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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  June 9, 2018 3:00am-4:00am PDT

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>> to battle what she had to battle, i guess she did have erin's fighting spirit, you know, to pull through all that. you know, so thank gotd for tha. >> that's all for this edition of "date line." i'm grag melvin. thank you for watching. >> i'm craig melvin. >> and this is "dateline." >> i can't believe that your baby is lying there lifeless. >> she was everything to me. she was so sweet to everybody. >> state troopers said bonnie had died in a hiking accident. >> they said she fell off a cliff. her mother said they were wrong. >> i'm screaming to them, these are defensive wounds. >> no witnesses, no weapon, nothing left behind but a stranger's dna. >> we no longer have some
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accidental death. this was a homicide. >> they had no suspect but for years her mother kept fighting to find bonnie's killer. >> bonnie's mother continues her own crusade. >> and then a phone call. >> there was a match. >> can we get a conviction on just the dna? and there was something else. something about bonnie herself. >> it was almost like she knew something. hello and welcome to "dateline." we often see headlines about dna evidence exonerating the innocent. it seems we hear less about how dna from an unknown person might be used to track down the guilty. in a story you're about to see, a sample found on a murdered young woman was sent to the national database 12 years after
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she was killed, it turned up a match. but in this case prosecutors would need more than dna to convict a killer. here's keith morris. >> many years ago late on a september night a family in alaska got a knock on the door. >> it was one of these eerie feelings instantly when someone knocks on the door at 10:00 at night and they asked to speak to my dad. samantha was 12, her brother was 13. they huddled on the staircase. i heard my dad collapse and scream, no, not bonnie and i remember thinking god, please let her be in the hospital and let her be okay. bonnie craig, 18 years old. >> i remember my dad dropping to his knees crying on the front deck and that was about the first time i've ever seen that happen. >> their mother was on a
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sailboat off the coast of florida four time zones away. it was when she docked when she learned that bonnie would not be okay. >> they called and said bonnie died in a hiking accident. and you're thinking, why? why would you say something like that? >> but it was true, at least that bonnie was dead. it was a hiker who found her body floating in the creek a few miles away from anchorage, but first they didn't know who it was. no id on the body. state troopers figured it out from the class ring she was wearing but karen could not take it in. not bonnie, her model child, her conscientious college freshman who she knew was going to school that day, not hiking miles and miles from home and the university. >> none of it made sense. she didn't drive, so how did she get up there?
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somebody had to be with her and she would not have missed school. she absolutely did not go out there on her own. >> in fact, bonnie's sister heard her get up that morning at 5:00 a.m. and set out on her 45 minute walk through the predawn dark to catch the bus that would take her to her 7:00 a.m. class at the university. she usually didn't return till about 10:00 p.m. packing most of her classes into a few days because she had a job at sam's club. >> she was responsible. >> and nurturing toward her younger siblings in part because her parents had divorced a couple of years earlier. >> she just liked to help us make all t right decisions and i looked up to her. >> another brother jason was two years older than bonnie. >> i tell my kids this all the time. you can decide in the morning you can have a good day or a bad day. and she would always choose to have a good day.
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>> she was incredible. one of those people that as soon as you start talking to her you're instantly attracted to her personality. in high school they used to call her tiger because she was bouncy and fun and so sweet to he everybody. >> she was involved with sports. she started students against drunk driving. she was the very first girl to be on the wrestling team at surface high school. >> bonnie had a serious boyfriend cameron who left that summer to start the university in california. >> she used to send him cassette tapes. she was crazy about him. yes. they were madly in love. >> and now suddenly bonnie craig was dead. at least that's what her mother karen had been told. but as she flew home to alaska she struggled with denial.
