"48 Hours" Presents: Redemption Song

Who killed Natalie Antonetti? An unexpected turn of events brings a closed case back to square one

Produced by Chuck Stevenson and Sarah Prior

[This story originally aired on Oct. 15, 2011. It was updated on May 24, 2014.]

Most of the time when we bring you a story, there's a beginning, middle and end. And so it was when we first reported on the murder of a young mother named Natalie Antonetti. We thought the case had been solved and closed. It wasn't. An unexpected turn of the events brought this crime scene back to square one. -- Tracy Smith

(CBS) AUSTIN, Texas -- "There's no way to ever forget. It was really, really a horrible scene," Johnny Goudie told CBS News correspondent Tracy Smith.

In 1985, Johnny was just 16. Before dawn that October morning, he heard something, rolled out of bed and stumbled down the stairs. It was his mom, Natalie Antonetti.

"I was incoherent, kind of in shock, and you know, completely, you know, just covered in blood -- her head was bleeding pretty bad and I tried to ask her what happened, you know, if she knew who did this to her... and she couldn't talk...she just had a really frightened look in her eyes," he said with a pause. "You know, it's hard to see your mom in that situation...

"You could see in her eyes that she was scared," he continued. "When the ambulance got there... they kind of took over and put her on the gurney and stuff. And then I rode to the hospital with her. ...before she went in, I asked her to give me a kiss and she was able to do that."

Natalie Antonetti and her son, Johnny Goudie
Natalie Antonetti and her son, Johnny Goudie

Johnny had no idea that he was kissing his mother goodbye. Natalie's murder would haunt him for over 20 years.

To start unraveling this mystery, "48 Hours" began on 6th Street, the heart of Austin's music scene.

"Well, 6th Street was where all of us musicians would play. There was a band in every club on every corner, still is," according to Mark Hallman, Natalie's dear friend and a former guitarist for Carole King.

Hallman runs a studio now, but misses those days.

"We'd go down here, we'd see our friends, we'd support our friends, I could walk in and the bass player would hold up his bass ... and I'd walk into the bass and I'd start jamming on a song..." he recalled. "Back then, this was the only place to go."

Asked if Natalie was part of that scene, Hallman told Smith, "Absolutely."

"What was Natalie like?"

Hallman smiled as he described Natalie. "Beautiful, incredible, she was a real light. ...brown hair, beautiful eyes. She was almost hippy-ish, really savvy at the same time and very Cuban. ...she had her roots; one of my favorite people," he said.

Natalie's son, Johnny, dreamed of being a rock star and Mark Hallman gave him the push.

"His big dream was to kinda do what you were doing," Smith noted.

"I guess so. In fact, I put him in my band in the '80s," Hallman replied. "I'd put him front and center, you know, and he always looked great."

"He was the front man? He was the cutie?"

"He's the cutie. Still is."

Johnny's music is inspired by memories of his mom: A single mother who worked full time, but loved the music world. She and Johnny's dad split when he was little.

"I think about her every day," Johnny said. "She was an amazing mom. Music was always playing. Growing up I didn't have a TV, but we always had our records with us.

"You know, cleaning the house, you didn't just clean the house. You put on your favorite record as loud as you could and you just danced around, and at the end of it, the house was clean," he recalled fondly.

"So even cleaning the house she would rock out," said Smith.

"Yeah, yeah. Mom was like, 'Hey I just made some cookies, you want to get them?' And you'd be like, 'I'll be there in a minute,' and she'd sing back, 'If you want it, here it is, come and get it," he said, singing. "You know, everything was song ... It was very much like that growing up."

But the song ended suddenly for Johnny and for Natalie. After two weeks in a coma, Natalie died. It was a shock for everyone in the tight-knit Austin music scene and a confusing case for police.

Austin Police Det. Tom Walsh picked up Natalie's homicide on the cold case squad in 2007.

Police think Natalie was bashed in the head with a baseball bat over and over again. It was a crime so violent, Natalie's own bloody handprints were left all over the house.

"I think it was very quick ... It was in and out," Det. Walsh told Smith.

At the time, there was a witness who reported a shadowy figure nearby.

"He saw a man ... he was holding a club or a small baseball bat," said Walsh.

The witness described a man 5'10" or 5'11" with sandy hair. Police focused on a restaurant manager and sometime male stripper named Marty Odem.

