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I don't even think I said what happened because you don't want to hear details. That was the worst day of my life that I found out about my mom, a loving couple, a romantic, like a secluded spot, she was trying to look at the bird. It's like her feet just went out from under.


All of a sudden, I hear yelling coming from downstream. There was Mrs. Muller floating face of a wife falling to her death, her husband falling apart. She was panicking. She was shaking and crying. The evidence at the scene makes us believe that something entirely different happened. He told me she fell 20 feet. Where were the injuries? Why did I not see what I expected to see? A search for the truth in the woods and water. If your theory is right, that is almost like she was being hunted to look like a hair and a wolf to chilling accounts of what happened to the man they all adored.


One seemingly unsolvable mystery. Either you believe crazy story A or you believe crazy story B. Both stories are crazy. Which one do you want to go and? Winding down a mountain in southwest Colorado, waterfalls spill over granite and sunlight filters through aspens and evergreens. Cottonwood Creek, an only in the west sort of backdrop and snapshots, barely capture it, but who can resist trying? What a spot to preserve a memory. Careful now. This is wilderness, the dangerous kind is in the river.


People, they can't find her. Do you think she's dead? The frigid currents here can take a life and also maybe sweep away secrets was the perfect place to commit a murder where nobody would see you going here looking for trouble.


You can find it on up in those mountains. Sometimes questions are left behind. I don't have an explanation for this, but certainly it does truly haunt me.


The story begins with those pictures together, they form a couple husband and wife, Lesley and Fred Mueller, married for almost 27 years.


They were always super affectionate. They acted like they were two high school kids that were had just started dating all over each other.


These are the three children, Amanda, the eldest, then Ariel and Alex, the youngest and only boy. They were brought up in Texas near the town of San Angelo. But for fun, the family headed out to their second home in Lake City, Colorado. Those photos of their parents were taken nearby.


They both loved the cabin and going off to Colorado. It was so pretty. It in a valley, and there were just you could look and look at postcard of mountains. There was a river running right near there. There Rockies Getaway was a family place to relax and escape their busy lives back home. What was life like up at the cabin? We would usually go in the summers.


We would just go hiking together or horseback riding and just kind of hang out as a family. Did you feel like there was a lot of family bonding that went on at the cabin? Yeah, definitely. We ended up having a lot of fun board games or going out hiking and doing all these different activities together in Texas.


Mostly had an OBGYN practice and worked long hours delivering babies.


And she was the area's first Ogwyn female. And she was very much a pioneer in that sense. Like I think the more people told her, you can't do this. She wanted to do it.


She was very strong willed and definitely a feminist in a way that she was all about like, I can do anything that any man can do and I can do it better.


In 2004, Leslie decided to make a change in her life. She retired from medicine and devoted her time to the church. She even studied theology. But most of all, Leslie loved the outdoors, especially riding horses.


I think she had a choice. She would be riding horses every day and then practicing theology, and I'm sure she wished the days were longer. She's like Superwoman.


Their mom embraced adventure and she wanted her kids to as well.


One time Mom and I went, just the two of us. I hadn't been horseback riding in a while. And so I told her I didn't want to go more than maybe five, six miles. And she goes, OK, well, I found this trail. It's eight miles, but you can do it. And by the time it ended, it was 16 miles than that. So, you know, we had such a wonderful time. But the next day I was not moving.


As for Fred, he owned a multimillion dollar company importing steel for construction.


Still, their job was an all business all the time. And the traditional motherly roles, he would definitely step up and wasn't afraid to be Mr. Mom, the Mueller kids say their parents fit one another perfectly. You make a point of every night to try to do something nice for you. So proud of you. They talk all the time, any time that there was any type of disagreement about who the dishes were done or some honey do chore kind of a thing, they would talk about it until they were completely resolved.


And then the next second they'd be all over each other again and be perfectly happy. It was a happy weekend at the Mueller's Colorado cabin, May 3rd, 2008, now that Leslie was no longer working, she was spending much more time up here. That Saturday, the spring day was sunny. The high altitude air still chilled morning began with chaus. I think we were unloading some heavy duty stuff kind of like that around the house, so was this just a very typical weekend in Colorado?


It was just Alex, then 14, up with his parents on this trip that afternoon. The three went to mass in town. Later, after a snack, his parents suggested they cap off the day with a hike to photograph some stunning waterfalls nearby.


I was pretty wiped out by that time and I just kind of wanted to hang out in the cabin and read a book or something like that.


So I turned them down on going for the hike, Fred and Leslie headed off with her dog, Gracie, a border collie pup. I think she was only six months old. Was she rambunctious? She she was rambunctious for sure. She's the type of dog that when the ceiling fan would be going, she would try to jump up and, like, follow it around.


Fred and Leslie parked at the base of the trail, snow still covered the ground in patches. They hiked up past a series of waterfalls up until they found the perfect spot for pictures they had arrived at Cottonwood Creek.


Fred struck a pose first. Next Leslie's turn. One more of Fred, big smile and then Leslie again, this time with her beloved Gracie.


Then something went wrong.


It's like it's just happened in slow motion in front of me in an instant. Leslie was gone at the waterfall. She's in the river. What happened at Cottonwood Creek?


The hunt for answers would start with a frantic search. Where was she all of a sudden? I hear yelling and the yelling is coming from downstream.


Alex Muller was alone at his family's vacation cabin in Colorado. His sisters weren't on this weekend trip and that Saturday afternoon, his parents went out for a hike without him. Do you remember the last words you said to your mom as she was leaving the cabin to later? You know, just a normal like, of course, I'm going to see my mom in an hour. Yeah, exactly.


I mean, not nothing really memorable.


And so then there's a whole period of time that they're gone. What's the next thing you remember? So reading kind of hanging around.


I think the first time I kind of noticed that it was getting a little late, it had gone dark. And, you know, no, I should be kind of hiking or walking around and start.


Alex had no inkling of the tragedy unfolding at Cottonwood Creek. It started right after his dad took a picture of his mother, Leslie, Leslie and Gracie posed here.


It's a stunning setting, but just about an arm's length behind me is a cliff, a steep drop off to the granite below and the icy cold waters of Cottonwood Creek. Right after Fred snapped the picture, Leslie fell and was swept away in the water, unable to find her. Fred raced for help, driving more than a mile to the nearest house. Somebody just showed up at my house with no cell service up by the creek.


The owner of the house, Justin Sparks, was the first to call 911 when he pulled up, he said at the waterfall, she's in the river.


She fell and they can't find her. He's frantic, of course. He said he thinks his wife is his wife. Yes.


The homeowner offered right away to help Fred. They sped back up the mountain and Fred dropped him off at a spot to begin searching.


Just down the road, physician's assistant and EMS volunteer Michael Golab was on duty.


A call went out over the radio for a female drowning victim.


Golab headed over to the base of the trail. There he ran into Fred.


He comes barreling down at a very high rate of speed and kind of slams on his brakes and starts yelling at me, Let's go, let's go, let's go.


The EMS responder noticed this man he was trying to help could also be injured. Fred's face was scratched up. He has some superficial lacerations.


And so I take a minute to make sure this isn't my second victim to make sure he's OK. And he assures me he's fine, he's fine. Just kind of wants to keep keep going.


But then as Fred drove, he seemed disoriented. He pulled over, but he couldn't seem to find where Leslie fell.


