VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — It is, need it be said, beyond bizarre, the sort of scrapes people get themselves into. Odd accidents, freakish, improbable. Lightning striking twice... Still, it does happen, doesn't it? Though sometimes, in the wounded wake of an incident especially strange, a question darkens the mind: Was it really an accident?
Take, for example, this, on a warm sunny day in October, 2006, in a sweet little town by the sea. Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Robert Katz: She came in the store and was kind of chuckling about it.
Robert Katz owns a jewelry store in Virginia Beach. He and Charlene, his wife, are transplanted New Yorkers, and close friends of the injured party.
Robert Katz: 'She says, "He tried to shoot me with a crossbow." I said, "You're kidding." And she goes, "nah." And I said, "Really? What are you talking about?"
Shot with a crossbow and she was smiling?
The customer whose lighthearted remark so confused Jeweler Katz was a woman: Anna Creamer. The shooter, her husband, Kenny. The location of this unfortunate mishap: the two-car garage at the front of the Creamers’ comfortable suburban home.
Robert Katz: And she said, "No, it was an accident. And he was trying to load it or something, and the thing went off." And it grazed her evidently. And she said, "It's nothing. I put a Band-aid on it. Don't worry about it. It's fine."
The whole business was little more than embarrassing, really. Anna said she didn't want to go to the hospital. It was Kenny who apparently panicked, called 911... There was a rush to the hospital to treat a small wound, just a nick, really, on side of her breast; two or three stitches.
But of course, on that 911 call, authorities heard the word 'crossbow,' and so down here at the hospital, Kenny found himself in the company of Virginia Beach's finest. Video: Defense: Death was accidental
Robert Katz: And then he got arrested. So. (laughter) And then she wouldn't press charges. It was ridiculous. He didn't try to shoot me, come on, it was an accident. And... End of conversation. I mean, and he was released.
They'd bought the crossbow together, for recreation, Anna told them. And they'd both tried it out, but after that close call, they were getting rid of it.
Robert Katz: He was giving it to his wife to give to another one of the other teachers she worked with. And, you know, get rid of it.
But of course, the Katz's couldn't have any idea back then what would soon happen to that crossbow... and their good friends, the Creamers. Especially, said their friends, when they thought about what lovely people the Creamers were, what a loving couple.
The Katzes: I mean they just seemed good together. He worshipped the ground this girl walked on. I mean they just, they, they kind of loved each other. (laughs) And it, it would show.
The Creamers were quite a bit younger than the Katz's, but, as transplanted New Yorkers, had a lot to share.
Charlene Katz: They were like as close as family could be without being family.
Robert Katz: They were there, you know, Christmastime, you know, for dinner. They were there, Thanksgiving, they were at our house.
They brought the boy, of course. He was 11 then. And the light of their lives. He was shy. He had a few learning issues perhaps. A little trouble socializing. But, oh, how the Creamers doted on that boy.
Charlene Katz: Oh, he was the sweetest thing.
Robert Katz: Adorable.
Charlene Katz: He was brilliant.
Kenny and his son were virtually inseparable. Kenny even turned up most days at his son's school to have lunch with the boy. Just because the child seemed to need it.
Kim Choate: I thought it was absolutely wonderful, to be quite honest. Video: Crossbow case prosecutor: A cold-hearted killer
Kim Choate was a friend of the Creamers, too. And her own son was also shy, so she understood and appreciated Kenny's constant presence at school.
Kim Choate: And he'd bring stuff in, and made him laugh and smile all the time. And he welcomed my son. A relationship that actually just - it kept growing.
Kenny was an insurance agent till he went on disability after a car accident, so he was the stay at home dad. Anna taught school - had to work - so Kim saw her at... Well, she can explain where.
Kim Choate: I had started a Bunko group about eight years ago.
Keith Morrison, Dateline Correspondent: What's a Bunko group?
Kim Choate: (laughs) Bunko is like a dice game. It’s where a bunch of women get together and you talk stuff about the husbands and stuff, you know? (laughs)
That's how Kim heard the story - from Anna herself - that the first incident was purely an accident, involving not her husband, but her son. That it was the boy who handed the crossbow to her.
