tv Lockup Santa Rosa - Extended Stay MSNBC December 4, 2016 2:00pm-3:01pm PST
old and flu liquid gels don't unstuff your nose. they don't? alka-seltzer plus night liquid gels fights your worst cold symptoms. plus, unstuffs your nose. oh, what a relief it is. i felt guilty. i couldn't live with that. i said i know something and it's terrible. i'm the only other person that knows the truth. i had to do something. >> he swept her right off her feet. >> i was drawn to him right away. he was handsome. he was super athletic. >> a dreamy single dad, wealthy, charming, smitten. >> i've never been spoiled like that. i remember thinking i was like julia robert in "pretty woman." >> he'd been thu so much, a
mysterious accident at sea. >> he went under and when he came up he said he no longer saw his wife. >> he was just hysterical. >> they were never able to find her. >> it was a heart wrenching story. so why, then, were so many people so suspicious? >> no one knows exactly what happened on that boat. >> an accident? a disappearance? >> you thought, what, she faked her death? >> maybe murder. >> there's no way, absolutely no way. >> i thought the police were trying to frame an innocent man. >> she would be the one unravel it all. >> in a dangerous undercover operation. >> my heartbeat was going so fast. he said you need to tell me the truth. >> welcome to "date line extra." i'm tamron hall. they were living the dream, a good-looking couple with an expanding family and a booming
business. he whisked her away on a birthday boat cruise, then disaster struck and peggy bechler was gone. was it an accident or perhaps something more sinister? here's "troubled waters." >> if you crave money or fame or if you want to meet beautiful people shgt maybe even become one of them, you will find your way to southern california. it's where everything is possible or seems to be. this is the story of two women drawn for different reasons to the sun, to the bright lights, to the bluewater. both chased that promise of success. both saw what can go on. it was a gorgeous summer day in newport beach, california. the last of fourth of july weekend. some lucky tourists aboard an
eight-passenger boat called the green machine were marveling at a school of dolphins playing in the water when they came across the unexpected. >> we've got a loose boat out here about five miles off newport beach. >> the captain radioed the coast guard that a small speedboat was circling out of control in the water nearby was a man holding onto a body board. >> i have a husband apparently fell off the boat. and the wife apparently fell off the boat. >> the man in the water was frantic. >> still looks like he's pretty distraught. >> absolutely. >> his name was eric bechler. his wife was peggy. but she was nowhere to be found. >> what is he doing at this time? >> he's just kind of yelling out. he's on his boogie board and yelling out. >> roger. can you make out any words that he's yelling out? over. >> no. he's kind of crying.
>> anytime now we should have a unit on scene. >> it was a stunning end to what began as a perfect day. this newport beach couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary and peggy just turning 38. >> it was her birthday. you know so, she was in good spirits. >> glenda schlosser was one of the friends they'd invited to a big party a couple days earlier. >> she was talking about how much she loves eric, you know, how great life is. >> and maybe life was great. >> be real gentle. be real gentle. >> because peggy had it all. her story begins in a small town, dexter, new mexico. this is where peggy made her entrance. >> i have often said that she was born winking at the doctor and swinging on the chandelier. >> peggy was june and glen marshall's fourth child, and june says peggy was going places from the very day she was born. >> she was never still.
