Fateful Connection

A determined detective haunted by the case of two women missing for 30 years is hot on the trail of a killer

Updated on March 18, 2014

Produced by Tom Seligson

More than 30 years after Amy Hurst and Wendy Huggy disappeared, Detective Lisa Schoneman is about to make an arrest. She's tracked her suspect from Florida to Michigan, finally hitting pay dirt in the backwoods town of Dawson Springs, Kentucky -- and her fugitive knows she's there.

"We had received information that he did carry a gun," Det. Schoneman told "48 Hours" correspondent Susan Spencer. "...And he told his friend ... that if I had pushed him any further that he was gonna take the gun out and shoot."

"And this doesn't seem to faze you?" Spencer asked

"Well, of course, I'm gonna be cautious," the detective replied. "I don't want to take any unnecessary risks."

This case means a lot to Schoneman.

Asked why her heart is in cold cases, Schoneman told Spencer, "Because they're the hardest. You know? They're the toughest. ... when I do bring closure to a family, there's nothing better than that."

Unless, perhaps, it's two cold cases intertwined. That's what Schoneman is juggling now: two victims, two distraught families, two eerily similar situations forever linked.

Amy Hurst and Wendy Huggy
Amy Hurst and Wendy Huggy
Laura Shampine, Patricia Spragg

Both cases began some 30 years ago in Pasco County, Florida, Schoneman's home turf. The first to go missing was a 16-year-old girl named Wendy Huggy, who vanished in April of 1982.

"Wendy Huggy was a beautiful five foot eight, five foot nine blonde girl who came to Florida ... to visit her grandparents and to live here," Schoneman explained. "She had only been here for a short while. ... Her grandparents were going to pick her up at Countryside Mall. They got a phone call from her and she said, 'You don't need to pick me up. Don's gonna bring me home.'"

"Don?" Spencer asked.

"Don, whoever that is. Unfortunately, we don't know. She never arrived home," Schoneman replied.

"And that's the last anybody has seen -- or heard of Wendy Huggy," said Spencer.

"That is the last -- anybody has ever seen or heard," said Schoneman.

"Oh, my darling girl," Wendy's aunt, Patti Spragg said. "She was just a girl. She was just a regular little girl."

Spragg says Wendy moved to Florida from Chicago, in part, to get away from her mother, Susan -- Patti's sister.

"I know she didn't always get along with her mother. I know they fought. Who doesn't?" said Spragg.

Susan, who died a few years ago, was a single mom and a Playboy Bunny, which apparently aggravated the usual problems between teenager and mother.

"Well, it definitely did not involve what people usually thinks it involves," said Angelyn Chester, who worked with Susan in the Chicago Playboy Club. She says Wendy had no reason to object; the job was basically that of a waitress, but in a costume -- certainly not the same thing as a Playboy Playmate.

"The difference is that a Bunny is an employee. We have a uniform. A Playmate is nude. And they are in the centerfold. Doesn't make them bad, it just means that that's the difference," Chester explained.

Susan soon was promoted to flight attendant on Playboy founder Hugh Hefner's private plane. That meant lots of travel and even more problems with Wendy.

"The fact that she was gone, maybe she thought that she didn't care about her," Chester continued. She said Susan was a devoted mother. "She was always concerned about her."

In Chicago, Wendy often stayed with Susan's parents. And when they moved to Florida, the 16-year-old, who had dropped out of high school, was quick to follow.

"She just wanted, I guess, to come down here and start over," Spragg said. "She was gonna go back to school. ...she was very excited about going to work."

Wendy's new job in a fast food restaurant was to have started on April 8, 1982. She disappeared the day before.

"Two days later, the grandparents got very concerned. And they came here to the Sheriff's Office and reported her missing," said Schoneman.

The Pasco County investigation turned up neither the friends from the mall nor the mysterious "Don", but it did stumble across one fact that stopped the investigation cold: Wendy Huggy was married.