Kim Choate: She told me that they had gotten the bow and everything, and Avery was handing the bow to her. And she didn't grab it quick enough. And the bow hit and the bow went off.
Keith Morrison: So she blamed herself and it wasn't her son's fault.
Kim Choate: No, no, no, absolutely not. You know, I can't even imagine, you know, a child even thinking that they almost hurt their mom- and they did.
Most of Anna's stories were happy back then, said Kim. Like the one about their wedding. Kenny had a way of doing things with flair. When he and Anna got married, he put on a giant, fairy tale wedding.
He actually rented Jackie Onassis's yacht for the reception.
Kim Choate: She never had anything negative to say about kenny. I've always thought that they had a perfect marriage.
But... you know and I know that nobody's perfect. No marriage is ideal. Sometimes, with a little distance, you see things.
Randall Howes: We weren't friends. We were neighbors. That's how I like to put it.
Right next door to the Creamers, no more than a couple of tract house walls and a strip of grass apart, lived a man who saw the Creamers through a less rosy lens.
This is Randall Howes. Retired naval officer. And, well, it was something about the chemistry with Anna. Wasn't good. Especially after an altercation over Howes’ dogs.
Randall Howes: And she said, 'Your dogs, they bark, bark, bark, bark.' And then she got really mad. And so I said, 'Ok, Anna, we're not going to have this conversation right now. And I turned and walked away. And that made her really mad. And after that, I never spoke to her.
So there was tension across that strip of grass. And then Howes got the idea that maybe Ken had some trouble with Anna's temper, too. Since Ken gave Howes the cold shoulder when Anna was around, but was friendly to him when she wasn't.
Randall Howes: He asked me what the problem was with his wife. I said, 'So what I do is I just ignore her.' So he said, 'It’s probably the best thing,’ cause he said 'she has a hair trigger.'
But the Creamers did seem to get along, said Howes. Except for that one time, when he overheard all that yelling.
Randall Howes: Got her in car, started it up, started to back out. And saying 'Mommy don't go, don't go, you don't have to go.’
Still, everybody has fights sometimes. So, it hardly seemed likely that this neighbor - and what he saw - were about to move centerstage in our strange drama. Because of what happened on another fine morning, a Sunday it was, about three months after that bizarre crossbow accident.
Almost beyond belief, really. And, if you haven't guessed already, the reason we're telling you all this. What did we say? Lightning striking twice?
Mr. Creamer: I need an ambulance right now. 3089 Pope Drive. 3089 Pope Drive. Please hurry!
Tape voice: What has happened? Sir? Don't hang up with me. What's happened? Sir? Sir?
There is a surreal quality to events so carved in memory when lives unalterably change. Odd, then, how completely those memories can and do diverge. It was - no disagreement about this - a Sunday morning when it happened.
Randall Howes: I was on my way to church.
Here's what the next door neighbor, the retired navy commander Randell Howes, remembers.
Randall Howes: I was walking out through the garage. And I heard the dogs barking. And something was at the front door. So I went around the corner of the garage.
And there was that 11-year-old neighbor boy.
Randall Howes: And he was in his pajamas. And he said, 'Mr. Randy, we need your help.'
Howes asked the boy, what are you saying? And that's when he heard the unforgettable phrase:
Randall Howes: He said, 'Mr. Randy, the crossbow.' and Ken, Ken had come to the door. And Ken was melt - I say melting down. He was very upset, and just say, 'I need help, I need help.'
The mood was frantic, out of control. Howe's military training kicked in.
Randall Howes: I kept Ken, Ken was inboard of me, I call it, because I wanted to keep an eye on him. I had not a clue what had happened.
Ken Creamer led his neighbor through the house and into the two-car garage. Video: Creamer speaks after wife’s crossbow death
Randall Howes: And ... And there's Anna laying at the end of the treadmill, with her hands up under her head and with an arrow stuck straight into her back.
Dead. Had to be. But only just, said Howe. The body was still pink. But now. What happened next would be central. The military man: his eyes, his memory. This is what he says he saw:
Randall Howes: The first thing I did was scan the garage for the crossbow. I looked real quick, and it was sitting on the box on top of this blue wrapping paper on the far side of the refrigerator.
