tv Dateline MSNBC October 7, 2017 11:00pm-1:01am PDT
albany new york and southern new england. >> fantastic to have you here all night. >> it's nice to finally have one, a storm that didn't do considerable damage. >> we will take that to the bank. thank you so much. dwayne scott is now in the field for us. stay with us on msnb for updates throughout the night on hurricane nate. keith morrison: a dog trainer to the stars, with a beautiful wife. he was totally crazy about her. keith morrison: but an ill wind will blow through paradise. [music playing] the kennel dogs were very, very upset. it was a huge ruckus. they told me. we haven't seen mark. and i knew in my heart something terrible had happened. keith morrison: where had the dog trainer gone? a trail of sinister clues. there was three wet blood spots in the hallway.
there was all sorts of ammunition and guns. firearms on magnets behind tapestries. firearms in drawers all over this house. [music playing] he has his arms around a big roll of plastic and my brain goes, there's a body. keith morrison: could anyone put it all together and sniff out the truth? what did that say to you? it says a lot to me. [music playing] keith morrison: october 28, 2009, routine call middle of the day. dispatch sent a squad car to talk to the two ladies who'd phoned it in. what was it they said? two cars where they shouldn't be. someone moving something bulky from one to the other. [music playing] keith morrison: back when it started,
the lovebirds should have known probably that it was too good to be true or too good to last anyway. after all, he seemed something of a self-made mutt. and she, the purebred heiress type. the golden haired daughter of a wealthy alpha male. whatever. by the time they promised their eternal love, the clock to its end, was ticking. inaudible to them, of course, like a whistle only a dog can hear. which come to think of it, begs the question, how did he of all people miss it? his name was mark stover and he discovered quite early that he had some special eerily mystical connection with dogs. when he talked to them, they listened. he was born with a gift. keith morrison: stover had become known as seattle's dog whisperer. i mean, it's not as simple as just giving them treats or clicker training or something like that. he spoke to the animals.
keith morrison: with talents that amazed his loyal clients, starbucks chairman, howard schultz, pearl jam's eddie vedder, major league outfielder ichiro suzuki, brought him their dogs. you know, one of these phrases was we train everybody in seattle from nordstrom to nirvana, but he was much more than a dog trainer to the stars. are you ready? ok. keith morrison: a longtime employee. come on, samson. he trained everyone, you know. it didn't matter to him who they were. it was about the person and the dog and the relationship between the person and the dog, not who they were. stormy come. keith morrison: this woman liked him so much as a client, she went to work for him. he would connect with you. he'd find something that he could talk to you about and then he'd help you train your dog. keith morrison: and the setting for mark's dog whispering business, incomparable. oh, it's beautiful, it's a wonderful place. keith morrison: kiket island is what it's called. an 84-acre teardrop of primeval forest and meadows and beaches
plunked a few feet offshore, a 90 minute commute north of seattle. the dogs could go swimming in the water there. there's plenty of trail walks and it's just really, really outdoorsy and beautiful. keith morrison: outdoorsy and beautiful are words which also happen to describe the human love of mark's life, linda opdycke, the willowy blonde daughter of wally opdycke, the wealthy investor who'd once helped found chateau saint michele winery. linda's seemed a perfect match for mark, according to the clients and friends who knew him best. she was mark two. you know, i mean they were peas in a pod. they had similar hobbies, hunt and fish, you know, go camp somewhere, you know, that kind of stuff. he just thought she was the most wonderful thing since sliced bread basically. keith morrison: very protective of his linda, was mark, as clients could clearly tell.
he just thought she was beautiful, wonderful, smart. never, never ever said anything bad about her, never. keith morrison: seemed to be in love. he was, he was totally, totally crazy about her. keith morrison: it wasn't his father, wally opdycke, who owned kiket island. mark and linda lived there on wally's island, and grew their very successful business together. and then in 2002, they made their union permanent, an intimate wedding ceremony in the presidential suite of the las vegas four seasons. wally opdycke: mark, welcome to the opdycke family. keith morrison: but maybe nothing is forever. it was just three years later when linda told the employees she was taking an extended vacation, alone. and that vacation kept extending and extending. and she just never came back. keith morrison: so separation. there was a brief affair.
linda with one of mark's best friends. and then divorce, about as ugly as divorce can be. i was shocked, i really was. keith morrison: so was mark, apparently. quite thoroughly devastated by all accounts, because now he had lost not just the love of his life, but he had to leave kiket island too. losing her, losing all this, it was, we hardly need say, a black period just about here. some quite disturbing episodes actually. we get to those later. suffice to say for now that eventually, life went on. it was just divorce, after all, not death. not yet anyway. mark found a new property in nearby anacortes, washington. and if it wasn't kiket island, it was not bad. he moved into a new house, new kennels, new start. he had found the place that was
going to be perfect for him. and it was going to be all his. and i think he was very much looking forward. he wasn't looking back. keith morrison: eventually there was also her. her name is teresa. on our third date though, he let me know that he wanted to marry me. keith morrison: third date? and i was pretty shocked, yeah. keith morrison: what was it about you that he liked? he liked that i listened. and that i was careful with the information that he gave me. not just information, but with his heart. keith morrison: which had been really badly damaged, and he worried about that. didn't want it to happen again. he saw safe harbor in you. i think so. keith morrison: safe harbor, well maybe she was, as they made plans for a life together. but even then, in the fall of 2009, an ill wind was picking up.
mark's employees couldn't help but notice he was off somehow. he was very different and he told me that he was very paranoid. he'd actually been locking his doors. keith morrison: even though, as everyone knew, mark's highly trained guard dog, ding, would have protected him from anything. i asked him why he was locking the doors, because he had ding. and he said, i don't know, i'm just, i'm just a little weirded out about something. keith morrison: he didn't say what. no, he didn't say what. and mark, it would take a lot to spook someone like mark. he was always very aware of his surroundings. almost dog-like. and if there was something there, someone there, he knew it. keith morrison: and then, october 28th, mark stops calling teresa. no explanation. so i hadn't heard from him all day and i thought this, towards the end of the day it started seeming odd. but then the next day when i hadn't heard from him by 9:00
o'clock, i got one of the employees on the phone and i said, what is going on there? where's mark? and so they told me, you know, we haven't seen mark. we didn't see him all day yesterday. and i knew in my heart something terrible had happened. keith morrison: but what? well, there's the puzzle. does anybody know, even now? coming up, strange goings on at mark stover's place. the dogs are restless. the kennel dogs were very, very upset. it was a huge ruckus next door. keith morrison: the neighbors are about to find out why. before i even got to the door, there was this immense smell of bleach. keith morrison: bleach? and inside the house. there was three wet, what looked like blood spots. keith morrison: when "dateline" continues. [music playing] not necessarily after 3 toddlers with boundless energy. but lower back pain won't stop him from keeping up.
