showed up to the sheriff's office and Sheriff Brown needed me up there ASAP.
And so with little or no sleep, Deputy Wilkerson says he headed back to the office and a face to face encounter with the man most likely to know where Bonnie Herkie was. Coming up, another life in danger. He had three knives on him, so I had to do what he said.
And a dark secret down by the creek, right this.
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Willie Geist here reminding you to check out the Sun Sit Down podcast. On this week's episode, I sit down with Grammy winner D.J. Kalid to talk about his rise as the son of immigrants to a hip hop empire. His latest self-titled album and his keys to quarantine over the last few months. You can hear our full conversation right now on the Sunday Sit Down podcast.
Get it for free wherever you download yours. Here's the thing about lawman in rural Texas, they don't have all the gadgets and gizmos that come with working in a big city.
It's a different world. You're working with limited budgets, so you have to improvise. Yes, yes. You have to improvise.
And that's what San Saba deputy John Wilkerson did when Karl Pressley, the chief suspect in the disappearance of Bonny Harkey and the death of her caretaker, came in for questioning. Wilkerson used the video recorder embedded in his car ready to be recording.
And that's your interrogation. And that's my interrogation. You're out there in the Sally Port.
My name is John Wilkes. And I'm sorry, the sheriff's office here keep you from something.
He was not under arrest, but Carol Presley wore prison stripes for his interview because investigators had taken his clothes so they could run tests on them.
I'm not making any accusations at this point. I'm just trying to get him locked down into his original story.
From the beginning, Carl Pressley admitted he and his girlfriend, Lillian King, had gone out to his grandmother's house for a visit that Sunday evening.
How long he stayed there during the interview, you started to, you know, try to pretend like you couldn't remember certain things.
Eventually, Carlie's memory improved.
He remembered how he took his grandmother out of the house to protect her from some tough guys he owed money to.
The story is easy to protect his grandmother. He picks her up in the evening and drives her to running crossing Raney's crossing and drops her often in the bushes, an 85 year old woman.
But now Wilkerson wasn't buying, but officers did search that location. Then Carl told them another story. He said he'd taken Bonnie back to his trailer home in Normandy.
He misses his grandmother and he wanted to see her, which, again, didn't make a whole lot of sense.
That was because investigators knew nothing to suggest that Carl Presley had ever missed anyone during his 28 years on planet Earth.
We're trying to figure out where is your grandmother at? Look at me. Where she is. I say she's upstairs. OK, where else? There is no. Where did you put her? Up there? S late.
In short order, Texas Rangers and local lawmen near Normandy were combing Karl's trailer and the surrounding campground for clues, but they found nothing until Korrell was flown to Normandy.
I told her I want to show her efficient home and down the creek. And we went down there and stuff happened to me. What kind of stuff happened? Called. It's hard, sir. It's going to be her right this afternoon. All right, let's start off with our.
I want me to remember one thing to say, I, I mean, Bonnie Harkey was dead, her body lying in a creek bed near Karl's trailer, buried beneath a pile of sticks and leaves.
So Carl admits that he pushed her on the back of her head, holding her face, her water, until she no longer moved.
It was the same story Lillian King had already given to lawmen back in San Saba. She'd been there, she said, when the caretaker was killed and she'd stood idly by while Carl killed his grandmother. But in Lilian's telling of the story, she could very well have been Carl Presley's third murder victim that day.
He had three knives on him, three, you know. So I had to do what he said.
What had driven Carl Presley to kill one of the few people on earth who had ever loved him? That was a question to which no one could supply an answer. She doted on Carl. She did dote on him.
No one could quite understand why.
And I'll bet she couldn't in the last four or five hours of her life. Yeah. And investigators didn't know why Carl Pressley killed his grandmother, but they were pretty sure there was more to this murder than met the eye and that there could be clues in the Harkey family history. Coming up, a million dollar inheritance, a neighbor from Hollywood and a Harkey with a handful of ex-wives is just a solid jerk, just constant drama.
Police were about to get to the heart of a Bonnie Herkie murder. The matriarch of a prominent PyCon growing family had been brutally murdered by a member of that family, but why? The more investigators pondered that, the more they came to believe the answer might be found in a long running family feud.
The first time I met the Harkey family, I was bailiff and in court because we were shorthanded and I got to sit through a little hearing where the Iraqis were trying to gain control of the property. And you could tell it was a very heated situation, very heated. That pot had been at a slow boil ever since that day in 1963 when Bonny Harkey became stepmother to her husband, Riley's two boys, Bruce and John Bruce. And Johnny just didn't like Bonnie.
They didn't like her at all. And so almost from the beginning, it was acrimonious. What formed did that acrimony to worsen Johnny were just rude to Bonnie, openly insulting her and rightly put up with it, let it go.
They just let it go.
A lot of blended families have rough starts, but this newly grafted branch of the Harkey family tree never had a chance.
And I don't think Riley made a real effort with his boys to say, this is a wonderful woman.
I want you to grow to love her like I love her. I think he just said, here you go.
Well, he seems to have been better with pecans than people. Yeah. Yeah.
Soon enough, John was off to college and Bruce was shuttled off to live with his mother in Nevada for a while.
That left only Bonnie's teenage daughter Connie at home.
Riley never adopted Connie. She was an afterthought. She was just never brought into the family.
This is sounding less like The Brady Bunch and more like the Ewings. Oh, you know, just the Ewings without the the culture, you know, it was really just constant drama.
The boys took different career paths. John became a businessman. Bruce had a number of different jobs at various times.
He was a cop in Reno, a Medicaid fraud investigator for the Texas attorney general's office and a nursing home administrator.
Along the way, he married and divorced eight count them eight women. Still, as the years rolled by, the brother's feelings for Bonnie seemed to fester. There were a lot of reasons for that, but maybe the biggest one was a will their father, Riley, had drawn up shortly before he died in 1987.
Riley's will specifically said that Bonnie could live on that property as long as she was alive. And then when she died, the land would go to the boys. And then there was a small inheritance for Connie. And if Connie died, then there would be a trust for Carl. But the the majority of the inheritance went to Bruce and Johnny.
Though the property alone was worth more than a million dollars for the Harkey brothers, it wasn't worth a dime because they could neither farm it nor sell it until Bonny died.
Bruce especially seemed to chief at the thought of that.
He said he was the poorest millionaire.
And since I'm a county local pecan merchant, Sean Oliver says Bruce Harkey was down and out in late 2007 when he resettled in San Saba after being away for many years.
He had no income coming in, and every time he drove by that property, all I could see was the millions, what he thought was millions that he was missing out on.
By then, Bonny Hagy was becoming increasingly frail. Her dementia made her vulnerable to phone scams. She was unable to manage her daily affairs. So her daughter Connie became her guardian. After Connie died in 2011, Bruce Archey thought Carl Pressley should be Bonnie's guardian when a judge tried to appoint someone else. Bruce and John challenged that in court.
Bonnie asked the judge if she could speak, and the judge said yes. And she said, I don't want them to be my guardians.
I'm afraid of them. Her stepsons.
Yeah, that to be. But the last thing Bruce and John wanted to hear, it delayed any inheritance.
Certainly a lawyer named Daryl Spinks was chosen to manage her business and financial affairs monies. Longtime friend Betty and Johnson was asked to make sure Bonnie's daily needs were met. It was Betty Anne who'd hired Karen Johnson. No relation. The in-home caretaker who was killed the day Bonnie was kidnapped.
You felt. Safe with care and taking care of. I did what Bruce wanted me to do was to put her in the nursing home. He told you that? Yes. And I said, as long as we can have help 24/7, she's not going anywhere.
Bonnie's financial guardian, Darrell Spig says he also butted heads with Bruce Herkie. The best way I can explain, Bruce Harki is greedy and for lack of a better word, just a jerk.
He's just a solid jerk.
According to Spicks, Bruce not only accused him of mismanaging the Harkey estate, but also trying to bully him into accepting the sale of a chunk of land to their neighbor, the actor Tommy Lee Jones, for half a million dollars. It was good for Bruce, but Spinks says not for Bonnie. So he killed it.
He wanted Bonnie to get virtually nothing. I know it was less than fifty thousand dollars is what he wanted.
He wanted her to get and the rest of the money for the sale would have gone to the rest of it would have gone to Bruce and John. Yes.
And so you said to Bruce, I'm not for this and that sitting in orbit. I mean, he just became irate and cussed me out and said, I'm going to do everything I can to to get at you.
Investigators were getting a pretty good taste of the river of bad blood that ran through the Harkey family. Bonnie Haughey's grandson, Carl Presley, and his girlfriend, Lillian King, were in the county jail and now men with badges decided to take a harder look at Bruce Herkie. Coming up, we go now, we had some questions for Bruce Harkey to you didn't put Carl up to it. Would you really hire Forrest Gump to commit murder? Forrest Gump.
Then this jailhouse interview was like a box of chocolates. We didn't know what we were going to get because you said you wished you were dead. And then later she became dead. The final decision to kill Bonny Harkey was made on a Friday, two days before the murder, as Carl Pressley laid it out for investigators, his uncle Bruce was broke and couldn't wait any longer for his inheritance.
He sat me down on the big. We got to get rid of by, OK, get rid of. We're running out of money for three days, everybody's got the Texans are generally thought to be pretty hard nosed when it comes to business. But Carl Pressley pulled up not so much pressure of five hundred dollars. This happens right here this weekend. And after a number out there, like 250. No, no, no. They argued for a little bit, according to Carl, they argued about the price Burse wanted.
He was adamant he was going to pay him five hundred dollars. And Karl was adamant he only needed to pay them to 50.
In the end, Karl says, Bruce agreed to pay him 100 dollars down and another hundred and fifty once the job was done. We found out he stopped by his bank and made a withdrawal for two hundred dollars, which was great because that's a date and time stamped. And now I got you on video. Then he leaves there and about 30 minutes later he shows back up in front of Lilyan King's house and Carl runs out the door to to collect one hundred dollars down from from asking the idea that Bruce Harkey was in cahoots with Carl Pressley seemed odd to some.
Evidently, Bruce detested the fact that Carl would refer to Bruce as Uncle Bruce, but Carl was always seemingly seeking approval and acceptance. From Bruce Jack Schumacher, one of the investigators on the case believes Bruce may have used that bit of psychology to his advantage when he decided it was long past time for Bonnie Herkie to meet her maker. So when Bruce says, hey, I want you in on my murder plot, what happiest day Carl's alive?
You know, it could be that Carl thought that he was finally going to receive that acceptance, even taking a theory, perhaps, but then investigators also knew that Bruce Harkey had never made any secret about how he felt about his stepmother. Bonnie.
Excuse my language, but this is exactly what he said. He said that she didn't have the decency to die.
Investigators didn't know if Bruce paid Carl or just manipulated him into killing Bonny Archey, but they were sure he was involved.
So two days after Carl led investigators to Bonnie's body, Bruce Harkey was arrested and charged with murder when lawmen came to question Bruce in jail.
He did not mince words, but he was a little more rest for the human being. Hey, everyone. Rachel, how did you see so many killers? She needs to call help. She just needs to go.
According to Bruce, Carol Presley had his own motives for killing Bonny Akie. That's because a year earlier, Carl had sold his future interest in the Harkey estate to the Harkey brothers for a fraction of what it was worth. But here's the thing. The brothers only gave him a fraction of the money they owed him.
Bruce says he told Carl the brothers would pay him the rest around fifty five thousand dollars once they inherited the orchard's. This is how Bruce says Carl responded along with. It has to go through probate, folks, that could take years. I don't know.
According to Bruce, the money he gave Carl shortly before Bonnie's death was gas money, nothing more than Bruce. Vaki turned the tables on the lawman and ask them a question that would become central to his defense. Why would he want to kill a sick old woman who already seemed to have one foot in the grave?
Why would I plan on Bonnie's demise? Operation by GBW numb nuts. Yes, when I'm thinking this is just around the corner. Why, when we spoke with Bruce Harkey through a thick pane of glass, he insisted he was an innocent man. I had nothing to do with it.
You didn't put Karl up to it? Absolutely not, sir. No, that's exactly the first question my attorney asked me. He said, would you?
He said, I have to ask you, would you really hire Forrest Gump to commit murder? I said I wouldn't hire anybody to commit murder.
So your argument is contrary to what Karl told investigators, he did this all on his own. I don't know that he did at all.
And I know there's at least two people involved in it. And that would be Karl and his girlfriend other than that. I'm not going to test anything because I don't know how many times in your life did you say you wished Bonnie Harkey were dead? I don't know.
Several. I mean, I can't give you a number. That's one of the reasons you're in here. I understand that, OK? Because you said you wished you were dead and then later she became dead. But I didn't have anything to do with it. You can't wish someone dead and have it happen and they get blamed for it. It's not against the law to have wishes. It's not against the law to make comments. Maybe not. But when Bruce Haughey's murder trial rolled around, he would have to answer for all of them and more.
Coming up, I will simply say that that's a devastating bit of evidence, the past comes back to haunt Bruce Harkey and a question haunts Lillian King. Could she have saved Bonnie? I can't sleep most. That's how time they at me. In the years after Bonnie Harkey took her place alongside the other Iraqis in the San Saba cemetery, life in the Texas hill country got back to normal. Most people could only speculate about what really happened on the day Bonnie Harkey and her caretaker, Karen Johnson, were killed, but Jack Schumacher says he knows where Karen Johnson lay and she was murdered right here in the snow, how she killed.
Chokes Mother just bulldog down by call, Jack Schumacher says he knows that because Carl Pressley told him how it all went down that weekend. He also knows that Bruce Archey wanted everyone in San Saba to know that he was going out of town. Jack Vaughn, a local businessman, says he had only a nodding acquaintance with Bruce Akie. And yet Bruce started telling me how he was going to be out of town all weekend long, stressed that all weekend long.
I'm leaving town early on Saturday morning and won't be back until late Sunday night. It might even be Monday before I make it back in. I'm going to be gone all weekend long.
By the time Bruce Harkey went on trial in April of 2014, his nephew, Carl Pressley had confessed to his part in killing Bonny Harkey and her caretaker. And Carl's girlfriend, Lillian King, had admitted her involvement with the two of them set to testify against Bruce Archey in exchange for lighter sentences. Prosecutor Sunny McCaffrey felt confident that he had a solid case against Bruce.
The facts of the crime were so horrendous that I didn't think once the jury believed that he was a party to the crime, that he'd have any difficulty at all finding him guilty.
Lillian told the jury she had heard Bruce Harkey and Carl Pressley talk about killing Bonny Haken many times, but she told us she didn't learn the plot had actually been set in motion until the Friday before the murder. That's when Lillian says she overheard a phone conversation between Bruce Harkey and Carl Presley because after he got off the phone with Bruce, he looked at me and said that Bruce is going to pay him to kill his grandmother.
Lillian testified that while Bonnie and her caretaker were in church that Sunday morning, Carl slipped into the house and hit once Bonnie returned home. Lillian says Carl sent her a text telling her to come distract Karen Johnson while he smothered his grandmother.
So I rang the doorbell because the door was open, but the storm door was closed. Mr Johnson came and injured the door. I was in the process of stepping in and closing this warm door when I see this flash inside the house coming from the den. So coming up behind me is Johnson.
Yes. Yes, and I saw that it was calm and he was yelling at me to close the door. Get in here, go in there with his grandmother.
Once Karen Johnson was dead, Lillian says Carl led Bonnie to her bedroom where she says Carl asked her to pray. I see the pillow and then why they're praying and he starts pushing her demos a bit. She fought him and she did. But the doorbell rang and it scared Carl. So he jumped up. And he told me to go look and see who was Lillian says that whoever it was left after about five minutes it was then Lillian told the jury that Karl decided to drive his grandmother to Normandy.
In your mind, was it clear that she knew the Karl was trying to kill her then? Yes.
What she said, she looked at him and said, you try to kill me. And I was like, no, grandma, I wasn't doing that.
Lillian says the last time she saw Bonnie Herkie alive was later that night when she says she saw Karl leading body to her death. I went to the bathroom again and. I was coming out, I saw him and her walking into the trees, you knew what was coming. How could you let that happen? It's hard for me. You know, if he didn't hurry, he's going to do it to me, too. The prosecutor knew a jury would not vote to convict Bruce Harkey on the testimony of William King and Carl Pressley alone.
So he used Bruce Haughey's own words against him.
He talked about how he couldn't get his land until she was dead and that she just doesn't have the decency to die. And he said all of these in the weeks leading up to the murder, Richard Davis was Bruce Haughey's attorney.
He told the jury Carl Pressley wanted to kill Bonny Harkey because he wanted the inheritance and needed no prompting from his uncle. Davis's reminded jurors how many times Carl had changed his story before telling police Bruce was part of the plot.
My theory is it's all Carl. And that was essentially our testimony and. The testimony of Karl in the trial makes it clear that this guy was an erratic personality, he gave numerous different descriptions of what the events were, how he did it, why he did it. And it was that originally that he didn't do it well. Right. I didn't do it. I did do it. And if I did do it, it was because of this.
And finally, he names Bruce. Exactly. Sort of at the point where prosecutors and police are starting to talk about the death penalty.
And my question, in any case, where there's a statement from a witness who has a lot to lose, what's the most likely to be the truth?
Jurors might question Karl Presley's credibility with the prosecutor had a bombshell in his arsenal. Turns out this was not Bruce Hockey's first rodeo. McAfee told the jurors that 10 years earlier, Bruce had done prison time for his role in another murder plot, an unsuccessful one that targeted one of his many ex-wives.
I think there are a lot of things that are extremely similar in it. And the main one is that he gets somebody else to do what he wants done and he does it through influence.
I will simply say that that's a devastating bit of evidence. Yeah, because that makes me think, well, they probably got the right guy.
And just hypothetically speaking, let's say the case is purely circumstantial and it looks kind of bad.
And then there's proof in front of the jury that says and by the way, he did it before, that makes all the other evidence seem much more important if you're a prosecutor. That's great stuff. That's the end of the story. Whether it should be or shouldn't.
It took the jury only one hour to reach a guilty verdict. Bruce, he received a life sentence, as did Carl Pressley. Lillian King was sentenced to 45 years for her role in the murders. I'm not a violent person.
I'm not. And I love the market like she is my own grandmother. And yet. I know I keep kicking myself. You know, hoping I can do something different, but it's not going to change. You know, it eats at me. I can't sleep most of the time. The estate Bruce Harkey had so fervently hoped to inherit is but a memory now, in the years since our story first aired, lawyers have divided up, parceled it out or placed it in trust for the next generation.
Ironically, that means Bonnie Akis home could one day pass to her great grandchildren, the children of Carl Pressley, the man who killed her. That's all for now. I'm Lester Holt, thanks for joining us. 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.