"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear."
It was the 13th of October 1985. A Sunday. Thirty eight year old Natalie Antonetti lived with her sixteen year old son Johnny Goudie and her roommate Susan Otten in Austin, Texas, United States.
The night before, the 12th of October, Natalie went to the Steamboat and a club called Toulouse with friends. She returned around 2.30am and fell asleep on the couch. Susan went to bed. Susan got up at 4.40am to get a glass of water and Natalie was still asleep on the couch.
Natalie Antonetti and her son Johnny Goudie
A short while later, around an hour or so, Susan, who had been asleep in bed, awoke to hear thumping sounds and moaning. Susan heard a door shut so she went into the living room to check on Natalie. She saw Natalie sitting on the couch holding her head. At first, Susan did not even know it was Natalie as she looked unrecognizable and was completely covered in blood.
Susan woke Johnny and called 911. Johnny spoke to Natalie and asked her what happened but she was unable to speak or answer any questions. He later told 48 hours that there was a frightened look in her eyes. The ambulance arrived and Johnny asked her to give him a kiss. She did. Natalie then slipped into a coma at hospital. She was in a coma for eighteen days.
Natalie had suffered from blunt force trauma and the Medical Examiner determined that it was consistent with having been attacked with a club or small bat.
The attack caused skull fractures and brain contusions which led to Natalie being in a coma. Natalie did not recover. She died after the withdrawal of life support.
Everyone who knew Natalie was shocked. Natalie, Johnny and Susan lived in an apartment in an apartment complex and Natalie was well known and liked in the area. She stood out due to her striking good looks but it was her relaxed style, friendly nature and love of music that made both men and women gravitate towards her. She enjoyed having friends over for dinner, listening to music and helped to style and cut women's hair.
Police discovered that there was no sign of any forced entry. Nothing was missing from the apartment. Natalie was not sexually assaulted and there were no defensive wounds on her body. It seemed like it was a brutal yet targeted attack. It was a vicious assault and police believed Natalie was struck in the head with a baseball bat over and over again. Natalie's own bloody handprints were all over the house. They believed the attack took place in a short space of time. The attacker entered, beat up Natalie in a violent assault and left immediately afterwards.
Police could not find any enemies or anyone who wanted to cause Natalie harm.
The same morning that Natalie was attacked, another 911 call was made. Donn Chelli made that call. He lived in the same apartment complex as Natalie and he called to report an incident. He saw a man outside looking into windows. He approached him and the man told him he was the second person who had bothered him that night. A composite sketch of the man was created based on Donn's description. He described him as a tall, husky man with long, blond hair. Donn told police that the man was holding a bat.
Police asked Donn to attend a police lineup to see if he recognized any of the men in the lineup. Donn identified John Martin "Marty" Odem. Marty lived in the same apartment complex as Donn and Natalie. Shortly after Natalie's murder, in 1986, he was convicted of breaking into another woman’s apartment. He raped her. Marty was known to carry a baseball bat at times and his ex wife claimed he was abusive and sexually violent.
Police questioned Marty in relation to Natalie's murder but he said that it was not him. Police did not have evidence to bring him to Trial for Natalie's murder but Marty was in prison for the other crime so Natalie's case went cold.
More than twenty years after Natalie's murder, in 2007, the Austin Police Department received an anonymous call. The call was later traced to Rebecca Davis who said that he husband Dennis Davis was responsible for Natalie's death.
Dennis Davis was a studio owner and engineer and well known in the music business. He worked with big stars in Nashville such as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. So when police were provided with his name, he didn't seem like an obvious suspect. But he knew Natalie. He had even dated her at one point. Johnny knew him too.
According to Dennis, he had nothing to do with Natalie's murder. He told police that the night Natalie was murdered, he was with his girlfriend at the time at his house. His girlfriend was Amparo Garcia-Crow. He said that he got a phone call from a friend who told him about Natalie and he went straight to the apartment complex. When he got there, Natalie was in the ambulance.
Police spoke to Amparo Garcia-Crow. She told police that she had dated Dennis but she was not with Dennis that night. She said that she kept detailed journals over the years and there was no mention in the journals that she was with him that night. According to Amparo, they broke up just three days before Natalie's murder.
A woman called Linda Bless told police that there were two sides of Dennis. He was very nice at times but there were other times when he was jealous and violent. His ex girlfriend Gelinda told police that he confessed to her that he had killed Natalie.
Furthermore, before Natalie's murder, Dennis left a note for her when he discovered she had a new boyfriend and it said:
"Natalie, you can go to hell. And take Doug with you. If you don't have the brains and self-respect to see through his bulls**t, then f**k you. D.D."
In 2009, Dennis was arrested and charged with murder.
It was the Prosecution's case that Dennis entered Natalie's apartment in the early hours on the 13th of October 1985. It was their case that he split her skull as she lay on the couch in her apartment. He did this by beating her with a baseball bat.
“I didn't mean to do it. I didn't mean to her hurt her. I didn't mean to kill Natalie.”
Even though his wife was the person who alerted police to Dennis, at the time of his Trial, she claimed she was mad at him when she did it. She recanted her statement.
Rebecca said that Dennis had previously told her that Natalie was too trusting, never locked her doors, and that one night somebody broke into her apartment and hit her on the head. He told her that he believed someone at her apartment complex attacked her. She claimed she never heard him confess to Natalie's murder.
Dennis did not testify. But the Jury read the statement he gave to police a day after Natalie was attacked. He said he dated her on and off for nine months but they were now just friends.
According to Dennis's statement, he saw Natalie on the afternoon of the 12th of October and she seemed fine. He said that he spent Saturday night at his house with Amparo Garcia. He received a call from Susan at around 5.30 am or 6 am the morning of the 13th of October. He said that Susan was in hysterics and was screaming that:
“there was blood everywhere and something was wrong with Natalie.”
The Jury found Dennis guilty of murder and he was sentenced to 36 years in prison.
Two years later, his conviction was overturned and a new Trial was ordered. The Appeals Court believed that Dennis's lawyer was ineffective and did not submit evidence about another suspect. The Jury heard nothing at all about Marty Odem.
The comments below have not been moderated
"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."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello