tv The Secrets in the Suitcase MSNBC April 22, 2012 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
911 emergency. >> has the jury reached a verdict? >> we, the jury find the defendant -- >> she was fun. she was happy. >> popular. pretty. she was the girl in the yellow camaro, right out of school she married her sweetheart. he was the one who found her. >> my wife's been killed! please hurry. >> a young wife, dead on the bedroom floor. >> i want to know why, why. >> who could have killed her? there were plenty of whispers about a marriage on the rocks. and a husband under a cloud. >> hearsay and gossip and lies. >> for decades it went unsolved,
a mystery. then they opened it. a lime green suitcase, and no one was prepared. for what happened afterward. >> my mind was just spinning. >> a detective, a sister, both bent on justice. after almost 30 years, could they get it? the secrets in the suitcase. >> thanks for joining us. i'm ann curry. for police it was that most frustrate of cases, a crime, a suspect but not enough evidence to prove or solve it. almost three decades passed and heart broken loved ones wondered if justice would ever be done. then they learned the answer was in plain sight all along. it just wasn't what anyone expected. here's keith morrison. >> they kept it in the dark, down the stairs in the basement. among the bolt cutters and the bags of white powder and the guns. the investigative leftovers of a small police department. why they chose a lime green
suitcase for it is beyond knowing now. but he'd see it down there every time he filed a piece of evidence, tucked in, all but forgotten behind a door frame like a silent accusation. >> there it kind of sat in that room staring at you. >> yes. yes, for years. >> in fact, since about the time brad benson got his start in the woods cross police department. >> i was always intrigued by this case because, you know, it was a cold case homicide that had never been solved. >> the lime green mystery. inside that suitcase the original, just like this one was quite possibly all the evidence required to put a murderer away for life. if he opened it, god knows what would come slithering out, though he never guessed just how bizarre it would turn out to be. back in the summer of 1980, it
murders that -- it seemed frankly like one of those murders that happen all too commonly in other cities, though surely not here. brad benson was a rookie, a reserve officer in a town that only rarely needed much of a police department. >> i was kind of shocked quite frankly that we had something like that in the woods cross area. i had only been there a couple of years, but i could never imagine we would be investigating a homicide. >> murder in woods cross, unheard of. >> yes, unheard of. that was our very first homicide, as a matter of fact. >> woods cross was busily growing out from the fringe of slablth city in those days, quiet, middle class, studded every with mostly mormon churches and it prided itself on being a safe place to live. that's why people moved here. so it was a shock that very first time woods cross encountered murder. it was the 6th of june, 1980. a friday morning. >> oh, my god! this is 1653 south -- 1200 -- 1200 west 1653 south.
in woods cross. my wife's just been killed! i just got home from work. >> the event stands out in the collective memory here. >> okay. i'll -- what's your name? >> steve strom. please! >> strom? >> steve strom. please hurry. >> steve strom was an overnight shift worker at a local aerospace parts company. so it was just before 8:00 a.m. he told first responders when he came home to find his wife's body. she had been severely beaten, the furniture in their bedroom had been pushed around as if in a violent struggle. >> i was at work, and my stepmother had called me and she says, karen's dead. and i just said, what? she goes, karen's dead. i said, she can't be. i just talked to her. >> karin strom's sister coco rushed to the crime scene. >> i knew it was a crime scene,
but, god, i just wanted to hold her so bad. then they brought her body out, and you're in such shock. you're, like, she can't be in there. no, that's not my sister. she's not in there. and then they took her away. >> did you ever get a chance to hold her? >> no. no. >> then the whole town got to know about coco's big sister karin, how pretty she was, how full of life and potential, how young. just 25 when someone got into her bedroom, tore the place apart and strangled the life out of her. what earthly reason would anyone have for killing karin strom? >> she was fun. she was happy. she was -- she had a lot of friends. she was just you -- she was a good soul. >> but, even before that awful day came to an end, some friends off steve and karin strom felt
like they knew what must have happened. >> i received a telephone call from my husband. what he said to me was, well, it finally happened. steve finally killed her. >> steve killed her? >> my wife's been killed. i just got home from work. >> was his frantic voice on that 911 call the equivalent of crying crocodile tears? brad benson, remember, was a rookie back then, didn't take part in the investigation. but, before long, his colleagues seemed to feel that steve was indeed the murderer. and they had their reasons. >> well, there were some reports of domestic violence in his past. >> in fact, it turned out, karin had left steve. why was she even in the house that night? a couple of months after karen's death, steve was arrested and charged with his wife's murder. what did steve strom do?
