Behind the BadgeNBC News correspondent (needs backend)
By Lee Cowan
NBC News correspondent
In the lore of the Lone Star state, Texas lawmen rank pretty high: the good guys in the white hats. Their badge brought prestige – their gunfights, the history books. But in the modern-day town of Denton, Texas — the “little D” outside “the Big D” of Dallas – there served one Texas lawman with a curious past, all locked up in a box.
Donna Fielder: No one left at the police department had any idea what was inside that box.
Oh, they knew the basics. That the box told the tale of a blonde beauty – a new mother – found dead in her bedroom. A cop’s bedroom – her husband’s bedroom. But the box eventually fell silent — to every ear, but one.
Donna Fielder: I just the whole time felt that Viki was there. That she was there with me, and that she was waiting to see what was gonna happen.
Viki — was Virginia Farish — a quiet girl sweet as Texas tea – and loyal – with a touch as soft as her dark blonde hair.
Robin Wyrembelski: Viki excelled at everything that she tried to do.
Robin Wyrembelski and Valerie Grissom were Viki’s crew — friends as long as they can remember – from Barbie to boyfriends – and everything in between.
Valerie Grissom: I’d say we had a very much of a “Wonder Years” kind of life. Middle class, you know, maybe not really privileged but sharing your bicycle, sharing our skates, getting out everything and playing. We had an unusual circumstance. We had five girls within a block, all the same age. And so we were a gang of girls.
Complete with then-normal insecurities. For her part, Viki was a little chunky — had braces – was far more the bookworm than the social butterfly.
Robin Wyrembelski: Very happy child. Shy, but happy.
A shyness that was especially evident around boys — except one: Bobby Lozano.
Robin Wyrembelski: Once they started dating, if I saw Viki, I saw Bobby.
They hooked up the summer after Viki graduated from high school. Bobby was older, and had a job working at his family’s gas station.
Robin Wyrembelski: I saw him as a kind of the outcast loner type, on his own. Everybody knew of Bobby, but nobody knew him real well. And he didn’t hang out with anybody except for Viki, constantly.
Lee Cowan, Dateline NBC: So what do you think Viki saw in Bobby back then?
Robin Wyrembelski: He showed her immense attention.
And that attention seemed to be the sunlight Viki needed to blossom. Her friends soon saw a different Viki – on the outside at least.
Robin Wyrembelski: It was like, Wow! You know she found that side of herself and enjoyed it. And it was always there, she just may have not known how to bring it out.
Valerie Grissom: She was a swan. She turned out to be a very pretty woman. Very beautiful.
Was it Bobby? Maybe. He eventually changed, too. He joined the Police Academy – and in time he didn’t look so bad either.
Valerie Grissom: When he went into the police academy, he got more buffed up. And he was like on a tactical squad. He had on these camo-looking gear and guns strapped all over the place and I –”
Robin Wyrembelski: He always looked very official.
Valerie Grissom: Yeah, it was pretty cool looking, I have to admit. I was a little jealous.
They were two young lovers in the Lone Star state — who were coming into their own, together. In time, there was a wedding – and of course, careers. Viki became an elementary school teacher – — and a good one at that, says fellow teacher, Christy Kerner.
Christy Kerner: I admired how she could have this classroom management because to get a bunch of fifth graders to not only line up and stay in line and walk down the hall, but they did it with love and respect. They did it because they loved her.
The only person who appeared more loyal to Viki – was Bobby – who it seemed couldn’t bear to be apart from her – even at work.
Christy Kerner: He seemed like the doting husband who would show up at lunch and show up after school sometimes. He was just around all the time, you know — much unlike most other spouses, even the other newlyweds that were at school, their husband just didn’t show up like Bobby did.
Everyone wondered just how he found the time. He’d been promoted to detective at the Denton PD – a rising star as bright as his badge – who fellow officers, like Lee Howell, say was good. Very good.
Lee Howell: He was very thorough, very meticulous in his work as he was in his – in a lot of his personal life.
