tv Forensic Files CNN June 6, 2015 10:30pm-11:01pm PDT
you never really know what people's lives are like. they have a face, they present a face well, but you scratch below the surface and sometimes you find these ugly things that are going on. up next, a suburban housewife is gunned down outside her church. >> i have seen brazen murders in my career, but i have never seen one this brazen. >> the investigation reveals some long-held secrets. >> you have a lesbian affair, you have corruption. you have murder. >> a love triangle points in one direction. the evidence points in another. >> this had a lot of twists and turns. >> what the hell else was going to go on here? it was a cold october night in poughkeepsie, new york. jeff fassett, a local policeman, had the night off and was home
watching tv with his two sons. his wife, susan was at her church's choir practice. >> my mother was involved in church pretty heavily. she had always loved it. she was involved in the choir for most of her life. >> around 7:30 p.m., jeff fassett told the boys he was going down to police headquarters. >> he did go out to the town of poughkeepsie to get his paycheck, three miles west of his house. >> sometime around 8:30, choir practice ended at
the pleasant valley united methodist church and susan fassett walked to her car to drive home. then shots rang out. >> people ran to the car to see what had happened and they found susan fassett mortally wounded. >> witnesses saw a light colored vehicle speeding from the scene. >> no one indicated to us they could see a driver or how many people, for that matter, were in
the car. >> in a search for suspects, police immediately looked at susan's husband, jeff. >> jeff fassett they learned left the house during the time that susan was murdered. >> there were rumors in the police force that there were problems in jeff and susan's marriage. >> we were pretty comfortable that jeff fassett might be involved here. >> shortly after jeff fassett returned home, police converged on his house. >> they look like they have
shotguns and gear on and they're surrounding the house and they're going to come here and ambush this place. >> jeff wanted to find out why this was happening. >> he made several phone calls to his police department, to the state police. >> there are patrol cars outside of my house. what's going on? >> nobody was coming right out and telling him.
>> susan's son, jason, had made a call to the church and found out his mother had been shot. that's the only information they had. >> not sure what to do, jeff turned off all the lights. >> it looked as if he was barricading himself inside the house. >> i remember sitting in the house in the dark in silence for what seemed like a very, very long time. >> they don't know what he's going to do now. if a man has killed his wife, his children may be next and then he may kill himself. >> two tense hours pass before jeff fassett and his two sons come out of the house. >> they are led outside with their hands behind their head, handcuffed and tossed on the ground face down like common criminals. >> i'm waiting to find out what happened to my mother who all i know is she's been shot. and now all of a sudden, we're all, you know, seemingly under arrest. >> eventually, even jason fassett had to consider the unthinkable.
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susan fassett's murder looked like a professional hit. the killer was apparently lying in wait. and had planned a quick getaway from the scene. >> i have seen brazen murders in my career, but i have never seen one this brazen that just seemed to vanish. >> all of susan's personal effects were found in the car indicating that it was not a robbery. >> susan's husband jeff, a 24-year veteran of the poughkeepsie police department denied any involvement in susan's murder, although he didn't have an alibi. >> we could not confirm where jeff was when it happened. >> and jeff's car was similar to the vehicle seen speeding from the crime scene. >> you look at his record and his record is blemish free.
i mean, he had absolutely nothing in his record that would indicate that he would turn violent at all. >> but jeff thought he knew who was responsible. >> he even said to me, put me under hot lights, beat me with rubber hoses, i don't care what you do to me, but when you're all done with me, go see fred andros. he's behind this. >> fred andros was the superintendent for the town of poughkeepsie. a man with a terrible reputation. >> right out of the gate people told us what a scum bag he was. >> fred was a self-centered, mean, nasty prick. >> fred andros and susan fassett bumped into each other apparently one day in the hallway in the town building. they started a relationship. >> just one month earlier, jeff fassett learned his wife susan was having an affair with fred andros, an affair that had gone on for the last three years. >>off put some sort of tape recording device on his telephone unbeknownst to her. she was caught receiving and
making calls to fred andros. >> when jeff fassett confronted his wife about the affair, susan promised to end it. >> things were really up in the air. and then one day they just came to us and said that they were going to work on things. they were going to fix things. >> police wondered if fred andros might have been angry that susan ended their affair. but fred andros had an airtight alibi for the night of susan's murder. andros and his wife had friends over to dinner that night. >> fred andros was despondent and upset. he wanted to know -- i think he asked such thing like who would do such a thing and he cared about her. >> at the autopsy, the medical examiner recovered five bullets from susan's body. >> you're looking for a .45 caliber weapon. >> we determined that andros didn't have a registered .45 handgun registered nor a vehicle
that fit the description of the vehicle leaving the scene. >> the victim's husband didn't own a .45 caliber weapon either. but the medical examiner discovered one additional clue. susan had intercourse within 48 hours of her murder. >> when jeff fassett was questioned about this, it was news to him. >> they test that semen against jeff fassett's dna and it's not a match. >> police ask fred andros if he had sexual relations with susan fassett before her murder and he said no. he had told us that he hadn't seen her in a month and had never been intimate. >> andros explained why he was unable to have sexual relations. >> fred said to us that he was unable to perform sexually due to a medication he was taking. >> fred said he was impotent, but that was clearly discounted
by the numerous interviews with the prostitutes in the area. that was nothing but a hoax. >> when asked to provide a dna sample, andros refused. >> they really have no legal reason to order a dna sample from fred andros. you have to have some evidence and they have none. >> to try to obtain a court order to go to a judge and say this guy was alibied not near the scene. he doesn't have the type of weapon that was used. he doesn't have the type of car that was used, it starts to detract from your real hard suspicion. >> if susan fassett didn't have sex with her husband or fred andros, then she was having an affair with someone else. >> which opens up a whole new pool of suspects for the police. we all enter this world with a shout,
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susan fassett's autopsy revealed she had sexual relations within two days of her murder. dna from that encounter did not match that of her husband jeff. so who was it? her former lover fred andros denied it was him, although he refused to provide a dna sample. >> we knew it wasn't jeff, and we're thinking it had to be fred. who else would it be? because we absolutely could find
nobody else that was involved with susan that would have had sex with her a couple of days before the murder. >> so the detective called andros and set a trap. >> i told him i would bring him lunch. he said sure, that's great. i brought him hamburger, french fries and a drink. and right after we got in the car and started talking i said, here's your lunch, fred. >> but andros said he wasn't hungry and didn't touch anything. >> the sun was coming in through the car. he had a flannel jacket on. i cranked up the heat, hoping to kind of sweat it out of him. >> the car got hotter and hotter. but andros still wouldn't touch anything. >> so i cranked up the heat more. so he went ahead and took a drink. once he took the sip out of the straw, i knew i had what he wanted. >> essentially, fred is handing over his dna. >> tests confirmed that fred andros' dna matched the dna
taken during susan fassett's autopsy. >> within 48 hours of her death, he had had sexual relations with her. >> he had told us he hadn't seen her in a month. >> that's a big lie. it's like a bomb going off. that was something that fred deliberately hid and we wanted to know a good reason why. >> when faced with the forensic evidence, andros had no choice but to admit he lied, but he claimed he did it to protect the killer. >> during the course of that interview, after a time, fred andros offered up the name dawn silvernail as the possibility of the one who committed this murder. >> 50-year-old dawn silvernail was a state employee with no criminal record and was married with one grown son. >> she's a housewife. she's got a college education, she works with the disabled. she's got a great reputation. she's never, ever been in trouble. >> andros told police he was having an affair with dawn
silvernail at the same time he was having an affair with susan fassett. in fact, he said the three of them had five or six sexual encounters together. >> i told him i had never done anything like that before. and i went to the house and she was there and he introduced me to her, and we talked for a few minutes, and then we went upstairs and we engaged in a threesome with the three of us there that lasted maybe half an hour. >> fred andros suspected that dawn silvernail and susan fassett started seeing one another alone and perhaps had a lover's quarrel. dawn denied it. >> i never had any contact with susan fassett unless fred called me and set it up and we met with fred in fred's presence. i never had any independent contact of any type with susan ever. >> dawn also denied having
anything to do with susan's murder, saying she had no motive to harm her. >> she was so calm, so cool, so cooperative that we had to think geez, maybe not. maybe she's not involved in this thing. >> a background check showed dawn owned a .45 caliber handgun like the one used in the murder. >> she also had a vehicle that fit the general description of the vehicle seen leaving the scene. but ballistic tests revealed dawn's gun didn't match the striations used in susan's murder. it looked as if the gun had been tampered with. >> it was incapable of being compared to any projectiles found at the scene. >> if fred or dawn silvernail were involved in susan fassett's murder, police still had no evidence to prove it. iscover ca, you can now use freeze it to prevent new purchases on your account in seconds.
