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NARRATOR: The *** of a well known radio personality
left police wondering who wanted her dead.
A tiny piece of plastic, a sniffer dog, and a sponge
were all investigators needed to find the answer.
NARRATOR: Radio personalities have many fans,
but aren't usually the target of stalkers
since there's a certain anonymity
that comes with the medium.
(RADIO ANNOUNCEMENT) Debbie Dicus, 2WD.
NARRATOR: But 31-year-old Debbie Dicus was different.
Her late night radio show on an FM station in Virginia
captured listeners' attention with the unique blend
of intimate conversation, self-disclosure,
and a little music thrown in too.
-Why don't you and I make sure Maryland and lots of kids
like her are not disappointed again this year?
-She would tell the audience, I'm
kind of feeling this way today, be it happy or sad or upset
or maybe she was elated that, you know,
something good had happened in her life.
So she'd say, you know, why don't you call in and tell me
what's going on with your life, or how do you feel about this
-She sounded like the girl next door.
I think that was one of the things that made her so popular
was that she seemed to be very accessible.
NARRATOR: But the story of Debbie Dicus
took a tragic turn when police received
this telephone call from a hunter.
-I found a dead body.
-You know where that city field is that they have for a garden?
-Was it male or female?
-It was a female.
-Black or white?
-She was white.
NARRATOR: When police arrived they found Debbie's body
in a ditch near the community garden
where she grew vegetables.
-My initial viewing of the body seemed to indicate to me
a possible sexually motivated crime.
Her clothing was in disarray and the position of her body
just seemed to lend itself to that possible motive.
NARRATOR: Robbery didn't appear to be the motive
since her purse was in her car about 30 feet away.
-Clearly there was an attack at the back of the car.
Her hair barrettes had fallen out,
her cigarettes had fallen out on the ground.
There was obviously signs of a struggle.
There was blood on the car.
NARRATOR: Near Debbie's car police
found their first piece of evidence.
-We noticed a very black piece of plastic.
At the time, we wasn't sure what it was sitting
on top the track, which meant it had
to be there after the car drove in.
NARRATOR: As police investigated the scene,
Debbie's live in boyfriend Bill Campbell
showed up before police even called him.
-As I pulled in, the police officer sitting in his car
immediately got out to stop me.
And he says, you can't go back there.
I said, my girlfriend's got a city garden plot back there.
He goes, yeah, but you can't go back there,
there's been a crime.
Of course, then I knew something was wrong.
NARRATOR: Campbell was a disc jockey
at the same radio station.
He said he was worried when Debbie
didn't arrive home at her usual time.
-At some point, he told me that she was dead
and didn't give me any other further details.
NARRATOR: One of Debbie's co-workers
thought professional jealousy might have been a motive.
-I will admit I did have the list of usual suspects,
you know, of people that used to work at the station
and no longer worked there that, you know,
maybe didn't get along with her, because they thought she was
too mild, and they didn't like or style of broadcasting.
NARRATOR: Apparently, Debbie told friends
that she feared this exact scenario, that someone,
possibly a member of her radio audience, might get too close.
-Debbie had a paralyzing fear that she actually sat down
and discussed with me that someone was going
to break into the studio attack her, *** her, and kill her.
Maybe she had a premonition that something like this
would happen, or maybe she was just overly cautious.
-Because she was a celebrity could it
be somebody who followed her there
and waited a fan, a deranged fan, a Play
Misty for Me kind of situation?
NARRATOR: This meant a huge pool of potential suspects
in the Norfolk, Williamsburg, and Virginia Beach communities.
Police knew it would be a difficult investigation.
-The community just was very afraid and it was palpable.
It was all people were talking about.
You'd go to the grocery store, you'd go to get gas,
you'd go to the dry cleaners and that's
what people were talking about.
NARRATOR: Debbie Dicus a popular late night radio personality,
was found murdered in a public park where
she had planted a vegetable garden.
(RADIO ANNOUNCEMENT) Debbie Dicus, 2WD.
-Here's a woman who's doing her gardening in the afternoon,
where there are people in and out of all the time,
and she's found brutally murdered.
So it's not the middle of the night in a place
where she perhaps shouldn't have been.
NARRATOR: At Debbie's autopsy, the medical examiner
found multiple lacerations on the front and back of her head.
And there was an unusual patterned bruise on her back.
Her body temperature and rigor mortis
indicated she had been dead for only a short time
before police arrived.
-And the police told us that she had
been dead no less than two hours.
NARRATOR: The cause of death was asphyxiation.
She had been strangled and then drowned
in a small puddle of water.
The medical examiner found no signs of *** assault.
-Evidence shows there was a struggle.
I just wish she'd had kicked his ***.
NARRATOR: At the crime scene, police
continued to search for possible clues.
They interviewed everyone who had
visited the vegetable garden bad day.
-They mentioned a young blond haired boy who was often
seen walking around in the area.
They couldn't recall when they last saw him,
but it hadn't been long before the offense date.
So we set about to try to locate him.
NARRATOR: The boy spent a lot of time
in the cemetery adjacent to the garden,
and police were able to locate him.
-This young man was identified as a Michael LaPrade.
He was an area resident, lived further up on Armistead,
about two miles from the scene.
NARRATOR: But LaPrade was not in the city
on the day of the *** and was ruled out.
Debbie's boyfriend was eliminated as a suspect.
He was at home on the afternoon of the ***.
Next, police checked phone logs at the radio station
to see how many people called Debbie's
radio show multiple times.
-I'm sure over the years that we spent together and being
in radio that long, you know, I'm
sure we'd get the occasional wacky caller,
but none sticks in my mind that she
felt threatened by or anything like that.
NARRATOR: Investigators got their first real break
in the area surrounding the vegetable garden.
Just a few yards from Debbie's body
they found what appeared to be the wooden shaft of a garden
It had been broken in half.
-It was obvious that the hoe was used to hit her
in the head on several occasions.
It was long cuts in the top of her head,
her scalp was wide open.
It was consistent with hard blows of the hoe.
NARRATOR: A police dog came in to track the killer's scent.
Glennell Fullman advised the officers
not to touch the hoe until the dog could get a sniff.
-I didn't want anybody else to touch the hoe.
So I had them bring the hoe out of the water
with using a stick, just the handle, the rest of the hoe
stayed in the water.
I didn't want to disturb it anymore than I had to.
NARRATOR: The dog picked up the scent.
Some believe it's the adrenaline they detect.
-Dogs do smell fear.
Yes, they do.
When a person is getting ready to commit a crime,
they know it's wrong, their adrenalin goes crazy,
the fear factor comes out.
They don't want to be caught.
And that puts out more scent from the body
which makes a better tracking.
NARRATOR: As the dog sniffed around,
a small crowd of bystanders had gathered nearby.
Strangely, the dog headed straight towards them.
-He went past her car and then headed for the crowd.
I advised the crowd to stand perfectly still,
that he would not bite anybody.
Just don't move.
He went up to a gentleman's back legs,
sniffed up and down his legs, stopped right there,
and turned and looked at me.
NARRATOR: Why had the dog identified
a man standing in the crowd?
Investigators would soon learn why.
-When I think about her it's always
in a good way, a positive way.
I don't, I don't dwell on how she left us,
but what she was before.
NARRATOR: When radio personality Debbie Dicus was found murdered
in a field, analysts searched for evidence
on the broken hoe found near her body.
-Hairs were recovered from the blade end
that was caked in mud.
Those hairs were consistent with the victim.
NARRATOR: A police dog tracked the scent on the hoe
to a man standing in the parking lot
watching police process the scene.
His name was Ronald Blanchard, the same man
who found Debbie's body and called police.
-While there could be an innocent explanation for that,
but that was certainly one thing that we
were all very interested in.
NARRATOR: 21-year-old Ronald Blanchard
was a newlywed who worked on a fishing boat.
He had no apparent motive and claimed
he didn't know the victim was a radio personality
until someone in the crowd told him.
-I did a background investigation.
I went to the trailer court where he used to live
and found out that he had a record.
He was a high school drop out.
I found that he, you know, a very,
very unstable human being.
NARRATOR: When questioned, Blanchard
denied he had touched the hoe when he found Debbie's body.
He said all he did was check Debbie's pulse.
On Blanchard's shirt, analysts found blood spatter.
When tested, the blood was clearly not his.
-The proteins and enzymes that were identified
was consistent with the victim, which
means those genetic material that was detected
could originate from her but did not originate from the suspect.
NARRATOR: Blanchard's claim that Debbie's blood got
on to his shirt when he leaned over her body was substantiated
to some extent by the evidence.
-A contact transfer would be where some bloody object
such as a bloody hand makes contact with a surface that
is clean, and the blood is transferred from one surface
to the other.
NARRATOR: But other blood stains could
not be so easily explained.
-I recognized at least two areas of stain, one on the shirt,
one on the pants, that would fall
into the category of impact spatter.
NARRATOR: Then police remembered Blanchard said he was hunting
when he discovered Debbie's body.
So police asked for the rifle he was using.
-Not only that it had a lot of mud on it,
but the barrel of the gun had been bent
and the bolt action had been disabled.
In other words, it had been crushed and broken off,
a piece had been missing from it.
NARRATOR: This was indicative of swinging the rifle like a bat.
Interestingly, the plastic fragment
found near Debbie's car was the missing
piece from Blanchard's rifle.
-He was asked specifically if he had been near the victim's
vehicle, and he indicated no he had not.
NARRATOR: The stock of his rifle was the same shape
and left the same pattern as the injury on Debbie's back.
And investigators found even more.
-We noticed that there were hairs up
at that bolt area which was damaged.
And two hairs were recovered from that bolt area.
And they were microscopically examined
and saw that they were forcibly removed.
