Fractured fairy tale: Rebecca Fenton, convicted of murdering husband, speaks out
02/01/2018 3:50 pm PST
A successful millionaire meets the blond beauty he had been looking for and they quickly build a dream life together. That is until one of those lives was taken in a hail of gunfire.
It was the sunny Super Bowl Sunday 2008 in Clearwater, Florida when Rebecca Fenton came into the house after a workout and made a terrible discovery: The blood-drenched body of her husband Larry lying on the floor, fatally taken out by a phantom killer while awaiting the opening kickoff of the big game.
The mysterious murder of Larry Fenton shattered the seaside serenity of picturesque Clearwater, Florida and brought a tragic end to an ill-fated marriage worthy of a TV movie.
The midlife romance of Larry and Rebecca had unexpectedly blossomed when she was in her late 30s and he was in his early 50s. They caught each other's eye at the gym.
"We did fall in love very quickly and started talking marriage very, very early on," Rebecca Fenton tells Crime Watch Daily. Larry proposed three months into their relationship.
Rebecca and Larry were soon married in Clearwater, and then had another wedding four months later in Laughlin, Nevada, this time for Rebecca's friends and family members who missed the first one.
Rebecca says Larry was the handsome prince she'd been waiting for all her life: a successful architect who'd gone on to make his fortune in the surgical equipment business. Rebecca says he was also a perfect gentleman who treated her like royalty from the day they met. He bought a beautiful home for the two of them.
"I knew I had it good. I knew it was a fairy tale life," said Rebecca.
Suddenly the one-time nurse's aide was enjoying all the luxurious trappings of being a spoiled "real housewife" of Clearwater.
"I didn't have to work anymore," Rebecca said.
But after just three years of marriage, their dream suddenly came crashing down one lazy Super Bowl Sunday afternoon.
"He was gonna order pizza, take a nap and then get up around 6 o'clock to watch the game," Rebecca tells Crime Watch Daily.
Rebecca says she went to their detached home gym to work out, never imagining she would be the last person to see Larry alive. Less than two hours later, Rebecca says, she walked back into their house to find Larry lying motionless in a pool of blood on the floor of the foyer at the foot of the stairway leading to the second storey.
"I just remember going real hazy," said Rebecca. "I started screaming at Larry. And then I saw this pool of blood that was probably six inches all the way around his body."
Did you call 911?
"Not right away. I tried to take his pulse at first," said Rebecca. "And then I looked into the great room and could see that our house was in disarray. And I started yelling. I told him to hold on. I thought that Larry was OK, 'cause his eyes were open, and I ran upstairs."
She found more rooms had been ransacked.
"Came back down the stairs, touched him again, tousled his head a little bit, told him 'Hold on honey,' and I ran outside and called 911," said Rebecca.
"My husband's laying in the middle of the floor and he's not moving. I don't know if he's even alive. And the house has been ransacked. Please, please hurry and get here. I think he's dead. I think my husband might be dead. But if you hurry, maybe he's alive and you can help him."
But medics arrive and confirm Larry Fenton is indeed dead from four gunshot wounds to his neck and his back.
"And by the time he hit the floor, the blood evidence shows that he never moved again," said Clearwater Police Detective Michael Hasty.
It immediately appeared to police that Larry had been killed in the course of a robbery. Drawers had been pulled out and cabinets doors were left open throughout the home, their contents strewn over the floors of the bedrooms and living areas. And Larry's Jeep was missing from the driveway.
But upon closer examination, detectives noticed that apart from his vehicle, nothing of any real value had been stolen -- not even Larry's wallet stuffed with cash.
"Didn't buy it," Det. Hasty tells Crime Watch Daily. "I started to see that this ransacking of the residence wasn't a ransacking at all. There were things that were knocked over, say, off bookshelves. It looked like somebody just took their hand and just knocked the books of the shelf onto the floor. To what end? That doesn't accomplish anything. So as we started looking at this I believed that this was a staged crime."
Then as detectives and forensics experts were sweeping the home for more clues, Rebecca does something odd as she's speaking with cops on the sidewalk.
"Rebecca was on video laughing and joking," said Det. Hasty.
Rebecca Fenton was already under suspicion of murdering Larry Fenton when detectives interviewed her at the Clearwater Police station just hours later.
"We definitely thought that some of the things that she was saying and doing didn't quite add up," said Clearwater Police Sgt. Kerri Spaulding.
"They seemed suspicious of me from the beginning," Rebecca tells Crime Watch Daily.
For a start, investigators found it hard to believe that any intruder would choose to break into a house on this particular day at this particular time: Super Bowl Sunday afternoon, when most people are home waiting to watch the big game -- including Rebecca and Larry.
"There are two cars in the driveway, hers and his, they're going to successfully ransack the entire place," said Clearwater Police Det. Michael Hasty.
And investigators saw another red flag in news footage shot by a local TV crew at the crime scene.
"That's when I was on the news with a smile on my face," said Rebecca.
She looks like the proverbial "merry widow" while being questioned by cops on the sidewalk.
"All smiles while she was still on the scene of her husband's murder," said Det. Hasty.
How do you explain that?
"I can't. I have no explanation for that," said Rebecca.
Were you happy at that moment?
"No, I wasn't happy," said Rebecca.
Rebecca says she was reacting to a joking remark an officer had made about the crowd of onlookers gathered outside the house. But police dispute that.
"The officers are not joking with her," said Hasty. "There's a dead man inside."
Rebecca says she also may have been in shock.
"It wasn't a good moment for me, and I understand that it doesn't look good for me," said Rebecca.
Detectives were also suspicious about other aspects of Larry's murder, including Rebecca's actions after she found his body.
"She doesn't render aid, and then what she decides the best thing to do at that point is to run around the house, and what she said, the quote was, 'To see what the hell had happened,'" said Det. Hasty.
Saying she thought her husband had been killed by robbers.
"That was very, very strange," said Sgt. Kerri Spaulding. "You're just discovering your husband on the ground in a pool of blood. My last thought would be 'Oh my gosh, I've been burglarized.' My thought would be 'Oh my God, I need medical attention immediately.'"
And Rebecca is at a loss to explain it to detectives.
"If I had known that I was supposed to be with him, hold him, or do CPR, then I would have -- I think that, I'm trying to think of what I was thinking," Rebecca tells detectives in a recorded interrogation.
Rebecca says she was afraid that whoever killed her husband might have still been in the house.
"I think people handle things differently, and I think that at some point, I all of a sudden got that self-preservative fear, 'Get out of the house, something is wrong,'" said Rebecca.
Rebecca tells detectives did take her husband's pulse when she first found his body, and then again before she fled their home.
"Was there any pulse either time?" detectives ask her.
"No, but I didn't know if I was doing it right," Rebecca told detectives during her recorded interrogation.
"Did you check him for any injuries?"
"I looked into his eyes, and I kept saying his name. I touched his hand, I kept saying his name," Rebecca tells detectives.
But that only raised more suspicions.
"How much blood was around him?" a detective asks her in the interrogation.
"It seemed to me like a lot. It seemed like it was around his body," said Rebecca in the recorded interrogation.
Now detectives can't understand why there was no trace of that blood on Rebecca.
"The blood was completely undisturbed in the pool around him and on his body. And there was absolutely no blood on her whatsoever," said Det. Hasty. "So I believe that it was physically impossible, based on this blood evidence, that she checked his pulse."
And they think they know why she didn't take his pulse.
"She knows he's dead. She shot him," said Det. Hasty.
But Rebecca says she purposely felt for Larry's pulse on his neck, not on his bloody wrists.
"Like I was in shock, didn't even really know what I was doing," said Rebecca. "It was in earnest to try to get his pulse."
And she tells detectives she deliberately avoided coming into contact with any blood.
