Fear Thy Neighbor Premiered ‘Mistress of Death’ on ID: Linda Cowan Convinced Son Vinson Thomas-Ward Cowan to Kill Woman Next Door (July 7, 2018)

ID Go: Two women living next to each other since childhood descend into bitter conflict when the ex husband of one starts seeing the other. Add property issues to this toxic mix and the result is an act of shocking violence that engulfs all. -Mistress of Death, Fear Thy Neighbor (Investigation Discovery: S5, E6)

On December 18, 2009, Army veteran Vinson Thomas-Ward Cowan shot at and injured his neighbor Christie Jackson in Burnet, Texas. Christie Jackson and Vinson’s mother, Linda Cowan, were engaged in a bitter three month feud between neighbors after Christie’s estranged husband Rudy started dating Linda. What started out as a disagreement between neighbors ended in someone getting shot. It is believed that Linda Cowan enlisted the help of her son Vinson to shoot and kill Christie Jackson and he obliged because he was protective of his mother. Vinson followed through and indeed shot Christie in the head through the window of her own home. Miraculously, despite the severe head wound, Christie lived, but will forever be affected by the ordeal. On the night in question, Christie was sleeping with both her daughters who also are forever changed by the experience.

One of Vinson’s friends, Thomas Pierson, who was aware of the plan to shoot Christie and be a look-out that night, informed the police of Linda and Vinson’s plans to shoot Christie in retaliation for all the trouble she caused her. The bottom line was Linda wanted Christie out of the picture. Linda Cowan was jealous that Rudy continued to see Christie and their children and angry because she assumed Christie called the City of Burnet to complain about her septic issues. Linda wanted revenge and she wanted to date Rudy despite his intentions to continue seeing Christie. In 2013, Linda Cowan was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for second-degree felony of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. And Vinson Thomas-Ward plead guilty to ten years in prison for second-degree felony of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Christie’s mother sold the family home in Burnet.

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.

Related Links:
Burnet woman gets 15 years for her role in 2009 shooting (2013)
Burnet County man gets 10 years for 2009 shooting of woman (2013)
Linda Sue Cowan, Appellant v. The State of Texas, Appellee (2015)
Mistress of Death | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S5, E6)
Mistress of Death | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (website)
Mistress of Death | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Fear Thy Neighbor: 23 Veteran Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Fear Thy Neighbor Premiered ‘Head in the Oven’ on ID: Former Marine Stopped Taking Meds, Unraveled & Murdered Brett Smith (June 16, 2018)

Two neighboring bachelors start out as friends. Harmless banter turns into threats eventually igniting an escalating war. The violence ends with a murder so shocking it is almost beyond belief. -Fear Thy Neighbor, Investigation Discovery (S5,E3)

Brett Smith was found murdered in his home on October 3, 2008 in North Canton, Ohio. Brett was found with a knife in his chest and dismembered; his head was found burning in the oven of his own home. It didn’t take long for police to determine that Brett’s neighbor, William Perry, was the suspect in the case. William Perry served in the Marine Corps during Operation Desert Storm and was suffering from what sounds like Post Traumatic Stress. He was taking medications because he saw a lot of terrible things but he didn’t want to talk about it; the medications helped mitigate flashbacks, nightmares and other symptoms like lack of concentration that interfered with daily living. William and Brett were both fixing up their homes, helping each other out, and sharing tools.

At some point, William became jealous of Brett’s home improvement efforts and all the help he appeared to get from his family. William was struggling financially to fix up his place and this bothered William because he wanted a nice place for his children when they came to visit him. William and Brett tried to make the relationship work but the two had an on again and off again kind of relationship. Brett couldn’t drink because he took medication for epilepsy and he was uncomfortable around William after he had a few drinks of alcohol. The two got confrontational when William was drinking and Brett tried to confront William about vandalism on his property including slashed tires and an oil spill that cost William thousands of dollars to remedy. Brett’s mom Judy was getting concerned and wanted him to move out of there because the fighting was escalating.

William Perry was stressed. His girlfriend Susanna Lockard shared that he owed child support and if he didn’t pay it, he was going to jail. At the same time, William decided to stop taking his medication. He said they made him feel foggy and he wanted a clear head. Susanna was concerned he would get depressed or downward spiral. And then one day, William and Brett got into an altercation in the yard and William lost control and started beating Brett with a board. The neighbors thought William was a “psycho” after this encounter and so did Brett. The neighbors were really concerned that this situation was escalating and getting dangerous. Brett reported William to the North Canton Police Department but there was no evidence of the physical encounter so there was nothing the police could do. They told him to stay away from him. Brett was confused about why William hated him so much; he didn’t know what he was doing wrong.