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of his well trained dogs. he was a creature of habit. always on time, never missed an appointment, in bed early, up with the sun. and every wednesday, mark hit the road for the hour and a half drive south to seattle for sessions with his loyal clients. a schedule which employs amber. we used to always joke that he was up, he beat the rooster out of bed. keith morrison: and beth. he was usually on the road by seven. keith morrison: and stephanie. he had his breakfast. beat seattle traffic. keith morrison: knew very well. but on the morning of wednesday, october 28, 2009, nothing was routine, nothing at all. first stephanie, whose own house is right next door to the kennels, woke up to a chorus of barking dogs. it was, she thinks, about 6:00 am. and the kennel dogs were very, very upset. it was a huge ruckus next door. keith morrison: occasionally that sort of thing would happen. very seldom, very seldom to that extent.
keith morrison: then 8:00 am, amber arrived at the kennels. and still, the dogs were upset. they would not settle in that morning. keith morrison: odd. then someone told her mark was still around. he mustn't have left yet for seattle. and i thought that was strange, because he had supposed to be gone over an hour prior. keith morrison: she walked to the house where mark made a habit of leaving the carport door unlocked so the employees could use the bathroom. and i had noticed a little bit of blood in the driveway. i was afraid that his dog had opened her stitches, because she'd had surgery. keith morrison: mark's dog, ding, wasn't just any pet. she was a highly skilled protection dog. a lot of blood? a little blood? a little blood. keith morrison: but noticeable. noticeable. and i proceeded towards the house and tried to go through the back door and it was locked, which was very, very odd. keith morrison: then, not long after, stephanie arrived and noticed perhaps 100 yards from where
she stood down in the field, mark's station wagon was backed up to the carport area of his house. i was kind of surprised that it was parked where it was parked, because it was never parked there. it's really hard to get it into that position to begin with. keith morrison: anyway, why hadn't he left for seattle? it was then she noticed, must be mark up at the house. someone who had mark's hat on, which i thought was mark, was bringing something big into the back of the car. keith morrison: big, big, big? it looked like to me. so i was thinking he was carrying ding and putting her in the back of the car. keith morrison: ding, who remember was recovering from surgery. and then he went to get into his car. he was wearing mark's hat, mark's coat. and closed the car door and then proceeded to like scream down the driveway, which mark would never have done. keith morrison: did you call out to him or wave? i waved and i went i hope that's mark.
keith morrison: i hope that's mark? well, of course, it must have been, stephanie thought, rushing a bleeding ding to the vet. about 20 minutes later, stephanie walked up to the house to use the bathroom. this time the door was unlocked. but this was weird. before i even got to the door, there was this immense smell of bleach. keith morrison: bleach? yeah, like, it took my breath away. keith morrison: and inside the house. there was three wet, what looked like blood spots in the hallway, that had obviously been just cleaned and they were still drying. keith morrison: perhaps ding had bled on the carpet and mark had cleaned it up. but why would he take the time? he wouldn't stop and spend half an hour cleaning. his main thing would be getting ding to the vet, then getting to his appointments. keith morrison: but other than those wet spots, everything else appeared to be the way
mark would have left it. i was looking for bloody towels. i was looking for bloody paper towels. the bathroom was immaculate. there was absolutely nothing in the washing machine. there was nothing in the tub. keith morrison: stephanie wasn't sure what was going on, but it all felt kind of creepy. my thoughts were well, that was freaky. and i got out of there and i didn't go back up to the house the rest of the day. keith morrison: you went on with the day? um-hmm. keith morrison: but a strange day it was. and as the hours ticked by, there was no word from mark. no one could reach him by phone. it was very odd that we had not talked to him. it was very strange. keith morrison: the following morning, october 29th, still no sign of mark, no word from him at all. again, stephanie went up toward his house. and looked up and there stood ding by the back door. and she was obviously hurt.
she was growling. and so i started talking to her nicely, thinking oh my god, what is she doing here and what's gone on? and i backed down the driveway. keith morrison: at about the same time, the phone rang in the kennel. it was mark's fiance, teresa. when they told me ding was out, there was blood, ding is never out, ever. she's either in the house or she's with mark. she's not just out barking at people. keith morrison: no mark, injured dog. teresa frantic now, called the skagit county sheriff's department. all of those circumstances were very suspicious. keith morrison: this is detective dan luvera. oh, i immediately thought foul play. this is huge. there's more to the story, and there definitely was. keith morrison: coming up, more to the story? yes, there apparently was, starting with a secret history. stories of a marriage's ugly aftermath. you know, divorce is never, never pleasant.
after mark stover disappeared. skagit county sheriff's detective dan luvera stood in the dark and looked at mark stover's big new house and just knew something very bad happened here. but what? yeah, there was no signs of a struggle. there was just a little bit of blood here and there. keith morrison: of course, mark's protection dog, ding, was clearly injured. that could explain those bits of blood. but in here, earlier that day, just inside the carport door, luvera's investigation team had been knocked back by the overwhelming odor of bleach. and here in the bathroom off the hall they found clorox bottles. looked like someone tried to wash away evidence. this had to be more than just an injured dog. mark stover's employees told about the strange events the previous morning. the barking dogs, the odd business of the locked carport door, the man wearing mark's clothes roaring down the driveway in mark's
white chevy station wagon. mark never drove that fast. it didn't look good. the policeman poked around, sniffed, measured, and still, no mark stover. the evidence, even without a body, seemed clear. this was homicide. so by now, a couple of days after mark's disappearance, his employees were shifting from puzzled to shocked to grief stricken. mark took a role in my life like a surrogate father. and i truly love mark as a parent and a friend and a family member. keith morrison: sometimes the clues in a mystery such as this can be very personal. more about relationships than fingerprints or dna, as detective luvera knew full well. and in the days after mark stover's disappearance, the detective repeatedly encountered a disturbing story. these former lovers were afraid of each other. what happened to that marriage?
the one on the heavenly island. in fact, there was a record the detective discovered. and it was more hell than heaven. well, mark had issues with linda and linda had issues with mark. keith morrison: to put it mildly. here's the story mark's fiance, teresa, told the detective. the story she said mark told her. that linda seemed to be doing her level best to destroy mark's dog training business. she had been calling key clients and saying really horrible things about him to damaging the business. she called and tried to shut the website down, tried to shut his phones down. keith morrison: which is why, again, this is the story teresa said mark told her, why he snooped in her garbage one march morning in 2008. this was a three-hour drive from his own house. he went there, said teresa, to look for a paper trail to prove linda wanted to destroy his business. you know, divorce is never, never pleasant,
but theirs just became very visible. and the fighting involved the business. keith morrison: he was afraid of losing it. very much so. keith morrison: after the garbage incident, linda came up with a whole slew of accusations. that mark had been harassing her ever since she left him. a domestic violence protection order was issued against mark in april 2008. mark was later charged with criminal stalking. he swore up and down that many of the allegations were not true. but he was caught going through her garbage, he eventually took what's known as an alford plea, which means he agreed to plead guilty, conceding a judge or jury would probably convict him, even though he claimed he didn't do it, much of it anyway. but here was the deal, and this was important. as part of that arrangement, mark was ordered to give up his guns. for most people, that might be easy. but for mark, he had dozens of guns. he loved his guns.
it was a passion for him. he loved his hunting. keith morrison: no, guns no contact with linda. and mark agreed. here's what teresa says mark told her. this will make it all stop. keith morrison: in other words, he was telling you, i'm going to let her win. he said that was important. that she needed to win. keith morrison: was he afraid of her? oh, yes. keith morrison: still, after that, things seemed to settle down. mark's business thrived in his new location here in anacortes. he continued to service his clients in seattle. and of course, by then he had found teresa. but then, in the summer of 2009, two strange 911 calls came into the skagit county sheriff's office. an anonymous male caller claimed mark stover was transporting drugs in his car. anonymous caller: there is a crime that's going to take place in the morning. keith morrison: police pulled mark over. found a small amount of marijuana and cocaine underneath the car, but he was not arrested.
