Season 3 Q&A

Host, Delia D’Ambra and Executive Producer Ashley Flowers team up to break down your burning questions about CounterClock Season 3 and update you on recent developments that couldn’t make it into the 20 episodes!

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Episode Transcript

Delia D’Ambra: Welcome CounterClock listeners to the long-awaited bonus Q and A episode for season 3. Joining me today is the executive producer who needs no intro, Ashley Flowers.

It comes as no surprise to both of us that the CounterClock inbox received more than a thousand listener-submitted questions after the binge release of season 3.

Ashley Flowers: Not surprised at all.

This season was so complex and so in-depth that it kind of shocks me more people didn’t write in. I have a thousand questions of my own.

Delia D’Ambra: Don’t we all?

But before we dive in and start discussing some of the most popular submissions, I have some updates I need to share, information that’s come in literally in just the last two weeks.

Ashley Flowers: I know, I feel like every week you’re telling me something new that’s happened or is about to happen and yeah it’s only fair we give listeners that info first.

Delia D’Ambra: Right.

So, first thing, on Wednesday, like literally two days ago, I spoke with Fran Watson, Jeff Pelley’s post-conviction attorney and she told me that in the last two weeks, the Saint Joseph County prosecutor’s office has told her that they’ve found all of the items of missing evidence in the case.

Ashley Flowers: Of course! Very interesting timing. We drop 20 episodes blowing the whole story up and then boom they find evidence that’s been missing for decades.

I can’t.

Delia D’Ambra: Yeah, the timing is definitely interesting…

Anyway, all Fran would tell me right now is that she’s making arrangements in the coming days to drive up to Saint Joseph County and review the pieces of evidence and take pictures.

Obviously, what I’m dying to know is: One, is the locket with the white man and white woman’s picture there. Two, is the key there that was found in the garbage bin outside of the parsonage there. And three, is the original Tony Beehler videotaped interview with police cued up and ready to roll.

Ashley Flowers: Exactly! I wish I could be in that room so bad.

Delia D’Ambra: Me to, but again, we say this all the time we aren’t lawyers and so from this point on I kind of have to take a step back and let Fran do her job.

I don’t want to compromise any progress she’s making by talking with her too much and getting the county ticked at her for sharing information with me.

Ashley Flowers: Fair, fair for sure.

Delia D’Ambra: That being said though, whatever does come out of Fran’s review of these pieces of evidence I think it’s going to change this case no matter what.

Like, I don’t know if it will be exactly what Fran’s hoping for, but I also don’t know that it won’t be earth-shattering.

We’ll find out when the next pretrial conference happens on June 25th.

Ashley Flowers: Yeah. I mean I wholeheartedly believe that whatever is revealed by all this stuff, combined with the blue jean facts will have to be enough to at least grant Jeff a new evidentiary hearing. Right?

Delia D’Ambra: I think so…

And that brings me to my next update which is the state’s response to the post-conviction relief filing, or PCR.

Ashley Flowers: Right! This is Saint Joseph County’s like formal response to Fran which they finally provided like what, five days after season three dropped?

Delia D’Ambra: Yeah, exactly.

So, on May 3rd, a year and five months after Fran filed her PCR motion, the state finally responded to her petition.

Their biggest claim is that even if the infamous Toni Beehler police interview tape is unearthed and provided to Fran, which we know it was never turned over to the defense before Jeff’s trial, the state basically says that even if there’s something juicy in there that supports a theory a third-party was involved in the Pelley murders or at least had motive to kill Bob, the testimony is hearsay and should never be allowed in as evidence in a future hearing.

Ashley Flowers: I mean I get that to some extent, but then my question is why wasn’t it turned over back in 2005-2006 when Jeff was going to trial? Like, why wasn’t the question of whether it’s hearsay or not answered once and for all the first time around?

Delia D’Ambra: I agree, I personally think, the interview tape is likely very substantial and was not turned over for a reason which is one of the points Fran makes in her PCR.

Anyway, basically everything else the state said in its response to the PCR opposes all of Fran’s points, which of course we expected.