>> well, of course, he denied it. he denied being involved. he fought the case tooth and nail. >> and those investigators remained convinced that their man was steve. >> yes. >> but, as the trial approached back at the beginning of the 1980s, none of the evidence from that chaotic bedroom murder scene could be tested for dna. the technology just didn't exist then. what they had instead was a circumstantial case, the testimony of friends and family who would say that steve was sometimes verbally and possibly physically abusive. but karin wanted out. >> there was black eyes and bruises that were witnessed by some of their co-workers and friends. >> but it wasn't enough. not much more than hearsay according to the assigned trial judge who release edismissed th and released steve strom to go on about his life. strom lost his friends, his credibility, perhaps only this friend still believed in him.
>> i mean, everybody was saying, you did it, you did it, you did it, you did it. you know? and they chased him. they followed him everywhere he went. >> cops? >> yep. i was with him. >> and that was that. nobody satisfied. certainly not karen's sister coco who believed in her heart, like so many others, that steve had gotten away with murder. and that, decided, coco could not stand. her big sister had been there for her growing up and now coco would do what she could to fight for justice. >> 27 years. >> 27 years and it never left your mind? >> how could it? it's shocking and it's your sister. somebody you love dearly. it's, like, you go and think about it and then you give up and then it's there again. you know, it never goes away. >> just like the lime green suitcase. through all that evidence felt no emotion at all as it sat there gathering dust all those years.
but now as he contemplated imminent retirement, brad benson, now a detective sergeant, had come to believe or to hope, at least, that new technologies would finally give mute evidence a voice and make the case that couldn't be made back in 1980. >> we're pretty confident that if there is dna it will come back to somebody that we are familiar with. >> but you know what they say about assumptions. because, as benson was about to discover, just beneath that apparently obvious surface was a very strange story indeed. coming up -- >> i thought, wow, maybe something's really going to happen this time. >> old evidence yields new clues. where would they lead? to a place nobody in woods cross would have thought. when the secrets in the suitcase continues. it's very important to understand how math and science kind of makes the world work. in high school, i had a physics teacher
by the name of mr. davies. he made physics more than theoretical, he made it real for me. we built a guitar, we did things with electronics and mother boards. that's where the interest in engineering came from. so now, as an engineer, i have a career that speaks to that passion. thank you, mr. davies.
it's kind of a big deal. chex has five flavors that are gluten-free. even a cinnamon one the kids love. the word "wow" comes to mind. [ male announcer ] chex cereal. five flavors. good and gluten free. [ male announcer ] chex cereal. how did the nba become the hottest league on the planet? by building on the cisco intelligent network they're able to serve up live video, and instant replays, creating fans from berlin to beijing. what can we help you build? nice shot kid. the nba around the world built by the only company that could. cisco.
it was june 2006. 26 years almost to the day since coco saltzgiver's sister karin strom was murdered in woods cross, utah. the crime had never been solved. though some evidence at the time seemed to point toward karen's husband steve strom and who knows why these things come about, coco happened to be in utah to attend a funeral. she happened to be driving through woods cross and, on a whim really, decided to stop at the local police department to ask what finally happened top that case. >> i said, where do i find information on a homicide that's never -- >> she said, oh, do you mean karin? i said, you people are freaking me out here. >> within minutes, coco was on the phone with detective brad benson. >> he said, you want to know what's funny? i said, oh, please. this it is getting better and better. he said, i took her case out six
months ago and started looking at it again. >> just coincidence, of course, wasn't it? >> and i thought, wow. i says, maybe something's really going to happen this time. >> by this time, benson had followed a trail around the corner of the storage room from the old green suitcase to a makeshift plywood shelf where he discovered boxes and boxes chockfull of evidence. >> they had fingernails that they didn't know what they contained back then. >> but they saved them any way. >> they saved them. consequently they became one of the best pieces of evidence that we had. >> benson sent those preserved fingernails off to the lab along with other testable pieces of evidence. and then, as he and coco waited for the results, benson continued to dig into the murder file and into the life of karin strom. what happened to make her a target of somebody's murderous rage? she was born in salt lake city, utah, an eldest daughter. coco's big sister.
and in this state in some ways she was distinctly unusual. >> we grew up catholic in utah. my dad's side of the family was mormon. my mom was catholic. >> so you knew what it was to be a minority. >> absolutely. absolutely. >> and she was popular and pretty, a natural dancer who once in high school was rarely without a date on a saturday night. and when she got her first car, her adored yellow camaro, life couldn't get any better. >> she loved that car. i loved that car. we used to go riding, just cruising in that car. that car was -- she was so happy when she got that. >> that she got married so soon, just 18, and right out of high school seemed reasonable at the time. at least to coco it did.
