Chapter 13: Grinding it out
"Christie, I've got a meeting with Detective Etchevarry on Friday afternoon. We'll be going over the file on Diane's murder. I wanted to talk to you about Diane because you two were so close, even before I came back into the picture. I'm looking for the smallest clue to what was going on when I was away. Is there anything she told you or even might have hinted at that would give us an idea of what was going on in her head?"
"I've been over that a hundred times myself, Doug. I can't think of anything that I haven't told the detective or you and I know I'm not holding anything back. Her attitude to me about you and about her family and her life was nothing but positive. I don't know how many times she told me how happy she was that you had returned and how much it meant to the children as well.
"I don't remember her ever being sad, or angry, or confused ever about her life. I was the one crying in my coffee. She was the wonderful friend and confidant that I needed. She helped me get through some difficult times. I just can't imagine her being with another man or having a secret life."
I nodded. Christie was telling exactly what she had always believed. She could no more understand what led to Diane's death than I could.
My talk with Juliet was equally unrevealing. She said Diane had told her she had business appointments when she went out. She usually left between eight-thirty and nine in the evening and was always back before midnight, usually nearer eleven o'clock.
"Juliet, what was she wearing when she went out?" I asked, realizing I couldn't remember asking her before.
"I'd call it business clothes," she said. "You know, a skirt and jacket with a blouse. Always very conservative in my opinion."
"Okay. Did she ever say where she was going on any occasion?"
Juliet stopped to think for a moment, then shook her head. "No, not that I recall."
"Okay, thanks. I really appreciate your help. I'll be seeing the head detective on the case on Friday and I was just checking to see if I'd missed anything."
"That's okay, Mr. Hansen. I hope they catch the guy that did it. Mrs. Hansen was a really nice lady and it really hurt when she was killed."
"Thank you again, Juliet."
I left being no wiser than before. I think I knew that she wore business dress when she went out and that would indicate it was a business meeting. But the police had interviewed her customers and had come up with nothing. Perhaps we would cover this ground on Friday once more.
My three day tour was a quick trip to Nashville for a music festival and a two night stay near the home of the Grand Ole Opry. The bus was full of music, not all of it wonderful, but fun was the operative word for this trip. It put me in a good mood and it stayed that way until we were safely back at the depot in Louisville.
I had time for a shower, a change of clothes and lunch before I met with Detective Etchevarry. He didn't make me wait at all when I arrived a couple of minutes early, and he ushered me into a small conference room with a table and four comfortable chairs. This wasn't an interrogation room by the look of it.
In front of him he had a fairly thick file folder with a tab marked "Hansen, D. A." and the rubber stamp across the front of the file said "Homicide."
"We haven't come across anything new, Mr. Hansen. We aren't any further ahead than we were several months ago I'm afraid to say."
I nodded. "I'm sure you would have told me if you had. I talked to her best friend Christie once more and she can't recall anything that would add to what she told you. I also talked to Juliet Fiddler and the only thing I learned from her was that Diane wore business clothes when she went out at night and she was always home before midnight and usually earlier."
Etchevarry was nodding his agreement, so nothing new there.
"I didn't bother with her clothes when I picked up her ... stuff," I said. "I got her purse, her jewelry, her watch and car keys ... that was it."
"Yes. Did you find her rings in her purse?" he asked.
"Just so you know, she was wearing them when we found her?"
"No. No, I didn't. I guess that's significant, isn't it?"
He nodded. "I think we have to conclude that your wife was meeting someone and she wasn't trying to disguise her status."
"Who paid for the motel room?" I asked.
"Your wife, in cash.
"Did they have CCTV at the motel?"
"Yeah, but it was a crap system. We have the image of one or two guys that might have been in the vicinity, but we couldn't make out anything that would be useful. It was one of the old systems that took a picture in black and white every three seconds. It was inconclusive and pretty much useless."
"Could I see it? Maybe there's something I might see that you didn't."
He shrugged and pulled out a DVD, slipping it in a small player sitting on the table. I could see what the detective meant. The picture was grainy, dark from a lack of lighting in the rear of the motel, and the figures that showed up were indistinct.
"We had our video expert go over this carefully, blowing it up and trying to enhance it artificially to see what we could get, but it was damn little in the end."
I watched the two figures carefully as they appeared and disappeared on the screen. One of them was obviously bigger than the other.
"How big do you think that guy was?" I asked, pointing at the larger of the two.
"Our guy says he was ... over six-two ... and probably over two-twenty."
I leaned back in the chair while an image flashed in front of my eyes.
