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Hey, Prime members, you can binge eight new episodes of the Mr. Ballon podcast one month early, and all episodes ad-free on Amazon Music. Download the Amazon Music app today. On a hot summer night in Arizona, a man was sleeping soundly in a second floor bedroom with his beloved dog curled up at his feet. But suddenly, the dog heard something outside on the roof, and then the bedroom window shattered, sending glass flying into the room. But no matter how much the dog barked, his owner didn't move. The horrible thing that happened inside of that bedroom would give a rookie detective her first major case, a case with a series of twists and turns that seemed to come right out of a soap opera. But before we get into that story, if you're a fan of the Strange, dark, and mysterious Delivered in story format, then you've come to the right podcast because that's all we do, and we upload twice a week, once on Monday and once on Thursday. So if that's of interest to you, after a long night of watching horror movies with the Amazon Music Follow button, tell them you're going home, secretly hide in their bushes outside, and then right around 3:00 AM, begin scratching and tapping on all of their windows.


Okay, let's get into today's story.


Some stories were never meant to be heard. Beneath the visible world of parliament's politicians and civil servants lies an invisible state, filled with secret operatives playing to very different rules. From WNDYRI, I'm Indra Vana, and this is the Spy Who. This month, we open the file on Nua Anayat Khan, the spy who wouldn't lie. When Germany invades France, Nour and her family are forced to flee to Britain. But Nour decides she can't just sit out the war, so she accepts one of the most dangerous spy missions of World War II, a job that will put her deep into enemy territory. Follow the Spy Who now wherever you listen to podcasts. Or you can binge the full season of The Spy Who Wouldn't Lie early and ad free with WNDYRI Plus.


Have you ever felt like escaping to your own desert island? Well, that's exactly what Jane, Phil, and their three kids did when they traded their English home for a tropical island they bought online. But paradise has its secrets, and family life is about to take a terrifying turn.


You don't fire at people in that area without some consequence. And he says, Yes, ma'am, he's dead.


There's pure cold-blooded terror running through me.


From Wundery, I'm Alice Levine, and this is the Price of Paradise, the real-life story of an island dream that ends in kidnap, corruption, and murder. Follow The Price of Paradise wherever you get your podcasts or binge the entire season right now on WNDYRI Plus.


On a July morning in 2016, 45-year-old nick Morales sped down a desert road in Marana, Arizona, just outside of Tucson. Nick saw the mountains in the distance as he drove past several large airplane hangers and a massive 7,000-foot runway. Then, nick slowed down, turned off the road near a white concrete office building, and pulled into the parking lot of Marana Aerospace Solutions. Marana Aerospace Solutions was a company that handled aircraft maintenance for major commercial airlines and aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus. And nick was the company's director of maintenance, a job that came with a ton of responsibility and a whole bunch of people that worked underneath him. Nick stepped out of his car. He was tall with brown eyes. He had a short military-style haircut and a goatee that was just starting to turn gray. He walked through the parking lot toward the office building, and it felt like most July mornings in that part of Arizona. It was already 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and nick knew that even by midday, it would be at least 10 degrees hotter. But nick didn't mind the heat. Before getting into the aerospace industry, he had been a decorated United States Marine and had served in Kuwait, a very hot place in the Middle East, during the first Gulf War.


After that experience, working on airplanes in the Arizona desert felt comfortable by comparison. Nick stepped inside the building, and right away, he felt the cold blast from the conditioner. He said good morning to a few coworkers, and then he walked to his office, sat down, checked his email, and began going over his schedule for the day. Nick wanted to head outside to one of the airplane hangers so he could check on the progress of a particular job, but his office phone rang. And so nick answered, and he heard the director of human resources on the other line, and the HR director asked if nick wouldn't mind coming to his office so they could chat. Nick hung up, and he felt really annoyed. He didn't know what the director wanted, but he knew from experience experience that getting called into HR was rarely a good thing. Nick walked out and headed down a long hallway to the HR director's office. The door was already open, and the director waved nick inside. Nick closed the door behind him and took a seat. The HR director was a nice guy, and he and nick got along fine, but nick really just wanted this meeting to end quickly.


So he asked point blank, What's going on? And the HR director said one of Nick's employees had recently filed a complaint against him. Now, nick knew the HR director was not going to tell him who actually filed this complaint, but nick wanted to know what the complaint actually was. And the director told him that the employee basically complained that nick was way too hard on his team all the time. Nick shook his head. Complaints like that made no sense to him. If somebody was not doing their job the right way, nick just told them. He wasn't trying to be mean, he was just trying to be efficient. A lot of his team members figured that Nick's straightforward and often harsh management style just stemmed from his military background. But that actually was not the reason. Nick knew working on aircraft affected the lives and safety of other people, and so he saw no room for error. So if somebody did their job poorly, he had to make sure they knew about it. The HR director understood where nick was coming from, and he wasn't planning on taking any immediate action against nick or anything. He just wanted nick to know what was going on.