Susanna was leaving the home for the night so William could spend some time with his kids. When she arrived to pick up some clothes, she found William home and he didn’t look well. She learned his plans with his children had been cancelled and he was upset. William was brandishing a gun in front of his girlfriend and her daughter while asking them to leave. William was living with his girlfriend but he broke up with her and kicked her out and never explained why. Later that night, the neighbors noticed William on Brent’s porch and they were arguing. When Brett’s mom showed up to his place the next day, she got no answer and smelled smoke. Brett’s mom turned to a friend and asked him to break into Brett’s house because she was concerned. The living room was in disarray, the contents of Brett’s wallet were strewn about, and there was also paint spilled everywhere. They found Brett in the bathroom laying on the floor with a knife in his chest. He had been strangled and beheaded. The police processed the home and found paint mixed with blood everywhere.

When the police opened the oven, they found Brett’s head burning inside. Brett’s mom had a very hard time accepting her son was dead and that he had been murdered in this way. William Perry was a suspect right away. There was no doubt that William had done this and he tried to cover up the crime. Initially, William was arrested for vandalism, a felony crime, and sent to jail. While there, he wrote a letter to a friend admitting to killing Brett. He said the night he killed Brett, it started with words and escalated to physical fighting. He spent the night trying to clean up the scene and attempted to dismember Brett but gave up after he cut off his head. He tried to erase all signs that he was in Brett’s house. He was charged with murder and faced the death penalty but it never went to trial. In October 2009, William Perry made a plea deal to avoid the death penalty and pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, gross abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. The prosecutor had no rational explanation for why he did this.

“It could have been anything, anything could have triggered it. It could have been trauma, it could have been something from childhood, it could be not seeing your kids as much as you want, it could just be all the pressures building up and it just sets a chain reaction.” -Susanna Lockard (Brett’s girlfriend)

Source: Head in the Oven, Fear Thy Neighbor, Investigation Discovery

In the News:

A neighbor describes finding the grisly remains of Brett Smith, who had been beheaded in his North Canton mobile home. -CantonRep.com

Employees of LA Office Solutions in North Canton, Ohio, tell how they felt threatened during an encounter with William D. Perry, a suspect in the beheading of Brett W. Smith, a week before Smith’s death. -CantonRep.com

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.

Related Links:
Raw 911 Call: Mother Finds Sons Beheaded Body
Lake alum found murdered
Police say beheading suspect is neighbor
Neighbor suspected in N. Canton beheading case
Neighbor is ‘prime suspect’ in North Canton beheading case
Trailer park tragedy: A closer look at beheading victim, suspect
Trailer park tragedy: A closer look at beheading victim, suspect
Neighbor indicted in grisly slaying
Justice: Ohio Man Indicted In Neighbor’s Beheading
Ohio man pleads not guilty in neighbor beheading
Man admits he killed, beheaded his neighbor
North Canton man pleads guilty in beheading of neighbor at mobile home park
North Canton man admits beheading neighbor, avoids death penalty
William Perry v. Terry Tibbals, Warden (2013)
Brett Smith was murdered by his neighbor William Perry who then cut off his head and burned it in an oven – Fear Thy Neighbor
Neighbor finds beheaded man
A close encounter with beheading suspect
Head in the Oven | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S5,E3)
Head in the Oven | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (website)
Head in the Oven | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Fear Thy Neighbor: 25 Veteran Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Web of Lies Premiered ‘Control Alt Delete’ on Investigation Discovery: Kwang Chol Joy Serving Life Sentence for the Murder of Army Veteran Maribel Ramos (April 24, 2018)

ID Go: Maribel Ramos is a US army veteran with a complicated love life. When she arranges to meet an online date, she disappears, leaving family and friends desperate for news. Detectives are left to uncover a twisted tale of jealousy and rage. -Control Alt Delete, Web of Lies (S5, E6)