mark told police he believed he was being set up. those were not his drugs. mark wasn't charged with any crime, but he was terrified. he was terrified that someone was trying to set him up to be charged with transportation of these drugs and facing jail time or prison time or both. keith morrison: not long after that drug incident, mark opened up to a longtime client. told her, she said, that he was convinced his days were numbered. he totally shocked me by saying how every time he leaves his house in the morning, he checks under his car to make sure there's nothing like a bomb. he was a shaken man. keith morrison: and then about a month later, she said, he called her on the phone, frantic. it was just breaking him, just totally breaking him. because he knew that he wasn't going to survive.
he knew it. keith morrison: wow. he knew his life was over, he just knew it. and that there was nothing he could do about it. keith morrison: as detective luvera talked to friends and dog-owning clients, he heard all about mark's fears those last few months. he kept on pointing the finger at linda, but again, there was no evidence to prove that or suggest that i guess. but he was, he was concerned. and he had this feeling that something terrible was going to happen. keith morrison: what did he tell you about linda? he told me that she will not rest until i'm dead. keith morrison: and it wasn't just linda mark fretted about. he told friends he was afraid of her father, too. why was he afraid of them? what i can say is often he would comment that they always win. and they always get the last word. keith morrison: and so according to his friends, mark stover spent the late summer and early fall of 2009
in a state of mortal fear. even escaped secretly to montana, says teresa. he would only use cash. he would call me from pay phones. he was very worried. and he even called me and said, you know if things happen, this is what i want you to do. and i said, mark, how will i know if something happens to you? and he said, you'll know. keith morrison: and now, of course, she did. now everyone knew something happened to the dog trainer to the stars. and they might never have known more than just that, a mystery unsolved, except for the strange events in a remote parking lot and two sharp eyed women who now had a story to tell. coming up. he's bent over and he has his arms around a big roll of clear plastic, and my brain goes, there's a body. keith morrison: when "dateline" continues.
two women saw something that didn't belong and called it in. they were a huge part of starting this whole process. keith morrison: just a few hours after the employees at mark's house watched his car drive away. i pulled forward and there's two vehicles behind the chain. keith morrison: tammy gilden and her mother, sharon larsen, called the sheriff's department to complain that someone was trespassing in the locked parking lot of a grange hall just a half mile from mark's house. in fact, they said, they saw two cars. one, id'd by the license number, was mark's white chevy station wagon. parked back to back, said the ladies with a black suzuki suv. and they saw someone moving something between the cars. and he's bent over and he has his arms around a big roll of clear plastic, and my brain goes, there's a body. oh, tammy, no, there's not a body. you've been reading too many good murder mysteries. keith morrison: the man transferring the plastic and whatever was in it, drove off in his suv,
the ladies reported, leaving mark stover's station wagon behind. the sheriff's dispatcher sent a deputy to have a look. and sure enough, the deputy found mark's car inside the apparently locked parking lot, behind this chain. except the lot wasn't exactly locked anymore. when the deputy looked closer to the chain link, he discovered that one of the links had been cut and the link was placed and attached to the other links, making it appear that it was intact. keith morrison: and then, this was pure chance really, the deputies spotted the suv just down the road and pulled it over. peered around the driver into the back of the suv. there was a lot of stuff in the back of his car. it appeared to be camping type stuff or tarps and plastic type stuff. keith morrison: the man identified himself as michael oakes. lived a good five hours drive away. worked in internet sales, consulting, a bit of writing.
denied ever being behind the grange. his word against the ladies, the deputy let him go. the deputy just gave him a warning. said don't go back there, go on your way. keith morrison: it was just a minor trespassing incident, after all. but now, a day later, it didn't seem so minor. time to find both cars. the dog trainer's car was no longer at the grange hall, but an alert detective noticed it here, in the parking lot of the northern lights casino, three miles from the place where the ladies had seen it. looked like blood on the back of a car. and when investigators ordered up the casino's surveillance video, they saw this. 6:21 pm, october 28th, perhaps seven hours after the ladies saw the car at the grange. here was someone driving mark's car onto the casino parking lot. whoever it was, abandoned it. and now dan luvera's investigation
was moving very quickly. immediately started trying to find out who this michael oakes guy was that was seen behind the grange by the two witnesses. keith morrison: once police had michael oak's id, they discovered he was spending time with linda opdycke, mark's ex-wife. so now, two officers from the okanagan county sheriff's department paid a visit at linda's house here in winthrop, washington. and sure enough, there was michael oakes' suv in her driveway. once in the house, the officers asked to speak to oakes. he agreed, but then he said he needed to find his pills. he became agitated or frustrated. kept on asking for his medication. and the chief, not knowing if michael was having some sort of a medical issue, allowed him to look around for his medication. keith morrison: and while supposedly hunting for pills-- michael then secretly snuck out the basement area of the house and went to his vehicle.
it just so happened that the sergeant was standing on the deck above the driveway and observed michael oakes walking outside to the driveway. keith morrison: oakes, apparently not aware he was being watched, took a white bag out of his car, said the officer, and tossed it over a 20-foot embankment outside linda's house. he immediately questions michael about what he threw over the embankment. michael said it was garbage. keith morrison: garbage. garbage. keith morrison: but they went to retrieve that bag of garbage. and what was actually in it? it was a gun. keith morrison: inside, michael oakes' garbage was a 22 caliber browning pistol. also in the bag, a bloody swatch of carpet and an overwhelming odor of bleach. and then, here's what they found inside linda's house. bizarre. oh, there was all sorts of ammunition and guns. firearms on magnets behind tapestries. firearms in drawers. loaded guns all over this house.
keith morrison: including semiautomatic weapons and-- yes. keith morrison: big time stuff. big time stuff, yeah. keith morrison: why did, was it, was an explanation provided for this? no. keith morrison: before police left linda opdycke's house here in winthrop, they arrested michael oakes on suspicion of murder. and back in western washington, a local buzz began to grow. if michael oakes did kill mark stover, was someone else involved somehow? buzz is discouraged, however, in police work, in favor of actual evidence, which in this case, arrived in a phone call to police from her. michael oakes, it turned out, had an ex-wife who volunteered a remarkable story about disturbing visits and puzzling messages from mr. oakes. what did that say to you? well, it says a lot to me. keith morrison: coming up. jennifer thompson: yeah, 'cause he just was sitting there,
in a frenzy, just, just stressed out. and he just seemed very agitated. and he mentioned that he may be in trouble. keith morrison: maybe she just had a vendetta against him, because after all, he was the ex. didn't she want him back? yeah. keith morrison: as one person opens up, another goes suspiciously silent. both get detectives' attention. what did you think? oh, i thought wow, huge red flags. keith morrison: when "dateline" continues. just walk right in and pay zero dollars with most insurance.r. plus, when you get a flu shot at walgreens, you help provide a lifesaving vaccine to a child in need through the un foundation. it's that easy to get your flu shot and make a difference. so swing by your local walgreens today. walgreens. at the corner of happy & healthy.
