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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  May 8, 2022 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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i immediately opened up about mine. >> hopefully it's the first of many conversations. it's the first of many conversations i'm greg melvin, and i'm natalie. and this is dateline. >> no it can't be, it can't be. he was so big in my life that the thought that anything bad could've happened to him it didn't make sense to me. >> glamorous, good-looking, golden. the dashing hollywood movie executive. >> he was more like a movie star in real life. >> just so charismatic. >> perfect southern california family. he completely dropped off the face of the earth.
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>> a baffling disappearance, where was he? >> not just a missing person. he has three sons, he has a wife. >> i was very afraid that something terrible was wrong. and i got scared. >> the clues, a missing mercedes. a handprint in blood. and a musical chairs of secret affairs. >> we have multiple of affairs. >> yes, those were more women, more lovers involved in this whole thing. >> was this beauty hiding something deadly? >> i wanted to get away, i was scared. >> how would this hollywood story and? >> i was in fear for my family. i don't want to lose my dad. >> like who are these people? ♪ ♪ ♪ hello and welcome to dateline. gavin smith was a larger than life kind of guy who lived life to the fullest. he was not the type to slip quietly into the night.
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so when he suddenly vanished without a trace. his sister wondered why his wife lisa wasn't doing more to find him. as the months turned into years the. mysterious disappearance would force lisa to reveal and uncover painful secrets about her husband and their marriage. here is keith morrison with dark valley. >> there is a kind of piece here. here in her own chosen exile. the vast pacific for company. how else to live? what was impossible to understand or forget. what began that sunny afternoon far in southern california's san fernando valley. early may, 2012. >> something was really wrong but a lot more wrong than i could imagine. >> it was the boy who knew it first, knew something was wrong.
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his dad was supposed to take him to school that morning. but after school -- >> i was to go to the school and pick him up after basketball practice. he said daddy didn't pick me up this morning, and i said what? i said daddy didn't show up this morning. >> it could happen, busy families, people forget. the boy got to school some other way. >> so he called a friend from around the corner. >> or sometimes things fall apart. >> the situation sounded too crazy, love affairs, love triangles, drug, dealers it sounded to outlandish. >> once those stable loving pieces that have fallen apart. how do they come together again? >> somebody's going to walk away from this who may you wish wasn't going to walk away. >> exactly. >> how do people sleep at night? how do they live with themselves? >> but, that afternoon, lisa smith knew instantly is something must be wrong. her husband gavin was a
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dedicated father. >> nothing would keeping him from picking up his kit ever. >> because gavin was so good as he's things that his sister, he was so impressive, so tall! you both got the tall jean? >> we did. >> the whole family? >> gavin was the tallest, six feet six inches you walked in a room you noticed him. you want to gravitate towards him. >> he played basketball. ucla 1975 he was a forward. it was his final championship team. >> just to be on that team was pretty fantastic. it was a once in a lifetime. >> and then he drifted a bit and this being it los angeles and being a powering astley people noticed him. movie people. >> they gave him a couple of roles. and he got the bug. >> the acting bug.
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first as a body double back on the basketball court in the movie " inside moves ". then as a bartender in " car ". when he met lisa, he was acting. but also waiting tables. >> he twinkled he was just charming. i was thrilled that he asked me for my number. >> they married, had three sons together. and with a growing family to support gavin gave up acting. and took a job on the business side at 20-centric fox. eventually, as a film distribution executive. >> fox is a wonderful company to work for. and he loved it, it was film. >> first place lisa called wind gavin failed to pick up their son. was he at work that day? >> they told me he just hadn't shown up to work. gavin in 18 years had never ever had not shown up to work. >> so then lisa very worried now went to the sheriff's station to report gavin missing. and waited, and waited.
