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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  August 6, 2022 2:00am-3:00am PDT

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perfect family. is the two of us. we can't let that go. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> you had the good cop, you have the bad cop. and the polygraph. it felt like "law & order". >> the fire broke out before dawn. in the daylight, they found this mother of two young children dead. >> she lived a very courageous life. she was very bold in the things she did. >> but after the smoke cleared, a mystery lingered. >> we knew she did not die in that fire, she died before the fire. >> who do you look to as the suspect? >> obviously the spouse is the first person you look to. >> but her husband had a clear alibi and he passed a lie detector test. eventually, the case grew cold
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until this witness came forward. with a tale of love and lust gone wrong. >> he finally just took the sweat shirt and wrapped it around her neck. >> but could she be believed? >> i was sleeping around. i think i slept with half the town. >> was she out for justice or revenge? >> is it a perfect world, no? will she get hers, yes? and she does. >> what was the lie? and what was the truth? >> how could you miss it? he wasn't there! ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> hello and welcome to "dateline". paul and catherine novak wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. they found peace and quiet when they moved into what catherine dubbed the big red house. but soon a roaring fire would ravage the couples home, and when the flames subsided one of
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them would be dead, leaving investigators wondering if the blaze was a tragic accident or something more sinister. here is andrea canning with "secrets and lies". >> on a frigid december morning in 2008, in a tiny, picturesque town along the banks of the delaware, a tragedy unfolded. >> 9-1-1. what is your emergency? >> the whole house is on fire. >> a deadly blaze burned a small country house to the ground. and left behind in the ashes were secrets. love gone wrong. illicit affairs. friends turning against each other. it would take years to unravel the mystery of that fire. haunting this town. and those who loved the couple who once lived in that house, paul and catherine novak. the novaks had both grown up as city kids. paul was in new york city paramedic, a job that seemed a
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perfect fit. >> i wanted to be that person that would show up that would help my parents. that would help my sister if she was in a car accident, or something like that. >> but he also saw the dark side of city life. a little too close to home. >> i would do shootings and stabbings two blocks away from my apartment. i always thought to myself, i could never raise a child in this area. >> so, in 2002, paul and his wife catherine went house hunting in narrowsburg, new york. a small hamlet tucked between the catskill and poconos mountains. they didn't need to look for long. >> it was the big red house, as she called it. and she would talk about the big red house all the time. >> catherine's brother michael and sister-in-law joanne says she worked hard to make the big red house a home. >> growing up, we lived in apartments. you know, this was a space of her own. >> yeah, she was thrilled to have five acres, or ten acres of property. and she loved it there. >> the perfect place for the perfectly matched couple. they seemed meant for each other right from the start. >> i liked her from this first
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moment i met her. she was very effervescent. very funny and very opinionated. i really liked that in her. >> so, you really saw into the future the first time you saw her? >> yes. we ended up getting married, i think seven months later. >> two years after that, their first child natalie was born. >> it was very special. >> catherine's mom christina was ever the proud grandmother. >> natalie looks so much like her mom. so much like her mom. >> what was it like the first time you laid eyes on your new daughter? >> natalie, well, it was like falling in love 1000 times more than you have with any other person. natalie is just -- she's a part of me. >> four years later, along came nicholas. >> she was in her glory. and then, to have a boy and a girl, she was good. >> things were all coming together? >> yes. >> she got directly engaged in the community. in the church, she taught sunday school. she became a girl scout leader.