Few knew Bobby better than Richard Godoy. He’s the social worker at the department – and fittingly enough, saw a lot of Bobby socially — along with his wife.
Richard Godoy: They looked like a happy couple. They’d sit close together and you know, joke around with one another and hold hands and I think they’d give each other a peck and this kind of thing.
The icing on their seemingly perfect cake came in 2001 – a baby boy named Monty. Viki was wildly happy.
On the verge of their 16th wedding anniversary, it seemed the Lozanos had it all — good jobs, good family, a good-size home – more than 5,000 square feet – and supplemental income – from Viki’s mother who lived with them, even paid for part of that house. But on July 5th, 2002 – Bobby and Viki celebrated the anniversary – that would be their last.
911call: Need an emergency ambulance, my wife has a gunshot…
The next night — Bobby came home to find a horrific scene: Viki – covered in blood – shot through the chest – lying in their bedroom.
911call: Is she breathing? No. No? Okay.
She would never get out of bed again.
How could so much happen in just a half an hour? That’s the slice of time policeman Bobby Lozano said he was away from home – only to return to find his wife Viki – shot through the chest. Rescuers and investigators raced to the scene — one of their own was in trouble. Richard Godoy – Bobby’s co-worker at the police department – was one of the first to get the call.
Richard Godoy: I’m driving down there thinking, “Oh, God, please help me. Help me help these people.” Which I always do any time I go out on a call like that ’cause, you never know what you’re gonna go into.
Lee Cowan: But this was different.
Richard Godoy: It was different.
Different and difficult. Bobby was a friend – and so was Viki – and now she lay dead in the couple’s bedroom. Questions swirled as Richard approached the sergeant outside Bobby’s house.
Richard Godoy: I said, “What happened?” He says, “Well, Bobby said he came home and he found Viki in the bed and she has a gunshot wound to her – her chest.”
Inside, Bobby was waiting for his old friend – tense, it seemed – but at the ready with the details of the terrible pre-amble to what lay on the bed. Bobby told Richard he had left home only briefly, only to come back to find Viki shot – his gun cleaning kit lay right beside her.
Richard Godoy: He said before he left, he took his gun out and – and he was gonna clean it because Viki and him were gonna go to the range the next day. And he told me, “She must have been trying to clean my gun because you know how she likes to tinker with stuff and she may have tried to clean my gun, and it may have accidentally went off.”
Police photos showed the grizzly result. Her wound was fatal. Viki was gone. Her mother arrived home later that evening – to a crowd of investigators. The castle she helped pay for had now become her daughter’s coffin — and it fell to Richard to break the news.
Richard Godoy: “Oh, no, not my Viki, not my Viki.” And then she starts wailing and, “Bobby, what happened?” She’s screaming. I mean, you never forget the sound of a mother who has lost her child. The wailing of her at that loss.
But somehow, in the middle of all that grief — Viki’s mother offered up a theory about what might have led to her daughter’s shooting.
Richard Godoy: Anna says, “Well, did the dogs – did the dogs jump up? Did the dogs jump up and make the gun go off?”
Lee Cowan: She said that right away?
Richard Godoy: I thought that was odd.
Viki’s dogs – small ones – could have startled Viki, Richard surmised – but how could that have led to a wound in the middle of her chest?
Richard Godoy: The only way a gun can go off is if you pull the trigger. I mean you’re not going to sit it on a table and it’s going to go off.
The scene puzzled investigators — and the more they observed Bobby’s demeanor — the more puzzled they became.
Lee Cowan: Did he seem agitated though?
Richard Godoy: He seemed uncomfortable with how Anna was reacting. He just appeared uncomfortable with the emotions that were there in the room. I mean, ’cause it was some heavy stuff. It was really thick with emotions and with grief.”
Lee Cowan: But as heavy and emotional as that scene was, it wasn’t for Bobby?”
Richard Godoy: He didn’t seem to be joining in that emotion with everyone. There’s no tears. He’s like, you know, grimacing, faking like, forcing himself to cry, but there’s nothing there.”
