This report airs Dateline NBC Monday, July 12, 10 p.m. The full video will be available Tuesday, noon ET.
The first thing you have to know about Melissa Mooney is that she was punctual to a fault. Larry Bonney was her boss.
Larry Bonney: I’m telling you, if she was a minute late, she called up.
Josh Mankiewicz: She was somebody you could count on.
Larry Bonney: Absolutely. Worked hard all day and if she had to stay late, it was not a problem.
It was August 6th, 1999, a muggy summer morning in Wilmington, North Carolina. That was the day Melissa was five minutes late. Her co-workers were surprised. Where was their office manager? After all, they’d come in early to help her move into a new house. The first home she’d ever owned.
Bonney: She was really excited about this. I mean, this was a real big event in her life.
It was a real big event for a reason. And this is the second thing you have to know about Melissa Mooney—she had a 4-year-old daughter named Samantha, whom she adored. Melissa was moving to the house on reminisce road to give “Sammy” a big bedroom and a backyard. Debbie was Melissa’s older sister.
Josh Mankiewicz: What was she like around Sammy?
Debbie Galade: They were best friends. And they were always on the same page. It was pretty neat.
And she clearly had a strong bond with her colleagues at work. So when 15 minutes went by on that August morning without a call from Melissa, everyone was taken aback. “Where was she”?
Josh Mankiewicz: Worried?
- Craig Strickland's Widow on Their Last Conversation: 'He Walked Out the Door, Looked at Me and Said, "I Love You"'
- Joe Jonas Packs on PDA with Former Top Model Contestant Jessica Serfaty
- White House Responds to Petition to Pardon Making a Murderer Subjects Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey
- Family of Sandy Hook Victim Commends Florida Atlantic University for Firing Professor Who Questioned Massacre
- Kylie Jenner's Lip Kit Is Ruining Lives (According to the Internet, Anyway)
Larry Bonney: Yes.
Josh Mankiewicz: Even after only 15 minutes?
Larry Bonney: She didn’t want to take too much of our time. She wanted to get it done early.
They called her numbers. No answer. So her co-worker, Paul Cox, drove to Melissa’s new house in a brand-new subdivision. Her car was in the driveway. Then Cox saw her front door.
Paul Cox: There is a noticeable footprint, clearly in a dirt pattern on the door.
Josh Mankiewicz: Like somebody kicked the door?Video: Mystery on Reminisce Road (on this page)
Paul Cox: Exactly.
Cox called Melissa’s number again. He could hear her phone ringing inside the house. No answer. And no sign of her. By now Cox was concerned, and he called Larry Bonney.
Larry Bonney: And he said, “Hey, I’m here. We got a problem.”
It looked bad and Bonney knew it. He told Cox to go inside.
Paul Cox: I was calling her name and calling Sammy’s name too. And as I get to the back bedroom, at that point I see her on the floor.
Melissa’s naked body was in the far corner lying by a bare mattress.
Josh Mankiewicz: Could you tell how she’d been killed?
Cox: At that point, no.
Shocked, Cox backed out of the house, back through the jumble of a move in progress. Police video captured the scene. Cox was still calling Sammy’s name though they’d soon find out that Sammy was safe, staying elsewhere during the move.
Josh Mankiewicz: No one else in the house?
Paul Cox: No one else in the house at that point.
Josh Mankiewicz: Looked like there’d been a fight?
Paul Cox: I did notice there was a photo on the floor that was shattered.
Outside, Cox worked the phones. Talked to the New Hanover county sheriff’s office. And the State Bureau of Investigation.
Paul Cox: Initially, you’re just kind of on automatic pilot.
The toughest call of all was to his boss.
Larry Bonney: And said “She’s here. She’s dead.”
It was a heartbreaking loss. Their beloved office manager gone at the age of 28 -- just like that. For Bonney, it was especially hard.
Josh Mankiewicz: You had almost maybe paternal feelings about her.
Larry Bonney: I did, I did. So yeah that hurts.
Everyone in the office was hurting. Craig Ackley, another colleague.
ACKLEY: We were in a small office. We felt like a family. And it was a family member.
But not just any family. Because—and this is the third thing you have to know about Melissa Mooney -- she was the office manager for the FBI in Wilmington. Paul Cox and Craig Ackley were special agents and Larry Bonney was agent in charge. On this August morning, the bureau had lost one of its own.
Josh Mankiewicz: You guys are both trained professionals. I’m guessing however that finding the body of somebody that you knew and worked with and cared about made this a little bit different.
Craig Ackley: We watched out for each other. So we felt those emotions as well as the emotions you feel as an investigator on the case.
Paul Cox: This is, you know, the first homicide where I actually knew the victim.
With the New Hanover County Sheriff’s office in charge and the state bureau of investigation joining in, Melissa’s colleagues began to put their feelings aside and work the case.
Larry Bonney: We had a tremendous amount of work to do in a very short period of time.
That day, Bonney and his agents made it their mission to hunt down Melissa’s killer.
Larry Bonney: And to find em quick and get em into the justice system.
Melissa’s boss couldn’t know it then, but an arrest would take years. By the time it finally happened, Larry Bonney would be retired. The killer’s identity would surprise everyone. And investigators would track that person for years, playing a bizarre game of cat and mouse. But on that hot August morning, Larry Bonney knew only this: there was a fresh crime scene to work. And he quickly realized Melissa’s killer was both strong—and angry.
Larry Bonney: She was half on the mattress and half on the floor, kinda over in the far corner of the room.
Josh Mankiewicz: So this is a violent sudden attack?
Bonney: Absolutely. And she was tough. I mean, she woulda fought. So somebody really overpowered her.
What on earth had happened at 3108 Reminisce Road? They would learn that Melissa—seen on this store security tape—had been running errands hours before the murder. Around 10 pm she made a call—her last one. She was strangled between 11 pm and 4 am. That day, as crime scene investigators descended, Cox and Ackley canvassed the neighborhood.
Ackley: I told Paul, I said “There’s a man that’s home at a residence down the street, because I saw him washin’ his truck. So let’s start there.”
They did. And took notes. Did he see anything? Hear anything?
Josh Mankiewicz: Tell me about that interview.
ACKLEY: He stated he had never seen her, hadn’t spoken to her, had never been in the home.
The agents moved on. At the crime scene, Larry Bonney already had a gut feeling about the killer.
Josh Mankiewicz: What are your first thoughts as that investigation began?
In Pennsylvania, Melissa’s parents came to the same conclusion.
June Galade: I thought Roger.
Josh Mankiewicz: Right away?
June: Right away.
Roger Mooney, Melissa’s ex-husband. A Marine with a temper. The father of her daughter. And this is the fourth thing you have to know about Melissa Mooney—her family says she was terrified of him.
June Galade: She said “Mom, he’s gonna do me in. I know.”
It was August 1999. FBI office manager Melissa Mooney had been found dead in her home in a Wilmington, North Carolina suburb, and her FBI colleagues were looking for answers. But Melissa’s family, stunned and grieving, thought they had this mystery solved.
Debbie Galade: The first thing I said is “Where’s Roger?
Melissa’s boss shared their suspicions. But why? What was it about Roger Mooney? The answer is wrapped in the details of the couple’s 5-year marriage. Because to know Roger, you first have to know Melissa.
As a girl from the Pennsylvania coal country, Melissa was quiet, a reader. But older sister Debbie says she was no push-over.
Debbie Galade: Mostly growing up, it always seemed to be me and my brother against her—I don’t know, I guess she could hold her own.
Stubborn, Melissa was and quite capable of keeping a secret. Like the bombshell she dropped at home when she graduated from high school at 17.
Debbie Galade: I didn’t even know about it—
Fred Galade: We didn’t know.
Debbie Galade: -- till after she passed the test. I didn’t even know she was taking the test.
June Galade: None of us knew.
Melissa had taken—and passed—the entrance exam for a clerical job at the FBI. All on the QT.
Josh Mankiewicz: And she said, “I want to go to Washington and I want to work for the FBI?”
June Galade: Yeah.Video: Mystery on Reminisce Road, Part 2
Debbie Galade: I mean she’s never been to Washington. But she was moving there.
