Video: His own lawyer

By Hoda Kotb Correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/11/2007 5:54:25 PM ET 2007-07-11T21:54:25

This report airs Dateline Sunday, July 15.

With her fingers on the strings and the bow, Janine Sutphen played music. But when the melody faded, not only did the music disappear— so did the musician.

Sutphen, a 57-year-old mother of 3, a cellist, went missing on January 22, 2003. Janine had been playing the cello as far back as she could remember. She approached life like a piece of music.

Robin Sutphen, Janine's son: There was all this promise of what was coming

Christopher Sutphen, Janine's son: She was always the optimist.

Janine always sang her children’s praises. She knew music didn’t sound the same to everyone, and that’s what made Janine—well, Janine. Unique and untraditional, she was a voice of her own. 

Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: Was your mom a sort of old-fashioned mom, a June Cleaver type?  Or was she sort of unconventional?

Robin Sutphen: (Laughs)  She was unconventional.  She was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Janine’s sons, Robin and Christopher, considered their mom’s hobbies a bit amusing, a bit eccentric, but always endearing. While the rest of the world was in the Internet age, Janine bought a loom.

Christopher Sutphen: She started looming if you will.

She was a high school science teacher and a force of nature.

Robin Sutphen:  My mom very much grew out of the 1960s—independent feminist.  And she stood up for what she believed in. She was not a stay at home mom.  She was out.  She was working. 

Janine and her husband, Chazz, raised their boys in Vermont. It was the perfect life until 1995 when Chazz died from heart disease.  Heartbroken, Janine needed a change of scenery. She moved to Durham, N.C. to be near friends, and there she got back on her feet.

Christopher Sutphen: She got there and quickly she found a really close community that could supplement her - kind of more of her creative side.

She started to play her cello in the Durham Symphony Orchestra. She also gardened, weaved, and even took up belly dancing.

Peg Lewis, best friend: Janine really had a zest for life. She was the kind of person who wanted people flowing into the house, all the time. “Here’s a key! You can stay as long as you like.  The door is open.”  When she cooked, there would be enormous quantities of food.

After two years, Janine wasn’t about to sit back and wait for more grandchildren.  She told her best friend Peg Lewis that she was  looking for love the second time around...

Lewis:  She told me, “I want to meet somebody in my own area code,  and have a close relationship.” And that’s in fact what happened.

She met Rob Petrick at church in 1999 -- an extremely bright computer consultant, he was in his 50s and divorced. He was a Midwestern boy who’d lived in California, and eventually settled in North Carolina.  Both passionate for music, arts and cooking, it seemed Rob and Janine were a perfect match.

Robin Sutphen: She was excited.  She was happy.  She was looking forward to being in a relationship and you know, was looking forward to sharing life with someone.

Rob was witty and charming. Even to Janine’s two sons, they appeared to be puzzle pieces that just fit. 

Christopher Sutphen: They were Frick and Frack.

Kotb: They were?

Christopher Sutphen: Yeah they played off of each other’s good vibes and bad.

Janine was ready to take the plunge again.

Lewis: One day she called me up at work. I said, “You’re doing it aren’t you?  You’re getting married!”  And she said, “Yes!  We are!”

Just when Janine thought life had given her all she could expect,  she got another gift when she said “I do” to Rob in 2001.  

Lewis: She looked just brimming with happiness.

Kotb: It sounded like your mom had found this sort of new love and it was the right fit for her - it seemed to work.

Robin Sutphen: It worked. 

Two happy years passed. But at the end of 2002, a turn was in store.

Lewis: At the end of December we met for a very, very long breakfast - about two hours.

Peg had no idea this was the last time she would see Janine.

Lewis: She said, “The next few weeks, you may not see much of me.  I am going to be so busy.  There is so much to do.”

Janine was preparing for a new job, so peg wasn’t surprised when the next few weeks passed without a word from her friend.

Lewis: On the morning of Wednesday, January 22nd, I woke up early.  And I don’t know why, but I went directly into the kitchen.  And I saw that the answering machine was blinking, that there was a message.

Peg hadn’t heard the phone in the middle of the night when Janine’s husband called.

Voice mail message from Rob: Peg, this is Rob.  If you get this could you call me?  I’m trying to find out if you heard from Janine.  I’m gonna call the police I guess.  I—I don’t know what’s going on.

She never came home from symphony and then I found out she never got to symphony.

