Dateline   |  April 10, 2013

April 10: 'Behind Closed Doors', Part 1

A terrible crime has occurred in a Florida suburb, which makes little sense to police.  Dateline NBC's Josh Mankiewicz reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> what would you do for your family? would you lie? would you walk through fire? could you ever accuse them of something terrible to save yourself? this is a story about two very different families. it's about loyalty, terror, deception, and love. and for one of the families it begins with a late-night phone call .

>> i was about to not answer it. and something told me to pick up the phone .

>> christina yanos's mother was on the line.

>> you could just hear the sirens. and she just kept saying, you have to come here, they broke into the house , and he's dead, they killed him.

>> "he" was joseph morrissey , who'd been married to christina 's mother, kay , for 12 years. their suburban florida home documented by police video was now a crime scene.

>> there was so much chaos going on. the whole street was blocked off. there was tons of police cars and the sirens, and you could smell the smoke. and i just remember running down the street and the police officers were trying to stop me. and i just kept going, and she was just standing there, in the middle of the street, and she just looked so small and so hurt. and i just ran up and gave her a big hug, and she was covered in blood and she just kept saying, "he's dead. he's gone." she said, "why would they do that? she's gone."

>> when i arrived at this house it was about 1:30 in the morning.

>> detective brian kindle of the plantation, florida police quickly learned the key facts. joe morrissey had been brutally stabbed to death in his own home while his wife, kay , and young son had escaped. the detective spoke briefly with kay .

>> she gives me a brief synopsis of what happened that night.

>> believable?

>> at that point, yes. that's the only thing that i had to go on at that point.

>> kay told the detective that a man had entered their home sometime after 11:00 p.m . and began a reign of terror that started with tying joe and kay 's hands and feet with zip ties and ended with the murder of her husband and their house on fire . kay 's story suggested a robbery gone bad. to figure out for himself what had happened, detective kendall worked from the outside in.

>> what did you see as you got here to the front of the house ?

>> the screen to the window right over here was leaning up against the house . there was a vertical slice down the middle of the screen, and this window was wide open .

>> and that's how kay told you the guy first came into the house ?

>> that was the entry area where the suspect came in, correct. i walked down this hallway here. on the ground there was a pair of red-handled scissors. one of the long plastic flex cuffs was on the ground. a zip tie . when i walked into the master bedroom , another zip tie was on the ground. at the foot of the bed there were bath towels laying on the ground. on the bed itself was a wedding ring , which i thought was unusual.

>> kay had said that the man who came in asked for jewelry, asked for valuables.

>> demanding cash, valuables.

>> but he didn't take them.

>> at this point he didn't take the ones that were in this room at least because when i looked at the closet there was also a large significant amount of jewelry.

>> so if this is a robbery, it's kind of a strange robbery because they didn't take the stuff they supposedly want.

>> then he sees the blood.

>> right down on the floor here large amounts of blood. and i could see a man's feet outside the sliding glass door .

>> this is where joe morrissey was killed right here in this room.

>> he was murdered and stabbed right next to the sofa in this room.

>> kay said she dragged his body out of the fire and onto the patio and that's where joe morrissey 's body lay, in the wee hours of april 6th , 2010 .

>> stabbings. always personal.

>> they are. they're up close. there's no way to do it from a distance.

>> so everything about that says this wasn't a robbery, this was somebody who wanted to kill joe morrissey in particular.

>> in addition to that, joe morrissey still had his wedding band on. he still had his watch on. valuables that if it was a robbery it would have been taken out of the house .

>> what's more, his wife, kay , was still alive, not stabbed, not even once.

>> they do a brutal, vicious murder to joe morrissey . why leave her alive? why leave a witness alive?

>> why indeed? in murders like this the spouse is often the first suspect. sometimes the only suspect. all of that became clear that night to kay 's daughter, christina .

>> i remember they took her to the police station . she asked me to stay and watch the house . and i remember sitting there and they would come up and ask me questions, the different detectives and the police officers . they asked me, you know, did they ever fight or, you know, were they arguing or was there tension between them?

>> absolutely not, said christina .

>> they never fought. they always were very happy.

>> nobody goes through life and never fights. everybody fights.

>> i mean, i remember they would fight over, you know, him leaving socks on the floor, a wet towel or something like that. but i mean, if they ever had any arguments they were few and far between. they were a very good match.

>> joe and kay started dating when christina was a young girl . both were divorced single parents at the time, but it was science that brought them together. they met at a cancer research institute. kay was a biomedical grad student back then, while joe was a respected molecular biologist with a ph.d. from stanford university . he conducted research into whether there was a connection between cell phones and cancer, among other things. and his work had taken him across the globe.

>> he was a lot like my mom. he was very hard-working and he was very, very humble. the most humble person i know. he never bragged about anything. he was just always trying to be a good guy and teach us to do the right thing.

>> joe and kay dated for a year, and then joe popped the question on a roman holiday .

>> i thought it was so cool that he proposed on the top of the vatican. and she was just so excited. and it was fun to plan a wedding. they made sure that the kids were all included.

>> that meant not only christina but also a son of joe 's from his previous marriage.

>> it wasn't just a wedding between the two of them. it was like all of us becoming a big family.

>> take a picture.

>> it wasn't long before kay and joe wanted a child of their own and decided to adopt patrick , a baby boy from south korea .

>> he was a very hands-on father. he was always doing something with patrick . all the time. it was either baseball lessons or hockey practice or going fishing. i mean, they were together all the time.

>> reporter: but now joe was gone. patrick and kay had survived. and detective kendall had some questions for kay .

>> how do you know he came through the window?