Saint Joseph County prosecutors told the judge they don’t feel there is any material evidence to support third-party involvement. They also don’t think that Alan Baum was an ineffective defense attorney for Jeff at trial.

The state wholeheartedly believes Alan did his job well, even though Alan currently admits he made some major mistakes and actually supports Fran’s claim that he was ineffective. Which i find just fascinating.

What’s interesting is that nowhere in the state’s 9-page response did prosecutors address the argument that it’s possible Jeff’s blue jeans, the one’s Craig Whitfield believes were pulled from the washer, might not have actually been washed.

That was a huge section of Fran’s PCR filing but not once in the state’s response did prosecutors address that or admit that maybe, just maybe the blue jean evidence was manufactured.

Ashley Flowers: But they’re never going to because if they did then that literally destroys so much of the case for them.

Delia D’Ambra: Right.

We’ll get into that a little more with listener questions, but in addition to those updates on the Pelley side of things, I also have some cool updates regarding Eric Dawson’s case.

The big things are…

One, the Lee County sheriff’s office got flooded with a ton of listener emails and calls demanding his case be reinvestigated. So kudos to all of you out there who helped beat the drum.

Second, the sergeant over Eric’s case at LCSO is in touch with the person who currently has the Pelley’s .22 revolver, so, testing on that could happen soon.

Third, and I think one of the coolest things so far, is that Jason Dawson was actually able to go out to Corkscrew Road and walk the land where his dad’s body was buried back in 1988.

By some miracle, Eric’s old land has not been developed which is wild because so much of that area in Lee County is now new subdivisions.

Ashley Flowers: That gives me chills. I remember when you told me that like two weeks ago.

So how exactly did that happen again?

Delia D’Ambra: A woman who lives in Lee County listened to season 3 and she grew up on the dirt road next to the general swamp and woods where Eric was killed and buried three decades ago.

So, she wrote me an email explaining that her grandfather and parents remembered exactly where Eric was found because it was near their home and her grandad did some surveying of that land back in the day.

They like knew the parcels of undeveloped land really well and knew which one was owned by Eric Dawson.

At the time they also knew the Hawley family.

This woman sent me an updated parcel map with the specific cypress head clearing that her family says is where Eric was found. She circled the spot in red.

So, I got her connected with Jason and literally, two weeks ago he went out there with a close friend and got to walk the land.

He said that he found a lot of peace that day because he’s never known exactly where his dad was killed and buried for two months back in 1988.

Here’s some audio from a video he sent me while visiting the site…

Jason Dawson: This is where it happened.

This is the trail back to the area where the red circle was. No way of getting back there unless we had some better boots and some better jeans. (laughs)…but this is it. Unbelievable.

Nobody would ever find somebody back here…(breathes heavy)…it’s incredible.

Ashley Flowers: That give me full body chills.

It’s truly amazing. Just what one podcast’s re-investigation can do to help bring closure.

I mean it’s not as good as Eric’s case being solved, but it’s definitely a positive out of all of this.

Delia D’Ambra: I know…

A moment like that is not something I ever expected would be a byproduct of season 3.

Just like I didn’t expect what the most asked question of the season was going to be.

Which, Ashley, let’s see if you can guess?

Ashley Flowers: Hmmm…that’s tough, but I’m going to guess people probably asked about something regarding the Hawley family?

Delia D’Ambra: Bingo.

So, the most asked question we got was whether or not anyone in the Hawley family-owned or drove a black pickup truck in 1989.

And my answer is, possibly.

Ashley Flowers: I know why so many people asked this, it’s because of Lois Stansbury’s eyewitness statement saying she saw Bob Pelley standing next to a black truck holding a shovel-like around 5 pm on prom night. In the exact window of time, the police say he’s being murdered.

Delia D’Ambra: Right.

And I think because we now know how close Bob and Phil Hawley and his family were, people really want to know if that black truck could have been one of them.

And, again, my answer is, possibly.

But a word of caution to people whose minds get carried away, we can speculate all day long but we have to remember that the Hawley family is not nor has ever been formally brought into the Pelley investigation.

