He was a man who loved airplanes. Loved the howl of perfect tune on take-off, the spotless order of a well-kept hangar.
How curious it was that such a man was afraid to fly in the very machines he repaired.
And when the sky swallowed him up that day in August, where did he go?
"People don't just get plucked off the face of the earth for no reason."
There is a wide flat valley nestled between the Pinenut Mountains off in the distance over there and the majestic rise of the Sierra Nevada. If you drove up through that pass, you'd be gazing on Lake Tahoe.
But down here in the valley is a small desert town called Minden, Nev.
Just off the highway north of town is the Minden-Tahoe Airport and the spotless hanger where Rob Bodden had built a business and made a reputation as one of the finest aircraft mechanics in the whole valley.
Tim Bodden: And he was just totally meticulous about everything he did.
It was endearing, said Tim Bodden, how brother Rob fretted about his clients .
Keith Morrison, Dateline NBC: In fact, he'd check up on 'em, wouldn't he?
Tim Bodden: Absolutely. He'd find out where they went, and he'd call or radio and make sure they made it OK.
Ironic then that Rob himself was afraid to fly.
Tim Bodden: He'd call me up, "I have to go on a test flight tomorrow, and I really don't wanna go." But he just didn't like to fly. Especially small planes.
Rob's business thrived.
He bought his dream house with a white picket fence and a sweeping view of the mountains.
Keith Morrison: He was proud of that house, right?
Barbara Bodden: Oh yeah. That was like his pride and joy.
His sister Barbara, just like brother Tim, had about given up on the idea that Rob would ever have a family.
Tim Bodden: And then when he found Karen -- you know, I knew he'd fallen in love.
He met her at the airport. She'd gotten a job fueling airplanes; he was a mechanic. Rob couldn't help but run into Karen a lot.
Barbara Bodden: I think that he admired her for being the single mom and taking care of her kids the best that she could. He liked that nurturing thing about mothers and women.
And as Karen's daughter, Katie, remembers it, she had never seen her mom so happy.
Katie Rasor: He was the most amazing guy that my mom had ever met. He treated us like he was, you know, like our dad. It was amazing to see them together.
Barbara Bodden: She could do no wrong. She was, you know, his baby doll. That's what he'd call her, baby doll.
They mooned over each other for a year or so, and then in the summer of 2000, Rob and Karen got married.
And moved into that house with the white picket fence and the view.
Tim Bodden: They all lived at the house for the first three years. The whole family kind of moved in after they got married.
Yes, family. Karen came as a package -- Rob married her and, in a way, also married her four kids, who by then were now teenagers.
That part of the match did not seem to be made in heaven, at least, not as Barbara could see.
Barbara Bodden: I kinda looked at 'em as like a little band of gypsies moving in. It was like, they were just using him.
Keith Morrison: Using him?
Barbara Bodden: That's what I thought.
And so, as often happens, love that was blind developed the eyes to see, and failed to enjoy the view.
Katie Rasor: I think a lot of the fights were about us kids
Keith Morrison: It was hard for him.
Katie Rasor: Right. Yeah. And so, he was used to having his house the way he had it. And then, we all know how kids are.
Katie was one of those four kids. She was inclined to see the conflict and the tension as Rob's problem.
Katie Rasor: He broke microwaves. And broke the kitchen table. And you know, when they would get in fights, he would get really violent and punch holes in the walls. He would overwhelm her with flowers and gifts and "I love you"'s and cards and then it would be like walking in on eggshells.
Keith Morrison: Typical abusive relationship?
Katie Rasor: Right.
Perhaps it's not surprising that Rob's brother, Tim, didn't see it quite that way.
Tim Bodden: He had a hot temper. But as far as harming anybody, never. Never-
Keith Morrison: He's not an abusive person-
Tim Bodden: Never raised a hand to anybody.
Keith Morrison: Controlling man?
Katie Rasor: Yeah. You couldn't even leave a toothbrush on the counter, or he'd freak out.
But through it all, Karen and Rob stuck it out. Under the circumstances, they knew going in there were bound to be issues.
Keith Morrison: She forgave him each time?
