A Daughter, a Mortgage and Two Murders

Was a New Mexico couple executed in their bedroom by their angry daughter or could their mortgage hold the key to their killer?

Produced by Paul LaRosa and Allen Alter

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- It's taken more than eight years, but a suspect who seemed to come out of the blue is now on trial, charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Bernadette and Greg Ohlemacher.

The accused? A mild-mannered man who had been helping the couple get a mortgage: 47-year-old Ronald Santiago.

"I knew these people, I'd worked with them in the past and I was working with them then. But I had nothing to do with the murder," Santiago told "48 Hours" in 2008.

Bernadette and Greg met and married while both were in the U.S. Air Force, living for a time in Alaska. After retiring, they settled in the Albuquerque suburb of Paradise Hills to be closer to Bernadette's extended family.

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The Ohlemacher family

"The first thing that comes to my mind is they were great people, they were fun people," their daughter, Renee Ohlemacher told "48 Hours" in 2008. "It was always just the three of us ... my mom, my dad, me and my dog, (laughs) Sammy Jo.

"My mom was energetic and [a] very health nut type of person," Renee continued. "She was my best friend."

Bernadette went to work for the Federal Aviation Administration; Greg got a job with Xerox.

"My parents didn't have any enemies. That's the thing, they had nobody mad at them as far as I knew," said Renee.

Yet, sometime after 5 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2005, someone executed Bernadette and Greg Ohlemacher at close range.

"Certainly, the assailant could actually see the faces of the people he took the lives of ... and they were confronted there in their bedroom," said former Albuquerque Police spokesman John Walsh.

Walsh says Greg struggled with the killer before being shot in the back; Bernadette was hit in the chest as she stepped out of the shower.

"It was methodical. It didn't have the feel of something random," he said.

"My mom was getting ready for work. I heard my mom scream and my dad yelled 'What are you doing!' Gun shots just went off. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Honestly, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to do. I looked to see where am I gonna hide?" Renee told Moriarty.

Renee, then 20 years old, called 911 from inside her bedroom closet:

911 Operator: How many shots were fired?

Renee Ohlemacher: ...at least five or six. I was like half awake, half asleep.

Upon arrival, police found no one in the house except Renee and the dog. It appears from a videotape that Renee was quite shaken up, almost unable to walk.

"When did you realize your parents were dead?" Moriarty asked Renee.

"I asked one of the cops, I said, 'Are they OK? Are they fine?' And he said, 'No ma'am. Both of them don't have a pulse. They're both dead,'" she replied in tears.

From the beginning, Renee cooperated with investigators.

"I was just like, 'Do whatever you want. Go search my room. Do whatever you need to do. Figure it out.' I had nothing to hide," she told Moriarty.

There was no sign of forced entry, so police wondered how did a killer get in or out? Bernadette, as part of her morning routine, had already started the coffee and opened the back door. Is that where the killer might have entered? Or did someone climb a work ladder that was left leaning against the house? There were no fingerprints and no unidentified DNA left at the scene.

"And so Renee would have to be a suspect initially," Moriarty commented to Walsh.

"Absolutely. Anytime that there is a survivor at a scene, your interest is looking in that direction," he replied.

Detectives were not the only ones looking closely at Renee. Her behavior began raising the suspicions of her entire family, including her aunt, Jessica Montoya.

"One of my friends observed her texting during the funeral," said Montoya.

"Renee was texting during the funeral?" Moriarty asked.

"Yeah," said Montoya.

"Her behavior was just not that of someone who had just lost both parents in that way," said another aunt, Antoinette Curran.

"Do you really think that Renee could have had anything to do with her parents' deaths?" Moriarty asked Renee's grandmother, Dora.

"Speaking for myself, I do," she replied.

"You do? This is your granddaughter..." said Moriarty.

"She is my granddaughter, but she was very nasty with me when I would ask her about her mom, she would say, 'I love my mom but I really don't miss her,'" Dora replied.

"Is there supposed to be a book on how to grieve? Is there supposed to be certain guidelines on how you're supposed to deal with things?" said Renee

For the next several months, Renee moved around to the homes of different family members. Whispers followed until one aunt confronted her directly.

"I asked her, 'Did you have anything to do with this?'And her reaction to me was very calm and it was, 'No I didn't,'" said Montoya.

"Did you believe her?" Moriarty asked.

"I wanted to. I heard what she was saying but her actions were speaking volumes different," she replied.

