This aired on Dateline NBC on Monday, Aug. 24, 2009. Transcript copied from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32541488/ns/dateline_nbc-crime_reports/t/bedroom/#.XRw2z-jfJPY
They call it the “world’s largest cul-de-sac.” A place with nice homes, good schools, friendly neighbors. Ahwatukee is an affluent oasis south of Phoenix, but geographically isolated from the rest of the city.
Local newspaper reporter Doug Murphy:
Doug Murphy: Ahwatukee’s– really a kind of a close-knit little neighborhood. It’s like a small town in a bigger city.
But do the neighbors, behind their desert landscaping, ever really know what is going on behind the doors of those perfect little homes? It’s a story of suburban passion, of desperate housewives, and of secrets that come with a terrible price.
Caller: Oh my God. Oh my God.
For Polish immigrants Grace Pianka and Adam Kostewicz, settling here represented their grasp, at last, of the American dream. With two suitcases and $250 to his name, Adam came to Detroit at the age of 20. There he met Grace, who’d also left Poland behind, yearning for a better life for herself and her three-year-old son, victor.
Adam was seven years younger than Grace. But their quick friendship soon developed into a romance. They spent nine years together before marrying in 1996. The following year, this new family settled into a successful, all-American life in the Arizona foothills, with Adam helping to raise Grace’s son as his own.
Grace sold real estate. Adam worked as a computer engineer. They spent their free time traveling and hiking.
Grace Pianka: I met Adam at the gym that we both attended and we developed a friendship.
Randy Thompson, Adam’s workout partner and close friend for nearly a decade.
Randy Thompson: One of the best friends I’ve ever had. A wonderful guy. Very intelligent– quick-witted. always willing to help.
As a new resident of the American West, Adam did not take his right to keep and bear arms for granted. He had a large gun collection.
Randy Thompson: I know Adam, from his– background in– Poland, communist background– really enjoyed the freedom and the Second Amendment rights here in the United States
And, fittingly, one of Grace’s closest friends — Cynthia Levario — met the couple on the most patriotic of days: at a 4th of July celebration.
Cynthia Levario: She’s a private person, but great sense of humor also. A wonderful mother, loving wife. A very nice person.
Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline NBC: Was she happily married?
Cynthia Levario: Very.
Josh Mankiewicz: What was Adam to Grace?
Cynthia Levario: Everything. He was her world. Video: McIntyre ‘was like a small tornado’
So all the more disturbing when, in early 2006, Grace said Adam had started acting a little… different. Distant. He left their home and began spending nights in a nearby hotel.
Cynthia Levario: She was wondering, “Is he depressed? Is he having a midlife crisis?” We really couldn’t understand what was going on.
Josh Mankiewicz: You knew he was– you knew he was not living at home for a week, even though he was in town?
Cynthia Levario: Right. I thought it just had something to do with the fact that they were having problems with their son.
Grace’s son, Victor, had drug issues and had also been in trouble with the law.
Josh Mankiewicz: Were Adam and Grace on the same page, in terms of how to deal with Victor?
Cynthia Levario: No. A mother forgives everything.
Josh Mankiewicz: Adam didn’t wanna forgive?
Cynthia Levario: No, he was tired of it.
Was Adam’s behavior a disagreement over how to deal with their son? Or some kind of mid-life crisis? No one quite knew. But no one expected the events that would unfold on Easter weekend 2006. It all began with an early morning phone call to the couple’s home.
Cynthia Levario: She called me hysterical.
A frantic Grace relayed that morning’s events to her friend Cynthia.
Cynthia Levario: Her home phone rang. And she picked it up. And it was a woman. And she wanted to speak to Adam. So, she gave him the phone. And she asked, you know, who it was. And he said, “It’s just a friend.” And he said, “I’ll be right back.”
With that, without brushing his teeth or washing his face, Adam raced out of the house. He sped off in his car, and Grace followed in hers. She saw Adam pull into this McDonald’s parking lot and jump into a red sports car… driven by a woman.
Cynthia Levario: And all she saw was blonde hair. (laugh) And they sped off. She was wondering what’s going on.
Grace was beside herself with worry and agony. Cynthia had a suggestion:
Cynthia Levario: Protect yourself.
Josh Mankiewicz: You want to make sure he doesn’t leave you with no money.
Cynthia Levario: Right. And we didn’t know who this other person was, or what she was capable of. You know? So, I told her, “Get your money out of the bank.”
What happens next is not really disputed. Grace drives to the bank where she withdraws the couple’s entire savings, which is more than $20,000 in cash and a cashier’s check. She tries to deposit that money into another bank under her own name, but it’s Saturday and the banks have closed early. So Grace returns home and calls Adam a number of times on her cell phone. Adam doesn’t pick up. She leaves some voicemail messages. She’s sad and crushed, according to her friend Cynthia Levario. And at some point during that afternoon, Grace Pianka begins drinking.
Cynthia Levario: I basically try to calm her down. You can’t really speak– have a conversation with someone who’s that intoxicated.
Josh Mankiewicz: So, she’s like what? Falling down drunk?
Cynthia Levario: She was barely walking, right.
Josh Mankiewicz: Had you ever seen Grace in that state of mind before?
Cynthia Levario: No. No I hadn’t. Which is very, very painful.
Grace continued to drink wine and tequila throughout the afternoon. Finally, around 7 p.m., Adam returned home. Cynthia decided to leave and let the couple talk. But later that evening she called to check in on her friend.
Cynthia Levario: There was no answer. So, I just assumed they went to sleep. Everything was fine.
Josh Mankiewicz: Everything was not fine.
Cynthia Levario: No. Unfortunately not.
And shortly, a day that began with a startling phone call would end with another one.
911: 911. What is your emergency?
Caller: There’s a body, there’s a body in the house.
Caller: And I can see his body laying on the floor. I just– I went around the back.
A frantic 911 call broke the silence of a quiet April evening, summoning police to this house in Ahwatukee, a prosperous pocket of greater Phoenix.
Det. Brian Hansen: We got the call that there was a homicide in Ahwatukee.
This was Brian Hansen’s first case as a lead homicide detective. Patrol officers gave him the news:
Det. Brian Hansen: They find Adam Kostewicz, deceased, in his bedroom, from gunshot wounds.
Adam Kostewicz — a healthy and active Polish immigrant who’d chased the American Dream to settle in this successful community — was dead at age 41.
Friend Cynthia Levario heard the news from a reporter outside the couple’s house.
Cynthia Levario: She said, “There was a gentleman killed last night here.” And, of course, I was hysterical.
Who was responsible? And why? Police say that a crime of passion had started – and ended – in the master bedroom.
Det. Brian Hansen: The one thing that stands out in my mind is the– nightstand drawer that was thrown open and dangling.
Josh Mankiewicz: Suggesting that somebody had gone in there and gotten something out in a hurry?
Det. Brian Hansen: Correct.
Police found multiple bullet holes in the bedroom wall. Holes that told a story.
Det. Brian Hansen: They start high in the wall and they travel– towards the door and then lower.What it looks like to me is that Adam was attempting to run out of the bedroom and– and towards the open door and was struck.
Had someone else run from the scene, too? Adam’s wife, Grace, was nowhere to be found. But there was another woman on the scene who seemed to know an awful lot about what was going on.
Virginia McIntyre: I know how salacious and fun and sexy this story is.
Det. Brian Hansen: Right.
Her name is Virginia McIntyre. She also goes by Jen, or Jenny. And she certainly had a story to tell. Detective Hansen talked to her the night of Adam’s murder, and later in this videotaped interview.
Jen told the detective that she and Adam met on a Web site designed specifically for married people looking to have affairs. Jen was married as well. But she’d managed to get away from her husband enough times to spend a few nights with Adam in a succession of hotel rooms. And that Saturday when Adam died, she said, they’d decided they were both leaving their spouses – for good.
Virginia McIntyre: This was a– you know, pull the trigger event for– a life event.
An odd choice of words? Maybe. According to Jen, Adam had tried to pull the trigger before on a new life, but grace had threatened suicide when he tried to leave her. Now, finally, he’d had enough.
Virginia McIntyre: He was leaving and he wasn’t going back.
At least some of Jen’s story of what happened the morning of the murder did seem to match the one Grace had told her friend Cynthia: Jen had called Adam’s home early in the morning and he’d met up with her at this McDonald’s parking lot. They had spent the day together. She said Adam called it the first day of the rest of their lives.
Virginia McIntyre: He said, “All my friends will know tomorrow. I want you to meet everybody.”
