Dateline   |  July 26, 2013

'Secrets in the Desert,' Part 4

The famous case of the murder on lovers’ lane was finally closed. Bill Macumber was given two consecutive life sentences.  But while most men would have given up, Bill sees an opportunity to turn his life and the case around.

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

>>> the famous case of the murder on lover's lane was finally closed. justice diane or so it certainly seemed. it was 1976 , carole took the kids to live in colorado where she found work as a sheriff's deputy. to help erase bill from their live, they all started using carole's maiden name .

>> she did her best to take care of us.

>> were you all pretty close.

>> yes, very close.

>> ron who was 9 back then lived in the shadow of his father's crime.

>> i was ashamed. i didn't want anyone to know who my father was. new kid out of state, didn't know anybody. we even told people that he didn't live with us or that he was dead.

>> but as the years went by, hard questions about his father still cluttered his mind.

>> there were a few times that i thought about writing my father and never got the guts to do it.

>> what would you have written to him? what would you have said.

>> well, i don't know. i probably think one of the first questions, why did you do this to us?

>> and bill macumber wasn't going anywhere.

>> i think i pretty much gave up.

>> did you get to see your boys?

>> i saw them one time.

>> he sent dozens of letters to his sons, he said --

>> the kids never got them. they never heard from me as far as they knew.

>> and so bill slowly resigned himself to a life behind bars and the days piled up and turned into years. but during those year, a funny thing happened bill became a model inmate. so much so that other prisoners looked up to him. they gave him a nickname. pops. and bill began to see in the midst of his trouble opportunity like forming a chapter of the jc, the junior chamber of commerce in prison. jc's in the prison.

>> yeah.

>> who would have thought?

>> yeah.

>> young men's business group for heaven's sake.

>> that's right. by the end of the year we had 65 members out of a population of 155.

>> soon bill was organizing and leading the other prisoners through the jcs's set up prison classes for the inmate, taught them english, history, business skills and opened a snack bar and profits went to charities like the make-a-wish foundation and the special olympics .

>> we ended up that year the most awarded chapter in the state. oh, civilian and prison.

>> the former champion --

>> but bill didn't stop at just that. next he transformed the annual prison rodeo. once small and little known, into a renowned event that traveled the state and raised in its first year alone more than $70,000 for charity.

>> i went to every rodeo in the state of arizona .

>> by the way you heard him correctly, he was given permission time and again to leave the prison. sometimes for days. sometimes without an escort.

>> i heard that you traveled outside of prison 190 times.

>> 232 times. the most traveled inmate in the history of the prison system here.

>> why didn't you run?

>> never even entered my mind.

>> and he wrote endlessly 24 novel, a book of poetry, eventually the news of his achievements trickled down to ron .

>> my grandmother sent an article when he was doing. jaycees.

>> was this the man his mother told him was nothing evil.

>> i started getting interested in my father's case. i wanted to know more, who he had killed. why? i kept looking into it and reading articles. there were things that were starting to bother me a little bit. one of my thoughts is, how stupid are you to hold on to a weapon for 12 years if you've killed somebody. so it started brewing and brewing and brewing.

>> and though he wasn't the only person whose interest was piqued by the stories about bill macumber. when larry hammond , one of arizona's best-known defense attorneys stopped by the prison one day, the warden insisted he meet bill .

>> and he said, i think one of the people you need to talk to is pops. he was clearly a leader in that prison. he was the percentage who young inmates who wanted to do right relied on.

>> and so many months later when hammond discovered some very disturbing things about the case, he decided to investigate. and word got to ron now in his 30s and a husband and father himself and his own interest already brewing started to really percolate.

>> if it's an open and shut case like it was why is this guy a big name in arizona looking at this case? i just finally said, enough. i called larry hammond late june of 2002 . he says, as long as there's no easy way to tell you this, we believe your father is innocent and we believe your mother framed him.