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Tonight on Dateline.


I have spent 20 years trying to forget. I had to be completely silent. How do you live with that kind of a guilt and not just completely crumble?


We get a phone call. He says, have you seen Sherry? No. What do you mean, have you seen Sherry? We're like, hey, where's mom? He just. She went to the store.


Cousins are having their big sleepover. Yes.


She's got the kids. She would never leave. They tell me they had a body in a van in a parking lot.


She was fed. She was in my back.


You start trying to put the pieces together.


His alibi are in children that are sitting in the kitchen. I thought that I had a couple memories before, but I don't know if they're real or not. Cherry's youngest was three. And she says, mommy, why doesn't daddy love you anymore? Daddy loves Jennifer.


Jennifer was the biggest puzzle piece we had. Who needed Sherry to be gone more? I was petrified.


A knife under your pillow, under our mattress head.


We're not playing anymore. It's time to tell the truth.


Once you make that bad decision, there's no going back.


A mom disappears during a children's sleepover. A mystery where the youngest witness is just three years old. I'm Lester Holt, and this is Dateline. Here's Andrea Canning with the sleepover.


Run. Run. Childhood memories can be so joyful, vivid, but also elusive. Hi, Jara. I've thought that I had a couple memories before, but I don't know if they're real or not. You know, especially as time passes. Don't worry about the kids. They won't remember. But they did. And those memories would end up tearing a family apart.


I've got a lot of anger in my heart right now that I'm trying to deal with.


I'm ready whenever he is. I love him so much. It seems that you two should be talking. Our story begins with happy memories in sunny Pensacola, Florida, home of powdery white beaches, clear turquoise waters, and the navy's blue angels. It was the navy that brought Sherry and Greg Malleric to Pensacola. They both worked air traffic control at the local naval station. Friday, September 21, 2001 was a busy night for the Malloricks, a blended family with five kids. Jacob was eleven at the time. Were you really excited that night? I know your cousins were coming over. You were having the big sleepover.


Yeah, we were super excited. Some are playing video games, some are eating. It's just kids being loud and playing.


Tara. Jacob was the oldest. His sister Tara, the baby of the family. I really enjoyed having a lot of siblings and especially older brothers. So it was always like good protection and built in best friends. Yeah, for sure. I mean, my gosh, all those boys watching over you.


I felt like I was meant to be an older brother. So my siblings, throughout my life I've been very protective of, and I feel very protective of them.


Jacob's aunt Tina, his mom's sister, dropped off two of her kids at the house. She and her husband were off to celebrate his promotion at a big military ball. My husband made chief in the navy, so it was two for one. We were on a date. They're having cousin night out. So this was a big, huge, giant deal. Jacob says his mom was inside with the kids while his stepdad Greg was out in the backyard.


I remember Greg just kind of poking his head in, something along the lines like calling for my mom to come outside and she responded like, in a minute, whatever.


As the kids were sitting down to eat, his mom stepped out of the house. After a short while, she doesn't come back in.


No. I don't remember if it was me or my brother. Were like, hey, where's mom? And she went to the store.


A quick run for some milk, but it was taking a long time. Too long. Hours passed. Still no sherry. Tina and Jeff Leak were already back from the ball. Their phone rang shortly after 11:00 p.m. It was Greg and he says Sherry's missing. Where did he say where she had gone? He didn't know. She went for milk, maybe to the store. I was like, I'll come get the kids. He's like, no, they're in bed. Tina and Jeff went back to sleep, assuming the mystery of Sherry's late night errand would be cleared up by the morning. Greg continued making calls, including to the police, city police. Jackie? Hi, my name is Greg Malerick.


My wife is a little late getting back and I was wondering if you had any kind of accident reports this evening?


Not with injuries, no. Where would she be coming from?


I have no idea. She left and she didn't say where she was going after she went to the store.


And then we got the call at six in the morning saying she never came. So is that where you start to panic? Yes. So my husband and I were going to go look for her. He gets up, starts getting dressed. I call home, I call my mama, I call my sister, start praying. Sherry didn't come home. Tina's husband Jeff jumped into action. This is serious now.


I'm going to go and look for Sherry. I grab my gun, and I go looking.


So where do you go?


I started going down back roads.


Sherry drove a red Dodge caravan. Jeff searched for hours. It was around 08:00 a.m. When he spotted something.


I looked at the wind Dixie park lot, and there's a van.


A red van?


Yes, ma'am. Red van. I drove around, came to the back of her van and.


Are you just feeling really uneasy at this point? Why is her van here?


Right. I'm thinking that, what is. I don't see her. So I'm thinking that maybe she was robbed. She's missing. And so I walked from my van up here, and when I got to the van, I looked in, and I saw her. Started frantically beating on the window. Sherry. Sherry. And I saw blood. I ran around, opened up the driver's door because the passenger door was locked. I touched her. She was cold. I'm shaking her.




Sherry. I ran around. When I unlocked the passenger door, I opened up. And there was no doubt in my mind at that point that she was gone. I'm like, sherry, what happened? Military instinct kicked in. I yelled with someone, called 911.


Sheriff's department. 911. What is your emergency?


Yes, ma'am. My sister in law.


Pardon me.


My sister in law is dead now.


As Jeff waited for first responders, all he could think about were Sherry's kids.


It was, oh, my God. How am I going to tell her family?


A family shattered in an instant and memories of a night that would remain shrouded in mystery for decades. Sherry Malerick had apparently run out for an errand in the middle of a family party and never came back. Her brother in law Jeff found her. How does Sherry end up dead in this parking lot?


That was a good question. And I told the sheriff's department, I have no idea. I'm sitting on my desk that morning, and they tell me that they got a body out on us. 29.


Budy Nie Smith, a detective with the Escambia County Sheriff's office, arrived at the scene the morning after Sherry disappeared. What do you see when you arrive?


Police cars. The marked cars. And then as I get closer, I see some crime scene tape cordoned off around a red van.


Then he saw Sherry. Not in the driver's seat, but on the passenger side.


I just peek in. I see the body crumpled in the passenger floorboard.


So she slumped down.


Yep. Kind of pushed down.


As the forensic team began to gather evidence, the detective started his investigation. He learned Sherry was an air traffic controller in the navy. Did she have that nerves of steel kind of personality that she could handle that?


Oh, yes, ma'am. When she went to work, she was dead on. She was focused. She was take charge.


The navy was in Sherry's DNA. Raised in a military family, she was determined to be successful from a young age. Dee Dee Scott is Sherry and Tina's youngest sister. She was very active in anything and everything she could do, whether it's being a president of the french club, national honor society. She was in a lot. It carried over into her naval career and she was very driven. She had Jacob when she was 23. She balanced her navy career and duties as a single mom.


What I remember most about my mom is one, she was always happy. She loved to dance. And for me, I feel like she was meant to be a mother. She was very good at her job. She was professional when she was at work. But I never felt like I wasn't loved. I never felt like I wasn't cared for.


But her single mom days ended soon after she received orders to go to Bermuda, where she met Greg Malerick. Jacob remembers taking to Greg quickly.


He'd pick me up from daycare and we'd go fishing. I mean, everything was good. I have really fond memories from back then.


Sherry's family met Greg when he and Sherry returned to the States. So he's in a rock band and he's in the navy. Yes. And I think that she found that attractive.


