It was New Year's Day 2002 when Nancy Sonnenfeld was found shot in the head inside a second floor bedroom in her Denver, Colorado, home. Her husband, Kurt Sonnenfeld, made a frantic 911 call around 1:40 a.m. and told police, "She shot herself in the head."
Police immediately thought that what they were told by Kurt Sonnenfeld did not match the evidence at the scene. Retired Lt. Det. Jonathan Priest told "48 Hours," "We were questioning nearly from the start that this had anything to do with a self-inflicted injury and was more consistent with a homicide."
Kurt Sonnenfeld was arrested on suspicion of murder. This is the mug shot taken at the Denver Police Department after he was placed into custody. There's some bruising around his right eye which police say is possible evidence of a struggle with his wife, Nancy. Sonnenfeld claimed the bruising was caused by police trying to subdue him.
Kurt Sonnenfeld's biggest assignment was being sent to Ground Zero as one of two official FEMA cameramen. He arrived at Ground Zero a week after the 9/11 attacks. The footage shot by Sommerfeld and his partner was seen all over the world.
In the months before her death, Nancy and Kurt Sonnenfeld's relationship had soured. Nancy filed for legal separation in November 2001, and her sister, Amy Leek, said Nancy wanted a divorce. "We talked about it ... she was planning on moving on."
Despite their problems, Nancy and Kurt Sonnenfeld spent New Year's Eve 2001 together. Kurt told police they had arrived home from a party around 1:30 a.m. and just minutes later Nancy's life came to a violent end.
Kurt told police he was out of the room when he heard a gunshot. When police arrived at the scene, the gun was found several feet from Nancy's body. This police photo shows the gun on a comforter found on the bedroom floor.
Nancy Sonnenfeld died at the hospital later that morning. She was 36 years old. Former Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Amy Martin said Nancy's gunshot wound was unusual in that it was towards the back of the head. Dr. Martin told "48 Hours," "I don't think I have ever seen a clear self-inflicted gunshot wound in that part of the head." This diagram from Dr. Martin illustrates the location of her gunshot wound.
Retired Lt. Det. Jonathan Priest tells "48 Hours" that he believes Kurt shot Nancy and had time to clean up before calling 911. According to Priest, this would explain why gunshot residue was found on Kurt's clothing but not on his hands. "He had more than enough time to wash his hands; the fact that he has gunshot residue on him at all is what's significant." This is an evidence photo of the gun that was fired that night.
Kurt Sonnenfeld's defense attorney, Carrie Thompson, said detectives missed a key element in their investigation. She and her defense team said they found a note which they describe as a suicide note. It appeared to have been torn from Nancy Sonnenfeld's diary and contained this line from a Walt Whitman poem: "What indeed is finally beautiful except death and love"- to which Nancy added, "Kurt please get help."
Kurt Sonnenfeld's defense attorney, Carrie Thompson, and her team conducted their own crime scene analysis. This photo was taken about two weeks after the shooting. It shows Thompson sitting on the chaise lounge where Nancy was found. The lines above her head indicate where blood spatter was found on the wall.
Kurt's Sommerfeld's trial date was set for July 23, 2002. But about a month before the trial was to begin, Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter made an unusual decision. He dropped the charges against Sonnenfeld. "It just felt to me like our Denver Police Department Homicide Division still had work to do on this case," he said.
As police collected more evidence, two jailhouse informants came forward separately after Kurt Sonnenfeld was released. "48 Hours" tracked down one of them. Robert Dreyer shared a jail cell with Sonnenfeld. He told "48 Hours," "That man told me he killed that woman, his wife."
The Denver District Attorney's Office now felt they had enough evidence to refile the murder charge against Kurt Sonnenfeld. So in December 2003, almost two years after Nancy Sonnenfeld's death, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Police, however, did not expect what came next. "We start looking for him and we find out that he's no longer in the United States."
Kurt Sonnenfeld was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He said he traveled there on vacation, eight months after the murder charge in Denver was dropped. He told an Argentinian reporter "I never hid when I was here. I traveled here with my own passport, with an airline ticket under my name." Sonnenfeld supplied this itinerary to "48 Hours." He pointed out that he booked a return trip to the U.S.
Just days after his arrival in Buenos Aires, Kurt Sonnenfeld met Paula at a café. They were married 40 days later. Paula Sonnenfeld told "48 Hours" the couple planned to visit the United States after they were married, but found it difficult to obtain a visa.
Kurt Sonnenfeld was jailed for nearly seven months in Argentina's Devoto Prison while U.S. authorities fought to have him extradited and sent back to Denver, Colorado. Paula Sonnenfeld told "48 Hours" she was confident he'd be released, "It's always fear. But in this case I trust my country."
In March 2005, Argentinian Judge Daniel Rafecas rejected the U.S. extradition request and ordered Kurt Sonnenfeld's immediate release, citing that there were no guarantees that the State of Colorado would not impose the death penalty in his case. The ruling in Spanish, seen here, was provided to "48 Hours" by the Argentinian Criminal Court.
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens refutes claims that Kurt Sonnenfeld faced the death penalty. "I signed promises that we wouldn't seek the death penalty." The decision rejecting the extradition request was appealed and dragged through the Argentine courts for years.
Nancy Sonnenfeld's family began to fear that Kurt Sonnenfeld may never stand trial for her death and they may never get closure. "I was frustrated. I was frustrated that he wasn't going to come back to the States," said Nancy's cousin, Leslie Lindberg.
Six months after his release from Devoto prison, Kurt and Paula Sonnenfeld met with Argentinian journalist, Rolando Graña. Sonnenfeld told Graña a tale of being falsely accused in Denver. Graña told "48 Hours," "I think Kurt is not a murderer, I'm sure he's not a murderer."
Kurt Sonnenfeld launched a public campaign to clear his name, but what made him a cause célèbre in Argentina is something that many in the U.S. would find outrageous. He claims that he saw evidence that American officials played a role in the attack on the World Trade Center, and that that's the real reason authorities are after him. However, he has never provided any concrete evidence to back his claim, and documents obtained by "48 Hours" indicate that Sonnenfeld was not dispatched to Ground Zero until Sept 18, 2001, a full week after the attacks.
Kurt and Paula Sonnenfeld launched their own movement. They continued to repeat their claims and theories about the U.S. involvement in 9/11. His story has been embraced by those who have little trust in governments. They've even hosted signature signing campaigns in order to gather support for Kurt Sonnenfeld's application for asylum in Argentina.
Scarlett and Natasha Sonnenfeld are Kurt and Paula's twin daughters. They are 10 years old and Paula Sonnenfeld says they know everything about their father's case. "Scarlett and Natasha are soldiers in this cause." Paula told "48 Hours" that their daughters live in constant fear that one day Kurt will be captured by U.S. authorities and put to death.
"48 Hours" sat down with Paula Sonnenfeld. She says she is fully aware of the evidence the Denver District Attorney's office says they have against Kurt. "He is innocent. [There] is nothing else to say. Kurt is incapable of killing even a cricket or an ant."
Late last year, Kurt Sonnenfeld's case landed on President Cristina Kirchner's desk. During the final weeks of her presidency, "48 Hours" confirmed that Kirchner's administration ruled that Sonnenfeld will not be extradited, stating that to do so would be a violation of human rights.
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said Kurt Sonnenfeld has avoided prosecution by spinning the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks. "Kurt Sonnenfeld is definitely gaming the system, though someday, hopefully, that game may run out."
"48 Hours" spoke to Nancy Sonnenfeld's cousin, Leslie Lindberg, after this recent decision. She said, "The manipulations, they go on and on... and it will come out... and I will be alive to see it. Even if I have to go to Argentina, I will look that man in the eye again. I will never let this die."
More than 14 years after Nancy Sonnenfeld's death, her cousin, Leslie Lindberg, still has hope that someday they will see Kurt Sonnenfeld stand trial for murder. "It matters because my cousin lost her life. She's not there because of him. He needs to account, atone for that night."