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tv   Forensic Files  CNN  May 2, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am PDT

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he had it all thought out. but in the end, it didn't work out in his favor. thankfully, it worked out on the side of justice. up next, her death was first ruled an accident. >> he thought he was going to get away with it. >> until the autopsy proves otherwise. >> fire in this case was used in an attempt to cover the murder. >> but who wanted this woman dead and why? >> greed and money are probably the oldest motives in the world for a murder. >> but would he get away with it? >> he thought he was a pretty smart guy. that was the mistakes that he made. just after dusk in november 2000 firefighters in augusta, georgia, were dispatched to a mobile home fire on the south side of town. >> they're tinderboxes and you're just talking about a matter of minutes before the
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entire mobile home is completely engulfed. >> it took ten minutes for firefighters to bring the blaze under control. when they did, they found the home owner, edith ann haynes dead in the bathroom. >> she became overwhelmed by the smoke and the heat and was unable to escape the fire and died inside. >> edith ann haynes known to friends as ann, was divorced and was on disability from her job at the kendall company makers of surgical dressings. a preliminary investigation indicated the fire started in a spare bedroom used as a storage space. officially the cause of the blaze was ruled undetermined. but it was believed to be an electrical fire. >> it was around the time the weather started to get a little cool and there might have been some heat on and that might have started the fire. >> at the autopsy the medical
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examiner expected to find evidence of smoke inhalation. instead he found no soot or debris in her trachea. and her hyoid bone in her neck was broken, which usually indicates strangulation. >> i've never seen a situation where a bone in a person's throat has been crushed by accident unless there's been in traumatic car wreck or some other explanation. >> the medical examiner also found marks on the outer part of her neck. >> they were consistent with fingernail marks. whatever happened before she died was very, very violent because there was evidence of blunt force trauma. >> the autopsy concluded edith ann haynes was dead before the fire started, but who wanted her dead and why. ironically until three days
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earlier haynes had lived in a larger house about eight miles away. >> she was in a financial situation where she needed to sell her house. >> steve culverson, haynes' nephew, and the administrator of her estate, looked through the rubble to find her financial records. >> i felt there had to be more evidence there. we took everything out of the cabinets and just searched for stuff. there was no evidence of where her keys were, her wallet. >> and he and the investigators found something suspicious. >> one of those was a signed contract between ann haynes and a man by the name of michael bryant. >> miss haynes sold her home to mr. bryant and already transferred the deed, but for some reason hadn't received the proceeds from the sale. >> that was a perry mason moment. he was going to pay her a sum of $25,000. >> she was selling her house off to pay her bills off and
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at first, investigators assumed the fire in edith ann
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haynes' mobile home was accidental. most likely caused by an electrical problem. but when the medical examiner ruled ms. haynes' death a homicide, investigators called in mike lane, an expert in the field of fire investigations. >> all i wanted him to be able to do was tell me, was this an arson, was it not an arson? and if it was, how did it start, where did it start? you know, tell me as much about the fire as you can. >> the first thing he did was to conduct a room-by-room search trying to determine where the fire started and how it spread. >> if you have a large area, you can determine heat flow and directionality by cutting this wall stud in two. and when you cut it in two, looking down on the top, you can see that the fire came from this direction and flowed around this point. we have much more degradation right here than we do on this side.
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>> lane then drew a diagram of the floor plan and charted the burn patterns using an arrow to point toward the heat source. >> examining this pattern, it indicates the direction of fire flow starting at the bottom of this pattern, where we first see charring, and then at the top of this where we see charring. if we drew a line across there, it gives us a direction from which the fire started. >> then he looked for visible signs of an accelerant, like gasoline, which makes a fire burn faster and hotter. >> when i pulled up the threshold, there was a slight odor, and that's why i cut it out and put it in a container. when i smell fuels that i've smelled for 40 years, i get excited because i believe they're there. but i don't allow myself to go to the point where i say it's absolute.
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>> lane put debris from the fire into air-tight containers and sent them to the lab. but the larger questions facing investigators were who wanted edith ann haynes dead and why. >> she didn't have a real big social life. she would casually go out with friends maybe and have a drink or two after work. when it's a murder so off the wall and no real logic behind why it had to happen. why, you know. >> the most logical suspect was 31-year-old michael bryant, haynes' co-worker at the kendall company. bryant bought ann's old home as an investment. >> she agreed to sell him this house where she had spent, you know, like 20 years, whatever, you know, her whole adult life. the deal was he would pay the mortgage which was left on it, which was not much. and he would pay her $25,000 in cash and help her out a little bit with her new place. >> when questioned by police,
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bryant said he gave ms. haynes a $25,000 check and she signed over the deed to the house. but investigators found no evidence that haynes cashed the check and no trace of it was found in the rubble. shockingly, bryant was unwilling to issue another $25,000 check to ms. haynes' estate. >> we did have to sue him to get the $25,000. he wasn't going to pay that until we came up and did that. >> bryant denied having anything to do with the arson and murder. and he had a solid alibi. >> at the time of the fire, michael bryant did have an alibi. he was 20 miles away at a grill with his wife. then they had actually gone to a movie after that. >> bryant and his wife had the movie ticket stubs and >> his wife verified that this . was true, and there was no reason that she was not being truthful to us.
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>> but something bothered investigators. one of bryant's co-workers called him that night after the movie to tell him about the fire. >> the call said that there was a fire at edith's house. >> oh my -- oh, my, are you serious? >> and michael started crying. >> how did that happen? >> well, thing was, the call didn't say anything about edith being dead, only that there was a fire. >> and that told investigators they were on the right track. i don't want to live with the uncertainties of hep c. or wonder whether i should seek treatment. i am ready. because today there's harvoni. a revolutionary treatment for the most common type of chronic hepatitis c. harvoni is proven to cure up to 99% of patients who've had no prior treatment. it's the one and only cure that's one pill,
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an autopsy revealed that edith ann haynes was beaten and strangled to death before the fire started in her mobile home. to find out whether an accelerant was used to start the fire, samples were collected and sent to the laboratory. there, forensic scientist laurel mason took the contents of the air-tight containers and prepared them for testing. >> what i need to do is get the ignitable liquid that was used to accelerate the fire into a gas form. and i do that by heating the sample up. that gas is then collected or absorbed on to the charcoal
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strip. >> a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer analyzed the samples and compared them to a database of over 750 known reference samples. >> it is like a doctor looking at an ekg. i have to be able to visually recognize what it is that i'm looking at. the sample that was removed from the threshold was positive for gasoline. >> now investigators wanted to know who was the last person inside ann's home on the day of the fire. interestingly, neighbors saw michael bryant's truck at ann's home around 3 p.m., but the truck was gone by 5:00 p.m. the fire didn't start until two hours later. >> michael bryant and his wife were at the restaurant where he went, and the movie theater was in evans, which is a suburb of augusta, another good 15, 20 minutes to get there. so he was, you know, at least a
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half hour or more away from her when the fire occurred. >> arson investigator mike lane knew from experience that there was a way that bryant could have killed ms. haynes, started the fire and still have been at the movie two hours later. >> the delayed-ignition device is something that an arsonist would use so that they can be someplace else when the fire starts. and it may be for minutes. it could be for hours. in all actuality, it could be for days, the more sophisticated it is. >> as for bryant's alibi, investigators had one question. who keeps a movie receipt? >> it is inconceivable that someone would keep in their records one movie stub, one restaurant receipt, unless they were keeping it for a specific reason. and his reason was that he wanted to be able to establish
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an alibi. >> scott peebles checked out michael bryant's background and discovered that bryant had been married before, so he called bryant's ex-wife. >> we learned from her that he was fascinated with fire and would frequently dabble with pyrotechnics, so to speak. >> she also told peebles that the home they owned together mysteriously burned to the ground. bryant's ex-wife said the fire resulted in a substantial insurance settlement. and even she believed her ex-husband started it. >> prior to the fire, he had already rented an apartment that his ex-wife did not know he had put into his name. >> bryant's car was also destroyed in that fire. it, too, was insured. strangely, the car's tires were a special model and valuable. miraculously, they survived.
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>> he removed the tires from his car and placed them far enough away from the house where they wouldn't be destroyed when the house burned down. >> although this was certainly suspicious, it wasn't proof that bryant had anything to do with ann haynes' murder. >> he had a lot of friends and a lot of support, you know, they just insisted there was no way he could have done this crime, because he had never been in trouble before. >> and investigators also discovered bryant had firefighter training. he was on the fire brigade at the manufacturing plant where he worked. >> his training from the fire brigade, which would have taught him how to do, you know -- what a delayed-ignition device was, how to set fires, how to -- how arsonists work, what to look for in an arson. >> throughout the investigation, bryant had willingly answered all questions by police, but when the questioning got more intense, he stopped cooperating.