He looked to me like Henry Winkler. I thought, he's the fonz. When I first, and I was like, looking at him, looks like the Fonz. But he had the leather jacket, so he played the part.


Yeah, well, some ladies, they fall for the rock star.


Yes, ma'am. Right.


Sherry and Greg got married in the summer of 94. Greg had a son, too, named Greg. And in the next several years, they welcomed three more children. She wanted to be a mom. She was super sacrificial to her children. They came first. Sherry was a hands on mom, but their dad, Greg, had to take over caring for five kids on his own. When she was deployed to Greece, she intentionally chose Greece because she would be gone for one year and she'd be back without having to uproot and move the entire family, schools, jobs, everything. It was just easier for her to leave for a year and come back. A sacrifice she thought was best for her family. After her long deployment, she was excited to be back home in Florida. So I had my sister back, family reunited. It was pretty perfect. But the family reunion was short lived. Nearly five months later, that cousin's sleepover ended with the tragic discovery. I got a call from the EMS or first responders. You know, they said, we're with your husband in the Winnixie parking lot. That's not a good sign. It's not. We're on the way to the hospital.


That is not a good sign. Tina rushed to the parking lot with her 16 year old son. I get there, and my husband, he's crying. He's shaking his head, like. And I could tell by the expression on his face that she was gone. We pull over, crime scene tape everywhere. Ambulance. My son, he's like, where's Aunt Sherry? I said, she's in her vehicle. Why aren't they helping her? I'm like, oh, meefo. Oh, God. He just lunged me, and his body shook. So his body just shook. Tina was looking at her sister's van, but couldn't bear to get too close. You just stayed away. I didn't want that vision of Sherry. How do you notify the rest of the family? I called Dee Dee. I get the phone call, and she says, sherry's gone. And I just dropped to my niece. I dropped in disbelief. As crime scene techs worked over Sherry's van, detective nie Smith had a million questions. Anything could have happened. Anyone could have killed her.




You just don't have any idea yet.


No. We don't know who's seen her last. I haven't been able to do a timeline on her. I don't know.


Detective Nismith headed to talk to the people who might be able to answer those questions. Sherry's husband and all those kids. But someone else was there the night she went missing. There's a knock on the door. I scream because it's dark outside. Join hoda Codby for a brand new season of her podcast, making space. I feel this season is more personal to me. Uplifting conversations with television host Maria menounum, the Office star, and author Rain Wilson, and more. All of our guests provide something special, every single one. Come with me on this journey, and I promise you'll leave stronger than when you started. All episodes of season four of making space with Hoda Kappi are available now wherever you get your podcasts.


Hey, guys. Willie geist here, reminding you to check out the Sunday sit down podcast on this week's episode. It's a big one. I get together with music sensation Olivia Rodrigo as she releases the follow up album to a debut that earned three grammys. With hits like driver's license, good for you, and deja vu, making her an international superstar. You can get our conversation for free wherever you download your podcasts.


After learning her sister Sherry was dead, Tina's focus immediately turned to the kids, still together after their family sleepover. Your heart must have immediately broken for Sherry's children, correct? Tina brought them over to her house, but waited to break the news while Sherry's husband Greg headed to the sheriff's office to talk with Detective Nismith.


This interview is strictly a fact finding interview. I wanted to know step by step what happened.


Greg told him that earlier that day, their van was overheating. So while Sherry and the kids were in the house, he was tinkering with it.


He had a shed in the back and said he pulled the van back there and was just checking everything out under the hood. He said, next she come out and told him that I'm grinding. I'll be right back.


Greg said she took the van around 730. After a while, it dawned on him that his wife hadn't returned. Another hour passed before he told the kids to call it a night.


Got them in bed, the youngest ones. And then he started calling because she hadn't come back.


While Greg was at the station, a different investigator came to speak to the kids at Tina's house.


We had to talk to the cops and give these kind of statements.


Jacob described how his mom went outside in the middle of dinner and didn't come back. His ten year old cousin Lisa talked to the police, too. Did you notice that she didn't come back within the hour? I mean? Well, no. Me and Tara playing Barbies in the corner, so we're doing our own thing. Lisa said she did notice when, a little while later, someone arrived at the house. There's a knock on the door. I scream because it's dark outside. Why did the knock scare know we're playing? The boys are on the other side of the wall playing their games. It's pitch black. Did you know who was at the door? No, I didn't know at the time, no. But Jacob knew it was just their babysitter, Jennifer. The kids went to get their dad, who came out to talk to her. She was there to return a lawnmower she'd borrowed.


Jennifer left, and it was. Hey, it's time to start getting ready for bed.


As Jacob was helping get the younger kids to bed, he overheard his stepfather talking in the living room and sensed something was wrong.


And I just hear him, like, on the phone, kind of making rapid kind of phone calls.


What's he saying?


I couldn't really hear him.


Once the investigator was done interviewing the kids, Tina gathered them around. It was time to tell them what happened to Sherry. I asked him, where's the very best place to be? My daughter started crying. She knew what that meant. I was like, heaven. Aunt Sherry, your mama, she's in heaven.


Immediately, I just kind of went numb. I felt numb for a while afterwards.


Immediately, I knew she was gone. She was looking at my bag when.


I started crying, because I knew what was going on.


Tierra's only three, so she doesn't understand what's going on. Tiara was sitting there, and she's wiping everybody's tears off their face.


She has no idea.


And she was so little. Right? What was she, three years old? I really just didn't understand what was happening. I knew that mom was gone, and I've heard that. I kept asking, like, when is mom coming home? Your mom's there one night, and the next morning, she's gone, right? By now, the investigation was in full swing. The medical examiner determined Sherry was shot twice in the head, but they only found one shell casing wadded up in her clothes.


Appears to be a 25.


You found a casing and a fragment?


Casing and a fragment.


Are you thinking that meant she was shot in the van?


Yes. I fully believe everything happened in the van. From the blood evidence that I saw.


Sherry's rings were missing, and her Cb radio was gone from the van. But it was the position of the body that was most noteworthy to the detective. Pushed down, like you felt like someone had.


Oh, there's no doubt somebody had pushed her down. The body's not normally crumbled like that.


To keep her out of sight.


Yes. Yeah. That was a concealment to the detective.


It did not look like a random crime. Sherry was targeted. She had just spent a year abroad. He wondered if her murder could be connected to Greece somehow.


We interviewed all her co workers and stuff from Greece. She was a loner there. She didn't do a whole lot there. There's no other in her.


Like, did she maybe meet someone in Greece? A colleague that came back to the states came back.


That turned up negative.


There didn't seem to be anyone else in Sherry's life. But there was a secret she shared only with her sister, Tina. Could it be the key to solving the case? Everything. She told me in confidence. She didn't want me to tell anybody, but she said, so can I tell it now? Mother and Navy petty officer Sherry Mallerick had been found shot to death in her family's minivan back in 2001. There were no security cameras covering the grocery store parking lot. But Detective Buddy Neesmith found something that might be just as good. An eyewitness.


I ran across a guy. He worked in Windixie. And so when he got in, he had heard arguing, and when he turned, he could see the shadow of people. They were arguing.


It was a man and a woman. She was in the van. But he didn't get a good look at their faces.


When we started talking to him about description and all that, he couldn't tell other than it was a white male.


Could he tell who the other person?




