“I just wanted justice for my daughter, and we got it. She’ll never come back. I’ll never get to hold her again and the horrible way she was murdered. I didn’t ever get to kiss her goodbye.”
-Gael Schneider, Nicole's Mother
It was the 28th of January 2006. A Saturday. At 10.20pm that night, David Pietz called the police. His wife, thirty two year old Nicole Pietz, was missing.
When police arrived at David's Lynnwood condo in Washington, United States, he told them that he last saw Nicole the night before. He said that he was at work until 11pm and arrived home around midnight. Nicole was asleep when he got home from work. But when he woke up the next morning, she was gone. He went to work that day but he was worried when he discovered that she still wasn't home when he got back from work.
Nicole and David Pietz
David told police that Nicole had been in Alcoholics Anonymous for dependence on pain medication. When she was 13 she developed endometriosis and required three surgeries as a result. She was given prescription painkillers and became addicted to them. But she sought help and went to rehab. And she had been sober for eight years. In fact, the day David reported her missing, Nicole was due to celebrate a sobriety anniversary.
David told police that Nicole had recently injured her back and she was worried about taking painkillers again. She didn't want to take the recommended dose. He said that some of her medication was missing and he worried that she had relapsed. He showed police an empty bottle and said that 56 painkillers were missing from it.
When Nicole's mother Gael and stepfather Rod arrived in Seattle to help search for Nicole, David told them that Nicole left her wedding band behind. He said they were not wearing them daily and he mentioned that Nicole had recently started wearing her retainer outside of the home.
Nine days after Nicole was reported missing, her body was found in a wooded field near the airport in Burien. Nicole was naked. There were bruises on her face caused by blunt force. There were bruises on her elbows, thighs, knees, and pelvis. Nicole's neck muscles were deeply bruised. There was evidence of hemorrhaging on both sides of her throat and in her eyes. The medical examiner determined that the cause of her death was asphyxia due to manual strangulation. Nicole had been strangled to death.
Police noted that Nicole's feet were clean even though she was naked when found in the field. There were no cuts or dirt on her feet and they believed that she did not walk there. When Nicole's body was found, her night guard was still in her mouth.
David's actions in the aftermath of his wife's death created suspicion. Nicole was cremated and he gave her ashes to his landlord. Furthermore, he gave Nicole's pets away to people who barely knew her. But despite suspicions and rumors, the case went cold.
It wasn't until a new Detective, Detective Mike Mellis, took over the case that progress was made. And after a thorough investigation, the police believed they had enough to charge David Pietz with second degree murder in March 2012. By that time, David had a new job, a new partner and a child. He was charged with second degree murder because they did not have enough evidence to prove premeditation.
David denied any involvement in his wife's murder. He pleaded not guilty.
It was the Prosecution's case that David was frustrated with his job and unhappy in his marriage to Nicole. He wanted a more sexually adventurous relationship and had several affairs throughout his marriage.
Nicole's coworker testified that Nicole told her the day before she was reported missing that she believed David was having an affair. The Prosecution told the Jury that David arrived home around midnight on the 28th of January, there was an argument between him and Nicole and:
"At some point, his temper boiled over and he strangled her to death."
It was their case that he carried Nicole's body to her car and he drove her car to the field where he dumped her body.
Nicole's car was found 20 miles from where her body was found. David's DNA was found on the control areas of the car, the windshield wiper knob, the steering wheel and the gearshift knob.
The Prosecution referred to the health club where David worked. Surveillance footage showed him at the front counter at 11.48 am, on the 28th of January. He then walked out of view of the camera. Two minutes later, records show a call from Nicole's cell phone is answered at the front desk at the gym. The call lasts just 21 seconds.
It was the Prosecution's case that David made that call to the health club using Nicole's phone. The cell tower that connected Nicole's phone for the call was right beside the health club.
The Prosecution called four witnesses in relation to David's affairs. Four women, Renee Stewart, Samantha Duffy, Sabrina Lucia Strieck and Julie Hansen-Freeman, testified that they had a relationship with him.
Renee told the Court that she met David at the gym. He told her that on two occasions he spiked Nicole's drink with the drug Ecstasy. She told the Court:
"He told me that he would put it in her Red Bull. He was just trying to loosen her up to get her to do a threesome."
Jurors heard David's interview with police. He told them that he had no sex drive. It was the Prosecution's case that this was not true. David wanted Nicole to do things that she was not comfortable with.
Nicole's mother Gael testified that on the day of her daughter's funeral, David said to her:
"I didn't think you'd take it so hard."
Nicole and David Pietz
It was the Defense's case that Nicole had become a drug addict again.
Dr Carol Waymack, Nicole's physician, testified that she was treating Nicole for a back injury in the months before her death. She told the Court that Nicole was taking Vicodin and Ibuprofen and that the Flexural she had been on had not been effective. Dr Waymack testified that Nicole told her she had been taking another narcotic painkiller prescribed by a different doctor. She said that she was taking Oxycodone. Nicole described her pain as screaming pain.
It was the Defense's case that David had no motive to kill his wife and that the Prosecution had not established one. They conceded he had affairs but said that he wouldn't be alone in that and that does not make someone a killer.
The Jury deliberated for a day and a half. David was found guilty.
When sentencing David, Judge Michael Hayden said:
“You were able to look into her face as you did it.”
It would have taken Nicole minutes to die not seconds and for that, the Judge believed David deserved the maximum sentence he could give him under Washington state law.
He was sentenced to 18 years and 4 months.
Nicole’s stepfather, Rod Schneider, said that his wife Gael diligently called the case detectives on the 28th of every month for six years to make sure her daughter’s death wasn’t forgotten.
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"But I'm a woman, and as the great poet so cleverly wrote, hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Consider me your personal hell."
"Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level."
-Dr Joyce Brothers
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