Dateline | October 25, 2013
>> narrator: in the months after her fiance's murder, heather easton's pain is beyond words .
>> it's like someone sucks the life out of you and tells you your life isn't what you wanted it to be, and your crime life isn't going to happen.
>> narrator: grand forks detectives had been working around the clock to solve this rare murder case. and then those dna tests of travis 's lion costume came back. some of that blood on travis was his own. but some of it belonged to joel loveling and with that, police had everything they needed. and then one morning --
>> there was a knock on the door and there was detective sholes and detective simon. and they came in and they said that there was bad news and that joel 's blood was on me and i was arrested for his murder.
>> a nervous travis was arraigned from jail via closed circuit tv. his anguish and misery is evident in his call home.
>> hi, travis . it's going to be okay. it's going to be okay.
>> i don't know.
>> i know this is difficult for you, trav.
>> narrator: it would get even tougher, a little more than a year after travis 's arrest, he found himself on trial for murder, facing the rest of his life behind bars . the prosecutor laid out the state's case. joel loveling, a 38-year-old man.
>> narrator: for a trial that would define travis 's fate.
>> he did not seek help for him avenuewards, left the scene, allowing mr. loveling to choke on his own blood.
>> joel 's fiance heather, as she relived that awful night.
>> he was just lying there, and i was screaming his name at him. he didn't say anything, he didn't do anything.
>> he was the last person that we believe was seen with mr. loveling.
>> detectives felt they had given their prosecutors an open and shut case, with overwhelming physical evidence .
>> when we looked at travis 's clothes, it was covered in blood. and most importantly, none of the other costumes matched the paw that matched the crime scene .
>> we tested four different areas of travis 's sweatshirt, three out of the four samples tested positive for joel loveling's blood.
>> and prosecutors argued, they could prove that travis was there with joel loveling prior to the murder. their eyewitnesses, the guys that had been so sloshed and uncooperative the night of the murder. the hunter, the gangster and the cowboy from the party bus . brice larson, the cowboy took the stand and told a story both his friends would echo.
>> mr. larsen, did you ever witness the murder of joel loveling?
>> did you ever see him assaulted in the broken drum parking lot ?
>> when you left that parking lot , where was he?
>> talking to the guy in the yellow.
>> narrator: and that guy who had been wearing the cheesy yellow lion costume, he was sitting right there at the defense table. prosecutors laid out their timeline using security video from the broken drum . there's travis in his lion costume. which by this point in the evening, is little more than a yellow hoodie, moments later, he's gone outside. joel loveling, wearing his green hockey jersey , can be seen heading out a little later, never to return. the tape, prosecutors said, proved travis was in the parking lot when joel was killed.
>> and according to the state's witnesses from the bus, it was impossible for any of the other party goers to have attacked joel , because their party bus was gone by the time of the murder.
>> the bus was not at the broken drum when joel loveling was murdered.
>> narrator: the prosecution argued that joel 's last words to his fiance heather, supported that timeline.
>> he reported to heather that some guy missed his bus, i was out there helping him, and then he went back out.
>> narrator: the guy who missed the bus, they told the jury, was the defendant. the state used travis 's own words against him. they played every frame of those police interviews, in which travis claimed not to remember the most critical part of that alcohol sodden night.
>> you don't remember between the time you got hit until the time you got into the cab?
>> narrator: jurors heard testimony that later that night travis was in another fight.
>> after mr. loveling was killed, travis left the broken drum on foot, went to the location in an alleyway where he confronted another individual.
>> narrator: travis threw a punch at that man and missed, he then got into a cab and went home. if prosecutors were to be believed, the defendant was a halloween nightmare come to life, just add alcohol and nurse travis turn into a drunk and dangerous mr. hyde.
>> joel was bleeding from his face.
>> narrator: that theory helped themselves explain to jurors how the slightly built travis was able to take down and kill the much larger joel with his bare hands. police also say the fact that joel had had a few drinks made it easier for travis .
>> he was drunk. and so the fact that a little guy comes at him unsuspecting and he's unstable on his feet because he's intoxicated too makes perfect sense that he could drop him.
>> narrator: eight days into the trial, the prosecution calls its final witness, a blood spatter analyst, who used photos to show that the blood spatter on the clothing was consistent with travis standing over joel while beating him.
>> travis was either standing right next to joel loveling or straddling joel loveling as he was punching him in the face.
>> narrator: the prosecution's evidence was stacking up against travis stay, no question he had been in a fight with the hunter, before joel was killed. no question he had taken a swing at swung else afterwards and now he would have to explain why there were traces of blood on his costume, which travis was either unable or unwilling to do because of his suspiciously convenient amnesia.