The discovery of a decomposing human body in a Rubbermaid container presents a challenging case for Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary as they roll into Aurora, Colo. on episode nine of season two of the TNT Cold Justice series. The fact that the victim Carolyn Jantzen was a drifter who had lost contact with her family and friends further complicates the case.
How can a body decompose for three years in a container in someone's backyard and no one discover it?
Richard Johnson is the person who discovered her in a box in his backyard and calls 911. McClary is skeptical of his story at first. She believes the foul smell of a decomposing body would be overwhelming and should've been discovered long before three years.
Siegler, who skyrocketed to national fame with the Susan Wright case as a Houston prosecutor, explains the previous district attorney had concerns Carolyn may have died from accidental injuries. She poses the question, "How did Carolyn die? We need a determination of this before we can go forward with this case."
The former Harris County prosecutor further says, "We need to clear up if this was an accident or a murder."
In looking at the history of the case, Siegler says that the previous DA for Aurora was concerned that it was an accident, and the case died. So the case was closed. However, there is hope of reviving the case since the medical examiner ruled it was a homicide.
When the TNT team of Siegler, McClary and detective Alan Brown visit with the Aurora coroner he is still adamant it was a homicide so they have a green light to proceed further. Kelly and Yolanda meet with the victim's daughter Victoria Baker Wilford. She discloses to the team that at age 15 she started searching for her mother.
Victoria says, "My mom died night before I found her."
Kelly and Yolanda pledge to Victoria that they will do everything possible to determine what happened to her mother. McClary, who made her name as the real-life model for Marg Helgenberger's character on CSI, says that "with only skeletal remains, all we kow for sure is she suffered a fracture of her skull and a broken nose."
The former Las Vegas Police Department detective further says, "With no weapon, her head could've been slammed against the wall."
Kelly says, "With blunt force impact injuries to the head it is homicide."
They determine the body was folded into a fetal position when it was placed in the box in the backyard of Richard Johnson's house. But when did the box become a weapon?
Deciding they must do further testing on the box, they decide to focus on the sticky side of the of the tape which was used to enclose the body in the box. They want to do testing on the sticky side as well as the smooth side. There is already mixed DNA of Richard and a female.
Siegler and McClary determine they need to obtain a DNA sample from a second man who lived with Carolyn when she went missing. This second man told police during the original investigation the box actually belonged to him. When Carolyn disappeared, he enlisted the aid of friend Richard to move the box to Richard's place.
Yolanda says, "We don't know for sure where the murder case. We need to look at the apartment Richard and Carolyn lived in before she disappeared."
A theory is evolving in Yolanda's mind that possibly the man who lived with Carolyn killed her in their apartment and took her with him when he was evicted. The murder could've happened in their home because the man had no car. So the only way he could've removed her body, was to place her body in the box and recruit Richard to help him move the box along with his other stuff.
When the TNT van rolls over to this man's house to obtain a buchal swab of his DNA, he is reluctant to co-operate. Not only does he refuse to answer his door, he yells down at them, "Why don't I call you later?"
As Brown persists, he says only, "I'll call you Monday morning."
When they visit with Richard again, he is co-operative and says, "We had Carolyn's purse and wallet. The purse was without a strap."
Yolanda wonders, "Why would she leave her purse behind?"
The further question raised is, "Why would Richard leave her body in the box if he did it? Wouldn't he dispose of the body instead of leaving it in his own backyard?"
The other question though, is why would her roommate leave her body in the box if he did it?
In 2005, Richard's house was searched. Kelly and Yoland decide it's time that they take a look at his place. When they ask Richard if he remembers what happened he is very open, "How can I forget? I'll follow you over there."
Richard recalls for Kelly and Yolanda that, "He (Carolyn's roommate) had all his stuff in boxes. We lifted the box her body was in together. It was heavy. It took two of us. Probably a hundred pounds."
Richard tells them he didn't realize Carolyn's body was in the box at the time they moved it to his place. Over the years, Carolyn's roommate would "keep asking about his stuff on the patio."
"The only reason I finally opened the box up was because something made a crack in it. When I peeled opoen the lid, I saw a foot. When I opened it more I saw two feet. It sunk in.....I yelled to my brother who was there. I said to him, "I have a body here."
Alan explains most of the junk Richard stored in his backyard was still there. The box containing the body was outdoors.
Yolanda says, "It's tightly sealed. We can understand now why he didn't smell the body for three years."
The undefeated prosecutor of sixty plus murder cases, Kelly says, "It's plausible to believe Richard is not the murderer."
There is now only one suspect left, according to the TNT team. They obtain a court order to obtain Carolyn's roommate's DNA. When they enter his new residence, they note he's been researching DNA on his computer. The DNA sample is obtained and sent to the lab.
Carolyn's roommate then surprises Siegler and McClary by showing up at the Aurora Police Department.
He says, "I don't want to answer anything. If I were you I'd be looking at someone who has a problem with women. I never argued with her. Richard offered to store her stuff."
He departs the station after this time saying he doesn't know if the box was his or not which contradicts his original statement to police that it was his box.
Siegler and McClary feel he has been evasive and don't like the way he pulls his ballcap down over his face when being questioned.
Kelly comes on the screen and says, "We will continue to track this case when the DNA results come back."
Only two weeks later the DNA comes back and it matches to the roommate on the sticky side of the tape which was used to secure the box in which Carolyn's body was placed after being murdered.
In possibly one of the fastest turnarounds in criminal justice history, the ex-roommate of Carolyn is arreested on March 10, 2014 for murder. As he is handcuffed, Siegler sayd he's looking at 24-48 years incarceration under Colorado law.
The victim's daughter says, "I got to sign my name as my mother's daughter" on the documents. It is a heartwarming conclusion to the brutal murder.
Kelly was raised in Blessing, Texas, of Matagorda County and continues to pursue justice in her own law firm located in Houston, Texas where she zealously fights for justice for her clients. She represents victims as part of her clientele. A successful prosecutor for many years in Houston, she tried more than 200 jury trials against some of the best defense attorneys of the Lone Star State.
McClary assembled an incredible record of solving cases while with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. In some cases she has even been able to prevent crimes before they occur. "I believe in a pro-active approach toward crime whenever possible," she said in an interview with me.
The only disappointing fact from this show is Cold Justice fans will have to wait two weeks to see Siegler and McClary pursue justice on another murder case. People can then tune in at the regular Friday time at 8/7 CST on TNT to catch up with the most recent expoits of the crime-busting team.
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