>> she danced, sang, played sports, and, it seemed, nothing could hold her back. she had scoliosis as a kid. young peggy had to wear a brace around the clock. that's a terrible burden for a young kid like that to bear. >> mm-hmm. >> but it also kind of ended up motivating her, didn't it? >> it really did. >> peggy's doctor talked with her about a career in physical therapy. she volunteered and loved it. >> she made up her mind right then she wanted to move to be a physical therapist and move the california and be a beautiful blond so, she did. >> a farmer's daughter with big dreams. so peggy left the small town of dex fer for sunny california and settled in newport beach. that's where she met glenda, who was also from new mexico and they immediately hit it off. >> peggy was probably one of the most gregarious people that i'd ever met. she was happy and she was always smiling. >> and, says glenda, peggy was
drif on the establish herself as a successful physical therapist. she had almost everything she wanted. >> she did want to find a guy. >> and the clock was ticking a little bit. >> it was. >> and then one day on the beach, you found somebody for her. >> we did. so one afternoon on a weekend peggy called me and said what are you doing? and i said well, i'm going to go down and watch dave play some volleyball on the beach. >> dave was glenda's husband. i asked peggy if she wanted to come with me and she said absolutely. she immediately spotted eric and said who's that? >> eric bechler, then in his early 20s, was a walking commercial for the california beach life. >> i'm going to guess when she notices a guy playing beach volleyball he's good looking and in great shape. >> indeed he was. >> and handsome. >> very. he was all those things. >> and he was available.
he was also eight years younger. >> was that a problem for either one of them? >> it was not a problem for either one of them. peggy, you know, when she sets her sight on something, she's going to make it happen and it developed really quickly, really, really quickly. >> within a year they were married. within four years they had three beautiful kids. peggy and eric went into business together. she opened up her own physical therapy business and eric, a computer whiz, managed the technical side of their venture, which quickly became very pro t profitab profitable. >> her business does doing good and she was happily married. >> and the happy couple was also happily spending a lot of money, on a german sports car, italian clothe, and a spectacular bluff side home in newport beach. >> they were the little dream story. beautiful girl, good-looking guy, drive nice cars, beautiful
children. >> until that summer day in 1997 when the unimaginable happened. >> male kind of distraught, said that his wife fell overboard. >> it was a boating accident, said eric, and the coast guard agreed, something they see all too often. but soon, secrets emerged that would make some people wonder what really happened to peggy bechler? coming up -- >> i absolutely thought they'd find her. >> maybe alive. >> mm-hmm. i did. she was a fabulous swimmer. >> where was peggy and what had gone wrong on that boat? >> you know, ihe'd been crying and his face was red and he looked upset. >> there would be a sea of questions to come. >> you thought, what, peggy faked her death? tself? american express open cards can help you take on a new job, or fill a big order
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he wears his army hat, he gets awalks aroundliments. with his army shirt looking all nice. and then people just say, "thank you for serving our country" and i'm like, that's my dad. male vo: no one deserves a warmer welcome home. that's why we're hiring 10,000 members of the military community by the end of 2017. i'm very proud of him. male vo: comcast. welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall.
in the hours after the boating accident that left pegye bechler missing, her friends and family had high hopes that she would be found alive. they all knew something about pegye that made it impossible to think she could be lost at sea. here again is josh mankiewicz with "troubled waters." >> reporter: it's said there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline. this was supposed to be something like that. a romantic outing. an anniversary and birthday gift eric bechler planned for his wife pegye, but it turned into something else. now pegye was gone. >> my wife apparently fell off the boat. >> reporter: the coast guard immediately launched a search, but by nightfall, no sign of pegye alive or otherwise. and so eric called pegye's mom, june. >> he says we can't find pegye. and i said what do you mean, you
can't find her? where is she? what are you trying to tell me? >> reporter: eric told june that pegye was driving the boat, towing him on a body board, when all of a sudden a wave wiped him out. when he came up from under the water, he said, he could no longer see pegye inside the boat. >> we thought they should be finding her because we really just thought she would swim out of it. >> reporter: you see, pegye was quite at home in the water. growing up, it was the only time she didn't have to wear that back brace. and she became a very accomplished swimmer. >> she wouldn't panic. she would swim, because she loved the water. >> reporter: the next morning, june and glenn marshall were on the first flight out to california. pegye had been missing almost 24 hours. >> of course, the ocean is just bigger, bigger than you think about if you're in new mexico. >> reporter: pegye's friend
glenda tried to stay optimistic. >> i absolutely thought they would find her. >> reporter: maybe alive? >> i did. because she was a fabulous swimmer. >> reporter: glenda went to the bechler house to see eric. how did he look? >> hysterical. a little bit. he had been crying and his face was red and you know, all of those things. he looked upset. as he should be. one would expect. >> she was the best. she was the best person. >> reporter: this video from local news shows a devastated eric. it was now day two of the search for pegye. still nothing. the next day, the coast guard interviewed eric. eric bechler could barely speak. >> what did you take with you?