Date: May 2, 2013
Victim: Maribel Ramos, 33, Army veteran, college student
Offender: Kwang Chol “K.C.” Joy, 53, software engineer, unemployed
Location: Santa Ana, California
Circumstances: Maribel was close with her family, she was positive, caring, loving, supportive and encouraging, Maribel was a Sergeant in the Army, she was in supply and logistics, she wanted to be the female that set the example, she did approximately 160 missions overseas, Maribel had PTSD, one of her fellow comrades lost his life on a mission, she had survivor’s guilt, after 8 years, Maribel left the Army and moved in with her boyfriend, being around people bothered her but she was set on a career in law enforcement, Maribel & her boyfriend broke up, she didn’t feel he was supportive, he was heartbroken, she pursued a degree in criminal justice because she wanted to be a police officer, she took her studies seriously, one month into her studies, her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, Maribel stepped up to help her mom, 3 months after her diagnosis, Maribel’s mom died in hospice, Maribel was destroyed, it was a huge loss for the family, Maribel regrouped and bounced back, she continued her schooling so she could get her degree, she joined the student veterans association on campus at California State University Fullerton, she addressed her issues and became a veteran advocate, a student in her veterans group started stalking her, he was obsessed with her, she was not interested and he scared her, 3 years after her mom passed, Maribel grew tired of living alone and went on-line looking for a roommate, KC Joy moved in, they were very comfortable together and became great friends and roommates, Maribel was not interested in KC romantically, Maribel wanted to find love and started dating again, she went on Plenty of Fish, meanwhile Maribel’s roommate was a big hit with Maribel’s family, Maribel met Paul, after dating for a month, he started hanging out with the family, he made Maribel laugh but she had doubts about the relationship, he wasn’t that serious about making a commitment, Maribel went back on line looking for love, she met a new guy, a photographer, but Maribel’s ex-boyfriend Chris never gave up, Maribel and KC shared their apartment for 18 months when KC reported to her family that she was missing, he then called the authorities, no one had heard from Maribel, her phone was going straight to voicemail, police receive multiple phone calls from Maribel’s family and friends, she was missing, she didn’t just get up and go, the police went to her apartment to investigate, there were no signs of struggle, or a break in, but her cellphone, keys and ID were missing, KC appeared to be very worried about Maribel, the police asked KC to go back to the police department, he was cooperative, very concerned for Maribel, and he said she must have gone out on a date and didn’t return, that was his concern, the family began an active campaign to look for Maribel, the police started investigating the last people she was with, she was supposed to speak at an event and she missed it, now the police were concerned that she ran into some foul play, the first 48 hours are crucial in any investigation, they needed to act quickly but they found no trace of Maribel’s movements, there was no activity in Maribel’s life, they checked in with her ex-boyfriend Paul, he was on their radar immediately because he was the last person to speak with Maribel, he cooperated with the police and his alibi checked out, the family had an awareness walk looking for more information because they knew Maribel was in trouble, the police looked at video surveillance from the apartment complex, they saw Maribel paying her rent and then was never heard from again, someone from the student vets association called police to tell them about Raymond (the guy stalking her) but they learned he moved back to Japan and wasn’t in the US at the time of her disappearance, analysis of Maribel’s computer lead them to the photographer but he too had an alibi, they went back to roommate KC Joy, he came off as a very concerned friend, they noticed some scratches on his arms, he said he got them in a park after stumbling, the police didn’t believe him, they put him under 24 hour surveillance, they followed him to the public library where he used a public computer, detectives set up a sting across the street from the library, when he went on line, the police used special software to secretly monitor his computer activity, KC Joy was a suspect after this sting, they realized he killed her and dumped her body, he googled ‘how long does it take for a human body to decay,’ he observed Maribel’s facebook page and pulled up the location of where the awareness walk was, he then zoomed in on a remote canyon and the authorities believed KC showed them where the body was (Modjeska Canyon, California), police searched the area and within an hour reported that they found Maribel, she was buried under some small rocks, her body was badly decomposed, forensic testing confirmed it was Maribel, police were never able to determine the cause of death, but circumstantial evidence pointed to KC Joy, the detectives gave KC one last chance to come clean but they don’t let him know they found the body, he pointed to Maribel’s ex-boyfriends again and continued to deny knowing where Maribel was, he got up, walked out, and the police arrested him, but no one knows how KC killed Maribel, authorities theorized by August 2012, KC Joy had grown intense feelings for Maribel, he was obsessed, he even spent $12,000 on cosmetic surgery to make himself look younger, he was wildly jealous of Maribel’s boyfriends, by April 2013, his life was falling apart, KC Joy lost his job and told Maribel he couldn’t pay the rent, she told him if you can’t pay your rent, you have to move out, on the day Maribel disappeared, tensions were thick and they were arguing about the rent, KC Joy didn’t want to move out, Maribel wanted him to move out, she locked herself in her room and called Paul, that same night KC Joy sneaked in her room and killed her, he most likely suffocated her and then dumped her body in a remote location, if I can’t have her, no one can have her
Disposition: KC Joy was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison

Source: Control Alt Delete, Web of Lies

Maribel Ramos

Maribel Ramos, U.S. Army veteran

Investigation Discovery:

ID Go: In California, a woman disappears without a trace. Police suspect her roommate knows more than he claims, but without any hard evidence they become locked in a vicious game of cat and mouse. Aphrodite Jones uncovers a tale of fatal obsession and murder. -Virtual Drive-By, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones (S5, E9)

Podcasts:

On this week’s episode, a soldier goes missing but is it a kidnapping or murder? -Maribel Ramos, Queens of Crime

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.

Related Links:
Control Alt Delete | Web of Lies | Investigation Discovery (S5, E6)
Control Alt Delete | Web of Lies | Investigation Discovery (website)
Control Alt Delete | Web of Lies | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Virtual Drive-By | True Crime with Aphrodite Jones | Investigation Discovery (S5, E9)
Virtual Drive-By | True Crime with Aphrodite Jone | Investigation Discovery (website)
Virtual Drive-By | True Crime with Aphrodite Jone | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Queens of Crime podcast 041: Maribel Ramos
Maribel Ramos Missing
Friends and family hold vigil for missing Maribel Ramos
Maribel Ramos’ death declared homicide
Autopsy confirms body found is that of missing California veteran
Funeral held for slain army veteran Maribel Ramos
Roommate arrested for murder of Orange County student
Roommate Arrested In Mysterious Death Of OC Woman He Called ‘The Only Family I Had’
Arrest Made In Killing Of Southern California Army Veteran (Video)
Crimetracker: Suspect in murder of LA woman has ties to Knoxville
Ex-roommate suspected in death of missing Army veteran in Calif.
Accused killer posted on Yelp about victim’s disappearance
Roommate of Maribel Ramos remains jailed, scheduled for Tuesday court appearance
Man Accused Of Murdering Roommate Speaks Out From Jail
Maribel Ramos Murder Suspect Makes First Court Appearance
Roommate charged with murder raised suspicions online after writing posts about missing woman in the past tense before her body was found hidden in bushes
Maribel Ramos murder: Prosecutors shed light on case in suspect’s 1st court appearance
Maribel Ramos murder: Prosecutors shed light on case in suspect’s 1st court appearance
Prosecutors: New Evidence Against Suspect In Murder Of Roommate, An Iraq War Vet
Prosecutor: Suspect Researching Body Decomposition at Library Led Detectives to Body
Online search cracked missing woman case, prosecutors said
Accused Killer Was in Love With Slain Roommate: Prosecutors
Suspicious Behavior Doesn’t Mean Someone’s a Killer, Murder Suspect’s Lawyer Says
Kwang Chol “K.C.” Joy Dumped Maribel Manriquez Ramos’ Body, Agree DA and Defense
Man found guilty of murdering Army veteran, burying her body in canyon
Orange County man convicted of killing roommate
SoCal Army Vet’s Roommate Convicted of Her Murder
Southern California man convicted of killing ex-roommate Army veteran Maribel Ramos
Roommate Found Guilty of 2nd-Degree Murder in Death of Maribel Ramos
Man convicted of killing Army veteran roommate faces 15-year sentence
KC Joy gets 15 years to life in prison for Maribel Ramos murder
OC man gets 15 to life for killing Iraq War vet
SoCal Man Gets 15 Years to Life in Murder of Army Vet Roommate
Maribel Ramos’ Killer Sentenced to 15 Years to Life in Prison, Says He Cared for Victim ‘More Than Anyone’
Did a Murderer Just Give Himself Away on Yelp?
True Crime with Aphrodite Jones: Did Unrequited Love Lead to Maribel Ramos’ Disappearance | Crime Feed
Maribel Ramos was murdered by roommate K.C. Joy – Web of Lies
In Lovely Memory of Maribel Ramos

48 Hours Premiered ‘The Soldier’s Wife’ on CBS: Army Soldier Skyler Nemetz Fatally Shot Wife Danielle Nemetz in the Back of Head (July 8, 2017)

All new: A young wife shot dead — her soldier husband pulled the trigger. Was it an accident or murder? -48 Hours

A young wife shot dead — her soldier husband pulled the trigger. Was it an accident or was it murder?

On Oct. 16, 2014, Danielle Nemetz, 19, was shot and killed by her husband Skylar Nemetz, 20, in their Lakewood, Wash., apartment. Neighbors placed two 911 calls after hearing a gunshot. Skylar was charged with murder, but his defense says it was an accident and that these 911 calls show a distraught and panicked husband, not a cold-blooded killer. -48 Hours

On Oct. 16 2014, Army soldier Skylar Nemetz was taken into custody after he shot and killed his wife, Danielle. He was recorded on camera just minutes after the shooting. Do his statements sound like the words of a distraught husband who accidentally shot his wife or do they sound like the words of a cold-blooded killer? -48 Hours

Skylar Nemetz is on trial for the shooting death of his wife, Danielle. Prosecutors accuse Skylar of killing Danielle in a jealous rage, but Skylar says it was a tragic accident. During jury deliberations, “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty talks with Skylar as he waits to hear their verdict. -48 Hours

Army soldier Skylar Nemetz is on trial for the shooting death of his wife Danielle. He says it was an accident; prosecutors say it was murder. Skylar’s mother, Danette Heller, says she spent her life savings to pay for his defense. During jury deliberations, Skylar spoke with “48 Hours”‘ Erin Moriarty about his mother’s sacrifice. -48 Hours

In the News:

When a soldier claims he shot his young wife by accident, his mother gives up everything to support him. A jury must decide whether it was an accident, or an act of rage. -CBS This Morning

A young soldier is charged with murdering his wife in cold blood. He says it was an accident and can explain how it happened. Will the jury beieve him? -CBS Evening News

 

48 Hours: The Soldier’s Wife -CBS Miami

Skylar Nemetz stood trial in his wife’s fatal shooting. After seven days of deliberation, a jury finds Nemetz guilty of manslaughter, putting him away for slightly over a decade. -Crime Watch Daily

Skylar Nemetz has admitted to shooting his wife to death but he claims it was all an accident. The stunning new development to his story. -Crime Watch Daily

Skylar’s actions speak louder than his words. “The strongest evidence, believe it or not, is what he does immediately after the fact.” Skylar didn’t call 911, a neighbor did. And there wasn’t a single drop of Danielle’s blood on him, a clear sign that he didn’t try to save or even comfort her says Deputy prosecuting attorney Jared Ausserer. “He doesn’t render aid. He never checks on his wife. If it was an accident, he’s going to drop the weapon immediately, run over, grab her, assess her. He doesn’t do that.” He [Skylar’s defense attorney] knows the challenge will be convincing 12 jurors that a highly skilled soldier with years of weapon’s training could make such a fatal mistake. Juror and retired Army soldier: “Never point the weapon in the direction of anybody and pull the trigger like that believing that it’s unloaded.” -48 Hours