Katie Rasor: Yeah.
And besides, they had made a promise.
Tim Bodden: It wasn't about them getting along anymore. It was about his vows. He had taken those vows and he wanted to keep those vows.
Rob started spending most of his time at work, his refuge.
Barbara Bodden: It was like he wasn't getting any kind of pleasure out of life in any way whatsoever.
No question, the winter of 2005 was very tense.
But as winter gave way to spring, their marriage seemed to bud anew as well.
They planned an anniversary trip.
Ah, but the flush of renewed affection was apparently a mirage. On the morning of the Aug. 16, all best intentions dissolved in bitterness. They fought at the hangar. A bad one this time. By the time it was done, all expectations of fresh beginnings, of a second honeymoon down the coast, had vanished. And so did Rob.
There would be stories about a rushed departure on a sleek Golden Eagle, about the hush-hush work he had left to do with a man named Ramos. But for now, he was simply and mysteriously gone.
Keith Morrison: So he'd left his life just like that? Suddenly disappeared from his own life?
Ron Elges: And that's what it appeared, that someone had just plucked him out and he was gone.
His wife, Karen, told friends she assumed he'd be back. Of course he would. A few days. A month, maybe.
But no one told his sister, Barbara. And 10 days later, when she found out he was gone, her's was a different reaction altogether.
Barbara Bodden: The alarms did go off. It was like, "Something's wrong. This isnt right."
It was like any other morning in late August here in the desert below Lake Tahoe.
The heat outside swelling toward noon.
But it wasn't like any other day, ever, for Barbara Bodden. She'd been trying to reach her brother Rob, and discovered he was missing.
Barbara Bodden: I was panicked. I was panicked. Because he doesn't disappear. He doesn't leave.
So her next call was to the police.
Dispatcher: Douglas County 911. Address of your emergency?
Barbara Bodden: I am on my way to my brother's house in Johnson Lane. Ah, he has been missing for 9 days, and we need a sheriff to come out there for us please.
An over-reaction, surely.
After all, Rob's wife, Karen, didn't seem to be concerned at all, when Barbara roared up at the front door.
Barbara Bodden: I said, "Where is he?" and, "Oh, he's with some guy named Ramos " I'm like, "Who the hell is Ramos?" Her story was, "This guy Ramos was gonna pay Rob $10,000 under the table to work for him for a month on his airplanes."
Karen insisted she wasn't worried, she knew why Rob had gotten into that plane. Rob was repairing airplanes for drug runners. So she did not want to get the police involved.
Barbara Bodden: I said I don't care what she wants. Even if he's with Ramos, help us find Ramos. You know, maybe the plane crashed.
It was the next morning when investigator Ron Elges showed up for work at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Ron Elges: The deputy came in with his report in his hand. And he said "Who wants a murder?" (laughter) I was like-
Keith Morrison, Dateline NBC: "Who wants a murder?"
Ron Elges: Yeah. I said, "OK." He said it like half-jokingly, probably, but also in his heart, obvious, that's what he probably believed.
Not exactly grounds for suspicion.
So investigator Elges phoned the wife, Karen, invited her down to the station to answer a few questions to help find her spouse. And she, quite willingly, complied.
Elges: ...so I am going to ask you a bunch of questions...
Elges started the video machine and began poking around, as investigators do, looking for some kind of lead, and often it's the marriage that pops out a clue or two for the cop to follow.
Karen Bodden: I mean, I love the man with all my heart...
So that's where he began.
Karen Bodden: He is the most gentle, nice person that can be and then it's like a light switch and he is like the most violent, hole-in-the-wall, smash-furniture extreme. And it could be over something stupid, you know. I mean literally stupid. Toilet seat left up.
Which confirmed that they had a rocky marriage, but nothing out of the ordinary.
And what, the investigator wondered, did Karen know about this guy named "Ramos," who'd taken Rob with him in his twin engine Golden Eagle?
Karen Bodden: ...a little over a month ago this guy came to his hangar, and he offered him a job...
Investigator: This guy's name is what?
Karen Bodden: His name is Ramos ... he knows the guy's planes -- these planes are used for drug running.
