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Dateline   |  November 07, 2013

'Secrets and Lies' part 5

Prosecutors make their case against a man they say was a cold, calculating killer.

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

>>> as paul novak prepared to stand trial for the murder of his wife, he insisted he was innocent.

>> are you the evil murderer that some people think you are?

>> no. not at all.

>> any reason to kill your wife?

>> no. absolutely not. when i left catherine , i probably wasn't in love with her anymore. but i respected her and she was the mother of my children.

>> for catherine 's brother michael, the upcoming trial felt like opening a new wound.

>> part of me wished i didn't get that phone call because i knew how traumatic it would be to the family and especially how traumatic it would be to natalie and nicholas.

>> catherine 's mom also knew a trial meant more heartache for her grandchildren.

>> i know no one can imagine how i feel losing my child. i can't imagine how they would feel with now loss of both parents in essence.

>> all rise. court now in session.

>> on august 12 , 2013 , the trial of paul novak began at the sullivan county courthouse. the district attorney opened the case.

>> the evidence will show that as catherine begged and fought for her life, the defendant ended her life. murdering her in the basement of her own home.

>> prosecutors set out to prove that paul orchestrated this murder down to the last detail.

>> he was planning this for a period of weeks and maybe more in his own mind. how to rid himself of catherine .

>> he's a murderer. he's a sociopath. he planned, he executed and he killed catherine novak in cold blood .

>> their star witness was paul 's ex-lover, michelle lafrance. the jury heard every minute of those police interrogation tapes of michelle describing the details of how he killed his wife.

>> he told me that they were fighting and that they were moving around on the basement stairs for like 45 minutes. that's why he was so late. that she was screaming and begging for her life.

>> and the jury didn't have to just take her word for it. prosecutors called scott sherwood , paul 's partner from work, to the stand. they told the jury he had been interrogated by police and showed them the tape.

>> let's go from the beginning. paul , you meet paul where?

>> i met paul at his house in glenn cove.

>> jurors heard him tell police his version of what happened the night of murder.

>> he gets in the red blazer. who was driving?

>> i was driving. we were driving up towards where his residence was. where catherine still loved.

>> sherwood , said he was told to park a mile from the house and wait in the car.

>> about how long was he gone from the car?

>> over an hour.

>> what does he say when he gets in the car?

>> he said, it's done. he had said that the chloroform didn't work, i had to strangle her and something about hitting the gas line to ignite it.

>> so you knew the house was on fire?

>> yes.

>> as scott sherwood 's story played in the courtroom, the prosecutors pointed out how remarkably similar it was to michelle lafrance's.

>> did he say where he strangled her?

>> where in the house.

>> in the basement.

>> prosecutors felt the mafg stories were powerful but didn't think they would be enough for a conviction. they wanted physical evidence to prove michelle and scott were telling the truth. they began with sherwood 's account of the drive up to narrowsburg. sherwood told investigators paul asked him to stop at a walmart.

>> when you get into the middletown area, you said you stopped where?

>> at a walmart.

>> and he went inside?

>> he went inside.

>> you waited outside?

>> waited outside.

>> he kale out with a bag?

>> came out with a bag.

>> do you know what he bought?

>> i believe duct tape .

>> prosecutors showed what they found he bought at the walmart.

>> one receipt had duct tape , a hat and gloves. scott sherwood says he used type tape of scrubs and hat and glove when he went and came back from the house.

>> there was more physical evidence to back up sherwood 's account. he told police he and paul crossed the george washington bridge on their way back to paul 's place the morning of the murder.

>> was it a toll booth you guys went through?

>> i would assume so. we went through, i guess it was the lower level. but there was no booth. there was no attendant.

>> no attendant saw them pass. but detectives wondered could digitalize help place the car at the toll booth .

>> state police did a search for the ez pass records or toll records. we had a hit at 6:39 of that vehicle coming across the bridge.

>> that's huge.

>> it was a highly corroborative piece of evidence to corroborate scott sherwood .

>> once more, there was a photo snapped of the license plate. it was evidence that almost didn't exist. prosecutors said paul had planned to pay cash that night. but construction at the toll booth forced him to drive through the ez pass lane.

>> he made mistakes and he couldn't have anticipated the bridge would be under construction and no toll takers.

>> and then prosecutors presented what they thought would remove any smudge of doubt from their case. a third person who linked paul to the murder. elise hanlon, scott sherwood 's wife. on the stand, she recalled a conversation with paul where he told her that he committed the murder and that he did it alone.

>> scott had nothing to do with it. nobody is getting into trouble. scott had nothing to do with it.

>> he told her, i went up with him, he drove, i went in, i did everything.

>> three people in three different rooms telling us the same thing. you may not be able to say we have a fingerprint or we have dna, but that's pretty damning evidence.

>> the last thing they needed was motive. why would paul want to kill his wife catherine ? simple. they said money. when catherine died, paul cashed in on her life insurance policy and homeowners insurance . it all totaled around $700,000.

>> the defendant said he would kill catherine and burn up the evidence and he did just that.

>> now, it was the defenses turn to attack. the jurors would hear more about the checkered pasts of the witnesses at the very heart of