Schoneman explained, "Under the criteria that made her an adult ... If you're an adult ... and you wanna go missing, and there's nothing to lead us to believe that you're a harm to yourself or somebody harmed you, you can go missing."

"This is a teenager. Who cares if she's married. She's still missing," said Spencer.

"I agree with you. But for whatever reasons, he took her out of the system," said Schoneman.

With the case, in effect, closed, neither the husband nor anyone else was actively investigated. That infuriates Wendy's uncle, Robert Richards. But as a former cop, he understands why.

"I don't think they had a whole lot to go on. Florida has a pretty high transient population, people come and go," Richards explained. "And the people that make people disappear can come and go."

What seemed to be the handiwork of one of those people surfaced not long after Wendy went missing.

Off the Florida Coast in the Gulf of Mexico, about five months after Wendy Huggy disappeared, a fisherman spotted something odd in the water. He soon realized, to his horror, that he was looking at a dead body. He left it right where it was, and immediately called the Coast Guard.

"When I first saw the body, all you could see were blue jeans and bare feet," said Greg Stout, who was on the Coast Guard boat sent to the scene.

"The body itself was wrapped in a homemade-looking afghan, in a real bright green bedspread," he said.

Was this the body of Wendy Huggy? The teenager so excited about her future and her new life? Whoever it was, her killer probably had been confident she would never be seen again.

"Then there was rope around the waist of the body. And then you could look down in this clear water and you could actually see a concrete block floating below," Stout told Spencer.

WENDY HUGGY & AMY HURST

The body found in the Gulf of Mexico in September 1982 was 27 miles offshore, carried out by the tide.

"It's kind of floating like a cork," said Det. Schoneman.

The Coast Guard couldn't pinpoint where the body went in, but theorized it might have been near what's now the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

It had been in the water about a week, rising to the surface as it decomposed -- despite the concrete block tied around the waist.

"The medical examiner was pretty sure that there was blunt trauma to the back of the head. They also thought that she was actually alive when she was tossed in the water," said Stout.

"Was there any way, if anybody had -- had known who the relatives were, could they have identified this person?" Spencer asked.

"No. Not at all," Stout replied. "If you put a body in water over a period of time, it's really the worst condition that you can find a body."

Still, the victim's family might have recognized personal affects, as well as that green bedspread and that distinctive afghan.

"Which was she wrapped in first? The bedspread or the --" Spencer asked Schoneman.

"The bedspread first, and then the afghan was on the outside," the detective replied.

"Wendy Huggy had gone missing about five months before this body was found. Is there any indication at all that an attempt was made to determine if this might be Wendy Huggy?" Spencer asked Stout.

"Not that I'm aware of," he replied.

Remember, there was no ongoing investigation, so Wendy's family never saw the bedspread, afghan, or jewelry that was recovered. They never even knew a body had been found -- an oversight that decades later would help solve a crime.

The unidentified body ended up in a Tampa cemetery -- in the Potter's field section, in an unmarked grave known only as Jane Doe 82120. It would be years before Jane Doe's true identity was known, and then only because of the heartache of another family 1,200 miles away.

Just outside Flint, Michigan, in 1982, the family of a woman named Amy Hurst was coping with her sudden disappearance. Amy Hurst also went missing in Florida about the same time and in the same county as Wendy Huggy. The two women's descriptions were similar, but Hurst, 29, was older and a mother of two.

"Oh, gosh, Amy was full of energy. She was a wonderful mother," Amy's niece, Laura Shampine, said. "She just loved her kids to pieces. And was very devoted to them."

Which made it all the more shocking that spring, when Amy announced she and her new husband, Bill, were moving out of state, leaving her kids with her ex-husband.

"She just came up to the house ... and said that she was going to Florida and that she was gonna ... we would be able to go down there and see her, she'd be back to visit us," said Amy's son, Jeff Earley.

Earley was 8 at the time and his sister, Lisa, was 10.

"I can remember ... her, like, talking about us coming down for Christmas and for Easter. Stuff like that," said Lisa Stewart.

