Dateline   |  December 13, 2013

'Unstoppable' part 1

Desta Byrd and her husband Jody build their dream home in a rural town outside Birmingham.  But she worries the secluded location could invite danger.  Then, on a February night in 1999, Jody makes a 911 call: he's just found his wife's body near their driveway.  It seems Desta's worst fear has come true.

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

>>> no matter where you go in bibb county , alabama, the past is always with you. the old glories are on full display here. the old sins, some prefer to keep those tucked away. one woman could not forgive or forget. i sort of get the feeling that no one was as invested as solving this as you were.

>> i think a lot of people wanted to. i don't think that they knew what to do.

>> a devoted friend of determined to catch a killer, but in trying to right an old injustice, would she be creating a new one?

>> there was no smoking gun. there was no forensic evidence.

>> so there was no crime here?

>> that's correct.

>> if you're lucky in this world, really lucky, you'll find someone who become a friend for life.

>> all the guys in school had a crush on her.

>> she was gorgeous.

>> gorgeous.

>> absolutely gorgeous girl. she was one of these girls who loved life and loved to have a good time.

>> did she ever. her name was desta. look up the name, and you'll see it manes happiness. and happy she was. christine shattuck remember he shoe and desta became bffs in junior high . how desta's small town charm even caught the attention of a world-famous heavy metal band .

>> she was a huge def leppard fan.

>> so much so, the band included her in two of its videos. there she is rocking out. being a huge fan of a group and then winding up in one of their videos, that's going to live on pretty much forever.

>> right. huge.

>> yeah.

>> huge.

>> but after high school , desta's heavy metal dreams softened. she got a job, then a boyfriend. a former classmate named jody bird.

>> she seemed happy. maybe more than happy. in love. she tell you she was in love?

>> yes, more than once.

>> desta's mom and brother were thrilled that desta was settling down and even more delighted when the couple married in 1993 . jody fit right in.

>> he was a part of our whole family. when he married her, they would go on vacations with us.

>> you marry her, you marry all of you, too.

>> oh, yes.

>> and yet as content as desta seemed, her pal, christine , sensed a growing anxiety in her friend. when christine had a baby and asked desta to be the goodmother, desta said yes, but let it be known motherhood wasn't for her. for what seemed like a strange reason.

>> she told me she didn't want to bring children into the world because it was just such a dangerous place. she didn't understand it.

>> then when she and jody built their dream home on a secluded hill in a rural area an hour outside birmingham, desta became worried about that, too.

>> she said that she wanted to get a lot of dogs because she didn't want to be by herself and wanted to make sure she knew if somebody came up on the house.

>> it wasn't like she'd experienced some home invasion /robbery when she was a kid or something like that.

>> right.

>> she sounds like she was somebody living in a lot of fear.

>> that's what it sounded like to me.

>> none of that was evident when desta talked to her mom that february day in 1999 . desta had been home from work, a stomach bug, she said. her mother thought maybe her 29-year-old daughter was hiding some good news.

>> and i said, "are you pregnant?" she says, "no, mother, i'm not."

>> you were hoping.

>> yeah, i was.

>> she figured she'd later hear from her daughter that everything was okay. she was wrong. that very evening, desta's husband was calling 911 to say he had just seen something horrible.

>> 911.

>> yes, my name is william jody bird. i just got home from work, and my wife is laying out in the yard.

>> the operator promised to send help. then jody called his brother-in-law, ty. he said it looked as if desta had fallen and was hurt. even wort, he had seen she was beyond saving.

>> i didn't know what to think. i could only imagine what he was going through, too, being there. nobody else there.

>> ty headed for his sister's home. police beat him to the scene. detectives perry beasley and jamie martin say jody first explained to a sheriff's deputy how he'd driven up the long driveway after his shift as a u.p.s. deliveryman.

>> said it illuminated his wife's body. he immediately stopped the vehicle, picked her up and moved her to another location under the security light in the garage.

>> so he could see her better?

>> yes. when he picked her up, he said he heard a gurgling kind of noise coming out of her mouth. that she was dead.

>> jody then led a deputy over to the side of the driveway where he'd first found her.

>> and as they were walking, the deputy would shine his flashlight because it's a relatively dark area.

>> that's when the light hit it on the ground. the officer stopped, and the husband gasped. and right then both knew, this was no accident. desta bird had been murdered.