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days later, gavin's family went on nbc to plead for help. >> i'm not going to stop until i find, i'm so please help me find him. >> if you guys want to pick up one of these. >> now i am in panic mode, we have to do something. >> what did that feel like? being in that spot? >> oh, it was surreal. >> the smith family put together a 20,000 dollar reward for any information leading to gavin's whereabouts. nothing turned up. i would think with every hour that went by. it would be more and more dire and darker for you. >> it's very dark. it's very very dark. it wasn't just the family having dark thoughts. they don't normally call a couple of seasoned homicide detectives to call in for a missing person? >> they do when they're suspicious circumstances. >> in this case they called in sheriff the texas tyler, and his partner gianna bryan. >> his phone was missing, there
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was no use of it. we checked his bank accounts from the time he was missing. we checked his medical insurance. to see if he checked himself into a hospital. that never showed any activity. he was completely dropped off the face of the earth. >> but then, out of nowhere. a sighting! hundreds of miles north of los angeles, a businessman visiting california's central coast said he saw gavin smith. and a beautiful woman, and a cash only taco restaurant. >> i happen to click on the link, saw the photo. and i said oh boy. >> the waitress corroborated the story. >> he was sitting here, she was sitting right here. >> gavin's sister raced up the coast sort of the restaurant. >> and i said, here is my brother's picture. did you see him? >> and? >> no. that was truly heartbreaking to me. >> it was all a big mistake, but it wasn't the last of the sightings.
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people seemed to see gavin smith everywhere. >> because he kind of stands out in the photo, big white smile, tanned face. tall guy. pretty much every tall tanned, blonde hair man was getting spotted as being gavin smith. >> weeks, months, pass. no sign of gavin. with no answers, lisa was forced to reveal something publicly. something painful. and maybe crucial. >> coming up. what had happened to gavin smith? >> it didn't make sense to me. >> lisa, i think this is suicide, and then we go i think this is a murder. our gut instincts are going different ways. >> you wondered if she had something to do with this? >> it crossed our minds all the time. somehow, it kept playing back, why won't you search? >> when dateline continues. when dateline continues
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big game today! everybody ready? alexa, ask buick to start my enclave. starting your buick enclave. i just love our new alexa. dad, it's a buick. i love that new alexa smell. it's a buick. we need snacks for the team. alexa, take us to the nearest grocery store. getting directions. alexa will get us there in no time. it's a buick. let's be real. don't make me turn this alexa around. oh my. it's painful. the buick enclave, with available alexa built in. ask “alexa, tell me more about buick suvs.” >> gavin smith as just about
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anybody could see, was his family's golden boy. his sister grew up in his aura. idolized him, he of all people should not just up and vanish. >> it didn't make sense to me. and so i just kept no --
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it can't be, it can be. i just kept hoping, i did everything i could. >> but even as she ran down leads himself, it seemed that her sister in law, lisa gavin's wife. was not searching. >> so he disappeared, and you couldn't give up on the possibility that he was out there somewhere? and lisa could, and i wonder whether there were dark nights in your soul, where you wondered if she had something to do with this? >> it crossed our minds all the time. did i think that she could ever be the one responsible, physically? no, but somehow it kept playing back. why won't you search? why? the only way somebody doesn't look for you is if you already know, definitively, they are no longer living. >> and you must have a reason
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for knowing that? >> that's what i would assume. >> and it turned out lisa did know something. just not what she suspected. the worst secrets which lisa and gavin kept hidden. >> the love of gavin's life, he adored me, our family was exactly what he wanted to have. he just got lost. >> lost, it all started in the early 80s. even before she met gavin. when he was a stuntman on the tv series " remington steal ". he played a shooting victim, falling from a second story window. the stunt went wrong. and he broke his back. >> he would get pain pills for his back. so usually percocet, something like that for pain. when that didn't work anymore, he was prescribed oxycontin. and he was addicted to it. >> he went to a drug rehab center called the matrix institute. here in the san fernando valley. >> he clearly stopped using.
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he was feeling healthier than he had felt in years. >> but when detective john o'brien learned about gavin's addiction they had to consider a raft of new possibilities. >> he disappeared maybe he overdosed? we didn't exactly have any of those answers. >> driving all over the valley we would have moments in the car where we looked at each other and said, i think this is a suicide. and an hour later, we would interview somebody, or something but happen. and we would say i think this is a murder. and our feelings, and our gut instincts are going different ways. very early on, very fast. >> it's got to be pretty unusual. >> it was very confusing. >> confusing for at least two. because here was another secret. the smiths were underwater on their mortgage. on the verge of losing their home. >> we were in a horrible position financially. >> lisa discovered that before he disappeared, gavin had been taking money from his
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retirement account. and recklessly blowing through his six figure salary. and there were other signs of strain in the family. in april of 2012, a month before gavin disappeared. his son evan wrote this message on twitter. thoughts and prayers out to my amazing mom and brother's police. my dad decided to leave the family last night. real family sticks together. >> -- >> sister tara spoke with gavin at the time. >> he was struggling with losing what he had come to know and love for so many years. and that was his family unit. and he didn't want to hurt those boys. and that's what he kept saying. i don't want to be without them. >> but as much as he loved his boys. detectives learned, gavin had been unfaithful to his wife. had been seeing a woman named melanie.
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and now that gavin had disappeared without a trace. >> we want to talk to her, and to see if she had any information. >> did she? >> know their relationship ended. and she had not talked him, and she had no idea where he was at. >> though melanie was the recent gavin moved out of his house a month before he vanished. she was not his first affair there had also been a woman named chandi. that relationship was years in the past. but phone records show gavin called her, on may 1st, the day before he disappeared. cops tracked her down to. what did she tell you? >> she acknowledged the prior affair, and she said that she had not been in contact with him for sometime. but then they started communicating via email. >> and that would explain the fact that he called her on the phone? >> yes. >> but sandy said she didn't see her may 1st and had not heard from him since. the last sighting was a colleague who saw him driving his black mercedes. >> we felt that the vehicle was
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still out there somewhere. >> so find the car, and maybe find out what happened to gavin. and nine months after gavin vanished, they finally got the break they were looking for. >> i said, i'm here to talk to you about your daughter. and he started crying, and he said, she saw everything. >> coming up -- >> she was very nervous, and startled. >> a new witness, and a game-changer of a clue. >> i kissed my partner on the cheek, pretty exciting, it was a big piece of evidence. >> huge moment. >> you think that you can't be shocked, but you can be. >> when dateline continues. >> when dateline continues a serious chair for a serious business woman! i'm always a mom- that is why you are smart and chose the durable fabric. perfect. i'm not a chef- and, don't mind if i do.
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that an element of human nature some people have affairs. some of them are just playing 's. others, a lot more. and as detective tyler poked through kevin's like, one name kept popping up. trendy. her full name? chan jericka preach. she had already told police that her and gavin had had an affair right before he vanished. now, nine months after karen disappeared? detectives got a tip. her father knew more. >> her dad started telling a
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tale about something's daughter may have seen, she was distraught and wanted to talk about. it he said, well, you know? i.r.e.n.a. yeah. i know the name. >> rain a land? she lived with chandi. she took care of her grandmother. her dad said his she knew something. something important. he goes, i think she knows where the cars. >> the elusive mercedes. detective and his partner drove out to sea rain a. >> we waited until she showed up. we kind of surprised her. >> that's what you guys do, right? >> sometimes it works better that way. she was very nervous, startled. wasn't quite sure what to do. ultimately, provided us with the paperwork for the storage locker. >> rain as storage locker. it was a big one. ten feet by 20. >> we rolled the door. villa thing and it was a black mercedes benz with no license plates. >> wow. >> huge moment. >> a black mercedes sedan. had to be gavin smith's.
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>> i kiss my partner on the cheek. it's a shoe store. it is a big piece of evidence. and we were able to get closer and saw our entire crime scene was inside that car. >> crime scene? yes. suddenly, all other theories seem to fall away. >> passenger seat was completely covered in blood. and at one point, it was very eerie when you looked at the blood and you could see the hand mark of gavin smith as he died in that seat. >> soon, the news reached gabby's family. tara was devastated. >> there's no going back from that. >> there's no going back. >> you accepted it? >> you know, you're forced. you know, trauma happens to people all of the time. you don't think it's gonna happen to you, but it does. you know, when you already expect the worst, you think you can't be shocked, but you can
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be. it's all i can say about that. >> but if gavin was dead, and certainly look that way, where was his body? how did his car end up in the storage locker? and above all, who would've wanted him dead? rain ellen certainly seemed an unlikely suspect. she told them she had rented the storage unit for someone else. meanwhile, detectives looked further into chandi's affair with gavin. discovering that the two had met in rehab and in december 2010, less than two years after gavin disappeared, lisa found out about it. >> i was heartbroken. >> so, she took an extreme step to save her family. she and two of her sons, then 14 and 20, went to the creatures house to speak to the family. >> i was really upset when we were driving there. so, i said in the car and i let my sons go in the house. >> but they didn't meet chandi in there.
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they met her husband. his name was john. john preach. not pleasant. >> when they came out, they were both crying. they told their mom creek threatened to kill gavin if he didn't stay away from chandi. 17 months later, he vanishes after calling chandi. lisa had a very bad feeling. >> everything changed right then for me. >> detectives were suspicious, to. remember, sandy told them she didn't see gavin that night. but there was evidence to the contrary. -- we're in the same place that night. a little triangulation narrowed down just where. >> we came up on the street here. we thought, this is the spot. >> a likely spot for a trust, that is. >> parking lot that would be empty at night. >> yes. yes. >> this is a pretty lonely spot. >> it is. >> so, it seemed that on the night he disappeared, gavin
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smith met changi cook reach for sex, or comfort or just talk, something. quite a lot to look for from those foreign records. but there is more. a third phone. john preaches phone. in the same spot, on the same night. in this was eerily. his phone seem to be moving in sync with cabins. john's phone and gavin smith's phone paralleled each other. >> together, together? >> together. sometimes piñata same towers or parallel towers. >> wow. was that like? >> that was an eye-opening moment. >> but when the interview john, >> he denied ever meeting gavin smith. he said he knew he he was, he was having a wet an affair with his wife in the past. >> despite their suspicions, there wasn't much police could deal because -- >> one thing we didn't have was gavin smith. >> that is, they had nobody.
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no way to prove who killed given or that there was a murder at all. that is until a dog named buddy went for a walk. >> a real life doggy detective makes a deadly discovery on a deserted trail. coming up -- >> buddy, stop. all of a sudden, wow. that looks pretty strange. >> and a young woman suddenly finds herself in the middle of this mystery. >> i discovered he had scrapes on his hands, on his arms. >> when dateline continues. line continues ck... i love it! i thought online meant no one to help me, but susan from carvana had all the answers. she didn't try to upsell me. not once, because they're not salespeople! what are you...? guess who just checked in on me?
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what is happening in a show of solidarity on mother's day. first lady, dr. jill biden, got with ukraine's first lady after their private meeting of the pair visited a school. making arts and crafts with some of the 47 children there.
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and western officials are voting concerned that russians president putin could -- to fish ali tucker war on ukraine. you can also use it to declare victory in the donbas region. now, back to dateline. region now, back to dateline. >> welcome back to dateline. it had been over two years since gavin smith, occurs medic entertainment executive and family man, had vanished. detectives had a major break in the case when they discovered gavin's missing mercedes and his bloody handprint on the passenger seat. there was also a person of interest. the jealous husband of the woman gavin was having an affair with. but there was still nobody, an inquisitive dog name buddy, bounded onto the scene. here is dark valley. >> rocky rumbles light to drive
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his truck in the outskirts of the national forest. a place where people tend to toss things like old tvs, maybe some furniture. rocky like to poke around out here. always with his dog, buddy, by his side. >> [inaudible] >> in october 2014, they were just five minutes into their hike when something curious happened. >> we were walking up this little area right here, and he runs to a bush. and i go, buddy, stop! he is just looking at the bush. he won't leave it or anything. we go up there and we're looking. it's like, wow. that looks pretty strange. >> but he had made a grim discovery. a human skull. >> i was just totally amazed. without words, you know? i didn't know what to think. >> when police arrived, they
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found a shallow grave nearby. >> that's where they found him. >> him. the coroner's soon confirmed it. after two and a half years, here was the body of gavin smith. >> the clothing was still intact and he had been wrapped in his own blanket that he had in the trunk of his car. >> the corner also found the cause of death. it was groom. blunt craniofacial trauma. that is, multiple blows to his face. he was beaten to death. >> it was repeated hitting to do that much damage. very violent. >> there were also fractures to the right forearm, possibly defensive loans. gavin had tried to fight. but, clearly, he was no match for his killer. whoever did this with, very strong. >> powerhouse jim was very beat. if he just told the wrong person the wrong thing, year
