Dateline   |  May 15, 2013

May 15: 'Behind Closed Doors', Part 3

Detectives next interview Ruth Pyne's son, Jeffrey, a popular honor student and star athlete in high school, now a biology major in college.

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

>>> ruth pyne had been found beaten and stabbed to death in the garage of her home. the detectives had just interviewed her husband, bernie, and he knew his son, jeffrey , was up next.

>> i knew that jeffrey didn't do this. my concern was that it didn't look good simply because ruth's mental illness painted a big target on both of us.

>> reporter: jeffrey , 21, a biology major at the university of michigan , was the pynes' much admired son. he was once the valedictorian at his small christian academy , where he excelled in just about everything. catherine stako was a close friend.

>> everyone liked him. he got along with everybody. the teachers loved him. parents loved him. you know, it's like everyone -- every mom's dream kid to date their daughter.

>> reporter: jeffrey was a role model for his friend, steven creek.

>> he was just one of those guys that was intelligent beyond his years i think. he was the kind of person who i don't know who didn't look up to him.

>> reporter: as he was interviewed by detectives, jeffrey was the polite, respectful young man everyone knew him to be. he had an unblemished record.

>> our goal here is to figure out what happened.

>> okay.

>> reporter: he told detectives about his day. that he was home alone until his mother came back from grocery shopping around 11:30 . a little later he recalled she went upstairs to lie down. he left the house, he said, about 1:30.

>> there was no altercation or mom was not upset or anything the day before you left?

>> no. she -- she was fine.

>> reporter: at this point all jeffrey had been told about his mother was that she was dead. not that she'd been murdered. the son continued his account of the afternoon. heading out for the first of two part-time jobs.

>> and your mom was upstairs in bed when you left?

>> yes. i told her i was going to the lady's house.

>> reporter: the lady's house was mrs. needham's, a former teacher jeffrey did yard work and chores for.

>> what all did you do over there today?

>> i went over there to transplant her lilacs.

>> how did you transplant them?

>> reporter: after he left mrs. needham's, he said he went to his second job at spicer orchards. he clocked in there around 3:00 p.m . as they were speaking, the detectives noticed jeffrey 's hands were bandaged.

>> what's wrong with your hands?

>> this was from work today.

>> reporter: he scraped his hands at the orchard, he said, when he tried to pick up a wooden pallet. the detectives took pictures of the injuries and then asked jeffrey to explain in detail how he got them.

>> i picked it up like this and used my foot to kind of give it a boost and there was a stack of pallets. i gave it a boost and my hand got caught in there. and it just kind of stuck. and i caught it and shoved it back on there. and it stung really bad. pulled my hands out quick.

>> did it pull the skin off your hands?

>> yeah. it tore it up.

>> the whole time i'm thinking there's just no way that's possible.

>> reporter: the detectives were now just as interested in the son with the raw blistered hands as they were with the father who'd admitted to an affair. and they became even more interested as they watched jeffrey 's reaction to the disclosure of the brutal truth about his mother .

>> your mom was murdered. someone killed your mom. so if there's anything else that you know about that you've been holding back or were afraid to tell us, now is the time. okay?

>> i don't know what to tell you. i don't know anyone who would want to hurt --

>> reporter: jeffrey claimed to know nothing about his mother 's death. but oddly, they thought, he never did ask the detectives just what had happened to his mother .

>> he never asked us one question at all about his mother . during the entire interview. what person wouldn't ask something, anything if you had just been told a loved one was killed? unless you knew the answers.

>> reporter: the detectives then moved on to talk about his mother 's arrest for assaulting jeffrey the year before.

>> she came at me. she launched out of the bed at me, grabbed me by the throat, and like started hitting me and stuff. but, i mean -- she didn't hurt me or anything.

>> was she upset with you because you were gone for a long time when she was there?

>> i don't have a problem with my mom. i never had a problem with her. all i -- the only issue i had was i wanted her to take medicine. and she -- the nature of the illness, she didn't want to take it.

>> reporter: then jeffrey echoed wawhat his father and aunt were saying. in recent months things were getting better.

>> yeah. she would come to my dad and show him, like i'm taking my pills every night.

>> describe to me what took place.

>> reporter: the questions continued for over an hour. until the detectives asked the inevitable provocative one.

>> did you do anything at all today to hurt your mom?

>> no. no.

>> in any way, shape, or form?

>> nothing.

>> did you have any arguments with your mom today?

>> no. i didn't say anything hurtful to her. i did nothing.

>> no idea who would?

>> i have no idea. i -- i can't even --

>> because somebody did.

>> i've had a hard enough time.

>> reporter: so father and son 's stories were now on the record. each are given reasons why the detectives should keep looking at both.