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NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Josh Mankiewicz Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 11/13/2009 11:58:01 AM ET 2009-11-13T16:58:01
transcript

This aired on Dateline NBC on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009. The full video will be online over the weekend. Check out related web-exclusive videos here.

Your first love can be your last, or it can be just a distant memory. Either way, it's unforgettable...even if it takes you back to the high-school prom.

Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline NBC correspondent: How'd he look in that tux? 

Stacey Rock: I thought he was adorable then. And I think that that was the first night that I really told him that-- that I was in-- in love with him.

Josh Mankiewicz: How'd he take that?

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Stacey Rock: He loved me, too.

It had been almost twenty years since Stacey Rock and Ed Schiller got lost in each other’s eyes on prom night.

Stacey Rock: Our hands were like magnets.  We never just sat next to each other.  We were always, like, melted into each other. 

Josh Mankiewicz: How about when he kissed you?

Stacey Rock: Amazing. I think I kissed him first. (laugh) That's what he liked about me because I-- he was a little shy.

But that was back in high school. Over the years, they'd broken up and gotten back together more than once.  But they never married. Maybe they were too young... Maybe they loved each other too much.

But then came the summer of 2005.They had been apart close to ten years when Ed, now 39, and Stacy, 36, reconnected. And it turned out the magic was still there.   

Stacey Rock: We were kinda crazy about each other. We were protective of each other.  We were afraid of losing each other.

It's the kind of silly fear you have when you're that crazy about someone, but then it came true.  On January 13, 2006, Stacey Rock did lose the love of her life.

This unluckiest of days was Friday the 13th, a cold January morning outside Boston. Ed Schiller was getting ready to leave his car and enter the office building where he worked. But first, Ed made a call to Stacey.

Stacey Rock: Ed called me as he always did.  And we chatted a little bit.  And then I said, "I'll talk to you later." And-- I should've known because he'd always call back.

Instead, someone walked up to Ed and fired a single bullet into his head. 

911 call:

Co-worker:  Can you get someone down here immediately, right now?

Dispatcher: We're getting them out right now.

Co-worker:  I think he's been shot, I don't know. He's been shot in his..

Dispatcher: You think he's been shot?

Co-worker:  In his car in his garage.

Ed's co-worker discovered him in his car in the two story parking garage next to Aronson Insurance, where Ed worked as an agent.  7:45 in the morning. Ed Schiller regularly arrived at work early and he'd sit in his car for about 15 minutes here in the parking garage and listen to music before he went inside. In short, he was a creature of habit.  And those habits made it easier to stalk and kill him.

Police Sergeant Duke Donoghue investigates homicides for the Middlesex County D.A.'s office.  

Duke Donoghue: It seemed to be that it was an execution style murder.

But who would want to execute Ed Schiller?  The photo album of Ed's life shows a man who acted as if he didn't have a care in the world.

Ed didn't just embrace life, he leapt at it: Whether it was on the slopes, or during a quiet moment holding his brother's baby, Ed Schiller seemed to be a guy with a million friends - and no enemies.

Carl Schiller: Ed loved life.  He loved to-- it sounds like a cliché, but Ed loved to live.

Carl Schiller, Ed's younger brother.

Carl Schiller: Part of the-- the-- the real sadness of Ed's murder is that he was turning things around on so many different levels and I think reconciling with Stacey was-- was a part of that. 

When police at the crime scene checked Ed's cell phone, they saw the last number he dialed was Stacey's.   Two hours later, they showed up at her door.

Josh Mankiewicz: What'd you think when you saw them?

Stacey Rock: It's kind of a blur, but they told me that Ed had been shot.  And I'm like, "No, you know, he can't be dead." I wish they had killed me instead. 

In that dark, dingy parking garage detectives could find no eyewitnesses - no obvious motives.   No fingerprints, no DNA. And no gun. There was one bullet casing outside the car.   Eventually police dug out a 9mm slug that passed through Ed and lodged in the car door. 

Now investigators dug through Ed's past.

Josh Mankiewicz: Ed Schiller wasn't a guy with enemies.

Duke Donoghue: Not that we discovered, no.                   

So investigators looked closer to home - at both Ed and Stacey's family circles. Stacey was just getting out of an unhappy marriage and had three kids.  Her divorce from her husband of ten years, Jim Brescia, was almost finalized when she and Ed got together again.    

Detectives asked Stacey if Jim Brescia could have had anything to do with Ed's murder.     

Stacey Rock:  I couldn't let myself think that Jim had anything to do with it. 

When Stacey finally talked to Jim Brescia later that day, he said something that sent a chill up her spine.

Stacey Rock: I think I asked him if he had killed -- my love or Ed. All I remember him saying is, "What, am I supposed to cry?" 

But police checked Jim Brescia's alibi--and it was rock solid. He was at work, far from the murder scene.  And all of that sent police back to square one. Who killed Stacey's love? Who killed a likeable and fun loving guy, someone who didn't seem to have any enemies?

Ed Schiller lay dead in his Nissan Maxima in a parking garage off a busy street in Newton, Mass. Just two weeks before the murder, Newton, an affluent suburb of Boston, had been named the "Safest city in America" for the second year in a row. There wouldn't be a third.

The question in Newton that day was who killed Ed Schiller-- and why.       

His brother, Carl:

Carl Schiller: He wasn't really afraid of-- of anybody.

Just minutes before the murder, Ed's cell phone showed he had spoken with his high school sweetheart, Stacey Rock. The two had started seeing each other again after a breakup that lasted ten years. During that time, Stacey had married, had three kids, but was now all-but-divorced.    

Recently, she had been quietly hoping their love affair would finally take them to this chapel near the historic Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. It was a postcard from the Wayside Inn that Stacey sent Ed that set in motion their rekindled love. On the back of the postcard were two words, "White Flag," the title of their song.

Stacey Rock: If you listen to the words, it's "I know I cause too much destruction.  I don't expect you to come back to me. But, I just want you to know that I'm gonna die loving you. "  

The postcard was Stacey's way of apologizing to Ed for their bad break up seven years earlier.  The Wayside was their place where they took long walks near the inn's scenic water mill, and later found refuge together in room number 9 at the top of the stairs.  

Stacey Rock: I wasn't trying to get him to come back to me. I just had to let him know my feelings for him and-- and where I was and how I got there.

Judging by her high school yearbook dedication, Stacey always thought the place she would be was in Ed's arms, and not in a marriage that wasn't working.     

Stacey Rock: It was my senior quote and I said, "Ed, you are my world."

Josh Mankiewicz: How did you not marry him?

Stacey Rock: Because as good as we were together, we didn't have it together.

Josh Mankiewicz: You guys were just too young?

Stacey Rock: Yep.

And so Ed went off to college. They drifted apart.   

When he returned to Boston, the two moved in together.  But that didn't last.  Stacey wanted more than Ed was prepared to give.

Stacey Rock: I always thought that I was supposed to be married and have children before I was 25 and he wasn't ready.  Ed was-- free spirit.

And while working as a bartender at a country club Stacey met Jim Brescia, a man nine years older. He was engaging, and he had a career-- a good paying job at the defense technology giant, Raytheon.

Stacey Rock: I thought maybe he would be more mature and ready to settle down, I guess. 

Two months after they started dating, Stacey was pregnant.

Josh Mankiewicz: Were you upset, or did you think, "This is what I wanted"?

Stacey Rock: Oh, no, I was ecstatic.

Josh Mankiewicz: Even though you weren't married to Jim?

Stacey Rock: I think he was stunned. He was very happy also.

But it wasn't long after the baby arrived that Stacey learned more about Jim - she describes him as a task master who, didn't appreciate her, and was hardly ever home.   

He was controlling, she said, and selfish, and worst of all, he wasn't Ed Schiller. But in the end, Stacey agreed to get more deeply involved with Jim. She wanted a man who came complete with a commitment.

Stacey Rock: I tried to love him. I just felt like I-- he didn't love me.  If I could just get him to love me, I could love him. 

Josh Mankiewicz: So this was somehow your fault?

Stacey Rock: Yeah.  And-- and honestly, Iloved my baby so much. That i wanted more, i wanted a family.

Their wedding --ironically-- was at the Wayside Inn chapel - the romantic spot where she and Ed had spent so much time.

Stacey Rock: I was still trying to pretend-- trying to make him Ed, I guess, in a way.

Josh Mankiewicz: Because the wayside inn was your place with Ed?

Stacey Rock: Absolutely. I regret that-- using that place. Um, I hated my wedding, by the way. 

Josh Mankiewicz: How long after that wedding did you realize you were with the wrong guy?

Stacey Rock: I knew I was with the wrong guy before I even got married.

But get married she did. Seven years and three kids later...Stacey was desperate to get away from Jim.

Josh Mankiewicz: What persuaded you that your marriage to Jim was finally over?

Stacey Rock: I was going crazy mentally.  I felt like, struck with fear constantly.  And I was tired of feeling inadequate, and-- unloved.

It was the fall of 2005. Stacy had filed for divorce before but Jim talked her out of it. This time, there would be no going back. While waiting for the divorce to be finalized, Stacey got a court order to get Jim Brescia out of the house.  She started spending more time with Ed.  And Jim hated that.

Stacey Rock: He didn't want anybody else around me or the kids.  He felt that ed was helping me, keeping me strong, which he was.

After learning about the bad divorce, Detective Duke Donoghue thought a chat with Jim Brescia was in order even though Brescia had been --probably-- at work at around the time of Ed's murder.     

When the investigator asked Brescia if he could talk to him, Brescia wanted to know why. 

Jim Brescia: I told him there had been a shooting this morning in Newton.

Josh Mankiewicz: Did he say, "And who got shot?"

Duke Donoghue: He did not. He said, "I had nothing to do with it."

Josh Mankiewicz: That had to strike you as suspicious.

Duke Donoghue: I would say so. Sure.

Donoghue had more questions to ask...but first he had some digging to do.

Josh Mankiewicz: You went through his trash?

Duke Donoghue: We did.

It looked as if the murder of Ed Schiller might be wrapped up in a series of relationships involving Schiller, his high school sweetheart, Stacey Rock and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Jim Brescia.      

But was it? So far, the pieces were not adding up to a love triangle murder.

Josh Mankiewicz: All kinds of things are saying, "You should be looking at Jim Brescia."  And yet, Jim Brescia's got an alibi.

A pretty good one.

Duke Donoghue: No question about it.

The morning of the murder, Brescia was at work at Raytheon, more than 20 miles away from the scene of the crime.  For 23 years, he worked at the defense contractor where employees maintain government security clearances.    

Josh Mankiewicz: Doesn't sound to me like the guy behind a murder plot.

Duke Donoghue: From his coworkers, he was an intense family man. He loved his children. And that he was going through a divorce-- that he didn't want, and was trying to get back with his wife.

Jim Brescia was looking down the barrel of a divorce he didn't want, and a boyfriend he didn't want his wife --or his children-- involved with.     

Stacey Rock: He-- he hated-- Ed.

Josh Mankiewicz: And he made that pretty clear.

Stacey Rock: Yep.  Even to my kids.

Josh Mankiewicz: Did he ever threaten Ed to you?

Stacey Rock: Yes.

Josh Mankiewicz: What'd he say?

Stacey Rock: That if we ended up together, it wouldn't be good for his health.

Josh Mankiewicz: Did you believe him?

Stacey Rock: No. I just thought that was just another one of his ways of-- trying to scare me.

It seems that Ed Schiller himself realized Brescia's problems with him could come with a big price tag. Ed's brother, Carl:

Carl Schiller: He said to his neighbor, in fact-- that if-- if, you know-- "If i wind up with a bullet in my head, you'll know who did it." 

So there were suspicions, but no proof that Jim Brescia was involved in anything illegal. Duke Donoghue thought of another place to look.

Josh Mankiewicz: You went through his trash?

Duke Donoghue: We did. His alibi was holding up, that he was at work, and so forth.  So we, we decided to do a trash pull at Jim Brescia's home in Waltham.

Josh Mankiewicz: What's in Jim Brescia's trash?

Duke Donoghue: Well, a couple things of significance.  One was an empty binoculars box.  The second was a credit card receipt.

Brescia had used his credit card at ocean state job lot in Marlboro, Massachusetts. 

Maybe Duke Donoghue should have played the lottery that day. Because he turned out to be very lucky.

The store produced a list of every purchase Brescia made there with his credit card, and one thing leaped out.

Duke Donoghue: A prepaid calling card.

Josh Mankiewicz: A phone card.

Duke Donoghue: Yes.

Jim Brescia had a home phone, an office phone, a personal cell phone and a Raytheon issued cell phone.  So why would he need a prepaid calling card to make calls from a pay phone?

Duke Donoghue: That prepaid phone card made only five calls. And they were all to the same number.

The person on the other end was a man named Scott Foxworth. And he was a man with a past.

Duke Donoghue: Scott Foxworth had actually done time for-- a homicide many years ago.

Foxworth had just been released from prison, on probation after killing a man in a bar fight. Foxworth had used a gun to win that fight and was sent away for four years. And police soon found something else: a suspicious car employees noticed in the parking garage the morning of Ed's murder.

Duke Donoghue:  It was described as a red or maroon-- kind of an older model - that was in the garage, backed into a spot across from where-- Ed Schiller was later parked.

Police checked. Jim Brescia did not own a red car.

Josh Mankiewicz: What kind of car does Scott Foxworth drive?

Duke Donoghue: Scott Foxworth drives a red Ford Taurus.

Donoghue subpoenaed Foxworth's phone records.

Duke Donoghue: In reviewing those records, that phone, on the morning of the homicide, called Jim Brescia's desk phone at Raytheon. That phone also called another coworker at Raytheon.  And that was Nancy Campbell.

Nancy Campbell.   A 25-year employee at Raytheon. A friend of Jim Brescia's. And a former girlfriend of Scott Foxworth.  Was she the link between these two men?  

Police questioned Foxworth.  They asked why he and Brescia had talked so often. And Foxworth said the calls were about matters of love, not murder.

Duke Donoghue: Jim was going to assist Scott potentially getting back with Nancy Campbell.

Josh Mankiewicz: So the ostensible reason that Jim Brescia's using a prepaid phone card to surreptitiously call a cell phone is because he's playing matchmaker.  Did you believe that? 

Duke Donoghue: That may be a hard one. 

Brescia, Foxworth and now Campbell knew police were looking at them as possible suspects.   

Duke Donoghue: A decision was made that-- we could do a wiretap, which would give us the ability to listen to the conversations-- that potentially Nancy Campbell or Scott Foxworth or Jim Brescia were engaging in.

Josh Mankiewicz: And how did they react?

Duke Donoghue: Silence.

Josh Mankiewicz: So this is like Sherlock Holmes, the dog not barking.

Duke Donoghue: Correct.

Donoghue thought the weak link in the chain was Nancy Campbell, a single mother. After four interviews and the threat of a murder conspiracy rap hanging over her, Nancy Campbell cracked.

Duke Donoghue: Ultimately-- she told us everything she knew about Scott Foxworth assisting Jim in maybe roughing up or sending Ed Schiller a message.  

Nancy Campbell gave up the goods: this was a murder for hire plot. The price on Ed Schiller's head? $10,000.                      

Three months after the murder, Jim Brescia, and the man police say he'd hired as a hit man Scott Foxworth were facing charges of first degree murder.  But this was not going to be a slam dunk case.

Juror: Look at the evidence, it's circumstantial. There's calls, but there's no hard evidence.

Court clerk: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. Court is in session.

Jim Brescia went on trial first. Scott Foxworth would be tried separately. Prosecutors say Brescia had hired Foxworth to kill Ed Schiller. And the motive?  With Schiller out of the way, Brescia might get his wife back.

Prosecutor Adrienne Lynch: James Brescia refused to accept that his marriage to Stacey Brescia was over, and he refused to accept that those problems had nothing to do with Edward Schiller.

But would jurors buy the rest of the case from Middlesex County Prosecutor Adrienne Lynch? It would hang on the testimony of two women in Brescia's life, his co-worker, Nancy Campbell and his ex-wife, Stacey.

On the witness stand, Stacey would have to confront the man she says brought so much grief to her life.

As she testified, Brescia looked on with a poker face. 

Prosecutor Adrienne Lynch: In 2005, was there a particular reason that you decided to go forward with the divorce?

Stacey Rock: I just couldn't do it anymore.  I felt dead inside.

Stacey said she had wanted a divorce even before she and Ed reconnected, but that once she started seeing Ed, Jim Brescia became obsessed with that new relationship, even having them followed by a private eye.

And finally, Stacey said, the obsession morphed into a threat.

Stacey Rock: I remember him saying, if we ended up together it wouldn't be good for his health. And -- I said, even if you think of doing something silly or stupid think of your kids.

Then during the Christmas holidays Stacey said she made a mistake that she would live to regret.

Prosecutor Adrienne Lynch: Now-- during the course of the holidays, what, if anything, did Mr. Brescia do or stay?  Where did he stay?

Stacey Rock: He ended up staying at-- my house for a while.

It's still hard for Stacey to explain.

Stacey Rock: He played me again, by telling me, you know, he wasn't gonna go anywhere for Christmas--guilting me out.  And the kids kind of wanted him around.

JoshMankiewicz: Clearly, the message Jim got from that was that maybe things could still work out.

Stacey Rock: But I never once said that I wasn't gonna go through with the divorce.  I'm ashamed of that because I had cheated on ed and not loved jim.

JoshMankiewicz: Even though you were married to Jim at the time.

Stacey Rock: I did not want to be with him. I don't expect anybody to understand what I can't understand.  But I love Ed.

And Stacey testified that when she made that clear to Brescia, he was devastated. Ed was hurt too, and on January 12th, she had dinner with Ed to apologize.  It was the night before the murder.

ProsecutorLynch: And after you saw Edward Schiller in the parking lot that evening, did you ever see him alive again?

Stacey Rock: No. (crying)

Prosecutors had talked about motive, now it was time to talk about the money trail.

On October 14th, 2005 Jim Brescia cashed a four-thousand dollar IRS refund check at his mother's bank...

Prosecutors said it was a down payment to the hitman, Scott Foxworth.    

The next day Foxworth's bank account showed some unusual activity.

Sergeant Donoghue: Scott Foxworth deposited $1,000 in cash into this account.

Female attorney: Immediately prior to Mr. Foxworth's deposit, what was the balance in-- of that account?

Sergeant Donoghue: $8.50.

ProsecutorLynch: The next witness would be Stella Brescia.

Prosecutors wanted Brescia's 87-year-old mother, Stella, who went to the bank that day with her son, to testify about what happened to the $4000 IRS refund. 

She arrived in court wanting to help Jim Brescia, her testimony may have done just the opposite.

Jay Carney: What did he do with the $4000?

Stella Brescia: He gave it to me and he put it in an envelope marked "IRS."

Jay Carney: Tell the members of the jury, please, where that money and the envelope was put.

Stella Brescia:I put the envelope in a strong box that I have.

She says the cash never left the strongbox and that was October, 2005, three months before the murder.

Jay Carney: And what's inside the envelope?

Stella Brescia:$4000. 

If that was true Brescia couldn't have used it to pay Foxworth.   Prosecutors quickly asked for a recess.  

Duke Donoghue checked the forty $100 bills.

Checking the date the bills were printed, donoghue saw they were all printed prior to 2005...the year the check was cashed.

Except for one of them.    

Prosecutor Lynch:

One of the bills was signed by a man who had not been yet appointed secretary of the treasury as of the time that she said she put it in the box.

That crisp hundred was issued in 2006, one year after Stella says she put the money in her strongbox. 

Was she lying, or had her son used some of the money without telling her.  Either way it was a disaster for Brescia.

Jurors would now hear from the state's star witness, Nancy Campbell.

Prosecutors say Nancy Campbell was the one who put Brescia and Foxworth together.   Did she know she was helping set up a hit?   Could she have saved Ed Schiller's life by calling police.  Whatever her responsibility might have been, she would pay no legal price for it.  Nancy Campbell testified for the prosecution under full immunity.

JoshMankiewicz: Nancy Campbell: Ed Schiller's blood's not on her hands?

Duke Donoghue: You could make that case.That the phone call could have or should have been made.  

Why would this divorced mother of two risk it all to be a go between for a jilted husband and an ex-con?    

In court, she said she wanted nothing to do with it when Brescia first approached her.

NancyCampbell: He said that he wanted me to call Scott.  And I said that I wouldn't.  If he wanted to talk to him, he could have his number.

Prosecutors gave the jury evidence of more than 60 phone calls from pay phones between Brescia and Foxworth.

On at least two occasions, Campbell said she saw Brescia call Foxworth from a pay phone. 

NancyCampbell: I asked why he was calling on his-- on the payphone.  And he said it couldn't be traced, and he just said he wanted Scott to beat up somebody. I assumed it was Ed.

Campbell said Brescia and Foxworth together tracked down where Ed lived and worked, and the plan changed from roughing up Ed to something more sinister.

NancyCampbell: A beating wasn't enough. They could point the finger back at him. And if he was dead, then they couldn't.

On Friday, January 13, Campbell's phone rang. It was Jim Brescia.

NancyCampbell: He had just said that something bad happened, and I said, "What do you mean, and he just kept sayin', "Something bad happened."

Shortly after came a bizarre call from Scott Foxworth.

NancyCampbell:  And he said to me, "Well, I hope he didn't hire someone else to take care of Ed." And I said, "What are you talking about?" And he said, "well, you know how he's been talkin' to me, but I keep tellin' him, "I'm not doin' that."

Foxworth and Brescia were pointing fingers at each other - or maybe they were trying to confuse the one person who knew of their plot.

After two weeks of testimony from 69 witnesses and more than 200 exhibits, this circumstantial case seemed to have some teeth in it.   

AdrienneLynch: Your honor, with that, the commonwealth rests its case.

But Jim Brescia was about to bite back.

The defense had been hammered during the prosecution's case, but Jay Carney, one of Boston's most experienced defense attorneys was ready. He set his sights on the key to the state's case, Nancy Campbell.  If Carney could get jurors to question her testimony and her motives, then his client James Brescia, might have a chance.

Jay Carney (opening argument): You would need to find that Nancy Campbell is a believable witness. To ever find the defendant guilty.

Campbell testified under a grant of immunity that she was the go between for Brescia and her ex-boyfriend, Scott Foxworth, a convicted killer, in this murder for hire plot.    

JoshMankiewicz: You think that the story she's telling's not the real story?

Jay Carney: I think Nancy Campbell was forced to tell a story that would support the government's case. 

As proof of this theory, he reminded Campbell that what she initially told police completely changed as she faced the threat of being charged as an accessory to murder.                        

Jay Carney: The police asked you directly whether Jim Brescia ever said he wanted Ed Schiller killed--

Nancy Campbell: Yes.

Jay Carney: --or dead?  And isn't it true that you said to the police, "no, not to me"?

Nancy Campbell: Yes.

Campbell testified that it wasn't until her fourth interview in April, three months after the murder, that she finally told the truth.

When it came time to cross examine Brescia's ex-wife, Stacey, the defense wanted jurors to understand that her testimony was motivated by revenge to get back at her husband.

Jay Carney: and it would also be fair to say that you hate Jim Brescia to your core.

Stacey Rock: Uh, no.  I can't hate him.  'Cause that would consume my life, and that's what killed Ed.

Carney also wanted jurors to believe that Stacey was thinking about reconciling with Brescia when she allowed him to stay at her home during the Christmas holidays. 

If there was going to be a reconciliation, Carney reasoned, Brescia would have no reason to order a hit on Ed Schiller.    

Jay Carney: I think Stacey engaged in a lot of revisionist history at the trial, trying to justify her conduct.

Carney's cross-examination was difficult for Stacy.

Stacey Rock: I sat up there and I did my best.  And I told the truth. 

Josh Mankiewicz: And you weren't scared anymore?

Stacey Rock: I-- I swear Ed was with me.

When it came time for the defense to call its witnesses, there would be only one... And that would be Jim Brescia himself.

Brescia started out by testifying he was not obsessed with Ed Schiller, because Stacey had started divorce proceedings well before Ed was ever back in the picture.

Jay Carney: Did you ever during the entire time that you were married to Stacey ever tell her that if she and Ed got together it would be bad for his health?

Jim Brescia: No.

Jay Carney: Did you ever tell your wife that if something bad happened to ed it wouldn't be you?

Jim Brescia: No.  That's ridiculous.  No. 

Brescia did admit being upset when Schiller was with Stacey and around his children and he said he told that to Scott Foxworth.

Jim Brescia: I told him that-- like-- like you know, wouldn't bother me if I saw the kid get beat up or something. 

Attorney: And what did you suggest to Mr. Foxworth that Mr. Foxworth could do?

Jim Brescia: I just asked him if he wanted to engage.

Engage, a benign word for paying to get Foxworth's ex-con hands on Ed Schiller to rough him up and frighten him away from Stacey.

Brescia testified Foxworth wanted $2,000 for that little piece of dirty work and Brescia said when he balked, Foxworth said he'd take $1,000 up front and another thousand if Ed Schiller stopped seeing Stacey.  Brescia agreed.

Jay Carney: What was the most that Scott Foxworth was gonna do with Ed Schiller in sending him a message?

Jim Brescia: He was gonna threaten him. He might beat him if it came to that.  But that was it.

Finally, Brescia testified that Nancy Campbell lied when she said he had ordered a hit.

Jay Carney: At any time in your life did you ever tell Nancy Campbell that you had hired Scott Foxworth to kill Edward Schiller?

Jim Brescia: No.  Never.

Engage, that's all Brescia wanted, he said.  But by the holidays when Foxworth still hadn't "engaged" Ed, Brescia said he wanted his thousand dollars back.

Jay Carney: And what did he say?

Jim Brescia: He s-- told me to just be patient.

Jay Carney: What else did you tell him, if anything, besides that you wanted the money back?

Jim Brescia: Just that, you know, things were goin' well with the family and, you know, didn't appear that I needed to do anything like that anymore.

As evidence, Carney asked Brescia to read a letter he'd given Stacey after the holidays.

Jim Brescia:I love you Stacey, I really do...I just wish every day could be the same as the last. In spending the time together that we did just reinforced in me just how strong our emotions and feelings for each other really can be.

On Jan. 13, Brescia testified he got the shock of his life when he learned Ed Schiller had been murdered.  And he called Foxworth - again from a payphone.

Jim Brescia: I told him that-- you know, the police had confronted me and-- he said, "Well, at least your problem's taken care of now." I said, "what do-- what do you mean?"  He said, "Well, the problem's been taken care of now.  You should give me the other $1,000."

Jay Carney: What was your attitude in talking to him?

Jim Brescia: I was out of my mind. I was mad. I said, "I told you I wanted my money back.  I didn't wanna do anything like this." I said, "You know, I didn't ask you to kill anybody."  And he told me if I didn't pay the money that-- same thing'd end up happenin' to me.

And so Jim Brescia testified he later gave Foxworth another $1,000.

Jay Carney: I think it's possible that people can get caught up in thinking that life is a bit like a Tv program. Or dealing with the sopranos or something like that.  I suspect that Jim Brescia had a little bit of a thrill dealing with a person like Scott Foxworth for a while.  But when he realized how foolish that was, he tried to undo it.  Regrettably, tragically, he was unable to.

Plenty of TV shows, don't deliver this much drama, what happened next was a twist no one saw coming.

Jim Brescia's defense was that he admitted making the phone call.  Admitted hiring scott Foxworth.  But says that he only to beat up Ed Schiller, not to kill him.  Brescia says Foxworth went ahead and did that on his own.  Then during cross examination in this courtroom either something happened to Jim Brescia or it didn't.  You be the judge.

Jim Brescia: I just got a really bad headache, I'm having a hard time, I’m sorry.

When jurors began deliberations, there was much to consider...not the least of which was Jim Brescia's performance on the witness stand.

Nancy Campbell: What bothered me the most is we want killers to look like killers and not like normal people.

Once the door to the jury room was closed the six man, six woman jury was overwhelmed by the decision ahead.

Steve: A couple people actually broke down. 

It was intense, but it was also brief...after only five hours, jurors sent out a note: They had reached a verdict. Ed Schiller's family huddled together in the front row. But when jurors walked into the courtroom, they were puzzled by the absence of one man:  Jim Brescia.

Josh Mankiewicz: You guys go out to deliberate, you come back, the defendant's gone.  What'd you guys think?

Steve: He escaped.  (laughter)

Josh Mankiewicz: Did you wonder when you came back?

Janet: Oh, yes.

Nancy: Never-- never saw that happen before.

Rich: We-- we were shocked. I was shocked. 

Where was Jim Brescia? For the answer to that question, you have to go back to what happened the day before when Brescia was still on the stand.

Prosecutor Lynch: Were you afraid to do it yourself?

JimBrescia: Afraid of what?

Prosecutor Lynch: You wanted to get somebody else to do your dirty work for you, right?

JimBrescia: No.

During his first day of testimony, Brescia seemed fine, but when he came back for a second day of cross-examination, Brescia appeared disoriented at times -

JimBrescia: I am confused, I don't know exactly what you're asking.

-not recalling what he had said only 24 hours earlier.

Prosecutor Lynch: So the answer to the question, did you meet Scott Foxworth prior to him going away to prison in 2002 is yes? Right?

JimBrescia: I'm sorry, Adrienne, I'm sorry I got a headache.

Prosecutor Lynch: Excuse me?

JimBrescia: I'm sorry, I just got a really bad headache, I'm having a hard time, I'm sorry, yes, she had introduced her to me... him to me that day, yes.

Prosecutor Lynch: Did you call me by my first name? (annoyed)

JimBrescia: I said I have a headache...I just have a headache.

Brescia's attorney Jay Carney knew something was wrong. 

JayCarney: Mentally, I was saying, "Jim, answer this question. You testified to it yesterday. And his response instead was:  He didn't understand the question or he didn't remember what he had said before. 

In fact, the day of the verdict, Brescia was not in court because he was at a hospital undergoing tests where doctors determined he had suffered a minor stroke.  Prosecutors say that even if true, it was a minor event against the backdrop of the entire trial.     

Josh Mankiewicz: So you don't take the fact that he called you by your first name as evidence that maybe he was suffering some mental impairment at that time?

Prosecutor Lynch: No. It actually is my name. He wasn't calling me the Queen of England. 

Regardless of where Brescia was and what his diagnosis would be, the judge ruled a verdict would still be read in court with or without him.

Judge: As to indictment charging the defendant James Brescia with murder: What say you, jurors, is the defendant guilty or not guilty?

Jury Foreman: Guilty of the offenses charged.

Carl Schiller hugged his mother and father who had listened to every brutal fact throughout the trial. Outside the courthouse, defense attorney Jay Carney said this verdict would not be the final word.

JayCarney: A person who suffers a stroke while he is in the middle of testifying in his own trial is - would not be able to have a fair trial.

Stacey Rock, however, had her own diagnosis.

Stacey Rock: That's a joke.  Joke stroke. It was his last ditch effort to try to get away with it.  And now he thinks he's gonna win the appeal and he won't.

Three days later, Brescia was out of the hospital and back in court where under Massachusetts law, his conviction brought a mandatory life sentence. Brescia's attorneys say they will appeal based on his stroke.

One year later, Scott Foxworth would be convicted of first degree murder and like Brescia also sentenced to life in prison. As for Stacey Rock, her sentence will be life without Ed, her true love. 

She often thinks about what the years ahead could have been...the walks around the water mill, the carefree days at the Wayside Inn.

Josh Mankiewicz: I know you blame yourself but I don't think Ed would blame you.

Stacey Rock: He knows that if I had known, I would've done something. I would die for him.

Josh Mankiewicz: what's the lesson here?

Stacey Rock: I think I was very lucky to have him, and some people never get that ever. I have to live for him now and make the most of every day. 

In their Room Number 9 hideaway, there is a tradition of couples leaving love notes in a secret compartment in the dresser. And somewhere in here, buried among all the others, are the notes passed between two sweethearts who thought they finally had all the time in the world.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints

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