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her room. as my youngest gets older, we'll tell her the nascar nana story about when she was born. just never let her memory die. >> that's all for this edition "dateline." thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." he said he couldn't handle talking about it. i was angry at him. if you aren't going to tell me what happened, then you're going to dance around the issue and tell three different stories. made are you hiding. >> it started as a teen romance. >> two of my girlfriends were like, there's this guy and you need to meet him.
>> i was in love, yes. >> it ended in one of the strangest love stories you'll ever hear. >> it felt like i got hit by a bus. >> right before their wedding, her mother and his father got married. >> they told us, we ran off, we eloped. who does that? >> two families and a small town left stunned. but it was nothing compared to what happened next. >> he looks like he's been shot. he said someone broke in last night. >> a deadly attack in the dark of night. her mother murdered. >> i realized that last conversation i had with her, that was it. >> his father bruised and bewildered. >> i don't remember anything else other than waking up in the morning. >> was it a robbery? >> the television was gone. >> or was it something much darker. >> you were 11 years old when your mother disappeared? >> a missing woman, a murdered woman, and a lie. >> i didn't get through more than a page and a half and i threw it. i could barely stomach to finish it.
>> welcome to "dateline." shannon palmer was young, in love. and engaged to be married. but their family was rocked by scandal. and then murder. aaron's father was found at the crime scene dazed and confused, but his confuses story had police questioning his version of the events. here is keith morrison with "tangl "tangled." >> you can't put words to that. it was very surreal. >> 911. where is your emergency? >> reporter: it's true the old saying when you marry someone, you marry their family, too. >> we need an ambulance. he looks like he's been shot, he said someone broke in last night, him and his wife both -- >> reporter: mind you, not a bad thing to turn to mom or dad for advice and counsel. >> it's unreal. it's hard. sometimes you think maybe it didn't happen, but yet it really did. >> reporter: it's with their help and support, after all, that true love can deepen and
grow and last. >> i watch the crime scene shows on tv, you know. and i never, never ever thought that, oh, that's going to be my life. >> reporter: yes. it really is all about family. the high desert opens up near pueblo, colorado, 100 miles south or so south of denver. among the highest of the nation's deserts. a little closer to heaven, perhaps? this is where shannon palmer's mom and dad set out to create a good, safe and holy life for their daughters far from the risks and temptations of the city. >> it was awesome. got to grow up with horses and dogs everywhere and chickens and >> reporter: shannon and her sister kelsey went to school right at home. their mother, pam, devoutly jehovah's witness, was their teacher. >> i loved it. i don't think that i missed out on any aspect of my education. >> reporter: there were strict
guidelines, of course, about beliefs, family, marriage, sex. there were no birthday or holiday celebrations, and they learned that members who commit adultery or who divorce, can be cast out, shunned. shannon and kelsey's dad gerry didn't share the faith but he respected pam's, though he was never a real fan of the home schooling. he wanted them to go to public school, but pam wouldn't have it. >> she always wanted us to be this tall and be her little girls. you know, she very genuinely loved us, and we were her world. >> reporter: well, you were her reason to be. >> yes. oh, yeah. >> reporter: but finally when it was time for high school, pam relented. >> i think she realized that you can't control an environment for a child forever, though. >> reporter: what was it like to make the transition? >> it was a culture shock. it was, it was different. i was there maybe a week and my new friends were like, "let's educate you on the ways of the world." i was like, oh, my gosh. >> reporter: which, of course, included boys. >> two of my girlfriends were
like, there's this guy and you need to meet him. i think you two would just really get along. i'm like, oh, great. >> reporter: the guy was aaron candelario. and before long -- >> i was in love. yes. >> you know, we had such a connection. >> reporter: no kidding. both jehovah's witnesses, both home schooled by their mothers. or at least, aaron was home schooled until his parents' marriage broke up. >> we were so drawn to each other that two people were so were so driven and so optimistic and just wanted to do big things in life. >> reporter: so after high school they got engaged and, full of excitement, planned a wedding. and then one night, shannon's mother pam sent the girls off to bible study and told their father gerry they needed to talk. >> she looked up and says, i don't want to be married to you anymore. i don't want to be here. >> reporter: everything was fine, fine, fine, fine and then boom. >> we seemed to be getting along.
