Dateline   |  April 07, 2014

The Girl With The Blue Mustang, Part 6

Growing more desperate for answers, Michelle's family goes on national television in a plea for any clues.

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

>>> summer is hot in the antelope valley , relentless, blistering, desert hot . in the summer of 2000 only the michelle o'keefe murder case was cold. it had been six months, and the prime suspect , the only suspect, raymond lee jennings , went on with his life reporting for work every day at a local car dealership. he also happened to live very close to the o'keefe family.

>> i used to see him at the grocery store, and then he would walk in every now and then, and it was kind of weird, and sometimes he'd come in and buy milk or diapers or whatever because he had four or five kids.

>> reporter: detectives kept an eye on jennings and continued to chase other leads using the media to help fuel the investigation.

>> we are going to close this case. it's not going to be an easy task, and murder cases never are. it's just a matter of time that we get the phone call we're looking for.

>> reporter: but the o'keefe family felt it was all taking far too much time. they knew investigators believed raymond jennings killed their daughter, yet there he was on the loose literally down the street.

>> the caseload was so huge that they were on it for awhile, then after a while, you know --

>> reporter: time passes .

>> -- the level of priority just didn't seem to be there. finally after a few months passed, a guy was doing counseling with us suggested we see rex.

>> reporter: rex was r. rex parris , a civil attorney known for handling personal injury cases and winning large settlements.

>> i didn't think i could help them because they were coming for a civil case and it just didn't seem to be there.

>> reporter: a civil case ? novel idea, maybe that could jump-start the police investigation.

>> you know, use a civil case to make a criminal prosecution develop.

>> so we went to rex and talked to him about it. he goes, well, you know, if we want to go the civil route, he says, i'm confident we can get out a lot more information. it'll help bring you some answers.

>> reporter: those answers might quite possibly lead away from jennings , of course. although --

>> when i learned he flunked the lie detector test i became much more interested and we started on the quest.

>> reporter: parris hired a private detective and started his own investigation.

>> it became personal. i wanted to know. it's an 18-year-old girl murdered in the town i was born in.

>> reporter: meanwhile, the o'keefes continued their own personal crusade to find the killer. on what would have been michelle 's 19th birthday -- [ applause ]

>> reporter: they appeared on "the montel williams show " and told their story to renowned psychic sylvia brown .

>> our daughter was murdered in a park & ride .

>> in a what?

>> in a park & ride . what we would like the know the police haven't got a name. do you know who killed her, they haven't found a weapon yet either.

>> he's very fair and he's very large build but his name is lee or leon.

>> reporter: lee as in raymond lee jennings ?

>> did he have on a uniform?

>> yeah, he did. he had on some kind of a blue uniform with a pocket and a badge thing but i mean --

>> take anything with a grain of salt but did seem to correlate with what we found out.

>> reporter: rex parris was taking a long hard look at raymond lee jennings and sent an investigator to pry into him and listened to the account of the shooting.

>> i didn't see anything. i know that sounds funny and ridiculous. it bothers me every day that i did not see anything.

>> reporter: then an idea. why not recreate the crime scene to verify jennings ' story. detectives decided to conduct an experiment. could they see what jennings saw if he was crouching for cover as he claimed while the shots were fired?

>> we took a vehicle, just like michelle 's and had it roll back and had a shooter of average size walking next to it and firing rounds where we believe the location of the shots were fired from. and we filmed this from mr. jennings ' vantage point, based on his statements.

>> reporter: if the tape was any indication, it certainly appeared that jennings should have seen something or someone. as the one-year anniversary of michelle 's death approached attorney parris and the o'keefe family filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the city of palmdale, the security guard company and raymond lee jennings for the wrongful death of michelle .

>> we had mixed emotions. how are people going to perceive this doing the civil action .

>> yeah, some people thought we just wanted to get upon for michelle 's murder.

>> however, you know, the more important thing was 0 get this thing solved.

>> reporter: that was your motivation?

>> yes, absolutely.

>> reporter: but before this case would ever get to court rex parris had one more piece of business. after months of digging he wanted to get raymond lee jennings ' side of the story from the pan himself.

>> he knew too much and he knew he knew too much. it was an amazing experience.