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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  June 10, 2018 1:00am-2:00am PDT

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>> reporter: it's an ending that neither side had hoped for, a family saga with so much love and so much loss. an imperfect conclusion. there's this pile of leaves, and it's where everything else is 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 exec. who made time for romance and her three daughters. >> she was the best mom. >> then she disappeare dozens joid the search. >> we need nique to come home. >> reporter: then they found her.
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>> you can't, baby. >> reporter: launching a mystery that would divide this family. >> i suspected him from the beginning. >> reporter: one daughter thought her stepdad matt did it. the other said no way. >> reporter: and matt, he had a theory all his own. >> this is not the first time she's run away. okay? >> reporter: had nique taken off and found trouble? >> so now you're thinking someone gave her date rape drug? >> that's a possibility. >> reporter: the trail would lead to this house of cameras. >> there's a big server tower. that would indicate a large amount of data being stored. >> reporter: what they discovered, thousands of hours of tape. >> let me out of the frame. >> absolutely a torture to listen to. >> reporter: and would reveal one shattering truth. >> i got down on my knees and just started crying. >> reporter: i'm lester holt, and this is "dateline."
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here's dennis murphy with "the house on sidney's cove." >> reporter: there's never a good day to search for a missing woman. but this rainy, muggy saturday in the heat of july made an unhappy task all but unbearable. >> take some fliers with you. >> reporter: they'd decided, the friends and family, that they'd all wear red-shirts. they got themselves organized in the parking lot of a walmart in lawrenceville, georgia, about an hour outside of atlanta, and then set out to find any trace of a petite corporate executive named nique leili. >> she's been missing for a week now. she's got three kids that would love to see her home. >> reporter: amy robinson told reporters that her 44-year-old sister, mother of three, was hardly the kind of person who'd just up and disappear without a word to anyone.
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of a petite corporate executive named nique leili. >> she's been missing for a week now. she's got three kids that would love to see her home. >> reporter: amy robinson told reporters that her 44-year-old sister, mother of three, was hardly the kind of person who'd just up and disappear without a word to anyone. >> i'm just so worried about my sister, you know. we just have no idea where she is or what -- what's happened to her. >> reporter: as fate would have it, the question of where nique was would be answered soon enough. but even now, five years later, the question of what happened to nique remains unclear. >> i'm sick of playing your games! i'm sick of -- >> reporter: what is clear from the recordings she left behind is that nique leili lived a troubled and tormented life. >> this is what i live, day in and day out, is keep my mouth shut, my head down, and do exactly what's expected of me. >> tell me about nique's personality. >> she was very funny. you know, she and i used to laugh all the time. and she was very -- she was very feisty. she -- she would say what she meant. you know, she -- she didn't mince a lot of words.
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>> reporter: as sisters amy robinson and nique leili were 10 years apart. but according to amy, they were always close. >> boy, you two look alike in the old photos. >> we do. >> i was thinking maybe you're swapping out each other's clothes, but of course you're 10 years apart. >> well, that didn't stop it i wore a lot of her hand me downs. >> reporter: by the mid 90's, nique had been married and divorced twice and she and her young daughter, alex, were sharing an apartment with amy. >> we had a good time with that too. we used to -- we just laughed, putting up pictures in the apartment and stuff. >> this sounds like a sitcom. >> yeah. oh, yeah. and it -- at times it definitely was. eventually, nique moved out, remarried and had two more daughters with her third husband, matt leili, a new yorker she'd met on line. >> he made my sister laugh. and so, you know, we would all laugh. >> reporter: after brief stays in oklahoma and mississippi, nique and matt returned to georgia and settled into this house on sidney's cove in lawrenceville. nique, a well-regarded corporate money person, was the primary breadwinner.
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matt, a computer guy, ran a small business out of the house. >> he started going to, like, government surplus auctions and buying these big pallets of old used computer parts. and then, you know, rebuilding them and selling them on ebay. >> by this ring -- >> by this ring. >> reporter: when it was amy's turn to get married in 2003, her big sis was there, serving as matron of honor. >> i just want to raise a toast to amy, my best friend, my confidant, my sister, and to the love of her life who makes her head spin. to amy and dallan. >> reporter: then later that night, boogeying to what else? "we are family." ♪ we are family >> reporter: as the years passed, the sisters remained close. in late june 2011 amy organized a spa day out for nique and her three girls. >> no boys allowed, only -- you know, we're going to go have a girls' day. >> where did you go? >> we went to go get our nails done.
