Dateline   |  July 12, 2013

'A Cold December Morning,' Part 5

Detectives track down the identities of those mystery men Chanin was messaging around the time of her death. Could one of them have been her killer?  

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

>> narrator: what's a 40-something single woman to do, when she's looking for a little romance, and who isn't? why not press a button, type in your name, see what happens? that's exactly what shannon starbuck did.

>> i said well get online. she said i'm online on a dating site .

>> it's not uncommon for this day and age to online date. so i don't know why --

>> she wouldn't have put herself in danger or harm's way whatsoever.

>> wouldn't think?

>> no.

>> narrator: but in fact, that was something shannon 's children did worry about, a lot.

>> i'm sure you know of "dateline" nbc "to catch a predator". so i have seen that, and she was going on the internet, so i was afraid she was going to meet this one weirdo on the internet.

>> narrator: and so the children try to go after her killer. and providing detectives with a new leads in terms of internet dating . hiding under one particular rock was one very likely suspect, the man calling himself john wilson , who planned to meet with shannon on december 1, the last day she was seen alive. detectives quickly figured out that he was some kind of an impostor, had posted a fake picture in his online dating profile. and had been communicating with shannon from locations clearly designed to hide his real identity.

>> they were all public places , public phones, universities, places like that.

>> boy, this guy's being careful?

>> he's doing all this from public locations.

>> what did this tell you?

>> it caused us concern that sh could be or suspect.

>> he used a pay phone to call shannon , it was here outside the university library , it happened to have a surveillance camera. was this john wilson ? only one way to find out. detective johnson sent him an instant message of his own.

>> i said i need to talk to you.

>> narrator: he told the detective he knew shannon starbuck, the two had been seeing each other.

>> but he was very reluctant to tell me his name, tell me who i was speaking to.

>> narrator: he was distrustful.

>> it was obvious that he didn't seem to believe that i was with the sheriff's office either.

>> mike rickets was listening in on the conversation and scribbled a note to his fellow detective.

>> tell him we need to have his true identity shortly or i'm going to post this picture and show it all over the media and i will find out who he is.

>> and at that point he told me his true name .

>> he wanted to cooperate?

>> he expressed that he had been having an affair, he was married.

>> narrator: that was his explanation for the fake name , skulking around. he agreed to talk to the detectives in person but he wanted to have the meeting at the office of his lawyer, robert kospi.

>> he's completely stressed out, he's worried about his personal life , his professional life.

>> this interview is done with your permission and your attorney's?

>> yes.

>> so tell me, if you can how december 1 panned out?

>> narrator: december 1, the last day shannon was seen alive. detectives already knew the answer for messages on shannons phone, the man they were talking to had plans to meet shannon at her house. but they wanted to see if he would tell the truth.

>> at 10:30 , i was at her house. i knocked on the door.

>> what he told us was that he had made prior arrangements to meet with shannon .

>> so he actually went to her house?

>> he did go to her house.

>> narrator: only she never answered the door, he says. so then he went to a public phone to call, left a voice message .

>> hey, shannon , this is john, i tried to ring you back to see what your day looks like.

>> narrator: he seen stopped by her house again, frustrated, peered through her windows. didn't see anything, he says. and then he told detectives, he spent the rest of the day and into the evening exchanging messages with shannon .

>> i texted her, and i got a text message in reply from her saying did you come over? and she says, something to the effect of how about tonight or later tonight?

>> he really wanted to see her?

>> right.

>> but never did? or at least he said he never did?

>> right.

>> narrator: there was, however, a problem with his story. for much of december 1, john kenline couldn't tell detectives if anyone had seen him. in other words no one to really back up important portions of his alibi. lead detective mike rickets didn't know what to think.

>> here's an individual that's going to great lengths to hide his identity. but at the same time, here's an individual that is being as detailed as he possibly can in providing as much information as he can. so i was on the fence, but it was someone that we had to investigate.

>> narrator: boy, did they ever. to see if the schoolteacher shannon 's mystery man was telling the truth, or trying to cover up a crime, detectives waded through all of his communications with her.

>> we didn't let the idea go that he could still be our killer. i don't remember the number of days, but it was a week or two after the homicide that we even realized shannon had called 911.

>> narrator: 911? county sheriff 's detectives were about to discover a new piece of evidence, it was a recording, eerie and garbled and fleeting. but it might just be enough to help solve a murder.