Dateline   |  August 30, 2013

Poison, Part 1

Larry McNabney had money, a successful law practice and a beautiful wife. But Larry also struggled with an alcohol problem that sometimes caused him to disappear for days on end . But when days stretched into weeks and no one heard from Larry, people began to worry.

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

>> it was september 11 , 2001 . just about everybody know where is they were that awful day. like the glamorous trio that was traveling north through california's yosemite national park . even as the rest of the world 's attention was focused on new york city , they were intent on their own urgent needs, their desires, their fears, their deadly love triangle . so they probably didn't appreciate the passing wonders, the astonishing cliffs, the water falls, the giant sequoias , from the back seat, he didn't see anything at all. his name was larry mcnabney, and he was a tall, handsome man, a personal injury attorney from nevada, made buckets of money, loved life, love being in control.

>> there was affect hair out of place, there wasability dun't dust on his desk, his pen was always in the same spot.

>> his wife was crazy about him, in awe of his courtroom presence.

>> i loved to go to the courtroom and watch my dad. it was mesmerizing to me.

>> he commanded the place.

>> completely confident, not an ounce of shyness. he commanded the courtroom.

>> i have been a trial lawyer for over 20 years.

>> a good attorney and perhaps as important, very good at the business of law. larry 's long-time friend, fred atchiss atchisson.

>> he could open 50 files a month in personal injury rich man.

>> but nobody's perfect, of course. and for all of larry 's unquestioned talents, the man carried with him a raft of demons.

>> i know he had a difficult childhood and that a lot of your personality is shaped when you're a child.

>> and as an adult, larry struggled with alcohol, women. he married and divorced several times.

>> it was like a void he was trying to fill. and he never could fill it.

>> in fact, from time to time, larry had gone on benders and just vanished, weeks at a time. everybody would worry and wonder and sure enough, he would show up again.

>> i had a t-shirt made up once, yellow with black letters saying where is larry mcnabney?

>> then finally, larry , well into his 40s seemed to get his act together for real. he set up a new office in las vegas , everything clicked. possibly for an attractive reason. as tavia discovered.

>> i went by the office one stay and he said i have someone i want you to meet. he said this is elisa .

>> elisa , 17 years younger than larry , and he was in love.

>> and he said she's just fun and vivacious and she's young and we have a good time.

>> tavia didn't stand in the way. she wanted her dad to be happy.

>> we welcomed the new person in. it's my dad, so i didn't want anything that would inhibit me from spending time with him.

>> and he really cared for this woman?

>> he did.

>> larry and elisa thrived, both personally and professionally. they got married. elisa became his office manager , they opened up a firm in sacramento, california, another big success. so they hired a young attractive college student named sarah dutra, the outgoing daughter of deeply religious parents, who soon became a friend as well as a sort of personal and office assistant . and together, elisa and larry enjoyed the high life .

>> she was into the same things that larry loved and style. and they went out and bought viper cars together.

>> and he also shared elisa 's passion, quarter horses .

>> larry would show horses and show himself which fit in with larry looking good and feeling good.

>> larry could do more of what he liked, while young sarah helped to rung the business end of larry 's law practice . just about perfect. though larry 's friend fred was a bit of a stick in the mud about it.

>> the fact that she took control of his business, allowed him to take part in drinking and partying.

>> which is not really what larry needed?

>> no, he didn't need that. because his appetites would run amok.

>> so when, after nearly seven years of marriage, larry dropped out of sight, close friends of larry weren't surprised because he had gone on drunken benders before. but as time stretched on, it seemed extremely odd. ginger started working at the law firm just about the time that larry -- couldn't seem to settle on what the staff should tell people about larry .

>> i was told to tell his kids and different people in his family different things. so i was told that he was golfing or skiing, some place they probably couldn't get a hold of him at.

>> so it was obvious b.s.

>> so if it was a client, i would say he's working on a deposition, he's with a client, he had to fly out.

>> larry 's kids didn't know what to think.

>> i said this doesn't sound right, why does the story keep changing?

>> he was always with his family on his birthday. but no sign of larry mcnabney.

>> what i worried about was had something gone wrong and dad was scared and took off?

>> had larry offended the wrong person?

>> tavia had a friend in law enforcement who said --

>> you have to look at it two ways, if he's in hiding, he's not going to be happy you found him because obviously he's hiding for a reason. or something's happened to him.

>> meanwhile, back at the office, ginger was hearing things, worrisome things until she just couldn't keep it in anymore.

>> i had been to the sheriff's department, i wasn't sure what to do, so i just slid a piece of paper under the window.

>> detectives got her note already, and they figured they should have a chat with elisa mcnabney, but when they went looking for her, just like