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>> and at some point, he was asked to submit to a polygraph examination, which he originally agreed to do, but prior to the scheduling of that examination, he backed out. >> so investigators had no evidence linking bryant to the crime. >> he got away with it once, thought he would get away with it again. did someone say burn? try alka seltzer reliefchews. they work just as fast and are proven to taste better than tums smoothies assorted fruit. mmm... amazing. yeah, i get that a lot. alka seltzer heartburn reliefchews. enjoy the relief. meet thsuperpower.ewest energy surprised? in fact, america is now the world's number one natural gas producer... and we could soon become number one in oil. because hydraulic fracturing technology is safely recovering lots more oil and natural gas. supporting millions of new jobs. billions in tax revenue... and a new century of american energy security. the new energy superpower?
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with very little evidence against michael bryant for the murder of ann haynes, investigators got a warrant to search his home. they seized his computer, and analyzed his hard drive. on it was a wealth of information. >> we were able to see that in the days prior to the scheduled polygraph that he didn't take, he was looking at websites on how to beat a polygraph. then he didn't take the polygraph. >> they also searched the storage spaces. >> when i went into that attic, things just kind of got eerie from there. basically, what i saw was similar to an altar for what i would certainly think was satanic worship with a pentagram, candles, and burned items. >> in the garage, investigators
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found a coil of detonation, or fuse wire, the kind used to construct a delayed-ignition device. a search of bryant's financial records showed he was deeply in debt. he made between $80,000 and $90,000 a year, but he lived like he made twice that much. >> this was someone who was kiting checks between different financial institutions to get by. he may have had this $200,000 home, but he was living well outside his means and he was in over his head. >> and with this evidence, michael bryant was arrested and charged with arson and murder. >> greed and money are probably the oldest motives in the world for murder. >> michael bryant worked with ms. haynes, and when she bought the mobile home and put her old house up for sale, bryant offered to buy it as a rental property. bryant paid off the loans on the house and had ann sign over the deed. then he gave haynes a check for
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$25,000, the balance of the purchase price. >> so he had written a check to ann haynes for $25,000, asking her to hold the check, not cash it, until he could put the funds in the account. this kept getting delayed continually by him. and on the day of the fire, she indicated that she was going to cash that check, whether he wanted to or not. >> she may have realized that bryant had no intention of paying her since she had already signed the deed and didn't yet have the $25,000 he owed her. prosecutors believe bryant went to haynes' mobile home on the day of the murder to ask her again to delay cashing his check for the $25,000. >> i just want you to leave. >> no one knows what took place. but the evidence shows bryant
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struck her on the back of the head, strangled her to death, then dragged her body into the bathroom. he took the incriminating evidence, his $25,000 check. the evidence shows he poured gasoline on haynes' body. down the hallway, into the living room, and to the front door. but he couldn't set the house on fire in broad daylight with his truck outside. he needed time to establish an alibi. he used fuse wire and other household items to construct some type of delayed ignition device. then he left the scene. the evidence shows that bryant picked up his wife and they drove to a restaurant 20 miles away for dinner.
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they left at 6:41, then went to a 7:00 movie. around 7:30, the device bryant set in ann haynes' home started the fire, while he and his wife were in the movie theater, surrounded by witnesses. despite his well-laid plans, michael made one huge mistake. while walking out of the theater, his friend called to tell him that the haynes' mobile home was destroyed in a fire. >> are you serious? >> michael reacted inappropriately, given the fact the caller said nothing about ann having been involved in the fire, let alone killed. the fire didn't eliminate everything. as in most arsons, it actually created more evidence than it destroyed.
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>> essentially, she is killed over $25,000. >> in october of 2002, michael bryant went on trial for malice, murder, arson and burglary. >> in this case, it was premeditated. it was planned. it was schemed. he took the day off work and he planned this murder. >> it started out to be just a little, small transaction deal of a person selling a house, but not going through a real estate agent, you know, friends at work. still blows my mind every time i think about it. >> michael bryant was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, plus 40 years. >> this was one of the most interesting cases that i ever worked on. >> when i heard the verdict, i was speechless. reached over and hugged my wife and just shed a few tears. nothing to say but thank god. thank god they got him. >> without forensics, we would have not convicted michael bryant. this is a man who did believe he was smarter than everybody else. and he thought he could
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manipulate ann haynes. he thought he could manipulate investigators, and he believed he was getting away with it. victim to temptation. >> he made a mistake thattium arer sure a lot of people could identify with. >> then he vanishes without a trace. for almost 20 years, the disappearance goes unsolved. until a tiny chip of paint tells of a terrifying ordeal. >> it would drive me crazy to know what a murder victim goes through every time they're killed. ♪


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