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interesting news. they said that dawn and her husband would often fire their guns in the back of their property using the trees for target practice. investigators immediately converged on the area looking for bullets. >> we had to go back in time and find a bullet that had passed through that barrel before it had been destroyed. >> they recovered dozens of damaged bullets. one had distinct striations on the bottom. i was able to make a match to the homicide projectiles from susan fassett for a positive identification that indeed dawn silvernail's .45 ruger was involved in this case. >> dawn silvernail was confronted with the evidence. >> she kind of hung her head and said three times, i shot that poor woman. >> i rolled down the window, and when she reached up to fasten the seat belt, i pulled the gun
up and i fired and i shot her. >> but why? dawn said fred andros wanted revenge against susan for ending their affair. >> given fred's ego, nobody was going to say no to fred. nobody would break up with fred. >> but why did dawn silvernail do it? dawn says andros loaned her more than $15,000 over the 20 years they had known one another. instead of paying him back, andros asked her to murder susan to erase the debt. andros basically said she had no choice. >> he threatened my entire family and told me that if i wouldn't take care of this problem with susan for him that something would happen to somebody i loved. >> to find out if dawn silvernail's version was true, investigators used a new true called web test.
>> that's the web enabled temporal analysis system. it assists with information analysis against databases. >> web taskco lates information from cell phones, pagers, e-mails and easy pass trips. investigators compared all this data from the three main people in this case, susan fassett, dawn silvernail and fred andros. >> the majority of those communications were from fred to dawn. what that indicated was that fred was not only planning some activity, but also preparing the conspiracy. >> the evidence corroborated dawn's story. >> the records reveal that within 15 or 20 minutes of the time that she killed susan, she stopped at a pay phone and paged mr. andros to signal him that it had been done.
if you accept what fred andros says, that this is dawn silvernail with her own motive and open motivation, his story doesn't make sense that she would stop and of all people simply dial a pay phone and page him and signal him. the only person that she would do that for is a person who was involved and knew. >> at fred andros' direction, dawn went to the united methodist church on the night of choir practice. she parked next to susan's car and waited. when susan got into her car to go home, dawn fired five shots and sped away. dawn told investigators she left the murder weapon and phony license plates in a prearranged spot. computer forensics revealed that dawn used a pay phone to leave a
message on fred's pager 20 minutes after the murder to signal the assignment was done. later, fred collected the evidence, altered the gun's ballistics and returned the gun to dawn. no one knows why susan fassett met with fred andros shortly before her murder, but for fred andros, his behavior was particularly appalling. >> he looked in her eyes knowing she was going to be dead within 48 hours. and that speaks to the character of fred andros. >> when police went to arrest him, he was waiting for them. >> the investigators walk up the stairs and pow, there's a gunshot. >> but fred survived the self-inflicted gunshot in his face. >> i think it's fitting that he wasn't able to do it. he only deformed himself and in turn was arrested and was forced to go to trial.
>> fred andros was tried and convicted of second degree murder and first class conspiracy. he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. he died of a heart attack after serving only a few years of his sentence. >> it's entirely appropriate that he died in prison and is burning in hell. >> dawn silvernail was tried and convicted of second degree murder and was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison. >> gullible. naive. she falls for it, believes it. and in the end, she's a murderer. she's a convicted murderer. scary person. >> people look at me like i'm a monster, and maybe i am. i don't know. maybe i am. but i'm a monster who is filled with remorse and i feel for the people i hurt when i did -- allowed this man to manipulate
me into doing what i did. >> for everybody that had a part in this and every lead was tenaciously followed. every item of evidence was collected and tested. it's just nice when the puzzle fits together in the end. >> up next, is it a murder, suicide, or fraud. >> red flags were going up. >> investigators followed the money trail for clues. >> there was a $5 million policy. >> there were items not matching up at all. >> in the end, only science has the answers. >> i never have seen a case with so many turns and interruptions and really it was bizarre. >> diesel truck pulling is an obscure sport in the united states, but enjoys