Renee, who had no money of her own but wanted to attend an out-of-state college, seemed almost giddy about a possible inheritance from her parents' life insurance policies - an eventual windfall of more than half-a-million dollars.

"She came to my work a couple days later and excited as all can be, said, 'Guess what I did today?' And I said, 'What?' She goes, 'I went and test drove Beemers,'" said Montoya.

"A BMW?" Moriarty asked.

"Yeah. I didn't know what to say. I was sick," Montoya replied.

"Was Renee aware that she would benefit financially from her parents' deaths?" Moriarty asked Montoya.

"I believe she was. Her mom didn't keep any secrets from her," she replied.

With no other suspects, Renee's relatives began to scrutinize her every move -- like the first call she made after hearing the gunshots. Greg's brother, Randy Ohlemacher, in Ohio, found it very odd.

"Why a 20-year-old would not understand or not know that when there's gunshots going off, you call 911 is -- is quite troubling," he said.

Before Renee dialed 911, she first called the police department's general number.

"She was buying time," Montoya said. "You need to think and look where the digits are in correspondence to the letters."

"Why not 911?" Moriarty asked Renee.

"Because I thought that you could get through faster or something for some reason. I didn't know what to do. I was in a world of shock," she said.

And why was the dog, Sammy Jo, who slept in the master bedroom and known to all of the family as a real barker, not heard barking on that 911 call?

"She barked at us every time we went to visit," said Montoya.

"I asked her, 'Well, why didn't Sammy bark?' She said, 'He did. She -- she did.' I didn't take it any further than that because I knew she was lying," said Curran.

"And Sammy barked at every stranger that came in, right?" Moriarty asked Renee.

"Right.She was a very protective dog," she replied.

"And very loud?"

"Right."

"The fact that you don't remember hearing Sammy bark until you heard your mom scream and there were shots, does that mean the dog knew or was familiar with the person in the house?" Moriarty asked.

"Maybe. I never even thought about that," Renee replied.

For months, police considered Renee the only viable suspect.

"If they would actually open up their eyes and do their job in the first place, maybe they would have got other evidence. Maybe they would have found something else right away ... instead of lollygagging around and pointing the finger at me," said Renee.

And that's exactly what happened. Ten months after the murders, police did find someone else that no one in the family had ever heard of.

THE MORTGAGE BROKER

For 10 months, police kept Renee Ohlemacher on the hot seat for the murder of her parents. But then, investigators discovered a new, completely unexpected suspect: Ron Santiago, a mortgage loan processor for Countrywide Home Loans.

"Being able to help someone buy their first home ... to own their own home ... was a great feeling," said Santiago.

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Ron Santiago
CBS News

Back in 2006, Santiago was a model citizen with no record -- a hard-working married man with a young stepdaughter.

"...he was such a good -- father figure to my daughter. And -- just we clicked a lot -- lot of ways," Santiago's former wife, Martha, told Moriarty. "He liked helping people."

"What do you mean helping people?" Moriarty asked.

"Close loans. Just anything to do to get a -- you know, a smile on their face," Martha replied.

At the time of their murders, the Ohlemachers were working with Santiago and Countrywide to refinance their home. But the loan was in limbo after Santiago says he told the couple they would not be getting cash back.

"They were very disappointed when I told them that," said Santiago.

"Were they upset about that?" Moriarty asked.

"Upset ... they were not happy with the situation," he replied.

Soon after giving the Ohlemachers the bad news about their loan, Santiago says he heard they'd been murdered.

"I was shocked. I was disturbed. It was sad to hear," he told Moriarty.

Asked if he cried, Santiago said, "Yes ma'am ... When I heard that, it hurt. It was sad."

But Santiago had little time to dwell on it because, in 2005, business at Countrywide was booming.

"We were one of the hottest markets in the southwest," he said.

Business was so hot and heavy that Santiago was having trouble keeping up.

"It was a pressure cooker," Santiago continued. "[At] 11:30 at night. I've taken loan applications on holidays ... on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day. We were open 24/7."

"... he was just really overwhelmed, really stressed out," Martha said. "...he couldn't sleep."

Martha says her husband appeared near a breaking point. It was right about the time of the Ohlemacher murders.

"He was always in a panic, in like panic mode that he was gonna lose his job," she explained.

"Did he really worry about getting fired?" Moriarty asked.

"Yeah, all the time," Martha replied.

