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Sex, Lies And The Doctor's Wife

Extra: 3D crime scene tour 02:45

This story originally aired on Nov. 12, 2005.

Karen Tipton was in the prime of her life when she was brutally attacked and murdered in her home in Decatur, Ala., in 1999. Tipton's husband, a prominent doctor, was soon ruled out as a suspect, and the focus of the investigation shifted to a young man arrested several weeks after the crime.

Prosecutors viewed this as an open-and-shut case until the defense introduced issues related to alleged extra-marital affairs and use of pornography, and another theory on what may have led to Tipton's murder.

Correspondent Erin Moriarty reports.



David Tipton has tried hard to balance his day job as head psychiatrist at a mental hospital in Ahoskie, N.C., with his role as a single dad to 14-year-old Caroline and 10-year-old Catherine.

The girls say they are close to their dad, who has been raising his two daughters alone since his wife and their mother died in 1999.

Caroline says she misses her mom. "I do. What little I got to know her. I do miss her a lot." Caroline was 7 years old when her mother died; her sister Catherine was only 3.

And Caroline tells Catherine about their mother. "Yeah, every now and then it will be something like, 'OK, this is what she would have done. This is how she would have laughed and smiled.' Because that is probably what I remember most is just her smile."

David was a medical student when he met Karen Croft, a technician, at an Alabama hospital in 1984.

Karen's brother Lance and sister Laurie say that, after five years of dating, Karen announced David was the one.

"She said at one point, you know, 'He is just a great guy. He's going to make some person a great husband. It might as well be me,'" Laurie remembers.

They married on June 24, 1989, and soon moved to Decatur, Ala. Karen was looking forward to starting a family right away.

But almost 10 years later, on March 12, 1999, the family's life was shattered.

David Tipton says it was a perfectly normal day, and that they had made plans to see a show that night.

David says he came home from work earlier than usual. As he walked from the garage into the house, David says he noticed the deadbolt on the garage door was not locked. He thought it was a bit unusual but nothing "to go into a panic over."

Inside, David says he immediately spotted that the alarm panel had been removed and was lying on the kitchen counter.

"It was unusual, but it was not so weird. Given the fact that our alarm system was not working and we were expecting it to be fixed. But, yes, it was a little strange," David recalls, adding that the panel was on the wall when he left for work that morning.

As he went into the home's foyer to hang up his coat, David says he spotted a small drop of blood on a tile. "Then I look around, I'm going upstairs. I still think Karen's upstairs. It's a big house."

David says he called for his wife. He was also expecting his kids to be home at the time.

"The next thing I saw was more blood, in the foyer, toward the door, and it was smeared," remembers David. "I'm wondering if somebody has been hurt, come into the house, I'm wondering whether there really is nobody home because I'm calling up, not hearing anything."

"And I walked up the stairs and get to the top and find a dead body there that looked somewhat like Karen," says David.

Karen's nude body was at the top of stairs, viciously stabbed 28 times. Her killer had also cut her throat.

Daniel called 911 to report that his wife had been murdered, and he didn't know where his children were.

As police investigators combed the house for clues, officers tracked down the Tipton children at school, where they had never been picked up.

Who would kill this 39-year-old housewife and mother? The crime scene was puzzling. David reported that Karen's purse and some jewelry were missing but there was no evidence of forced entry. Most striking of all was the vicious nature of the killing – a sign to investigators that the killer may have been someone who knew Karen Tipton.

David says he knew he would be eyed as a suspect when he called 911. "I realized I had to be a suspect because I was the first on the scene and the husband. I knew that. But I had 100 percent supreme confidence that I could prove that I couldn't have done this because I wasn't even in the same town at that time."

Police believe that Karen was murdered sometime between 1 p.m., after she made a phone call to a friend, and 2:30 p.m., when she was supposed to leave the house to pick up the kids from school.

Dr. Tipton's office manager confirmed he left his office in Huntsville at 3:30 p.m. "It would have been 4:15 at the earliest when I arrived at the house," says David.

