Valley of the Damned Premiered ‘Killer Confession’ on ID: Army Veteran Admits Murdering Lea Porter, Her Body is Still Missing (September 17, 2019)

When Lea Porter goes missing in Prison Valley her family turn detective to try and find her. Their investigation leads to a shocking discovery – the killer’s true identity. As the killer evades arrest, Lea’s brother devises a plan to make him confess. -Killer Confession, Valley of the Damned (S1,E3)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Help Find Lea Porter | Facebook
Lea Chali Porter | The Charley Project
Remembering Lea Porter: The Photos You Need to See
Killer Confession | Valley of the Damned | Investigation Discovery (S1,E3)
Killer Confession | Valley of the Damned | Investigation Discovery (website)
Killer Confession | Valley of the Damned | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Man accused of murder, sexual assault in teen’s disappearance
High school friend who pleaded in TV interview for return of missing girl, 19, arrested for her murder after admitting he killed her and hid body
Colorado man charged with sexually assaulting, killing, teenage friend
Murder victim’s stepfather: Suspect had ‘manifesto’ about capturing, killing a girl
Man pleads guilty to high school friend’s murder
Man pleads guilty to killing southern Colorado teen who disappeared
Lea Chali Porter’s Family Upset by Plea Deal With Her Killer, Christopher Waide
Man sentenced to 48 years for murder of missing Pueblo teen
Killer is in prison, but body of Fremont County teen has never been found
Colorado mom wants answers about daughter’s missing body
Killer’s criminal justice teacher speaks out about what convict may have learned in class
Convicted Killer Says He Admitted to Murder Because Tarot Cards Said Guilt ‘Would Destroy’ Him
20/20′: Criminology student confesses to murder of young Colorado woman
Murder of Lea Porter by Christopher Adam Waide featured on Valley of the Damned

Lea Porter Missing Colorado

Fear Thy Neighbor Premiered ‘Game of Homes’ on Investigation Discovery: Escalating Feud Between Sheila Bonge and Michigan Neighbors Leads to Murder (August 8, 2019)

ID Go: New neighbors, disrupt the harmony that has existed between residents for years. Alliances change and terror reigns until a winter storm puts a bloody end to the feud. -Game of Homes, Fear Thy Neighbor (S6,E2)


In the News:

Sheila Bonge’s sister, Val Flaherty, reacts to Wendell Popejoy’s sentencing at the Ottawa County Courthouse in Grand Haven on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. Popejoy was convicted of murder in the Dec. 26, 2017, killing of his neighbor, Sheila Bonge, in Crockery Township. Bonge was shot while she was snowblowing an easement that she, Popejoy and another neighbor used to get to their driveways. He received a life sentence. -MLive (Nov. 5, 2018)

Fear Thy Neighbor – “Game of Homes” — Teaser #1 (August 2, 2019)

Fear Thy Neighbor – “Game of Homes” — Teaser #2 (August 6, 2019)

Fear Thy Neighbor – “Game of Homes” — Preview (August 8, 2019)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Fear Thy Neighbor – “Game of Homes” — Teaser #1
Fear Thy Neighbor – “Game of Homes” — Teaser #2
Fear Thy Neighbor – “Game of Homes” — Preview
Game of Homes | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S6,E2)
Game of Homes | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (website)
Game of Homes | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Fear Thy Neighbor: 23 Veteran Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery
Man confesses to killing neighbor clearing snow from his driveway
Report: Man told police he shot ‘nuisance’ neighbor in ‘snap decision’ killing
Docs: Man confessed to shooting neighbor who was snowblowing
This man saw his neighbor snowblowing his driveway. So he shot her from behind, police say
In Mich. neighbor feud, some side with suspected killer
Man regrets killing ‘nuisance’ neighbor blowing snow in his driveway
After shooting abusive neighbor: ‘Not really sorry she’s gone’
He killed his neighbor: She kept doing this, and I snapped
Crime Hunter: Death of a nasty neighbour | Toronto Sun
Wendall Popejoy charged with murder in death of Sheila Bonge, who was found in the woods
Accused in Nunica Woman’s Murder Bound Over for Trial
Jurors hear confession in ‘nuisance’ neighbor’s death
Jurors hear confession in ‘nuisance’ neighbor’s death 2
Michigan jurors hear confession in ‘nuisance’ neighbor’s death
‘There’s a dead lady behind your house,’ compelling audio shared in day two of Wendell Popejoy trial
Neighbors at murder trial: Victim was ‘horrible, mean’
Girlfriend of man who allegedly killed his neighbor takes stand on third day of his trial
Detectives testify at Popejoy murder trial
Guy Who Killed Snowblowing Neighbor Learns Fate
Man convicted of killing neighbor while she cleared snow
Ottawa County man convicted of killing neighbor while she cleared snow
Man convicted of killing neighbor during snow blowing dispute
‘It’s time to hold Mr. Popejoy accountable’
Popejoy receives life sentence for killing neighbor blowing snow in his driveway
Michigan man sentenced to life for neighbor’s fatal shooting
Michigan man sentenced to life for neighbor’s fatal shooting
Murder of Sheila Bonge by Wendell Popejoy highlighted on Fear Thy Neighbor
Sheila Bonge, Wendell Popejoy: Watch ‘Fear Thy Neighbor Games Of Homes’–Snowblower-Easement Shooting Death Case