They certainly have linkage to Eric Dawson and financial crimes against him but in the end, speculating about whether they could or may have been in Lakeville the night the Pelleys were killed is ground you have to tread carefully.

Fran Watson obviously raises concern they were or could have had motive to be involved but that’s because she’s Jeff’s lawyer and wants to prove there’s a third-party involvement scenario in general.

But to answer people’s question about whether or not I found a black pickup truck tied to the Hawleys, all I’ll say is that while doing deep dives on their property records I did Google Earth street view on all of their properties and in the carport of one of those homes there is a dark-colored older model pickup truck parked in the driveway.

Ashley Flowers: I remember you telling me this. I was floored.

Delia D’Ambra: It was definitely strange, but who’s to say that doesn’t belong to a tenant or a friend. Right?

Because there are so many convoluted lawsuits, bankruptcy, and business documents and assets spread out through that family I couldn’t find vehicle registration information that confirms an answer one way or the other.

So, that’s where we have to leave it.

Also, finding the real answer would be law enforcement’s job or maybe a private investigator for Jeff Pelley.

I don’t know, but at this point, it’s not for me to chase anymore.

Ashley Flowers: Yeah, no, we’re out.

Delia D’Ambra: The second most asked question people had was whether or not anyone remembered Jeff’s hair being wet or not when he showed up at the Lakeville gas station to fix his car and when he picked up Darla for prom around 5:30.

Ashley Flowers: Right, because the state’s theory is that Jeff murders his family in a 10-15 minutes window, cleans up the shell casings, does a load of laundry, and showers before leaving the parsonage.

So, if he took a shower his hair should be wet when he’s clocked at 5:17 by Dennis Nicodemus at the gas station.

Delia D’Ambra: Right. Except no one, including Dennis, Darla, Mark Berger, or Lynette Greer, remembers Jeff’s mullet hairstyle being wet or freshly showered.

They all say he looked normal, maybe even a little annoyed and disheveled. They say he was wearing his blue jeans and black Hawaiian t-shirt.

None of them distinctly remember him having damp or wet hair.

The other big question listeners wrote in asking about was what car part did Bob remove from Jeff’s Mustang prior to prom that made it inoperable and when did that part get put back so that Jeff could in fact drive.

Ashley Flowers: Well, that’s like one of the biggest unknowns right?

Like, if Bob put the spark plug or fuse or whatever they say it was back into the mustang himself then that’s proof he and Jeff came to an agreement prior to 5 o’clock on Saturday that Jeff could drive himself to prom. Which eliminates what police say was Jeff’s motive for the murders.

But if Bob didn’t put the fuse back in the car, then it had to be Jeff who installed it. And if it was Jeff then maybe that’s why he was having car problems and had to stop, because he didn’t do it right.

Delia D’Ambra: Yeah, I mean the answer is one or the other.

I think what’s also super important when we’re talking about the Mustang is the fact that Jeff was washing his car around lunchtime that Saturday, which to me is an indication that he and Bob came to some agreement that the mustang was going to prom that night.

Or else why was he washing it?

But to the police’s point, they would argue that Jeff washing his car was him plotting and already knowing he was going to kill his family and take off to prom.

So, the car part being fixed and who exactly fixed it is not something that I think the answer is crystal clear on and probably will never be.

Same goes for the car washing.

Ashley Flowers: Yeah, it can be a good fact for Jeff or it can be a bad fact. Just depends on how you look at it.

Delia D’Ambra: While we’re on the topic of prom, let’s look at another big question people submitted.

And that is about the checkbook that had two checks written out in dawn’s handwriting but a third for $120 that wasn’t in her handwriting.

Ashley Flowers: Yeah, this is definitely something I have so many thoughts on.

Delia D’Ambra: A lot of people asked if handwriting analysis can be done or fingerprinting or if there’s a way to figure out when the checks were dated and cashed and the answer is, we don’t know. We can’t know.

All the investigation police did was take a statement from Ed Hayes, Dawn’s dad, in which he recounted finding the checkbook weeks after the murders.

It’s unclear if he ever turned the checkbook over to police or if they did anything with it.

It didn’t come up at trial so I have to think it’s just been lost entirely.

