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Video: Man murdered in bed while wife sleeps next to him

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    >> but we begin this half hour with one woman's real-life nightmare. she woke up to find her husband murdered in bed. and she quickly became the focus of the police investigation. we're going to talk to her in just a moment. but first, nbc's keith morrison has her story.

    >> reporter: it was, to say the least, an unusual wedding. three people in this one. when melissa married father of one enoxley.

    >> will you promise to share in the love of this family. if so, will you please say i will?

    >> reporter: a happy little family. so what happened on a cold night a year and a half later was especially shocking. ben oxley , asleep in his own bed, was shot in the head, murdered, while melissa , lying right beside him was untouched, unharmed.

    >> red flags start popping up. you start thinking okay this doesn't seem right.

    >> reporter: says the detective. as the mystery deepened melissa was a suspect, prance the suspect. as little alyssa was drawn back to her birth mother and away from step mom melissa , ben 's sister told her.

    >> my mom killed my dad that night.

    >> reporter: and then a break. ben 's ex-wife dawn told police her young boyfriend killed ben , supposedly to please her.

    >> he wake me up and he said, it's done.

    >> reporter: in exchange for her story, dawn got limited immunity. james was charged with murder. and then -- the bombshell. dawn was with him the whole time, said james , in fact, orchestrated the murder.

    >> i take full responsibility for what i did. dawn needs to take full responsibility for what she did.

    >> reporter: has she? no. and james ' attorney claims --

    >> the prosecutor made a deal with the devil .

    >> reporter: in court the shooter confessed all, and begged forgiveness. after which young alyssa asked to talk to him.

    >> i told him that i decided to forgive him. and that i wanted him to have hope.

    >> reporter: james is doing life now. dawn has not been charged. and two members of that three-person wedding, melissa and alyssa , are together again.

    >> melissa oxley is now joining us. and good morning, melissa .

    >> good morning.

    >> good to see you here. after you found your husband murdered in the bed next to you, and police arrived, they actually wrapped your hands in plastic to preserve evidence. what were your emotions going through all that on that day?

    >> very numb at first. and overwhelmed. and you don't even know what's going on, really. sad. sick that you're being thought about it and have to go through it.

    >> after you learned that your husband's first wife's boyfriend had taken responsibility for what happened to ben , you thought about the fact that he had for months afterwards, after the death of your husband, had actually had in your -- you had discussions with alyssa , he actually took her to school.

    >> he did. he lived with her for over 19 months afterwards. saw him numerous times, picked her up from my voice, visitations together.

    >> this made you furious?

    >> yes. it's something i always fought with. for the longest time we didn't know who it was, what it had to do with, or who around will but just knowing that always makes it that much harder.

    >> you know, james says that your husband's first wife dawn bears responsibility.

    >> i would agree.

    >> you would agree?

    >> yes.

    >> what is -- what kind of responsibility would you -- what kind of punishment or response or would you like her to bear?

    >> i'm hoping that the truth just comes out, and at the end of it all, when it's all said and done and i believe that she should have a punishment for her part in it, and own up to that.

    >> have you spoken to her? what would be your message to her, given all that's happened to you?

    >> that's a tough one. i would hope that she would do it not only for us, but her own daughter and daughters.

    >> you're raising alyssa , your stepdaughter?

    >> yes.

    >> and we just saw her on tape and she seems really remarkable, and forgiveness.

    >> strong little girl . i always told her pretty much from day one that whenever we find out who did this, we would have to be able to forgive them at some point to be able to go on.

    >> i find it remarkable. you've had your husband killed next to you in bed. you have been accused of being the one to kill him, you've gone through that entire process, and yet you're sitting right here talking about forgiveness.

    >> i know, it's such a big part to be able to move on and not be so angry and held back by it. we have to still live our life. so i thought it was super important for her to be able to be able to go on with hers, too.

    >> so you're saying that you choose forgiveness, and you choose for alyssa to embrace forgiveness, because it is your will to having life, joy in your life again rather than being bitter.

    >> yeah.

    >> so in other words --

    >> it's about god and this is the power that he's able to heal you, and for us to go through such a horrible thing but come out okay.

    >> wow. melissa oxley , pleasure to meet you.

    >> thanks for having me on.

    >> our best to you. we want to mention that you can see more of melissa 's story tonight on a special "dateline," while they were sleeping at 10:00 , 9:00 central time

TODAY contributor
updated 5/4/2012 9:51:08 AM ET 2012-05-04T13:51:08

In 2008, Ben Oxley was murdered while he slept — and his wife, who was sleeping beside him when he was shot, was initially the prime suspect.

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Melissa Oxley woke up just after the murder, not realizing that the sound that had awakened her was a gunshot, and that her husband was the victim. Once she discovered the front door of her house open and her husband unresponsive, she called 911 — and unexpectedly found herself the suspect in his murder case.

On Friday, Melissa Oxley told TODAY’s Ann Curry she was “very numb at first and overwhelmed. I didn’t know what was going on, really.” She said that she felt sick that she was being thought of as the murderer. Her full story airs on NBC’s “Dateline” at 10 p.m. (ET) Friday.

‘It’s done’
Melissa was interrogated but released. Then, just as the case was growing cold, Ben’s ex-wife, Dawn Oxley, came forward and said that her current boyfriend, James Matlean, had killed Ben in order to please her.

“It’s done,” Matlean reportedly told Dawn after the murder. She was granted immunity from prosecution for turning him in.

Missing Tucson girl’s parents say they’re ‘desperate’

The revelation shook Melissa, because Matlean had been spending time with her stepdaughter, Alyssa, daughter of Dawn and Ben, after the murder. “He lived with her for over 19 months afterwards,” Oxley said. “I saw him numerous times. He’d pick her up from my house for visitations together.”

Matlean confessed to the crime and is serving life in prison. However, he claims that Dawn Oxley orchestrated the crime and was with him the night of the murder. He also said that Dawn wanted him to kill Melissa too, but he was too scared to shoot her and fled.

“I'm taking full responsibility for what I did,” Matlean said in an interview. “Dawn needs to take full responsibility for what she did.”

Missing soldier’s mother, husband ‘keeping hope alive’

Dawn Oxley has denied her involvement, and said that while she had complained about her ex-husband, she would never condone murder. Matlean’s attorney, Ken Stover, said, “The prosecutor made a deal with the devil.”

On Friday Melissa Oxley agreed that first wife Dawn bears responsibility for the murder of her husband: “I’m hoping that the truth just comes out at the end of it all, when it’s all said and done, and I believe that she should have a punishment for her part in it and own up to that,” she told Curry. She also said that she hopes Dawn will claim responsibility not only for the sake of herself and Melissa, but for daughter Alyssa, who is currently being raised by Melissa.

Video: Man murdered in bed while wife sleeps next to him (on this page)

Melissa calls Alyssa, age 5 at the time of the murder, a “strong little girl.” After Matlean was convicted of the crime, Alyssa asked to speak to him. “I told him that I decided to forgive him and that I wanted him to have hope,” Alyssa said.

Melissa said that from the first, she told Alyssa that they would approach her father’s murderer with compassion, no matter who it turned out to be. “I always told her, pretty much from day one, whenever we found out who did this we’d have to be able to forgive them at some point in order to go on.”

Wife reveals life of terror with a confessed murderer

The widowed stepmother emphasized the importance of forgiveness as a way forward in her grief, and said she wants Alyssa to be able to grow up without anger being a part of their lives.

“I know it’s such a big part to be able to move on and not be so angry and held back by it. We have to still live our lives, so I thought it was super important for her to be able to go on with hers too.”

Melissa Oxley’s full story is featured on NBC’s “Dateline” at 10 p.m. (ET) Friday.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints


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