Method of a Serial Killer: Authorities Believe Israel Keyes Trained to Kill & Suppressed Desire to Murder While Serving in the Army (October 28, 2018)

Oxygen’s two hour special event on Israel Keyes airs Sunday, October 28th. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Reporters, investigators and family friends reflect on the kidnapping of Samantha Koenig. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Israel Keyes is arrested after a minor traffic infraction. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Follow FBI special agents as they investigate the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Investigators say that some conversations with Israel Keyes were very “normal.” -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Investigators discuss the power dynamics and the fight for Keyes to reveal information. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer (S1, E1)

Israel Keyes admitted that he is “two different people.” -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

The kill kits recovered by the FBI reveal the meticulous planning of Israel Keyes. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Keyes said the randomness of his victims is what kept him “successful.” -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Keyes could have many more victims than those that have been accounted for. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

FBI Special Agents discuss Israel Keyes’ possible involvement in another murder case. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

FBI special agents and a forensic psychologist reflect on Israel Keyes’ personality. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Israel Keyes fascination with serial killers reveals patterns in his MO. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Israel Keyes revealed he created kill kits and buried them in various locations. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

FBI special agents and a forensic psychologist discuss Israel Keyes’ training and suppression of killing sprees. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Mary Wood, reflects on the time her family employed Israel Keyes for a bathroom remodel. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Former reporter, Casey Grove, describes his journey as a crime journalist. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Related Links:
Method of a Serial Killer | Oxygen Official Site
Serial Killer Israel Keyes’ Suicide Letter Is Creepy Ode to Murder
Alaska Serial Killer Committed Suicide With Hidden Razor and Bedding
The untold story behind Israel Keyes’ jailhouse suicide
Was Israel Keyes the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of Modern Times?
Serial Killer Suicide Notes | Psychology Today
Israel Keyes Update: Remains of at least 5 victims of Alaska serial killer are in Washington, FBI interviews indicate
Israel Keyes Update: Alaska serial killer linked to at least 11 deaths, FBI says
Listen to Detectives Describe the Disturbing ‘Kill Kits’ Made by Serial Killer Israel Keyes
Method of a Serial Killer: Israel Keyes Abducts his Final Known Victim
Read Serial Killer Israel Keyes’ Chilling Suicide Note: ‘Soon Now You’ll Join Those Ranks of Dead’
Martinis & Murder: Episode #99 – The Alaskan Serial Killer
Oxygen’s ‘Method Of A Murderer’ Goes Inside The Mind of Serial Killer Israel Keyes
10 Recently Caught Demented Serial Killers |Listverse
Profile of Alaska Serial Killer Israel Keyes
Israel Keyes | Unresolved
Method Of A Serial Killer Premieres Sunday, 10/28 | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Samantha Koenig – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: White Ford Focus – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: From Kidnapping To Murder – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Interviewing Israel Keyes – Preview | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Fight For Control – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: The Two Sides Of Israel Keyes – Preview | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Calculation – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: The Randomness Of Victims – Preview | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Leaving Behind Unsolved Crimes – Preview | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: A Tight Timeline – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Double Life – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: The Fascination – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: The Caches – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Military Training – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: He Didn’t Choose Us – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: A Compelling Story – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes by J.T. Hunter (Book)

Osama El-Atari, One-Time Informant Who Got Marine Jorge Torrez to Confess to 3 Murders Including Amanda Snell, Found Dead in Vehicle; Three Suspects Arrested for Murder (February 16, 2016)

“A Virginia man found murdered in Maryland over the weekend was an informant who successfully got a Marine to confess to three murders in prison. Osama El-Atari had been reported missing by his family…Two days later, El Atari was found dead inside his truck…In August of 2010, the feds wanted to see if El-Atari could get Jorge Torrez, a Marine, to confess on tape to the murder of Amanda Jean Snell, a sailor who was found murdered in Fort Myer. El-Atari and Torrez were in the same cellblock in Arlington County Jail. The two talked for hours with El-Atari getting Torrez to admit to the vicious crime…El-Atari was also able to get Torrez to admit to the 2005 killing of two little girls in his hometown of Zion, Illinois. It is a crime in which a suspect had already confessed. Also, DNA evidence pointed to Torrez.” Read more from Fox 5 DC here.

Related Links:
Slain Va. man was one-time informant who got Marine to confess to murders
Admitted bank scammer who turned into jailhouse informant in terror, murder cases found slain in truck on Maryland street
VA Man Convicted of Scamming Banks for Millions Found Dead in MD
Police arrest 2 in slaying of freed jailhouse informant
Arrests made in murder of informant who got Marine to confess to murders
Third man arrested in Leesburg bank scammer’s death
Third man arrested in death of scam artist turned informant
3rd Suspect Arrested for Convicted Loudoun Restauranteur’s Murder
Robbery Cited as Motive in El-Atari Homicide
The King of Ashburn: The life and murder of a con man
Navy Petty Officer Amanda Snell Murdered by Marine Jorge Torrez in Barracks at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia; Sentenced to Death by Federal Judge (July 13, 2009)

Ice Cold Killers Premiered ‘North Pole Slay Ride’ on ID: Five Victims Found Murdered Near Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska (January 1, 2013)

The tiny town of North Pole, Alaska is a quiet, safe haven best known for Santa Claus. But when the bodies of young women begin turning up one by one, investigators slowly piece together the clues and discover the unlikeliest of killers. -North Pole Slay Ride, Ice Cold Killers (S1,E4)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
North Pole Slay Ride | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (S1,E4)
North Pole Slay Ride | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (website)
North Pole Slay Ride | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Air Force TSgt Thomas Richard Bunday Died By Suicide in Texas on Day of Arrest; Bunday Confessed to 5 Murders Near Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska from 1979-1981 (March 15, 1983)
Ice Cold Killers: Five Military & Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Navy Lt. Verle Lee Hartley Died of Arsenic Poisoning in 1982; NCIS Cold Case Squad Solved Murder 13 Years Later; Wife Pamela Served 16 of 40 Years in Prison, Paroled (November 18, 1982)

image1

Lt. Verle Lee Hartley, U.S. Navy

NCIS, The Cases They Can’t Forget: Mysterious poisoning of a Navy lieutenant leads to one of NCIS’ most notorious cold cases (May 29, 2019)

Just off the coast of Spain, the U.S.S. Forrestal cruised through open waters on the Mediterranean Sea. This particular aircraft carrier had the ability to unleash total devastation on the enemy. But below deck, one Navy sailor was fighting off an enemy in his body. Lee Hartley was complaining of diarrhea and lethargy. He also experienced excessive weight loss and there was a grayness to his skin. Lee Hartley was a career Navy sailor, having served nineteen years, and the Lt. in the ship’s disciplinary office. A month into his current deployment, Lee became violently ill with severe stomach pains and a strange tingling in his hands and feet. He was treated by the ship’s medics for gastrointestinal problems. A couple weeks went by and the symptoms reappeared, each time getting progressively worst. The onboard medics thought maybe he was exposed to something in a foreign port.

Lee Hartley also assumed it was food or water he consumed while visiting one of the foreign ports. Whatever the cause, Lee’s symptoms were spiraling out of control. He endured nearly two months of agony. When Lee wasn’t getting better, the Navy decided to ship him off to a hospital so he was medi-vaced to Jacksonville, Florida. Lee’s wife Pamela rushed to his bedside. Pam and Lee were newlyweds; they were married a year earlier. Doctors ran a battery of tests to help make a diagnosis. Some believed he might have liver disease or hepatitis or even some kind of poisoning but they couldn’t come up with a definitive diagnosis. Lee commented to multiple people that he thought he was dying because he was so gravely ill. On November 18, 1982, after nearly five months of terrible suffering, Lt. Lee Hartley succumbed to massive organ failure.

Before he set out on his final deployment, Lee Hartley was living the life he had always dreamed of. Lee loved the Navy and his family was very proud of him. He joined the Navy as an enlisted man and then became an officer. Lee was happy with Pam and was looking forward to the end of long deployments so he could spend more time with her. They didn’t have children of their own but Lee had a daughter from a previous marriage. Pam was now a devastated widow and waited for the autopsy to determine the cause of her husband’s death. When the results came back, they revealed Lee died from arsenic poisoning, nearly 1000 times the normal level. His liver, kidneys and blood was full of arsenic and Lee had enough arsenic in him to kill several people. Arsenic is a odorless, colorless, and tasteless chemical. This information led to a murder investigation.

An investigation was immediately launched to find out how that much arsenic entered Lee’s body. Investigators could not imagine how Lee came into contact with that much arsenic aboard a ship. Special Agents Jerry Whitaker and Walter O’Brien of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) were assigned to the case. The two actually knew Lee Hartley and served side by side on the U.S.S. Forrestal with him. They start with the simplest possibility: was this an accidental poisoning? They checked to see if there were large amounts of arsenic on the ship but that theory was instantly put to rest. The supply officer on the ship maintained records of everything that was onboard the ship and according to him, there was no substance on board the ship that contained arsenic. This meant there was no way Lee came into contact with arsenic onboard the ship, at least not by accident. Agents wondered if someone deliberately dosed Lt. Lee Hartley.

The NCIS agents broke the news to Lee’s family. When Pam found out about the arsenic poisoning, she reacted with shock. Pam’s mother-in-law was the one to break the news to Pam that someone may have killed her husband. The agents didn’t know who killed Lee but they knew how so they launched a search for suspects. They looked at who had something to gain if Lee died and one main suspect emerged, his wife Pamela Hartley. Pam had the motive because she stood to inherit a lifetime of military benefits but how did she poison her husband while he was on a ship thousands of miles away? When agents checked her travel itinerary, they discovered Pam traveled to port in Spain to spend time with Lee. Quite often, when a ship visits a foreign port, it’s common for a group of wives to visit that port. One of those wives was Pam Hartley.

Pam traveled to Spain and met with Lee and another military couple. On one of those days, Pam offered to cook breakfast for everyone and she even made drinks too. Soon after that visit, Lee got violently ill, along with his friend who had eaten breakfast with him. At the time, they both thought they got sick from drinking Spanish water, the friend recovered but Lee kept getting worse. Over the next two weeks, Lee had severe cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting so he reported to the ship’s medical department. Agents wondered if Pam laced her husband’s food and drink with arsenic during that Spanish shore leave. It was a chilling scenario but one that became more plausible as agents found out about Pam’s unique job experience. They learned that Pam worked at the Department of Energy facility in Akon, South Carolina for one year.

Pam used to be an environmental technician and one of her job duties was to analyze water samples to determine heavy metal levels. At her job site, she came in contact with a range of toxic chemicals, including arsenic. Was Pam the victim of circumstantial evidence or heartless black widow? Agents wanted to perform a polygraph because they were convinced she wouldn’t pass. She was their prime suspect because she had the opportunity to spike her husband’s food and drinks when she went to Spain at his port of call. On the surface, there was nothing suspicious about Pam so agents conducted interviews of Hartley’s neighbors. The pair appeared to have a normal family and were described as nice people. But gossip soon found its way from officer’s wives club and this information painted another picture.