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is try to influence his own fate. as michael oakes sat in the back of a police car, under arrest on suspicion of the murder of dog whisper, mark stover, he was given an unusual opportunity. he was allowed to make several calls from his cell phone. he decided, for reasons of his own, to place one of them to a woman named jennifer thompson, his ex-wife. why? well, we can only speculate that the result of that call may have been the very opposite of what he intended. here's what happened. not long after oakes phoned her from the police car, jennifer placed a call of her own to the county jail. she asked to speak to an investigator. and not long after that call, this was the story she told in an audio taped interview. on october 24, 2009, four days before mark stover disappeared, michael oakes stopped in to see her
at her place in western washington, not too many miles from the stover kennels, and talked to her about a job he was supposed to do. jennifer thompson: he didn't give me a lot of specifics. he just said he was here on a job, a side job. there was risk involved, possible injury to himself. that it was fairly dangerous. keith morrison: at which point, he left for a few hours. then contacted her again. jennifer thompson: he texted me and said, job failed, i'm ok, no pay though. keith morrison: no pay. no pay. keith morrison: what did that say to you? well, it says a lot to me. it says that-- keith morrison: somebody's paying him. somebody's paying him. somebody's hired him. keith morrison: does that sound like michael oakes was a hired killer? well, wait, there's more. jennifer told the police that after michael left on the 24th, he told her in an email he'd be back in the area later that week.
and sure enough, on october 28th, not long after that deputy pulled him over to investigate the trespassing incident, oakes called again, said jennifer. came to meet her. he asked her to drive to a spot near the water, she said, where they could talk. jennifer thompson: yeah, 'cause he just was sitting there in a frenzy just, just stressed out. and he just seemed very agitated. and he mentioned that he may be in trouble. keith morrison: and then, another reference to a job, a job gone bad. jennifer thompson: he said well, i made an error. i was doing the job and i made an error. and when i realized the error, i tried to get out of there. but when i was getting out of there, two old biddies saw me. i said why is this a problem? then he said, well, now when the [bleep] hits the fan in the next 24 to 48 hours, they have my name.
there's a 50-50 shot of getting questioned. if he gets questioned, he's guaranteed a trial. and if he gets a trial, there's no one that's going to stick up for him. and he's pretty much going to prison he said. looking at felony, 10 to 15 years. keith morrison: so big trouble, he told jennifer. there was evasive action to take, work to be done. jennifer thompson: he was really concerned about getting over with the things in his vehicle. he wanted to get them home and sterilized. and he said if anyone sees this now, i'm going in right away. sheriff: going in meaning, he would be arrested right away he felt. jennifer thompson: right. keith morrison: and if all that wasn't incriminating enough, here was the capper. jennifer told police the story of how their marriage fell apart. it happened in the spring of 2008, said jennifer. then-husband michael, told her about a phone call from someone named john. jennifer thompson: he told me that there was a potential job
coming up that he was interested in taking about a woman and an ex-spouse that was harassing her. the father of the woman was initiating the job. keith morrison: a father with a daughter named linda. and it seems there was a plan in store for linda's ex-husband. jennifer thompson: and they would basically use linda as sort of bait to lure the ex-spouse toward her. and then they would, were to show signs of hurting her or killing her, then they would take him out. sheriff: ok, and by taking him out, you meant, or you understood that to be they would kill him. jennifer thompson: right. keith morrison: linda and her father? could that be wally and linda opdycke, the police wondered, mark stover's ex father-in-law and ex-wife plotting to kill him? it was a wild story jennifer told, and of course, horrifying, given what seemed to have happened.
jennifer said she told michael back then, don't do it, walk away. but he wouldn't listen. and that's when thingsstar. well, jennifer and michael's marria started to unravel because michael had considered taking this job. and jennifer knew that this was a kill for hire. and she didn't want to have any part of it. keith morrison: and thus, didn't want to be married to a guy who was going to do such a thing. exactly, yeah. keith morrison: but remember, awful though it sounded, this was an ex-wife's story. and all due respect to jennifer, maybe she just had a vendetta against him. because after all, he was the ex. didn't she want him back desperately? he wouldn't come back. yeah, she still had feelings for him. keith morrison: so maybe she wanted to get him. no, jennifer was very, very well-spoken, very articulate, very believable. she was a type of woman that you'd want to take
home to your mom and dad. she was just very sweet. keith morrison: of course, for dan luvera and his team of investigators, this was all pure gold. or so you'd assume, wouldn't you? coming up, turns out there was a very different side to this story. he wanted to provide a little twist and surprise. john henry browne: yeah. and boy, would he. when "dateline" continues. take the zantac it challenge! pill works fast? zantac works in as little as 30 minutes. nexium can take 24 hours. when heartburn strikes, take zantac for faster relief than nexium or your money back. take the zantac it challenge.
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[train whistle] keith morrison: jennifer thompson just told police a story that, if she was telling the truth, would seem to implicate her ex-husband in the murder of mark stover. detective dan luvera thought her story sounded believable, but in his line of work, that's rarely enough. assumptions are not the same thing as evidence. and-- we didn't have any evidence to support that linda or wally
were directly involved, other than what jennifer thompson had told us. keith morrison: why not just call them in and ask them? they wouldn't talk to us. we got a letter and a phone call from wally's attorney immediately after michael oakes' arrest stating that wally opdycke would not talk to us. keith morrison: what? had you asked him by then? no, we hadn't even requested to interview wally. we hadn't even called him. keith morrison: what did you think? oh, i thought, wow, huge red flags. thought, wow, this guy, we haven't even asked to talk to him and he's already got an attorney, and the attorney's already contacting us telling us not to contact wally opdycke. it was crazy. same with linda. she hired an attorney right away. keith morrison: linda invoked her fifth amendment right to remain silent. a judge ultimately ordered her to sit for a deposition. still didn't say anything. pretty much every question we asked her, she took the fifth on. keith morrison: so there was one defendant
in the murder of mark's stover, michael oakes. but he certainly didn't look the part of a hired killer. all five foot six of him, soft spoken understated, articulate, father of four, grandfather of one. john henry browne: yeah, he's not your hollywood casting for a hit man. keith morrison: but cast as defense attorney, seattle's colorful and irrepressible john henry browne. john henry browne: he's a really kind, compassionate, loving guy. keith morrison: but early legal skirmishing seems sometimes to merely add confusion. was it murder? oakes a hired gun? or was it something else altogether? and besides that, how intimate was oakes' relationship with mark stover's ex-wife linda? and who was paying for his famous defense attorney? john henry browne: if the opdykes are behind this-- [interposing voices] john henry browne: if the opdykes are behind this, and you know, they hired me, i'll tell you, if they hired me, i wouldn't be wearing my timex.
ok? you know, that's ridiculous. keith morrison: john henry browne settled into a local hotel and set to work, deconstructing the prevailing public view of defendant, michael oakes. keith morrison: here in court, browne sucked up the attention. john henry browne: and i would suggest counsel come to trial and she'll find out. keith morrison: naturally flamboyant. john henry browne: i don't think i have a dog in this fight. keith morrison: while the client seemed to disappear into the woodwork behind him. a client who, said john henry browne, was not at all the villain the prosecution seemed determined to portray. john henry browne: what we have is a man who, has on his own, raised very successfully four children. keith morrison: it became, shall we say, a theme. michael oakes, single father of four, grandfather of one. well-spoken, mild mannered, but certainly not any ordinary salesman or consultant. oakes, browne admitted, is a recognized expert in close quarters combat. knows firearms so well, he's written numerous articles for gun magazines.