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and -- >> day of beauty at the spa, huh? >> uh-huh. yep. we got -- we got manicures and pedicures and we went and had lunch. >> reporter: nique had had her toenails painted pink that day. and though she'd sometimes had a difficult relationship with her teenaged daughter, alex says that day at the spa felt like a turning point, a fresh beginning. >> snapshots, everybody looks pretty happy. >> yeah. >> good girls' day out. >> yeah, it was fun. and i'm beyond grateful now that we'd done it, so. >> reporter: two weeks later, nique had apparently left home in the middle of the night without a word to anyone. when the family reported her missing two days later, the police advised them there was little they could do. >> their response was, "we don't even know where to start looking." >> she's not on the 11:00 news every night. >> no. because frankly, you know, grown woman having left her house wasn't that interesting a story. well, 100 people getting together all wearing red shirts, though, there's an interesting story. so they covered that. >> so then the cameras were out? >> then the cameras came. >> reporter: and this is what the cameras saw -- searchers, armed with maps, literally
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beating the bushes around nique leili's subdivision for clues as to what might have happened to her. >> well, keep your eyes open if you see her or see anything, definitely call 911 and let them know you've seen her. >> reporter: every searcher had an assignment. >> oh look, we got blue sky. it's going to smile on us. >> reporter: harriett garrett, nique's mother, had the job of going door to door, leafleting the neighborhood with fliers picturing her daughter. >> i don't think anybody is at home, but we'll find out. >> reporter: even though southern hospitality may have been in short supply that day -- >> get out of here before i call the cops. >> reporter: harriett pressed on. >> good morning, sir. my name is harriett garrett. >> what is the camera for? >> my daughter's missing, and they're trying -- we're trying to get some news coverage. >> reporter: like so many of the volunteers that day, alison rockwell wasn't a relative. she was looking for nique, her co-worker. >> i loved nique. nique was great. she was just such -- so great to
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work with. very smart. lots of energy, positive, wonderful. just a wonderful person. >> reporter: on the morning of the search, alison recalls that she and another colleague from work, a man named derek, were running late. and that would turn out to be an important twist of fate. >> 40 minutes late, actually. everyone else had started searching. >> so were you given a grid, or an area to look at? >> yes, we were given the front of the neighborhood, the very front of the neighborhood on the right. >> reporter: it was one of the last unassigned sections of the organizers' search grid, a patch of woods near a busy road. >> derek and i went into the woods together. and i remember having to walk up and go over a large tree. and there's this pile of leaves. and it's in the middle of where everything else is clear and flat. and my heart is racing a million
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miles an hour. i go up to the pile of leaves. i was using my boots to move leaves at the -- at the bottom of the -- of the pile. as i was doing that, i said, "derek." derek came over. and he heard the panic in my voice. and he started helping me. and that's when we saw blonde hair. and i screamed this blood-curdling scream. >> and there was no question? >> no. >> when we come back -- >> she said oh, my god, it's her, we found her. there's her hair. >> how awful for you. >> yeah. >> a body and a vital clue. >> the telling factor was the bottoms of her feet were clean. >> what did that mean? ♪ ♪ protect your pet with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus.
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>> reporter: at first, it was the unnatural way the leaves were clumped that attracted attention. then it was the hair. >> and i hear a scream from the woods. >> you hear a scream? >> yeah. and i tore off running into the woods. and then, when i got into the woods, her co-worker allison was there. and she said, "oh my god. it's -- it's her. we found her. there's her hair." >> how awful for you. >> yeah. >> reporter: nique leili's sister amy and her friend alison felt sure the body beneath the leaves had to be nique's. >> it was terrible. i think everybody was a little bit shocked.
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so i just kind of went into crisis mode and i called 911. >> reporter: within minutes police, ambulances and news cameras were converging on the patch of woods where the body was found. nique's mother, harriett garrett, says she heard the news when a cop told her she'd have to stop leafleting the neighborhood. >> someone in the neighborhood had complained. and while he is talking to me, his radio goes off. it's a dispatch. body has been found. >> you hear it over the dispatch. >> yes, sir. yes, sir. >> do you actually go to that place, in that little bit of woods? >> yes. well, i couldn't -- by the time i got there they already had the crime scene taped up. and i couldn't get any further. >> okay. we're going to move back.
