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Death at Cottonwood Creek

Death at Cottonwood Creek
Death at Cottonwood Creek 42:28

Produced by Alec Sirken

[This story was first broadcast on Oct. 12, 2013. It was updated on Sept. 6, 2014.]

(CBS News) --Amid the majestic mountains of Colorado and the landscape surrounding the family vacation house, Leslie Mueller found her sanctuary.

"It was a beautiful house with some beautiful land around it," said Bob Burden, the former undersheriff in Hinsdale County.

Burden knew the Muellers.

"The people in town would talk about her -- how excited she was when she was up here, how exuberant. And she loved to take advantage of everything that was up here," he told "48 Hours" correspondent Peter Van Sant.

Leslie came to the town of Lake City each summer to ride horses and, at Christmas, to ski. With her were Fred, her husband of 27 years, and their three children: Alex, now at the Naval Academy, Ariel, working for a Dallas bank, and Amanda, who works in the oil and gas industry.

Fred and Leslie had married young; he was 19 and she was 20. A deeply religious woman, Leslie became a pioneering doctor in their hometown of San Angelo, Texas, as the first female OB/GYN in the area.

"They are very, very affectionate to each other. They were the type of couple that, you know, you kind of feel uncomfortable 'cause they're all over each other," said son Alex Mueller.

Even on the rare occasions they didn't see eye to eye, the disagreements didn't last, says daughter Ariel.

"Mom and dad both had a very strict philosophy that when you had an issue with someone ... you always work it out and you never go to bed angry. And that was something that they lived by, both of them. And that's why they had such a great marriage. Cause they never harbored any grudges against each other," she said.

The Muellers seemed to have it all: three successful children, a big home in San Angelo filled with a lifetime of family memories. And Fred owns a thriving metals business in town. They are a proud family, going back generations in the community.

But what happened in the deep mountain woods on May 3, 2008, in a creek filled with rushing water, changed their lives forever.

That Saturday started out happily. "It was a wonderful day, we basically spent the whole day, us three together," said Alex.

They went to church. Afterwards, Fred and Alex did some work around the house. And then, Fred and Leslie decided to go for a hike.

"And so they were urging me to come along with 'em..." Alex said.

"Your dad too?" Van Sant asked.

"Yes both," Alex replied, "... and they were even pressing me, saying, 'well come on, it'll be fun ... we'll see the waterfall.' At that point, I was pretty wore out. Cause I mean, I'd worked all morning and so they decided to, you know, just make it a date."

That date would soon take a tragic turn.

Burden was one of the first law enforcement officers on the scene, and Fred Mueller described to him what had happened.

"Fred led us right down to the edge of the creek. Beautiful waterfall down here and he said he was coming down here with his wife to -- to start taking pictures ... just to this ledge," Burden explained to Van Sant as they walked along the ledge above the creek.

"Right down below. A little treacherous here, isn't it?" Van Sant remarked.

"The waterfall in the background was really the point of interest they had in terms of the picture taking that day," said Burden.

Leslie Mueller in a photo taken on the day of her fatal hike
Leslie Mueller in a photo taken on the day of her fatal hike

It's where one of the last photos of Leslie Mueller was taken, before Fred says a bizarre turn of events was set in motion.

"He had her kneel just about where you are, she was holding the dog," Burden explained. "This is where Fred tells me that as he took the picture, a bird flew by ... the bluebird appeared to startle the dog and that as she was getting up she suddenly started going backwards."

Fred described it himself to police the next day when they interviewed him on audio tape: "It's like it just happened in slow motion in front of me where she falls, she just did a swan dive... and lands on the rocks by right the water," he said.

Behind the scenes at Cottonwood Creek 02:09

"The one he pointed to during this walk through was that one--there's a little bit of water coming over the top," Burden said, pointing to one of the rocks below. "Pretty big-sized rock."