Paramedics also wondered. Bobby had insisted on that 911 call he had tried to revive Viki with CPR. But to Luke Scholl – the lead paramedic – one look at Bobby made that, seem unlikely.
Luke Scholl: He certainly was not perspiring like someone who had done CPR efforts. He didn’t appear to have any blood on him, which would have been very obvious based on the entrance wound to that bullet and where the hands would be placed on the chest to do CPR.
And speaking of blood – Luke noticed Viki’s. It had settled around her ankles and around her back. It was another key stepping stone for investigators — who knew right away what that evidence meant.
Lee Cowan: What did the pooling of the blood tell you?
Luke Scholl: That she had been deceased for a substantial amount of time.
It seemed Viki couldn’t have been alive just a half hour earlier — the way Bobby had said.
Lee Howell: “You had a pretty good sense from the get-go that night that something wasn’t right?”
Luke Scholl: Sure, I think, yeah, anybody that walks into that scene is gonna think the same thing. Something just doesn’t fit right. It doesn’t feel right.
But the piece that REALLY didn’t fit was Bobby’s farewell to Viki.
Richard Godoy: Bobby told me, I want to see her before they take her.
The medical examiner stopped the stretcher she was being wheeled out on — the body bag was unzipped — and then Bobby uttered the strangest thing…
Richard Godoy: All of the sudden, you know, he looks at her, he says, “Well, take care.”
Lee Cowan: “Take care?”
Richard Godoy: He turns and he walks in the house, yeah. For someone to say “take care” and just walk back inside like nothing happened, I thought that was being really cold.
Maybe reality staring back from a body bag was too much for Bobby to bear. Maybe being a detective had left him hardened to death. Or maybe – Bobby really didn’t care about Viki the way everyone had thought. As night – turned to dawn – and investigators poured over the scene – not a single piece of evidence pointed one way or another. Accident? Suicide? or Homicide?
Viki’s final moments were a mystery.
Viki Lozano never saw her 37th birthday – but she had just celebrated her 16th wedding anniversary… and was toasting being a new mother, too. But just 24 hours after their anniversary dinner, her husband, Bobby – a Texas cop – came home to find Viki shot through the chest. Bobby says Viki was cleaning his gun when it accidentally went off. But to his fellow officers, sympathy soon gave way to skepticism.
Lee Howell: You don’t — just don’t normally see somebody clean a gun in a bed, in their pajamas, partially covered up, and accidentally shoot themselves in the chest. It just didn’t add up.
Lee Howell was in charge of the investigation for the Denton Police Department that night — and he was puzzled. He says Bobby didn’t act like a grieving husband.
Lee Howell: He made no effort with any information.
Which left the evidence to tell the tale. First investigators took a closer look at that gun cleaning kit found on the bed next to Viki.
Lee Howell: It didn’t look to me like somebody had been cleaning the gun. It looked like it had just been placed there as a – as a prop.
Then they examined the gun itself.
Lee Howell: The gun was dripping in oil — and you could see where it – it was lying on top of a sheet of newspaper.
Lee Cowan: There was that much?
Lee Howell: Yes. It looked to me like somebody had taken the gun and just sprayed it down with a can of oil. I mean, it was literally soaked.
And yet — Viki didn’t have any oil on her — not a drop.
Lee Cowan: Nothing on her hands?
Lee Howell: Nothing on her hands.
An accident seemed unlikely — but so, too, did suicide.
Lee Howell: The way that she was lying there, it would be a very awkward, very unusual position for her to have shot herself. It would fit perfectly for somebody standing next to the bed over her pushing the gun down toward her.
The clues spoke – but in a confusing language – and so did the key players. Police were really stumped by Viki’s own mother.
Lee Howell: She was adamant that she wanted us to find it an accident. She made that very clear. I was really kind of shocked that she reacted the way she did.
Lee Cowan: What was her demeanor?
Lee Howell: Very defensive of Bobby. Refused to believe that he could have anything to do with it. She flat out told us that if we found anything besides an accident that we would not be doing Viki a service.
But it was Bobby who remained the most perplexing. His written statement about the events the night his wife died — sounded more like a dime store novel than a report from a police officer.