Lewis: When I heard Rob’s message, I just had a very bad feeling.  A feeling of real dread.

Hours later, still no sign of Janine.  Rob called police, her friends, and Janine’s sons.

Robin Sutphen: I think at that point my world imploded. I stood at the brink of just questioning if this is really happening.

Her car was found in the garage where she regularly parked for symphony rehearsals.  It was an area that had always caused her concern.

Robin Sutphen: There’s violence, there’s gangs. I mean it’s a city, you know, it’s downtown city.  It’s dark at night.

Kotb: Was your mom worried about that area?

Robin Sutphen: Yeah. She contacted the police to have something done to make it safer. 

Christopher Sutphen: She was a small woman carrying a large cello. It’s an easy target if you’re in a dark ally.

It was a missing persons case—and the questions were only just beginning. Had a crime taken place? Was Janine abducted? Or, on a whim, had the unconventional woman taken off either by herself or with someone else?

Lewis: We went around downtown, and just flyer-ed everywhere that we could hoping that somewhere, someone had seen something.

Rob was working with detectives, hoping for any sign of his wife.

Lewis: He said he talked to the police.  He said there was still no word from her.

Authorities were baffled.

Det. Mikels, Durham police: We just really didn’t have an idea or clue.

Durham police detective Teri Mikels was assigned to the case. He started with what appeared to be the crime scene: the garage.

Det. Mikels: She would park her car there, she normally parked in the same spot every time. So when we found her car, it was in the same deck, but located in a bottom area, where it was dark and not well-lit.  We didn’t know if somebody may have abducted her in the parking deck itself.

Local news covered the story; newspapers too.

Hundreds of miles away, a woman named Ann Johnston looked up the newspaper online.

Ann Johnston, Petrick's fiance: The night that I did what came up was on the front page.

There she saw the story of the missing cellist. But then she read closer and couldn’t believe her eyes. The woman’s husband was named Robert Petrick: the same Robert Petrick who had just given her an engagement ring.

Janine Sutphen had been missing for several days. Her husband, sons, and many friends throughout the Durham, North Carolina community desperately searched for the beloved cellist.

At that same time, another woman had just experienced a nightmare of her own...

Ann Johnston, Rob Petrick's fiance:  I’m looking at his picture and I kept looking at the address and back and forth and his name. There’s that "Is this really him?  Is this really happening?"

Ann Johnston could not believe her eyes.  Rob Petrick, her Rob was in the newspaper. The man she was engaged to - had a wife.  A wife who was missing.

Johnston: How can that be?  That’s not who I fell in love with. That’s not who I saw. That’s not who he presented to me.

But it was, and she could not get her head around it. She and Rob had been a couple for almost a year.

Ann was in high school when they first met. They lost touch, in fact three decades passed. Then, in 2001, Ann decided to get in touch with Rob. He was living in North Carolina and told her he was single. Even though she was more than 300 miles away—in Atlanta, they decided to meet in person

Johnston: We just really hit it off. There was a connection that happened,  very quickly.

A romantic connection. An intense one. Soon Rob was visiting Ann often. They talked constantly by phone or e-mail. And in less than six months, the next step felt natural.

Johnston: He just kind of stopped what he was doing, came over and said “Ann, will you marry me?”

Ann started planning for the big day but then just a few weeks, after new years, Ann noticed Rob seemed different – edgy.

Johnston: We were talking and e-mailing every single day.  Several times a day, and he sounded upset and I asked him what was wrong and he said that his friend Janine was missing.

And that’s when Ann looked up the news story.  It was shocking, painful—her fiance was already married and the missing woman was his wife.

Johnston: I knew right away that nobody knew anything about me.

There would be no confrontation with Rob.  Ann immediately called police.

Johnston:  I said I was calling you know about Janine Sutphen. And she said; “Well, what’s your connection?”  And I said , “Well, up until yesterday when I saw the article, I said, I was Rob’s fiancé.”

By then, police in Durham had been investigating Janine’s disappearance for several days.

As is often the case, police focused on her husband. They discovered that Rob Petrick had a history of financial fraud and philandering. So when Ann called to say she was Rob’s fiance, it seemed to fit a pattern.

Det. Mikels, Durham police lead detective: Mr. Petrick had several relationships going on.  Sometimes simultaneously. And he was an expert at it.  I think over the years, he had really mastered his craft.

He’d also been deceiving Janine about money, detectives said.

