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Video: Unsolved Case Squad

NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Josh Mankiewicz Correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/15/2010 5:37:25 PM ET 2010-06-15T21:37:25

This report aired Dateline Friday, June 18.

Known as the Gold Coast, it's one of the safest and most affluent places in the country. And between the cities of Ventura and Santa Barbara, lies a beautiful stretch of golden coastline, so perfect that campers routinely line it, drawn by the water and the glorious sunsets.

And nearby, nestled next to the Pacific, is an exclusive colony – a gated community – called Faria Beach. 

SCOTT HUSTED: It's a very safe area. It defies logic why this would have happened there.

Just steps from the ocean, in this home, lived the Husted family: Brock, Davina, and their two children, ages 11 and 9.

JOHN HUSTED: They loved it. That was his dream home when he moved there.

SCOTT HUSTED: They lived at the beach. It was a very active family.

JOHN HUSTED: They were taking some surfing classes, and summertime was coming up, and they were getting ready to do that and excited about that.

Since their marriage in 1995, the Husted family's fortunes had risen with Brock's business. For the past decade, he had owned Couture Concepts, a Santa Barbara wrought-iron design shop. With only about a dozen employees, its reputation was built on Brock's hand-drawn designs and handshake deals – a small business with big customers. Husted turned out wrought-iron gates for high-end clients like Oprah and Mel Gibson.

Three days a week, Davina Husted sat at a desk just a few steps away from her husband, keeping the company books. A local beauty turned Miss California pageant contestant, she was active in volunteer work and with her kids. And, in person, she was radiant.

JOHN HUSTED: Davina just had a way about her. When she walked in, she just had a glow about her that people would actually look at her, and draw their attention to her.

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The Husteds lived the good life. They owned a second home a few miles up the beach where they kept their boat. They enjoyed ski vacations, charity fundraisers, season tickets for the L.A. Lakers…

But they were outgrowing this beachfront paradise. Davina was pregnant again. Their third child was due in the fall, a boy they would name Grant. They'd recently listed the home on Faria Beach. The price? $3.2 million.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: Would you say your brother and Davina were rich?

SCOTT HUSTED: Of course, they were rich by virtue of the type of people that they are and the love they had for each other. They were well off.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: Did they wear that on their sleeve?

SCOTT HUSTED: I think my brother owned one wristwatch. He had one set of golf clubs. He bought his cars used.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ:  So this was not a couple that was sort of dripping with wealth that anybody walking by them could see?

BOTH: No.

SCOTT HUSTED: They were people that lived at the beach and they lived like people that lived at the beach.

But in the early morning hours of May 21, 2009, word came that something had happened in that perfect life at the beach.

JOHN HUSTED: I received a call a little after four in the morning. You wake up from a dead sleep, you're not too sure what's going on… and they asked who I was, and if this was John Husted, and I said yes. And that's when they proceeded to tell me that unfortunately your brother Brock and sister-in-law Davina were murdered earlier that evening. And you just go numb.

What police told the family was that, sometime around 10 p.m., a man in a motorcycle helmet had burst into the Husted home and, just minutes later, Brock and Davina lay dead on the floor of their bedroom.

Thankfully, their two young children were not hurt. Escaping after the attack through a bathroom window…and alerting a neighbor, who called 9-1-1.

SCOTT HUSTED: I'm grateful to God that those children are okay...

JOSH MANKIEWICZ:  It's gotta be very tough to take.

SCOTT HUSTED: There's so much sadness about this that there's not much room for anger. It just sucks the emotion out of you.

The murders in this magnificent oceanfront enclave hit the airwaves all over southern California. The people who lived in and around Faria Beach were in shock, scared that a killer could return.

KNBC: Everybody seems to be worried that, I don't know what the cause is, I mean as far as whether it was a random deal or targeted one… It's one of those things, no matter where you go something could happen, too… Just feel horrible for the kids, and this will leave its mark up here for a long time.”

Ventura County authorities sought to calm public jitters.

KNBC: If you're going to leave your doors open late at night, I mean, that may be something you want to consider not doing because it could happen anywhere.

What had happened to Brock and Davina Husted? Who could have killed this mother and father who seemed to have it all?  And why?

SCOTT HUSTED:
There's no obvious reason why this family would have drawn a killer to them at 10:30 in the evening, while they're watching “American Idol.”

On this stunning stretch of California's Gold Coast, a family's multi-million-dollar dream home lay bloodstained and empty. Brock and Davina Husted were dead. Their unborn son – a boy they'd planned to name Grant – died with them.

Two other children, aged 11 and 9, survived the attack unharmed, but were now without parents.

SCOTT HUSTED: It’s not that you're looking for any sort of justification. But you are looking for justice.

Brock's brothers Scott and John Husted sat down with Dateline just a month after the murders. They were leading the family's effort to find out who committed the murders – and why.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ:  I’m sure you'd rather prefer this crime to be solved as opposed to not solved. But it’s not like that turns back the clock.

JOHN HUSTED: No.

SCOTT HUSTED: I think there's still a person out there that walked into a family's home in the middle of the evening in an environment that should for all other reasons be safe, and that person is still out there walking around, and other families are subject to that until that person is taken off the street.

Ventura County Sheriff's detectives went to work searching inside the Faria Beach colony. Many homes here in Faria Beach are unoccupied second homes. So if burglary was the motive, the man in the motorcycle helmet could've found literally dozens of empty homes to ransack. But the killer did not. In fact, very early on authorities on announced that it appeared that the murders of Brock and Davina Husted were no random act.

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO, VENTURA COUNTRY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT: We have a few home invasion robberies in this county – very rarely do those turn into homicides.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ:  Anything else that doesn't fit with that random theory?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: There wasn't signs of ransacking. There wasn't, you know, a sign of a huge struggle in terms of stuff thrown all over the room, or anything like that.

And as investigators attempted to reconstruct the events surrounding the murders, they had a powerful witness: the Husteds' 9-year old son, who'd seen nearly everything – except the actual killing.

The boy told detectives he was watching “American Idol” in the living room, his mother just steps away in the kitchen, when a man carrying a gun burst in from the oceanfront deck through these unlocked double doors.

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: He didn't even have to open a screen or sliding thing, he walked right in, wearing a black motorcycle helmet, dark jumpsuit. Something took place between the suspect and Davina.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ:  Meaning that they knew each other?  Or she's saying to him, "Get the hell out of here"?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: There's nothing that the boy told us that made us believe that – that she knew him. 

Sources close to the investigation tell Dateline that Brock Husted came into the kitchen and living area when he heard his wife scream. Later, he told his son to get his money clip – sources say Brock routinely carried up to a thousand dollars in cash in that clip.

Then, the boy told police he saw the killer's gun on the floor in the hallway, so at some point, for reasons that are still not clear, the killer ended up with a knife, the eventual murder weapon, apparently taken from the Husted's kitchen.

And from there, investigators say, the killer and the couple all ended up just a few yards away in the master bedroom.

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: Either he forced her, or she ran back to a room, where ultimately Brock and Davina were stabbed to death. The bodies were y'know, almost side by side.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ:  The murder weapon was not a knife that the killer brought in with him.  It was something he found in the house.

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: The murder weapon was a knife that we have. That's officially what i can tell you.

In addition to the knife, which was found, sources say, on the bed, another important clue: after killing Brock and Davina, the man in the motorcycle helmet ran back out the door and stumbled over this vase, breaking it. Then, he fell onto this hot tub, leaving some trace of his crime – blood, or other DNA evidence.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ:  You brought in search dogs?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: Right.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ:  The dogs picked up a scent from the house up to the highway?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: Right. Right.

Suggesting that the killer did not leave by the closest escape routes – in one direction, the open, deserted beach; in the other, the nearby Faria Beach state park campground – but instead, most likely, he made his escape by running back around the house, crossing the street, making his way through a shadowy vacant lot, and then leaving from the highway.

Backing that up? Authorities found witnesses who heard two motorcycles leaving about that time. But why would a person, or persons, want to kill Brock and Davina Husted? That is still a mystery.

The murders of Brock and Davina Husted in their multi-million-dollar beach front home had sent waves of panic ashore on California's Gold Coast. And the motive seemed a mystery.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: It's conceivable that somebody just walks by, sees a nice area, thinks, “I’m gonna try to find an unlocked house,” does it, and then something goes wrong and everything goes sideways?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: We still have all those doors open as a possibility. Or we're gonna find something in their past that leads us to a killer, which would not support that theory.