With their husbands overseas, the Navy wives would get together at parties and drink. And after a few drinks, they weren’t afraid to say anything. There was talk among the wives that life was so much better when the men were at sea. Some even suggested they get rid of them. But it was a party atmosphere so nobody really took it seriously, except maybe Pam. In one interview, Pam made a comment to a friend about hiring a hitman to kill Lee but was taken as a joke by the witness because they had been drinking. As special agents dug deeper, they found out Pam and Lee were having some marital problems. Pam was a free spirit who liked to go to the officer’s club and dance with other men. Apparently, this made Lee extremely jealous. And Lee may have had reason to be jealous because Pam admitted to friends that while Lee was off at sea, she found it to be difficult to be faithful.

For NCIS agents, it all added up to a classic scenario: a bored wife feels trapped in her marriage so she poisons her husband… Under questioning, Pam insisted that she loved Lee and swore she has nothing to do with his death. And she agreed to take a polygraph test to prove her innocence. Agents were convinced she wouldn’t pass the polygraph but the results indicated that she wasn’t being deceitful. The agents concluded Pam didn’t have anything to do with Lee’s death. In addition, lab results blew a hole in their theory because the toxicology analysis on Lee’s hair pinpointed the dates he was exposed to the arsenic. His first dose was before Pam’s trip to Spain. Hair grows about a centimeter a month and testing of the hair provided a timeline of when the poison entered his body. The hair samples indicated that Lee was poisoned 5-6 months prior to his death.

The arsenic timeline showed Lee Hartley was first poisoned while Pam was thousands of miles away in Jacksonville, she had a persuasive chemical alibi. Armed with the new evidence that Lee was poisoned while on board the U.S.S. Forrestal, NCIS agents confronted a massive crime scene. The U.S.S. Forrestal was a floating city with 5000 potential suspects. And like any large city, the carrier had personnel dedicated to maintaining law and order. As the ship’s discipline officer, when sailors ran afoul with Navy regulations, it was up to Lee to administer punishment. This likely didn’t make him a lot of friends on board. Because of his work, Lee was exposed to people who might have had a grudge or an axe to grind against the Navy or the legal office or a person. As agents conducted more interviews, they learned of a disturbing rumor involving Lee.

During the investigation, there was an indication that Lee had received an anonymous death threat. The rumor about the death threat was backed up by Lee’s parents. They told agents what Lee shared with them while he was home in Mayport. Lee told them he was walking about the ship when someone angrily confronted him. Now Agents wanted to eliminate or find somebody who may help them understand what happened. A search of Lee’s cabin revealed a clue. They found a collection of letters written by Lee himself. In one of those letters, Lee described a near death confrontation with another sailor aboard the ship. He described how he came across someone who had a sword. But, if there was an altercation, Lee never reported to his superiors. Why would Lee choose to keep it secret but share it with his parents? Was Lee leaving a trail of evidence?

In an effort to track down subjects, agents used Lee’s toxicity reports which showed a continuous pattern of poisoning over a 5-6 month period of time. Agents shared when investigating poisoning deaths, you need to establish an opportunity of who during that time would have had access to both Lee and poison. There were spikes in Lee’s arsenic levels during his deployment at sea, at the port of call in Spain, and even when he was at the hospital in Jacksonville. One person who was at Lee’s side throughout his months of agony was his cabin mate Lt. Samuel Yates. They seemed to get along well but tension builds up month after month when living in close proximity together trapped on a ship. Lee was also in direct competition with his roommate for advancement.

Both Lee Hartley and Lt. Yates wanted desperately to be promoted to Lt. Commander. Was there a feud simmering between them, a rivalry that turned deadly? As agents developed information on the roommate, rumors began to circulate that had already been rampant on the ship. After Lee’s death, Lt. Yates allegedly waisted no time going after his roommate’s young wife who was grieving and vulnerable. At Lee’s funeral, he paid his respects by reportedly seducing the pretty widow. Agents knew they needed to take a closer look at Yates. And when they did, they found a chilling piece of evidence. Lee’s cabin mate was asked to give them a blood sample to see if it tested positive for arsenic or other heavy metals. As a result, they learned Yates had some elevated amounts of arsenic in his blood stream, the same poison that killed Lee.

Lt. Yates’ low level arsenic exposure was consistent with someone who had handled the substance. But the test results were not remarkable because Yates would have been exposed to all the same environmental factors as Lee. If someone was trying to harm Lee, Yates could have easily been exposed to the same food and drinks in foreign ports. Although a lot of circumstantial evidence pointed to the roommate, a thorough search of Yates’ belongings showed no traces of arsenic. They could only conclude that Yates was a collateral victim of whoever was poisoning Lee. As suspects were eliminated one by one, agents had to consider the possibility that the suspect they were looking for may be Lee Hartley himself. One of the NCIS agents said when they don’t have anymore theories, they have to think outside the box. The agents considered that Lee may have ingested the arsenic intentionally.

It appeared Lee Hartley had everything going for him and he loved his job on the U.S.S. Forrestal. He also had a beautiful young wife waiting for him in Florida. But NCIS agents wondered if the image of that perfect life was just a sham. The two agents knew Lee while serving with him on the carrier. When they reflected back on their time with him, they did observe some unusual behavior. After lunch, Lee regularly met up with a small group and he always appeared disgruntled. They learned Lee was drinking heavily before his deployment and thought maybe he was going through some depression. Was Lee suicidal? Did he deliberately consume the arsenic to poison himself? The pair thought the odds were high that Lee ingested the poison and brought in in a psychologist to analyze Lee’s life and letters; they found no suicidal ideation in any of his writings.

The medical evidence in this case didn’t fit the pattern of someone trying to kill themselves. Typically in a suicide case, it would be a major ingestion of poison and then it would drop off. Lee was poisoned consistently over several months. He was in horrible condition to the point that he had an ulcerated esophagus, open sores in his mouth, couldn’t talk, and could’t eat. Would Lee have voluntarily chosen to kill himself in such a slow, agonizing way? They ruled out suicide and wondered if the poisoning was an attempt to help get him off the ship. Lee made some statements to family members that he really didn’t want to go on this last deployment and his heart wasn’t in it anymore. He was upset about having more sea duty. He wanted a stateside desk job close to his wife. Did he use the arsenic to get himself off the ship? Would they send him home?

Agents considered that maybe Lee wanted to take just enough of the poison to get himself sent back home. But arsenic doesn’t leave the body and instead builds up over time. The agents theorized Lee may not have understood its cumulative effect over time. Maybe, Lee didn’t realize it made him sicker and sicker with every dosage. Did his scheme backfire by taking one dose too many? This theory didn’t hold water though because there were no tell tale signs in Lee’s belongings that led anyone to believe he had handled arsenic. And toxicology evidence showed that the poisoning continued even after he got back to Jacksonville. NCIS had no choice but to put the latest theory to rest. At this point, they ran out of theories, suspects, and direction and chose to close the case.

Thirteen years later in 1995, NCIS formed a cold case homicide unit. Lee Hartley’s poisoning case was one of the first cases brought to their attention. Lee’s death was reviewed at headquarters and a new team of special agents were assigned. They quickly learned that all of the physical evidence in the Lee Hartley case had been destroyed. The team had to work the case the old fashioned way so they started re-interviewing people involved in the initial investigation. Agents said its helpful to go back and talk to people because their stories change and some are more willing to tell the truth after 10-15 years has passed. Agents spoke with family, friends, and neighbors and the same name that kept coming back up was the original suspect in the case, Pam Hartley. But their big break came when Lee Hartley’s brother-in-law helped them uncover the truth.

Pam’s brother knew the dynamics of Pam and Lee’s relationship so agents wanted to speak with him. The fact the case had been reopened after all these years, caught Pam’s brother by surprise and he dropped a bombshell no one expected. He shared that Pam tried to hire him to kill Lee and offered him some of the insurance money if he did it. He kept this secret for years and when agents interviewed him this time, he told them the truth. NCIS was now convinced Pam was the killer but building a case against her wasn’t going to be easy. After all, she passed a polygraph test that indicated no deception. When NCIS had the results re-examined by current staff, they found the findings of ‘no deception’ were probably erroneously reached. The results should have been inconclusive. It was more evidence of Pam’s involvement in Lee’s death.

