Dateline   |  April 07, 2014

The Girl With The Blue Mustang, Part 4

Raymond Jennings, the security guard on duty the night of Michelle's murder, shares a possible lead with investigators.

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

>>> two nights after michelle 's murder, the park & ride lot was still crawling with cops searching for clues. the gun, maybe a footprint, a witness, anything and they found nothing. the only witness to surface so far was also at the lot and on duty, security guard raymond lee jennings . but the guard told lead detective richard longshore --

>> he didn't see anybody at all. he said he couldn't understand why he couldn't see anybody.

>> reporter: but jennings did have a possible lead. someone, two someones he'd encountered earlier that evening while patrolling the lot.

>> mr. jennings said a red truck with two guys in it asked me if i was the guard on duty and if i wasn't, where did i live or where did he live. i couldn't see their hands and i was afraid.

>> reporter: so detectives ordered a search for a red pickup truck . unfortunately, a fairly common vehicle in the antelope valley . and then a few days later, security guard jennings , afraid for his own safety, perhaps, was simply too upset to return night after night to the very parking lot where he had failed so spectacularly to provide security. suddenly quit. now the o'keefe family began the long and agonizing process of living without michelle .

>> i will love you forever and i'll see you in heaven when it's my time to go. love your brother jason.

>> the reason she left so early like the rest of her accomplishments she simply got her work done early.

>> she had the heart of gold . she not only was my daughter but she was my best friend .

>> reporter: and it wasn't so much that their faith faltered. not so much angry at god as deeply hurt, a question that had no answer.

>> it is very hard. that's one of those questions you have to ask, gee, standing in front of god and say why us?

>> reporter: really the only question that could be answered was perhaps the earthly one, would killed michelle ? but at this point detectives still had no suspects, no murder weapon and no clear motive. their best piece of evidence was michelle 's mustang, which was now being combed for clues especially the fatal bullet slugs.

>> i don't know. it could have been just sitting here.

>> reporter: one thing that got the detective's attention was the driver's side window, it was partially rolled down which seemed odd given how cold it was the night of the murder.

>> that is suggestive that she rolled the window down to speak to someone. we're convinced no one was hiding inside the vehicle with no sign of the vehicle being entered forcibly or broken into.

>> my partner pointed out this is what a woman would do if she thought she had to talk to a person of authority.

>> reporter: a person of authority perhaps wearing a uniform? so far the only person remotely close to that description was raymond jennings so nearly a week after the murder detectives obtained his uniform from the security company which told the cops it had not been cleaned. the jacket and pants were thoroughly checked for blood and trace evidence . there was nothing. not even the slightest sample of blood or hair or fibers matching michelle was on that uniform. so all of these things what you managed to uncover in the first few days.

>> yes, sir.

>> reporter: but still had no suspect?

>> that's correct. we talked to the parents and looked at all of the usual suspects , if you will, you know, is this a domestic dispute or lover's quarrel? well, she had no boyfriend.

>> was some sadistic serial killer at work in the antelope valley ? it was a horrifying question. and as the investigation began to sputter and stall, there was no clear answer. michele's family desperate to find her killer offered a reward and went public.

>> my name is patricia o'keefe. on the night of february 22nd our daughter michelle was murdered at the park & ride lot in palmdale on avenue s in the 14 freeway. we need your help in raising money for a reward for information leading to the arrest of my daughter's killer. whoever did this has either talked about it or is ready to do it again.

>> reporter: weeks passed, no solid leads. media interest cooled. the o'keefe family tried to move on without michelle .

>> i tried to go back to work and i couldn't. she was my receptionist at the beauty salon . i was the manager. i would always see an empty chair there and i was used to seeing cheerful michelle . i tried to go back to work and i was a hairstylist as well, and i would be cutting hair and tears would be rolling down my eyes. it's like, i can't do this. i can't do this.

>> reporter: then the spring arrived. an unexpected break completely out of the blue. it was a young woman named victoria richardson and what she had to confess would change the course of the investigation. she was at the park & ride , she told police, the night of michelle 's murder. she hadn't come forward earlier, and now, well, maybe it was all the media coverage . maybe her conscience just got the better of her. point is, she saw something that night. heard something too.

>> she was with a group of acquaintances in her car not very far from where the shooting occurred. she heard a tapping sound which we've determined was probably the gunshots and she saw the security guard walk by just moments before the shooting as he made his patrol.

>> reporter: the only guard on duty that night was raymond lee jennings .

>> and when he left the parking lot , went right through the crime scene and ended up stopping and talking to mr. jennings in the same way, what happened? a shooting? i don't know, words to that effect, but he never told us that initially.

>> reporter: this is within a few minutes of the shooting?

>> yes.

>> reporter: yet he told you he didn't see anybody?

>> that's correct.

>> reporter: strange especially given jennings ' willingness to help and his remarkable memory that he would somehow forget this crucial encounter, so detectives headed to his house to get the story straight.

>> i asked him to tell us what occurred. that's when he confirmed there had been another vehicle that had spoken to him. victoria richardson. oh, that's right, i remember seeing that now. it was an african- american lady and she was driving this car and he described the vehicle and the occupants and that type of thing.

>> reporter: in fact, jennings said he didn't even see michelle and her friend drive onto the lot, nor did he see the shooter when the shots were fired or afterward when the killer fled. after all, it was a large lot. several acres, dozens of cars, two exits, plenty of shadows. maybe it was possible that jennings didn't see the shooter, but he did remember seeing michelle 's beautiful blue mustang, and that car might soon provide a crucial clue. maybe along with whatever jennings could remember, this car would solve the riddle and reveal who murdered