has even trained police swat teams. but has no criminal record. and, insisted browne, he isn't a murderer. still, he must have done something to mark stover, didn't he? well, here's where it all began to get tricky. if stover was really dead, said john henry browne, and if the prosecution could prove oakes killed him, then and only then, oakes might provide an explanation. through the legal fog, a little hint came popping out. the prosecution had already indicated it would introduce into evidence a bulletproof vest found in michael oakes' suv. now, attorney browne seemed to be suggesting that vest would be important to any claim the defense might decide to make. and just to make things clear, your honor, it's not just the vest. it's a bullet that was found in the vest. keith morrison: coming up, very different
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keith morrison: september 2010, michiel oakes was set to stand trial for the murder of his girlfriend's ex-husband, mark stover. and as the proceedings started, no one really knew where things were headed here. even john henry browne quite deliberately broke one of his own cardinal rules. he decided not to make an opening statement to the jury. john henry browne: i have what i call my famous 10 rules of trial. and i think it's rule number three is never, never, never, never, ever waive an opening statement. that's a rule. good morning, everybody. keith morrison: but this time, this time the defense would lie in wait while the prosecution made its case that michiel oakes was a first-degree murderer.
here's how their story began, with this video, a security camera about 5:30 am, the mount vernon wal-mart. there's michiel oakes. it's the morning mark stover disappeared. receipts found in oakes' car showed he'd purchased ankle weights, anchor line, shin guards, camouflage clothes. also found in his car, that bullet-proof vest. prosecutors argued oakes arrived at stover's house a little later that morning. mark's employees were called to testify about what they saw and heard. i was woken by the dogs in the barn next door. keith morrison: they saw the spots of blood, smelled the bleach, saw mark's car racing down the driveway. both back ends were open to each other. keith morrison: and then the trespassing incident at the grange hall near mark stover's house, as called in by those two concerned women, now witnesses. there was a guy standing between the-- between the vehicles.
and he had a big huge wad of plastic, a big roll of plastic. keith morrison: that someone, michiel oakes, as identified by his license plate. and that wad of plastic? the suggestion was, of course, that it shrouded mark stover's body. and remember, there was a chain behind the grange that appeared to have been cut that morning. and here were receipts found in oakes' car showing he bought and later returned a bolt-cutter from a lowe's hardware store the day mark stover disappeared. a state dna expert testified mark stover's blood was found in the back of his car and in the back of defendant oakes' suv. are you aware that mr. oakes purchased a 22-caliber pistol at your store? i am. keith morrison: this former hardware store manager testified he sold michiel oakes that 22-caliber browning. he'd been interested in it for a very specific reason.
he told me, well, i have a barrel that i can interchange on that that has a threaded end that i can put a suppressor on. keith morrison: silencer, that is. then an expert matched bullet casings found outside stover's house to michiel oakes' gun. i was able to identify all three fired cartridge cases as having been fired from the browning pistol. keith morrison: proof that michiel oakes' gun was fired at mark stover's house, where dna showed more of mark's blood was found. blood, but no body. to try to answer the question of what michiel oakes might have done with mark's body, prosecutors presented this surveillance video. shortly after 12:00 noon october 28th, the day stover disappeared, an suv, looked like michiel oakes' suzuki, slowly cruising by the waterfront casino three miles from the grange. right here, this is the dark-colored suv. keith morrison: detective dan luvera testified the vehicle spent about 16 minutes back there
by the casino, out of range of the camera, on a road that leads to this channel, open water, and this dilapidated dock. later, detectives and divers searched but-- didn't find a darn thing. didn't find a darned thing. then, of course, there was one other key witness for the prosecution, jennifer thompson, michiel oakes' ex-wife. remember, she'd claimed that michiel oakes told her he had been offered a job to take out an ex-husband, that he had been asked by a father of someone named linda, and that jennifer was convinced that meant this was a killing for hire. but because that alleged conversation took place when jennifer and michiel oakes were married, that made it privileged. couldn't be used in court. the prosecution would have to make do with just part of jennifer's story. the judge would not allow her face to be filmed in court as she told the jury about her visit from michiel just days before mark stover disappeared,
when he talked about a job he was supposed to do. and then there was her meeting with him on the 20th of october, not long after that trespassing incident when a police officer pulled him over. jennifer said he looked a little frumpy. and what was that on his jeans? jennifer thompson: there is a-- a rusty, reddish stain on his right knee. to me it looked like blood. i just said, it looks like you have a dirty knee there. and he took his finger and he touched it. and he said, yeah. keith morrison: but most startling in jennifer's testimony, all those things she claimed he said, that he was doing a job and something went wrong, that he wanted to sterilize his car, and his fears about what would happen if the cops questioned him. jennifer thompson: something that was not planned happened. he said, and if there's a trial, it's not going to be good. keith morrison: all very methodically. the prosecution appeared to have cornered michiel oakes, seemed to have met a certain burden of proof.
and no one had a clue what oakes or his attorney would do or say to respond. oh, but john henry browne knew exactly how he'd respond. and it was a bombshell he had in store. john henry browne: we wanted to be the people who brought light into this case. you wanted to provide a little-- a twist, a turn, a surprise. yeah. judge: good morning. be seated, ladies and gentlemen. the defense team is reserving their opening statement. keith morrison: experienced observers here in the mount vernon courthouse were puzzled. what was the defense attorney john henry browne up to? coming up-- we put them to the task of putting on a lot of evidence. and it was just kind of boring them. and so we wanted to be the people who brought light into this case. keith morrison: so, what was the light in this case, the secret twist? when "dateline" continues.
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as the prosecution put on its case against michiel oakes, rolled out chapter and verse of the evidence pointing to oakes as the murderer of dog whisperer mark stover, browne said practically nothing. why? strategy, said john henry browne. we put them through the task of putting on a lot of evidence. and it was just kind of boring them. and so we wanted to be the people who brought light into this case. keith morrison: so what was the light in this case, the secret twist? the evidence shows and demonstrates beyond any shadow of a doubt for any reasonable person that mark stover was a domestic violence terrorist. keith morrison: terrorist? the villain was not his client, michiel oakes, said browne, but the victim, mark stover. remember, mark's friends and clients had nothing but good
things to say about him. but now it was clear oakes' attorneys would use whatever evidence they could to paint the dog trainer as a threatening, gun-loving predator, someone michiel oakes would have feared. and here, the real work of the defense began. they focused to a large degree on stover's behavior with his ex-wife. linda opdycke, said browne, was stalked and harassed for years after leaving stover. it wasn't just the incident in which her ex-husband was caught rummaging through her garbage. he made a habit of showing up at her house uninvited, said browne, exposing himself, appearing in her bathroom as she got out of the shower, pointing a rifle at her through a window, leaving handwritten notes, threatening voicemails. the fact that he goes into linda's house with a .45 and puts it on a pillow and threatens to kill himself or her, the fact that he breaks into her house, the fact that he steals her journal, the fact that he steals her garbage, the fact-- you know, all those things are facts. keith morrison: and so when it came time for the defense to finally make its case, browne's
co-counsel corbin volluz did his best to drive the allegations home. when linda said she wanted to be separated from mark in 2005, he did not take it well. keith morrison: what followed, claimed the defense, were many examples of bad behavior, mark following her into a beauty salon. corbin volluz: mark stover walks in unannounced. he gives a card to linda saying he will never let her go. keith morrison: mark showing up at her place uninvited. corbin volluz: he grabs her by her shoulders and says he can't let her go. keith morrison: apparently spying on her when linda slept with mark's ex-best-friend. the next morning, linda gets a phone call from mark stover. and then, to linda's horror, mark stover begins to describe in graphic detail the intimacy that linda had been sharing the night before. keith morrison: and sitting in his car outside her home. she's calling him on the cell phone. he's following her.
