Dateline   |  April 19, 2014

Two Shots Fired, part 2

The sheriff’s department investigates Michelle’s death and it’s ruled a suicide. But Michelle’s family says: “not so fast.”

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

>> florida, investigators and emt's were running through the night to assist one of their own. deputy jeremy banks told 911 that his girlfriend, michelle o'connell had just shot herself.

>> i need someone here now! please get someone here now!

>> debra maynard who was then a deputy happened to be nearby and was one of the first uniforms to arrive at jeremy 's house.

>> this had gone out as a likely suicide. was that the mind-set of the officers as they continued to arrive?

>> i think so. a lot of them were poor jeremy . we feel bad for you that she did this.

>> another arriving investigator found a faint heartbeat and started cpr. frantically, trying to save michelle . the petite 24-year-old lay sprawled on the bedroom floor bent back at the knees as though she had been kneeling. the gunshot wound was in her mouth. another round was fired into the carpet by her right side. next to her left hand , her boyfriend's sheriff's-issued .45 semiautomatic lay tilted up on the holster a few inches away. the flashlight attachment under the barrel turned on.

>> i remember begging to stay in the bedroom with them. that was my girlfriend. the person i loved. laying on the bedroom floor.

>> i asked jeremy to come with me. at which point his behavior became aggressive and he started pacing back and forth. the only way i can describe it as he was growling. like an animal that was caged.

>> just making noises.

>> outside the house, he slumped on a patrol car .

>> what was your state of mind ?

>> upset. i was hysterical.

>> it looks straightforward. a suicide. that's what a number of the responding deputies thought. but deputy maynard, who had responded to, she guessed, 30 to 40 previous suicide calls sensed something about this one was very different. the gun lying by the left hand of a right-handed victim. the deputies took in more details as emts worked on michelle . there was a laceration on her right eyelid. what had caused that? and why were 50 prescription painkillers found in her jeans pocket. in her purse sitting prominently on top were two empty pill vials made out to jeremy .

>> there's too many things that didn't add up. it was just an odd thing.

>> the emts kept working on michelle , but there was little hope because the shot severed her spinal cord . after about 25 minutes, they declared michelle o'connell dead at the scene. jeremy was placed in the deputy's car where he gave his first statement on the shooting death.

>> i keep the door open. i saw her feet. i ran. [ crying ]

>> and the blood coming out. i just grabbed her hand.

>> the house was sealed as jeremy 's fellow deputies headed out to inform michelle 's family about her death. one of the first to hear the awful news was michelle 's brother, sheriff's deputy scotto konl.

>> your sister michelle has passed away . we believe it's suicide. i was in disbelief. shortly thereafter, they asked me to break the news to my mom. i asked to go see her and they told me i couldn't. can i just see my daughter? they told me no. i wanted to be there with her.

>> soon the extended o'connell family was streaming into their mom's house, crying in disbelief, literally disbelief. some of them even in those early hours weren't buying jeremy banks' suicide story. michelle 's sister, jennifer and chris i.

>> reason number one why she didn't kill herself?

>> the love for her daughter. someone that worked three jobs for her daughter. someone that read countless books on how to be a better bother. single parenting in the new millennia. any book she read it.

>> they demanded outside neutral investigative eyes. not the brothers in blue writing up april report on one of their own.

>> he goes, i want another agency to take over this. he said -- he was so upset. he was verbally ranting. he was like a bull. he was so angry.

>> the idea took root early. jeremy killed michelle because he was a hot head who verbally abused michelle in their tumultuous relationship. michelle 's sister had seen trouble brewing between he and their kid sister since shortly after they met.

>> right away red flags . clothing she could wear and couldn't wear. degrading her. she was 100 pounds. told her she looked chubby.

>> relationships have ups and downs . but this is more torment. verbal torment that she went throu through.

>> it got physical too, according to the family. play wrestling between the couple had resulted in jeremy injuring michelle . she eventually made up her mind. she was going to leave him.

>> does she tell you, i'm going to pack up, i'm going to split up with with him?

>> she said it's bad and i knew that when she said it was bad, i figured she was coming back to me. because i had said that -- i said just come home.

>> to her sisters, there was something else that didn't add up to suicide. michelle had just gotten a nice promotion at the child care center where she was working. there would be more money and really nice, health care for her and her daughter.

>> it would be enough for her to get a small apartment for her and alexis.

>> she would have freedom and security. she no longer needed jeremy banks.

>> as the family saw, she wasn't able to make good the escape. yet the sheriff's office admits no one asked the o'connells about the relationship or about michelle 's state of mind . still, just two days after she died, the st. john's county medical examiner concluded the manner of death was suicide. sheriff david shore called it case closed.

>> if we thought or we had any indications or any kind of indications that it was a homicide, there would be no reason for us not to pursue that.

>> but for the o'connell family, now furious, this case was only beginning.