But after so many years, they had no physical proof, no eyewitnesses, and no way to tie Pam to the actual crime. She also had what seemed to be an ironclad alibi. She was on the other side of the world when her husband was poisoned. If she was the killer, how did she do it? Could they get her to confess? They only had one shot and needed to get Pam alone, because thirteen years ago her controlling mother was beside her running interference. The cold case team placed Pam under surveillance and tracked her every move. They learned the years since Lee’s death had not been good to her. Having squandered her inheritance, she lived with her mother and struggled with substance abuse. She treated her addiction at a hospital on a military base. On one of those occasions, she arrived alone for the appointment. The NCIS used the structured environment of the Army base to conduct the interview.

This approach allowed NCIS to conduct an interview without Pam’s mother being there. Pam nervously agreed to answer their questions. They told her there was no doubt in their mind that she did it and most of the problems in her life were most likely attributed to what she had done to her husband. They played on her guilt and told her to put it behind her and tell the truth. Pam Hartley broke down and told them what she did. She told them everything and filled in the missing puzzle pieces. She didn’t want to be married anymore. She said she was miserable and hated how possessive Lee was. But, she really liked the status of being an officer’s wife and didn’t want to lose that lifestyle. She wanted him gone but wanted to maintain her status. It was almost the perfect murder. The last time she saw Lee, she bid him farewell and then ran to a feed store to purchase rat poison. Pam sent Lee poisoned treats while he was deployed at sea.

Like a model wife, Pam created treats for Lee because she knew he had a sweet tooth. Agents learned that both Lee and his cabin mate sampled some whiskey cake that she sent Lee. Yates said he ate one piece, it was too strong, and didn’t like it. Pam wanted Lee to die at sea but the call never came so she upped the anti and traveled to Spain to poison him in person at breakfast. But it still didn’t do the job. When Lee was airlifted to the hospital in Jacksonville, Pam rushed to his side. This time, she poisoned his apple juice. Pam gave Lee the lethal dose the night before he died while pretending to care about him. After Lee died, Pam took the rest of the poison and dumped it in a pond behind their house. Her persistence finally paid off; she collected on a lifetime of military benefits minus the annoying husband. How could she have hatched such a diabolical plot? When asked why poison, she said “ladies have been using poison for years.”

Pam’s confession sealed her fate. On October 16, 1996, Pamela Hartley pleaded guilty to second degree murder in a Florida state court. Agents reminded us that Pam had a psychotic personality. She didn’t think about the cause and effect on other people; she only thought of herself and the effect on her. After nineteen years of service, Lee Hartley didn’t die in battle, his mortal enemy was the one person he loved most. Not long before Lee’s death, Lee and Pam’s brother had a conversation where Lee told him if anything happened to him, his sister would be well taken care of. He died thinking he still needed to take care of Pam. Pamela received $35,000 in life insurance money, $10,000 a year in veterans benefits, and free military medical benefits for life. Lee was a good man and the pain from the loss endures. Pamela Hartley was sentenced to 40 years in a state prison and served 16 years when she was paroled. 

Source: Maritime Murder, Unusual Suspects, Investigation Discovery

Real NCIS: 

When a Navy lieutenant onboard a US aircraft carrier falls victim to a rare case of arsenic poisoning, NCIS investigators must scour both land and sea for his killer. With no crime scene and little physical evidence, agents must separate rumor from truth and use their best interrogative know-how to solve a deadly crime. Follow real NCIS agents as they hunt down suspects on one of the world’s largest ships and after a long 13 years finally uncover the bizarre truth behind the poisoning death of a Lt. Lee Hartley. -Dark Minds in Crime

Investigation Discovery:

John Prudhont as NCIS Special Agent Tom Assimos and John Bridell as NCIS Special Agent Dave Early and Mocean Melvin as the Narrator in an edited clip from Season 4, Episode 13 of the Discovery ID TV show “Unusual Suspects.”

ID Go: In 1982, a Naval Officer dies from a mysterious illness. When toxicology reports reveal he was poisoned, Naval Investigators sift through a ship of thousands, and countless theories before the truth behind the victim’s painful death is revealed. -Maritime Murder, Unusual Suspects (S4,E13)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

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