Nick left the office and walked outside into the hot Arizona sun. As he paced around for a second, he thought the HR complaint more and more, and the more he thought about it, the more annoyed he got, because he was actually pretty sure he knew who made the complaint. James Lepan, a safety inspector on Nick's team, had recently clashed with nick at work. Nick had caught James parking in a restricted area, and he let him have it. Then, nick saw James spending time on his personal tablet during work hours, and again, he let him have it. While nick felt like what he did was justified, he knew there was a pretty good chance James did not feel the same way. Eventually, nick began walking towards an airplane hangar that was off in the distance. He could have driven over, but he figured walking would help him clear his head. As he walked, nick couldn't help but think about maybe confronting James about this whole complaint, but he knew that would be a mistake. He didn't even know for sure if James really was the guy who made the complaint. And nick knew he really could not afford to keep drawing the attention of HR.


Nick had had run-ins with the HR Department before, but those run-ins had nothing to do with his actual work. Nick had been described by many as a ladies' man, and he had lived up to that description during his time at Marana Aerospace. He had dated at least three women he had worked with, and there was a pretty good chance there were more women at work, but nick wouldn't admit to them. And two of those three relationships that he admitted to ended really badly. Over a year earlier, nick had been dating a colleague, a woman named Jessica, and she had started spending a lot of her time at Nick's house. But one evening, she had caught nick in bed with another woman they worked with named Claudia. Jessica was furious, and she lashed out at nick, and nick basically told her, Okay, fine. The relationship's over, and you need to leave. And so soon after that, Jessica left and Claudia began spending most of her time at Nick's place. But that relationship also fell apart when nick started seeing yet another colleague named Christina. And when nick and Christina had recently gotten engaged, it did not go over well with his ex-girlfriend friends.


And so the whole thing had played out like a soap opera at work. And even though the company did not have a policy against office relationships, Nick's actions and his ex-girlfriend's anger had previously landed him in the HR director's office. Nick walked into the airplane hangar and saw members of his team hard at work. The sights and sounds of the hangar immediately put nick at ease, and he pushed aside any thoughts about his personal affairs. Even employees who didn't necessarily love the way nick managed them He knew nick took his job really seriously, and he worked harder than anyone. So nick spent the rest of the day checking in on different maintenance projects and stepping in to help whenever his team needed him. By the time he was heading home that evening, the sun was starting to set, and it was painting the desert orange and pink. And something happened on the drive home, like it did most nights when nick left work. He suddenly changed into this totally different person. The hard-nosed confrontational boss suddenly became a soft-spoken guy who loved his dog and tending to plant in his garden. Nick drove down the street of his secluded suburban neighborhood and pulled into the garage of his two-story house.


He walked inside and heard his beloved Pitfall Terrier, Smokey, barking and running to greet him. Nick crouched down in Pet Smokey and talked to the dog like he was a baby. Then he told Smokey it was time to go for a walk, and the dog got even more excited. Nick and Smokey headed outside just as the last rays of the sun disappeared for the night. After he and Smokey had been walking for a while, nick felt his phone vibrate inside of his pocket. He grabbed it and looked at a text message and smiled. Then he told Smokey they needed to pick up the pace because Nick's fiancée, Christina, was heading over to the house and he couldn't wait to see her. On July 17th, 2016, So about a week after nick dealt with that HR complaint, he spent a lazy Sunday with his fiancée, Christina, at her house. Nick had been married twice, and after his second divorce, he had sworn to his friends and family that he would never get married again. But soon after nick and Christina had met at work, nick began to change his mind. He thought Christina was beautiful and that she was one of the most positive, considerate people he had ever met.


Christina knew about Nick's past with other women at work, but after spending time with him, she stopped worrying about it. She loved nick and wanted to be with him. So when nick had asked her to marry him, she immediately said yes. And so that Sunday, nick and Christina laid around Christina's house and discussed potential wedding venues and other wedding details. But then, nick brought up the recent HR car complaint. For some reason, even a week later now, it was still bothering him. Christina knew nick well enough that she knew he was not about to change his management style. She just wished his employees could see that nick actually was very different than the persona they saw at work. At home, he was a funny, caring, loving guy. It was just the way he had to be at work. That's why he acted that way. Ultimately, Christina told nick, Don't worry about it. It'll be fine. It's just work stuff. It'll go away. Don't stress. The couple chatted for a bit longer Then around 6:00 PM, nick got up and he gave Christina a kiss, and then he headed back to his house. Christina had some things to deal with at her own place, so she was going to stay there for the night.