To answer people’s question though, if what ed says is true, then Dawn wrote out a check for Jeff’s prom expenses prior to the murders and intended to give him money for prom activities which to me confirms Jeff was allowed to go to prom.

The question is was he allowed to drive himself or not? That’s what the whole motive of the case is based on, him driving himself not the fact that he couldn’t go.

What the third check with unfamiliar handwriting for $120 is all about is a complete mystery.

Ashley Flowers: Right, especially because didn’t ed say that much money being cashed would have like over-drafted the family’s account?

Delia D’Ambra: Exactly.

The check for $120 makes no sense and I will always wonder who wrote that, why, and who they gave it to.

For all we know it could have been Jeff,  it could have been Bob, it could have been a stranger.

Who knows?

My frustration is with the fact that Indiana police did not include anything in their investigative files explaining if they forensically examined the family’s finances or banking records.

Ashley Flowers: Soooo frustrating.

Like, how is that not standard practice in a quadruple homicide?

Delia D’Ambra: Agreed.

Moving on to the next most frequently asked question. Is where is the bag of guns that were given to Thomas Keb? Did anyone ever look in the bag?

My answer, we don’t know and no, there is no indication that anyone ever followed up on that lead back in 1989 or any year after.

Thomas Keb is still alive, I spoke with him and he says no one ever asked him about it.

Ashley Flowers: Yeah, I think you did a pretty good job in the show of explaining why finding that bag and knowing whether or not the Pelleys’ 20-gauge shotgun was inside it or not would be super important.

If the gun was there, then Jeff’s not guilty.

If it wasn’t, then we’re back to where we are now.

Delia D’Ambra: Right.

A lot of the same people who asked that question also asked why no one heard any of the gunshots that killed the Pelleys.

It’s a question I also had from the moment I started looking into this case.

Ashley Flowers: Yeah, I mean, six shotgun blasts have to be super loud and we know based on witness statements that people are in their homes near the parsonage and people are driving up and down Osborne Road for prom.

Delia D’Ambra: My answer is, I don’t know how no one heard any blasts.

If it’s the scenario where Jeff is just running through the house firing off shots, then someone would have to hear those blasts right?

If it’s a scenario where it’s not Jeff, and say the hitman theory then I’d guess that person probably used a silencer or something.

I will say that a few neighbors after the murders were discovered came forward and told Saint Joseph County police back in 1989 that they heard several gunshots on that Saturday but their statements were that they heard the shots around 2 pm. Which we know cannot be the Pelleys being killed.

Ashley Flowers: Right, because they’re all alive at quarter til five when Kim Oldenburg and her friends stop by to take pictures.

Delia D’Ambra: Correct.

So, those few reports of people hearing gunshots cannot be associated with the crime because they happened way too early in the day.

There’s also a question here about the downward angle of the gunshot to Bob’s chest, which indicates a shooter was taller than him.

The person asked if Jeff was taller than Bob in 1989 and the answer is no he wasn’t. So, the whole trajectory of the shot to Bob’s chest doesn’t make sense with Jeff being the shooter unless he was holding the shotgun-like up above his shoulder angling it downward which is kind of awkward to do.

Ashley Flowers: Oh my gosh, this has been my question from the very beginning has it not?

What the heck is up with this “let’s all see the pastor before prom” thing and get our pictures taken by him?

Delia D’Ambra: I’m with you, I’m with you.

My answer is, I have no idea!!!!

I never once in my life ever went to see my pastor to take prom pictures. Ever!

The weird thing too for me is that both Kim and Crystal had dated Jeff briefly in high school. So why would they want to take prom pics with other boys at the house of their ex-boyfriend in front of his father?

It’s just so strange and weird and I cannot understand what is going on there.

That last crop of questions we have time for is about clothing. What Jeff was wearing and what the victims were wearing?

This is something a lot of people had questions about, so let’s take the last couple of minutes here to address this stuff since it’s what’s been eating at everybody.

Ashley Flowers: So, it looks like the big question for a lot of people is when Dawn and the girls’ bodies were found on Sunday morning were they wearing what Kim Oldenburg and Matt Miller saw them in last around quarter til five on Saturday?

