Scorned, Love Kills: 7 Military & Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery (October 31, 2018)

Full Episode: An Army Major lay lifeless in his bed, shot twice at close range while sleeping next to his wife. Investigators would soon uncover an intricately planned murder plot involving sex parties, adultery and coercion. -Behind the Picket Fence, Scorned: Love Kills (S1, E1)

Army Major David Shannon Fatally Shot by Step Daughter Elizabeth While Sleeping in N.C. Home; Wife Joan Shannon Guilty of Conspiracy, Sentenced to Life, No Parole (July 23, 2002)

ID Go: The young and wild Monique Wallace is married to 40-year-old Paul Berkley, a navy reservist and father of two in suburban North Carolina. But with Paul leaving on a mission overseas, temptation and lust will lead them all down a dark path to murder. -Rules of Engagement, Scorned: Love Kills (S2, E7)

Navy Reservist Paul Berkley Murdered by Wife Monique & Friends in North Carolina while Home on Leave from Middle East, SGLI was the Motive (December 18, 2005)

ID Go: Drew Peterson and his wife Kathleen appear to be a happy couple, but ten years into their marriage, things begin to sour. And when Kathleen finds out Drew is having a steamy affair with a 17-year old, a brutal fight breaks out, and ends with murder. -Black Widower, Scorned: Love Kills (S2, E17)

Drew Peterson Had 40 Years Added to His Prison Sentence After Plotting a Murder-For-Hire (June 13, 2018)

ID Go: Fred and Jennifer have a picture perfect marriage. But when Fred meets Danielle, a young doctor in the Navy, Jennifer fights to keep Fred for herself. The love triangle explodes, leaving police struggling to understand a grisly crime scene. -Naval Affairs, Scorned: Love Kills (S3, E1)

Navy Lt CDR Fred Trayers Fatally Stabbed by Jealous Wife Angered by Infidelity with Fellow Navy Doctor; Jennifer Trayers Sentenced to 16 Years to Life (December 4, 2010)

ID Go: Sexy psychologist and doting Air Force wife Michelle begins a swinging affair with Army Sgt. Diamond while her husband, Captain Marty Theer, is away. But all’s fair in love and war, and Marty’s return will remind them that love is a battlefield. -Sergeant Swinger, Scorned: Love Kills (S4, E1)

Air Force Capt. Frank ‘Marty’ Theer Murdered by Wife Michelle & Army SSG John Diamond in North Carolina; Both Sentenced to Life in Prison (December 17, 2000)

ID Go: American soldier Megan Touma has left her husband for her lover Edgar. Turns out Edgar has a spouse of his own. When Megan gets pregnant Edgar must make a decision between two women. Someone will be left brokenhearted and someone will be left dead. -Love is a Battlefield, Scorned: Love Kills (S5, E2)

Fort Bragg Army Soldier Edgar Patino Murdered Army Specialist Megan Touma & Unborn Son After Argument, Sentenced to 16-20 Years in Prison (June 21, 2008)

Preview: While Kathy Lipscomb spends late nights at the hospital with the handsome Dr. Pearle, her husband’s career in the Air Force is taking off, but so is his relationship with a hot young officer. When the affairs are exposed the consequences are fatal. -Sex, Secrets & Sergeants, Scorned: Love Kills (S5, E5)

Air Force MSgt William Lipscomb Murdered his Wife Kathleen After She Threatened to Expose his WAPS Promotion Cheating Scam (June 9, 1986)

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:
About the Show | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery
The Swinger Marriage | Scorned: Love Kills (Preview)
Sex Helps Wife Plan Murder | Scorned – Love Kills (Preview)
Behind the Picket Fence | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S1, E1)
Rules of Engagement | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S2, E7)
Monique Berkley | Snapped | Oxygen (S8, E8)
Black Widower | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S2, E17)
Naval Affairs | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S3, E1)
Sergeant Swinger | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S4, E1)
Michelle Theer & John Diamond | Killer Couples | Oxygen (S8, E5)
Fayetteville | Sins & Secrets | Investigation Discovery (S2, E3)
Love is a Battlefield | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S5, E2)
Two Couples, Two Dangerous Affairs | Scorned: Love Kills (Preview)
Sex, Secrets & Sergeants | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S5, E5)
True Lies | Forensic Files | FilmRise (S8, E27)

Fear Thy Neighbor Premiered ‘Monkey in the Middle’ on Investigation Discovery: Spencer Newcomer Found Not Guilty of Murder, Claimed Self-Defense (May 25, 2017)

Preview: A man finds himself living between hostile neighbors on both sides, including a former marine with severe PTSD. Their campaign of intimidation ramps up to the point of no return, ending with a deadly confrontation on the street outside their homes. -Monkey in the Middle, Fear Thy Neighbor (S4, E8)

Date: June 10, 2012
Victim: David Wintermyer, 47, retired US Marine Corps, veteran
Offender: Spencer Newcomer, 42, employed (self-defense)
Location: York, Pennsylvania
Circumstances: Spencer Newcomer wouldn’t mow his grass because he wanted to be one with the land and mother nature on his down time, he owns the home his grandfather owned, lots of great memories, Greg Taylor lives next-door to Spencer, Dave Wintermyer inherited his father’s home and moved to the neighborhood on the other side of Spencer, Dave retired from the Marines after twenty years, his long tours overseas ended his marriage, Dave was very proud to be a Marine, he flew the American flag and the USMC flag proudly on his property, Dave wants to play the hero and help others, Spencer’s dad was a Marine too, he served four years, Spencer appreciated Dave’s service because of his dad’s experience, Dave got out of the Marine Corps but he didn’t give up leadership or Marine Corps values, he would do anything for anybody, Dave would clear everyone’s driveways when it snowed, he became the guardian of the street, Dave would look after people’s homes when they were gone, Spencer’s dogs started pooping on Dave’s lawn, Spencer denied that it was his dog, Greg said Spencer’s dogs pooped in his yard as well, the neighbors confirmed Spencer’s dogs did not stay in his yard, Spencer found Dave in his yard one day, Dave was burning brush in his yard and blasting music, Dave told Spencer he didn’t like his dogs, on another occasion Dave took Spencer’s ladder without his permission and Spencer confronted him about it, Dave thought he was Mayor of Yorkland, Greg got more and more obsessive with his property, Greg and Dave started ganging up on Spencer about his overgrown property, Dave mowed his lawn every week, Greg and Dave had disdain for Spencer’s yard, Dave asked Spencer countless times to keep his dogs off his lawn but Spencer brushed it off as if he didn’t care, Dave approached Spencer one day and told him he had enough of his dog’s pooping on his property, Dave told Spencer he was a Marine and he was not and he needed to respect that, he threatened Spencer, but Spencer didn’t appear to care that he was offending anyone or if his dogs were bothering Dave, Spencer became more wary of Dave’s behavior, it got stranger and stranger, neighbors thought Spencer’s shed was an eye sore and needed to be torn down, Dave was worried that termites would get into his backyard, Spencer didn’t think it was a big deal because no one could see it, Greg was anal and wanted everyone’s stuff to look like his, Greg and Dave acted like they owned the block, Spencer met Bonnie Henderson and eventually asked her to move in with him, she loved his untamed yard, she noticed some of the yards in the neighborhood were immaculate, Dave was angry about his weeds growing six feet tall, Greg hatched a plan with Dave and they reported Spencer to the township, they complained about the weeds in the backyard and the inspector told him he needed to cut down the weeds, he was fined $600, this was just the beginning of their campaign of harassment, someone knocked over Spencer’s woodpile in his backyard while they were not home, the township does not allow boats or jet skis on the property, both Dave and Greg got fined for this, Dave got angry at the town for enforcing the law about his jet skis, another neighbor got fined as well for having a boat in his yard, they thought Spencer was the one reporting them but he denied it, according to Spencer’s girlfriend, he doesn’t like confrontation, Dave started venting on social media about the situation, speaking in a threatening tone, ranting about government overreach, authorities deduced that he suffered from some form of PTSD based on his social media rantings, Dave’s ex-wife didn’t deny that Dave most likely had PTSD after multiple deployments, Dave ranted to Spencer about getting fined by the township, Greg and Dave targeted Spencer and constantly tried to stir things up in the neighborhood, someone flattened Spencer’s tire and vandalized his property, they wrote graffiti all over his windows, the behavior was getting worse and escalating, Spencer called the police to report the harassment, one night they discovered both of Spencer’s dogs were poisoned, they survived but this made Spencer angry, they were scared too, Spencer didn’t know who to trust, Greg wanted to talk to Spencer and Greg said things had gone too far, he said he wanted to live in peace, Greg told Spencer he had nothing to do with any of the vandalism and blamed it all on Dave, he threw Dave under the bus, Greg was instigating Dave to do more and take more action, he used Dave to fuel the fire, he was feeding Dave stuff so he would call the township, Dave wasn’t a bad guy but he had demons that he struggled with, it appeared Dave’s demons were winning the battle, he admitted on social media he couldn’t sleep, Dave’s ex-wife said people with PTSD have triggers, when those triggers happen, it takes them to a very different place, they react on those triggers in a lot of different ways, Dave glared at Spencer and girlfriend when they were in the backyard, Spencer started carrying a pistol because he feared for himself in his backyard, he was protecting himself and his property, he had a permit but never had an occasion to draw a weapon on anyone, things get worst when Bonnie’s rabbit was mutilated, Greg continued to gaslight Dave into taking action, it felt like an act of terrorism to Spencer, they said Spencer was weak, had no guts and the pair were closing in on him, Dave continued to threaten Spencer and his girlfriend and stared at them while they were in their backyard, Spencer didn’t know any way to engage Dave without it escalating to a violent confrontation, Spencer built a wood rack that couldn’t be tipped over, the pair came over and busted up the wood rack, Greg was constantly egging on Dave who had a more aggressive personality, Spencer decided to take action, he called the police and they said there was nothing they could do about it, it added fuel to the fire for Dave, Greg continued to gaslight Dave to take action including harming him if he showed up on their property, Spencer had no idea they were texting each other and egging each other on, Dave started screaming at Bonnie and told her he was going to force her to eat their own dog crap, he was enticing Spencer to come and fight him, Bonnie was fearful because Dave appeared unhinged, Greg watched everything from his property, the police believed their goal was to kill Spencer, Spencer was running late one day and Greg was trying to hold him up, Dave came at Spencer on the road, told him he was sick of his dogs, Spencer tried to diffuse the situation, Dave threatened to kill his dogs so Spencer stopped his vehicle to deal with the situation and protect his dogs and property, Spencer felt backed in a corner as Dave aggressively came at him, Spencer pulled his gun out to defend himself, Spencer saw rage and said Dave looked unhinged, Dave pulled out what looked like a pistol from his pocket and Spencer shot him four times in the chest, but it wasn’t a pistol, it was a cell phone, Spencer called 911 and explained the situation, Spencer was afraid Dave was going to kill him, Spencer was arrested by the police and he was charged with murder, Spencer was held in solitary confinement and waited nine months for a trial, the DA was considering the death penalty, but the defense subpoenaed Dave’s cell phone records and discovered a series of texts between Dave and Greg planning an attack on Spencer, Dave was planning on a confrontation, this new evidence helped the jury decide that Spencer was innocent, but Dave’s ex-wife said the jurors didn’t get to see the real side of Dave, Spencer returned to his home, Greg was never charged with any crime but neighbors believed he was 90% of the reason for all this, Spencer feels isolated by the community and said he regrets that it came to this, he didn’t want this to happen but he felt like he didn’t have a choice
Disposition: Spencer Newcomer was found not guilty of manslaughter in March 2013

David Wintermyer

David Wintermyer, U.S. Marine Corps Retired (Photo: Investigation Discovery)

Source: ‘Monkey in the Middle’ Fear Thy Neighbor, Investigation Discovery

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.

