Dateline   |  November 20, 2013

'Secrets in Seattle' part 5

More than seven years after her death, David Pietz stands trial for allegedly strangling his wife Nicole.

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

>>> it had been seven and a half excruciating years of waiting. last september, nici 's family and friends filed into a packed seattle courtroom to watch david pietz stand trial for his wife's murder. he pleaded not guilty.

>> when nicole married the defendant, she thought she had married the man of her dreams. but on january 28th , 2006 , that dream would turn into a nightmare.

>> prosecutors, kristen richardson and carla carlstrom, promised the jury pieces of a puzzle. pieces they hoped would ultimately reveal a resentful, hateful husband, whose frustrations had boiled over.

>> i think it was actually, i hate this phrase, but it truly was a crime of passion .

>> at the core of the prosecutors' case, david was a sexist philanderer who viewed his goody two shoes wife as a weight around his neck. so he put his hands around hers after an argument to free himself of the burden. david they said then turned to nici 's problem with pills as his cover-up.

>> why kill her?

>> it wasn't a plan to murder. if it was something he planned to do, sure, he could divorce her. this was not a plan. this wasp something that erupted one night in a fit of rage.

>> because they thought there was no premeditation, david pietz was charged with second, not first degree murder. but proving he snapped and strangled nici in their condo wouldn't be easy. this was a highly circumstantial case with little direct evidence pointing david 's way.

>> in terms of the bedroom or the house, there is no physical evidence left behind .

>> which is a handicap for you guys, when you've got to tell this story to a jury that really wants to hear csi, right?

>> they want dna on everything.

>> prosecutors started by calling a string of the other women in david 's life. women who shared with the jury stories of a lustful, cheating spouse, with little regard for his wife. stories of a threeway kiss at the bar.

>> and who did it involve?

>> me and katie and dave.

>> you were kissing katie .

>> uh-huh.

>> katie was kissing you.

>> yes?

>> all three at the same time.

>> stories of a one- night stand .

>> and what happened at your place?

>> we had sex.

>> and is that the only time that had happened?

>> yes.

>> and of a romance that started while david and nici were engaged.

>> i asked him why he was getting married, and he said that that point it was too late to back out of it.

>> the romance lasted on and off for two years.

>> what did he tell you about how he felt about you?

>> he told me he cared about me.

>> dave pietz''s lifestyle became the trial here.

>> it did. because it showed he was dissatisfied with her.

>> dissatisfied with nici , and prosecutors say, determined to change her. david went so far as to spike nici 's drink with a club drug , ecstasy, hoping she would finally agree to that threesome. this according to david 's bar buddy, rene stuart.

>> he told me he would put it in her red bull when he went to get a drink, and he was just trying to loosen her up to get her to do a threesome.

>> did you notice a change in her after she drank that red bull ?

>> yes.

>> how did she change?

>> she became more sexual with people.

>> here's a guy who knows full well his wife has addiction problems and he puts ecstasy in her red bull ? is that the way this goes?

>> right. she fought so hard for sobriety, and without even knowing it, her husband was undermining that.

>> and then it was nici 's sister tanya's turn to stare david in the eyes and tell jurors how differently he appeared immediately following her disachz.

>> did he ever look for her?

>> no.

>> did he ever make any phone calls related to her disappears?

>> no.

>> did you ever see him join in searches with people from aa or her workplace?

>> not at all.

>> but prosecutors feared evidence from suspicious behavior from a reprehensible husband wouldn't be enough to convince a jury david committed murder. so they rolled out their theory that nici never left her condo alive.

>> honestly, the best evidence we had was the evidence that showed she never left that condomini condominium.

>> evidence offered of david 's little mistakes. remember nici 's cherished wedding ring left on the bathroom counter. and then there was nici 's retainer.

>> he forgot she wears a retainer/night guard. and he forgot to check her mouth before he dumped her.

>> something else nici 's killer would likely overlook, the food found in her stomach by the medical examiner. based on the m.e.'s analysis, prosecutors suspected nici was killed sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m . that friday night, soon after david came home and said he found nici in bed. but it was what the forensic scientists didn't find in nici 's system that they found more damning. evidence they said that proved once and for all that nici had not relapsed.

>> did the m.e. find evidence of prescription pain killers ?

>> no, she had less than one therapeutic dose of percocet in her system. it was clear she had not been using percocet probably for a few days prior to her death.

>> and then there was nici 's bracelet, that gift from david , the source of her joy. david had told police it had vanished, along with his wife.

>> everybody assumed that, who kn knows, the killer took it.

>> soon after david 's arrest, police learned from co-workers he had the bracelet all along.

>> david said he had a bracelet he had taken to a pawn shop , and he thought that the guy was trying to rip him off.

>> he was trying to hock it, make a few bucks.

>> trying to make money.

>> and that spoke to his cover-up. his involvement.

>> sure. absolutely. and that he had lied to police in the beginning and saying he didn't know where that bracelet was.

>> still, one piece of the puzzle didn't fit the prosecution's theory, that saturday phone call made from nici 's cell phone to the 24-hour fitness gym where david worked.

>> this is evidence that at around noon, she is alive on saturday.

>> right.

>> using telephone company records, prosecutoring argue the origin of the call could be placed within a few blocks of the gym.

>> what you're saying is there is a 90 to 95% probability that the phone cast in this reddish/orangish sector when it was being placed.

>> that is correct.

>> it became very clear, that call was placed from the 24-hour fitness gym when david pietz was working there.

>> hardly conclusive evidence on has own. but detectives found something else on the gym security video that made that call a jaw-dropper. at just about the same time the call is made from nici 's cell phone , david can be seen stepping away from his work area, out of the camera sight. that was david , prosecutors say, heading off to use nici 's phone to call the gym receptionist.

>> he went back and placed that call and then came back out front as if nothing was happening. he had to convince the police she had left the house that morning. because if she hadn't left the house, he was the killer.

>> that video and that cell phone call were presented as the final pieces of the prosecution's now completed puzzle.

>> we had needed just one more thing to put us over the top . just one more thing. and that call, that put it over.

>> but the jury had yet to hear from the defense. which wasn't about to let such a circumstantial argument go unanswered.