Dateline   |  May 17, 2013

'Shattered', Part 1

The life of newlywed couple Amber and Josh Hilberling is shattered when Josh dies in a horrifying fall from their 25th floor apartment.  Was it a suicide, a tragic accident, or something much darker?

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

>>> it was a spring day in name only. the temperature in tulsa was a couple of humid ticks shy of triple digits. and that was just fine with josh and amber hibber ling. they were back where they had met and fell in love .

>> i believe everyone has that one person in their life that they give their whole heart to. there's no refunds or exchanges.

>> the young couple newlyweds who had recently celebrated their first anniversary had just survived a frigid winter in alaska. where josh had done a stint in the air force . amber spent most of those cold dark winter days alone in military housing.

>> it's really, really cold and dark and --

>> did you like it there or did you quickly start feeling that maybe this isn't the place for me?

>> it is hard to get used to. i would make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup and sit on the floor, you know, in the afternoons, and talk to levi.

>> levi was the name they had picked for the son they were expecting. amber was seven months pregnant. now back home in tulsa, they were living in the city's iconic residential highrise. the university club tower that looms more than 30 floors above the banks of the arkansas river . the view from nair 25th floor apartment was one of the best in town. until around 4:00 p.m . that hot tuesday afternoon in 2011 .

>> that's when i heard a woman screaming, no, no, no!

>> nathan mcgowan was in the apartment next door. after the screams, he heard a loud crash.

>> i thought maybe somebody pushed over a coffee table or a fish tank because it got completely quiet right at that instant. eerily quiet. then i heard someone screaming oh, my god, oh, my god!

>> this was no fish tank shattering. it was something for more terrible. something tragic. josh had crashed through the big picture window in the living room .

>> i remember him tripping backwards and falling into the window. i run to the window and i saw him hit the ground and i mean, i just --

>> you actually watched him hit the ground?

>> yeah.

>> i don't think anyone really imagines what that must be like.

>> no. nobody -- nobody could ever imagine. my only thought was get to him. you know, see if he's okay.

>> josh had landed 17 floors below on the concrete of the 8th floor parking deck . amber raced downstairs. a neighbor who heard the breaking glass snapped this picture as she reached josh.

>> when you came upon his body, did you touch him? did you move him?

>> yeah. i rolled him over.

>> must have been hard?

>> a human being should never have to see another human being in that state. even a stranger, much less -- much less someone you love.

>> amber cradled josh's head in her arms pleading with him to wake up until emts pulled her away. but there was nothing they could do. he was gone. josh hilberling was just 23 years old. officer don holloway of the tulsa police department arrived a few minutes later.

>> can you first describe the scene.

>> the scene was chaotic. there were medical personnel , fire department personnel, police personnel. a crowd had gathered outside and saw the victim on the ground.

>> two people said they witnessed josh's horrifying fall. they spoke to detective jeff felton.

>> one of them described him kind of flailing, almost like riding a bicycle or pedaling.

>> screaming?

>> yes.

>> officer holloway took amber inside, away from the horrible scene on the parking deck .

>> and what was amber 's demeanor at that time?

>> she was upset. she was crying. asking for josh. wanted to know if they were working on him, trying to get him back to life or not.

>> she seemed very distraught.

>> what are you thinking happened at this point?

>> at that point i thought we had a suicide, maybe an accidental fall, something along those lines.

>> holloway was also thinking the gruesome scene was no place for a pregnant 19-year-old girl who had just become a widow. he drove amber to the police station and escorted her to an interview room.

>> thank you, ma'am.

>> her grandmother gloria came along for support.

>> amber is nothing but a witness to this. i just put them in the room so amber could have somebody there with her to console her if she needed it.

>> josh is dead.

>> as the two women sat alone in the small room, amber poured her heart out.

>> i just wish it would leave my head. every time i close my eyes i see it.

>> she was inconsolable. a jumble of grief and raw emotion.

>> i just want to know what his last thoughts were. what could you think, what could go through your head when you're falling to your death?

>> i still can't understand how it happened. and i don't think that's ever going to get better.

>> for almost an hour, amber sat with hr grandmother in a small room at the police station . unable to stop replaying every moment of the events that ended her husband's life.

>> i just kissed his cheeks