I start to unload from the Jeep. He says, no, this isn't it. And we get back in the jeep and he continues upstream uphill.


After another stop, they found the right place and hiked toward the creek. All of a sudden I hear yelling and the yelling is coming from downstream.


It was the homeowner, Justin Sparks. Michael Golab took off toward him. He was in a knee deep pool down below the waterfalls.


There was Mrs. Mueller. She's dressed in a lime green jacket and she's floating face up. He actually found her. He I believe he used the word pinned under the log and face down.


Leslie had no pulse. A Golove thought there was still hope she could be revived. Fred had caught up towering over them from the creek embankment.


He says, is she dead? Tell him it's too soon to know. Golem sent Fred back down the road to look for more help. By then, a small village of first responders had assembled at the start of the trail. Among them was Hinsdale County Sheriff's Deputy Justin Casey.


We had other officers responding that we also had the EMS personnel coming in ambulances and we had fire personnel coming with the fire trucks.


Dispatch put a call in to the local sheriff, Ron Bruce.


We had gotten a report of a drowning up on Cottonwood Creek and they said they'd keep me advised.


By then, a group of medical responders made their way up to the creek to help, but still no heartbeat, not a breath from Leslie. And it was clear she was gone.


We were not going to be able to bring Miss Mueller back at the cabin.


Alex was wondering why his parents weren't back yet. Their hike was only supposed to last an hour or so, but they'd been gone more than three hours. Were you worried?


Not really worried. I said something happened to and is more like, you know, it's kind of weird that they would, you know, stay out past dark. They're going for a hike.


It was past 8:00 p.m. when his dad got home without his mom.


It's my dad and the deputy. And now they come in and it's kind of a shock to see, you know, when you're expecting somebody to see strangers coming in instead. What do you think when you see that? Not a whole lot of time to think honestly. You kind of go into shutdown mode.


Alex recalled. His dad seemed like he was in shock.


He was very disheveled, had been crying. A lot then he gave me a big hug and I was kind of how it broke, I can't even imagine getting that news when you just thought your parents were going for a quick hike.


It's kind of disbelief, really, like the whole thing to seem so surreal.


Then father and son were shuttled to the sheriff's department where Fred could file a report about the accident. I remember them saying, you take Fred and I'll take Alex.


Sheriff Bruce was at the station to meet them.


My initial reaction to Fred was he was a victim, a grieving husband.


Fred gave a brief handwritten statement.


We want to make sure we've dotting the I's and cross the T's because we're dealing with the death of a woman.


Then Fred and Alex headed back to their empty cabin and they're in that home that had until then been full of such happy memories. Fred and Alex endured the longest night of their lives.


We stayed together in the same room the whole night. And did your dad sleep it all?


It was it was a very long night, but they had no idea. It was just the first sleepless night in what would become the longest ordeal of their lives. Fred gives investigators a detailed account of what happened to Leslie. And he's very clear on who's to blame.


It was that damn dog. Take a look at her legs. This is what I think it was.


What would police think of that? Fred and Leslie Molas daughters Amanda and Ariel were hundreds of miles away from Colorado when it happened. Their dad had to break the terrible news to them by phone.


He said, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. And I said, what happened? And he said, we were hiking. I was trying to take a picture. She fell. And I remember saying that she's going to be OK. And he said, no, she's dead. And I kind of lost it, started crying terribly. And and he said, I'm so, so sorry. What did your dad say to you when you got him on the phone?


I don't even think I said what happened because you don't want to hear details. I mean, I could easily say that was the worst day of my life that I found out about my mom and all the only detail that matters. She was gone.


The tragic details, however, were the business of Hinsdale County Sheriff Ron Bruce. He and his small office have the huge job of patrolling more than 1100 square miles of potentially dangerous wilderness and wildlife. Should they have not gone on that area?


It was perfectly fine, I think. Yeah, he related. It was something of an idyllic day.


The day after Leslie died, Sheriff Bruce stopped by the Mueller's cabin to get a more precise account of what happened during that hike, Bruce's undersheriff and a state investigator talked to Fred in Washington have even taken her up there.


It's all my fault. The conversation at the kitchen table was recorded. We started taking photos. She took a few of me, took some of her.


Fred described in detail how that Kodak moment went wrong.


I suggested that she take a picture with her dog and it's a border collie. And it's very it's just extremely skittish dog. She looks at me and I take her picture and we think everything's cool.


And I think like a bird kind of flutters by Fred said the rambunctious border collie got startled that the dog just jumps out as she's turning. And it's like it's like her feet just went out from under. It's like it's just happened in slow motion in front of me. She falls forward and and I remember lunging forward to try to try to get to her. But I was probably five, six, seven feet from her.


Fred said he witnessed Leslie Free-Fall. It looked to me like she just did a swan dive in and lands on the rocks right by the water, just just like head and shoulders and and just crumbles. And then just just slides like mush into the into the digital channel. And I'm screaming her name. I'm and I should have just jumped in. Fred said he lost sight of Leslie in the water, so he ran down to where he thought the current would take her, said he got scratched up as he stumbled up and down this embankment, navigating rocks and running through bushes.


I must have tripped a few times, quite a few times coming down, and I'm sure I hit obviously had something coming down a few times. He told how he had left the camera with those last images of his wife behind. I would imagine I just dropped it. A lot of screaming.


Unable to locate Leslie, he abandoned his search of the creek bed and made the decision to go for help.


But down to Justin's house and I'm honking and scream at him to, you know, I think my wife's dead.


After listening to Fred's story, the sheriff wanted to go up to the site of the accident.


You take Fred back up to the mountain. Yes, we did a walk through on the scene.


Up at the scene, Fred repeated how the dog seemed to cause Leslie's fall.


It was that damn dog tangled up in her leg. It is what I think it was.


Gracie ran off into the woods right after the accident. A member of the sheriff's department later found her and took her back to his house.


Everything changed and changed forever in ways the kids could not, in their immediate grief, begin to grasp. That's because while their father was on that mountain talking to authorities, seeds of doubt were being planted right in the landscape around Cottonwood Creek. One of those seeds found near the ledge where Leslie spent her last moments.


All the alarm bells were going off. Even to this day gives me the chills.


Fred Mueller spent the day after his wife's death talking with investigators about the accident on Cottonwood Creek. The next day, he and his son Alex flew home to Texas, ferried by a friend in a private plane. You never think you could happen to you there.


Fred and Alex were reunited with Amanda and Ariel, Alex's older sisters.


You hear horrible stories and you feel for these people. It was surreal that we were now that family now, you know, just trying to get through it.


So many came to pay their respects, but mourning took its toll. I would hold myself together in front of people and visit, and then I would go in the other room to cry and break down. And it's kind of just saving face a little bit.


Leslie, the horse lover, was buried on the Texas ranch where she grew up riding when the blur was over and you finally had time to process what had happened.


What did you think about with your your mom and your future? I was angry. I was really looking forward to being pregnant and calling my eating. And any time I had any kind of little odd thing happen, it was like two weeks before my graduation. It was like a week before my prom, like all these big things that aren't the biggest things in the world. But it was just like things that your mom should be for.


I mean, seeing us grow up, it's the kids weren't just grieving their own loss.


They felt their fathers, too. They had never seen them so sad. Or, you know, you just didn't know if he was going to do something crazy or if he was ever going to get over this and be able to move on.


