Dateline   |  December 13, 2013

'Unstoppable' part 4

Years go by and Desta’s case goes cold.  But for her best friend, Christine Shattuck, things are just heating up as she becomes consumed with solving the mystery of Desta’s death.  Christine’s suspicions turn to Desta’s husband Jody.

Share This:

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

>>> desta's parents, the dotsons, weren't the only ones frustrated with police. her best friend , christine shattuck, was, too.

>> it was very frustrating. the investigation changed hands early on, and a different investigator had it.

>> and seemingly not a lot of motion on the case.

>> right.

>> there was one big difference between christine and the dodson dodsons, and it could be summed up in a single word -- jody . christine wasn't convinced police were unfairly targeting him. the dodson wes were. christine felt jody of using his in-laws to hide from police.

>> he gave the dodd sons the impression that they were going to railroad him. they had no reason that jody would have anything to do with this.

>> they were loyal to him.

>> they were loyal to him.

>> she was not. weeks after desta's death, christine decided to do some sleuthing on her own. if jody were innocent or guilty, maybe she'd hear it in his voice. christine began calling jody and taping the conversations.

>> hey, it's kristi.

>> hey, how you doing?

>> he ever say anything interesting in the phone calls ?

>> it was more what he wasn't saying. he was more concerned about himself. he was the victim. they were trying to railroad him.

>> you know they had that tall vision. you know, they're up to something.

>> he wasn't acting like the grieving husband of somebody that had lost the person that he loved so dearly.

>> it was a thought christine couldn't shake. she thought back to an incident before desta's death. it struck her that jody might have been a controlling husband to desta.

>> when i got married, some girlfriends and i were going to new orleans for the bachelorette party , and i asked her to go. and i could tell she wanted to go. and she said, "well, jody wouldn't like it if i went."

>> now in those phone calls , jody didn't exactly incriminate himself either. still, she couldn't give up. christine , trained as a paralegal, used her investigative skills on this case. she talked to detectives and began digging. soon this wife and mother found herself on a crusade to catch a killer. i sort of get the feeling that no one was as invested in solving this murder as you were.

>> i think a lot of people wanted to. i don't think that they knew what to do. justice has always been my passion. i just couldn't let it go.

>> she heard an upsetting bit of news. came from some of desta's former co-workers. they were convinced the outwardly happy desta had been in reality an abused wife.

>> people at work saw her with bruises on her forehead. she would say the dog did it or the dog pushed her into the door.

>> so this was more than once?

>> yes.

>> desta had never told her best friend or, it seems, anyone else that she was being abused, and maybe she wasn't. either way , it wasn't proof jody did anything to desta that night. and so a year passes.

>> yes.

>> two years?

>> yes.

>> three years, five years, six years, nothing. jody went on living in the house he and desta built. he never remarried and remained close to his in-laws. even they began to fear desta's murder might never be solved, but not christine .

>> i wouldn't have accepted that. so i knew it would. it might have been blind faith , but it was faith just the same.

>> seven years, eight years.

>> nothing.

>> no news. and yet no other suspects either. it wasn't easy on christine .

>> she was angry. she was bitter. she was frustrated.

>> her friend, ann coyle, worried that the case was consuming christine .

>> i knew that she was grieving, and she was hurting. it seemed easier to watch her than watch her continue to spin.

>> ann who had never met desta, joined the cause along with a handful of other women. a decade after desta's death, they heard the current detective on the case was retiring. the women knew they had a chance to restart the investigation. they went into action and were relentless. they set up a website. they held a vigil. and in 2010 , they put up billboards.

>> we put them up, what, five, six around the city of birmingham .

>> what was the message on the bill bard?

>> no one should get away with murder. we were open to the idea that jody wasn't responsible for desta's murder, but we simply wanted people to come forward with whatever information they had.

>> one of their effort paid off. perry beasley , then retired, saw their facebook page. frustrated that he could never make an arrest in the case, he wanted to help.

>> i've never been on a case before that was not resolved. and for my part, it was just unfinished business .

>> beasley volunteered his services with his former bosses at the abi to work the case. it was the kind of seachange christine had been praying for.

>> he involved some people that would look with fresh eyes at some different things. and he would speak with abi , and they had a lot of respect for him.

>> and soon, beasley caught a break. he heard a local paper was about to do an interview with jody about his wife's unsolved case. beasley asked the reporter for a favor.

>> would you let us wire you up? highway said ye -- he said yeah.

>> on the tape, jody talked about how police had nothing on him after all these years. more important, highway sae said, he still had desta's parents on your side.

>> flay know you're not guilty?

>> 100%.

>> those are people 100% in your corner.

>> 100%.

>> again, eddie professed his innocence. but -- jody professed his innocence. but in the interview, beasley heard a nugget when he heard jody say this about the moment they found his wife.

>> i knew no doubt in my mind when i picked her up, she was gone. there's nobody that's going to be able to tell me any different.

>> that's not what jody described right after his wife's death. he told police then he'd found desta as she was dying, gurgling. her eyes rolling. why had his story changed, wondered the detective? the abi decided to take a fresh look at desta's autopsy results. and that's had they learned this -- when desta was hit by that bullet, she would have died within just minutes at most. so if jody saw her eyes rolling in her head --

>> that puts him on the scene.

>> and to the detective, that meant he had to be the killer. perhaps, thought beasley , jody realized his first accounts of his wife's death put him too close to her murder. suddenly this cold case was a very active investigation with more compelling evidence than before. but was it enough? police arrest jody byrd for