The detective didn't know if the fight the worker had seen involved Sherry or not. His investigation moved from the parking lot back to the Mallory's house. He wanted to know more about Sherry and Greg. Sometimes the simplest answer is the right one.


Yeah. You know the old kiss method. Keep it simple, stupid.


Simple as in look at the husband? That wasn't a thought that occurred to Sherry's brother in law Jeff, after he found her in the van. Your gut reaction was not the spouse did it.




My brother in law, no.


I would have never thought he had done that.


But there was something about the relationship that Jeff didn't know. You learned something about Greg?


Yes. Rumor. Greg was having an affair with another woman named Jennifer.


Jennifer was Jennifer spone. She worked in the same building as Greg on the naval base. She was also the part time babysitter who showed up with a lawn mower the night of the murder. Their affair began when Sherry was on deployment in Greece and Greg was home with the kids in Florida.


Originally, when she started coming over, it was once, maybe twice a week. When they come home, she might be there ten minutes or so, and then she would head back to her house. Then eventually she starts staying a little bit longer, coming over a lot earlier, staying over a lot later. A couple times she spent the night, but also just being more affectionate in.


Front of you all.


Not intentionally, but, like, one night I came out to say goodnight before we went to bed, and him and Jennifer are lying on the ground in the living room. They've got a bottle of wine, and they're kind of, like, canoodling on the ground. We're ten, so we're young, but we're old enough to know, to kind of see affection.


Did he have any comment about that, or did he try to hide it?


They kind of scooted away for a moment, like we weren't supposed to see them acting like that. And then just kind of. Good night. Good night. Go to bed.


At that young age, are you thinking my poor mom. She's in Greece and Greg seems like he's being unfaithful to her and especially myself.


Very territorial of my mom. I was an only child with my mom for the first couple years of my life, so I was protective and I'm sure I didn't make things easy when Jennifer came over.


Jennifer stopped coming over when Sherry returned. But Tina says Sherry found out about the affair anyway from Tara. When she got back, the youngest was three. Mom and dad were having an argument and she said, mommy, why doesn't daddy love you anymore? And she said, daddy still loves me. And she's like, daddy doesn't love you. Daddy loves Jennifer. Sherry confided in her sister and asked her to keep it a secret. Did she know if Greg was still seeing Jennifer when she gets back? I assume so, because he would say he's going to a meeting and the meeting would be over at nine or ten, but he's coming home at two or three in the morning. She's catching them at work in Greg's office or coming off elevator holding hands. Did she confront him about the relationship? Not to my knowledge. Instead, Tina says her sister tried to save the marriage. Their anniversary is in august and an anniversary card. You are the most amazing man. You are perfect. Love you more every day type thing. She wanted to forgive and forget and stay strong as a family unit. We know people have affairs and sometimes people are able to get their marriages back on track if they're willing to fight for the marriage.


That's what Sherry was hoping for, right? She wanted to make this work. Sherry and Greg even took a kid free road trip that summer to try to rekindle things. They went on a little getaway. Yes. So this was an attempt to really work on things and have time alone, at least for Sherry's part. After Sherry's death, Tina shared her sister's secret with her husband and the rest of the family. What did you think when you heard this?


I was mad.


Tina also told the police, if you do confirm that he's having an affair, that could be the motive. The other woman.


Absolutely. It's the girl.


U five days after Sherry Malloryk's murder, her family gathered to say their goodbyes. Sherry was buried on the base on Barenkas. Yes, ma'am.


I remember I was a mess at the funeral when they were doing the 21 gun salute. And my grandma, my mom's mom, I'll never forget. The sound that she made is one of the worst sounds I've ever heard in my life. It wasn't crying. It was just wailing out.


How was Greg at the funeral? He held Tara, who, although she was three, almost four. Anytime you see him, he's holding her. As the family grieved, investigators were taking a close look at Greg. They'd heard about the affair with Greg's co worker and family babysitter, and not just from Sherry's family. They interviewed Jennifer spone. She told them it was true.


She admitted to it, admitted to having sex in the van. So if you find my prince in there, I was in the seat. Told us where they did it. Off some dirt road.


On the night Sherry was killed. Jennifer said she and Greg exchanged a brief kiss outside when she stopped by with a lawnmower. But she said she knew nothing about the murder. What did she say, though, as far as why she returned the lawnmower at.


That hour on a Friday night? She felt she needed it back.


So just a coincidence?




The detective went back over the details of the crime. He knew Sherry's van was found all the way in the back of the Wyn Dixie parking lot. It seems od if someone's going to the grocery store for a quick run, that they would park that far away from the entrance at a time when the grocery store isn't packed, it's not know Sunday afternoon.


Right. It is od because most people like to park at the front door.


It's human nature. Right. And there was something else.


We found her purse in a drawer beside the bed with her driver's license and her credit cards.


If she's going to the store. What woman goes to the store without their purse? So that's poking some serious holes in the. She went to the store to get some milk. Yes.


Then we bring Greg back in. This was accusatory. We think you did it. And we sit and talked, and he would talk. He didn't really say a whole lot. Just listen to us. Which is fine.


Did you ask him in this interview? Did you?


Oh, yes.


Kill your wife?


Yeah. This is jerkly. We didn't use the word kill, but we said, we know you harmed your wife.


Greg denied it, and investigators had no reason to hold him. But Sherry's family was already convinced. You're thinking that Greg could be responsible for this? I know he was. I knew it. And it wasn't just the affair. They'd always had a problem with Greg. Jeff and Tina spent a week with Greg and Sherry after they got married.


New brother in law. We talked very little. He stayed in the bedroom mostly, would knock on the door. Hey, you okay? Can I get you anything?




Come out to eat and go back to the bedroom.


That's a little od.


Yes, ma'am.


For a new family member, I thought so. We didn't ever really get to know him. He kept his distance from us. And on the rare occasion when Greg did talk to them, they say he only seemed to be interested in one topic. You consider Greg to have been money obsessed?


Oh, yes, ma'am. Kept talking about money whenever we did get together.


Sherry'sisters were also troubled by the dynamic in Greg and Sherry's relationship. They say Sherry, the take charge woman at work, seemed almost submissive with Greg. He had strong opinions about how she looked. She could no longer wear makeup. She could no longer put hairspray or anything in her hair. He's like, if I kiss you, I don't want to slide off your face. If I run my fingers through your hair, I don't want my fingers to get stuck. She changed. Greg said, it's not true. Sherry wore makeup and hairspray all the time. But the notion that Greg was controlling made its way to investigators still working the case. Detectives checked Greg's gun collection to see if he owned a 25 caliber handgun, the same caliber as the shell casing they found. He did not.


However, I interviewed a couple of people who go to the range with him, and they said they'd never seen him with a 25, but he'd always talked about getting one and that they'd been to the gun show with him.


The detective got his hands on a list of vendors from that gun show.


I get a list of about 130 names, and we just start calling.


Did anyone sell one? Did he buy one?


No. His name never came back up on any type of purchase for a firearm.


You could not connect Greg to a 25 caliber?


No. At all.


That's a problem.


Big problem.


What's more, as far as the kids knew, Greg was home all night. There was no evidence he ever left. And if he had killed Sherry, how would he have gotten back from the wind? Dixie. Still, as the months went by, investigators had no other suspects.


We've done everything possible to look at other avenues, but everything goes back to Greg Mallory.