In the News:

Neighbor dispute leads to fatal shooting -WGALTV

Related Links:
Obituary: David Edward Wintermyer (1964-2012)
Neighbor dispute leads to fatal shooting
Man fatally shoots neighbor in chest
Police: York County man fatally shot after long dispute
Trial ordered for York County man in neighbor’s death
Live coverage of the Spencer Newcomer murder trial
York Co. forensic lab, real life crime scene investigations
Eyewitness testifies about the murder of David Wintermyer in Springettsbury Township
Spencer Newcomer acquitted of murder/manslaughter
York man acquitted in neighbor’s slaying over shed argument
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Spencer “Lee” Newcomer IV
Reasonable Provocation: Distinguishing the Vigilant from the Vigilante in Self-Defense Law
The Spencer Newcomer Case now on ProArms Podcast
087 The Spencer Newcomer Case | The ProArms Podcast
Spencer Newcomer, David ‘Dave’ Wintermyer: ‘Fear Thy Neighbor’ Tackles Fatal Shooting Of Former U.S. Marine
Interesting Case on TV Tonight | Backwood Homes Magazine
Monkey In the Middle | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (Preview)
Monkey in the Middle | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S4, E8)

Fear Thy Neighbor Premiered ‘Hysteria Lane’ on Investigation Discovery: Ronald Ragland Harassed, Gaslighted & Executed Army Vet Robert Mitchell (April 20, 2017)

ID Go: A couple who tragically lost their son are thrilled when a family with two boys moves in across the street. But the relationship soon sours, engulfing all of them in conflict, accusation, and finally a deadly shooting. Hysteria Lane, Fear Thy Neighbor (S4, E3)

Date: May 2, 2010
Victims: Robert Mitchell, Sr., 53, Army veteran, disabled and Robert Mitchell, Jr., 18
Offender: Ronald Ragland, 54, Truck Driver
Location: Brandywine, Maryland
Circumstances: Ronald Ragland lost his son to a drunk driving accident, Robert and Donna Mitchell moved in next door with their two sons, Robert Sr. is an Army veteran who served with distinction but was discharged due to an injury, the two families spent a lot of time together initially and regarded each other as good friends, as the Mitchell boys settle in, they make new friends and suddenly the neighborhood is full of kids, more kids means more noise, Ronald slept during the day so he could drive truck at night, Ronald yelled at the Mitchell boys, Robert tried to make Ronald understand they were just kids playing, one day the boys started skateboarding and the noise made Ronald angry again, Ragland grabbed one of the kids by the collar and was throwing him around like a rag doll, Robert Sr. confronted Ronald, Ronald was the type that would not be disrespected and he held a grudge, Robert Sr. told his kids to stay away from Ronald, Ronald wanted things his way in the Charm Court neighborhood, neighbors suspected Ronald may have been jealous of Robert and his two sons, it appeared he was trying to sabotage their life and make them feel his pain, once the boys become Seniors in high school, they had a lot of friends over and listened to music, Ronald would stand in his driveway & make demands of the neighbors, he dictated everything that went on in the neighborhood, Ronald called the police and complained about the neighbors, the Roberts family hadn’t done anything wrong, police asked Robert Sr. to help de-escalate the situation, there was a break-in at a neighbor’s home and someone called to complain that the Roberts kids were the one’s who broke into the home but there was no proof so the police moved on, this didn’t sit well with Ronald, Ronald tried to turn everyone against Robert Sr. and his family, he claimed they were bad for the neighborhood, neighbors admitted to feeling hatred towards the Mitchell family, the situation takes a toll on the Mitchells relationship, one night some unknown kids vandalized Ronald’s house, he didn’t see who did it but he thought he knew who was responsible, he now had a personal vendetta against the Mitchell boys, someone threw a rock through his window as well, Ronald called the cops to complain about the vandalism but the Mitchell boys denied vandalizing Ronald’s property, there was no proof the Mitchell boys committed the crimes, Ronald decided he had to fend for himself, he installed cameras around his property, Ronald sat in front of the different angles of the cameras and watched the neighborhood disintegrate, Ronald tried to gaslight Robert by giving him a hard time about the problems with his wife, Ronald purchased a gun and his hate continued to brew, Robert’s wife left the family and Ronald taunted the boys about their mother leaving them, Ronald was vindictive, one of the Mitchell brothers moved out, Rob Jr. stayed in the house with his dad, Ronald complained about all the cars showing up throughout the night, he suspected drug activity, Ronald called the police and Rob Jr. was arrested for possession of drugs, Rob Jr. smoked marijuana but he denied selling drugs, Rob Jr. told Ronald he wasn’t going anywhere after he returned home from the police department, the case was dropped, Ronald claimed he felt threatened by Rob Jr., Ronald taunted the family once again on May 2, 2010 and Rob Jr. walked towards Ronald gearing up for a fist fight, Ronald started firing his weapon at Rob Jr. in an attempt to execute him and then walked over to Robert Sr. sitting in his car and shot him at close range in his head, Ronald then walked back over to Rob Jr. who was injured but not dead and pointed the gun at him again but he was out of bullets, Ronald returned to his home to reload his gun, the neighbor helped Rob Jr. get into the house out of harm’s way, Ronald returned to the Mitchell home with his gun and taunted Rob Jr. to come back outside, he threatened that he was next, the police arrived just in time and arrested Ronald, Ronald claimed self defense and said Robert Sr. had a gun in his car, the police found a gun in Robert’s car, the neighbor told the police she saw Ronald carry the gun across the street and plant the gun in Robert’s car, the police determined the gun was inoperable and believed Ronald had been planning this for a long time, Ronald purposefully provoked the situation, it was cold blooded murder, Ronald executed Robert Sr. and tried to execute Robert Jr., the Mitchell’s family home went into foreclosure
Disposition: Ronald Ragland was convicted of second degree murder, attempted second degree murder, first degree assault, and use of a handgun in a violent crime in March 2013, Ragland sentenced to 40 years in prison, appealed in 2015