>> living in utah? >> that kind of happens, huh? >> that was nothing new. i just figured, well, karin did it, too, you know? >> she and steve strom were in love, after all. >> i didn't know steve that well. he didn't talk, very quiet. >> this is karen's high school melody fairbourne. >> she really did love him, and enjoyed his company. >> but then it was about seven years in when the bad times started to outweigh the good. the problem said melody was steve who could be, she said, a mean drunk. >> when he would start drinking, he would start verbally degrading her. >> and there had been rumors of some physical abuse. perhaps for that reason, maybe something else, karin decided to file for divorce, even though -- >> she loved him. >> really?
>> oh, yeah. >> she wanted to leave him but she loved him? >> uh-huh. i know. yeah, i know. but she did. she loved him. >> so it was complicated. karin seemed to move on, started seeing someone else. >> i was thinking that she had finally broken away. >> but, just over a month after she filed her divorce papers, karin returned to the house in woods cross. her puzzled friends assumed it must be temporary, a good-bye visit. but an exalted steve told hissis friend dick can'tton wine it was all going to work out. >> he was happy she was coming back because he loved her. i mean, when she was gone, he was down in the dumps. >> just miserable about it. >> yeah. >> on june 5, 1980, the records show karin and steve spent the evening together, ate out, returned home. then just after midnight, 12:15
a.m., steve left to go to work the graveyard shift at an aerospace parts company. steve told police how karin walked him to his car, all lovey dovey, then said good night and walked back into the house. she passed her yellow camaro parked in the driveway and closed the door behind her. he clanled he called her later that morning to wake her up for work. no answer. called again, let the phone ring 20 times, still no answer. so he said he clocked out about the 6:30 the morning of the 6th and drove home. karen's camaro was still parked in the driveway when he arrived. or that was his story, at least. >> my wife's been killed. i just got home from work. >> what's your name? >> steve strom. please! >> steve strom? >> steve strom. please hurry! >> and now all these years later, detective benson read about his colleagues' frustrated attempts to mount a case against steve strom and waited with karin's sister coco for results
of dna tests conducted on karin's preserved fingernails, waited to be able to say, finally, got him. coming up -- >> he said coco, the dna came back. are you ready for this? >> the test results are in and those theories out. a mysterious suspect emerges in a mysterious suspect emerges in the murder of karin strom today i own 165 wendy's restaurants. and i get my financing from ge capital. but i also get stuff that goes way beyond banking. we not only lend people money, we help them save it. [ junior ] ge engineers found ways to cut my energy use. [ cheryl ] more efficient lighting helps junior stay open later... [ junior ] and serve more customers. so you're not just getting financial capital... [ cheryl ] you're also getting human capital. not just money. knowledge. [ junior ] ge capital. they're not just bankers... we're builders. [ junior ] ...and they've helped build my business.
that's good morning, veggie style. hmmm. for half the calories plus veggie nutrition. could've had a v8. can i help you? yeah, can i get a full-sized car? for full-sized cars, please listen to the following menu. for convertibles, press star one. i didn't catch that. to speak to a representative, please say representative now. representative. goodbye! you don't like automated customer service, and neither do we. that's why, unlike other cards, no matter when you call chase sapphire preferred, you immediately get a person not a prompt. chase sapphire preferred. a card of a different color. (phone ringing) chase sapphire preferred, this is julie in springfield. but not how we get there. because in this business,
there are no straight lines. only the twists and turns of an unpredictable industry. so the eighty-thousand employees at delta... must anticipate the unexpected. and never let the rules overrule common sense. this is how we tame the unwieldiness of air travel, until it's not just lines you see... it's the world. ♪ ♪ and i never thought i'd feel this way ♪ ♪ the way i feel about you [ male announcer ] it's time to clean out your garage for a car that's worthy of being the 2012 motor trend car of the year. the volkswagen passat. that's the power of german engineering. ♪ it must be love ♪ love, love
around woods cross, utah, and among the suburbs and the city on the shores of the great salt lake, the story of karin strom was ancient history now, an artifact long lost to public memory. there was just the green suitcase, the soon-to-retire detective, and the one person for whom a burning need lived on every day for more than a quarter century, karin's sister coco. how important was it for you to find out what happened? >> very.