The 911 call came in at 4:27 p.m.

David Tipton was soon ruled out as a suspect by police.

Decatur Daily crime reporter Jonathan Baggs says the police were at a dead end once they ruled out Tipton . They even asked the FBI to help profile the killer. "There was a lot of pressure to solve this case and solve it very quickly," explains Baggs.

But days went by with no solid leads, until one month later, when a high-speed pursuit of a shoplifter ended with the arrest of 24-year-old Daniel Wade Moore.

Within 48 hours, police believed they had found Karen's killer.

Two days after Daniel Wade Moore was arrested, he made a shocking admission to his uncle Sparky Moore, a local contractor. "He said 'You know the Tipton murder? The doctor's wife that was murdered on Chapel Hill Road?' And I said 'Yeah.' And he says 'Well, I was there.' He said 'Me and two other guys broke into a home, nobody was supposed to be there and the guy that was with me had stabbed her and killed her.'"

Sparky Moore reported the conversation to authorities. The next morning, police tracked down Daniel Moore to a motel room littered with drug paraphernalia and brought him to police headquarters for interrogation.

When police stepped out of the room for a break, Moore pulled out a penknife and stabbed himself 16 times.

While Moore recovered from his wounds in the hospital, police decided they had the right suspect. Moore had a drug problem. He had no alibi on the day of the murder. He had tried to kill himself during police questioning.

And when they searched Moore's apartment, they found a critical piece of evidence: an alarm company toolbox. It turns out Moore had worked for the company that had installed an alarm system in the Tipton home.

David Tipton believes Moore entered the home simply by knocking on the door and identifying himself as an alarm company employee. David says Moore had been at the house a few months before the murder.

"We were expecting someone from the alarm company as a matter of fact, because the alarm wasn't working. He very likely had his alarm tool kit with him. He lied his way into the house," says David.

Investigators pieced together what they believe happened in the house, using forensic evidence found at the scene.

"We know for a fact that the attack started downstairs, in front of the fireplace," says David. "The first injury was being cut or stabbed on the back left aspect of her neck. Her sweatshirt was removed forcibly and then she was forced upstairs with a blood trail going the whole way. That's how it started."

The attack, he says, continued in the upstairs bedroom, where police found Karen's clothing on the floor and blood on the bed.

David believes his wife actually managed to escape but was murdered in the hallway.

To David, it's an open-and-shut case. "Daniel Wade Moore confessed to involvement. Daniel Wade Moore is an absolutely 100 percent profiled match to somebody who would do a crime just like this. That's what crackheads do."

But Moore says he was not in the house on the day Karen Tipton was murdered. "I was nowhere near it. I didn't have anything to do with it. I don't know who did," says Moore, currently incarcerated in the Morgan County Jail.

But Moore does admit he told his uncle he was at the crime scene. Why would he do that if it wasn't true?

"I wanted to get my grandfather and my uncle to leave me alone," Moore explained, saying he lied to scare his uncle and grandfather so they would stay out of his legal problems.

"Daniel said, 'I've been involved in something. And I'm afraid that it would put granddaddy in harm's way,'" says Sparky Moore.

Daniel Moore says all he cared about was getting back to his drugs, but it's an explanation that investigators and David Tipton find hard to believe.

Sparky Moore, who turned his nephew in, now believes Daniel invented the entire story about his involvement in the murder.

"I think he would have said anything to do the drugs. To be on his own to do the drugs," says Sparky Moore. "It just becomes more and more clear that he didn't have anything to do with this."

Daniel Moore says the evidence proves he was not involved in the killing.

The case against Moore is largely circumstantial. Nobody saw him enter or leave the house, not even the pavers working on the driveway next door.

Also, Moore says none of his fingerprints were found at the crime scene and says no fiber or hair evidence was found in his truck, motel room or apartment.

Moore's mother, Virginia Byrd, and his older sister Tracy say Daniel couldn't kill anyone. "He's got too much of a conscience to allow him to do anything that horrendous," says Tracy.

And although Moore started using drugs in his teens, he had never been accused of violence.

The only person Daniel says he ever thought of killing was himself. "I didn't really want to die. I just didn't want to keep living the life I had," he says.

He says that's why he stabbed himself in the interrogation room. "They started telling me how, you know, my family was such good people and it was just a shame that I wasn't nothing but a junkie and, you know, 'seen hundreds like you,' and, 'you'll never change,' and, you know, that was true," says Moore. "He walked out of the room and I just said, 'That's it.' Took out a knife out of my pocket and I just closed my eyes and did like that."

In October, 2001, Daniel Moore was charged with capital murder.

His defense attorney, Sherman Powell, says he believes in his client's innocence.

From his cramped office down the street from the jail, Powell has been defending criminals for 35 years, but he says Daniel Moore is different. "I never would have agreed to represent him if I had felt like he had done this. Because it was as brutal a thing as I've ever seen."

Instead, Powell says, investigators' initial suspicions were right: Karen Tipton was killed by someone she knew, and he says he can prove it. "This was not something that a burglar, robber, or rapist or anybody does. Not even a contract killer does it. This was a crime of passion."

And Daniel Moore says David Tipton was the killer. "The only person who had the opportunity was her husband, David Tipton."

On Nov. 4, 2002, three and a half years after Karen Tipton's murder, Moore finally went on trial.

Prosecutors believed they had a strong case against Moore, convinced this murder was a robbery gone wrong.

But for many people in town, including Jonathan Baggs, the prosecution's case just didn't add up.

"Someone wanting money for drugs would pick an easier target. To pick a home in this kind of neighborhood, in broad daylight, it doesn't make sense to me," says Baggs.

And then there's the brutality of the murder. Sherman Powell says a drug addict needing money wouldn't have gone this far. "This wasn't just a murder. It was somebody was really mad."

Bob Tressel, a crime scene analyst hired by the defense, says this murder was personal. "This escalated from just a conversation between two people into an argument, into a fight, and ultimately into a stabbing murder," he says.

Using a 3-D model, Tressel showed 48 Hours how he believes the killer got into the house. "There was only one door that was not dead-bolted. Karen Tipton either had to let the perpetrator in herself, or he had to enter using a key."

And contrary to police theory, Tressel thinks that the way the alarm was dismantled points to someone other than Moore.

"Daniel Moore worked for the alarm company that installed this alarm system. He would be familiar with how to shut this alarm system completely off without having to remove the keypad," says Tressel.

Tressel does agree with the prosecution that the killer first assaulted Karen in the great room and that she went from there to the foyer.

He says the drops of Karen's blood found on the floor in the foyer are significant.

"The blood drops that we see are essentially round blood drops," Tressel says, suggesting that Karen, though bleeding, was not running in fear, nor struggling to get away. Tressel also says Karen did not attempt to escape through the front door, and instead went upstairs.

It's when Karen is in her upstairs bedroom, says Tressel, that her attacker becomes a killer. At that point, he argues, Karen, already bleeding, has to fight for her life. In his scenario, Karen tries to flee down the hallway, where the killer catches her and she collapses against a table. "She has two stab wounds to her back. This is probably where all the fatal wounds occur," says Tressel. "The body was then moved, dragged back out of view from the stairwell. The perpetrator knew that you could see the top of that landing from outside."

Tressel also says someone tried to clean up the blood, an act that he argues is unlikely to be done by a stranger eager to flee the scene.

At trial, the defense suggested there were a number of possible killers. But Sherman Powell believes the most likely suspect is the man cleared by police, Karen's husband. "She would not have run from him if he assaulted her on the couch. There's no evidence that she tried to escape or tried to call. It had to be someone she was familiar with," he says.

Powell says that the driveway pavers working next door told police they saw Tipton's truck at the house at least an hour before officers arrived.

But why would Dr. Tipton want to kill his wife? Powell says it could have been jealousy. "There is some indication of extramarital affairs that were ongoing at this point in time," he says.

Crime reporter Baggs believes Karen Tipton was having at least one affair, and thinks that could have led to her death.

At trial, the defense called a neighbor who said she often saw a light-colored pickup parked at the Tipton house during the day. And on the stand, David Tipton admitted that just weeks before the murder his best friend, Mike Ezell, had e-mailed Karen suggesting they swap spouses.

"I was offended by that. I was offended not only by Mike but by Karen, as well," says Tipton.

"What do you mean?" asks Moriarty.

"That she had carried on a silly conversation with a friend of mine," says Tipton.

Powell says Karen may have had reasons of her own to be angry. An expert testified Karen was on the family computer the day she died and Powell believes she may have made a shocking discovery. According to the expert, its hard drive was loaded with pornography.

"The majority of the stuff in there was gay men interacting and I have never seen a lady yet who would sit down and look at that kind of stuff," says Powell. He speculates that Karen could have discovered the porn and confronted her husband, sparking a fight.

"Nobody that knew me would consider me capable of doing such a crime. Am I capable of killing somebody? Yup. Am I capable of killing a loved one? No. Am I capable of torturing my wife to death? That's crazy," says David Tipton. "It's easier for people to think of me being a killer than it is for Daniel Moore to be a killer. It scares people to think that some stranger off the street could show up in your house and the next minute you're in a torture chamber. But in the end you really kind of need to look at the evidence."

Prosecutors believed they had all the evidence they needed. Although none of Moore's blood or fingerprints were found at the scene, police discovered two tiny hairs in the Tipton bedroom, hairs they believed belonged to Daniel Moore.

Standard DNA tests were inconclusive, so the state called in Dr. Sudhir Sinha from ReliaGene Labs, who tested the hairs for mitochondrial DNA, a less discriminating test.

Mitochondrial DNA cannot pinpoint one person. It can only pinpoint a group of people. Dr. Sinha says that the hair does not belong to either the victim or the husband, but it is consistent with the hair of Daniel Moore. That means, he stresses, that he can't definitively identify Moore as the source but cannot exclude him.

"It rules out 99.8 percent of the population, leaving two tenths of one percent, and he's in that two tenths," says David Tipton. So are many other people but, Tipton says, "He's the only person in that group who had the means, motive and opportunity to do the crime."

Means, motive and opportunity. According to the prosecution, Moore had all three. The jury deliberated for two days, and found him guilty.

On Jan. 23, 2003, Moore was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

That February, Daniel Moore became the newest inmate on Alabama's death row, moving into a cell some 250 feet from the execution chamber.

Moore's only hope now was an appeal. Sherman Powell got to work, but never dreamed what he would learn just days after the conviction: a new witness had come forward with information that seemed to contradict the prosecution's timeline.

In a sworn statement, neighbor Pam Smith says she saw Karen Tipton at her mailbox at 3:30 p.m. on the day she was murdered, a time when police believed Karen was already dead.

Smith says she called police right away but says she never heard from authorities after the initial call.

Police claim they have no record of Smith's call.

Asked whether she thought police had just lost the call, Smith says, "I think my story didn't fit with their theory, that's what I think."

Whether or not Pam Smith saw Karen Tipton that day, her information suggested to Powell that police had suppressed evidence

Powell immediately filed a motion for a new trial, and what happened next changed the Moore case forever.

Prosecutors turned over a 245-page report on the Tipton murder, compiled by the FBI, a report that prosecutors had repeatedly denied existed.

In fact, the FBI had been involved from the beginning, called in by police to help develop suspects and analyze information about the victim.

The FBI report says Karen Tipton was leading a "secret life," which included "extra-marital affairs." The report also said that Karen may have known her killer and the FBI recommended that, even though they had alibis, both David Tipton and his friend Mike Ezell be given lie detector tests.

Moore says the prosecution and police withheld information because "it shows opportunity and motive -- someone other than me."

Prosecutors and the police refused 48 Hours' request for an interview. Tipton, on the other hand, had plenty to say about the FBI report.

Tipton says the FBI never did a real investigation and says the report is simply information the police supplied to FBI profilers shortly after the murder. "Nothing that was evidence, as part of the investigation, was hidden from anybody," he says.

He says that the report contained the same allegations that were made at trial and that they were based on rumor, not fact.

"The affairs that were alleged were never found," Tipton insisted.

But as Powell points out, this was a capital murder case, and even if the FBI report contained no new information, prosecutors were still required by law to turn it over.

And because they didn't, some jurors now say they have their own doubts about the decision they made. "I just think it doesn't give him the fair trial he deserved," one female juror told 48 Hours.. "I think Daniel deserves a new trial," a male juror said.

Judge Glenn Thompson agreed, and in an extraordinary decision, he accused the prosecutor, Asst. Attorney General Don Valeska, of intentionally suppressing evidence and willfully defying court orders in order to win a conviction.

And the judge didn't stop there. He ruled that the prosecutors' actions amounted to double jeopardy, forcing Moore to be tried twice for the same crime.

And that, the judge said, left him with only one option: freeing the same man he had sentenced to death.

Shortly before Moore's release from prison in 2005, a bitter David Tipton uprooted his two daughters and moved to North Carolina, driven out of town by rumors and innuendo.

"We have been victimized and exploited for six years by the local press. And by a rumor mill that treats us very badly," says Tipton.

"In what way?" asks Moriarty. "I'm the man that killed his wife. I'm the multiple affairs. I'm the, you know, wild, crazy, sex-party, sex-swap, wife-swapper, king of the sex-swapping club. All of these things have been said about me," says Tipton.

But even 700 miles away, the Tiptons were shaken by the news of Moore's release.

"They're (his daughters) afraid that he would come after them, and why not? Everybody should be afraid," says David.

In Decatur, Moore was savoring his freedom. "It was the first time in over four years that I got to look out and see the stars."

But he didn't get to enjoy his freedom for long. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to review Judge Thompson's decision to free Moore and stayed all proceedings.

In less than a week, Moore was back behind bars. "Sometimes I think I did die that day in the interview room and that this is Hell. Because it's like every time when you finally think it's fixing to be over, something else puts it off."

Moore will stay in jail while the Court of Criminal Appeals decides his future. The court has two choices: it could order a new trial, or it could decide that a second trial would amount to double jeopardy. In that case, Moore would be released for good.

Moore's defense attorney claims the prosecutors still haven't come completely clean, and are withholding some evidence. "It has been selectively edited to deny the defense a fair trial," he charges.

Moore's fate now rests with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which heard oral arguments 10 months ago.

Tipton says the worst-case scenario would be if Moore was released. "Very few other things could compare to that, that he's going to walk free and not ever be tried, not ever even be held accountable for this."

If Moore is guilty, says crime reporter Jonathan Baggs, it's ironic that the tough state prosecutor may be the one most responsible for setting a killer free. "Yes, it bothers me that if he's guilty he may walk free. But it bothers me also that the prosecution withheld evidence. Whether it helps or not, you've got to play by the rules," says Baggs.

Tipton says he would not be afraid if Moore was set free. "But he should be afraid of me… I think that he needs to be dead. I'm not allowed to kill him. The second best is to have the state to kill him. I say that he should fear us more than him to send a message, that he doesn't need to approach us."

Whatever the court decides, there may be no justice for Karen Tipton and no peace for her family.

"It has a life of its own. The lies have continued. It will always continue. It wouldn't matter if Moore confessed. It wouldn't matter. There will be thousands of people in north Alabama that will believe I killed Karen, and that she was having an affair and deserved it. That shadow is there and will always be there," says Tipton.



Daniel Moore has been back in prison for 16 months waiting for the Appeals Court to order a new trial or to set him free.
By Katherine Davis/Marc Goldbaum/Susan Mallie
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