Dateline   |  October 25, 2013

'Under a Halloween Moon' part 3

Police round up the "unusual” suspects as the "Lion" comes into the police station.

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

>> narrator: in those first hours and days after the murder of joel loveling, police were rounding up the unusual suspects.

>> we're looking for a suspect that's dressed as a penguin, someone dressed as a joker from batman, just a yellow colored sweatshirt.

>> narrator: those investigators were scratching their heads over what appeared to be a bloody claw from a bird costume that was found near joel lovings body.

>> we're looking for somebody in what 90% of a bird costume ?

>> we didn't know what it was. all we knew is that we had this piece of a costume .

>> detectives invited the guys on the party bus who had been so difficult the night of the murder to come back to police headquarters the following day, they did, and this time singing a different tune, one that seemed to get them all off the hook. they told cops they didn't see joel lovelings murder, but told of a fight outside the broken drum earlier that evening between one of their pals, dressed as a hunter and a guy in an odd costume with a yellow sweatshirt who had also been on the bus. because of that fight, they told the guy in the yellow outfit, he couldn't get back on the bus. then they drove downtown to another bar. the now sober and cooperative cowboy told detectives that he last saw joel loveling alive and well .

>> the guy in the und sweatshirt was talking to the guy in the yellow sweatshirt.

>> narrator: he explains that his clown fears were all about a flash back when he learned about joel lovelings death.

>> i just thought about it, that could have been me, you know?

>> narrator: meanwhile across coun town, the guy who had been wearing that yellow costume was just waking up. his name was travis stay, a student at the university of north dakota . and today he was nursing the mother of all hangovers because he had had so much to drink on the bus and in the bars the previous night, that he slept away most of the next day. when he awoke, one of his friends shared some worrisome news.

>> one of my roommates said that they were looking for a guy in a yellow sweatshirt, so i went down to the police station .

>> was your attorney with you?

>> i had nothing to hide.

>> narrator: so two days after joel loveling's death, travis sat down across from detectives. when the nursing student described his lion costume the detectives antenna went up. he suddenly realized it wasn't a bloody bird 's foot next to joel 's body but a lion's paw, and travis confirmed it.

>> i had a yellow sweatshirt on, i had some paws.

>> narrator: the cops became even more suspicious when they noticed the injuries to travis 's face and asked how he got them. punched out by the hunter in the parking lot of the broken drum . detective shoals noticed some scrapes on travis 's hands.

>> what's the cuts here from? where 's your costume at now?

>> my costume ?

>> my costume , i threw it away.

>> why did you throw it away?

>> because it was full of blood.

>> when i was looking at him, i saw what appeared to be a blood drop on his shoe. sholes pounced on that new evidence.

>> narrator: travis gave the cops everything they asked for, including a dna sample and permission to search hiss apartment, where his lion's costume was still in the trash.

>> i gave them everything.

>> without them needing to get a search warrant ?

>> because i knew i didn't have anything to do with this.

>> narrator: but investigators were suspicious, in part because travis said he couldn't remember anything from the time he was punched until the time he got into a cab more than an hour later. and on the cop's timeline, that was the time when joe loveling was killed.

>> once he said he was going to go check on him, that was the last anybody's seen him and he was found dead in the parking lot ?

>> you guys think it's me?

>> we don't know. but we want to eliminate you and that's why we appreciate you coming in.

>> what kind of murder not only keeps the bloody clothing that they were wearing during the murder, but actually wears some of it into the police interview?

>> one that's probably not too smart. and there's plenty of them.

>> narrator: the cops let travis go home, but they went buying his story, he was now a definite person of interest. and two days later, they had more questions for him. this time around, the questions were more pointed about just what happened while travis was in hiss blackout.

>> where were you? it's very important that we try to remember this, travis .

>> i do not remember talking to that man.

>> i can almost guarantee you that the cops are thinking to themselves, come on, you don't remember? really?

>> yeah, i think they probably thought i was conveniently drunk.

>> well, it is convenient. and then you walk out of the police station ?

>> yep.

>> and you think, what, that's the end of it?

>> at that point i had taken a swing in the wrong direction.

>> travis was about to find out he would need a lawyer.