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15 blunders that helped investigators put criminals behind bars

How criminal blunders led investigators to catch these killers
How criminal blunders led investigators to catch these killers 03:26

As we celebrate our 35th anniversary season, the staff at "48 Hours" has had the chance to reflect on the staggering number of cases we've featured in our time covering the criminal justice system.

We've seen the lengths some killers have gone to in order to evade justice: fake identities, burner phones, hired hitmen. They've bleached crime scenes and destroyed evidence. Bodies were buried and burned and left at sea. A chef cooked his victim. Some have come up with ingenious ways to kill — poisoning with nicotine or eye drops. We've seen crime scenes that befuddled blood spatter experts and injuries that left medical examiners unsure how the victims died. 

But some might say that just as interesting are those who made such obvious mistakes that they stand in a category of their own: examples of how not to get away with murder.

Here are 15 standouts.

Thomas Murray | "A Mind for Murder" 

Tom Murray computer search
CBS News

After his ex-wife Carmin was found beaten and stabbed in her home, evidence showed that Thomas Murray had been researching online how to hire an assassin and "how to murder someone and not get caught." (Aired: March 29, 2008)

Tracey Frame | "Secrets and Lies on Grapevine Lake" 

Tracy Frame surveillance video
Tracey Frame, left, seen on store surveillance video. Grapevine Police Department

Investigators found video footage at the Tom Thumb supermarket of a woman who looked like Tracey Frame buying muriatic acid, a chemical used for cleaning. They believed she planned to use it to clean blood stains after she'd killed her live-in boyfriend, David Nixon. Police were able to confirm it was her because she used her customer loyalty card when she paid, saving 19 cents. (Aired: May 26, 2007) 

Jimmy Ray Rodgers and Curtis Wayne Wright | "The Plot to Kill Dr. Sievers"

Rodgers and Wright Walmart surveillance video
Jimmy Ray Rodgers and Wayne Wright seen in surveillance video at a Florida Walmart.  WINK

Jimmy Ray Rodgers and Curtis Wayne Wright used a GPS on their rental car to get directions to the home where they killed Teresa Sievers, the wife of Wright's best friend Mark Sievers. One of the other GPS points was the local Walmart, where they were captured on security cameras buying cleaning products. (Aired: Aug. 22, 2020)

Chandler Halderson | "The Snapchat Clue"

Chandler Halderson Snapchat clue
A screenshot of Cat Mellender's Snapchat app, showing her boyfriend Chandler Halderson's avatar  — "Hubby" on her screen — at a remote location near the Wisconsin River days after his parents went missing.  Dane County Clerk of Courts

Chandler Halderson had agreed to let his girlfriend monitor his whereabouts to prove he wasn't cheating - but when he dumped his mother's body, he forgot to turn off the location tracking on Snapchat. (Aired: Nov. 5, 2022)

Dr. Pamela Buchbinder | "The Psychiatrist and the Selfie"

Buchbinder and Nolan surveillance video
Surveillance video of Dr. Pamela Buchbinder and Jake Nolan, upper right, at a New York City Home Depot on Nov. 11, 2012. Manhattan D.A.'s Office

Dr. Pamela Buchbinder and her cousin Jacob Nolan were caught on security footage at Home Depot buying a sledgehammer, which Nolan used to attack Buchbinder's ex-boyfriend, Michael Weiss. (Aired: Nov. 5, 2022)

Piper Rountree | "Two Wigs, a Gun and a Murder"

CBS News

Fred Jablin was murdered in front of his Virginia home in 2004. His ex-wife Piper Rountree, a former prosecutor, told police she was at home in Texas all weekend. But they learned she'd used a cellphone, like the one pictured, in Virginia, including having a pizza delivered to her hotel. At the time, "burner" phones were widely used by criminals — something that she should have been aware of from her time as a prosecutor. (Aired: Aug. 5, 2006)

Charles Bryant | "The Murder of Jackie Vandagriff"  

Charles Bryant at Walart
Surveillance video of Charles Bryant buying a shovel at a Texas Walmart the night Jackie Vandagriff disappeared. Grapevine Police Department

Police found a receipt in Charles Bryant's apartment showing he'd gone on an early morning shopping trip to Walmart at 4:43 a.m. Surveillance video showed that he'd purchased a shovel. Police believe he used it to try to bury the body of Jackie Vandagriff — who he'd killed earlier that evening after meeting her at a bar. (Aired: Aug. 14, 2021)

Justin Barber | "Secrets in the Sand"

Justin Barber song download
CBS News

Justin Barber said his wife April was killed during a late-night robbery, where he was also shot. Investigators discovered he'd Googled search terms "medical, trauma, gunshot, chest" six months earlier, and believe he turned the gun on himself as well as April. The day of the murder he also downloaded the Guns 'n Roses song "Used to Love Her" (But I Had to Kill Her). (Aired: June 23, 2007)

Dinh Bowman | "A Student of Murder"  

Dinh Bowman computer files
Police say Dinh Bowman's has a vast library in his computer of murder-related books, including, arrest-proof yourself, how to cover up a murder, how to get rid of a gun, how to get rid of gunshot residue. Kings County Prosecuting Attorney's Office

For years, the tech-savvy genius had been downloading books, articles and videos on the subject of death and murder and trying to get away with it. It was among the evidence used to convict Dinh Bowman for the random thrill kill murder of Yancy Noll. (Aired Sept. 10, 2016)

Jennifer Faith | "The Plot to Kill Jamie Faith"

Suspect's vehicle
A neighbor, along with surveillance cameras, captured the shooter's vehicle. It was a black Nissan truck with a distinctive "T" decal on the back window of the driver's side.  U.S. District Court for The Northern District of Texas

After her husband Jamie's murder, Jennifer Faith went on TV and said the man who shot him drove a black pickup truck with a big T on the back window. That tip, as well as surveillance video from the scene, led authorities to her boyfriend, who she conspired with to kill her husband. (Aired: April 9, 2022)

Danielle "Dani" Green | "The Killing of Cowboy Ray Green"

Ray Green murder evidence
After obtaining a search warrant to open Ray Green''s padlocked toolbox, investigators opened the box to find Ray's body inside. Indiana Court of Appeals

Dani Green told authorities investigating the death of her ex-husband Ray they could look anywhere on her large property except "that box." That box — being a large metal toolbox, sitting several yards away from the entrance to their trailer. Investigators got a search warrant for the box, and that's where they found Ray's body. (Aired: June 11, 2022)


Christopher Coleman | "The Writing on the Wall"

Coleman spray paint receipt
Chris Coleman's receipt for "candy apple red" spray paint purchased at a local hardware store. Monroe County Court

Chris Coleman claimed someone was making threats to him and his family. His wife and two sons were found murdered inside in their house, with bright red spray paint all over the walls. Investigators traced the anonymous email threats he had been receiving back to his own laptop, then found a receipt signed by Coleman purchasing "candy apple red" spray paint at a local hardware store before the murders.  (Aired: July 19, 2014)


Darren Mack | "Caught in the Crossfire" 

Darren Mack to-do list
Washoe County Court

After the death of his ex-wife Charla, a search of Darren Mack's condo turned up a to-do list referring to "end[ing] the problem" and certain weapons that he would need to fulfill those plans. (Aired: Aug. 8, 2009)

Kris Zocco | "The Disappearance of Kelly Dwyer" 

Kelly Dwyer and Kris Zocco security camera
Kelly Dwyer and Kris Zocco are seen on security video entering the lobby of Zocco's apartment building after a night out. Milwaukee Police Department

Kris Zocco was seen on surveillance video entering his apartment building with Kelly Dwyer. It's the last time she is ever seen alive. There were 28 surveillance cameras in the building and according to the police, none of them capture Kelly Dwyer exiting the building. (Aired: May 16, 2020)

Michael Handley |  "The Kidnapping of Schanda Handley" 

Michael Handley video
In a video dated June 10, 2017, Michael Handley is recorded discussing his and Schanda's relationship with a friend. Investigators say that he can be heard saying, "that's why she'll have to die." The friend later said he didn't recall hearing Michael say this. 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office

Michael Handley's estranged wife Schanda was kidnapped at gunpoint by two individuals he hired. Investigators later found surveillance video of him purchasing the handcuffs used on her, a receipt showing that he paid with a credit card to rent the van the kidnappers drove and video from his security camera showing him saying he wanted her dead. (Aired: Oct. 22, 2022)

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