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the school board, she did many, many things. >> and she did almost all of it by herself. paul was still working as a paramedic in new york city, more than 100 miles away. that's a big commitment. this is pretty far from the city. >> yes, it's a two hour drive. i was making the new york city living, and making a living up here. the sacrifice was i couldn't be home every night. >> and that, they soon discovered can be tough on a marriage. >> we went to counseling for about a year, and she just felt that she never got a break from, you know, from being a full-time mom? >> but they were both committed to making their marriage work. well on their tenth wedding anniversary, valentine's day, paul surprised catherine with a ceremony to renew their vows. >> i'm not a church going type so, for me to do that is a big thing. i planned a little getaway, and she was really taken by surprise by that. and things were good for a couple of months after that. >> it wasn't enough. the glow of that getaway faded
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and life became routine again. soon paul's eyes wondered to a much younger woman. someone from work. they had an affair and paul moved out, leaving catherine and the kids alone in the house. >> she was beside herself. she was absolutely hysterical. >> catherine's good friend and neighbor, sue muller, remembered when the marriage ended. >> she couldn't even get her breath. she was sobbing so hard. >> but catherine's family, who considered her the eternal optimist, watched her move on with her life. pouring all of her love and attention into her children. >> she was very focused on them. very engaged in their lives. did everything with them. >> sounds like that's what was important in her life anyway? >> absolutely. >> she was working at her children's school and had even been on a few dates. catherine was creating a life without paul. then, in december 2008, some time in the early morning hours, somewhere in her house, a fire started. >> a house is totally on fire. it's on fire. >> when firefighters arrived, the big, red house was a wall of flames.
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they had no idea if anyone was still inside. >> does anyone live there? >> yes, yes, the kids! >> are they out of the house? >> i don't know. >> neighbors knew paul wasn't there. he wasn't living in an apartment three hours away with his new girlfriend. that morning he got a call from catherine's pastor. >> i picked it up and it was pastor phyllis she goes, where are the kids, where are the kids? >> i'm like, they're with me. what's going? >> she goes, the house is on fire. >> firefighters worked for hours dousing the flames. when catherine's friend sue muller arrived, the fire was still we raging. she stood vigil for hours, waiting to hear news of her friends. >> all of a sudden, the firemen were all concentrated in one area looking down into the basement. and then the local funeral home was there with the body bag. and i saw them bring the body
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back down into the basement. >> in the destruction and mark of the basement, under massive pieces of what had been the house, firefighters found the remains of the family dog. and to their horror, the body of 41-year-old catherine here novak. >> oh no. oh no. it can't be. and i think it takes a while to grasp that death is forever. >> what did you think when you heard that? >> i was just a blank. a complete blank. what on earth am i going to tell these children? how am i going to tell them? she was a great mom. i didn't know how i was going to be able to try to if even fill that void. >> the autopsy report said she was killed when heavy debris fell on her. catherine's death was officially ruled accidental. >> she lived a very courageous life. she knew what she wanted, she went after it. she was very bold in the things she did.
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>> a tragic end to a life that held so much promise. but as you probably guessed, the story didn't end there. for investigators, it was just the beginning. not everyone believed this was an accident. >> if it was not an accident, was it murder? certainly did not look that way until a second autopsy report -- >> coming up >> we knew she did not die in that fire. she died before the fire. >> when "dateline" continues. e year they want all dinosaurs stuff the next, camels. - llamas. - llamas. so save money shopping back to school on amazon. you sure that's not a camel? yeah. whatever you say. i didn't win the lawsuit, but everybody knows i wrote that song. flo? gosh, it's been forever. you look fantastic. it's jon. hamm, from the blind date we went on years ago.
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catherine novak's body had been discovered among the blackened ruins of her big red house. but the passage of time didn't make it any easier for her mother. >> her mother's question was more simple. >> the big thing for me was why didn't she get out? that was wet kept going over in my mind. why did she get out? >> even her estranged husband paul said he was puzzled. >> i don't even know what to think about it, i was surrounded by death and violence my entire life, now it was home. >> the pathologists ruled catherine step an accident, but investigators were not so sure. they turn to attorney steve lungen. >> so despite this top it was an accident.