With blond hair and a sturdy build, he seemed to match the witness description. Shortly after Natalie's murder, he was arrested for another very serious crime.

"He raped a woman in North Austin," Walsh explained. "And then investigators found out that he lived in the apartment complex that Natalie lived in."

Odem had a track record of violence; he was known to keep a baseball bat around. His ex wife said he was abusive and sexually violent. And his roommate claimed he bragged that he once slept with Natalie.

Police questioned Odem -- even gave him a lie detector test, which he reportedly failed. But he always denied killing Natalie. Police didn't have enough evidence, so he was never charged with her murder. But he was convicted for the unrelated rape and sent to prison.

With the arrest and conviction of the rapist Marty Odem, police were convinced they also had the man who killed Natalie. The case was seemingly closed, that is, at least for the next 20 years.

But that is just the beginning of this story.

A NEW LEAD

"When they told me about the rapist... I thought it was the rapist, 'cause I was 17 and I wanted to know who killed my mom..." Johnny Goudie told Tracy Smith. "... so I was like, 'OK, the cops say it, so that's who it is.' You kinda have to trust, trust in the police. And so I did...I believed that that was the guy."

But Johnny was never fully satisfied.

Police had arrested Marty Odem for the unrelated rape and he went to prison for that crime. But it wasn't enough. No one was officially accused or punished for Natalie's murder and that began to eat at Johnny.

"I was just mad...you know, mad at the world," Johnny continued. "Mad at a faceless person that came in and murdered my mom and split and no one ever caught."

Therapy helped, but music helped even more.

"It saved my life, you know. It's a life-saving thing," he said. "...being able to make that music, being able to put that energy into something that's cathartic and not turn it on yourself, I think is pretty lucky.

"I never really wrote songs before she died. And then, after she died, I wrote pretty much like 150 songs in like four months."

Johnny's been working on and off the road as a musician ever since, trying to put the past behind him with his band, Liars and Saints.

Then in 2007, more than 20 years after Natalie Antonetti's murder, an angry wife called the Austin Police Department. It was an anonymous call, but she had a tip that would crack this old homicide case wide open.

"I was on tour," Johnny recalled, "...and my phone rang from a number I didn't know and I answered it and this guy said, 'Hi, my name is Detective Tom Walsh from the Austin Police Department. Don't worry, you're not in trouble...'"

Detective Walsh had news.

"I was like, 'Wow,' Johnny told Smith. "'They're reopening my mom's case and this guy that's got it is amazing.'"

And thanks to that phone call, Det. Walsh felt he was on a fast track to solving this mystery.

"He was like, 'I know who did this,'" said Johnny.

The suspect was a man named Dennis Davis, a well-known name in the Austin music scene. A studio owner and engineer, Davis later moved to Nashville to work with big stars like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

"I did know Dennis, ah, very well," Mark Hallman said. "You know, he was a friend of mine."

"How did he come across to you?" Smith asked. "Was he a player? A ladies man?"

"No. He didn't seem that way. I saw him -- just really quiet and reserved."

Johnny knew Dennis Davis too, because Davis had dated his mom and he was good to Johnny.

"I never thought of him as someone that had the capacity, really, to hurt another person," Johnny said. "He just had this amazing studio. He had like the best studio in town... and I was like the only 16-year-old kid that could go by there any time... I thought he was a nice guy."

Davis was not an obvious suspect. For one thing, he had what sounded like a solid alibi: He said he was with a girlfriend at his house on the night of the murder.

Davis told police he got a phone call from a friend and rushed to the crime scene just in time to see Natalie being loaded into an ambulance.

Seventeen years after Natalie's murder, it was Davis' wife who made that call to police. Becki Davis had a feeling for years that her husband may have murdered Natalie, but never said anything until now.

"She was in therapy because her and her husband were going through a divorce ... and the therapist said, 'You need to call the police,'" said Det. Walsh.

It was a tantalizing lead, but not nearly enough to make an arrest. So Walsh hit the road and tracked down a woman named Amparo Garcia-Crow, who was Dennis Davis' alibi.

Amparo Garcia-Crow is a writer and performer. At the time, the cops never questioned her. But if they had, she would have told them there's no way she was with Dennis that night and she can prove it: She's kept detailed journals since the late 70s.

