NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Keith Morrison Correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/1/2006 4:46:30 PM ET 2006-05-01T20:46:30

This report aired Dateline Saturday, April 29

On the scrubby hills around Bakersfield, California, the oil derricks pull at the shrinking black lake far below, where an answer to a secret may lie. Or a victim. Or a ghost.

Whatever is down there, it called up to a sister’s devotion.

Teresa Seabolt, Lisa's twin sister: I don’t go a second of a minute, of an hour, of a day without thinking about Lisa.

The buried secret tugged at her, took her to dark places no one should go. In the end, the secret led to the lowest place of all—a human heart bent on murder. It’s a dark tale, but one illuminated by the unconquerable love shared by twins.

Teresa Seabolt: There was a uniqueness between us that I can’t hardly describe.  It  was like she was a part of me.

Growing up in the 60s, Teresa and Lisa Seabolt were inseparable, sharing late night confidences and clothes. Their bond was a refuge from a troubled family. Eventually their parents split. Three older brothers remained in California with their grandfather, but the twins, just three years old, were sent away to live with relatives in Oklahoma.

There, like the two sides of a coin, they developed into two very different people.

Teresa Seabolt: She liked hanging out with the guys and going outside all the time where I liked staying in my room and reading books and doing my homework.

Rick Seabolt was one of the brothers they’d been forced to leave behind. But he remembers how Teresa watched out for Lisa.

Rick Seabolt, Teresa and Lisa's brother: Theresa was like a mother figure to help her through the hard times and help her along in school.  And she was just always there to help Lisa.

Teresa Seabolt: I would have these nightmares routinely.  Like I remember them as far back as when I was five and six years old.  Where there would be a monster in the dream and different types of monsters.  But, it was always the same ending where I would jump out in front of my sister so the monster would get me instead of her.

Teresa worked hard, putting herself through college. Wild Lisa drifted. Still, the same inextricable link stuck fast and the same pattern.

Teresa Seabolt: She would call me the exact same time I was calling her. One time she got into some trouble when I was in college and I could feel it.

Rick Seabolt: They always knew when something was wrong between each other. 

And, in fact, much had gone wrong. In 1985, Lisa had tried to commit suicide after a failed romance and the death of their mother. Teresa worried incessantly.

And then just two years later, Lisa, by then 25 years old, met her happily ever after.  Or so she hoped. His name is Bryce Thomas. And he seemed the polar opposite of all the n’eer do wells piled up in Lisa’s past. Bryce was handsome and stable.  He worked the oilfields around Bakersfield.

Teresa Seabolt: I think he kind of helped her settle down and she seemed to be enjoying life.  Everything seemed to be picture perfect.

For Teresa, Bryce became not only a brother-in-law but a close friend.

Teresa Seabolt: He was just like a real close brother.We were able to, you know, open our hearts up about all the, you know, personal things that you can’t always even talk to with a brother about but I was able to talk to him about.

In October of 1987, Lisa gave birth to a daughter, Christine. Lisa and Bryce got married the following year and four years later, there was another daughter, Breanna.

Teresa also got married and had two children. And finally, after all those difficult years, it seemed like the parallel tracks of the sister’s lives were heading in the right direction.

Teresa Seabolt: I felt like I didn’t have to be her parent anymore or worry about her. The worrying was the biggest part.

But there were secrets even then, and they were buried deep: Rick, the brother, caught just a hint in Lisa’s behavior and husband Bryce’s glare.

Rick Seabolt: He would have this way of demeaning Lisa, you know.  Like she was stupid or that she didn’t understand how to give Christine guidance or discipline.

And whether it was that reason, or some other call of the old wild life, Lisa began to seek the comfort of other men.  One man in particular: And she declared herself to be, again, in passionate, irresponsible love.

Finally, in the summer of 1996, Lisa and Bryce decided to split.

But there was something odd about the way it happened.  Their marriage had been increasingly troubled. As Lisa cheated and Bryce, jealous and angry, seethed.

What was odd was the impending divorce seemed quite peaceful.

Teresa Seabolt: They even had their paperwork and it was all very mutual—they were friends about it.

A controlling husband and a wayward wife don’t usually add up to an amicable divorce. But as far as Teresa and her brother knew, in this case it did. That’s why they thought nothing of it when Lisa called them for a favor one August weekend in 1996.