because i want to know why. why would you take somebody so beautiful? she wasn't raped. you know, it wasn't a robbery. they just plain killed her. it's, like, why? >> and, of course, who? what happened behind that bedroom window here in this middle class neighborhood in the summer of 1980 is not really in doubt and wasn't from the beginning. there was a violent struggle. that was obvious. and a woman was dead, strangled. a little checking revealed there was no forced entry to the house. a little more checking indicated that this was a woman in the middle of marital discord. and so the answers to the questions who did this thing and why seemed perhaps to have fairly obvious answers. what was your assessment then as to what probably happened that night? >> i believed there was some sort of a domestic dispute and that things had gotten out of hand and that's what led to her death.
>> and everything in the case file certainly seemed to back up that point of view. was there anything else that went to motive as far as steve was concerned? >> nothing other than the divorce that was currently going on. it sounded to me like she may be leaving him for another man. >> ah, so jealousy comes into play. as well. >> yes. >> couldn't do anything about it though? >> well, back then, we didn't have dna. so short a confession, there wasn't really anything they could do. >> but now there were with those fingernails. the chaos in the bedroom where she was murdered made it obvious that karin had fought back and unknowingly retrieved his dna profile by scratching him before she died. benson spoke to steve strom now in his 50ss to let him know that he had reopened karin's case. would steve provide a comparison sample of his own dna? >> i told steve that if he came up and provided those samples,
it could do as much good eliminating him as a suspect as it could actually pointing the finger at him. >> he agreed and within 48 hours drove to utah from his current home in nevada and freely gave up a sample of his dna. but was he worried? oh, yes, he was said his friend dick cantonwine. >> he says, they're going to try to hang me again. they just were focused in on him from day one. and they just wouldn't let go. >> and in less than two weeks after benson supplied the samples, a result. and benson looked at the name and -- >> well, i was a little confused at first. >> confused? once benson absorbed the news, he picked up the phone and called karin's sister. >> he goes, are you ready for this? he said, the dna came back. i said, it did? he goes, ed owens.
i said, who is ed owens? >> and suddenly what once seemed a case of tying up old loose ends had been blown wide open. coming up -- >> i just want to know why. >> what really happened that night in the bedroom? a mysterious suspect faces new charges, but there's another twist ahead. >> you're not going to believe what we just found. when the secrets in the suitcase continues. we imagined a vehicle that could adapt to changing road conditions. one that continually monitors and corrects for wheel slip. we imagined a vehicle that can increase emergency braking power when you need it most. and we imagined it looking like nothing else on the road today. then...we built it. the 2012 glk. see your authorized mercedes-benz dealer for exceptional offers through mercedes-benz financial services.
[ male announcer ] we believe in thinking day and night... about your dog's nutrition. like the dual-defense antioxidants in our food that work around the clock... supporting your dog's immune system on the inside... while helping to keep his skin and coat healthy on the outside. with this kind of thinking going into our food... imagine all the goodness that can come out of it. just one way we're making the world a better place... one pet at a time. purina one smartblend.
it's tax time, and with the hundreds i saved on my car insurance with progressive, i'm out here, giving a little tax relief. are you guys touring? we are. we're going to need some savings. oh, you certainly will. [ laughs ] forget tax season -- it's saving season. what do you do for a living, sir? i work at a green grocery. there's a little green for your grocery. thank you. absolutely. and as part of my saving stimulus package from progressive -- this can go in my wallet. that can go in your wallet. 30 bucks. whoo!