Did any other name pop up that this could be?


No. We ran everything we could run down. If there was a crime in the area, we tried to find if it could be related. Nothing.


The investigation into their one and only suspect hit a wall.


There is no factual evidence to make an arrest. Period.


In August 2002, almost a year after Sherry's death, investigators decided to take one more crack at Jennifer. Detective Nie Smith had never believed she'd dropped by the house that night just by chance.


There's no coincidences. No. Why did you go back? Why is a girlfriend who is having this affair going back 930 at night when the wife should be home?


Because Jennifer was in the navy. She was called in for an interview with NCIS, but this time she declined.


And she walks outside and that's the last time I ever saw her.


The detective thought that if the case was ever going to be solved, it would probably come down to one of two things. Either Jennifer would tell them something, or.


As the kids get older, I honestly believe they would remember more as they.


Got older, what stories would emerge. It's like you're living with the enemy.


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Sherry Malerik'sisters had been holding their breath, waiting for police to arrest their brother in law Greg for Sherry's murder. But it wasn't happening. I was know, maybe six months, which I thought was long, but I don't know how it works.


I told Buddy Neesmith, quit telling Tina that. It's any day now. He would tell Tina, if we're going to get him any day. I said, quit telling her that because giving her false hope because I'm seeing my wife crumble.


To make matters worse, they say their relationship with Greg had fractured the mother's day after the murder, Tina and Jeff showed up with balloons.


We actually went to the front door and knocked and you can see the blinds were moving. The kids were there. He comes out the back door screaming at us, don't you ever come over here again without being invited.


Like, I just brought balloons. You didn't answer. I just brought balloons to the kids for. Don't you f. And we never did. We never went back again. Greg suspected Jeff and Tina had reported him for child abuse, something they'd deny. With the families divided, Tina and Jeff's daughter Lisa missed her cousins. It sucks having family 30 minutes when you can't ever see him. Yeah, he robbed me from five of my cousins that I did not get to know. Growing up inside the malleric home, Greg was now facing life as a single dad to the five kids, ages three to eleven. The night after the murder, Jacob says he asked them to gather in the living room.


It was kind of a family meeting about, you know, if cops are coming around or people want to talk to you, don't talk to anybody. Family business is family business.


Jacob says he and his siblings didn't know that police were investigating their dad. But within days of the murder, he and his eleven year old brother, Greg Jr. Began talking about what they remembered. From a kid's perspective. Are you thinking robbery? She went to the store. Maybe someone tried to initially, something.


Once the shot kind of wears off and my brother Greg and I kind of can start confiding in each other. There were things that just didn't make sense, like our mom going to the store that night to get milk. Our mom was very organized. This is the first time our cousins are ever coming over into the house. I find it very hard to believe she would not have been prepared for it and have everything that she needed at the house.


He also never heard his mom say anything about going to the store that night.


She's like, I'm going to go outside, talk to your dad. So she goes outside to talk to her dad. And that was the last time I ever saw her.


Could Greg really have killed their mother? Jacob knew about the affair, of course, and he says he also knew that his stepfather had a violent temper. He'd seen it when his mom was deployed in Greece.


He would punch holes in the wall. He would grab us by her hair, drag us up and down the hallways. One story I remember vividly, he goes to kick me in my face and I roll out of the way to miss it. But he kicked hard enough. It put a hole through the door. But that's how our mornings were for almost that whole time period.


Jacob says it wasn't long before he and his brother were convinced. You think he killed your mom?




Okay. That's really scary feeling that way. Given that you're living with him. How do you handle that one?


We were terrified, right. So we didn't really talk to anybody. We couldn't talk to anybody.


Jacob says he was so afraid, he even slept with a knife under his bed. You're fearful of the one person who's supposed to keep you safe. It's like you're living with the enemy as they grew up. Jacob says he tried to shield the younger kids, including Tara, from his suspicions and from the abuse he says he suffered.


I felt like a protector of my siblings. My brother Greg and I got the brunt of the abuse. Being the older ones, I can handle that. I can't handle them receiving that.


You're being the protective older brother?




Tara, who is seven years younger, has very different memories. Jacob said that he slept with knives because they were so afraid of your dad. Were you aware of that? It surprises me. I definitely don't know the man that they've described as that angry, abusive guy. Dad was just never. I didn't see that guy. Greg also denies he ever abused his children. How was he as a dad growing up? He was supportive of me. He shared his love for music with me. He's very much a teacher. So I think I was the only one that kind of grasped on to a lot of his interests as well. Greg took Tara on road trips and flew her to New York to see a Broadway show. As a single dad, she says he recognized how important it was for her to have women in her life. My dad, actually, because I didn't have that female role model, he actually put me in a youth girls organization where there were a lot of ladies and there were other girls that I could hang out with. But there was one woman Tara says she did not want to hang out with, her dad's girlfriend, Jennifer.


She started coming over all the time after the murder. What did the kids think of that? We didn't really like her very much. She wasn't our mom. There was a time dad was hugging the two of us, Jennifer and I, and said something, know my two favorite girls? And I said, well, I thought mom was one of your favorite girls, too. And she slammed out of the yard, got in her car, sped off, and did not come back for hours. I didn't understand that. That's. That's my mom. That was his, like, you can't be mad about that. Eight years after Sherry's death, Jennifer and her children moved in. We had to rearrange the house for all the kids because she had her two boys. And when we did that, she started kind of getting rid of everything of mom in the house. Tara says things got better two or three months later when Jennifer moved out, though Jennifer and her dad did continue to date. Then a few years after that, Tara received an upsetting message. I was 15 years old when my cousin messaged me on Facebook, basically saying, your dad killed your mom.


Did you know that this was a possibility at this time or that those allegations were out there? No. So this is a. That was very shocking for me at 15 years old, to get a message like that. Well, I went to my dad and I said, I want to read you something, because I don't know what to do with this. And he told me, I don't understand why they would think that. Did you say to him, is it true? I asked him, yeah. And he said, no, of course know. He gave me a hug and he told me everything was going to be okay. By this point in Tara's life, Jacob was out of the house. He was living with his girlfriend in Pensacola and attending college. He was trying to see Greg as little as possible.


I don't want to have a relationship with him, but my younger siblings still lived in his house, so if I wanted to have a relationship with them, I had to crack the door open to him to have access to them.


When Jacob got married in 2015, he made the tough decision to send his stepfather an invite.


Jamie J. And Tara would not be able to come without him. At the time, I think Tara and Jay still lived. So if I wanted them here, I had to invite him to my wedding.


But even as they posed for pictures together, Jacob still believed that Greg had murdered his mother. Are you thinking that he'll never pay for this?


Yeah. I'm a person of faith, and I just thought he would have to answer for it one day, but it wouldn't be in this life.


Was Jacob right? Maybe not. The case had gone cold, but was about to heat up. While he's outside, I hear a. Like a firework, like a firecracker. She might have been a witness to the actual shooting of Sherry.


Yes, ma'am.


As the years went by, Sherry Malloryk's family was losing faith that Greg would ever be arrested. After the sheriff's department hit a dead end, the Navy took the lead on the investigation. A new agent would come on, start from square one. Never get it finished. Do work on it, but never get it tied up in a pretty little bow transfer. A new agent would come on, pick it up, start at square one. And it just was endless. Then in 20, 17, 16 years after Sherry was killed, the family sensed a change. When a new NCIS agent got the case, he started just kind of keeping in touch, saying, hey, still working on the case. Hey, don't want. You think I dropped the ball. Did you think finally something might happen? We were hopeful, yes.