Investigator: Do you know what the airplane looks like, the 421 Golden Eagle?
Karen Bodden: It's white. It has red pin-striping on it.
But now there was a little more to the story.
The morning after Rob flew away with Ramos, said Karen, he returned home briefly, grabbed some clothes, and left again and headed back to the airport.
Investigator: How did he leave? Was there another car outside?
Karen Bodden: His truck. He left in his truck.
She also handed investigator Elges a crumpled piece of paper. It was a note that she says was posted on Rob's hangar door, at his business, the day he flew away.
Karen Bodden: This was on his door when I came...
Investigator: Right here it says will be gone for the day.
Karen Bodden: Rob must have done that.
Ron Elges: She said that Rob had put the note on the door where it was typewritten about being gone for the day. And that she had added stuff to help justify to everybody where he was so that no one -- if someone asked questions about where he was, they would know that he was with Ramos.
Karen Bodden: I wrote that on there because he only left with, ya know, like three pairs of pants. And it was just an assumption on my part that, you know, he grabbed three sets of clothes, that he would be gone, you know, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday at the latest.
Investigator: Do you have any other ideas of what could have happened?
Karen Bodden: Well, that's just it. I mean, I mean, it's all speculation. He could have come back in another plane. Who the hell knows.
Another plane? Did Ramos have other planes?
Investigator: What do you think is happening? What is your heart telling you is going on?
Karen Bodden: My heart is telling me that Rob has taken this job with these people to make the fast buck, and I believe he is going to be home anytime now. I really do.
Investigator: You don't think anything has happened to him?
Karen Bodden: No, I do not.
So, according to Karen, he'd left just like that. Suddenly disappeared from his own life without telling a soul, to work for drug smugglers.
Investigator Elges went out to the airport now to see if he could back up Karen's story.
Keith Morrison: Did anybody see a plane take off that morning or land?
Ron Elges: nobody saw any plane take off, a 421, that day or that morning.
Keith Morrison: Curious.
Ron Elges: It starts testing the common sense part of your brain.
A little checking with the FAA revealed no flight plans filed for a Cessna 421 Golden Eagle at the Minden Tahoe Airport on Aug. 26, the day Rob disappeared.
And as for the people who work out here, it's a very tight community.
Ron Elges: They all watched each other's back, and take care of each other, and that's one of the things we found is that when Karen is telling us that Rob just left, this community of people is saying that's not Rob. Rob doesn't do that.
At Rob's hangar, things were pretty much just like a workshop. There was really nothing odd about it.
Rob's tools were neatly organized in plastic containers, nuts and bolts attached on the wall.
To the side, a piece of equipment you might find in a factory, a red hydraulic lift or "cherry picker." Here in Rob's hangar, it was used to hoist aircraft engines.
The light on Rob's phone was blinking. Messages were piling up.
Ron Elges: They weren't picked up. They weren't received. So we started listening to phone messages. Who's calling him?
One person turned out to be a friend named Kelly Rosser. He'd called quite a few times.
Kelly Rosser: And I started feeling uncomfortable about it because no matter where he was, he was always easy to get a hold of. He had a cell phone with him all the time.
So Kelly went over to Rob's hangar.
Kelly Rosser: There was, like, a note that said something as short as, you know, "Back on Friday," but I still thought, oh cool, you know, that explains he is somewhere with someone doing something and everything's cool.
Kelly had a key. He let himself in.
He didn't like what he saw.
Kelly Rosser: There was an airplane that he had been working on. And there were tools scattered all around underneath the airplane. And that was really, really odd. Because he never ever left anything. I mean, if we went to lunch, we put all the tools away. And so the fact that these tools were laying on the floor was alarming for me.
A few days later, Kelly returned.
Kelly Rosser: And I saw the second note, which said that he was gone with Ramos. Which I had never heard of anybody named Ramos.
Nor had anyone at the Minden Tahoe Airport.
Ron Elges: Who's not telling me the truth? And who's not providing the information that should be there? Because people don't just get plucked off the face of the earth for no reason. There has to be a reason. So we started digging more into Karen's story.