everything was fine and she said, this is it. i'm done. >> reporter: what did that feel like? >> oh, it was a crush. you were crushed. >> reporter: what happened? no one knew. except that now these two had one more thing in common, both products of broken homes. the wedding day approached, just a few days to go, when shannon's mother pam and aaron's dad ralph invited the bride and groom-to-be for dinner and a talk. ralph was every bit as devout a believer as pam, so some premarital guidance perhaps? oh, no. nothing like that. >> they told us, we ran off. we eloped and got married. >> reporter: wait, what? your mother and aaron's father. >> yes. >> reporter: who does that? >> yeah. i don't know. but i can't tell you how much it felt like i got hit by a bus. >> reporter: you know what that meant? it meant that by the time you got married you were marrying your step-brother. >> right. >> i didn't say much. i was just like, well, we're leaving.
>> reporter: and suddenly gerry realized how blind he'd been. >> you didn't understand, but then afterwards it all -- all the pieces fell into place. >> reporter: you were never suspicious? >> i trusted her. don't we do that in a relationship? >> reporter: no trust now. shannon and aaron were furious. told the elopers, interlopers more like, stay away from the wedding. but they couldn't pretend it hadn't happened. and when they hit the little bumps most young marriages encounter, it colored everything. did your father and her mother's relationship have anything to do with what happened to you and shannon? >> you know, we were pretty determined not to let their relationship have an effect. but, you know, it's always something that's in the back of your head. >> reporter: after a year and a half shannon and aaron divorced. pam and ralph's marriage, on the other hand, thrived.
they moved into a big house on a corner lot in walsenburg, an old coal mining town about 50 miles south of pueblo. they opened up an antiques mall in the center of town, then bought a vacation home in oregon. >> that was the happiest i ever remember seeing her. >> reporter: for nearly three years, shannon, still hurt, rarely spoke to her mom. but then one day, pam asked her to lunch. >> she was so focused on wanting me to know that we had a future together, her and i. >> reporter: wow. so finally she was coming around on her own accord. >> it felt like it. yeah. when i told her, i said, i can't handle you being my mother and doing what you did, but i want to be your friend and i want to try this. >> reporter: so this is a breakthrough lunch really. it seemed at the time. >> a breakthrough lunch. yeah. >> reporter: or, a beginning, at least.
and then just a few days later. >> i was at work. and i see aaron's name come up on my phone. so he's like, you know what? something's happened in walsenburg. my dad's being rushed to the hospital and they can't find your mom, he said, but i think someone's dead. >> who was dead? and was a killer on the loose in a small town? coming up -- >> he's crying and he keeps telling me go help her in the kitchen. the moment you realize you're ready to make dinner but your oven isn't. at lowe's, we have more appliances to choose from so you can get the right one at the right price, right now. hurry into lowe's and get up to 30% off select appliance special values.
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keith morrison: 7:00 am january 16th, 2014, a cold mning 7:00 a.m., january 16th, 2014. a cold morning in walsenburg, colorado. >> 911, where is your emergency? >> reporter: ralph and pam candelario's neighbor had been on her way to work. >> we need an ambulance. >> reporter: fahry trujillo had never encountered anything like this before. >> i looked over, and he was saying, help me, help me. >> reporter: ralph was on the ground in front of his house hurt. >> i got to him and asked him if he needed help. and he seemed to be kind of out of it. >> reporter: finally, ralph managed to get the words out. he and his wife had been attacked and robbed. fahry, afraid the attackers might still be in the house, called 911. >> he looks like he's been shot, he said someone broke in last night, him and his wife both. >> how are they doing? >> he's not good. he's crying and he keeps telling me go help her.