Upon initial review, it was obvious that there was a strong likelihood of making an arrest in this case, Wayne Wright.


An investigator with the state attorney's office, got involved, too. Why did you feel that way?


It's really important as investigators to keep our mind open to all possibilities. That being said, in this case, when I read through it, there was obviously a prime suspect.


The case seemed to rely heavily on the memories of children. So the investigators went back through the files and found tapes of the kids talking about that night. I asked him where Mama was, and he said, at the store. Greg Jr. Remembered his dad doing something unusual. Did your dad then come into the house at some point? Yes. He came in the house to take a shower. When your dad would normally take a shower, would he take it in the morning or at night? In the morning. Do you know how long he was in the shower? Maybe 1015 minutes. The investigators wondered, was that part of Greg's alibi? Had he made it look like he was showering so he could sneak out and drive the van to the Windixie? Over the years, law enforcement had never been able to find the murder weapon or establish that Greg owned a 25 caliber handgun. But back in 2002, young Jacob told detectives a story that seemed to solve the mystery. He said his stepdad did have that type of gun. The little one was smaller than my hand.


What did it look like?


It was black, I think, in the bottom of the handle was roundy. When did you see that gun? I saw it maybe a month or two before my mom died.


And that was the only time we ever saw that gun. And we were told he got it from a gun show and that he got it from our mom. I believe it's described as so small it would fit in the palm of.


Your hand, which would be a 25 caliber, potentially.


It would be consistent.


Cousin Lisa also added a critical detail. The new investigators called her in for a fresh interview. She repeated something she told detectives as a kid about a sound she heard while the grownups were outside. You heard a pop coming from outside? Yes, ma'am. What did you think? It was like the explosion of a bottle rocket. And I was like, that's the noise I heard. Sound like a bottle rocket exploding. Was it possible that sound was a gunshot? She might have been a witness to the actual shooting of Sherry?


That would be one distinct possibility, yes, ma'am.


The stories painted a damning picture. But what investigators didn't have was DNA or any forensic evidence that tied Greg to the crime. In 2020, they called a meeting at the state attorney's office.


There were sheriff's office investigators there. There was NCIS there. Myself and a number of different prosecutors. So we wanted to present the case, see if there's anything else that needed to be done.


One thing high on everyone's list re interviewed Jennifer spone, who returns the lawnmower.


At 09:00 at night.


They discovered Jennifer had left Florida and moved north to Illinois. That could be an opening now that these two aren't together anymore. Or it appears they're not together.




Maybe, just maybe, she might be ready to turn on him.


That was part of our thought processes.


Wayne and the Navy investigator took a trip to the town of west Frankfurt. The local police brought Jennifer in without telling her what it was about. Hey, Miss Goldstone.


How are you doing?


What was her face like when she walked in the room and saw you sitting there?


She seemed almost frightened. But by the same token, I could tell this is a very strong individual. Mark and I have been working on this cold case from way back in 2001 in Pensacola. I assume you know which case I'm talking about from 2001.


Oh, yes, I do.


How did you end up at Greg's house at that time, on that night? Did you guys discuss it? Did he tell you to come by at a certain time, or did he, ah, just drop by?


No, I got restless, and we had mowed the lawn and I had his mower.


You just happened to bring the lawnmower over to his house?


There was no discussion. I just finished the mowing and took it on back.


You show up just out of the blue and you have the lawnmower? How do you think that appears from our end?


Oh, apparently very suspicious. Yeah, the tone was all, good cop. Maybe that would bring her around.


Do you think it's possible that he was involved or impossible?


Oh, it's always possible. Sure it is. He's always the first one to look at.


Now, we've asked a whole bunch of questions. Do you have any questions? Like I said, this is teamwork. She still didn't give us anything more than what she'd given them 20 years ago.


But even without Jennifer, prosecutors believed they had built a plausible circumstantial case. I mean, just hearing it, it sounds bad, but it sounds thin.


It's thin, but we thought that we could prove it in court.


Without forensics or the gun, they'd be largely relying on two things, motive and the children's memories. Still, they decided to go for it. 19 years after Sherry's murder, sheriff's deputies arrested Greg Malleric at his house.


I was excited. Tina's crying. And I'm thinking finally, I was very surprised. I never expected in a million years for that to happen.


Jacob'sister Tara had a different reaction. The only thing I remember is just crying. I had never cried that much in my entire life. You've already been through so much in your life, and then now your dad's arrested for your mom's murder. It was very shocking. Greg pleaded not guilty to second degree murder and hired criminal defense attorney Chris Crawford. Crawford looked at the initial arrest report and thought the case was more than just thin.


So I'm looking at this report, thinking to myself, this is nothing. I remember telling him, I don't even know why you're arrested. And this is the kind of case that may just get dismissed.


What he didn't know was that investigators weren't finished. Right after Greg was arrested, they went back at Jennifer.


I wanted to make the point that circumstances just changed, for lack of better term. Crap just got real. So let her know we're not playing anymore. An arrest has been made, and it's time to tell the truth.


Was Jennifer ready to do that? We'll let her tell you herself. Are you thinking to yourself, Sherry is dead in that van? No. I'm thinking to myself, how in the world did I get into this?


Hey, guys. Willie Geist here, reminding you to check out the Sunday sit down podcast on this week's episode. It's a big one. I get together with music sensation Olivia Rodrigo as she releases the follow up album to a debut that earned three grammys. With hits like driver's license, good for you, and deja vu, making her an international superstar. You can get our conversation for free wherever you download your podcasts.


More than 20 years after Sherry Malerik's death, Jennifer spone sat down with Dateline in her first ever tv interview. This is not an easy thing for you to talk about. No, not at all. Do you have regrets? Yes. I've made plenty of decisions that I regret, but I can't go back and change it. So all I can do is go forward and try to let the family know what I knew. She told us how the affair started. She and Greg were coworkers. Sherry was out of the country. He asked if I could come over and watch the kids. He was going out, and when he got home, the kids were all asleep. We went into the kitchen and we poured some wine, and that's when he kissed me. And then it started from there. And did you sleep together that night? We did. You being in the navy yourself, you know, the sacrifice that men and women make in the. That night, I didn't know. Didn't know. I didn't know about Sherry that night. You didn't know he was married? No. I didn't think he would do that. I mean, I figured, this is a guy.


If he's got kids in the house, you don't think maybe there's a wife? You didn't see any photos around the house? No one mentioned mom? Not really. I don't know. Or do you think maybe you just didn't want to know? It probably. Was it when Jennifer met Greg? She was a divorced, single mom, pregnant with another man's child and struggling with finances. I was going through this period where I felt awful about myself. So here's this man that was making me feel all beautiful again. They did little to hide their relationship. Sherry's son told us that he saw you and Greg on the floor, on the carpet with the wine. Yeah. He was very young. And that's a memory that's seared in his brain. Well, I didn't know it affected him that much. But Greg was always, don't worry about the kids. They won't remember. She says the relationship continued to heat up. Then Sherry returned home from abroad. She's back. But you two are still seeing each other, right? He would come over and he'd pick me up, and then we'd go drive around and we'd talk. Or that's when he started asking me to go get a hotel room.


So we did that a few times. Did she know about you? I didn't know if she knew or not. And did I feel bad about it? I felt bad about it. Wasn't until Jennifer, with all due respect, though, you're a grown woman and you can end things. Sure, yeah. Okay. And when you end it, what's supposed to happen? He's supposed to stop coming over. I couldn't end it. There was no ending to him. According to Jennifer, Greg did have an idea of how to end things with Sherry. He goes, well, at this point, I've been through the divorce. I don't want to go through it again. And it would be easier just to kill her. Okay, what's your reaction to that? It's nonsense. You just don't kill your wife, and it's not going to be easier. I even told him, I said, the kids need their mother. I mean, you can't kill her because what are you going to do with the kids? What are you going to tell them? But was there a part of him, though, that you thought was serious? If you're bringing up the kids and what are they going to do without their mom?


That doesn't sound like joking, even a bad joke. Well, no, but I didn't think he'd be serious. I didn't think he could do it. Jennifer says he continued to bring it up. Why not say anything? Why not call him Sherry? Because I did not believe him. Because you're not believing he's going to do this. But he's getting pretty darn specific with instructions to you on the night in question. She says Greg told her to meet him at the Windixie parking lot at 07:00 p.m.. I pulled up next to the van. He got out of the van, he got in the car, and then we left. Did you look in the van? No. Did you ask him, what did you do? What am I doing here? No. Then she says he told her to drive him home. What's the conversation like on the way to his house? The conversation is, drive slowly. Don't speed. Just take me to the house. He had a wig on. So when he got into the car and we pulled out of Wendixie and started going down the main highway, he took the wig off and he threw it out the window.


Are you thinking to yourself, Sherry is dead in that van? No. I'm thinking to myself, how in the world did I get into this. This whole mess? Because I knew what it was. I knew what happened. And I couldn't believe he did it. That she's dead. I'm sure she is. Yeah. Why else would he be there? Why not just say at this point, I'm out. I can't. I'm too far in. When they arrived at the house, Jennifer says greg went around to the back. Per his instructions. She waited five minutes and knocked on the front door. The kids answered the door. They said they're going to get dad pretty soon. He came out. Is this to establish an alibi? This was his alibi, that he was there the whole time. She says he came to the door with some bags and clothes. He told me to get rid of him, and I went home. Two days later, Sherry's murder was all over the news. How did you live with yourself, knowing what had happened, knowing what was in here? One day at a time, getting up and trying to. You just do. Did you think about Sherry's son, Jacob?


About all of Sherry's children now? Had no mom? Oh, yeah. I went through a lot of guilt because I kept thinking all the things that I needed to do, all the things I wanted to do, and all the things that still needed to be done with the kids, and she didn't get that chance. With Sherry out of the picture, Jennifer was free to step into her role. Eventually, she moved in, taking care of her kids and Greg's. It would be my responsibility to go home, make the dinner, get everybody home from school, take care of all the clothing, making sure everybody got cleaned up and ready for bed, making sure they got their homework, cleaned the house. Sounds like you replaced sherry. I did. And it didn't last long. I wasn't there more than three months. What happened? I lost my mind. There's going to be people watching this who will say, she wrecked a family. She knew about a murder that was going to happen. She helped cover up the murder. This is a shameful woman. Do you care what people think? Not at this point. I did what I did. I know it was wrong.


I made some bad decisions. But once you make that bad decision, there's no going back. I'm sorry for what I did. I'm sorry for my part of it. Still, the relationship lasted for nearly two decades, and Jennifer kept the secret until the new investigators came calling and made her an offer hard to resist. Full immunity. In exchange, she would be the prosecution's star witness against Greg Malerik. Did you have any fear that the jury might not believe her? Of course. And that was the biggest fear. From the moment her father was arrested for murder, Tara Malerick believed there had been some kind of terrible mistake. Of all Greg's children, she was the closest. Are you thinking to yourself, my dad wouldn't have done this? Yeah. This is not. Yes. I was like, wow, this is, like, real right now. So Jacob kind of consoled me. Jacob comforted his little sister, but he could no longer shelter her from what he had long suspected, that Greg murdered their mother. Did that divide the siblings? I'd say no, because we grew up. I mean, tight knit, built in, best friends. At first, there would be some conversations we'd have that would get a little bit.


Okay, let's not go here. But after we had a talk, we said, look, our relationship and what we've got as siblings is more important than anything, and we don't want to lose it.


I was torn, right? I want justice from my mom. And then Tara is very close with our dad still. So now, not only was she robbed of having her mom for her whole life, but for better or worse, now she could possibly lose the only parent that she does have.


Tara supported her dad. As he awaited trial, I started going back to the house to hang out. And that turned into know really being there most of the time until I just officially moved back in. How anxious are you? There's so much on the line now for your dad. Very anxious. I really tried to prepare myself for what I was going to hear, but I told myself, you got to go into this unbiased and with an open mind and just listen. The trial got underway in June 2022. The charge against Greg Malleric had been raised to first degree murder, but it was still a circumstantial case, and it would be up to assistant state attorney Amy Shea to pull all the evidence together. This is not a forensic case. There is no piece of evidence that's a smoking gun that's going to point to one person or another. It's the circumstances in court. She painted Greg as a cheating husband who wanted an easy way out of his marriage. I wanted them to understand the defendant was the one with the motive, the means, and the opportunity. The prosecutor laid out her theory of the crime.


He had planned it out in his mind to do it and to dispose of the body. His alibi are the seven children that are sitting in the kitchen. Those kids either are not paying attention or they could easily be controlled, be manipulated. It's almost the perfect alibi for him. So all he has to do is lure her out into the backyard, kill her, and then dispose of the body, which is what he did. Drove the van up to Wendixie, and then Jennifer assists him in getting back to the house and disposing of the rest of the property. Jacob testified for the prosecution.


My role was to give a timeline about my mom and Greg from when they met to the night of, and then give a recount of the night how I remember it.


Jacob hadn't seen his stepfather since his wedding seven years earlier.


We made eye contact, and I remember him kind of giving me a look of like he felt betrayed or even like, come on, you know I'm innocent. Like, have pity on me or something. Like was. It was strange.


To show premeditation, the state presented an email Greg sent to Jennifer two months before Sherry was killed. It was just a link to a news article entitled how to beat a lie detector test, or words to that effect. Okay, so that shows that they're thinking about lie detector tests, correct? Or one of them is right. But the most important piece of the prosecution's case was Jennifer spone herself. Did you worry that they might not believe you because all this time had passed? And why didn't you say anything? I figured they were going to spin it. However they wanted to. Some people were going to believe me. Some weren't going to believe me. I wasn't in my control. Jennifer testified about the affair with Greg and what she did the night of the murder, how she met Greg at the wind Dixie and later discarded those bags he gave her. She showed us the bridge where she said she tossed the evidence. So why did you choose this river, this area, to come to in the middle of the night? Because I'd been driving around for a while and couldn't find a place that was secluded, quiet.


And when I came down this road, nobody was down here. There was no moon, there was no lights, completely dark. So you came up here to this bridge? I did. And you get out of your car, you've got the bags? I do. Did you know what was in the bags? I didn't know everything. I knew a couple of things because they're easy identifiers, including Greg's clothes and the CB radio she said he took from the minivan to make it look like a robbery. And there was something else, something crucial to the case. I pulled out the gun, but it was wrapped, so I didn't actually touch the gun. The gun, as in the missing murder weapon? Jennifer testified that she threw it in the river, too. Investigators searched the river but never found anything. Tossing the gun was a new piece of information, she added. When meeting with attorneys before trial, did you have any fear that the jury might not believe her? Of course. That was the biggest fear anyway, in dealing with her, because 20 years later, all of a sudden you get a witness that never said anything before, and now, all of a sudden, this is what she says.


The one thing about Jennifer is her story was always changing. We didn't know what version we were going to get.


From time to time, defense attorney Chris Crawford poked holes in Jennifer's credibility.


As I'm questioning her, and I can kind of, like, see it in my mind's eye, is she doesn't really know what she's talking about. That's the sense I got. She was just saying things for the sake of saying it. And truthfully, it was, let's just start asking her more and more questions, because she's going to be digging herself a deeper hole more and more and more.


Did you tell the truth about what happened? As best I could, I'd tell the truth, yes. You mean as best as you recall? Well, and then the way they ask questions, they get a little confusing, and they don't let you expand on any answers. They just say yes or no. The defense also accused law enforcement of conducting a shoddy investigation.


In the trial, we were wanting to present the idea that we don't know who did it, but their investigation was so bad, you can't say beyond a reasonable doubt it was Craig.


It took years to test the clothes Sherry was wearing the night of the murder. And when they finally did, there's DNA found on Sherry's shorts that doesn't belong to her.




It wasn't Greg's DNA either. What's more, the defense says Greg never gave his clothes to Jennifer Crawford argued Greg's clothes from that night were tested and came back negative for blood. Sherry'sisters thought the defense's case was weak, but still they were on edge as the jury went off to deliberate. Were you nervous that there was always that possibility that he could get off? Right? Absolutely.


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It was late afternoon at the Escambia county courthouse, and Greg Malleric's defense attorney had no idea if he'd convinced the jurors to acquit his client. How are you feeling when it's all said and done and they are in that room deliberating?


Scared. Very, very scared.


As everyone waited, an alternate juror who'd been released talked to Jacob.


He said to me, he's guilty, hands down. It wasn't even a question for him.


The wait wasn't long. It had taken more than 20 years to get here and just 2 hours to deliberate. The jurors had news they were deadlocked. The judge ordered them to keep going, but to no avail. It was a hung jury. That's a tough moment for you. We were told to be prepared no matter what. Either way, it could go either way. You never know what a juror. But still you have emotions, you have feelings. What are you? Defeated. Defeated. One juror later told the prosecutor the final vote had been ten to two for a conviction. That's a real letdown for you, especially.


Knowing it was so close.


So now what? And we found out we have to do this all over again. And that was a hard pill to swallow, because that's not something you want to go through one time, let alone two times. It's just ugly and it's nasty. As both sides prepared for a second trial, Greg's defense attorney felt lucky to have a new day in court. So that's by the skin of your teeth that you're getting another chance?


That's literally how I described it. For a year. We got by the skin of our teeth.


Next witness, Jacob Malerik. As the second trial got underway, the state again called Jacob to describe what he remembered from his mom's last day.


She said that she was going to go outside and talk to our dad. And so she went outside. And that was the last time I saw my mom.


Jacob's cousin lisa testified about that noise she heard coming from outside. Now, while you're playing barbies, do you remember anything else happening? Yes, I heard a pop noise. What kind of pop? It sounded like a bottle rocket exploding. Where was the defendant when that happened? He was outside. Was this when Aunt Sherry was outside also? Yes. It was the state's suggestion it wasn't a bottle rocket that Lisa heard. It was a gunshot.


Mr. Mallorick, please.


The prosecution also called Greg Jr. Who told the jury about a time he saw his dad using a metal detector in the backyard. Where was he using it in relation to where the van had been parked the night of September 21?


The exact same spot.


What else is he doing?


I saw him digging a little. I did see him doing that as well.


The state argued Greg was searching for that missing shell casing. That was a circumstance that was added to the rest of the circumstances in the case. And after a while, you get so many of these circumstances, they can't just be a coincidence anymore. This time around, the prosecutor emphasized two arguments. First, she said the fact that Sherry was killed in the passenger seat proved she knew the shooter. Why did she get in the passenger seat of the van? And who could have made her do that? She had to arguably trust whoever got her into the passenger seat of that van. Correct. She also focused on motive. Not just the affair, but money.




An investigator testified about phone calls Greg made to financial institutions on the night of the murder. Who was that call made to?


Navy federal credit union.


Supposedly, he was always frequently checking on the accounts, making calls about the money. But it is quite ironic that you're going to kill your wife, and the first thing you're going to check on is money. Right after that, exhibit them the state also pointed to Sherry's life insurance policy. How much money are we talking about that he would gain from her death? Well, just from the insurance benefits that came from the military. It was $250,000 policy, which, by the time it was paid out, was almost $260,000. Once again, the prosecution saved its most important witness for last. Jennifer, were you in love with Greg Mallorick? I was. Did you always do what he told you to do? Yes. Why? Because he'd get upset if I didn't. At the second trial, Jennifer shared a chilling detail about the shooting. He at one point told me that when he had shot her that it didn't kill her. And he said that he was upset and he couldn't take it back. And he said he was feeling really guilty about it. But he said she was already shot, so he was already guilty, so he went ahead and shot her again.


Did he think she was still alive? Yeah, he said the first time she was still alive, so he shot her again. It was a damning story for Greg, but the defense was about to point the finger in a whole new direction.


She's the one that, by the evidence, had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to do this.


It. Greg Mallory's attorney was getting a second chance to convince a jury his client was not a cold blooded killer. For starters, he pointed to more mistakes made in the investigation.


It was a parade of errors for 20 years.


Key pieces of evidence were left sitting on the shelf for years. Like that shell casing recovered from inside Sherry's clothes during the autopsy.


They know that whoever touched that shell casing clearly was involved in this murder. So DNA, that kind of stuff from the shell casing would be vitally important yet again for more than a decade. They don't do anything.


They didn't test the casing.


They didn't test the casing.


When investigators finally submitted it to the crime lab in 2006, Crawford says the text used glue to try to get fingerprints off the casing.


Well, you know what happens when you coat something with clue. You can't get DNA anymore. And that was another know disaster.


The defense's case had a major weakness. Greg's sons had testified against him, but this time they had someone to counter them. Greg's daughter, Tara.


You have this massive schism, this massive division in the family where a good number of family members hate them. Thank you, ma'am. Have a seat in the chair, if you will.


Tara had reconnected with Sherry's family as a teenager, and she testified that she sometimes felt uneasy around them.


Why would you be weary or not wanting to be around different family members?


Sometimes it seemed as if, or most of the time it seemed as if everything was always centered around mom's death. It made it uncomfortable sometimes.


So Tara was very young at the time this actually happened. But Tara does know what was happening with different family members. And that's what we thought was important, was why are the kids, at least Jacob and somewhat Gregory, against Craig? How'd this happen?


The implication from the defense was clear. Sherry's family had tried to turn the kids against their dad. This was hard for you? Very hard. She is supporting her father. She was daddy's little girl. She was. Tara says the main reason she took the stand was not to talk about her mom's family, but to talk about Jennifer spone.


