She had this look of absolute terror on her face. She was scared, she really was afraid, and I don't know why.
She was a sunny, free spirit who had yearned to make it in Hollywood, but she made headlines instead. When she vanished. One day, she was gone. Her pets were gone. I knew that something happened.
Did something drive her away? Maybe someone there was that old friend turned enemy. They seemed to be very passionate about hating each other.
There was the new friend, young and handsome, a man of mystery.
He said, I'm not what people think I am. And I thought, I know what that means.
Tonight, police are on the trail from her beach resort on the Atlantic to the deep woods near the Pacific. I told her this could end up killing a brother and sister desperate to learn the truth. It's just chilling for me to think about that. Keith Morrison mystery The Stranger. They noticed it first in her favorite place, that private beach club, the faces of the South Atlantic took a little longer for the story to spread up and down the historic streets of this oldest of all American cities until it reached the ears of a young reporter named Justin Griffin, Crime Beach and Augustine, Florida Times.
This one was definitely one of the most bizarre that I've covered. One day, her car and she was gone. Her pets were gone. The she just is talking about was a local fixture here in St. Augustine, a striking blonde of a certain age named Brittany Tovar, who had, without a word to anyone up and vanished. Hardly a big story. First, Metro people do come and go around St. Augustine. And this was July 2010. Heat ratcheting up good time to head north.
Maybe just as the weeks went on, it sort of got a little bit more strange, a little bit strange.
In fact, the disappearance of Brittany Tovar was about to become the biggest and perhaps strangest story of Justin Griffin's young career, not just that Britney disappeared, but that she vanished on such an important day for her the day she was due to appear in the St. Augustine Court and bring charges against a bitter enemy. She had an enormous amount of anxiety.
This is Britney's sister, Pat Bellemont, Pat Clear across the country in Portland, Oregon. So she couldn't do much about her sister's worries, couldn't help her confront her nemesis in court. But that had been aware since girlhood. Britney was pretty good at looking after her.
We were polar opposites. I was much more academically oriented than she was and sort of more staid and analytical. She was very agile and athletic and I wasn't. So I spent my childhood following her up trees and trying to jump over creeks and she could do it and I couldn't. Scattered family, five siblings in all.
Andrew Bellomo, one of Britney's three brothers, kept track of her from his place up in the Northeast.
She was very extroverted. She she marched to the beat of her own drum.
So when they heard she was missing, Pat and Andrew had to consider the possibility that Britney had decided to try something new.
What she very much had a sense of inventing herself, you know, her whole life. By the time she went to Hollywood years ago, she wanted to be a movie star.
She wanted certain things in life. And she just thought if she believed in herself and she went out and tried, you know, she would she would get those things, didn't get those things up to now at least.
But she has some family money sitting comfortably in St. Augustine, took up photography, sold real estate, bought a nice house and joined a private beach club called the Serenata, where she developed a group of very close friends, for example, Brenda Lemcke thing about Britney.
She was a single woman living on her own. And I just thought she was very strong and very brave. Yeah, she had money. She didn't have to worry about that. But still, you know, she had to create a life for herself, a social environment. She was interesting. She wasn't boring.
Joanna Simmons was also a friend from the serenading.
I invited her to come to choir one night at this church that I was going to, and she came and seemed to really enjoy it.
And so she joined the choir.
Was she a spiritual woman? Was she? I think she had a very much of a spiritual side to her.
They enjoyed her personality. You know, she could be very sort of sparkly and vivacious. I was impressed that she had so many close friends who cared so much about her.
So because Britney's family members lived so far away, it was friends like Joanne and Brenda who first tried to solve the puzzle of her actions that week in July.
I called a few times what I didn't hear anything. And then Thursday came and I called Thursday and I knew I knew Thursday that something happened. So Brenda called Brittany's family and they asked her to go round to the house, but frankly, just looking at the place from the outside, she didn't see any sign of foul play. Back in Portland, Britney's sister, Pat, didn't know quite what to do. I actually happened to have a longtime friend who's a police officer.
So I called him and I said, what do we do?
And he says, well, you know, just get a locksmith, send Brenda back with a locksmith and have her go into the house, which by now, several days after Britney dropped out of sight, Brenda did.