she's pleading with him to stop it and quit following her. keith morrison: that time, said the defense, linda called the cops. and he responded, according to her, by sending her a form canceling her health insurance, which was still in his name, controlling, threatening, suggested oakes' lawyer. mark stover has scrawled across the front, "next time do not call the cops on the guy that controls your health care." keith morrison: and then the defense attorney showed the jury this video from linda's surveillance cameras. in the middle of the night, here's a man the defense claimed is mark stover creeping around linda's house. corbin volluz: what you see is mark stover walking up the driveway and under her house, out of view of the camera. keith morrison: but that wasn't all. there was a series of odd and threatening voicemail messages, said the defense, many with a similar theme. mark seemed strangely obsessed with getting his wedding photos
back from linda, just one of many transcripts of these calls the attorney read from. "send those dang pictures of the wedding. i know you're into the wedding. you don't give a damn about me. i don't want anything showing that we were married or anything else." keith morrison: the defense told the jury that linda's attorney told mark to stop contacting her directly, only go through his office. but of course, he keeps contacting her and contacting her and contacting her, because mark stover is dogged in the pursuit of his prey. keith morrison: prey? an interesting word, very deliberately picked by the defense, because now they would argue that michiel oakes also became prey for mark stover, would claim that a terrified oakes believed something unspeakable would happen if he didn't try to appease linda's ex. i mean, the fact of the matter is, you talk about domestic violence terrorist, the person who's dead here is mark stover.
yeah. he's the one against whom the violence was committed. here's something that we've learned in this country, haven't we, you don't negotiate with terrorists. michiel didn't know that. or-- michiel felt he could negotiate with terrorists. linda felt she could negotiate with terrorists. the reality is you can't negotiate with a terrorist. and mark stover was a domestic violence terrorist. keith morrison: mark's friends and clients had by now gathered around the courthouse here in mount vernon determined to tell the world, anybody who would listen, that those claims were both unfair and untrue. most of all these reports that we hear are filed by her alone and by her eyewitness alone and absolutely no one else's. so you've got to weigh that in at some point too, that it doesn't have that much meat to it. woman: i just knew that wasn't true about him. there was-- there was nothing in him that was malicious or vindictive.
keith morrison: and perhaps to answer them? a surprising and extremely unusual strategy. in mid-trial john henry browne brought his client to see us, here on the outskirts of little mount vernon. michiel oakes before even talking to the jury would make his case here. preparation for his own testimony? yes, probably. but also, a wild bombshell of a story, an audacious claim. coming up-- i went and i got shot. and i won. i know that i will not be standing on the side of my children's graves and people aren't going to patting me on the back and saying, there's nothing you could have done. keith morrison: when "dateline" continues.
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it was early evening, thermometer dropping in the gathering dark, when michiel oakes came to talk to us partway through his trial for murder. he came with a message about himself, which he delivered, more or less in the following manner, over and over again. michiel oakes: i'm a single dad. i cook three meals a day for my kids. i bring them to dance. i bring them to school. this has been my life. keith morrison: and in case we didn't get it-- michiel oakes: the lens i look at the world through is really that of a single dad. i am a nurturer. i'm a father. i'm a very peaceable person. i just happen to be a single dad who's kind of in a very unfortunate limelight right now. keith morrison: well, yes, charged with first-degree murder. so how did he get to this place? the story began, he said, when someone asked him to contact a frightened woman he did not know. that's how he made that first call to linda opdycke. and she said, i'm dealing with a really frightening stalking situation.
keith morrison: michiel, remember, was a security expert. he'd trained swat teams in close quarters combat. he offered to help. she put in my hands this very thick file, including video recordings, audio recordings, police reports, page after page, threatening voicemails. keith morrison: linda told him she'd been stalked for years by her ex-husband. michiel oakes: you get out of the shower and there he is, standing in the bathroom with a gun in his hand. and you thought your house was locked. how many of those occasions does it take before you go, any room i'm in, any moment, i have to be ready. and that's the scenario that linda lived in for at least two years. keith morrison: and then, as he worked out a protection plan for linda, he said, something unexpected happened. michiel oakes: we really resonated, really worked well together and connected on a very heart and soul level.
so it was a romance. yeah. it definitely-- it definitely became a romance. keith morrison: and so michiel, the diminutive single dad and security expert, and linda, the beautiful, tall, golden-haired daughter of privilege, embarked on a life together, along with his kids. and then one day in late may, 2009, said oakes, he was getting into his car in a costco parking lot in a town called kennewick, washington, when he was confronted by linda's ex, mark stover. michiel oakes: i was approached by mark stover out of the clear blue. i had never met the gentleman prior to that, never spoken to him before. he did not introduce himself. and he-- take your time. i got up every morning, you know, and took my kids to school. right. i had my son in grade school and my daughter
in middle school. and? and-- keith morrison: there was a long pause while oakes composed himself. sorry. he said he needed me to do something. and he told me what my daughters were wearing that morning to school. and he had to have been there when my girls got out of the car at their schools, two schools. and he said that there was no other choice for me but to do what he wanted or something bad was going to happen to my kids. and he said that he was at a very tight relationship
with the cops and if i-- as soon as i called, he would know. and he said i was going to do what he wanted. which was what? michiel oakes: he told me i had to get wedding photos, believe it or not. wedding albums, photos. and i had to get them to him or else. what'd you say? you know, i was-- my head was spinning. i was so much in shock i didn't say much. i listened to him. i think i nodded several times. i don't remember saying anything. keith morrison: but michiel oakes, the security, weapons, and hand-to-hand combat expert, the trainer of police swat teams, did feel something, he said. michiel oakes: for six months of 2009,
i lived in a perpetual state of fear. keith morrison: too afraid, even, to call the police. i didn't have video proof. i didn't have audio proof. i didn't even have a witness. keith morrison: and so, according to michiel, he tried to appease mark stover and looked for the wedding photos. michiel oakes: i just found the romantic relationship that i had been seeking my whole life, just putting it together. and in the middle of this, i'm supposed to say, hey, i'd really love to look at your wedding pictures with your ex who's stalking you and driving you crazy. where would you happen to have those? i'd really like to look at those. so-- wait a minute. you didn't tell her that he had confronted you and asked for these wedding pictures? oh no. oh no, no, no. keith morrison: instead, he says, he armed his own daughter, trained her if anyone comes into the house, keep firing until they stop.
my very first responsibility, over and above anything or anyone-- anyone-- is the safety of my children. keith morrison: and then he claimed he agreed to mark stover's demand to meet, supposedly to talk about wedding pictures, at mark's house, october 28th, went there armed with deadly force and wearing a bulletproof vest, and did it, he claimed, only to protect his children from an out-of-control madman. really? any rational person would know you don't protect your children by taking a gun to somebody's house to meet with them when you think that maybe there'll be gunplay. you don't do that if you're a dad. michiel oakes: no. dads don't do that. no, keith, you know what would happen if it was you and you were in this situation, based upon that comment, you would be standing right now on the edge of two graves.
and you'd be looking at it and all your friends would tell you, it's ok, keith. there's nothing you could have done. well, [bleep] that, because there was something i could do. and i had to play patty-cake with this guy for six [bleep] months to keep my kids alive. and then you went and shot him. i went and i got shot. and i won. keith morrison: oh. michiel oakes: so because i won the gunfight, i know that i will not be standing on the side of my children's graves and people aren't going to be patting me on the back and saying, there's nothing you could have done. i did. keith morrison: oakes claimed mark stover shot first. thus, the claim he now made, it was self-defense, even though no evidence ever surfaced to suggest stover
was in possession of any firearm at all or that stover had ever arranged any meeting with oakes. and as for the story that he was a hired gun for the opdyckes, just not true, said michiel oakes. a great many people believe that one or both of the opdyckes are involved. were they involved? not at all. keith morrison: but of course, it was all michiel's story about a crazed dog whisperer, threats to his children, all that fear. i mean, who else says that besides you? and what evidence is there that he ever said such a thing? said such a thing as-- that he was threatening your kids. well, keith, it's been the problem. i survived that day in october. i was still alive. my life continued on. and we have yet to see if the state is going to finish the job for him or not. and i understand i'm in a bit of a fix. judge: do you solemnly swear or affirm the testimony you're about to give in this matter be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
keith morrison: so now he'd tell his story to the jury. would they believe it? coming up, the story comes complete with dramatic reenactment. what do you do? that was amazingly fast, mr. oakes. is that the way you did that? that's how i was trained. keith morrison: when "dateline" continues. this just walk right in and pay zero dollars with most insurance.r. plus, when you get a flu shot at walgreens, you help provide a lifesaving vaccine to a child in need through the un foundation. it's that easy to get your flu shot and make a difference. so swing by your local walgreens today. walgreens. at the corner of happy & healthy.
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my name is michiel oakes. keith morrison: the task as michiel oakes took the witness stand was not going to be easy and he seemed to know it. he had to admit he did in fact kill dog whisperer mark stover, but somehow persuade the jury it was only in self-defense. you've heard what he told us, his allegations that stover confronted him, threatened his children. he told the jury about what he claimed was stover's weird determination to get those wedding photos. oakes' version of the deadly events? after a series of meetings with stover about those photos, he demanded oakes come to his house october 28th. and he obeyed, drove in the middle of the night across the state to stover's house. he admitted buying all those supplies at the local wal-mart early that morning on his way. i was very, very concerned about possibly needing to make
some sort of on-foot escape through the woods from him and his dogs. keith morrison: he bought the anchor line and weights, he claimed, to help him scale up a nearby water tower in case he found himself running away from mark's watch dog. and those shin guards, they weren't armor to fend off a watchdog, he claimed, but just a gift for his ex-wife jennifer's young son. at 7:00 am, michiel testified, he knocked on mark stover's door. he said mark ordered him, stand in his hallway bathroom, and oakes simply obeyed. and then, when he told mark he couldn't find any wedding pictures-- he got more and more animated, got very close to me and was very angry and very loud. keith morrison: and then-- michiel oakes: he came around the corner with a gun in his hand. we tangled and i got shot. keith morrison: john henry browne
had his client put on the bulletproof vest and show the jury what he claimed happened next, courtroom show and tell. he's mr. stover. we holding the gun up. he's fired at you. what do you do? that was amazingly fast, mr. oakes. is that the way you did that? that's how i was trained. corbin volluz: mr. stover was shot with his own gun. yes, he was. keith morrison: so now mark stover was dead in the hallway of his home. and soon after, said oakes, he went outside and was confronted by mark's dog, ding. i shot a couple of times until it stopped coming at me. keith morrison: why didn't he call the police? he had said he owned the cops and it seemed like there was some evidence that that might be true. i just didn't think they would believe me at all. keith morrison: then, michiel said, he wanted to see his kids before, as he said he assumed,
he'd be arrested. so then he said he tucked mark's gun into his vest pocket, carried the body out to mark's station wagon, got in the driver's seat, put mark's hat on his head, and went down the driveway. michiel oakes: i drove around for a while and just stopped a couple places and sat there thinking about, how the heck can i get to my kids? keith morrison: he said he thought maybe he'd leave mark's car and the body behind that grange hall. but there was that locked chain, so he went and bought the bolt cutter, returned to the grange, and those ladies saw him transferring mark's body to his own car, called the cops. corbin volluz: and when that police officer pulled you over, was mr. stover over in the back of your suzuki? he was. keith morrison: he went to visit ex-wife jennifer, he said, because he wanted to see her two sons, though he never did. nor did he drive to see his own children, who he said were in battle ground, washington, a four-hour drive away. i realized that i couldn't drive to battle ground with mr.
stover in the back of my rig. keith morrison: so instead, he said, he ditched mark's car at that casino, looked around for a place to dump his body. michiel oakes: there's kind of a dilapidated-looking dock thing. and i got my car as close to that as possible and muscled him out and dropped him in the water. keith morrison: an area investigators had searched but never found anything. then, he said, he drove across the state not to his kids, but to linda's house, though he insisted he did not tell her any of what just happened, didn't tell her what he'd done. i just said i had a really bad day. and when the police showed up the next night, he admitted, he did try to throw out some evidence. what was your intent? i needed-- i needed one more day. i didn't-- i was trying not to get arrested just yet. keith morrison: but of course, he was arrested and charged. and now, it was prosecutor rich weyrich's turn to challenge his story about, for example,
that morning at mark stover's house. did you hear the gun go off? you know, i don't recall anything really. who pulled the trigger? i believe i did. rich weyrich: ok. was his finger still on the trigger? you know, i do not know. where were you when you pulled the trigger? i don't know. where was the bullet hole? i don't know. you weren't curious enough to look? i was very disturbed. keith morrison: and despite all those people who testified they were knocked back by the overwhelming smell of bleach-- i don't recall smelling any bleach. did you use any bleach? i did not. did you attempt to clean up anything? no. keith morrison: didn't try to erase evidence, he claimed. and as for those odd supplies he bought at the wal-mart-- so why did you need camouflage? if i was going to make my escape through the woods to-- to the water tower, camouflage is quite useful for that. rich weyrich: you would have the camouflage in your backpack
that you would quickly change into as you ran through the woods. no. i would change into quickly and then run through the woods. but this is assuming that mr. stover is taking the time not to chase you. i'm very fast. keith morrison: and finally, the prosecutor asked, if he was so afraid of mark stover, why not tell someone? why go over to his house? you never took one step to enlist anyone's aid. that is correct. and you walked into mr. stover's house on october 28th. i did. and he tried to kill you. that is correct. and you did nothing beforehand to try to avoid that. i think i did a lot to try to avoid it. keith morrison: what the jury made of the story, no one knew. but wait. the defense wasn't quite done. there was one more person, very important to all of this,
who until mid-trial had refused to say one word in public, the woman at the center of it all, linda opdycke-- miss opdycke, raise your right hand. keith morrison: --whose long silence was about to end. coming up, and end it would, with a bang, with stories of who she said was the real mark stover. and he had a pistol in his hand and laid it on the pillow next to my head. i see mark on a hillside behind my house. he's looking through the scope, pointing the rifle at me. keith morrison: when "dateline" continues. take the zantac it challenge! pill works fast? zantac works in as little as 30 minutes. nexium can take 24 hours. when heartburn strikes, take zantac for faster relief than nexium or your money back. take the zantac it challenge.
