August 8, 2006 | 10:39 a.m. ET

Is this what a killer looks like? (Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent)

Donald Moringiello  /  Courtesy of Court TV
So this chatty guy in a polo shirt, early 60s, is talking about his field, quality control work on commercial jet engines, and I drift out of the conversation for a moment and wonder if this is what a killer looks like: A wife-killer? Specifically, could this confident, articulate man have done what the authorities had charged him with: the second degree murder of his wife of more than 10 years, shooting her in the chest four times with a handgun he said he kept in a bag in his Florida sunroom.

Could this meticulous, problem-solving, engineer actually have made a blunder that would never have tripped-up any self-respecting killer on "Law and Order" or "CSI"? Did he actually wrap his wife's body in one of their king-sized bed sheets, weighed her down with concrete blocks from the garden, and then dump the corpse in the bay off  their waterfront home? And then toss the murder weapon a few feet off their home's backyard seawall?

Could anyone be so stupid? That rhetorical question would become a building block of Don Moringiello's defense. Would a certifiably smart man with assets in the millions kill his wife for no apparently good reason and then cover up his crime in such a clumsy fashion?

He said he didn't do it. There was a fight over dinner and she — Fern — stormed out, pulling her roller-bag behind her and declaring that she was going on a vacation from him.

Three days later, sheriff's divers recovered her body from the bay five doors down from the house.

Had he been framed? Had someone wanted his wife dead and made this gabby, amiable retiree the fall guy?

Tough questions for the jury to figure out. To listen to the testimony and look at the defendant. Puzzle through whether a killer could look like somebody at a Florida Early-Bird special.

"Five Doors Down," a report on the Moringiello murder case in Florida, airs Dateline Saturday, 8 p.m. on NBC. E-mail Dennis Murphy at

May 25, 2006 | 12:29 p.m. ET

Dame Ellen's trip around the world, on a sailboat, in 71 days (Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent)

From the ferry bound for the Isle of Wight we could see battleships, destroyers and carriers, steaming into the Solent, the passage off Britain's south coast. The international fleet was taking part in a re-enactment of what may be the most decisive naval engagment ever fought, the Battle of Trafalgar. 200 years to the day, the English had sliced apart the opposing French and Spanish navies, scuttling forever Napoleon's dreams of invading England and establishing the British for the next century as masters of the world's oceans. Lord Nelson, the commander of the victorious Royal Navy, would be celebrated with fireworks that night, remembered as England's greatest sailor.

Greatest dead sailor. We, meanwhile, were putting a mike on the fleece jacket of England's greatest living sailor, Ellen MacArthur. 29-year-old Ellen— made Dame Ellen by the Queen since the last time we met— would, in a few hours, be radiant in a gown as an honored guest aboard a British naval vessel for the Lord Nelson festivities.

But at the moment she's perched on a director's chair above a pleasant marina recalling her truly incredible voyage. "When you start," she says, "you're trying to achieve staying alive and getting home. If you can do both of those, then you stand a chance of breaking the record."

Liot Vapillon  /  AP
British sailor Ellen MacArthur clenches her fist in victory aboard her trimaran Castorama - B & Q during her solo round-the-world record attempt, Monday, Feb. 7, 2005 off the French coast, near the Isle of Ouessant, western France.
Ellen recounts the hair-raising story of her solo, round-the-world race against the clock in 2005, banging about the top of a 100-foot mast repairing a broken sail, coursing down the backs of 40-foot waves in a skittish trimaran a thousand miles from nowhere in the Southern Ocean, off Antarctica— raging at the heavens to stop the gales or, likewise, when becalmed, to bring the winds on. Raw moments of triumphs, defeats and intense isolation captured on her battery of cameras. "I'm just so empty," she wails in a videoblog almost too painful and intimate to watch.

Ellen's goal was to become the fastest solo circumnavigator of the earth, a 26,000 mile journey she had to complete in 72 days. Our story on "Dateline Sunday" is the account of that attempt. To watch it is, I think, to understand why she's one of the best known and most admired women in Europe, though Dame Ellen ("please, it's just Ellen") will have nothing to do with being counted among the great mariners of Rule Britannia, Sir Francis Drake, or Lord Nelson, the honoree of the hour in the straits beyond where we sit.

"I'm not the greatest sailor in the world," says Ellen. "I just grit my teeth and get on with it."

I don't know about that. And Lord Nelson, the old boy himself, might have tut-tutted her modesty.You be the judge when you watch Ellen take on the world.

The report on Ellen MacArthur's journey airs Dateline Sunday, 7 p.m.

March 19, 2006 | 11:13 a.m. ET

Bed bugs are back (Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent)


We're in Rob Allen's editing room looking at a full-frame creature with bulging eyes, hairy legs and a menacing twisty snout. Clearly, this must be a running buddy of the radioactive giant ants from the 50's sci-fi classic "Them." But, of course, it's just our old friend Cimex Lectularius, as your local entomologist calls him. "Bed bugs" to the rest of us and your exterminator.

And he's back. Boy, is he.

Slideshow: Strangers in the night Bed bugs in America disappeared about the time of the rotary phone. The upside of DDT, and long-gone pesticides like it, was that it worked very well. The little blood suckers were dead as the Dodo here but they lived happily on in Asia, Africa, eastern Europe. Now they're hitching rides in luggage, shaving kits, coming soon to a hotel near you, perhaps. Or a college dormitory, or your very own bedroom.

More pictures. Mary Ann Rotondi, the producer of Sunday's report, shows me photos of a woman from Pennsylvania, her body so coverered with red blotchy welts it looks like crime-scene evidence.

She'd checked into a New York City hotel last December. As she slept, sometime, probably after three in the morning, the bed bugs crawled out of the headboard, maybe from under the seams of the mattress, and began feasting on her blood. She was bitten by bed bugs in dozens of places up and down her legs, her arms, her face. For the next few weeks, she told us, life was an agony of itching.

"I was just clawing away at my skin," she told us, "I could not stop."

Two months later Mary Ann and the crew went back to that same hotel and guess what? Well, I hope you'll see.

Here are some fun facts about bed bugs we learned in the course of our reporting:

  • They can live for an entire year or more on one blood meal.
  • Exterminators are reporting infestations in 45 of the 50 states.
  • They are as likely to set-up housekeeping in a five-star hotel as a flea bag. Good hygiene doesn't count.
  • Disgusting as they are to anyone but an entomologist, bed bugs don't appear to transmit disease.

So, the old adage is right: you really, REALLY, don't want to let the bed bugs bite unless you're the scientist we met who has a personal collection of 10,000 plus bed bugs. But dinner hour with him is another story.

You'll see.


Dateline's special report on 'Bed Bugs' airs Sunday, March 19, at 7 p.m. on NBC. Click here to learn more about these creatures.


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