"I didn't think it was wise for me to touch him, to get blood on me, to turn him over, to do anything like that. I thought that would just either make things worse for the scene," said Rebecca in the interrogation. "It might have incriminated me"
"She said she had seen crime scene investigation-type shows on TV and she knows from those shows that it's best not to touch anything. So that why she didn't try to help her husband," said Det. Hasty.
But detectives don't believe her, pointing to classic signs of guilt that they've uncovered in her 911 call.
"I thought there was definitely something off with the 911 call," said Sgt. Spaulding.
"She's just adding things that weren't being asked of her," said Det. Hasty.
"I think my husband's been shot, my house has been burglarized, I just walked in and I did a pulse on him. I just came in from the gym," Rebecca Fenton says in her call to 911.
Detectives also think Rebecca seems too anxious to establish an alibi.
"We have a gym out back and I was working out in the gym," she says in the call.
"During the entire 911 call she says eight times, 'I was in the gym, I was in the gym, I was in the gym,'" said Hasty.
And they believe she's trying too hard to convince the dispatcher she'd never kill her husband.
"We love each other. This man is my life," Rebecca tells the dispatcher on the 911 call.
"OK, I understand ma'am."
"I can't live without this man. He loves me and I love him. And this cannot be happening," Rebecca says.
"She is not the important one in this situation, yet she's talking about herself," said Det. Hasty.
But there's something about herself that Rebecca Fenton would rather not talk about.
Do you believe Rebecca was unfaithful to Larry?
"Yes. I do," said Sgt. Spaulding.
Clearwater Police investigators are starting to think Rebecca Fenton is not the innocent wife who walked in and found her husband murdered -- but rather a cunning killer who staged the entire thing to make it look like a burglar had shot Larry Fenton dead.
"But we didn't want to pigeonhole ourselves or jump the gun too quickly that the wife did it," said Sgt. Kerri Spaulding. "We wanted to make sure everything was completely investigated."
So they look at all possibilities, asking Rebecca if she knew why anyone would want to kill Larry. She told them no, absolutelynot.
And as detectives continued to look for evidence, including the murder weapon and Larry's missing Jeep, they also delve into the private lives of the married couple.
"Everyone really talked about what a fairy tale marriage they had," said Sgt. Spaulding.
Including Rebecca herself.
"Perfect. Blissful. I had the life," said Rebecca Fenton.
But Sgt. Spaulding is skeptical.
"It was something that just isn't even realistic in the best marriages, and not everything is a Cinderella story from the moment you wake up until the minute you go to sleep," said Spaulding.
Learning what really went on behind closed doors wasn't going to be easy though.
"And that was a little bit of a stumbling point, because Larry never confided in anyone that there were issues between him and Rebecca," said Spaulding.
Rebecca tells detectives the couple largely kept to themselves.
"We're very private. We're not socializers really," Rebecca tells detectives in the recorded interrogation.
But detectives uncovered a shocking secret as they looked into Rebecca's past, learning that for seven years she'd been a high-priced call girl, once arrested on prostitution charges. And Rebecca doesn't deny it. She admits that she was with an escort service at one time. Rebecca is also surprisingly unapologetic.
Was it the money?
"It was the money. It was the excitement. It was the fancy restaurants, the places I got to travel to. The people that I was meeting. I think there was a warped sense of control in all of it," Rebecca tells Crime Watch Daily.
But Rebecca says that doesn't make her a murderer.
"One has nothing to do with the other," said Rebecca.
Unless perhaps Larry had just learned about her past before he was shot dead -- which Rebecca insists is not the case.
At what point did you confide in Larry and say, "Larry, I've been an escort for seven years?"
"It was right before we started talking marriage," said Rebecca.
How did he take the news?
"He looked at me and said 'That's done and over with, that's behind you now. Is there anything about it that you still find attractive?' And I said no, and I was done at that point, and we never looked back. We never talked about it again," said Rebecca.
But it still piqued the curiosity of investigators.
"That didn't really weigh as far as her guilt or innocence in this case. It just made us look more into her background," said Sgt. Spaulding.
They would learn that sure enough, Rebecca and Larry were having problems and she had become a bored Clearwater housewife.
At what point in your marriage did you become bored?
"I'm going to say right after we tied the knot," said Rebecca. "I had too much time on my hands. I was so used to working and flying here and doing this and doing that and sort of having my own bank account and doing my own thing. I didn't know how to share. I had to learn how to be married. I remember feeling lost, I remember just kind of thinking 'Who am I now?'"
Investigators dig some more.
"And then we started finding out about someone that she was romantically interested in," said Sgt. Spaulding.
A younger man named David, a prep chef at a Clearwater restaurant.
Was she interested, or were they having intimate relations?
"I could never prove that she actually had intimate relations. Do I believe she did? Yes," said Spaulding.
Sgt. Kerri Spaulding says she learned Rebecca and David had a secret meeting place: a hotel. But both David and Rebecca insisted to detectives that nothing happened between them.
Did you ever cheat on Larry?
"No. No, I didn't," said Rebecca.
Were you seeing anyone at the time of Larry's death?
"No," said Rebecca.
You didn't have a boyfriend?
"No. I didn't have a boyfriend," said Rebecca.
Rebecca does concede however that David was a close friend she found attractive.
"We did not have an affair. There was no involvement between us. There was nothing sexual between us," said Rebecca. "It was a crush."
And detectives can only wonder if Rebecca's husband might have found out about David. But they developed a theory that Larry Fenton had fallen victim to a fatal love triangle.
"I believe that Rebecca was probably telling David that she was going to leave Larry," said Sgt. Spaulding. "I think David realized he's not going anywhere, and he'd had enough, so he cut it off, and I really think that was her motivation and that turned her into a tailspin."
Ending in her husband's murder.
On the outside, everyone thought Rebecca and Larry Fenton were living a fairy tale marriage. But on the inside, Rebecca admits that fairy tale was fractured. She was bored and had a crush on another man. But was that enough for her to shoot Larry four times?
As police searched for the killer, what they discovered in Rebecca's car would shift their focus closer to home. Detectives already suspected Rebecca Fenton had murdered her husband Larry when they interviewed her just hours after he was shot dead in their Clearwater, Florida home.
But they don't have a scrap of evidence until they locate Larry's missing Jeep Cherokee two days later, just a block away from the house. And what they found in the vehicle -- or rather, don't find -- confirms their suspicions that Larry wasn't killed in any home-invasion robbery. The only loot found in the abandoned Jeep is some costume jewelry, a jar of coins, Larry's iPod and his laptop computer, leaving detectives asking themselves why any bandit wouldn't at least make off with that.
"After having just committed an armed residential burglary, murder, grand theft, grand theft auto and walk away with actually no proceeds whatsoever," said Det. Michael Hasty.
But then investigators make what appears to be a sensational case-breaking discovery in another car -- the one belonging to Rebecca -- where they find the murder weapon, Larry's own gun, in a plastic bag under the front passenger seat.
"With five spent casings in it. Five shots were fired inside the house," said Det. Hasty.
"Inside the bag was also jewelry that Larry always wore, there was a key to the gun case, and also keys to the Cherokee that had been missing," said Sgt. Spaulding.
And now the evidence overwhelmingly doesn't point to a burglar -- it points to Rebecca Fenton as her husband's killer.
"The suspect would have to enter the residence, go up the stairway, mysteriously find the gun that's hidden in a bedroom drawer, come back downstairs, kill Larry, and then ransack the apartment, steal odds and ends, and then move it all to the Cherokee, take the Cherokee, drive it around the block and then abandon it," said Sgt. Spaulding.
Before returning to the crime scene to plant the gun and the other stolen articles in Rebecca's car.
"It didn't make any sense," said Sgt. Spaulding.
