EYEWITNESS TO A KILLING –

EYEWITNESS TO A KILLING 

Written By Joe Cochran

In the early morning hours of September 4 2008, Daniel Underwood lost his life from a 12 gauge shotgun blast to the head. What was quickly ruled a suicide, has many unanswered questions.  Underwood died in Sulphur Springs, Texas.  The story has previously been written about, yet, I intend on digging a little deeper using my sources, my legal contacts and an eyewitness. Underwood had spent that evening at a bar with live-in girlfriend, Rebecca Nelson and mutual friend, Maria Harvick.

Underwood, Nelson and Harvick returned to where Daniel and Rebecca lived.   Soon after returning, Underwood upset, began questioning Nelson about his depleted bank account, money missing from his 401-K as well as some personal belongings. Police would later confirm that someone had logged into Underwood’s bank account.  Something was terribly wrong since Underwood had cashed in his 401- K worth about $25,000.  Where was it and who had logged into the account?   Underwood   was demanding answers with a shotgun in his right hand.

Nelson and Underwood had only been together as a couple for about two months. The word on the street( that I was able to verify) was Nelson was planning on leaving Underwood and was still legally married to someone else.

After reading all the reports and seeing the “evidence” used to determine that this was a suicide, I knew I there was more to the story.  I began talking to all my law enforcement connections, forensic and DNA experts I knew to figure out the truth and to get my hands on as much additional information as possible.

However like many investigative cases, this would mean many interviews , phone calls and a lot of late nights, as an investigative reporter I was accustomed to it. This story would have many twists and turns until I started connecting the dots, especially the forensic evidence.  I had one key witness that would take me months to reach.  I also had one heck of an ugly crime scene, not to mention a lot of information to look through and sort out.  What was real and what was fiction?

Prior to the event that transpired on September 4th, Daniel had been looking for a fresh start in life.  He was the father of two of his own children and had three step children from a previous relationship who he cared for dearly. Daniel was looking to the future, his oldest had been talking about coming to live with him. Which gives credence to the notion that he had no plans to kill himself.

I proceeded to get in touch with many of my contacts, law enforcement  officers who had experience with crime scenes and my list of medical examiners. With the opinions I received my doubts about this being a suicide went to 100 percent!  Everyone I talked to was skeptical of a suicide. I continued to gather as much evidence as I could.  Then it was time to find that one key eyewitness, Maria Harvick.  Through social media I was able to find her. But, getting someone to talk however is much more difficult.

After months of sifting legal documents, chasing leads and looking at  very ugly crime scene photos, I had my witness. Now I had to figure out what was legitimate and what was false information.  I also needed to know exactly how Underwood died.  I knew it was a shotgun blast to the head, but how did it happen and why?  Most importantly was it by his own hand or by the hand of someone else?
Eventually I got the chance to chat with Maria Harvick. Remember there were three people in the home that night, Daniel Underwood( the victim) current girlfriend, Rebecca Nelson and their friend, Maria Harvick.

When I finally started to get some breaks and begin putting the pieces together for me the adrenaline starts to flow.  I am going to get some of the answers to this case, and perhaps closure for Underwood’s family.

After obtaining what appears to be a gunshot residue ( GSR) test, autopsy report and other critical evidence in the case I was ready to speak to Maria Harvick.

When I interviewed Harvick, she had no idea what I had learned over the past months or information I had collected. Several experts had already told me this was not a suicide.  I had received a message from one of my law enforcement and forensic experts.  In his opinion he  said to me “Joe, you have a homicide here”.  ” No doubt about it”. he added.

My Q and A with eyewitness Maria Harvick

Q. I have to start right out and ask, why now and why hold
back when first questioned?

A. Straight out fear, I felt threatened.  I had just seen what happened
to Daniel.  Rebecca she had police contacts and was an informant.
She made it clear to me and said don’t tell them we were arguing.
She added don’t worry they will believe me.  I know she had been
arrested and knew a lot of people.  I was scared for the sake of
my children.

