Dateline   |  June 08, 2013

‘A Sister’s Search’, Part 4

Lesley and Aasha’s mother had talked to Lesley about leaving her marriage and going underground.  Maybe she’s out there somewhere.

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

>>> no one seemed to know where lesley herring was. her husband lyle had been seen but wasn't returning anyone's calls, not even those from the lapd. had lesley simply left her husband without a word to anyone? it seemed unlikely, but then her sister aasha was still in the process of learning about lesley 's marriage, how bad it really was, how unhappy lesley was, things lesley was apparently telling only their mother.

>> the thing about my sister, i think she really wanted people to believe she had it all together, so she wouldn't tell us about the problems that she was having with lyle .

>> reporter: she'd always taken care of you.

>> mm-hmm.

>> reporter: you're on tv and doing great. and maybe she thought, you know what? i'm not -- i'm not going to break aasha 's concentration for a minute?

>> oh, definitely. yeah, out of protection, a little bit of pride.

>> reporter: so perhaps lesley was still alive somewhere and just keeping her head down. it's what vivian was hoping.

>> i believed that lesley would come home. i went to sleep every night and imagine i could hear the doorbell ring, i could imagine that there were knocks on the door, i imagined the phone would ring.

>> reporter: she believed it because vivian knew something aasha didn't know, something vivian didn't tell the detectives right away, that lesley had spoken openly to her mother months earlier about some people who could help her just vanish, an underground. she mentioned going underground .

>> yes, she did.

>> reporter: did she seem serious about going underground ?

>> yes. she wanted to leave.

>> reporter: as much as he knew her family wanted to believe that, detective chris gable knew it didn't make sense.

>> you would bring something. she had a lot of cash she left behind . she would certainly have her migraine medication. for all intents and purposes from what we could tell there was nothing -- she took nothing with her.

>> reporter: and one week after lesley was a no-show at work, their investigation changed course. remember that starbucks receipt police found in lesley 's handbag, gable and his partner vicky bynum got their first look at a security camera showing the cash register at the exact time the purchase was made. i'm guessing you watched that video several times.

>> oh, yeah.

>> reporter: it's pretty clear video, and it's pretty clear that it isn't lesley .

>> and lo and behold, it's lyle herring . lyle herring by himself, no wife, with his long dreadlock hair, and he purchases a single item.

>> reporter: he doesn't buy another cup for somebody who might be waiting outside?

>> no, and we're looking for that, obviously.

>> reporter: you're thinking you weren't meant to find it in lesley 's purse?

>> i suspected so, and as the investigation moved forward, i knew. that's what we were expected to find it there.

>> reporter: three more days passed, an instant in hollywood, an eternity for aasha and her family. and then the bolo got a hit. lyle herring had been stopped at the mexican border . not fleeing but returning to the united states . the detectives dropped everything and headed south. you don't want to wait till the next day.

>> oh, no, our spidey senses were up thinking that something could be awry. we didn't know, so we needed to get down there and talk to him. i'm chris gable . and we needed to find out if lesley was with him, if not, where is she? and what does he know?

>> reporter: finally the detectives heard a story from lyle that explained just about everything. he confirmed what his mother-in-law had told the cops, that he and lesley had been fighting that weekend, they'd been fighting a lot, but this time he said was different. lesley had apparently had about enough of him. and lyle said that when he woke up in their apartment that sunday morning, lesley was gone.

>> did she leave to go to the store and never came back? what happened?

>> she just got up and left.

>> reporter: the detectives were surprised to hear all this from a closely cropped lyle herring . a man who had been known for years for his long dreadlocks. lyle explained to the detectiveses that he owed money to some gang members and that when he couldn't pay them back, he held him down and cut off his hair.

>> they cut my hair , they cut my mustache. next we're going to cut you.

>> reporter: you used to work the gang unit.

>> yes.

>> reporter: have you ever heard of a gang holding someone down and giving them a haircut as a way of getting money that they wanted?

>> not only haven't i heard of that, but the shave was a little added touch that i had never heard. a little hard to keep a straight face when i heard that.

>> reporter: lyle said before she dumped him he and lesley had planned a valentine's day vacation in mexico and hd gone to look for her a week after she disappeared.

>> so you went so far to look for her?

>> it was stupid, right?

>> no, it was not stupid at all. if it was me i'd be looking for my wife wherever i could.

>> reporter: but lyle had come up empty.

>> do you have any idea where your wife is?

>> i do not.

>> reporter: then gable asked lyle if during his search he had tried to phone or e-mail his wife. listen to lyle 's answer.

>> i called her but i believe -- i can't verify this in my mind, but i guess you can verify it with my cell phone . you can check my cell phone records.

>> reporter: he volunteered check my cell phone records.

>> yes.

>> reporter: did you think he want meese to see his cell phone records the same way he wanted me to see the starbucks receipt?

>> yes.

>> reporter: suspicious? yes. but proof of a crime? not even close. lyle herring was not under arrest for anything. but gable was able to seize lyle 's suv. he then brought in indiana bones from the l.a. county coroner's office, a german shepherd trained to sniff out the scent of human decomposition. they sent the dog through lyle 's suv and also through a classic cadillac he owned. in both vehicles, she stopped in her tracks and alerted. the dog told you that at one time a dead body had been in the back of lyle 's car?

>> correct.

>> reporter: that's when you know lesley 's dead?

>> yes, now i know she's dead.

>> reporter: gable did not share that with lesley 's family because he wasn't close to closing this case. there was still so much he didn't have, a crime scene , a witness or the one thing most homicide investigations begin with -- a body. had you ever done a murder case in which you didn't have a dead bod sne.

>> no, this is the first one.

>> reporter: you'd never done that before?

>> no, i never had.

>> reporter: the herring case wasn't going to be easy. so detective gable decided he needed a little help from the media. he held a press conference, but this would be a press conference unlike any you've ever seen. it would be pure theater worthy of hollywood. everyone would be there. detectives, family, even the prime suspect .