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>> yes we had a fire, and we had a death, the question of how the two of those items were going to come together we're not quite the -- actually years later. >> the police, as they often do, began by interviewing's soon to be ex-husband, paul novak. what happened in the interview as far as the questions they asked you, how they treated you? >> they asked me about catherine's whereabouts, if they she had anywhere friends at the time, who would be in the house, and utilities in the house that would've had a problem, things like that. >> the interview was routine, but the investigation was not. firefighters couldn't figure out what ignited the blaze. they checked the wiring, the appliances, the pellet stove, the propane tanks, nothing conclusive. but then, things changed. the da brought in a specialist, a forensic pathologist to do a second autopsy a few days later. and the results this time told us different story.
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>> we knew she did not die in that fire, she died before the fire. >> the second pathologist discovered there was no carbon monoxide in catherine's blood or soot in her lungs, which meant that catherine stopped breathing before the fire started. she changed the manner of death from "accidental" to "pending investigation." >> the question is, what else can we gain or learned before we can start to classify this as a homicide? >> could you look to as a suspect? >> the state police had done some initial interviews. obviously the spouse is the first person you look. to the spouse had a clear alibi. >> paul and his new girlfriend michelle lafrance said they were outside the house when the fire broke out. a three hour drive from their apartment in long island. still, the investigators did not take their couples word for it. they made a request. >> they said you have to take a polygraph test.
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>> did you feel like you were in a tv show at this point? >> yes, it felt like an episode of "law & order" a bad episode of it. >> will he was driving home from the interrogation and he was hysterical. >> paul's sister, ilona, had never heard him so emotional. they asked me if i killed her, he just founded so unbelievable that he was asked those questions. >> so, if it wasn't paul, investigators had to look for other suspects. >> the state police did a complete canvas of the area. anybody who had any connection to catherine novak, state police reviewed, found, interviewed. >> but after many months and no leads, investigators hit a dead end. the case turned cold. none of that mattered much to catherine's mom. >> i still miss my daughter, the same. i miss her. no matter what happened to her, i miss her. >> seven months after catherine
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's death, paul and his girlfriend packed up the kids and their apartment on long island and moved 1000 miles south to florida. >> i'm thinking with my experience that it would be pretty easy to get a job somewhere. >> kind of a fresh start. >> a fresh start, i thought it would be good for the kids, grade school, nice neighborhood. >> but paul said not long after they're moved, things with michelle started to sour. when they first met, she was a paramedic in training, he was her teacher, her friend. she had confided in him about her history of mental illness, long bouts of depression and alcohol abuse. but now, he says her problems were started to take a toll on the relationship. his young daughter, a sore spot. >> she was very jealous of natalie and her mental issues definitely became more apparent as time went on. at one point, she actually threatened to commit suicide
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inside my own house. >> this was no surprise to ilona and her mom who loved catherine, but never approved of michelle. what are your first impressions of michelle? >> we didn't like. >> why? >> she walked into my mother's, and she immediately wanted to catherine's pictures, she turned them around because she thought that catherine's looking at her. >> paul said that it took a little longer than his family to realize that he had michel were not the best match. they have been together for three years when he found out that she was cheating on him with a married man. >> he didn't want to stand for that so we had to ask her to leave. and he did it very nicely, and she did not want to go. >> and what paul described as a bitter breakup, he forced michel to move out and told her it was over. we by that time, it had been more than two years since catherine's death. investigators back in new york had moved on to other cases. the years were ticking by with no new leads, but the da was a
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patient man. >> we never put the file away. it was always a matter of when somebody is going to come forward, will be ready to go for it. and we never expect an accidental cause of death. >> his patience would be rewarded, a break in this cold case was coming, and it would surprise everyone. coming up -- >> a surprise knock at paul novak lee's door. >> there's two police detectives and they want to talk to you about your car being involved in a hit and run. >> is that the real reason? when "dateline" continues. >> at if your clothes could stay fresh for weeks? now they can. downy unstopables in-wash scent boosters keep your laundry smelling fresh waaaay longer than detergent alone. pour a cap of downy unstopables into your washing machine before each load. and enjoy fresher smelling laundry.
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catherine novak's body had been discovered among the blackened ruins of her big red house. but the passage of time didn't make it any easier for her mother. >> it's not a thing that ever happens to you, it always happens to someone else. it doesn't happen to you. you don't lose a child like that, in such a horrible way, a fire. >> catherine's brother michael and his wife joanne had stopped asking questions. choosing instead to accept they might never know what really happened to her. >> to take catherine's perspective, she would look for
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the positive side, the good things. and she would want us to move on. and that's what we try to do. we made our peace with it. and we went on living. >> but as time went by, in the last little town of narrowsburg, dark suspicions were whispered from neighbor to neighbor. and one name kept coming up, catherine's estranged husband paul novak. her close friend, sue muller. >> i was angry as time went on, and as i thought more and more about it, and i thought paul might be involved. >> as she looked back, she was particularly haunted by the way paul acted the day of catherine's memorial service. >> the whole congregation was sobbing so loud. i mean, the pastor couldn't even finish her sermon. i went up to him and i held him and was struck by how he didn't show any emotion. after 11 years of marriage, you would've thought she might've meant a little bit more to him. that he might shed a tear. but i didn't see any.
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>> but there was no evidence that paul had anything to do with catherine's death. no dna or fingerprints at the crime scene. no witnesses. he had even passed a polygraph test. and he had an alibi for the morning of the fire. he was three hours away with his girlfriend michelle in their apartment on long island. paul continued to enjoy his new life in florida with his two children. working again as a paramedic and now dating a new woman he fell for quickly on, kat delgrasso. >> we started texting and we made a date. and we went on the day and really that was. >> it was instant? >> instant. instant. >> what was the attraction? >> i don't know, it's really hard to put your finger on something like that. we just seemed to had an immediate connection. there was zero stress talking. no uncomfortable-ness. >> their romance blossomed and she eventually moved in with paul and his kids. do they look up to him?
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>> they worship him. they completely worship him. he's always up with them, checking homework. we do a lot of things as a family. >> is it a nice life? >> yes, we were really happy. really, really happy. >> and then? you get a knock at the door. >> yes. yeah, that was a tough day. >> it was an early morning in september, 2012. four years after catherine's death. >> i was asleep. i had just got off of work. i worked 12 hours at the hospital. and i remember my girlfriend comes in and she goes there's something fishy going on outside. there's two police detectives outside and they want to talk to you about your car being involved in a hit and run. >> but when he arrived at the police station, he saw a familiar face and realized this had nothing to do with a car accident. >> this investigator kelly with from new york. i'm like, ok. so, he sits down, grabs a tear, he's a fall away for me.
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and then i remember him, he's the guy that grilled me. the one that got my face. >> how are you feeling? oh my gosh, these people are back in my life four years later? >> at that point, i still didn't know what they wanted from me. i knew this guy was yelling at me. and then i just looked at him and said, "i would like to speak to a lawyer." >> paul had already been interviewed by police several times. he thought this was all behind him. you knew it had to be about catherine? >> well, yeah, obviously it had something to do with that. >> later that day, the police went back to paul's house. >> and i went outside in the driveway with them and they said, "we're sorry to have to bring this to you but paul novak is under arrest". i said, "for what? " they said, "this is for his involvement in his wife's murder four years ago." >> what cat and paul didn't know that was that a witness had come forward telling police and evil tale. and in that story paul was the villain. they arrested you -- they put you in jail right there than?
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>> yes. >> the story the witness told was chilling. >> just have a seat there. >> revealing dark secrets. but was it true? >> coming up -- paul's alibi becomes his accusor. >> he was going to chloroform her, leave and then the house was gonna burn down around her. >> when "dateline" continues. we hit the bike trails every weekend shinges doesn't care. i grow all my own vegetables
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here's what's happening. indiana is now the first day to pass a near total abortion ban to follow the supreme court's decision to overturn roe v. wade. they signed the bill into law last night. the bans abortion is except in the case of race, -- . and bloc lesser labor report showing the u.s. added $528,000 in july. more than they predicted. the unemployment dropped down to the lowest point in half ascension. countering some fears of
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recession. now back to dateline! o dateline >> welcome back to "dateline". i'm craig melvin. after the mysterious death of his wife catherine, paul novak was trying to move on. he relocated to florida and had a new girlfriend. but then came that knock on the door and detectives placed paul under arrest soon, he would learn that someone was claiming he they had disturbing new details about the fire. paul's world was about to turn upside down. once again, here is andrea canning with secrets and lies. >> catherine novak's death had been a cold case for more than three years, one out of nowhere, a witness came forward. pointing a finger at catherine's estranged husband, paul. so who was this mystery witness? a woman from paul's past, michelle. >> michelle lafrance who was the defendants alibi, in 2008. has now come forward and said, paul was not home, paul went to narrowsburg and paul killed catherine. >> what was that phone call like? >> it was now time to get to
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work. >> jim farrow was now the district attorney, he teamed up with the former da steve lungen. >> did you feel like you had a break? >> i needed more information. >> investigators sat lafrance down to hear her story. we during a six hour interview, michelle laid out what she claimed, was the story of how paul killed catherine. she said he started plotting weeks before the murder. >> he was researching things on the internet, he was going to chloroform her, leave her, and burn the house down. >> michelle says one week before the fire, she and paul went to catherine's house to move his things out, and paul unlocked the basement doors. >> so that he can go up the next time would have the kids, which would be a week later. and that way he could sneak
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into the house and she would know. >> according to michelle, paul wasn't with her on the night of a murder. that alibi was a lie. instead, he said was with another paramedic who drove to narrowsburg. >> as far as i know paul walked out of the house. >> michelle said paul told her he went inside, set off the basement smoke alarm, hid behind the stairs, and when catherine came downstairs to investigate, he tried to knock her out with chloroform. >> this was supposed to be quick and painless and, you know, she was supposed to be passed out before she knew what happened. but i guess he put over her mouth and it didn't work. she was screaming and begging for her life. through her tears, michelle spilled out gruesome details of
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what paul said where her final words were. he she said to think of her children. >> and he told me the only thing she said to her, i'm doing this for the kids. and he said that she had been wearing a hooded sweatshirt and that he finally took the sweatshirt and wrapped it around her neck and held it until she stopped breathing. >> then, michelle claims, paul took a blowtorch from the garage and said the kitchen curtains on fire. >> he waited for it to catch fire and i don't know how long he, i don't think he ever told me exactly how long he waited and watched. >> michelle story was a stunning betrayal of her former boyfriend. and if it was true, paul had committed a vicious and calculated crime. michelle said paul told her he did it because catherine was a monster. >> he had me convinced that
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catherine was the bad guy and he was the good parent and these kids were abused and these kids were miserable. >> he did this for the kids? >> and we need to save the kids. >> paul sister ilona didn't believe a word of it. from the moment you heard a witness had come forward, she was convinced her brother was being setup. >> i said this is michelle. you got rid of her, and now what happened? >> this is payback? >> i believe that's what it is. >> paul's girlfriend, cat, who got engaged to him in jail, also believed michelle story was suspicious. >> absolutely positively. >> why are you so sure? >> he's just not that kind of a person. he is a caretaker. you know? it's like, his job as a paramedic. it defined him. and while paul had a squeaky clean record, michelle, his accuser, had issues. a history of depression and alcohol abuse. and she had waited years to come forward.
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>> michelle lafrance has been described as a scorned ex-girlfriend, a woman looking for revenge. did all that go through your mind? >> no, i don't believe that it did because after she leaves paul in january, february of 2011, it's 14 months before she gets up the courage to come forward to the police to tell the police what she knows fully expecting that she will be arrested. >> do i need a lawyer? >> as paul waited for his trial to start, he told us he wasn't worried. >> there's really nothing that puts you at that crime? >> no. >> no eyewitnesses. >> i think it's going to go rather well for me. >> coming up, the prosecution is feeling confident too. did someone leave digital tracks? >> state police did a search for the toll records of that vehicle, and we had a hit at 6:39. >> but what does that prove?
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>> when "dateline" continues. (brian) i'm brian, i was in the military for 18 years. but, i smoked and i got heart disease. my tip is; it's hard to serve your country when you're to weak to put on your uniform. (announcer) you can quit. for free help, call 1-800-quit-now. for your most brilliant smile, crest has you covered. “nice smile, brad.” “nice!” “thanks?” crest 3d white. 100% more stain removal. crest. the #1 toothpaste brand in america.
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another busy day? crest. of course it is. you're a cio in 2022. but you're covered. with security that protects your company everywhere, on-premise... in the cloud... and right here too. comcast business. powering possibilities. >> as paul novak prepared to stand trial for the murder of his wife, he insisted he was innocent. >> are you the evil murderer that some people think you are? >> no. not at all. >> any reason to kill your wife? >> no. no, absolutely not. i mean, when i left catherine,
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i probably wasn't in love with her anymore. but i respected her and she's the mother of my children. >> for catherine's brother michael, the upcoming trial felt like opening an old wound. >> part of me wished i didn't get that phone call. because i knew how traumatic it would be to the family, and especially how traumatic it would be to natalie and nicholas. >> catherine's mom also knew a trial would mean more heartache for her grandchildren. >> i know no one could imagine how i feel. it's my child. i can't imagine how they would feel now with the loss of both of their parents. >> all rise, sullivan county criminal court is now -- >> on august 12th, 2013, the trial of paul novak began at the sullivan county courthouse. the district attorney opened the case. >> the evidence will show that as catherine begged for and fought for her life, the defendant ended her life. murdering her, in the basement of her own home. >> prosecutors set out to prove
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that paul orchestrated this murder down to the last detail. >> he was planning this for a period of weeks, maybe more in his own mind. on how to rid himself of catherine. >> he's a murderer. he's a sociopath. he planned, he executed, and he killed catherine novak in cold blood. >> their star witness was paul's ex lover, michelle lafrance. the jury heard every minute of those police interrogation tapes of michelle describing the details of how he killed his wife. >> he told me that they were fighting and that they were rolling around on the basement floor for about 45 minutes. and that's why he was so late. and she was screaming and begging for her life. >> and the jury didn't have to just take her word for it, prosecutors called scott sherwood, paul's partner from work to the stand. they told the jury he had been interrogated by police and showed them the tape. >> let's go from the beginning.
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you meet paul where? >> i met paul at his house in glen cove. >> jurors heard him tell police his version of what happened the night of the murder. >> so he gets in your red blazer. who's driving? >> i was driving. we were driving up towards where his residence was, where 's catherine lived. >> sherwood said paul told him to part about a mile away from catherine's house and wait in the car. >> about how long was he gone from the car? >> over an hour. >> and what did you see when he got to your car? >> he said, it's done. he had said that the chloroform didn't work. i had to strangle her. something about hitting the gas line to ignite -- >> so you knew the house was on fire? >> yes. >> as scott sherwood's story played in the courtroom, the prosecutors pointed out how remarkably similar similar it
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was to michelle lafrance's. >> did he see where he strangled her? we're in the house? >> in the basement. >> prosecutors felt these matching stories were powerful but didn't think they would be enough to get a conviction. they wanted physical evidence to prove michelle and scott were telling the truth. they began with sherwood's account of the drive up to narrowsburg. sherwood i told investigators paul asked him to start stop at a walmart. >> when you got into the middle town area you said you stopped where? >> at a walmart. >> and he went inside? >> he went inside. >> you waited outside? >> waited outside. >> and then he came out with a bag? >> yes. >> do you know what he bought? >> i believe duct tape. >> prosecutors showed jurors what investigators found when they visited that will mark. >> the state police found a receipt. only one receipt out of 30 registers that had three things on it. and update, a hat and gloves. scott sherwood tells us that the defendant used tape to tape up his scrubs. and he had a glass hat and
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gloves on when he went in the house. >> and there was more physical evidence to back natalie up sherwood's account. he told police he and paul crossed the george washington bridge on the way back to paul's place and morning of the murder. >> was there a toll you guys went through? >> i would assume so. >> we went through i guess, it was the lower level. but there is no attendant. >> no attendant saw them pass. but detectives wondered, could digital eyes help place the car little boo? >> we did a search for the ez pass records, or toll records of that vehicle. and we had a hit at 6:39. of that vehicle coming across the george washington bridge, lower level. >> that's huge. >> it was a highly corroborative piece of evidence to corroborate scott sherwood. >> what's more, there was a photo snapped of the license plate. it was evidence that almost didn't exist. prosecutors said paul had planned to pay cash that night.
