"48 Hours Mystery:" Show Me the Money

Strapped with Dynamite, a Woman Robs a Bank to Save her Daughter Held Hostage by a Team of Gunmen

The first hour of jury deliberation - which Weston called "the first hour of sweat" - stretched into a day; then another day.

Finally, after five days, the jury came back.

"I was waiting and waiting and waiting. I wanted to hear the words 'guilty' for what they had done," said Michelle Renee.

She heard nothing of the kind. While the jury found Christopher Butler guilty of kidnapping Breea and Kimbra, he was not convicted of kidnapping Michelle.

Jurors said later that some believed Butler's claim that he and Michelle were having an affair, although there was no evidence they even knew each other.

"[There are] no pictures. Not a phone record. Not one person that ever saw us together. Not one single thing to support this guy's claims," Michelle said.

Equally shocking was the verdict for Lisa Ramirez who had confessed, although the confession never was heard in court. The jury found Ramirez not guilty on all counts.

For Michelle, the verdict was, "complete disappointment. Shock."

"For us it was a good victory," said Herb Weston. "My client got to go home that night."

Weston's client walked out of the court room a free woman.

"Lisa Ramirez is guilty," said prosecutor Tom Manning. "And had we tried the case - separating the defendants and used the confession - it's more than likely that a jury would have convicted her."

Of the confession Weston said, "They didn't use it. That wasn't the evidence."

Spencer pointed out, "Even today, you smile when you tell me they didn't use it."

"Well, of course," Weston replied. "Because my - my girl confessed. Or made a statement that… implied at least she was aware of what was going on."

When the judge threw out her confession, the case against Ramirez hinged on Michelle's testimony. Rudy Zamora said she'd done herself no favors.

"Her credibility was shot on the stand. And the jury caught on."

"The jury did not believe Michelle," added Manning. "One juror thought Michelle was involved."

And how did Michelle think she fared on the stand?

"Horrible. Terrible. [I] beat myself up for a really long time about being so weak up there," she told Spencer.

Michelle got a chance to redeem herself two months later, when she took the stand in the trial of Christopher Huggins and Robert Ortiz.

This time, Michelle was prepared. And this time, the entire case didn't hang on her.

Manning had the confessions from Ortiz and Huggins - confessions in which they never once accuse Michelle of being involved.

The jury was out for only a day. Huggins and Ortiz were found guilty on all charges - including the kidnapping of Michelle Renee. The two men, along with Christopher Butler, were each given three consecutive life terms in prison.

Which leaves just one nagging question: where was the missing $360,000 taken from the bank?

In the end, investigators say they recovered about $100,000. The rest, said Zamora, is "gone forever."

To this day, police have no idea what happened to that missing money or who ended up with it.

Former bank colleague Loretta Myers feels that the trial left an unfair cloud of suspicion hanging over Michelle.

"If you're gonna ask me if Michelle has [the money]…no," she said. "Michelle was not a part of this. She would never, ever, jeopardize Breea. Never."

When asked if she still runs into people who wonder if she had anything to do with the robbery, Michelle said, "I do. And I get pissed about it. 'Are you kidding me?' My daughter is my world."

Breea is now 16 and focused on high school activities, cheerleading and gymnastics. But she still has flashbacks to that awful night.

"I don't think it's ever gonna be back to, like, total normal. Because it's still, like, with us a little bit," she told Spencer.

Michelle said she and her daughter still have nightmares. "And, when they come, we know how to talk about it and not let it rule our lives."

In fact, Michelle discovered she liked talking about her experience, and soon turned it into a new career.

"Without this ever happening, I don't know that I would have found something I'm so passionate about," she explained.

Michelle is passionate about telling her story. She first wrote a book about the crime. Lifetime turned her book into a TV movie, with Michelle in a cameo role as a bank teller.

About her book

Rather than running away from the worst day in her life, she continues to embrace it with motivational speaking engagements, TV and radio appearances, and an upbeat Web site.

"It seems like you've done everything possible to keep this, more or less, as the focus of your life," Spencer noted.

"My focus is - the center focus is for me now is about healing. It's about not letting things in your life that happen to you keep you down," she said. "I get e-mails from people and phone calls… that say, 'You have no idea how much you've helped me.' That's - that's worth a million bucks," she said.

And the bank manager should know.


Michelle Renee sued Bank of America for negligence. Her case was dismissed.

Produced by Lisa Freed and Sarah Huisenga