>> we had a couple bags. we wanted to see if we could see catalina. but it was so hazy. i told pegye it was too hazy. sholdn't go too far out. >> reporter: eric told the coast guard he tried to body board on the way out and said there was a pretty good swell in the ocean. >> was it as high as the side of the boat? >> big enough to notice. >> reporter: eric said they stopped out here on the water to enjoy some margaritas pegye had made and later in the day they decided to try the body board again, this time on their way back to the harbor. pegye was driving. eric was being pulled on the board. >> all of a sudden, it just jerked out of my hands. >> reporter: and so pegye bechler was simply gone. maybe even within sight of the same beach that had spawned her marriage.
>> reporter: and so pegye bechler was simply gone. maybe even within sight of the same beach that had spawned her marriage. eric seemed devastated, fearing his wife and business partner was dead. but eric's mother linda saw things quite differently. >> i was sure that they would find her, that it would all turn out well. >> reporter: not just because pegye was a strong swimmer. everyone knew that. linda knew more. a secret about her daughter-in-law. you thought what? pegye faked her death? or disappeared deliberately? >> uh-huh. >> coming up, pegye's secret.
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welcome back. i'm tamron hall. when eric bechler told police that his wife pegye was swallowed by the ocean, in a freak accident, he seemed inconsolable. but detectives questioned his story, wondering if eric's tears were genuine. here's josh mankiewicz with "troubled waters." >> reporter: a brilliant pacific ocean sunset closed out day three of the search for pegye bechler. and even though pegye's family and friends tried to remain hopeful, reality was slowly starting to set in and it was painful. >> at this point you didn't
think she was alive anymore? >> i kept thinking that she was, but how could she, you know, that length of time. >> reporter: unless, of course, what appeared to be an accident was not. the coast guard conducted a re-enactment at sea to try to understand how pegye could have fallen off the boat and they couldn't do it. >> they said it doesn't appear to be feasible to them given the sea conditions. >> reporter: that's when the coast guard called the orange county sheriff's office. detective sean murphy was put on the case. >> they weren't able to duplicate even close to what was alleged by eric bechler that his wife was tossed off by a rogue wave. >> reporter: if pegye's disappearance was no accident, murphy's job was find out what did happen. detectives started by re-interviewing eric and asking him about his relationship with pegye. >> he said his marriage was good, there was no problems with
it. >> reporter: you didn't take his word for it? >> no. in our game we don't take anyone's word for anything. we look into it. that's what we did. >> reporter: they met with the improbably named kobe laker. eric's best friend. and kobe backed up eric. >> they had a terrific marriage and there was no problems whatsoever. >> reporter: but if the marriage seemed solid, there were questions about pegye. at least according to linda bechler, eric's mother. linda says pegye told her something in confidence just before she disappeared. >> she stopped me on the stairway as i was leaving and said, came up and said i have to talk to you. she said i'm afraid i'm going to jail. >> reporter: according to court documents, about a year before pegye disappeared, the couple sold their physical therapy business to another company but they stayed on as employees. then just four months before pegye vanished, the bechlers were fired amid allegations they had overbilled medicare for over $1 million. so when linda heard pegye had vanished -- >> i started thinking about how disturbed she was about going to jail.
>> reporter: and she wondered if pegye had somehow staged her own disappearance. pegye's friend glenda said no way. was pegye bechler capable of committing white collar crime? medicare overbilling? >> in my opinion, no. >> reporter: but if you're wrong about that, then maybe the idea that she faked her death to escape possible prosecution for that, maybe that's a little bit more plausible. >> but white collar crime and faking your death and leaving your children and your family are two really separate issues. >> reporter: glenda said pegye adored her children and would never abandon them. >> i will say that people who have never been in the inside of a courtroom or inside of a jail cell sometimes do pretty crazy things when they realize that might happen to them.