She did well at the FBI . She also learned to have fun in the city. And that worried her big sister.
Debbie Galade: Missy was like a magnet for just the wrong guys, definitely the wrong guys.
Josh Mankiewicz: The wrong ones as in?
Debbie Galade: Argumentative you know.
Melissa’s family first heard the name Roger Mooney in 1994. He was a Marine, working in Washington. At first the two were just roomates. Then, suddenly, they were way more than that.
June Galade: And then she called me and told me “We’re going out together.” And the next time she called me, she tells me she’s gonna get married. Well then she found out she was pregnant.
Josh Mankiewicz: Is that why she got married?
June Galade: Yeah, yeah.
They got married in late ‘94. A civil ceremony in their living room—Roger had been married before. And the Galades weren’t happy about any of it. They still hadn’t even met their new son-in-law.
Josh Mankiewicz: I’m guessing this was not the guy you had always dreamed of marrying your daughter?
June Galade: Oh no. No.
And once Melissa’s parents finally did meet Roger, they didn’t like the way he treated their daughter.
Fred Galade: It was like “Well you’re gonna have my kid. And you’re gonna be barefoot and pregnant for the rest of our marriage.”
Samantha was born on July 4th, 1995. And for a while, her family says, life was good. But then Roger received the transfer he coveted: to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. It was 1996. The Mooney family was on the move.
FRED GALADE: She was happy to be in North Carolina. She liked the area. She liked the people.
Melissa landed a job at the FBI’s office in Wilmington about an hour’s drive from Camp Lejeune. And under Larry Bonney, she flourished. But if things were going well at the office, they were falling apart at home. Her new boss would hear Melissa arguing on the phone with Roger—often about who would care for young Sammy.
Larry Bonney: Sammy was kind of a ping-pong ball between the two of them, who was gonna be responsible when.
Josh Mankiewicz: Not a happy marriage?
Larry Bonney: Not a happy marriage. She didn’t take any guff from him and he didn’t take much guff from her.
Then one day, Melissa arrived for work with a bruise on her face. Her boss asked for an explanation. Melissa said she and Roger had been arguing.
Josh Mankiewicz: Tell me about that.
Larry Bonney: She said, “I was not letting him out of that room until I was done with him. “ And he came up and moved me aside so he could leave the room.” And she said “I fell against the door.”
It sounded like the kind of story battered women routinely tell to explain their injuries. But Bonney says Melissa convinced him that was the extent of it. She did admit she wanted to end the marriage. And Bonney ---unusually protective of his young employee—found her an apartment close to the office. He also had a warning for Roger.
Larry Bonney: I wanted him to understand that she was that close to the office to where we all lived and she had our numbers.
The divorce went through in April 1999. But the two were still battling over child support. Melissa wanted more money from Roger and went to court to get it. She asked her boss to accompany her. Melissa’s mom says her daughter called home around that time—and told her that she was terrified of what Roger might do.
June Galade: He told her, “You’re never gonna see a penny of my money, never.” And he stormed out of there. And she was deathly afraid.
Within days, Melissa Mooney was dead. And her ex-husband was everyone’s favorite suspect. It seemed an open and shut case. But as everyone would learn, it was not.
When Melissa Mooney was murdered near Wilmington, North Carolina in August 1999, the obvious suspect was her ex-husband Roger, a Marine based at nearby Camp Lejeune. Larry Bonney was Melissa’s boss at the FBI.
Larry Bonney: I called up one of my agents. I tell him to pull Roger in and start talking to him which he did.
Melissa’s FBI colleagues knew she’d had a troubled relationship with her ex. And agents would soon hear about a chilling prediction Melissa had made to a girlfriend. “If I’m killed,” she said, “Roger did it”.
Josh Mankiewicz: What does Roger say when he’s told “We found your ex-wife and she’s dead”?
Larry Bonney: Shocked and surprised.
But investigators knew that didn’t mean he was innocent.
Larry Bonney: You know somebody has all night to think about “Somebody’s gonna come and talk to me ‘cause I’m the husband and we had a contentious relationship”. He’s got time to come up with a story.
When Roger Mooney was questioned that first day, the FBI says he cooperated. But he was angry. Said he didn’t know a thing about it. His alibi? He said he was at home, near the base, about 70 miles away. His roommate left for work around 10 pm and Roger says he went to bed shortly after, his daughter Sammy asleep beside him. And as for Melissa’s new house? Roger said he’d never been there.
Josh Mankiewicz: I’m guessing that interrogation is not terribly friendly.Video: Mystery on Reminisce Road, Part 3
Larry Bonney: It was not. And there was no question in his mind that he was the target.
Roger Mooney may have been the primary target, but he wasn’t the only one. Investigators would look at other men in Melissa’s life. At least one was married—with reason to hide an affair. Each was scrutinized and then ruled out. Investigators looked at anyone with a possible motive. But they found—nothing. Roger Mooney stayed at the top of the FBI’s list. They had to either make a case against him or rule him out.
Craig Ackley: His abrasive personality, his anger issues and everything else surrounding Roger Mooney and a relationship with his ex-wife made him a suspect.
Josh Mankiewicz: Just because you have a contentious relationship with someone doesn’t mean that when they do turn up dead that you killed them?
Craig Ackley: Absolutely. But what it will do is make you a suspect right away. And it did with Roger Mooney.
Roger’s car and home were searched exhaustively. His friends, family, past girlfriends, high school teachers—all questioned.
Craig Ackley: We literally turned Roger Mooney’s world upside down.
They talked to his Marine buddies and heard about something Roger had said at target practice.
Paul Cox: He made a statement, “Well, if I had put my wife’s picture up there, I’d shoot expert.”
Josh Mankiewicz: In other words “If I had a photo of my ex-wife to use for target practice I’d be better?”
Paul Cox: That was the gist of it.
Craig Ackley: That’s the context of the statement.
It was clear Melissa’s killer had been angry—and strong. Angry enough to kick in a door. Strong enough to overpower a woman using his bare hands.
Ben David: What we found significant about Melissa’s injuries is what we didn’t find. We didn’t find many defensive wounds. It’s as if she was rendered absolutely helpless by her attacker.
Ben David is the district attorney in North Carolina’s New Hanover county. His twin brother Jon is the assistant D.A. The Davids were not in office when Melissa was murdered, but they’ve spent years on the case.
Ben David: It was an intimate attack, strangling the life out of a nude woman in the bed of her own home.
But was it sexual? There was no DNA on her body. They kept looking and found a crime scene crammed with evidence, including dozens of hairs. That wasn’t surprising since Melissa’s new house had been on the market. Plenty of potential buyers had been through. But one person’s genetic signature stood out.
Jon David: Roger Mooney’s DNA, his semen was on the mattress. And his hair was also at our crime scene. And he claimed never to be at this house.
It was direct physical evidence which seemed to put Roger Mooney at the scene of the crime.
Josh Mankiewicz: He says to his friends, “I’d be better at target practice if my wife’s face was on the target.” She says to her friends, “If I ever get killed, it’s Roger.” He has an alibi, but it’s pretty far from iron clad. And a hair of his turns up in the house. And he never lived in that house. Aren’t there people on death row for less?
Ben David: There’s no question we have probable cause to arrest him on what you just described.
The theory was that after his room-mate left for work, Roger got in his car, drove the 70 miles to Melissa’s house, kicked in the door, killed her, then turned around and drove 70 miles home in time to get his daughter to the babysitter at 5:15 and himself to the Marine base shortly after. It was a lot of business in a very short time.
Back in Pennsylvania, Melissa’s family remained convinced Roger was the killer.
Debbie Galade: I thought she got in an argument with Roger. He kicked the door down and it just went really wrong.
Melissa’s family clung to assurances from the FBI that the case would be closed quickly.
June Galade: After the funeral, I thought he’d be arrested.
She was wrong—and so was the FBI—about nearly everything.
Investigators were under tremendous pressure to make an arrest in the Melissa Mooney case.
Ben David: We had a single mother, a member of the law enforcement family who was dead in her own home. And there were people who said, “It’s the ex-husband. You should be arresting him tonight.”