And he decided to follow up on a request he'd already made here, days earlier, during that taped interview.
Investigator: Karen, do you have any problems if we came in and searched the house looking for information that might lead us to...
Karen Bodden: No.
Investigator: ...Ramos or anything else?
Karen Bodden: No.
And what did he find there, at Rob's house?
Ron Elges: The butcher block.
Keith Morrison: The butcher block?
Ron Elges: And it was out on the kitchen, on the kitchen counter. I counted the knives and there was one missing.
Keith Morrison: Maybe it was in the dishwasher.
Ron Elges: I looked.
Where was that missing knife? And, more to the point, where was Rob Bodden?
Weeks went by without a single word from the missing aircraft mechanic, Rob Bodden.
Had he flown off with a man named Ramos for a job in the drug running business?
And if he did, why hadn't he left at least a hint with a friend? Or at least some evidence that he was still alive.
There were questions investigator Ron Elges of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office had begun to think of in the negative.
Ron Elges: He wasn't using his ATM. He wasn't pulling money out. Wasn't using his credit cards. There was no -- he was not using any money after the 16th at all.
There was, of course, the possibility that Ramos or his fellow drug runners had simply used Rob, and then killed him, dumped his body somewhere out in the desert. It had to be considered.
And the days ticked on by.
Rob's sister, Barbara, was losing patience, fast.
Barbara Bodden: We're from L.A. and expect a totally different "Let's snap into action boys, and let's go get 'em." And--
Keith Morrison: What happened instead?
Barbara Bodden: You know, it was, like, slow.
Ron Elges: They want answers and they want answers now. And I understood that.
And then it was Sunday, Sept. 10, three weeks since Rob's disappearance. A man's body had been discovered in the desert.
Ron Elges: I think we got more than just a missing person. It was definitely a murder.
Oh yes. And it looked professional: there were two neat little holes, one in the back of the head, one in the temple. Decomposition was advanced. Even so.
Elges: I knew it was Rob.
It looked as if Rob had been shot somewhere else, his dead body hauled out here to the desert. Rob was a big man, would have taken brute force to do that. A real operation.
Rob's family learned the news the next morning.
Tim Bodden: I was relieved, because he was found. I was so worried he'd never be found.
Back at the station, investigator Elges examined the crime scene investigtor's photos. And right there by the body, plain as day, he saw it.
Keith Morrison: A knife?
Ron Elges: Yeah. A knife. And it looked just like the ones in the butcher block I had seen in the house back on 29th of August.
Keith Morrison: The butcher block that had a knife missing?
Ron Elges: Yes.
But wait a minute. The man had been shot. There were no stab wounds. So, why worry about a knife?
Because, investigator Elges felt sure, it wasn't just any knife. It had to have come from Karen's butcher block.
It was almost midnight. He called Karen anyway.
Ron Elges: Got her out of bed. And I asked her, I said, "I need you to come down to the station. Need to talk to you."
Keith Morrison: She must have known the jig was up.
Ron Elges: Possibly.
Investigator Elges and his partner asked Karen to repeat, one more time, her story of what happened the day Rob disappeared.
Investigator: I just want to confirm with you some things...
Keith Morrison: Was it the same?
Ron Elges: Yeah. It was the same story. Then I read her Miranda rights.
Investigator: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law....
Ron Elges: And I basically confronted her that we found Rob's body, and he had been murdered and we believed she did it.
Investigator: My question to you is why. What brought this about?
Keith Morrison: What did she say to that?
Ron Elges: Not a word. She was in silence for a good period of time.
Karen Bodden: Are you saying you think I've killed my own husband?
Investigator: Yes ma'am. I do.
Ron Elges: There was no question in my mind at that point that she either was directly involved or involved. Because a normal response would be no.
Investigator #2: Your story is completely fictitious. It's not true. There was no Cessna 421. Ramos does not exist.
Karen Bodden: ... I was there. The airplane was there.
Investigator #2: No it wasn't. No plane.
Karen Bodden: What do you want me to do, get an attorney?
Investigator: That's completely up to you.
Karen Bodden: I guess I have to get an attorney.