Robert Mitchell

Robert D. Mitchell, Sr. (Photo: Investigation Discovery)

Source: ‘Hysteria Lane’ Fear Thy Neighbor, Investigation Discovery

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:
Obituary: Robert D. Mitchell
Victim identified in fatal Capitol Heights shooting Sunday
Police Make Quick Arrest in Homicide on Charm Court
Brandywine man is charged with killing neighbor
Two men convicted of murder in Prince George’s County
Two men convicted for Prince George’s shooting deaths
Ronald Ragland v State of Maryland | Court of Special Appeals (September 24, 2015)
Ragland v State of Maryland | Court of Special Appeals | PDF (September 24, 2015)
Ronald Ragland, Robert Mitchell: Neighbor Feud That Left Dad Dead, Son Injured On ‘Fear Thy Neighbor’ On ID
Hysteria Lane | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S4, E3)

Unusual Suspects Premiered ‘Maritime Murder’ on Investigation Discovery: NCIS Cold Case Squad Investigates the 1982 Homicide of Navy Lt. Lee Hartley (December 10, 2012)

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: Unusual Suspects (Season 4) is no longer available on Investigation Discovery website, ID Go, YouTube, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. This post was included for historical purposes and this episode was purchased via Amazon before it became unavailable.

Related Links:
John Prudhont Unusual Suspects Maritime Murder 30 sec Clip
‘Unusual Suspects’: Woman Poisoned Navy Husband Over Years Through Care Packages
Mayport cases to appear on TV’s ‘The Real NCIS’
NCIS Agents Take Viewers Inside Two Murder Cases Filled with Twisted Relationships, Greed, Lies and Double-Lives, in the Back-to-Back Third Season Premiere of “NCIS: The Cases They Can’t Forget”
NCIS: The Cases They Can’t Forget Premiere Season 3 Time & Channel
Mysterious poisoning of a Navy lieutenant leads to one of NCIS’ most notorious cold cases
United States Naval Criminal Investigative Services (October 1998)
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)
Navy Spouse Pamela Hartley Pleaded Guilty to the 2nd Degree Murder of Lt. Verle Lee Hartley in Florida State Court; Served 16 Years of 40 Year Prison Sentence Before Paroled (October 16, 1996)
A List of Soldiers Targeted & Murdered for Military Survivor and Life Insurance Benefits (SGLI)
Maritime Murder | Unusual Suspects | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Real NCIS | E02 | Verle Lee Hartley Case [Full Episode]

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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