Q. Are you still frightened?

A. Yes, mainly for my kids. But the truth needs to come out, she needs
to answer for what she did.

Q. What exactly did happen?

A. Rebecca and Daniel began to argue, I left the room

Q. And then….you previously have stated you re-entered after
you heard the shot. Is that your story now?

A. No as I was walking back to where they were arguing, I saw the shot fired,
the shotgun in her ( Rebecca Nelson’s) hands and Daniels hand on the Barrel
Her finger on the trigger, she ( Nelson) shot him.  The last thing he said
was Wh…. It sounded like what, as if to say what the blank are you doing

Q. You saw him fall? which way?

A. He fell on his left side, curled up and then Rebecca moved his body.
She rolled him over on his back, that’s how his legs ended up over
the shotgun.  She then proceeded to wipe his on her face, neck
and shirt.

Q. Maria I have to ask you because I have obtained the GSR report.
Their is a lot of residue on both you and Nelson. Were you involved
in a struggle or did you try and intervene?

A. No, I was told by the police I didn’t have anything on my hands and no
fingerprints on the weapon.   I was told I did not have GSR on me.
I did have blood on me as I tried to help him as he was choking
on his blood.

Q. According to a crime scene sketch you and your answers to me
you were about four feet away ( actually 44.5 inches)?

A. Yes that is about right.

Q. What was Nelson’s demeanor after the shooting?

A. She started to cry, but no tears and said “Oh my God he’s dead,
he shot himself and made me his beneficiary.
I just witnessed evil.  I saw it in her eyes.

Q. After everything you witnessed and the fear you had is it now
to tell what happened?

A. I’m a little scared, like I said mainly for my children, but then I’m
a mother and I tried to put myself in Donna’s shoes ( Daniel’s Mother).
I want her to know what happened.  Yes I still fear for my children,
but I’m a Christian first and must speak up. Rebecca carried on like
she did nothing wrong.  She also took a lot of Daniels stuff and sold it.

Q. What about her behavior after the police arrived?

A. It was horrible, after they sent us outside she was calling people
including the bartender at the 127 club telling them Daniel was
dead and she was the beneficiary to everything

I thanked Maria after our very intense and emotional interview.

After nearly eight years could their be justice, could this be solved?

CONCLUSION

Anything I write I always go in with a clear mind and determined to get it right. This story was one where I had to dig deep and go back many times through my research.  With so much on the line a young 33 year old was dead and it was ruled a suicide.

I looked at the dimensions of the house and the area where the shooting took place. I was able to obtain a GSR report and it showed residue on all three parties, Underwood, Nelson and Harvick who according to her the police said she had none and was ready to testify and swear to it. Was it a legit ?I questioned it because of her statement saying she was clean.
Was it real and she was told no, because Nelson who had told Harvick and others she was an informant and she had residue as well. If the document is accurate and official since Sergeant Lenwood Fox and Trace Evidence Examiner Vicki Hall signed off on it, my experts have confirmed that a shotgun blast residue can be picked up from 3 -5 feet away.  Remember Harvick stated she walked back to where Nelson and Underwood were and was about 44.5 inches away.
The autopsy reports only residue on Underwood’s. left hand. Harvick stated his left hand (not the right hand) was on the barrel.  Most importantly Harvick witnesses Nelson pull the trigger with the shotgun in her right hand ” An Eyewitness To A Killing”
What peaked my interest in this shooting from the beginning was one statistic. In a recent study of all suicides committed by firearms, 80 percent are by handgun, 15 percent by rifle and only 5 percent by shotgun.  This case needs to be reopened now.
The death of Daniel Underwood needs to be changed to undetermined until a further investigation is completed.  It is time that the Sulphar Springs Community demand answers and that the Texas State Attorney General’s Office lead by Ken Paxton move forward. That much is owed to anyone. In this case the family of Daniel Underwood deserve that much dignity.  Remember there is more than just circumstantial evidence here and an eyewitness to this killing.

“FROM DETROIT TO DALLAS” ON THE TRAIL OF A KILLER PART 3

Written By Joe Cochran

( For more leading to this story you can read the articles ” Eyewitness To A Killing” and “Bragging Of A Murder” here at the site that preceded this investigative article).

Nearly three years havpast since I started my investigation into the Daniel Underwood death which we know by all eyewitness accounts it’s a murder.
It was time that I go to Dallas, Texas and meet many of the people involved in this case while also filming an episode of Warner Brothers ” Crime Watch Daily”. The  WB producer of the show had contacted me about my previous two part story regarding this case, ” Eyewitness To A Killing ” and “Bragging Of A Murder”.  So thanks to WB and Crime Watch Daily it was off to Texas.

On Friday February 23rd I arrived in Dallas to meet a family friend of the Underwood’s Diane Hynson who would then take me to meet the Underwood’s for the first time in person.  It was an emotional meeting to say the least.

How ironic as I arrived in Dallas playing through the airport was Marvin Gaye’s Motown hit  “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Just shortly before  I was told the person that we believe and know pulled the trigger Rebecca Nelson was also in town.

Upon arriving in Dallas Miss Hynson proceeded to take me to Sulphur Springs,the little city outside of Dallas Tx. to meet the Underwood’s.

Just as I expected, meeting this down to earth family was very humbling.  Daniel’s mother Donna and  his sister Staci spoke about many things including the death of the late Daniel. A lot hugs ,thoughts and tears were exchanged.

On Saturday I met my two witnesses from my previous articles regarding the death of Daniel Underwood, Maria Harvick and Ginnie Perry.

Next  it was time to record “Crime Watch Daily”.   Two very brave and courageous women stepping forward to tell what they knew,  Harvick and Perry had a story to tell, and tell they did with great conviction and passion.

Harvick told her version once again as she did in ” Eyewitness To A Killing” that she witnessed Rebecca Nelson pull the trigger that killed Daniel. It was an emotional time for Harvick and one could understand why she kept her name  out it until much later to protect her young children at the time of the shooting in 2008.

  (The area in the home where Maria Harvick witnessed Rebecca Nelson shoot and kill Daniel Underwood)

Not only did I interview both Harvick and Perry in my investigative articles I also recorded Perry telling me  how Rebecca Nelson had bragged about pulling the trigger of a 12 gauge shotgun and killing Underwood.

(With Staci Underwood)

Donna and Staci Underwood would eventually tell their story with emotion that has been in their heart since the loss of Daniel.

What amazes me mostly about Donna, it’s not about an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth,it’s just seeking justice for the killing of her son.  You could not meet a more devoted and loving person as Donna Underwood.

After  multiple radio shows, interviews and my two articles it was time to tell what I had learned through my investigation.  There is no doubt a killer is on the loose and she knows exactly what she did. During my interview we discussed a botched investigation, a cover-up and most importantly forensic evidence.

“Crime Watch Daily” would stay in town on Sunday and try and track down Rebecca Nelson. From what I understand with some success, but never being able to get a comment.

The Reporter for “Crime Watch Daily” Malissa Mccarty  did a superb job asking the tough questions and with the answers we supplied and the shows research should no doubt be enough for law enforcement to re-open the Daniel Underwood death and at least for the time being declare his death as undetermined.

(Seeking Justice for Daniel Underwood)

Saturday night it was time for me to depart and head back to Detroit.  Although we’re still on the trail of a cold-blooded killer it seems like we’re that much closer to finding justice.

The Show ” Crime Watch Daily “to air in March on the WB.

BRAGGING OF A MURDER

“BRAGGING OF A MURDER” – DANIEL UNDERWOOD PART 2

Written By Joe Cochran

After my completion of “Eyewitness To A Killing”, I pondered what could possibly seal the deal in the shooting death of Daniel Underwood.  As if the statements, forensic evidence, many expert opinions weren’t enough and the most important fact to the case an eyewitness who seen it go down (Maria Harvick) who has offered to tell her story to the Sulphur Springs Police Department, The Texas Rangers, or any other law enforcement agency that will listen and at the very least reopen this tragic case.