Ron Elges: And that's where the conversation ended.
So it did, except a lot more had surfaced about Karen Bodden.
It turns out she had a past about which Rob -- and daughter Katie -- were all too well aware.
Katie Rasor: I was disappointed in her, she raised us with morals, you know, and "Don't steal. Don't cheat. Don't lie," you know?
But Karen did. She'd worked once for the Department of Motor Vehicles. And while there, she had embezzled money -- $44,000.
She was charged, convicted, put on probation.
And Rob forgave her, defended her, stood by her.
Rob's friend, Kelly Rosser, told investigator Elges he had learned a thing or two about Karen.
Kelly Rosser: Pretty shocking stuff. One day I remember I came in and he showed me a credit card bill for $10- or $12,000 that she had opened this credit card in his name without his knowledge.
She was forging checks, too, siphoning money from Rob's business account, he said.
Kelly Rosser: But my advice, always, was, "Get rid of her." And he just couldn't -- didn't have the heart to do that.
Curious. Suspicious perhaps.
Investigator Elges got a warrant and rushed back to the Bodden home.
And there in the dishwasher were the black-handled steak knives, the very same ones he'd seen on the counter weeks earlier. And what do you know? They matched the knife that had been found with the body in desert.
But that wasn't all he found.
Sitting in plain view were two duplicate type-written letters signed by Rob Bodden. They were letters that the investigator insisted were not there when he first searched the house.
Keith Morrison: What did they say?
Ron Elges: They were addressed to the Douglas County Detectives. Us.
Keith Morrison: You?
Ron Elges: There was a letter from Rob saying that he'd left, you know? He found a better life for himself. To go ahead and take his wallet, and she could have all his property.
To investigator Elges, it was transparent evidence, an attempt to cover up a murder.
Karen was charged.
With murder? Well, no. With grand theft. Authorities determined that Karen had stolen more than $20,000 from her now-dead husband.
Besides, a murder charge had to wait for a little while.
Ron Elges: We wanted to get the autopsies done. We wanted to gather more information.
And that's when the puzzle grew very curious indeed. Sure enough, given what investigator Elges found, murder was the charge. But could it stick?
Keith Morrison: You're looking forward to this trial?
Barbara Bodden: Yeah.
Keith Morrison: Why?
Barbara Bodden: For the answers.
Mark Jackson: Everything about her was greed. It all came down to greed.
The murder trial of Karen Bodden began in January, with Douglas County prosecutor Mark Jackson intending to show the jury that Karen brutally murdered her husband in his airplane hangar, and dumped his body in the desert.
Jackson: After she shot and killed her husband she drove his dead body to the desert area believing that she had committed the perfect murder.
Her motive? In two words: Greed and liberty.
Jackson: Greed. You will learn that the defendant was stealing money and that she continued to steal money after his murder. And liberty. If the authorities were made aware of those actions because she was on probation she could go to prison.
On probation for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from an old employer: The DMV.
Rob had known about that, had protected her. But things had changed.
Mark Jackson: Rob confronted her about two weeks prior to his murder about some additional thefts she had made some unauthorized charges on his credit card.
He wrote her a note, in fact, asking where she got his credit card. The prosecutor showed the note to Rob's accountant.
Jackson: The $1,985.81, is that his?
Jackson: Due by Aug. 5th, is that his handwriting?
Mark Jackson: And what I argued to the jury is that I think for everybody, there comes a point where enough is enough. And for Rob, enough was in August of 2006.
Keith Morrison: He was gonna turn her in?
Mark Jackson: He was gonna turn her in. She would go to prison.
Keith Morrison: Couldn't let him do that.
Mark Jackson: Absolutely not. It's a great motive for murder.
And a murder that needed to be covered up. And that's the reason, the prosecutor said, that Karen told the story about Rob flying away with a fellow named Ramos.
Kelly: I did not see any big cabin class twins around.
The prosecutor called Rob's friends to ask about the alleged airplane.
Jackson: Did you see a Cessna 421 with red pinstripes on morning Aug 16th?
Jackson: If a twin engine plane was to land at the Minden airport, would you contact the pilot?