>> i believe that. but not pegye. >> reporter: glenda told the detectives that pegye and eric were having some issues. like how pegye was busy with work and kids while eric seemed occupied on the volleyball court. >> she just confided in me that they were having some financial troubles because you had a pretty high lifestyle to keep up with. >> reporter: glenda said eric and pegye seemed determined to work everything out. but now pegye was gone and eric was a single dad with three kids under the age of 4. and a new player was about to enter the story. you were drawn to eric right away? >> yes. >> reporter: like countless young women before her, tina new had drop-dead looks and hollywood dreams. she had done some bikini modeling and had a small part on the tv show "baywatch nights." but that turned out to be the peak of her career. soon, tina found herself
slipping into the darker side of show biz. she started doing drugs and lost custody of her two young children because of it. and fell for a succession of guys who did not treat her kindly. >> i had an ex-boyfriend put a gun to my head, play russian roulette between me and him. i was held over the balcony by my neck. >> reporter: tina, who was broke and near rock bottom, was desperate. >> i got down on my knees literally begging and i said i'll do whatever you want, lord, just help me. i can't do this anymore. i need you to show me a sign. >> reporter: the universe sent you eric bechler. >> the next day i meet him and all my problems are gone. >> reporter: she had taken a modeling gig, eye candy at a trade show. eric was there promoting his new business. it was three months to the day since pegye had disappeared. >> i just thought he was really handsome. >> reporter: there was some serious chemistry from the beginning?
>> yes. we went out that night, actually. he asked me out that night. i moved in the next day. really fast. >> reporter: you don't wait, do you? >> no. not then. >> reporter: eric lived in a giant house and drove a porsche, and he was a gentleman in her life after a long string of men who were not gentle. >> i had never been spoiled like that. i remember thinking i was like julia roberts in "pretty woman." >> reporter: tina was moved by eric's story. >> he said to me that his wife died in a tragic boat accident and that they were never able to find her. >> reporter: she couldn't help noticing how great he was with his kids. >> he would sit on the floor and play with them. i actually thought he was a great dad. >> reporter: she was eager to help, taking care of the kids while eric went as usual to the beach. to play volleyball. >> i thought they had lost their mom, they need someone to step in and not be their mom, but do things their mom would do for them. >> reporter: but when they took the kids to visit pegye's parents -- >> there was a lot of animosity towards me. i understood why. >> reporter: all they saw was this hot young woman who had
been brought in to replace their missing daughter. >> right. right. exactly three months to the day. i can't even imagine what they were thinking. >> reporter: pegye's family wasn't alone. detective sean murphy had also noticed the new woman in eric bechler's life. >> she was ostentatious. she was just a hot number as they say. she was cohabitating with him right after this horrible boating accident with his wife. >> reporter: so murphy arranged to bump into tina. >> said hey, if you have any information about this boating accident involving eric, your boyfriend, just give us a call. i gave her my card with my number on it. >> reporter: nothing came of it. tina didn't call. but someone else did. >> coming up, the best friend has second thoughts. kobe laker goes under cover. >> i basically made you look like a saint. >> and the new girlfriend is about to see this case in a whole new light. >> i put the videotape in and
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i'm richard lui with the hour's top stories. the death toll is up to 30 from the fire that destroyed an unpermitted warehouse in oakland, california, described as a makeshift artist colony. in north dakota, the u.s. army corps of engineers is refusing to allow continued construction of a pipeline that has been the subject of a growing protest led by members of the standing rock sioux tribe. they argued it threatened a water source and cultural sites there. now back to "dateline extra." welcome back to "dateline extra. i'm tamron hall. with the new live-in girlfriend, eric bechler seemed to be recovering quickly from losing his wife pegye and that didn't sit well with quite a few people.