How would Jennifer act if there were pictures or items of your mother Sherry's in the house.


When I got my own room, she started bringing them to me and saying, would you like these?


Would Jennifer be upset or not wanting to be around pictures of Sherry?


It seemed that way. Greg's attorney took it a step further, suggesting Jennifer wasn't merely an insensitive, fill in mom. He said she was the killer.


She's the one that, by the evidence, had the means, the motive and the opportunity to do this. Jennifer spone's losing her house. Jennifer postpone's going through a divorce, and her lifeline is being taken from her. She's supporting not just herself, but her mother and her sister. She has a son on the way from a gentleman who literally wants nothing to do with her or the child. This person was in an insanely desperate situation back then. She needed Greg a thousand, a million times more than Greg needed her. She looked at Greg as this savior. When all this happened, you were in such bad financial and everything else that without him, you couldn't have made it.


I said that?


Well, true, isn't it?




She wanted Sherry's life, so she took it. That's what this case is about.


The argument was she wanted your mom's life. Did you agree with that? Yes. Wanted it enough that she could take her life? Yeah. Why did you think that? Because of how mean she was. But perhaps the strongest witness was this man who testified remotely. He's the Winn Dixie employee who talked to investigators early on about seeing two people arguing in the parking lot on the night Sherry was killed.


What do you remember seeing? Well, when the loud arguing started taking place, the parts I could make out was that. Oh, it's you. Why don't you leave us alone. Then the gentleman replied, shut up, bitch, and approach the passenger side. What do you remember next? We had kind of turned around that time.


We'd heard pop pop that indicated Sherry may have been shot in the parking lot, not at home. The eyewitness didn't tell investigators about that pop sound until years later. But there was one thing he'd been certain of from the beginning.


In that lineup that they showed you the days later at your house, did you pick out Greg Mallory? No, sir. The person you sold that night, was it Greg Mallory?


No, definitely not Greg. His attorney suggested that maybe it wasn't a man at all. Once again, he circled back to Jennifer.


Is it possible she had her hair up because she's in the military? Is it possible that she had shorter hair at that time?


At the end of the trial, the defense asked the jury to consider this.


If you look at this case and you say, you know what? Jennifer is equally as guilty. And she could be equally the one that pulled the trigger. If that's what you think, you have two votes. Not guilty.


This was a big helping of reasonable doubt.




Would the jury buy it? How's Greg feeling?


Greg was shocked.


In his second trial for murder, Greg Malleric's defense team didn't just suggest the state's star witness was a liar. They painted her as the real killer. Greg's defense pointed the finger at you and said that you had the motive, you had the means, that you killed Sherry because you wanted to be with Greg. I didn't think I could go through with it then. I don't think I could do it now to take another life like that. Did you kill Sherry? No, I did not. Did you think that there was a possibility that Jennifer killed your mom? As for me, Greg's defense was saying, for me, no.


I always suspected he was the one that pulled the trigger. In the back corner of the yard.


Whether Jennifer participated or not had no bearing on her future. She had that promise of full immunity in exchange for her story. But Greg was facing life in prison. His fate was in the hands of twelve new jurors.


I thought this trial was stronger for the prosecution than the first one. Even the defense said that Jennifer did it. And if Jennifer did it, then Greg was guilty, too.


Chris Crawford tried to manage his client's expectations.


I'm telling Greg, listen, this is a know someone normally has to pay. And you're the guy that the crosshairs were on. So I couldn't give him any kind of assurance.


After nearly 9 hours of deliberation the jury had a verdict.


Go ahead and bring the jury in, please.


Tina and I were just holding hands, like, just looking down. I don't even know that I was looking up. Were you numb? Just kind of numb. We, the jury find as follows as to the count charged in the indictment, not guilty as devastating. It just didn't seem real. A lot of letdowns for your family. Yes, ma'am. It's the same as it's been for the past 22 years. This time it's not guilty.


My immediate thought was, it's over legally. There's no other recourse. It's done. And then after that, very angry. I don't understand how you can go from almost a conviction to a unanimous not guilty. Not guilty.


In the back row, Tara had mixed feelings because you want justice for mom. But I was happy I wasn't going to lose dad. I was happy the jury saw the things that I see. I mean, I was definitely relieved not to have to now mourn my dad, basically. Greg had maintained his innocence for more than 20 years. Now he was a free man. How's Greg feeling?


Greg was shocked.


So was the prosecutor. It was actually very surprised what happened, because you have Jennifer spones saying he did this. Was it that they bought the defense's argument that it might have been her and so they weren't comfortable, or maybe they didn't believe her. It's a 20 year old case. She doesn't come out with the story until 20 years later. So I have no idea why they decided what they decided. Twelve people agreed that Greg was not guilty. Does that mean that they think you had something to do with it? I had some sisters that watched the whole thing, and they came back and they said, yeah, I mean, according to the court, it really does make it look like you did it. And that surprised me. All I can say is he had a good defense attorney. Do you think Greg is innocent?


I think from a legal standpoint, yes.


What does that mean?


Yeah, it's a good question. So the way I think of it is, if I feed these facts to a reasonable doubt computer, what would the computer come out with? And I think the computer would come out with, there is reasonable doubt.


But do you think your client is innocent?


I waiver on that. There was days that we're looking at this evidence, and I'm thinking, man, yeah, I can understand why he's the prime suspect. I can understand why everybody's pointing the finger on him. And then there's days I'm looking at saying, there's no way this is physically possible. There's no way this weird evidence would exist the way it exists if he did it. So that was always where we were at. And that's why when I'm looking back at the jury, and I think that was the right decision.


Greg Malerik declined our request for an interview. He's still living in the house he once shared with Sherry and he's trying to pick up the pieces. How does your dad go on? He's been acquitted, but the family is torn up and he's been through two trials. Everyone knows the story. Some people believe he did this. He's having a hard time moving forward after this. And he had a lot of feelings. He's having a hard time with all of it. More than 20 years after that fun family sleepover, Sherry's loved ones are still dealing with a fallout memories of a night that destroyed their childhoods and split a family in two. Jacob and his little sister haven't spoken since the verdict.


I've got a lot of anger in my heart right now that I'm trying to deal with. And that's why I've put Tara off for a moment, is I need to deal with my stuff. And I get it. She lost her mom. And you don't want to lose the only parent you have. But when things have been bad for her, I was the one there.


Jacob told us he's very protective of you. He loves you and he's thinking about reconnecting, but you all are just not there yet. Yeah, I'm ready whenever he is. He's been one of my biggest supporters in life and I love him so much. It seems that you two should be talking. So that's it. I'm ready when he is.


That's all for this edition of DatelIne. And check out our talking Dateline podcast. Andrea Canning and Josh Mankowitz will go behind the scenes of tonight's episode, available Wednesday in the Dateline feed. Wherever you get your podcasts. We'll see you again Sunday at nine, eight central. I'm Lester Holt. For all of us at NBC News, good nightline Friday. This is murder by bombing.


I don't know what she was mixed up in.


I can't believe he's telling me.


This story just comes out of nowhere. If you watch Dateline, there's always an end. And that wasn't it. It was just the beginning.


An all new Dateline, Friday, nine eight central, only on NBC.