2012 story: Dateline airing Douglas murder case story tonight
For the second time in four years, NBC Dateline is turning a national spotlight on Minden with a broadcast tonight on the 2008 murder of 36-year-old Benjamin Oxley.
Correspondent Keith Morrison is reporting on the story, “While They Were Sleeping,” much of which was filmed in the days leading up to killer James Matlean’s sentencing on March 16 to life in prison without parole by District Judge Michael Gibbons.
Dateline’s last visit to Douglas County was in 2008 for the murder trial of Karen Bodden, convicted of killing her husband, Rob Bodden.
Morrison said in a telephone interview that the Oxley case, like the Bodden murder, is the type of story that draws Dateline viewers.
“It’s quite a remarkable story on a number of levels,” he said.
Matlean, now 25, admitted that he drove to Oxley’s Wildhorse home early Feb. 21, 2008, and shot Oxley as he slept next to his wife, Melissa. Oxley’s 6-year-old daughter was asleep in an adjoining bedroom.
According to the criminal complaint, Matlean was going to kill Melissa Oxley but changed his mind.
“Melissa is well aware that during that first period of time, she was among the key suspects in this case,” Morrison said. “Numbers of people continued to believe she was guilty, including members of Ben’s family. It makes for an interesting story in the way (Sgt. Ron) Elges eventually got to some partial truth, the way the story gradually unfolded and Matlean told his story.”
Matlean wasn’t charged until June 2010, more than two years after the murder. He confessed to the crime but said it was instigated by Dawn Oxley, the victim’s former wife. At the time of the murder, she was Matlean’s girlfriend.
She was not charged in the murder, but is serving a prison sentence on unrelated drug charges.
Dawn Oxley testified against Matlean after she made a deal with the district attorney that she would not be prosecuted for her ex-husband’s murder as long as she told the truth. She denied having any part in carrying out the crime.
Morrison said Dawn Oxley, now 39, declined to be interviewed for Dateline.
Other interviews include Dawn Oxley’s mother, prosecutor Tom Gregory, defense lawyer Ken Stover, Elges and Cindy and Scott Graham.
Melissa Oxley said she would be watching Dateline with Alyssa, now 10.
“I’m nervous. I don’t get a chance to see it before anybody else,” she said. “I hope it portrays the story accurately.”
She said it was Alyssa’s decision to be part of the program.
“Alyssa chose to do the interview. She’s been very grown-up about the whole situation,” Melissa Oxley said.
She added that she had hoped that chapter of their lives would end with Matlean’s sentencing, but the killer’s appeal was keeping the story in the forefront.
“Just because I have a heart, I hope James finds some hope, but that doesn’t mean I want him to get out of prison. There’s a consequence to what James did. I think he belongs in there. I wouldn’t change my opinion about that. His second chance was that he gets to live. He denied that to my husband,” she said.