Det. Mikels: Mr. Petrick had been taking a lot of money out of accounts that his wife didn’t know about. He had pretty much drained them completely and financially.

And there was other suspicious behavior in the weeks before Janine was reported missing, authorities learned.

Det. Mikels:  When her family would call, Mr. Petrick would always tell everybody she was sick.  She couldn’t come to the phone.  She was in bed. Neighbors would drop by to check on her, to see if they could get anything for her.  And then Mr. Petrick wouldn’t allow them in the house.

Authorities seemed to be finding evidence against Rob Petrick, but  they were not finding his wife Janine. And as time passed, they began to fear the worst.

Det. Mikels: We had looked everywhere we could think of. We had used every resource we felt like we had. And we kept striking out. 

Months went by, and some wondered if she would ever be found. Then in the spring of 2003, just ten miles from Janine and Rob’s home, a discovery in Falls lake.

Det. Mikels: It was actually two fishermen that were fishing. They found a large tarp that was floating in Falls lake. And that afternoon, they were able to positively identify the remains of Miss Sutphen.

After many months, the gruesome news was not a shock for police. They officially had a murder on their hands. And now they officially had a suspect—they charged Rob Petrick with his wife’s murder. 

Janine Sutphen’s brutal death  rocked the community of Durham, North Carolina. Her husband, Rob Petrick, was charged with her murder. Now, his secret life was about to play out publicly in court.

Mitch Garrell, prosecution attorney: As the trial went on,  I sensed that I was just dealing with an evil person. 

It was up to prosecutor Mitch Garrell to convince a jury that Rob Petrick was evil enough to kill his wife, Janine.

Prosecutors set out to show that Rob Petrick was not the man he appeared to be. He was not the loving husband, the family man—he was, they would argue, a con artist.  A philanderer who scammed unsuspecting women out of money—including his wife Janine sutphen. Not only did he take her money, they argued, he took her life.

Mitch Garrell (in court): Janine Sutphen loved this defendant and she trusted him as long as she could. And when she realized she could trust him no longer she confronted him. And he asphyxiated her.

Video: Prosecution: Full opening statement

Prosecutors dug deep into Rob Petrick’s past and found a history of lies and deception and a string of affairs. To prove this man had been leading a double life, they put Petrick’s fiance Ann Johnston on the stand. 

Ann testified she’d fallen hard—she’d eagerly planned their big day and all the while, being played for a fool.

Garrell (court footage): did the defendant give you rings for this wedding?

Ann Johnston: Yes.

Garrell: Did you put a deposit on the chapel?

Johnston: I did.

Garrell: Did he at any time did he tell you that he’d been married to Janine?

Johnston: He did not.

But it turns out Ann Johnston wasn’t his only affair.  There were other women too, and some also took the stand.

Gail (Court footage): I felt kind of sorry for him. Eventually, it turned into a sexual relationship.

Petrick was a serial-cheater, the prosecution suggested, and the pattern started long ago. They called a woman who said she had an affair with him during his previous marriage:

Barbara (court footage): I met him in 1991 or perhaps early 92. The relationship progressed to a more intimate situation. And then really in July ‘94, I stopped seeing him totally.

Garrell: Why did you stop seeing the defendant?

Barbara: For starters?  I found out he was married.

There was another common thread among the women and Rob Petrick. The prosecution claimed he swindled some of them out of money.

Garrell: The defendant’s past behavior, we felt that evidence also would go to this pattern of defrauding women of money, maintaining control.

Another one of his former lovers took the stand and told the story of how he scammed her. 

Allison (court footage): I came to find out with time that money had gone missing from my account and the statements were not turning up in the mail to me.

Garrell: Did you ever locate any of those statements?

Allison: Yes I did. In a closet I found bags of old mail.

According to the prosecution, Rob Petrick was in the process of ripping off his wife too.  And they say that was the motive: that Janine found out about the scam and Rob Petrick snapped.

Garrell: I believe that Ms. Sutphen had become aware of their financial difficulties. When she confronted the defendant he then killed her.

A friend of Janine's took the stand and recounted how Janine finally discovered the dire financial situation.

Eleanor Hennesy (court footage): She had said there was check that was to have been deposited into the credit union and that she had found out Rob had lied to her. She was very distraught over that. She’d found out her checks were bouncing - that nothing was ever deposited. She felt that Rob was not being honest with her.

