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Episode guide: S2

Buried in the Backyard S2
Image: Buried In the Backyard

Episode 1: Fatal Secrets

The first episode of the series tells the story of 19-year-old Erica Miller who went missing in January 1995. Erica who lived with her mother Brenda and her mother’s boyfriend Vince told her brother she had a secret job guarding someone at a safe house.

James Begley, a family friend and previous boyfriend of Brenda is known for having a background in this area and is questioned by police but has an alibi.

Two months later, Cheryl Smith and Thomas March discover a body on their property after Smith sees a missing persons poster for Erica. Six weeks prior to the discovery Thomas March’s friend, James Begley asked to borrow Thomas’s shotgun to go shooting. When he returned the gun two days later, he asked to burry a box of ‘insurance papers’. Erica’s body is found in the location Begley buried the‘insurance papers’.

Begley lured Erica from the house on false pretences to March’s house. He then forced Erica into the grave and shot her in the back of the head twice. Duct tape found in Begley’s car proved Begley’s involvement.

Begley was found guilty, but still denies his involvement and has not given the family a motive. In the episode we hear from Cheryl Smith & Thomas March, the detective on the scene, a crime reporter and Erica Miller’s brother.

Episode 2: Living in Fear

In this episode a case of identity theft in the Arizona desert takes a blood curdling turn when investigators make a ghastly discovery inthe most unlikely of places as wealthy interior designer Bill McGrath goes missing in August 2009.

The police visited Bill’s house and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. But his financial advisor David Barnett was still concerned and looked into Bill’s accounts and noticed some unusual transactions and files a missing person’s report.

Subsequently police revisited Bill’s house where they spoke to neighbours, one of which remembers hearing two-gun shots on August 18th.

Meanwhile David Barnett informed police of cheques written to Brad Tocker for a large amount which are cashed on August 19th, thenight after the gun shots are heard. Under questioning the police spoke to Tocker who claimed to work with Bill and that the cheques are to be used to remodel a house they are working on. Police search the house Tocker and McGrath are supposedly remodelling and discover a black bag containing Bill’s wallet, passport, cheque book and a gun. The gun appears to have traces of blood on it.

Further unusual activity occurs on Bill’s card at an ATM. Police obtain the ATM surveillance footage which shows Tocker withdrawing a large amount of money with Bills card. Analysis of the blood on the gun is a match for Bill and DNA obtained from the gun matches Tocker.

Nearly two years later Tocker stood trial and was convicted of murder. Tocker agreed to tell police where the body was for a lesser sentence. On August 18th Brad went to Bill’s house and tried to shoot Bill but may have missed. He then hit him and took the body to his mother empty home where he buried him under the kitchen floor and later disposed of Bills truck.

Featuring detective Melisa Pulver and David Barnett this episode tells a tragic tale of murder and identity theft.

Episode 3: Desperate Search

Episode three examines a Southern California community gripped by fear when one of its own vanishes without a trace. In February 2009, 14-year-old Amber Dubois went missing.

Investigators’ focus falls on Amber’s mother’s boyfriend, Dave but he is subsequently cleared. A year later in February 2010 Chelsea King goes missing within a 10-mile radius of Amber.

Chelsea’s parents track her phone to a nearby park where Chelsea went running where they find her car with her school uniform and phone found inside. Two days into the ensuing police search a pair of bloody underwear is found. The blood on the underwear matches Chelsea and DNA collected matches John Gardner, a convicted sex offender who was released two years prior.

Under questioning Gardener denies involvement to Chelsea King, but during questioning mentions Amber Dubois. Chelsea King’s body is then found in a shallow grave near the lake in the park and Gardner agrees to make a deal to take the death penalty off his case for the confession and location of Amber Dubois body.

In April 2010, Gardner was sentenced and charged for rape and murder for both King and Dubois. Contributors include Chelsea King’s parents, Amber Dubois’ mother and investigating officers as this awful story is relived.

Episode 4: He Wasn’t Alone

This episode examines the aftermath of a Florida teen tending to some yard work who digs up a frightening scene, landing investigators in the middle of a twisted affair.

In August 2002, Florida, attorney David Thomas, 55, vanished. Upon reporting him missing from their retirement home in Alabama Thomas’ wife Annie is informed that David has already been reported missing by his girlfriend. This is the first Annie learns about theaffair and investigators question if this was a potential love triangle gone wrong.

Thomas disappeared after telling Annie he had to sort out a problem with a tenant living in one of their rented homes in Florida. As investigators open the case and dig into Thomas’ life, they discover that he was previously charged for planning to kill his wife while he was having an affair with his secretary.

His wife never believed the accusation and deemed it not credible, resulting in the case being dropped. After discovering Thomas’ rental car burned in a remote, wooded area the police began exploring the criminality that may have been involved in his disappearance, not a love triangle.

Upon questioning Virginia, David’s girlfriend, she tells the police that David left the hotel they were staying in to drive with his friend Vinny who was doing repairing jobs for Thomas’ properties. And that he never came back to the hotel, despite promising to do so.

Following the revelation, investigators discovers that Vinny’s real name is Mark Twilegar and track down his family address in Tennessee and question Twilegar and his mother.

Six weeks after David’s disappearance a teenager name Sebastian discovers some remains in the backyard near his house. He tells police that days before he saw a person digging a hole in the garden, that person was Mark Twilegar.

Four years later Twilegar stood trial for the death of David Thomas where theft was the motive of the killing, as Twilegar shot Thomas inthe back with a shotgun, buried him while still alive and stole the $25,000 the attorney had recently withdrawn.