"She just said 'bye and she left," said Earley.

Amy's sister, Sharon Nijhof, blamed the move on Amy's second husband, Bill.

"I didn't care much for Bill," Nijhof said. "He drank a lot."

And Bill was abusive.

"When were you first aware that there was actual domestic violence involved here?" Spencer asked Shampine.

"I saw the bruises. And there was one incident that -- that I witnessed where he hit her in front of me," she replied. "I never understood with Amy why she stayed in that kind of relationship. She didn't need to."

Amy and Bill settled in New Port Richey in Pasco County, Fla. Bill got a job as a truck driver; Amy worked in a grocery store. At first, she kept in close touch with her family.

"I had a whole shoe box, as a matter of fact, full of letters," said Stewart.

And Amy always called her mother on her birthday -- until that year.

"When my grandma's birthday came and went and Amy didn't call my grandma, got on the phone to all of us - and, you know... something's wrong," said Shampine.

"And that's when I called the Pasco County Sheriff's Department," Nijhof said. "They called me back the next day and said they went out to check and Bill was there. And they asked him about Amy, and he said that they got in a fight three days earlier and she left."

"They contact her work. They find out that she's not been to work. Nobody's heard from her. Nobody's seen her," said Schoneman.

Bill Hurst was a suspect in Amy's disappearance from the very start.

"Everybody knew that he had something to do with it," said Earley.

His actions only seemed to confirm it.

"They did ask him if he would take a lie detector test, and he said he would," Nijhof explained, "but when the police showed up the next day, he was already gone, he left in the night."

And just as in Wendy Huggy's case, the Hurst investigation stalled before it even began. This time because of a clerical error involving her maiden name.

"And when her sisters reported her missing, they reported her as Amy Rose, not Amy Hurst," said Schoneman.

Amy's sisters contacted police, but no one ever changed the records. It was a simple mistake that had disastrous results.

"We kept making inquiries over the years ... and you know, really getting the runaround. Not really getting any answers," said Shampine.

"And did you at any point just acknowledge, even privately, that in all probability we're not gonna see Amy again?" Spencer asked.

"Yeah. I knew Amy would not go that long without talking to her kids. That is not Amy," Shampine replied.

As for Bill Hurst, "At one point ... they had found traces of him in one of the New England states ... and after that, it just kinda fell off and nobody did anything about it," said Nijhof.

But 20 years later, a new suspect surfaced.

"Unfortunately, there was a lot of female bodies that were being recovered ... in this area," said Schoneman.

Were Amy Hurst and Wendy Huggy both victims of a serial killer?

AN IMPORTANT CLUE

For years, Amy Hurst's family clung to the hope that - as long as no body had been found - there was still a possibility Amy was alive somewhere.

"I always thought for the longest time that she ... started a new life maybe," said Amy's son, Jeff Earley. "And then one day she would just show up."

Amy's sister, Sharon Nijhof, was sure of it.

"I remember one time I was driving ... and I looked in my rear view mirror and I could have swore the person in the car behind me was her. I opened my car door and jumped out ... of my car and I thought, how stupid. You know? But, you know you always hope," she said.

It was much the same for Wendy Huggy's family. Her uncle, Robert Richards, says that in the decades after the 16-year-old's disappearance, her distraught mother, Susan, could barely bring herself to mention her daughter's name.

"I think she had some of the guilt of, you know, 'maybe I could've kept her here. Maybe I could've changed jobs sooner and been at home more,'" Richards said. "It was not ... not something that she liked to talk about."

"It was devastating," said Wendy's aunt, Patti Spragg.

"But I would think that at any sort of family gathering, this is sort of the elephant in the room, right?" Spencer asked.

"You're always aware that she's not there. You know. And you have Christmas and -" Spragg replied.

"And birthdays," Spencer said.

"And birthdays, yes birthdays."

