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Carrie Olson had always dreamed of meeting the perfect guy and starting a family.
The vibrant, outgoing Quad Cities native watched as friends got married and settled down, but Olson was still searching for her perfect match.
“She wanted to be loved, she wanted a family, she wanted something stable in her life,” friend Sarah Paxton told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered,” airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
But did that desire cost Olson her life?
Those who knew the 29-year-old described Olson as someone with a “heart of gold” who loved to be around people and had a bubbly and magnetic personality.
“She was outgoing, fun, she’d push you in the pool, she’d splash you, she’d give you the best bear hugs, you know, would just send tingles through your body. [She] made you feel so special,” said lifelong friend Amanda Smith, who had met Olson at a neighborhood pool when she was 11 years old.
While Olson was a loyal and loving friend, she was equally as devoted to her family, even working at her father’s flooring and carpet store in Davenport, Iowa. She treated her beloved dog Colby almost like a child and had established herself in her own home. But the one thing Olson was missing was a partner to share her life with.
It seemed like she may have found her perfect match when she met Timothy McVay, an equally exuberant divorced father of two, who had made a business leading karaoke nights at local bars throughout the Quad Cities.
“He was very good at running karaoke. He was funny, he entertained the customers, he got out there and danced with them, he would sing songs,” bartender Kelly Hornick recalled. “He was a good guy.”
Olson and McVay quickly developed a strong connection. But, McVay didn’t want any more children and for Olson, that was a deal breaker.
The pair broke up but remained close confidants, sometimes even talking to each other as much as 20 times a day.
Olson moved on to a romantic relationship with Justin Mueller, a quiet, hard-working Iraq War veteran, who struggled with serious bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mueller moved into Olson’s home — but the pairing didn’t seem as natural to Olson’s friends.
“I felt it wasn’t a good match,” Smith said. “All he wanted to do was stay home where Carrie was always wanting to go out and do things.”
Three weeks after moving in together, Olson mysteriously disappeared in the final days of December in 2013.
Mueller told police that she had stormed out of the home after the pair got into an argument and never returned.
“Justin didn’t have any answers,” Davenport Det. Rick Voy said.
When he returned from Las Vegas, McVay told detectives that after she had that blow-out with Mueller she had gone to his house to confide in her former boyfriend, telling him she thought she had reached the end of her rope with Mueller and would be staying the night.
“It sounds like she was getting ready to maybe end the relationship with Justin,” Detective Tina Noe said.
The next morning McVay said he dropped Olson off at her home and then he borrowed her car to drive to the Minneapolis airport to catch his flight to Las Vegas.
Mueller insisted, however, that Olson never returned home and told investigators that the fight had been over something trivial, just some burnt eggs. He said she called him “stupid” and left the house.
“One of these individuals is not telling the truth,” Det. Bill Thomas said, adding that both men had passed polygraph tests.
Suspicion grew about McVay’s story after he was discovered on surveillance footage trying to use her debit card at a gas station and returning to her bank three separate times to try to withdraw $400 but the PIN he had wasn’t working.
He tried to explain his actions away by saying that Olson had let him borrow both the car and debit card to try to help him out, something he said the former couple had often done even after their romance ended.
Those familiar with the case were also shocked when one night at a local bar, McVay took the microphone and sang the Guns N’ Roses song “Used To Love Her.”
“I used to love her but I had to kill her,” he belted out in footage captured by someone at the bar.
“Tim knew what he was doing and to get up there and sing that song, it was sickening,” Noe said.
She believed McVay was lying about what happened the final day of Olson’s life, but without any physical evidence she was unable to make an arrest.
Authorities got the break they needed when Olson’s body was discovered 300 miles away in Hastings, Minnesota in April 2014 — the same city where McVay had parked the car before hopping on that plane to Las Vegas.
The medical examiner determined she had died of a homicide of “by unspecified means,” meaning no specific cause of death could be determined. A piece of carpet, matching carpet that had been found at McVay’s home, was found in her hair.
Near her body, investigators also found a price tag for a kid’s shovel from Big Lots in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Although there was no video from the store, investigators were able to piece together McVay's trip to the airport, putting him in Lacrosse at the exact time he would have been passing through the city.
“That was a huge piece to our puzzle,” Noe said.
Authorities believed they had enough to arrest McVay and took him into custody at a construction site where he was working in 2014.
As for a motive, authorities couldn’t be sure, but prosecutors theorized in their closing arguments at trial that he had killed her in a fit of rage because she wouldn’t let him borrow her car to go to the airport.
He was convicted and sentenced to 40 years, but McVay continues to proclaim his innocence from behind bars.
“All I can say is what I know. I know that I did not kill Carrie,” he told "Dateline" from prison. “She was a beautiful person, a wonderful friend, a lover, a confidante. She meant the world to me.”
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