Related Links:
48 Hours: The Soldier’s Wife
Preview: The Soldier’s Wife | 48 Hours
Sneak peek: The Soldier’s Wife | 48 Hours
Neighbors report Danielle Nemetz shooting | 48 Hours
Skylar Nemetz’s behavior after shooting wife captured on camera | 48 Hours
Skylar Nemetz awaits his verdict in his murder trial | 48 Hours
Skylar Nemetz on his mom’s fight for his freedom | 48 Hours
“48 Hours” investigates shooting death of soldier’s wife
Army soldier defends Skylar Nemetz | 48 Hours
Former soldier takes stand on first-degree murder charge of his wife
Soldier Cleared of Murder in Wife’s Shooting Death – Crime Watch Daily
Rising Military Star Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison for Wife’s Shooting Death – CWD
Skylar Nemetz Trial Defendant Testifies Part 1 02/11/16
Skylar Nemetz Trial Prosecution Closing Argument 02/23/16
Soldier fatally shoots his 19-year-old wife in the back of the head ‘because another man bought her liquor’
Soldier who shot his wife dead ‘after another man bought her alcohol’ is found guilty of manslaughter but CLEARED of murder because ‘he thought gun was unloaded’
Former Army soldier gets max sentence for shooting his young wife to death
Lakewood killings net vastly different sentences for JBLM soldiers from the same unit
2 soldiers get vastly different sentences for deadly crimes
Defense attorney loses on claim the Army and Pierce County ‘schemed’ to punish ex-JBLM soldier accused of murder
Danielle Nemetz was Shot and Killed; Army Soldier and Spouse Skylar Nemetz Convicted of Manslaughter and Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison (2014)
The Soldier’s Wife | 48 Hours | CBS (website)

Reasonable Doubt Premiered ‘Failure to Remember’ on Investigation Discovery: Penny Brummer Maintains Innocence in the 1994 Homicide of Sarah Gonstead (June 21, 2017)

Penny Brummer, a military vet, is accused of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend in a jealous rage. However, Penny was so drunk that night she was in a blackout state. Can Chris and Melissa help fill in the gaps of her memory to prove her innocence? -Reasonable Doubt, Investigation Discovery

Air Force veteran Penny Brummer was convicted on October 1, 1994 of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend 21-year-old Sarah Gonstead in Madison, Wisconsin. On March 14, 1994, after a night of heavy drinking with Penny, Sarah was shot in the back of the head execution style and found three weeks later in a secluded field. Detectives theorized that Sarah most likely trusted her killer. On this episode of Investigation Discovery’s Reasonable Doubt, Penny’s mother, Nancy Brummer, turned to Detective Chris Anderson and criminal defense attorney Melissa Lewkowicz to help her prove Penny’s innocence. Nancy believes the prosecution had no concrete evidence except for circumstantial evidence and she also believes the the jury was biased and led to believe that lesbians are inherently violent. Detective Anderson and Melissa Lewkowicz worked with Nancy Brummer by taking a second look at Penny Brummer’s case featured in the ninth episode of Reasonable Doubt aptly titled ‘Failure to Remember’. It’s their job to investigate the cases that family members swear are wrongful homicide convictions and in the end the duo share their assessment of guilt or innocence based on meticulous investigative work.

Nancy Brummer has been fighting to free her daughter for twenty-two years. She told Detective Anderson and Melissa that they were her last hope. The two learned that Sarah Gonstead left her mother’s house to go out for a night of drinking to celebrate her 21st birthday with her friend Penny but Sarah never came home. Twenty-five days later, Sarah was found in a secluded field in Madison. Sarah had been shot execution style in the back of the head and Penny was the last known person to see her alive. Eight days later, Penny was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Penny claims she pulled over to clean up some beer that spilled in her vehicle and Sarah exited the vehicle to walk half a block to her best friend Glenda’s house. But prosecutors painted a darker picture. They theorized the two got drunk and Penny drove Sarah out to a empty soy field and murdered her. Prosecutors believed the motive was jealousy because Glenda had just broken up with Penny and Penny blamed Sarah for the break-up. They claimed Penny wanted revenge and the jury bought it. Penny Brummer is currently serving life in prison and her first opportunity for parole is in 2045.

Detective Anderson and Melissa met with the Nancy Brummer first to hear her plea for justice. Nancy stated that she wanted to find the person who committed the crime and free Penny so she can come home. Nancy confirmed that Glenda and Penny were dating and broke up about a month prior to Sarah’s disappearance. Sarah was Glenda’s best friend and the three of them would hang out and party together. Penny was in her early twenties at the time of the homicide so her behavior was typical of most young people at that stage in their life. Nancy Brummer described Penny as very social and happy-go-lucky. She said Penny was really into sports and she was on the softball team and volleyball team in high school. Nancy opined Penny was a typical teenager and started drinking around the age of seventeen. After high school, Penny joined the Air Force and shared with her mom that it was hard being in the military because of the secrecy she had to maintain regarding her sexual orientation. Nancy Brummer believes that the jury was biased and led to believe that a lesbian is more prone to violence. She referenced a questionnaire that Melissa agreed was inflammatory and would need a second look.