Once nick got home, he took Smokey out for a walk and then relaxed and watched some TV. Later that night, he called Christina and they talked some more. On nights they didn't stay together, they always made sure to talk on the phone before bed, and then they would always text each other first thing in the morning. Nick told Christina he loved her and then said good night. He went upstairs to his bedroom and Smokey followed. Nick took off all his clothes. He often slept naked when it was this hot out, and he climbed into bed. Smokey leapt up onto the bed, too, and curled up by Nick's feet. And pretty soon, they were both fast asleep. But several hours later, at around 4:00 AM, so the next morning, Smokey suddenly woke up when he heard a sound coming from outside the window on the roof. A few hours later, at around 8:30 AM, Christina listened to Nick's voicemail for the third or fourth time, and she had no idea what was going on. Nick woke up early every day, and he usually headed out to work by 6:00 AM. So when Christina didn't stay with nick, she always woke up to a good morning text from him.


But nick did not text her that morning, and he wasn't answering his phone. And when she had called in to work, someone in Nick's department said he hadn't shown up yet. Nick never overslept, so Christina worried that maybe he had gotten sick the night before and wasn't feeling well enough to get out of bed. Christina hung up her phone, slipped it in her purse, and walked out to her car. She drove right over to Nick's house. A few minutes after 9:00 AM, Christina parked her car right out front of Nick's, and as soon as she got out, she instantly knew something was wrong. She could hear Smokey barking loudly from the backyard. Smokey always slept in the bed, and that included the nights when Christina stayed over. And even if nick had let Smokey outside that morning, he would never have left the dog by himself barking like that. Christina rushed up to the front door and used the house key nick had given her to open up the door. She walked inside, and what she saw totally confused her. There were all these cleaning products just laying out on the living room floor like someone had just literally dropped them and then run away.


She called out to nick but got no response, so she walked upstairs and headed down the hallway towards his bedroom. When she got to the bedroom, she found the door was cracked open. From the hallway, Christina again yelled for nick, but again, there was no answer. So after taking a deep breath, Christina pushed the bedroom door open and walked inside, and immediately she began crying and shaking her head. Nick was laying still on his bed, totally naked and covered in blood. Christina grabbed her phone and dialed 911. Her voice cracked, and she couldn't hold back the tears. She told the dispatcher she believed her fiancé had been shot. Later that morning, Detective Jennifer Garcia of the Pima County Sheriff's Department parked her car a few houses down from Nicks. She could see the crime scene tape that was stretched across Nicks' property, and she saw a couple of officers standing with a woman who was hunched over crying and petting a pitbull. Detective Garcia had butterflies in her stomach. She had only been a homicide detective for seven months, and this was the first case she was actually taking the lead on. But Garcia had been preparing for this since she was a little girl, really since the first time she saw her grandfather in his police uniform.


She had known, even back then, that she also wanted to be a cop when she grew up. And it just so happened that Garcia grew up to be really smart, and she had a keen eye for evidence. So at a relatively young age, she had already proven to be a very skilled detective. But Garcia knew leading an investigation was a different thing altogether. Still, she believed she was ready. So she took a deep breath, stepped out of her car, and began walking towards Nick's house. Detective Garcia spoke briefly with a few of the officers who had first arrived at the scene. They told her the woman who had found the body, Christina, had identified the victim as her fiancé, nick Morelas. Christina had told the officers about where nick worked and what his job was, and she also told them that he was a former United States Marine. Garcia thanked the officers, then put on her gloves, and headed inside the house. Then she, along with several forensics analysts, started to make their way through the house, and a few things immediately stood out to Garcia. She saw the cleaning products on the living room floor.


Then she found that the cabinet under the kitchen sink where the cleaning products had most likely been stored was left open. Now, she hadn't even seen the victim yet, but it looked to her like somebody had tried to clean up evidence they left behind but had abandoned the job. Garcia headed upstairs and into the bedroom, and she saw a ballistics expert cataloging evidence. The ballistics expert told Garcia he had found multiple bullet casings from a 0.45 caliber handgun. And these casings had a distinct manufacturer's mark on them. There were five stars on the head of the casing. Then, Garcia walked over to the bed and got a good look at Nick's body. Blood spatter covered the sheets and parts of the wall behind him. But Garcia also noticed some spots of blood that were all over the carpet by the window, and she noticed there was a big square of the carpet that had been cut out, like someone had removed a portion of the carpet. She also noticed a small pile of shattered glass, and so it looked like the window had been broken and then opened. Garcia was pretty sure the window is where the killer had entered the house.


But since Nick's bedroom was up on the second floor and not the first floor, she needed to figure out how the killer would have gotten access to the second floor window. Garcia stepped away from the window and walked into the bathroom that connected to the bedroom. She saw more blood spots on the floor, but that really was not the thing that caught her attention. The thing that caught her attention was the bathroom floor had the distinct smell of mouthwash all over it. Garcia thought that was really weird, and she wondered if maybe it was somehow connected to all the cleaning products downstairs, like somebody had tried to disinfect the bathroom floor using this mouthwash. Garcia let the ballistics and forensics team continue their work inside, and she headed downstairs and out to the backyard. And once she was in the backyard, she turned and looked up and she could see Nick's bedroom window up on the second floor, and she could also see there was a ladder lying on the ground right below it. And so Garcia walked over and picked the ladder up and placed it up against the side of the house. And with this ladder, she was able to climb up and actually get on the small roof that basically sat at the first floor level and wrapped around the small backyard patio, almost like an awning.