Rick Seabolt: That’s the weekend that Teresa and I got her children while she was gonna look for an apartment.  So she was left alone in the apartment with Bryce.

Lisa and Teresa spoke on Sunday night. Everything was on schedule. But by Tuesday, August 13th, Lisa had failed to pick up her daughters. Teresa was not altogether surprised.

Teresa Seabolt: I had her kids, everything was fine, I thought.  So, Lisa would always take advantage of my babysitting, so if she didn’t make it until Tues, Lisa was known to be flaky.  And so I kinda let it slide and then by Friday, I was getting ready to pull my hair from the four kids and getting worried about—and mad at Lisa.

That Friday, it was Bryce Thomas who came to pick up the girls, not Lisa. He didn’t seem concerned about Lisa’s failure to show up. After all, he said, Lisa’s new boyfriend had recently gotten out of jail.

Maybe they’d left town taken a trip to celebrate?

But was Lisa even with her new boyfriend? Had the boyfriend actually been released? She called the prison to make sure. Teresa wasn’t prepared for what the official told her.

Teresa Seabolt: And he came back to the phone and he said, “Yeah, he’s here all right.  He hasn’t heard from your sister in a couple of weeks.  He was kind of worried himself.”

As soon as he told me that I said, “Oh my God, she’s dead.  I know my baby’s dead.”

And with that inexplicable twin’s instinct, she also felt she knew something else... she knew exactly where to look for her lost sister.

Teresa Seabolt: As far as I’m concerned Lisa died in that house.  She never left it alive we need to get inside their house. That’s what we need to do.

On the very night she was leaving her husband, Lisa Seabolt had vanished.

Teresa knew, to the bones of her shared DNA, that something was terribly wrong.

Teresa Seabolt: Everyone said that I was letting my imagination go wild.  That she’s not dead, she’s just out partying.  You just need to be patient and I was very insulted by all this. Because I knew she was dead.

Lisa’s whole family suspected that Lisa’s controlling husband Bryce Thomas had something to do with her disappearance. The police were suspicious, too, and they questioned him at his front door. But got no further.

Rick Seabolt: They did not have a warrant to go in or had any reason to be suspicious. That’s why we knew we had to have evidence to be able to get the search warrant.  Well the first thing that I’d like to do is go to the apartment—where—where we know she last was. And it was late at night.  And so we did.

It is bleak in this corner of Bakersfield, hard by the roar of the interstate—bleak and dark outside the apartment of Bryce Thomas.

They checked; he wasn’t home.  Teresa, Rick and a few friends stood in the dark yard.  What now?

Suddenly Teresa knew what she had to do. She turned to the others, and said...

Teresa Seabolt: As far as I’m concerned Lisa died in that house.  She never left it alive and we need to get inside their house.  That’s what we need to do.  She never left there alive and she did not leave there voluntarily.

Rick Seabolt: So Teresa says “I’m gonna break in.”  And I said, “Are you sure, Teresa?”  You know?  She said, “Yes”.

Teresa Seabolt: It was kind of a scary alleyway and there was only a ledge this big for me to stand on.  And the window was up to here [high]. It would not budge and all of a sudden it slid magically. I mean, I  went to myself, I went “Whoa,” like that.  And I had goose bumps all over me.  And I said, okay here goes.  You know, and I knew that—I just felt like my sister was assisting me.

The silence of the empty house was eerie, but as she opened the door for her brother, Rick, they were assaulted by an unusual odor.

Rick Seabolt: Immediately when the door opens, the place reeks of—like a pine cleaner where he had been cleaning, you know.  And there was carpet shampooer right in the front door.  So we knew that was a bad sign right there.

Teresa tentatively walked through the apartment, afraid of what she might find.

Rick Seabolt: First she noticed that he was not sleeping in the bed.  He had a little bed made on the floor in the spare bedroom.  So we knew he had been sleeping there.  And we thought, “Well that’s strange.”

So then Theresa starts, and she noticed that the bed was not made like it normally was.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: You said you were standing by the mattress thinking, “I’m supposed to be here”?

Teresa Seabolt: And I didn’t even know what I expected to see but something told me to look there. So I started stripping the bed.