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we're going to move back on down, guys. >> they had it isolated by that time. but i got to it as close as i could. >> reporter: soon harriet had nique's oldest daughter, alex, on the phone. >> do you know it's her? i'm right here but the police won't let me come, honey. they won't let me through. i'm right here where the police are. they won't let me through. where are you? >> i just remember fainting or something, but as soon as i came to, i took off running and i ran all the way to where the crime scene tape was. >> i need to see her. >> no, you can't. you can't, baby. >> of course they wouldn't let me see her. and i'm grateful that they didn't now. >> reporter: as nique's family struggled to process the news, amy faced the microphones and once again became the family's voice. >> all we saw was her hair. but -- so we're just waiting for the police to do their job and -- and we'll find out more soon. >> reporter: inside the police tape, investigators carefully uncovered the body of a middle-aged female. she was nude, lying face down and tellingly, appeared to have a fresh pink pedicure.
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given the decomposition, the heat, the rain, investigators figured the body had lain there for a while. >> it had been out there several days. >> reporter: gwinnett county police detective brad everson. >> no clothing whatsoever. >> any obvious injuries to the body? lacerations? blunt force trauma? gunshot, stab wound? anything you could see? >> nothing. and of course at this point there's no -- there's no identifying documents around it, so there's nothing around where the body's at that would indicate what happened. >> reporter: in the way of these things, dental records confirmed what everyone suspected. the body in the woods was indeed that of nique leili. >> a telling factor was the bottoms of her feet were clean. >> what does that tell you? connect the dots for me sergeant. >> well, that tells you that she didn't walk out there and put herself in those woods. and she sure wasn't going to cover herself up. >> reporter: later lab analysis of nique's blood revealed something else that was odd.
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there was a high level of the date rape drug ghb in her system. >> so now you're thinking maybe sometime before this woman's death, almost immediately before, someone gave her date rape drug? >> that's a possibility. >> m.e. also finds semen? >> correct. >> reporter: had nique somehow been abducted, raped and then dumped less than a mile from her home? the detective couldn't say. but in the days before her body was found, while this was still a missing person's case, nique's husband matt had told everson something intriguing on the phone. this wasn't the first time nique leili had walked out on him. >> my wife has a long history of some kind of mental imbalances. okay? and i've been finding out the past two days everything she's been telling me in therapy all these years has been a lie. >> coming up, the nique no one knew. stories of unstable behavior.
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>> this is not the first time she's run away. okay? >> and even violence. >> my father is a witness for her throwing a knife at my face. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ wearing powerful sunscreen? yes! neutrogena® ultra sheer. no other sunscreen works better or feels so good. clinically proven helioplex® provides unbeatable uva/uvb protection to help prevent early skin aging and skin cancer all with a clean light feel. for unbeatable protection. it's the one. the best for your skin. ultra sheer®. neutrogena®. see what's possible.
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do ynever thought i'dirst tsee one in real life.r? [ dinosaur screeches ] the park is in the past. run! we're not on an island anymore. there is a town five miles from here. am i dead? not yet, kid. change was inevitable and it's happening now. welcome to jurassic world. rated pg-13. ♪ >> reporter: by the time searchers found nique leili's body, police detective brad everson already knew bits and pieces of her life story. he'd been working her case since she was reported missing a few days earlier.
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>> i'd already talked to her dad, talked to her mom, talked to both her sisters, you know, talked to her - her oldest daughter. the picture that emerged was of a woman whose life had revolved around her work, her daughters, and her husband matt. >> he would come sometimes, and do lunch with nique. >> did she ever talk about her girls? >> yes, yes. she was very proud of all three girls. yes. >> photos on the desk kind of thing? >> oh, absolutely. >> reporter: like most marriages, nique's had its ups and downs. early july 2011, when nique disappeared, was one of the down times. matt freely admitted that when he talked to the detective the day after he reported her missing. >> this is not the first time she's run away. okay? she's run away and she's been gone for two hours, she's been gone for three hours, four hours one time. she's gone to work with a bag of clothes and then come back after work. you know, but she's never been gone overnight. >> so he's telling you this is just the latest of a continuing episode that my wife has?
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>> correct. >> matthew, this is detective everson, gwinnett county police department. >> reporter: in this telephone call which the detective recorded matt leili said his wife was mentally unbalanced. >> she's not very happy with her life. she never felt accepted. okay? we've been in and out of therapists. there's a fear of intimacy. you know, she's got no problem with girls. but when it comes to a male, they are a threat. they are "all my -- all my life guys have used me for sex." >> he's just giving you a hose full of information? >> i have a hard time getting a word in edgewise. >> she yells at me in front of the kids. she throws things in front of me in front of the kids. and all i'm doing is sitting there going please stop, please stop, do you remember what the doctor said? is this the person you want to be? >> reporter: matt leili said he'd even considered getting a court order to protect him from his wife. >> now, has she ever been violent? >> yeah. i've got pictures of myself with bruises on me. i've got a -- my father is a witness for her throwing a knife at my face. i'm 250 pounds, six foot five. she's 98 pounds soaking wet. i'm being beaten up by my wife.