she's in the kitchen. i'm going to get my neighbor to help me here. [ knocking ] ralph, we're getting help for you, ralph. okay? >> reporter: the police arrived, went into the house with guns drawn. and there at the entrance to the kitchen, still in her nightgown, lay pam candelario, her head covered in blood. >> i knew she was dead when the ambulance showed up because they didn't go into the house. they just stayed and were working on ralph. >> reporter: ralph wasn't shot, but he was hurt. and he was airlifted to the nearest trauma hospital. walsenburg, as local reporter eric mullens knew, was not equipped to handle an investigation of this magnitude. >> you have small town departments with five, six, seven people, you don't have murder cops on staff. you don't have forensic professionals on staff. >> reporter: so by the time shannon arrived at the hospital looking for her mother an agent of the colorado bureau of
investigation was there to meet her along with aaron. how did she take it? >> about as well as you'd expect anybody, you know, to get hit by a sledgehammer, whatever. first, she was kind of shocked, then a little bit of denial. >> then suddenly i realized that last conversation i had with her was -- that was it. >> reporter: no fresh start now. her mother was dead. and then shannon saw ralph. >> and he lost it. he just turned into a sobbing, shaking maniac. >> reporter: ralph's face was banged up. he had bruises in several places. he was confused like a man coming out of a concussion. >> just exhausted. and i'm just -- my head just still hurts. >> reporter: and then, soon as he was able, and still in his hospital clothes, ralph talked to agents of the cbi. >> sorry to hear about your loss.
>> oh, it's been a horrible day. >> reporter: best he could remember, said ralph, he got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, then decided to go downstairs to make sure the wood burning stove was still lit. but on his way to the bottom of the steps, he said, somebody hit him from behind. and then again from the side. >> i put my arm up, and boom. i mean, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. it hit me hard, you know, and so i went backwards. the ringing. i couldn't see no more. >> reporter: ralph was knocked unconscious. >> i mean, i don't remember anything else other than waking up in the morning. >> reporter: then said ralph, still disoriented, he tried to sit up. >> i looked down the hallway. i could see pam, her legs. she was -- she was there. >> reporter: revealed by the first rays of a warm morning sun.
>> her head and her -- there's just blood over her and there's blood on the floor. i touched her cheek. and she was cold, cold, cold. and i ran out of the house. >> reporter: and that, said ralph, is when he saw his neighbor fahry and yelled for help. but who did it? robbers or someone else? normally, said walsenburg police captain vince suarez -- >> you're always going to look at the closest people to the victim. >> reporter: except, in this case, ralph was also a victim and clearly wanted to help find the killer or killers. cbi agent jodi wright -- >> he was very cooperative, absolutely. >> reporter: so investigators turned their attention to the spurned ex-husband, gerry palmer. >> actually, the next day was when the investigators called me. >> reporter: it was no secret gerry and pam did not get along
after the divorce. a divorce which, by the way, she asked him to file, since, as a jehovah's witness, she wasn't allowed to. and so then you filed for divorce. >> i filed for divorce. >> reporter: accommodating to the end. >> to the end. >> reporter: and now the police were calling. >> and i told them i'd be more than happy to talk to them. >> reporter: if they come up to nebraska. >> i said, if you got about six hours, you can be here to talk to me. >> reporter: nebraska. gerry had moved far away which cleared him, for sure. of course, they'd need to look at shannon and aaron, too, given their falling out with pam and ralph. but -- >> they were cleared almost immediately because -- >> reporter: they were nowhere around. >> yeah. they were not involved. >> reporter: dead end. the crime scene people did find some things, mind you. including a bloody fireplace poker that turned out to be the murder weapon. >> the marking on her head was
the exact replica of the shape of the fire poker, the end of the poker. >> reporter: they cataloged everything they found. broken glass in the back door. they even took the knobs off drawers and sent them to the lab hoping the intruders left dna or fingerprints on them. and then, quite unexpected, something remarkable turned up, came right through the front door of the local newspaper. so what did you think when you first read that document? >> i felt i had my own little version of the pentagon papers in a way. coming up -- a letter that has everyone in town talking. >> i remembered reading it and putting it down and thinking, no, it didn't say that. ah, dinner.