And up in Colorado, Sheriff Bruce wasn't moving on either.


He still had questions about the accident and Fred's story. He'd sent Deputy Justin Casey up to Cottonwood Creek to document the site. Casey brought his brother with him. They snapped photos and shot video along the way.


We started below where Mrs. Mueller's body was found and took photographs below.


As we progressed upstream, as the Casey brothers moved up the creek, they noticed that the creeks flow didn't seem very strong. She didn't push us around. As we were walking.


We were careful with our footing in the sense that they're slippery rocks underneath the water. But it wasn't hard to go against the current.


The deputy couldn't help but wonder how had Leslie's body floated so far.


The water is coming down, but it's not a raging river. It's not fast moving.


Deputy Casey reported back to Sheriff Bruce, who by that time had talked to the couple who live by the trail and had help Fred.


And those first frantic moments, what they said to cast a new light on Fred's story of that awful day, a little tickling at the back of their neck was had sent up some red flags to them.


They told Sheriff Bruce that as they called nine one one and set out to help in the search, Fred was frantic one minute and seemed calm the next. They said the vibes were all wrong from him.


They became very uncomfortable.


Did they kind of like, in hindsight, think back, or was it right that they were immediately.


Concert. That something was amiss. It was the husband, Justin, who found Leslie's body in the creek, but he told the sheriff that initially Fred had sent him off to search too far downstream. He drove up on a short wave. He said he was sure that his wife's body was somewhere in that area. Just thought that was odd, was it possible that Fred was disoriented, it's it's kind of a tough area to navigate. It's possible.


Yet Sheriff Bruce said he, too got a strange vibe from Fred the night Leslie died and again the next day when they went back up to Cottonwood Creek.


His emotions and his responses to everything seemed to be extremely flat and I thought almost rehearsed.


Is that fair, though, with everyone being different in this world and everyone reacting differently to tragedy, is it fair for you to judge him based on how you think he should be acting?


I don't know if it's fair, but in my business is realistic because you have to look at all angles of an event and make sure that you're uncovering everything that's there on a ledge near where Fred said.


Leslie fell, investigators found Fred's camera and the photos of Leslie's last moments alive as he stared at Leslie, the vibrant wife and mother, Sheriff Bruce's gut told him, keep looking.


The wives were all wrong. All the alarm bells were going off. Even to this day, a little bit gives me the chills.


Vibes are one thing, but investigators thought they also had evidence that Fred wasn't telling the truth. He told me she fell 20 feet. Where was the trauma? Where were the injuries? Why did I not see what I expected to see? For the folks charged with keeping the woods and waters around Cottonwood Creek safe, Leslie Mueller's drowning was a tragedy, but also a mystery.


You know, I put myself in Fred shoes and they didn't fit.


Sheriff Ron Broussard thought Fred's demeanor the day Leslie died was unusual. Fred to him showed a lack of emotion. But what really spoke volumes to the sheriff and his team was something they knew well.


The terrain around Cottonwood Creek, as Fred told them, Leslie did a swan dive from up there, landing on her head and shoulders on this rock. Then she slid into the water. A horrible accident. That's a local law enforcement. Something seemed off. The first train rescuer on the scene noticed at first what appeared to be a major inconsistency in that story. After such a treacherous fall, Leslie's body, when pulled from the creek, didn't look at all injured.


He told me she fell 20 feet. Where was the trauma? Where were the injuries? Why did I not see what I expected to see?


One look at that drop off. And Sheriff Bruce was wondering the same thing. And when the autopsy report came back, it only heightened his suspicions.


There were no broken bones, any substantial abrasions or contusions. They simply weren't there. Every accident is different. Every fall is different. Is it possible that she just fell in a certain way that just didn't produce those injuries you were looking for? No. If she landed head first, as he told us she landed, she would have had head injuries, facial fractures, spinal trauma. None of that was present. So Sheriff Bruce made a quick conclusion to him, no injuries meant no fall.


Fred had to be lying. We went back to Cottonwood Creek with the sheriff in May 2014.


That's the same month Leslie died. We had a late snowstorm this year.


A spring storm had just blanketed the woods and rocks. I have to say, I'm honestly nervous just standing here. It's this is very steep. That's a sheer drop off.


It was up here where they had posed for pictures that Sheriff Bruce showed me what he thought were key pieces to their puzzle.


The evidence here at the scene makes us believe it's something entirely different happened.


They found trampled bushes, what they thought looked like scuff marks and a pair of broken glasses that turned out to be Freds.


There was evidence of a struggle. Internet refresh. Mangled glasses were found. Sheriff Bruce formed a theory that after snapping those photos, Fred and Leslie got into a physical fight.


We think that at that point, I think anyway, that she was able to break free of his grasp at that point. If she ran back this way and down paralleling this path, it goes down. Eventually it meets up with the street. You think he chased after her? I think he parallelled her down that road till he got to the point where he can easily intercept her if she's going down by the street.


If your theory is right, that is almost like she was being hunted. It's almost like a hair and a wolf. And according to Bruce's theory, Fred chased his wife right into the shallow pool where she was found.


That's where he held her in the water and drowned and then placed her right by the submerged log.


But Bruce admits investigators lacked some evidence to back up that scenario. What about footprints?


There were no footprints in the mud. And by that time, we had investigators in here and had been tracked up pretty good. So the evidence was ruined, essentially, if there was evidence. Right.


The sheriff and agents from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the CBI, worked together investigating what they now thought was a homicide. They went down to where the mullahs lived in Texas to poke around in Fred's life, but they couldn't find anyone to say anything bad about him.


We found that the interviews were largely unproductive. You were hitting walls in Wall, Texas, which is a outlying community outside of San Angelo. It's a pretty close community.


And inside that community, none of Leslie's friends or family doubted Fred and couldn't understand why folks up in Colorado were asking questions.


Yeah, people love Dad. That's why he had immense amount of support.


And then 10 months after Leslie's death, Fred Mueller got an invitation from the CBI. An agent wanted Fred to come back up to Colorado for a talk.


He casually mentioned like, oh, yeah, I'm going out to Colorado. They wanted me back up there. And he was just saying, like, you know, I don't know what they're doing either, but it's just we got to cooperate. They're doing their job. Let's just get past it so we can move on.


I just wanted to first, Fred, thank you for coming. You're welcome.


Again, he shared his recollections about that day at the vacation home.


It was a beautiful day and it went to hell for so many things I wish I'd done differently.


And again, described what happened to Leslie after she posed for that last photo shoot was flailing in the air, screaming.


And I was screaming and she hit and never made another peep.


Crazy if Fred's account of the accident was the same, the tone of this interview was different. The CBI agent made it clear they didn't believe his story.


And, you know, I want to take this up to ask you everything that's making me think that this may not have been an accident.


Ask me anything you want a question, Fred, about those broken glasses found at the scene. And I'm just say I'm thinking you two had an argument by this Bush. No, no. In my life. And I do not have an argument anymore because that was the best day of our lives until that accident, the best day of their lives.


The agent clearly suspected there had been trouble in the Mueller's marriage, a suggestion Fred cruelly dismissed it.


Yes. Well, I can see after twenty seven years, the two of you grew apart and you made a hell of a good pair. And you don't know quite how to deal with that.


Or or one could say that after 27 years, we were looking forward to retirement and Fred insisted that on the day she died, he found her more attractive than ever.