The plan, said Jen, was that Adam would go home to retrieve his clothes at about 6:30 p.m. and he’d meet her back at this hotel. Jen then met her husband, Bob, for dinner at 7:15 at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant.
Virginia McIntyre: I just kept flipping open my phone inside my purse because I expected to hear from Adam. And you know, I was a little antsy, you know, about it.
But, Jen told the detective, she couldn’t find the heart to tell Bob she was leaving him.
Virginia McIntyre: And I feel so guilty that I didn’t. I promised Adam I would.
Jen said when she returned to the hotel around 9 p.m., she was more than a little antsy about not hearing from Adam. She kept calling his cell phone, but he didn’t pick up. Jen said she was nervous. She said she knew Adam had given Grace a gun for self-protection, and that Adam was about to tell his wife he was leaving for good.
Det. Brian Hansen: Did Adam ever–tell you where he kept this gun?
Virginia McIntyre: In the nightstand.
Det. Brian Hansen: Okay.
The nightstand in the bedroom — the one hanging open the night of the murder. Worried, she says, that Adam was not back to the hotel yet, at 9:30 she decided to call the police. She refers to Grace as Adam’s “ex” wife.
Virginia McIntyre: It’s the– the man that I’m seeing went back to uh, his ex-wife’s to pick up some things, uh, at his house. But he’s not– he’s not picking up his phone and I’m just scared to death.
Virginia McIntyre: It’s the man that I’m seeing went back to uh, his ex-wife’s to pick up some things, uh, at his house.But he’s not, he’s not picking up his phone and I’m just scared to death.
But the police didn’t take this phone call very seriously.
Operator #1: I have a woman on the line who said, um, her boyfriend went to his ex-wife’s house at um, 6:30 tonight and she hasn’t heard from him since.
Operator #2: (Laughter) Oops.
The operator told Jen there was nothing they could do. Now really worried, Jen says she drove to Adam’s house. A little after 10 p.m. she went around back, and looked in the window:
: His face was– black. It wasn’t red. It was black. I took off running, while I looking at the phone, pressing 911. Video: McIntyre ‘was like a small tornado’
Jen made it clear to the detective: She believed Grace had shot Adam. In fact, Jen seemed to know the crime scene as well as if she’d actually been there herself.
Virginia McIntyre: And as soon as he walked out of that bathroom, she shot him. That’s what I think happened.
Detective Hansen says he bought Jen’s story: that she and Adam were having an affair and were going to run away together.
Det. Brian Hansen: This wasn’t somebody that wandered up off the street, selling me, you know, a made-up story; she knew a lot about Adam Kostewicz.
Josh Mankiewicz: So you believed her?
Det. Brian Hansen: Correct.
And police even later uncovered some webcam video on Adam’s computer that seemed to back up jen’s story.
Adam Kostewicz: I love you very much, Jen. I’m really looking forward to a life with you.
Police wanted Grace’s side of the story. But first they would have to find her.
That happened the morning after the murder in this baseball field in Bagdad, Ariz., about 120 miles from Phoenix. A police officer found Grace lying across the front seats of her car. Apparently following an attempt at suicide by taking a lot of aspirin, next to her was an envelope filled with the money she’d taken out of the bank.
Police did not find a murder weapon in Grace’s car, or at the crime scene. But they did learn that Adam had been killed with a 38-caliber slug, and that he owned a .38 caliber revolver that was missing from his collection.
Josh Mankiewicz: You think that .38 was in the nightstand drawer. And you think that’s the gun that was used to kill Adam.
Det. Brian Hansen: Yeah, certainly fits.
Grace was taken to the hospital, where she spoke with a social worker. Video: Hear more from the jury
Det. Brian Hansen: She said that, when Adam came home, that there was yelling, and that there was hitting and shoving.
Police believe she then left the house, drove off in her car. And, later took all that aspirin because, according to the social worker, Grace said there was no other way out.
Det. Brian Hansen: She made the suicide attempt because her situation was hopeless.
Police had their theory — Grace had learned of the affair, spent the day drinking, and then killed her husband when he came home to pack up and leave her. Then, alone, depressed, and guilty, she tried to commit suicide. Grace Pianka was arrested and charged with second-degree murder for killing her husband Adam.
Friend Randy Thompson said there had been some signs of problems in Adam and Grace’s marriage, but he never imagined a situation like this.