Delia D’Ambra: It’s a good question. According to their statements to police, Kim and Matt don’t specifically remember what outfits everyone had on.

They remember Jeff wearing a checkered shirt but not what Dawn or the girls or Bob were wearing.

What I know for a fact from looking at the crime scene photos is that dawn and the girls were not in clothing they’d wear to Sunday morning church.

So, that leads me to believe wholeheartedly that the family was killed on Saturday night at some point.

Now, whether it was at 5 o’clock or later is what is up for debate.

Ashley Flowers: Some people asked, couldn’t Jeff have owned two different pairs of similar-looking blue jeans? Why was everyone so sure that he couldn’t have worn blue jeans out of the house and also had another pair in the washer.

Delia D’Ambra: So, I think the question there is, did a teenage Jeff own more than one pair of blue jeans.

The answer is, probably but that’s not the point.

The point is that only one pair of blue jeans were taken in as evidence.

Saint Joseph County police in 1989 believed the pair of jeans they say they got out of the washer was what Jeff wore while killing his family.

Craig Whitfield is dead set on that too.

The problem is Jeff was seen wearing blue jeans at Lynette Greer’s house after he supposedly killed his family and put them in the washer.

Police didn’t have two pairs in evidence saying one came from the washer and one came from Jeff’s trunk. They are adamant only one pair of blue jeans are important.

So, the question of whether Jeff owned more than one pair is irrelevant. The cops only cared enough to look at one pair.

Ashley Flowers: Right, yeah, the cops aren’t saying he didn’t own more than one pair. They’re saying there was only one pair that they seized and those came from the washer.

Delia D’Ambra: And what the evidence shows, to me, is that those jeans didn’t. They more than likely came from the trunk of Jeff’s car and that’s why they don’t have any forensic evidence on them. Because they were never at the crime scene.

Ashley Flowers: Okay, so we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Pelley case.

Let’s rapid-fire some questions about Eric Dawson.

Delia D’Ambra: Okay.

Ashley Flowers: Did the Dawson family ever get the stolen property back after the Hawleys were found guilty of forgery and land theft?

Delia D’Ambra: No.

So according to court and property records, Eric’s land on Winkler Road and the Corkscrew property were foreclosed on, because Eric was dead and he wasn’t really paying his mortgages to begin with.

The back bay development on Fort Myers beach got sold at an auction and the rest of the properties just went back to the banks.

Ashley Flowers: Was there any video surveillance at the airport where Eric’s car was found? Was the car process for DNA? What happened to the car?

Delia D’Ambra: Eric’s car was processed but remember, it had been wiped clean, so Tom Kontinos says back in 1988 LCSO detectives didn’t get much from it.

The airport couldn’t provide me any information from 1988 regarding video surveillance. They actually couldn’t even give me flight records or manifests from back then.

As far as what happened to Eric’s car, it got released to the Dawson family a few months after the murder and Robert, Eric’s eldest son drove it around.

What’s interesting though is that the original key was never found.

Robert had to use a spare to drive it.

So, whoever moved Eric’s car to the airport likely kept the key.

Ashley Flowers: Last question, Delia did you ever get scared while investigating this case?

Delia D’Ambra: (Laughs) Of course.

We’re talking about a lot of wild theories and scary stuff in both the Eric Dawson case and Pelleys.

You and I both know safety comes first.

Ashley Flowers: No doubt.

Delia D’Ambra: Have I looked over my shoulder a lot in the past year? Yes.

Have I thought I was being followed? Yes.

In the end, though, I’d say my fear level is moderate.

Ashley Flowers: Well, that’s good.

Delia D’Ambra: Thank you everyone for listening to this special bonus episode.

I hope we were able to answer at least some of your burning questions.

Ashley Flowers: If you guys haven’t listened to all of season 3 yet, hopefully, we didn’t spoil much for you.

You should also binge seasons 1 and 2 if you haven’t already.

Delia D’Ambra: Follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. And like I said at the end of episode 20, I’ll be back with a future season of CounterClock.