The prosecution painted a picture that Penny was jealous of the friendship between Glenda and Sarah. The two were strictly friends and Sarah was straight. Nancy observed that Penny was sad and disappointed about the break-up but not what one would consider obsessive. She reminded Detective Anderson and Melissa that the prosecution had nothing: no physical evidence, no DNA, no blood evidence, nothing that tied Penny to the murder. The prosecution said the gun that was used in the commission of the crime was a 22 handgun that belonged to Penny’s father. Nancy admits that her husband’s gun did go missing and was never recovered. When Sarah’s body was found, Nancy said a witness came forward to the police and said that he had driven by the scene of the crime a day or two after the murder and saw a suspicious vehicle along the side of the road. He saw a man standing behind the vehicle with what looked like a pink and purple duffle bag and as it turns out, Sarah’s jacket was the same pink and purple color. Nancy said this evidence was ignored. Nancy informed both Detective Anderson and Melissa that even if they don’t find Penny innocent, she will keep fighting for her release.

Detective Anderson and Melissa began their investigation. Detective Anderson started with the man who was the eyewitness. This man told Detective Anderson that he did in fact see a vehicle by the side of the road near the location of where Sarah’s body was found in the field. He claims he made eye contact with the man in question but that was about the extent of it. He said after the man made eye contact with him, he put his head down. The eyewitness was concerned that this man was trying to move the body, after all it was only a couple days after she had gone missing. He said the police informed him that they already had a suspect in the case and he felt that his testimony was largely discounted and ignored. Melissa investigated the prosecutors jealousy motive. One of Penny’s close friends described her as a great friend and a someone she went bar-hopping with. Penny’s friend believes that she was a binge drinker and most likely an alcoholic because she would drink until she blacked out. Penny’s friends said she hoped she would get back together with Glenda but certainly didn’t act like a jealous ex-girlfriend. Penny’s friend Mary believes she is innocent.

Detective Anderson met with a forensic expert to go over the physical evidence or lack there of. The two examined the crime scene photos and other evidence available. The forensic expert didn’t see any signs of struggle and it appeared Sarah’s body fell forward after she was shot in the head. There was no sexual assault and no beating. It was an execution style killing and Sarah most likely knew and trusted the person who shot her. Sarah was walking in front of the perpetrator when she was shot in the back of her head. Detective Anderson visited the last known location of both Penny and Sarah, a local bar in Madison. A witness said Sarah and Penny were celebrating Sarah’s birthday because she had just turned twenty-one. The two had been drinking prior to their arrival at the bar but the witness didn’t think either appeared to be drunk. She said they showed up at the bar around 10:30 p.m. and left a couple hours later; they had a couple drinks while they were there. The witness observed they were both in great spirits and having fun and they were both able to carry on a conversation. On the night in question, Sarah was kind of quiet while Penny appeared to be enjoying herself with others at the bar. Neither of them were agitated or upset; they both appeared to be in a really good mood.

Detective Anderson interviewed Penny via the telephone. Penny said she dated Glenda for 8 or 9 months and admits she fell in love with her. She also claimed to have a nice friendship with Sarah. She shared that Sarah never did anything bad to her and never meddled in her relationship with Glenda. Penny said Glenda just decided one day to end things and told her she was going back on birth control. Penny assumed Glenda wanted to go back to guys. After the break-up, Penny was heartbroken. She admitted she got physical with Glenda one time; they pushed each other during an argument. On March 14, 1994, Penny said she got out of work around 7:30 p.m., got some beer, and went to Sarah’s house. Penny said they stopped at a couple bars and drank more beer. Penny said she doesn’t remember being at Jakes (the bar where the eyewitness last saw both Penny and Sarah at around midnight). Penny admitted she was an alcoholic then and was very intoxicated. Penny and Sarah were on their way to pick up Glenda when Penny spilled some beer in her car and stopped to clean it up. Penny said Sarah wasn’t feeling well so she started walking to Glenda’s house which was about a half a block away. Penny told Detective Anderson she doesn’t know why she didn’t take Sarah to Glenda’s house but she went home after cleaning her car. Penny reminded Detective Anderson that she isn’t the type to kill anyone, she didn’t have a weapon, and she had absolutely no reason to hurt Sarah.

In the meantime, Melissa looked at the questionnaire that was given to the jury asking them about their thoughts about lesbians and violence. Melissa said, as a criminal defense attorney, she would insist that the jury not be subjected to or see the questionnaire because it is inflammatory. Melissa also spoke with Glenda who was the glue that held the case together. Glenda claimed she dated Penny for about a year but wasn’t necessarily in love with her. Glenda claimed Penny drank a lot but could still function; she just wouldn’t remember it. Glenda described Sarah as a shy, soft-hearted, and loyal friend. Glenda believed that Penny was jealous of her friendship with Sarah. Glenda admitted that Penny did in deed find her birth control pills and assumed that she was breaking up with her so she could date men again. Glenda admitted she broke up with Penny because she was way too controlling. Glenda also claimed Penny was pissed that she broke up with her. When Glenda ended it, Penny shoved her and she shoved her back and kicked her out of her house. Glenda said the look in her eyes scared the crap out of her and she began to cry. Glenda believes they have the right person and is still grieving the loss of her friend.

Detective Anderson and Melissa met with Nancy Brummer to share the results of their investigation. Nancy claimed the jury was bias because of Penny’s sexual orientation and Melissa believes she was absolutely right. Melissa said the questions asked of the jury were highly prejudicial. Penny’s close friend felt that the motive of jealousy was crap but Glenda was 100% convinced Penny was the killer. Glenda claimed the motive in this case was vengeance. Glenda declared that if Penny gets out of jail, she is moving to another state because she is scared of her; if Penny did this once, who is to say she won’t do this again? Nancy doesn’t believe Glenda and said she is a good actress. Detective Anderson told Nancy he followed up with the eye witness at the scene of the crime and said this was a problem because each and every lead needs to be taken seriously. He also shared that only one of the detectives was alive and he refused to meet with him. Melissa confirmed that there is no physical evidence tying Penny to the crime. Detective Anderson addressed the gun they believed was used in the commission of the crime and Nancy confirmed the 22 they owned had indeed gone missing. Detective Anderson addressed the autopsy photos and shared that the forensic expert did not observe any signs of struggle. It was a cold night and if someone ran towards Sarah, she definitely would have heard it. Detective Anderson deduced Sarah was shot by someone she knew or was led into the field at gunpoint.

“Circumstantial cases are a series of little things that add up until they point in one direction.” -Detective Chris Anderson, Reasonable Doubt

Nancy Brummer said there was no way her daughter would have shot Sarah in the back of the head. But Detective Anderson had some serious issues with the fact that the only person who claims Penny was in a black out that night is Penny. He spoke with a bartender who claimed that Penny appeared to be functional. Jake’s bar is significant because it is less than two miles from where Sarah’s body was found. Detective Anderson noted that Penny said she couldn’t remember being at Jake’s that night but she remembered very specific things earlier and later that night. Detective Anderson felt it was suspicious that Penny remembered everything really well that night except being at this bar. Is this a form of convenient amnesia? Melissa empathized with why Nancy felt a sense of injustice all these years. The biased questionnaire, the ignored witnesses, and the overall investigation had major problems; the evidence was highly circumstantial. Penny was the last known person to see Sarah alive that night; Penny was last seen at a bar with Sarah which is located less than two miles from where Sarah’s body was found; Penny said she can’t remember being there but does remember a lot of details earlier and after Sarah went missing; Sarah was killed with a 22 and Penny’s father owned a 22 that was now missing; Penny was a military vet who was trained to shoot guns; and Sarah wasn’t trying to run away, she didn’t struggle, and she most likely knew and trusted her killer.

Why would Penny do this? Melissa shared that she read through the police reports and noted that Penny admitted she was heartbroken when things ended with Glenda. Penny also admitted that after the break-up she wondered who Glenda was with, where she was, and what she was doing. Penny also said Glenda was in her head 24 hours a day (obsessed) and that she resented Sarah because she assumed Sarah was trying to drag her back into the straight world. On the night of March 14, 1994, Penny did what she always did. Melissa explained Penny got really drunk, the break-up was fresh, her feelings were raw, and she spent the entire night with the person she believed came between her and the woman she loved. Melissa asked, “did Penny plan to walk Sarah into the woods or was it just a horrific idea fueled by fifteen drinks? Did she remember shooting Sarah, does she remember her falling to the ground, or does she not remember anything at all?” Ironically, Penny admits that prison saved her life. Penny believes she would not have made it to thirty had it not been for prison. Penny said she turned her life around behind bars. Based on the leads Nancy provided and an independent investigation, Detective Anderson and Melissa revealed there was nothing new in the investigation that would bring Penny home. They both suggested Nancy ask her daughter the tough questions and then she will know, even 22 years later.