Josh Mankiewicz: He never mentioned to you that he was having an affair–
Randy Thompson: No.
Josh Mankiewicz: And from what I gather he doesn’t seem like the kind of person that you would think would be doin’ that.
Randy Thompson: You know, y– your observation’s correct. It was total surprise.
Grace Pianka was tried in this Phoenix courtroom in August of 2008. But it was a tough case for the jury. There was no gun. No DNA evidence. No witness to the murder. In the end, the jury couldn’t reach a verdict. Six months later, Grace would be retried in front of a brand new jury, and it would hear a stunning theory of the murder, of who pulled the trigger, and why.
Cleve Lynch: It was a very difficult case. It always looked like it was gonna be a difficult case.
Prosecutor Cleve Lynch had a circumstantial case on his hands. No gun. No DNA evidence. No witnesses who could say they saw Grace Pianka shoot her husband Adam Kostewicz.
Prosecutor: Adam was killed in his own bedroom.
But Lynch believed the facts were clear: Angry and hopeless after learning her husband was having an affair, grace drained the couples’ bank accounts, spent the afternoon drinking, then shot and killed Adam when he came home.
Cleve Lynch: And then, she turns up having tried to commit suicide the next day. You know, in a really remote location. So that– that does point to her.
This sheriff’s deputy found grace after that suicide attempt — lying across the seats in her car, an empty bottle of aspirin next to her. And in her purse, what seemed to be a key piece of evidence:
Steven West: One thing that caught my eye was a– an empty brass .38 cartridge.
A .38 — the same caliber as the bullets that killed Adam. Although without the murder weapon, there was no way to match that casing to the slugs at the crime scene, or to the .38-caliber revolver missing from Adam’s collection.
And the prosecutor argued there was more hard evidence that showed Adam was indeed leaving Grace for Jen McIntyre, his mistress. There were garbage bags in the entryway filled with Adam’s clothes, and what Lynch called a “packing list” found on Adam’s body.
Cleve Lynch: That’s when the argument starts, because he’s packing up to leave.
Was there evidence of an argument? Remember, a hospital social worker told investigators Grace said there had been hitting and shoving. That story was ruled inadmissible in court. But a nurse testified that she found bruises on Grace’s arms. Were they evidence of a fight between Grace and Adam? And, argued the prosecutor, take a close look at Grace’s behavior. Starting with the testimony of this man, a neighbor, who told the court he went to Grace and Adam’s house to investigate when he heard a smoke alarm sometime after 7 p.m. the night of the murder. He saw Grace in her car, quickly backing down the driveway.
Jayson Daniel: Her face was wet with tears. And I thought I heard a dog bark. And then– she said, “Shut up, shut up,” to what I’m guessing was the dog. And then looked back at me and– said, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” And she yells at the dog again. And just takes off.
And – Prosecutor Lynch pointed out to the jury – Grace took off with no shoes on her feet, no cell phone. And there was more suspicious behavior on Grace’s part. After her suicide attempt, she was interviewed –and recorded– in the hospital by Detective Hansen and another officer. That tape was played for the jury. On it, Grace repeatedly asks “Where is Adam?”
Hospital police interview:
Grace Pianka: Where is Adam? Is he in hospital?
Det. Hansen: We’ll talk about that, okay.
Grace Pianka: Is he in hospital?
Detective #2: I’m sorry–
Grace Pianka: Is Adam in the hospital? I have to know because I can’t stand it.
She couldn’t stand it, argued Lynch, because she knew what she’d done.
Cleve Lynch: She knows something happened to her husband.
And when the detective says Adam’s dead, she acts upset, but never asks the questions you’d expect a new widow to ask.
Detective #2: Well, we found Adam in the house.
Grace Pianka: Okay.
Detective #2: Okay. And he’s passed away.
Grace Pianka: Okay.
Detective #2: Okay?
Grace Pianka: Is he alive?
Detective #2: He’s not alive.
Grace Pianka: He’s not alive?
Detective #2: No.
Grace Pianka: You’ve got to be kidding me.
Cleve Lynch: She says, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” And then she sounds like she’s upset for about 15-30 seconds. And then they just– are asking questions and this woman does not sound upset.
Detective #2: Did you drink?
Grace Pianka: I did.
Detective #2: You drink? What do you drink?
Grace Pianka: I usually don’t drink.
Detective #2: I know. Okay, what did you drink that night? Or that day?
Grace Pianka: Um, a wine.
Detective #2: Wine?
Det. Hansen: Okay.
Grace Pianka: And– tequila.
There was one witness the jury would never hear from: Jen McIntyre. Adam’s mistress. The woman who found the body. The woman who called 911. Jen had agreed to testify but when that time came, she and her husband Bob were nowhere to be found. Investigators from both sides searched, but couldn’t find them. And no one was happier about that than the defense. Because Jen McIntyre’s disappearance handed them a different theory of the crime.
Ulises Ferragut: She’s the mistress. And so you’ve got to think that the mistress can be just as much a likely suspect as the wife.
Grace’s defenders called the charges against her a “rush to judgment,” and would point the finger at the other woman in this fatal love triangle.
Alicia Dominguez: A rush to judgment. That’s why we’re here today.
Now it was the defense’s turn. And attorneys would argue that police had tunnel vision by focusing on Grace Pianka, and ignoring the person truly responsible. Alicia Dominguez and Ulises Ferragut represented Grace.
Josh Mankiewicz: Why was Grace Pianka the suspect? I mean, what got police to her so quickly?
Ulises Ferragut: Jen McIntyre. She’s the one who pointed the finger from the beginning. She gave her entire story of who she believed committed this offense, and the police never looked back from there.
In a third-party defense, Grace’s lawyers would take on the role of prosecutor — essentially charging Adam’s mistress with murder.
Ulises Ferragut: If you’re a police investigator, you just use your common sense and logic, and it’ll lead you down a path. And that’s all we did. And every time we went down this path, we would find these little nuggets leading us back to Virginia McIntyre.
So who is Virginia or “Jen” McIntyre? The defense started digging into her background and that of her husband, Bob. They claimed to make a good living working in sales. Yet defense investigators found the McIntyres have a history of owing people money, including a $400, 000 debt to the IRS.
Ulises Ferragut: These are people that all of their contacts sort of lead back to strip mall, P.O. boxes. It all kind of indicates a bit of shadiness, if you will.
And the defense team learned something else. Even after she met Adam, Jen continued to talk to other men on that Web site where they met. She did go off of it for a while, but then signed back in just one day before Adam died, and on that day, she made changes to her profile.
Why would Jen go back on that Web site at all, especially the night before she and Adam were supposedly going to start a life together? The trial judge would not allow the defense to bring up the McIntyre’s debts to the IRS or the information about the extramarital dating Web site. Even so defense attorneys believed they had plenty to use against Jen McIntyre — and they would argue that she had both the means and the motive to kill Adam Kostewicz.
Remember, even though the police had found a .38 cartridge in Grace’s purse, they never found the murder weapon and couldn’t link the cartridge to anything. This gave the defense an opening to link Jen McIntyre to the murder weapon.
The defense put this computer forensics expert on the stand, who uncovered an instant message on Adam’s computer between Adam – screenname “Simon”- and Jen.
Adam asks Jen, “What caliber is your gun?” And she says, “357.” She complains about the “kick” of the gun. And Adam, who loves guns, tells her to try putting .38 special ammo in there to reduce the recoil.
.38 caliber ammunition – the very type of bullets Adam was killed with, he was suggesting Jen use in her gun. Could that have been the murder weapon?
Defense attorneys said Jen had used a gun. They showed the jury a blown-up police photo of Jen taken the night of the murder. Her right thumb appears to have an abrasion on it, and it does look as if her thumbnail has been broken. The gun shop owner who sold Adam his .38 told the jury that kind of injury can happen when firing a revolver.
Brad Desaye: Under recoil this thumbnail could easily be broken by the cylinder especially if long fingernails will break fingernail.
And then, there was this. Something the defense claimed police had missed: a little white curved speck on the rug next to Adam’s body. Could that white speck be Jen’s fingernail at the crime scene? Could the night she described to Detective Hansen as a “pull the trigger event” have been literally that? Jen’s alibi at the time of the murder was that she was at a fast food restaurant with Bob.
The defense focused the jury on cell phone records from that day. Outgoing calls were made from both Jen and Bob’s phones all day long.
Ulises Ferragut: But when you get to the critical time between roughly 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. when Adam was killed, there’s no activity on either of their phones. Their whereabouts are completely unknown other than her suggestion she’s with her husband at a fast food joint.
And if there was opportunity, the defense also offered a motive: money. Jen McIntyre had somehow managed to insert herself right into her dead, married lover’s financial affairs. Five months after Adam was killed, Jen McIntyre went to court and persuaded a judge to appoint her the special administrator of Adam’s estate, coordinating communication between the courts and Adam’s parents in Poland. An estate that included an $806,000 life insurance policy.
Josh Mankiewicz: Explain to me how the married girlfriend of a murder victim ends up in charge of his estate.
Ulises Ferragut: Yeah, that– I mean that’s just one of the great mysteries. Because I gotta tell ya, common sense dictates to me that if I were having an affair with someone and they end up dead, I probably would like to have as little involvement from there on out.
And this woman from Adam and Grace’s mortgage lender testified that as special administrator, Jen never once paid the mortgage on the house. The defense’s argument: Jen wasn’t doing anything to protect Adam’s assets. She just wanted her hands on Adam’s money.
Josh Mankiewicz: You think Jen McIntyre is that smart, that clever that she not only planned this murder, but executed it, framed Grace, and then somehow got herself appointed administrator of Adam’s estate? All what? For the money?
Alicia Dominguez: Yes, I believe she is that smart.
And the defense asked the jury to listen very closely to that 911 call. This operator thought she heard someone besides Jen.
Operator: Do I hear another voice, Jen?
Virginia McIntyre: No, it’s just me.
The defense argued that voice was saying “think money.” They played a slowed-down version.
Was it possible Jen’s husband, Bob, or another man, was with her outside the house when she made that call, reminding Jen to keep her eye on the prize, and “think money”? The defense attacked the work of rookie lead investigator Brian Hansen, starting with how, from the beginning, Hansen completely bought Jen McIntyre’s story.
Alicia Dominguez: You never investigated her background?
DetectiveBrian Hansen: No, I did not.
And in that first interview after Adam died, Detective Hansen’s courtesy to Jen McIntyre may have changed the course of the investigation.
Defense Attorney: You did not tell Miss McIntyre, “Do not wash your hands, we’re gonna need to test those?”
DetectiveBrian Hansen: No, I did not.
And in allowing Jen to use the bathroom and wash her hands, he guaranteed that any test of Jen’s hands for gunshot residue the night Adam was killed, would come back negative.
Josh Mankiewicz: You think Jen McIntyre played Detective Hansen like a violin, don’t you?
Ulises Ferragut: Oh, yeah.
Alicia Dominguez: Absolutely.
But Detective Hansen doesn’t see it that way.
Josh Mankiewicz: You never take her fingerprints to compare with the fingerprints inside the house.
DetectiveBrian Hansen: She’s having an affair with him, and says that she’d been in there. Does that fingerprint show that she killed Adam?
Josh Mankiewicz: Never checked her car for blood, for guns.
DetectiveBrian Hansen: No, I did not.
Josh Mankiewicz: Other evidence?
DetectiveBrian Hansen: No, I did not.
Josh Mankiewicz: And her alibi is pretty much her word. Video: Hear more from the jury
DetectiveBrian Hansen: Correct.
Josh Mankiewicz: You didn’t think she was a suspect.
DetectiveBrian Hansen: No, I– nothing, other than what if, pointed that Jen did this murder.
Did police focus immediately on grace as a suspect? Detective Hansen says yes, because all the evidence pointed to Grace.
Josh Mankiewicz: Did you ever look at the whole issue of whether or not Jen had any financial motive in wanting Adam dead?
DetectiveBrian Hansen: No, I did not.
Josh Mankiewicz: You wish you had?
DetectiveBrian Hansen: I guess, at face value, just in court to answer that question. But I don’t think I messed up by not doing that. You know, where– where’s the jump, the, “Hey, we’ll murder Adam. We’ll frame his wife. Police won’t think I did it. And I’ll become the special administrator to his estate. And we’ll ride off into the sunset with the life insurance.” You gotta line up a lot of things to make that happen.
The defense believed it had shown that Jen McIntyre had the opportunity, motive and maybe even the weapon that killed Adam Kostewicz. Now the accused, his wife Grace Pianka, would take the stand to try to convince the jury that whether or not Jen committed murder, grace did not.
Grace Pianka: My name is Grace Pianka.
On trial, accused of murdering her husband, it was Grace Pianka’s turn to tell her side of the story. She told the court that in January of 2006, something had changed in her husband, Adam.
Grace Pianka: He became moody. He changed his moods a few times a day.
She said she bought counseling tapes, and tried to reach out to Adam through an email.
Grace Pianka: I wrote to him to let him know how much I love him and– how much he means to me. (crying)
Alicia Dominguez: Grace, with all his mood swings and these changes you saw in him, did you have any suspicion that he was having an affair?
Grace Pianka: Never.
Grace told the jury all about the day Adam died: the early morning phone call, the car chase, the drinking. When Adam came home, she said, she finally confronted him face to face.
Grace Pianka: He said that he was not having an affair. I told him that I don’t believe him.
Grace told the court that when Adam refused to discuss what was going on, they separated. Adam went to the balcony of the house. Grace ran to her car.
Grace Pianka: I felt sad. I felt– betrayed.
She says she drove off, and later in the night, started gulping down aspirin, trying to take away her pain.
Alicia Dominguez: Did you have any intention of killing yourself with these aspirin?
Grace Pianka: No. I didn’t think about killing myself. No.
The next thing she remembers is waking up in the hospital, where she spoke with police.
Alicia Dominguez: You repeatedly ask them to tell you if Adam’s okay. “Where’s Adam?” Why did you keep asking that question?
Grace Pianka: Because they did not answer my question– that I just– I kept asking them. And they ask– they kept asking me questions.
Alicia Dominguez: And what did you think when they weren’t answering your question about Adam.
Grace Pianka: That something is wrong. I don’t know what is wrong. But something is wrong.
Finally, Defense Attorney Alicia Dominguez got to the heart of the matter:
Alicia Dominguez: At any time on April 15th of 2006 did you shoot Adam with–
Grace Pianka: No–
Alicia Dominguez: –a gun?
Grace Pianka: –no, I didn’t.
Now it was prosecutor Cleve Lynch’s turn to cross-examine Grace — and he presented a very different version of events for what happened that evening.
Cleve Lynch: So he’s having an affair. He won’t explain it to you. And that– that’s not the angriest you’ve ever gotten?
Grace Pianka: No. I’m not angry person. I never been. I was– I feel betrayed. I cry. But I was not angry.
Cleve Lynch: Did you get to the point where you were– the two of you were arguing so much that he grabbed onto your arms? Exhibit 259.
Grace Pianka: No. Adam was gentleman. He would never grab my arms.
Cleve Lynch: Well, were you attacking him at that point? Video: Hear more from the jury
Grace Pianka: I did not attack anybody, Mr. Lynch. No.
Cleve Lynch: You reach into the drawer. You pull out the 38. Bang! You missed him. Bang! Bang! Bang! Five times. Miss–
Grace Pianka: No.
Cleve Lynch: –Pianka, isn’t that what happened?
Grace Pianka: No.
Cleve Lynch: You shot your husband.
Grace Pianka: No, I did not shot my husband.
Both sides now made final arguments to the jury. The prosecutor ridiculed the defense’s theory – that the mistress Jen McIntyre had killed Adam.
Cleve Lynch: Jen says to her husband, Bob, “Bob, I’m having an affair. He decided not to leave his wife. He’s got money. We can kill him. And then I’ll go call 911, and you wait in the car, Bob.” And he says, “Think money.” And then at the last second, just before the officer arrives, he jumps out.
But – said the defense- this case all boils down to reasonable vs. unreasonable behavior. Grace’s drinking, draining the bank accounts, swallowing aspirin- all reasonable behavior by a wife devastated to learn her husband is having an affair. But, Dominguez argued, Jen McIntyre’s actions were not reasonable.
Alicia Dominguez: Is it reasonable for her to call 911, and then point the finger and say, “I have nothing to do with it,” and then not show up here to tell her story? No, it’s not reasonable. And it sure isn’t reasonable for her to become a special administrator of the estate of a man she’s having an affair with.
Now it would be up to eight jurors to decide whether Grace Pianka killed her husband, or whether it could have been the other woman, Jen McIntyre. She’s not around to tell her story. But her son is.
Josh Mankiewicz: Where are they now?
Josh Mankiewicz: What do you want people to know about your mother?
Hansen Moore: That she’s– for one, first and foremost, she’s not a murderer.