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>> i believed flying back that as i got there, she might even be at the airport saying mom, i'm sorry it wasn't me. it's all just been a terrible mistake. >> but no, bonnie was not at the airport to meet karen. her body was at the funeral home. >> i only got to see her face. and it was just incredibly sad and you think, my god, it is her. and you can't believe that your baby is lying there cold and lifeless. >> the next day karen saw her baby again, saw more than her face and noticed something that seemed to concern what she already believed. it wasn't a hiking accident. she called the troopers. >> her knuckles were broken, so i'm on the phone screaming to them saying no, you've got to get back. you've got to take more pictures. these are defensive wounds.
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>> look again at bonnie's body, she demanded. look harder. what happened to bonnie that september day screamed karen, was murder. >> coming up -- >> i think my mom felt very responsible. >> like i sawed this. >> i caused this. >> they killed bonnie because of something i did. >> was her child's death revenge? when "dateline" continues. uff. the hitch? like you, your cells get hungry. feed them... with centrum micronutrients. restoring your awesome, daily. centrum. feed your cells.
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in the autumn of 1994 a suffocating grief descended in anchorage, alaska, and settled on the home of 18-year-old bonnie craig. it was a very bad night. >> it was tough. it was really tough. >> i guess you just don't know what to do after that. how to channel your emotions. >> we were all devastated. >> reporter: once she arrived home, bonnie's mother karen jumped into action, had to find the truth about bonnie's death. and seemed equipped to do so. she was an anchorage reserve police officer, and before that, a local tv reporter. >> reporter: she told her media friends it was murder, the troopers didn't know what they were doing. tloo. >> there was nothing accidental about it.
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the others saw the evidence and thought murder. one trooper at the crime scene was tim, now retired. >> we died find one drop of blood on a leaf at the top of the cliff. >> which was found by this man trooper robert beatty. >> i was on my hands and knees looking and i came across that drop of blood. >> we got blood up here. did he tell you that? >> how big was this drop? >> about the size of a razor head really. the interesting part about that was that it was a drop that had fallen straight down. >> indicating to the troopers that she'd been hurt somehow before she got anywhere near the edge of the cliff. >> with it being, you know, five, six feet away from the cliff's edge, it was real
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apparent to me that, you know, we no longer have some accidental death. this was a homicide. >> reporter: but because there was no sign of a struggle at the crime scene, no weapon, nothing more left behind, it was obvious this would be hard to solve. so though eventually they told karen they agreed with her, bonnie had been murdered, they wanted her to keep that information secret. fat chance. by then, karen was telling anyone who would listen what she thought, and she was not about to stop. so you spoiled it for them. >> yeah. i did. i got in trouble constantly for me getting involved in the investigation and also -- >> reporter: opening your big mouth to the media. >> yeah. >> reporter: she was troubled by something else, too, her reserve work with the anchorage police department. was bonnie the victim of a revenge killing? >> i was doing undercover work, doing drug buys, and we had done this major bust just beforehand. >> reporter: so in a position to make some people pretty mad at
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you. >> right. >> i think my mom felt very responsible. >> reporter: like i caused this. >> i caused this, you know. they killed bonnie because of something i did. she took that as it was her fault. >> reporter: and so therefore, she had to -- >> figure it out. had to solve the crime. >> reporter: because of guilt of her own possible role and a growing anger of what she perceived as an inept investigation by the troopers, karen began a campaign to keep bonnie's case in the public eye. >> we started handing out flyers, we got bumper stickers made. we started building up a reward. we had bus signs driving all around town. the first one said "who killed bonnie?" >> reporter: and continued doing interviews. >> somebody out there knows what's happened. and we desperately need to hear from them. >> reporter: and there were lots
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of tips, which went nowhere, and only ate up the troopers' precious time. they resisted karen's efforts to insert herself into the case and told her as little as possible. didn't tell her about that drop of bonnie's blood at the top of the cliff. >> she was very demanding. i think she felt with her police background, she should be privy to all the information we had. >> the troopers hated me because i just kept pushing and pushing. i wasn't about to give up. i was so fearful that things were being missed. >> reporter: tension grew. troopers rarely returned karen's calls, which compounded her belief the investigators didn't know what they were doing, unwilling to believe and unaware that they were doing a lot. >> we were talking to bonnie's friends and people she went to school with, people she worked with. anybody that had any connection at all with bonnie. we walked the same route that bonnie walked that day to see if
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anybody was around. talked to the paper girl. talked to people we saw jogging on the street. we would ride the bus, you know, for a week straight just to talk to all the people on the bus. >> reporter: for a week? >> yeah. to see if they saw anything, see if they heard anything. >> reporter: nobody heard anything. >> no, no one could remember seeing bonnie that day. >> reporter: winter came. karen, consumed by grief, rage, guilt about her undercover drug work, was now a single-minded crusader for bonnie. nothing else mattered. nothing at all. >> it's unbelievable, you know, as the mother, i abandoned my kids and started looking for a killer. >> reporter: it was months before the troopers gave karen the rest of the news about what happened to bonnie. in the last minutes of her life. coming up -- as investigators began looking for possible suspects, they looked first close to home.
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>> i remember just straight up asking him, dad, did you kill bonnie? >> when "dateline" continues. d . i wanted to try something different. for me, chantix really worked. along with support, chantix (varenicline) is proven to help people quit smoking. chantix reduced my urge to smoke. when you try to quit smoking, with or without chantix, you may have nicotine withdrawal symptoms. some people had changes in behavior or thinking, aggression, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, or suicidal thoughts or actions with chantix. serious side effects may include seizures, new or worse heart or blood vessel problems, sleepwalking, or allergic and skin reactions which can be life-threatening. stop chantix and get help right away if you have any of these. tell your healthcare provider if you've had depression or other mental health problems. decrease alcohol use while taking chantix. use caution when driving or operating machinery. the most common side effect is nausea. quitting was one of the best things that i ever did. ask your doctor if chantix is right for you.
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it was a standoff, tense and unpleasant. karen, the grieving mother, furious at a team of state troopers she did not trust, determined to find out herself who murdered her bright, beautiful bonnie versus detectives who, in turn, did not trust her.
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and so told her little about what they knew and what they were learning. but they eventually let her see the autopsy report. that's when karen saw a dozen or so brutal head wound. that's also when the medical examiner told her about one extremely important piece of news, horrifying, but potentially useful. bonnie had been raped as well. and as awful as that was, it left one sliver of hope. the killer left behind his dna. match it and they'd solve the case. so who was it? it couldn't have been the boyfriend, cameron. >> he was down in california going to college. >> reporter: troopers said they looked at karen's work as a undercover police officer and determined that the men in the drug buys were not involved either. but there was one man very close with opportunity who returned home to anchorage from an out of town trip just the night before the murder, bonnie's
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step-father, karen's ex-husband, samantha's dad. >> and i remember that being a really unsure, scary feeling. in my mind it didn't make sense. my dad is not and never has been a violent man. so i remember just straight up asking him, dad, did you kill bonnie? >> reporter: do you remember the look on his face when you asked him? >> he was devastated. he was completely devastated. but i just needed to hear it from him because there was so much uncertainty in my life at that point. there was so much confusion that to be able to have him tell me when he was tucking me in bed was all i needed. >> reporter: the dna spoke, too. he was eliminated. but someone did it. troopers set about collecting dna from every man who might have crossed bonnie's path the day she was murdered including some men who worked with her at sam's club. >> we had information that there was one employee there who bonnie complained to her supervisor about.
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evidently this individual got bonnie's phone number off the sam's club computer and would call her. >> reporter: he was doing a little stalking. >> that put a red flag up right away. >> reporter: dna cleared him. they moved on to a second young man at sam's club whose behavior seemed suspicious. >> they had a meeting at sam's club that morning that she was murdered, and this individual, he did not sign in to the meeting. >> reporter: you went and checked him out. >> we come to find out he was at the meeting, he didn't sign in. others saw him there. we still got his dna and he was cleared. >> reporter: then there was a student, attended an english class with bonnie threw up all kinds of red flags, that is once the teacher read his class journal. >> i met with her, and she showed me his journal that was filled with anger. there was a reference that september 28th was going to be a rough day. and that he was going to be put to the test. >> reporter: that was the day she was killed.