NARRATOR: Hairs from Blanchard's rifle
were compared to head hairs taken from Debbie Dicus
during her autopsy.
Under high magnification, scientists
discovered they were microscopically similar.
Coincidentally, before her death Debbie told her boyfriend
that she had gotten into an argument
with a man who had been hunting close
to the community vegetable garden.
-Well, she did mention that she'd seen a guy with a BB gun.
And she didn't describe him or she
didn't necessarily get a bad vibe from him.
She was just a little angry that a guy would be out there,
you know, shooting birds.
NARRATOR: And there was another question that haunted police.
Why would Blanchard report the crime if he was the killer?
Ronald Blanchard claimed he found Debbie Dicus' body
in the ravine while he was walking to his car
after an afternoon of hunting.
He insisted that the blood on his shirt and pants
was the result of trying to help Debbie Dicus not hurt her.
To find out, forensic analyst Norm Tiller
put on white coveralls and conducted an experiment.
He used a sponge soaked in blood and placed
it on a motorcycle helmet.
Then used a hoe like the one found at the crime scene.
-I delivered some pretty substantial blows with that hoe
and immediately we began to produce the same types
of stains that were on the suspect's t-shirt.
-And the harder he hits it the further it goes and the tinier
So it's, sort of, something that people, I think,
inherently will understand the physics of,
but you haven't ever really thought
about it in that context before.
NARRATOR: Experts say the only way Blanchard would have
this kind of blood spatter on his shirt
was if he was present during her attack.
-They were on the upper portion of the shirt, across the chest,
on both sleeves, and actually some stains were actually
on the back of the shirt on the upper portion
of the back of the shirt.
NARRATOR: The blood on the back of someone's shirt
means the person was swinging an object covered in blood.
-There's no other way to explain this.
He can talk about transfer all day long.
He can talk about trying to feel her pulse
and falling down into the ditch.
But that will never explain how the spatter
got onto his clothes.
-There's no way he could have gotten
blood on his shirt in that way.
And they, to me as an observer, they
proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt to me.
NARRATOR: The evidence on Blanchard's jeans
was also consistent with a struggle.
-The knee areas of the jeans had grassy stains
like somebody would have knelt down into an area
with their knees and had grass stains on those as well.
NARRATOR: Ronald Blanchard was arrested and charged
with attempted ***, abduction, and ***.
Prosecutors believed Blanchard saw Debbie at the community
garden, they may have spoken or met before.
The evidence shows that Blanchard
hit Debbie with the butt of his rifle.
When she tried to get away, he hit her
again breaking a piece of the plastic
on the rifle, which was found near her car.
The motive may have been *** assault,
and the evidence shows she fought back aggressively.
So Blanchard struck her repeatedly with the garden hoe,
which created the fine mist of blood splatter on his clothing.
He then strangled her to death.
When he got home, his wife probably
saw the blood on his hands.
This forced him to create the cover story
that he found a dead body in the field.
This, in turn, required him to call police.
-I've found a dead body.
-Once he made that call, he had to continue the charade
and go along with his story through the end.
NARRATOR: He went back to the scene to speak with police,
and the dog made the identification.
-This was the first case that I had a really used a dog track
to come up with a critical incriminating piece
So learning about the science of dog handling and tracking
was really fascinating.
NARRATOR: Police say their sniffer dog Roadie was used
in hundreds of other cases and had
an incredible record of success.
-And I figured it up.
It was over 700 cases.
And of those over 700 cases, he was 99% accurate.
He found what he was looking for, whatever I scented him
on the track trail, he finished the track
and found an object, a person, a car, whatever
was at the other end, he found it.
NARRATOR: At his trial, Ronald Blanchard
maintained his innocence and even
testified in his own defense.
But the evidence was too great.
Blanchard was convicted of Debbie Dicus' ***
and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
-He showed no remorse at all.
And he insisted that he was not guilty that they had,
that the police had the wrong, the wrong person.
-Well, he never could or never would
acknowledge his true involvement in this crime.
NARRATOR: Only now years after the crime in a letter
to the producers of this program has
Blanchard finally admitted his guilt.
ROBERT BLANCHARD (VOICEOVER) I deeply regret the pain
and suffering that I've caused so many people.
Never doubt that I don't realize what I have done
and accept the consequences of my actions.
-I'm sorry It took so long for him to do that,
but I guess that's a step in the right direction for him
to continue living with what happened.
NARRATOR: Debbie's friends and family
didn't need Blanchard's confession to know the truth.
The truth, they say, was clearly evident from the forensics.
-You go, what went through this guy's head?
I didn't feel hatred toward him.
I felt no empathy toward him.
He's just a stupid, mean guy apparently.
-I appreciate what science has been able to do,
because if they weren't able to track down Blanchard
I have to wonder where it would have stopped.
-Without the forensics, I don't think
it could have all come together in the way it did.
There would've been a lot of pieces pointing toward him,
but I think there would have been a lot of holes
in the jigsaw puzzle without the forensics.