Thomas: Absolutely. Twin engine takes a lot of fuel that's a big fuel sale, and that's my job.
Mark Jackson: No one saw Ramos. No one saw an airplane. No one saw the victim.
Karen, the prosecutor would tell the jury, was a con artist. But not a very careful con. Couldn't keep her lies straight.
Jackson: Did she tell you whether or not she had seen her husband Rob since he left with Ramos sometime after 8:30 in the morning?
Sheriff: The initial statement she made to me was no that was the last time she saw him. She then made a statement that he arrived home that next morning...
Keith Morrison: So her story was maybe a little over-thought?
Mark Jackson: I said she was a con. I didn't say she was a good con.
The prosecutor said the notes on the hangar door indicating when Rob would return was just Karen's way of extending the cover up.
Jackson: And that's what she came up with. Is, "I'll just attach this note here. Then no one will have any worries at all." At least for the next day or two.
All very well, she may indeed have had that in mind, but just physically, how could this woman have done what she supposedly did to this man?
He had to weigh more than 250 pounds.
How did she move that dead weight out of the hanger, and into the desert, without leaving so much as a trace of evidence behind?
Here is how.
It was, said the prosecutor, both ingenious and devious. To move that large corpse, he said, to do it with her own limited strength, do it without leaving a drag trail of blood -- or other inconvenient evidence -- she fired up that cherry picker. The one she'd watched Rob use to lift and move airplane engines. And she found a tie-down strap with a handy cinch, and went about her work like a pro.
Mark Jackson: It was our theory that that strap was put around his waist to attach to the hook portion of this cherry picker that lifts airplane engines. And effortlessly, just by touching a little knob on that cherry picker, a child could lift that body and then wheel it over to the pickup truck and drop the body.
And then? Karen eased the truck out of the hangar, said the prosecutor, drove it 11 miles east to a remote area of desert, parked on a slope, and pushed his dead body off the tailgate.
Mark Jackson: As she was pulling the body out of the bed of the pickup truck, the knife came out with the body. And we believe that the knife was used to cut the strap.
And that knife turned out to be a perfect match to the one in Karen's kitchen.
Though it wasn't the only evidence the prosecutor used to link Karen to the scene.
Jackson: Can you describe for the jury how the body was wrapped?
Leifard: There was a blue blanket, some clear plastic wrap and appeared to be blue tape and duct tape.
Exactly the same brand and type of blankets and tape in Rob's hangar.
Criminologist: The piece of tape beneath the victim and the partial roll from the airport were once a single unit.
Then there was the medical examiner's testimony. Rob had been shot twice in the head with a .22 caliber gun.
Medical examiner: The muzzle of the gun was close enough to the target or the body for unburnt powder grains to actually hit the body hard enough to mark it.
But where was that missing weapon?
Caroline: I believe we went on one of the boats....
Prosecutor: Did you go on the boat with your mom?
The weekend after Rob's murder, Karen and her two daughters went camping at Lake Tahoe.
Mark Jackson: It has a very large lake. One of the deepest lakes. And she went on one of those boats.
Keith Morrison: Right after the killing?
Mark Jackson: Right after the killing.
Jackson: Are you aware that Lake Tahoe is a very deep lake
Mark Jackson: We put the evidence on to establish that she had an opportunity to get rid of the gun.
It was all very compelling, but where was the evidence? No gun, no fingerprints, no DNA. No witnesses. Nothing that said with any certainty Karen Bodden killed her husband or even knew how it happened.
And then, there was one last witness, someone the prosecutor initially didn't think existed.
It turned out he did exist. And was about to testify.
Would he help prove Karen's story?
Jackson: Please state your name?
Ramos: Richard Ramos.
"Ladies and Gentleman the defendant is not innocent."
Prosecutor Mark Jackson believed Karen Bodden had killed her aircraft mechanic husband and then dumped his dead body in the desert.
Karen maintained her husband flew off with a man named Ramos.
A ghost! He was an invention, surely. Or was he?
Investigators put their best tools to use in the search. And sure enough, Ramos existed.
And here he was, to take the stand in court: Richard Ramos of La Habra, Calif.
Mark Jackson, prosecutor: Do you own a Cessna 421?
Ramos: Yes, sir.
Ramos owned a Golden Eagle -- exactly the model of airplane on which Karen Bodden said her husband flew the coop, except for a minor detail or two.
Jackson: Mr. Ramos, are you involved dealing drugs using airplanes to haul drugs?
Ramos: No, sir.
Jackson: Have you ever flown your Cessna 421 into the Minden Tahoe Airport here in Douglas County?
Ramos: No. The airplane has not been been operable since I bought it in December of 1999.
Jackson: Were you involved in any capacity in the murder of Rob Bodden?
Ramos: I don't even know the name.
Mark Jackson: This is the one and only Ramos that's associated with a twin engine airplane Golden Eagle.
Keith Morrison: Anywhere in the whole country?
Mark Jackson: Anywhere in the world.
Keith Morrison: Whoa.
Jackson: The state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant killed Rob Bodden and that murder, that killing was willful deliberate and premeditated.
So there it was. The prosecution's case for conviction.
Nice theory. Too bad, said the defense, that it was absolute drivel.
Jim Wilson: Karen Bodden did not kill her husband, she did not shoot him. She did not have any involvement in his murder and she doesn't know who did it.
Defense Attorney Jim Wilson belittled the prosecution's theory that Karen put two bullets in her husband's head to prevent him from sending her to prison. It was a theory -- a fancy theory --but nothing more, he said.
Wilson: There is no evidence Rob was going to turn her in, people that Rob talked to said Rob said he would not turn her in ... Doesn't make sense.
One by one, the defense unwound the prosecutor's claims and asked the jury: Where's the proof?
Keith Morrison: The prosecution's case is largely built on the motive that he said he was gonna turn her in.
Jim Wilson: And if they'd have presented some evidence on that, that would have been a good theory. He loved her. He did not want to cause her trouble.
The defense called Rob's own accountant, who testified earlier, for the prosecution, that Karen had been using Rob's credit card and forging checks, and that Rob knew it.
Wilson: Rob told you on multiple occasions that he wouldn't turn Karen in?
Accountant: At least twice that I recall.
So much for the motive that she needed to kill him to keep herself out of prison..
So, why would she have told that crazy story that Rob had flown off with some guy named Ramos, a man and a flight nobody at the airport remembered?
Wilson: Airport accommodates 80,000 flight operations per year?
Thomas: Felt like it.
With that much going on, wasn't it possible that Ramos or a man with a similar name, had slipped in and out of the airport unnoticed?
As for the murder weapon, the bullets retrieved from Rob's head only confirmed that he was shot with a .22-caliber handgun.
The prosecution told the jury such a gun had been stored for years in Rob's hangar. And was now missing. Must have been the gun Karen used. Really, asked the defense?
Wilson: They are trying to put a gun in hands of Karen Bodden that hasn't been seen since early 2001. That is speculation.
As was the suggestion that Karen threw that "missing gun" into Lake Tahoe.
In fact the whole case, said the defense, really amounted to little more than suspicious speculation.
Remember, there were no eyewitnesses to the murder of Rob Bodden. Not a one. There were no fingerprints, not a smudge of DNA, no blood in the hangar. Or anywhere.
Jim Wilson: If the state's theory is correct, and the murder occurred the way they say it did, that was one heck of a cleanup job.
But how, we wondered, could a jury be expected to believe protestations of innocence from an apparent con artist like Karen?
Jim Wilson: This was an execution. I have not learned anything during my representation that would make me think that she was capable of doing that.
The jury never heard from Karen Bodden herself, never had the chance to judge the words from her own mouth.
But now, in the same courtroom, no jury present to listen, Karen Bodden has agreed to answer questions -- from Dateline.
Karen Bodden: When you make a bad choice and you keep doing it, it becomes a compulsive habit. I am not happy with myself for doing what I did.
Karen admits she stole from her previous employer, the DMV, and later from her own husband.
Karen Bodden: I did do some financial revenges on him. Yeah.
But for all their squabbles, she says Rob stood by her.
Keith Morrison: How did that work?