certainly not with the police or pegye's family. but eric's best friend, what exactly did he know and how far would he go to get proof? here again is josh mankiewicz with "troubled waters." >> reporter: to detective sean murphy it sounded more than suspicious. eric bechler taking up with a gorgeous redhead just three months after his wife was lost at sea. but murphy didn't have much more than a gnawing in his gut until his phone rang. >> we got a call from kobe's lawyer, said he wanted to arrange an interview again with kobe. >> reporter: kobe laker, eric's best friend and volleyball buddy. he told sheriff's detectives that the bechler marriage was great. now he had a different story. >> eric's told me on several occasions that he's sick and tired of his wife. he would tell me that he just couldn't take it anymore. he was tired of it. >> reporter: about seven months before pegye vanished, kobe says he and eric had a conversation that kobe describes as haunting
him ever since. >> eric asked me about what he thought -- what i thought of the idea of him killing his wife. and i was pretty much shocked. i didn't know what to say. he told me that he was thinking of taking her out to the ocean and dumping her in a barrel. >> he said when he saw there was a boating accident and eric's wife was missing, he knew right then and there, he saw it on tv, he knew that he had killed his wife. and he lied to us. he said because he panicked and was afraid and he didn't know what to do. >> reporter: detectives convinced kobe to wear a wire and to meet eric at a restaurant in orange county. eric had no idea that police were listening in. even so, he stuck to his story that pegye's death was a terrible accident. >> i was there. i know what happened. i tried so hard to understand that people can think anything else.
>> you never said hey, look, man, i don't know what the [ bleep ] you guys are talking about. but i'm innocent. you never said anything about anything. >> i have so. do i have to say it every week? >> reporter: kobe tried again. >> i protected you. i basically made you look like a saint in the interview i had with the detectives. >> reporter: a dead end. but detectives were now convinced that eric killed his wife. >> even though it didn't lead to anything, that conversation with kobe, that got you from suspicion to knowing? >> yeah, it moved it all the way over. we knew we had a homicide. >> reporter: but knowing it and proving it were two very different things. you didn't get to process that boat as a crime scene for almost a week. >> right. right. that wasn't good. that hindered the investigation. >> reporter: the boat, said detective murphy, was pretty clean. crime scene did find blood, just one drop, under one of the cushions.
but not enough to determine whether it was human blood. it could have come from a fish. not enough evidence to arrest eric for murder or even prove that a murder occurred. pegye's close friend glenda didn't believe eric was a killer. >> there's no way that eric would have done that. there's just absolutely no way. it was unfathomable to me. >> reporter: tina new felt the same way. >> i felt like the police were just trying to frame an innocent man. i thought there's no way. the way he treats me, there's no way he could have hurt his wife. >> reporter: tina also noticed that eric kept photos of pegye in every room of the house. she could not imagine that a man who had killed his wife would want to see her face everywhere. eric was really the answer to all your problems for awhile, wasn't he? >> yeah. he was. >> reporter: so you weren't too anxious to question him. >> no, i believed him. >> reporter: after about six months, he says will you marry me? >> yes. >> reporter: you say? >> i said yes. >> reporter: you don't say no a
lot. >> he treated me so good. >> reporter: she admits she knew eric was due to collect more than $2 million in insurance money once he was cleared in his wife's disappearance. everything would work out? >> everything would work out. yep. >> reporter: you were wrong. >> i was definitely wrong. >> reporter: they had been a couple for two years. still not married but living together off and on. one night, tina was showing eric some of her old modeling shots and tv appearances. >> we were looking at my pictures but then i put the videotape in. i'm fast forwarding it and it just stops. >> reporter: purely by chance, tina accidentally recorded a news report about pegye's disappearance. >> the whole screen was just a picture of her face and i said oh, my gosh, what is this? >> reporter: then she turned to eric. >> i looked at him. his face turned white. like he literally lost the color in his face and he said to me how did you get that? i said i don't know. >> reporter: his reaction
troubled her. she hit play and it just got worse. the news report did not match the story eric had told her about pegye's disappearance. >> he told me there was three to four foot waves, it was really choppy out there. >> reporter: on the report the day pegye went missing, there were only two foot waves and the weather was described as ideal. >> he lied. he lied all this time to me. he was just really quiet. >> reporter: he's sitting right next to you. how does eric look at that point? >> flushed and stressed. i yelled at him and said why is this different than what you told me? he just like got really quiet. >> reporter: then she says eric bechler told her a new version of what happened when pegye fell off the boat. >> he thinks she hit a wake and fell off. he said, and i didn't get to her. i said you didn't get to her or you didn't want to get to her? and he said -- at first he said he told me that he didn't get to
her. then later he changed it and said i could have helped her but i didn't. >> reporter: now, that's completely different from what he told police. >> right. >> reporter: chilling as that sounded, tina feared it still wasn't the whole story. she was determined to get the rest. but like a career in show biz, you have to be careful what you wish for. >> coming up -- >> i don't trust you. i'm afraid of you. >> nobody knowings anything but you. >> from model and actress to undercover agent. secret operation to learn the truth. >> this is where it gets really scary.
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i'm tamron hall. tina new was granted a new lease on life when she met eric bechler. so when he opened the door to telling her the truth about his wife's disappearance, she had a decision to make. walk through that door and the good life she had come to know could be gone forever. here's josh mankiewicz again with "troubled waters." >> reporter: tina new thought she had found happiness with eric bechler until he changed his story about what happened the day his wife disappeared in the ocean. you didn't think about calling the police? >> no. not yet. i just felt like he wasn't telling me the truth all the way. i was really afraid because he was always with me. >> reporter: afraid, yet they continued to see each other, sleep together and party together. about two weeks after eric changed his story, he and tina
went to a club and took the drug ecstasy. >> we get home, we walk inside the house and we're both laying on the bed staring straight up at the ceiling together. all of a sudden as we were talking, it just came to me and i said to him, i said oh, my god, you hit her over the head. he goes how did you know that? >> reporter: the fact is, she hadn't known. call it intuition or the effects of the drug or a random guess. but it was an opening and tina barreled through. >> i said you need to tell me the truth. he's calmly talking to me and he says i'm going to tell you the truth. he goes we had this huge party so everybody could see how happy we were together. >> reporter: all their friends were there, witnesses to the happy marriage. then a couple of days later, she says, eric told her he took pegye out to sea on that rented boat and although pegye didn't know it, he took along some weights. >> then he goes then i walked up behind her and he goes i hit her so hard she didn't feel a thing. i'm like what do you mean, you hit her so hard. he said i hit her over the head with a weight. >> reporter: she said he told
her there was blood everywhere. then tina says eric bechler told her how he got rid of his wife. >> he just did her wrists and ankles together so she was completely bent in half. he said he took two trash bags he had, put her body in it and then he put the weights and tied it down to the rope and threw her in. >> reporter: two years after pegye vanished, a stunning confession. then you go to sleep next to a man that you believe is a killer? >> no, actually then we had sex. i felt like i had to do it because i think that made him feel like i was going to be quiet and that he was, i don't know, sealing the deal with me or something. >> reporter: but the deal was not sealed. not with anyone. the case was still open and detectives had been keeping an eye on eric and tina all along. they knew the relationship was growing volatile.