"At this time of my life I was writing every day," she told Smith. "I kinda really wanted to get a, in a way a psychological picture of myself, 'cause the mind likes to change things if you don't, you know."

It's clear from her journals she knew both Dennis and Natalie.

One entry read: Dennis had a party recently, and I met the woman that he's seeing. Who was Natalie.

In fact, around the time of Natalie's murder, Garcia-Crow had been dating Dennis Davis. "Yeah, there was kind of a shyness to him..." she said.

But, Garcia-Crow says, according to her journal, she ended up dating Davis for only about three weeks before going back to an old boyfriend, named Hal.

"I had gone back to Hal, and that's what I'm writing here, we're kind of in a honeymoon stage," she said, referring to a journal.

That was the week before Natalie was killed. She says she stopped dating Davis the Thursday before the assault.

Davis had told police that he and Garcia-Crow had been in bed together when the dramatic phone call came telling him that Natalie had been assaulted. But there's no mention of any of this in her diary.

"You know, I'm a writer... I'm a dramatist. I know if I'm impacted by something, I log it," she told Smith.

"It would be in here, if you were with Dennis that night," said Smith.

"Absolutely! I'd be working it out, it would be so shocking," Garcia-Crow said. "...if a phone call had come in the middle of the night, I would remember that phone call... and being woken up at his house in the middle of the night. That never happened."

It wasn't exactly a smoking gun, but if her story is true -- then Dennis Davis is lying and his alibi is worthless.

Detective Walsh was energized by this new information. And it opened new doors. He discovered another woman who revealed a very different side of the supposedly mild-mannered Dennis Davis.

THE TWO SIDES OF DENNIS DAVIS

In 1985, rock and roll reigned supreme in Austin. The party was fueled by the warm Texas sun and plenty of beer and booze.

Linda Bless moved to Austin in 1984, and worked on tours with major rock acts.

"There were just so many people that were up and coming and ... everybody would go to so many clubs here and then watch them play and then watch 'em grow," Bless said of the music scene.

Bless would turn out to be a key witness in the investigation into her friend, Dennis Davis.

"There were two different sides of Dennis," she told Tracy Smith. "One was the very sweet, caring side. The other side, you didn't know when it was gonna come out."

Bless said she saw glimpses of this darker side -- a Dennis Davis who was jealous, angry and even violent. "The first sign was he would just get beet red ... his eyes would bulge out. ... that's when you knew -- time to go," Bless said. "It was almost like a screaming inside.".

Asked what would set him off, Bless said, "It always seemed to pertain to women."

According to Det. Tom Walsh, "His previous best friend told me one time, that -- the only time that he ever saw Dennis get angry -- was when another man would be paying attention to a woman that he was with ... and the rage would come."

In 2008, Det. Walsh went looking for Davis to question him about Natalie Antonetti's murder. He found him in a jail cell in Pennsylvania, serving two months on a DUI.

The interview starts out friendly ...

Det. Walsh: You were, like, a king?

Dennis Davis: Yeah. It's good to be the king (laughs).

Det. Walsh: Absolutely.

... but not for long. Walsh wants to tie Dennis to Natalie's murder and the likely weapon: a baseball bat.

Det. Walsh: Did you have a small bat?

Dennis Davis: [Shakes his head, no.]

"Dennis says he never had a baseball bat," Smith noted to Bless.

"He never had one? He had not just one, but he had a couple of them," she said.

In fact, Bless said, one night at a party at Dennis' house, "All of a sudden Dennis showed up in the doorway with this bat in his hand."

Bless said Dennis was heading for his girlfriend. "I just got up ...and pushed him into the bedroom. Or, you know -- had him go into the bedroom and put the bat down, and [said] 'Come on. Let's go outside.'"

Walsh found tangible evidence of this angry side:

Det. Walsh: Do you think you were jealous?

Dennis Davis: I think, I think I was starting to get a little bit.

"This is about the note," explained Walsh.

Sitting in the case file was a note left for Natalie from a jealous Dennis Davis about her new boyfriend.

The note reads: "Natalie, you can go to hell. And take Doug with you. If you don't have the brains and self-respect to see through his bulls--t, then f--- you. D.D."

The case against Davis is getting stronger: the broken alibi, the baseball bat, the angry note. Next, Walsh tracked down an ex-girlfriend named Gelinda, who told the most damning story of them all.

"Dennis had been in a rage, and was crying, and he was laying down in the fetal position," Walsh explained. "And he told her that he had killed, or he had murdered Natalie, were the words that she said he used. ...He confessed to her."

And that was enough. In 2009, 24 years after Natalie Antonetti's murder, Austin police arrested Dennis Davis.

Johnny Goudie had never imagined that Dennis was capable of killing his mom.

"People around town that knew me at times might have said, 'You know, I think Dennis did this.' And I would always be like, 'Really?' Like, he's such a -- like, a nondescript kind of dude."

"You thought he was a wimp," said Smith.

"I thought he was kinda wimpy, yeah."

But to Johnny, Det. Walsh was no wimp.

"When I first met Tom Walsh, it was, like, this guy ... was actively, you know, working on this case," he said. "From the moment I met him ... I never doubted that he was going to do this."

Det. Walsh: You didn't mean to kill Natalie. I know that.

Dennis Davis: I didn't kill her.

"He would never out and out say that he murdered Natalie," Walsh said. "Towards the end of the whole interrogation he ... I said to him, 'What do you think?' And he said, 'You think I did it.'"

"What was your reaction when you were told that he was gonna be arrested for your mom's murder?" Smith asked Johnny.

"Everything made sense," he replied. "All the weird, cryptic questions that Tom Walsh was calling me every once in a while asking, 'Do you remember a Chevy Malibu?' Like, 'No.' Do you remember this? Like, do you remember this guy saying this? Like, 'Nope.' ...And it all made sense."

And Johnny suddenly looked at Davis in a new light. "He was a bad, jealous, violent guy."

Dennis Davis says he didn't murder Natalie and can't believe that Johnny thinks he did.

"Johnny should know better. He knew me," he said. "I didn't do this horrible crime.

DAVIS: "I'M INNOCENT"

Texas attorney Wade Russell, a lawyer for 30 years, began working for Dennis Davis when he was arrested in 2009.

"Everybody wants to get on this train. It's a cold case. Everybody wants to solve this case," he told Tracy Smith. "[The] investigator wants to solve this case. Everybody wants to be a hero."

Russell said the problem is there just isn't enough evidence against Davis to convict. His client, he says, is an innocent man.

"The detective in this case knew that the neighbor identified someone who didn't look like Dennis Davis," he said.

And that neighbor is the only eyewitness: the man who called minutes after Natalie's attack, to report a prowler carrying a baseball bat.

"This neighbor identified ... a person, a tall, blond man. My client's about 5'6", 5'7" -- slight build, curly, dark hair. He is not the person the neighbor identified," said Russell.

If Dennis Davis didn't kill Natalie, who did? According to Russell, "I think it's very possible that Marty Odem committed the offense."

That's Marty Odem, the rapist who was living near Natalie at the time of her murder; the man cops once thought was their best suspect.

"He claimed to know the victim in this case," Russell continued, "and we also know he's very violent. He's violent with his girlfriend. He's violent with his ex-wife. ...He took a polygraph and he flunked the polygraph. ...The polygraph operator said, 'I'm 100 percent sure he committed the offense.'"

"The guy who ran the lie detector test said he was 100 percent sure that Marty Odem killed Natalie?" Smith asked Russell.

"Yes," he replied.

In his only TV interview, Dennis Davis, the man in hot water for this once cold case tells "48 Hours," "I'm innocent. I didn't do it."

"Through your eyes, who was Natalie Antonetti?" Smith asked.

"She was a very vivacious, lively, energetic, young woman," Davis replied. "When she answered the phone, she went, 'Hal-lo!' Just like that."

Davis told "48 Hours" he truly cared for Natalie and that's why he wrote that angry note about her new boyfriend -- a musician.

"One of my pet peeves in this world is when I see young women ... get involved with musicians who just drag them down," he said.

In the note, Dennis told Natalie to go to hell.

"That was a pretty angry note," Smith pointed out.

"Yes, it was," Dennis agreed.

"Doesn't it sound like the guy that wrote that note would be capable of harming Natalie, the guy who's angry?"

"Getting mad, writing a note, is -- is a far cry from killing somebody," Davis replied. "'You wrote a nasty note? Oh! You're capable of murder.' Everything gets blown out of proportion."