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keith morrison: it's a grand name, perhaps, for a weekly paper in and out-of-the-way little town, the "huerfano world journal." it's a grand name, perhaps, for a weekly paper in an out of the way little town. the "huerfano world journal." but then walsenburg was once the hub of huerfano county and thriving coal mines offered endless promise. now, antique stores like pam and ralph's fill the gaps left behind by departing commerce. >> i think in all small towns, you see maybe a certain degree of selling the heritage because there's nothing else left to
sell. >> reporter: so, no surprise, said the world journal's eric mullens, the invasion and killing at the candelario's place was a very big deal for the weekly paper and for the whole town. >> we didn't know who was out there. >> reporter: people like the candelario's neighbors dena and mark. >> i was afraid. i didn't even want to go to my paint class that i do in the evening, because i was afraid to be out. >> reporter: a lot of people got guns. >> a lot of neighbors told me, i went out and got a gun, you know? i want to protect myself. >> reporter: everybody knew the candelarios had a nice house filled with vintage treasures. >> there's a little jewelry in here, guys, that pam kept. this is her dresser. >> reporter: some of which were missing, as ralph told the police during a videotaped tour. >> well, the television is gone. >> okay. >> reporter: the candalarios had been about leave on vacation so
maybe the intruders thought they were gone and were surprised to find them at home. but who? a citizen's tip supplied a possible lead. >> he brought up individual names that he believed that were involved in this homicide. >> reporter: ramon baros and jose ninajualpa, known drug users. both had rap sheets, a history of breaking and entering and assault. one informant said ramon was trying to sell jewelry the day after the murder. so you have a responsibility to check into that? >> yeah. >> reporter: pam's daughter shannon found herself blaming ralph for not preventing what happened. >> i was angry at him. in my mind i was like, why didn't you protect my mother. that's your role as her husband. >> reporter: and right about then the biggest scoop of eric mullen's career landed right in the lap of the "huerfano world journal." >> i've seen a lot of things walk in the newsroom. but i have never seen anything like this. >> reporter: in through the
front door marched ralph candelario with an open letter to the whole town. >> it was him explaining what he could remember after he had been treated up in pueblo for his injury and interviewed by the cbi. >> reporter: this is my story and this is what happened. >> this is my story. and this is what happened to me >> reporter: "to whom it may concern --" he began. and we're including his typos exactly as they appeared in his letter. his memory was coming back. he wanted to explain and maybe shannon was right, he felt guilty. "i am angry at myself for not finding a way to do more or just getting myself killed, too." now he wrote he had an image of who his attackers were. "i got a glimpse of that person, a tall dark man with yellow glasses, short curly hair, wide nose, large lips and marks on the sides of his face." the tall guy was talking on the phone in spanish, he said. one of the two felons who tip the call? it's hard to know. but one of them knocked him out
he wrote, and when he came to, there was pam. but not dead as he first told the police. it says here she was still alive. she started to convulse, and i held her hand for just a couple minutes and she just went quiet. i yelled at her again and just started crying, and then the two men returned. i just broke down. i was crying and i was cold and i was freaked out. pam was there with me just a few feet away. things took a turn for the worst, he wrote. then he pointed his gun at me and fired. it just clicked. i can't fully say what happened to me at that point. in fact, he was so scared he said he soiled his pajamas. he wrote that his ordeal began after he and pam went to bed on tuesday night. not wednesday as he originally thought. it lasted nearly two days. he woke up on thursday morning.
"i thought my nightmare was over, but i looked down the hall and i could see pam's legs in the kitchen." that's when he ran out of the house and found his neighbor, who called 911. of course, the world journal printed all that, though the police weren't too happy about it. and eric mullens? >> i remember taking it home and reading it and putting it down and thinking, no, it didn't say that, and picking it back up again. >> reporter: but remarkable as ralph's letter was, it still wasn't the whole story. a few weeks after the murder, he mustered up the courage and told the police -- >> while he was held captive he had asked to go to the restroom and he was sexually assaulted in the bathroom. >> reporter: well, why didn't he say anything about that before? >> his explanation was that he was embarrassed. from my understanding, it might be a bit difficult to talk about but the smallest details could be very important so keep that in mind. >> reporter: ralph agreed to show the investigators exactly what happened.