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>> yes. and there was a reference to "die bitch." you could see that he was very angry and troubled. he wasn't in class that day. and he came to her later on the afternoon soaking wet and wreaking of aftershave. and he handed in his paper. and she felt like he was nervous at the time. >> reporter: all the signs pointing toward guilt. >> and then he was also at the scene when they were recovering her body. >> reporter: that very day? >> yes. >> reporter: one of the lookie lous, as they say. >> yes. >> reporter: which is often the case with somebody when they've killed somebody, they'll go back and look at the investigation. >> right. >> reporter: what did you think when you heard that? >> i thought this is it. you know? >> i remember instantly thinking bonnie had pepper spray.
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i wonder if she pepper sprayed him and that's why he had to mask it with cologne. >> it sounded very suspicious to us. right away, we're just talking about that and jumping on that. find the guy. >> reporter: but the dna eliminated him, too. or so the troopers told karen. >> they said, no, the dna didn't match, and he has an alibi. his step-mom said he slept in that day. >> reporter: did you buy that? >> absolutely not. i said what if there was two people? it didn't have to be his dna. >> reporter: yes. >> he could have been involved and it was somebody else's dna. >> reporter: did you make some noise about that? >> absolutely. >> reporter: but then months went by and years, no match, no justice for bonnie. no peace for karen. for the troopers. then it was 1998, four years since bonnie's murder, the troopers still working the case, when one of them zeroed the on a
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former city bus driver. >> and he would fill in for the regular driver on bonnie's bus route. and we just found out from strange things about this guy. he had several reports about him trying to pick up young girls. one of them was the daughter of another bus driver. i'm talking 14-year-old girls. >> reporter: oh, boy. >> he was a substitute teacher but got fired for some of the things he was saying in his classes. >> reporter: apropos of young girls. >> yes. and he left the area and moved down to california. >> reporter: the troopers went looking and found him in davis, california. >> we flew down there to try to talk to him. >> reporter: could this be him, the man who raped and murdered bonnie? could the hunt finally be over? they got his dna. >> it came back that he was the individual involved in bonnie's death or that he had sex with her. everybody was happy, everybody was ecstatic. >> reporter: you got your guy. >> we got our guy. >> reporter: finally they had their man. but what it is they say?
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simple. easy. awesome. come see how you can save $40or more a year with xfinity mole. plus, ask how to keep your current phone. visit your local xfinity store today. >> president trump is staying overnight in canada for the second day of the g7 summit. the president's call for russia's readmission to the group rus rejected by all members except italy. in the morning the president will leave the g7 meeting earlier than scheduled so he can fly to singapore for the nuclear summit with north korea. that's what's happening. now back to "dateline." >> welcome back to dateline.
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i'm craig melvin. investigators seemed to be coming up against one false lead after another and then a new dna match to a man who had moved to california. could this mean it could finally bring bonnie's killer to justice or would it lead to yet another dead end? bits of things that reminded them of how good she was, how thoughtful like a school paper she was to have turned in the day she died. she read it to her sister the night before, an english exercise in which bonnie wrote about saying good-bye. >> saying good-bye to her friend katie who had died in a vehicle accident. saying good-bye to her dad. her biological father who was never really a part of her life. saying good-bye to cameron as he went away to college. it was almost like she knew something.
