Dateline   |  July 12, 2010

Mystery on Reminisce Road, Part 3

Physical evidence seems to put Melissa Mooney’s ex-husband at the scene of the crime.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MANKIEWICZ: When Melissa Mooney was murdered near Wilmington , North Carolina , in August 1999 , the obvious suspect was her ex-husband Roger , a Marine based at nearby Camp Lejeune . Larry Bonney was Melissa 's boss at the FBI .

Mr. BONNEY: I called up one of my agents. I tell him to pull Roger in and start talking to him, which he did.

MANKIEWICZ: Melissa 's FBI colleagues knew she'd had a troubled relationship with her ex, and agents would soon hear about a chilling prediction Melissa had made to a girlfriend. `If I'm killed,' she said, ` Roger did it.'

MANKIEWICZ: What does Roger say when he's told, `We found your ex-wife and she's dead'?

Mr. BONNEY: Shocked and surprised.

MANKIEWICZ: But investigators knew that didn't mean he was innocent.

Mr. BONNEY: You know, somebody has all night to think about, `Somebody's going to come and talk to me because I'm the husband and we had a contentious relationship.' He's got time to come up with a story.

MANKIEWICZ: When Roger Mooney was questioned that first day, the FBI says he cooperated. But he was angry, said he didn't know a thing about it. His alibi? He said he was at home, near the base, about 70 miles away . His roommate left for work around 10 PM , and Roger says he went to bed shortly after, his daughter Sammy asleep beside him. And as for Melissa 's new house ? Roger said he'd never been there. I'm guessing that interrogation is not terribly friendly.

Mr. BONNEY: It was not. And there was no question in his mind that he was the target.

MANKIEWICZ: Roger Mooney may have been the primary target, but he wasn't the only one. Investigators would look at other men in Melissa 's life. At least one was married, with reason to hide an affair. Each was scrutinized and then ruled out. Investigators looked at anyone with a possible motive. But they found nothing. Roger Mooney stayed at the top of the FBI 's list as investigators tried to either make a case against him or rule him out.

Mr. ACKLEY: His abrasive personality, his anger issues and everything else surrounding Roger Mooney and there is -- a relationship with his ex-wife that made him a suspect.

MANKIEWICZ: Just because you have a contentious relationship with someone doesn't mean that when they do turn up dead that you killed them.

Mr. ACKLEY: Absolutely. But what it will do is make you a suspect right away. And it did with Roger Mooney .

MANKIEWICZ: Roger 's car and home were searched exhaustively. His friends, family, past girlfriends, high school teachers all questioned.

Mr. ACKLEY: We literally turned Roger Mooney 's world upside down.

MANKIEWICZ: They talked to his Marine buddies and heard about something Roger had said at target practice .

Mr. COX: He made a statement, `Well, if I had put my wife's picture up there, I'd shoot expert.'

MANKIEWICZ: In other words, `If I had a photo of my ex-wife to use for target practice , I'd be better'?

Mr. COX: That was the gist of it. Yeah.

Mr. ACKLEY: That's -- yeah, that's the context of the statement.

MANKIEWICZ: And it was clear Melissa 's killer had been angry, and strong. Angry enough to kick in a door, strong enough to overpower a woman using his bare hands.

Mr. BEN DAVID: What we found significant about Melissa 's injuries is what we didn't find. We didn't find many defensive wounds. It's as if she was rendered absolutely helpless by her attacker.

MANKIEWICZ: Ben David is the district attorney in North Carolina 's New Hanover County . His twin brother, Jon , is the assistant DA. The Davids were not in office when Melissa was murdered, but they've spent years on the case.

Mr. B. DAVID: It was an intimate attack, strangling the life out of a nude woman in the bed of her own home.

MANKIEWICZ: But was it sexual? There was no DNA on her body. They kept looking and found a crime scene crammed with evidence, including dozens of hairs. That wasn't surprising, since Melissa 's new house had been on the market, plenty of potential buyers had been through. But one person's genetic signature stood out.

Mr. JON DAVID: Roger Mooney 's DNA , his semen was on the mattress. And his hair was also at our crime scene .

And he claimed never to be at this house .

MANKIEWICZ: It was direct physical evidence which seemed to put Roger Mooney at the scene of the crime .

MANKIEWICZ: He says to his friends, `I'd be better at target practice if my wife's face was on the target.' She says to her friends, ` If I ever get killed, it's Roger .'

He has an alibi, but it's pretty far from ironclad.

MANKIEWICZ: And a hair of his turns up in the house . And he never lived in that house . Aren't there people on death row for less?

Mr. B. DAVID: There's no question we had probable cause to arrest him on what you just described.

MANKIEWICZ: The theory was that after his roommate left for work, Roger got in his car, drove the 70 miles to Melissa 's house , kicked in the door, killed her, then turned around and drove 70 miles home in time to get his daughter to the babysitter at 5:15 and himself to the Marine base shortly after. It was a lot of business in a very short time.

Back in Pennsylvania , Melissa 's family remained convinced Roger was the killer.

DEBBIE: I thought she got in an argument with Roger .

DEBBIE: He kicked the door down, and it just went really wrong.

MANKIEWICZ: Melissa 's family clung to assurances from the FBI that the case would be closed quickly.

Ms. GALADE: After the funeral, I thought he'd be arrested.