The jury deliberated for only one hour, and Twilegar was convicted of fatally shooting David Thomas.

Contributors include Annie Thomas, David’s wife, and investigating officers as this shocking tale is revealed.

Episode 5: Garden of Evil

This episode tells a tale of when a beautiful garden turns into a dark abyss and all is not as it seems as investigators dig into the life of a single mother.

In December 1987, 39-year-old Anne Gray is reported missing. Local Police visit her property to be greeted by a man who says his name is Robert Langley and that Anne does not live here anymore.

He tells police that he is the boyfriend of Anne’s friend and that Anne was depressed and wanted to leave and had instructed Langley to sell her house and possessions for her. Langley would then send the money to her once the sale had gone through.

Police look into to Langley and discover he is currently in prison for robbery charges but is allowed to leave the facility he is housed induring the day. April 1988 Oregon State Psychiatric Hospital contact the police about a suspicious activity at one of the cottages used to house the residences as there appeared to be a blood trail out of the garage. It is discovered that Robert Langley is the occupant of thecottage.

As police take a closer look at the property, they find a shallow grave dug in the cactus garden where a body belonging to a white male is uncovered. The head had been damaged so badly it was unrecognisable. However, the grave and body appear to be fresh.

With police at the scene Langley attempts to return, but then swiftly leaves when he sees the police. The body is identified through dental records as 24-year-old Larry Rockenbrant, a recovering addict and former inmate and friend of Langley.

Rockenbrant’s parents tell the police that their son had visited Langley the night before and that Langley was in possession of his car. With Langley hiding out a local news station make a plea to the public for information on his whereabouts when a woman calls thepolice to let them know she is Robert’s aunt and she believes Anne Gray might be buried in her garden. Langley had previously been round to the house and had dug a hole in the garden.

The police identify the body as Anne Gray and weeks later engage in a high-speed car chase when Langley is spotted driving Rockenbrant’s car who is apprehended approaching the Mexican border.

Despite Langley continuing to deny his involvement in the either murder he was convicted for the killing of both Gray and Rockenbrant.

With contributions from Anne Gray’s daughter, Terralissa Ann Eastburn, Anne’s friend, Linda Knight and sister, Judith Powell plus investigating officers this episode tells a tragic tale of the murder of a single mother and young man in recovery.

Episode 6: Fatal Mistake

Episode six tells the extraordinary story of a seemingly upstanding elderly member of the community George Griller, James Keen and two other elderly men, William Sawyer and his brother-in-law, Louis Michael, all taking place in Minneapolis. In the late 1980s Sawyer and Michael moved in with Griller, who claimed to be Sawyer’s second cousin.

The police received a telephone call in September 1991 reporting moaning and cries for help from Griller's home. The police found Sawyer, who was blind and deaf, in a malnourished, dehydrated state and living in filthy conditions. He was taken to the HennepinCounty Medical Center and, later, to a convalescent home. Griller told investigators that Michael was responsible for Sawyer's condition.

During their investigation, the police interviewed one of Griller's neighbours who had seen him digging a hole in his backyard and burying an elderly person in it. After initially lying about Michael moving to Chicago Griller then claimed that he had come home one day to find Michael dead in a chair. He said that because he did not have money for a proper burial, he buried Michael in the backyard.

On January 27, 1995, the police began to excavate Griller's backyard to search for Michael's remains. They find the dismembered body parts of a different man. On January 30, 1995, Griller admitted that those were the remains of James Keen.

After questioning Griller, police returned to his home to dig through layers of frozen soil to find the remains of Louis Michael. Griller a self-confessed man of God had drained the bank accounts of Louis Michael and William Sawyer and murdered James Keen in his home after meeting him at a local bar.

Griller was convicted of James Keen’s murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison, however the death of Louis Michael still remains clouded in mystery.

Episode 7: Blood Brothers

Episode seven takes us deep into Alabama and the murder of 27-year-old Al Wilson whose body was found been beaten and violently dropped, head-first, 40 feet down into an old well shaft.

Having seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth with a young child and fiancé left behind, local police were stumped. Years later having been tipped off that Al’s body was on a farm in Georgia, detectives began looking into Al’s murder once more.

During their investigations police discover that Al was lined-up to be a witness in a case against his former boss Roderick Johnson.

In their plot to kidnap Wilson then hide his body, Johnson’s older half-brother Raymond Walton posed as a customer at Wilson’s work and then lured Wilson to a storage lot where repossessed mobile homes were kept.

Walton abducted Wilson, beat him and drove 60 miles into rural west central Georgia, where he threw Wilson into the abandoned well. Walton was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping and theft by taking of a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus a 10-year sentence on top of those terms.

Roderick Johnson pled guilty to of malice of murder and Alexander Johnson pled guilty to kidnapping.

Episode 8: Last Call

The final episode of the series tells the story of a case that took 35 years to close. In, 1979, in Oxnard, California, Enrique Zuniga called police to say that his ex-wife, Alma, had just called him from a pay phone in Oxnard. Enrique said someone had attacked Alma.

Law enforcement officials found Alma Zuniga’s naked body in a shallow dirt grave seven to eight hours later. John Clark Russell had grabbed her from the phone booth and driven her to a field where he raped her. Autopsy reports showed Zuniga was also stabbed in the back and shot in her right temple.

The case remained unsolved for more than a quarter-century until re-examined DNA evidence in 2008 matched semen samples to Russell, who was eventually arrested in 2012. Russell, 65 at the time was found guilty of first-degree murder and faces life in prison without parole.