Funny, the things that become so terribly important later on. On top of a box. On blue wrapping paper. The far side of the refrigerator.
That's what Howe remembered. The rest of us might have missed it.
Here's what else he saw:
Randall Howes: He was beside himself. He was very, very, very upset, agitated. And I'll say this, I'm - my impression was if you were standing on the edge of hell.
Creamer had wrapped a white towel, now reddened with blood, around the fatal wound in his wife's back.
Randall Howes: He would say. 'Where is the ambulance? I need help.’
This was supposed to be a gift for a friend. It wasn't supposed to be here. And then he'd start to cry.
Local news: Good evening. Our top story at 6, a bizarre death investigation in Virginia Beach. Authorities say a woman died after she was shot in the back with an arrow.
Before long, the street outside was a parking lot: after the ambulance, the police cars... came the local media.
....And pretty soon just about everybody knew that this was not the first crossbow shooting in Ken Creamer's house.
(Local TV coverage)
"Officers got a first look at the family's crossbow back in October. That time police say it accidently struck Anna Creamer."
Lightening striking twice a person could understand actually, but this?
Officer Ricardo: Resuscitative efforts were attempted, however she was pronounced deceased at the house.
A detective put Creamer into a police car. Ken said goodbye to his son, said he'd be back.
The detective drove down to the station.
Question: I appreciate your coming down to talk to us.
Ken: Am I in trouble?
Question: No. You're not. You're not in trouble. Okay. We're just talking. Video: Crossbow case prosecutor: A cold-hearted killer
Ken Creamer told the officer that he - under the direction of his wife Anna - had been cleaning up the garage... picking out things to save, items to throw away, or give away. Re-arranging.
And then he picked up this one bag, didn't know what was in it, he said, and he - kind of - threw it off to the side.
Ken: I knew it hit… I heard it hit the side of the refrigerator.
Question: So you threw the bag and you heard the sound of the crossbow going off immediately?
Ken: Yeah. I heard a sound. I mean, I didn't really know what was happening.
An accident, said Ken Creamer. Horrible, unbelievable, but true.
Creamer told the cop he didn't even know that crossbow was still in the house, didn't know it was in the bag he tossed across the garage, didn't know it was loaded - with a hunting arrow no less. Maybe she loaded it, he said.
Question: Can you explain to me why you think she loaded the bow before she put it in the bag?
Ken: I don't know, I don't know. Sometimes she does, she does, more like, does whatever she wants to do. You can tell her not to do something and she'll do it.
Really? Even after she'd already been injured in that earlier crossbow incident, asked the interrogator?
Ken: Well, I didn't touch it.
Question: I didn't say you ... but Kenny, I didn't say you did.
And only then it seemed to dawn on Ken Creamer that the man in the room did not believe him.
Ken: We were married 13 years. We never had a fight. Never. I buy my wife bags, jewelry, whatever she wants.
Question: I’m just, I’m just asking you from the investigation, Kenny, ok?
Ken: Like I love the whole son.
Question: Kenny, Kenny, just relax.
Ken: Oh, whatever. I mean, I love my wife so much.
Question: I know you do.
Ken: Well, then I'm gonna - I'd never ever do anything. And my son... I love my son dearly.
Of course, Ken Creamer was exactly right; this officer was very suspicious... of him.
Question: Why would Anna put a loaded crossbow.
Ken: I don't know why. I don't know. I don't know.
Question: Kenny, Kenny, Kenny. You got to calm down for me. OK?
Ken: I can't.
Ken Creamer was the picture of a grief-stricken man.
But his answers, decided police, just didn't add up. What happened to Ken's wife Anna simply could not have been an accident. Could it? They arrested him, charged him with murder, and went about the long slow business of collecting evidence for a trial.
"But detectives say what happened yesterday was no accident. This time they say it was a homicide.”
They put the boy into foster care briefly. Then he was taken away to live with Anna's relatives. Ken was denied bail and took up involuntary residence here in the Virginia Beach county jail..
It was more than a year later when police, still preparing their case, mind you, asked neighbor Randall Howes for another interview.
Randall Howes: They had some pictures, crime scene photographs, that I had not seen.
