Dateline   |  July 26, 2013

'Secrets in the Desert,' Part 6

Bill Macumber had one last chance to win his freedom and spend his final years with his family.

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

>>> bill macumber waited. so did the arizona justice project, so did bill's son, ron , for months. waited with hope for governor jan brewer to approve the clemency board's recommendation to set bill free. and then the answer came, the application for clemency for william macumber is denied. what was it like for to you get that news?

>> brutal. just brutal.

>> one of those kick in the guts things.

>> it was devastating. we thought all our work, everything was over.

>> and then it almost was.

>> the warden called me and said you might want to get down here. he's very, very sick. i'm now panicked.

>> bill had a blockage in his small intestine that had become hemorrhaging and doctors put him in a medically induced coma where he lingered. but just when he was about to give up hope he came out of it. so a last attempt, it was now or never, the arizona justice project decided to fight for a new trial. but county attorney bill montgomery wasn't buying it. you still felt that he was the guilty man.

>> he was and he is, efforts to try to pin the murders on a different individual, efforts to try and insinuate if not outright claim that macumber, the convicted murderer was a victim of a frame-up and that his ex-wife was responsible for it. all of that had been argued before.

>> i know. i didn't get to hear all the evidence. did they?

>> well, they got to hear all the admissible evidence .

>> but what about the ernie valenzuela confession? you look at these two guys. which one do you think committed the crime? the good guy or the bad guy .

>> that's exactly what i'm not supposed to do as a prosecutor. i'm supposed to look at the evidence and make an objective decision about the case i had.

>> but wait a minute. here's this woman that said, i was there. i saw it happen and then this valenzuela guy says, i did it.

>> she says that earnly salazar was the one who was there. ernie salazar is not ernesto valenzuela .

>> but if he had any indication of argue it in court he couldn't. that's because the evidence from the original case had been destroyed. what bill's appeals were exhausted.

>> the county attorney ultimately was willing to sort of recognize the realities of the situation on both sides. his site and our side, and we were able to reach a resolution.

>> but, of course, there was a catch. bill macumber would be freed, but only if he pleaded no contest to a charge of second degree murder.

>> it was disappointing in a sense because he wasn't guilty and he couldn't admit guilt.

>> after all, for decades he fought to lose the stigma of guilt.

>> no contest, he does not plead guilty . he would have died in prison before he ever admitted to doing something he didn't do.

>> but finally thoughts of family and freedom prevailed so just last year after 38 years behind bars, he took the deal.

>> my father comes in, all shackled up, and one of the first things that happened was the judge orders the bailiff to remove all the shackles from him and if that is not symbolic, i don't know what that is.

>> thank you, your honor.

>> i got to be the first one to hug him. he's finally coming home.

>> it was a day i thought we may never see and he walked out in a pair of jeans and an old western shirt which is exactly what he wanted to wear when he walked out of prison.

>> how does freedom feel?

>> nothing like it. nothing like it.

>> what has ron 's support meant to you.

>> everything. everything. imvery proud of him. i love him with all my heart. he's his father's son, you know.

>> not everyone was celebrating. some people liked the story just the way it was, like the families of tim mckillop and joyce sterrenberg.

>> we know the man killed those two young people . to see this end the way it did in my opinion is pretty tragic.

>> carole, as you can imagine did not like the way it turned out, not one bit.

>> there was a killer, he is a double killer. i don't care if anybody else believes me, i know it. i have done all i can do to tell the truth and it'll just have to suffice.

>> ron is using his father's name now. he's a macumber again. and he's still trying to sort out the mystery in his family. still struggling to forgive a parent, but this time it's his mother.

>> i know what the truth is. she knows what the truth is. as much as i despise her for what she's done i do not hate my mother. i don't like who she is. i don't like what she's done. she's my mother and i love her.

>> bill macumber spends his days simply now with family. he's taken up fishing with his brother bob.

>> i never thought we were going to do this again.

>> neither did i, robert.

>> and ron is getting to know his dad. all over again.

>> well, you take for granted all these firsts that i've