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When Bob McClancy was found dead in his recliner with a handgun in one hand and an empty bottle full of pills in another, it seemed that the Vietnam veteran and former cop’s post-traumatic stress disorder had finally gotten the best of him.
But it would take years — and require a son to turn against his own mother — before a series of calculated lies were uncovered and the truth about Bob’s death would finally be revealed.
To those who loved him, Bob was known as a funny man who loved animals, had a kind heart, and was devoted to his extended family.
“He just always took care of us,” his niece told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered,” airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
After his first marriage fell apart, the Bradenton County Sheriff’s detective found love again with an aloof but beautiful secretary at the Florida sheriff’s office named Martha Ann.
Martha Ann, a mom to two young sons, was going through a painful divorce and the pair soon began a new life together, marrying in 1995.
“Bob was very down to earth and he taught me a lot of things,” her son Sean McGavic told "Dateline" correspondent Keith Morrison, adding he had helped him learn “how to be a man.”
A few years after they got married, Bob retired and the couple moved to a big, secluded hillside cabin in Coker Creek, Tennessee. While Martha Ann was still working in accounting, the couple made plenty of time for family and friends and seemed, to friend Debbie Hartman, to be the “perfect couple.”
“Never once did I hear them argue or have a sour word against one another. Never. Just very loving,” she said.
It was an idyllic life in many respects, but Bob was still tormented by memories from his past. The Vietnam veteran struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered from flashbacks, nightmares, and depression, despite taking heavy medication.
Bob was determined to beat the debilitating illness and set off in January 2006 for an intensive six-week program run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. There he met fellow veteran Charles “Chuck” Kaczmarczyk and the pair became fast friends, even continuing the friendship when both men returned home.
But on May 15, 2006, Bob was found dead in his favorite recliner at the age of 56 years old. He clutched a gun in one hand, although it had never been fired, and an empty bottle of pills in another. A do-not-resuscitate order had been signed by Bob and left in the kitchen.
It was Kaczmarczyk who would discover the body and place the call to 911.
“The — uh, Mr. McClancy appears to be, uh, expired,” he told the dispatcher in a monotone.
The death seemed to be a suicide, although some of the investigators and Bob’s family had found Kaczmarczyk’s demeanor on the 911 tape and in the days that followed as surprisingly unemotional and almost cold.
On the day of his death, Hartman still remembers arriving at the couple’s home to find a frantic Martha Ann.
“The two of us just sat there and hugged each other and bawled and, you know, just cried our eyes out. It was horrible,” an emotional Hartman recalled.
Martha Ann and Kaczmarczyk stayed in touch, seemingly to help each other through their grief. But Hartman soon began to suspect the pair’s relationship had turned romantic, noticing on a cruise the friends took together that Martha Ann and Kaczmarczyk often wore matching outfits and Kaczmarczyk had began ordering for Martha Ann.
The couple got engaged a short time later and were secretly married in Las Vegas before the year was over.
Her romantic life wasn’t the only thing that was changing. Martha Ann told her friends and family she had gotten a prestigious new job with the federal government that would require her to spend time in Washington D.C. and fly on the vice president’s airplane. She soon was telling others she’d been promoted to a job with the state department. The couple began making lavish purchases, including a luxury RV and vintage Corvette.
They volunteered together visiting military facilities as Kaczmarczyk — who sported some of the military’s highest honors — presided over ceremonies celebrating the nation’s military.
“Chuck would go out with all these medals and he’d go to the local high school and to veterans’ parades,” McGavic recalled.
It was during one of these visits in early 2008 that a local reporter was inspired by his story and published an article with details of his military accomplishments, but the story didn’t seem right to other military veterans and they reached out to the Air Force.
The Air Force contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs and after a thorough investigation, they discovered that Kaczmarczyk had lied about many of his military accomplishments and had never seen any combat.
“It’s very offensive,” Special Agent Nate Landkammer, a former marine and VA investigator in Nashville, told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.”
Even stranger, Martha Ann, who had never served in the military, had also showed up at a military retreat falsely claiming to have won a Purple Heart. Landkammer learned that her prestigious new career in Washington D.C. was also a lie and Martha Ann had never worked for the state department.
But the deception didn’t end there. Landkammer also uncovered an elaborate plot by the couple to scam the government out of VA benefits and social security. Martha Ann even claimed in one set of documents that Kaczmarczyk was 100% disabled and was homebound and unable to care for himself. Martha Ann was also cashing in on social security disability benefits herself after claiming to be suffering from debilitating back pain. Together, the couple was bilking the government of approximately $10,000 a month.
“This is definitely the case of a career. I don’t think I’ll ever work anything like this again just because of the different twists and turns,” Landkammer said.
After an undercover investigation caught the couple scamming the system, moving freely about and doing extensive yard work, they were charged for the crimes and sentenced to federal prison in 2013.
“Charles got 30 months, federal, and then Martha Ann got 20,” Landkammer said.
As Martha Ann was getting ready to serve her sentence, she asked her son to store some boxes and documents for her. That’s when he discovered a disturbing set of photos in the “trash” bin on one of her computers.
The photos were of Bob’s body, posed in various ways. Sometimes he was holding the revolver, sometimes he wasn’t. It was obvious the photos had been taken before law enforcement authorities were ever called to the scene.
McGavic alerted authorities and agreed to record a phone call for investigators where he confronted his mom about the photos, which had been taken by Kaczmarczyk.
“It had to be done,” McGavic said of turning against his mother. “I was nervous but at the same time you have to know.”
The phone call left him believing his mom may have had something to do with his stepfather’s death.
McGavic and his wife also provided authorities with Bob’s last will and testament cutting out his only daughter, which Landkammer later concluded had been forged by Martha Ann.
“The will in particular ended up being a major part of the investigation,” Landkammer said.
But it was Kaczmarczyk’s own confession to police that would ultimately land Martha Ann behind bars for Bob’s death.
Kaczmarczyk told authorities that Martha Ann had been slowly poisoning Bob with his post-traumatic stress medications, sprinkling what she called “magic dust” into his food until he eventually overdosed.
“I think the investigation showed that she was clearly the mastermind,” Landkammer said.
Although Martha Ann insisted that she had never killed her husband, a jury convicted her attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Kaczmarcyzk agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.
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