But by early 2006, as the Ohlemacher murders receded from the headlines, Santiago rallied. That's when Catherine Howard and her husband met him as they went shopping for a home refinancing.

"Ron was described to me as someone who was extremely helpful, somebody who could get the job done, probably one of the best in the business," Catherine Howard said.

"And what did Ron tell you about getting a loan? Moriarty asked.

"He said we were pre-approved," Howard replied.

And Santiago delivered. He gave the Howards two Countrywide checks totaling more than $240,000. The only trouble was the bank called and said the checks were fake.

"I said, 'excuse me?'" said Howard.

The Howards immediately went to Countrywide where they were shocked to learn their loan had not been processed. Catherine Howard's head was spinning, but everything was about to get even more surreal.

"...within just a few minutes of us being there the Secret Service called ... Ron had just turned himself into the Secret Service," she said.

It sounded incredible but it was true. In June 2006, Santiago had walked into a Secret Service office in downtown Albuquerque - the agency that investigates bank fraud - and admitted he'd forged the checks he'd given to the Howards.

"Why would you choose to write the counterfeit checks?" Moriarty asked Santiago.

"I just wanted ... some more time to get it done for these folks," he replied. "I did it to stall for time, to get it done."

If that sounds irrational, it somehow made sense to Santiago. And he seemed very torn up about it the day he turned himself in to Brian Nguyen, who was then the Secret Service agent on duty.

"He'd just say 'I've done something horrible, I've done something really bad. I need to talk to you. I need to talk to you,'" Nguyen said. "He just looked really distraught. And he just kept saying, 'My life is over, my life is over.'"

During questioning, Santiago became so overwrought that Nguyen made arrangements for him to be admitted to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital.

"I've never done anything illegal in my life ... to do something that was stupid ... and lose everything because of that stupidity, that's very emotional," said Santiago.

"There's something about him that just didn't make sense," said Nguyen.

Agent Nguyen soon got a call from Catherine Howard, who remembered something disturbing that happened the morning she and her husband were to get those checks.

"The day that we were going to pick up the checks, my ex-husband ... called me from work and said there's something wrong with the truck. We took the vehicle in," she said. "... when the technician put it up in the air, he found this break line had been cut ... once this break line is cut, there is no more breaks on the vehicle period. Front or rear."

Although she had no proof, Howard was convinced Santiago cut the brake line that morning.

"This guy tried to kill us," she said. "I, I mean that was my gut reaction."

"I didn't cut this. I didn't cut anything. I would never do anything like that," said Santiago.

"You just never know with a person -- what they might be capable of doing," said Nguyen.

Forged checks and a mysterious cut brake line. Agent Nguyen kept digging and soon found out that Santiago's previous clients, the Ohlemachers, had been murdered and no one had been arrested. The cops told the agent one other key fact.

"The weapon most likely used in the Ohlemacher homicide was a 9mm Ruger," said Nguyen.

And when Nguyen learned that Santiago had once owned a 9mm Ruger, his forgery case suddenly morphed into a full-fledged homicide investigation.

Nguyen and a police detective raced to the psychiatric ward of the hospital where they interviewed Santiago for two hours. That interview was recorded:

Detective: You went to the Ohlemachers, and you ended up shooting them.

Ron Santiago: Sir, I did not hurt anybody.

Detective: You were there.

Ron Santiago: Sir, I was not there, I didn't shoot anybody, I didn't shoot anybody.

At the very same time that Santiago was being interrogated, Albuquerque police were searching his home and there, in a bag in his garage, they say they found one spent 9mm shell casing that matched the four shell casings found in the bedroom where the Ohlemachers were killed.

"How did that spent shell casing end up in your bag? That's damaging Ron," Moriarty commented.

"Yeah, it is - that's the whole case," Santiago replied.

On June 15, 2006, 10 months after the Ohlemachers were killed, Ron Santiago was arrested and charged with their murders. Detectives were determined to connect Santiago to the missing murder weapon.

"You had a Ruger and a Ruger's the gun that killed them. Where's your Ruger?" a detective asked Santiago. " ...You got rid of it didn't you?"

LEGAL ISSUES DELAY TRIAL FOR EIGHT YEARS

"It's been hell. I was put in jail for 17 months on charges I've nothing to do with. And they set bail for me $6 million cash only," said Ron Santiago.

But everything changed for Santiago once defense attorneys Joseph Riggs and Natalie Bruce agreed to take his case and prepare for a trial.

"From the first time we met him, we knew that we had an innocent man," said Riggs.

They quickly got bail reduced to $1 million, allowing Santiago's family to post the 10 percent bond. Still, being out of jail by no means meant his troubles were over because of what police found in Santiago's home.

"How important is that casing that was found in Santiago's bag in his garage? Moriarty asked District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.

"Oh I think it's absolutely critical." Brandenburg replied. "...he has that casing in his possession that was found in his home -- that we know was connected to the homicide. Why would he have that-- if he weren't involved in the homicide?"

And what happened to that 9 mm Ruger that Santiago admitted he once owned?

"I traded it," Santiago told Moriarty. Asked to whom, he replied, "You know, we've been knocking heads for the last year-and-a-half trying to remember --"

"You don't happen to remember the name of the guy you give this 9 millimeter -" said Moriarty

"-- Robert -- but I don't remember a last name. It was just a simple, OK, I'll -- yeah, that's great," said Santiago.

"And there's no paperwork? Nothing to prove that you - "said Moriarty.

"That's my mistake and I should have," said Santiago.

A convenient mistake, according to Brandenburg.

"I mean, there's too many huge gaps in -- in what he has to say," she said. "And the shell casing, to me, has not been explained."

That shell casing is incriminating, which is why the defense wanted to have it thrown out as evidence -- arguing that police obtained it as part of an illegal search. That began a six-year legal battle. It went all the way to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which finally ruled that the shell casing could be used as evidence against Ron Santiago.

"The defense is going to raise every single issue that they can. And they should in order for the defendant to receive a fair trial," said Brandenburg.

Riggs then turned his focus to what he says was a flawed police investigation.

"They stopped looking at some people that were very obvious suspects too soon," he said.

Specifically this suspect...

"I think Renee killed her parents," Riggs explained. "Not so much because of the money but because of what it was going to get her. She hated New Mexico, she hated her parents. It was her ticket out of New Mexico."

Though police had long cleared Renee, in 2012, a prosecutor then working the case asked Renee to take a polygraph. It was a surprising move given that no one had ever found any evidence against Renee or any link between her and Santiago.

Detective: What's your understanding of why they've asked you to do it?

Renee Ohlemacher: Because I've offered it before and it's never been done.

A police detective administered the test:

Detective: Do you know for sure who shot your parents in their bedroom?

Renee Ohlemacher: No.

Detective: Is there something else you're afraid I'll ask you a question about?

Renee Ohlemacher: No.

She didn't pass and she didn't fail. It was inconclusive.

Detective: There's nothing of ... that you think that ...anything else...

Renee Ohlemacher: There's nothing. Why would I alter my story?

"New Mexico is the only state in the Union, the only courts ... that allow polygraph because they've been proven to be inaccurate, invalid and don't further the interests of justice," Brandenburg explained.

"She did a polygraph at the request of your office but you're trying to keep those results out?" Moriarty asked.

"Because they aren't results. Because they say nothing about anything," said Brandenburg.

But the D.A. lost that fight, so the jury will be allowed to hear about it. Jurors will not hear that Santiago pleaded guilty to forging bad checks because a judge ruled that was irrelevant to the murder charges. Nor would jurors hear about the tale of the cut brake lines.

So in January 2014, more than eight years after the murders of Greg and Bernadette Ohlemacher, the trial of Ronald Santiago finally gets under way.

Yet almost from the outset, the focus shifts dramatically to Renee:

Jason Yamato: You appear to be nervous. Are you nervous?

Renee Ohlemacher: Yeah.

Jason Yamato: Why are you nervous?

Renee Ohlemacher: Never done anything like this before. I've never been in court.

The prosecution presents her as a victim.

Jason Yamato: Have you experienced any psychological trauma because of the death of your parents?

Renee Ohlemacher: Oh yeah. I definitely have some major PTSD.

Renee's professed love for her parents is now expressed in tattoos on her body.

"This one is my mama's handwriting. It says, 'I love you eternally, mommy,'" she testified. And on her right arm "my mom and dad's signature."

But in his cross examination, Santiago's lawyer spends hours focused on what he suggests are Renee's true feelings about her parents ... those she wrote about as a teenager. He begins by baiting Renee, using the very words she said to 48 Hours in a 2008 interview when she mentioned that her parents were the greatest parents ever.

Joseph Riggs: Renee, is it your position, that your parents were probably the greatest parents ever?

Renee Ohlemacher: Beyond the greatest parents ever.

