48 Hours: Daddy's Girl
"It's one of the only times in my life when I physically lost control," she tells Tracy Smith.
But what was worse was that her little stepsister seemed to be involved. "I've never really had my heart broken, and I think I that was the only time I had my heart broken, because I never thought anything bad about her… she was a sweet, sweet, person."
Even though investigators J.C. Smith and Brett Burkett had arrested Brae, they were far from solving the case. They needed to find out about Brae's brother, Nathan, who she said was living in Arizona where he was a college student.
"I didn't even know she had a brother Nathan until she said it," J.C. Smith says.
And now Brae was telling police her brother had tied her up, and murdered their stepfather in cold blood.
"I don't know exactly how this part happened, because it happened so fast," she tell police, "but I think my dad lunged at him and tried to get the gun and I kind of turned away and was just like freaking out majorly."
As Brae described that horrific afternoon in greater detail, she suddenly made a stunning admission: "I had some play in it, so yes; I did kind of start the whole thing, even if it was, I don't know, lapse of judgment or whatever."
With Brae admitting she was behind the plot, investigators were now beginning to realize the crime had something to do with a troubled relationship between Tim MacNeil and both of his stepchildren.
"She told us a story about how she and her brother Nathan had planned to kill her stepdad on his birthday several days prior," says J.C. Smith.
Not only did they plan to kill Tim MacNeil, but this is how Brae said they planned to do it: They considered beating him with a baseball bat or injecting him with a toxic household cleaner. Brae even claimed they eventually hired a hit man and left cash, a key and a gun belonging to Tim MacNeil in a box on his patio. But, Brae tells police and 48 Hours that when the hit man didn't show up, that's when she changed her mind.
"It was just more of going through the motions and I just never believed it was really going to happen," she tells 48 Hours.
But then, Brae says Nathan showed up at Tim's house anyway, with that same gun.
"'You're gonna tie his hands behind his back, then we'll kneel him down in the laundry room…'" she tells police during her interrogation." He missed once, I know. [Nathan] hit the side of his face once, I know, and then he fired another shot in the back of his head once, once he was down, because he was twitching."
As she gave police her statement, they say she appeared cold and callous.
"It appeared she was trying to cry, but no tears were coming out," investigator Brett Burkett says. "[She] just looked me straight in the eye and, almost emotionless, would talk about how they planned it and how they killed him."
When asked how many shot were fired, Brea told them, "I'd say one, two…four."
"It was unusual," J.C. Smith says. "This was such a terrible thing that happened and here's this 17-year-old girl matter-of-factly telling us in great detail each shot that was fired into her dad. And there was no emotion."
So why didn't Brae tell police the truth when she called 911?
"[Nathan] warned me about that. He said, 'You know if I get caught you get caught and we're both goin' down no matter what you do. No matter what you say, they're always gonna believe me over you,'" Brae explains.
San Diego investigators alerted Arizona authorities and Nathan was rousted out of bed in the middle of the night and arrested for the murder of his stepfather. The next morning, Burkett and Smith were on a plane to Phoenix to question Nathan, who denied even being in San Diego.
"I said, 'Hey, we've spoken to your sister and she told us everything,'" says Burkett. "Then he asked for an attorney."
"I need a lawyer, this is too powerful," Nathan tells police during his interrogation. "I'm trying to tell you guys I wasn't involved."
When asked by 48 Hours if he killed Tim MacNeil, Nathan says "No." When asked if his sister, Brae, killed Tim MacNeil, he says "I can't answer that. I don't know."
And what would he say if he could offer an explanation? "I can say my sister probably went into panic mode and just automatically blamed brother," he replies.
When Brae was asked the same question, "did you kill your stepfather?" she tells Tracy Smith, "No, I didn't."
Investigators knew that to solve the crime they needed to discover what had turned a seemingly normal relationship between Tim MacNeil and his two stepchildren toxic. When the siblings entered Tim's life upon his marriage to their mother, Doreen Hansen, Nathan was 6, and Brae was 4.
According to Tim's friends, Brae was a bright and happy kid; Nathan was a problem child.
"There was a big authority issue, and probably Tim, trying to be his father and anything, he just was disruptive and he was problem," says John Kiefer.
It was no secret that Doreen had her share of problems with alcohol and depression. Brae and Nathan claim she frequently took her troubles out on them.
In her interrogation, Brae talks about her mother, telling police: "…basically she treated me like I was her slave and that my only purpose in life was to serve her."
"My mom was not normal," Nathan says with a sigh. "My mom was abusive, and so it made me shy away from her."
"She'd spank you?" asks Tracy Smith.
"Kind of. It was more of a 2-by-4 incident," he says. "Turns out she was braggin' about it."
At age 12, to escape trouble at home, Nathan moved to Arizona to live with his grandmother. He seemed to thrive after moving there says childhood friend Joshua Wood.
"He was actually just a pretty decent guy, like very true to himself I would say … He was a good guy to know, especially with your computers - that's what he was known for, that's what he was good at," Wood says. "We were able to relate because we kinda had tough childhoods; his, of course, tough - tougher than mine."
In 2006, Doreen committed suicide by overdosing on pills.
"After my mom died, I had started talking to Tim more often," Nathan says. "My girlfriend at the time, she described it as a professor/student-type relationship. You know, he's older, he's been there. He's successful, you know?"
Nathan says he had no reason to harm his stepfather. "I personally had more to gain from him being alive. I'm now seeing him much more often. You know, I did computer work for him, built him a new computer and repairing it and stuff and such."
According to Nathan, it was Brae who was angry with Tim.
"My sister had been angry," he explains. "She was angry a lot of the time and it… it had gotten worse and worse."
"I was just - I was really, really pissed off at my dad," Brae told police during her interrogation. He basically made me feel like I was nothing, I was not worth anything."
Investigators speculated that Brae's sense of rejection may have ignited her anger, especially after she revealed that she was jealous of the other woman in her stepfather's life: his new girlfriend, Kim Mara-Bieda.
"He was basically gonna cut me out of his life completely and just -I knew he had already chosen his girlfriend over me and it hurt, really, really bad, because this is the man that I thought loved me and was my dad," Brae told police.
"She seemed offended that her father didn't make their lunch date they had set up on his birthday," J.C. Smith says, "but he instead chose to go with his girlfriend, Kim."
With her mother dead and her stepfather embarking on a new relationship, investigators wondered if Brae may have felt she had no one and she was blaming Tim.
"What did you love about Tim?" Tracy Smith asks Brae.
"Everything. Absolutely everything," she says.
"How could it go from loved everything about him to this?"
"I don't know."
As for Nathan Gann, even though he claimed he wasn't in San Diego at the time of the murder, police weren't buying it because the evidence told a different story. Nathan's DNA was discovered on the ski mask found near the crime scene and the eyewitness descriptions of a man running in the neighborhood after the murder matched Nathan, too.
According to J.C. Smith, "the way this was carried out, they did this together."
Nathan's defense attorney, Ricardo Garcia, says, "Nathaniel is not a cold-blooded person. He's not a monster." Garcia also says he can't find a motive.
With brother and sister squarely pointing the finger at each other, it will now be up to a jury to decide which sibling is telling the truth… and which one is lying.
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