hello. i'm lynn berry. george zimmerman is free on bail after being released from a jail around midnight eastern time. the former neighborhood watch captain is charged with second degree murder of trayvon martin. his destination is being kept a secret for his safety. the nypd says nos human remains have been found in connected with the eton patz
investigation. now back to the secrets in the suitcase. funny thing about public attitudes. how a common suspicion can harden over time into something like received truth. those few who still remember the 1980 murder of karin strom had 2 1/2 decades to solidify their suspicion of husband steve. and now dna revealed that cells underneath karin's fingernails belonged to someone else altogether. belonged to a man named ed owens. >> i had no idea who he was. my family doesn't know him. none of karin's friends know him. the only association to ed owens is steve. >> shocking. what is the relationship between ed owens and steve? >> they worked together. >> or at least they both worked at the same machine at e
systems, an aerospace parts manufacturer. ed worked the swing shift and steve took over the machine on the graveyard shift. ed was new in town and steve befriended him. >> he didn't have any friends. steve was that kind of guy that would kind of take somebody under his wing because they had the same interests. they liked guns and hunting and four-wheeling and things like that. >> did he seem to like the guy? >> yeah. he thought he was pretty good. you know, a little different. >> a little different? >> yeah. he tied so hard to be your friend. and he just went at it the wrong way. so they kind of thought that was a little weird, you know. >> so social skills were a little defective somehow. >> yes. you just look at him and say, wow, is he playing with a full deck? >> still, something like a friendship had developed. they had gone four-wheeling together and once steve and karin took ed and his wife patricia on a double date. but really casual acquaintances.
so how would ed owens' dna end up beneath karin's fingernails? good question. when detective benson went through the file, he discovered that, in fact, ed owens had drawn a mention. in the original investigation. so benson, all these years later, tracked him down. >> he was listed as a person of interest or possibly a witness, and i wanted to go over his statement and make sure we had everything correct. >> they had put him on record back then. >> yes. >> back in 1980 steve strom told police that when he arrived at work at 12:45 a.m. june 6th, ed owens wasn't there as he should have been to turn over the machine they both worked on. he finally did show up, said steve, a little after 4:00 in the morning drunk and throwing up, claiming he left work at 8:00 p.m. and went out to party at a local bar. also in the old file? statements from some of steve's co-workers who told police they saw scratches on ed's hands and face in the days after the
murder. the cops back then even took pictures of ed, collected blood and hair samples. now that some of the dna from under karin's fingernails turned out to be a match from that sample collected from ed owens, benson's belief about what happened the night of karin's murder took a sudden u-turn. >> i believe that it was more or less an opportunity with ed, that he had gone to the bar that night from work, at 8:00, just like the logs show, that he probably drank more than usual, and decided that he wanted to go out and -- >> get into trouble. >> get into trouble. i think he went there with the intentions of raping karin and she fought back. >> he waited until steve had gone to work. >> yes. >> and ed knew exactly the time steve went to work because their shifts overlapped. how would he get into the house, though? there was no sign of forced entry.
>> well, this is little old woods cross, you know, back in 1980. a lot of people didn't lock their doors back then. there was no forced entry. we don't know the if the door was locked for sure when steve left for work that night or not. >> so he would have basically barged in on her and started an assault immediately. >> that's what we believe, yes. >> and created havoc as she fought back against him. >> yes. >> but why would he kill her? >> well, that would be the only way that he could be assured that the finger wouldn't be pointed back to him. >> but now, years later, the dna pointed directly at mr. owens. soon after detective benson informed owens of the case being reopened, ed left town. leaving nothing but a note behind for his wife patricia. containing things like bank account numbers. >> how do you explain behavior like that? >> guilty person. that's the only way i can explain behavior like that. >> then a few weeks later another surprise.
ed owens showed up and turned himself in and in short order he was charged with karin's murder. >> i kind of got the gut feeling that to a certain degree he may be relieved to have this happen. >> as owens awaited his day in court, and apparently relieved steve strom appeared briefly on local tv. >> it nice they're looking at evidence instead of hearsay and gossip and lies. >> and for the first time coco began to believe she would finally understand what happened to her sister karin. will it help you to have a resolution to this case? >> oh, absolutely. and it's not how people say closing the book. >> you never close the book. >> you never close that book. but it's an understanding, and i know you never understand the universe and everything that happens in it, but with my sister, i just want to know why.
>> but that last bit about not understanding everything, as we spoke, she could have no idea. the trial date was close. the state's case was ready. and then michael studebaker, ed owens' defense attorney was driving to work when his cell phone rang. it was his own forensic expert. >> and said, you're not going to believe what we just found underneath the fingernails. i literally had to pull over because my mind was just spinning. coming up -- arrested, then released? what could possibly have led to that? >> we didn't expect that. that was a curveball. when t"the secrets in the suitcase" continues. aspirin for pain? aspirin is just old school. people will have doubts about taking aspirin for pain. that's why we developed bayer advanced aspirin with micro particles. it enters the bloodstream fast and rushes relief to the site of pain. we know it works. now we're challenging you to put it to the test. we're giving away one hundred thousand bottles absolutely free
it was the dna, like a legal magic wand, it seemed that test had changed everything in the karin strom murder case. and now ed owens, a man who would have escaped detection forever without dna, was about to go on trial for murder. then a remarkable or at least extremely curious discovery. the material under karin's fingernails was ed owens' dna, all right, there was no dispute about that. the curious thing was the type of dna. it was seminal fluid. what did you think when you heard that? >> i thought there's semen and fingernails. that sure doesn't show murder. it shows consensual relations at best. >> ed must have had sex with karin, said the defense attorney. naturally the detective heard about the discovery semen, but his reaction was considerably different. >> i didn't believe the whole
sample was semen based on the scratches that mr. owens had on his arms and hands and face. >> this was not a lovey dovey sex scene at all. >> no. it was a knock down dragout fight. >> and this man, troy rawlings was taken by surprise, too. >> he was the county attorney, the prosecutor, he's been about ready to present his case in court when the news about semen hit. >> we didn't expect that, keith. >> no kidding. >> no kidding. that was a curveball, but instead of that curveball making us abandon our attempt to hit that pitch, we just decided, you know what? we need to learn to be better curveball hitters. >> except what happened next didn't seem so much like a hit for the prosecution, more like a strikeout. county attorney rawlings dropped the charges without prejudice, dismissed the case. ed owens was released. >> free as a bird. i took some heat over it, no doubt about it. >> in december of 2007, ed went home to be with his family just in time for the holidays. >> relieved. glad it's over.
>> and his family appeared before the cameras to say they had never doubted his innocence. >> we've always stood by eddie saying we knew he didn't do it. anybody that knows eddie knows he wouldn't do it. >> steve strom, watching all this, was horrified. or so said his friend dick. >> he just went to pieces again. he says, they haven't got enough on him so they're going to come looking for me again. he said, it's going to start all over. >> oh, the prosecutor tried to assure the public he wasn't giving up on making a case against ed owens. we were still confident ed was the guy. we just didn't want to go off half cocked, look stupid, quite frankly. >> frankly, it was in most people's opinion, over. it was dead as far as a lot of people were concerned. >> as far as i was concerned, absolutely it was. >> your man was free to go. >> he was. >> winter settled in and snow
piled up on ski runs around salt lake city. the karin strom murder case faded out yet again, as another season went by and the snow melted and the city bloomed into another summer. and her killer, whoever that might be, remained free and the prosecutor did take some heat from people who might not have been aware of what his team was up to. an exhaustive reexamination of all the evidence, which sometime in the summer of 2008 produced what was, shall we say, a tiny discovery. two barely per septemberable spots, indications of blood on karin's underwear. minuscule spots, major implications. that blood matched the dna profile of ed owens. >> i think that karin was fighting him off and scratching his hands. he's got her pinned down with one hand, he's trying to sexually assault him with another hand that she's cut and
scratched. that's how the two drops of blood gets on her panties. >> now prosecutor rawlings was more confident he could convince a jury that, far from having consensual sex with karin, ed tried to rape her and killed her in the process, which would explain the semen found under karin's finger nails. >> our view is that the most consistent explanation is she's trying to prevent him from sexually assaulting her. >> so in the dog days of august, eight months after he had withdrawn the murder charges against ed owens, rawlings refiled his murder case. >> need to turn ed owens in. >> i didn't figure they would ever refile charges again. but evidently they want to try it again. >> it was march of 2009. finally the event had arrived, almost 29 years after the murder of karin strom. it was the eve of ed owens' trial in farmington, utah. coco was overcome with emotion. >> god, don't let me fail karin. i loved her so much that i want her to know the monster got you
and now i'm facing the monster and i'm going to get him. >> but who was the monster? as the trial began, the defense attorney offered his theory to the jury, that ed and karin had been having an affair, the semen got under her nails earlier before the night of the murder, a night when he wasn't even there. >> where was ed the night of the murder? i'll tell you where ed was. ed's a drunk. he went to the bar. he closed the bar. but he was not at the stroms' house murdering karin strom. >> the defense wanted the jury to believe it was an angry and jealous steve who grabbed karin by the neck and choked her to death, an entirely different story than the one told by the prosecutor. >> as karin strom was struggling for her life, what she was doing was collecting the evidence that now testifies to you who her killer was. even after she's dead. and what that evidence tells you is that her killer is ed.
