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NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Keith Morrison Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 4/4/2009 9:58:27 AM ET 2009-04-04T13:58:27

It was a time - or so it seemed - of endless possibility. Drop out, grow a beard, call yourself a hippie. Invent life all over again. And maybe, if you were very, very, lucky, you'd answer your door one day, and find yourself looking at the love of your life.

Bob Heartsong: I-- I looked in her eyes. That was the first feature I looked at on her. And her eyes just-- like I've known them all of my life. Or all my lifetimes.

Ah yes, kismet. It was 1973.

Bob Eckhart was 29 then, and temporarily caretaking an old mansion in Miami Beach. And she - the girl with the eyes - was a 24-year-old named Toni Soren.

Bob Heartsong: My jaw drops to the floor. This-- this-- this just absolutely incredibly beautiful woman is at the-- my front door.

She asked him if she could park her car in his driveway. He invited her in. They talked. The rest of the day. All night.

Bob Heartsong: We just found so much in common, so much spiritually-- we found in-- in each other.

Keith Morrison: So she shared this early feeling.

Bob Heartsong: Everything was open. Every door was open.

She moved in that very night. A day and a half later, they had an unofficial wedding ceremony.

Keith Morrison: A day and a half later?

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Bob Heartsong: Day and a half.

We wrote a paper between us and God that-- said that we were, you know-- this is it. Seven months later, they made it official. An actual marriage license.

And she was, for the young Eckhart, a soul mate and in some ways a savior. Because he'd been lost.

Keith Morrison: You went off the rails a bit.

Bob Heartsong: I got involved with somebody. Loaned a kid some money. Got a little close to what he was doing. And-- got-- I was arrested for-- conspiracy to-- pos-- possess and distribute cocaine. And pled guilty.

He spent four and a half months in prison then. Which, in retrospect, he said, wasn't such a bad thing, really.

Bob Heartsong: Became a vegetarian the day I walked in. I walked in weighting 220 pounds. Walked out weighing 160. Just changed my life. I read a lot of-- Herman Hess. Siddhartha. Just opened my eyes.

Keith Morrison: You-- you're one of those guys who-- actually got scared straight in a good way by the system.

Bob Heartsong: I don't want to say "scared."I just looked at it and I said, "This is not me. What am I doing?" So I said, "I've gotta make a change."

And, lo and behold, there was Toni. She was orphaned at 16, became a free spirit, a wanderer.

Linda Armstrong: This is a person that went out West and lived I-- in-- I guess it was a small house without running water and-- I mean, she was just an adventurer.

This is Toni's friend, Linda Armstrong. Toni and Bob's friend.

Linda Armstrong: How would you describe Bob? Hippie, very passive-- easygoing. Toni was more the standing up, would, you know, say whatever she was thinking.

Here is what they were like, said Linda, here's the sort of thing they did:

Linda Armstrong: They went to Hawaii and I said, "Oh, I mean, that must have been wonderful." She said, "Until they realized that they spent all their money getting to Hawaii and had no way of getting back." So they lived on the beach. That's the kind of person. She was just ready for anything.

They decided that the ancient practice of female name shifting, women taking the husband's name, ust wasn't appropriate anymore. Not for them, anyway.

Robert Heartsong: She just wanted something that was ours. So we made "heart," out of "Eckhart," and we made "song" out of "Soren," and we put" heart" and "song" together and we were Bob and Toni Heartsong.

Heartsong? Yes, that was what they decided to be. And they even went to court and made it official.

A son Elijah was born, then another, Jacob. They settled in Florida. Discovered that for all their hippie notions, they were natural entrepreneurs. They started a business promoting tofu. Toni wrote - and designed - a tofu cookbook. Bob discovered a talent for high-end landscaping, which evolved into a business creating expensive pool and waterfall installations throughout southern Florida.

Linda Armstrong became their accountant.

Linda Armstrong: I've got a lot of couples that have businesses together. And they do raise their voices.

But that's something Bob and Toni never did. Bob always kissed Toni before he left. He never, ever forgot to kiss Toni goodbye. And in the years and decades that passed, said Bob, they retained, somehow, the soul of the hippie couple they once had been.

Keith Morrison: If you can give me the sort of state of your marriage-- the state of your life, in 2000.

Bob Heartsong: It was fabulous at that time. I mean, I often said, "I-- I live in nirvana."

And then it was September 26, 2000. Bob got up at the usual time, went to work in the usual way. A pool installation in Del Ray beach, about 40 minutes from their home in Jupiter. Toni went to the grocery store, and then to the bank. They'd arranged to meet around 3 pm at a Del Ray auto dealership. They were buying a car.

Bob was there at 3. No Toni. He called, no answer.

Bob Heartsong: I'm starting to get a little worried.

Keith Morrison: Why were you concerned about not being able to reach her on the phone?

Bob Heartsong: Because--we talk all the time.

It was 5:00 p.m. when Bob Heartsong parked outside his house and walked past the carefully landscaped greenery to his side door. And that was the moment. Imprinted now on his brain. There she was.

Bob Heartsong: I find her laying on the transom of the door. And I look and I'm, like, I'm, like, in shock.

911 call:

BobHeartsong: She's been beat by somebody. Blood is all over. She's got no pulse. She's cold. Oh my God, Oh God. I need help.

Bob and Toni Heartsong were flower children once. Free spirits, two souls locked in eternal embrace. And then in parenthood. And in business. And then one September day in the year 2000, Bob came home to find his wife's cold body crumpled on the floor at the side entrance to their fine suburban home. She was covered in blood, she had been brutally beaten.

Particularly around those eyes of hers, the eyes that had so captivated young Bob Eckhart at the entrance to that mansion more than 26 years earlier.

Bob Heartsong: When I saw what somebody had done to her face, my-- my whole world just shattered. I was just completely lost.

Their son Jake arrived home from school. He could sense as he walked from the bus stop that something was awfully wrong.

Jake Heartsong: I saw my dad, like, wailing in-- the driveway and stuff.

Keith Morrison: It sticks in your mind. Doesn't it?

Jack Heartsong: Yeah. I'll probably forever remember that. It's, like, branded to-- my brain, I suppose.

Police swarmed the area. They videotaped the bloody scene searching for clues. They could see right away that Toni Heartsong, a strong woman, had fought valiantly for her life.

Sgt. John Van Houten, though he wasn't there that day, would eventually become one of the investigators. He read the reports, though, and here's what they said:

John Van Houten: It was a frontal, brutal attack, vicious, rage. And you can see after she's beaten and she's laying on the floor there, there's blood on the bottom of her foot because she still tried to get up. And then she's stabbed seven times in the neck, and she falls inside the doorway right there.

That much was obvious. The rest, less so. No matter how thoroughly he devoured the initial reports, Van Houten could find no evidence - at all - for any kind of motive behind something so unspeakably vicious.

John Van Houten: There's nothing missing of jewelry or value from the house. There's no burglary. Nobody broke in. The front door is locked.

Keith Morrison: Any evidence at all of sexual assault?

John Van Houten: No evidence on the sexual assault.

Now, generally speaking, the grisly work of a crime scene investigator, while very difficult, is fairly straightforward. Collect every speck of available evidence and then - more often that not - especially if no other motive is apparent, draw a line. From the victim to someone very close. That someone was freely answering questions from television reporters. And perhaps more pointed ones from police.

Bob Heartsong: People are gonna think that you did it, you know. It's just very typical.

They asked about the relationship. They asked if we had any girlfriends or boyfriends. Or did we have any-- monetary problems. And they asked, “Have you had any physical confrontations with your wife?"

Keith Morrison: And the answers were?

Bob Heartsong: No. The idea of-- hitting my wife, and doing something like that, is just way out past the kind of being that I would even consider being, you know. I just don't have that kind of person in me.

Still, at that moment, the police had to take a very close look at Robert Heartsong. So they had him take off his shirt, they looked at his body very carefully, up and down, they looked for bruises or cuts that would indicate defensive wounds. And? Not a scratch on Bob. Though you'd think there would be, if Toni had been fighting back. Chaos in a front hall indicated Toni had valiantly fought for her life.

John Van Houten: The chair was turned over by the front door and her toenail was by the front door. And there was a swipe of blood on that deadbolt which means that she was trying to get out that front door at one point.

She'd finally died, trying to escape through her side door. But of course Bob had to be there if indeed he killed his wife, and it appeared he was nowhere near, he had an alibi. Toni had been murdered sometime early to mid-afternoon. But Bob's employees told police he was there with them, a 40-minute drive away, till after 2:30. And then at 3:00, he was at the Del Ray car dealer's.

And besides, some of the evidence at the crime scene seemed to indicate somebody else was there. Was that somebody the murderer?

Bob Heartsong: They've-- had fingerprints on-- a deadbolt. And a lock that we never used. They found footprints didn't match anybody else in the-- the family's-- footprints. There were hairs and beard hairs found on her body.

Keith Morrison: Beard hairs.

Bob Heartsong: Yeah.

Keith Morrison: Did you have a beard at the time?

Bob Heartsong: No. I was clean-shaven.

Police tried to discover the source of those mysterious prints and hairs. No luck. They talked to the neighbors, some of whom said they saw a drifter in the area right around the time of the murder. By the time the police went looking, that drifter was long gone. And time went by, and along with it the chance of finding anything helpful or new. The boys struggled without her. And Bob? Couldn't figure out how to be without her.

Bob Heartsong: All of a sudden I'm completely numb. I've-- I-- I've got a vacuum. I have no insides to myself.

But quietly, invisibly, as the Heartsong file migrated out of active view, a few people hung on to a nagging feeling that something wasn't right, that maybe the solution was in what they already knew.

John Van Houten: No one can remember anyone just being killed for nothing and nothing being taken, excluding sexual assault, you know, your robbery, just-- it's definitely a domestic. There's no doubt.

Now began a bad year for Bob Heartsong and for the investigation of Toni Heartsong's murder.

Bob Heartsong: You're dealing with… You're dealing with what you've lost, you know. And-- and, really, nobody can really understand what you feel.

The only real lead was that report of a drifter some neighbors said they thought they may have seen around the area about the time of the murder. If it was the killer he may have escaped to vegetation behind the house afterwards, but nobody ever found him.

As for what they did find, the hair, the fingerprints, the bloody boot prints... strange thing was they didn't seem to match anybody. Oh, and there was one rather inconvenient complication. It appeared that certain crime scene protocols weren't too carefully observed. For example, the foot prints might have been made by police personnel themselves.

John Van Houten: It could have been the paramedic. Walked in the house, there-- they do it all the time. They walk in, and they don't mean to. They step on the blood. It could have been the police officer. Stepped on the blood and searched the rest of the house looking for another suspect maybe.

Keith Morrison: So you gotta throw all that evidence away really.

John Van Houten: Right.

But there was more. For some reason, police waited at least a day before they got around to searching out the woods behind the house. And that, of course, turned out to be too late.

Keith Morrison: What about the footprints going out of the house, through the backyard, into the woods? It rained and they didn't take the evidence before that. How damaging was that to the state's case?

John Van Houten: It would have been nice to have.

And then there was the question of Bob Heartsong's appearance. There was a problem with that, too.

Keith Morrison: Did they look at his body? Did they check for cuts?

John Van Houten: The deputy or the detective did look at his body. But it was never photographed or documented.

Keith Morrison: Isn't that the normal procedure to take a picture?

John Van Houten: For myself, for senior detectives, yes. For someone learning-- he probably didn't know.

Keith Morrison: But those mistakes are-- they're real mistakes. They can last for a long time.

John Van Houten: That's right.

Keith Morrison: And in this case--

John Van Houten: That mistake is not good.

All that happened before Van Houten inherited the case. He just had to live with it. And with the fact that in the months after Toni's murder, the investigation went pretty much nowhere.

And then a break - or what seemed like a break. In January of 2001, that drifter turned up in California. A man by the name of Ronald Ganyo. They took him in, asked him the appropriate questions. And?

Keith Morrison: What was your sense of the likelihood that he may have been culpable here?

John Van Houten: None at all.

Keith Morrison: What made you so convinced of that?

John Van Houten: When you beat someone like that, there's a reason. If you're a robber and you're gonna do that, you're gonna take something. Nobody took anything.

And as for those mysterious hairs found on Toni's body? None of them matched the drifter. Nor did the bloody boot prints. They let him go. The police moved on after that. And Bob? Well, everybody deals with grief in his or her own way.

Bob mourned. Deeply. But, he also had two sons to care for and a life to live.

Some of his friends were a little surprised when - after two years - he got serious with a woman he met online: Suzye Goldstein.

Bob Heartsong: I asked my son, Jake, whether he minded. And I asked Toni's best friend, who was Linda Armstrong, whether she thought it was appropriate.

Keith Morrison: Was it appropriate, do you think, to have a relationship that soon after Toni died?

Bob Heartsong: What is appropriate? Having-- a relationship-- trying to balance your life back out? You've got a vacuum in your life and you're trying to-- find balance again.

Suzye was bowled over. Bob seemed like just the right sort of guy for her. A soul mate.

Suzye Heartsong: This guy has got one a heart of gold. He wants-- he wants what you want for you.

And, in fact, he told Suzye all about Toni, and about the suspicion that attached to him after the murder.

Suzye decided to be prudent. She checked out his story with police. And here's what they told her:

Susan Heartsong: They said, "No, he's been exonerated." And once you get to know Bob, you know there is no way.

Three years after Toni's death, Bob and Suzye were married. Toni became a cherished memory, represented by a small shrine erected in the Heartsong's meditation room.

And everybody thought that was the end of the story. Another three years went by. And then it was 2006. And suddenly, the Heartsong case was red hot again.

John Van Houten: We got the federal grant and it was to review for D.N.A. And they redid the-- D.N.A. with today's technologies. Compared to 2000, there's a big difference.

Bob Heartsong, of course, had long since remarried and moved on with his life. It was August 2006 when Detective Van Houten called.

Bob Heartsong: He said on the phone-- "We found some new evidence in this case. We'd like you to come down and-- talk with us.

Keith Morrison: What did you think when you heard that?

Bob Heartsong: I was excited.

Keith Morrison: Finally, they're gonna find out what happened.

Bob Heartsong: Finally there was some-- a break in the case, you know.

A break? Well, yes. Just not the one he'd hoped for.

John Van Houten: I said, "Mr. Heartsong, I'll be back in two weeks with a warrant for your arrest."

In September 2000, the investigation of Toni Heartsong's murder sputtered and died. There was evidence collected on and around her brutalized body, but it proved nothing. But by August 2006, that very same evidence began to speak. And Bob Heartsong was among the first to find out what it said.

Bob Heartsong: They showed me that the blood under the thumbnail.

Keith Morrison: Blood under--

Bob Heartsong: The thumbnail.

Keith Morrison: --her thumbnail.

Bob Heartsong: Yeah. Said it was my blood.

They had found something under Toni's fingernails back in 2000. Hard to know what it was then. Now six years later, advanced DNA testing could identify that something as blood. Bob's blood. What was that doing there?

John Van Houten: He was-- asked was there a fight, an altercation? Did he bleed during work? Did he cut himself? Everything was negative. "No, I did not. I wasn't bleeding that day. And then I asked him, I said, "Well, then how would your blood get under her left thumb?"

Keith Morrison: How did he answer that question?

John Van Houten: And his answer to that was, "It's not my blood."

But DNA, the police told Bob, doesn't lie. And in this case, it seemed to confirm the detective's suspicion. It was not some mysterious intruder who struggled with Toni that dreadful day. It was Bob. And the investigators worried away at some other bits of the story, too. One thing in particular. Nobody ever found the murder weapon. The knife that killed Toni. A whole set of kitchen knives, within easy reach on a counter, was untouched. But there was a missing knife. In fact, that knife was the only thing missing from the house after the murder. It was Bob and Toni's favorite tofu knife and they had always kept it out of sight in a drawer, said D.A. Barbara Burns.

Barbara Burns: Why would a stranger with all these knives in view and easy reach start looking in a drawer for a knife to use to kill Toni Heartsong?

The D.A. also found it suspicious that Bob seemed to know a little too much about the state of his wife's clothing after the attack. Although she had not been sexually assaulted, her thong underwear had been awkwardly pulled low in the back.

Barbara Burns: The actual position of the underwear had not been known to the investigators or the detective until the autopsy. Yet when the detective went back the next morning-- Mr. Heartsong described to the detective at that time that the "mysterious assailant" must have come into the house and startled her while she was in the bathroom. And she must have pulled her shorts up without pulling her underwear up.

Keith Morrison: Maybe he'd heard from somebody that they appeared to be pulled down, was offering an explanation.

Barbara Burns: It was too coincidental and too ironic to be able to explain all of that away.

Still, why would a man as devoted as Bob Heartsong - and a mild mannered man at that - attack the love of his life? D.A. Burns poked around in Toni's diary. Was this relationship really so idyllic? Maybe not.

Barbara Burns: In her journal, in her own writing, she does make a statement, "There's not enough to leave, but there's not enough to stay." Now, what does that mean? There's not enough love loss to leave? There's not enough love to stay? There's not enough loss of money to stay.

Keith Morrison: It's hard to know.

Barbara Burns: There were other things in the journal, too, where she talks about, "He's not as loving," or, he's not showing her and the kids as much attention. It's all about work, work, work. Video: D.A. still suspicious

But, is even the best marriage free of all dissatisfacton?

Bob Heartsong: In your relationships don't you ever have a day that you struggle with?

Keith Morrison: Can't think of a single one.

Bob Heartsong: Oh yeah, yeah, okay. We go through this. If you don't-- do-- is this a reason to be accused of killing your wife? One of the last things that she wrote in her diary: "Things that I'm grateful for." And she has a list. And-- I was-- I'm "Bob" is on the list.

Besides, said the friend, Linda Armstrong, it wasn't just marriage to Bob that troubled Toni.

Linda Armstrong: Toni was turning 50. Toni had had-- thyroid cancer. It wasn't necessarily Bob, it wasn't necessarily the business, it was just everything at one time hitting her.

Mid-life angst? Or, as investigators had now come to believe, a confrontation over the family business.

John Van Houten: Another investigator I spoke to who had this case for a little while said that he-- he was going broke and he was looking to get a partner in his business because he was-- he was financially strapped.

And in fact, it was no secret, Toni had not been totally happy about the proposed partnership. But so upset she fought with Bob? Linda Armstong didn't think so.

Linda Armstrong: She wasn't a 100 percent "I'm thrilled to death about it." But she wouldn't-- didn't disagree about it.

But now police put together a theory: that on Sept. 26, 2000, Bob Heartsong left his job site in Del Ray Beach in the early afternoon, went home, argued with Toni and, in a moment of uncontrolled rage, stabbed her to death with their favorite knife.

Then, desperate for an alibi, he drove back to Del Ray to the car dealership, before driving home again at 5, "discovering" Toni's battered body, and calling 911.

All carefully thought out, decided the prosecutor. A little too carefully.

Barbara Burns: Whether it's as a prosecutor or as a detective, an investigator, you start understanding that people who don't just answer a question but feel a need to explain that question generally have something to hide.

Bob Heartsong was arrested on Sept. 26 2006, exactly six years to the day of his wife's murder. He was carted off to jail where he stayed incarcerated for almost two years, waiting to go on trial for his life. A trial in which the state would claim, this once soft spoken old hippie suddenly and inexplicably snapped, killed the love of his life, and has covered it up ever since.

John Van Houten: It's a three minute murder. I lost my temper, and that's what happened. Except after he beat her, he realized, "Oh boy, I really messed up now." And then when she went to get back up, he stabbed her. He had to kill her.

Barry Maxwell was mystified. Or so he claimed. At his law office in West Palm Beach, Fla., Defense Attorney Maxwell read and re-read the state's allegation that Bob Heartsong hacked and slaughtered the love of his life with a tofu knife...

There just wasn't any reason, said Maxwell, for Bob to murder Toni.

Attorney Maxwell: The marriage was good. There wasn't any life insurance policy on Mrs. Heartsong. There wasn't a motive.

But a few miles away, Prosecutor Barbara Burns, armed with brand new DNA technology, had carefully and slowly built what she believed was a solid case.

Barbara Burns: These things standing alone might raise reasonable doubt, you pull them together and see, wait a minute, each of these is a piece of puzzle. And by golly, they fit.

And so in September 2008, after almost two years of jail time and house arrest, Bob Heartsong, still with the unwavering support of his sons and new wife, was ushered into the Palm Beach County courthouse to face his accusers.

Prosecutor: The evidence presented by the state will show how the defendant orchestrated the events of the day.

And how he managed to return to his residence to surprise his wife, Toni Heartsong. Engage in an argument with her. Which led to unspeakable violence and a brutal bludgeoning and stabbing death of Toni Heartsong. Step by step, Prosecutor Burns layered on the evidence of guilt.

She did have, after all, that DNA.

Prosecuting attorney: So the-- the blood that you got the result on, on the left thumb of Tony Heartsong was the blood of Robert Heartsong.

Dr. Cecelia Crouse: Correct.

And Heartsong, remember, had offered no explanation, reasonable or not, for how that blood had gotten there. But the blood under Toni's fingernail was not the only significant discovery.

As Toni struggled with her attacker, she'd left a bit of her blood on a glass entertainment unit, blood mixed with a substance from someone else's DNA. And now that someone could be identified.

Prosecuting attorney: For certain, you do know that whatever the component is, it's still Tony Heartsong and Robert Heartsong.

Dr. Cecelia Crouse: Yes.

Though it was Bob's DNA, they still couldn't figure out just what it was: blood or something as simple as sweat. Nor could they say when it got there on the entertainment unit.

But to prove guilt once and for all, the prosecutor set out to convince the jury that indeed there had been motive for the brutal crime. How would she prove it?

With this man: Bob's cellmate. A jailhouse snitch.

Prosecution: Did he discuss with you the-- the status of his marriage on or about the time of his wife's murder?

Bob’s cellmate: Yes, he said it was not going well. His wife thought that there were money issues that he didn't see. He wanted to bring a business partner in-- And his wife said no, it's not gonna happen. And there was infidelity, actually, on both sides.

Infidelity? In the perfect relationship? Well, in fact, Bob did claim that Toni had an unfaithful interlude 15 years earlier. And that he had entertained the idea of an affair with someone else, but that that's all it had been: a fantasy.

But it was more than that, said the jailhouse informant. Just before the murder, he told the jurors, Bob Heartsong asked his wife for a divorce. Though Bob denied the allegation, the informant held fast to his story.

Bob’s cellmate: She says, "No. No divorce. Over my dead body you're not gonna get a divorce." And he said he got so upset, he said he wish he was dead three times. He said, "I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead." And how ironic, a week to 3 days later, she was dead.

Keith Morrison: --hell of a distance, however, between driving around your truck and saying, "I wish I were dead," to taking a knife and stabbing your wife's eyes out. That's not the same thing--

Barbara Burns: It takes quite a rage.

Keith Morrison: --at all.

Barbara Burns: Most often the most violent of all crimes and all killings are domestic related. And some of them have no history of violence.

Could a jailhouse informant be trusted? Some jurors might not think so. But what if the prosecutor could put Bob Heartsong at the crime scene at the very time of the murder?

Judge Lucy Chernow Brown: State may call the next witness.

Barbara Burns: Carol Parkman.

Now this would be quite a surprise: The one witness of whom Bob Heartsong might quite properly be terrified.

For years, Bob Heartsong had told his accusers he could not possibly have killed his wife because he wasn't home. He was miles and miles away when his wife was murdered.

And then along came a next-door neighbor by the name of Carol Parkman who said she knew exactly where Bob was just around the time his wife was killed.

Carol Parkman: There was arguing going on at the Heartsongs at that time.

Barbara Burns: How is it that you knew that it was Mr. and Mrs. Heartsong that were doing the arguing?

Carol Parkman: Their voices.

Barbara Burns: Do you know approximately what time you heard that arguing?

Carol Parkman: It was between 12 and one.

A heated argument? Not long before the murder? Finally, an answer. Or was it? Back in 2000, this neighbor denied hearing anything at all from the Heartsongs’ house. Could a jury believe a completely different story six years later?

Keith Morrison: So, why did she come forward so much later?

Barbara Burns: Her explanation was that only after his arrest did she feel comfortable.

Heartsong, she said, terrified her.

Carol Parkman(on the stand): I was scared to death to be here to begin with.

But she wasn't afraid now. Now that her evidence could clear away all doubt, and put that man in prison for the rest of his life. Maybe.

Defense Barry Maxwell: This case is about paradise and love lost.

Unless the defense could tear the story down.

Barry Maxwell: It was a brutal murder. You'll see that. But bottom line is this, Mr. Heartsong wasn't there.

He wasn't? Well, obviously Defense Attorney Maxwell would have to do something to impeach that nosy neighbor. And, what do you know, a check of the record revealed that Ms. Parkman had told a number of stories about what she did or didn't hear that afternoon. There was one version of her story after Heartsong's arrest in 2006 where she'd admitted hearing something.

Barry Maxwell: You basically said that you heard voices, but you could not identify anyone. You told them that, didn't you?

Carol Parkman: As I said, I did not open up to those voices until I spoke with the state attorney.

And then, finally, in 2007, a last version.

Barry Maxwell: I asked you the question, "You can't tell us that it was Toni Heartsong that you heard arguing then." And your answer was, "No, I can't." Correct?

Carol Parkman: That's correct.

Barry Maxwell: And by the same token, can you tell us for a fact that it was Robert Heartsong that you heard talking? And your answer was "No, I can't." Correct?

Carol Parkman: That's correct.

So, how reliable was Mrs. Parkman?

Barry Maxwell: Now, ma'am, you have some hearing loss in one of your ears, correct?

Carol Parkman: That's correct.

Did the neighbor really hear something? Or not? But in the unlikely event that she did, said the defense, it would not have been Bob attacking Toni. Why? The defense called the doctor who treated Bob for a debilitating shoulder injury.

Defense attorney: Would he be able to punch out with any type of strength?

Dr. Waxman: It would affect that. He certainly would be able to punch, push out, but it would be much weaker than normal.

And even if he had mustered the strength to battle his wife, wouldn't he have sustained some physical wound from the struggle? But family friend Linda Armstrong testified to what she saw when Bob Heartsong had dinner with her family, hours after the murder.

Defense attorney: Did you see any injuries on Mr. Heartsong's face?

Linda Armstrong: There were none.

Then, said the defense, there was that apparently sloppy crime scene investigation. Bloody footprints had been leading toward the woods in the back, woods where further evidence could have been found. But…

Defense attorney: Did you put crime scene tape up-- you put it up across the entry way, correct?

Andrew Kroft (police): I believe so, yes.

Defense attorney: Did you put any in the back?

Andrew Kroft: No, I didn't.

Witness prison informant: They weren't really getting along.

Still, there was that prison snitch, the man who told the jury that Bob admitted his marriage was in crisis, that Toni was enraged about Bob's plan to take on a business partner. The defense called the would-be partner, who did admit the Heartsongs argued about the deal. But that wasn't all he said.

Defense attorney: After you spoke of Mr. and Mrs. Heartsong bumping heads, what was the rest of your paragraph?

Peter Sutton: My answer was, "I wish I had half the relationship with my wife that they had." I wish you could see the look in-- in their-- faces when they-- saw each other. It was-- I mean, lit up.

No, said Defense Attorney Maxwell, the killer must have been someone else. And he offered the jury one more piece of evidence. Found at the autopsy, inside Toni Heartsong's underwear.

Defense Attorney Maxwell: We have what the lab describes as a black man's hair. We have a brown/blond beard hair.

Keith Morrison: Two different kinds of hair. That's bizarre.

Defense Attorney Maxwell: Mrs. Heartsong-- we-- we know that she was at Burdine's about 9:00 the morning that-- the morning of the murder. And so the State argues she was trying on clothing. And therefore that's how the hair-- ended up in her pubic hair area. I'm sorry. But I don't know any woman present on this earth who's going to try clothing on and not have panties on.

Was it enough to aquit? He pleaded with the jury.

Barry Maxwell: Give Mr. Heartsong his freedom back. Find him not guilty because, in fact, he is not guilty. Thank you.

But for Prosecutor Burns, this was more than just one more cold case brought back to life. About this one, she said, she was sure.

BarbaraBurns: He can't admit it. And he never did. But the evidence is there to convict him as charged.

There is no telling just what a jury will decide to do in an hour, or a day, or a week. In Bob Heartsong's case, it was just three hours. He stood at the defense table.

Clerk: Division F. State of Florida vs. Robert Van Heartsong, Defendant.

Verdict. We the jury finds as follows: We find the defendant not guilty.

Not guilty! All that new DNA technology, all the investigator's, the prosecutor's, certainty, did not amount to proof.

Bob Heartsong (after trial): All I want to say to you is that I'm free as I should be. I didn't do it. I never could have done it to anybody. It's impossible for the kind of person that I am.

And Bob Heartsong walked out of the courtroom and into the arms of the second love of his life. And felt - almost - like a free man.

Keith Morrison: Getting a not guilty wasn't quite enough.

Bob Heartsong: Put yourself in my shoes, I mean knowing yourself that you're not guilty but knowing that there's probably a good 20, 25 percent of the people that-- that have been exposed to this trial, that think that you're guilty.

Detective Sgt. John Van Houten is one of them.

Keith Morrison: Here you have a case where a guy you believe is guilty of murder, and he's going on with his life. I suppose there's always a cloud over his head.

John Van Houten: I can't tell ya how it comes around and comes around these people that beat ya. "I beat it. I beat it." You beat it? And a year later they were hit by a car. And they ended up dead. And that's the hand of God. And that's how I justify when this happens. But in the eyes of the law, Bob Heartsong did not kill his wife. And should pay no price at all.

But pay he has certainly done. In practical terms, the cost to the Heartsong family has been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to mention imprisonment while waiting for trial: He lost his career, business, time... And emotionally? Well. He is a spiritual man, he says.

Bob Heartsong: I might have my moments of bitterness, but I come out of it very quickly. I spend a good time doing what I do. Call it a grateful meditation.

Keith Morrison: Still a little hippie in your life--

Bob Heartsong: There's a lot of hippie in my life. Don't mind it.

And in her life, too, a lot of hippie. The flower child who loved him, the free spirit remembered still at the shrine he made for her. But the question hovers there too. Someone killed Toni Heartsong. But who?

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints

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