Oct. 20, 2006 | 11:26 p.m.

Was he a mild-mannered kid or a cold-blooded killer? (Rob Stafford, Dateline correspondent)

Near the cornfields of western Illinois, I sat down with Cory Gregory, a teenager who is about the same age as my son. Like my son, Cory grew up in a small midwest community. Like my son, he is quiet, reserved and polite. But this teenager was accused of one of the most gruesome crimes I've covered in 24 years of reporting. Prosecutors said Cory and his closest friend strangled and then organized and watched the dismemberment of a 16-year-old girl named Adrianne Reynolds. The strangulation occurred during the lunch hour in a car at a fast food restaurant on a day as cold as the crime itself.

As I talked with Cory, he seemed much more like a mild-mannered kid than a
cold-blooded killer. Sure, there were signs that Cory was a troubled teen in the years before the murder. His family said he stopped playing sports and started hanging out with the wrong crowd, smoking pot and not studying much. But that would describe a lot of teens who have little direction. Cory went way beyond that.

This Saturday night you will hear how this kid from the heartland helped take one life and destroyed his own.  And you will meet his parents who told me if people think this could never happen in their town to their kids, they're kidding themselves. Cory's mom said, "I think that no family is exempt from this kind of horror because teenagers are at a place where they're trying to find themselves in life."  Whether she's right or wrong, her story is a sober reminder of how all of us need to stay close to our children — even — or especially — during their teen years. She doesn't expect her son to get out of prison until he's at least 60 years old.

This report airs Dateline Saturday, Oct. 21, 8 p.m. on NBC.

Oct. 17, 2006 | 4:14 p.m.

A loved one lost (Rob Stafford, Dateline correspondent)

I covered a plane crash years ago. The scene was horrendous but I did my best to block out my emotions and to report the facts in an accurate professional way. My dad was watching and later said something that was as close as he gets to advice. “Remember there were people on that plane,” he said. “People with families.” 

I know what it is like to lose someone you love. My brother Chip died 19 years ago when he was 33 years old. My dad still has a hard time talking about Chip. I thought about my brother, my dad and my dad’s advice as I prepared to meet the family of Jennifer Corbin, who died in December 2004 — also at the age of 33.

Jennifer was found by one of her young sons in their upscale home in suburban Atlanta. She was lying in bed with a single gunshot wound in her head.  The gun — and divorce papers — were on the bed beside her.  Police thought it was a possible suicide.  But when we spoke with the Barbers,  Jennifer’s father and two sisters,  just a few weeks after she died, they wanted to tell the world that Jennifer did not take her life. It was something she would never have done, even if she were unhappily married and facing an ugly divorce and custody battle. They were positive she had been murdered and thought they knew the killer. This is a compelling mystery, but ultimately this is a story of a family fighting for justice for the person they loved.

We met the Barber family again last month just the day after the conclusion of the case surrounding Jennifer’s death.

Jennifer Corbin's family: her sisters and father

Their emotions were still raw — as if little time had passed since that awful day a year and nine months before.  This time Jennifer’s mother also sat down with us. She had been too distraught to speak publicly when we were there last time.  Now, I think she felt a need to talk. 

Jennifer’s mother was emotional yet very eloquent. Her daughter’s death left a void that will never be filled, but she felt fortunate to have Jennifer’s two adorable sons in her life. Jennifer’s legacy is the love and nurturing her family lavishes on those young boys. Even though speaking with us was emotionally difficult for them it seemed cathartic. They really needed to express their feelings for Jennifer. I know how important that is.

The full report airs Dateline Wednesday, Oct. 18, 10 p.m. on NBC. A woman in the midst of a bitter divorce is found shot in the head. Her family is adamant that she was murdered, but evidence suggests suicide. However, when new information is revealed about her husband's past, her grief-stricken family sees their opportunity for justice to be served. Rob Stafford reports.

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