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your face would be all over the gym. >> she asked us not to use her last name. after she found herself in the middle of a homicide investigation. when police came across her while doing surveillance on john creech. lauren used to work at the powerhouse gym in chat house, california. that is where she first met creech. >> he was beautiful. he was tall and muscular and a lot of women, especially, wanted dated him. they wanted to be with him. >> lauren fell for him. he told her that he was separated from his wife, chandy. but that didn't stop chandy from calling lauren. >> she texted and called me. she was very belligerent and rude. >> he was angry that his a husband -- her husband, 30, nine was dating a highschooler. >> she knew when he disappeared
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in 2012, but made no connection between that and something she noticed about her boyfriend, john creek. >> i discovered he had scrapes on his hands and on his arms. >> she didn't think he had anything to do with the disappearance. >> when detective o'brien heard a the scrapes on creech, he immediately thought of gavin smith's wounds. he needed to talk to john creech again. he found him in jail, serving eight years on a cocaine charge. his second conviction for dealing drugs. far from an outstanding citizen. could it be proof he murdered gavin smith? >> went to him, didn't ask many questions. just put a picture with the shallow grave and the on ramp body. >> how did he react? >> the first call he made was to his attorney. >> but all phone calls were surprising. like the call detectives found
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in the cell phone of creech. john creech was on the phone a lot. >> he was calling multiple people, very intensely. >> like, three or four or five calls and same person? >> exactly. >> some of those calls were dumb his friends at the gym. >> we did a multi location search warrant and we had everyone who we believe might have helped on that evening. we hit all those houses, all at once. >> one by one, those buddies turned. they told detectives how a frantic creech showed up late that night. how he persuaded one friend to get rid of javon's cell phone. got another friend to hide gavin's car and body in his garage. and another told detective that she saw chandy and john creech burning their close in the fireplace after gabby was killed. >> this was a strange case. >> prosecutor bobby gray -- >> you don't normally find a body two years later after someone has killed. you don't normally have key
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witnesses who don't come forward until years later. >> in january 2015, nearly three years after gavin smith disappeared, creech was charged with first degree murder. he pleaded not guilty. and chandy? well ... >> we didn't know if she said it never had something to do with it. >> coming up. an undercover sting. chandy is the target. >> i was like, stop it. >> and then a stunning moment in the courtroom. >> i wanted to get away. i was scared. i was afraid of what i would see. >> when dateline continues. ne continues just love our new alexa. dad, it's a buick. i love that new alexa smell. it's a buick. we need snacks for the team. alexa, take us to the nearest grocery store. getting directions. alexa will get us there in no time. it's a buick. let's be real.
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what are you... spend less on everything outdoorsy at wayfair. ♪ wayfair you've got just what i need ♪ >> detectives gianna bryant and la bay head a problem. an important witness that wouldn't talk. chandrika creech had clammed up. but there's one more way to get a story. they found an associate of john creech, someone who knew chandy and convinced him to wear a wire in meet with him. it worked. >> do you want to know the whole story? >> yeah. >> once chandy felt safe, she spilled it, all of it. how she and gavin met in secret in that secluded cul-de-sac. got close in gavin's car. >> and then, all of a sudden, the door opens and johnny just
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goes like ... them and i, i just, like, i pushed myself out this. way got out of the, the driver side. >> creech first in like a machine, started slugging, wouldn't quit. >> and i was like, stop it. and then he comes out of the car and he's, like you're next! and then i drove off. >> she was terrified, she said. afraid she can be killed, two. or tell the cop she said the whole thing up. so, did she? again and again, detectives listen to the undercover tape. >> i believe 100% that she did not know that was going to happen. she did not set it up. >> but they wondered, did she help cover it up? it is a serious business covering up a crime that awful. but chandy had a card to play. she agreed to testify. >> members of the jury ... >>
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and in 2017 john creech went on trial. on the face of it, it looks like a solid case. the phone evidence, the cover-up, the truly appalling crime scene in gavin's car. but did it add up to first green murder? gavin smith had been dead five years. >> he was killed and his mercedes-benz, in an act of almost stunning brutality by the defendant, john creech, who is sitting in the courtroom. this became gavin's tomb. >> what happened wasn't merely an out burst of rage, said prosecutor bobby gray, no, creech have been plotting for two years. ever since he found out about chandy and gavin. after that day in september 2010, when at the mother's request, gavin sense met with john creech at his house. >> we just wanted to make sure that my dad wasn't in harm's way. >> were you sobbing and crying?
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>> yes. >> and what resetting to the defendant? >> i was just begging him not to harm my family. >> but, they testified, creech told them that they did the right thing. >> he said that we saved his life by coming that day. >> but their rules. that is why it chandrika, now divorced from john creech, said as she finally took a witness sent. >> as long as their father stayed away from me and had no communication whatsoever, their father would be fine. >> did he say what would happen if he didn't? >> that he would kill gavin smith. >> the affair ended. but chandy said, the threat remained. >> he did not want me to see gavin, ever. >> still, attraction is a powerful thing, isn't it? early in 2012, john and chandy were separated, but still living together. and gavin and lisa were separated, to. that old magnetic force ...
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gavin met chandy on that secluded road. >> and the two of you became romantic? >> yes. >> did that include kissing? >> yes. >> and while you were kissing gavin, did something happen that caught your attention? >> yeah. >> what happened? >> something just popped up. appeared. >> was that something the defendant, john creech? >> yes. yes. >> gavin didn't have a chance, she said. >> he repeatedly punched him in the face. >> then she ran back to her car, terrified. >> i wanted to get away. i was scared. >> but before she drove away, she looked back. john had gavin pinned down. >> later, she said, creech wanted her to drive him back to the crime scene to help take out into the hospital. a block away, she refused to
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get closer and dropped creech off. >> why did you take it back to the scene? >> i was afraid of what i would see. >> gavin was dead by then. an ex prosecutor told the jury, creech wasn't going to any hospital. he was setting out to recruit help for his cover-up. >> the first person he calls is -- >> his friend was a series of friends that told incredible tale. >> did you ask any of these people that central question? we're rethinking? >> they all ultimately said that they were trying to help john. >> because he's such an eisman? >> because he was a nice guy. >> nice? when creech showed up at hoary's house, he was driving gavin's black mercedes. jorge saw something. in the passenger seat. >> it looks like a body. it was just stiff. like a stick. you know? a long stick. >> you said it was wrapped? up >> wrapped up in a blanket. >> eventually, jorge got rid of gavin cell phone. that very night, said the
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prosecutor, creech called a friend from the powerhouse jim, sam mcquade. >> he asked if he could come over and park his car my garage. >> was the body selling it at that point? >> yes. mcquade allows creech to keep the body in the car at his house for 5 to 6 days. >> really? >> yes. >> and that is when creech turned to lynn, the nurse that lived with him and took care of them chandy's grandmother. creech got rain and to rent a van. >> he used the van to drive up to the national forest and finds a secluded area to bury gavin smith's body. >> where but 80, the dog, found it. but the mercedes-benz was still in rain's garage. >> and did that upset you? >> very much so. >> so, weeks later, men arrived with a trailer. >> and you watch them take the mercedes out of your garage? >> yes, i did.
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>> that, said prosecutor great, is when they move the mercedes into rain's locker, where, months later, detective alibay notice one crucial little detail that survive the cover-up. >> i was looking at the license plate. i see that it is not there. it should be a california license plate. it's gone. i also see that there is one screw missing and one screw screwed back in halfway. that screw came back positive with dna positive two john creech. >> bingo! the link to pull together all that evidence. chandy's testimony, friends, dna, it all condemned john creech. but a surprise was coming for everyone. >> raise your right hand. >> coming up. >> i was scared for my life. >> a traumatic tale from the stand. >> he approached me. pulled me by my sort. or put his hand up my third, was choking me. >> who attacked who?
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and who would the jury believe? >> my skin was just crawling. >> when dateline continues. ling >> when dateline continues ♪ ♪ fight fleas and ticks with seresto. eight months continuous protection against fleas and ticks. it's effective and vet recommended. seresto.