"Did you ever interview Paul Wilson?"
The detective flipped through the file for a minute until he came to a page.
"Yes, briefly. That is Mrs. Wilson's ex-husband, right?"
"Yeah. That's him."
"What made you ask about him?"
"Something about him. I can't exactly express it. The first time I met him, he nearly crushed my hand in a so-called friendly handshake. Then he insulted me a couple of times, trying to laugh it off as a joke. He also had a couple of what I would call inappropriate comments about Diane as well."
Etchevarry was paying very close attention.
"Christie caught him trying to drug her and get her involved in a swingers club on New Years. That was the basis for her divorce. That and the fact that she caught him in bed with some woman on that same night. I know he has a problem with alcohol and got let go from his company. He lives out in Shelbyville now, but I ran into him in Lexington a few months ago."
"Go on," Etchevarry said, still listening intently.
"He didn't see me. I was in a restaurant connected to a tavern. He was in the tavern sitting at the bar and having a conversation with some other guy. He was bragging about his ability to handle women, including using force if necessary. He said something along the lines of not being afraid to smack them around once in a while. He was a couple of drinks over the limit at the time, but loud enough that I could hear every word ... along with most of the patrons, I'd guess."
Now it was Etchevarry's turn to lean back and think.
"How well did your wife know this guy?"
"Christie was her best friend and so I guess she saw him fairly regularly when she was over there."
"Did she ever say anything about him?"
I shrugged. "I mentioned him being an asshole when I first met him and she shrugged it off, saying he was a 'character.'"
Etchevarry began to look through his file once more before finding another piece of paper and spent a couple of minutes reading it. I sat back waiting for him to say something.
"He had an alibi for the night she was killed," he said without looking up. "I don't know if it was checked out thoroughly. He didn't give us the usual 'home in bed' routine, so I'll check and see if anyone followed up on his statement."
I had another thought. "Was there any DNA evidence on Diane ... you know ... other than her own. Did she have sex that evening?"
"Yes and no," he answered. "Yes, we did find some DNA from someone other than your wife. No, there was no evidence that she had vaginal or anal sex with anyone recently."
"But the DNA ... there was no match on file?"
"We don't have a huge database to check with. If it was a federal case, that would be different. Anyway, there was no match."
"I wonder if Christie could produce a DNA sample of her ex-husband?" I asked aloud.
He looked at me with a smile and a nod. "We couldn't use it in court, but we would know where to put the pressure on. Why don't you see if she can produce something we can use?"
"Consider it done," I said, stirred into action with some enthusiasm. "I hope this isn't a false trail."
--Etchevarry nodded. "I hope so too. In the meantime, I'm going to check out Mr. Wilson's alibi."
"Christie, we need your help," I began. "Do you have anything we could use to produce a DNA sample of Paul?"
"Why? Do you think Paul might have done it? Killed Diane, I mean."
"No ... but like anything the police do, they try and eliminate people to narrow down the field. Paul has an alibi, but since they don't have anything new to go on, they are checking all the evidence once more. Do you think you might have something?"
"I don't know, Doug. I don't think so. He took everything of his with him and what he didn't take, I threw out."
I had guessed that would be the case, but I was hoping against hope that she might still have something that would have a trace on it.
"Please ... try and think of anything ... anything that might be personal that we could check."
"This sounds like more than just checking old evidence, Doug. What's really going on here?"
I reminded her about the conversation I'd overheard in the Lexington tavern and told her about the CCTV camera at the motel.
"There was something about his posture that was familiar. I had this flashback to the first time I met him and I remember him walking away after having insulted me. I know it's pretty thin stuff, but right now we're going nowhere with new evidence. I figured, what the hell. Paul knew Diane. He fancied himself a ladies man. Maybe he saw an opportunity and tried to convince her to be with him. I know it's a long-shot, but I can't stop trying to find out the truth."
Christie was nodding her agreement, but the look on her face was one of sorrow. We both knew now that there was no other explanation for her being in that motel.
"I'll look for everything I can, Doug. Maybe I'll get lucky and find something. I'll try my hardest, I promise you."
"That's all I can ask," I said, pulling her in for a hug.
"His alibi is paper thin, Mr. Hansen," Etchevarry said on the phone. "I haven't got probable cause to get a DNA sample. I can interview him again and see how he reacts to a more aggressive discussion, but that's about it."
"I'll leave it to your best judgment, Detective. His ex-wife hasn't turned up anything yet, but I'm hoping she might find something."
"Good luck. I'll let you know if I get anything substantial when I talk to him again."