and where. >> and he grabbed me with the other hand on my hip right here and he proceeded to assault me. >> reporter: so that was the whole awful story. but if ralph thought that sharing his new, more detailed recollections would clear the air, he was wrong. what did you think when you saw it? >> i was pretty blown away by what was written. coming up -- back at home with detectives, ralph gets his own surprise. >> what happened to all the knobs? >> he was very upset that they were missing. >> when "dateline" continues. yad is in the back. at lowe's, we'll help you find the lawn care products perfect for your yard so you can get back to enjoying it. hurry into lowe's and get 20% off all sta-green winterizer lawn fertilizer.
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between donald trump and congress one wilson. and five living former presidents all appeared together in texas for a good cause, a concert to benefit victims of the hurricanes. now back to "dateline." back. i'm craig melvin. when ralph candelario's account of the home invasion was published, it was the talk of the town. welcome back. i'm craig melvin. when ralph's account was published, it was the talk of the town. but could this story be true? ralph said yes. and police wondered if the truth was in there -- somewhere. here is keith morrison. ralph candelario appeared to believe that his 3,300-word letter about the murder of his wife would be the accepted true account of that terrible event, but here's what pam's daughter shannon thought. >> it felt overly dramatic and
very just glamorous that he was the victim of this. and that wasn't -- that made me sick. >> reporter: and angry, obviously? >> yeah. >> reporter: her sister kelsey's interpretation? >> i thought it was very strange. i thought that he had some work to do on a story because it sounded really phony. >> reporter: entitled to their opinions, of course. but then, so were the cops. recovered memory? no, said the cbi's jodi wright. more like a cover-up. >> nothing in his statement matched anything that i knew to be at the crime scene. it just didn't make sense, none of it. >> reporter: it wasn't really that ralph changed his story in his world journal manifesto, not exactly. more like he kept adding to it. so he watches very carefully what you're doing and tailors his story -- >> absolutely. >> reporter: -- to match what he thinks you're finding. >> yes.
>> reporter: ralph kept explaining. kept offering not less but more details. about, for example, the drawer pulls in his house, the ones investigators removed to test for fingerprints. >> in the event that one of the invasion persons touched them. >> reporter: now here's ralph with the police at his house just after pam was murdered. noticing the missing knobs. >> what happened to all the knobs? >> he was very upset that they were missing. >> well, i really don't understand why the knobs are gone. >> reporter: and he would know you're looking for fingerprints of these home invaders? >> yes. >> reporter: but what if they didn't find any fingerprints besides his and pam's? well, in his letter, written a few days later, ralph provided a new detail that accounted for that possibility. >> all of a sudden now his attackers, he remembered that they wore gloves with l.e.d. lights on them, which would explain why no one else's prints would be on the knobs of the drawers. >> reporter: you ever heard of gloves with l.e.d. lights on?
>> well, we researched them. because i had never heard of that. they do exist. >> reporter: in the letter ralph also changed the time of pam's death. backed it up by more than 24 hours. why? could that, perhaps, have been a response to this investigator's challenge? >> she didn't die at 3:00 in the morning. had to be earlier than that. and we're going to know after today. we'll know that. >> okay. >> and that's going to come back to you. >> okay. >> reporter: but that was when ralph reported that the invaders were in his house only a few hours. now, in his letter, he remembered the ordeal lasting nearly two days. and do you remember we mentioned it a while back that broken glass in the back door? thing was the glass fell out the door, not in, as you'd expect it would do if somebody was breaking into the house. the police, of course, brought that up with ralph.