Whatever happened, one thing was clear to his brothers: Brock died protecting what he held most dear, his children and his wife.

SCOTT HUSTED: My brother came to her rescue like any man would, to his wife that was in distress. Two loving parents did what they needed to do to help their children and help each other. And it ended up that both of them lost their lives.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: They died protecting each other and their kids?

SCOTT HUSTED: That's the way it looks.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: Did Brock ever express any concern about security and living at the beach?

JOHN HUSTED: Never! Never at all. His back door was open, the doors were unlocked…

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: I gotta ask this – how was their marriage?

SCOTT HUSTED: Their marriage was good. I never once saw them have an argument in all the years that I knew them together.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: Davina was very attractive. She never mentioned somebody was following her, or that somebody was pestering her, anything like that?

SCOTT HUSTED: They never expressed any concern about any sort of stalker…no concerns.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: And they would've told you about that? That's not the kind OF thing they would've kept to themselves?

JOHN HUSTED: No doubt in my mind. He would've said something and he never did.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: And they didn't owe anybody any substantial amount of money?

SCOTT HUSTED: They didn't owe anybody any money!

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: There's always the possibility that there's secrets in people's lives that are not readily apparent. And that's our job, not to find those and publicize them, but to see if that can help solve a murder

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: You think you're looking for one guy?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: Well, in terms of who entered the house and who did the killing, yes. Whether there's somebody behind it, we don't know.

Sheriff's investigators quickly raised the prospect of a professional “hit.” But if it was a hit of some kind, why kill the parents, but leave the children? After all, they were possible witnesses.

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: There's a good chance the suspect didn't believe that he could be identified by the kids.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: And that's why he left them alive?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: I think that's a strong possibility.

But it turned out that the big surprise in this investigation – if the Husteds were targeted by their killer – was who detectives believe that target might have been.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: If the plan was not to rob them, but to kill them, who was the primary target?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: That's what's kind of intriguing. I can't get into the –how many stab wounds each victim had.  But…

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: One of them received a lot more than the other?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: Yeah. And Davina, it sure seems to me like there's a lot of violence perpetrated against her that really makes you shake your head. You would suspect that it was either someone who had some extreme anger, or was hired by somebody to make a statement.

Brock and Davina Husted had been dead for just six weeks when Dateline's Unsolved Case Squad came together to look at the facts.

NBC News’ Consultants Dwayne Stanton: Retired homicide detective from Washington D.C., investigated Chandra Levy's murder.

Yolanda McClary: Crime scene investigator in Las Vegas and a model for the character on the hit series “CSI.”

And Alan Jackson: Prosecutor in Los Angeles. Put legendary record producer Phil Spector behind bars for murder.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: Investigators have thrown out a bunch of different theories, from planned, organized, deliberate murder, to random robbery that somehow went sideways. What do you guys think?

ALAN JACKSON: There's two different ways to look at this. A crime of opportunity: a burglar sees the lights on and goes and hits the house, finds the – the couple at home and decides-- "I gotta take them out.” Or a planned victimization: things get out of control, they end up dead.

DWAYNE STANTON: I just don't believe that someone was casually walking down the beach through all of these huge rocks and looks over and sees a light on in a house and says, "Oh, let me go over here and commit a burglary.” That just...that doesn't make sense to me.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: So, this was somebody who, for whatever reason, wanted to go to the Husted home in particular?

ALAN JACKSON: They had business to do with the Husteds, no question.

DWAYNE STANTON: I agree 100 percent

ALAN JACKSON: Yeah, it – it just doesn't make sense otherwise. Someone would have to park outside the gate, hop a fence, make their way down an empty lot into the front of the house, and then around to the back of the house. That doesn't suggest to me – easy pickin’s.  What it does suggest to me is that the person that walked in that back door knew that they were gonna confront Brock and Davina.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: What does it tell you that Davina was stabbed more times than her husband?

YOLANDA MCCLARY: You have to remember, she's a mother. She's got two children in this house. She's going to fight to the end to defend them if nothing else! So the fact that she has more wounds isn't real surprising to me.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: What about the idea that this was someone who maybe hadn't killed before?