Lee Howell: I would have to say it was the most bizarre statement ever that I’ve seen that was given by a witness or suspect in a criminal case. 85, 90 percent of his statement was extraneous information and typically, that’s a good indication that somebody’s being deceptive.
To investigators, it was troubling. To Bobby’s friends, his behavior sounded familiar.
Many who knew Bobby often surmised there was something behind the badge that wasn’t quite what it seemed. As a husband there were questions, too. Like those schoolyard visits Bobby always paid to Viki at lunchtime. Her fellow teachers thought it was just a loving gesture at first – but then they began to suspect the visits were really about something else.
Christy Kerner: I think he wanted to see what she was eating. He wanted to be in control of the calories she took in and because weight was such a huge issue for him.
Lee Cowan: He was that obsessed with it.
Christy Kerner: Oh, he would weigh her at the gym. Yeah.
In fact, he was so militant about her weight, that for more than decade of their marriage, he had denied her the one thing she wanted most in life: a child. Christy asked Viki about that once – and couldn’t believe the response.
Christy Kerner: She didn’t even answer. She just turned around and she went to her wallet and pulled out this picture of herself and she showed it to me. And she said, “Bobby makes me carry this picture of myself to remind me of how fat I used to be. And he doesn’t want me to get pregnant because he doesn’t want me to get fat.”
Lee Cowan: This was not about making sure that Viki was healthy, this was about making sure Viki was —
Christy Kerner: Thin. Thin. Because appearances were just so important to him.
And not just Viki’s appearance — his own, too….
Richard Godoy: He was obsessed with his body, his body image, in terms of his always working out, have to be buff, always looking good.
Looking back — Richard says it was almost comical how self-obsessed Bobby was. He never had a hair out of place — had his eyebrows waxed and was insistent on tanning, which never made sense to Richard.
Richard Godoy: I’d always tell him, “Dude, why do you tan? Mexicans, we don’t go to tanning booths. I mean, we’re brown enough.” And he says, “Oh, I just don’t want my pigment to fade.” I said, “Dude, it’s genetic. It’s not gonna fade.”
Fade hardly, Bobby sparkled. He was always pressed, always crisp, always pristine, and always high-end everything. It was a lot of effort Richard thought, not to look good for his wife, but to look good to others. Richard told investigators Bobby had wandering eyes under those waxed eyebrows. How did he know? Richard had a young intern working for him in the department – and Bobby had taken notice.
Richard Godoy: And he says, “Hey, would you mind if I, you know, took her out to dinner?” I asked him, “Well, is Viki going?” And he says, “No, I wanna take her out, you know, I wanna date her.”
Lee Cowan: He said that straight out?
Richard Godoy: Yeah, and I thought [chuckle], I thought, “Whoa,” I said, “Well, you know the problem with that, you know, Bobby, is that most guys that are married, they don’t date.”
Lee Cowan: And what did he say?
Richard Godoy: He says, “All right, but would you have a problem with it?”
Richard knew Bobby had made up his mind — all he could do was warn his intern.
Richard Godoy: I’m thinking if he’s asking you out, I’m wondering how many other people he’s asked before you. And I said, “He’s married, so you might wanna keep that in mind, and I don’t think he’s gonna ever leave Viki.”
Richard had no idea how prophetic he was being. Bobby never did leave Viki – but he did leave his marriage vows in tatters. Not just with the intern, but with one woman after another for years. Bobby’s off-duty lifestyle was far more crowded than investigators ever thought.
It’s early July 2002, just before Viki Lozano was found dead of a gunshot wound in her bed — and her husband, police detective Bobby Lozano, was a very busy and secretive man. Most of his fellow officers at the time didn’t know Bobby had been having a series of affairs. Neither did his family, says Lee Howell, who headed up the investigation for the Denton police.
Lee Howell: His family thought that he was the hardest working guy on the police department because he was always out late at night, sometimes overnight. He was being called out all the time, out doing surveillance.
Lee Cowan: Made it sound like it was a pretty busy department.