>> we were excited about it in a morbid kind of way because we knew it would go sideways. >> reporter: because when relationships go sideways sometimes people start talking. >> that's right. >> reporter: and that's what happened two weeks after eric's apparent confession. a neighbor called 911 after hearing yelling coming from tina's apartment. when police arrived, eric was gone but tina was angry and she still had the business card detective murphy had given her almost two years earlier. >> i grabbed my partner, we went out there in the middle of the night and we met up with tina. >> reporter: she told detective murphy and his partner, gary jones, what eric had said. a big break, yes, but not nearly enough for an arrest. remember, tina was pretty far from an ideal witness. detectives knew they would need more than her word against eric's. so they asked tina -- >> would i be willing to wear a wire. i said yes. that's the only way you're going to get him. >> reporter: why would you turn
in a guy who had basically taken you from a terrible life and given you a great life? >> because i couldn't live with myself. no way. >> reporter: police planted microphones in her car, in her purse and on her body. and tina arranged a meeting. she told eric that after the domestic violence call, sheriff's homicide detectives came in to ask questions about eric. this dinner date, tina told eric, was to get their stories straight in case the cops questioned her again. tina, wired up, picked up eric from his home and drove to a restaurant called el torito. were you worried about this? >> not really. i was more worried that i wasn't going to get him to confess again. i have two stories in my head. i don't want to screw up at all. >> there's no story to tell. you weren't there. it was an accident. >> reporter: once inside the restaurant, tina tried to get eric to repeat the details of pegye's death. eric wouldn't go there. >> details aren't important. >> reporter: so tina tried to get him to say why he did it.
>> reporter: it's no confession but it's not a denial, either. are you thinking to yourself at that's it, i got him? >> i thought it was good but i didn't think it was enough. >> reporter: remember, pegye had a life insurance policy worth more than $2 million. again, she tried to get him to give her a reason. >> reporter: eric reassured tina. >> all i know i would never, ever do anything to harm anybody ever again. >> she was good. she was really good. >> reporter: but the drama wasn't over. tina left the restaurant with
eric, still wired up. >> this is where it gets really scary. we're walking out to the car and he says to me let me drive. >> reporter: that was not part of the plan. >> we lose sight of them. >> reporter: in a movie this is where you hear the sound of a gunshot. >> that would not have been good. >> reporter: in the car, with eric now behind the wheel, tina cranked up her acting skills and the tension. >> reporter: now tina tried to get eric out of the car. >> pull my car over now. i don't trust you. i'm afraid of you now. >> all i'm asking -- you don't have to -- nobody knows anything
but you. you don't have to tell anybody anything. >> reporter: eric pulled over and got out, and tina hopped in the driver's seat. just like that, tina new drove away from her old life. in the end, you got enough. >> absolutely, yeah. >> you understand you're under arrest? >> reporter: eric was arrested and charged with pegye's murder. what was it like to get the call that eric had been arrested? >> well, i just trembled all over. i couldn't really believe it. >> reporter: but two weeks after eric's arrest made headlines, tina made some headlines of her own that put the whole case in jeopardy. >> coming up, eric bechler on trial and tina's credibility is on trial, too. >> you think anybody would believe you? >> no. >> without that statement they don't have anything that makes this a homicide. ♪ think of your fellow man.