DWAYNE STANTON: It's possible.

JOSH MANKIEWICZ: So, this guy walks in calmly, but he runs out after committing these two murders?
                        
ALAN JACKSON: right.  That suggests – again – that this is not necessarily a highly polished, professional –
                 
DWAYNE STANTON: No.
  
JOSH MANKIEWICZ: I mean, not takin' the knife with you also sort of suggests a sort of – a rookie criminal.
  
ALAN JACKSON: Bungling, bumbling idiot.

YOLAND MCCLARY: Well yes – he's nervous. At this point, who wouldn't be? So, he runs over that, trips over– over the hot tub.  And now, some of the critical points come into play.  How many profiles, hopefully, can we get on that DNA?

DWAYNE STANTON: How many people show up, drop their intended weapon – whatever they're gonna do with it – end up using another weapon…

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: Which they then leave there.
  
DWAYNE STANTON: Which they leave there.
  
YOLAND MCCLARY: Which they leave there.
  
DWAYNE STANTON: You trip coming outta the door.
  
JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: If this guy is a hired hit man, he's not worth the money?
  
DWAYNE STANTON: Should–shouldn't be paid a lotta money.
  
YOLAND MCCLARY: No. Not at all.

Our team did not agree on everything. Was the killer a pro or an amateur? Was he there to send a message? And was the killer someone the couple knew? Investigators were asking many of the same questions. But before detectives could get far in their investigation…

Two weeks to the day after Brock and Davina Husted were murdered came word of another killing.

A killing with striking similarities: nine miles down the coast from Faria Beach, in another neighborhood, known as Ventura Keys. The victim? Wendy Di Rodio, a licensed therapist with a PhD. in psychology. She'd been stabbed to death in the home where she was living temporarily with her elderly parents after Wendy's bitter divorce. She was killed just two days after her birthday. Wendy was 61.

KNBC: It’s pretty unusual where you have two stabbing deaths and you have a lot of common elements.

Two bloody murders in just two weeks had Ventura's law enforcement answering some tough questions.

SGT JACK RICHARDS, VENTURA PD: We're not calling it a serial killing whatsoever at this point. As far as we know it could be a number of different things.

RICK HARMON, FRIEND OF DI RODIO’S: Who in the world would wanna hurt a woman like her? That's the question of the century…it doesn't make any sense.

Three murders in two weeks had many people wondering what was going on in Ventura County. Brock and Davina Husted, and Wendy Di Rodio, all stabbed to death in the privacy of their own homes.

Wendy's friends Rick Harmon, Sylvia Sykes, and John Dickson were stunned by her death.

JOHN DICKSON: I just couldn't believe that someone that's so sweet and nice could have such evil around her.

“Sweet” was how everyone described Wendy. The love of her life seemed to be swing dancing. She taught lessons at twice-weekly gatherings like these, and had just bought a house in Santa Barbara to become even closer to the swing dance community there.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: Tell me about Wendy and dancing.

SYLVIA SYKES: What I enjoyed about her approach was no matter who she was dancing with, if they were a beginner or if they were really an advanced dancer, she treated 'em equally. It wasn't a put-on thing, where I’m supposed to pretend like this  is cool. That she really felt a joy in just connecting with somebody and dancing with them whatever the experience was…

Sources close to the investigation tell Dateline that Wendy Di Rodio went to bed sometime after 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2.  Her elderly mother didn't become concerned until the next afternoon, when Wendy's bedroom door remained closed.

That's when her mother entered Wendy's locked bedroom to find her daughter's body on the bed with multiple stab wounds. Wendy Di Rodio had probably been murdered in the middle of the night.

Detectives investigating the Di Rodio murder found no sign of sexual assault or forced entry. Nothing obvious was missing from Wendy's bedroom. And neighbors didn't hear anything suspicious, except for perhaps a little more barking than usual from Wendy's two small dogs.

Investigators for the Ventura Police Department quickly called in detectives from the Sheriff's Department to check out similarities with the Husted murders two weeks earlier.

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: Wow. You have a female victim, late night, multiple stab wounds – what are we dealing with here? Are we dealing with a night stalker scenario? A homicidal maniac on the loose now in the community?

And the biggest surprise in the Wendy Di Rodio murder investigation came when a key detail emerged. Who owned a second home, a rental property, just blocks away from where Wendy was murdered? Who kept their boat moored perhaps 400 feet away from the crime scene, just down the block from the home where Wendy was killed? The answer: Brock and Davina Husted.

KNBC: It’s not enough right now that we can say that this is the same suspect, but it's an open door. We're still workin' on it.

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: It was eerie. I mean, you could throw a rock from Di Rodio's house to the Husted’s boat!

In fact, this photo you've already seen of the Husteds in formal wear for a charity event was taken right here at that second home near Wendy Di Rodio's, where the Husteds kept their boat, in Ventura Keys.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: That's a helluva coincidence!

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: I know. It's…exactly what you said. But what do you do with that?

Did Wendy DiRodio know either Brock or Davina Husted? The answer seems to be no. But did they have friends in common? Did they spend time at the same places? Investigators were trying to answer those questions and more.

Detectives did find leads in Wendy Di Rodio's personal and professional life. In the 1990s, while working as a therapist, she had been forced to take out a restraining order against a former patient who'd reportedly stalked Di Rodio – a suspect quickly investigated and then, we're told, ruled out.

And with no obvious motive of burglary or a sexual assault, detectives had to consider that Wendy Di Rodio may have been killed by someone she knew, rather than – as the early rumor around town had it – by a killer who was randomly picking his victims.

JOHN DICKSON: I thought at some point it was maybe someone she'd dated, had a jealous ex-girlfriend or some jealous woman, maybe, y'know?

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: Was she the kind of woman who attracted a lot of attention from men?

SYLVIA SYKES: She was a very attractive woman. She was very smart, so she probably was very attractive to some men and also pretty scary to a lot of others.

In fact, Wendy had a particular type of guy she was attracted to: younger, handsome…and if you wanted to date Wendy, it helped if you were from Brazil.

And Ventura Police almost immediately went looking for a younger Brazilian man whom Wendy had dated in the months before her death. He'd worked as a caregiver to Wendy's parents, so he had intimate knowledge of their home. 

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: You met him?

RICK HARMON: He seemed to be pleasant. He'd crack jokes. He'd smile, and he came to dance, after dance, after dance with her. And all of a sudden he wasn't showing up. So I said, “Where's Mr. Brazil?” And she said “Gone.” I said, “You wanna talk about it?” And she said, “No.” So I said “Okay.”

Sources tell Dateline that, in the weeks before the murder, the man Wendy's friends called “Mr. Brazil” was trying to patch things up with Wendy, leading to suspicions that he might have been involved. But now, sources say, he's been ruled out as a suspect.

RICK HARMON: I know she would talk about going out with this guy, or that guy. And it never seemed to work. And she always wondered why. I remember one time she said, “What is it I have to learn here?”

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: Y’know, what's the answer to what she had to learn? What was she doing wrong?

RICK HARMON: I don’t know. I really don't know.

Paradoxically, the divorced, no-longer-practicing couples’ therapist who couldn't find the right relationship for herself had written a book for the lovelorn, called “Relationships Illuminated: Choosing Your Way to Love.” Wendy had hired a publicist, and was starting a website.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: Sounds like an odd book to write by someone who admits that they weren't very good at relationships!

RICK HARMON: Well, after she had it published, I told her I wanted a copy and she says, “I’ll give you the book,” and she wrote something in it for me. And she was talking about relationships and not finding a happy one… I said, “I have a book for you to read,” and held it up for her. And she just laughed.

But in the weeks before her death, things were actually looking up. She was ready to move to Santa Barbara. And, she'd met a new man from Brazil online at a site called LiveMocha.com, where she was learning Brazilian Portugese. They were already talking marriage.

SYLVIA SYKES: She seemed nothing but kind of up about the book, and the house, and learning Portuguese, and dancing. It seemed to me that she felt like she was on an “up” cycle instead of like a down cycle.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: This was someone who had a lot to look forward to?

SYLVIA SYKES: Yes, absolutely.

Three murders within two weeks and inside of ten miles: What was the connection? Or was there even a link at all?

In Ventura County, California, an uneasy undertow had clutched at residents as the summer sun appeared.

In late May 2009, Brock and Davina Husted had been stabbed to death in their multi-million dollar home on Faria Beach.

Two weeks later, author and therapist Wendy Di Rodio had been stabbed to death at this home she shared with her elderly parents, which was, oddly, just blocks away from another home owned by the Husteds and the slip where the Husteds moored their boat.

Investigators were working leads.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: So you're proceeding with the possibility, but not the assumption, that they're connected?

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: Yeah, I think that's accurate.

Now, our Unsolved Case Squad – a prosecutor, detective, and criminalist – had three murders to deal with.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ:  Let's talk a little about Wendy's murder. No sign of burglary. No sign of sexual assault. What does that tell you, guys?

ALAN JACKSON: This was a crime of passion. They weren't there to steal. They weren't there to rape. They weren't there to ransack the house.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: This was someone she knew?

ALAN JACKSON: This was someone she knew and someone who –wanted her dead, specifically.
  
JOSH MANCKIEWICZ:  Do you think that person entered Wendy's house that night knowing that they were gonna commit a murder?

ALAN JACKSON: All the suggestions lead that direction/

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: Apparently, she liked guys from Brazil. She belonged to a couple of different websites where you can meet Brazilian men.
  
ALAN JACKSON: And of course, anytime the idea of cruising the internet comes up, you have to follow up–
  
DWAYNE STANTON: It's – it’s dangerous.
  
ALAN JACKSON: –on every single one of those people.
  
DWAYNE STANTON: And you don't know who you're meeting.  At all.
  
ALAN JACKSON: Yeah, you have no clue. I mean, these are, ostensibly, these folks are strangers. It's important for the investigators to follow up on every single one of those people.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: Obviously there are a lot of signs that suggest a similarity at least between Wendy's murder and the Husted's murders. Both happened at night. Both involved somebody entering a home after dark. Both of 'em committed with a knife and both of 'em pretty close to each other geographically on a long stretch of beach. What's the likelihood that those two murders are connected?

ALAN JACKSON: There's nothing to suggest that this was a serial killing, nothing at all.
  
OTHERS: Nothing at all.
  
ALAN JACKSON: I think everybody would agree.
  
VOICES: Absolutely. No.

DWAYNE STANTON: The location? One heckuva coincidence but…

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ:  You don't think they're related?

DWAYNE  STANTON: I don't think they're related.

YOLANDA MCCLARY: The only connection is the knife. And you have to remember – in our first one, that wasn't what he brought to use. He brought a gun. The knife inadvertently got used. So, if we take that out of the equation, they really have nothing in common

So if Wendy Di Rodio was most likely killed by someone she knew...

And if her murder was not related, except by geography and timing, to the murders of Brock and Davina Husted…

Then who killed Brock and Davina? Who was the man in the motorcycle helmet who carried a gun into the Husted's beach home on that May evening in 2009, lost control of his weapon, and then killed Brock and Davina in a knife fight while their children cowered behind a closed door just a few feet away?

If he wasn't connected to the Di Rodio killing, then who was he? And what brought him to that beach house at exactly the right time, with the door open and no one there to protect them? With their defenses down, at the end of a long day?

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ:  Based on what we know about the Husted murders, what can you tell us about that killer?
  
DWAYNE STANTON: Not a professional.
  
ALAN JACKSON: No. Not a professional. He's probably under the age of 40. We know a little bit about what he looked like. He's got dark complexion.  He's got blue or green eyes.
  
YOLANDA MCCLARY: Possibly rides a motorcycle.
  
DWAYNE STANTON: Maybe.
  
ALAN JACKSON: Probably.
  
JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: Probably owns a gun.
  
ALAN JACKSON: More than likely he's – got a criminal history. This is probably not his first rodeo, as they say. Somebody with a connection to the seedier side of Ventura County, this person was not from San Francisco. This person was not from Los Angeles or San Diego.  This is a local person, somebody who's familiar with the area. 
  
DWAYNE STANTON: But I think he's a– nervous type of person.  I mean, he dropped the gun.  He– he–
  
YOLANDA MCCLARY: He never had–
  
DWAYNE STANTON: Tripped– tripped and fell–
  
YOLANDA MCCLARY: –control over the–
  
ALAN JACKSON: If he's not nervous, he's inept.
  
YOLANDA MCCLARY: Right.  Right.
  
ALAN JACKSON: Right.

And, it turned out, the Unsolved Case Squad was correct. As our team suspected, the murders apparently were unrelated. Months after our squad members gathered to discuss the killings, there was a stunning and sudden break in one of the investigations...

The victims were gone...but the mystery wore on. Months after the murders of Brock and Davina Husted in their beachfront home, and the death of Wendy Di Rodio in this Ventura Keys home she shared with her parents, investigators were pursuing separate leads, but had made no arrests.

Tests were underway on physical evidence found at the crime scenes, including that blood, and other DNA evidence left by the killer on the deck and hot tub cover at the Husted home.

SCOTT HUSTED:  I'm never gonna accept that it won't ever be solved. At some point in time, somebody, something, will solve this. It may take time to solve it. It may take more time than I have to solve it. But I will never accept that it won't be solved

And then – nearly a year after the murders – came the break investigators and the Husted family had been looking for.

SHERIFF BROOKS: I’m here to announce that, after 10 months of exhaustive investigation, an arrest has been made in what was one of the most tragic multiple homicides in the history of Ventura County.

In April 2010, the Ventura County Sheriff announced a suspect was finally in custody.

Just as our team members predicted…

ALAN JACKSON: This is a local person, somebody who's familiar with the area.

...the suspect – 20-year-old Joshua Graham Packer – was from Ventura.

And the former football player at Ventura High, now an unemployed security guard, again was captured just as our team guessed…

YOLAND MCCLARY: How many profiles, hopefully, can we get on that DNA?

…due to DNA left behind, not only on the body of Brock Husted, but also reportedly on a visor from a motorcycle helmet left at the scene and on the back deck of the house where the killer tripped and fell while fleeing the murders.

Detectives also tied Packer to the crime after finding in his possession items stolen from the Husted home.

Packer was charged with three counts of murder for the deaths of Brock, Davina, and their unborn son. He's not yet entered a plea, and could face the death penalty.

Detectives got their big break after Packer was charged with robbing this gas station in Santa Barbara. He had to give a DNA sample, thanks to a change in California law requiring samples to be collected after a felony arrest – rather than after a conviction.

Packer's DNA was then entered into a database, which spit out the match that broke the Husted case.

CAPTAIN ROSS BONFIGLIO: This was solved purely on a DNA database hit, so I do not believe he would be in custody at this point without that law being changed.

Authorities say Packer does not appear to know the Husted family or anyone connected to them, but they are still investigating why he chose that house and whether the Husteds were targeted specifically.

The motive? Still unknown.

SHERIFF BOB BROOKS: These kinds of cases, where you have no obvious link between the suspect and the victim, and no obvious murderer, are the most difficult kinds of cases to work.

Packer was also arrested on drug possession charges just a week before being picked up for murder. In addition, Ventura Police say he's a suspect in at least more four armed robberies.

Brock's brother Scott says that, with Packer behind bars, the family can now breathe easier.

SCOTT HUSTED:  I tell you there's just so much sadness in our heart. Someone said, “Well, aren't you angry?” I can't get angry, I’m just so sad. I'm just so sad. It doesn't matter who, there was never gonna be a reason, we never believed this, that there was going to be a reason that made sense. This doesn't make sense.

But, while detectives believe one high-profile murder has been solved, another killer remains on the loose.

Wendy DiRodio's family and friends are still waiting for answers

SYLVIA SYKES: If there was something going on, she wasn't sharing that with anybody that I know of. And it's sort of like a page from somebody else's script got accidentally inserted into her life.

And writing an ending to that script is the reason we convened a team of veteran investigators, who've together worked hundreds of homicides, to bring their experience to bear on these perplexing killings.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: To the extent we can, let's profile Wendy's killer. Probably a man?

ALL: Probably a man.

ALAN JACKSON: It’s hard to kill somebody with a knife.

DWAYNE STANTON: You need strength.

YOLANDA MCCARLY: I’m thinking maybe younger since a knife was involved not a gun.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: And no forced entry, suggesting she let the person in.

DWAYNE STANTON: Exactly.

ALAN JACKSON: Or the person had a key!

YOLANDA MCCARLY: Absolutely.

JOSH MANCKIEWICZ: You hear her friends talk about Wendy, and they talk about this wonderful vivacious woman. Loved to dance. And everyone loved her…except that the person she let into her house?

DWAYNE STANTON: Clearly right. That took her life. And her killer may have really loved her. We just don't know. It’s unfortunate, but people who love people kill them sometimes.

Two murder cases: one police say they've solved, while the other remains as baffling as it is brutal. Murdered, in her own home, in the dead of night.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Explainer: Unsolved Case Squad: The Gold Coast Killings

  • Three murders on beautiful beach-front property in California — all within 10 miles of each other, all in less than two weeks. Why are these people with supposedly picture-perfect lives being killed?

  • The Husted murders

    Why were Brock and Davina Husted stabbed to death in their home?

  • Brock and Davina Husted

    "Davina just had a way about her... When she walked in, she just had a glow about her that people would actually look at her and draw their attention to her," said John Husted, Brock's brother.

  • A house on the beach

    Scott Husted, Brock's brother, remarked, "It's a very safe area...It defies logic why this would have happened there."

  • Back patio at the Husted's home

    "I just don't believe that someone was casually walking down the beach through all of these huge rocks and looks over and sees a light on in a house and says, "Oh, let me go over here and commit a burglary. That just doesn't make sense to me," said Dwayne Stanton, a member of the Unsolved Case Squad and a retired homicide detective.

  • The Husted's boat

    "It was eerie. I mean, you could throw a rock from Di Rodio's house to the Husted's boat!" said Captain Ross Bonfiglio, of the Ventura County Sheriff's Dept.

  • The interior of the house

    Brock and Davina's son told detectives that he was watching "American Idol" in the living room, his mother just steps away in the kitchen, when a man carrying a gun burst in from the oceanfront deck through these unlocked double doors.

  • Outside the Husted's house

    The killer did not leave by the closest escape routs — in one direction, the open, deserted beach; in the other, the nearby Faria Beach state park campground — but instead, most likely, he made his escape by running back around the house, crossing the street, making his way through a shadowy vacant lot, and then leaving from the highway.

  • The Husted's home

    The murders of Brock and Davina Husted in their multi-million-dollar beachfront home sent waves of panic ashore on California's Gold Coast. And the motive seemed a mystery.

  • Looking inside the Husted home

    "Someone would have to park outside the gate, hop a fence, make their way down an empty lot into the front of the house, and then around to the back of the house. That doesn't suggest to me – easy pickin’s. What it does suggest to me is that the person that walked in that back door knew that they were gonna confront Brock and Davina," said Alan Jackson, a member of the Unsolved Case Squad and a prosecutor in Los Angeles.

  • The crime scene at the Husted's house

    Was the killer a pro or an amateur? Was he there to send a message? And was the killer someone the couple knew?

  • The Di Rodio murder

    Why was Wendy Di Rodio stabbed to death in her home?

  • Wendy Di Rodio's house

    Three murders in two weeks had many people wondering what was going on in Ventura County. Brock and Davina Husted, and Wendy Di Rodio, all stabbed to death in the privacy of their own homes.

  • Wendy Di Rodio

    "I just couldn't believe that someone that's so sweet and nice could have such evil around her," said John Dickson, a friend of Wendy's.

  • Wendy loved swing dancing

    "What I enjoyed about her approach was no matter who she was dancing with, if they were a beginer, or if they were not very skilled or if they were really an advanced dancer, she treated 'em equally," recalled Sylvia Sykes, one of Wendy's friends.

  • Wendy with a friend

    "Who in the world would wanna hurt a woman like her? That's the question of the century. It doesn't make any sense," said Rick Harmon, one of Wendy's friends.

  • Di Rodio's home

    The biggest surprise in the Wendy Di Rodio murder investigation came when a key detail emerged. Who owned a second home, a rental property, just blocks away from where Wendy was murdered? Who kept their boat moored perhaps 400 feet away from the crime scene, just down the block from the home where Wendy was killed? The answer: Brock and Davina Husted.

  • The crime scene

    Detectives investigating the Di Rodio murder found no sign of sexual assault or forced entry. Nothing obvious was missing from Wendy's bedroom. And neighbors didn't hear anything suspicious, except for perhaps a little more barking than usual from Wendy's two small dogs.

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