Everything to Lose

After evidence is lost, cell phone records prove critical in case against Texas man charged in brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend and her dog

Produced by Chris O'Connell
[This story first aired on Dec. 8, 2012. It was updated on Aug. 17, 2013]

It takes a lot to get defense attorney Dick DeGuerin away from his cattle and into a courtroom. He's one of the most famous defense lawyers in Texas. He can pick and choose his cases and he's chosen the case of Thomas Ford.

"Look very carefully at the evidence and you will find that Thomas Ford is not guilty," DeGuerin addressed the court at trial. "I'm worried that an innocent man could be convicted."

Thomas Ford, 43, is from one of the best families in one of the best neighborhoods of San Antonio. He's charged with killing his former girlfriend Dana Clair Edwards.

DeGuerin will do battle with three of San Antonio's top prosecutors, led by Catherine Babbitt.

"Man, you guys are going against Dick DeGuerin..." Babbitt quipped to "48 Hours" correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

Her co-counsel, Kirsta Melton and Kathy Cunningham, knew well what they were up against.

"The Fords had everything they could want," Cunningham explained. "They had the best attorney -- a lot of money. So, we were behind the eight ball. And even if we lost it, we were going to fight as hard as we could for Dana and for the Edwards."

On Jan, 2, 2009, Dana Clair's body was found face down in her condo.

"You try to think, well, what could have happened. You can never imagine that someone would murder your child," said her mother, Deborah.

"We thought Dana was in the safest place in the world," said her father, Darrell.

Deborah and Darrell Edwards raised Dana Clair in the tony San Antonio neighborhood called Alamo Heights.

Video: Life inside the Alamo Heights "bubble"

"Dana didn't look down on anyone, whether it was the poorest person or the richest person," said Darrell.

"We were in cheerleading together. We really bonded over that," Dana Clair's close friend, Cornelia Sawatzky, said. "And I just miss her ... miss her a lot. She was a positive energy and a positive spirit."

"I mean, she was just always full of life and love," said Dana Clair's older brother, DJ, said. "The ultimate, you know, American girl."

"She loved horses and she loved dogs," said Deborah.

"Dogs, cats, ducks. Anything that walked she -- she was constantly bringin' 'em home," Darrell laughed.

But it was Grit, a Jack Russell Terrier, mostly, who was her favorite. Dana Clair rescued him and Grit became her constant companion.

"Grit was always, kind of, her main little baby and he was a special little critter," said Sawatzky

Dana Clair went to medical school, but had to drop out after seriously injuring her back in a car accident. She worked in the family construction business near her childhood home in Alamo Heights.

Dana Clair Edwards and Thomas Ford
Dana Clair Edwards and Thomas Ford Edwards family

When she was murdered, of course, Thomas Ford, her ex-boyfriend, was a logical suspect. But most people say he's not an obvious suspect.

"What kind of guy is he?" Schlesinger asked DeGuerin.

"He's a really decent, nice guy. He had a great upbringing. He was popular in high school. He had a lot of friends," he replied.

Dana Clair and Thomas Ford began dating in 2006.

"It seemed like a healthy, you know, kind of solid relationship," said Sawatzky.

Darrell and Deborah Edwards treated Ford like family.

"We did like Thomas very much," said Deborah.

"Fun person to be with. He was out at our ranch a lot of times," said Darrell.

Like Dana Clair, Thomas Ford worked for his family's company, also in construction.

But DJ and his girlfriend, Tammy Treascher, thought that even though Dana and Ford had some things in common, they were still an odd couple.

"From the beginning, I didn't see it as a match ... as a good match," Treascher said. "They seemed too different. She wanted to settle down. He was more in the single mindset."

In October of 2008, after a two-and-a-half year relationship, Dana Clair broke up with Ford. But the two moved in the same social circles and remained friends.

Then, just before Christmas, Ford asked Dana Clair over to his house. Her mother says he told Dana Clair he was having a hard time with the breakup.

"She told me that it had been a really hard meeting. He was going on and on and crying and she was worried and she said, 'Finally, I just had to leave, mother,'" Deborah told Schlesinger.

If Dana Clair was worried about Thomas Ford, she was also looking forward to her own future. She got ready for New Year's Eve in Alamo Heights and said goodbye to her parents who were going to the family ranch.

"... I went in and told her. I said, 'We're ... gonna go to the ranch a day early.' And she said, 'Let me walk you to your car, Mom,'" Deborah recalled. "... gave me a big hug and a kiss, stood at the car door and said, 'Y'all have fun. I'll call ya.'"

Dana Clair rang in 2009 at a party; Thomas was also there. She went home shortly after midnight. The next day, New Year's Day, her parents expected to hear from Dana Clair. The Edwards's called their daughter dozens of times, but, of course, she never answered.