Joseph Riggs: You talk about your parents in your journal.

Renee Ohlemacher: Yes.

Joseph Riggs: Please read it out loud to the jury.

Renee Ohlemacher (reading): "My mom reminds me of astrological sign, Gemini. A two-faced, good-for-nothing bitch. I hate my dad. I really don't know how much more I could take before someone makes me explode. ... What in the hell is happening to me and my mom's relationship. She makes me so f---ing angry. My dad, I don't know, he just doesn't like me."

Joseph Riggs: Did you forget your hatred for your parents?

Renee Ohlemacher: It's not hatred. It's frustration as a teenager.

Joseph Riggs: You didn't really like your parents?

Renee Ohlemacher: I did like them regardless of what my diaries say.

But Renee has nothing good to say about her extended family that made her the target of their suspicions. She even refuses to acknowledge her grandmother at the trial.

Renee Ohlemacher: That is my mom's mom.

Joseph Riggs: You won't even call her, Grandmother, will you?

Renee Ohlemacher: No.

Joseph Riggs: She's sitting in the back of the court room there and you won't call her, "Grandma?"

Renee Ohlemacher: No.

The defense also raises the mystery of Sammy the dog. Remember, the notoriously noisy dog not heard barking when Renee called police?

"She had just went silent. And I was afraid that the person had shot her too, that I was going to go in there and-- you know-- she was going to be dead too," Renee told Moriarty.

But Sammy was far from dead when police arrived at the scene:

Officer Martinez: Going up the stairs, we encountered a dog.

D.A. Guinevere Ice: And what was the dog doing?

Officer Martinez: It was barking and growling at us.

D.A. Guinevere Ice: And what did you guys do with the dog?

Officer Martinez: I believe we had somebody mace the dog so that we could actually get to the top of the stairs.

So why was Sammy quiet during the murders?

"The only reasonable explanation is Renee did something with the dog, put the dog in her room," said Riggs.

But prosecutors say that's nonsense and charge the defense is simply trying to divert the jury's focus from the defendant, Ron Santiago, and that damning shell casing.

"Either you had that shell casing - "said Moriarty

"I did-- which I did not," said Santiago.

"-- or someone put it there," Moriarty continued.

"I -- it was put there," said Santiago.

THE CASE AGAINST RON SANTIAGO

Ron Santiago has been living under the weight of a double murder charge since his arrest nearly eight years ago.

"It's the most terrifying thing anyone could go through," he told Erin Moriarty.

But he remains adamant about one thing.

"I'm not guilty, I didn't do these crimes. I did not kill Mr. and Mrs. O. I did not kill them so to prep for a guilty verdict, I can't prep for that," said Santiago.

And now with Renee Ohlemacher finally off the stand, prosecutors begin to focus their case against Ron Santiago.

Michael Haag, a firearms expert, was asked by the prosecution to determine if the shell casing found in Santiago's gun bag was fired from the same gun used to kill Greg and Bernadette Ohlemacher.

Haag goes deep into the metal to study and compare the microscopic markings on the shell casings found at the crime scene - labeled C 1 through 4 -- with the one found in Santiago's gun bag, labeled C-2OO.

­"C-200 on the left side, C-3 from the crime scene on the right. We're gonna zoom in little bit by little bit," he told the court. "...we see the beginnings of some similarities...

Showing the court a magnified comparison of two casings, Haag explained, "we have a nice impression here ... with another little guy above him and then correspond that with another little guy above that. These are fantastic correlation marks between these objects..."

"My conclusion is that C200 was fired by the same firearm that was used to fire C1 through C4."

The match is undeniable; even Santiago seems convinced.

"Oh, I agree completely with ... his finding. I mean, looking at the photographs ... it matched the shell casing from the crime scene," Santiago said. "...was it the same gun that fired that shell -- I mean, the bullet? Yes," he told Erin Moriarty.

"I mean, you have to admit ... it looks like it's shot from the same gun. That's -- that's damaging," Moriarty commented to Riggs.

"That's right. That -- that's why we had to raise the suspicion about how that single shell casing got in that bag," he replied.

Riggs wants the jury to believe that police found more than four shell casings at the crime scene.

Joseph Riggs: You saw five or six, you documented it you told everybody ...

Officer Medina: Five or six, yeah and, and if I was off by one I was off by one.

Riggs suggests that one extra shell casing could have been planted in Santiago's gun bag.

He zeros in on Detective Carl Ross, the investigator who led the search of Santiago's house in June 2006. Investigators took over 100 photographs documenting their search.

"We found a bag with ammunition and a casing inside the garage," said Det. Ross.

That bag was filled with gun oil, live ammunition and pens. Police began photographing the contents and each photo is digitally time stamped, detailing the exact moment each one was taken.

Joseph Riggs: The time on that?

Det. Ross: 11:27.

Det. Ross (referencing another photo): ... same date. 11:29.

Joseph Riggs: In this photo graph here we do not see a shell casing there...

Joseph Riggs (referencing another photo): Detective Ross ... the time please?

Det. Ross: 11:31.

"They take yet another photograph and go closer there is no shell casing at the bottom of the bag," Riggs explained to Moriarty.

gun-bag-compre.jpg

But then, at 11:31, the photography of the gun bag is interrupted and when it resumes 10 minutes later at 11:41, those pens are gone and instead, "the very next picture shows a shell casing and gauze," said Riggs told Moriarty - and who made sure the jury knows that in his closing. Riggs hopes the jury will wonder why that shell casing suddenly appeared.

"...having a 10 minute unexplained ... period of time makes the planting of the shell casing plausible," he said.

That's ridiculous, says prosecutor Cheryl Johnston.

"Well, if you are going to plant evidence, why would you take pictures of it not being there, and then a picture with it being there?" she said.

"You don't believe that at all," Moriarty noted.

"No. Absolutely not," Johnston affirmed.

What Johnston finds suspicious is Santiago's missing 9mm Ruger. The defendant won't take the stand, so she shows the jury what he told "48 Hours" in 2008 when asked about the gun:

""I traded it," said Santiago.

"To who?" Moriarty asked.

"Robert -- but I don't remember a last name. It was just a simple, OK, I'll -- yeah, that's great," he said.

That's just not credible, says Johnston.

"The defendant got rid of it, because he used it in a crime," Johnston told the court.

She reminds the jury that Santiago learned a lot about the Ohlemachers when he worked on their home loan.

"There was plenty of evidence that, that he was deeply involved with the Ohlemachers," Johnston continued."He's been to their house."

But why would he kill his customers? Prosecutors say Santiago promised the couple cash from a home loan that was stalled and he panicked.

"It became clearer and clearer to us that the Ohlemachers expected money ... and that he was unable to deliver what he said he was going to deliver," said Johnson.

Prosecutors put neighbor Grant Martin on the stand. He testifies to hearing an angry Greg Ohlemacher threatening someone on the phone a mere 12 hours before his murder:

Prosecutor: What did you hear Greg say into the telephone?

Grant Martin: "If there's not money put in my account by tomorrow, I am going to call the police."

But Martin admits that he doesn't know who was on the other end of the phone and defense attorney Riggs, in his closing argument, says the state's case doesn't make sense.

"If you don't like the service you're getting at a mortgage company ... you don't call 'em up and say, 'If you don't give me my money by tomorrow, I'm going to call the cops.' They would laugh at you," Riggs told jurors.

As he has the entire trial, Riggs returns to his favorite topics: Renee and the family dog, Sammy Jo.

"When Renee's on that phone to 911, the dog oughta have been goin' nuts right ... dog's gonna be all over it," Riggs told Moriarty.

"She said, 'I called for Sammy, Sammy come here we got to go downstairs.' Listen to the 911 tape. She didn't call for Sammy. It didn't happen. Why would she tell you it did? Because she is not telling the truth," Riggs said in his closing.

But the State gets the last word.

That's when prosecutor Jason Yamato finally offers the jury a motive for why this seemingly mild-mannered mortgage loan processor would kill the Ohlemachers.

"Defendant had a relationship with Greg and Bernadette that was not going well. ... The defendant made $90,000 a year. He killed the Ohlemachers to protect that $90,000-a-year job," Yamato told court. "The defendant is guilty of these crimes, and that's before we even get to the casing. ... The same casing used to kill the Ohlemachers....fired from the same gun. ... It's crystal clear. The defendant's guilty of every single count of this indictment."

THE VERDICT

"I was terrified. I mean, just sitting there waiting, just waiting as -- it just tears you apart," said Ron Santiago.

During the more than month-long trial in an Albuquerque courtroom, three dozen witnesses testified and 800 pieces of evidence was given to jurors. Now eight years after the Ohlemachers were murdered, Santiago's fate is in the hands of the jury.