But now he saw something very disturbing.. And right then and there Randall Howes knew he was about to play another important role in Ken Creamer's life.
Randall Howes: So I went, 'oh oh. You know, this means probably that my testimony will be key.'
And Randall Howes was absolutely right.
Ken Creamer killed his wife Anna; of that there was no doubt. Shot her with a crossbow, right here in his garage. And the shock of it was he'd done it before, just didn't kill her that time. So the charge that put him in this place - first degree murder - was no surprise.
But still, justice crawled. The boy adjusted to a new life with Anna's family, a family that came to believe firmly in Creamer's guilt. And, for two and a half years, he sat in jail, waiting to answer the question.
Bailiff: How do you plead?
Ken Creamer: Not guilty.
This was June 2008.
Tabitha Anderson: The Commonwealth evidence will show this was no accident.
And this is the prosecutor, Tabitha Anderson.
Tabitha Anderson: Here's your timeline. September 2005 the defendant buys the crossbow. Less than 30 days later Anna Creamer takes an arrow to the chest. And she goes to the hospital. Less than 90 days after that, she takes an arrow in the back. And this time she goes to the morgue.
Had to be murder, said the prosecutor. Video: Defense: Death was accidental
Look how the arrow went straight into her back and almost right through her, said the medical examiner, as if it was carefully aimed from close range.
Dr. Leah Bush: I was able to run my hand over the skin of her chest and I could feel the tip of the arrow under my fingertips.
Also, said the examiner, it was a razor sharp hunting arrow. Did a lot of damage.
Dr. Leah Bush: It perforated the heart, basically, impaled the heart. As the arrow came from back to front, it went through the aorta completely severing it, just cut it right in half.
No doubt about the conclusion, she said.
Dr. Leah Bush: I determined that the manner of death in this case was homicide.
The detective who interrogated Kenneth Creamer right after the shooting testified that when he asked Creamer why the crossbow was loaded and with a hunting arrow, the answer, that his wife must have loaded it, didn't seem believable.
"I didn't touch it. The last time I touched it was in October."
Remember, this was the second time Anna was shot so now the prosecutor looked back to that first incident... Was Creamer's story about that time consistent or believable? Here's what Creamer's brother-in-law, Anna's sister's husband, remembers him saying back then:
Mr. Ed Aires: He-- he told me that-- he called-- his wife into the garage-- Anna and that when she-- he had a surprise for her. And when she walked into the garage that the weapon somehow discharged
Now listen to what an acquaintance remembers Creamer telling her.
He said that the crossbow was sitting on a shelf and that it fell as she was reaching for the keys. And he said, "It came up through the right side of her breast and out the center. And just that it exited completely." And-- he said he was gonna be in the doghouse for a while.
A slightly different take.
Then there was a friend of Anna's named Sue Cotton, who said she cornered Ken in the house one day after the first incident when she noticed what she thought was the crossbow in the garage. Why hadn't he gotten rid of the thing?
Sue Cotton: And he said, "I can't throw it in the trash. If somebody comes and takes it out of my trashcan, then, I'll be liable for anything they would do with it." And I said, "Okay, well, why don't you disassemble it? Break it apart or something like that so that nobody could use it." He said, "You can't disassemble a crossbow." I said, "Well, why don't you take it to the police station? You could take it to the police and you could just drop it off there." And he said-- he started to laugh.
Could such a precise memory, two and a half years later, be trusted completely? That would become an issue. Still, two shootings, less than three months apart...
Perhaps insurance was a motive, said the prosecution. The creamers kept policies for heart attacks, for cancer even for their dog. About a million dollars in all. Enough for murder?
But motive wasn't at the heart of the prosecution's case. Rather, it was two witnesses who claimed they had evidence to show that it couldn't have been an accident.
Here was the first: a man named J.J. Mason. A firearms expert who said he tried to make that weapon fire by accident. Hit it with mallet a couple of dozen times. And:
J.J. Mason: During the course of my examination of this-- this crossbow, I found no reason why it would fire without a pull of the trigger. Video: Crossbow case defense: A loving husband
In other words, the arrow that went through Anna Creamer must have been fired on purpose.
Mr. Randall Howes: I saw Anna laying there face down with an arrow square in her back.
But the true star of the case against Ken Creamer was the next door neighbor, that retired naval commander, Randall Howes.
Randall Howes: Ken is just kind of babbling, making noise or whatever, saying, "You know, we need help-- we need help now."
Remember, Howes told us he saw something in the garage that jumped out much later. A detail about to assume a huge importance. As Howes stood there near Anna's body, he testified, he was scanning the room, looking for that crossbow.
Randall Howes: On the far side of the refrigerator, there was a cardboard box. And sitting on top of the cardboard box was the crossbow. I could see the front of it.
Prosecuting male attorney: I'd like to show you a second picture. Mr. Howes, I'd like you to take a very careful look at that picture. You see a blue, paper bag in front of the refrigerator in that picture, sir?
Randall Howes: Yes, I do.
Prosecuting male attorney: Okay. Now, was that blue, paper bag in front of the refrigerator as it is in that picture when you went into the garage with Mr. Kramer?
Randall Howes: No, it wasn't.
And there it was: the 'gotcha' in the prosecution's case. Here was an extremely credible witness, a military officer, whose memory strongly suggested that when Howes stepped outside the garage that day to talk to the police, Ken Creamer moved that crossbow, staged the scene to make it look more like an accident.
Powerful evidence. Assuming the jury would decide to trust neighbor Howe's military trained memory, or that firearms expert's forensic evaluation of the crossbow. But would they?
Greg Turpin: Again, because it sounds bad doesn't mean it is bad. It's a classic situation of kind of lightning striking twice.
Ken Creamer's defense attorney had a problem. The story was just so improbable. A man shoots the love of his life with a crossbow - twice - and claims each time it was nothing more than a freak accident?
True, it’s up to the state to prove guilt. But as everybody knows, lightning hardly ever strikes twice. Could any defense pass the laugh test?
Well, maybe. For one thing, said the defense, it would demonstrate in court that the firearms expert was wrong. That the Creamer's weapon could fire by accident.
Greg Turpin: And I think what you'll see is that Mr. Mason in fact cannot say that this couldn't have been an accidental discharge.
Besides, there was lots of evidence of innocence, said the defense. Would a guilty man sound this distraught on a 911 call?
Mr. Creamer: I need an ambulance right now. Three zero eight nine Pope Drive. Three zero eight nine Pope Drive. Please hurry!
Tape voice: What has happened? Sir? Don't hang up with me. What's happened? Sir? Sir?
Ken Creamer would never kill his wife, said the defense. He adored the woman. And a parade of friends came to the witness stand to confirm it.
Their son's school librarian, Martha Asire: I thought they were a very happy couple.
Andrea Pearman, music teacher: They seemed to get along well.
The boy's fifth grade teacher, Hoffman: Got along great. Great hostesses. Everything was- seemed very normal.
And, remember this man? Creamer friend and jeweler Robert Katz.
Robert Katz: Loving, caring family.
And his wife, Charlene.
Charlene Katz: They were very, very close.
Would a guilty man sound this distraught on a 911 call?
Mr. Creamer: I need an ambulance right now. Three zero eight nine Pope Drive. Three zero eight nine Pope Drive. Please hurry!
Tape voice: What has happened? Sir? Don't hang up with me. What's happened? Sir? Sir?
As for that first crossbow incident, the one that injured Anna, the woman herself said it was an accident, the teacher testified.
Kristen Hoffman: She laughed about it. Told me what happened and just that's about it. She was very lighthearted about the whole situation.
As for those insurance policies, yes they totalled over a million dollars. But he'd been an insurance agent. Those amounts were normal, said the defense. Anna bought some of the policies herself. And all of them were written to benefit not Ken, but their son.
Still, that prosecution evidence was strong. The firearms expert, for example.
Mr. J.J. Mason: In my examination of the crossbow, I found it to be in excellent, mechanical, operating condition showing very little wear for very little use.
The crossbow, he testified, simply couldn't have fired without someone pulling the trigger.
But the expert only hit the weapon, he did not test it by throwing it, which is what Ken Creamer said he had done. And by the way, said the defense, J.J. Mason was an expert in guns, the kind that fire bullets. What did he know for sure about a crossbow?
So how, asked the defense, could anyone rely on this experts opinion? Time for the defense to make its case with some courtroom drama.
Mr. Turpin: Judge, I wanna ask the court to one more-- one more physical demonstration.
Defense attorney Gregory Turpin would show right here in court how the weapon could have fired accidentally. The right decision? Well, maybe not.
Mr. Turpin: And-- and Judge--
Judge: I assume you've done this before. Don't make a fool of yourself.
Mr. Turpin: Once I've done this, I'm gonna ask permission to have Mr. Mason examine it. I-- actually, may I ask if I could have the witness step down while I do this, please, Mr. Mason?
Judge: Just don't mess it up. I assume you've done this before?
Mr. Turpin: Judge, yes, sir.
Turpin tries and fails to do something to the crossbow.
Mr. Turpin: And Mr. Mason, this is how the-- the-- draw would be drawn back to begin with?
Mr. Mason: That's correct.
Mr. Turpin: And if I can ask you tell me-- Judge, I'm gonna try it one more time. And I'm not gonna take up any more of this court's time. That's fine, Judge. All right, Mr. Mason. Thank you for your time.
The demonstration was an embarrassing bust.
Mr. Turpin: Judge, thank you for the court's indulgence. I'll-- I won't take up any more time.
Now the defense had but one blockbuster witness left.
Defense attorney: Judge, I might ask permission to call my client, Kenneth Kramer, please?
Judge: All right.
Ken Creamer would tell the story himself. Here he showed the jury what happened that Sunday morning in his garage.
Mr. Turpin: Okay. And then just-- not askin' you to be an actor or anything. But just how did you-- how did you manipulate the bag? Not just-- okay. Okay. Just like that?
Kenneth Creamer: Just like that.
Attorney: You can have a seat, Sir. Once you did that, then what happened?
Kenneth Creamer: I heard-- a poof sound.
Kenneth Creamer: Like-- yeah, like-- you know, poof sound.
Kenneth Creamer: I was-- the bow and then I turned around quickly. And my wife was already on the floor.
Attorney: Did you hear her say anything?
Kenneth Creamer: No.
Kenneth Creamer: Like a growling s-- groaning sound.
As for that friend, Sue Cotton, who testified earlier that she'd lectured Ken about getting rid of the crossbow…
Attorney: Did you tell her, "I don't wanna just throw it away"? Or somethin' like that?
Kenneth Creamer: That con-- there was never a conversation with her. She just flat out lied to everybody here.
In fact, said creamer, he thought his wife had already given the crossbow away. But surely the neighbor, a man with an impeccable reputation, was telling the truth when he said he saw evidence that creamer staged the crime scene to make it look like an accident.
No, said Creamer, that was not the truth. The neighbor must have been seeing things.
Attorney: Okay. Did you move the crossbow at all, in any way, after Anna was struck?
Kenneth Creamer: I never touched it.
Judge: The case is now in your hands.
So now the question would be handed to the jury. The memories were conflicting, but the facts were like lightning striking twice. Had Ken Creamer persuaded the jury that such a thing was possible?
What is it about the crossbow? So mystically deadly, as if the fear of it has come down through centuries in our genes... And attached itself to a defendant named Ken Creamer.
January 8, 2006, early morning, Sunday.
A case that seemed to call for a passionate closing from prosecutor Patrick Connolly.
Patrick Connolly: The defendant took this crossbow, and he took this arrow, this crossbow bullet. He loaded it and with it in there and his wife on the treadmill stood behind her and fired it directly into her back with malice, with premeditation, with deliberation, and he did it willfully. (And you, each and every one of you, know it's the truth.
To which defense attorney Afshin Farashahi replied:
Farashahi: How many times after an accident that you've said to yourself or someone had said, "Oh my God, I can't believe I did that"? That's the essence of an accident. And just because it's an accident that-- it's unlikely, that is a freak accident, does not mean that it's murder.
For the jury, the choice seemed relatively straightforward.
Feller: I don't think anybody in the jury really wanted to say that this man, you know, did it.
Of course, for the jury - and these members of the jury who gathered to talk about it - there were a number of questions to consider. And as they talked in that jury room, they struggled to figure out how an accident might have played out.
Michael Scott: His-- statement that he threw this Christmas bag, unbeknownst was the weapon in it, and that it discharged. You know? And where did it hit the refrigerator, for example? And how did it land? We did have the weapon in our-- in our jury room. And-- and some of the men tried to get a feel for how it loaded up and-- (LAUGHTER) it takes a lot of strength to load that.
But as they looked at the evidence...
Michael Scott: And how the arrow that-- that killed the woman, it went in straight.
And they re-read Ken Creamer's testimony - his memory of the careless toss, the bag hitting the fridge, the loaded crossbow going off.
Michael Scott: It physically was not possible. The physics of it disallowed it.
And then there was the neighbor, Randall Howes, whose memory suggested Creamer staged the scene to make it look like an accident...
Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: What persuaded you that he was a credible witness?
Michael Scott: His character on the-- on the witness stand. Good man.
Question: Could he have been mistaken do you think?//
Michael Scott: No, there was no doubt he told the truth.
Still, Creamer said the crossbow went off inside a bag. Maybe that made it an accident after all.
Michael Scott: We had the bag. We had the weapon. And we were trying to figure out desperately how could this weapon be in the bag and-- and have done-- done what it did. And none of the positions this bag was in made any sense whatsoever with the weapon inside of it. It just didn't make sense.
Cheryl R. Feller: Yeah. We couldn't find a good exit hole. There was no hole for the arrow. It didn't make sense.
So if it couldn't have been an accident the second time, then what about the first?
Cheryl R. Feller: Just sounds like to me, already he's planning something.
So now, jury members realized they had formed some strong opinions about Mr. Creamer.
Cheryl R. Feller: I just don't put any stock in anything he says. You know? I just don't-- don't trust the guy.
And once they decided that about Ken Creamer, some of them began to imagine things about his marriage to Anna. Remember, the evidence at trial suggested that the marriage was strong, that Ken and Anna were close. But in the jury room some members said evidence or not, they saw it a different way.
Michael Scott: I think she was a woman that was living under terror with great threat upon her.
Keith Morrison: So he planned it? He thought about it?
Michael Scott: Absolutely. Yes.
Keith Morrison: He wanted to kill her? Video: Crossbow case defense: A loving husband
Female voice: Yes.
Michael Scott: I think so. I think he wanted to kill her in October.
And so the jury returned to the crowded courtroom and told the judge they were ready.
Juror #1: In the case of Commonwealth of Virginia versus Kenneth Frank Creamer, we the jury find the defendant guilty of murder in the first-degree.
Guilty! Creamer twitched a little, looked down. They didn't believe him. And among his few remaining friends, perhaps only these - the Katz's – grieved for Ken Creamer.
Charlene Katz: They had him guilty before anything was done. I mean the papers. The news. I mean they just--
Robert Katz: Everybody portrayed him--
Charlene Katz: --they tore him--
Robert Katz: --to be a criminal.
Charlene Katz: --to shreds.
And then, as the clock ticked down toward his sentencing, from his jail cell, Ken Creamer jumped at one last chance to explain.
The sheriff of Virginia beach, Virginia, is a cautious man; in his jurisdiction, a prisoner who wishes to talk to media may do so only through a thick slab of bullet-proof glass – which is the window through which we sized up the man who shot his wife with a crossbow.
Keith Morrison: Why did you decide to tell your story?
Kenneth Creamer: 'Cause I wanted my side to get out.
He was grizzled a little - the beard, the prison jumpsuit, not at all in keeping with the image Ken Creamer presented at his trial. But perhaps more suitable for a question that had been on the minds of many people here in Virginia Beach.
Keith Morrison: What made you think you could actually kill your wife and get away with it?
Kenneth Creamer: What you said is totally false. Never. I-- never. What you're saying now is, like, basically insulting me. No, it never happened your way-- the way you were saying it. No.
Keith Morrison: Trouble is that's what the jury believes, that you planned it, conspired about it, set it up, did the whole thing yourself, thinking you were gonna get away with it and walk away with a million bucks in cash at the same time.
Kenneth Creamer: Not-- not true. Not true. It's not true.
What is true, said Ken Creamer, is that he and his wife had a wonderful relationship. Loved each other. Never fought in the way the neighbor - the one Anna didn't like - Randall howes, described.
Keith Morrison: Fighting in the house, Anna running out of the house.
Kenneth Creamer: Never, ever happened. No. Never happened.
Keith Morrison: Never, ever?
Kenneth Creamer: No, no, never happened.
Keith Morrison: Every family fights.
Kenneth Creamer: Ne-- my wife never stormed out of the house. Never. No
As for the crossbow, he insisted he didn't know it was loaded.
Kenneth Creamer: I never loaded it. So--
Keith Morrison: You're saying she did?
Kenneth Creamer: Most probably, yes.
Keith Morrison: Well, why would she do that?
Kenneth Creamer: I don't know.
Keith Morrison: I'm just-- I'm just trying to get through in my head why would somebody load a crossbow with a hunting arrow with a razor tip on it and put it in a bag in the garage? It doesn't make any sense.
Kenneth Creamer: I-- I-- it goes-- that goes through my mind, too. I try-- I don't know.
In fact, he still claims, he was convinced Anna had given the crossbow away to a friend at work. What friend? Well, that was a little unclear.
Keith Morrison: You have the name of the friend?
Kenneth Creamer: Well, there was two. One was a Julia who wanted it. And one was a-- a-- a Pierce, Ms. Pierce wanted it. So I thought she was giving it to Pierce.
Keith Morrison: Did those people ever testify at your trial?
Kenneth Creamer: No.
Keith Morrison: Why not?
Kenneth Creamer: Why not?
Keith Morrison: Why wouldn't they say, "Yeah, she was gonna give me the crossbow. I asked her--"
Kenneth Creamer: Well-
Keith Morrison: "--to give it to me. I was waiting to receive it"? Video: Crossbow case verdict: Murder
Kenneth Creamer: I know the investigator went to the school and they said it was-- she wasn't around, she wasn't working there no more, Pierce. --
Keith Morrison: So there's nobody to support your story.
Kenneth Creamer: No. But if you talk-- yeah, no--
As for his neighbor's testimony - that he saw evidence Creamer had staged the crime scene...
Kenneth Creamer: Find his statement to the police and read it and let's see what it says. I bet you it's different than what he testified.
Keith Morrison: But the problem and the inconvenient part of it is he went-- he-- he saw what he saw in the garage. And then he saw the photographs later of the way it was when, you know, evidence photos were taken. And he said the crossbow had been moved. And the only person who could have moved it is you.
Kenneth Creamer: Well, that's what he testified. But if you get his statement-- 'cause wouldn't it be a statement if he's the first one on the scene to the detectives? He should have a statement, right?
Keith Morrison: It might support his story.
Kenneth Creamer: I doubt it very much. I doubt it very much.
Keith Morrison: Worth going to have a look?
Kenneth Creamer: Please, I'm-- bring a copy to my lawyer. (LAUGHTER)
We did ask, for the record, to see that statement. The prosecutor declined our request, Howes insisted his memory was accurate, and the jury - after all - believed him.
Bailiff: all rise!
And then, late last month, Ken Creamer appeared for one last chance to claim it was an accident to appeal for the court's mercy. And then it was the judge's turn. Video: Crossbow case prosecution rests (on this page)
The judge: I can't read his mind. But obviously-- at some point along the way, Mr. Creamer has convinced himself//that in fact, it was an accident. Obviously, the jury did not believe that-- this particular-- killing was an accident. And having sat through the entire trial, quite frankly, neither does the Court.
The sentence: life. No parole. Decision made. Everyone can be certain. Can't they?
We were preparing to leave the man behind the glass when he broke into a moment of unguarded emotion. He was remembering the minutes after the shot that took his wife and changed his life. Talking to the detective, saying goodbye to his son.
Kenneth Creamer: I miss him a lot. I mean, I worry about him. And just, you know, in general, what-- what he thinks and just miss him 'cause last time I seen him was I said, "I'll be right back." And it's like I abandoned him. And, you know, I worry about him. He's my son.
Keith Morrison: Maybe you are the unluckiest guy in the world.
Kenneth Creamer: Well, I'm here. Like, it looks like that way.
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints