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Carpet-Cleaning Mogul Covers Up Boyfriend's Murder, Hides Out In Nudist Colony

“I knew he would not go out without his sandals, without his cell phone, without his wallet."

Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and famous murders throughout history. 

When they're wanted by law enforcement, some criminals flee to the other side of the country. Others try to flee the country entirely, preferably to a nation without an extradition treaty with the United States. Killer cleaning lady Amy Rica DeChant, however, snuck off to a nudist colony of all places, hiding out among those who hid nothing. But that didn’t stop police from catching up with her for the 1996 murder of her boyfriend Bruce Charles Weinstein, especially after her case appeared on "America’s Most Wanted."

Things were never easy for Amy DeChant. Both of her parents were dead by the time she was 9 years old, and she was raised by her aunt and uncle in blue-collar Perth Amboy, New Jersey. She married her high-school sweetheart at 17 and eventually built up a prosperous carpet cleaning business.

She was a natural businesswoman, but she also managed to parlay her romantic relationships into lucrative financial opportunities, emerging from each wealthier than she had entered. At the age of 45, after two unsuccessful marriages, she decided she was sick of the East Coast’s cold winters and decided to move to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Las Vegas was ripe for me for opportunities,” she later told Oxygen’s "Snapped." “It had a very good climate, for small businesses especially, and I liked the action.”  

Arriving in 1992, Amy bought a condo in Vegas and started up her carpet cleaning business anew, hiring longtime friend Claudia McClure and a man named Robert Wayne “Bobby” Jones, whom she had met in the casinos of Las Vegas. According to District Attorney Edward R. J. Kane, Jones was “kind of sad-sack character” who “never had two nickels to rub together,” and “did whatever Amy told him to do.” And there was a lot to do. Business was booming, especially after Amy picked up Scenic Airlines and the MGM Grand as a client.  

In the fall of 1995, Amy met Bruce Weinstein at a Texas hold 'em poker table at the Mirage casino, according to The New York Daily News. At 300 pounds, with a long, white ponytail, Bruce stuck out in a crowd. He was a professional gambler as well as a bookie. His family had been in the bookmaking business for 20 years and had “some very cruel collection methods,” according to Amy. Their relationship started professionally after he hired her cleaning service, but soon they began dating and eventually moved in together.

She even ingratiated herself with Bruce’s mother, Sylvia White, who told "Snapped," "Bruce was a diabetic and she would watch him and make sure he was eating properly so I thought that was a wonderful thing.”

Bruce and his mother were very close and spoke daily.

“The bookmaking business, they would set the line every morning at 6:00,” private investigator Michael Wysocki told "Snapped." "Bruce, no matter where he was in the world, if he was in Florida or, wherever it was, he would call at 6:00 Las Vegas time and set the line.”

That’s why Sylvia knew something was amiss on July 6, 1996, when she hadn't heard from Bruce by 8:30 in the morning. Sylvia called Bruce’s home, where Amy picked up. She said Bruce had gone out with someone the previous night at 11 PM and had never returned. Sylvia immediately went over to the house, where she found Amy cleaning the white carpeting on the stairway, Bruce’s wallet, cellphone and a favorite pair of sandals sat at the bottom of the stairs.

“I knew he would not go out without his sandals, without his cell phone, without his wallet. I knew something was wrong,” Sylvia told "Snapped."

Bruce’s family had a hard time believing the story Amy had told them.

“My son was a creature of habit,” Sylvia said. “Bruce never went out at 11:00 at night. Bruce was sleeping by 9:00. He was not a night person.”

The following day, they filed a missing person’s report with the Las Vegas police. Then they hired private investigator Michael Wysocki to hedge their bets.

“They suspected that something had happened to him, that either he was being held for ransom or somebody had harmed him,” Wysocki, who also wasn’t buying Amy’s story, told "Snapped." “She didn't have the reaction of somebody that was really worried about her boyfriend missing.”

Police soon took an interest in the case as well. During their own search of Weinstein’s house, they discovered a trail of blood from the bed down the stairs and out to the garage using Luminal, which under ultraviolet light reveals blood’s iron content. They called Amy in for questioning, and her behavior further cast suspicion on her.

“I've never had a suspect or witness or anybody I've ever interviewed bring in handwritten notes to remember about the crime or what happened that night,” Detective Paul Bigham told "Snapped."

Amy, however, claims keeping notes is a holdover from her business and helps her “keep everything straight.” She then proceeded to tell the police a very different story from the one she told Bruce’s family.

Amy said on the night of July 5, she was in the shower when four armed men entered their home and took Bruce upstairs and tied her up and blindfolded her.

“I heard gun shots, and the next thing I knew they were taking Bruce out and they were telling me that if I didn't do exactly what they said, that they would kill me and kill his daughter, Jaclyn,” Amy told "Snapped." “I was in so far over my head. I just didn't know what to do.”

She claimed they told her to clean up the mess and not to tell anyone what had happened, and that they would be watching her to make sure she did as she was told. Like Bruce’s family, the police didn’t believe a word Amy told them. But they also had no grounds on which to arrest or hold her.

Then, on August 11, hikers found Bruce Weinstein’s body in a shallow grave in the desert north of town. But when police went to talk to Amy DeChant about it, she had already skipped town. A month later, the Las Vegas PD got a call from police in Maryland. Amy DeChant had been pulled over for speeding. Inside her car police found wigs, a passport and more than $100,000 in cash.

When the cop who pulled her over asked for ID, she flashed him her groin, according to the Daily News. She would spend two months in jail before being extradited to Las Vegas and arrested on suspicion of murder. Her bail, however, was set at a mere $5,000, which she paid promptly and then disappeared again.

“I was just terrified,” she said. “I had these people following me, and I felt isolated. I had no one to turn to.”

Amy DeChant lived on the lam for more than a year.

“I was getting adept at changing my appearance. Obviously, I didn't want to be recognized, and I had been on television many times,” she told "Snapped."

One of those appearances was on the Fox television show "America’s Most Wanted," and soon after it aired a segment on her, tips started coming in. Just prior to her arrest, she was staying at the Sunnier Days nudist campground in Fort Pierce, Florida, under the alias Sandy Wade, the Las Vegas Sun reported at the time. She was arrested on the morning of January 28, 1998 at the home of a friend in Port St. Lucie. Inside her car, police found research materials on various countries different extradition treaties with the United States.  

Amy DeChant’s trial for the murder of Bruce Weinsteing got under way in October of 1998. While she had been in hiding, her carpet cleaning employee Bobby Jones had been charged, according to The New York Daily News, as "an accessory in the case for allegedly helping her dump Weinstein's body in the desert." While Amy maintained her innocence throughout the trial, sticking to her story that Bruce had been murdered by mob associates over his bookmaking business, her history of running away every chance she got undermined her credibility.

After deliberating for two days, the jury convicted Amy for first-degree murder. She received two life sentences, without the possibility of parole. For his part, Bobby Jones was sentenced to five years in prison.

Justice can be a fickle beast, however, and in October of 2000, Amy DeChant's conviction was overturned on appeal.

“We felt mistakes were made that led the jury to find her guilty,” defense attorney Daniel J. Albregts told "Snapped," adding, “The Nevada Supreme Court vindicated us, giving us a new trial.”

Rather than take her chances, DeChant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The Las Vegas Sun reported in July of 2001 that she agreed to a 10- to 25-year sentence, including time served. According to the Nevada Department of Corrections, Amy DeChant’s initial application for parole in 2007 was denied. A second hearing in 2010 was successful, though, and she was released from prison in July of 2011.

Now 69 years old, her current whereabouts are unknown.

[Photo: Oxygen]