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>> reporter: something was broken in the family, could never be fixed, of course. but then there was this news, huge news that the dna matched a one-time bus driver who had moved on to davis, california the troopers called karen as soon as the results came in. >> you get excited. you think, wow. >> reporter: this is the guy. >> yeah. >> then the bomb hit. >> reporter: the bomb. >> the bomb. they had some new dna system out. they retested it. and turned out it wasn't him. >> reporter: ouch. >> no one could believe it. >> reporter: back at square one. >> back at square one. then dealing with karen again. >> reporter: karen ramped up her campaign to keep bonnie's case in the public eye. >> bonnie's mother karen campbell continues her own crusade to find her daughter's killer. she remains unsatisfied with the investigation. >> reporter: the attention brought in tips. troopers tested more than 100 dna samples. and nothing came of it but frustration. the case grew cold, as cold as some of the winter nights up here.
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and four years became six, eight, ten. the case faded from the public spotlight. and so around thanksgiving, 2006, 12 years after the murder when trooper hunyor answered the phone one day -- >> couldn't believe it. the director of the state crime lab contacted me and said that they just got information that there was a match through the codis system for the sample on bonnie craig. >> reporter: they got him. or the system did. codis is short for combined dna index system. a system provided by federal, state and local crime labs. and codis got a hit. >> everybody was happy. >> reporter: the match was in new hampshire of all places. a man in prison for armed robbery back in early 2003. but nobody got around to entering his dna into codis until late 2006. >> they got a hit the first
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time. >> reporter: so trooper hunyor flew to new hampshire to meet the man behind the match. his name was kenneth dion. hunyor had never heard of him. their q&a session was taped. >> when did you get into alaska? >> in the '90 some time. >> i started talking to him about his life, where he grew up, where he went to school. how he got up into alaska. >> reporter: so you didn't jump right in and say, we know you killed this girl. >> no, just try to get some rapport with him. basically smoked and joked for a while. you get to travel the state quite a bit? >> a little bit. i went up to denali a couple of times with friends from the military. >> found out he's fifth degree black belt martial arts, ranked number ten in a fighting competition. >> reporter: wow. he liked to brawl in bars he
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said. carried weapons in his car, nun chucks. >> he loved the adventure. >> reporter: he was married at the time of bonnie's murder but later got divorced. >> that's the worse thing i ever screwed up in my life, that marriage there. >> reporter: told you all this? he had to wonder why an alaska state trooper would fly all those miles just to talk to him. he didn't show it. he was civil. answered all the questions. >> just like we're good friends. >> for some reason, i got a bad memory, i forgot things. faces -- i'll forget your name. i've already forgotten your name. >> it's tim. >> tim? i'm sorry. >> no problem at all. >> he told me that he got into cocaine, started using drugs, then everything went downhill. he was basically kicked out of the army and the cocaine became
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really a big part of his life and he did some armed robberies to support the cocaine habit. >> reporter: he was in and out of prison in alaska, then in 1996, two years after bonnie's murder, he moved back to new hampshire, where he got in trouble again. and now here he was answering trooper hunyor's next question. did he follow the news when he was up in alaska. >> all the time. >> did you ever meet someone called bonnie or someone like that? >> a pretty high profile case. >> i can't recall. i can't remember. >> reporter: hunyor tried to jog dion's memory. >> i took out bonnie's picture and showed it to him. >> reporter: the man who said he remembered faces insisted he didn't recognize bonnie. but trooper hunyor was watching his body language. >> his leg kept twitching. >> reporter: might he have met her even once, the trooper asked. >> 18 years old? no. my wife would have killed me.
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>> reporter: then he got right to the point. >> the sad thing about it, later on that day her body was found at mchugh creek. >> whoa, whoa, whoa. what are you trying to say? >> well, like i said, i'm just down and your name has come up, like hundreds of names. >> why would my name come up? >> that's what i'm trying to figure out. >> reporter: what did you think? >> i thought we had our man. >> reporter: troopers looked up his new hampshire girlfriends. one said he casually mentioned that he could kill someone and get away with it. >> she thought he was blowing smoke. then he also told her i can't go back to alaska because of something i've done. >> reporter: she never asked him about that, but she told the troopers they might want to talk to her sister. >> and the sister told us, yeah, you know, he told me that he can't go back to alaska because he killed somebody. coming up -- bonnie's family learns investigators have made an arrest. >> i am immediately so fearful. can we get a conviction on just
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(car horn) you likso do i.urs? hey blue. i brought you something. okay. we're getting out of here. you're welcome. run! holy! this is gonna be awesome. rated pg-13. strange how big events in life can arrive when you least expect them. karen was on vacation again a remote island in the philippines. an e-mail arrived from trooper hunyor, call me, it said. >> i tried calling him and i kept getting disconnected. >> reporter: but finally they
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had a conversation long enough for karen to learn one thing, one amazing fact. a dna match. after 12 years they had the man they believed murdered her daughter bonnie. and there on that island, karen felt afraid. >> you would expect that i would be thrilled. no. i'm immediately so fearful that, oh, my gosh, now we know who's done it. are we going to get him convicted? >> reporter: a few months later in 2007 kenneth dion was indicted and extradited to alaska. karen's anxiety only grew. >> i didn't trust the investigation. is the evidence still there? the investigators, the witnesses. can we get a conviction on just the dna? >> reporter: and to make it worse, dozens of pretrial hearings dragged on four more years. >> unbelievably long and painful. everything's like the day that
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she was murdered. it's like having everything ripped open again. >> reporter: the trial finally started in may 2011. >> she has 11 lacerations on the back of the skull. >> reporter: it was paul miovas' first trial as district attorney in cold case homicide, and he was worried. >> i went into it with a heavy heart. i knew it would be a task. >> reporter: because the dna from kenneth dion did not prove he raped and killed bonnie, only that sex took place between them. and beyond the dna, the prosecutor had little to connect dion to the murder. there was no weapon, no motive, no witness to the crime. >> we not only had to establish that kenneth dion was the killer, but we also had to disprove that it was an accident and prove that, you know, she had been murdered and she didn't fall off the cliff. >> reporter: his co-counsel jenna gruenstein was an anchorage school girl when bonnie was murdered. >> i remember very vividly how much this impacted the
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community. everyone's sense of security when you know that somebody was kind of literally snatched off the street. >> reporter: here in anchorage they were under intense pressure. the courtroom was packed, standing-room only. then on the second day of the trial a new problem. the defense attorney told the jury in his opening statement that the initial investigation at mchugh creek was inadequate and, in fact, the crime scene video was missing and had been for years. confirming karen's worst fears about the troopers. >> it just made us sick. >> reporter: which made the news that came the next day all the more shocking. out of the blue, somebody at the alaska state trooper's office found the crime scene tape. good news? well, you think. but -- >> my concern was that it threatened the trial itself. we immediately took a recess. a five-day break in trial. >> reporter: the amazing
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discovery of the long lost videotape could very well be grounds for a mistrial because the defense got it after the start of the trial. for five days the prosecutors researched case law, marshaled their arguments and worried about yet more delays in the trial. but then, good news. the defense attorney decided he would not request a mistrial. back in court prosecutors played the crime scene tape. the public's first chance to see what investigators did the day of the murder. >> i recalled prior to playing the tape my dread on, boy, what's the family going to feel? >> reporter: it was trooper beatty who took the stand when the video rolled. >> this was the first time they've seen their daughter in this horrible position. dead floating in the water. >> unbelievable. unbelievable. i couldn't stop crying, but i made myself watch everything. >> reporter: and as she did, the most amazing thing happened.
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>> you would think that for a mother to watch something like that would just be horrifying. >> reporter: you would. >> it was healing. >> reporter: healing? >> healing to me. because i knew then that for 17 years that i hadn't known that they did do the investigation. they did take care and were very competent at the scene. >> reporter: for all those years she accused the troopers of being incompetent at the crime scene, and she was wrong. >> and they were down there on their knees looking for evidence. they're in the water looking for a weapon. >> reporter: that must have changed everything for you. >> it did. >> reporter: a big revelation for her. >> it was, it was. >> i went out and he walked out of the courtroom. i gave him a hug and told him, thank you.
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>> reporter: 17 years of anger and tension just popped like that. >> pretty much. within a few minutes. >> reporter: but the prosecution's problem remained. dion's dna from consensual sex? the only solution, let bonnie's own character speak for her. >> i haven't come across anybody else that's been her age and had the level of maturity she had. >> reporter: party girl he was not. >> clearly she was not a party girl. >> reporter: what's more shes was seriously in love with her boyfriend cameron. >> it was clear from every aspect that they were in love with each other. >> reporter: all these 17 years later, even here in court, cameron was grieving still. >> i loved her. >> reporter: so deep in love. but also far too busy, said the prosecutors, to sneak off for some secret tryst. >> she was working, she was in school, she didn't have time.
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>> reporter: and why kenneth dion? he was a married man with a newborn, a cocaine problem and a vastly different life. >> they came from two completely different worlds, and there was no reason for the two of them to have mixed together. >> reporter: anyway, said the prosecutors, there was physical evidence of rape. her pants were smeared with grass stains. one of the buttons was undone. she didn't drive. and the place she was killed was miles away. someone must have taken her there. there, where investigators found that one telling drop of blood on the leaf near the top of the cliff. >> is what really showed that she was injured before she went off the cliff, which establishes that she had been beaten. >> reporter: in fact, the state's forensic pathologist testified bonnie's wounds were not consistent with an accidental fall. she had 11 blunt force wounds on her skull but no injuries on her face. and few on her torso. no blood indicating an accident fall was ever found on any rocks.
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>> this is a no-brainer. we have his sperm in bonnie craig. there's no dispute about this. >> reporter: this was no accident, said the prosecution. it was rape and murder. this man was about to suggest, maybe bonnie craig had a few secrets of her own. >> it was consensual sex. how many people had a different side to them that was different than what family and friends knew? coming up -- the case for the defense. >> you're saying this young woman -- >> i'm saying that's a definite possibility. >> would the jury buy it? happiness is powerful flea and tick protection from nexgard. nexgard kills fleas and ticks all month long. and it comes in an easy-to-give tasty chew. and that makes dogs and owners happy. no wonder vets love it too. reported side effects include
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across cars, trucks and suvs-three years in a row. phew. third time's the charm...
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welcome back to dateline. the prosecution made its case that bonnie craig was murdered by kenneth deon, but his defense team had more to tell. was there more to bonnie and her life than anyone knew and would the jury be persuaded? for the conclusion of our story, keith morrison. >> when bonnie craig's raped and beaten body was found face down in a creek outside of anchorage, alaska, it was september 1994 and kenneth dion was a 25-year-old cocaine addict on the way down a long criminal spiral.
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now at 41, he was entering middle age and facing 124 years in prison for rape and murder. >> was bonnie murdered? no. she died accidentally. >> reporter: but not if defense attorney andrew lambert could help it. >> bonnie accidentally fell off the cliff and died. >> reporter: after having consensual sex with your client. >> not necessarily that day. >> reporter: it could have been a couple of days before. >> it could have been. >> reporter: and that was the essence of it, the defense of kenneth dion, that he and bonnie had consensual sex and a few days later she just happened to die in a hiking accident, no provable connection between the two events said the defense. dion told trooper hunyor a few years earlier, he had never met bonnie, his attorney is now saying the opposite, with no evidence of how or when they met. but after all it was the prosecutor's job to prove rape, not his to prove otherwise. attorney lambert scoffed at the statement that bonnie was too busy or in love with her
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boyfriend to have a sexual fling on the side. >> you've interviewed thousands and thousands of people, how many of them were really good people that found out had cheated on their spouse, had cheated on their boyfriend and nobody knew? how many people had a different side to them that was different than what family and friends knew? >> reporter: and you're saying this young woman -- >> i'm saying that's a definite possibility. >> reporter: but it would probably be a lot harder to believe it of this particular young woman than most other people. >> but you never know. maybe if she met him, got to know him, initially she found him somewhat charming and was maybe enthralled with him and then she never gets to know the history of who he is. >> reporter: is that what he said happened? >> you know i can't answer that because that's attorney/client privilege. >> reporter: in any case, bonnie's death was consistent with an accidental fall, his defense expert testified. >> when the body tumbles, we don't know how it tumbles. injuries can occur in micro
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seconds and not leave blood on the rocks. >> reporter: what's more, not one person could place kenneth dion with bonnie or at the creek that day. >> there's no witnesses to say that they saw ken and bonnie together that day. >> reporter: yeah. >> there were no witnesses placing him near her, along her route. >> reporter: the case went to the jury in mid-june. it was not for long. karen and the family were on their way to do a tv interview and -- >> as i'm pulling up to the interview, i see the cameraman and the reporter taking off. and they circle around. they said, the jury's back! >> reporter: the jury deliberated so fast, just several hours, they thought it had to be guilty. >> it was incredibly exciting because we knew that it was going to happen. we just were dying to hear the words. >> reporter: and when you did. >> we the jury find the defendant, kenneth dion, guilty of murder in the first degree as charged in count one of the indictment. >> praise god.