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or visit your xfinity store and talk to our switch squad today. the case against john creech and his murder trial was gaming speed. there is dna, witness testimony, all tying to the bloody scene of the crime. prosecution argued john had been plotting his rage filled
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killing for years to seek revenge on gap and smith for having an affair with his wife. but the defense was about to present a very different story. here is keith morrison with the conclusion of dark valley. >> how to defend a man like john creech. well, attorney nunez says, john creech never intended to kill gavin smith. this is a case of self-defense. >> he had two defensive self against this intruder. an intruder that took his marriage. >> and, she said, only one person could tell that story. >> who's the first witness you're going to call on behalf of the defense? >> my client, john creech. >> his attorney began by asking him that meeting with gavin. >> at any point did you tell them that you are going to kill their father? >> no, that's absurd. >> two years later, when it all
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happened, chandy and him were still separated. even though they still live in the same house. bush he was worried that she might be drinking and driving. so, he installed an app that allowed him to track an app on her phone, that allowed him to track her only cause he was worried. and then she saw her car park near gavin. thought it best to talk to them. >> he knocked on the hood of the car. >> was chandy sitting on the lap of the sky? >> they kept talking. i knocked on the window. >> what did they do? >> mom chandy opened the door. >> what did she city? >> what are you doing? kara >> he started to argue with chandy and then gavin joined it. >> i told him to mind his own business. i was leaning down to tell him that. so, he leaned up to punch me. he punched me, hold me by my sweater. choking me at my throat. >> it was gavin who through that first punch, he said. so, of course, he fought back.
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>> do you recall how many times you hit him? >> four or five. >> and when you were doing that, what are you thinking? >> i was thinking, how did i get in the situation? you know, i was scared for my life. >> then, gavin got out of the mercedes, said creech. there is something in his hand. >> there was this ten or 12 inch steel thing. i thought it was a night. we were on the ground exchanging punches. >> at some point, did you get that weapon? >> i kept punching him till he like all of it. >> what did you do with the weapon? >> i threw it over the end of my property. >> such a weapon was and ever found. >> he insisted that it existed. it was a multi purpose tool of some kind. he was defending his life. >> i think he lied about everything that he said. >> on cross examination, prosecutor went straight for that so-called multi purpose tool. >> so, tell us why in the world
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you would get rid of this weapon that gavin was defending himself to attack you? >> well, i didn't get rid of it. i threw it behind my house where i knew it would be. >> why would you do that? why wouldn't you just leave it where it was? >> well, i can play armchair quarterback all day. >> creek admitted he made some wrong decisions to, like asking friends to help him dispose of gabby's phone and car, and body. >> i take full accountability for everything after the fact. if i could change, it i would. >> sir, actually, you never took full accountability because you never came forward to the police, did you? >> not on the advice of counsel. no, i still take accountability for. that >> at least smith was in the courtroom to hear creech's testimony. >> my skin was just crawling. it was really hard. really. heart he's a cruel man. >> jury deliberations stretched across two days. then, the verdict.
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>> we the jury in the above entitled action found the defendant, john creech not guilty of the first degree murder charge. >> not guilty of first degree murder. but, jury wasn't done. >> guilty of the crime of voluntary manslaughter. >> the verdict? guilty of milan voluntary manslaughter. in other words, they believed john preach killed gavin smith in a moment of blind passion. >> i was devastated by the verdict. i'm still devastated by the verdict, because he did, absolutely, plan on murdering my husband and thought about it for years and did it. >> what about creech's friends, who helped cover-up the killing? >> they both had significant criminal liability. >> why were they charged? >> we needed them to be able to tell the story of how this man was killed. what happened to him. >> so, they both got immunity. same thing with chandrika, who helped burn bloody clothing and
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never called the police. >> it seems to me that everybody got deals and everybody got off. and that gavin was a victim long after he was murdered. and so are we. >> john creech was sentenced to the maximum for manslaughter, 11 years in prison. >> the dea in detroit, michigan, indicted mr. creech on federal judge trafficking charges. if his -- >> in june 2019, john creech was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. he's given ten years, ten months. a sentence he will serve concurrently for his charge of manslaughter. >> lisa smith has done her beth 's to restart her life. she and the boys are in hawaii now, far from the wreckage of that california life.
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it was never as quite as perfect as it looked. >> it was painful to remain there. so, it starting fresh. it is like sanctuary. that is off this edition of dateline. i'm natalie morales. thanks for watching. m natalie morales. thanks >> i'm craig melvin, and i'm natalie morales. and this is dateline. >> there was no way you could look at this, and say this is a person who ran away. the mystery had this sort of sinister side to it. oh my god, oh my god. this is really happening it's happening right now. >> in the dark waters of miami. miles out to see a federal agent hunting for drug smugglers spots a specific just boat. >> i noticed the

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