But how does he answer Gelinda's story about his confession?

"She exaggerated," he said.

"So what's the real story?" asked Smith.

"I just told her, I told her some things," he explained. "... I said it's my fault that Natalie died. ...If I hadn't upset her that night, that day, she'd still be alive today."

The night she was attacked, Natalie went out for a short walk by the pool near her apartment.

"I think someone spotted her or followed her or she ran into someone at the pool ... and then they came back later," Davis told Smith.

"And then killed her?"

"Yeah."

"Did you ever hurt Natalie?"

"No. Never."

"Did you kill Natalie?"

"No. I did not," he replied. "I'm absolutely sure. I wouldn't do something like that."

But Austin assistant district attorney Mark Pryor reminds Smith, "you have a victim who has no defensive wounds.... It's not a burglar, it's not a rapist. ...Somebody was exceptionally angry at her. ...There's one candidate for that, Dennis Davis,"

Still, Pryor said, "This is the first case I'd ever lost sleep over."

"This was a very tough case," agreed Efrain De La Fuente, who was Pryor's co-counsel "...being a cold case, a 1985 case, and here you are trying it in the year 2011."

The prosecution's case wasn't just cold. It was almost entirely circumstantial.

"I'd just wake up at night and I'd wonder about -- could we do this? Could we bring Johnny justice," said Pryor.

"I sat down with Efrain De La Fuente and Mark Pryor," Johnny Goudie told Smith. "They never said, 'Don't get your hopes up.' ...I think Efrain said, 'I don't know, Johnny, brother. This is gonna be tough.'"

In April 2011, Natalie Antonetti's brutal and unexplained murder -- unsolved for 26 years -- finally goes to trial.

"The evidence is gonna show that this man, Dennis Davis, split her skull as she lay on the couch in her apartment," Pryor said, addressing the jury. "The evidence is gonna show that this man, Dennis Davis, left a trail of breadcrumbs, small mistakes that eventually after two decades led the police to his door."

The prosecution's case may be circumstantial, but they do have that phone call that started it all.

"The statement that the defendant had made was that he had sinned against God and man. The woman who made that call was Rebecca Davis, the defendant's wife," Pryor continued.

And they have Amparo Garcia-Crow, who denies being with Davis on the night of the murder, Linda Bless who remembers him carrying a baseball bat, and Gelinda, his ex-girlfriend, who says he confessed to murder.

"He told her -- he flat out told her, 'I killed her. I killed Natalie Antonetti," Pryor told jurors.

Defense attorney Wade Russell reminds the jury there is no physical evidence against Davis at all. "You're not gonna hear any DNA evidence ...you're not going to find any hair samples," he told the court. "You are not going to hear from any eye witnesses that saw Dennis Davis at the crime scene."

Dennis Davis would choose not take the stand.

"There is not proof beyond reasonable doubt and every one of you knows it as you sit here," Russell continued.

This case would be all about truth... and lies.

Det. Walsh: Did you have a small bat?

Dennis Davis: (Shakes his head, no)

"He lied in the interview," Pryor continued. "Didn't have a bat. Says it twice. ...His ex-girlfriend was beaten to death with a bat. He owned a bat. ...He knew he had one. He just lied."

"This is ludicrous. It's ludicrous," Russell fired back. "It's reasonable doubt after reasonable doubt."

In less than four hours, the jury was back with a verdict.

THE VERDICT

"We the jury, find the defendant, Dennis Davis, guilty of the offense of murder as alleged in the indictment signed by the foreperson."

The jury found Dennis Davis guilty of Natalie Antonetti's murder.

It was 26 years since Natalie was killed, but it was not too late for her son, Johnny Goudie.

"I was so grateful. I mean, I was overcome," he told Smith. "And it was hard to hold in. My aunts and I were squeezing each others hands so hard it was unbelievable."

The next day was Dennis Davis' sentencing hearing and the star witness was a shocker. It was his ex-wife, Becki Davis -- the woman who started it all with her phone call to police.

"Now you're aware, of course, that a call that you made to the police got this investigation started," defense attorney Wade Russell addressed Becki in court.

"Yeah, I am," she replied.

Amazingly, Becki -- who once turned her husband in to police -- is now standing by her man.