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>> sweet victory. >> it was like the weight of the world was lifted off our shoulders. he's guilty. amazing, amazing. >> ken dion did not kill bonnie craig and did not rape her. >> reporter: are you telling me that you believe your client is innocent? >> i am. >> reporter: you don't think he committed this crime? >> i don't. >> we're asking for the maximum sentence. >> reporter: at the sentencing in october 2011, as the prosecutor argued for 124 years, the maximum sentence, and no chance of parole because dion hadn't shown any sign of remorse -- >> mr. dion, as the family has pointed out, has never taken responsibility for what he's done. >> and i never will because i didn't do it! >> and that answers your question, judge. nothing further. >> reporter: kenneth dion, as if on cue, denied it all. the judge gave him the maximum but also the chance at parole when he's about 80. is it possibleacally didn't remember doing it?
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>> i struggle withhat. is it possible that his protestations are sincere in that he had an episode in his life that he's either blocked out or for some reason can't recall based on what was happening in his life at that time. >> reporter: cocaine puts holes in your brain, they say. >> it does. >> reporter: amazing, this is a man who got away with murder for a long time and would have completely, scot free if it hadn't been somebody put the dna into codis. >> that's really remarkable. >> which became, it turned out, the subject of karen's new campaign at the time. she tried to persuade every state to enter dna into codis. after her push for a change in alaska, the state now enters the suspect's dna once arrested for a felony just as it records mug shots and fingerprints. more than 30 states now have laws in place to take dna from
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aree arrestees. we need all of them to collect it. dna doesn't lie. you get to the truth so much sooner. it saves money. it saves lives. >> reporter: samantha channeled her grief. she became a 911 operator. >> 911. what's the location of your emergency? >> so when you have somebody on the other end of the line who is calling in because they just found out that somebody had died and they need to know what happened, i feel that pain. i know that pain. >> reporter: as for bonnie's older brother jason, his mission became more personal. >> it changes the way i raise my kids. spend more time to make sure that they're understanding why things are done certain ways or what builds character, what really is important in life. >> reporter: sounds like you're trying to grow some more bonnies. >> maybe. >> reporter: you miss her a lot, don't you? does the ache ever go away? >> no. >> she was kind to everybody.
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and that's why it was so shocking that anybody would harm her because she would never harm anybody. she was such a sweetheart. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. good morning, everyone. i'm dara brown in new york at msnbc world headquarters. 7:00 in the east, 4:00 out west. shaking up the world stage. president trump arguing on behalf of russia during his time at the g-7 summit. >> and the g-7, which used to be the g-8, they threw russia out. they should let russia come back in. because we should have russia at the negotiating table. >> and in just a few hours, he's planning to leave the meeting early to head to singapore. how prepared he is for the high-staked summit with north korea. >> plus, what to make of the first


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