"... And she did a swan dive, just like head and shoulders and just slides like mush into the channel ..." Fred told investigators. "I'm screaming her name, I'm hollering, I don't know what I'm doing and the next thing I know she's out of sight there... and I can't really see where I can get to her ... she's just face down in the water head first going downstream."

Leslie's body was found wedged under a tree that that goes across the creek. It's just 50 yards downstream from where Fred said she fell in.

Fred says he ran down the mountain trail for help, and rescuers trekked up the river, eventually finding Leslie's lifeless body.

It appeared to be a terrible, tragic accident.

"I know that she's in a better place and I know that Jesus is with our family... and so I had to keep it together for my dad, for my mom still ..." said Alex.

But the family has had a big problem putting it all behind them. Because as police scrutinized Fred's story of what happened, they weren't at all sure that it was true.

"Fred Mueller says all that occurred here was one horrific accident," Van Sant commented to Burden.

"I say it was not an accident. I say it was cold blooded murder," he replied.

Did Leslie really fall from the cliff?

When Leslie Mueller's drowned body was found wedged beneath a log in Cottonwood Creek, investigators took Fred Mueller at his word.

"Initially we had every reason to believe it was an accident," said Bob Burden.

But it wasn't long before Fred's eyewitness account of what happened raised some troubling questions.

"Each time we would talk to him," Burden said, "the red flags kept being waved."

According to Fred, Leslie fell from a cliff - about 17 feet above the creek, but somehow didn't land in the rocky area below, that's about six-feet wide. Instead, she landed on a boulder further out into the creek and was then swept away.

"He said, 'I saw her hit with a sickening thud. She was motionless,'" said Burden.

"Hitting head first? Body first?" Van Sant asked.

"Shoulder and head," said Burden.

Based on Fred's description, investigators expected to see major injuries to Leslie's body. But her autopsy only added to the mystery.

"There was a significant absence of any visible injury to any part of the body," Burden said. "You would expect to see ... broken bones."

Which begged the question: had Leslie really fallen from that cliff?

"I didn't do anything and I'm not at all afraid of the truth," Fred Mueller told investigators.

Burden says the more Fred spoke, the more his story sounded rehearsed.

"He hit me as if he was reading from a recited script," Burden explained. "He spontaneously said, 'You know I don't have any reason to kill my wife. I don't have any motive. I don't have a girlfriend ... We love each other very much.' In fact, he told me they even had sex that day."

"He was answering a question that hadn't even been asked," said Van Sant.

"Hadn't been asked in advance of that. He just blurted that out," said Burden.

Burden says Fred could suddenly become defensive, like when he started talking about family insurance policies:

"We had a big insurance policy on the two of us," Fred told investigators on the audio tape. "It was strictly for inheritance, so what in the world would it have been of benefit to me for ... the reality is there was no reason for my wife to die that benefitted me ... no monetary benefit."

There are moments, Burden says, when Fred did sound like a man coping with the death of his wife:

"I've already had the worst thing in the world I can think of happen to me, and I just want to go home," he said.

But it was the scratches Burden saw on Fred's face that added to his growing belief that a crime had taken place.

"His explanation was that ... there were some bushes that probably scratched him," Burden said. "First of all, there weren't a lot of bushes there. And the type of scratches you normally get from bushes are totally inconsistent with the, the marks on his face."

Burden wondered, could Leslie have scratched Fred's face? And then a clue: a pair of glasses that turned out to be Fred's, found just 15 feet from where Leslie had reportedly fallen.

"I, at this point, had no idea whose glasses they were," said Burden.

They were broken. And when an officer asked if he was missing his glasses, Fred turned defensive once again:

Fred Mueller: That's bull----. You're asking me how many times a day did I have sex, but you won't tell me if you found any damn glasses.

Cop: Well we did find some glasses, we don't know if they're yours.

Fred Mueller: It's that kind of crap that makes me think you're not believing a word I'm telling you. I'm just sticking my head in a noose. I didn't do anything.