“The problem is that the things Penny remembers are the things that will help her and the things that she can’t remember are the things that would potentially hurt her.” -Melissa Lewkowicz, Reasonable Doubt

Source: Reasonable Doubt ‘Failure to Remember’

Twenty-one years ago a jury found Penny Brummer guilty in the murder of Sarah Gonstead. The family of Brummer has spent those 21 years working to prove her innocence. Dave Delozier reports. -Channel 3000 | News 3 (December 14, 2015)

MJFA Links:
Sarah Gonstead was Shot Execution Style in the Back of Head After a Night Out Celebrating 21st Birthday with Friend & Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer (March 14, 1994)

Related Links:
Who Killed Sarah?
Seeking justice for Penny Brummer
New Trial for Penny Brummer, Wrongfully Convicted | Petition
Penny Brummer Defense & Support Fund by Truth in Justice

1994
Sarah Gonstead Murder

1995
Reasonable Doubt by Ingrid Ricks | The Advocate

1997
State of Wisconsin v. Penny L Brummer

2003
A short history of exposing misconduct

2005
Chapter 1: A tale of three young women
Chapter 2: A hole in her story
Chapter 3: A surprise witness appears
Chapter 4: Defense sows seeds of doubt
Chapter 5: Emotional debate ends in guilty verdict
Chapter 6: Supporters of Brummer offer their theories; they say the evidence was too thin and question makeup of jury
Gift enables investigative journalism class to probe old murder case

2012
Dane Co. DA Approves DNA Testing in 1994 Killing
Wisconsin DA approves DNA testing in 1994 killing
Will DNA Save Penny Brummer?
Spring Green woman could be cleared

2013
Innocence project founder promotes cause of Madison woman convicted of murder
Did Homophobia Convict a Wisconsin Woman of Murder?

2014
A Look Back After 20 Years
A look back at a 20-year-old murder and if the right person was convicted

2015
Who killed Sarah? The trial of Penny Brummer
Group questioning conviction of Penny Brummer in 1994 death of Sarah Gonstead
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
$10,000 Reward Offered in Wrongful Conviction Case
Person of Interest Hits Wrongfully Convicted for Serving in U.S. Military
On Wrongful Convictions and Penny Brummer

2016
Penny Brummer’s fight for justice
The Lynching of a Madison Lesbian: Wisconsin’s Wrongful Conviction of Penny Brummer
Wrongful Conviction: Penny Brummer Is Innocent and Still in Prison
Richmond Crime Author Sheila Berry Takes on Wrongful Convictions Nationwide

2017
Penny Brummer convicted of murdering Sarah Gonstead, but is there Reasonable Doubt?

Books:
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Amazon
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Walmart

Video Links:
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | Amazon
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt – Investigation Discovery
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | YouTube

MFJA Links:
Sarah Gonstead Shot Execution Style on 21st Birthday; Friend & Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer Found Guilty of 1st Degree Murder, Sentenced to Life in Prison (March 14, 1994)
Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer Found Guilty of the 1st Degree Murder of Sarah Gonstead; Sentenced to Life in Prison with Possibility of Parole After 50 Years (October 1, 1994)

Snapped Premiered ‘Vegas Bray’ on Oxygen: Controlling Crazy Ex Stalks Victor Saucedo, Kills Him Because He Rejected Her (May 14, 2017)

There’s a gun lying next to the victim. Is it suicide or murder? -Vegas Bray, Snapped, Oxygen (May 9, 2017)

An attractive woman witnesses her ex-boyfriend’s shooting, but can’t remember what happened, raising questions about suicide, stalking and split personalities. -Vegas Bray, Snapped, Oxygen (May 9, 2017)

Vegas Bray is convicted of murder and sentenced 25 years to life in prison. A friend of Vegas’s, Kevin Oseguera says “the monster inside of her” shot Victor, not his friend. -Vegas Bray, Snapped, Oxygen (May 14, 2017)

Vegas Bray says it’s hard to talk about what happened to her. She shows no remorse. -Vegas Bray, Snapped, Oxygen (May 15, 2017)

An attractive woman witnesses her ex-boyfriend’s shooting, but can’t remember what happened, raising questions about suicide, stalking and split personalities. -Vegas Bray, Snapped, Oxygen (S20,E2)

Investigation Discovery:

A young Navy recruit falls for a fellow officer, but becomes overwhelmed by jealousy when she learns he is friendly with the mother of his child. -Deadly Women, Investigation Discovery

These Deadly Women won’t let their men go… they “Cling ‘Til Death.” -Cling ‘Til Death, Deadly Women (S10,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:
Snapped: S20 E1 Sneak Peek – Vegas Bray Calls 911 | Oxygen
Snapped: S20 E1 Preview – Vegas Bray | Oxygen
Snapped: S20 E1 Bonus Clip – Stalking is Serious | Oxygen
Snapped: Vegas Bray Interrogation (Season 20, Episode 2) | Oxygen
Vegas Bray | Snapped | Oxygen (S20,E2)
Ex-Lover Jealousy Turns Lethal: The Vegas Bray Story (Preview)
Cling ‘Til Death | Deadly Wonen | Investigation Discovery (S10,E4)
Cling ‘Til Death | Deadly Wonen | Investigation Discovery (website)
Cling ‘Til Death | Deadly Wonen | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Cling ‘Til Death | Deadly Wonen | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Navy Veteran Victor Saucedo Shot and Killed in Home by Ex-Girlfriend; Navy Veteran Vegas Bray Sentenced to 50 Years to Life in Prison (October 16, 2012)
Deadly Women Premiered ‘Cling ‘Til Death’ on ID: Vegas Bray Killed Navy Veteran Victor Saucedo Because He Dumped Her (September 17, 2016)
Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery