The Colonel's Wife

Decorated War Hero Charged With Wife's Murder

Retired Colonel George Marecek is one of the most decorated Green Berets in the Army's history. And he's still tough as nails. Over 36 years, he has fought in three wars.

"I stand for integrity," Marecek says. "Devotion to duty, love for your nation. And above it all, truth."

But did he murder his wife? Susan Spencer reports on this strange case.

On June 3 1991, Col. Marecek and his Thai wife, Viparet, vacationed at Fort Fisher, a military recreation area near Cape Fear, N.C. Lovers of the outdoors, the two took a vacation to celebrate their ninth anniversary, Col. Marecek says.

They spent that morning at the beach; after lunch at the cottage, they returned to the beach for more sun, he said. "I left the cottage at about 1:20, which was at the beginning of the second episode of All My Children," he recalls.

His wife had planned to check out fishing spots, he said. In fact, a stranger had recommended one just the day before.

When Marecek got home at 5 p.m., he found the cottage empty. He says he never saw his wife alive again. The next morning, he says he found her bludgeoned body face down in the Cape Fear River, he says.

Col. Marecek was arrested and charged with the killing his wife with a blunt object and drowning her. His first trial ended in a hung jury; the second jury convicted Marecek, but he appealed and won the right to a new trial.

He says the state was trying to use his military career against him in an attempt to portray him as a trained killer. He also charges that the police are using him as a scapegoat to cover up a botched investigation.

So, for a third time, he went on trial for murdering his wife.

Col. Marecek insists that he didn't kill his wife and he spent hours frantically searching for her that night. He claims he searched on his own until almost midnight. He says the truth can be found in the four-page document he wrote after his wife disappeared - a meticulous account with specific times and details, like the low-fat cottage cheese she had for lunch.

Police say the statement is an alibi, and it doesn't explain where the colonel was the afternoon of his wife's death.

Though Marecek says he hadn't seen his wife since lunchtime, police say this is a lie.

Off-duty cops Tom and Beth Deleuw had driven past Fort Fisher that day at about 4 p.m. Tom Deleuw says they passed a white man and an Asian woman on the road, apparently headed away from the beach toward the river.

Tom Deleuw is sure the man standing in the road was Col. Marecek. But Beth Deleuw, isn't so sure about the identity of the two and their direction.

Handyman Dennis Rood says he saw the Mareceks walking toward the river at about 4:15. Viparet Marecek seemed upset, he says. "She looked at me and wouldn't take her eyes off me," Rood said. "It just didn't seem right," he added. "It looked like somebody walking with somebody they didn't care to be with."

Police say there were tensions in the Mareceks' marriage. His daughter says that Viparet thought he was having an affair.

The year before the murder Marecek had spent weeks at a time in the Czech Republic. His daughter suspected he was having an affair with his distant cousin Hana, a charge he denies. But police say letters suggest a relationship.

A former Army buddy of Marecek's claims there was an affair. He said he knows the truth about the murder because the colonel told him.

Who is he? Find out in Part II.