When Petrick suspected Janine was onto his scam, the state asserted,  he actually researched how to kill her.  A computer expert presented damming testimony about material he located in Petrick ’s computer:

Computer expert (court footage): I found a file that he was interested in that appeared to come from the Web site “bloodfest 666 dot-com.”

Garrell: Do you see a line in all caps there beginning with the number twenty-two?

Computer expert: Yes sir. It says "‘22 ways to kill a man with your bare hands.”

Prosecutors say Janine never went to symphony rehearsal that night.  They suggested Petrick killed her at their home and then planted her car in the garage.  They say Petrick  was equally deliberate when getting rid of the corpse—that he’d gone so far as to look up the ideal disposal spot in nearby Falls lake.

Computer expert: It indicates to me that someone Google-searched Falls lake depths.

Prosecutors argued, after the murder he discarded her body in that lake with cruel precision.

Garrell: He wrapped her body in a silver colored tarp. Finally he transported her body to Falls lake and disposed of it.

The prosecution said it had physical evidence too.

Garrell: Has this dog, Kaiser, has been trained in the detection of locations where deceased humans have been located?

Roy, cadaver dog's trainer: Yes, sir.

A cadaver dog’s trainer testified that a dead body had been detected by the dog inside the couples’ home—in their bedroom—and in the shower.

Roy: He had a positive alert in that walk-in shower.

The dog also had another alert when he sniffed the trunk of Rob Petrick’s car.

Garrell: what did that hit at that area of the car indicate to you?

Roy:  It indicated to me that there had been decomposing human remains in the car.

The state considered this testimony critical to show that Janine was killed inside her home and her body transported in Rob’s trunk.

Garrell: That was our physical evidence.

Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: So the single most important element was the cadaver dog.

Garrell: I think so.

The prosecutor also called Janine’s sons who testified that before their mother disappeared they became concerned when they couldn’t reach her.

Robin Sutphen: I left numerous voicemails. I continued to call , I continued to not hear back from my mom. I was starting to get worried, I was starting to get upset.

The prosecution said the young men were unable to contact Janine because Rob had actually killed her weeks before he reported her missing.

Garrell: When you called your mom’s home, did anyone answer?

Christopher Sutphen: At times, Rob answered, yes. Every time I wanted to talk to my mom he said she was either too sick to come to the phone or she was asleep or too depressed. There’s no way she wouldn’t have been in contact with her sons about a state of depression that was affecting her so deeply that she couldn’t get out of bed.

The state had presented a sinister portrait of Rob Petrick:  man who’d deceived his wife about finances and killed her when she confronted him. There were incriminating computer searches, the cadaver dog, and a history of betrayal. It all added up to a very strong case.

But the defense was ready with some surprises  -- ready to poke holes in the states case.

The biggest surprise of all was just who would be poking those holes.  

Now it was the defense’s opportunity to turn the tables. Rob Petrick was about to make  a bold and potentially risky move.   He was a computer analyst, with no legal background, facing first degree murder charges that could put him behind bars for life...  Leading up trial he had decided to act as his own defense attorney.

Judge Orlando Hudson: There are very few people who will handle a first degree murder case without the assistance of counsel. It’s a big deal. 

Judge Orlando Hudson has presided over thousands of criminal cases - including this one. Under the law, a defendant may act as his own attorney, but the judge must remind him of the stakes.

Judge Orlando Hudson: He has to be informed of the seriousness of the crime which means the potential consequences: in this case, life imprisonment.

Mark Edwards, the original court-appointed defense attorney, helped Rob Petrick prepare for the trial, and remained there throughout.  He thought Petrick might have a strong case.

Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: It was lacking a lot of things.

Mark Edwards, court-appointed counsel: Yes, yes, there’s a lot to work with.

Kotb: Were you sort of trying to help him with law school 101 as he was getting ready for this case?

Edwards: Yeah, I did.

By all accounts, Rob Petrick was very clever. He’d used wit and charm all of his life to talk his way in and out of tough situations... And now he now hoped to do it one more time.

Rob  Petrick (court footage):  I’ve been waiting nearly three years for this day. Three years to separate all the fact from the fiction and all the angry accusations from what actually happened.

Finally Robert Petrick’s big moment in the limelight. In his opening statement, he acknowledged that he might not be likeable guy.

Petrick (court footage):  You’ll probably make the judgment about me that I’m not the type of person you want to bring home to dinner.

He may have been a philanderer and a swindler. But a murderer? Absolutely not, he argued, and there would be evidence to prove his innocence.

Petrick: I believe the evidence will, in fact, show many of the allegations made by the state to be either unsubstantiated or even impossible—you’ll have to find me not guilty.

Kotb: Why was his opening statement strong?

Edwards: I thought it was very good because there was a bit of a mea culpa there.  You know, ‘Hey,  I’m a bad guy, but I’m not that bad a guy.  You know, ‘I committed frauds, but I’ve never hurt anyone.’

He’d been depicted by the prosecution as dangerous and Rob Petrick wanted to change that impression- -- portraying himself as harmless.

To build his case the amateur attorney would try to turn the tables on prosecution witnesses—going face to face with his ex-girlfriends and lovers, questioning them one by one.

Petrick (court footage): We lived together for about 4 years?

Allison:  Correct

Petrick:  During that time was I ever in any way physically violent or abusive?

Allison: No.

To bring home the point of just how comfortable woman felt with him, Rob Petrick asked some pretty intimate questions. Private bedroom moments were now bared in public.

Petrick: After I moved out of Greensborough, when was the next time we saw each other?

Allison:  The following summer at Souci.

Petrick: We slept together at that point, didn’t we?

Allison: Yes.

Petrick: At your instigation, I believe, correct?

Allison:  I don’t recall.

Gail: We shared a room about four or five days together.

Petrick: Did I ever physically harm you in any way?

Gail: not to my knowledge.

He was a cad, but he was not a killer, Petrick hoped to show.

He even questioned Ann Johnston, his former fiancé, the woman he’d planned to wed while still married to Janine.  It was the first time the two had spoken since Ann had discovered his double life and called police.

Petrick: Describe our relationship back then...

Ann Johnston:  umm. enjoyable. pleasant.

Ann, a woman once burned by this man now questioning her, even she confirmed his mild nature.

Petrick: Was I ever violent in any way?

Johnston: You were not.

Petrick: Did I ever physically harm you in any way?

Johnston: you did not.

Kotb: Did you think that the sort of Conga line of women who said, “He didn’t hurt me—“

Edwards: I think he did a good job of sort of co-opting the state’s witnesses and making them his own and establishing that he had never hurt anyone.

Never harmed anyone, Rob insisted, especially his wife Janine.

Petrick:  She didn’t express any physical fear whatsoever?

Peg Lewis, Janine's best friend: Nope.

Many of Janine’s close friends admitted they’d never seen trouble with the couple.

Petrick: Did you see any unusual interaction between Janine and I in any way?

Joy: No.

Rob: Did you ever witness any fights between us?

Joy: No.

Kotb: Violence just wasn’t in synch with his M.O.?

Edwards:  It was not in his history.  It had never occurred before.  He had been in these relationships with a number of women - a number of financial problems.  And he would always just move on.

Kotb: So, he left them.  He didn’t kill them.

Edwards: No.  No, no. He didn’t kill them, no.

And certainly he did not kill Janine either, Petrick argued. Someone else did.  But he said police never explored that option. Maybe there were other suspects?  After all, it was a dangerous area where her car was found. Even Janine herself had feared the garage, her friends from the symphony testified.

Petrick: Had she had concerns previously about the parking area in general?  Or about the conditions downtown?

Deborah: she was always aware of safety issues.

Petrick: Had she vocally raised those concerns with others with the symphony before?

Deborah: yes.

Petrick, the amateur attorney, hoped to show what investigators did not find inside his home. Remember prosecutors believed that’s where Janine was killed.  Petrick grilled a crime-scene technician.

Petrick: Did you find any trace of blood or fluids?

Drew: No sir.

Petrick: You examined the shower area, the drain. Trace evidence there?

Drew:  None sir.

Petrick: In reference to shower drain traps, any trace evidence found there?

Drew: No sir.

If he had killed his wife, Petrick argued, wouldn’t there have been some evidence—a trace of blood? Hair? Something?

Petrick: Basically all your forensic tests on the car proved negative in terms of any kind of evidentiary material?

Reid: That’s correct.

But the prosecution pointed out that a cadaver dog did pick up the scent of a body inside Petrick’s home and car. The state considered it critical evidence, but Petrick hoped to raise doubts.

Petrick: How many false alerts has he ever gotten?  

Roy, cadaver dog trainer: One or two.

In a contentious cross examination with the trainer, Petrick suggested the dog was unreliable and made mistakes in this case. How was it possible, he argued, that the dog had detected something in the shower when all forensic tests done there came up with nothing?

Petrick:  How would you explain the discrepancy?

Roy: I can say that probably the forensics person couldn’t—he don’t have the nose the dog does.

Petrick: So you’re saying that there was evidence of human remains in the shower and the forensic people just didn’t find it?  Is that what you’re saying?

Roy: I’m saying that there are decomposing’ scent in that shower stall.

The cadaver dog had also alerted to a scent in the trunk of his car. So Petrick took the jury out to see that very trunk.

His car was a tiny Mazda Miata. Petrick declared it absurd to think that a body would fit in such a small space.

Petrick:  I asked you all to go out in the parking lot and take a look at the trunk of that car. I would ask each one of you: can any of you, even the smallest of you, fit into that car?

Kotb: The Miata show & tell part, was that effective?

Edwards: I thought that that was one of the better points that he did during the trial. You couldn’t fit me sawed in half in the back of a trunk of Miata.  You couldn’t fit a Happy Meal in the back of a trunk of a Miata.  It’s too small.  There’s no way a human body is gonna fit back there.

Petrick also hoped to underscore other questions the state simply could not answer.

Edwards: They couldn’t show how he got her body out of his house with no one seeing him carrying her out and then get the body to the lake and dump it in the lake.

Rob Petrick, himself a computer whiz,  then went after the state’s computer expert -  the one who already testified about various suspicious Google searches.

Petrick insinuated it was possible that someone else could have been on his computer...

Petrick: You, in fact, can’t say who was using the computer doing these searches at that time?

Computer expert: No, sir.  Unless I’m standing right over the person’s shoulder as they’re doing it.

Petrick: Right.

Petrick never took the witness stand himself. Instead, he summarized his defense.

Petrick: The state has provided no laboratory evidence, no fingerprint evidence, no solid forensic evidence whatsoever. The state has no eyewitnesses. They’ve produced evidence of financial misdoings. They’ve produced evidence of adultery. This is a murder trial your honor.

Edwards: I thought his closing was good. It was, you know, they haven’t proved that “I did it.”

Petrick: The entire state’s case is circumstantial.  There is no physical evidence in this case.  I wish it would be simple enough for me to simply stand up here and say, I didn’t do it.  Believe me.

Would jurors believe him?

Edwards: Trying a case looks easy on television, until you get to it in real life.  It’s a lot of work.

According to the prosecutor, his guilt was clear-cut.

Mitch Garrell (prosecutor, court footage): This defendant who sits before you today is pleading not guilty to murder. A murder that was planned, deliberated, coldly calculated, and carried out by this defendant.

After three weeks in court and over 50 witnesses later, the jury was handed the case.

If they found Rob Petrick guilty of first degree murder, he would spend the rest of his life behind bars. Three of the jurors, a jewelry salesperson, a teacher, and a retired bank administrator, shared insight about the deliberations.

Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: So, you guys go into the jury room and this is the first you’ve really been able to discuss the case.

Marie: There’s a couple that were split in the beginning.

In this case, the jury was especially eager to share their impressions of the defendant—who did not take the stand but who acted as his own attorney.

Sandy, juror: I think he knew how to read people.

Marie, juror: Seemed totally confident. He’s very, very smart.

Shandra, juror: I just thought he was strange.

While they had mixed reactions to Petrick, all these jurors were moved by the testimony of Janine’s sons who were left devastated and missed their mother dearly.

Marie: My heart just really went out to them.  I wanted to jump out and just, being a mom, just wanted to kind of grab them and give them a hug and say, “You’re gonna be okay.”

But they’d been instructed to set emotions aside.

Marie: I listened with an open mind.

So they laid out all the facts to evaluate the strength of each side’s case.

Shandra: Everybody was just curious and was asking a lot of questions.

Sandy: I wanted to at least discuss all the avenues.

Avenues that started with a motive. Did they buy the prosecution’s theory that Petrick killed his wife because she’d discovered he’d lied about their finances?

Marie: When you’re in relationships if you want to be rid of that person, there are other methods to do that.

Kotb: It’s called “divorce.”

Marie: Right. 

But maybe, some jurors argued, Petrick did not see that as an option to end the marriage.  So he’d resorted to extreme actions.

Sandy: He may have felt trapped to the point where this was the only way out.

What about his history of infidelity? Jurors wondered how Petrick was able to attract so many women. Some concluded he targeted a specific type of person.

Kotb: He was supposedly very very good with women. He had the gift of gab, he could entice them.

Marie: He just picked out a certain characteristic of person and he made them feel like he could be trusted. They all were successful ladies.

Sandy: I think he knew how to read people and ultimately take advantage of them.

His affairs may have raised questions about his morals, but they also had to consider what Petrick told them over and over:  being a cheater or swindler did not make him a killer.

So the jurors turned to the other evidence against him, like detailed computer records that showed he had researched the depth of the lake and how to kill someone.

Marie: That was very important. What they turned up by evidence through the computer was amazing.

And remember the cadaver dog?

The dog had alerted to a scent in Rob Petrick’s bedroom, his bathroom, and the trunk of his car. The prosecution considered this crucial evidence—and so did some of the jurors:

Sandy: That type of evidence was the closest I think they had to something physical.

Marie: There was no doubt in my mind that the dog knew the positive readings were a definite positive.

But in cross examination, Petrick did cast doubt, forcing jurors to ask: Just how reliable was this animal? After all, mistakes can happen.

Kotb: Petrick cross-examined the cadaver dog expert, did that resonate with you?

Sandy: It did. Nothing’s 100 percent.

Remember, Petrick had taken the jury outside to view the trunk of his Mazda Miata where the dog picked up a scent. This gave jurors pause: they seemed to agree it would have been nearly impossible to fit a body in it.

Marie: It was a tiny, little sports car

Sandy: I think that was probably one of his strongest points, saying that that body would not fit in the front seat or the trunk area.

They also had to consider Petrick’s argument that he had no history of violence in his relationships.

Petrick: If I had a relationship go bad, I didn’t kill anyone.  I didn’t hurt anyone.  I would walk away.

Jurors recognized that he’d never physically harmed previous lovers or girlfriends.

Sandy: That was one of his strongest points is that he was not  a violent type person.

Jurors labored. No eyewitnesses, no solid proof  -- could they connect those circumstantial dots or was there just too much reasonable doubt?

Sandy, juror:  It was a sense of relief knowing that we arrived at a decision.

With the announcement just moments away, anxiety filled the courtroom and Janine’s closest friends.

Peg Lewis, Janine's best friend: We had been waiting two years and ten months for this— for the trial, and then for this moment.

Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: The verdicts about to be read and you’re sitting there. What was it like for you during that little tiny moment?

Mitch Garrell, prosecutor:   It’s not a very comfortable time.

Mark Edwards, defense assistance, counsel: There’s nothing more intense than that moment the lead juror hands the verdict form to the bailiff and the bailiff takes it to the judge. There’s nothing like it.

So much time had passed since Janine's death. Would her husband be convicted? Or had the jury deemed the case simply too circumstantial?

Verdict: We the 12 members of the jury find the defendant to be guilty of first degree murder. 

In the end, Rob Petrick just hadn’t been convincing enough as an attorney.

Judge Orlando Hudson: He presented a very superficial defense. He really didn’t tie all the edges together as an experienced lawyer would do. 

The lawyer who was by side throughout the trial said Petrick ’s risky decision to defend himself had ultimately backfired. Petrick ended up with a sentence of life in prison.

Edwards: I thought that his chances of success dropped dramatically when he decided to represent himself. 

All this time, Janine’s sons had waited  —hoping, at last, for some sense of closure.

Kotb: You finally, after all this time and after all this agony, really, heard the word ‘guilty’...

Christopher Sutphen, son: It was a big relief. It was the last chapter in a sad book.

For loved ones, those final notes in court brought forth reflection and conflicting emotions.

Lewis: It was a sad victory.

Robin Sutphen, son: There’s not a word that I could say to him that would express the pain and hurt that I’ve been through—and that I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life.

Unlike this mystery that was solved, many families still search for their missing loved ones. In this case though, the memories of Janine--  her music, her passion for life, and her love will endure.

Christopher Sutphen: I think I’d like to live my life to what she was, to be able to be as courageous as she was and live with those type of convictions and those principles and those beliefs.  I would like her to be remembered through me.

Lewis: When I think about one of my dreams, which is that Janine could come to life, even for just one day, so that we could have a day together. I think she’d want to live really big that day. Really big. And I would want to, too. 

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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