In 2001, Wendy would have celebrated her 36th birthday. About that time, some 20 years after she went missing, a Pasco County cop decided to take a fresh look at this very cold case. His name was Robert Hamm.

"He became fascinated with it ... and then to the point of obsessed," Schoneman said. "I mean ... he was determined to find Wendy.

Hamm soon unearthed the 1982 report of the body found in the gulf. In his heart, he knew he was onto something.

"Now at that time, we had a serial killer in the area, Oba Chandler ... his thing was to kidnap women, take them out on a boat, put them in the water alive tied to a cement block and let them drown and die," Schoneman explained. "Hamm thought, 'Oh my gosh, it has to be Wendy.' ...He was convinced that she had been kidnapped and she was another victim of his."

But, from death row, Oba Chandler refused to talk to Bobby Hamm and eventually he was executed. Chandler's silence didn't stop Hamm. He retrieved Wendy Huggy's dental records and asked the medical examiner's office to exhume the body.

"So the exhumation takes place. Everybody thinks that they know who this is already, right?" Spencer asked Schoneman as they stood at the gravesite.

"Oh, Bobby was so sure. He was telling everybody. 'This is Wendy. I've done it. I found her. It's gonna be her.' And unfortunately it wasn't," Schoneman said. "He kept trying, until he passed away. He kept trying to find her--he didn't give up. I mean he was devastated, he was discouraged ... but he continued to try, and after he was gone I've continued to try."

But for all their efforts, the identity of the body dug up from Potter's Field remained a mystery.

"But there's a good side to that story. Because she was exhumed, now we can get DNA," Schoneman said. "Well, the medical examiner did some DNA testing. ... And they had a recreation of her - what she may look like done - and placed her on the Doe Network."

The Doe Network, as in John and Jane Doe, is set up to locate the missing and identify the dead. Information about the exhumed body - information Bobby Hamm dug up in his failed search for Wendy Huggy -- sat there unnoticed until years later, when Amy Hurst's son, Jeff Earley, went online searching for clues about his mother.

"He was having a really hard time his whole life ... not knowing what happened to ... his mother, and one day decided that's it, I've got to do something, and I've got to know I tried ... I've got to know what happened," said Schoneman.

In 2009, 27 years after his mother, Amy, disappeared, Earley stumbled across the Doe Network website with its description of the body in the gulf. The artist's rendering didn't look familiar, but something else on the website did.

"What did you see on there that piqued your interest right away?" Spencer asked.

"The bedspread," Earley replied. He and his sister had loved bouncing on it as children.

"The bedspread. Anything else?" Spencer asked.

"Turquoise jewelry," Earley replied. "The afghan."


The afghan really hit home.

"Afghans are a big part of our family. My grandmother made everybody afghans. And my mom made 'em. My aunts made 'em. Everybody made 'em," Earley explained.

And one of them had been wrapped around the body in the gulf. Amy's sister was sure of that the second she saw the description on the website.

"It's made of multi colors. It's basically white, but my mother would take all her leftover pieces of yarn ... and she would make the little squares out of them. And we have numerous afghans that we all have still today. And all those same colors are in this afghan," said Sharon Nijhof.

evidence-afghan.jpg
CBS News

"This is the afghan that Amy's mother made for her and it was wrapped around the bedspread that was wrapped around her body," said Schoneman .

"You can see why that's something that you would recognize," Spencer said looking at the afghan. "I mean, that's very distinctive."

"Yes," Schoneman agreed.

"And each of the sisters had one of these?"

"Yes," Schoneman affirmed.

No one in Amy Hurst's family needed any more evidence.

"When I saw the afghans next to her I was 100 percent sure," said Earley.

"We knew then that it was her," said Shampine.

Despite their certainty, the afghan and jewelry didn't prove this was Amy Hurst. For that, Schoneman needed hard evidence. She would find it in, of all places, Potter's Field, where, fatefully, the Hurst and Huggy cases would intersect.

Would DNA prove that the body dug up in 2001 --the body that was not Wendy Huggy -- was Amy Hurst? Tests and analysis to match it to Earley's DNA took two years.

"I would have thought you'd be pretty frustrated," Spencer commented to Earley.

"I was," he replied.

"Why did it take so long?"

"There is so much backlogged DNA. And it just waited and waited and waited," Earley replied.

In July 2011, an excited Det. Schoneman called Jeff Earley with the results.

"She just says, 'Are you sitting down.' 'Do I need to be?' And she says,' I don't know.' She goes, 'you might want to,"Earley recalled.

"I said, 'It's her, Jeff. We found her. It's her,'" said Schoneman.

"It wasn't good news at all," Earley said. "... But it was good news for me to know that we found her. We knew where she was at."

"And I just started shakin', just shakin', shakin', shakin'," said Stewart.

"He called me and we cried together. You were glad to know that you had an answer. But then it was permanent, you know. It was like she just died, 'cause you just found out. To you she had just died," said Shampine.

After 30 years, there was no longer any question Amy Hurst had been murdered and for her family, no question who did it.

"We knew absolutely it was Bill," said Shampine.

"But we have no way to prove it," said Nijhof.

"I thought he would get away with it," said Shampine.

A SHOCKING ADMISSION

Amy Hurst's killer had gone unpunished for 30 years, only to be tripped up by a very stupid mistake.

"When we confirmed that she was murdered and where she was found, it could be nobody but Bill. Especially when she was found with the blankets off her own bed," said Amy's niece, Laura Shampine.

"You don't go off with somebody that kills you and then they bring you home and wrap you in your own blankets to dispose of your body. You were at home when you were murdered," Schoneman said. "And it doesn't take a great detective to figure that out."

Now, all this detective had to do was find him.

"Did you at that point know where Bill Hurst was?" Spencer asked the detective.

"I thought he was in Michigan," Schoneman replied. "I went to see his sister who still lived up there. And -- she told me where he was at."

Hurst's sister even agreed to call him.

"She said, 'Bill, the police had been here. They found Amy's body. What did you do?'" said Schoneman.

"You wanted to make him nervous?" asked Spencer.

"Of course. What happens when you get nervous?" Schoneman asked.

"You make mistakes," Spencer noted.

"Yes, you do," said Schoneman.

Hurst had been living in Dawson Springs, Ky., a small town in the western part of the state -- once the home of the Imperial Klans of America. But if he thought his neighbors would stick up for him in his time of need, he was sadly mistaken.

Elmer Kruse, a retired tool and dye maker, was a close friend.

Asked what Hurst was like, Kruse told Spencer, "Oh he just-- seemed like one of those guys, you know, I mean, he was-- he drank a lot but -- so do a lotta people you know."

"Did he tell you he'd been married?" Spencer asked Kruse.

"He -- told me that he - had -- had a girlfriend named Amy. But he said just all the sudden she got up and left," he replied.

After his sister told him the cops were on his trail, Hurst called Kruse.

"-- yeah, he sounded really, really, down and really bad. And-- and so I went over there," said Kruse.

He heard a shocking admission.

"And he said, 'My past has finally caught up with me.' He said, 'I'm gonna go to jail for the rest of my life, if they don't execute me -- I thought I'd got away with it.' But he said -- evidently he said, 'I think they-- they found the body.' And then I thought, 'Whoa,'" said Kruse.

"I get to town. I contact the local police department, which were great, you know, and not a lot happens in their town. So this really excited them," said Schoneman.

It turns out Captain Craig Patterson already had his eye on Hurst for allegedly selling prescription drugs.

"But the idea that he had murdered somebody and put their body in the Gulf of Mexico was not something that -" Spencer said to Capt. Patterson.

"No, that was not anything that I would have guessed in 100 years," he replied.

"So where did the break in this come?" Spencer asked.

"The break came when Elmer Kruse walked into the police department here and said, 'Bill Hurst told me he disposed of a body a long time ago and it had caught up with him.' We knew. Here's our break. We've got to go now," Patterson replied.

They hatched a plan to trick Hurst. Kruse would go back up to his house -- with a surprise.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Spencer said to Schoneman. "Elmer agrees to wear a wire?"

"Yeah. Yeah," she replied.

"Why do you think he did?"

"Because he said it wasn't right to kill somebody," Schoneman replied.

"I would not let anybody... get away with murder. It's that simple," Kruse explained.

"48 Hours" obtained the tape of their extraordinary conversation:

Bill Hurst: I'm not worried about it too much. ... They're tryin' to say I took this body out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and dumped it, you know? I didn't have access to a boat --

Elmer Kruse: Well, the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, it woulda never been found anyway.

Hurst is nervous and wants reassurance:

Bill Hurst: Like I said, if they had any hard evidence, they'd arrest me when they came to the door.

Elmer Kruse: Yeah.

Bill Hurst: But they don't so they have no way of provin' that I have anything to do with anything. You know-- there's no eyewitnesses, you know? I made sure of that.

Based on Kruse's tapes, a grand jury indicted William Hurst for first-degree murder a few weeks later. It had been 29 years since the murder and now it was time for an arrest. Schoneman was leaving nothing to chance.

Hurst had become a recluse, hunkered down in his house. "...he wasn't comin' out, you know, he was barricadin' himself in there," said Schoneman.

And he was heavily armed. "He had a .45 that he had bought - a pistol," Kruse said. "And then he'd bought a .380 and ... a couple of rifles."

"-- you'll always have to worry about that, but you can't let it stop you. If I let that stop me, I'd never make an arrest. And, you know, I just have to be prepared for it," said Schoneman.

A SWAT team was hiding outside, almost ready to pounce, when Hurst's barking dog did them a huge favor.

"But, you know, he cared enough about the dog when it got tangled and couldn't reach its water, that he left the seclusion of the house to come out and untangle him," Schoneman explained.

"And that's when they grabbed him," said Spencer.

"Yes. Yes," said Schoneman.

"48 Hours" was there as Hurst was arrested and at the station when he was questioned. Hurst did not ask for a lawyer:

Det. Schoneman: I have a reason to arrest you for your wife's murder. But I would like also to hear your side of the story. Do you wanna tell me that your side of the story?

William Hurst: All I can tell ya is I didn't kill her.

Det. Schoneman: If you didn't kill her, how'd she die? And how did she end up in the Gulf of Mexico.

He still doesn't specifically ask for a lawyer and Det. Schoneman plows right on:

Det. Schoneman: And I know you were there when she died. And I know you got rid of her body.

William Hurst: Yeah.

Det. Schoneman: I'd like to know why.

hurst-interrogation.jpg
William Hurst is questioned by Det. Lisa Schoneman
48 Hours

Hurst tells her, blaming Amy for what happened:

William Hurst: She went to kick me.

Det. Schoneman: Uh-huh (affirms).

William Hurst: And when she kicked me, her foot slipped and she fell and she hit her head on the back of the concrete floor.

Det. Schoneman: Was it just the one time she --

William Hurst: That was it.

Det. Schoneman: --hit her head? Did she bleed or did she -- what happened?

William Hurst: I didn't have -- notice any bleedin'. I -- and I panicked. And I didn't know what to do.

All just a terrible accident, he says:

William Hurst: And I rolled her up in the blanket and I did dispose of the body. Now, that I'm guilty of.

Det. Schoneman: Well, how -- where did you -- you use the boat to do it or --

William Hurst: No. Off the Sunshine Sky Bridge.

Det. Schoneman: Why didn't you just call the police, Bill? I mean --

William Hurst: I don't know. I just panicked out. I don't know why. I know I should've done that but I don't know why I didn't. I just wigged out. And I didn't know what to do. So-- I couldn't for the life of me bring -- 'cause that's the woman I loved with all my heart. I couldn't bring to bear the fact that she had passed.

