IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Inside Dateline: For better, for worse, for poison?

NBC's Chris Hansen on a hidden camera report about a marriage— and attempted murder.

March 3, 2006 |

For better, for worse, for poison? (Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent)

Dateline NBC's Chris Hansen
Dateline NBC's Chris Hansen

Last year, in two widely watched Dateline hours we reported on the phenomenon of  seemingly normal, everyday people reaching out to find a Hit Man. We exposed husbands and wives who tried to have their spouses murdered. There were businessmen who wanted to eliminate their partners. There was even a female prison guard, who after falling in love with an inmate, schemed to have husband (also a prison guard) bumped off.

The statistics on this crime are alarming. It happens hundreds of times a year in this country.  And those are just the cases we know of. 

Fortunately the vast majority of the murder-for-hire plots are not carried out. That’s because police usually find out and launch a sting operation, catching the suspect on hidden cameras.  Those damning tapes make for strong evidence in court and as we have seen, fascinating television.

During our past investigations we became aware of a case in Houston, where a decorated, veteran firefighter was caught on tape trying to buy poison to kill his wife of 30 years. For more than a year we pursued the tapes and ultimately the man accused in his crime. As you’ll see Saturday night, we ended up getting more than we could ever expect.

The firefighter, Richard Thomas and his wife, Jackie both sat down with me recently in Texas to tell their story. It is one of  betrayal, unbelievable accusations and ultimately forgiveness at a level rarely seen.

How does a man go from being a hero in his community, a respected husband and father to being heard and seen on tape plotting with a man he thinks is a microbiologist to get just the right type and amount of poison to kill his wife?  Richard Thomas went from the firehouse to the jailhouse.

For his wife Jackie, these were obviously some of the darkest moments of her life. You might think she’d testify against him, help put him away for a long time. But, that is not what happened. Thomas did go to prison, but for a lot less time than the maximum penalty called for, mostly because of Jackie’s help. Now the couple is back together living under the same roof, happy and holding hands.  How could she be so forgiving?  Join me for what could be one of the most unusual set of circumstances a family has faced and survived together.

"For Better, For Worse" airs Dateline Saturday, 8 p.m.

February 3, 2006 |

Behind-the-scenes of 'To Catch a Predator' III (Chris Hansen)

Dateline NBC's Chris Hansen
Dateline NBC's Chris Hansen

While we were well-prepared for the taping of “To Catch a Predator” III ; there was still a fair bit of anxiety in the air.

How do I prepare?
Before the men come to our door, I start reading the transcripts of the online conversations between the potential predators and the decoys posing as 12 and 13-year-old kids home alone.

Ron Knight, our security consultant and I review protocol.  While the transcripts give me a pretty good insight into the men heading our way, there’s no way of knowing how aggressive they might get when they see me instead of a young teenager, and when they realize they will be exposed on Dateline NBC.

By now, all the knives have been  removed from the kitchen, where the confrontations take place. Ron always reminds me to watch the man’s hands as I walk in to talk to them. “If they are in their pockets, calmly tell them to take them out,” he says. “Keep the kitchen island between you and him,” he says.

Experience tells us both that the men are unlikely to be violent, but one can never be sure. Most are caught off-guard, some are relieved to be caught, but the rest are always question marks. Read more on the safety precautions we took, from our security consultant, Ron Knight, .