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who's going to believe me? >> he's telling you that she's bats? >> that's what he's saying. >> reporter: as for the night nique disappeared -- >> he stated the previous friday that they had actually gone out to eat and then gone to a movie after she got home from work. >> we had a great time. we came home. on the way home i said to her you know, hey, you know -- because i wanted sex, so i said to her you know "hey, you know, how about you put on an outfit?" i think that might have set her off. >> he wanted her to put on a little sexy costume of some kind, huh? >> correct. >> that fear of intimacy that i thought she was working on getting over was gone, but apparently that set her off because she picked a fight. >> reporter: as matt tells it, the fight continued at home and ramped up. matt's father, who was visiting from new york, was just down the hall. when the argument touched on the way nique had supposedly been treating her father in law, matt asked his dad to weigh in. >> he called his father, matthias, into the bedroom and basically asked matthias to tell
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nique how he felt about being down there and that matthias came out with a line that he hadn't felt welcome, that kind of stuff, and that nique just reacted to that by basically saying you're -- he was lying. >> reporter: then matt said his wife did something off the wall. >> i mean, holy cow, she rips her shirt off with her [ bleep ] hanging out, no bra, nothing, and says maybe we should just [ bleep ]. throws her shirt on the floor and then says "isn't that what family does?" >> you're kidding. she flashed her father-in-law? >> correct. >> my wife has done some weird [ bleep ]. that's the weirdest she's ever been. >> reporter: matt said the dust finally settled in the wee hours of saturday july 9th. nique in the bedroom, he on his couch in the downstairs office. >> i wake up about 6:00 to go to the bathroom. the light is on in the bedroom. i can see it upstairs. so i go upstairs to see what's going on. she's not there. >> all her stuff was still there.
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her car was still there, her keys, her phone. >> her purse was still there? >> correct. he assumes she had left on foot or assumes somebody had come and picked her up. >> reporter: matt told the cop it was then that he realized his home security system had been turned off. >> i have a camera system in the house because i sell cameras with the dvr. she always shuts it off when she leaves, when she's pissed off. because she knows it pisses me off. >> so that's the first you learn that this place is wired for sound and pictures? >> correct. >> reporter: when nique leili's body was found days later near her home, learning the story told by those cameras became most urgent. >> coming up -- a treasure trove of evidence. >> quantify it. what are we talking about? >> thousands of hours of material. >> just what will it reveal? >> it's absolutely a torture to listen to. ♪ olay regenerist shatters the competition. hydrating skin better than prestige creams costing over $100, $200, and even $400.
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♪ >> reporter: within minutes of finding nique's body, police raced to the leili home about a mile away. what they observed right away was astounding. the home security system that matt leili had casually mentioned to detective everson a few days earlier appeared more appropriate to ft. knox than a house in the burbs.
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what they observed right away was astounding. the home security system that matt leili had casually mentioned to detective everson a few days earlier appeared more appropriate to ft. knox than a house in the burbs. >> and when you first see the house on the road, you can see all these huge -- these big cameras on the eaves of the house, both sides. >> reporter: there were 21 security cameras in all, with a tricked-out control room to monitor and record everything. he sounds like a one-man nsa. >> it was a very low crime area. so it almost boggled the mind as to why he felt he needed quite so much surveillance coverage for the house. >> reporter: odd, to be sure, an observation to tuck away for later. but the duty that day came first, notification, the officers telling matt leili that his missing wife had just been found dead.
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>> the uniformed guys told me that he at one point seemed like he got sick. >> reporter: matt leili may well have been sick. sick of talking to the cops, because by now he'd lawyered up and wasn't answering any of their questions. so you now have probable cause to get a search warrant. >> correct. correct. >> do you think, man, maybe this is going to help us. maybe these cameras saw and recorded something that tells the story of what's up with nique? >> that was my hope. we're mainly going for anything in the house that has any sort of memory, be it computers, be it -- you know, he had a dvr hooked up to his surveillance system. >> reporter: the detective knew it would take time to review and catalogue all of that material. so since the police had found no sign of blood nor any signs of struggle in the house, the detective reviewed the evidence he did have, particularly matt's claim that his wife was bonkers. are any of her family members corroborating this emotional instability issue that's raised by the husband? >> none whatsoever.