Morrison: So you’re tearing away at the bed without really knowing why except you felt like you—

Teresa Seabolt: Why aren’t I seeing anything.  So I went over to the side of the mattresses and put my hands underneath to push it up to look in between and it was all wet in between the mattresses.  And I went, “Rick, come here and help me please the mattresses are all wet.”  And I was almost crying. He picked up the mattresses and blood was everywhere on both sides, just soaking wet with blood.

And I just started screaming and I ran out of the apartment.  And um—it was—I mean of course I knew she was dead. There was no doubt. That was it.

Morrison: What was the feeling that made you so certain?

Teresa Seabolt:  I felt her spirit just coming grasp upon me.  And when I ran out that door I knew that I had to get the cops there and find out the truth.

Teresa’s discovery gave police the grounds they needed to get a search warrant for Bryce’s home. What they found was disturbing. Not only was the mattress bloody, but blood spatters were picked up on walls, a chest of drawers and other bedding.

Rosemary Wahl was the lead investigator.

Morrison: What does that say to you if you see that kind of evidence?

Rosemary Wahl, lead investigator: Well that tells us that someone was violently assaulted in that room because of the cast off—and the pattern that the blood spatters left on the furniture and also on the wall.

But DNA testing of blood can sometimes take months. Police, of course, had their suspicions—especially when cleaning materials were found.

But Bryce Thomas told police he had no idea where Lisa was. After all, he said, she was leaving him. And, about the blood?  He had an  explanation for that, too..

Wahl: He remembered a time not too long before she came up missing, that she had a pretty heavy nose bleed, and that was his reason for the blood being on the mattress.

A story which, frankly, the police were not inclined to buy.

Wahl: There was just too much evidence, physical evidence and his statements did not seem to be that of a husband that was deeply concerned about his wife.

Morrison: So why not take him into custody at that time?

Wahl: Well you have to have more then just a gut feeling to make an arrest for a murder.  You have to have probable cause, and you have to have your evidence and you only get one shot at taking a case to trial.  And we weren’t gonna blow it.

And what kind of case did they have anyway. Was Lisa Seabolt even dead? Without DNA results, police couldn’t be sure the blood was in fact Lisa’s. And there was no weapon. No body. Yes Lisa was missing, but remember, she had been known to disappear before. She was, to say the least, unpredictable. What if Bryce Thomas with murder, and then Lisa showed up, alive?

Wahl: We sent teletypes nationwide to have other law enforcement agencies check their databases to see if they had had contact with her. And we had to do everything that we could to show that she didn’t exist anymore.

And anyway, even Teresa was having second thoughts about the main suspect. She wavered a little.

Bryce insisted on his innocence and even established a 1-800 number and begged people to call with information about Lisa.

It was, frankly, confusing.                             

Teresa Seabolt: It was really hard because it was like I was pointing the finger at somebody I loved.  Ya know, as like a brother.

And so police went on dredging the depths for secrets… Had lisa been dumped in some abandoned well? After all, Bryce did work out there. He knew where something could be hidden...

But the only find came above ground and it was unpleasant. The cops went door to door around Lisa’s old haunts and discovered she had been using crystal meth and had been drawn into the drug underworld. She had been seeing some very dangerous people who did not seem anxious to cooperate with police.

Teresa Seabolt: The cops did tell me they left business cards on their, ya know, people’s screen doors and stuff.  And they were never contacted. 

Six long months passed. Each month worse than the last. The fear - and guilt - were almost overpowering...

Teresa Seabolt: And those nightmares  I used to have and that I couldn’t put myself in front of her to protect her from getting killed. I should have been the one to jump in front of her and be the one to be killed rather than her.

In her heart, Teresa knew if anyone was going to unearth the secret of what had happened to her sister, it would have to be her. Once again, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She was about to go undercover as her own sister. It was a decision that would almost cost her life.

Teresa Seabolt: I was desperate to find her body.  And they also told me that they couldn’t do anything until the body was found.

But finding a body in Bakersfield, California posed a particularly daunting challenge. This happens to be the cradle of the West coast’s oil business.  Over a century five thousand wells have been bored to the pool of oil down below, many of them now just deep holes, long since  abandoned... as Bryce Thomas, the oil worker, knew very well. 