"It got so combative, at one point on the record he said, 'If you didn't have a badge and gun, I'd ... beat the s--- out of you,'" Burden said. "That kind of shocked me. And he, at that point, raised maybe he should be getting an attorney."

"And what did that suggest to you?" Van Sant asked.

"At that moment," Burden replied, "I felt that we had a criminal homicide."

Burden developed a theory of what happened on May 3, 2008.

"The scenario that I put together," he explained, "is that when the picture was being taken, what was allegedly the last picture before she fell in - he had gone forward towards her and tried to push her in."

According to Burden's theory, Leslie was fighting for her life.

"I'm thinking at that point the scuffle continued in which the glasses were ripped off and left pretty much where that rock is," he said.

This is when Burden believes Leslie scratched Fred.

"I believe at that moment, she was able to break away, gain one, two seconds maybe. And she fled down a path that paralleled the creek," said Burden. He speculates that Fred chased after her.

"He was probably one to two seconds behind her. And she ended up jumping into [the creek]. And right behind her was the husband. He jumps in too and drowns her in this pool area right below it, takes her body and just lodges it under that tree where the body was found," he said.

"What motive would Fred possibly have had to kill his wife?" Van Sant asked.

"In many cases, the motive is not as clear as one would hope. What I believe in this case is that he ... was tired of her. I don't think he hated her. I just believe he was tired of her," Burden replied.

Not a very strong motive for murder ... and that was one big problem for police trying to prove their suspicions. Fred's family says there's no motive -- because there's no murder.

"There's not a doubt in my mind, he would not hurt my mother. It was an accident," said Ariel.

Police didn't have enough evidence to charge him with a crime, so they let Fred resume his life ... for a while.

Fred Mueller on trial

"I always tell him that I love him and that things are gonna be OK and we're gonna be here for him no matter what," Ariel Mueller said of her father.

Fred Mueller returned to his Texas home to be with his three children just days after his wife, Leslie, drowned in a Colorado creek.

"He may be a big guy, but he's very emotional and very softhearted," Ariel said. "He would have never hurt my mom. ...He would do anything to make her happy."

A year passed. Then, Fred re-connected with a longtime family friend, Wendee Walker. The two began dating and were married in 2010.

"There are a number of photographs of Leslie and the kids as they're growing up," Wendee said, referencing the family photos that line the wall in the foyer of their San Angelo home. "She was a lovely person. He loved her very much. He lost her too soon and that's very, very sad. And it was very hard on him, I saw him in the middle of all that grief."

Nearly four years had passed since Leslie's death. Then, on Feb. 6, 2012, family members started getting phone calls.

"I was still in high school at the time, and I was pulled out of class by my principal," said Alex Mueller.

"I'm not gonna say it was the worst phone call I've ever had, cause the worst was on May 4, 2008. It was the second worst phone call I've ever had," said Amanda Mueller.

The children were stunned to learn Colorado authorities had arrested their father for the murder of their mom.

Fred Mueller was to spend the next year of his life in a Colorado jail awaiting trial.

"Have any of you ever had a moment of doubt?" Van Sant asked the Mueller children.

"Oh, no," they replied.

"Never?" Van Sant asked.

"Never. No. Uh-uh ," they said .

"Not for a moment?"


"If -- if you knew my dad you wouldn't -- you wouldn't doubt either," said Alex.

"You wouldn't lie for him, in other words, in this situation--" said Van Sant.

"My dad wouldn't lie for himself. He's an honest man. And he -- if there was -- if something else had happened that day, he would've said so," said Ariel.

"I mean, also, you have to understand that, I mean, as much as he's non-violent, he's also, you know, I mean, probably his second-biggest trait is the fact that he doesn't have ... a nefarious bone in his body. He's not one to spin plots or cover things up," said Alex.

In January 2013, Fred Mueller's trial got under way in Gunnison, Colorado, best known for having the lowest average temperature in the continental U.S.

"Injuries are gonna tell you a story that Leslie Mueller was drowned by her husband," prosecutor Matthew Durkin said, pointing at Fred in his opening arguments.

Mike DeGuerin is Fred's lead defense attorney.

"Don't be tricked into a situation where the prosecution says 'we don't really know what happened,'" DeGuerin addressed the court. "You can't guess somebody into the penitentiary in the United States. You can't speculate ... you're not to come up with a theory. Guard against that."

For four weeks, the family - including Leslie's parents, who support Fred -- sat and listened to the prosecution witnesses and heard the evidence. As did jurors, including Betty Haggart, an interior designer; Jeannine McElveen, a park service supervisor; Brian Turner, another park service employee, and Drew Zimmerman, an electrical engineer.

"It was one of the toughest things I've ever been involved in," said Brian Turner.

Prosecutors call experts who present a series of video recreations to test whether it was possible for Leslie's body to have traveled down the winding creek to where she was found underneath the fallen tree.

Recreating Leslie Mueller's alleged journey down creek 01:21

Investigator Jack Jaynes used a mannequin that was the exact height and weight of Leslie Mueller:

Jack Haynes: Each time he would drop it the mannequin would sink, it didn't go anywhere.

Prosecutor: Mannequin ever float downstream?

Jack Haynes: Never floated, never flushed anywhere, it would just stay at the bottom.

Then, a woman investigator attempted the same journey. Water rescue expert Andrea Zafarias testified to the result.

"It's not possible for the water to have gotten a body there or to have kept a body there in that position" Zafarias testified. "A human being had to physically have put the body in that position."

But the defense presents an expert who says the tests are meaningless, because the water levels had changed between the time of the tests and when Leslie died in May.

"The opinion is that the stream flows of Cottonwood Creek on Sept. 9, 2008, were strikingly smaller by quite a bit than they were on May 3, 2008," Scott Fifer testified.

Some jurors were skeptical of the tests.

"It's a natural environment, and I felt that trying to recreate an object in a natural flow of a stream, it didn't matter what you had, it would never be the same twice," said Brian Turner.

Another question raised by prosecutors: Fred's motive. They brought in Amie Hajovsky, a former friend who testifies that the subject of divorce came up once in conversation with Fred.

"He said he wouldn't go through divorce ... he wouldn't allow a woman to dictate when he could or could not see his children," she testified.

"What you want to do is be able to say 'that's not true.' You want to be able to defend him. And you basically have to just sit there and watch him be attacked," said Alex.

"He wished he's met Leslie later in life so he got to sow his oats," Hajovsky told the court.

Jurors weren't sure what to make of Hajovsky's testimony.

"She was very, very Catholic, and therefore would probably not grant a divorce or not even agree to it. So there could have been some type of motive in that and ... that was one speculation," said Betty Haggart of Leslie.

"I wasn't presented with a motive other than he was tired of being married, when he had neighbors saying they'd see 'em walk hand in hand," Turner said. "... you would think if someone's gonna murder someone they're gonna have a reason and if he did murder her maybe he did have a reason. And they didn't know it and didn't present it because they didn't know it, I don't know."

In their case, the defense brings in Dr. Jeff Kalina, a veteran emergency room physician. His task is to explain why, after a 20-foot fall, Leslie's body had no major injuries. Kalina testified that he'd treated even more serious accident victims.

"...they got propelled out of the car window, and yet not have any significant injuries based on how they landed," Dr. Kalina testified. "That's very rare. I've seen it."

Then defense also calls Werner Spitz, a nationally known coroner who has studied Leslie's autopsy report:

Defense lawyer: What's your opinion as to the manner of death for Dr. Mueller?

Werner Spitz: Accident? Yes, I believe it was an accident. Homicide? I do not believe it was a homicide.

Asked what she thought of Fred's story, juror Jeannine McElveen told Van Sant, "As soon as the trial ended, I was pretty firmly convinced that he had some involvement in her death."

As the case goes to the jury, the Muellers are struggling to grasp that it's all come to this: after one tragedy with their mother, they could face a second one with their father.

"Five years ago it was a tragedy that Leslie passed away," Wendee Mueller said. "But the tragedy now, the tragedy today is ruthlessly coming after an innocent man. And what that's doing, not only to him, but to the rest of the family. This has become a second tragedy."

Waiting on a verdict

As the jury deliberates, the Mueller family retreats into the snowy countryside, to the house where they have lived for the past five weeks. "48 Hours" drove out to see them in the midst of a storm.

"It's been very hard to wait, the minutes go by very slow," said Wendee Mueller.

"This is like a gilded cage in some ways. This is not where you wanna be in this house, no matter how nice it is, no matter how beautiful the setting," Van Sant commented.

"Yes, yes," Wendee agreed. "We're all anxious to have ... a decision made and to be able to go home with Fred.

As the first day turns into the second and then a third, with no word, tensions are high.

"It's hard not to ... start thinking about the worst," said Ariel Mueller.

The jurors were struggling too.

"It was more difficult than I had ever anticipated it would be," Jeannine McElveen said. "I wavered back and forth knowing that there was somebody's life in the balance ... but yet there was a victim and wanting to make sure that if we felt the evidence supported it, making sure that she got justice."

"Obviously, there's a debate going on with this jury, because we're into day four. And there must be factions on either side and one faction must be trying to convince the other. Are you thinking the same thing?" Van Sant asked the Muellers.

"It's not very productive to speculate, it kind of just drives you crazy. But it seems like that," Ariel replied.

"I think we have some very strong people who see that Fred is innocent," Wendee said. "I don't think they're gonna let an innocent man go to jail for something that he didn't do."

Suddenly, Judge Steven Patrick calls everyone back to court.

"I have another note from the jury," Judge Patrick addressed the court. "They use both the words 'impasse' and 'adamant.'"

The jury has hit a wall in its deliberations.

"You could feel the tension," Brian Turner told Van Sant.

"There was a great deal of arguing and frustration," said Drew Zimmerman.

"And there were a couple of times when tempers did flare," added McElveen.

The judge calls them into the courtroom, urging they give it one more try:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I understand what you are saying. I'm going to give you one more instruction ... reflect on that ... and then let us know whether you want to further deliberate ... or not," Judge Patrick advised.

"It's a weighty decision," said Zimmerman.

"We were all over the place," McElveen explained.

"It went from being ... a stressful situation to an extremely stressful situation," said Turner.

Just a few minutes later it's over: a hung jury.

"We are deadlocked," the judge announced. "I will formally declare a mistrial."

"I was a guilty vote 'til about the last hour," said Betty Haggard, "and I changed my vote, basically in the last 15 minutes."

What hung up the jury? The lack of a clear explanation of how Fred might have killed Leslie.

"I would rather let a guilty man go free than sentence an innocent man," Turner explained. "The prosecution did nothing but poke holes in his story. They didn't give us an alternate story. That's where ... that's where I came up with my not guilty vote."

"I was pretty firmly convinced that he had some involvement in her death. But I didn't feel I had the evidence in the trial to vote guilty," said McElveen.

In the end, the vote was 11-1 for acquittal. Drew Zimmerman was the lone holdout for guilty.

"I think it was all a lie, I think it was all a big lie. Cause none of the evidence supported his statement--and that's why I voted the way I did," he said.

"An outsider looking at this would go, 'Wait a second Drew. Eleven people were wrong and you were right?'" said Van Sant.

"I guess I'm not easily swayed," Zimmerman replied. "Yeah, my mind was made up. In my heart, my mind, and my soul I felt that he was guilty."

For the Mueller family, it's not a victory, but it is a big sigh of relief.

"I wish they could have come to unanimous decision, it would have been more satisfying," said Amanda Mueller.

"I haven't been able to talk to him in person. I've gotten to talk to him through glass the past three days and that was the closest I've been to him, but while being recorded and always watched. So it'll be overwhelming, it's overwhelming to think about it. I can't wait to be able to give him a hug after over a year," said an emotional Ariel.

Soon, Fred Mueller will be set free for the first time in a year.

His release from jail is a joyous reunion for the Muellers, but the case is not closed.

Van Sant asked Mueller's attorney, Mike DeGuerin, about the possibility of a second trial.

"I'm gonna give the prosecutor room to decide that on his own," he replied.

Fred finally returns home to San Angelo.

"It was very difficult. Never been in captivity before," he said, then paused. "But we'll survive. It's gonna make us stronger, I think it already has."

The Muellers will need every bit of that strength. Ten days after the first trial ended, prosecutors decide they will retry Fred Mueller.

Fred Mueller's second trial begins

Eight months after the first trial, in a new venue -- the Denver suburb of Broomfield -- the second trial of Fred Mueller begins.

Second trial

Eight months after a jury could not reach a verdict, Fred Mueller is back in court once again, accused of drowning his wife, Leslie, five-and a half years ago.

"The man in court, the defendant, put her head under the water, under a log and left her there to die,"prosecutor Ryan Brackley told the court.

Prosecution's opening statement in Fred Mueller's murder trial 03:12

"The prosecution will not bring to you any evidence of why he would do such a thing or how such a thing would be accomplished," Fred's new attorney, Pamela Mackey addressed jurors.

Mueller defense attorney's opening statement 03:10

Mackey is best known for successfully defending NBA star Kobe Bryant in his 2003 sexual assault trial.

But the prosecution comes out swinging with witness Justin Sparks.

After Fred had unsuccessfully tried to find Leslie in the creek, he ran to Sparks' house for help. Sparks discovered Leslie Mueller's lifeless body under the log.

"He would act kind of frantic one second, and the next second he was talking to me very nonchalant and normal," Sparks testified about Fred. "It almost felt like he was acting more than he was being sincere. ... I just started getting kind of a bad feeling about the whole situation."

Then, for the defense, Mackey cross examines other prosecution witnesses vigorously, including former undersheriff Bob Burden.

Pamela Mackey: Did you take a GPS measurement of where it was?

Bob Burden: No

Mackey attacks Burden's investigation, portraying it as a shoddy, mistake filled mess:

Pamela Mackey: Mr. Burden ... would you please answer my question. Did anyone take a yardstick and place it into the river to measure the level?

Bob Burden: If you are asking me, then I can say no. As for other people that I did or did not observe, I cannot testify to that.

In an attempt to suggest a motive -- that Fred had a wandering eye -- the prosecution calls up Jeannie Barnes, Fred's former assistant. She testifies that Fred was coming on to her.

Prosecutor: Do you remember that these texts from the defendant and phone calls from the defendant caused a strain in your marriage?

Jeannie Barnes: Yes.

But under pointed cross examination, Barnes takes on a very reluctant tone:

Pamela Mackey: Did you ever have an affair with Fred Mueller?

Jeannie Barnes: No I did not.

Pamela Mackey: Did he ever ask you for any sexual favors?

Jeannie Barnes: No he did not.

Pamela Mackey: Did he ever approach you in a sexual way at any time?

Jeannie Barnes: No he did not.

Pamela Mackey: Fair to say, Ms. Barnes, the investigators that you've talked to have tried to make you into the other woman in Fred's life?

Jeannie Barnes: I feel that.

Pamela Mackey: But weren't the other woman in his life, were you?

Jeannie Barnes: No.

Pamela Mackey: You're crying a little bit, why is that upsetting?

Jeannie Barnes: This whole process is just been attacking I guess.

Pamela Mackey: Attacking?

Jeannie Barnes: Yes.

Pamela Mackey: Attacking you?

Jeannie Barnes: It feels that way.

And as she did in the first trial, water rescue expert Andrea Zafarias testifies that Leslie Mueller's drowning was no accident.

"Dr. Mueller cannot have gotten from the alleged fall site to the log site," Zafarias testified.

So Mackey aggressively rebukes her:

Andrea Zafarias: I can't imagine how she got into the water in the first place from that cliff.

Pamela Mackey: There you go again, volunteering information that will help the prosecution.

Andrea Zafarias: You know, I, I cant...

Pamela Mackey: Ms. Zafarias excuse me. Please answer my question--

Andrea Zafarias: I do not know where she drowned --

Pamela Mackey: Mr. Durkin will be happy to get up here and let you talk all you want, but for right now, the rules are I ask the questions, you give me the answers.

Andrea Zafarias: OK.

After a seven-day trial, with testimony from more than 30 witnesses, closing arguments begin.

"You know what the defendant said happened on May 3, 2008, is unreliable," prosecutor Matt Durkin addressed the court. "You know what he said is impossible."

Durkin says the proof of Fred's lies can be found on Leslie Mueller's body.

"He can't sell to you that she went through a gauntlet of 130 feet of Cottonwood Creek and was found in what has described as in a pristine condition," he continued.

And as for those scratches on Fred's face: "The defendant can't tell you what happened to his face. He gives you three different explanations, he says he wrestled with a bush, he then says perhaps when he climbed out of the creek. And then, guesses in March 2009, well maybe, just maybe, I self mutilated myself. Again, impossible. Right?"

Finally, Durkin argues, Fred's behavior that day points to guilt.

"As everyone ran to save Dr. Mueller's life, as everyone ran to save a woman they had never even met or known ... the defendant was running away. Because he knew she was dead," Durkin told jurors. "The defendant didn't run away from an accident, he ran away from a murder. We ask you to find the defendant guilty."

Then it's Pamela Mackey's turn.

"What the prosecution ... has done, is to take the statement of a man, who has just experienced the most horrific event of his life -- seeing his wife fall and being swept downstream -- and for next five years they have put that statement under a microscope and picked it apart," she said in her closing.

Mackey suggests it's the prosecution's story that shouldn't be believed.

"What evidence, hard physical evidence do they bring to you of how Fred Mueller supposedly caused her death of his wife? What evidence have they brought to you that he drowned her? Not theory, not speculation, but hard evidence.

"Certainly, no evidence that he went from this," referencing a picture of Fred smiling, taken the day of the hike, "to a homicidal maniac.

"What's the story? They haven't told you one," Mackey continued.

And if Leslie had fought for her life, wouldn't her body have shown evidence of a struggle?

"There are no injuries consistent with a murder caused by drowning. There's no injuries to her neck, her shoulders, her back, indictating she was held down," Mackey stated. "What the prosecution relies on is a dissection of Mr. Mueller's description of the events. Is that fair? Is that the quantum of proof upon which to convict a man of murder?"

Mackey says there is a reason why some of Fred's story is confusing.

"The human brain, the human memory, doesn't work like a video camera - particularly in situations that are traumatic and stressful," she said.

"And so I ask you at long last, after five long years, to lift the pain and anguish ... from Fred Mueller, from his family," Mackey pleaded. "I ask you to return the only just verdict in this case. A verdict of not guilty."

After the jury deliberates 12 hours over two days, the judge comes back with a stunning announcement:

Judge Francis C. Wasserman: Ladies and gentlemen, you have sent me what I consider to be a final note indicating you are hopelessly deadlocked. ... I will consider the jury deadlocked.

Fred can't believe what he just heard. It's happened again: a hung jury.

The judge declares a mistrial.

Fred tries to control his emotions, but is overwhelmed. The news seems to knock the wind out of Wendee.

The jury split: Eight guilty, four not guilty.

Fred's recurring nightmare wasn't over. Now he could face a third trial for the murder of his wife, Leslie.


Just two months later, a stunning announcement from the prosecution. With no new evidence to present, they felt that a unanimous verdict was unlikely. There would be no third trial . No chance for a conviction. But no chance for vindication either.

The Muellers told "48 Hours" they were sorely disappointed Fred didn't get the full acquittal, they say, he deserves. But they're grateful the case has been dismissed so that they can resume in their lives.

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