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>> reporter: this is not a woman off her meds? >> no. they're completely shocked by this version of events that matthew leili's given me. >> are any of them suspicious of matt, the husband? >> yes. they were all suspicious of matt. >> reporter: nique's daughter alex had lived with her mother and matt until she was 16. and there was plenty she'd had to say to the detective. >> i wanted him to know what was going on in the house. i wanted him to know that i suspected him from the beginning, that my mom would have never left her girls, and i wanted him to know he would restrain her or lock her in bathrooms. >> reporter: why did he do that? the whole thing with the cameras? >> he's just extremely controlling. >> reporter: still, despite the family's suspicion and the fact that the semen found on nique's body proved to be matt's, the police didn't feel they had enough evidence to make an arrest. there's no ankle bracelet on this man? you haven't taken his passport? >> no. >> does anybody say, if you're going to be moving around, tell us where you're going to be? is it that kind of relationship with the authorities at that point? >> no. he's -- there's not really a
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relationship with us. >> reporter: what about all that computer evidence, the video files from matt's hard drives? they appeared to be useless. after months of reviewing more than a half million video clips, the best investigators could come up with was this. it's a clip of nique leili walking onto the front porch to have a smoke, just after midnight on july 9th, 2011, the day she went missing. after that nothing. what happened after midnight in that house? >> exactly. that was -- that was the million-dollar question. >> reporter: the video files from midnight until 6:00 in the morning that day were "corrupted" according to the tech guy who examined them. >> he could see footage. but what it was -- it was very disjointed. most of it was not time stamped. most of it was not date stamped. so it was not in a manner that you could just go in and click play and just play through everything. >> reporter: the bottom line? the police had zero. nada. zilch. and so with no compelling reason to stick around lawrenceville, matt leili moved back up north to vermont to be closer to his
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family. that was in february of 2012, almost seven months to the day after nique's body was found. nique's stepmother, betty chatham, says that move effectively ended all contact between nique's family and her two youngest daughters, amanda 12 and rebecca 9. >> he was to provide us with telephone number. he was to set up a skype account so that we could talk with the girls. nothing. packed up, moved. >> reporter: five months later, in the summer of 2012, the investigative file passed to cold case detective sergeant john richter. >> i was actually in the homicide unit as a corporal when her body was found. >> does that stay with you? >> yeah, i always say there's certain, you know, there's certain cases that stick with you, and this is one. >> reporter: at first richter did what all cold case detectives do. he re-interviewed witnesses. when that went nowhere, richter took another look at matt leili's computer hard drives.
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do you think somewhere in there is the nugget that's going to get you to the next step in this investigation? >> i think at minimum we need to redo it just to see if technology had advanced. so i needed a new forensic guy to look at the video or whatever else he can find on the computer. >> reporter: turns out the techie richter needed was just down the hall. corporal chris ford had been an i.t. guy before joining the police force. >> richter just came down and said, hey, you mind taking a look at this? so i start looking for what we call low-hanging fruit. what's easily available? that was where i really started digging through and finding all these audio files. >> reporter: nobody had listened to the audio files before because investigators were so focused on finding video from the night nique disappeared. and that's just what ford did at first, too. >> i basically looked at that
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video in raw format, which is basically computer language. >> so something was recorded there. >> yes, they just wouldn't play. >> reporter: eventually, ford determined the screwed-up files were no accident. someone had deleted those files and then run a cleanup program to clear the database logs. not once, but twice. >> the only two times those cleanup jobs were run were the day that she -- he reported her missing and the day her body was found. >> i'll never forget the day he comes to my cube and he says, these videos were deleted. this isn't corrupted. and he turns to leave. and i think he just looks back and he says, "oh, i got a bunch of audio files that are on there too if you're interested." >> a bunch of files, quantify it. what are we talking about in terms of, like, hours of material? >> thousands of hours of material that date back from 2008, you know, up to 2011. >> reporter: the audio recordings are probably best described as cringe-worthy scenes from a very bad marriage. >> that's not what i said and how i said it and don't take my words out of context! when we got into that [ bleep ] car -- >> [ bleep ] -- damn, it damn it, damn it, damn it! damn it! lower your voice! >> it's absolutely a torture to listen to because we have a woman who i know is now deceased. and i'm hearing how she's living for the years preceding her death and how -- how she is just being beaten down psychologically and -- and mentally.
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>> reporter: it took the detective nearly a year and half to listen to all of the recordings, and by then he'd heard more than enough. when he learned that matt leili would be returning to georgia to testify in a civil suit concerning the payout from some life insurance policies nique had, sergeant john richter planned to be waiting. >> coming up -- could investigators have it all wrong? nique's youngest daughters paint a very different picture of their childhood home. >> it was always happy and loving. >> why they're furious with their mom's side of the family. >> it's just ridiculous the lies they're spreading. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ got simparica now. simpari-what? simparica is what kills tick and fleas, like us. kills? kills! studies show at the end of the month, it kills more ticks in less time than frontline plus and nexgard. guess we should mosey on. see ya never, roxy! use simparica with caution in dogs with a history of seizures
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♪ >> reporter: in march 2015 matt leili returned to georgia for the first time since he'd left the state three years earlier. it was money that brought him back, a court proceeding concerning a payout from his wife nique's life insurance policies. >> i knew he was coming down. that made me uneasy. it made me feel really creeped out. >> this is three years later. >> mm-hmm. what we didn't know was that the whole federal courthouse was actually crawling with plainclothes gwinnett county police. >> they were taking him down that day? >> they were. we had no idea. >> reporter: sergeant john richter says the plainclothes cops waited all day for just the right moment to make their me. >> we get him on the -- on the outside of the courouse. >> who makes the collar? how's it go down? >> myself and detective washington were there and put
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the handcuffs on him. felt pretty good. >> reporter: nique's family knew the feeling. >> i raised my hands and said, "praise god." that was my reaction. >> reporter: in addition to facing a murder charge, matt leili was eventually charged with sexual assault and multiple counts of evesdropping. a few weeks after his arrest nique leili's daughters, amanda and rebecca, posted an edited video on youtube in support of their dad. >> so girls, tell me what life was like growing up in your home. >> it was always happy and loving. most of the time my mom was traveling. my dad was mostly the one taking care of us. >> reporter: in the video the girls claimed that their mother hated her own family and those same spiteful relatives were the primary reason their dad was in jail. >> they've never liked my dad, and i've been reading things online. i've been watching the news. and i can see the hatred that they have for my dad. and it's just ridiculous the lies they're spreading. >> reporter: for nique's family that video was devastating. what, they wondered, had happened to those girls in the
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four years they'd been in vermont? >> as far as i can tell, he poisoned them against us. and i can only attribute that to, you know, them living in a house with a master manipulator. >> reporter: the notion of matt leili as a master manipulator would become a central theme when his murder trial began in january 2016. >> morning, ladies and gentlemen. >> reporter: in her opening statement to the jury, prosecutor lisa jones depicted matt leili as a couch potato sponging off his hard-working wife. >> nique leili was the breadwinner, but that family was in debt. up to $300,000 in debt. >> reporter: furthermore, jones said, matt leili tried to control his wife by turning their home into a virtual north korea. with cameras and recording devices everywhere, lenses aimed at them as they sat on the couch and watched tv. >> you will take a look into this marriage, ladies and gentlemen, in this case. you will hear the voices of nique leili and the defendant in this case arguing. >> reporter: nique's murder, she claimed, was simply matt leili's final act of control. >> i think they got into an argument, that he wanted to have sex, that he drugs her, that he has his way, that she's loud. she's not able to resist as much as it progresses.
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that he silences her. he strangles her. he sits on her. he asphyxiates her to where she can't breathe. >> not meaning to maybe? >> oh, i think he meant to. i think he'd had it. and i think he knew that she was leaving him because she had made it clear she was done. >> raise your right hand, please. >> reporter: the state's first witness was nique's oldest daughter, alex. >> they'd be arguing and he would end up locking her in a bathroom. she'd been shoved down stairs. there were several nights that i would lay up at night and listen to her say "please get off of me, get off of me, you're hurt."ing me >> reporter: next, nique's sister amy told the jury about the constant monitoring at the leili house. >> we knew that he would record phone conversations that came into or out of the house. >> were you aware at any time whether there were ever gps trackers or tracking devices on any types of the phones or the vehicles at the residence? >> yes.