And inside, nothing seemed to miss, although she had apparently taken some of her pets, her two little dogs, her dogs were gone, Huie and krubera, her little white bhajans.
But Britney also had cats and they were still in the House alone. One of the doors was open for the cats to go in and out. Some people do that. It's true. But Brittany, my sister, loved her cats very, very much.
And she would never just go away on a trip and leave them to fend for themselves.
We're pretty gone. Why would she take her dog, leave her cats and take off vanished on the very day she was all set to appear in court to resolve a bitter feud, if you will. She told her family kept her in constant fear. It was very strange that all of a sudden, the day that she was supposed to be in court, now she's gone.
Coming up, what was Britney running from? And did this free spirit sometimes trust the wrong people? Over the years, eight different people lived in her spare room. Something was off. Something very wrong here in the dripping heat of the St. Augustine Summer, friends of Britney Devar had been unable to reach her for several days.
Everybody that knows Britney knows that she would never just take up and leave like that without telling me.
So Britney's family frantic but far away in opposite corners of the country, called a locksmith as Britney's friends did go inside her house. Have a look around. And the boy seemed perfectly normal, except one or two little things didn't quite make sense.
There were some anomalies like the air conditioner was blasting and she'd never would have left the air conditioning blasting.
Oh, and there was one more thing, though. It wasn't so much something wrong as it was just a little too right. One of the friends who searched Britney's house was Tim Martineau, the man Britney had been dating.
She was a little unorganized, but the house was very clean and so looked like maybe somebody was going somewhere, but somebody had fixed the place up.
The good news was everything was tidy. There was no sign of a crime scene. The bad news is the home looked to clean.
It certainly could be the Britney simply cleaning the place more thoroughly than usual, then packed up and left and left the back door open for the cash. The police told the family that in the absence of foul play, there wasn't much they could do. No law against a grown woman taking off without telling anyone.
We hired a private investigator who started looking around to find something that would get the police involved in the case of a P.I. made his inquiries.
Over the next few days, Brittany's family began their own investigation and soon discovered a few very brittni secrets, things she had never told them about. We didn't know that over the years, a different homeless people lived in her spare room.
She usually had some kind of an arrangement with these fellows that they would help her with stuff like the first guy helped with the yard work. I mean, she would never tell us that because, of course, we would say bad idea.
You know, you can just invite strangers to live in your house.
You know, that's a very interesting thing that a single woman living on her own would do. She wasn't really practical.
I mean, the risk of it either she would have dismissed it or maybe that was what was interesting about it.
But I think she really liked the idea of helping people.
It's kind of like bringing home a bird with a broken wing and you've got to fix it or something like that.
And I mean, she also grew up in a family where serving people and serving the poor was just part of the environment that we lived in. Britney had recently been hosting a handsome young man named Joe Roberts, and she'd met at a Barnes and Noble store. She was trying to start up some enterprise and he was going to help her do the computer work. According to friends, Britney was a doting landlady. But young Joe, new clothes, even the computer.
Britney's friends got to know him somewhat. She showed him off down to the Serenata Beach Club. Here she is, Joanne, Joanne, I want you to meet the guy in the hot tub, he's so good looking, so nice.
He seemed like he could be my brother, my younger brother. He just seemed like such a nice guy and that he was just he just really wanted to try.
I accepted him as somebody Britney was trying to help and who might help her. Very charming.
I thought he was well mannered. He thought the girls were really shallow his age, and they just wanted to go out and have like one night stands. And he didn't want to be involved in relationships like that. He really wanted sincere relationships with women, in addition to which he was those women could plainly see a bit of a hottie.
And of course, you know how gossip can be. good-Looking young guy Britney treated very kindly. He stayed in the master bedroom.
Where did she say she had a room over by the pool, the swimming pool. She liked to listen to the phone that night. It helped her sleep.
There had been speculation there was something romantic or sexual about inviting this young man.
You know, I joked with her about it. She would always say, I know he likes Megan Fox and I know he's not interested. I'm too old.
Still, who really knew what went on behind closed doors anyway? They couldn't ask Joe. He never stayed anywhere very long and he wasn't around anymore to shed light on his ex landladies disappearance. So still playing amateur sleuths. Britney's family now ask the obvious question. Was there anyone here in St. Augustine who might want to harm Britney? And the answer was a resounding yes. Friends like Joanna Simmons told how at the Serenata Beach Club in the days before she disappeared, Britney seemed terrified.
I saw her one day leaving the hot tub area to go into the pool. She had this look of absolute terror on her face.
Why Britney was terrified began with a very weird story about a neighbor she'd gotten to know this woman. Her name is Enlighten. Everybody knew Britney and she stopped you.
She'd want to chat or, you know, get into your life. You couldn't get away from her for a while.
No, she's a busybody. And if N doesn't speak very kindly of Britney now, you have to understand it was very different at the beginning. Then they were friendly enough to become partners in a little dog breeding venture. She wanted to breed keyway with one of mine. But that complication. Britney began a romance with a fellow named Billy, friend of Anne and her husband's Billy, as the new boyfriend moved right in and everything was hunky dory until, well, love is unpredictable.
And in this case, it didn't last.
I got into some stupid fight. So Billy calls up and said, I'm coming to get my stuff. And she said, come by yourself.
But Billy didn't go there alone. He was accompanied by and Lighton and her husband Brittany said, don't come in the house.
And they came in, but she was cussing and screaming and whatever. And I said, OK, I'm leaving. What happened? She hit me over the head with a wine bottle and she was sitting on top of me strangling me.
And Michael and Billy called her off two sides to every story, of course, Britney said, and her two men refused to leave everything.
That's her house. If I say get out of my house, you should leave my house.
And yes, it was true they fought, said Britney. But in a report to police, Britney claimed she didn't start it. In fact, after the fight subsided, it was Britney who called the police to accuse Iran of assaulting her.
But they went over and talk to and and then they came back and arrested Britney, arrested Britney.
But why her?
She admitted that she put her throw her hand on Ann's throat and they arrested her.
Based on that, the charge, Britney with battery. She spent the night in jail. It was a very traumatic experience.
And she called me up crying in court. Britney was sentenced to probation, anger management classes, community service and a one year order to stay away from Armalite.
But an orderly perhaps chose to be closer to Britain, at least physically. She and her husband joined Britney's sanctuary.
The Serenata Beach Club felt so bad for her because that was a place that she really, really got peace and she was able to socialize with people and enjoy herself there. And then all of a sudden here they show up in the hot tub all the time.
And before long, the conflict, the growing fear was all Britney could talk about. She was fearful for her life. And I told her this could end up killing you. Coming up, did Britney's terror drive her hundreds of miles away? Her dogs were found roaming the streets.
That was just the beginning of a long, strange tale. They were following her credit card transactions. North Carolina, Idaho, Oregon, when Dateline continues.
But a respite was the Serenata Beach Club, what a lovely perch from which to enjoy the brilliant sun, the warm, soothing currents. But on those summer days in 2010, events of the Serenata were perhaps a little too warm. Day after day, the sworn enemies faced each other across swimming pools and hot tubs. And all the while, Britney seethed with an expanding collection of insults and incidents heaped on her by her ex friend.
And I was like, Britney, can't you just let this go? And she just she couldn't let go of it. It was so it was such an obsession, actually.
Britney accused of keeping her car, so she began carrying around a video camera as a kind of a visual bodyguard until the day went and tired of being taped, swam over to the camera. At that point, poolside inside Britney's bag.
Yes. And I knocked the camera in the pool. She pushed my buttons.
She went around telling the whole neighborhood, everybody, I'm scared for my life.
It was after the dunking of the video camera that Britney launched legal action against. And by this time, she'd invited Joe Roberts into her house.
And so she enlisted the help of the handsome young boarder to prepare a DVD of the incident to show the judge when she got to court, said Britney, she was going to tell that judge just how dangerous she believed and was that, in fact, she was afraid and was going to kill her.
I think all her friends made very clear she was quite traumatized by this. She was just very, very much afraid of this.
And the court date was Wednesday, July 7th, 2010. The morning arrived and came with her attorney, sat in court waiting and waiting. And Britney did not show. No, that was the very day she disappeared. A convenient reprieve for any too convenient, bizarre crime reporter Justin Griffin. In light of how important that court date was to Britney, she had become very obsessed with this restraining order. Everything she was doing was to basically make sure this restraining order was going through.
Perhaps Britney was afraid to show up, afraid of what might happen.
