Dancer disappears, detailed rental car leads to killer
01/13/2017 12:00 pm PST
Atlanta, Georgia has become the new Mecca for the entertainment business. And Angela Rabotte was making a big name for herself, with promises of more to come.
It's an exciting but sometimes dangerous life. A dancer in this line of work can make thousands of dollars in a single evening, and Angela has become so popular, she's started carrying a handgun around for protection. But this dancing girl has a side that her fans don't get to see for any price. She is the committed hard working mother of a 3-year-old girl, and she's in an on-again/off-again relationship with the child's father, Darrell Campbell.
According to police, Angela drops her daughter off with a babysitter on an early spring night and then gets a ride from a friend to dance at a private party at an upscale hotel in midtown Atlanta. The event stretches into the small hours of the following morning and moves to a private home north of the city.
Police say Angela calls her longtime friend Charles Outlaw to come and pick her up again and get her back home on the other side of town.
"Charles Outlaw was somebody Angie knew as a mid-teenager, 15 or 16 I think," said Judy Rabotte, Angela's mother. "He had been a friend of their whole little group."
But when Angela does not check in on her daughter that night, the babysitter becomes alarmed. She alerts Angela's mother, who immediately tries to get in touch with her. A furious round of calls and texts are fired off as friends and family try to locate Angela.
They are so worried that they organize a search party to look for her, without even waiting for police. Angela's old friend Charles Outlaw is clearly the last known person to see her alive. He is with the search party on the first day of their hunt for Angela. But he tells Gwinnett County Police Detective Collin Flynn the last ride with Angela was anything but easygoing.
"When he picked up Angela that night he was complaining to her that he had to drive all the way to the other end of the city to get her," said Flynn.
Outlaw tells the detective they argued for most of the ride home.
"She began to tell him that she didn't need him, that there were plenty of other men that were willing to come give her rides to places," said Flynn.
Outlaw says he makes a stop at his girlfriend's house and leaves Angela alone in the car. But when he gets back, he says, she is nowhere to be seen.
"He just thought that she either was angry and walked away or that she had called somebody else to pick her up," said Flynn. "He did relate to me that she was texting other men the entire car ride back to the other end of the city."
But Detective Flynn says Outlaw's demeanor is suspicious. And that he also admits to dealing drugs, and he has a warrant out for a probation violation. Detective Flynn makes the arrest on the spot when Outlaw shows up for day two of the search party.
"I put the first handcuff on him and he immediately tried to take off running," said Flynn. "I had to physically tackle physically tackle Mr. Outlaw to the ground and place him in handcuffs. I was also able to locate that he had some narcotics on him as well."
But there's another unanswered question hanging over the case dating from the very first day of the search:
Where is Darrell Campbell, the father of Angela's baby?
"It's always a big red flag when people who are supposed to be close to your missing person don't show up," said Flynn.
In a Crime Watch Daily exclusive, Darrell Campbell sits down for his first TV interview and tells us what he knows about Angela's disappearance.
"I got the impression while speaking with [Outlaw] that he wanted something more from Angela than she was willing provide to him," said Det. Flynn. "However anytime I would ask him directly, 'Do you want to be involved with Angela?,' he would tell me no."
Flynn has Charles Outlaw walk him through every second, from the moment he says he stopped to pick something up at his girlfriend's house.
"He told us that he parked his car here in this parking lot and then left Angela inside the car while he decided to walk to his girlfriend's house," said Flynn. "As he came through the walkway he entered into this trail, he led me down this trail until we eventually got further into the woods back here. And walked a quarter-mile, approximately, deeper into these woods. In the middle of the night with seemingly nowhere to know exactly where he was going, so it just seemed odd and very suspicious at the time."
And again Outlaw tells the detective when he returns to the car, Angela was gone.
"There's a lot of buildings in this general area that somebody could have come out or Angela could have gone to," said Flynn. "There also a big parking lot here where somebody could have easily just pulled their car into, and there's also a major roadway right here to the left that Angela could have gotten out and tried to hitch a ride to leave. So there was a lot of different options, one where she could have gone, and I had to figure out where to start from that point."
And then there's Darrell Campbell, the father of Angela's 3-year-old daughter. For some reason unknown to police, he is notably absent on the first day when all her family and friends are out searching for her.
"When I got to the scene that night he was obviously a person of interest because he was somebody that did not show up to the original search party," said Flynn.
Detective Flynn wants an explanation. And so does Crime Watch Daily. We tracked Darrell Campbell down and convinced him to face our cameras for his first interview on national television.
"Two days after she went missing, that's when I learned, through Facebook -- a friend messaged me and let me know she was missing," said Campbell.
He's talking about the same day the first search party begins, when even police are surprised to hear about it.
"She said 'Your baby mother's missing, where's your daughter?' And so I was like 'What do you mean?' And she said 'It's missing posters up on Facebook,'" said Campbell.
"I didn't drive, I didn't have a car at the time. They didn't tell me that they were going to search, they were just telling me that we all meeting up here and it wasn't like an organized search through the detectives or anything like that," said Campbell.
But he says the reality started to sink in.
"It definitely left me with an empty feeling, I couldn't eat," said Campbell. "I laid in the same spot until the next day. I knew something was wrong for sure, so the next day that's when I got ready and went to the search."
That was day two. Campbell comes face to face with the last person to see Angela, Charles Outlaw. And Campbell wants answers.
"I'm like, 'You're the last person that she was seen with, so where is she at? Because my daughter's gonna start asking for her mom real soon,'" said Campbell.
"Then detectives kind of got between us, because the girls, they got kind of scared, because we were about to fight."
Police narrow their search for anyone involved in the baffling disappearance of Angela Rabotte. After looking closely at Darrell Campbell, the father of Angela's child, he's cleared. Cops now have Charles Outlaw under the microscope.
"As a homicide detective, we're lied to almost on a daily basis," said Det. Flynn. "So the number one thing that really stood out to me was the fact the he couldn't get a story completely straight. It wasn't a cohesive story of somebody that was trying to recall events exactly as they happened."
They listen to tapes of disturbing phone calls Outlaw makes to a woman, a girlfriend in prison, not long before he was arrested at the search party by Detective Flynn on an unrelated charge.
"I'm going through a lot of s---. S--- that's been happening on the daily," Outlaw says on the recording. "It's a lot that you're not even understanding 'cause you don't know about that I'm dealing with."
"Before Outlaw was even arrested he was making phone calls to his girlfriend, where he was telling her that he had a big story to tell her, that she was going to be mad at him," said Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney Matt Acuff.
"Yeah, I mean yeah, yeah it's bad," Outlaw says on the recording.
To make things worse for Outlaw, a friend of Angela's tells police he saw Outlaw at a car wash on the morning after her disappearance.
"They were really cleaning out the trunk and really doing a lot of work on the inside of the vehicle, vacuuming it out and scrubbing it down," said Flynn.
It's a Dodge Dart, the same car he told police he was driving in with Angela. But here's the problem with that.
"To take a rental car and have it detailed at such a great length was very suspicious," said Flynn.
Then a tragic development in the case six days after Angela goes missing: A team of city surveyors makes a gruesome discovery in a field five miles from where Charles Outlaw says he parked and left Angela in the car. It's Angela, dead in the tall grass, killed with a single gunshot to the back of the head. Angela's family and friends are inconsolable.
Police say things look increasingly bad for Charles Outlaw. Because even though he spent all that time carefully scrubbing his rental car for who knows what, he may have left behind the final piece to the puzzle: gunshot residue on the interior roof of his car.
"A gunshot had gone off inside the vehicle," said Flynn.
But is it enough to get a confession? To really drive in that final nail, police will have to go undercover.
Remember that woman outlaw was already talking on the phone with while she was in prison? She's out now, and Charles Outlaw is in jail on a charge unrelated to Angela's disappearance. This time investigators get her to visit him behind bars, and she's fully wired.
"In that conversation he doesn't audibly come out and say what happened," said Acuff. "Mr. Outlaw was a paranoid person, as you can imagine most drug dealers are. He was worried about being recorded, so he wouldn't say anything out loud. But what he would do is take pauses where, according to his girlfriend, he would act out and mouth to her what exactly happened."
And it's a shocker. Police say the handgun Angela carried for protection may have had the absolute opposite result.
"What he said to her was they were driving the car, they were arguing, and she pulled a gun," said Acuff. "I don't believe he thought she intended to use it, but he thought she was being a tough girl, which she was known to be. He took the gun from her, put it to the back of her head, and as Outlaw said, it just went off. We know from talking to the medical examiner that it was a contact-style wound, not a situation where it would be likely that the gun just went off."
Investigators say the gun has never been recovered, but say the small-caliber wound fits the description that Angela's friends had given of the weapon.
Cops claim Charles Outlaw fooled no one by acting out the crime.
"Even though those statements by Outlaw can't be heard on the recording, it's important to know that his girlfriend, out of that conversation, knowing details about the way Angela died that were never released to the media, and that she should not have known," said Acuff. "She knew exactly where on Angela's body that gunshot occurred, where the wound was. Outlaw told her that he was surprised there was very little blood, which would have been correct with that kind of wound. Outlaw described to her that Angela, after being shot, slowly slumped forward, which is exactly how the medical examiner said it would have happened."
Police say that Outlaw's cellphone records also indicate that he was near the location where Angela's body was discovered the night she disappeared.
Prosecutors put their case together, and Charles Outlaw is arrested and charged with the murder of Angela Rabotte.
"Malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and concealing a body," said Acuff.
But this case has one more big stumbling block in its path.
In a huge disappointment for Angela's bereaved family and friends. Testimony has barely begun before the judge declares a mistrial.
"It was an audio recording statement of Mr. Outlaw where something he said that some jurors may have thought negatively impacted his character," said Acuff. "One or two words did make it in and ultimately the judge did make the right call in granting a mistrial."
Incredibly, the prosecution gets this case up and running again in only seven days in front of a new jury. Five days later that jury writes the end of the story for a defendant who could never get his story straight to begin with.
"We uncovered a message he sent to somebody saying he was going to beat these charges because he was capable of 'selling fairy tales to Cinderella,'" said Acuff. "And fortunately what we had on our jury was a lot of folks with common sense and no Cinderellas. And they did find him guilty."
Charles Outlaw was convicted and sentenced to life without parole, plus 15 years, in a Georgia state prison.
Darrell Campbell is now a single dad with a daughter of his own to raise. Someday, when she's ready, he says he will tell her the whole story about why her mom, who loved her little girl so deeply, is not there.
"I just let her know that she passed away, and that she's in Heaven, and she asks questions like 'Well, can we go to Heaven? I wanna go to Heaven so I can be with my mom,'" said Darrell Campbell.