The case against Melissa’s ex-husband certainly seemed strong. And nobody knew that better than the ex-husband himself.
Roger Mooney: I understand how bad it looked for me.
Roger Mooney, a kid from California who’d always dreamed of joining the marines. By the summer of 1999, he was a staff sergeant at Camp Lejeune -- 29 years old and living his dream. But on August 6th, Roger received an urgent summons to the naval criminal investigation office at the base.
Roger Mooney: The agents broke it to me that Melissa was found dead. And then after a couple of minutes, accused me of killing Melissa.
Josh Mankiewicz: Just like that?
Roger Mooney: Just like that. You did it. You killed her. And you’re a liar.
A liar. And a logical suspect. Homicide investigators always start with the victim’s inner circle. Remember, Roger was the husband with the temper, who frightened his ex-wife, whom everyone suspected once Melissa’s body was found. And his DNA was at the crime scene.
Josh Mankiewicz: You see where this is all going?
Roger Mooney: That’s why I spent two to three years being investigated by it.Video: Mystery on Reminisce Road, Part 4
But logical suspect Roger mooney had his own set of facts, starting with this one—he insisted he didn’t kill Melissa.
Roger Mooney: The only thing I could rely on was the fact that I didn’t do it and eventually the truth would come out.
His truth: First, those marital arguments.
Roger Mooney: She had a temper. I had a temper. But it’s always easy to point to the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Marine guy as being the bad guy rather than the small quiet reserved girl.
Josh Mankiewicz: Did you ever hit her?
Roger Mooney: Nope.
Josh Mankiewicz: Never?
Roger Mooney: Never.
Josh Mankiewicz: Not once?
Roger Mooney: No. Not once put a hand on her. Why would I hit the one girl in the world that I actually loved? You don’t do that.
So how did she get that bruise on her cheek? An accident, he says, in the heat of a fight.
Roger: I was walking outta the house when she was so little she kinda got in my way to get out of the house. And basically we collided into each other and she hit the door frame. I felt horrible about that.
Josh Mankiewicz: Did you say to other Marines at target practice not long before Melissa died, my aim would be a lot better if that were my ex-wife’s face on the target?
Roger Mooney: It was a tasteless joke is what it was.
And her mother’s claim that Melissa was scared of him? And her friend’s story that if anything happened to her, it was Roger? He says the friend is unreliable. And as for Melissa’s family...
Roger Mooney: Her parents weren’t big fans of mine to say it nicely. And I think maybe Melissa may have said something and it was assumed to mean something else.
What about the angry comment that Melissa would never see a penny of the money she wanted for child support? Roger says there’s an innocent explanation.
Roger Mooney: What I said was “That’s more than I make. You’ll never see it because I don’t have it.”
In fact, he says, a satisfactory settlement was eventually reached. To hear Roger tell it, he and Melissa were the best of friends by the time she was killed, sharing custody of the daughter they both loved.
Roger Mooney: Melissa and I took care of each other and Melissa and I took care of Samantha.
That was Roger’s story and he stuck to it. And over time, one FBI agent began to think Roger might be telling the truth.
Larry Bonney: The other people in the room said “It’s Roger and we”re gonna prove it. I started saying, “It should be Roger, but I don’t think it is.
Josh Mankiewicz: There was no indication that Roger and Melissa were fighting or combative at that time?
Larry Bonney: None.
The provable facts began to bear out Bonney’s doubts. That bootprint on the door? Didn’t match Roger’s boots. And no one could find a scrap of evidence to prove Roger made that 140-mile drive to Melissa’s house and back the night of the murder.
Craig Ackley: We had agents canvas every possible route, pull every convenience store videotape, receipts during that time frame. It was a lotta manpower.
Josh Mankiewicz: No trace of Roger Mooney?
Paul Cox: No trace of Roger Mooney.
And even though they drove the routes again and again and knew it could be done, investigators began to realize that their theory of the murder didn’t hold up.
Larry Bonney: He’s gotta maintain that level of anger while he’s putting the child in the car seat, driving down that road at breakneck speed, kicks that door open, kills her, races back, takes Sammy out, puts her back to bed. Gets up, takes her over to the babysitter, and is at PT in the morning.
Would he have left Sammy behind, asleep in her bed? Unlikely, says Melissa’s boss.
Larry Bonney: One thing you gotta know about Roger. Roger was a good father. Roger was a responsible father.
But there was the matter of Roger Mooney’s DNA at the crime scene. The DNA on the mattress could be explained—it had once been the Mooney’s marital bed. But how could Roger’s hair be found in a house he said he’d never been to?
The answer could rest with their daughter Sammy who often stayed with her father. Roger’s hair could have ridden to the crime scene on Sammy’s belongings.
Craig Ackley: It was absolutely logical to find hairs from Roger Mooney in those possessions in the house somewhere.
And finally the issue of motive. Investigators eventually concluded that Roger mooney had every reason “not” to kill his ex-wife. Why? Because he was a dad. If Melissa were dead, his career in the marines would crash and burn.
Larry Bonney: If he doesn’t have a wife, he becomes a single parent. If he’s a single parent, he can’t be deployed. If he can’t be deployed, he can’t get promoted. That was the worst thing that could have happened to him right there.
And that’s what he says he’d tried to tell them.
Josh Mankiewicz: I don’t think you can blame the FBI for looking at you.
Roger Mooney: No. Not at all. I don’t resent bein’ investigated. What I resent is they were convinced it was me before they actually started looking at the evidence.
Two years after Melissa was murdered—after poking into every corner of Roger Mooney’s world—investigators were fairly certain of one thing—and one thing only.
Craig Ackley: We reached a point where we said, “Roger Mooney’s not our guy.”
But if Roger Mooney didn’t murder Melissa, then who did?
Two years had passed since Melissa Mooney’s murder. Investigators had ruled out ex-husband Roger and other possible suspects. Despite that, they were nowhere close to an arrest. But they weren’t about to give up.
Ben David, New Hanover County district attorney: Whoever did this had gotten away with murder.
So Melissa’s colleagues in the FBI started fresh again.
Craig Ackley: We literally re-launched a new investigation.
They brought in “new” investigators. Re-interviewed everyone they’d spoken with before...and immediately ran across someone unusual. FBI special agent Paul Cox.
Paul Cox: They described him in one word as “hinky”. They said “he’s hinky.” There’s something about this guy.
He was the very first person agents Cox and Ackley had spoken with the day Melissa’s body was found—the neighbor who’d been washing his car. He’d told them then he hadn’t seen anything suspicious that night. But when investigators returned to his home two years later, the man wasn’t cooperative.
Paul Cox: The agents advised that he didn’t wanna provide certain information about himself. His phone number, date of birth, things like that.
Ben David: We thought that was odd. That a man who had two children and a wife across the street from a woman who’d been murdered wasn’t trying to help us catch a killer in his neighborhood.
They learned the man’s name was Tyrone Delgado, a metal worker. Investigators started digging into his background.
He’d grown up in Louisiana, served three years in the U.S. Navy.
As home video shows, he’d become a family man.
Another home movie showed he was the kind of guy who’d hook a camera up to the TV—to admire himself.
Craig Ackley: He puts the music on, takes his shirt off, flexes his chest muscles and his arm muscles watching himself the entire time. And that’s Tyrone Delgado.
And agents learned Delgado was trained in martial arts.
Paul Cox: He’s very proud of how high he can kick and how strong he can kick.
Josh Mankiewicz: When you see that you gotta think of Melissa Mooney’s door.Video: Mystery on Reminisce Road, Part 5
Craig Ackley: Absolutely. It’s not easy to kick in a door.
But it was when they checked Delgado’s criminal record that investigators realized they’d missed something in the early days of the investigation.
Josh Mankiewicz: You’d already canvassed the neighborhood.
Larry Bonney: Uh-huh .
Josh Mankiewicz: Run everybody’s criminal record?
Larry Bonney: Did not run everybody’s criminal record. We interviewed hundreds of people. In retrospect, that probably would’ve been a good thing to do.
Had they run Delgado’s criminal record then, they would have learned he’d been charged with sexual assault in Louisiana in 1994. Those charges had been dismissed. But now Cox and Ackley got the police file. They listened to a taped interview of the alleged victim: a single mom named Lorriane Frew.
Frew: And the door flew open in my face.
What they heard on that audiotape was compelling, beginning with the way she says Delgado forced his way into her apartment around 2 am.
Frew: Tyrone grabbed me by the—my chest and my shirt.
Sixteen years later, Lorraine Frew says she can still see the look on Delgado's face.
Lorraine Frew: I knew he was gonna kill me that night.
He was, she says now, big and strong. And he’d been drinking.
Lorraine Frew: He tried to put his hand here and his hand here. And he went like that.
Josh Mankiewicz: Like he was trying to break your neck?
Lorraine Frew: Yeah.
She says he started choking her.
Lorraine Frew: I’m hitting him, I’m punching him and—and then all of a sudden, everything starts to go black.
She says she realized Delgado was enjoying the struggle. The power and the control.
Lorraine Frew: When he was choking me, he told me, he’s like, “Look at me. Look at me.”
The attack she says turned sexual. Finally, Lorraine managed to get away and went to police. Delgado was arrested and charged. But then Lorraine says, Delgado’s mother offered her two thousand dollars if she would agree to drop the charges.
Josh Mankiewicz: You took the money?
Lorraine: Yeah. But if I could go back, I wouldn’t have.
After the case was dismissed, Delgado moved to Morth Carolina. Five years later, Melissa Mooney was killed. She was strangled after an apparent sexual assault, after her attacker burst through her front door late at night. And at the time of the murder, tyrone delgado was living down the street.
Craig Ackley: If you listen to Lorraine Frew’s interview, it’s almost the voice of Melissa as well.
Paul Cox: It’s chilling it’s so similiar.
Agents Cox and Ackley had a new suspect.
Craig Ackley: That really said to both of us at that time, “This could be our guy”.
Except for one thing: Delgado had an alibi for the night Melissa died—courtesy of his wife.
Paul Cox: Her story was that they had been home that night.
Josh Mankiewicz: --the night Melissa was killed?
Craig Ackley: Right.
Paul Cox: Yes.
And then things started getting strange. As the FBI was investigating Delgado, he was doing his own investigation—trying to find out what they knew. Agent Cox had been interviewing people in his world. And one day, Delgado actually called the FBI office, looking for Cox. Agent Craig Ackley took the call.
Craig Ackley: He starts screaming at me on the phone. “You’re out here, you’re interviewing my neighbors, you’re interviewing my co-workers. I want you to knock it off.”
Ackley persuaded Delgado to allow a search of his house. The search didn’t last long. Delgado suddenly threatened Ackley with a sword. Then just as suddenly, he backed down.
Craig Ackley: He just broke into a smile, and said “Just f*n with ya.” It was vintage Tyrone Delgado.
There was more vintage Delgado to come. As the FBI moved ever closer to an arrest in the Melissa Mooney case, things went from just plain strange—to flat-out bizarre.
The FBI was looking at Tyrone Delgado for the murder of Melissa Mooney—and looking hard. In 2002, three years after Melissa’s murder, the investigation got a big boost—thanks to what assistant district attorney Jon David called a silent witness from the crime scene.
Jon David: One hair that was collected that evening was put in an evidence locker and sat there for two years.
Josh Mankiewicz: You had a hair that—maybe wasn’t definitely his, but couldn’t exclude him?
Craig Ackley: Couldn’t exclude him.
Paul Cox: Was consistent with his maternal—
Craig Ackley Right.
Paul Cox: --bloodline.
But there could be an explanation for that hair: Delgado could have walked through the home when it was on the market -- before Melissa bought it. So agents decided to dig deeper—to find out whether Delgado had committed any attacks similar to the alleged assault on Lorraine Frew. They reached out to law enforcement in every place Delgado had lived, asking about crimes that carried what they called the Delgado signature -- forced entry, choking, and sexual assault.
Paul Cox: Those offices were able to get us a great wealth of other victims and information. And then we’re able to compare those back to the Mooney crime scene.
By late 2003, agents believed they had established a grim pattern. They shared their findings with prosecutors.
Ben David: What we found was a string of victims around this country who were all saying what Melissa would’ve told us if she was alive.
Josh Mankiewicz: Who all told remarkably similar stories?Video: Mystery on Reminisce Road, Part 6
Ben David: Who told remarkably similar stories about the worst night of their life.
There were more than half a dozen alleged victims ... Which left prosecutors to wonder, if Tyrone Delgado was responsible for such a trail of brutality, why didn’t all those crimes show up on his criminal record? The more they learned, the more certain they became of this theory: Delgado went after vulnerable women who rarely pursued him legally.
Ben David: Mr. Delgado became very competent at bringing about real pain to his victims and getting away with it around the country.
Investigators still needed more. In November 2003 they got it. Delgado’s own wife Ana accused him of almost killing her. She said he choked her, pinched her nose to cut off her air. Agents compared Ana’s injuries to Melissa’s—and found striking similarities. Ana pressed charges. Filed for divorce. And then—in a huge break for the FBI, Ana Cruz Delgado switched sides. She no longer gave her husband that crucial alibi on the night of Melissa’s murder.
Ben David: She couldn’t say that he was there for certain during the attack, like she originally said.
Josh Mankiewicz: She couldn’t guarantee that he had been home that night.
Ben David: That’s right. In fact he had a pattern of getting up the middle of the night when he was drinking and going out in the community. And she learned not to ask what he was up to.
Delgado went back on the offensive, challenging the investigators. Or trying to.
Delgado had been picked up in Louisiana for drunk driving. In front of a surveillance camera, he launched into a tirade, demanding to speak to FBI Agent Paul Cox.
Degado (police tape): I told you to get Cox on the phone where I can talk to him right now.
By now he and Cox had met a number of times as Cox pushed the investigation forward. And once again, Delgado wanted to know what Cox knew.
Cox couldn’t get there quickly so he offered to send someone in his place. That angered Delgado.
Eventually Delgado lost interest in talking. But Cox says the tape is instructive.
Paul Cox: You can see just how aggressive and manipulative he is. He starts to try to create a situation where he has to have interaction with us cause he’s dying to know. “Where are they in this process?”
Where were they? They had a suspect whom they believed had committed a series of remarkably similar assaults. A suspect whose alibi was now shaky. A suspect who had means—he was strong and trained in martial arts. Who had opportunity—he lived across the street from Melissa.
Ben David: Mr. Delgado was one of only a few people on earth that had the size and ability and intent to perpetrate a crime like this.
In late 2005, investigators and prosecutors decided they had a good case -- and it was time to act. Delgado was charged with the first degree murder of Melissa Mooney.
Josh Mankiewicz: What was that like?
Paul Cox: It was a long time coming.
Josh Mankiewicz: Feel good?
Paul Cox: Yeah. It did.
Tyrone Delgado went on trial for Melissa Mooney’s murder here in Wilmington in 2008. The prosecution put five women, including Lorraine Frew, on the stand to describe what they said was a pattern of attacks. Delgado’s defense attorneys tried to discredit the victims’ testimony. They also argued the DNA evidence was not exact, that the FBI should not have investigated the murder of one of its own and that others—specifically Roger Mooney—had greater motive. It took the jury four hours to find Tyrone Delgado guilty.
For the prosecutors and the FBI it was a deeply satisfying victory.
Ben David: We took off the streets one of the most violent criminals either one of us has ever prosecuted.
Paul Cox: This case was very much about Melissa but it was also very much about potentially the next victim.
Roger Mooney says he’s put his ordeal behind him, in part because the same agents who made his life miserable, ended up clearing him.
Roger Mooney: I can’t stay mad over it. Eventually they did the right thing. So I appreciate that.
But a family still struggles with a terrible loss.
Josh Mankiewicz: What do you tell Samantha about Melissa?
June Galade: I tell that she loved her very much. And if she could be here with her, she’d be here.
And a man who was something of a father figure to an employee who was only late one time—the day she died—still wonders what might have been for a young woman named Melissa Mooney.
Larry Bonney: You never lose what could’ve been for Melissa. There was a good future for her. And that… that still hurts.
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints