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NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Keith Morrison Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 8/7/2009 7:32:54 PM ET 2009-08-07T23:32:54
transcript

This full program will not be available online, but you can watch web-exclusive videos here.

It was a Friday afternoon in August of 1999, on a long narrow strip of a sun-washed beach. It was a good time to be alive. Good time to be in real estate, too; as bright and hot that year as an afternoon on the Florida Gulf.

Jeff Beggins: My dad was-- he was one of the original founders of Century 21.

Jeff Beggins and his family have been in real estate for over thirty years, tending the Snowbird Haven here in Tampa. Jeff runs the office now. And on this particular Friday afternoon, he was getting ready for one of his signature beach barbeques, a semi-regular perk which not only he enjoyed, it helped attract and retain his excellent team of agents.

Jeff Beggins: It was a small group at the time, with-- kind of a small, close-knit family. We'd have office happy hours, office get-togethers, and the whole team would come through.  And we'd do beach parties, and you know, cook outs, and those type of picnics.

One of these agents had a particularly interesting background. A diplomat's ex-wife, Rosemary Christiansen. Fellow agent Kathy McKinnon was impressed by Rosemary's slightly more formal style.

Kathy McKinnon: Proper and always-- she was the type of person where she's got nylons with her shorts.  Has to have her-- her nylons on and, you know, her nails done.

But reserved, standoffish?  Oh no.  Rosemary was warm, unfailingly friendly.

Jeff Beggins: One of the types that you wish you had about 100 of. Extremely great personality, very loving, very thoughtful, very caring, very empathetic. 

Her 20 years of diplomatic practice, perhaps? Her worldly experience? Rosemary was born in Australia, but traveled the globe on the arm of her husband, a respected member of the Dutch foreign service.

Laurel Zyvoloski: She was a true lady.

Laurel Zyvoloski met Rosemary soon after she arrived in Florida.

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Laurel Zyvoloski: She definitely had that air about her.  And-- it was an air of, taking care of others and being the best hostess and things like that.

A white-gloved existence, the sort of life outsiders envy. Even if, inside, it was not so splendid after all.

Keith Morrison: How much did she tell you about that former life of hers?

Kathy McKinnon: Not a whole lot.  I just knew that-- it wasn't a real happy one. She was pretty lonely.

Even so, why would she leave not just her husband but the two young sons they shared?  Abandon the parties, the travel, the social cache, for the uncertain rewards of hawking Florida real estate?

Kathy McKinnon: She just wanted to, you know, get out on her own. She really hadn't done out-- a lotta jobs from what I understand. She was married and had kids and everything and when she left, she didn't know what to do. 

Trapped in a life that felt more like a prison, drawn by independence and the Florida sun, and yes, the promise of a second chance at love, rosemary had a cyber suitor.

Laurel Zyvoloski: She  met this Robert guy online.  And he had e-mailed her that he was this-- top secret FBI agent, and had these houses all over the places.  And-- she arranged to come to the States to meet him. 

Robert Glenn Temple was the suitor. One meeting with him and she took the leap.  To florida.

Laurel Zyvoloski: She was definitely in love with him in the beginning. 

He was, for one thing, the opposite of all she had known in that other life of hers.

Kathy McKinnon: He had tattoos.  He, you know, he rode a motorcycle. 

Jeff Beggins: I didn't see how those two personalities would kinda come together, but you know, opposites attract sometimes, and that's-- probably was the case here.

The two were married in 1997.

Kathy McKinnon: She was so into Robert.  It was Robert, Robert, Robert, you know.  She just was "Robert."

Her sons occasionally came to visit her here in Florida. But her marriage to their diplomat father was part of her past. Now it was, as we said, that Friday afternoon in August. It was the eve of the company beach party.

Jeff Beggins: Rosemary was bringing some of the supplies, and was always there early to set up.

Rosemary had told co-workers she would drop into the office Friday afternoon to pick up a bowl for the next day's event.

Kathy McKinnon: They kinda called me and said, you know, "Rosemary still hasn't gotten this bowl of potato salad, you know, what do we do?"  And I said, "Well, she'll show up.  Don't worry about it." 

But Saturday morning, as the preparations for the party began, Rosemary again uncharacteristically shirked her duties.

Jeff Beggins: She didn't show up.

So they phoned her.  More than once.  No answer. No Rosemary.

Jeff Beggins: We knew when she didn't show, that something was-- musta been wrong, 'cause that was definitely out of her character.

Rosemary was never late. She always stayed in touch. But here it was, getting later.  No Rosemary.

Keith Morrison: How late was she before you began to worry?

Jeff Beggins: It was a good, hour and a half, two hours--  And that's when some of the teammates and I got a little bit concerned and said, we needed to go figure out what mighta happened.

But Jeff Beggins and Rosemary's other friends felt quite suddenly that they already knew: Rosemary Christiansen had left them.

Kathy McKinnon: Deep down inside, I knew something had happened to her, that she was gone.

But what none of them knew was where, or how, or why.

Rosemary Christiansen was reliable to the core. A fine example of the diplomat's wife, even though that's a life she'd rejected. So when she failed to appear for the company beach party, failed to return countless phone calls, a pall hung over the gathering.  Something had to be wrong. The next day a kind of search party was formed to knock on the door of the condo where rosemary lived with her husband Robert.

Kathy McKinnon: All the dra-- drapes were drawn.  So, we could not look in the windows.  Her car was there.  His motorcycle was there.  And that's when I thought sumpin' really bad has happened here.

The police came then. They entered the apartment, had a look around, while Rosemary's anxious friends waited outside.

Policeman: At this particular point we're concerned about her welfare, her location and her safety.

And her husband, Robert?  He seemed to have disappeared as well. In the condo police found an affectionate note from him to her, explaining that he'd  gone to visit relatives for a few days. Jeff Beggins and the others seemed to have no further recourse except to worry.  And as one day became two, their worry deepened.

Jeff Beggins: As the day progressed, and the night progressed, and the next day progressed, it was definitely something wrong. Then we all began to worry.       

The disappearance of a woman so respected in her community soon attracted local media. Reporter Mark Douglas was put on the story.

Mark Douglas: Her friends are putting out missing person posters, and her husband, whom she lived with, was nowhere in sight for days and days.

And then, just as suddenly as he disappeared, Robert Temple returned several days later - mystified and worried about Rosemary.

Mark Douglas: He had taken a trip-- just before she disappeared and-- said he was in Indiana visiting relatives, So, the day he returned, clearly, there was a great interest in talking to him. And then, he consented to come speak with us, and sat down-- around the pool-- and proceeded to tell us his story.

Robert Temple (on a television conference tape): I miss her so bad.

Mark Douglas: One of angst, one of sadness--

Robert Temple (on a television conference tape): I miss her so bad. Rose and I haven't been apart this long since we've been married.( crying) I love my wife. I just want her back. Please, if anybody's seen Rose, know where she's at..please. Just tell her..just..just call.

Temple maintained that while he was sad that his wife had suddenly left as she did, he was sure there was a simple explanation.

Mark Douglas: She ran away with someone else.

Keith Morrison: He must have had a reason for saying this.

Mark Douglas: Mr. Temple came back with a disclosure that he and his wife were swingers who lived an alternative lifestyle. 

Rosemary Christiansen, the diplomat's wife, a promiscuous swinger?  Nothing Robert said could have been a bigger surprise.  Or, for Rosemary's friends, more upsetting.

Kathy McKinnon: It pisses me off that anybody would-- say somethin' like that about her.

Keith Morrison: Why would it make you so mad?

Kathy McKinnon: Because she was just not that type of person.

Keith Morrison: How do you know?

Kathy McKinnon: 'Cause I know.  I've been with her.  I've had drinks with her.  I've had two glasses of wine, two glasses of wine.  No more.  (laughter) She was my babysitter.

But can you ever really know a person? Maybe Rosemary Christiansen's prim exterior had been a sort of disguise, behind which she kept secrets from her friends at work.

Mark Douglas: The-- theory that he presented that she was a swinger who met people online was somewhat plausible.  I believe, you know, his-- his end of it was plausible.  That he was a swinger, He even-- suggested that she might have gone back to Australia because either she had done it once before, or threatened to do it.

Well, yes, she had left a life before. When she came to Florida. But had she simply walked out again? Rosemarie's friends tried to stay optimistic.

Jeff Beggins: Maybe she had a problem at home, maybe she took off with some friends, maybe she just went to disappear and collect her thoughts, those were all the positive thoughts we were having at the time.

But just in case, Beggins hired a private investigator - Richard Price -who dug around for a while and then reported that the condo provided some interesting clues. Or, not so much clues really, as questions. Rosemary's cell phone, for example.

Richard Price: When the police went in, they found the cell phone on the counter. Rosemary always had her cell phone with her.  She never was without it.

There was more, too, as the detective looked around. Odd things.  Like, for example, some very unusual ....alterations.

Jeff Beggins: Carpet missing-- different-- paint coverings on the wall, something certainly was not right at that point.

Why would someone remove carpet over a concrete floor, or paint over part of a wall, and then leave? And leave behind, by the way, a slip of paper on which was written... Well, the detective found the content very troubling.

Richard Price: We found a list of ingredients that could be used nothing except to clean up, shall we say, a homicide scene-- different types of cleaning-- materials and-- flowery scents, things like that.

It seemed a little creepy. And yet it could have been perfectly innocent - somebody stocking up on cleaning supplies. And Rosemary's husband had a perfectly simple reason for those purchases.

Mark Douglas: Mr. Temple-- was so distraught, supposedly after his wife turned up missing, that he went on-- a cleaning frenzy in his house-- as-- as an act of-- stress relief. 

And as for that missing carpet? Temple said he'd cut a piece  from the bedroom floor because sometime earlier…

Mark Douglas: She tripped and fell, cut her knee.

... And bled on the carpet, and they couldn't get the stain out. And now, she'd left him.

Robert Temple: We're like any other couple. We have our arguments and ups and everything was fine.

Despite his profession of innocence, Temple, as Rosemary's husband, would traditionally be high on a list of "usual suspects" in her disappearance. Still, police did not have any real physical evidence against him.

Mark Douglas: All of his explanations had just enough plausibility to keep him out of handcuffs.

Weeks went by. Still no word from Rosemary. Her friends handed out more flyers, her boss offered a reward for information, the private investigator canvassed the area. And, nothing tangible. Though one bit of information did come up, and it posed a whole new set of questions. Not about Rosemary... But about the man she'd been married to.

Richard Price: We found out that he had actually had been arrested-- years before in a previous marriage in the death of a child.

The disappearance of Rosemary Christiansen was shocking enough. After all, she didn't seem to be the sort of woman who suddenly runs off without some sort of reason.  But then, there were more shocks: her husband's explanation that she was a secret swinger and had probably taken off with another man, though no one could find any evidence of that. And then there was news about Robert Temple himself.  He had a past.

Mark Douglas: He had a history-- back in California-- in-- involving a child, the death of a child.  I think it was an 18-month-old child of his girlfriend who-- he was eventually convicted of and served time in-- in prison for.

It was a long time ago, 1975. A child died of brain injuries after a battering. Temple pleaded guilty and served 5 years for involuntary manslaughter.  Even though…

Mark Douglas: He insisted that he never harmed that child.

Keith Morrison: He kinda put it behind him and got married to this real estate woman--

Mark Douglas: Moved on, yes--

Keith Morrison: --who was kind of, well, cleansing in a way, for his reputation, I should think.

Mark Douglas: Almost, but not quite.

Now, Rosemary's friends found themselves thinking anew about that odd marriage of hers - the warm, sophisticated woman with her mot0rcycle man.

Keith Morrison: He-- he was the jealous type?

Kathy McKinnon: Yes, very much so. If he knew that we were havin' lunch or somethin', he'd show up. He would call all the time at the office.  If she was showin' property, he wantin' to know who she was with.

Laurel Zyvoloski: When Rosemary and I were together, her cell phone would ring incessantly, her beeper would go off.

It would have driven most women out the door, said her friends, but Rosemary?

Kathy McKinnon: We-- we'd ask-- several times, "Rosemary, what are you doing?  What is in it for you?

Keith Morrison: And what'd she say?

Kathy McKinnon: Oh, you just don't understand, you know.  You just don't understand."  I said no, I guess we don't.

But now everyone was trying to understand.   Especially when it came out that she had married him even after she'd accused him of beating her.

Mark Douglas: Before they got married, he'd been arrested for domestic abuse against his girlfriend.

Keith Morrison: Against her?

Mark Douglas: Against her.

It’s an old story, hers no different. Rosemary first pressed charges, then withdrew them.

Mark Douglas: His explanation was that he was drunk.  He tripped coming up the stairs, fell into a door, the door slammed into his girlfriend, Rosemary Christiansen.  Another-- mistaken case that he explained away as not his fault.

But around the office, a few old stories that once didn't make sense now, perhaps, did.

Kathy McKinnon: We had sales meetings every morning.  And couple times she never showed up and didn't call in. She was never like that.  And-- come to find out she'd had some beatings from him and didn't want anybody to know and have-- walk in the office with the bruises.

But always the big apology later.

Richard Price: He would send her flowers.  And the girls at the office would say, "Well, I guess Robert hit Rosemary again, because she got flowers this week."

And that seemed to work, because they stayed together.

Laurel Zyvoloski: The only thing that I can even think of that makes any sense is that he always apologized and promised to never do it again.

But then the police discovered that even Rosemary, for all her sweet demeanor, was pushed to her limit - once. That's when she found out that Robert Temple had a girlfriend who worked alongside him at a telemarketing center.

Richard Price: A couple of times, evidently her and Rosemary had had words.  One of the stories was that Rosemary went to their work and that the girl hid under a desk from her. 

Which explained why friends had begun to see a new Rosemary emerging: a woman who was getting ready to move on without him.

Kathy McKinnon: That was the main problem is that he couldn't keep her.  She started gettin' a backbone against him.

Rosemary, it turned out, had been secretly planning an exit strategy. She had even seen a divorce attorney. On that attorney's advice she had decided she was just going to stay with him for another two months.

Keith Morrison: Two months left of--

Laurel Zyvoloski: Of her time in the country to get her citizenship.

Rosemary, remember, was Australian.  She wanted U.S. citizenship, a goal she'd reach - her lawyer advised her - if she just stayed married two more months. Then, finally a citizen, she could divorce Robert and get on with her life. She revealed her plan to her friend Laurel.  But not to husband Robert.

Laurel Zyvoloski: She had decided that, rather than confront Robert and let him know that she was getting a divorce, that she-- he exact words to me were, "Laurel, I'm gonna walk on eggshells until this is over." 

So, did police move in and arrest Robert?  Charge him with - something - based on his wife's disappearance? Well, no. There was no proof that temple had anything to do with it. He steadfastly maintained he had no knowledge whatsoever of her whereabouts. And he did what he could to prove his innocence.

Mark Douglas: Have you offered to take a lie detector test?

Robert Temple: Yes, if they wish me to, I will.

Mark Douglas: But in fact, that never happened.

Keith Morrison: Why?

Mark Douglas: He hired a lawyer, and the lawyer said, "No, we're not going to do that."  And that was that.

Those closest to Rosemary Christiansen kept up their desperate search, now thoroughly convinced her husband Robert Temple knew exactly what happened - because he did it, whatever it was. He must have.

Kathy McKinnon: The thing that went in my mind is, oh, my God.  She went home. Said she wanted a divorce, and he killed her.  That's what I thought had happened.

Mark Douglas: It was a soap opera. People couldn't get enough of this story. 

But, as with any story, a few months of no news, and public interest waned.

Laurel Zyvoloski: I was constantly surveying the condo, to see what was going on.

Just that small group of friends maintained their vigil. Watching Robert Temple.  Watching his every move. Most days, many nights.  Month after month.  And then one day...

Laurel Zyvoloski: When the truck showed up, and he started emptying out the condo--

Keith Morrison: A rental truck?

Laurel Zyvoloski: A rental truck.  We watched him load it up.

Temple was leaving town.  And he wasn't leaving alone.

Mark Douglas: Robert Temple and his girlfriend, Leslie Stewart, left town for parts unknown.

When real estate broker Rosemary Christiansen suddenly vanished, it was so out of character that her friends soon began to fear the worst.

Kathy McKinnon: I said, something's wrong.  And that's when I knew sumpin' bad had happened.

And then the months went by. And they heard nothing from Rosemary at all. They were convinced husband Robert Temple knew more than he was saying. He seemed off, somehow, always had.  All those times she showed up hiding bruises while he behaved like a stalker? So yes, they were suspicious, and yes, they were spying on him at the condo.

Laurel Zyvoloski: I'm hiding in the parking lot. 

And that's how they saw Temple and his new girlfriend loading up a van and heading out of town. They got in Rosemary's car and I followed them across the causeway. 

This friend was on her phone with police as she followed them.

Keith Morrison: You're talking to the cops...They know he's leaving?  What-- what could they say?

Laurel Zyvoloski: There was nothing they could do.  That's what they said.  They had nothing to stop him.

Temple's move did not surprise the investigator.

Richard Price: I think Robert felt that once he got out of-- out of sight, he would be outta mind. 

And now here he was not just leaving but apparently cohabitating with a new and much younger woman. They found out her name: Leslie Stewart. And that she was in her twenties. Had a child. But that was about it.

Mark Douglas: Leslie Stewart was and is somewhat of an enigma-- We knew that he had gone on a road trip with her about the same time his wife disappeared.

Keith Morrison: Was she a swinger, too?

Mark Douglas: Yes.

Keith Morrison: According to him, at least?

Mark Douglas: According to him, and we-- we know she was living that kind of lifestyle.               

Perhaps Temple had found a new soulmate.  And there was nothing anybody could do. Except offer a warning to young Leslie Stewart.

Mark Douglas: The detectives-- shared with me that before he left town, they spoke with Leslie Stewart and said, "Someday you'll be next."

They hopscotched across the country, taking odd jobs along the way, until finally, all trace of the pair vanished. And back in Tampa, meanwhile, police and Rosemary's loyal friends reached that sad closing chapter of failed searches. They enlisted the paranormal.

Richard Price: With the sheriff's department, they had their dive team do a-- explore of a lake where this psychic had told us that he had had a vision-- that's where her body was. And, of course, we did not recover a body. 

Even for those most unwilling to give up the search, it was hard to hold out hope anymore.

Richard Price: The longer it went-- it was just more evident that she had met-- the ill-fated death.

Even Rosemary's sons resigned themselves to a terrible resolution.

Rosemary's son: My gut tells me that she's not here anymore ‘cause she would have contacted us.

So now life went on without Rosemary. Her sons grew to adulthood without their mother. Her widower, if that's what he was, Robert Temple, was somewhere far away with his much younger woman - and his, apparently, swinging lifestyle.

Mark Douglas: When Robert Temple left town, more or less, the story went away.

And as the years went by, her friends, once in a while, lifted a glass in her memory.

Kathy McKinnon: We'd have, like, a little anniversary, you know, drinks for her and stuff just--

Keith Morrison: Here's to Rosemary.

Kathy McKinnon: Yeah, yeah.

Sometimes mysteries just don't get solved. Rosemary's friends never did believe Robert Temple's explanation that she'd left him for another man. And there was never any evidence at all to corroborate his wild story that she was a secret swinger. No, friends believed that she was dead - that she had been from the very day she disappeared. But where was her body?  Where was the proof?  Didn't exist. And so, almost everybody eventually just gave up.

Almost everybody.

Kathy McKinnon: I knew-- I knew he wasn't smart-- he wasn't that smart.  He wasn't gonna get away with it.  Something was gonna happen, I just didn't know when.

Oh, something happened all right.  It was August 2008.  It was nine years after Rosemary disappeared. Reporter Mark Douglas answered his phone and heard on the other end an old friend, a Tampa lawyer named Jay Hebert.

Mark Douglas:

He said, "I know what happened to Rosemary Christiansen. And I've known this for nine years."

The charming Rosemary Christiansen, local real estate broker, had inexplicably disappeared. Her husband had moved onto a new life with a much younger woman. Gradually, over nine years, Rosemary's friends got used to the idea that she was gone forever and they might never even know exactly why. And then, quite suddenly, in the still heat of august, 2008, a startling development: Robert Temple's long time girlfriend was talking.  And what she said was horrific. Reporter Mark Douglas broke the story.

Mark Douglas: Leslie Stewart had taken investigators and prosecutors to the scene of Rosemary Christiansen's grave somewhere near the Suwannee River.  And they dug where she told them.  And they found her body.

All these years her body had been lying in a swampy grave on property belonging to Leslie Stewart's own father in northern Florida. Although, according to Leslie, her father never knew what was buried on his land.

Keith Morrison: Inside some sort of plastic container?

Mark Douglas: Yes.  The same container purchased at Wal-Mart nine years before that.

The news of the grisly discovery spread rapidly through the community of rosemary's loyal friends. And their reaction?  Horror, yes, but also....

Laurel Zyvoloski: It's very weird to say I was elated.  I was so happy to know that it was finally, finally over.

Everyone wanted justice for Rosemary. But who exactly was to blame, what did they do to her? And why did this woman, Leslie Stewart - - suddenly reappear, talking? Here is the amazing, to some profoundly disturbing answer: A Tampa attorney named Jay Hebert had known - and kept - the secret the whole nine years. The secret he could now reveal to everyone.

Jay Hebert: This was the most heavy-- heaviest burden I had ever carried.

Leslie Stewart told him the whole story not long before she and Robert Temple skipped town, but Hebert was prevented by attorney client privilege rules from whispering a word to anyone.

Jay Hebert: It was an oath that I took that lawyers across the country take.  And we would hope that our clients, when they come to talk to us about-- a situation, that realize and recognize that what they tell is going to remain confidential.

So Hebert could do precisely nothing with the information. Leslie could have revealed it all herself, of course. But:

Jay Hebert: She was convinced by Robert not to come forward to the authorities.

Keith Morrison: Did you say to her at the time, "You gotta go to the police?"

Jay Hebert: Absolutely.

Keith Morrison: "You've gotta tell them what happened."

Jay Hebert: Absolutely. But-- but in this situation-- Leslie was scared. Video: Lawyer on keeping a dark secret

And so, as Rosemary's friends puzzled and fumed, Leslie ran off with Robert, eventually settled out west with him, had a baby with him, a daughter. And kept the awful secret all those years. And then, an opportunity: A trip away from Robert gave her the physical and emotional distance she needed.

Jay Hebert: Ultimately, it was when she was able to break away-- go to a family reunion that was set up-- outside of the state of California in Washington state.

That's when she phoned Hebert, and he put her with the police, and they flew her back to Florida, where finally she gave Hebert permission to reveal what she'd told him in confidence nine years before. It was the night Rosemary went missing.  Leslie was 22.  She'd been having an affair with Temple.

Jay Hebert: She got several frantic phone calls and messages-- from Robert saying, "Please come over.  Please come over as soon as possible."

At the condo, Temple led Leslie into his bedroom.

Jay Hebert: They discovered Rosemary laying on the floor-- wrapped in a black Kimono style robe-- and-- obviously was not breathing.  And there was quite a bit of blood.

Temple, she said, insisted it had been a dreadful accident that grew out of some kind of altercation.

Jay Hebert: Rosemary, kept the knife-- to keep a stalker away. She came up on Robert and poked him in the back of the head with the butt end of the knife. And somehow there was -- some type of struggle.  And according to Robert, she fell on the knife. There were apparently multiple stab wounds.  One may have been an entry wound,  an exit wound.

Keith Morrison: Yeah, fell on the knife five times.

Jay Hebert: Yeah, one of those things.

According to Leslie, Temple told her, no one would believe it was an accident. So she helped him clean up, then watched as he hatched a carefully thought out series of lies and cover-ups to explain Rosemary's disappearance.

Jay Hebert: He decided that he was going to start covering up this-- homicide by creating this charade of of Rosemary disappearing on the Internet with some swingers.

Leslie said they packed up Rosemary's things to make it look as if she'd decided quite suddenly to leave of her own accord.

Jay Hebert: They spread these items all over the area in dumpsters.  And they wouldn't put all of it in one dumpster so if it was found, it might be pieced together.

Keith Morrison: So then she helped him bury the body.

Jay Hebert: She did.

Now finally nine years later, Hebert passed the dreadful details on to reporter Douglas.

Mark Douglas: They stuffed her body, into this large Rubbermaid type plastic bin.  And both of them put it in the back of a-- an SUV and drove north.

She says that her and Robert Temple buried-- the body while her father stayed inside his house-- presumably unaware of what they were doing.

But why?  Why would she help him do all this?  And then keep the secret for nine years.

Jay Hebert: Young-- young, naïve-- easily influenced by a man that she looked up to that-- exerted some power and control over her. 

Whatever bound her to Temple, the ties began to unravel. Living with him in northern California, she became increasingly afraid for her safety. In fact, according to Leslie, temple had just recently threatened to kill both her and her daughter if she ever told the truth.

Jay Hebert: And I think that Leslie had put up with enough at that point

Finally, in august of 2008, alone at that family reunion, she called Hebert.

Jay Hebert: She disclosed over the phone that she had been threatened and a knife was pulled on her. Law enforcement then thought the quickest-- fastest way to get Robert Temple into custody would be to contact the folks in Redding, California and suggest to them that a crime had been committed. 

Robert was then arrested in Redding where they were living.

Leslie Stewart was finally ready to tell everything she knew. And she knew plenty. But was it true? Because there were two sides to this story.

Robert Temple: This is the golddigger...

Now in custody, Leslie's lover, Robert Temple, had his own, very different version of events.

Robert Temple: She's sayin', "They're never gonna believe us.  They're never gonna believe us.  And like, how you gonna explain me being here and your wife's dead on the floor?"

It's flat and hot and the mini malls stretch for miles in all directions from the county jail that houses the man accused of killing Rosemary Christiansen. Put here courtesy Of Leslie Stewart, the young woman who replaced Rosemary in Robert's bed.

But Robert claimed he had a surprise of his own in store: he didn't kill Rosemary, he simply helped Leslie cover up the crime she herself committed. And from his cell, he started talking, too.

Robert Temple:  I didn't call the police.  And that was the worst thing I --I'm not gonna lie, I was scared.  And that was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life. 

Oh, he freely admitted he arranged an illicit evening with then-girlfriend Leslie. The plan, he said, was to meet her at the condo he shared with his wife, Rosemary. But, when he arrived…

Robert Temple: As I went around the building, Leslie's comin' out my front door.  And she's white, white as a ghost, white as a sheet. 

And when he went into the condo, he said, imagine his shock when he found his wife's body sprawled on the bedroom floor.

Robert Temple: There's blood in her hair, on her face.  I'm yellin' at her to wake up. 

This was the real story, said Temple:  Rosemary came home unexpectedly, found Leslie waiting in the condo, and, in a fury, ordered her to leave.

Robert Temple: She said Rose attacked her. She said she grabbed Rose and they started strugglin' and pullin' hair. She thought Rose had knocked herself out 'cause she wasn't movin' anymore.  But when she got up, she saw the knife stickin' in Rose.

It was a hunting knife, she must have fallen on it.  Must have been an accident.  Horrible, he said, of course, but he couldn't possibly know what happened. Couldn't have prevented it, he wasn't even there!

Robert Temple: I got up to call the ambulance, I swear to God I did.

He would have done the right thing and called for help, he said.  He really would have.  But his girlfriend stopped him.

Robert Temple: Leslie grabbed me and put her arms around me and started cryin' and tellin' me how they're gonna take her child away.  And blah, blah, blah, blah.  And that Rose was dead already. 

Mark Douglas: He says she convinced him that no one would ever believe that he was not the killer because of his past, the manslaughter conviction, the abuse arrest.  She convinced him, he says, that he would always be the focus of blame no matter how much she tried to convince everybody that she had accidentally killed his wife. 

And so, Temple now claimed, he helped young Leslie plan the cover up.  Took part reluctantly, with grief in his heart, and respect for his poor dead wife.

Robert Temple: I bought the biggest plastic tub that I could think of to put her in.  'Cause I had decided that if we're gonna bury her I'm not just gonna throw dirt on her or anything like that. I was gonna try to make it as nice as I could. I-- I wanted to make it dignified. I put her special-- she had a favorite pillow that she liked...It was a little decorative thing ..little..that she always kept on the bed. I'd give her a pillow.

He cleaned the apartment, he said.  And then he got into the passenger seat while Leslie took charge, Leslie took the wheel and drove off to find a burial site.

Mark Douglas: He wanted to take his wife, he says, to Georgia, to a place in the woods that she always loved because he wanted to do that one last thing for her.

He fell asleep as she drove, he said. And when he woke up, they were in north Florida.

Mark Douglas: They were pulling into her father's property unbeknownst to him because that was not his plan.

And then, to keep him in the dark, to make him vulnerable, to protect their own skins, Temple said, Leslie and her father buried the body on the property without telling Temple exactly where they put it.

Robert Temple: Now I realize that the only reason she had her dad help her bury so I wouldn't know where-- where Rose was at so I could never turn around and snitch on her later. 

So of course he had to do something to protect himself.  That's why he finally found the presence of mind to start setting up his own alibi.

Mark Douglas: Nine years ago, when they presented him with the shopping list and the video at Wal-Mart showing him buying that container, they said, "A-ha, Mr. Temple, exactly where is that container?"  And he showed them because during that road trip he stopped in Tallahassee I believe and purchased an identical one so that he could have something to present to them when they asked.

Now, in jail, Robert began a sort of private P.R. campaign. He sprinkled his accusations against Leslie, his version of the story, through long, convoluted letters, sent them off to lawyer Hebert, reporter Douglas...even Rosemary's friends.

Kathy McKinnon: Rosemary caught her and they had a fight and that's when Rosemary fell on her knife.  Or-- it was really bizarre. And I read it and then I put it down and had to have a glass of wine.  And I picked it back up again and I'm like, "Did I just read this?" (laughter) and read it again.

Yes.  Robert was true to Rosemary, heartbroken by her death.  Leslie was the villain. Leslie was no rose.

Robert Temple: I loved Rose and even if we were to have separated I would still love Rose.  But I would have never stopped Rose from leavin' me. I wouldn't-- you could-- you couldn't give me 1,000 Leslies for one Rose.

And Leslie, meanwhile, though she has declined our interview requests, continues to claim that her version of Rosemary's death is the real one. Still, there it was: one crime. Two stories.  His and hers. But with one obvious difference: In exchange for her story, Leslie Stewart was granted full immunity from prosecution.

Jay Hebert: I'm not saying that Leslie is a perfect young lady.  I'm saying that in this situation, the-- the puppet master that was or is Robert Temple was in control of everything she was doing. 

Mark Douglas: If you believe him, she's in-- she's a-- a Lady Macbeth character.  She's a manipulator.  If you believe her, he's the manipulator.

Is he an innocent man falsely accused?  Or is he just trying to cover up what he really did?  We have two people here who know what happened.  Both of them are liars.  They've both told lies.  Now one of them is telling the truth.  And the question is which one?

Keith Morrison: Maybe they're still lying.

Mark Douglas: Perhaps.

Keith Morrison: Both of them.

Temple has pled not guilty to murder. They haven't set a date for his trial just yet.  But whenever it is... Rosemary will be well represented.  The visitors' gallery will be full.

Kathy McKinnon: What goes around comes around.  And you know what?  It's called Karma. 

Rosemary Christiansen left a life full of travel, style, sophistication to reinvent herself on the sandy shores of the Florida Gulf Coast where Robert Glenn Temple became her mate.  And one day soon he'll face the charge that he was also the architect of her fate.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints

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