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but construction at the toll booth forced him to drive through the ez pass lane. >> he made some mistakes. he could have anticipated that the bridge was under construction and there were no toll attendance. >> and then prosecutors presented what they thought would remove any smudge of doubt from their case. a third person who linked paul to the murder. elise hanlon, scott sherwood's wife. >> on the stand, she recalled a conversation with paul where he told her that he committed the murder. and that he did it alone. >> scott had nothing to do with it. no way scott is getting into trouble. scott had nothing to do with it. >> he told her, i went up with him, i did everything. >> three people in three different rooms tell us the same thing. you may not be able to say you have a fingerprint, or we have dna, but that's pretty damning evidence. >> the last piece of prosecution needed was motive. why would paul want to kill his wife, catherine. ? simple, they said, money.
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when catherine died paul cashed in on her life insurance policy and homeowners insurance. it all totaled around $700,000. >> the defendant said he would kill catherine and burn up the evidence. and he did just that. >> now it was the defenses turn to attack. jurors would hear more about the checkered pasts of the witnesses at the very heart of the case. >> coming up -- and what a very checkered past some of those witnesses had. >> i think i slept with half the town. >> when "dateline" continues. there is nothing glamorous about migraines. since i was a teenager the pain has taken me away from my family and friends. but i finally found relief with nurtec odt it's the only medication that can treat my migraine right when it strikes and prevent my next attack. treat and prevent all in one. don't take if allergic to nurtec. most common side effects,
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paul novak would not take the stand to proclaim his innocence. instead, his defense attorney, did the talking. >> i'm going to tell you you will have reasonable doubt. >> his argument, don't believe everything you hear. consider the source, consider the mental states of the key witnesses, consider their possible motives. he started by attacking paul's ex-girlfriend michelle lafrance the woman paul had thrown out of his house. >> she was a liar, she was manipulative, willing to take whatever steps necessary to hurt paul.
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>> the defense tried to portray her as unstable, offering evidence like suicide attempts, to a bizarre drunken incident involving police. >> i apparently had to be handcuffed to a tree, topless. i had bruises from the fighting the -- from fighting the tree >> the defense attacked her credibility and used her own words to portray her as a liar and carried out a string of affairs with married men. >> i think i slept with half the town. >> she was probably one of the most promiscuous people we have ever seen testify an open court. >> the defense also argued that scott sherwood suffered from severe with mental issues. >> since he was eight years old, he was being treated for major psychiatric problems. his psychologist testified that when he was put into a conflict situation, would say whatever was necessary to get out.