and what did he write in his letter? "i went out the back, and the rear door glass was broken. some pieces fell out when i opened the door." ralph even had answers to questions he wasn't asked, like why was the fireplace poker exactly where it belonged by the fireplace? >> normally if you used a weapon, you're going to find it somewhere around where your victim is. >> uh-huh. >> and it looked like the poker had been put back in its original place. >> reporter: here's what ralph wrote. "i picked up the poker to stir up the fire. i saw blood on the end of it and put it down." so investigators studied ralph's manifesto for clues and, thanks to the "huerfano world journal," so did everybody else in town. neighbors like mike and dena. >> it sounded like a novel to me. >> a bizarre one, at that. >> reporter: shannon, who had been angry at ralph for not
protecting her mother, read the letter and began to have thoughts that were much more disturbing. >> i didn't get through more than page and a half and i threw it. and i was like, this is [ bleep ]. this is the worst. i could barely stomach to finish it. >> reporter: and aaron? shannon's ex-husband? ralph's son? aaron went to a very dark place indeed. oh, you have no idea. you were 11 years old when your mother disappeared. >> yes. coming up -- secrets in the basement. >> i had been going through some of my dad's stuff in the basement. i found a box of stuff that supposedly she had taken with her. ♪
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keith morrison: the year was 2004. and aaron candelario was 11 years old. the year was 2004, and aaron candelario was 11 years old. his parents had recently separated, were sharing custody. and one day, after a weekend at his dad's house, aaron went home to find -- >> there was just a note on the coffee table that was in kind of sketchy handwriting. but it, you know, nevertheless said, "i love you, my boys, and i'm taking off." >> reporter: his mother dena was simply gone. aaron was devastated. what did your father suggest may have happened to her? >> that she possibly had moved to missouri. a guy that she had been talking to online for quite some time,
you know. maybe she ran away to be with him. >> reporter: a missing person's case was opened, but nothing came of it. aaron and his brother moved in with ralph full-time. but aaron couldn't move on. she had to have left some trail somewhere. barely a teenager, he taught himself every web search engine. looked for years, but found no sign of his mom online. and a terrible suspicion took hold of him, hardened into something like certainty. his mother must be dead. his father must have done it. >> and after that, it became more of, okay, well where would he put her body? >> reporter: he was maybe 13 or 14 when he thought about his old coal mines around walsenburg. did you actually go out and look? >> oh yeah, oh yeah. i went through a lot of those mines myself. >> reporter: alone? >> mm-hmm. >> reporter: you're looking for the remains of your own mother. i can't imagine what that -- >> i can't explain it.
it's always been there, that fire that just drives you to do something. >> reporter: and then one day -- >> i had been going through some of my dad's stuff in the basement, and i found a box of stuff that supposedly she had taken with her. it was a denim jacket that her mother had given her, a passport, a driver's license, a cellphone were down there. >> reporter: wait a minute. what was that like? >> that was kind of the final straw. >> reporter: and naturally, if she was gone, she would have taken those things with her? >> exactly. no, that was kind of the final piece of the puzzle. >> reporter: he left it there. left the box in the basement, and emerged a changed person. shannon told us aaron wouldn't talk much about his mother when they were married, but -- >> i'd find him up at night just over her stuff, just over papers and he just -- emotional. >> reporter: going through her papers? >> just going through, like, her stuff, whatever little bit and pieces he had left of his mother. he couldn't even handle. just it -- it wrecked him. >> reporter: and when aaron heard pam was dead?
>> my first response was how did he do it? >> reporter: and then he told the cops about his mother. now you may have a serial killer on your hands, serial killer of spouses. >> yeah. >> something like that. >> that was the thought. >> reporter: two wives, one missing, the other dead. and the one thing they had in common was ralph candelario. but suspicion alone wasn't enough, wasn't proof. so the investigation continued. >> yes. >> reporter: in an effort to shake him or maybe even get a confession, they sought help from the one person whose presence back at the hospital made ralph break down and cry, shannon. >> cbi had me call him. bugged my phone and tried to get him to tell me what happened. >> reporter: she must have been so nervous, by the way. >> she was terrified. it was probably one of the hardest things she's ever had to do. >> ralph? hey, this is shannon. >> reporter: but shannon did it. >> i've been waking up having panic attacks. i can't deal with this.
i want to know what happened. can you tell me anything? >> yeah, the only thing you know that i know is that a lot of stuff was stolen from the house. >> okay. >> reporter: ralph stuck to his story. a deadly home invasion. >> and then i found her. >> yeah. >> and that's you know -- >> yes. >> and i try to deal with that. >> reporter: shannon pressed ralph for details. >> the one guy that hit me that i saw from the front was taller than me. >> okay. >> and he had a dark complexion. you know, he had marks on his face. >> reporter: and then, something that didn't sound quite right. >> and i don't know -- and that's -- and then i just saw him for, like, a split second. >> reporter: a split second? remember in his letter ralph said his captors held him and abused him for nearly two days. >> in my mind, if you're not
going to tell me what happened, and you're going to dance around the issue and tell three different stories, what are you hiding? >> reporter: investigators, wondering the same thing, tried to find answers in the evidence. on a laptop, they found hits for match.com just days before the murder. so somebody had been visiting the site at least. >> that would have been our suspicion. >> reporter: well, it's got to be either pam or ralph? >> right. >> reporter: and then they found ralph's real life mistress. yes, he had one. and she said they carried on for most of the time he was married to pam. so now shannon thought back to the last time she saw her mother. >> because i asked her if she was happy. >> reporter: so what did she say? >> she realized that she had given up her family because she had destroyed this relationship with me and kelsey. and she's gotten into this new marriage. telling me that she just wasn't as happy as she should have been. >> reporter: lots of circumstantial evidence.
almost enough. not quite. and then, the antique rugs. >> i was searching the kitchen area and found in the washing machine two small-sized rugs. and the rugs were still very wet. and they were balled up to one side. >> reporter: but when ralph saw the rugs during a walk-through with police, he didn't seem to recognize them. >> i mean, i've never seen these rugs. >> the minute we heard he'd never seen them, we knew the rugs had importance. we just didn't know how. >> reporter: they sent the rugs to the lab. and months later they heard back. what did you find when you tested them? >> pam's blood was found on the rugs. >> reporter: they had caught ralph in an obvious lie. he must have put those ruginto the machine himself hoping to way wash ae evidence. finally, they had enough. almost nine months after pam's death, officers went to the antique store with an arrest warrant.
if you've got a life you gotta swiffer and she was met by hers when my wedding dress.e door it was a wakeup call. we're not invincible at all. you think about all of the things you got over the years and in one night it's all wiped away. you got to remember. you are here. you have life. just because you lost everything materially doesn't mean that you lost everything. ( ♪ ) ♪ one is the only number ♪ that you'll ever need ♪ ♪ because one is the only number ♪
painstaking police work before investigators finally had enough evidence to arrest ralph candelario for the murder of his wife pam, but they'd have to find him first.y ralph was on vacation or maybe on the run. >> i initiated some phone callsm with ralph so that we could try to track him down. >> they tracked his cell phone and caught up with him. >> driver, get your hands in the air. >> in northern california. >> walk back to the sound of my voice.pam' back to me.en >> you all right? >> yeah. >> charged him with first degrew >> charged him with first degrew murder. pam's daughters were relieved when they got the news. >> all i could think to myself was finally.is >> what was that like? >> it was like yea, then it was like this is reality all over again. it's starting. >> meaning, of course, reliving the crime at the trial.ea >> i'm antsy. i'm eager.o co >> you want to go and testify? >> you want to go and testify? >> yeah. i want this to be over.
and i know that i need to cope with whatever answer comes. >> your opening.ut >> yes, your honor. >> then here it was, february 25th, 2016. victory, had tied prosecutor ndl ryan brackley's hands, in one way, anyway.er >> well, we tried to tell the entire story about ralph candelario and ralph as >> in other words, the very suspicious disappearance of dena, the first wife, whose bodt has never been found. but --ec >> ultimately, the judge deniedt that motion, and we went to trial without that piece. >> you've already heard about the prosecution's evidence. ralph's open letter to the "huerfano "world journal" which, said prosecutor matt durkin, had been exposed as an elaborate lie. >> that letter was in itself a very sensational story, but it was inconsistent with all of the physical evidence in the
investigation that had occurred to that point. >> which the prosecution listed in detail for the jury to hear. but there's always more than one side to a story.thri told the jury that when she read carefully through all the prosecution material, here's what jumped right out at her. >> when you take a good hard look at their evidence, when you see that they've interpreted the evidence to fit the conclusion that they drew in the first 12 hours of this case, you see that all it is is assumptions and a suppositions and cut corners. >> reporter: but, said the defense, if the jury looked at facts and not assumptions, poss they'd see ralph's story about what happened to pam had to be true. remember those two men fingered as possible killers? they had records, drug offensese burglaries. d >> she walks in on a burglary.e,
burglaries aren't uncommon in walsenburg especially with all the drugs around.d. >> reporter: then, said the defense, one of the bad guys sar pam and --nd >> he hits pam in the head hardv he's standing there in the kitchen, fire poker in his hand, wondering what to do. wondering what to do. >> reporter: the robbers must have thought pam and ralph had already left on vacation.h >> this family was supposed to be gone. that was the talk around town. >> reporter: so, for the jury it came down to whose story to believe. prosecutors said the police cleared those suspects right back at the beginning. but nothing could clear ralph. and nothing could soften a truly shocking allegation -- ralph av murdered pam because divorce would get him disfellowshipped,l cast out, from his church. >> pam wasn't leaving.fr and so he had only one option left.os >> reporter: if he became a of t widower, he'd be free to marry again.er
again.er it was, said the prosecutors, one of the more disturbing motives for murder they'd ever heard.alph so his religious beliefs were more important than somebody else's life?so >> ralph candelario's life was more important than anyone else's life.th >> reporter: so the jury got the case.-- and they worked till the end of the day and then through a w second and then a third. tick tock.th >> whether they convict him or r they don't is going to be a they don't is going to be a different set of emotions. >> reporter: and then in the mbr middle of the third day --ree >> we the jury find the defendant, ralph leroy , candelario, guilty of count number one of first degree murder. >> reporter: guilty. but the end of ralph's story? oh, no.safe on the day set aside for his sentencing ralph decided the plot needed one more twist. the jail issued him a safety razor to clean up for court. ralph used it to slash his wrists and throat.ouua his own son was not sympatheticl
>> well, you know, the sucker cw would rather go out than actually face his destiny that way. >> reporter: suicide attempt, al delaying tactic, whatever it was it didn't work. a day later the judge ordered ralph back to court. >> people versus ralph lee candelario sentencing. >> reporter: and ralph, bandaged up, got another day in the spotlight. th >> your honor, i have maintained that i have been innocent through this whole process.. >> reporter: and then a keen observer might almost have heara the jaws drop around the courtroom. >> pam will be resurrected. we will be able to see her again. we will be able to watch her laugh and sing and do all the things that made her such a but special person. and in that regard, i put my and in that regard, i put my hope in that future. but until then, i am going to particular motion. >> reporter: for now his future is life without the possibility
of parole. >> i had never had a weight so heavy lifted. it was --do >> exactly. fou >> it was wonderful. >> reporter: i got to say, by the way, don't want to embarrass you, but i have found that the biggest softies on the planet.t oh, >> we're not supposed to let that out, but once in a while it happens. >> reporter: you're not supposed to care as much as you do, but you really do.gi >> you do.n >> oh, absolutely. >> you become very attached. >> those girls are special.lph' pam had a part in that, and they're -- hopefully they'll ben able to live on her legacy. >> reporter: and ralph's legacy? because of him, aaron will go oy searching, hoping to learn what happened to his mother. >> yeah. i will be looking. probably in -- oh, in some way e my entire life i'll always be asking questions.rds. >> reporter: and shannon -- >> he needs to realize this isn't over.be he didn't just murder someone and have nothing afterwards. he left behind family.
he left behind a disaster. and if i'm the only thing to "a remind him of that, then that's what i'm there for. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." thanks for joining us. good morning, everyone. in new york at world headquarters it is 7:00 in the east, 4:00 out west. the lives of four american soldiers remembered this weekend. this morning, new inside into why so many troops are in africa and what their mission is. the open letter from north korea to several american allies, what it says about president trump and what will happen if there's an attempt to topple the communist regime? united front. for the first time in years five former presidents gather on stage at the same time. what prompted the gathering and