Could there be anything left to prove that Rebecca Nelson shot and killed Underwood on September 4, 2008?  The autopsy has many missteps and errors. A police integration that is highly questionable.  A lot of inconsistencies that has no one laughing, but shaking their heads in disgust as this miscarriage of justice continues after all these years.  This is a disgrace as well as an insult to the Underwood family.

Months later I look at was presented to police the night of the killing, the amount of research and key experts I interviewed and then to have the story perfectly followed up by Kaci Dillingham ( please read Corruption In Sulphur Springs at Odyssey) what more could be needed?   Perhaps another person to support Harvick’s version. That person exists by the name of Ginnie Perry. Not only was Ms. Perry willing to talk she was more than happy to come on my national radio show “What Really Happened?” on http://www.wglro.com/.

Perry is currently living near Nelson in the same neighborhood.  A very composed and believable Perry spoke  candid on how Nelson described killing Underwood. Ginnie Perry was taking care of her ill and failing grandparents. Nelson occasionally would stop over talk and sometimes add a hand when Perry was caring for her grandparents. Perry said Nelson always seemed very high on drugs, so much so that even her very ill grandmother could tell and would say ” Ginnie that girl is stoned on some kind of drug”. ” For my grandmother in her state to know it says a lot” added Perry.  I asked Perry how the conversation about the killing of Underwood began. “I had told Nelson about my life and experiences” said Perry.  After a lengthy conversation Rebecca Nelson told me she was involved in a shooting and the man shot had died”  Perry stated at first it was Nelson talking in a bragging way that her stories were bigger than hers ” “playing topper”
but Nelson said no, really we were arguing I grabbed a shot gun, the argument got very heated and I shot him in the head”  Perry said” I pressed her on the truthfulness and asked ” then why are you not in jail”  Nelson replied
‘it was ruled a suicide and nothing more was done about it”   For the longest time Perry just shrugged it off as if she was stoned and talking a big story, but then she read Dillingham’s article and in her words said “Oh my god this is what Nelson had confessed to me”. Ginnie Perry went on to read my” Eyewitness To A Killing” article written prior to Dillingham’s and again red flags and now Perry totally stunned knew what Nelson had confided to her was true, she had taken the shotgun and killed Daniel Underwood.

A couple weeks after Perry’s appearance on my show I called her, to once again go over her details of what Nelson told her.  I asked if she had heard from Nelson since the show, she said no, but since they live in the same neighborhood she has seen her from a distance when driving past Nelson’s residence.  I wanted to get an exact quote as to how Nelson described the shooting death of Underwood.  Perry stunningly told me Nelson looked at her with an evil cold look and said” I blew his effing head off”!   “It was like no big deal to her.” added Perry.

Maria Harvick and Ginnie Perry need to be heard. It’s time the Sulphur Springs Police Department reopen this case and Rebecca Nelson needs to be taken off the street before we hear about another crime. Nelson has been arrested some eighteen times on lesser charges
including four times since my first article and she has walked each time. What that proves is what Harvick has stated that she has connections.  Who is arrested eighteen times and serves virtually no time?

Many killers have been convicted on much less circumstantial evidence. Any prosecutor would take the evidence, eyewitness, a confession to another person which includes admitting to killing Daniel Underwood at point blank range and confidently use it in a
a closing statement with great confidence of earning a conviction.

Maria Harvick and Ginnie Perry are available and willing to talk to law enforcement and tell exactly what they know.  Anyone else who has information or would like to help bring closure to the killing of Daniel Underwood is encouraged to contact the Dallas local FBI office at (972) 559-5000 the Sulphur Springs Police Department at (903) 885-7602 or the Dallas Morning News at 1-800-925-1500.

EYEWITNESS TO A KILLING

EYEWITNESS TO A KILLING 

Written By Joe Cochran 

In the early morning hours of September 4 2008, Daniel Underwood lost his life from a 12 gauge shotgun blast to the head. What was quickly ruled a suicide, has many unanswered questions.  Underwood died in Sulphur Springs, Texas.  The story has previously been written about, yet, I intend on digging a little deeper using my sources, my legal contacts and an eyewitness. Underwood had spent that evening at a bar with live-in girlfriend, Rebecca Nelson and mutual friend, Maria Harvick.

Underwood, Nelson and Harvick returned to where Daniel and Rebecca lived.   Soon after returning, Underwood upset, began questioning Nelson about his depleted bank account, money missing from his 401-K as well as some personal belongings. Police would later confirm that someone had logged into Underwood’s bank account.  Something was terribly wrong since Underwood had cashed in his 401- K worth about $25,000.  Where was it and who had logged into the account?  Underwood  was demanding answers with a shotgun in his right hand. 

Nelson and Underwood had only been together as a couple for about two months. The word on the street (that I was able to verify) was Nelson was planning on leaving Underwood and was still legally married to someone else.

After reading all the reports and seeing the “evidence” used to determine that this was a suicide, I knew I there was more to the story.  I began talking to all my law enforcement connections, forensic and DNA experts I knew to figure out the truth and to get my hands on as much additional information as possible.

However like many investigative cases, this would mean many interviews, phone calls and a lot of late nights, as an investigative reporter I was accustomed to it. This story would have many twists and turns until I started connecting the dots, especially the forensic evidence.  I had one key witness that would take me months to reach.  I also had one heck of an ugly crime scene, not to mention a lot of information to look through and sort out.  What was real and what was fiction?

Prior to the event that transpired on September 4th, Daniel had been looking for a fresh start in life.  He was the father of two of his own children and had three step children from a previous relationship who he cared for dearly. Daniel was looking to the future, his oldest had been talking about coming to live with him. Which gives credence to the notion that he had no plans to kill himself.

I proceeded to get in touch with many of my contacts, law enforcement officers who had experience with crime scenes and my list of medical examiners. With the opinions I received my doubts about this being a suicide went to 100 percent!  Everyone I talked to was skeptical of a suicide. I continued to gather as much evidence as I could.  Then it was time to find that one key eyewitness, Maria Harvick.  Through social media I was able to find her. But, getting someone to talk however is much more difficult.

After months of sifting legal documents, chasing leads and looking at very ugly crime scene photos, I had my witness. Now I had to figure out what was legitimate and what was false information.  I also needed to know exactly how Underwood died.  I knew it was a shotgun blast to the head, but how did it happen and why?  Most importantly was it by his own hand or by the hand of someone else?
Eventually I got the chance to chat with Maria Harvick. Remember there were three people in the home that night, Daniel Underwood( the victim) current girlfriend, Rebecca Nelson and their friend, Maria Harvick.

When I finally started to get some breaks and begin putting the pieces together for me the adrenaline starts to flow.  I am going to get some of the answers to this case, and perhaps closure for Underwood’s family.

After obtaining what appears to be a gunshot residue (GSR) test, autopsy report and other critical evidence in the case I was ready to speak to Maria Harvick.

When I interviewed Harvick, she had no idea what I had learned over the past months or information I had collected. Several experts had already told me this was not a suicide.  I had received a message from one of my law enforcement and forensic experts.  In his opinion he  said to me “Joe, you have a homicide here”.  ”No doubt about it”. he added.

My Q and A with eyewitness Maria Harvick

Q. I have to start right out and ask, why now and why hold
back when first questioned?

A. Straight out fear, I felt threatened.  I had just seen what happened
to Daniel.  Rebecca she had police contacts and was an informant.
She made it clear to me and said don’t tell them we were arguing.
She added don’t worry they will believe me.  I know she had been
arrested and knew a lot of people.  I was scared for the sake of
my children.

Q. Are you still frightened?

A. Yes, mainly for my kids. But the truth needs to come out, she needs
to answer for what she did.

Q. What exactly did happen?

A. Rebecca and Daniel began to argue, I left the room

Q. And then….you previously have stated you re-entered after
you heard the shot. Is that your story now?

A. No as I was walking back to where they were arguing, I saw the shot fired,
the shotgun in her ( Rebecca Nelson’s) hands and Daniels hand on the Barrel
Her finger on the trigger, she ( Nelson) shot him.  The last thing he said
was Wh…. It sounded like what, as if to say what the blank are you doing

Q. You saw him fall? which way?

A. He fell on his left side, curled up and then Rebecca moved his body.
She rolled him over on his back, that’s how his legs ended up over
the shotgun.  She then proceeded to wipe his on her face, neck
and shirt.

Q. Maria I have to ask you because I have obtained the GSR report.
There is a lot of residue on both you and Nelson. Were you involved
in a struggle or did you try and intervene?

A. No, I was told by the police I didn’t have anything on my hands and no
fingerprints on the weapon.   I was told I did not have GSR on me.
I did have blood on me as I tried to help him as he was choking
on his blood.

Q. According to a crime scene sketch you and your answers to me
you were about four feet away (actually 44.5 inches)?

A. Yes that is about right.

Q. What was Nelson’s demeanor after the shooting?

A. She started to cry, but no tears and said “Oh my God he’s dead,
he shot himself and made me his beneficiary.
I just witnessed evil.  I saw it in her eyes.

Q. After everything you witnessed and the fear you had is it now
to tell what happened?

A. I’m a little scared, like I said mainly for my children, but then I’m
a mother and I tried to put myself in Donna’s shoes (Daniel’s Mother).
I want her to know what happened.  Yes I still fear for my children,
but I’m a Christian first and must speak up. Rebecca carried on like
she did nothing wrong.  She also took a lot of Daniels stuff and sold it.

Q. What about her behavior after the police arrived?

A. It was horrible, after they sent us outside she was calling people
including the bartender at the 127 club telling them Daniel was
dead and she was the beneficiary to everything

I thanked Maria after our very intense and emotional interview.

After nearly eight years could there be justice, could this be solved?

CONCLUSION

Anything I write I always go in with a clear mind and determined to get it right. This story was one where I had to dig deep and go back many times through my research.  With so much on the line a young 33 year old was dead and it was ruled a suicide.

I looked at the dimensions of the house and the area where the shooting took place. I was able to obtain a GSR report and it showed residue on all three parties, Underwood, Nelson and Harvick who according to her the police said she had none and was ready to testify and swear to it. Was it a legit ?I questioned it because of her statement saying she was clean.
Was it real and she was told no, because Nelson who had told Harvick and others she was an informant and she had residue as well. If the document is accurate and official since Sergeant Lenwood Fox and Trace Evidence Examiner Vicki Hall signed off on it, my experts have confirmed that a shotgun blast residue can be picked up from 3 -5 feet away.  Remember Harvick stated she walked back to where Nelson and Underwood were and was about 44.5 inches away.
The autopsy reports only residue on Underwood’s left hand. Harvick stated his left hand (not the right hand) was on the barrel.  Most importantly Harvick witnesses Nelson pull the trigger with the shotgun in her right hand ” An Eyewitness To A Killing”
What peaked my interest in this shooting from the beginning was one statistic. In a recent study of all suicides committed by firearms, 80 percent are by handgun, 15 percent by rifle and only 5 percent by shotgun.  This case needs to be reopened now.
The death of Daniel Underwood needs to be changed to undetermined until a further investigation is completed.  It is time that the Sulphur Springs Community demand answers and that the Texas State Attorney General’s Office lead by Ken Paxton move forward. That much is owed to anyone. In this case the family of Daniel Underwood deserve that much dignity.  Remember there is more than just circumstantial evidence here and an eyewitness to this killing. 

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