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>> i think that what people will have a hard time wrapping their head around is how three separate people would all lie. >> the reality is, i take elise out of the picture, because she lied to support her husband. scott has a psychiatric problem and he was manipulated, in my opinion, by michelle. michelle is a woman scorned. >> and the defense argued that their defense was tainted because michelle had been given full immunity when she agreed to testify against paul. and sure would made an appeal to have a reduced charge. next, the defense went after the evidence to seemed to support sherwood's story, particularly show woods license plate we. >> one of the -- evidence that seem pretty damning was the ez-pass record crossing the what george washington bridge, at the right time for this crime. >> the answer to that is very
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simple, it proves nothing. there is a picture of the license plate, there is no picture of who is in the vehicle. how do you know as we're sitting here now that scott sherwood or possibly michelle were not in that vehicle. the answer is, you don't. >> and that receipt from walmart in middletown. is it just a coincidence that someone went to walmart at 1:30 in the morning and bought a hat, gloves, and duct tape, all the things that were supposedly used in her murder? >> okay, first of all, mr. sherwood admitted under oath to me that he got to middletown at 12:00. he could've never been there at 1:30 or so because he was out by 12:15. >> still, there was an age old motive, money to explain away. and in our interview, paul himself had a answer to that. >> are you having any financial issues at this point? >> at that point, i was in a better financial situation at that point suit previously.
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because i ended up getting a second job at a hospital in queens, for which i was high-paid. >> then he had his most crucial witness, paul's landlord. the defense wanted to use him to undermine a key point in the prosecution's case. scott and paul drove home to paul's house. >> you went straight to paul's house when you came back? >> yes. >> but on the stand, paul's landlord disputed that, he said he was setting -- up fora photo shoot did not lay eyes on any of them. >> how could the man be out there and never sees scott sherwood or paul. there's only one way, it did not happen! the lawyers testimony less proof that scott sherwood had made up the story. we -- the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that paul was a killer.
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paul novak is not guilty and i will ask you to find him so. >> after seven weeks, the jury finally started to deliberate, going into the trial, paul was certain they would find him not guilty. your life is on the line. >> yes my life is on the line, but i'm sure the truth will come out, hopefully those 12 people will know the true story. >> his fiancée cat, told us before the verdict, she will stick by him no matter what. i believe in him. >> have you thought of your wedding? and where it will be, when it will happen? >> i actually bought my dress. >> cat's future, and so many others, will be determined by what the jury decided. for catherine's family, the waiting was the hardest part. >> i truthfully did not know what it was going to be, no matter which way you went with it was emotional. there's no winners.
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>> and almost five years after catherine's murder, so many secrets, lies, and betrayals had been revealed. so many questions raised. will the jury believe paul's ex-lover and his ex partner? was paula ruthless killer, or had he been set up? it took the jury two full days of deliberations. on the third day, they made a decision. the verdict was in. >> in the state of new york versus paul novak guilty. >> guilty, convicted of first degree murder. paul showed only a slight head shake when he was convicted of all charges against him including insurance fraud, arson, and grand larceny. >> call was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but michel, who knew about the murder plan from the beginning, walked away a free woman.
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>> a lot of people will be angry and think, this woman knew about a murder that was going to happen and didn't do anything. is it a perfect world, no. will she get hers? yes. when she dies. >> as for cat, she will continue to stand by paul. the couple married in 2018. the future for the children will be decided by the people who love them most, paul and catherine's families. we will work to get for those kids what catherine wanted for them. up in narrowsburg where catherine's beloved red house once stood, the trees glow orange and golden, her mother still mourns the daughter she lost, but remembers the life she lived. >> what do you miss most about her? >> her smile and her hugs me, she was a lot of fun,
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catherine. she enjoyed life a lot >> that's all for this edition for "dateline", i'm craig melvin, thank you for watching. welcome to the show! i'm maria. in for my friend, zerlina maxwell. coming up! the sun and at the watch and rights victory in the red state of kansas is compelling democrats around the country to give reproductive freedom a key issue in the elections. and one day after the wnba star and olympic champion, greatly griner, was sentenced to nine years in a piña colada knee in moscow. -- and


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