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she invoked her fifth amendment right. so this, at the end of michiel oakes' murder trial, was quite a surprise. linda opdycke, defense witness. i felt this was an important part of the story that i could tell, about a dangerous stalking situation. and if there's any information that i could offer up, i wanted to do so. keith morrison: and as she began, it was clear she was here to join the defense's campaign against victim mark stover's character. would you agree that mark stover was dogged in pursuit of his prey? yes, i would. keith morrison: the defense claimed michiel oakes knew linda opdycke had been stalked by her ex-husband. and that went to his state of mind when he acted in self-defense. so now, linda told the jury some stories she'd earlier told oakes, her claim, for example, that mark appeared in her bedroom one night. and he had a pistol in his hand
and laid it on the pillow next to my head and was very disturbed. keith morrison: and another time, she said, when she looked out her bathroom window-- i see mark on a hillside behind my house. he's looking through the scope, pointing the rifle at me. keith morrison: and once, said linda, long after she left him, after mark agreed to plead guilty to the stalking charge, she visited their abandoned paradise, kiket island, to retrieve some personal things. and she said she found in a cubbyhole in the master bedroom a wedding candle that she'd thrown away during the divorce. i found the wedding candle in there with a .22 bullet casing and a picture of me along with that in the cubbyhole. keith morrison: was it a message, a threat? in her cross-examination, it was pretty clear that prosecutor rosemary kaholokula was deeply skeptical about linda's fears and allegations. no proof at all from michiel's claims.
and linda hadn't seen or heard a word from stover in the year and a half before he was killed. so what was she and oakes so frightened about? the last time that you ever saw mr. stover or heard from mr. stover was at the protection order hearing in april of '08, correct? that is correct. keith morrison: but she certainly saw a lot of michiel oakes. you continued to have romantic feelings, intimate feelings toward mr. oakes and vice versa. yes. and in fact, i think that you said that in our interview last week, is that you loved him, correct? i don't recall if i said that or not, but i do. yes. keith morrison: and hadn't her new lover done her a favor, asked the prosecutor, by getting rid of the ex-husband she accused of causing her so much trouble? the fact is that in this case, you don't have to worry about mr. stover, now do you? it appears to be that case. and in that sense, the defendant helped you out,
correct? no. prosecutor kaholokula also asked opdycke about her refusal to answer certain questions in the case. now, it's correct, isn't it, that throughout the investigation of this case, you've been concerned about your own potential legal liability in this case. yes. and you refused to speak with my office, correct? under legal counsel, yes. keith morrison: and this testimony now in court, suggested the prosecutor, sounded like a woman with an obvious and selfish motive to support michiel oakes' claim of self-defense. isn't it true that if this is a case of self-defense, it gets you off the hook too? what do you mean by that? rosemary kaholokula: you indicated you are concerned about your own potential liability in this case. if a jury were to find that this was self-defense, you wouldn't have any more liability either, would you?
i have no liability in this case. nothing further. keith morrison: and the witness left the stand. "dateline" wanted to talk to linda opdycke. but she did not respond to our interview request. and as for her father, wally opdycke, his lawyer e-mailed this statement. "wallace opdycke had absolutely no involvement or prior knowledge of michiel oakes' murder of mark stover. rumors and innuendo to the contrary are baseless and unfair." mark stover was a domestic violence terrorist. john henry browne closed with a powerful recitation of his theme, that mark stover was the bad guy. but even so, he said, oakes didn't want or plan to kill him. you don't premeditate up just to the point of shooting somebody. you premeditate the entire scenario. and what happened after this tragic event is absurd.
he has absolutely no plan. none. and if there's no plan afterwards, i think it leads you to the conclusion that there was no plan beforehand. keith morrison: really? here was the prosecutor's closing. i will say this. the more charitable view of motive would be that miss opdycke and mr. oakes, perhaps they really did fear for their safety for some reason. but the evidence doesn't support it. now, the less charitable view is that the defendant set out on a path of cold, calculated execution. was it because there were some feelings of revenge after this incredibly contentious divorce? was it to prove himself to miss opdycke for some reason? the fact is, we'll never know, because the defendant has taken all steps necessary to obscure the truth. and the deceit needs to stop now.
thank you. keith morrison: up to the jury then. and as the hours became a day and then two and then three, it seemed perhaps they were having trouble making up their minds. mark stover's loyal friends and clients kept vigil, hoping for conviction, eager to tell whoever would listen that mark was never the abusive villain the defense contended. that michiel oakes, his children, and extended family, were joined by linda opdycke. they waited in a rented waterfront house. and of course, neither they nor anyone knew what drama was coming with the reading of the verdict. judge: i understand the jury has reached a verdict. woman: yes, we have, your honor. keith morrison: coming up, emotions boil over. when "dateline" continues.
here it was. nearly one year after mark stover disappeared, the moment had come, the verdict. the courtroom was packed, on one side mark's supporters, on the other michiel oakes, his children, his grandchild, and his love, linda opdycke, all waiting to hear oakes' fate. woman: we the jury find the defendant, michiel glen oakes, guilty. keith morrison: guilty. not self-defense, murder. the oakes children, the ones michiel claimed he'd been trying to protect him when he killed marc stover, cried, screamed, fell apart as they watched their father taken away in handcuffs. [crying] woman: all rise, please. keith morrison: and then the next month, in a more ordered
courtroom, the convicted killer stood before the judge to be sentenced, though first, michiel oakes had a thing or two to say. i wish to express a sincere and heartfelt remorse that i carry due to my actions. and i apologize to all that i have harmed through my poor judgment. first, i would like to apologize to the members of mr. stover's family and all those friends and clients who clearly cared so much for him. i also wish to apologize to the members of my own family, who've cared for me all of my life and who have now sacrificed everything for my legal representation and to enable my bail pending trial. keith morrison: but oakes did not withdraw his claim of self-defense. he stuck to his story. and the judge just didn't buy it. and i believe we're still a long ways from the truth as to what actually happened on october 28th, 2009. keith morrison: truth, as the judge told the court,
seems elusive still in the stories of michiel oakes. judge: large parts of your story i just flat do not believe and never will. if it was self-defense, why not provide the gun and the body that matches the story and matches the bullet in the vest, because with those simple things law enforcement would have done an investigation and that probably would have been the end of this story. keith morrison: so why did oakes shoot and kill his lover's ex-husband? the judge floated his own theory. judge: how does the knight win the hand of the princess? he goes out and he slays the dragon that's chasing the princess. and i think at a starting point here, mr. oakes believed he could free miss opdycke from whatever was in her past, whatever dragons were chasing her, and by so freeing her perhaps win her hand. keith morrison: the judge gave michiel oakes the maximum,
26 and 1/2 years in prison. he is appealing his conviction. now imagine how things might be different had those two women, the biddies oakes called them, not happened by the grange that morning in october. i guess we end up being the main characters in the whole drama, i guess. keith morrison: two ladies who thought oakes was where he shouldn't be and looked suspicious. they did what anyone would have done, they said, when they called police. though now that they've been thinking about it some-- to be honest, i look at it this way. god put us where he wanted us. we saw what he wanted us to see. he protected us from what could have happened. keith morrison: but of course, a lot did happen, dreadful things. paradise lost, life taken, reputation besmirched by a murderer intent on blaming his victim.
he was, said his friends, smart, funny, generous, unfailingly loyal, ever reliable. he could tame wild beasts with his whisper. not so easy to bring a human heart to heal. [music playing] 'm craig melvin. and i'm natalie morales. and this is "dateline." dad. he loves us so much. [music playing] no one wants to have both their parents taken away from them. craig melvin (voiceover): it's a tale with so many dramatic turns-- the story of a young family facing heartache beyond measure, a mom who suddenly vanished, a dad suddenly under suspicion. you just hear the awful things they say. i knew they were focusing on me. [whoosh] [music playing] craig melvin (voiceover): there was nobody, no weapon, no eyewitness. there's not one doubt in my mind that he's guilty.