Like both sides in this case, we also wanted to find Virginia McIntyre. This is as close as we got. Her son, Lewis Hansen Moore. He goes by Hansen.
Hansen Moore: My parents– they’re a different kinda cat. You know what I mean? They are– they’re not the type of people that go knockin’ on the neighbors’ doors bringing cookies. They like to, you know, be with themselves. They’re homebodies.
Hansen says he didn’t know his mother was having an affair until after Adam’s death, which, he says, left her heartbroken.
Hansen Moore: She sat in front of that laptop. And she just kept showin’ me, you know, his videos.
Adam on his web video: I love you so much, Jen.
Hansen Moore: It was just blatantly obvious that she was very much, you know, falling in love with this man.
But it wasn’t long after the murder that people started to point the finger at his mother.
Hansen Moore: I knew she couldn’t have done it. I know my mother very well.
Josh Mankiewicz: You didn’t know she was havin’ an affair.
Hansen Moore: I didn’t know she was havin’ an affair. But havin’ an affair, sir, with all due respect, is nowhere in the same ballpark as shooting someone multiple times at a fit of rage like that. She has no reason to. Why would she shoot Adam?
Josh Mankiewicz: Why would she shoot Adam? To become the administrator of his estate, to get the money, to get outta debt.
Hansen Moore: My mom is a very intelligent woman. And she knows that she couldn’t get away with sumpin’ like that. They’re– they’re self-made millionaires. They don’t need to take over Adam’s estate.
Josh Mankiewicz: They– but they’re self-made millionaires? Video: Hear more from the jury
Hansen Moore: They have been– absolutely.
Josh Mankiewicz: Then why not pay your taxes?
Hansen Moore: Sir, you’re pre– you’re talkin’ to the wrong person here. (laughs). It’s– it’s not lawful by any stretch of the imagination. But– you know, not paying your taxes and murdering someone are two different ballparks, once again.
Hansen says his mother and stepfather left town because they received threats. And he says his mother wanted to save Bob the embarrassment of what might come out in court.
Josh Mankiewicz: Where are they now?
Hansen Moore: I don’t know.
Josh Mankiewicz: Why don’t you know, and why doesn’t anybody know? I mean–
Hansen Moore: Because that’s the way they want it.
Josh Mankiewicz: And she didn’t tell you where she was goin’?
Hansen Moore: Absolutely not.
Josh Mankiewicz: Come on. I– that’s– that’s very hard–
Hansen Moore: Not only–
Josh Mankiewicz: –to believe.
Hansen Moore: –would she not tell me where she’s going, when they– when she would try and make contact and call me, it was always an un– unavailable or private number so I couldn’t get an area code.
Josh Mankiewicz: You think she was tryin’ to protect you– Video: McIntyre ‘was like a small tornado’
Hansen Moore: Absolutely. She just didn’t want me to have anything to do with this. You know what I mean? She’s a good person. And– my stepfather’s done an incredible job of– of raising me and– and– and treating me like his own.
Josh Mankiewicz: And taking her back. He’s a pretty forgiving guy.
Hansen Moore: An incredibly forgiving guy. And– from the last I heard of ’em, they sound like they’re doing well. So, I’m– I’m happy for them.
Josh Mankiewicz: Wherever they are.
Hansen Moore: Wherever they are. I’m sure I’ll see ’em again.
Her son says Jen didn’t do it. But what would the jury decide? We sat down with four of the eight.
Jeremy Galloway: The whole aspect of Jen McIntyre being gone was, I guess, the main biggest doubt of the whole case because she wasn’t there to explain herself. But in the end when we were talking about the case, we’re like, “Grace is on trial here, not Virginia McIntyre.” You know, what we’ve gotta focus on is the evidence that we have.
After four days of going over that evidence, the jury announced it had a verdict. Grace Pianka was about to learn her fate.
Clerk: We the jury duly impaneled and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oaths do find the defendant as to the charge of second degree murder: Guilty.
So now, all three players in this ill-fated drama are gone. Adam’s dead. Thirteen years in jail for grace. And who knows where Jen might be? A bloody triangle of love, with no winners. Adam’s friends are still mourning him.
Randy Thompson: We’ll cherish the memories of Adam. His picture is prominently displayed in our house with the great smile he had and his eyes twinkling. You know, so we– you know, we– we miss him a lot, my whole family.