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i knew that he had trackers on nique's phone and when alex was old enough to have a cell phone that he tracked her phone as well. >> reporter: then the prosecution gave the court a fly-on-the-wall look inside the leili home by playing those promised recordings of the couple's fights. >> let the record show i am now locked in a room again. i don't want to be here. i don't want to have this conversation. i've asked out of it. >> let the record show that she's being an absolute [ bleep ]. wants her way no matter what. >> reporter: it was hard to listen to. bitter screaming matches. frequently about sex. >> i know that when we go two days without sex you are going to automatically assume i am on strike mode. no matter what else is happening. don't touch me! sit down if you want to sit down. >> i'm reaching out to you. >> i don't want to hold you hand right now. >> reporter: in retrospect, for the prosecution, the recordings seemed to have the ring of prophecy. >> your hands around my throat. >> my hands were not on your throat. >> i don't care what the [ bleep ] you think. that was my throat they were around. >> get it through your head they were not around your throat and
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stop telling that story like that. >> bull [ bleep ]. you threatened to kill me. >> reporter: the prosecutor said nique leili's best chance for leaving her marriage came 12 days before she disappeared. after yet another argument, nique had called 911. >> gwinnett county 911. >> yes. my husband won't let me leave the house. >> my wife -- my wife is yelling and screaming and just woke up the children. >> reporter: officers dispatched to the leili home that day offered to help nique leave. but as this still photo shows she wouldn't budge from the front porch. >> she wanted him to go. he didn't want to go. he wanted her to go. she wasn't going to leave without the girls. and so the argument -- they were pretty much at an impasse. >> reporter: two weeks later, nique leili was dead. in a house where practically everything was recorded, the prosecutor claimed it was no accident that the video covering the crucial hours when nique leili went missing was somehow corrupted. >> the surveillance system was in fact recording during that time period, is that correct?
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>> that is correct, yes. >> reporter: the prosecutor countered matt's claim that nique had somehow turned off the security system by calling the police department's i.t. guy, chris ford, as her last witness. >> so detective, in your opinion did an individual have to go in and purposefully corrupt and delete those files? >> that is correct, yes. that's the only way that i can explain why out of all the dates and video that i can recover that's the only date range that i can't recover from. >> reporter: though no one knows exactly what was on that missing video, the prosecutor suggested that it was probably video of matt leili carrying his wife's body out of the house. >> you heard her. >> reporter: in closing, the prosecutor let nique leili have the last word. >> you need to listen to what she says and what she lived. >> welcome to my world. you killed me a long time ago. >> "welcome to my world. you killed me a long time ago." find him guilty. because that's exactly what he is.
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>> coming up -- has the prosecution really proved anything? >> i think their gut feeling was she's buried this close to the house, it's got to have been him. >> it's what you call a circumstantial case. >> yes. >> and then nique and matt's daughter says in her parents' marriage matt was the victim. >> she took a heel and threw it. and i myself had to duck from it. >> and was it being thrown at your dad? >> yes. ♪ ♪ protect your pet with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus. trusted by vets for nearly 20 years. they work togetherf doing important stuff. the hitch? like you, your cells get hungry. feed them... with centrum micronutrients. restoring your awesome, daily. centrum. feed your cells. olay regenerist shatters the competition.
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♪ >> reporter: by early february 2016, the prosecution had rested its cased against matt leili. the husband was portrayed as an evesdropping control freak who'd killed his wife during an argument. leili's defense attorney, tom clegg, insisted that matt leili was, in fact, an innocent man, falsely accused by the state of georgia. >> they have a theory, and that theory is nothing more than a hunch. it is a guess. well, if you were to ask yourself questions that might have been posed of you if you were to have gone to journalism school, who, what, where, why, and how, you will find that during the course of this trial the state of georgia will fall woefully short in proving the allegations that they are making against this man. >> i think their gut feeling was, come on, she's naked, she's buried this close to the house. she's obviously hidden.
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it's got to have been him. >> that's what you call a circumstantial case. >> yes. >> reporter: the defense attorney concedes he had some difficult circumstances to overcome in this case, beginning with the six hours of missing surveillance camera video from the night nique leili disappeared. clegg insists his client did not erase those files as the prosecution claimed. >> the video surveillance system was shut off at some point in the morning. matt believes that nique shut it off. he is insistent that he did not shut it off, that the system was shut off by nique. >> so whatever happened to her, the cameras didn't see it. >> the cameras did not see it. that is absolutely correct. >> reporter: as for those audio recordings of the couple's screaming arguments, clegg pointed out that most were recorded in 2008 and 2009, two years before nique died. according to the defense attorney, matt made the recordings with the encouragement of a marriage therapist that the couple had been seeing at the time.
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>> he is talking, and he is conciliatory in my opinion, he is trying to calm things down and it is impossible to calm nique down. >> please don't do this. please, nique, please. >> you do not want to do this with me right now. i mean it. you do not want to tangle with me right now. at all. >> what did i do? >> reporter: according to clegg, the prosecution cherry-picked scenes from the leili marriage. highlighting the bad and downplaying the good, bright spots like a 2010 trip matt and nique took to hawaii. they even renewed their marriage vows on that trip. >> the tapes reflect both of them at their worst. now, the flip side is when they are getting along well, when they are affectionate towards one another, when they renew their wedding vows in hawaii, they don't tape that stuff. >> it's always the darkest side of the moon with this marriage? >> the darkest side, absolutely, yes. >> reporter: as for the night nique disappeared, the defense tried to show that nique leili was once again acting unstable, behaving erratically.
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the defense attorney called matt's father, matthias, to verify his son's version of that last fight between matt and nique. the one where she allegedly flashed him. >> she tore off her top and she says, "come on let's go. let's f like a family." >> were you expecting any sort of comment like that? >> never, i -- never. >> reporter: once nique disappeared, clegg said matt leili inquired about having his wife involuntarily committed and even hired a divorce attorney. a man who knows his wife is already dead, he says, wouldn't have done either of those things. >> he did not really want to divorce her. he wanted to let her know, look, here are your options. you can go get help for yourself, or i'm going to go forward with a divorce. >> reporter: the defense wrapped up its case by calling matt and nique's two daughters, rebecca, now 14, and amanda, 17.
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>> did you ever see your dad hit your mom? >> no. >> did you ever see any obvious injuries or bruises to your mom? >> no, sir. >> reporter: according to the girls, their mother was the one with the violent temper, not their dad. >> she took a heel and threw it. and i myself had to duck from it. >> was it being thrown at your dad? >> yes. >> reporter: on the day nique made that 911 call, amanda said her mother complained about hearing voices in her head. >> she was pacing back and forth and saying that she was tired of people talking about her behind her back. and my dad asked her who was talking about her, and she said that she was hearing voices and, like, the voices in her head were telling her that people were talking bad about her. >> reporter: throughout, neither girl made eye contact with their mother's relatives, who hadn't seen them in four years. whatever affection might once have existed seemed to be gone now.
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>> we made our own decision. we don't like that side of the family. so we want to stay away. it's not his -- him forcing us to stay away from them. >> reporter: in closing, tom clegg argued that while the state may have proved matt leili unlikeable it had not answered any of those basic journalism questions -- who, what, where, when, why, or how? >> in closing, i said, "you have heard all of this evidence, the state still cannot answer any of these particular questions." what does that tell you? that tells you they have fallen woefully short of proving matt's guilt. >> reporter: after eight days of testimony, both sides of the family prepared for a long and anxious wait for a verdict. turns out they didn't have to pace long. after just three hours of deliberation, the jury announced it had reached a verdict. >> i would ask at this time that you would stand and read the verdict out loud. >> as to count one, we the jury find the defendant guilty of malice murder. >> reporter: though not a sound came from nique leili's family,
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their expressions said it all. >> thank you, sir. >> reporter: before passing sentence, the judge gave matt leili one last chance to have his say. >> mr. leili is there anything you want to say? >> i didn't do it, and i'll be filing an appeal. >> reporter: with that, the judge asked matt leili to rise and receive his sentence. >> i am going to follow the state's recommendation as to count one and have you sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. >> reporter: it was a bittersweet ending for nique's family. they'll likely never see matt leili again. but as nique leili's youngest girls left the courthouse to go back north with their grandfather, it seemed just as likely that they would never see them again either. >> they were my girls. i still love them to this day. i taught them how to read, got them ready for school in the mornings. >> you'd like to have a relationship with them? >> i would love to have a relationship with them again. i don't know that that day will ever come. but i want them to know my door's always open. but i don't know if that day
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will ever come. >> reporter: one murder, so many victims. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll see you again next friday at 10:00, 9:00 central. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> this is "dateline." >> he said nicole's gone missing. we are frantic. calling, all her friends are calling. you think that that sort of thing happens to other people. it's the most frightening thing in the world. >> a young wife. >> she always saw the good in people. >> she had a way to make you smile. >> missing for nine days. >> it's so wrong, and nicole is somewhere where she shouldn't be. >> it was hard enough when they didn't know.


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