>> after a seven-day trial, it was now in the hands of the jury. and the detective who brought this cold case back to life was sweating. >> you just never know what a jury is going to do. >> on the first night, the jury deliberated until 9:30 p.m. and then announced they were going home. >> boy, oh, boy, the wheels of justice do grind slow, don't they? >> they do. my thought was, holy cow, we're going to be doing this all over again. >> could be. because when the jurors went home that night, they were deadlocked. how difficult was it to come forward and say you weren't so sure? >> it wasn't difficult for me because if you're going to hand down a guilty verdict, you better be able to erase all reasonable doubt. >> here they were, responsible public servants, no idea that all their deliberation about guilt or innocence was about to be turned on its head by an unlikely public confession.
a poisonous accusation. and a tale almost too wild to be believed. and you think people will believe that? >> well, if they don't, they don't. coming up -- >> actually, what i did was i went over to warn her. >> after all these years, ed owens speaks. there are still mysteries left. when "the secrets in the suitcase" continues. [ male announcer ] this is lois. the day starts with arthritis pain... a load of new listings... and two pills. after a morning of walk-ups, it's back to more pain, back to more pills. the evening showings bring more pain and more pills. sealing the deal... when, hang on... her doctor recommended aleve. it can relieve pain all day with fewer pills than tylenol. this is lois... who chose two aleve and fewer pills for a day free of pain. and get the all day pain relief of aleve in liquid gels. ♪
♪ [ male announcer ] at nissan, our ideal is innovation. 5 all-new models over the next 15 months, including a completely reimagined altima. welcome to our most innovative year ever. nissan. innovation for all. ♪ nissan. innovation for all. you know, those farmers, those foragers, those fishermen.... for me, it's really about building this extraordinary community. american express is passionate about the same thing. they're one of those partners that i would really rely on whether it's finding new customers, or, a new location for my next restaurant. when we all come together, my restaurants, my partners, and the community amazing things happen. to me, that's the membership effect. today i own 165 wendy's restaurants.
and i get my financing from ge capital. but i also get stuff that goes way beyond banking. we not only lend people money, we help them save it. [ junior ] ge engineers found ways to cut my energy use. [ cheryl ] more efficient lighting helps junior stay open later... [ junior ] and serve more customers. so you're not just getting financial capital... [ cheryl ] you're also getting human capital. not just money. knowledge. [ junior ] ge capital. they're not just bankers... we're builders. [ junior ] ...and they've helped build my business.
karin's sister coco tossed all night. detective brad benson barely slept the night the jury went home without a verdict. >> i was sick. >> now it looked like it might be, what, a hung jury? >> yeah. that was pretty much the only alternative as far as i was concerned. >> well, there was another alternative. as everyone would soon know.
but the jury on the morning of the second day was preoccupied instead by a determined holdout. what were you concerned about? >> i had to be able to put ed owens in that home murdering her that night. >> his lingering doubts were eventually dispelled and the defense's efforts to pin the murder on steve were rejected. >> i think we all agreed that, yeah, he was abusive, but the motive i don't think we questioned whether or not he had motive. >> and so, before noon the second day of deliberations, a verdict. >> we the jury empanelled in the -- to try the issues in the above entitled matter do hereby find the defendant edward lewis owens guilty. >> guilty. the sound you hear is ed owens' distraught family. >> no comment. >> outside the courtroom, they dodged reporters and then insisted later that the jury had
simply gotten it wrong. even the family judged by their statements unaware of one more wild, improbable and impending twist. almost two months after the verdict, a may morning 2009, ed's sentencing day, waiting in the wings to make a presentence statement a woman who would offer evidence that ed once raped and very nearly killed her a few years before karin's murder. and then suddenly her statement was canceled. the judge made an announcement. ed owens had something important to say. >> mr. strom had asked me to kill his wife on several different occasions and then he finally offered me half of her insurance money to do it. actually, what i did was i went over to warn her and tell her that he wanted her killed. as it turned out, there was an argument between her and i and i ended up strangling her and killing her. >> a confession.
all of ed's denials had been a lie. but it was a confession accompanied by a poisonous accusation, that steve strom, karin's husband, asked ed, offered to pay him, to kill his wife. and, as the killing was an accident, said ed, he was guilty of manslaughter, not murder. unlikely and outrageous as the allegations seemed, detective benson went right back to work. and you have to investigate that now. >> yes. so the saga continues. >> hello, ed. >> meanwhile, in the visitors' room deep in a prison in draper, utah, we sat down for a chapter -- chat with the admitted killer and now accuser, ed owens. you killed her. >> yeah. but he's the one who wanted her dead. i know. i don't have any proof of that, you know, but if i'm going to go down, why not take the other person involved, you know? >> whether he was actually involved or not -- >> if he wasn't involved, i wouldn't say this. like i said, that's what he wanted me to do. he wanted me to kill her for
half the insurance money. >> and then the story gets a little convoluted. did he ever pay you any money? >> nope. i wouldn't have taken it. wasn't the idea. i had no plans of killing her. none. none at all. >> when we were out drinking, he would bring it up, you know. i never really thought anything of it, you know, drinking and what not. people get saying stupid crap. i said, yeah, yeah, no problem, we can take care of it, you know. and didn't figure anything would ever come of it. then this might when i come in, he was mad, you know, upset at her and what not and he wanted her killed that night. so when i left there, when i stopped by her place or their place, i tried to get her, you know, tell her what was going on. and to let her know that she
better get her things together and get out and don't ever come back, you know. th then, god, she started -- she just got upset and what not. >> now it was an accident, he says. and as he tells this story, keep in mind that killing by strangulation requires prolonged force, several minutes of force, sustained, determined choking. >> i didn't -- i didn't purposely strangle her, okay? she kept slapping at me, you know. and i was trying to grab for like her shoulders you know, and i was just shaking her, you know, trying to, you know, telling her, will you listen to me? listen, damn it. you know. just kept going on and on and next thing i know, she was on the floor. >> are you aware of how long it takes to end somebody's life with strangulation? >> not really. even though i did it, not
really. >> did you try to revive her? >> no, when i looked at her, you know, i'm sitting there, i just couldn't believe, you know. >> why didn't you call 911? you might have saved her. >> yeah, there's a chance that you know, she could have been. >> yeah. but sexual assault and murder? never, vowed ed. what about that woman who claimed he had raped her and left her for dead back in 1973? who was all set to tell her story in court. it was ed's confession that prevented her testimony. did you have any problems sexually in 1973? >> what are you talking about? >> all of a sudden when she was going to come and testify, you had a statement you wanted to make. >> the girl in 1973, all right? all right. she described the guy as six not, 6'2". i'm 5'10". >> in 1973, he was charged with
kidnapping, robbery, rain and assault with intent to commit murder. according to the case file, the young woman was hitch hiking, he picked her up, drove her to an isolated place, raped her, stabbed her with a screwdriver and tried to choke her to death. though the woman positively identified the man, he was acquitted. he was out on parole at the time of that incident after another young woman accused him of raining her back in 1969. >> what about the run when you were 18? >> you know, that one you could have -- had they done a date-rape type thing, yeah, i was probably guilty then. >> he was charged with rape, kidnapping and robbery, pleaded guilty to robbery. the other two charges were dismissed. but that was then. now he was claiming that karin's death was an accident and a murder for hire plot. but the more we asked for evidence to back up his claim, the more reticent he became. what kind of evidence can you
provide that there's any truth to that story? >> you know, it's an ongoing investigation and we're just not talking about it right now. >> you mean there's more you haven't told me is what you're trying to tell me? seriously, you've got more evidence you haven't told me? >> i don't know. could be. >> turns out he didn't. although there was an insurance policy on karin's life, an investigation revealed that ed's story was not credible and steve strom was not involved with karin's murder. and strom, burned by suspicion over the years, would not agree to do a videotaped interview. and so it was dick cantonwine who spoke for him who told us about the damage from which his friend is trying to heal. but when the suspicion was lifted from his shoulders, i mean, he must have been thrilled, wasn't he? >> pretty much. but he still relives it over and over. >> and detective benson who finally confronted the mystery
of the murder at the start of his career is looking forward to retirement now that the old green suitcase has finally yielded up its secrets. >> i think 30 years in law enforcement is probably enough. >> who killed karin strom is no longer a mystery. and that mattered deeply to the sister who kept vigil all these years. >> i miss you. i'll always miss you. i'm going to put this ugliness behind. i love you. we did it, sis. we did it. >> once there was a day to ride in her yellow camaro and then a day to defend justice in her memory. and both are what sisters do. >> that's all for now. i'm app curry.