tv Dateline MSNBC December 30, 2018 1:00am-2:01am PST
they got themselves organized in the parking lot of a walmart in lawrenceville, georgia, an hour outside of atlanta, and then set out to find any trace of a petite corporate executive named nique leili. >> been missing for a week now. she has three kids who would love to see her home. >> amy robinson told reporters
that her 44-year-old sister, mother of three, was hardly the kind of person who would just up and disappear without a word to anyone. >> i'm just so worried about my sister. we have no idea where she is or what's happened to her. >> as fate would have it, the question of where nique was would be answered soon enough. but even now, the question of what happened to nique remains unclear. >> i am sick of playing your games. >> what is clear from the recordings she left behind is that nique leili lived a trouble 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.
she and i used to laugh all the time. and she was very feisty. she would say what she meant. she didn't mince a lot of words. >> as sisters, amy robinson and nique leili were ten 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 ten years apart. >> that didn't stop it from happening. i wore a lot of her hand-me-downs. >> by the mid '90s nique had been married and divorced twice and she and her young daughter alex were sharing an apartment with any. >> we had a good time with that
too. we just laughed, putting up pictures in the apartment and stuff. >> it sounds like a sitcom. >> 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 met online. >> he made my sister laugh. so we would all laugh. >> 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 bread-winner. 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
rebuilding them and selling them on ebay. >> by this ring -- >> by this ring. >> 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 and who makes her head spin. to amy and dylan. >> then, later that night, boogying to, what else, "we are family." ♪ we are family >> 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 -- we're going to go have a girls' day. >> where did you go? >> we went to get our nails done. >> day of beauty at the spa. >> yep. we got manicures and pedicures
and went and had lunch. >> nique had had her toenails painted pink that day. though she sometimes had had a difficult relationship with her teenage daughter, alex says that day at the spa felt like a turning point. a fresh beginning. >> everybody looks happy. good girls' day out. >> it was fun. i am beyond grateful now that we've done it. >> 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 is not on the 11:00 news every night. >> no. because, frankly, a grown woman having left her house wasn't
that interesting a story. well, a hundred people getting together all wearing red shirts. there is an interesting story. they covered that. >> then the cameras were out. >> then the cameras came. >> this is what the cameras saw. searchers armed with maps literally beating the bushes around nique leili's subdivision for clues as to what might have happened to her. >> keep your eyes open. if you see her or anything, definitely call 911 and let them know that you've seen her. >> every searcher had an assignment. >> look, we got blue sky. it's going to smile on us. >> harriet garrett, nique's mother, had the job of going door to door, leafletting the neighborhood with flyers picturing her daughter.
>> i don't think anybody's at home, but we'll find out. >> even though southern hospitality may have been in short supply that day. >> go before i call the cops. >> harriet pressed on. >> good morning, sir. my name is harriet garrett. my daughter is missing. and they're trying to give -- we're trying to get some news coverage. >> like so many of the volunteers that day, alison rockwell wasn't a relative. she was looking for nique, her >> a body, and a vital clue. >> the telling factor was, the bottoms of her feet were clean. >> what did that mean? when "dateline extra" continues.
of her. then, a heart-breaking discovery in the woods not far from nique's home would turn the area into an active crime scene. here again is dennis murphy with "the house on sidney's cove." >> 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 coworker alison was there, and she said, oh my god, it's her. we found her. there is her hair. >> how awful for you. >> yeah. >> 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. so i just kind of went into crisis mode and i called 911. >> within minutes, police, ambulances and news cameras were converging on the patch of woods where the body was found. nique's mother, harriet garrett, says she heard the news when a cop told her she would have to stop leafletting the neighborhood. >> someone in the neighborhood had complained. and while he is talking to me, his radio goes off. it's the 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 tape up, and i couldn't get any further. [ crying ] >> we're going to move back.
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. >> hello? >> soon, harriet had nique's oldest daughter alex on the phone. >> do you know it's her? well, i'm right here. 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. >> you can't. you can't baby. >> first they wouldn't let me see her. i am grateful that they didn't now. >> 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. um, you know, so we're just waiting for the police to do their job and we'll find out more soon. >> 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. >> given the decomposition, the heat, the rain, investigators figured the body had lain there for a while. >> it had been out there several days. >> 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. at this point there is no -- there is no identifying documents around it. so there's nothing around where
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he had been working her case since she was reported missing a few days earlier. >> i had already talked to her dad, talked to her mom, talked to both her sisters, you know, >> yes. yeah. >> this is not the first time she has run away, okay. but she has never been gone overnight. >> in this telephone call which the detective recorded, matt leili said his wife was mentally unbalanced. >> she is not very happy with her life. she has never felt accepted, okay. she and i have been in and out of therapists. there is a fear of intimacy. she has got no problem with girls. but when it comes to a male, they are a threat. all my life guys have used me for sex. >> he is getting a host of information. >> i have a hard time getting a word in edgewise. >> she yells at me in front of the kids. she throws things at me in front of the kids. 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? >> matt leili said he considered getting a court order to protect him from his wife. >> has she ever been violent? >> yeah. i have pictures of myself with bruises on me. my father is a witness of her throwing a knife at my face. i am 250 pounds, 6'5". she's 98 pounds soaking wet. i'm being beaten up by my wife. who is going to believe me. >> he's telling you that she's bats. >> that's what he's saying. >> as for the night nique disappeared -- >> he stated the previous friday that they had actually gone out to eat and gone to a movie after she got home from work. >> had a great time. we came home. on the way home i said to her, hey, you know-- i want to have sex. i said to her, hey, how about you put on an outfit. i think it might have set her off. >> he wanted her to put on a sexy costume of some kind. >> correct. >> the fear of intimacy that i thought she was working on getting over, it was gone. apparently that set her off. she picked a fight. >> 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 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 reacted to that by basically saying he was lying. >> 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, says maybe we should just [ bleep ]. throws her shirt on the floor and 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. >> he said the dust finally settled in the wee hours of saturday, july 9, nique in the bedroom and he downstairs on the couch in his office. >> i wake up at 6:00 to go to the bathroom.
the light is on in the bedroom. i can see it upstairs. i go upstairs to see what's going on. she is not there. >> all her stuff was still there. her car was still there. her keys, her phone. >> her purse was till there. >> he assumed she had left on foot or somebody picked her up. >> 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. to the dvr. she always shuts it off when she leaves. when she is pissed off. she knows it pisses me off. >> this is the first you learn the place is wired for sound and pictures. >> correct. >> when her 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. >> when "dateline extra" continues.
i'm tamron hall. nique leili was dead, and now her husband was telling police that this seemingly happy mom had a dark side. he claimed nique was violent and often mentally unstable, especially on the night she disappeared. investigators didn't know it yet, but they were about to get a better view into the home than they could have ever imagined. here again is dennis murphy with "the house on sidney's cove." >> within minutes of finding
>> it was a low-crime area. it almost boggled the mind as to why he felt he needed quite so much surveillance coverage for the house. >> 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. >> the uniformed guys told me that he at one point seemed like
he got sick. >> matt leili may well have been sick, sick of talking to the cops, because by now he had lawyered up and wasn't answering any of their questions. >> so you now have probable cause to get a search warrant. >> correct. >> do you think, man, maybe this is going to help us? maybe these cameras saw and recorded something that tells us 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 -- he had a dvr hooked up to the surveillance system. >> the detective knew it would take time to review and catalog all the material, so since the police had found no sign of blood or any sign of struggle in the house, the detective reviewed the evidence he did have, particularly matt's claim that his wife was bonkers. >> any of her family members corroborating this emotional instability issue that's raised by the husband? >> none whatsoever. >> this is not a woman off her meds. >> no. they're completely shocked by this version of events that matt
leili is giving me. >> are any of them suspicious of matt, the husband? >> yes, they were all suspicious of matt. >> nique's daughter alex had lived with her mother and matt until she was 16, and there was plenty she had to say to the detective. >> i wanted him to know what was going on in the house. i wanted them to know i suspected him from the beginning. my mom would have never left her girls. i wanted him to know he would restrain her, lock her in bathrooms.
>> why did he do this? the whole thing with the cameras. >> he is just extremely controlling. >> still, despite the family's suspicion and the fact that the semen on nique's body proved to be matt's, the police didn't feel they had enough evidence to make an arrest. >> there is no ankle bracelet on this man. you haven't taken his passport. >> no. >> does anybody say, if you're moving around, tell us where you're going to be. is it that kind of relationship with the authorities? >> no. there is not really a
relationship with us. >> what about all the 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 9, 2011. the day she went missing. after that, nothing. >> what happened after midnight in that house? >> exactly. that was the million dollar question. >> the video files from midnight until 6:00 in the morning that day were corrupted, according to the tech guy who examined them. >> we could see footage, but what it was, it was very disjointed. most of it was not time stamped or date stamped. so it was not in a manner that you could just go in and click play and just play through everything. >> the bottom line, the police had zero, nada, zilch. with no compelling reason to stick around lawrenceville, matt leili moved back up north to vermont to be closer to his 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 the 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 a telephone number and set up a skype account so we could talk with the girls. nothing. packed up, moved. >> five months later in the summer of 2012, the investigative file passed to cold case detective sergeant john richter. >> i was in the homicide unit as a corporal when her body was found. >> does it stay with you? >> i always say there are certain cases that stick with you. and this is one. >> 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. >> do you think somewhere in there is the nugget that will get you to the next step in the investigation? lower your voice! >> what's absolutely a torture to listen to because we have a woman who i know is now deceased, and i am hearing how she is living for the years preceding her death and how she is just being beaten down psychologically and mentally. >> it took the detective nearly a year and a half to listen to all of the recordings, and by then he had 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.
recording almost everything that went on inside his home with security cameras. it was thousands of hours of footage, but suspiciously, the video from the short period surrounding his wife's disappearance was gone. cold case investigators believe it had been deleted intentionally. they wanted to ask matt some questions. >> 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 was three years later. >> mm-hmm. what we didn't know was that the whole federal courthouse was actually crawling with plain-clothed gwinnett county police. >> they were taking him down
that day. >> they were. we had no idea. >> sergeant john richter says the plain-clothed cops waited all day for just the right moment to make their move. >> get him on the outside of the courthouse. >> who makes the collar? how does it go down? >> myself and detective washington were there. put the handcuffs on him.
felt pretty good. >> nique's family knew the feeling. >> i raised my hands and said, praise god. that was my reaction. >> in addition to facing a murder charge, matt leili was eventually charged with sexual assault and multiple counts of eavesdropping. a few weeks after his arrest, nique's daughters, amanda and rebecca, posted an edited video on youtube in support of their dad. 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. for nique's family, that video was devastating. what, they wondered, had happened to those girls in the four years they had been in vermont. >> as far as i can tell, he poisoned them against us. i can only attribute that to, you know, them living in a house with a master manipulator. >> 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. >> 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. the family was in debt, up to
$300,000 in debt. >> 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.
>> 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, he has his way. she is loud, she is not able to resist as much as it progresses, that he silences her. he strangles her, sits on her. asphyxiates her to where she can't breathe. >> not meaning to, maybe. >> i think he meant to. i think he had it. i think he knew she was leaving him. she made it clear she was done. >> the first state's witness was nique's oldest daughter alex. >> they would be arguing. he would end up locking her in a bathroom. she had been shoved down stairs.
there were several nights that i would lay up and i would listen to her say, please, get off of me. get off me. you're hurting me. >> 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 vehicles at the residence? >> yes. i knew that he had trackers on nique's phone and when alex was old enough to have a cellphone that he tracked her phone as well. >> then the prosecution gave the court a fly-on-the-wall look inside the leili home by playing the 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. >> let the record show that she is being an absolute [ bleep ]. wants her way no matter what. >> it was hard to listen to. bitter screaming matches, frequently about sex. >> i know that when we go two days without sex, you're 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 am reaching out to you. >> i don't want to hold your hand right now. >> 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 but it was my throat they were around. >> they were not around your throat. stop telling that story like >> the prosecutors said nique leili's best chance for leaving her marriage came 12 days before she disappeared. after yet another argument nique had called 911. >> my husband won't let me leave the house. >> my wife is yelling and screaming and just woke up the children. >> 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? >> that is correct, yes. >> 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 professional opinion, then, did an individual have to go in and purposefully corrupt and delete those files? >> that's correct. yes. that's the only way i can explain why, out of all the dates and video that i can recover, that's the only date range i can't recover from. >> though no one knows exactly what was on the missing video, the prosecutor suggested that it was probably video of matt leili carrying his wife's body out of the house. >> 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've killed me a long time ago. ♪ he holds your house in the palm of his hand ♪ ♪ he's your home and auto man ♪ big jim, he's got you covered ♪ ♪ great big jim, there ain't no other ♪ -so, this is covered, right? -yes, ma'am. take care of it for you right now. giddyup! hi! this is jamie. we need some help.
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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 is naked, she is buried this close to the house, she's obviously midden. it's got to have been him.
>> what you call a circumstantial case. >> yes. >> 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 the 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. >> as for the audio recordings of the couple's screaming arguments, clegg pointed out 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. >> 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. >> 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? >> according to clegg, the prosecution cherry-picked scenes from the leili marriage, highlighting the bad and downplaying the good. bright spots like the 2010 trip they took to hawaii. they even renewed marriage vows on that trip. >> the tapes reflect both of them at their worst. the flip-side is, when they're getting along well, when they're affectionate towards one another, when they renew their wedding vows in hawaii, they don't tape that stuff. >> it's always the darkest side. >> yes. >> as for the night nique disappeared, the defense tried to show that nique leili was once again acting unstable, behaving erratically. the defense attorney called matt's father, matthias, to verify his son's version of the last fight between matt and nique.
the one where she allegedly flashed him. >> she tore off her top and says, come on, let's go, let's act like a family. >> were you expecting any sort of comment like that? >> never. i -- never. >> once nique disappeared, clegg says, 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. >> the defense wrapped up its case by calling matt and nique's two daughters, rebecca, now 14, and amanda, 17. >> did you ever see your dad hit your mom? >> no. did you ever see any obvious injuries or bruises to your mom? >> no, sir. >> according to the girls, their mother was the one with the violent temper, not their dad. >> she took a heel and threw it. i myself had to duck from it. >> was it being thrown at your dad? >> yes. >> 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 saying that she was tired of people talking bad about her behind her back, and my dad asked her who was talking about
her, and she said that, um, she was hearing voices and like the voices in her head were telling her people were talking bad about her. >> 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. >> we made our own decision. we don't like that side of the
family. so we want to stay away. it's not him forcing us to stay away from them. >> in closing, tom clegg argued that, while the state may have proved matt leili unlikable, it had not answered any of the 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. >> 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'm going to ask you at this time if you would stand and read the verdict out loud. >> as to count one, we the jury find the defendant guilty of murder. this is "dateline." i lost concept of time. i reached in. pulled her out. i started screaming help. >> please. wake up, wake up. >> it was the worst seconds of my life. how was it possible? >> i would give anything if she were alive today. >> such a sweet, young wife and m.