Dateline   |  July 12, 2010

Mystery on Reminisce Road, Part 6

Investigators discover that the suspect had a criminal past and a string of victims around the country. Would the jury agree?

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

MANKIEWICZ: Tyrone Delgado for the murder of Melissa Mooney , and looking hard. In 2002 , three years after Melissa 's murder, the investigation got a big boost thanks to what Assistant District Attorney Jon David called a silent witness from the crime scene .

Mr. J. DAVID: One hair that was collected that evening was put in an evidence locker and sat there for two years.

MANKIEWICZ: Remember, Melissa 's home had been on the market before she bought it; plenty of people had tramped through, and plenty of hair and fiber remained behind. After Melissa was killed, all of it became evidence. And one of those hairs proved to be a partial DNA match with Tyrone Delgado , meaning it came from Delgado himself or from a close relative on his mother's side.

MANKIEWICZ: You had a hair that maybe wasn't definitely his, but couldn't exclude him?

Mr. ACKLEY: Couldn 't exclude him.

Mr. COX: Was consistent with his maternal...

Mr. ACKLEY: Right.

Mr. COX: ...bloodline.

MANKIEWICZ: But there could be an explanation for that hair: Delgado could have walked through the home when it was for sale, before Melissa bought it. So agents decided to dig deeper, to find out whether Delgado had committed any attacks similar to the alleged assault on Lorraine Frew . They reached out to law enforcement in every place Delgado had lived,

asking about crimes that carried what they called the Delgado signature: forced entry, choking and sexual assault.

Mr. COX: Those offices were able to just get us a great wealth of other victims and information. And then we're able to compare those back to the Mooney crime scene .

MANKIEWICZ: By late 2003 , agents believed they had established a grim pattern. They shared their findings with prosecutors.

Mr. B. DAVID: What we found was a string of victims around this country who were all saying what Melissa would've told us if she was alive.

MANKIEWICZ: Who all told remarkably similar stories?

Mr. B. DAVID: Who told remarkably similar stories about the worst night of their life.

MANKIEWICZ: There were more than half a dozen alleged victims, which left prosecutors to wonder, if Tyrone Delgado was responsible for such a trail of brutality, why wasn't there more evidence of it on his criminal record? The more they learned, the more certain they became of this theory: Delgado targeted vulnerable women who rarely pursued him legally.

Mr. B. DAVID: Mr. Delgado became very competent at bringing about real pain to his victims and getting away with it around the country.

MANKIEWICZ: Investigators still needed more. In November 2003 they got it. Delgado 's own wife, Ana , accused him of almost killing her. She said he choked her, pinched her nose to cut off her air. Agents compared Ana 's injuries to Melissa 's, and found striking similarities. Ana pressed charges, filed for divorce. And then, in a huge break for the FBI , Ana Cruz Delgado switched sides. She no longer gave her husband that crucial alibi on the night of Melissa 's murder.

Mr. B. DAVID: She couldn't say that he was there for certain during the attack, like she originally said.

MANKIEWICZ: She couldn't guarantee that he had been home that night?

Mr. B. DAVID: That's right . In fact, that he had a pattern of getting up the middle of the night when he was drinking and going out in the community. And she learned not to ask what he was up to.

Mr. DELGADO: Let's go , let's go.

MANKIEWICZ: Delgado went back on the offensive, challenging the investigators -- or trying to.

Mr. DELGADO: I say handcuff me. Handcuff me. Let's go .

MANKIEWICZ: Delgado had been picked up in Louisiana for drunk driving. In front of a surveillance camera, he launched into a tirade, demanding to speak to FBI agent Paul Cox .

Mr. DELGADO: I told you to get Cox on the phone where I can talk to him right now.

MANKIEWICZ: By now he and Cox had met a number of times as Cox pushed the investigation forward. And once again, Delgado wanted to know what Cox knew.

Mr. DELGADO: Get Cox up here! Get him on the phone! Get him on the phone, man. Come on, man.

MANKIEWICZ: Cox couldn't get there quickly, so he offered to send someone in his place. That angered Delgado .

Mr. DELGADO: Tell Cox I said, ` Kiss my ass .' If you want to talk to me, talk to me right now and kiss my ass!

MANKIEWICZ: Eventually Delgado lost interest in talking. But Cox says the tape is instructive.

Mr. COX: You can see just how aggressive and manipulative he is. And he starts to try to create a situation where he has to have interaction with us because he's dying to know.

Mr. COX: `Where are they in this process?'

MANKIEWICZ: Where were they? They had a suspect whom they believed had committed a series of remarkably similar assaults, a suspect whose alibi was now shaky, a suspect who had means -- he was strong and trained in martial arts -- who had opportunity -- he lived across the street from Melissa .

Mr. B. DAVID: Mr. Delgado was one of only a few people on earth that had the size and ability and intent to perpetrate a crime like this.

MANKIEWICZ: In late 2005 , investigators and prosecutors decided they had a good case and it was time to act. Delgado was charged with the first-degree murder of Melissa Mooney .

MANKIEWICZ: What was that like?

Mr. COX: It was a long time coming.

MANKIEWICZ: Feel good?

Mr. COX: Yeah, it did.

MANKIEWICZ: Tyrone Delgado went on trial for Melissa Mooney 's murder here in Wilmington in 2008 . The prosecution put five women, including Lorraine Frew , on the stand, to describe what they said was a pattern of attacks. Delgado 's defense attorneys tried to discredit the victims' testimony. They also argued the DNA evidence was not exact, that the FBI should not have investigated the murder of one of its own and that others, specifically Roger Mooney , had greater motive. It took the jury four hours to find Tyrone Delgado guilty.

For the prosecutors and the FBI , it was a deeply satisfying victory.

Mr. B. DAVID: We took off the streets one of the most violent criminals either one of us has ever prosecuted.

Mr. COX: This case was very much about Melissa , but it was also very much about potentially the next victim.

MANKIEWICZ: Roger Mooney says he's put his ordeal behind him, in part because the same agents who made his life miserable ended up clearing him.

Mr. MOONEY: I can't stay mad over it. Eventually they did the right thing.

Mr. MOONEY: So I appreciate that.

MANKIEWICZ: But a family still struggles with a terrible loss.

MANKIEWICZ: What do you tell Samantha about Melissa ?

Ms. GALADE: I tell that she loved her very much.

And that if she could be here with her, she'd be here.

MANKIEWICZ: And a man who was something of a father figure to an employee who was only late once, the day she died, still mourns the life that never was for a young woman named Melissa Mooney .

Mr. BONNEY: You never lose what could've been for Melissa .

There was a good future for her. And that still hurts.

CURRY: Tyrone Delgado was sentenced to life without parole . He appealed his conviction, but that appeal was denied.

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