Hurst almost seems to think he deserves sympathy:

William Hurst: Are they gonna release me and go back to my house or what?

Det. Schoneman: Oh, no, Bill. You're -- you're under arrest buddy. You've been charged with first-degree murder and you're gonna --

William Hurst: It ain't first-degree murder.

Det. Schoneman: --be stayin' in custody.

With Hurst behind bars, Schoneman makes the call she's been looking forward to for years -- to Amy Hurst's son.

Jeff Earley: Hey, what's up?

Det. Schoneman: Guess what?

Jeff Earley: What?

Det. Schoneman: It's over dude. It's all over dude. He's in custody he's been charged with your mother's murder.

Jeff Earley: No kidding.

"That was a great call. I didn't tell him I was goin'. I didn't tell him what I was doin' initially, 'cause I didn't want him to be disappointed," said Schoneman.

But disappointment may be coming. Before trial, a judge rules that most of Schoneman's interrogation can't be used as evidence because of one sentence:

William Hurst interrogation: That's about as much as I wanna say right now.

"The judge found that because he said he didn't wanna talk about it that he had implied his right to remain silent, so he didn't allow my conversation to be heard by the jury," Schoneman explained.

But, without Hurst's candid admissions of how Amy died, how he rolled her body in the afghan, how he dropped her off the bridge - what would a jury decide?

FLORIDA VS. WILLIAM HURST

Its been 30 years since both Wendy Huggy and Amy Hurst disappeared. Wendy's fate is still unknown. But in searching for clues about Wendy, Det. Lisa Schoneman solved the mystery of Amy. The final chapter now about to be written in a Florida courtroom.

"Ladies and gentlemen, just like every good book has a title, this story has a title. The title is "I almost got away with it," Prosecutor Michael Halkitis addressed the court.

So begins the prosecution's case against William Hurst, charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Amy.

For Amy's family, the trial is a necessary, but painful ordeal.

"... sitting in that courtroom, you know 20 feet from this guy," Spencer noted to Jeff Earley.

"That was hard to do. I couldn't look at him when I was on the stand," he replied.

"I couldn't either," said Amy's daughter, Lisa Stewart.

"I stared at him the whole time I testified. I had to look him in the eye," said Laura Shampine, who along with other family members, took the stand to recount Hurst's physical abuse of Amy.

"Amy and Bill were arguing, back and forth yelling ..." Shamine told the court. "Bill told her to shut up and he back handed her across the face."

"Black eyes, fat lips," Earley testified. "I saw him hit her with an iron skillet."

"He threw her through a shower enclosure into a bathtub and down a flight of stairs," Earley told Spencer.

"You recall this as a kid?" Spencer asked.

"Oh yeah," Earley replied. "That was one that you don't ever forget."

Prosecutor Michael Halkitis: Did you ever recall Mr. Hurst threatening to kill your mom?

Jeff Earley: Yes.

Hurst's defense is not a surprise.

"This death was an accident. She tried to kick him, she fell, she hit her head," defense attorney Dean Livermore told the court. "She died accidentally, and that is not a murder."

"There were two gashes to the back of the head," Halkitis demonstrated to jurors. "They're right here and here."

"On the left side of her head there was another marked contusion, somewhere over here," Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega testified.

But to Dr. Vega, the multiple injuries indicate that Amy's death was no accident:

Prosecutor Halkitis: Would you expect to see those types of injuries, when someone falls and hits their head?

Dr. Vega: Not three injuries, no.

Dr. Vega: My opinion as to the cause of death, Is death caused by unspecified homicidal violence.

But proving murder could be a problem for prosecutors, because the judge has ruled that they can't use the tape of Hurst's incriminating interview.

William Hurst Interrogation: I can't remember if she died instantly, or she was just knocked out...cause It was like three days between the time that it happened to the time I disposed of the body.

Detective Schoneman admits she wanted the jury to hear that.

"Were you completely confident in your own mind that you would be OK without it?" Spencer asked.

"You're never completely confident you know? You don't know what the jury's gonna think," said Schoneman.

But the jury does hear Elmer Kruse's chilling testimony.

"... he has his elbow on his coffee table, had his head in his hand," Kruse said on the stand. "... So he said ... 'I got rid of a body the way you're supposed to get rid of a body.' He said, 'I wrapped it up in plastic, tied a concrete block around it, took it out and dropped it in the water.'"

Perhaps the most damning evidence of all -- the secret audio tapes Elmer Kruse made in which Hurst brags about his crime:

William Hurst recording: They have no way of proving that I had anything to do with anything. There were no eyewitnesses, you know, I made sure of that.

"What was that like for you?" Spencer asked Kruse about testifying.

"It was a new experience. That's the first time I'd ever done anything like that. But see, when you tell the truth you don't have to worry about if what's right. My wife tells me every day that I'd done a good thing," he replied.

The defense calls no witnesses.

"This is a case of a tragic accident," Livermore said in his closing.

And William Hurst does not take the stand. That upset Jeff Earley.

"I want to know, I want him to tell me what happened," he told Spencer.

"You still want to know exactly what happened," said Spencer.

"Absolutely," Earley replied.

"This defendant, William Hurst, is guilty of first degree murder, thank you," Prosecutor Halkitis said in his closing.

Asked what his frame of mind was when the jury went out, Earley told Spencer, "At that point, I just wanted to go home, but they said sometimes it can take 8 hours or sometimes it can take 20 minutes."

The jury is out a mere three hours:

State of Florida versus William Hurst, verdict, the defendant is guilty of murder in the first degree as charged in the indictment. As say we all this fourth day of April...

"Can you describe your feelings when you heard those words, 'Guilty,'" Spencer asked Lisa Stewart.

I had something in me that I didn't know it was even there," she replied. "I just gasped out and started crying. And my cousin was sitting next to me. And we both just cried and cried."

"Mr. Hurst, you are well and truly an evil man. I sentence you to life in prison," said Judge William R. Webb.

Hurst is sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years.

"Did you want him to get the death penalty? Spencer asked Earley.

"Uh-uh (negative). We don't want the death penalty 'cause that's the easy way out," he replied.

Amy's family gathered at Elizabeth Lake in Waterford, Mich., where Amy had often spent family vacations.

"...her ashes were spread on the water and they had roses on it, and they had rose petals out there. And it was absolutely beautiful," Amy's sister, Sharon Nijhof said. "It's been 30 years, time heals, but as we stood there on that boat I thought to myself 'it's just like she died yesterday' ... her kids in so much pain."

"They have had to live all these years without their mother," said Shampine.

"I drive by there all the time. I always look at the water," said Earley.

"But it gave you a sense that maybe she is at peace," Spencer noted.

"Right, yeah," said Earley.

Amy's family acknowledges that peace would not have been possible were it not for Wendy Huggy.

"What would you have to say to the Huggy family?" Spencer asked Stewart.

"Don't give up," she replied. "Something could still happen."

"Never give up," added Earley.

"Do you think there's any hope that you'll ever know what happened to Wendy?" Spencer asked Wendy's uncle, Robert Richards.

"Honestly, no. I don't ... it's really, really a long stretch," he replied.

"It's a beautiful 17-year-old girl who just disappeared, where is she, what happened to her," said Schoneman.

The cold case detective is not about to give up.

"I just came across a couple the other day But it wasn't her," Schoneman told Spencer at the unmarked gravesite.

"But you're not gonna stop looking?" Spencer asked.

"Oh, no. No, I'll keep lookin'. I'll find her. I'll find her.

William Hurst will be 85 when he becomes eligible for parole.

THE WENDY HUGGY CASE

wendy-huggy-progression.jpg
Pasco County Sheriff's Office

Have information about the Wendy Huggy case?

Please contact the Pasco County Sheriff's Office at 1-800-706-2488.

More From 48 Hours

Comments