Detectives believe they have Rebecca dead to rights. They had also uncovered life insurance policies that added up to a lucrative motive.
"If Larry tragically died, or accidentally died, or if something else happened to him, then she got almost half a million dollars," said Sgt. Spaulding.
As well as Larry Fenton's estate.
"If she inherits Larry's wealth, she stands to gain over a million dollars," said Det. Hasty.
Rebecca would eventually get most of the insurance money, but she scoffs at the suggestion she killed her husband for it.
"I loved Larry and Larry would have done me a lot more good alive, financially, than dead," Rebecca tells Crime Watch Daily.
Regardless, all detectives now need to arrest Rebecca are the results of forensic tests conducted after she was first interviewed by detectives.
"I cooperated with every test: gunshot residue, hair, fibers, clothing, everything the night that Larry was killed," said Rebecca.
And cops are astonished when the results of the gun residue test come in: They came up negative.
Despite that, detectives still believe Rebecca shot her husband.
"She could have taken a shower, she could've washed her hands, she could have worn gloves, and she wouldn't have GSR on her hands," said Sgt. Spaulding.
But Rebecca would then also pass three polygraph tests, two of them administered by investigators, and another conducted independently.
"And they had to let me go," said Rebecca.
And the case would go so cold detectives wondered if they'd ever solve it. Until it unexpectedly gets red hot again at the very scene of the crime. The home where Rebecca and Larry once lived was there until a couple of years after the murder, when it mysteriously burned to the ground -- putting the heat right back on Rebecca.
"The house was torched," said Clearwater Police Det. Michael Hasty.
Arson investigators found evidence of fire accelerants.
"I believe that if Rebecca didn't do it herself, she certainly arranged to have it done," said Det. Hasty.
But Rebecca, who had gone broke and was in need of money, claims she had nothing to gain from the fire -- not even an insurance payout.
You're telling us here today you didn't burn the house down.
"I would not have had a home to live in, and that home was in foreclosure," said Rebecca. "I would not have benefited from that house burning down, financially, one iota."
But the fire was suspicious and high-profile enough to get the attention of cold case investigators who had been assigned to re-examine her husband's murder.
"The state really wanted some outside person to kind of corroborate all of the evidence that we had collected from the scene and really bring this case together," said Clearwater Police Sgt. Kerri Spaulding.
And, ironically, it was Rebecca herself who leads detectives to just what they're looking for.
"Rebecca calls 911. And she's reporting a domestic disturbance," said Det. Hasty.
With an unruly boyfriend named Alfred Nolan.
"She wants the police to come because she wants this person removed," said Hasty.
And Alfred Nolan tells detectives something that makes them do a double-take.
"He told us about one time they were fighting and she held a knife to his throat and said 'I'll kill you like I killed Larry,'" said Det. Hasty.
Rebecca scoffs at that.
"No, that altercation never happened. Larry wasn't stabbed, he was shot," said Rebecca.
Rebecca says Nolan is a career criminal trying to buy himself a break on a charge that was about to send him back to prison for 10 to 15 years.
So you're saying the only reason why he came forward with this information is to try to help himself?
"Absolutely. And they cut his charges for him," said Rebecca.
Detective Michael Hasty doesn't deny Nolan had a credibility problem.
"It's well-chronicled that Alfred Nolan -- not a good guy, kind of a bad guy, criminal history, in and out of jails, in and out of prisons. All that is true," said Det. Hasty.
But Det. Hasty says Nolan's allegation could be corroborated by other witnesses.
"Despite all the knocks against him is the fact that he had told other people about this before he even knew that police were even going to come ever to talk with him," said Det. Hasty.
Detectives believe they finally have enough evidence to charge Rebecca Fenton with the murder of her husband Larry.
"It really wasn't any one thing. If you took away one single piece of evidence, does the case fall apart? No, it doesn't rely on a single piece of evidence. It relied on everything that together was just overwhelmingly convincing of her guilt," said Det. Hasty.
"If I was to identify the single biggest mistake that she made, it was this one: The gun is found in her car," said Hasty.
Now more six years after her husband's murder, detectives bring Rebecca to the station once last time to finally wrap up their exhaustive investigation.
"Rebecca, you're under arrest for the murder of Larry Fenton," a detective tells Rebecca in that interrogation.
Rebecca says she couldn't believe it was happening.
"I just didn't think that I was ever gonna be arrested for something that was so heinous, that was such a loss to me," said Rebecca.
But Rebecca also never thought a jury would convict her, or that she would ever be meeting Crime Watch Daily behind bars, where she is now less than three years into a life sentence for the first-degree murder of husband Larry Fenton.
"How can you get somebody on premeditation when you can't put them at that crime scene, or on that weapon?" says Rebecca.
And when we sit down, we ask her the big question.
Did you kill your husband?
"No I didn't. No I didn't," said Rebecca.
Why should people believe you?
"Because the evidence, the lack of evidence, the lack of physical evidence," said Rebecca.
But detectives are certain Rebecca Fenton did do it.
"I absolutely know that Rebecca is the shooter and believe it based on the totality of the entire investigation, without a doubt," said Det. Hasty.
"I think Rebecca has told this lie so much that maybe she has talked herself into it," said Sgt. Spaulding. "Rebecca genuinely is a sociopath. I really believe she thought she was going to get away with this."
Rebecca, now 50, claims she was tried and convicted by public opinion before she even got to court, thanks to that mysterious smile at the crime scene and her history as a call girl with an arrest for prostitution.
"It was enough for a lot of the people in the community to think that I was a monster," said Rebecca.
And Rebecca still insists a burglar murdered Larry.
"I don't think that they went in intending to kill anybody. I think they came down the stairs and they had that gun in their hand, and I think somebody panicked," said Rebecca.
Then framed her by planting the murder weapon in her car.
"I want to be able to turn and tell people I'm not a monster. I'm not a monster," said Rebecca.
But so far Rebecca's appeals have been denied. And right now it seems there is only one person in the world who believes she was wrongly convicted.
"I think that this is a miscarriage of justice," said Andrew Tizzard, a former investigator with the British Home Office in London -- the equivalent of the American FBI.
Tizzard tells Crime Watch Daily via Skype that he became convinced Rebecca Fenton was innocent after watching a TV report on her case.
"As a result of that I became concerned and I wrote to Rebecca Fenton," said Tizzard.
Tizzard says he's astounded Rebecca could be convicted on the strength of the evidence.
"You need to be able to put the suspect at the scene of the crime, and one of the things which was apparent was that she was never placed at the scene of the crime," said Tizzard.
He points to the fact she had no trace of gunshot residue on her and there were no fingerprints on the murder weapon.
"There is no evidence to suggest she ever pulled the trigger on the gun," said Tizzard.
And he dismisses the significance of that mysterious smile at the crime scene.
"Smiles can actually be very misinterpreted as something which is nervous," said Tizzard.
But Tizzard reserves his greatest criticism of the case for that testimony of career criminal Alfred Nolan, the boyfriend who claimed Rebecca threatened to kill him "Just like she killed Larry."
"I think there is no independent corroboration of these statements," said Tizzard. "They are all hearsay, so as such I am really surprised, their admissibility as evidence, and it was taken so strongly."
The former top British cop also says he's actually coming to the U.S. to do all he can to set Rebecca Fenton free.
"I will come out to see her, to speak to her personally about how to take her case forward," said Tizzard. "I will pursue it as long as I can, through every means possible, and I will not give in until we find justice for both her and Larry."
And for Rebecca, who currently has no chance for parole, Andrew Tizzard is her last and only hope of ever getting out of prison.
"I miss Larry. These interviews are difficult. They kick up a lot of pain, a lot of confusion, and then I got to go back to where my cell is, and you know, relive it," said Rebecca Fenton.