And she could stand on that awning and actually could see directly in to Nick's bedroom. And there was actually enough space on this little roof that if you wanted to, you could walk over and actually climb into Nick's bedroom window. Garcia climbed back down the ladder, and she already had a pretty good idea about how Nick's killer actually carried out their attack. Not long after Garcia had gotten down from the roof, an officer walked into the backyard and told her that the forensics team had just found something in the garage that she needed to see. So Garcia walked back through the house and then into the garage, and there she found a forensics analyst who was crouched over a bucket. And so she joined him, and she noticed the bucket was filled with water. The analyst pointed to several small threads that were floating in this water, and the analyst told Garcia that these were carpet fibers, and he was almost positive they matched the fibers from the carpet inside the house. And so this discovery helped Garcia make sense of all the cleaning products in the living room and also what she'd seen upstairs.


Garcia thought the killer had probably spilled their own blood and tried to clean the carpet and even cut out a piece of it to get rid of that evidence, but they had failed. So Garcia hoped the forensics team would find enough DNA samples to point her right to the murderer.


I'm Afwa Hirsch. I'm Peter Frankerpan. And in our podcast, Legacy, we explore the lives of some of the biggest characters in history. This season, we're exploring the life of Cleopatra. An iconic life full of romances, seages, and tragedy. But who was the real Cleopatra? It feels like her story has been told by others with their own agenda for centuries. But her legacy is enduring, and so we're going to dive into how her story has evolved all the way up to today. I am so excited to talk about Cleopatra, Peter. She is an icon. She's the most famous woman in antiquity. It's got to be up there with the most famous woman of all time. But I think there's a huge gap between how familiar people are with the idea of her compared to what they actually know about her life and character. So for Pyramids, Cleopatra and Cleopatra's Nose. Follow Legacy Now wherever you get your podcasts, or you can binge entire seasons early and ad-free on WNDRI Plus.


Nancy's love story could have been ripped right out of the pages of one of her own novels.


She was a romance mystery writer who happens to be married to a chef.


But this story didn't end with a happily ever after.


When I stepped into the kitchen, I could see that Chef Brophy was on the ground, and I heard somebody say, Call 911.


As writers, we'd written our share of murder mysteries. So when suspicion turned to Dan's wife, Nancy, we weren't that surprised.


The first person they looked at would be the spouse. We understand that's usually the way they do it.


But we began to wonder, had Nancy gotten so wrapped up in her own novels?


There are murders in all of the books.


That she was playing them out in real life? You can listen to Happily Never After, Dan and Nancy, early and ad-free right now by joining WNDRI Plus in the WNDRI app or on Apple podcasts.


After completing their first sweep at the house, Detective Garcia and members of her team met with Nick's fiancé, Christina, and a few of the neighbors. Garcia got a little more information about Nick's job from Christina, and Christina made it clear that some of the people who worked for nick were not that fond of him. So Garcia told one of her team members to call Marana Aerospace to see if anybody in particular had a serious grudge against nick. Then when Garcia and other investigators spoke to the neighbors, they would say they had not heard anything out of the ordinary the night before or early that morning. That seemed totally weird to Garcia. The houses on Nick's block were pretty close together, and multiple gunshots had to have been fired. I mean, Nick's body was riddled with bullet holes. Based on the broken window and the view of Nick's bed from the roof, Garcia believed at least one of those shots had been fired from outside on the roof into Nick's bedroom. So how did no neighbor hear a gunshot? Shot. Garcia knew there was a potential obvious answer to this question. The killer could have been using a suppressor or a silencer, as many people call it, on his gun, which would have limited the sound coming out of the gun when it was fired, basically making it silent.


And this immediately gave Garcia another idea. Some new handgun users find it much more difficult to fire accurately when using a suppressor because the suppressor adds weight and length to the barrel of the gun, and it can affect your aim. And this can be even bigger issue when you're talking about making a long distance shot. It's just really hard to do it with a suppressor unless you're experienced. So Detective Garcia thought there was a good chance that their shooter was someone who had real firearms training in their background. Garcia went back inside to walk through the house again when she got a call from Marana Aerospaces human resources director. He had heard about what happened to nick, and he had heard that police had reached out to his company to see if anybody had it out for nick, and he would tell Garcia that another Her employee at the company, James Lepon, had recently filed a complaint against nick, and the HR director had also noticed something strange. James had shown up to work that day wearing a bandage on his arm. Detective García knew the killer had left a trail of blood throughout Nick's room, and maybe that blood was coming from a cut on their arm they got when they climbed in through that broken window.


So after talking to the HR director, Garcia quickly made her way to Marana Aerospace to speak with James and see what was going on him and nick. When she got there, an employee led Garcia to one of the airplane hangers where James was working. Right away, Garcia noticed that James still had the bandage on his arm. Garcia walked over, introduced herself, and told him that she needed to ask him a few questions, and James said he was happy to answer them. James was 35 years old with brown hair and brown eyes, and he towered over Garcia. He was at least 6'3 tall, and he was very physically imposing. But García didn't let that affect her. She asked him why he had filed an HR complaint against nick, and James, he shook his head and he said he hadn't wanted this to turn into such a big deal. He just felt like nick had crossed the line a couple of times as a manager with just the way he was treating people. And since nick was not the easiest guy to talk to, James had gone directly to HR. García nodded and then asked James about the bandage on his arm.


James would say he got a pretty bad cut on his arm about a week earlier on the job, and he said there were guys he was working with that could vouch for him, and he said he had reopened the cut while doing some work on his house this past weekend, hence the bandage. Garcia said she would check in with his coworkers. Then she told James she had a few more questions. Did he have firearms training? And where had he been the day before? And early that morning. James didn't hide anything. He said he did own several guns, and he enjoyed going to the gun range and going hunting, and so he did take serious firearms training just so he could be a safe, responsible gun owner. This all made sense to Garcia. Hunting and shooting were very common pastimes in this area. Then James told Garcia that he was at home all day Sunday with his wife and kids. He and his wife had gone to bed together that night, and then he woke up Monday morning and went right to work. Then James peered down at Garcia and he told her, Look, I never like nick.


I'm not going to pretend I like nick, but I would never have done anything to hurt the guy. Garcia thanked James for taking the time to talk to her, and then she walked out of the hangar. And it wouldn't take her long to walk around the company and find several people who had witnessed James get hurt on the job. So that could possibly explain the bandage on his arm. But after making the rounds at Marana Aerospace, Garcia quickly realized that a disgruntled employee like James might not be the most likely suspect because she heard that nick had made at least a couple of women he worked with really, really mad. And this had to do with romantic relationships, which historically absolutely lead to murder and conflict and violence. So Garcia headed head back to the Sheriff station to set up a series of interviews. That evening, Garcia met with James' wife. She was an army vet who prided herself on being straightforward, and she told Garcia basically the same story her husband had, that they had spent Sunday with their kids, and then they had gone to bed. And she would tell Garcia that she knew her husband had not been a fan of nick.


But from her perspective, it just seemed like this was the usual way people got fed up with their bosses. It was nothing more than that. Detective Garcia thanked her for coming in. It was too early to cross anyone off the list of potential suspects. But James' wife had not given Garcia any reason to doubt that she was telling the truth. So now, Garcia turned her focus from Nick's work life to his romantic life. On July 19th, a day after Nick's body was discovered, Garcia sat across the table inside of a cramped interrogation room from one of Nick's ex-girlfriends, Claudia Banks. Claudia got really animated when she spoke, and she seemed very ready and willing to talk a lot. But But what Claudia had to say was really not what Garcia had expected. Garcia assumed she was in for an angry rant over a jolted lover. But instead, Claudia told the detective that nick had been really awesome. She said he was a great listener and a lot of fun to hang out with. Garcia sat there for a second feeling stunned. From what she'd heard back at Marana Aerospace, Nick's exes had been really mad at him, and some had even complained to HR about him.


Claudia said she did not fit that description at all. She said she totally happy for nick when he got engaged, and now she was devastated that he was gone. Then Claudia got a very angry, serious look on her face, and she told Garcia there were two people police really needed to speak to. Nick's other ex-girlfriend, Jessica Still Well, and her own ex-boyfriend, Justin Skinner. Garcia leaned forward in her chair. She had not heard Justin's name before. But Claudia said that when she and nick were together, their relationship had actually come after they had broken two other people's hearts. Remember, nick had kicked Jessica out of his house after she caught him cheating on her, and Claudia was pretty sure Jessica had never forgiven nick for that, and Claudia dumped her boyfriend at the time, Justin, to be with nick. But according to Claudia, this was not even the most significant part of the story. Claudia said on Sunday, the night before Nick's body was found, she had been hanging out with her mother at a bar when out of nowhere, her old ex, Justin, walked in. Claudia said she had done her best to avoid Justin after they had broken up because he had gone full-blown stalker mode, hanging out outside of her work, following nick in his car, and stuff like that.


And at the bar that Sunday, Justin had tried to talk to Claudia, but she wasn't having it, so she and her mother left. But then, just that morning, only a day after somebody murdered nick, Claudia found a note on her front door, and the note was from Justin saying how sorry he was about Nick's death, and that if Claudia needed someone to talk to, he was there for her. Detective Garcia stared across the table at Claudia. The story sounded too on the nose to be real. The stalker ex-boyfriend who hated nick for stealing his girl just happened to show up where she was the night before the murder, and then he had a note for her the day after nick turned up dead? Garcia thanked Claudia and told her she could go now. The detective still wanted to talk to Nick's other ex-girlfriend, Jessica, but now it seemed like Justin was the highest on her suspect list. The following day, Detective Garcia drove to Justin's house to meet with him. The temperature had hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and Garcia could feel herself starting to sweat just during the short walk from her car to his front door.


She knocked on the door, and Justin let her inside. Garcia followed him into the kitchen, subtly looking around his house while she walked. Nothing really stood out about the house. It looked a lot of the places she had seen that belonged to other single guys, a little cluttered and not much decoration. But something about Justin caught Garcia's attention right away. He had several long scratches on both of his arms. Garcia sat down with Justin at the kitchen table, and she got right to the point. She asked him if he still blamed nick for breaking up his relationship with Claudia. Justin said he was not mad anymore about nick and Claudia and that he had let it all go. But when he was telling Garcia this, he He didn't look up at her. He didn't make eye contact. And so she was pretty sure he didn't fully mean what he was saying, that maybe he was still mad. So Garcia said in response, if he had let things go, why had he shown up at the bar where Claudia had been on Sunday night and And why did he leave her a note just a day after nick had been found dead?


Justin's voice got real quiet, and he almost immediately began to backtrack what he had just said. He told Garcia that actually he did want to get back together with Claudia. He missed her. But he made it very clear he had nothing to do with Nick's murder. Garcia stayed on him and asked him about the cuts on his arms. Justin looked down at his arms and he laughed, and he said he was a landscaper. So he always had little cuts all over his arms and hands. It was just part of his work. He didn't even think about them anymore. Garcia looked across the table at Justin. She couldn't quite get a read on him. Was he a broken-hearted guy who was just awkward and overbearing in trying to get his girlfriend back? Or was he jealous and angry enough to go kill a man to try to get his girlfriend back? So Garcia asked Justin if he would provide police with a DNA sample. She said it would be quick and easy. She would just swab his cheek. But Justin shook his head and said, No, I don't want to do that. Garcia smiled and told him she totally understood something like this could feel very invasive.


Then Garcia stood up, and for a second, it must have seemed to Justin like she was about to leave. But she stopped and turned around and leaned in towards Justin, and with a smile on her face, she told him the best way to clear his name and to make sure Everybody knew he did have nothing to do with Nick's death was to provide a DNA sample right here, right now. Justin looked up at Garcia, and with a very determined look on his face like he was about to do something big, he told Garcia, Okay, I will provide a DNA sample. A little while later, Garcia headed back to the station with Justin's DNA sample for testing. The results would take some time to get back, so she prepared to interview another potential suspect, Nick's other ex-girlfriend, Jessica Stillwell. Later that day, Garcia met with Jessica in the same interview room where she'd met with Nick's other ex-girlfriend, Claudia. But from the moment Jessica sat down, Garcia could tell this interview was going to be very different from her interview with Claudia. Jessica looked angry, and unlike Claudia, she did not think nick had been really awesome.


She said nick had cheated on her in full view of her and then totally broken her heart by basically kicking her out of the house and not caring at all about her. But she said that was not the only reason she had been so upset. Jessica also had a daughter, and when things fell apart with nick, her daughter had been spending a ton of time at his house, too, and so she was really sad. She missed nick. And so the whole thing had just screwed up this little girl's life. Garcia listened and nodded along as Jessica spoke like she was a friend who Jessica could confide in. And as she did this, it struck Garcia that if Jessica was involved in Nick's murder, she really was not trying to hide it. This This was a woman who obviously carried a very serious grudge against nick. Finally, after several minutes of ranting and raving, Jessica stopped talking. So Garcia asked her where she'd been on Sunday and then Monday morning, the time period when nick was killed. Jessica said that she and her daughter had stayed at her mother's house the entire weekend, and then she woke up and drove to work from there on Monday.


Garcia asked if Jessica would mind handing over her phone for a little while before she left. Garcia explained that police could download information and text messages from her phone, and that would be the easiest way for them to confirm Jessica's alibi. They would be able to tell if she really had been at her mother's house. Jessica had no hesitation. She reached into her pocket and put her phone on the table and told Garcia the police could do whatever they needed. She was telling the truth, and so she had nothing to hide. Garcia thanked her and then left the room with the phone. And at this point, police conducted a forensics download on the phone that would provide them with cell phone location data. But it would also give investigators a look at who Jessica had been texting with and what she had been saying in those messages. On July 21st, 2016, so three days after Nick's body had been found, Detective Garcia sat working at her desk. She had a handful of legitimate suspects, and she was still waiting on two pieces of evidence that could potentially break the case wide open: Justin's DNA results and a complete view of all Jessica's text messages.


In the meantime, Garcia went back over her interviews from Nick's work to see if she had overlooked anything. Then, Garcia's phone rang, and it was Nick's brother on the other line. Garcia had spoken to him once before, soon after Nick's death, but he said this call had nothing to do with that first interview. Nick's brother said he had just talked to one of Nick's friends, and this friend was pretty sure he had important information about this case. Garcia took down the friend's details, thanked Nick's brother, and then called Nick's friend. The guy was at work, so Garcia told him not to go anywhere. She would head right over. Not long after the call, Garcia made her way through Tucson and arrived at a metal fabrication shop that Nick's friend managed. Garcia went inside. The place was loud, and several men were wearing these huge welders' helmets and were hard at work on different projects, but Garcia found Nick's friend waiting for her already at the front desk. He told Garcia that after the initial shock and grief of Nick's death had subsided a bit, he started thinking about anybody who might have wanted to hurt his friend.


And then he remembered something, something he thought could be big. Months earlier, somebody who knew nick well had come into the shop asking for a few specific pieces of equipment. Nick's friend said that even at the time, he thought the order was a little strange because he could really only think of one thing those pieces of equipment could be used for. Garcia asked him what he meant, and Nick's friend said, Well, the equipment could be used to repair a firearms suppressor or silencer. Garcia's face lit up. She asked Nick's friend, Please tell me you have a record of that purchase. And he said he did. And he had actually already pulled the information for her. Nick's friend handed Garcia the receipt with the list of items and the buyer's information. And when Garcia saw the buyer's name, she immediately felt a rush. She thanked Nick's friend and hustled out to her car. Garcia had spent only a week on her first case as a lead homicide detective, and already she was sure she had just solved the crime. Based on that receipt from the metal fabrication shop, multiple interviews and evidence collected throughout the investigation, here is a reconstruction of what police believe happened to nick in the early morning hours of July 18th, 2016.


At around 4:00 AM that morning, the killer parked their car a few houses down from Nick's. They knew the neighborhood would be dark and quiet that time of morning. They also knew the perfect place to stage their attack. The killer got out of their car and walked quickly down the street towards Nick's house. They wore all black clothes and a pair of gloves. On one hip, the killer had a 0.45 caliber handgun with a suppressor attached, and on the other hip was a folded pocket knife inside of a leather sheath. The killer The killer avoided the glow of a few streetlights and then walked around Nick's house to the backyard. The killer hopped the low fence and scanned the yard. They saw a ladder leaned up against the wall where they knew nick kept it. The killer moved across the yard quickly and quietly. They grabbed the ladder and placed it against the house near the back porch and climbed up onto that small roof, that awning, where you could easily see into Nick's bedroom. And so once up on that roof, the killer got in position right outside of Nick's They knelt down, and from their spot, they could clearly see nick in his bed.


And so the killer took the gun off their hip. They took a slow breath. They raised their gun, and they fired. The glass in the window shattered, and the bullet struck nick as he lay in bed. But the gun, because of the silencer, made virtually no noise, and so nobody in the neighborhood heard any of this happening. But the killer didn't waste any time. They took a few steps forward and reached through the now shattered window. They unlocked the window, opened it up, and began to climb through it. The killer heard the sound of a dog barking inside the room, and they felt a piece of broken glass cut into their arm as they climbed through. The pain stung, but they couldn't worry about that now. The killer landed on Nick's bedroom floor, and they saw glass from the window all around them. Nick's dog barked and barked and ran around the room, but it did not attack the killer. The killer looked over at nick, who was lying in bed, and the killer could see nick was not moving. But the killer didn't want to take any chances. And so as they walked across the room towards Nick's bed, the killer raised their silenced pistol and fired multiple shots into Nick's body.


And then finally, when the killer was standing right over nick, they aimed their gun right at Nick's forehead and shot him one more time, execution style. And so at this point, there was no question nick was deceased. But the killer felt that sting from the cut on their arm, and they glanced back to see there was a trail of blood dripping behind them. And so the killer started to panic, and the dog kept on barking, which really stressed the killer out. And so the killer slipped their silenced pistol back into their waistband and then looked around the dark room, and then headed towards the bathroom door. They stepped inside the bathroom, turned on the light, and then stuck their arm under the sink and began to wash off their cut. But when the killer turned to leave, they saw there was blood still on the bathroom floor from their cut. So impulsively, the killer grabbed a bottle of mouthwash from the counter and just poured it all over the floor and rubbed their shirt sleeves all over it, attempting to clean up the blood with it. But it was not working, and the dog just kept on barking over and over and over again.


So the killer just rushed back into the bedroom, grabbed the dog by the collar, and ran downstairs and put it out in the backyard. The killer closed the back door, turned, and headed back towards the kitchen. There, they opened up the cabinet under the sink and grabbed cleaning products, a hand towel, and a bucket. They filled the bucket with water and carried their supplies upstairs to the bedroom. Once there, they turned on the light and they saw there was all this blood spatter on the carpet. Now, the killer knew a lot of that blood was Nick's, but for sure, some of it had to be the killer's blood. So they got down on their hands and knees and sprayed one of the cleaning products on the floor, dipped the towel in the bucket of water, and started scrubbing. And each time they dipped the towel in the bucket, they would leave carpet fibers behind in the water. But no matter how hard they scrubbed, the blood just was not coming out of this carpet, and it was taking way too much time trying to clean it. So they dropped the cleaning supplies, they took out their pocket knife off their hip, and they cut this big bloody piece of carpet away and carried it and the cleaning supplies out of the room, and they headed downstairs.


But by this point, the killer was well aware that things had really not gone to plan, and at this point, the killer just wanted to get the heck out of the house. So they just dropped the cleaning products on the living room floor, but they held on to that towel they were using to scrub the carpet, as well as the actual chunk of carpet they cut away. Then the killer also hid the bucket of water in the garage, hoping nobody would find it. Then the killer ran back upstairs, went into Nick's bedroom. They climbed back out the window onto that roof. Then he climbed down the ladder and then lowered the ladder onto the ground so it didn't look as obvious that he had used it to climb to the second floor. And then he climbed over the exterior fence around the property, leaving behind Smoky the dog in the backyard, and the killer just ran the rest of the way back to their car. The killer would then speed home, change out of their clothes, and put a big old bandage on their arm, and then drive into work at Marana Aerospace Solutions. James Lepon, the man who had filed that HR complaint, had murdered nick.


But James' reasoning behind the murder went much deeper than just some run-ins the two men had at work. It would turn out James was having an affair with Jessica, one of Nick's ex-girlfriends. And apparently, Jessica still talked all the time about nick, and it totally drove James crazy, so he killed nick. Garcia had first discovered this relationship between James and Jessica when Jessica had handed over her phone. They had seen the text messages between them. And soon after that, James had actually admitted to the affair as well. But he still, at the time, said he had nothing to do with Nick's murder. But investigators dove deeper into Jessica's text messages, and they found several exchanges between her and James that seemed really strange. In one of those messages, James implied he was going to, quote, handle his problems with nick. In another, James asked what dog nick had, and Jessica told him it was a Pitbull. Then, investigators found maybe the strangest message on Jessica's phone, nick telling her to delete all of their text conversations. Soon after receiving those text messages, Detective Garcia received the DNA test results of her other major suspect, Justin Skinner.


And Justin's samples did not match samples found at the murder scene. So Garcia definitely saw James as her primary suspect. After all, he even had this mysterious cut on his arm. Then, Nick's friend at the metal fabrication shop had handed over the receipt from the customer who had bought equipment to potentially repair a firearms suppressor, and Detective Garcia saw James's name on that receipt. And so at that point, she was certain he was the murderer. Garcia got a warrant to search James's house, and when investigating investigators did the search, they would find boxes of bullets inside of his house that had the same unique marking as the bullet casings found at the murder scene, the five stars on the casing head. And so at that point, police would arrest James for Nick's murder. Some investigators thought that Jessica could have been involved in her ex-boyfriend's murder, but she was ultimately never charged with anything connected to the crime. At James' trial, one of the most important testimonies came from his own wife. During the investigation, she had corroborated James' alibi. But when James was in prison awaiting trial, his wife had watched this movie in which an abused wife stands up to her abusive husband.


And apparently, when she saw this, it really spoke to her, and so it made her decide she had to tell the truth. James' wife admitted that she had lied to police. She said James was violent and abusive, and she was scared he would hurt her and her kids if she didn't do what he said. She told the jury she knew James had murdered nick, and when he came home from killing nick, he had told her exactly what to say to police. In the end, the jury found James guilty of first-degree murder, and James was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Thank you for listening to the Mr. Balin podcast. If you enjoyed today's stories and you're looking for more strange, dark, and mysterious various content, be sure to check out all of our studio's podcasts. They are this one, of course, Mr. Balin podcast, and we also have Mr. Balin's Medical mysteries, we have Bedtime Stories, and also Run Full. To find those other podcasts, all you have to do is search for Balin studios wherever you listen to your podcasts. To watch hundreds more stories just like the ones you heard today, head over to our YouTube channel, which is just called Mr.


Balin. So that's going to do it. I really appreciate your support. Until next time. See you. Hey, Prime members, you can binge eight new episodes of the Mr. Ballon podcast one month early, and all episodes ad-free on Amazon Music. Download the Amazon Music app today. And before you go, please tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at wondry. Com/survey. If you're listening to this podcast, then chances are good you are a fan of the Strange, Dark, and Mysterious. And if that's the case, then I've got some good news. We just launched a brand new Strange, Dark, and Mysterious podcast called Mr. Balin's Medical mysteries. And as the name suggests, it's a show about medical mysteries, a genre that many fans have been asking us to dive into for years. And we finally decided to take the plunge, and the show is awesome. In this free weekly show, we explore bizarre unheard of diseases, strange medical mishaps, unexplainable deaths, and everything in between. Each story is totally true and totally terrifying. Go follow Mr. Balin's Medical mysteries wherever you get your podcasts. And if you're a prime member, you can listen early and ad-free on Amazon Music.