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welcome back to "dateline" extra. i'm tamron hall. when eric bechler confessed to his girlfriend that he tossed his wife into the ocean, he may have sunk himself. the prosecution's case against him hinges on tina's testimony and recordings she made. as the trial loomed, tina's determination wavered. would she take the stand? here's josh mankiewicz with the conclusion of troubled waters. >> beach volleyball is a kid's game played by grownups. murder for profit is played only by adults and it's for keeps. prosecutors believed eric bechler was trying to be successful at both. detectives had put him in jail. but then two weeks after eric's
arrest came this head line in the local paper. witness in murder case doubts suspect's guilt. tina, who had worn a wire and helped police nail eric now said maybe he didn't kill her. >> knew the kids had lost their mom and now going to probably lose their dad for a very long time. so i felt guilty. >> guilty that she had helped jail man she once thought she'd marry. >> he called me from the jail and told me he had tried to hang himself with his sheet. >> it was eric's frantic behavior from the lock-up, that was enough to make you think twice. >> i didn't want him to die. >> you felt guilty? >> i felt guilty. >> you tried to roll the whole thing back? >> yeah, i did. >> but she says she always felt he was guilty. and in the winter of 0., eric bechler went on trial. the star witness, tina, a witness was, to be fair, compromised, not just by her waffling by eric's guilt and her own checkered past but the one
detail and story tina says eric told her, something the defense attorney says is critical. >> you'd expect, if pegye's head was caved in by 35 pound dumb bells, there'd be blood. >> quite a lot of it. >> everywhere. and there wasn't. >> on the stand, tina tried to defend herself. >> i'm a horrible witness when it comes to looking at me on paper? do you think anybody would believe you? >> no. i knew that i told exactly what he had said to me. and i knew that i was doing the right thing. i honestly didn't care what anybody thought. >> then there was the conversation she had recorded at el torrida, eric's own words. the jury heard all of them. >> he offered his on explanation. >> i argued the reason he said it was to shut her up, calm her
down. >> in any event, eric never said on tape he hit peggy. the only person who had said that was the only person with a drug conviction on her record. >> without that statement they have a lot of circumstantial evidence and what ifs, but they don't have anything that makes this a homicide. >> the defense offered another theory about peggye. >> she was under a great deal of pressure and could be distracted and in combination with alcohol she rarely drank she did on that day, could contribute to lack av care in driving the boat. >> you don't think pegye bechler faked her death, you think she's dead? >> no, i don't think she did. >> you think she died accidently and her body still hasn't been found. >> yes. >> arguing pegye's death was
eric's doing. >> he had about $3 1/2 million to gain and what he would gain if he had gotten away with it. >> reporter: the evidence was substantial and eric had a weight tree at home that was incomplete. the prosecutor argued eric used the weight to kill pegye and sink her body. what about the blood? a luminol test conducted on the boat indicated there might have been a lot of blood in the boat but then cleaned up matching tina's testimony about blood everywhere. then there was tina herself. >> despite her past and her criminal record and her drug use, she rang true to you? >> yes. absolutely. >> who would the jury believe and would tina's past make a difference? >> it doesn't matter what i did before or after i met him, you know, what i did with myself has nothing to do with what he did. >> after seven day, the verdict, guilty of first-degree murder. >> you're thrilled that the man who did it is behind bars, but nobody wins in this situation,
nobody. the children now have no mother and no father. so there is no winner. >> the jury did not believe eric killed pegye for the money. he was found not guilty of murder for financial gain. at his sentencing, eric bechler addressed the judge, once again denied he killed pegye. >> the accident was a horrible tragedy for both of our families as much as the marshals are hurting, my family is also hurting because i did not commit this crime. >> the judge sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole. eric's mother, linda, thinks the verdict was wrong. >> is it possible you don't know your son as well as you think you do? >> oh, baloney. i know that kid like the back of my hand. >> i can understand a mother not wanting to believe her son committed a crime. >> listen, if my kid was a
druggie, dope are, ne' er do well, thief, rapist -- >> murderer. >> well, yeah. but he isn't. he isn't. >> pegye bechler's body has never been found. >> you want to know what happened but you still don't want to hear murder. >> but at least now you know. >> that's pretty hard to take. and even with all this information, we don't have a body. >> you all right? >> yeah. >> you discover you're stronger than you thought you were? >> oh, yeah. >> pegye's mother and sister ended up raising her kids. one more person who was stronger than she thought, tina new. >> you're living a different life these days? >> completely different. >> she gave up drugs, married a nice guy and now she's a stay-at-home mom with five kids. a hollywood happy ending? no. sometimes real life is better. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra". i'm tamron hall. thanks for watching.
there's this pile of leaves, and it's where everything else was clear and flat. my heart is racing a million miles an hour. i was using my boots to move leaves, and that's when i screamed this blood-curdling scream. >> nique leili, a corporate executive who made time for romance and her three daughters. >> she was the best mom. >> then she disappeared. dozens joins the search. >> we need nique to come home. >> then, they found her.