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Was A Mom's Death A Tragic Gym Accident —Or Did Her Celebrity Lookalike Husband Take Her Life?
Did Lisa Pattison's fairytale marriage turn into a nightmare?
When Lisa Pattison, a 36-year-old Indiana mom, was found lying on a weight bench with her throat crushed under a heavy barbell weight, it looked like a tragic accident.
But investigators would soon turn their attention to her husband, Scott, a one-time Jean-Claude Van Damme lookalike-turned-roofing contractor with a secret of his own.
The couple’s romance had once seemed like something out of the pages of a fairy tale, with Scott even donning a Beast costume at the couple’s wedding to dance with his beauty. Lisa arrived for the nuptials with a horse-drawn white carriage, and by all accounts, seemed overjoyed to marry Scott.
“[It was] very beautiful and she was so happy that day,” her mom, Lucy Rich, recalled to "Dateline: Secrets Uncovered," airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. “I was happy for her.”
Lisa — a young single mom — and Scott had met less than a year earlier while out dancing in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When the couple parted ways for the night, Scott had handed her his business card advertising his services as the action star’s lookalike.
Lisa was smitten and a romance soon bloomed between the pair.
After their extravagant wedding, the couple settled down in a large home in rural Indiana. Scott started his own roofing business and Lisa became a marketing manager at a local mall. For the next 13 years, they shared exotic trips to the Caribbean and held parties.
Scott, a former body builder, relished in his larger-than-life personality and the couple seemed to exude success.
“He wanted everything to be the biggest and the best,” Lisa’s son Dillon recalled.
But Lisa’s life abruptly ended on the morning of July 2, 2009. Scott would later tell investigators that shortly before noon, he returned home for lunch and had gone downstairs to the couple’s at-home gym where he found Lisa laying face-up on the workout bench with a barbell weight crushing her throat.
He tried to perform CPR and then quickly carried her to the bed of his pickup truck and raced to the hospital, calling 911 along the way.
“My wife has had an accident at home,” he said, later describing her as “blue” and “not breathing.”
Paramedics intercepted the truck when Scott was just minutes from the hospital and took over to try to perform life-saving efforts, but it was too late. Lisa was dead.
State crime scene investigator Jason Page found a bruise on her neck and abrasion on her left shoulder and told "Dateline" correspondent Dennis Murphy that initial indications looked like Lisa had died from a tragic accident.
Shortly after Lisa’s death, Scott told Wabash County Sheriff’s Detective Mike Davis that the morning of the death he had gotten up just before 5 a.m., kissed Lisa goodbye, and ran to the landfill before returning home around 6:30 a.m. to pick up his stepson Dillon and another employee. The three then headed out together to the job site.
Scott told the detective that later that morning he ran a few errands before returning home around 11:30 a.m. When he couldn’t find Lisa, he went downstairs and made the chilling discovery.
“She was purple. She was totally purple,” he said. “And her arms were dropped down to her side.”
But Davis was troubled by the fact that Scott had initially told 911 not to send the ambulance, saying he had already tried CPR. Investigators also learned that just months earlier Scott had filed for divorce after he had an affair.
Scott told investigators the divorce was put on hold after he had ended the affair and the couple had been trying to make their relationship work.\
There were more puzzling signs as well. At the couple’s home, Page learned that Lisa had been working out on a device known as a Smith machine, which uses a barbell fixed to steel railings, that is used to help control the weight and offer built-in safety features, like hooking the bar into specially designed spots along the frame.
Page did note that two safety stoppers, which would have provided extra protection, were not in place at the time of Lisa’s death. But even without the extra safety features, tests showed that Lisa should have been able to wiggle free from out from under the bar if she had gotten stuck.
An autopsy report also found that Lisa had died from asphyxia caused by a slow neck compression, not a sudden violent injury to the throat. The medical examiner also noticed signs of petechiae, or very tiny bruises, along her back, neck and waist.
“That troubled him. Perhaps somebody straddled her and sat on her chest or her torso at the time of death,” Page said.
Her family and friends also questioned why Lisa would have been on the weight bench and said she stuck to cardiovascular activities while working out, not weight lifting after she’d suffered a neck injury years earlier that made it difficult for her to lift heavy objects.
They also weren’t the biggest fans of Scott, who they said was self-centered and had been hard on her son Dillon. Their impressions hadn’t improved when they learned that Scott had been having an affair.
Just about a month before her death, Lisa had asked her sister to draw up some paperwork, removing Scott as the beneficiary of her life insurance policy.
“When she said that to me I knew that she was getting ready to leave,” her sister Christine Smith said.
One final clue would finally give investigators enough evidence to arrest Scott. They discovered video footage taken from his home surveillance footage that showed Scott had returned to the home hours before he had initially claimed, placing him inside the home at the time of Lisa’s death.
Scott was indicted for murder in September 2009. He went to trial the next year. Prosecutors brought the weight machine into the courtroom and sat it in front of the jury. It proved to be a crucial part of the state’s case. Jurors used the bench during deliberations to re-enact what they believed happened the day of Lisa’s death and were convinced Scott had been her killer.
Scott was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 60 years behind bars.
For more on this case and others like it, watch "Dateline: Secrets Uncovered," airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.