Was Lisa in one of them?

And so police sent down probes into the dark. They plumbed the depths of a local aqueduct, and nearby rivers. They found nothing. Every lead was a dry hole.  And the investigation seemed to stall. Weeks went by.

Teresa began to second guess the police.  Did they think Lisa wasn’t worth it?

Teresa Seabolt: My feeling about it was that because of Lisa’s background.  Because she wasn’t exactly the doctor’s wife, they didn’t find her crime to be that high on the list of priorities.

The DNA had been sent away months earlier still had no results.

Rosemary Wahl, lead investigator: Sometimes the wheels of justice work slowly.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: How did Theresa respond to that?

Wahl: Well, Theresa didn’t quite understand the way the justice system works and she tried to be very helpful, but she wanted immediate results.

Morrison: She was going stir crazy.

Wahl: She was.

Half a year had passed. Teresa could no longer sit and wait for results. She had to do something. She distributed posters and created her own special twin hotline.  She pestered local newspapers to keep the story alive, she even arranged for coverage on national TV. Private investigators, search and rescue teams and even psychics were brought in. And there were agonizing forays into the endless oil fields.

Teresa Seabolt: I would be right there in the front leading the pack.  And I would go, “God what if I’m the one that finds it” you know.  It would kill me to see her like that.

Morrison: Did you feel as if you’d go crazy if you didn’t find out?

Teresa Seabolt: Yes, I did.  I felt like I couldn’t live.

And then Teresa decided she would have to get down in the muck, go to the places where Lisa had spent her last days. The police, remember,  discovered that Lisa had been using meth, was hanging out with a rogue’s gallery of drug users.

But for police, getting access to that bunch had been impossible.

Teresa Seabolt: They wouldn’t even open the door for the cops. In fact they just acted like they weren’t home probably. 

But what if they knew something? Teresa decided, there was one way to find out…

Morrison: Tell me how was it that you decided to play the part of your sister?

Teresa Seabolt: I needed to find out as much about her life at that time as I could, so I  decided that the best thing for me to do is just try to pretend like I’m Lisa as much as I can. So they would open up to me like they would her.

If anyone understood Lisa - inside and out - it was her twin sister.  They weren’t identical twins, Tut teresa felt sure she could assume her sister’s identity like a second skin, and maybe unlock the  mystery of her disappearance. Remember, Teresa had always been the good twin.

Not now. Now she would be as wild as Lisa.

She traded her jeans for short skirts, painted her face, and like a stranger in a strange land, Teresa walked into the smoky bars of Bakersfield undercover…

Teresa Seabolt: I would drink beer.  I’d never drink beer. Yeah I tried to be just like her.  I even tried to hold my cigarette like her. It worked beautifully. 

Morrison: What was your assessment of how dangerous it was for her?

Wahl: Ya know, I cautioned her a number of time to be careful and not to go into dangerous situations that may cause harm to her. But she was on a mission.

Rick Seabolt: There were times when Teresa would disappear and—and I wouldn’t hear from her for days. I just had to say my prayers and hope I hear from her again.

In that dangerous world, Teresa befriended anyone who may have known her sister in her last weeks. She was frightened, but not exactly alone.

Teresa Seabolt: There’s no doubt that it—I feel it is my sister handing me things. And I think that she realized at that point that if I didn’t find out something, I was gonna go crazy.

She cruised the bars, made small talk with criminals…Keith Morrison: What could they tell you? How could they help?

Teresa Seabolt: One of the things that they opened up to was what happened the night before she died—

She heard that Lisa had met a well-known drug dealer the night before she disappeared. She managed to arrange a meeting with the dealer. And when she arrived, was greeted by gun toting bodyguards and a private lair that looked like a scene from a bad gangster movie.

Teresa Seabolt: It was like he had all these metal boxes and shelvings and stuff, to protect him from anybody getting to him.  Like a shield from weapons or something. It was weird.

And he had monitors of ever single angle from his house from the outside, so he could watch everything going around his house.  And he had guys at the doors with guns.  It was the scariest moment of my entire life.

Morrison: Did you think that maybe these people had something to do with her death?

Teresa Seabolt: Oh yes, most definitely.  You should’ve seen there was guns around. They'd have bullets in a bowl like people have candy in a bowl.  And they had people’s names carved into these bullets. 

Morrison: Could someone in that group have been the one who killed your sister?

As scared as she was, she wasn’t too scared to get what she came for… information about her sister’s last hours. The dealer confirmed that he and his girlfriend had visited Lisa and Bryce around 10 p.m. the night before her disappearance.

Teresa Seabolt: Bryce was out on their balcony and he had a gun in his belt kind of.  You know like stuck behind, which was unusual for him even to have a gun out or gun period. I didn’t know anything about it. And he also was acting very funny.

According to the story, the whole group, Bryce included, got high on crystal meth. But something about Lisa’s demeanor was unusual. She was groggy, almost helpless, not her usual meth high at all.

Teresa listened to the story, and wondered: had Bryce sedated her sister, making her powerless to resist the coming attack?

Morrison:  So why were you able to find these things that the police hadn’t found?

Teresa Seabolt:  I truly believe that throughout this whole ordeal that my sister was guiding me.  And communicating with me from the other side.  I was never into this kind of thing.  I wasn’t even a believer in it.  You know? Speaking to the dead. I wasn’t a believer in any of this.

Teresa went to police, and told them the stories she’d heard. But remember, these weren’t hard facts.  Much of it was hearsay. But now there were more witnesses to check out.

And then: disaster.  Somehow, word got back to her source in the drug hangout that Teresa was a police informant. Her cover was blown.

Morrison: How did those people feel about your having infiltrated their world?

Teresa Seabolt: I was shot at the next day. That’s when I was chased down on the freeway and shot at.

Teresa had become a target.

When Teresa Seabolt's cover was blown.  Her new friends in the drug world learned she’d gone to the cops. 

That they were not happy was made frighteningly clear, a few days later, as she drove down the freeway.

Teresa Seabolt: I tell you, when I got shot at going down the freeway, I learned. I felt like I was Rockford, you know. And I had to loose the person to keep from getting killed.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: Surely that just happens in the movies?

Teresa Seabolt: We saw the bullets and heard ‘em, they, they past us and we were going down the freeway- 65, 70 miles and hour- and I heard a PING go past my ear. So, whatever it, it was definitely, someone was chasing us.

It certainly seemed like Lisa’s friends had something to hide. One by one they were brought in for questioning. But no matter how many were interrogated, all leads kept pointing to one person.

Rosemary Wahl, lead investigator: It was Bryce, that’s where we kept coming back to.

Morrison: Even though you’d questioned some seedy characters?

Wahl: Yes.

Then, finally, a break: After ten months the DNA results from the spatters of blood in the bedroom were back. The result? There was a 99.86 percent  probablity that it was Lisa’s blood. The results along with the crime scene evidence convinced police they now had enough to charge Bryce Thomas with the murder of his wife Lisa.

After an excruciating wait, a warrant went out for his arrest. And Bryce Thomas had vanished.

Morrison: What had happened to him?

Wahl: About three weeks prior to the arrest he decided to relocate to Anchorage, Alaska and live with his mother.

Police did find Thomas in anchorage. And after much legal wrangling,

He was extradited to California. But the biggest challenge was yet to come.

The trial lasted three weeks. Despite Teresa’s hard work, the case was far from a sure thing.

Teresa Seabolt: You just couldn’t prove guilt without a body.  And so the whole town, including the DA’s office and everybody, said it they’re gonna have a no guilty verdict.

The defense in the Kern County court house painted Bryce Thomas as a hard working husband and father whose willful wife had spiraled out of control. He just woke up one morning and found her gone. It was Lisa who had the bad reputation, said the defense, not Bryce. She was known as somebody who could be wild.

But the prosecution painted a very different portrait of Bryce.

Rick Seabolt: He had a side that he would show at work as the upstanding stable, good guy, and then he had this dark side that he kept from everyone.

Wahl: It was not uncommon for him to go through her things, to follow her when she went places, to put recording devices in her vehicle, to tape conversations that she might have with friends or possibly another man.

The prosecution argued that the apparently quiet, steady Bryce was filled with rage at his wife’s last infidelity. Several friends testified that Bryce had threatened Lisa’s life on more than one occasion, even saying he “would kill her first” before she could leave him. Testimony from another friend told an even more frightening story— that Thomas had offered the friend $5,000 to kill Lisa’s boyfriend.

But it would be Teresa herself who offered perhaps the most damning testimony.  In chilling detail, she recalled her discovery of the bloody mattress in Lisa and Bryc’es bedroom. She also recounted what she had learned on her journey into the dark side of Bakersfield where Lisa had spent her last days and nights.

For over 10 hours, Teresa recounted what she’d found in her zealous search for her sister.

Rick Seabolt: Teresa was so overwhelmingly convincing as a witness.  

But testifying against her brother-in-law was devastating.

Teresa Seabolt: Worst week of my life.  I totally fell apart the first half hour on the stand.  Totally fell apart.  I couldn’t stop crying and—it was the first time I’d seen him.  And of course, my chair was pointed right at him, even though I tried not to look at him.  I felt very guilty.

Morrison: Guilty?

Teresa Seabolt: It was like telling on my brother or sister.  It was like telling on somebody that I really cared about.

And if Teresa was conflicted, the jurors were facing their own dilemma. How to return a murder verdict without a body or even a weapon.

And so the jury worked through the case, digging down, trying to find the truth about what had happened to Lisa Seabolt. It would take three days for the jury to reach a decision.

Teresa Seabolt:  I was walking inside the courtroom when they were coming out of the courtroom.  They yelled my name and said, “Guilty.”   

She had done it. She had made a difference. Bryce Thomas was found guilty of second degree murder.  He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. And the two-year nightmare. It seemed it was over.

Morrison:  So, tell me how that felt.

Teresa Seabolt: Like the world was lifted off my shoulders.  Completely.  I felt so light finally, ‘cause everything felt so heavy before that.  And I felt like my hard work finally paid off and that it was just a good thing I didn’t give up.

But sometimes murder cases are not so easy to button up, all neat and tidy. Yes, Thomas was behind bars for now. But he wasn’t finished with Teresa.

Bryce Thomas had been found guilty of brutally murdering his wife Lisa. The key witness against him? Her twin sister Teresa. Justice was finally done. Or was it?

No sooner had the verdict been delivered than one of the jurors stepped forward with a problem.

Teresa Seabolt: There was a juror that was trying to do a mistrial claiming that there was jury misconduct.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent:  He would have got out of prison on a mistrial?      

Teresa Seabolt: Yes. 

One juror insisted that her fellow panelists had not followed the judge’s instructions. Lawyers and judges returned to court to wrangle over the juror’s allegations. Thomas remained in prison, while his lawyers tried to secure a mistrial.

But Thomas did not simply sit in his jail cell and wait. Word spread around the prison that Thomas wanted a favor. And only a certain kind of person could do it for him.

Rick Seabolt: So while he was incarcerated, in prison, he set up a $10,000 hit on Teresa

If there was a new trial, Teresa would again be the prime prosecution witness. So, in prison, Thomas made a few useful friends who approached a very large, very tough hit man. 

Keith Morrison: What did they tell you they needed?

J.R. Rodriguez, who played "Guero": They told me they needed somebody to act as a professional murderer, otherwise known as a hit man.

What Thomas didn’t know was that the hit man was actually J.R. Rodriguez, an undercover investigator for the Kern County sheriff’s department. Skillfully, Rodriguez adopted the guise of “Guero,”  a killer with no conscience. A phone call between “Guero” and Bryce was arranged. Rodriguez’s instructions were very clear.

He had to walk a verbal tightrope, reeling in information without tipping his hand. The phone call that Bryce made was secretly recorded.

MALE VOICE: I’m just looking a way to get out. She’s the prime witness, so without her they ain’t got nothin’.  She’s caused a lot of hell in my life. Took my kids from me and everything else.

HITMAN: So you just want me to bump her or what?

MALE VOICE: Yeah, I want her to disappear.

HIT MAN: Well, I could make it happen, hey.  But, you know, you got to pay.

MALE VOICE:Without a trace.  Well, I need to know how much.

HIT MAN: Well, depends how hard, maybe ten thousand.

MALE VOICE: Well, I can do it. It’ll take me a little while to do it.

Unaware that he’s being recorded, Thomas negotiates.  He thinks he’s arranging a murder, for less money down than it would take to buy a used car.

