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MURPHY: Michelle got an office job and started dating a little. MURPHY: And it’s what they weren’t hearing from Michelle—a lack of outrage—that reinforced the prosecutors’ conviction that Michelle knew all along that murder was afoot and was actively planning it with Scotty. The letter page is headed, “Freedom for Me and My Children.” She quotes a verse from Genesis, and you see that she’s underline the word “all.” The next bit of Scripture is from Psalms. And when you read all those underlines together, it forms the thought, “All I knew was that you were going to speak to him about us. Michelle had hired seasoned criminal defense lawyers Jimmy Berry and Vic Reynolds. MURPHY: In this phone book of a letter, Scotty also outlines for her how he plans to defend himself. “And he loved it.” MURPHY: Whatever the truth, Michelle and Scotty were only a few weeks into their romantic relationship when they met at the levee, the day she didn’t want to cuddle. Because there at that time, he said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m losing you’ because Thad has said we was going on a date. MURPHY: Barbecues, volleyball, camping trips, prayer groups. MURPHY: Thad and Scotty became the tightest of friends, helping each other hold firm to their faith. WALKER: Sunday mornings before church, that him and Scotty and several other guys at Hollywood would meet at Mc Donald’s... MURPHY: Michelle was sure her husband, Thad, was in the dark. REYNOLDS: (On stage) Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord and what he’s done in your life. MURPHY: But that night, whatever concerns there may have been, were pushed aside to watch the fireworks. MURPHY: Scotty had his own reasons for feeling uncomfortable at the afternoon cookout. MURPHY: Later that afternoon Scotty received an e-mail from Michelle with information about where Thad was going to be the next morning, Monday. MURPHY: Meanwhile, at the crime scene, the police were recovering what would turn out to be key evidence, great stuff, a homicide detective’s dream. He’d dropped his prescription glasses on the ground. There was a man who had heard the news of the murder. On Tuesday night, the day after Thad’s murder, the detectives told Scotty they wanted him and his wife to come to the police station for an interview. MURPHY: The police go to the hospital to get Scotty’s van for processing. REYNOLDS: (Audiotape) I don’t believe that I’ve ever been loved as much by somebody as I have by you. MURPHY: So you were the really cool girl at school. MURPHY: And that’s because of what happened early one morning. MURPHY: So much lost in the blink of an eye, so much blood. SCOTTY HARPER: I’m looking at myself in the rearview mirror for a minute before I go in. HARPER: It’s hard to believe things got to where it was. Thad and fellow church members pitched in on the construction. THAD REYNOLDS: (On stage) God working in my life, watching God work in their lives. REYNOLDS: (On stage) John , God has done a miracle in my life. Was it time for prosecutors to play their least favorite game, “Let’s Make a Deal”? MURPHY: Michelle would write in an e-mail later that she could relate to the words of that old song, “Torn Between Two Lovers.” Ms. She was absolutely pulling his strings and pushing him and hinting and saying, ‘We’re never going to be together unless.’ MURPHY: Unless, they argued, Scotty killed her husband. MURPHY: With their church at the center of their lives, supportive families living right next door, how had it come to what it did? MURPHY: They had a little girl and named her Olivia, but the young marriage was foundering. MURPHY: Thad and Michelle, after four years apart, began marriage take two. Was it really about one crazed man killing the husband who stood in the way? Stop me if you have any hesitation.” Do you remember that? Like a lot of families in the area, Michelle and Thad liked to visit the campgrounds in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the Smoky Mountains. And some guy stepped in supposedly before they did and bought it. In one, dinner for Thad and Paige, they would poison the sauce. It first crept into their pillow talk during that Alabama weekend, how the two men had to talk and how the talk might get ugly. HARPER: I took ugly to mean something, and when ugly meant something, talk all of a sudden took a different meaning as well. Scotty could feel her pulling back, dousing cold water on their fling. HARPER: I don’t remember the exact words, but I felt like she was to the point of, you know, the conversation’s not going to happen. MURPHY: ‘And forget about me, bud, because I’m going to be gone.’ Mr. MURPHY: But to make an even bad rendezvous worse, Michelle told Scotty that she and Thad were going out that night, the date she’d been going on and on about with Thad that she really needed to have. But before dinner, Michelle says Thad’s date night began with an unexpected stop at a prayer group. REYNOLDS: I was a little frustrated with that type of situation, and he said, ‘Y’all pray for me. MURPHY: Thad’s mom, Kitty, found out while at work. WALKER: And I got the call from the pastor at Hollywood and he said, ‘You need to come home. Michelle needs you.’ And I guess it was just like automatically I knew it was Thad. MURPHY: With that tip, the detectives went to the hospital to get Scotty Harper’s computer with all his e-mails. A month’s worth of erotic messages between Scotty and Michelle, more than enough to persuade them that Michelle had lit the spark that started the affair. PATTERSON: She put the full-court press on him to try to seduce him. It was Michelle to Scotty after she’d confided to him that she was having bad thoughts about him. PATTERSON: Well, she sent him an e-mail that details what she wanted to do to him sexually, and it would be a series of phrases like, ‘I want to,’ and then there’d be several words or several blanks that you’d have to fill in the letters to form a word. You killed Thad.’ MURPHY: Scotty was confessing to the mirror, but not to anyone else. HARPER: There was nothing I could say that could take it back, and there was nothing I could do to fix it. MURPHY: And while he’d confessed to his lover, Scotty still hadn’t broken the news to his wife. Michelle felt so itchy, she seriously wanted to buy a cabin resort property from her family, uproot from Rome and cater to the tourists in Tennessee. WALKER: And it was unreal, a million dollars or something. And that was Thad’s excuse as to why she was so down in the dumps and everything. MURPHY: Scotty followed Michelle’s instructions on her husband’s whereabouts and haunted spots where Thad was expected to show up. Have you done the thing you promised you were going to do? REYNOLDS: I just asked him when he was going to talk to him. MURPHY: ‘You’re not man enough to do this thing you said you were going to do? HARPER: I don’t know that I really saw that she was doing that, but I guess I saw that she was willing to do that. She says she was starting to have serious second thoughts about the relationship. REYNOLDS: That was actually when I was trying to cut it off at that point, and he said, ‘No.’ MURPHY: But it kept going? I’m not a good husband to Michelle.’ MURPHY: At the church meeting? MURPHY: Kitty raced to Michelle’s, where she was officially told her son Thad was dead. MURPHY: Even prosecutors who’d seen a lot were sickened by the savagery committed on Thad Reynolds. PATTERSON: With a gun, you can stand far away from somebody and shoot them, and you don’t have to touch them and you don’t have to smell the blood and you don’t have to put your hands on them. MURPHY: And as unimaginable as it was, all signs were pointing to Thad’s close friend Scotty Harper as the killer.
Scotty had actually gone to the same high school as Michelle, two years behind her, when she’d been elected homecoming queen. He prayed for his marriage with Thad, who as part of his duties as deacon regularly counseled church couples at his home. HARPER: He and I over the years have batted things off of each other. Michelle was just as certain that for her divorce wasn’t in the cards. And we had said had we got married that we could move out there. Sheriff BURKHALTER: We typically have maybe two murders a year. You might say he was a perfectly legal eavesdropper. “I want to make love with you,” but they were extremely more graphic. MURPHY: So not Hallmark cards and kittens and clouds. MURPHY: Michelle and Scotty tried to keep their cool with their spouses as though nothing at home had changed. And when she writes back to him, that’s catnip to him. MURPHY: Even an armchair detective would have started following the trail right to Scotty Harper’s door. MURPHY: In the next 24 hours, Scotty met with a lawyer and then checked himself overnight into a psychiatric hospital. And I’m not suggesting I was insane when it happened. MURPHY: Scotty, out of sight overnight in a psych ward, was also buying Michelle the time she wanted to prepare for Thad’s funeral without the pall of Scotty’s involvement hanging over it. WALKER: I remember Michelle coming outside and hugging me, but I saw no tears. PATTERSON: Everybody thought that she acted very strange. MURPHY: Friends at the house told investigators—though Michelle later say she was just joking—that she initially talked about getting a nose ring soon after Thad was killed. PATTERSON: Michelle looked over and said, ‘Do you like so-and-so’s nose ring? If that was his wish, he’d never mentioned it to them. OWENS: I was shocked, but I knew that there was, you know, nothing we could do because she was calling the shots.
Thad and Michelle, Scotty and Paige and all the kids together. How to minister to them right now with their lives. And have a little worship there before they actually went on to church. MURPHY: When The Secret Life of the Homecoming Queen continues. Not surprising, she says he was oblivious to everything but his job and church. MURPHY: All of which she says pushed her into the affair with his best friend. A need that needed to be met that I wasn’t getting at home. MURPHY: The Saturday of Fourth of July weekend, the two families and a few other couples were getting together for the usual festivities: Scott, Paige, Thad, Michelle and the seven girls. Their little girls oohed and aahed at the fireworks spectacular. Michelle says Scotty’s wife commented on her wearing attire too skimpy for an afternoon family picnic. REYNOLDS: And we got together with some couples at the park and played some volleyball, and Paige even commented on my clothes there. MURPHY: How strange is it the guy you’re cooking steaks with is the husband of your lover? After the chilly talk at the levee, Scotty new full well that he might lose Michelle unless he confronted Thad soon, even if it turned out to be that lovers’ shorthand they had, “ugly.” And ugly it would be, after a bloody, predawn discovery. REYNOLDS: They told me about it, and I just fell on the floor crying. Thad’s mom had babysat her granddaughters when Thad and Michelle had gone out on their date night that Friday. WALKER: He went and come and picked up the girls, and he said, ‘Thanks, Mom, we needed that.’ And that’s really the last conversation I can remember having. MURPHY: When she heard the news, Aunt Trish came to the house to comfort her niece. BENEFIELD: She seemed like she was in shock because... Nearby, they found a sheath for a knife, the apparent murder weapon, and a witness recalled seeing a burgundy minivan. He worked on the phone systems at the Floyd Medical Center. PATTERSON: Things like, ‘I want to taste you.’ That’s a tame part of it. MURPHY: Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia, is the largest employer in the county. The next morning he arrived there with his wife, Paige. PATTERSON: They ask him, you know, ‘Where are your glasses? ’ MURPHY: He knows they’re penning him in at that point, huh? PATTERSON: He can’t explain, and he’s lying to them flat out when he says he’s not having an affair to them. Paige is with him now, well aware from the police questioning where this is heading. PATTERSON: He wants to go back into work to the hospital, and Paige says, ‘No, we’re going to your mom and dad’s right now.’ MURPHY: Investigators believe Scotty was desperately trying to get back to his office to delete anything on his computer that would link Michelle to the building case. PATTERSON: He’s trying to get rid of those e-mails because that’s going to hook Michelle, that he loves, into this. MURPHY: Coming up, astonishing phone calls between the jailed lovers. MURPHY: Thad Reynolds was eulogized as a man of God, sent to his rest by his many friends at Hollywood Baptist Church where he’d been a beloved deacon. But the two were still apparently so desperately in love that they convinced a recently released fellow inmate to set up three-way calling for them.
The husbands, who’d first met when Thad was divorced, became especially fast friends, the Bible and scriptures their glue. REYNOLDS: (On stage) Our family pastor, official title now, Scotty Harper, has always taught the people that are under him and the kids that we need to teach them the things that are relevant to them these days. MURPHY: The two moms, though, Michelle and Paige, never grew as close. REYNOLDS: Scotty told me later on that she was jealous of me and asking him if he thought she was prettier than me, and she was just jealous of me, and so she just started getting away from me. Her church performances for the middle schoolers came under his direction as the family pastor. But I—we really didn’t cross many paths in high school. HARPER: Everything was good, you know, as far as vocationally, you know, a good job. MURPHY: Coming up, Michelle tries one more time to put her marriage back together. MURPHY: So pick a word for how you feel listening to this. MURPHY: The deacon’s wife and the family pastor were having a torrid affair. HARPER: I think Paige knew that Michelle and I was closer than she wanted us to be. MURPHY: Was this love or lust we’re talking about here? MURPHY: But there was a major lovers’ problem here. Michelle says she was starting to get edgy about her affair with Scotty. MURPHY: Thad’s shift at the Frito-Lay warehouse often began before dawn. Thirty-six-year-old Thad Reynolds had been stabbed to death in a frenzy, 19 wounds. They helped me get back up, and I walked in and went to Michelle. Later that night, he was sitting down with homicide detectives, and they were very interested in what he had to say. MURPHY: So not Hallmark cards and kittens and clouds. Keeping its vast phone system up to speed is a big job. And they already had the e-mails, and they already had knowledge at this point. MURPHY: Surprising, of course, that a computer professional like himself would have kept the e-mails on his laptop in the first place. Why does he let this stuff reside on the computers? PATTERSON: Well, of course he would save them so he could go back and reread and be excited all over again about this affair and its progression and all these things that they wrote to each other. MURPHY: Even though she was clearly not at the scene? PATTERSON: Even though she was clearly not at the scene. She aided, abetted, encouraged and helped plan this. So poignant, those four little girls, stair-stepped in size, their father suddenly dead, and their mother charged with killing him. WALKER: If you could hear them pray, Olivia prays just exactly like her daddy. Bless mama, bless papa, bless mama, bless daddy.’ MURPHY: Mama, Michelle Reynolds, was not at the funeral, but in the county jail charged with planning Thad’s murder with her lover Scotty Harper. MURPHY: The inmate turned out to be a jailhouse snitch.
Growing up here in this conservative community in the ‘70s was a sparkly little girl named Michelle. MURPHY: Still, Michelle remembers having a good time, and two months later Thad asked her to wear his class ring. They picked August the 15, 15 their now mutually lucky number. (Photo of Thad and children; children writing and reading) Ms. I can’t stop.’ MURPHY: Guilty of adultery, she says, but not murder.
She always seemed to end up front and center in the family snapshots kept by her Aunt Trish Benefield. TRISH BENEFIELD: She was always wanting to pose for my camera. MURPHY: No sooner had she slipped it on, then 10 minutes later, they both remember the space shuttle exploding. But they didn’t see the disaster as a personal omen. They had a big church wedding at Hollywood Baptist, the church that would be so important in their lives in the years ahead. REYNOLDS: When we were getting back together, he had asked, you know, if I’d pray about it, about home-schooling our children. MURPHY: The church became their family’s focal point. PATTERSON: They’re stopping in the middle of the conversation and saying things like, ‘Oh, wait a minute. And as you hear her tell her story, you’ll realize that for Michelle it was never endless love.