"This was a case we put our heart and soul into for seven and a half years," said defense attorney Joseph Riggs. "Everything that we had worked for coulda been a success or an utter and complete failure."

"I was prepared for the worst," Santiago told Moriarty.

"And what was the worst?"

"Guilty," he replied.

"And going to prison for how long?" Moriarty asked Santiago.

"Forever. I would never get out. It was life. It was a life sentence," he replied.

"I said, 'Don't be surprised, if -- if you're convicted, they handcuff you immediately,'" said Riggs.

Three days passed with no word. Then came the verdicts.

"The judge read through the counts ... time stopped. I couldn't breathe," said Santiago.

Judge Kenneth Martinez: We find the defendant not guilty of count 1.... We find the defendant not guilty of count two.

"What were you thinking at that moment, Ron?" Moriarty asked.

"My mind went -- I don't know, blank. I didn't know what to think. I mean, did I go in into a state of shock? I think I'm still in a state of shock," he replied.

Outside the courtroom, a clearly emotional Santiago savored the not-guilty verdict he had hoped for. His wife, Martha, divorced him years before, but he has the support of friends and his extended family.

Santiago outside courthouse hugging family and friends, surrounded by cameras

"It's been a long wait," Santiago said hugging his stepdaughter.

"I'm very happy that the truth has come out, and I did nothing, I had no part in this," Santiago told reproters, overcome with emotion.

Hours after his acquittal, surrounded by his own close family, Santiago paused in remembrance.

"I want you to keep in your hearts and prayers the Vigil Family and the Ohlemacher family. They've suffered more than I could ever suffer," he said.

But far from relieving their suffering, Santiago's acquittal has been yet another shock for Bernadette's sister, Jessica Montoya, and others in the family.

"I was stunned. I was -- speechless," Montoya said. "... he shot my sister. He shot my brother-in-law. ... He took my family away."

To this day, Bernadette's sisters believe both Ron Santiago and Renee Ohlemacher were somehow in it together even though no one has ever been able to establish the two knew one another.

"I totally believe that Renée was involved," said Antoinette Curran.

But surprisingly, one man no longer believes that. After pointing the finger at Renee throughout the trial, listen to what defense attorney Riggs says now.

"I came to a conclusion at the end of the trial that Renee did not kill her parents. I think Renee knows who did. ...but for some reason, she can't tell," he said.

"But if you don't think Renee actually killed her parents, is that fair what you do in the trial? Moriarty asked Riggs. "Didn't this trial kind of victimize her again?"

"There's two reasons why she put herself in that position," he said.

"But, I mean, you put her on -- in that position, too," said Moriarty.

"Right. We -- we followed the evidence that the State gave us," Riggs replied. "I can't remember someone, in my entire career, who did more things to make themselves look guilty, than Renee."

Renee now lives in Washington State under a different last name. She declined to comment on the verdict, but her attorney says she's upset with the acquittal. When Renee last spoke to "48 Hours" in 2008, Santiago was awaiting trial and out on bail.

"What bugs me is that he's still living a normal life. He's got a family," Renee said. "I don't have a home to go back to because of him."

"When's the last time you talked to Renee? Moriarty asked Montoya.

"In March of 2006," she replied.

"...she has lost virtually everything," Prosecutor Cheryl Johnston said. "... she lost her parents ... She lost her family. She was not treated well as a suspect ... She was not treated well in trial. ...there are people that will probably think that she always had something to do with it ... despite the fact that there's no evidence."

Ironically, it's the same future Santiago predicts for himself.

"I don't think I ever will have that true feeling of being innocent or free," he said. "I'm the person that got away with it in a lot of people's eyes. It doesn't matter. I will always be guilty."

Santiago's attorney says he believes the killer is still out there.

"I would love to see the Albuquerque Police Department come back and take another look," said Riggs.

"But do you believe that will happen?" Moriarty asked.

"No. I mean, the police will never admit mistakes," he replied.

Asked if there was justice, Johnston told Moriarty, "Justice depends on who you ask. If you're the one that's charged and you're acquitted, then you think there's justice. If you're the one that has two family members brutally murdered in their bedroom, then there probably isn't.

The Ohlemacher murders remain an open case.

Renee is working as a dog walker. The family dog, Sammy Jo, passed away a year after the murders.

Ron Santiago lives in Albuquerque with his parents and is looking for a job.

  • Erin Moriarty

    Correspondent, "48 Hours"

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