"I don't understand, but he forgave me," she told the court. "He just said, 'Why didn't you ask me? I could have told you what happened.' He not once got mad at me."

Sometime after she made that fateful phone call, Becki Davis reconciled with Dennis. Now they're back together, and, she says, she can't live without him.

"I can't do things," she continued on the stand. "I can't pay my bills. I can't lift anything. I can't -- I can't operate without him. I don't know what I'm gonna do now."

The judge was not persuaded, sentencing Dennis to 36 years.

After court, Wade Russell said the defense was gutted. They weren't allowed to present evidence of Marty Odem as an alternative suspect.

"We had a strong, very strong circumstantial case against Marty Odem," he told Smith.

Marty Odem is the rapist who seemed to match the eyewitness description, but Russell never got to tell that story in court.

"You had this other guy that you think killed Natalie, but you couldn't tell the jury?" Smith asked.

"I was not allowed to tell the jury that. It's like trying a case with your hand behind your back," Russell replied. "The jury, in essence, heard half a case. They didn't get the whole case. Does that sound like a fair trial to you? It does not to me."

"If you have a guy at the scene who says he saw somebody with a baseball bat," Smith noted to Mark Pryor, "that's a pretty strong witness."

"At face value it is," he replied. "...but he changed the description of the guy that he'd seen. ...first of all he said he was 6-feet-tall ... and then ... we had a month later the same witness picking out somebody Dennis Davis's size."

And there was never any evidence that Marty Odem actually knew Natalie. To Mark Pryor, Dennis Davis all but convicted himself.

"It occurred to me very early on that we had a defendant who, in many ways, always wanted to confess to this," Pryor explained. "He gave an alibi that could have easily been broken. ...We had him making admissions to his wife, Becki Davis, and then basically ... a flat-out confession to Gelinda Mudgett. ...the guilty conscience needs to confess. And I think that's what we had here."

Even after the verdict, Dennis Davis says he's innocent of this crime. And he can't believe he ended up in a Texas state prison for the next 36 years.

"I was shocked ... completely shocked," he told Smith from prison.

"Let's go back to how this all started," Smith said. "How do you feel about Becki calling police back in 2006?"

"I couldn't understand why she would do something like that," he replied. "...she told me that, um, I scared her one night."

In 2006, Dennis and Becki had a huge fight in their backyard.

"I was swinging a swage that I use to chop wood," he explained. "...it's a big, heavy thing... And I was swinging it around the backyard. ...and I was angry. And I scared her."

Soon after that fight, Becki made her phone call to police about the statement Dennis made almost 17 years earlier. He had said, "I've sinned against God and man."

"And when you heard that ... your wife, essentially, saying, "I think he's capable of murder?'"

"Well, she didn't say murder, but I guess that's what it is," he told Smith.

Johnny says he's satisfied now, even though his mother's case could have been solved years earlier.

"I think that definitely those women -- Gelinda namely, and his wife, Rebecca -- were scared. I think they were scared of him," he said.

"They could've solved your mom's murder 25 years ago -- if somebody would've spoken up," said Smith.

"They could've. And they also could've not talked," Johnny replied. "I'm just grateful that they did come forward when they did. ...I'm really lucky... We're lucky we got that call.

"The most important person in my life is never there, no matter what, all the time. ... and no matter what, my favorite person is never there," said Johnny.

"I have this great photograph of us when we went to ... a Memorial Day barbecue. I was like 14 years old ... and they had asked us to get involved in a softball game and we were the ones that were barefooted running on, you know, gravel. ...she was so excited that she and I had won... And, so there's a picture of us after the game together with kind of these big, you know, smirks on our faces... Like, you couldn't have done it without the barefooted Cubans."

CASE UPDATE

Two years after Dennis Davis was sent to prison, an appeals court overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial. The reason: Davis' lawyer was ineffective -- especially in failing to submit more evidence to the trial judge about the alternate suspect. If Russell had done that, the jury might have been able to hear about Marty Odem after all.

In April 2014 Davis walked out of prison, a man with a second chance at freedom.

"Right now I'm in shock. I'll let you know as soon as I start feeling again," he told a reporter.

As for Johnnie Goudie's reaction, he thinks the jury got it right the first time, that Dennis Davis killed his mother.

The new trial is scheduled for November 2014

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