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Video: Deadly dreams

NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Keith Morrison Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 3/14/2009 8:36:44 AM ET 2009-03-14T12:36:44

It begins here, at the moment of birth. Something unconscious, uncontrolled. The half-glimpsed world of sleep. Soothing. Amusing. Sometimes terrifying. And on the rarest of occasions, unconsciously deadly.

Sleep. Love. Sex.  What is a person capable of without even knowing it?

Such a beautiful place, Catalina. Such a perfect evening for escapist dreams, an island tryst, with a younger man.

Her name was Eva, and she was exotic, lovely, magnetic. And 42.

Lannelle Piro: Eva was always living like she was 22. Carefree, very young for her age. She was fun. She was generous and she'd light up a room. She's the person you call. And no matter what, you always feel better for what she had to say.

She told her niece Lannelle Piro about the young man. Stephen was just 25. Not that it mattered.

Lannelle Piro: I guess he had come over to the house one day.

Came to hang out with Eva's son... who made the introductions.

Lannelle Piro: Remember she called me and told me that she met this really nice guy.  He's really good looking, you know?

It was instant chemistry.

Lannelle Piro: He was obviously attracted to her.  Who wouldn't be? She was drop-dead gorgeous. She had an enormous capacity to love people. And people were drawn to her. And yeah, there was 17 years age difference. She was the ultimate cougar (laughs).

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Stephen worked sporadically at a variety of odd jobs. Sometimes even at sea, as a commercial fisherman. Eva a thrice married - and separated - former flight attendant.

Keith Morrison: Why do I keeping thinking of that Cindy Lauper song "Girls just wanna have fun"?

April Bozarth: That was us. That was definitely us. Yes!

April Bozarth was Eva's friend and flying companion back at the airline.   A kind of magic time for both of them.

April Bozarth: Everywhere we went people would just be drawn to her. And she just had a presence about her that was just fun loving. You know, very welcoming. She would give you the shirt off her back.

But, as April came to understand, Eva could not abide boredom.  She was restless. So, when she left the flying life, settling down was not easy.

April Bozarth: I think she was looking for excitement in other ways. It was almost like "Let me stir the pot a little."

Keith Morrison: Yeah, and along comes this young guy.

April Bozarth: Sure. Exciting.

April was Eva's bridesmaid. Hoped Eva would reconcile with her pilot husband. And when this Steven thing began, she heard all about it. 

April Bozarth: He's, you know, a good-looking guy, fun to be around. He was available to do pretty much anything she wanted to do, because I don't really think he had a job.  And I think that, you know, they'd go on these little trips, jaunts, you know, to different places. I think that he was kind of a trophy to her-- being so much younger.  you know, here she is in her early 40's and, you know, "Oh wow, look, I'm-- I'm with somebody that's in their '20s." I just said, "Proceed with caution, you know?"

Stephen knew she was married, of course. Knew the marriage was on-again-off-again. He was wrong for her, she seemed to know it. Seventeen years younger, no career... It couldn't last.

Lanelle Piro: She really did love her husband and wanted to reconcile that and move forward with their relationship.

And yet, as months went by, Eva and Steven carried on.

Lanelle Piro: And she was open to me and my sister and a-- just a few people about her relationship with Steven. But, still hiding him. Still keeping, you know, the extent of their relationship just between them.  Mostly because sh-- I don't think she was proud of it.

But with Steven it was something else. 

April Bozarth: I think he was kind of like a drug to her, in a way. Like nothing she had ever had before.

Lanelle Piro: She was, I think, extremely conflicted with what to do-- how to break this off. 

And then, that Friday in September.

April Bozarth: She phoned me on Friday. Video: What is sleepwalking?

Eva had promised to be with April for the birth of her baby, now just days away.

April Bozarth: And she said, "So if Sunday looks good for you, I'd like to come out." And I said, "That'd be great. You know, just let me know what time, you know, and I'll pick ya up." 

Already, Eva's husband had invited her to Catalina when he returned from a flight the following week. An effort to reconcile. She accepted. And then Eva placed another call. Must have. Though it was secret. To Stephen.

How about Catalina right now? she asked him.

Before the trip she was supposed to take with her husband.

April Bozarth: And then Sunday night kinda rolled around and I never heard from her. And I thought, "This is gettin' kinda strange," you know. 

Strange, indeed. How strange? She had no idea.

On a cool autumn morning in October 2001, Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective Richard Tomlin lifted off in a department helicopter and rode 26 miles across the sea to Santa Catalina Island. Virtually crime-free Catalina.

Detective Richard Tomlin: That was the first murder in 20 years, I believe.

Keith Morrison: Wow.

Detective Richard Tomlin: So, it was a-- unheard of.  I mean, it's a resort area.

Keith Morrison: Sure.

Detective Richard Tomlin: People go there to get away.

Beside him in the helicopter was his partner, Detective Ken Gallatin. Ahead on the island, perhaps the most unusual case of their careers.

Detective Ken Gallatin: We just knew we had a dead female and a boyfriend who they felt was responsible for it.

"They" were the crew at Catalina's fire station, who, early that morning, had received an unexpected visitor... Stephen Reitz.

Detective Ken Gallatin: He had actually gone down to the fire station and-- and said that his girlfriend was hurt up in the apartment. He may have killed her.

Paramedics rushed to the hotel and tried to revive Eva Weinfurtner. But it was far too late for that.

And then a few hours later, Detectives Gallatin and Tomlin arrived in lovely Avalon, the island's little town. They'd both been here before. On vacation. But this was awful.

Detective Richard Tomlin: You walk in and you just see devastation. You see a horrific scene. And-- and you're wondering what the heck happened in here? 

A police photographer pushed record and wandered through the brutal crime scene.

Detective Ken Gallatin: She had a broken jaw, three places, a fractured skull, shoulder, elbow, wrist broken.

Keith Morrison: My god, that's not one assault.  That's a continuing assault.

Detective Ken Gallatin: Dislocated shoulder. And bruising on the hand, which kind of appeared maybe as a defensive wound. You know, we don't know.

But within minutes detectives did know what actually killed Eva. Something even more shocking than all the other injuries put together.

Detective Richard Tomlin: It was-- several-- large stab wounds in her neck.

Keith Morrison: In her spinal column.

Detective Richard Tomlin: In the spinal column. Exactly.

And there, not far from Eva's body, the detectives found a small bloody pocket knife. And they could hardly miss seeing the large flower pot that appeared to have been shattered on her head.

Detective Richard Tomlin: The first thing that jumped out at you is the -lack of a better term-mayhem.

But there were plenty of other clues at the crime scene that seemed to back up young Mr. Reitz's story that he and Eva had come to Catalina to party, for romance...not violence.

Detective Ken Gallatin: There was half a bottle of tequila sitting on the table. There were several empty beer bottles.  There was a five-dollar bill rolled up with cocaine residue, or white powdery residue. It later turned out to be cocaine on the table.

They found cards on the table too, and a scorebook with the results of several hands of Gin Rummy.

Strange. All kinds of evidence of an intimate evening. And yet there on the floor by the bed was the carnage of what had to be a bloody rampage.

Detective Ken Gallatin: There was only two people there. And so, only he knows whether or not there was motive. And whether they got in an argument or a little pushing match over something.

An argument is one thing, but a brutal murder like this one is quite another. It didn't make any sense.

Why in the world would Stephen Reitz do such a thing? Especially to his girlfriend? Reitz, as it turned out, was eager to explain.

Stephen Reitz: I woke up looking at Eva's body on the ground.

Detective: The next thing you know you're looking at her laying on the floor?

Stephen Reitz: Well, I remember dreaming about being in a conflict.

Detective: What was the conflict about?

Stephen Reitz: You know, I think it could have been an intruder or something, I'm thinking. I knew I felt threatened for some reason, but it had nothing to do with Eva. I wasn't dreaming about Eva.

Detective Richard Tomlin: He then said something-- chilling.  There's no other way to put it. He said he was sitting on the bed and she was still alive. And she was moaning.  And he saw the-- her neck, the lacerations to her neck.  And he said--

Stephen Reitz: It began to occur to me that I was responsible for that 'cause of the wounds; that was what I used to do shark fishing. It began to occur to me that I was responsible for that 'cause of the wounds; that was what I used to do shark fishing.

Detective Ken Gallatin: And I said, "Why-- why would you know that, recognize that?  And he says, "Oh, when I was a commercial fisherman, that's the way we'd kill sharks. We'd take a knife and sever their spinal, and they would-- incapacitate the sharks.”

And so, said Reitz, he must have done just the same thing to Eva, thinking somehow that she was an intruder. Must have, he told them, but it was really only a guess.

He only had vague flashes of recollection, he said, but when he woke up, what he saw was very real. And about the violent attack on Eva? Of that, nothing.  He remembered nothing.

Stephen Reitz: I see bits and flashes, but I don't you know, I really, I mean it's hard to believe, but I also have other roommates that have watched me sleepwalk.

Sleepwalk? Now Reitz made the most remarkable claim: This horrible violence grew out of a completely unconscious sleepwalking episode.

Detective Richard Tomlin: He told us that-- he has re-occurring-- sleepwalking episodes.  And this time he must've been sleepwalking when it happened. 

Was this a clever ruse that Reitz had cooked up in the minutes after the killing? Or was his claim actually legitimate? Reitz's parents, who by now had arrived at the sherriff's station in Catalina, also claimed that their son had a history of sleepwalking.

Detective Richard Tomlin: They relayed-- at least one, maybe two incidents that they were aware of.  That he had-- that they knew that he had slept-walked in the past.

And they also told detectives Stephen was under treatment for bi-polar disorder.

Detective Ken Gallatin: He said he'd forgot his bipolar medicine during the interview. And she had given him some kind of a prescription that she had, had for anxiety of something like this.

Suddenly this confession was making what seemed like a clear cut crime, a lot more complicated.

Detective Richard Tomlin: We knew who our suspect was, if you will. There's no doubt that this occurred. And there's no doubt that he did it. Now, the only question is, was he in his right frame of mind or was he sleepwalking?

If he truly was sleepwalking and not conscious of his actions, Stephen Reitz would also walk away from any and all charges. He could not and would not be held accountable for Eva's death, a killing to which he had just confessed.

The case should have been a cakewalk for detectives Ken Gallatin and Richard Tomlin. The evidence was right here in room #2 of this small Catalina hotel. And their suspect had just confessed.

Stephen Reitz: I woke up and I began to get consciousness of the situation and I realized it was Eva on the ground and I looked around and I couldn't believe it was her. And I think I might have killed Eva in my sleep.

...Or, more specifically, while sleep-walking.

Stephen Reitz claimed he was fending off an "intruder" and didn't remember killing his girlfriend Eva Weinfurtner during the deadly dream. But he did recognize his fatal handiwork.

Det. Richard Tomlin: He told us, "I must've done it." and we asked him why. He goes, "Well, I'm a commercial fisherman. And that's the way we kill sharks.

Keith Morrison: "I must've done it." That's a curious way of being responsible without being responsible.

Det. Richard Tomlin: Absolutely. And in situation like this, you don't wanna press an individual too bad. You wanna hear what they have to say. Number one, you have to give them a fair shake. Okay, what happened? Tell us your-- your side.

Nothing in Reitz's story suggested he would ever want to harm Eva, let alone kill her, especially during their stay here in Catalina.

Ken Gallatin: There was no indication that they'd argued or fought about anything.  And-- and according to him they were having a wonderful, beautiful evening when he was awakened by an intruder and-- and everything else transpired after that.

Over and over, he told the detectives he couldn't quite remember.  Just “flashes,” a hazy feeling that he'd fought against this "intruder." But beating and stabbing Eva? Of that, he said, he could recall nothing.

Keith Morrison: I mean, this is a woman suppos-- he's having an affair with her. If he doesn't love her, he at least likes her.

Detective Tomlin: Because we didn't have a motive, an apparent and obvious motive. So in the back of your mind is, like, "okay.  Is he sleepwalking?  Is there some validity to what he's saying?"

And maybe there was. After all, Reitz claimed to have a history of sleepwalking. He was also diagnosed as being bipolar. And he certainly seemed forthright and cooperative. 

Stephen Reitz: When I saw how horrific-- I mean, it just amazed me. I couldn't believe it really. I mean there was no reason for it.

Detective: So obviously, you're sorry...

But who could back up his story?  Nobody heard the attack, nobody saw a man with vacant eyes walking the halls carrying a flower pot or a bloody knife. Nobody screamed.

Detective Richard Tomlin: That was extremely odd because, once again, if you saw the destruction, the mayhem in the room, you had to figure somebody had to hear something.

And based on the chaos of the crime scene, detectives surmised the attack took several minutes.

Detective Richard Tomlin: This was not a quick two-second stabbing and maybe a muffled scream or cry for help. This took a little while to do.

And all done, according to Stephen Reitz, completely unconsciously while sleepwalking.

Ken Gallatin: There was no outward emotion where there was any indication that he was remorseful for his actions.

And then, as they wrapped up their interview with Reitz, the detectives got one more surprise.

Ken Gallatin: His parting question was, "Well, do I get to go home with Mom and Dad?  They're here to pick me up.  Can I go home with them?"  And I says, "I don't think so." I said, "You're under arrest for murder." 

Reitz was flown back from Catalina to Los Angeles later that day. So was Eva's body, for the autopsy. The Medical Examiner confirmed Stephen Reitz's gruesome confession regarding the cause of death: that deep slash to her spinal cord. Video: The sleepwalking defense

Chris Frisco, DDA: I attended the autopsy. That's not standard protocol for a prosecutor. I attended it because I'd never seen a case like this. 

Deputy District Attorney Chris Frisco was initially assigned to look into the case. He'd never encountered such an alibi:

Chris Frisco, DDA: What I was concerned about was looking at the injuries and trying to determine if, in fact, the defendant is or was sleepwalking.

Frisco studied the detective's report. It appeared that Eva's murder was now both a legal and medical issue.

For advice, Frisco consulted another DA, Dinko Bozanich, who specialized in cases involving mental defenses.

Dinko Bozanich, DDA: If he truly was "sleepwalking" at the time of the episode, then he was not conscious, not criminally responsible, not guilty.

The idea that Reitz might not be held responsible for Eva's death horrified her family.

Lannelle Piro: How is that possible? How could he even get off on that type of defense? You know, he did it. He was there. He knows he did it. We know he did it. How-- how-- why is this even going to trial?!? Video: Remembering Eva

Science took over then - for a while. A world-recognized sleep disorder expert from Stanford University joined the case. Reitz was also sent to a sleep clinic like this one, for a battery of tests to see if he really did have a recognized sleeping disorder; something severe enough to have produced such violence.

He was wired, and monitored and recorded. And as he fell asleep, cameras rolled. Then, the tests revealed not only a propensity to sleepwalk, Reitz also suffered a significant night terror that was caught on tape and later featured in an Australian documentary on sleepwalking.

Keith Morrison: Is it possible that in this case there was a sleep terror episode and a sleepwalking episode which would somehow happen at the same time and thus created this tremendous violence?

Dr. Alon Avidan: It's very likely. Patients may wake up, be terrified-- fulfill all the criteria for what we call sleep terror, and then go on to develop a sleepwalking episode.

Dr. Alon Avidan runs the UCLA Sleep Center in Los Angeles. He was not involved in the case, but has studied sleepwalking for years. It's one of many types of sleeping disorders.

Dr. Alon Avidan: What happens is that patients are neither asleep nor awake. But when you look at their brain activity, they're asleep. And yet, they act out behaviors as simple as talking to more complex episodes such as walking that we see in sleepwalking.

Keith Morrison: And in the morning, they wouldn't be aware of any of this activity?

Dr. Alon Avidan: They have no recollection.

And if someone with a history of sleepwalking, like Stephen Reitz was claiming, and who uses drugs or alcohol like those found at the crime scene, then the chances of an episode are even more likely.

And there was one more "risk factor" that may have contributed to the violent nature of Stephen Reitz's alleged sleepwalking episode. He was bi-polar, which made him more susceptible to violence behavior during a sleepwalking episode incident, much like those seen in sleep disorder clinics.

Dr. Alon Avidan: They may be dreaming that there's an intruder in the house, and they're trying to protect themselves against the intruder, and in a way, punch and kick and hurt their bed partner.

And perhaps even kill them? Yes, says Dr. Avidon. It's rare, but it happens. Consider the story investigators were about to encounter. It had happened before. With an astonishing result. If you think you know the human mind, prepare to be amazed. Or, perhaps, disturbed.

Chris Frisco, district attorney: Unfortunately, the best witness in this case is dead. Eva's gone. She was the best witness in this case.

DA Chris Frisco had a problem. Stephen Reitz, under investigation for killing his girlfriend Eva Weinfurtner, claimed to be sleepwalking - not in control when he beat and stabbed her to death.

But judging from the violent crime scene and witnessing Eva's autopsy, Frisco was convinced this had to be calculated, conscious.

Chris Frisco: When people are sleepwalking, it's not easy to form all of these various steps in your mind. It's not as if he had thrashed about in the room and knocked over the furniture and then woke up. Everything he did, was directed specifically at Eva to ultimately murder her. 

But ultimately DA Frisco wouldn't get a chance to make that case to a jury. He was transferred to another office, and handed the case to DA Dinko Bozanich, who, remember, specialized in trials involving mental defenses.

Dinko Bozanich: How many times do you hear about anybody really committing a crime while they're sleepwalking except for ones that have been caught and then raise that as a defense instead of something else.

Well it turned out there was one particular case here in Toronto, Canada. It was more than two decades ago. And it too was a violent crime, involved a man with no apparent motive, and later on had no recollection of what he had done, just like Stephen Reitz. This killer's name was Kenneth Parks and his story made headlines around the world. It was 1987. Parks was 23, married, the father of a baby girl.

It happened about 2 a.m. Parks had fallen asleep in front of the television set. He got up, put on his coat, walked out the front door of his house, climbed into his car, drove 14 miles - a drive on which he encountered several major intersections - parked at his in-law's home, went inside, beat his father in law, leaving him barely alive, and then beat and stabbed to death his mother in law. Then he got back into his car, and drove away.

Dr. Alon Avidan: And only realized what he had done after the episode and turned himself into the police.

Detective Ken Gallatin: He had said that he had been there and he had done it. And they found blood in his truck on the steering wheel. 

It was, in some ways, just like the killing of Eva Weinfurtner: a fatal beating and stabbing, the killer claiming no memory of what he had done. Nor was there any apparent motive. The Toronto investigation revealed that Parks was very close to his in-laws. Was either truly horrified, or was a very good actor.

Dr. R.H. Billings, psychiatrist: He didn't know what had happened. He didn't know how he got from his house to their house. He didn't know why he would've done anything like that, because he said, "I loved her.  She was-- she was great to me."

Psychiatrist Dr. RH Billings was assigned the case of Kenneth Parks. Saw him soon after the killing.

Dr. R.H. Billings, psychiatrist: He was believable because he was so distraught and he was extremely willing to talk about anything I asked him.

Dr. Billings delved into Parks' medical background and - initially - found nothing unusual.

Keith Morrison: Was he psychotic in any way?

Dr. R.H. Billings, psychiatrist: No.

Keith Morrison: No history of this sort of thing. Video: Debunking the sleepwalking defense

Dr. R.H. Billings, psychiatrist: No history of that and I think it was by chance, really, when another patient told me about sleepwalking, of how complicated the behavior could be.

Keith Morrison: Light bulb must've gone in your head at that point.

Dr. R.H. Billings, psychiatrist: Right then (chuckle).  And I thought, "I wonder if that's what it is." 

So Ken Parks, just like Stephen Reitz, underwent a series of sleep tests and also psychological exams conducted by a number of specialists. They discovered he had a family history of the disorder. And tests confirmed Parks had periods of awakenings from deep sleep and a strong propensity to sleepwalk...  where anything, could happen.

Dr. R.H. Billings, psychiatrist: There's no conscious awareness of what happens.

Keith Morrison: So, thus, a mother could kill her child?

Dr. R.H. Billings, psychiatrist: Yes.

Keith Morrison: A husband could kill his wife?

Dr. R.H. Billings, psychiatrist: There's been cases of mothers throwing their kids out a window-- and of husbands killing their wives in bed. 

Or perhaps even killing their girlfriends in Catalina. Diagnosis or no, Ken Parks was charged with first degree murder, just like Stephen Reitz was. Parks spent a couple of years in jail before he went on trial here and his defense made the case that he should be found not guilty because he was completely unconscious of what he had done.

Dr. Alon Avidan: Their argument was that he committed this crime, being completely unaware of what he was doing.

Keith Morrison: And would never have done it had he been conscious.

Dr. Alon Avidan: And would never have done it had he been conscious and aware.

After a lengthy and well-publicized trial, the case finally went to the jury.

Detective Ken Gallatin: And they set him free. They let him go. Said he was not guilty.

Not guilty! Kenneth Parks was allowed to walk because he was sleepwalking. So what had seemed like a clear case of murder was now ruled an "involuntary act." 

Now some 15 years later, and 3,000 miles away in California, that verdict in Toronto resonated as the trial approached in the case against Stephen Reitz.

Detective Ken Gallatin: And so, you see something like that and you go, "Well, you know, there's possibility it could happen here again, ya know." 

Lannelle Piro: Hearing about trials that had gone on and the people were innocent, you-- you know, of course that-- that's scary. It's very scary. There's no accountability.

But the LA County District Attorney's office was determined to hold Reitz accountable and sought a first degree murder conviction, which seemed a bit risky, given Reitz's alleged sleepwalking history, the Parks case in Toronto and the medical experts backing up his story. Second degree murder, even manslaughter, would be easier to prove and might ensure a conviction.

Dinko Bozanich: I would rather try the case and lose it. Let them present their defense, as skeptical as I am. And we don't prove it. And the defendant walks. So be it.

Without some sort of a motive, persuading a jury that Reitz was fully conscious and in control, might be difficult.

So could anything else, besides sleepwalking have triggered the attack?

Detective Tomlin: We have to look into everything you know, trying to find a reason why.

Was there more to that secret love affair? Perhaps there was another secret, something Reitz kept to himself, which just might explain what really happened that night in Catalina and why.

Ken Gallatin: You think, "God, what was she doing with him?" Their lifestyles were different. But she thought she was in a bad relationship with her husband and-- she just got involved and couldn't get out of it.  And it ultimately cost her her life.

Eva Weinfurtner's secret affair with young Stephen Reitz had boiled along for the better part of six months. Yet she was also trying to reconcile with her husband, though Eva told those in on her secret, that she was addicted to Reitz, he was her "drug."

Keith Morrison: And she couldn't let him go?

Det. Ken Gallatin: No, couldn't let go of him. Couldn't let go.  And-- and she said, confided in her sister and stuff that their sexual relationship was very good. You know, "I'm addicted to this kid. I can't let go of him." It was just like, "I-- I need him."

Violent death has a way of prying open the deepest secrets, especially under the gaze of two experienced detectives. The affair, it soon became apparent, was as tumultuous as it was passionate. 

Lannelle Piro: My uncle called and said, "Your Aunt Eva's dead."  And I said, "Steve killed her, didn't he?" And he didn't know at that point really details or anything.  But-- I knew. Knowing Eva and Steve's relationship, knowing the violence. It was obviously shocking, but not surprising.

Violence? What violence? Stephen Reitz told detectives that he and Eva had a very loving relationship. Rarely, if ever, did they quarrel or disagree. Odd then, that he never mentioned the incident here in San Diego a few months before Eva's death. Did he think the detectives wouldn't hear about this?

Lannelle Piro: She didn't want him to be at her house. And somehow he climbed the third floor to her balcony and kicked in a plate-glass window with a huge knife.

Chris Frisco: And he said to her-- "I'm gonna cut a man. I'm gonna-- I'm gonna gut 'em like a fish. And I'm gonna name him Eva." and then, she got scared, and ended up leaving the house.

Eva called the police who filed a report. Then later, that very same evening Reitz was arrested for driving under the influence. He was taken to jail, where he received a visitor: Eva.

Lannelle Piro: She went down and bailed him out, and that was it.  And then they continued to see each other. So, why did that happen? I don't know. I think that she thought she could save him and that it would end.

April Bozarth: I feared for her life. I think a lot of us feared for her life with him.

Keith Morrison: So bizarre that she would not see it that way, that she didn't see it as a threat.

April Bozarth: I don't think that she really understood how capable he was of hurting her. I think that she was in denial.

And in hindsight, another alleged incident might have been a warning...

Lannelle Piro: She had told me a time where she had woke up in the middle of the night and he was on top of her, choking her. Bizarre, bizarre behavior.

Could that have been another sleepwalking episode, another unintended attack? Perhaps even a precursor to what happened here in Catalina? Detectives kept digging and from Eva's friends and family they heard allegations about a dark side of Stephen's personality.

Detective Tomlin: He had a temper. Talking to family members of Eva, friends of his, he had a temper.  Video: The detective's take

Ken Gallatin: He had a history of being violent with her. She'd come home and her sister and her mother's-- and they'd see bruises all over her body.  And-- they knew that Stephen was being-- he was very violent at times.

Lannelle Piro: They were obviously bite marks on her legs or whatever. And-- I would ask her, you know, what is that?  "Oh, it's from Stephen. You know, we were playing rough or, you know, wrestling around." Some type of sexual thing.

Eva, conflicted, perhaps confused, ignored the advice of her friends. And even, as the story goes, a mystical warning.

Lannelle Piro: She'd gone to a psychic. She didn't tell the woman anything about her life, and she said-- "You're in a relationship with a younger man that's not your husband." And Eva was, like, "Yeah, that's really weird, you know." And the psychic said, "If you don't break it off, he will kill you."

April Bozarth: I think that-- she knew that she had gotten in a little bit too deep. I think we've all gotten in situations that we really don't know how to get out of, and I think that's where she was in her life.

Det. Ken Gallatin: They had all tried to get her to leave him, alone, get away from him. And-- but she would always find her way back.

Which she had done on that last sex-and-drug-and-blood-soaked night in Catalina. Why did Eva invite him there? And why just after she'd made that far better plan to go to that very same place the following week for a reconciliation with her husband?

Det. Ken Gallatin: I think Eva was breaking it off, telling him that this was their last time together-- he couldn't handle it.  If he couldn't have her, no one could.  And-- and, you know, that probably started a fight and ended up-- he ended up killing her.

But Stephen Reitz, who was now facing a first degree murder charge, never once wavered from the story he told that morning in the Catalina fire station. He was not conscious. He did not want to kill Eva. Had no recollection whatsoever of what he did. He was not in control. 

Now Reitz and medical science would be on trial. Was his lover, Eva Weinfurtner, killed in a tragic, unconscious accident? Or was it a cold blooded, calculated murder?

There was no question he did it... But was Stephen Reitz conscious or actually asleep when he killed his lover, the beautiful Eva Weinfurtner that night in Catalina? Now a jury would decide.

It had taken more than three years to get here, and Eva's family had mixed emotions about finally going to trial… Especially such a high profile case that featured cameras from ABC's Good Morning America in the courtroom.

Lannelle Piro: You know, you're working through healing and-- and trying to move on with your life. And then, it has to be brought back up again and you have to deal with the monster face to face.

But Stephen Reitz looked nothing like a monster when he finally entered the courtroom to face a charge of murder. He was 28 by then. He seemed calm, composed. Not the least bit threatening.

Detective Tomlin: He looked like a nice little schoolboy in the courtroom.  He had his glasses on.  His hair was, you know, freshly cut. And he-- you look at him. And it's, like, wow.  This-- this kid, you know, this young man, no way could he have done what occurred.

Prosecuting the case, however, would be a new district attorney. The third one assigned to the case. Remember, the first DA, Frisco, was transferred away; the case re-assigned to Dinko Bozanich, who specialized in mental defense cases. And then?

Dinko Bozanich, DDA: I had the misfortune of-- having had a heart attack and bypass surgery, and that causing me to retire, if someone had asked me, "Of the thousand deputy district attorneys in the D.A.'s office, who would be your choice to try the case?" I would've said, "Ken Lamb."

Ken Lamb, a former LA police officer. He'd never handled anything like this case before. But he picked it up. Fast.

Ken Lamb, DDA: It's whether or not during this murder he was conscious or unconscious. If you're conscious, then he's guilty of murder.

And based on what happened to Eva that night, argued Lamb, Reitz had to have made a series of complex decisions, fully aware of exactly what he was doing.

Ken Lamb, DDA: Look at the beating. This is repeated over and over and over. That takes energy that takes thought, that takes awareness.

Lamb’s theory?  Something, perhaps an argument, he said, must have prompted Reitz to get out of bed and walk outside and pick up a heavy flower pot and carry it to the door of the room which had been locked behind him. So he must have pounded on the door until Eva, opened it, said the prosecutor, then knocked her unconscious with the flower pot. He must have beaten her, and stabbed her, and then finally inflicted the fatal wounds to her neck.

Detective Tomlin offered a theory during his testimony about the attack, and that theory did not involve sleepwalking.

Det. Richard Tomlin: I think something went wrong, obviously, in that room, and he snapped.

Then the prosecutor told the jury about Reitz's episode of jealous rage a few months before he killed Eva, Told them how Reitz broke into her apartment, waved a knife around. He told them Reitz had a temper, and that Eva's relatives had noticed bruising, bite marks.

Chris Frisco, DDA: So, you see, the parallel, the very same behavior, pounding on the door, breaking into the room, wielding a pocket knife and then, threatening to-- to gut her, is the very same-- same thing he did in this case. How do you say he was sleepwalking when on the prior occasion he had the dress rehearsal?

At trial, Reitz never denied breaking into Eva's apartment with the knife, nor did he deny that was responsible for her bruises, the ones Eva's family noticed.   Instead Reitz said, in their passion, sometimes he "grabbed her too firmly.  She even went to a doctor, said Reitz, to ask why she bruised so easily.

As for the night she was killed, Reitz's attorney Ted Veghanes insisted Steven couldn't possibly have been that angry, couldn't have known what he was doing.

Ted Veghanes, Defense attorney: There's nothing that occurred that makes sense. The act itself is bizarre. The act itself is an act of somebody losing it.

And then, the heart of the defense: The medical expert from Stanford University explained how people can and sometimes do violent things unconsciously while asleep.

He detailed the battery of tests Reitz had been given, which showed his propensity to sleepwalking.

Ted Veghanes, Defense attorney: Is it a fake? No, no, no! You're in REM sleep. There's no way you can fake it.

The trial lasted three weeks. And now the jury would have to decide if it was conscious rage, or unconscious tragedy. Guilty. Or not.

Lannelle Piro: I was extremely worried and scared.  Because, what then? What happens then, if he's innocent because he was sleepwalking? How do you--  how do you go on? How do you move on after that?

The jury was out for a day and a half. And then:

We the jury find the defendant Stephen Otto Reitz guilty of murder.

In the end, the jury had rejected the science. Did not buy the data and the tests that show a link between sleepwalking and violence; at least when it came to Stephen Reitz.

Lannelle Piro: It was such a relief. But, at the same time it was kind of like, "What now?" You know, it doesn't bring her back. Doesn't erase everything. 

Steven Reitz is in prison now. Sentenced to 25 years to life. And justice, if you believe an ex-District Attorney, won the day.

Dinko Bozanich: If, however, he had prevailed? Well, I'm sure we would've seen a bunch of sleepwalking defenses presented since. So it's going to take awhile for somebody to try it again.

Lannelle Piro: The verdict - you hope that, that closes the book. I don't know if it'll ever be closed in my heart. But at least he's not free. Obviously Stephen's the only one that knows what really happened.

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