Lee Howell: Right.
Lee Cowan: A lot of midnight crime.
But a filanderer doesn’t make a murderer — and investigators still didn’t have any new clues into why Viki died. Even the medical examiner threw up his hands. Viki’s cause of death was “undetermined” he ruled. There wasn’t enough evidence to point to homicide, suicide, or even an accident.
Donna Fielder, reporter: There was an obituary that did not say how she died.
They were the kind of loose ends crime reporters love. And at the Denton Record Chronicle, Donna Fielder was no exception. She nosed around a bit – and stumbled on a curious series of departures.
Donna Fielder: Three weeks after his wife’s death, Bobby resigned from the police department. That gave me a really good clue that something was up.
But Bobby’s resignation wasn’t the only one.
Donna Fielder: Cindy Waters, another police officer, resigned at the same time.
She was also a detective – with no obvious reason to quit the force. But Donna had noticed that over the previous year and a half Cindy Waters had dropped about 60 pounds.
Donna Fielder: Bobby just was insistent that people around him – people he had control over – be fit and be slim.
Cindy Waters, she figured, just had to be the other woman Bobby was seeing at the time of Viki’s death. Bobby’s co-worker, Richard Godoy had seen them together often – Cindy, he figured, was just the latest in a long line.
Richard Godoy: I said, you know you’re not in love with any of these women. You’re in love with the idea of being in love and you like the feeling that you get when you’re dating, when you’re courting and everything like that. It’s the chase.
But maybe Cindy was different from the other women. But could she have had anything to do with Viki’s death? Investigators wondered the same thing. In fact they questioned Cindy — and found out that she had threatened to walk if Bobby didn’t divorce Viki, like he promised. His wife was a problem that had to be taken care of. That had all the makings of a possible motive. What’s more — Bobby had more than $1 million in life insurance on Viki. So in light of that, and all the rest of the evidence, circumstantial as it was – finally six months after Viki died, a grand jury indicted Bobby Lozano for his wife’s murder.
The theory? That Bobby had killed Viki so he wouldn’t lose Cindy – even though she didn’t know anything about what investigators said Bobby was up to. Problem was – the indictment didn’t stick. A year and a half later, out of the blue, the district attorney decided he didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute after all. The indictment was dismissed. Bobby was free – and still, no one knew what really happened to Viki.
Donna Fielder: The reasons given were strange. They didn’t make sense. I couldn’t make them fit what I knew.
What really didn’t fit was the advice of an out-of-town medical examiner.
Donna Fielder: The district attorney said, “I consulted this guy from Chicago and he says that it was suicide and he has communicated that to the medical examiner who did the autopsy and he now agrees.” So now I have two medical examiners who are telling me it was suicide. So I cannot continue with this case.
Lee Cowan: But that wasn’t really the case. The medical examiner hadn’t changed his mind.
Donna Fielder: He had not changed his mind. It still said “Undetermined” on the medical examiner’s Web site.
Confusing? Yes. Final? It seemed so. The case of Viki Lozano was put in a box – sealed in an evidence room — and was soon forgotten by almost everyone — except Donna.
Lee Cowan: Did this become an obsession?
Donna Fielder: Pretty much. I just felt this empathy for her.
That box in the evidence room held the key. But as far as the police were concerned – it was off limits to the media.
Donna Fielder: There comes a point in the way I cover stories when I actually feel like I know the victim. I began to feel like I knew Viki and I felt like Viki was getting a really raw deal here. I wanted justice for Viki.
She was Viki’s voice – and Viki was about to be heard… as Donna finally got her hands on that box.
Donna Fielder: I was just so excited. It’s like a kid at Christmas. Wow, just what I wanted!
Viki Lozano was dead, but in the eyes of the state of Texas, no one knew at whose hand — if anyone’s. A grand jury had indicted her husband, Bobby, for Viki’s murder – but to the dismay of many, the district attorney shied away from pursuing it, not enough evidence, he said.
So Bobby went on with his life. He kept dating Cindy Waters for a while – but they eventually broke up and he went on to marry a woman he started a real estate business with. Bobby was free to live his life, while Viki was not – and that irked reporter Donna Fielder. She wanted to get her hands on Viki’s case — especially that box of evidence.
A year went by – then two – then more.
Lee Cowan: So for four years, you just kept hitting wall after wall after wall?
Donna Fielder: Uh-huh.
Lee Cowan: So what kept you going?
Donna Fielder: Viki was still there and Viki had not had any justice.
She kept at it and finally, a worn-down police department relented, giving Donna that box after a formal written request. The archeological details of Viki’s life — and death – were now in the hands of the one person it seemed, who still cared.
Donna Fielder: I stayed up all night reading that file. And it was astonishing. And no, there wasn’t a place that said, “And then someone looked in the window and saw him shoot her.” But the totality of that case was so strong. I had no, no doubt whatsoever when I finished reading that report that Bobby Lozano had shot and killed his wife.
The overly detailed statement that Bobby had made to police – the one that left detectives scratching their heads, too – struck Donna just as odd.
Donna Fielder: It was the strangest thing. The night before was their anniversary. Was a Friday night. He took her out to dinner at a really nice place in Dallas.
Lee Cowan: Romantic?
Donna Fielder: Sounded like it from his story. His statement to the police about his wife dying — the first several pages were about the dinner they had, the wine they had with the dinner, what the three-course dinner consisted of, how they came home and played with the baby and you – you looked at that and thought, “What the heck?” [chuckle] This is supposed to be about her death and he’s talking about the choices of wine.
Lee Cowan: Did it sound like just a fabrication?
Donna Fielder: At that point, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt about what happened the night before. But I just couldn’t understand why he would begin a statement about his wife’s death that way. It said they fell asleep together. I found out later that was not true.
Lee Cowan: He left something out.
Donna Fielder: He left out the part about leaving her at home on their 16th wedding anniversary and going to his girlfriend’s house.
Lee Cowan: Pretty big part to leave out.
Donna Fielder: Yes, very big part.
The box’s contents were hardly flattering to Bobby – and neither was the article that Donna eventually wrote – a front page spread rich with “sex, money, lies and bloodshed,” as she put it. While there was no smoking gun, what there was, was the tortured trail of ruined lives that Bobby had left in his wake — now in black and white for all to see.
Donna Fielder: There were five statements from five different women and those were the only women that they found. There were many, many more. He told two of the girlfriends he cheated on Viki the day before they got married and the day after they got married.
Lee Cowan: Seemed proud of it?
Donna Fielder: Yes, he was very proud of his lifestyle and bragged about it to people that he could brag about it to and not get in trouble.
His conquests included a witness in a criminal case…and a woman charged with writing hot checks.
He even hit on a rape victim, who had come to the police department seeking help.
Lee Cowan: So he clearly wasn’t happy in the marriage.
Donna Fielder: I think he was perfectly happy in the marriage. He had what he wanted. He wanted to be married and particularly married to a rich woman that could keep him in the style to which he had become accustomed. And he wanted the freedom to have all the girlfriends that he wanted.
The money largely came from Viki’s mother, Anna. Remember? She helped buy them that half-million dollar home — the kind a policeman and a teacher could hardly afford on their own salaries.
Donna Fielder: Each and every one of them talked about how much he was focused on money. They all said, “I finally came to the conclusion that he was never gonna leave Viki because he was never gonna leave that money.”
All of it was old evidence — but it was all new to the public. When Donna’s article hit newsstands, it landed like a bomb – letting loose a flood of feelings, even from fellow officers, who now more than ever said they thought Bobby had gotten away with murder.
So did the new D.A. in town, who had in his pocket a pair of talented prosecutors – Cary and Susan Piel – a married couple who couldn’t wait to get Bobby Lozano in court.
Cary Piel: I like these cases, these hard cases.
Lee Cowan: What was hard about it?
Cary Piel: Well, it got dismissed because they said they didn’t have enough evidence.
Lee Cowan: Did it seem like a long shot?
Cary Piel: No, not a long shot. Hard yes, hard that’s not the same as a long shot.
But even Viki’s own mother – thought the effort was a waste of time. In fact — she was just as adamant that Bobby was innocent as she was the first time around.
Remarkably, she still lived with him – in the same house – with Bobby’s NEW wife.
Susan Piel: It wasn’t even that she didn’t want him charged, she didn’t want us opening the boxes. She didn’t want us talking to anybody. It was shocking to me that she was so opposed to anyone even exploring the idea that her only daughter had been murdered.
Cary Piel: In her bed in pajamas–
Susan Piel: –in her own bed by this man she now knew had – had run around on her constantly.
This time – Viki’s mom didn’t get her wish. Bobby was indicted a second time for the murder of his wife. The problem? The facts of the case – were still the same ol’ facts, the facts that failed prosecutors years before.
Lee Cowan: You’ve got no physical evidence.
Cary Piel: Not on him.
Lee Cowan: You’ve got no DNA evidence.
Cary Piel: No.
Lee Cowan: You’ve got the victim’s mother, who doesn’t want it prosecuted.
Susan Piel: Right.
Lee Cowan: You’ve got a medical examiner who can’t determine a cause of death.
Susan Piel: Yes.
Lee Cowan: The defense has got a pretty good shot at this.
Susan Piel: Absolutely. Yes.
It was July in Texas again — seven of them had appeared on the calendar since Bobby Lozano found his wife Viki, dead – a gunshot wound to the chest. But this July, he was on trial for her murder – and the town he once served as a police officer turned out to see his fate.
Donna Fielder: It was just amazing. It’s not anything I’ve ever seen in this courthouse before.
Reporter Donna Fielder had been on the police beat a long time – and after the reaction she got from her explosive article about Bobby’s case, she knew his trial would be a circus.
Donna Fielder: There were people waiting in the hallway, and if you walked out, somebody walked in and took your seat.
But in court, they argued that Viki’s death was either an accident or suicide. Bobby’s only involvement, they argued, was that it was HIS gun that fired the shot. Prosecutors Cary and Susan Piel knew they had a tough fight ahead.
Cary Piel: The perception from the observers was after the opening statement that it was a tie. He said, “There’s no blood on Bobby’s clothes. There’s nothing on him. You can’t even prove he was in the room at the time she died.” And he means forensically, of course, which we couldn’t. We couldn’t show any of that.
Lee Cowan: And this all made sense to the jury?
Susan Piel: Yes.
Cary Piel: Said it well.
The defense’s star witness? Viki’s own mother, Anna, who testified that Bobby wasn’t his wife’s murderer. He was his wife’s savior.
Susan Piel: She basically described Viki as being an overweight child with friend issues and that was lucky to snag a guy like Bobby. And that Bobby was helping her by monitoring her food intake.”
Donna Fielder: She was the reason that the courtroom was filled daily. They wanted to hear Anna testify and she gave ’em their money’s worth.
Susan Piel: I asked her “At this moment, you still live in the same house and Bobby still lives in the same house with his new wife. And he shares the same bedroom where Viki died.” And you could hear members of the jury gasp —
Cary Piel: Yes.
Susan Piel: –when they hear that.
Lee Cowan: What was her reaction?
Susan Piel: Absolutely–
Cary Piel: Yes, absolutely, yeah, oh, God, yeah.
To hear Viki’s mom tell it, Bobby could not, would not – did not – pull the trigger that night. What prosecutors felt they needed to do was prove a motive, and that’s where the name Cindy Waters popped up again. While her affair with Bobby ended years before the trial, at the time of Viki’s death, she was Bobby’s latest conquest — yet another blonde – a fellow police officer who had upped the ante. She expected Bobby to marry her. And why wouldn’t she? Bobby had promised.
Susan Piel: In February of 2002, months before his wife died, he gave her a card describing her as his wife, “My wife, soon to be, but not soon enough.”
It was the “soon” part that seemed to bother Cindy the most. Bobby had been stalling – despite his love letters to Cindy – dripping with bad prose — phrases like:
“My lips gliding lovingly over your cheeks, now hover over yours.”
Susan Piel: He absolutely could have had a second career as a cheesy romance writer. They were incredible. He wrote that Cindy was responsible for restoring his relationship with God. He played her in every way that worked.
Prosecutors say Cindy had grown tired of the lies – and was ready to walk. She’d threatened to leave him more than once.
Susan Piel: Yes, he had told a series of lies that had created a situation of his own doing where he was backed into a corner.”
Cary Piel: She wouldn’t be put off. She was different. She was a cop.
Lee Cowan: She was in his face every day.
Cary Piel: Yes.
Susan Piel: Every day. And a lot of these girlfriends, he was in a much more power position —
Cary Piel: Yes.
Susan Piel: — with them and in a position to easily walk away. And Cindy was a lot more complicated.
Had Bobby finally realized that he couldn’t have it all? Was he losing the control, he seemed to crave so much?
Susan Piel: He is desperately trying to win her back. He took his wife to dinner to celebrate their anniversary and then he left his wife at home alone in bed and went to Cindy’s house and told Cindy, “I’m going to prove to you a — a moving van is gonna be my white horse. I’m going to show you.” And the next day, his wife was dead.
For prosecutors, there was one other detail they were about to drop — those life insurance policies. Bobby had more than a million dollars in insurance on Viki — a fact they hoped would make those crime scene photos even uglier to the jury. There was the gun near Viki’s hand – and the gun cleaning kit not far away. But it was Viki’s wound — right in the middle of her chest – and at a strange angle – that Cary wanted jurors to question.
Cary Piel: For her to shoot herself, she has to do this. And you can barely do it, I can barely hold the gun, to squeeze the trigger and get this angle.
You wouldn’t hold it that way to clean a gun either, said their experts. Then there was the matter of the bullet casing. Just where had that gone? Turns out — it was lying underneath the gun cleaning kit. Another problem of physics, said Cary.
Cary Piel: She didn’t put the box down on top of the casing ’cause she was dead. Okay? So if that casing’s under the box, there ain’t but one person can do it, and that’s Bobby Lozano, period, end of story. Game over. Go home.
Not quite. They had one other morsel of evidence they hoped the jury would feast on: Popcorn.
Susan Piel: The popcorn was huge.
Microscopic bits of corn husk were found on Viki’s body, and a tiny fragment of popcorn was still in her mouth. Who cleans a gun while eating popcorn, prosecutors mused. Who brings a bowl to bed if they plan on committing suicide? No one, prosecutors thought – and they knew Bobby would reason that as well. Investigators say they never found a bowl with popcorn anywhere in the bedroom that night. Prosecutors believe that’s because Bobby had cleaned it all up… almost.
Susan Piel: We believe that he was picking up the popcorn – the visible popcorn – because he knew that it was inconsistent with her cleaning a gun and it was inconsistent with suicide.
The jury – almost all women — had heard both sides – and they came back quickly. In less than five hours, they had a verdict.
Cary Piel: Someone’s gonna lose and they’re gonna lose bad. Because that’s fast.
Bobby Lozano — the narcissistic, well-dressed, skirt-chasing cop – stood, expressionless as he had been the whole trial as the foreman read the verdict: guilty. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Donna Fielder: It was celebratory. Everybody was ecstatic.
Except, of course, Bobby. He’s filed an appeal. As for his son — now 8 – he’s being raised by Viki’s mother, along with Bobby’s new wife, in the same house where Viki died.
Susan Piel: “I think what made this case so particularly emotional for me was not only did he get away with it for those years, but that the people that should have cared didn’t care.”
Indeed, it was in the end strangers who became Viki’s voice beyond the grave – Donna especially – who felt an odd desire to tell Viki that she had won… in person. She went to the church where Viki’s ashes are kept – and was taken aback.
Donna Fielder: When I got there, I just got such a feeling of peace. And I put my hand on that cabinet where her ashes were and I knew that I didn’t need to tell Viki anything. She knew. That was the high point for me. Viki’s at rest. She’s at peace. She’s had her justice.