These were not necessarily genteel ladies that no, no, they seemed to be very passionate about hating each other, especially toward the end.
So in the days following Britney's disappearance, some people around town wonder just how much I knew or what she might have to do with it. After all, if anybody had a motive, it was. And and all the anger, the emotion, the bitterness finally culminated in some violent confrontation.
Were they looking at you as a suspect, do you think?
The media, of course they're going to. That's the first thing you're going to think of. I'd already had all the news and the helicopters and all that. You know, some in the front of my house, the local police department got wind of it.
Of course, that's basically where detectives started asking questions, but not very many questions and not for long.
In fact, according to and it was really only one thing those detectives asked her, did she know anything about where her arch enemy had gone? What did you tell her?
I haven't seen her because that's all I need to know. Never heard from again.
And poof, just like that, the police ruled out any involvement on the part of an liden. There were other reasons, too, of course, for doing that, one of which was that Britney was just fine the day before she failed to show up in court.
There had surveillance footage at the gas station that showed her getting out of her car, putting gas in it and then driving away. Nothing unusual.
And between the time that video was recorded on July 6th and caught the next morning, it turned out and Biden had an unassailable alibi. So what could Britney's family do for all their efforts? They couldn't persuade the police to the crime. It occurred that something bad may have happened to Britney and thus the investigation stopped. Oh, those who love Britney had no choice but to follow what leads there were on their own.
We were keeping cool heads and being vigilant and trying to do everything possible, coaxing them to do things they hadn't done.
I did my sister go on a cruise? Did she leave town for a week or something? Search this area. You have to search this area.
Why haven't you done this? But they also hired a private investigator, remember? And he had an idea if they couldn't find Britney, maybe somehow they could find her dogs.
We were checking the pounds. We were doing anything and everything you can possibly imagine.
Worried about the dogs spread. And a week after Brittany's disappearance, a call came in and what do you know, tiny white dog?
It look like a rabbit.
At first, her dogs were found in Columbia, South Carolina, are without collars just roaming the streets. And they were both found separately.
They managed to connect to dogs in Columbia, South Carolina. To her, she had the microchips implanted in. The dogs with her information on them, so the veterinary clinic was able to scan them and figured out that these dogs are from Florida and belong to belongs to Brittany.
Now, all of a sudden, the case broke loose because one of the dogs is found two or three states away, no tags.
Now, finally, there's probable cause. There's no question that was a key key break that was enough to get the police involved.
But unfortunately, at that point, it was 11 days after she disappeared.
Finally said Augustine police took over from the band of amateur sleuths. Pat flew to Florida to do what she could to help, met with the police, did the rounds of local media, tried to keep the search for her sister front and center in the public mind.
The family long ago ruled out any possibility that this is just a purely innocent departure for her. That just is not possible, that she would abandon her pets and, you know, stop calling her friends.
I really felt that there was a short a brief window of opportunity while there was still some publicity about the case. And then people will move on.
There will be other stories, quite reasonable worry, especially when the search for Brittany seemed to be going nowhere. Her picture had been everywhere, and had she been anywhere, somebody in Florida, somebody would have seen her picture. That's why we started to think she really has disappeared.
And then suddenly a break. Almost two weeks after Brittney disappeared, the police finally picked up her trail, looked like she was on a long, winding road trip.
What they found were her credit card transactions, which headed north from Florida to South Carolina, where her dogs were found.
They were following her credit card transactions. There were transactions in North Carolina, Idaho, Oregon.
Question, was Brittany alone or was she with someone else pushing the driver, the willing passenger, or was there something else going on? And what about that young drifter who disappeared along with Britney? He said, I'm not what people think I am. And I thought, I wonder what that means. Spouses late for dinner, the teenager stays out all night, the awful sinking feeling when a loved one is out of touch. Usually, of course, everything writes itself, but not for the family of Brittany Devar in July of 2010, they found themselves stuck fast in the purgatory of missing persons, the place where families must go to wait for what they do not know.
You alternate between. It's not real. It isn't really happening to having these terrible, terrible moments where you realize that something irreversible has happened.
Britney's two little dogs had been found abandoned by the side of the road three states away in South Carolina. Brittany loved those dogs, would never abandon them. And yet the credit card record made it look like she had done exactly that, that she'd been driving her car clear across the country.
At last, a nationwide alert was issued for Britney's car now, but the whole nation's law enforcement on watch the answer to what happened to Britney. Tavaris should not be long in coming. The family held its collective breath and waited and hoped we were dealing with the bank authorities. They talking to the police if there's any activity. One guy had a pager on them with one of the cards. If anybody tries to put anything through on this card, our guy's pager is going to go off.
But now the local police have been joined by U.S. Marshals and the FBI. And attention now turned to the young man had been living at Britney's house, the one she had been showing off at the Beach Club. Twenty six year old Joe Roberts seems that Joe had left around the same time as Britney disappeared.
And police now had to consider the distinct possibility that Britney had simply washed your hands of the feud with bin Laden and taken off on a cross-country trip with Young Joe.
For Justin Griffin, that only made the story more interesting.
I mean, living in our house for free so makes you think that they thought maybe the two of them had just left, could have just gone on a trip together, just left town?
No, really, it was all speculation. In fact, nobody had a clue what those two did. And then another lucky break, or it seemed lucky. The good news in mid-July, police found out that just four days after Britney vanished, the cop stopped her Toyota on a highway out west. But Britney wasn't driving. Joe was on July 11th.
Roberts was actually stopped by police in Wyoming for speeding.
The bad news that cops stopped the car before the alert went out. He wasn't looking for the car or Britney or anybody said he didn't recall seeing a passenger. But then he wasn't looking for one.
They let him go with a warning. And now that car and whoever was in it was long gone. But that stopped triggered a serious effort to find Joe Roberts.
It was after that that they had released an arrest warrant for him with grand theft charges.
So the investigation took a turn. The police hoping that finding Roberts would lead to finding Britney once again. Her family went to the public for help.
What we really need is for the broadest possible audience of people to be looking for Joseph Roberts, because that's the linchpin. That's the key. That's the only way we're going to get an answer.
The police went on TV, too, hoping to raise public awareness.
We believe that the car is going to relate to people more so than him because it's a rare for dark blue color vehicle with Florida tags. He pretty much can blend in with any crowd.
Trouble was, police soon discovered that only a few days after Brittany disappeared, just after the time of that traffic stop, the credit card trail abruptly ended. They must have stopped using the card.
And without the credit card trail, the police had no idea where Roberts and Britney were now or if they were even still together. And if not, where was she and what was he up to?
What we're concerned about is that he meets someone else at a coffee shop and is living in someone's house right now. And that's why I think it's very important to get this story out as much as possible. And all that effort finally produced another break or what seemed like a break and Justin's next big story, police discovered somebody caught Roberts on videotape just four days after he and Britney disappeared.
There was surveillance footage of him walking into a Wal-Mart in Ontario, Oregon, and him buying a tent and some clothes.
Just him, no Britney again. By the time somebody found the Wal-Mart video and got it to the Florida police. Roberts was nowhere to be found. So they had alerted police in that area, had started putting out flyers. It looked like from once he got to the Wal-Mart, he was going to go off the grid with his tent to live in the woods.
But just who was this kid anyway? What was his story before Britney took him in? Oh, a lesson in recent history seemed in order. The curious story of young Joe Roberts, he said to me, is something really interesting, which I thought was kind of stop me for a second. He goes, I'm not what people think I am. And I thought, I wonder what that means.
Coming up, that strange and charming drifter, was he hiding a shady past? The more I got to know him, the more he started scaring me. When Dateline continues. Hey, everyone, it's Chris Hayes.
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It's a strange thing, rather cruel, actually, how an answer is so desperately sought and slip away just at the moment of capture, police had finally sniffed out the trail left by Joe Roberts, the one person who seemed to know what happened to Britney Devar. But before they could catch up to Joe, he was gone in a puff of Oregon fog.
Investigators had alerted police and law enforcement all the way up through Washington, past Seattle and the Pacific Northwest because they thought he was headed in that direction.
Meanwhile, investigators warn Britney's family what they were telling me.
They had a history of falling off the radar screen. And sure enough, that's just what he did. And days turned into weeks. Summer turned into fall. No sign of him. Police suspicions turned darker.
I think it's important for us here in Florida not to lose interest and to not just be thinking and putting it off as this guy is, you know, two thousand miles away because he might still be in our backyard or coming back to our backyard for all we know.
Life went on for the rest of the world, but not for those who love Britney Tabbaa and who knew full well that time is not on the side of the missing.
I really did feel that the more time went on, the less likely we would be to find him.
Britney's family found themselves in a kind of limbo, a barren landscape shared by more people than they had ever imagined was possible. People would say to me, Oh, you need to talk to so-and-so. His sister disappeared.
There are hundreds of thousands of missing persons, all heartbreaking stories.
And you're just a number in a pool of people who are going through this, who have gone through this.
Back in Florida, police had been digging up everything they could find about Joe Roberts. As crime reporter Justin Griffin learned Joe had been on the road roaming the country, ran out of money about the time he got to St. Augustine, where he began living off the kindness of local women, came here and got a job working as a clerk at a kangaroo gas station.
And I guess when he couldn't afford to stay at a local motel, he would just sleep in this car. But this is how he came to know a few other women in St. Augustine.
One of them was a co-worker, a single mother named Cheryl Davenport. Is Joe needed a place to stay.
Cheryl invited him to her place for them in the spare bedroom right down the hall from Cheryl and her two little children.
He was a nice guy. He was always really good around the kids.
So Cheryl wasn't worried about Joe. No reason to be.
Apparently, Joe has too much of a pretty boy face. Wasn't very intimidating at all. I think I was more intimidating than he was.
But then Cheryl began to tell us some rather more disturbing things about Joe.
He told me that the reason why he left home, he had run some type of Internet scheme to where he was getting people's credit card numbers and stuff like that. And they had found out. And so he took off. He confessed this to you? Yeah. And he said that him and his family don't get along because they believe he has mental issues severely messed up in the head and that he was convinced he didn't have issues when he moved in, said Cheryl.
He told her he used to have a drug problem but swore he'd stay clean.
Certainly at least while living with Cheryl and her family, he actually looked for a job for the first month and then he slowly just got lazier and lazier. What was he doing? He was going on drug binges. That's when the anger started coming out. The more I got to know him, the more he started scaring me and the more he started upsetting me.
And that's when she says she demanded that Joe get out of her house.
And then he was about this close in my face and he went like this, like he was going to punch me in the face. And I just looked at him with a dead stare. And I was like, Joe, I swear to God, if you hit me, I will take you down.
So he left and found Britney, who police would learn told her friends not long before she disappeared that she was getting a little exasperated with Joe, too. She said that she would come home and he would have gone through her stuff and that they got in a few little fights. I was kind of worried. I asked her about them. You know, she would go, no, it's OK. It's OK. Did you want. I did. I did.
I warned her about having people into our house and now still no word.
We still didn't stop believing that there was a chance that she was alive.
Police rededicated their efforts to find the elusive Joe Roberts.
We've run out of leads, frankly, when it comes to his trail going west, it's less populated than we are. And if he doesn't have his vehicle on the road and he's keeping a low profile, that's hopefully somebody will see him in a store when he goes for some provisions or groceries. And that's what we want to turn up the heat on. I mean, he you know, we are looking for him and there's no question about that. Sure enough, we figured it would be something trite or petty that he'd get caught for sure enough, that's what happened.
Coming up, the drifter makes a mistake and Brittany's family learns the truth, just chilling for me to think about that.
For three long months, Britney Tovar was just missing and all the searching since by agencies from the Canadian Mounties to the FBI have produced no sign of Britney or Joe Roberts, the young boarder who disappeared along with her. Nothing, not a thing.
Then on October 12th, 2010, he was caught in Seattle and a grocery store in the area trying to steal lunchmeat, his captor was a clerk in a grocery store.
There wasn't a sheriff. He wasn't a police officer. He was somebody that was employed by a grocery store to deter theft.
But it wasn't until after the Seattle police showed up and arrested Roberts on the shoplifting charge that they discovered this was one very wanted man and so called the police in St. Augustine, Florida.
Sometimes we just have to count on luck and sometimes we have to count on their mistake. And in this case, I think he made a mistake. And and and we we had a little luck on our side and then a little more luck.
They had found Brittany Tavaris car parked in like a North Seattle library parking lot. The keys had been locked inside of it, actually.
So the police had the car. But no, Brittany, it wasn't long before a policeman from Florida was sitting at a Seattle interrogation room with young Mr. Roberts. Her family waited again, this time to hear what Roberts would say, only he could resolve the mystery, why she'd been out of touch for months.
And you always hold out a small amount of hope that that she would be alive and you never give up hope.
And then within three hours there in that police station, Joe Roberts finally answered the question that had been hanging over everybody, half hope, half dread. What happened at Brittany Tabbaa? The answer was perhaps the most dreadful story this young crime reporter had yet written.
Taken right from the confession Roberts gave police, she woke up early in the morning of her court case and woke him up very angry that something wasn't done correctly or that he didn't do it at all and was bugging him early in the morning trying to get him out of bed, yelling at him.
Now, why would she do that? Didn't take but a minute for her friends to figure it out.
This whole big argument with Joe was about him not being able to get this DVD or CD up to perfection about what they were going to take to court the court case against downloading, that is.
And so her friend speculated about what happened that last morning of her life. So she must have vented her temper on the man who, according to a former landlady, had a drug habit, possible mental health issues and an anger problem.
I think it just got to the point where he got pushed to the point of no return.
In a statement to police, Robert said they argued the night before her disappearance and then the next morning, Britney went off about something, which is when you grabbed a hammer and hit her in the head a couple of times.
That anger issue again. Right. She was laying on their kitchen, on the kitchen floor, bleeding. And in the report, she says there was lots and lots of blood. And at first she tried to stuff her body in the attic of their house. But he said that she was too heavy for him to carry all the way up those stairs and then decided he was going to leave town and dump her body in the woods. Roberts would tell investigators that he brought the dogs with him to buy him some time because he knew people that knew her well would think it was strange that she just left without her animals.
It was a shock, of course. And then Joe Roberts answered another question, this one with no good answer. Where was Britney?
She was found on a state road sort of where some homeless camps in the area. But it's mainly just woods.
One of the most terrible things would be to know that someone you loved died in fear, you know, died in a moment of terror and pain. And that was a very, very hard thing for me to accept.
Just was even today, it's just chilling for me to think about that.
But at least we never would have found the body if he hadn't told us, you know, I mean, it was in a forest somewhere.
I mean, like, you know, maybe we show up in 20 years, but we wouldn't have found it.
Having offered his detailed confession to the police, Roberts pleaded not guilty to first degree murder, but ultimately his case did not go to trial after years of legal wrangling.
Your name just about this.
Robin Roberts pleaded guilty to second degree murder on an amended indictment in May 2014.
And you simply this police investigation. Yes, they did and was sentenced to 30 years in a Florida state correctional facility.
As Brittany's family struggles with the aftermath of her loss, her friends look after Brittany's dogs. They're in great shape, happy, healthy and really good dogs. You know, Britney would have wanted that. She would have wanted, you know, somebody that loves them to have them and her friends mourn. Does her family. My sister was the one that my parents worried about the most. You know, she was the one they were concerned about because she had the hardest time getting her feet on a path in life, finding her way.
We never, ever, ever dreamed that anything like this would happen, that anything violent would happen to her.
I guess you have a point from which you move on, but there really isn't closure. And that actually is something that the homicide detectives know. There really isn't closure. You know, that's a cliche that people use, but there's no closure.
Brittany Tovar lived life on her own terms, naive, maybe reckless sometimes, and it cost her dearly. She just thought she was invincible. She didn't think anything bad happen. Well, that's part of who she was. She did have a very big heart.
So she did and lived out loud and was exuberant and generous. And for those who loved her is eternally missed for all of those things.
She was my sister and I've been robbed of the rest of my life with my sister. I've been robbed of that relationship. I've been robbed of those conversations. You know, I've been robbed of that friendship. That's all for now. I'm Lester Holt, thanks for joining us. You hear on the news, the Florida man, the not very bright thing that the Florida man did in Florida in general is kind of unique, a perfect place, big mansions, exotic cars for imperfect crimes.
Alarm going off, two people were dead. Outrageous homicides, you've got to see it to believe it, the perps being idiots left the phone. There does not happen in real life.
Florida man murders a two night special event January 9th at 7:00, kicking off oxygens. Nine Nights of twisted killers.