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When a person is murdered by someone they know, you assume it's a partner or relative or somebody close to their inner circle. But sometimes, it's not any of those people. Sometimes, it's an acquaintance from decades prior, like in the murder of Nina Whitney.
On Oct. 29, 2010, Paige Hueser went to check on her 75-year-old mother, Nina Whitney, after not hearing from her. When she entered the home, she found her mother dead at the base of the stairs and quickly called 911.
"I showed them my mother’s body at the bottom of the stairs. I told police I believed she has fallen over from a heart attack," Hueser recalled to "An Unexpected Killer," airing Fridays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
But when investigators rolled Whitney over, they realized this was no accident. She had several stab wounds in her chest and many defensive wounds. Her blouse was missing buttons and pulled up to her breasts. There were also signs of sexual assault.
Authorities scoured the home and, after finding missing buttons by the bed, surmised the attack began there. They discovered the faucet in the bathtub had been left running, which struck investigators as odd. They were also able to find a bent and bloody knife in the kitchen drawer.
Whitney's cell phone was missing, so they put out a trace for it. That turned up a hit nearby, but when investigators tracked it down, the man in possession of the phone insisted he had been walking near Whitney's home when he found it by the street and decided to take it. He had a solid alibi, and DNA found on Whitney's body would prove not to be a match. He was crossed off the list of suspects.
Somebody had dumped Whitney's phone, though. Investigators spoke to neighbors to determine if they had seen anything the day of the murder. One person actually had: They described seeing a white man in his 50s with a limp and a black Jeep parked by her house that day, acting strange. The witness was able to describe the man well enough for a composite sketch to be created.
Because there were no signs of forced entry, authorities suspected it was somebody Whitney knew. The sketch wasn't illuminating for Hueser, though.
"The individual did not look familiar to me at all. I couldn't recognize him for the life of me," she told producers.
Investigators had also sent the DNA found on Whitney's body to be processed, which turned up a match. It wasn't for a known individual, though: It matched DNA found at a crime scene in a nearby small town, Harrisonville, Missouri.
Cara Jo Roberts was a married woman with two children and a happy, peaceful life. But on Nov. 5, 2008, somebody had taken that from her. She had been found in her home shot dead. Much like Whitney, she had been sexually assaulted and the bathtub had been left running when she was discovered. No viable suspects were ever found.
"What concerned us was that we did have a serial killer-type situation," Leland Blank, a detective with the Kansas City Police Department, told producers.
Investigators tried to establish a link between the two women, but were coming up empty -- until Whitney's daughter had an earth-shattering revelation seven months after the murder while driving down the highway past the billboard with the police sketch of her mother's killer on it.
"It hit me like a ton of bricks. … It literally all hit me when I was driving down the highway and I glanced up at the billboard. ... It was just an epiphany. It was Jeff," she told producers.
"Jeff" was Jeff Moreland, Hueser's boyfriend from decades ago. The two had dated for three years after meeting in a criminal justice class and broke up in 1987. He had gone on to become a police officer.
"He was as sweet and charming and funny as one can possibly be. I fell totally in love with him. ... My mother always said I should have married him," Hueser described.
She went to the police with her suspicions. They discovered Moreland had a black Jeep and lived in the same small town as Roberts. When confronted by investigators and asked to supply a DNA sample, Moreland became cagey, continually putting them off.
However, they got their chance to obtain his DNA after a woman accused Moreland of attacking and raping her. The victim managed to escape his home and bring authorities there. Moreland attempted suicide afterward, but survived.
After handing over a DNA sample, investigators discovered it matched the DNA found at the Whitney and Roberts crime scenes.
"I had no idea what Jeff would become," Hueser mused, telling producers the last time she had seen him was 1994. During that encounter, Moreland told her he would sometimes patrol her mother's street to make sure she was safe.
Moreland was ultimately charged with two counts of murder and for the sexual assault. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
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