She was beautiful.


She knew that. And I would tell her that she became more beautiful from being already beautiful in my eyes, became more beautiful as she became older. And we had a very miserable problem in a very active sex life. And we got along great. And if you did a good autopsy, you would know that you would no doubt try to tell me that we made love that morning.


But even as the seemingly confident Fred grew clearly irritated, the agent wasn't deterred. What about those scratches on his face the day Leslie died?


So these vertical scratches you're saying you got from bushes, bushes or that ground or running down this hill fallen a few times, which I did fall, but it had to have been from some of that. There's no other explanation. OK, that's that's factual. There was no altercation.


No, ma'am. No, ma'am. Because your fingernails if you think there's something underneath her nails that's missing off my face. There was no altercation. Write it down.


None for now. It seemed that was all the agents could do. Document Fred's story and let him leave.


I'm sorry to be a crude open book. Time is up. Twenty three. I'm turning out to record.


Investigators had their theories, but did they have a case?


Fred went home to Texas where his family thought that would be the end of it.


His entire philosophy through all of this was it was an accident. I'm telling the truth. So he wanted to operate. He wanted to help them see that.


But investigators hadn't seen that. Not at all. And if Fred couldn't answer their questions, they'd head back to Cottonwood Creek and hope that the water could. Fred has always said that water carried lesslie away to hear where her body was found.


Now investigators put that story to the test. They said there was no way that her body could have ended up under that log unless it had been placed her. Time went by and the mullahs didn't hear anything from the Colorado investigators, the kids assumed the sheriff and his team had finally decided to believe their dad, too.


We didn't hear from them for three years after that. And so I thought that I guess, you know, they finished up their paperwork or whatever they needed to do.


And then it was over. It wasn't over. I have to go. In fact, after Fred's interview with the CBI, investigators kept working. What drove them was their theory about a possible struggle and that curious lack of injuries on Leslie's body. But the sheriff knew they needed more and he put that photo of Leslie behind his desk. She was my constant reminder.


And that photo was what was what was the nudge that kept me going on this case? Investigators decided to zero in on one aspect of Froud story, was it really possible for Leslie's body to float from where he said she fell to where she was found, 150 feet and three waterfalls downstream when we brought in the really top notch water flow expert.


We had to go back and try to duplicate the water flow as it was on the evening of the event in August 2009, 15 months after Leslie died. Investigators headed up to Cottonwood Creek to conduct some tests. They dressed a woman around Leslie Size in similar clothing to what she wore the day she died and positioned the female stand in on the rock ledge where Fred said Leslie landed before sliding into the water.


The forensic people tried to float her from that location where he alleged that she fell.


The water did barely, barely touched her body. So investigators put her in the water to see what would happen if she was then moved into the very center of that stream and it wouldn't budge.


Finally, they went down to the pool where Leslie was found. They then put her in a wetsuit, which gives her buoyancy.


She was able to float, but unassisted, she had a hard time making it all the way to the log where Leslie's body had been pinned. This meant something big to the investigators.


So it belied what he told us about this raging torrent, tearing her away from his view. They tried it all again with a mannequin, and again, what they saw did not match what Fred recalled in the deeper pools, the mannequin sank and it got stuck at the falls.


Each time she had to be physically moved over the lip of those waterfalls. The stream would not move her.


Did you feel like because this case was hard enough as it was, that this testing had to be just as perfect as it could be? Of course, with no witnesses, we're dealing strictly with circumstantial evidence and and circumstantial evidence is often enough to get you a conviction. But we knew we had to have a lot of it.


To investigators, these tests confirm their suspicions to them, Fred, story of Leslie's accident was impossible. They said there was no way that her body could have ended up under that log unless it had been placed there, that the forces of nature would not have put her under there.


But were these tests enough to make a full fledged criminal case? The first person they'd have to convince was the local district attorney.


He was quickly brought on board as to what we were investigating and what our thoughts were.


It turned out to be a hard sell. For whatever reason, we could never pick his interest. He never said no, but he just I didn't find the enthusiasm, even after those tests, the D.A. wasn't ready to press charges. Months went by, then a year.


Lesley's picture was still there right behind Sheriff Bruce's desk. But the investigators weren't about to shelve their case.


Are there things happening? Are the wheels turning? It was constantly on our radar screen that there were things yet to be done, but the much did run on all this time.


Fred was a free man in Texas. His business ventures were moving on. And at home we were all saying Fred Mueller believes he got away with murder.


But Sheriff Bruce says Fred Mueller may have underestimated the Hinsdale County Sheriff's Department.


I think that was what he thought. He was going to get some kind of bumbling buffoon to show up and he was going to walk away on this.


What do you say to someone who says you're a small town sheriff who got tunnel vision, who focused on this rich outsider and just like a dog with a bone would not let go? I might say the wrong. And I've got thick skin there. We did the right thing.


They kept working and testing and poking around, not sure if it would ever amount to anything to go forward, something needed to change and it was about to.


The sheriff makes his case to a new D.A. and everything changes. We were able to get 30 minutes of his time and say, here's what we're looking at. Here's what we think occurred. He said, let's go. And for the Mueller kids, a shock. What is this like? Why? And they said, oh, well, we can't tell you that a new chapter opens, but nothing in this case will go the way anyone thinks. Hi, I'm Brooke, and I'm Orisha and where the hosts of Even the Rich, a show about people with a lot of money and a lot of feelings.


Brooke, what's the worst thing that can happen to a politician getting voted out of office? Hmmm.


How about driving your car off a bridge and leaving a young woman trapped inside, which is exactly what Ted Kennedy did in 1969. It was a scandal that rocked the nation and threatened to bring down the entire Kennedy empire.


Subscribe to even the rich Chappaquiddick on Apple Podcast's, Spotify, the wonder app or wherever you're listening right now, join Wonder E-Plus in the Wonder app to listen ad free.


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As the years moved on since Lesley Mueller's death, investigators were continuing to build a case against Fred.


Those children were unaware their father was under such intense suspicion, they were trying hard to remember the happy moments with their mother and put the Colorado tragedy behind them.


What became of the cabin that held so many memories for all of you?


I think after the accident, it wasn't going to be a happy place for us anymore. And so Dad decided to sell the place shortly after mom died. I would imagine that whole area is just kind of bittersweet now. And unfortunately, it's a beautiful area. It's just not for us.


For the Mueller children, life seemed to be stabilizing. Amanda was settling in with her husband. Ariel was in college. And Alex, a high school student, was dreaming of a career in the Navy.


But as Alex said, his dad was having a harder time of it.


He married mom when he was 18 or 19. He depended so much on my mother and then all of a sudden to be kind of just cast adrift.


Eventually, Fred's counselors and friends suggested he was ready to meet someone new.


He finally started getting back on his feet and started thinking about moving on. And he met Wendy.


Wendy and Fred were introduced through old family, friends.


She came into a very tough situation. But she also she brought my dad out of a very dark place. She saved his life, essentially because he was so depressed after two years as a widower.


Fred married Wendy.


She was really great in understanding and helped him move, move forward. A fresh start, such a long way from Fred's tough grilling in Colorado, he had good reason to think it was all over.


There were times where we were real frustrated when I see the wheels of justice turn slow.


