“You’re either the victim of an extraordinary miscarriage of justice, in which case your incarceration here for the rest of your life is unspeakably unfair, or you’re a cold, calculating murderess, and the best liar I’ve ever met in my life.”
It was the 3rd of February 2008. Super Bowl Sunday. Larry Fenton, like a lot of others, loved that day every year. He had the entire day planned out which mainly involved watching sport, Tiger Woods playing golf in particular, and then he planned to take a nap before ordering a pizza for 6pm and settling in to watch the Super Bowl at his home in Clearwater, Florida, United States.
Rebecca and Larry Fenton
Larry lived in the house with his wife of three years Rebecca Fenton. They met at a gym and after a whirlwind three month romance, they got engaged and married within a year. They seemed happy and very much in love and kept to themselves. Rebecca said that Larry didn't socialise much after they married. Her own life changed dramatically too. She worked as a nursing assistant prior to the marriage and enjoyed being out and about, travelling and going to different places.
When she became Larry's wife, she gave up her job and became a stay at home wife. Larry was a millionaire, he made his money selling surgical equipment and due to his financial status, Rebecca no longer needed to work.
Larry and Rebecca Fenton
That day, the 3rd of February, Rebecca said that she went to the gym. It was a home gym in a separate building on their land. Rebecca claimed that she was there for around two hours. When she was at the gym she heard what she thought sounded like something falling off the roof. But she continued working out and heard little else as she had music on. When her workout finished, Rebecca made her way back to the main house. Immediately upon entering the house, Rebecca saw Larry on the ground. He was in the foyer at the foot of the stairs in a pool of blood.
Rebecca noticed there had been some sort of disturbance in the house. Cabinets and drawers had been emptied and there was stuff everywhere. According to Rebecca, she took Larry's pulse. She thought he was alive as his eyes were open. Rebecca went upstairs and the same scene as downstairs greeted her. All their belongings had just been thrown across the floor. Rebecca went back downstairs and took Larry's pulse again. She then went outside and called 911.
When police arrived, they found Larry at the foot of the stairs. He was dead. He had been shot four times, in the back, arm and neck at point blank range. Police initially believed it was a robbery. That's how the crime scene looked. Larry's Jeep was missing from the driveway. But when they investigated further they were perplexed as to why nothing else of any value was missing. The money Larry had in his wallet was still there.
Clearwater, Florida, United States
Rebecca told police that she was in their home gym when it happened and returned to the house sometime between 4.30pm and 5pm. Rebecca's account of taking Larry's pulse twice didn't make sense to them. There was no blood on her whatsoever and the blood around Larry's body had not been disturbed at all. It looked as if he was still in the position he was in when he fell to the ground. He had not been moved.
There were a number of other factors that disturbed police about Rebecca's actions and demeanour. Firstly, they were concerned about the initial delay in calling 911. Rebecca looked around the house before making the call. The lack of blood on her was troubling too but what really caused alarm was the fact that Rebecca was smiling and joking with the police outside her house.
But, putting gut feelings and suspicions aside, there was nothing at that point that suggested she was involved that would require the police to make an arrest. There was no murder weapon in the house and there was no gun residue found on Rebecca.
Police later found the murder weapon just outside the house. In fact, it was inside Rebecca's car which was parked on the driveway. Under the passenger seat they found Larry's gun wrapped in a plastic bag. Larry's gun was kept in a drawer in the house before the murder. That gun was the one used to kill Larry. It had five spent casings and one empty chamber. The box of bullets in their bedroom was missing five bullets. They matched the bullets that killed Larry. They also found Larry's jewellery, a key to the gun case and the keys for his Jeep. No fingerprints were found on the gun.
Two days after Larry's murder, police found his Jeep Cherokee. It was just a block away from the house. In the Jeep, they found Larry's laptop which added to their suspicions that he was not murdered during a robbery. So if there was no robbery, then why was Larry murdered? Did he have any enemies?
The police asked Rebecca that very question. Was there anybody who disliked Larry enough to want him dead. She told them there was not.
Police believed that even though it appeared highly likely Rebecca killed Larry, they did not have enough to guarantee a conviction. All the evidence was circumstantial. Unidentified fingerprints and footprints were found at the scene and they wondered if there was a third party involved.
Larry and Rebecca Fenton
Throughout the course of the investigation, police looked into a number of leads and also, into Larry and Rebecca's marriage. The seemingly perfect and fairytale marriage. Police discovered that Rebecca's marriage was not as perfect as she liked to make out. She was bored in her marriage and had developed feelings for a man called David. He was a chef at a local restaurant. They had a secret meeting place in a hotel but both denied being intimately involved although Rebecca did admit that she found him attractive. Police discovered that Rebecca once worked as a high priced call girl. She claimed that Larry knew that she had been an escort before they married.
Investigators thought that the motive may have been money. There was a Life Insurance Policy that would give Rebecca half a million dollars if Larry died. She would also get his estate. If they divorced, she wouldn't get that much due to the prenuptial agreement she signed.
But despite all the circumstantial evidence and the possible motive, police believed they still needed more. They wanted a confession or a witness statement. The case went cold.
A couple of years later, Larry and Rebecca's house was burned to the ground. Arson investigators found evidence of fire accelerants. That brought Larry's murder back into the spotlight and a cold case unit started looking into the murder again. A man called Alfred Nolen who was dating Rebecca provided the witness statement they had been waiting for. He told police that when they were fighting, she held a knife to his throat and said:
"I'll kill you like I killed Larry."
Rebecca denied saying this. She said that Afred was trying to get a plea deal as she had reported him to police for a domestic violence incident.
Six years after Larry's murder, Rebecca was arrested and charged with first degree murder.
The Jury deliberated for two hours and found Rebecca guilty of first degree murder and she was sentenced to life in prison with no parole.
Rebecca maintains she is innocent. Piers Morgan met her in prison for his TV show Killer Women with Piers Morgan and she told him:
“I was very much in love with my husband. I had a lifestyle that was very grand. It would not have done me any good to hurt him. I’m not spiritually capable of hurting anybody. I did not do this.”
In all circumstantial cases, there is always a question mark as to whether the person convicted is truly guilty or not. That's because a conviction always seems more solid if there are eye witnesses, confessions, DNA evidence and so on in the Trial. But without circumstantial cases, there is no doubt that many many guilty people would be free. They would not only evade justice but they would be in a position to harm others. The only thing that can be done in such cases is for the Jury to look at all the evidence and the totality of the entire case. That's what they did in this particular case and they found Rebecca guilty.
Do you believe she is innocent or guilty?
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
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