Dateline   |  August 02, 2013

'Return to Poplar River' Part 3

Centurion Ministries finds new suspects and new evidence in the murder of Kim Nees

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

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>> we have not developed any information that would tell us hey, maybe barry is guilty, because if we did, i can assure you centurian ministries would have dropped this case years ago and moved onto more fertile fields.

>> but it was the secrets in this old town that persuaded centurian it had a different kind of case, that it was able to not only say barry beach was innocent but that it knew or thought it knew who might be the real killers. for 25 years, the rumors had persisted that a group of girls killed kim nees. now centurian's investigators encountered more than just rumors. centurian investigators turned up witnesses who claimed one of those girls now a middle aged woman had implicated herself in the murder. this is that woman. her name sissy atkinson .

>> she was talking about the kim nees murder and how the wrong person got put in jail.

>> this man said he heard sissy making incriminating statements in a factory where they both worked.

>> she looked at me and she said we got away with the perfect crime .

>> nor was he the only one that heard sissy put herself at the murder. one of the others was about the last person you would think would ever come forward.

>> i think kim nees is looking over sissy 's shoulder all the time.

>> this man's name, jd. his last name, atkinson . yes. sissy atkinson 's brother. he was imprisoned on drug related charges when we talked to him. he heard the rumors, of course. one night he said he was talking to sissy when she was a little high. did your sister sissy tell you she was there the night that kim nees was killed?

>> well, the way she said it, that they were partying down there.

>> and there were other girls there, too.

>> yeah.

>> how much did she get out before she dropped off.

>> just that one of them girls come running around the pickup with a crescent wrench .

>> jd said his sister passed out before she could say any more.

>> one of the things we keep hearing from the state is these girls , if they were involved, wouldn't have kept quiet. somebody would have heard something over the years. and these people who have come forward did hear something.

>> sissy was 51 when we met her in 2007 . an admitted drug addict , she was not entirely happy to face questions about a murder more than three decades old.

>> i told those ministry guys, i said when we all die and go to heaven and you guys find out that i had no knowledge of it, i hope you guys will be gentlemen enough to come and find me in heaven and tell me you're sorry.

>> in fact, sissy 's story about what she did that night has changed over the years. here is what she told us in 2007 . she was at a local bar and in fact the bar tender confirms sissy and some other girls were there, closed the place, way past midnight said the bartender. but sissy said it was much earlier when she asked a friend for a ride home.

>> she drove me to my home and i went in and i went to bed.

>> so you were in bed by when that night, do you remember?

>> oh, 11:00 .

>> why would we have witnesses that say that you said a few years after the murder that you got away with the perfect crime ?

>> never came out of my mouth, never.

>> is it possible that it's blocked somehow?

>> i've got a very, very good memory.

>> i don't want to be cruel when i say this, but if you do have a really good memory, you're probably the only addict on the face of the earth that does. what is it going to take to stop the whispers?

>> i don't know, i don't care because i'm not involved.

>> and in fact, that bloody palm print is not hers, no fingerprints either.

>> if i was there, they would have found some dna on me, you know, something.

>> after our interview with sissy , went looking for more of the girls , now women, that witnesses placed at the scene. one of them, joann jackson, but like sissy , says she was tucked into bed hours before the murder.

>> i don't have any reason to be implicated in this whatsoever, you know. i went home. i talked to my mother.

>> do you know what time of night that was?

>> around 11:00 .

>> after that, you have no idea what happened?

>> no.

>> but the things that can happen when such old stories, long buried in secrecy go public again. hard to believe.