Dateline   |  December 13, 2013

'Unstoppable' part 3

The murder of Desta Byrd is a difficult case: no eyewitnesses, little forensic evidence. But police are convinced that Desta knew her killer.  Then her husband, Jody, suggests his own family may have been involved in her death. Police wonder if Jody knows even more about his wife's murder than he's letting on.

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

>> we had no useful physical evidence . we had no witnesses. there we are.

>> the medical examiner couldn't even say for certain that this was a homicide. he called the manner of death undetermined. one other thing -- when a husband or wife is killed mysteriously, the surviving spouse is almost always given a long, hard look. and in this case, terry beasley and jamie martin say jody byrd didn't fit the classic profile of a murderous spouse. what did you learn about desta and jody 's marriage?

>> it appeared to be the perfect marriage. in fact, it was commented as being the perfect marriage by several, several people including co-workers and family members.

>> in fact, jody had his wife's family firmly behind him. desta's best friend, christine shattuck, could see that.

>> they loved him like a son. of course, they were -- this is their baby girl . they were -- they were distraught, grief-stricken.

>> and they saw the murder in much the same way jody did -- a stranger must have invaded his home and dragged desta outside to her death. she had marks her that suggested a struggle.

>> somebody did like this to her. quarter-size bruises right in here.

>> here of the trouble with the stranger theory -- the house showed no sign that anyone else had been there. then again, police never did dust for fingerprints. they said that was never part of the plan. why not process the house for fingerprints?

>> let me ask you this, why should we?

>> well, the husband's telling the story about somebody maybe taking his wife hostage. you process the house for fingerprints, you get a hit from a violent offender, there's your suspect.

>> what are we going to dust?

>> there was no indication of any disturb an in the house whatsoever. in fact, the residence was immaculate.

>> so maybe it wasn't the home invasion . maybe desta knew her killer. two weeks later, police visited jody . and that's when jody revealed something that shocked the veteran detectives.

>> i asked him to list the people that desta knew, and i said, on a scale of zero to ten, ten being the killer, he listed his own mother as a nine, his own brother as a nine.

>> jody was saying his own femme could have killed his wife. to detectives, that was quite provocative. they asked jody to come to the abi station in birmingham and told his ever-supportive in live laws, the dotsons, to stay home.

>> he needs to be there by himself for psychological reasons.

>> and then?

>> and jody gets there with desta's father, desta's brother, and their preacher.

>> an investigator had jody in an interview room. jody recounted how he found his wife, her eyes rolling. she was gurgling, he said, before she died. the detectives thought they were getting somewhere.

>> but there was some noise made outside the room, and that was the end of that.

>> they didn't want him interrogated?

>> one of them tried to bust in the room. as far as the intensity of the interview was going, that was over.

>> desta's family was furious. to them, the abi was trying to railroad their son-in-law when they should have been out looking for the real killer.

>> we wrote letters to the governor and to the attorney general, several people.

>> to complain about the investigation of jody ?

>> the investigation by abi .

>> and your complaint was what? they've got blinders on, they're only looking at jody ?

>> right, right.

>> it hurts any investigation when the victim's family stands behind the suspect. and the dotsons supported jody who had told investigators the killer could have been part of his own family. you checked out all those people, i'm sure. did you perceive any of them as being hostile enough to desta to kill her?

>> nope.

>> did you think of anybody as hating desta enough to want her dead?

>> no.

>> no.

>> and then there was a tantalizing clue. the rifle used to kill desta. jody told police he kept it hidden in the house.

>> hoe told us that only two people on the face of the earth knew where that rifle was kept -- he and his dead wife. nobody else knew.

>> to police there was really only one suspect. jody byrd. you got a dead wife and a husband who tells the story about a possible home invasion that sort of doesn't add up. it's his gun that's used to kill her. by his own testimony, only the two of them know where that gun's kept. why are you not arresting this guy?

>> because we don't have any physical evidence at this point, and we don't have any witnesses at this point.

>> and they were also out of time. about a year after desta's death, the abi said they were giving the case to detectives at a bureau closer to the crime scene. some of this became about money, didn't it?

>> money and geography.

>> hours on the road had racked up too much overtime. but if they were off the case, someone else was about to step in. someone very close to desta. someone