Karen Bodden: Because he loved me.
And so why didn't she report her loving husband missing?
Karen Bodden: He took a job. He wanted to make the money that he was offered to see if he could get along with the people there. I expected him to call. Any wife would expect her husband to call.
Thing was, as Karen had said, the job was not exactly on the up and up. There really was a Ramos. Rob was repairing airplanes for drug runners. And so she says she was was selective with what she told investigators.
Karen Bodden: How much do you tell them?" I don't want Rob to look bad. I want him to come back and everything go back to normal.
And as for the prosecutor's suggestion that Karen had shot her husband in the head and then thrown the gun away -- perhaps into Lake Tahoe? Nonsense, she said.
Karen Bodden: I don't know where I woulda put it. (laughter)
Keith Morrison: In the water.
Karen Bodden: No. I mean--
Keith Morrison: On your person. You can hide one of those things. Can't you?
Karen Bodden: I don't know. I couldn't even imagine it being in my hand. Aren't guns heavy?
But the jury had to work without Karen's story, without her tears, had to work with the evidence that they were given, even if it was mostly circumstantial.
Karen Bodden: I can stand proud that I am a good person, and have helped people and loved my husband. I miss him.
Keith Morrison: And you didn't kill him?
Karen Bodden: No. No. (sniffing)
Keith Morrison: All of this must have been a very big mistake?
Karen Bodden: It's tragedy is what it is. It's tragedy.
A broken-hearted widow or calculating killer? It would be up to the jury to decide.
By the time the jury in the Rob Bodden murder trial signaled that it was ready with its verdict, defense attorney Jim Wilson was feeling very tense indeed.
Jim Wilson: I probably wasn't smiling. Receiving the verdict is the worst part of any trial.
Prosecutor Mark Jackson found himself arguing that the jury must have believed his version of the story and not hers.
Mark Jackson: I don't see how any reasonable person could believe that her story about Rob leaving in an airplane with Ramos at around 8:30 in the morning at the airport was true.
Karen's daughter, Katie, had been waiting with the rest of them for a verdict, trying to hang on to hope.
Keith Morrison: Do you have any kind of spiritual thing to fall back on?
Katie Rasor: Like, I pray that she didn't do it, and she gets off and we can go on with our lives and be a family again.
Keith Morrison: Yeah, and you'll still love her either way?
Katie Rasor: Oh, yeah. She's done everything to make sure my life was good, and I love her for that
The judge called the clerk to read the verdict to a hushed courtroom.
Clerk: we the jury in the Bodden matter find the defendant Karen Bodden guilty of the crime of first-degree murder...
Guilty. Karen Bodden was guilty of executing her own husband. Murder in the first-degree.
Jim Wilson: There's a brief time of disappointment. Of still holding out hope that maybe I didn't hear right, maybe this isn't really happening.
And Karen was inscrutable. Emotion, if there was any, flattened.
Karen Bodden: I knew I was gonna be found guilty.
Keith Morrison: Come on.
Karren Bodden: I did. I knew I was gonna be found guilty. The fact that I committed a crime before. I knew that I was-- I was doomed...
She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 24 years, when she is around 70.
Keith Morrison: Maybe there was an accident.
Karen Bodden: Accident? No. No. If you're asking me, "Did I kill my husband?" No. I did not kill my husband. I am not a violent person. I never have been. I love my husband.
Keith Morrison: Once a con, always a con?
Mark Jackson: In her world? Absolutely. She'll always be a con.
Keith Morrison: What do you think happened that day?
Mark Jackson: Well, I think it happened that night of the 15th. Rob would work late hours. So I think she went into the hangar that evening of the 15th, murdered him on the 15th. Cleaned up the crime scene.
Keith Morrison: Before sunrise?
Mark Jackson: Correct. And she was there in the morning still cleaning up.
Long after we've all forgotten about the grim demise of an airplane mechanic who was afraid to fly, the question will lie there, for his family, unanswered.
Barbara Bodden: We're still left here going, "Why?" You know, that's one thing I know I'll never get an answer to. I'll never get an answer why.
Karen Bodden is appealing her murder conviction.