We felt like they were turning to slow this time all the while as the years are passing. You're looking at Leslie's photo in your office every day. Yes, I am. Is that keeping you going focused? Absolutely.


Then in 2011, two and a half years after Leslie's death, a new D.A. took office and the sheriff lobbied him to take action.


We were able to get 30 minutes of his time and say, here's what we're looking at. Here's what we think occurred. He said, let's go.


The D.A. assembled a team to look into the case. Matthew Durkin, a deputy Colorado state attorney general, came on board. He was later joined by Ryan Brackley on loan from the Boulder County D.A.. What was your first impression? Very tough case. They combed through the case file fraud statements, Leslie's autopsy and all those tests conducted at the creek. This location was a breathtakingly beautiful place in the middle of nowhere. It was the perfect place to commit a murder where nobody would see you.


Fresh eyes in the DA's office began to see what the sheriff had suspected from the start.


The defendant's story did not match up with the landscape, the scene and all of the other evidence that were that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was able to develop.


At what point did you finally, all of you say. We got enough, let's go get them. I think it was when we felt like we had tested this thing to death, that we had absolutely everything we could possibly put together to take to the jury.


February six, 2012, just over three and a half years since Leslie Muller died on Monday, Fred was at his office when a Texas Ranger showed up with an arrest warrant in hand. Sheriff Ron Bruce down from Colorado stood a few feet away.


He looked at us almost in shock and he said, I can't believe you people are taking this seriously.


How was that for you to finally make that arrest?


It felt great. It felt great, and at that point I said, Leslie, we're going to make this right. Alex was in school when he was suddenly pulled out of class.


Now there's some Texas Rangers here to talk to me. And I kind of asked, you know, what's going on? Are you really here? Your father's interested.


Did you say anything back to them? Why?


And they said, oh, well, we can't tell you that. It's this. We just we just have some great proof. And I said, well, it took you four years. What exactly are you doing? And they said, well, we just can't tell you that.


Did you ever think for one second? Well, there must be something he must have done something for him to be arrested to be going through this. We never doubted his story. We never doubted that. We never thought that he would have done anything wrong or anything to hurt mom, ever. That's something that I can't even fathom because you would have never done anything like that.


The kids believe the authorities had it in for their dad and trumped up things that weren't true like that. Their father showed no emotion after their mother's death.


He was obviously passionate. He was he was panicking. He was shaking. He had been crying profusely.


Remember, only Alex was in Colorado at the time. And thinking back, he got angry about the way he and his dad were treated.


They separate us like you would with criminals, separate myself from my dad, put us in separate vehicles to the kids.


It all pointed to a rush to judgment that turned into an obsession.


If you go into it looking for trouble, you're going to find it.


We were also, as a family, never informed what they were doing at Cottonwood Creek, that they were paying for experts, doing all kinds of tests on the water and all these different things like that. This is all like a closely guarded secret that they never felt they should share with either him or are the family of the victim of my mother.


Fred Mueller spent the next year in jail in Gunnison, Colorado, awaiting trial.


He sunk into such a deep depression right after mom died and he kind of sank back into it while he was sitting in jail. And no one could get some more of the fact that he was completely cut off from his family for a year.


The kids were eager for their dad to take on his accusers. Attorney Roger Segal was part of Fred's legal team.


After reading through the discovery and the evidence, what were your first thoughts? Why was this guy arrested for murder? It was my first thought. It was a question from the very beginning as to what evidence they really have.


He'd soon find out in court. More than four years after Leslie drowned in Cottonwood Creek, Fred Mueller would stand trial for murder.


The prosecution challenges Fred's entire story, including, stunningly, the one thing that never seemed in doubt is rock solid marriage. Fred was telling people that, in fact, the marriage had gone stale and that he did have a wandering eye.


Four and a half years after Leslie Mueller's death, her husband Fraud's murder trial began in Gunnison, Colorado. Their children and Fred's new wife dropped everything to be in court and to pray that their dad would soon be cleared.


Are you all just anxious for this trial to start? Yes, definitely. I want to see why they put us through this. What do they think that they have?


As the trial got underway, that frigid January 2013 inside the courtroom, the prosecution felt an icy chill.


Normally when you walk into a courtroom during a murder trial, it's very divided. I walked into that courtroom and everybody was on Fred's side, Leslie's family included. Was that daunting to you at all?


I wouldn't say daunting. It was certainly unique. But we had to stay focused on what we thought, what we needed to do. We believe that the defendant is responsible for his wife's murder.


It would all come down to two competing versions of what happened here. Fred story. Leslie accidentally went over this cliff and was swept away by the current or the prosecutions that Fred was lying to cover up Leslie's murder.


Two people went on a hike and only one person came back.


The prosecution began its case with testimony about Fred's behavior that day. They called Jennifer Sparks, whose house Fred drove to looking for help.


Did you observe him become emotional at any time? No.


She told the jury Fred's lack of emotion concerned her. What conversation did you have with your husband at that time? I told him something's not right. Be careful.


Her husband, Justin, testified that Fred's demeanor seemed staged as they drove together to look for Leslie.


Just it sounded like somebody was crying, but there were there were no tears. He acted like he was very, very upset. And then a few seconds later, he'd act like we were kind of buddies driving down the road in the car.


The prosecution had hoped to bring the jury up to Cottonwood Creek, but in January, the terrain was virtually impassable with snow and ice. So it was up to the prosecutors to set the scene and show why they thought Fred's story defied common sense and science injuries are going to tell you a story.


And Leslie Muller was drowned by her husband. Solemnly swear or affirm. Prosecutors called Michael Gola the first trained rescuer on the scene.


I'm asking him what happened. Tell me how what happened. And he relates that she apparently had fallen off of a waterfall.


Fred told Golove the same thing. He told investigators he'd watched Leslie Swan dive off the cliff, hitting granite before sliding into the water. All of a sudden, I was struck with the fact that this didn't there was no trauma. Did you see any blood on Leslie Muller? There was no deformities. There was no blood.


Even Leslie's clothing seemed unscathed.


You notice any markings? Tear scrapes on the jacket, on the coat.


There was none. It was remarkably pristine.


The pathologist who performed Leslie's autopsy was also surprised by the lack of injuries to her body. Did you observe any injuries to Mrs. Muller that were consistent with breaking a fall?


No, I did not observe any consistent with falling on her head and shoulders off a cliff on the granite as described.


You know, and what's more, investigators found no forensic evidence that Leslie ever hit that rock.


There's no fibers on this rock. There was no blood on this rock. There's no hairlines rock.


This is a very unique case in the sense that the evidence is lack of evidence. There's no evidence that's the tough part of the case.


What we have is a lot of evidence that what the defendant said is impossible.


And here was the heart of the prosecution's case. Those tests investigators conducted up at the creek test, they said, proved Fred's story was a lie.


They showed the jury the video of those tests, pointing out in one how the female stand in wasn't swept downstream. And in another, the mannequin wasn't washed over the waterfall and eventually sank to the bottom. Are you seeing any sliding of the mannequin into the water? No. Washing our music? No.


The prosecution's drowning expert was blunt to her. Fred's story was pure fiction.


The water. There's nothing in that environment water wise that could have gotten her to that spot. A human being had to physically put a body in that position.


So what really happened in court? The prosecution could only hint at the dramatic story. The sheriff told us his theory of a struggle, a chase and a drowning.


Well, there were no wind. It says for any of that, so it never actually was presented as evidence, but an investigator who searched the area where Fred said Leslie fell did testify about finding Fred's broken glasses.


This side was broken. The left hand side was sticking in the dirt.


Did you see any anything on the ground? Four foot from the glasses. There were what appeared to be scuff marks, as if somebody had slipped and had moved the dirt.


And on the stand, this witness, the coroner, those are the gloves that Leslie was wearing, tried to connect those scratches on Fred's face to the plastic bumps or nubbins on Leslie's gloves.


To me, those plastic nubbins are a lot more consistent with the scratch marks on Mr. Muller space than branches and twigs.


However, after a defense objection, the judge ruled the coroner statement conjecture and told the jury to disregard it.


So even though the prosecutors were not allowed to tell the jury how they thought the murder happened, they still had a theory to present for the why they were high school sweethearts.


He had never abused her to anyone's knowledge. He had no life insurance policy out on her that he was trying to collect.


What is the motive? Fred was telling people, one being an employee of his, another being a close friend, that in fact, the marriage had gone stale, that there was the same old same old between he and Leslie, and that he did have a wandering eye.


And according to the prosecution, his eye had wandered here and we were very good friends. Jeannie Barnes, Fred's former assistant, testified that Fred called and texted her a lot outside of work.


Did that ever make you uncomfortable? A little bit.


And once Fred talked to her about Leslie and divorce, he had just kind of mentioned that their interest had kind of grown apart.


So according to the prosecution team, Fred picked an idyllic spot in the middle of nowhere to find a way out of his marriage and then concocted the story of her fall as a cover to people went up.


One came back. And we've only got her story and we know that story is false through and through. The defendant has asked people to believe what is impossible. Impossible, but Fred's lawyers were about to turn the state's case on its head, those tests at Cottonwood Creek. In fact, any so-called evidence of murder just didn't hold water at all.


Defense experts tell the jury that the way Leslie died is absolutely clear.


What was it in my opinion? That's what I would have put on the death certificate. For three cold Colorado weeks as prosecutors laid out their case for murder, Fred Mueller's defense attorney, Roger Segal, sat by his side.


How was Fred feeling throughout the trial? He was nervous. His life was on the line. It was tense. There's no doubt about it. It was stressful.


Fred's children found it especially hard.


It was the worst experience you can imagine, the worst day of your life. Imagine that being analyzed by a room full of people and drug out publicly and scrutinized your personal, private tragedy.


Being exposed to the world and picked apart to the siblings each day in court felt like an unrelenting attack against their family and their father. You can't react.


You can't say anything. You just have to sit there and take it and watch them say all these horrible accusations about my dad.


You're looking for one person to stand up and say like, this is this is preposterous. This entire there is no evidence. He's a he's a good guy. He's never shown any history of violence. And, you know, and it was his wife, for goodness sake. And can we just let's we're stopping this again.


Now, Fred's lawyers were ready to push back. Defense counsel Mike DeGuerin told the jurors there was an obvious rush to judgment that contaminated the entire investigation.


Kind of an evil suspicion from the get go.


First responder Michael Golab testified that neighbor Justin Sparks started making accusatory comments while they were still trying to revive Leslie.


Justin at one point turned to me and said something along the lines of I never trusted that S.O.P.


I think that the suspicion started with Mr. Sparks and never stopped.


You think it was somewhat of a snowball effect? Yeah, I do.


And even though Ghaleb was a prosecution witness, he admitted he personally didn't find anything odd about Fred's behavior that day.


He just kind of seemed to have trouble focusing, to seem panicked. Everyone deals with tragedy different. I felt in the context it seemed appropriate.


But what about that important evidence against Fred, the apparent lack of injuries on Leslie's body?


Did you wonder at all why your mom didn't have more injuries as as some people feel she should? I don't know. No, you can't say what people are supposed to, which was bundled up.


She was in cold water. We've thought about this more than anyone should ever think about what their mother's body did after she died.


The defense called its own forensic expert, veteran pathologist Werner Spitz.


He testified there were some injuries, bruising on her hand and an apparent small skull fracture that no one else had highlighted.


If you look carefully at this, you would see that there is an area here that is not like it should be.


After looking at the medical examiner's report and Leslie's X-rays, Dr. Spitz said there was no evidence this was a homicide.


But what they did, in my opinion, I think that's what I would have put on the death certificate.


A veteran emergency room doctor backed up Spitz's conclusion, saying not all falls are catastrophic.


I don't see how you could rule out a fall from from any of the circumstances or injuries that I've seen.


And then it was time to counter all those prosecution water tests, the backbone of the state's case. The defense saw major problems with those tests and called its own water expert, a hydrologist who had been measuring current flows for forty years, increase of stream flow. And as a general rule, that increased the stream flow comes in the late afternoon and evening.


The defense expert pointed out that water in the mountains changes constantly.


And in 2008, the year Leslie died, there was more snowmelt than usual.


Was 2008 a high water year? It was a tremendously high water year. Those prosecution tests were done more than a year later and in a different season, not spring, but summer, when the creek's water level is usually lower, the flows on August 4th and 5th 09 were less than the streamflow was on May 3rd and May 4th, 08.


All that so-called evidence that proved Fred's story was impossible. The defense said it was useless.


The testing that you do in 2009 is not necessarily going to be reflective of what did or did not happen in 2008. The bottoms of the creek changes. The walls of the creek can change this erosion up creek. And you can see it as the more times you go up there, you can see every time it seemed a little bit different.


And the defense attacked the state's expert for what it said was another flaw with the mannequin test did not start that test with the mannequin falling from the ledge, right?


Absolutely not. And therefore, your testing did not account for any kinetic energy that would have been initiated from the fall, correct? That's correct.


And what about Froud story? A jumpy dog distracted by a blue jay and a swan dive toward the rocky water.


The defense said it was the truth and not at all far fetched.


It is steep and angular.


There's ice on the rocks. It's slippery.


So it seemed perfectly plausible that she had fallen and floated.


The defense brought in a canine behavior expert who analyzed that last photo of Leslie and said the young border collie looks spooked and ready to bolt.


The dog is under stress, the dog is pushing back, or he's pushing back from Mrs. Mueller. She's trying to control him with with the ear pinch. And the dog is looking totally off in another direction to the defense.


It was clear Fred's story was entirely plausible and the prosecution's was not. Why would he do this?


Why would a guy who was married for 27 years with no history of violence, no history of any sort of domestic disputes, all of a sudden decide on his vacation that he was going to murder his wife with his bare hands? I mean, it just seems that part of the case seems so far fetched.


Friend after friend arrived from Texas to support Fred, even his in-laws took the stand for Leslie's own mother. Jenny vouched for her former son in law's character.


All those years, any signs of Fred being abusive or violent to Leslie? No, I never saw a son of Fred being violent to anyone.


And each of Fred's children also face the jury to tell them about their parents long and happy marriage. Ariel described one nightly routine.


Mom and dad would walk to the pond that was in front of our house, got 200 yards holding hands, may be out there for thirty minutes or an hour while the sun would be setting.


Amanda recalled how devastated her father was in the wake of her mother's death.


I know he wasn't sleeping while he was stay in bed a lot during the day. He cried all the time.


Also, the colors and Alex's testimony brought out an emotional response from Fred in court. Did you ever see your dad able to get over it? No, I'm looking at him right now and he's not over.


But what about Fred's former assistant, the woman who'd given prosecutors a semblance of motive? In fact, during cross-examination, the assistant said Fred and his wife showed affection for each other all the time.


She would if he was at his desk, she would come in, she goes straight to his desk, she give him a kiss and she would go back to her desk in the back.


The absolute bottom line is there was no affair with Ginny Barnes and Fred did not kill his wife and he certainly did not kill his wife or Janie Barnes.


The defense was sure it had shown the jury who Fred really was, the people who knew him best said no way in the world could he have killed his wife.


But now it was up to 12 people who didn't know Fred at all to decide whether he did, waiting for a verdict.


The longer it took, the more we were getting nervous. And then a bombshell.


I was almost in tears. After a contentious five week long trial, the murder case against Fred Muller finally went to the jury. What was it like waiting for that so important verdict?


Butterflies? Yeah, we were all nervous, but we were also I think we were all pretty confident in our gut that there's no way that he will not be acquitted. Day one of deliberations came and went without a verdict as the waiting spilled into day two, the defense and prosecution agreed on one thing that is the toughest time of the trial as the waiting.


You're literally in this holding pattern. That's the worst part of any trial, just not knowing what the result was going to be.


Sheriff Bruce was back in his Lake City office waiting by that photo of Leslie.


I had no concerns. I mean, I was just we were going through the process and then and then I'll admit a little. I question why it was taking so long, because I thought we had a I wasn't a slam dunk, but I thought we had a solid case at the courthouse.


The jury was still out three days, no decision.


The longer it took, the more we were getting nervous because it seems so clear. It seemed obvious.


It was the fourth day of deliberations when the jurors sent out a note. Everyone gathered in the courtroom to hear what they had to say.


We are at an impasse. The judge offered them lunch and asked for one more try.


Freds future was in their hands. Jurors for the jury. Ten minutes later, they passed on the free food. And we're back.


Ladies and gentlemen, I do have another note from you folks. And it indicates that we are deadlocked hopelessly.


So the judge had no real choice. He declared a mistrial.


It was extremely disappointing. And we strongly disappointed because it was not the not the answer that we thought we deserved, that we did deserve.


Mostly, I felt for Fred, you know, ultimately it's his life that's on trial. And so I felt sad for him that we couldn't get this resolved for him in the form of an acquittal.


In fact, the defense had been very close. 11 of the 12 jurors voted not guilty.


I heard the jury vote. I was almost in tears and I thought, how did they miss how did they miss what we were trying to say after the mistrial?


The defense argued for his release on bond and the judge granted it.


I just I can't wait to be able to give him a hug and just talk to him whenever I want.


Now, one full year after losing his freedom, Fred was going to get out of jail. His daughters and new wife, Wendy, gather to embrace him.


And son Alex, who was traveling, called in for an update.


So we're all at the jail right now, just waiting for your dad who signs that hadn't given him a hug in a year.


We haven't been able to see him in person in a year.


Hey, guys, you have great. I love you guys. It was so wonderful to get that hug that we waited for.


Do you remember what you said to him? I love you. I love you. I love you. Go home. When's the last flight out?


Come on. Let's go home. It was so emotional. It was we were all so excited. We finally got to take Dad home.


Home to Texas, but for how long, Fred was only out on bond, he still was charged with murder and had the threat of a retrial hanging over his head.


We were extremely hopeful that they could change their minds and decide not to go forward again. We're really hoping for that more than just hoping.


In fact, the family actually met with prosecutors and lobbied against another trial, did that way into whether to go to a second trial at all?


The fact that this entire family, Leslie's family included, did not want.


A trial? Absolutely, we have to consider their position. We have to consider where they're coming from.


Then one part of the decision was made for them. The judge threw out the most serious charge, first degree murder. Why the judge ruled prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to establish premeditation.


We did manage to get an acquittal in the first degree murder charge.


Prosecutors could still move ahead with second degree murder, but would they say that 11 to one vote surely made a retrial daunting?


Eleven to one is not a great outcome for the prosecution's perspective.


But the prosecutor spoke to some of those jurors and found out to many of them not guilty didn't mean innocent.


And kind of behind those numbers were a group of people who, by and large, felt that something had happened here, that Fred Mueller was not telling the truth.


Prosecutors weighed it all and made their decision. Fred would stand trial for murder again.


I remember having a moment thinking I can't do this again. And my mom always would be like a gun. I do it. And I felt like she was going to be fine. And it's going to be like your mom was kind of guiding her head. She was always kind of like, you can do it.


But the second trial would by no means be a carbon copy of the first with new attorneys and new witnesses. Both sides hope that this time they'd see a different result. The defense comes out swinging, what the prosecution asks you to believe is that Fred Muller went from this to a homicidal maniac within seconds, but then a defense witness says something that might do Fred more harm than good. Fred is very successful. He could sell anything. What jurors think Fred had sold everyone a lie about what happened to Leslie.


October 2013 felt like a grim Groundhog Day, Fred, again in court, his family supporting him from the gallery.


Did you feel at all like, OK, we know how this works now? We're a little stronger this time around. I did feel that way. We can cut out the extraneous stuff and really focus on that. But no case.


But there were differences from the first trial to ensure an untainted jury pool. The case had been moved northeast to suburban Denver, more than 250 miles away from Cottonwood Creek.


And the evidence in this case is that Leslie Mueller did not fall off a cliff, this time from the prosecution. Jurors heard a streamlined version of events and how, according to the St. Fred Mueller told a story that defied logic.


Like most murders, this one is hard to explain. Doesn't make sense. Does it make sense how and why this could happen?


The witnesses to that awful day again came forward. Neighbor Jennifer Sparks again told how she thought Fred was acting strangely when he pulled up to her house. And she added this new detail.


He was putting my dog when he was squatted down, petting the dog was right here and he was just petting the time she felt that the defendant's demeanor was was oddly calm, that he bent down and petted the dog.


She felt like his demeanor was was misplaced for the prosecution.


This trial was a second chance to explain to the jury how Fred story didn't match up with the landscape.


This area was not vast. It wasn't huge. It was it was actually quite tight and it was actually quite small and making the defendant's statement impossible.


Our primary goal in the second trial was to get that jury to the scene.


The judge considered a visit to Cottonwood Creek, but ruled it was too expensive and impractical to bring the jury that far.


Not being able to do that, we did our best in the second trial to bring the scene to the jury.


This second jury had a new 3-D model of Cottonwood Creek to examine and fresh testimony to consider that apparent small skull fracture of Leslie's that the defense highlighted in the first trial. No way, said the state's new witness, who was an expert in reading X-rays.


Could you determine that there's any evidence of a fall from 20 feet onto a hard granite surface? I didn't see any evidence of that kind. I didn't see any other charges. Prosecutors hammered home their key points, Leslie had no injuries from a fall and tests showed she could not have floated downstream, as Fred said she did, just doesn't seem as a likely scenario.


So they argued Fred must have drowned her right where she was found right after a violent struggle.


It was our intention to streamline the second trial as much as possible and focus in on the critical points of the case.


But Fred Mueller also changed things up in this trial. He hired a new powerhouse, attorney, Pamela Mackey, who had a roster of high profile clients like Kobe Bryant.


And what the prosecution asks you to believe is that Fred Mueller went from this.


To a homicidal maniac. Within seconds, Fred's new lawyer argued that the state's case was beyond flimsy, their theory that because Leslie Muller did not suffer any significant injuries in her fall from the ledge.


Fred Mueller must have drowned her.


That's their case, they won't give you the why of that theory, they won't give you the how the defense again criticized the prosecution's recreations and told this jury there was no way anyone could know for sure what the water flow and depth were on the day Leslie died.


If someone measured the actual stream flow of Cottonwood Creek within days or a week of the incident, it would have been informative.


And several new defense witnesses took the stand. There was a biomechanical engineer who examined the mannequin used in this test.


Well, frankly, I mean, it it's not even right to call it testing.


According to the defense's new expert, the state's test had a big flaw. That dummy couldn't sink or float in water the same way a human does. In fact, it wasn't even designed for this sort of experiment.


As far as buoyancy is concerned, it is not a scientific instrument for determining that.


So it's the wrong tool for scientifically probing.


And this time the defense brought in a memory expert to explain away possible holes in Fred's story. The experts said extremely stressful situations can play tricks with memories. So maybe Fred didn't actually see Leslie fall on her head as he said he did.


False memories happened to us all the time. That's not a lie. It's just a memory that happens to be incorrect.


But no expert could help the jurors understand how Fred truly felt about his wife of almost 27 years to wrap up their case. The defense brought up Fred's family to talk about how happy the mullahs had been.


Did you observe anything that led you to believe that your folks were having difficulty in their marriage?


No, never.


Leslie's mother, Ginny, again defended Fred.


I've always had a good relationship with Fred, but the prosecution's ears perked up when she offered a new detail about her son in law.


Fred. Fred is very successful. He could sell anything. He's a wonderful salesman.


In final statements, the prosecutor used those words against Fred.


What we learned about the defendant yesterday is that he can sell anything, but he can't sell you the impossible. From our perspective.


That's what he tried to do as a he tried to sell the emergency responders, CBI, the sheriff's office. And and quite frankly, these you know, these juries tried to sell something, a story that was just simply impossible.


Could this jury rise to the challenge and once and for all make sense of what happened at Cottonwood Creek? Jurors get the case, either you believe crazy story, A, that she fell off that cliff, the three waterfalls where you believe crazy story B, that Fred, who has no history of violence, killed his wife. Both stories are crazy. Which one do you want to go on? It took more than five years, dozens of witnesses and hundreds of pieces of evidence in two Colorado courtrooms to get to this moment again, 12 men and women were trying to decide if Leslie Muller was murdered or a victim of a freak accident.


We all agreed that the accident, the fall was completely crazy. And I just kept thinking, well, crazy things happen in life all the time.


We spoke to seven of the 12 jurors. Either you believe crazy story A, that she fell off that cliff, three waterfalls or you believe crazy story. B, that Fred, who has no history of violence, killed his wife. Both stories are crazy. Which one do you want to go with?


What were the key pieces of evidence for you or the lack thereof? Lack of injuries? You felt that she should have had more injuries? Absolutely.


I mean, tied to fall 15 to 20 feet into a granite platform base, first to go down headfirst, down three waterfalls and be pulled out and be described as pristine.


At one point in time, we all said, all right, let's go see who he thinks he's lying and we all raise his hands. OK, we convicted him of lying. Right.


All right. The question beyond that was my question is, if we don't believe his story, does that make him guilty? He is not on trial for lying. He's on trial for murder.


And I need to know how and why the jurors wondered where was the evidence that Fred drowned her if he really did kill her? Prosecutors never provided any clear explanation of how he did it.


There was no evidence to put him down at the recovery site. There were no footprints in the snow and there was no defensive wounds on her. If there was a scuffle, I would think she would have some bruises.


She would have fought back. They pored over technical testimony about water in the creek. To them, that flood of data and expert testimony was a complete wash.


Can bring all the experts in and all the water tests. And it's just pointless because they'll always poke a hole in it because it wasn't done.


May 3rd, 2008, like the jury before them, this group's first day of deliberations ended without a verdict.


As the deliberations took longer and longer, it became clear that we needed to be nervous again.


While Sheriff Bruce felt more confident than ever this time around, I slept well, I ate well.


I went about the rest of my normal duties work here without a whole lot concerned about it and just expect that phone call to come in to say regarding the 12 jurors returned the next morning determined to make a fresh start.


Was anyone here consistently thinking about Leslie, the mother, the wife, the doctor?


We had all the pictures up and everything. And I made the comment like, Leslie, talk to me, say something, because she can't speak, right. She needed us.


After two days of intense debate, the 12 jurors thought they were done. They sent out a note and the judge called everyone into the courtroom.


Ladies and gentlemen, you have sent me a final note indicating that you do not believe that you can reach a verdict that. Mr. Foreperson, is that correct? That's correct. OK, I am going to declare the jury deadlock in this case hopelessly deadlocked.


A second jury unable to say for sure Fred Muller had killed his wife or not.


When you hear those two words, again, hung jury, absolutely crushing disappointment again on both sides.


Do you ever look back and think, you know, maybe we shouldn't have done this? It wasn't there from the beginning?


Absolutely not. No. Both these trials were more worthy of prosecution. A woman was murdered and both the efforts were more than worth it.


So how close was the jury's vote this time? Eight jurors believed Fred was guilty and four voted to acquit.


I have too many questions that are unanswered. Therefore, I have reasonable doubt. We just couldn't come to agreement. You know, I was steadfast, guilty, and he was steadfast, not guilty. And we tried to get everybody's impression of what happened or what they thought.


The prosecutors wondered, could one decision by the judge have changed at all to this day?


I believe that had either one of these jurors been able to go to that scene, perhaps it would have been a different result.


And then three weeks after the second mistrial, an announcement, the state dropped all charges against Fred Mueller.


When we finally got the news, it was it was like overwhelming with joy. We finally can rest at ease and my dad can move on with his life and we can finally just move on and relax.


Fred and his wife Wendy returned to Texas, where Fred still ran his thriving business in Colorado. The case officially remains open without any further.


Taxation without any further witnesses that could come forward to provide some new bit of evidence at this point, the case is just simply remains open.


So Fred will essentially have this hanging over his head potentially forever. At this point, the case remains open.


Fred told us he's well aware of this legal limbo. He said he wanted to do an interview with Dateline, but is concerned that anything he says could be distorted by the prosecutors and investigators who still believe he did something wrong. Leslie, got to make the case still haunts Ron Bruce. He kept a picture of Leslie in his office until the day he retired. When he packed up his things, that photo came with him.


I think it was just the magnitude of the terrible tragedy that stuck with me and will stay with me the rest of my life.


You get teary eyed when you talk about this woman you've never even met, correct? There's not even a member of your family. I do. What is this connection you feel with her?


I don't have an explanation for this. I can't I can't put a finger on it. But certainly it it does truly haunt me. Yeah, I feel like I let her down.


Leslie's family chooses to remember her vividly, not as a victim, but as a cherished wife and mother. They lost too soon. We don't want people to forget about how wonderful of a person she was before the accident and all the great things that she did, all the babies she delivered and live, she said. Great, great person. With a vacation home, the Mueller's once loved, long sold, they are making new memories as a family far from Colorado and in those magnificent Rockies, seasons change, waters rise and fall.


And some believe the secrets of Cottonwood Creek will remain a mystery forever. 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.