HITMAN: Five hundred to get started.

MALE VOICE: I can come up with a few hundred is about all I can come up with right now.  And I’ll have to weasel my grandma out of that.

Morrison: There was no question what he wanted you to do.  What did that feel like inside?

Sgt. J.R. Rodriguez: It was chilling to have somebody want somebody killed, number one.  But number two in the manner that the body would be found.

The voices on the tape are almost casual. Like a couple of men planning a surprise party, Bryce tells Rodriguez he wants Teresa killed while she sleeps. Even more shocking is he knows during the planned murder Teresa’s children will be sleeping just feet away and his own small daughters will be there too.

HITMAN: So you want me to get rid of this bitch forever?  How about the kids?

MALE VOICE: Oh, no.  No.  Two of ‘em are mine.  I don’t want them—the oldest one there’ll be mine.  She’s 10.  So it’s if they wake up and find no auntie, she’ll be able to handle the situation until you know, till the authorities arrive.

Morrison: What kind of a man would to do a thing like that?

Sgt. J.R. Rodriguez: A sick man.

In court, Thomas had steadfastly denied he had anything to do with Lisa’s disappearance.  Now he seemed intimately aware of the more gruesome details.

MALE VOICE: Actually, what I’d like to have happen is to leave a little blood trail there.

HITMAN: To leave a blood trail?

MALE VOICE: Yeah.  ‘Cause that’s similar to what happened to their mother. To the one I’m accused of murdering. And she disappeared. You know what I mean?

HITMAN: Do you want me to do anything else to her?  Bump her in the fucking head and drive her off, huh?

MALE VOICE: Yep.  Get rid of her completely.

The man who had claimed he was innocent of Lisa’s murder was now caught on tape trying to arrange the murder of Teresa, the woman who had brought him to justice. Or had she?

Teresa Seabolt had risked her life helping police put her sister’s killer behind bars. Now that man, her brother-in-law Bryce Thomas, had attempted to hire a hit man to kill Teresa, the prosecution’s star witness.

His biggest mistake? The hit man was actually an undercover investigator and the phone call arranging the hit was recorded.

As we sat together, Teresa was about to hear that tape for the first time. We listened, so did she. We watched her body stiffen.

HITMAN (recorded): You know I’m gonna have to watch this bitch for a couple days

MALE VOICE: I can—

HITMAN: to see what she do, you know?

MALE VOICE: I understand.

HITMAN: Anything else you want me to do to her?

MALE VOICE: Do whatever you want with her.

HITMAN: Okay.  We can handle that.

MALE VOICE: I just want her gone.

HITMAN: What’s her name?

MALE VOICE: Teresa.

Teresa Seabolt: That’s the first time ever that I heard that tape. I’d forgotten all about the details of how he wanted me dead.  The worst was his description of how to get to my bedroom, and the blood trail.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: Killed you the same way as Lisa was killed—leave a bloody trail. Make you disappear. Talked about you as coldly as a person possibly could.

Teresa Seabolt: I felt it. No doubt about it.  I felt someone pull my guts in or something.

Bryce Thomas’s plot failed. Instead, he received a 12-year sentence for trying to arrange the murder of Teresa Seabolt. And for the murder of Lisa? The trial verdict was allowed to stand and there was no mistrial. The sentence 15 years to life was upheld.

But still, a mystery. Where is the body of Lisa Thomas? Out  in Bakersfield at bottom of some well? 

Rick Seabolt: There was a story that he told that he had burned her in a tank in the oil fields.  ‘Cause he had access to hundreds of miles of oil fields and keys to the gates. I’m hoping that some day, getting him to tell us exactly what happened with the remains.

Until he does, Teresa Seabolt remains in her own strange purgatory, waiting.

Morrison: Is there any way to describe the damage that you feel has been done?  In you inside?

Teresa Seabolt:  I don’t have any insides left, I feel.  I feel like it’s just was exploded.  And can never be put back together, really. I don’t go a second of a minute, of an hour, of a day, without thinking about her. 

Teresa Seabolt is planning on visiting Bryce Thomas in prison. And not just to try to find out what really happened to Lisa. She says she also wants to try to forgive Thomas. She hopes that will help her, and her family, find peace as they continue to mourn Lisa. 

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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