Beyond the Investigation

 

September 4, 2018 will mark ten long years since the shooting death of Daniel Underwood.  To those that knew and loved him, it means another year without justice.  His death was immediately ruled a suicide, long before any forensic testing or even prior to questions being asked of the people that were there at the time.  Not only was his death tragic and senseless, it was violent and many believe, premeditated.  He was killed by a shotgun blast to the head in the early morning of September 4th.  It is a known fact that three people were there at the time, but recently obtained information has led those closest to the case to speculate just how many more people may have been present.

 

Daniel, his girlfriend (whom he referred to as his “soon to be ex”) Rebecca Nelson, and another friend of his, Maria Harvick came home after club-hopping and shooting pool.  After his bank account was logged onto online, Daniel, visibly upset, began to fire questions at Rebecca about the whereabouts of his money.  Maria sensed the tension and fled the room, but from her nearby bedroom, could hear a full-blown argument erupt.  After she heard Rebecca call her name, Maria exited the bedroom and saw Daniel and Rebecca standing in the hallway just a few feet away with the 12 gauge shotgun.  The following moments were a blur; there was shouting, struggles over the gun, screaming, and it finally ended with a deafening shotgun blast, hitting Daniel in the face, mortally wounding him.  Maria began to look for a phone to call 911, but Rebecca ordered her not to; not yet.

 

The 911 call began with Rebecca’s statement, “My fiancé just shot himself in the head by accident!”  (They were not engaged and Daniel made that very clear to numerous friends.)  She went into a screaming/crying fit, but is able to stop and answer the 911 dispatcher very clearly, repeated her initial statement a second time (by accident), then reverts into her hysterics.  Upon their arrival, law enforcement took their time snapping photos and assessing the scene before allowing Emergency Responders to begin their treatment, delaying any chance of lifesaving assistance.  Daniel still had a pulse at this time.

 

Daniel’s family arrived shortly thereafter from their nearby home.  Many people were already there, milling about the yard, unsupervised by any members of law enforcement.  A misty rain fell, which could have easily washed away and destroyed evidence.  Although, even after all of the missteps of not keeping those involved separated from others, the end test results from the gunshot residue kits still proved to show elevated amounts of GSR particles on Rebecca, which could be fairly significant considering that Daniel had zero amounts on his right hand.

 

The Underwood family was not allowed to enter Daniel’s home.  Police instructed them to go to the hospital; Daniel was already in the ambulance and ready for transport.  Once there, they were not allowed to see him, not even briefly.  Rebecca assured them she would talk to “her good friend Bo” (this is how she continually referred to Detective Fox, complete with quotation marks in the air) and make arrangements to change authorities’ minds about that, but was unable to do so.  Unbeknownst to them until a later date, there was a small group of people there, watching and listening for news about Daniel’s condition, then reporting back to Rebecca.  She learned immediately when Daniel passed away.

 

Rebecca’s interrogation videos are anything but; Detective Lenwood “Bo” Fox already knew her personally and should have recused himself from conducting the interviews.  Upon entering the interrogation room, Rebecca immediately asked if she could have Daniel’s wallet and credit cards.  Detective Fox stated that since they were not married, his parents were technically his next of kin and his personal effects would be released to them.  As questioning begins, Rebecca attempts to portray an idyllic relationship; one with no arguments or financial issues, although Daniel had been unemployed for a short time.  He had cashed in his 401K worth roughly $25,000 upon leaving his former job of nearly seven years and they had been living off that money for the last several weeks. Less than a month had passed since he received those funds; the bank showed a $42 balance in his bank account and Rebecca admitted there was no other money left.  She told Detective Fox that she liked to keep count of Daniel’s money. She also brought up the fact that a big lump sum of money (roughly $2,000) cash was missing from the house.  During that reference, Rebecca held her hand up and admired the ring on her finger (that belonged to Daniel’s ex-wife) and laughed, claiming that she thinks that the missing money was used to purchase her a bigger ring because Daniel said that five karats wasn’t big enough for her.  Those statements didn’t appear to raise any red flags with law enforcement.

 

Later the same day, Daniel’s mother, Donna Underwood, called Rebecca and requested his cell phone and Dodge Durango truck.  Rebecca seemed to be in disbelief that Daniel’s parents expected to obtain his belongings.  Donna and Danny Underwood were totally unprepared for the way Rebecca screamed and cursed them out within hours of Daniel’s death.  Rebecca felt she was entitled to everything he owned as his fiancé and his beneficiary.  Oddly, she was the only person that ever said they were engaged.

 

Daniel and Rebecca had only been together as a couple for less than three months.  Contrary to her “hunky dory” relationship description (stated in the police interview), friends and family were aware that all was not well with the twosome.  Rebecca had mentioned to several people that she was still in love with another man and planned to leave Daniel.  At the same time, Daniel told numerous friends that his future plans did not include her, but he had to tread carefully due to her violent outbursts.

 

The Texas Rangers were called in to assist in the investigation because the shotgun was under Daniel’s feet and broken open as if someone had tried to eject the shell.  As the day wore on, the suspicions around Daniel’s death grew even more. The family had not been notified that the house had been released and assumed that the scene was being properly investigated by the authorities. However, they found that to be far from the truth. The scene had been released at 3:46am, roughly a little more than an hour from the time the lead investigators arrived; yet, when the family asked the LE at the hospital to be sure and let them know when they would be able to return to their son’s home, they looked them in the eye and agreed but never informed them that the house had already been released! Instead, they stood by and let a stranger portray himself to be a member of their team-and officer of the law–who informed them that the law required that they have a bio hazard team clean up before anyone would be allowed to enter the home. The family was called by others and told numerous people were going in and out of Daniel’s home, preparing to clean up the crime scene before his family were allowed back in. It was at that time they discovered these people were relatives and friends of Nelson’s–not one of them were from a bio hazard company, nor law enforcement.

 

 

 

Certain protocol should be followed during any death investigation, even those presumed to be suicide.  The gunshot residue kits used were long-since outdated, even for small town Sulphur Springs.  Neither the gun nor the shell were dusted for fingerprints.  Rebecca’s clothes were covered with Daniel’s blood, yet none of it was collected as evidence.  After Daniel’s death investigation, his parents requested all of the open records through Texas’ Freedom Of Information Act.  However, it took years for the Underwood family to acquire all of the documentation, which is a direct violation.  The entire house was in disarray; there was obviously some kind of struggle in the living room, yet police didn’t deem it important enough to photograph.  Boxes were packed and taped; only Rebecca’s belongings were in them.

 

At the time of Daniel’s death, Maria Harvick was also interviewed by Detective Fox with the Texas Ranger present.  Rebecca had insisted that Maria tell authorities that Daniel had shot himself.  Maria was traumatized; she had just witnessed the violent death of a dear friend.  She also knew (as many locals do) that Rebecca was more than likely an informant for Sulphur Springs Police and had quite a few connections within law enforcement, as well as the local criminal element.  Rebecca bragged often about having good friends within the police department; as her conduct that night also portrayed.  Maria was terrified for her own safety and that of her small children, so she stated what she was told.  Within weeks, she was contacted by authorities for a second interview and attempted to rectify her statement.  Maria has admitted that she witnessed Rebecca pull the trigger on the shotgun that killed Daniel.  However, they refused to listen.  Daniel’s death had been ruled a suicide and that was the end of it as far as they were concerned.

 

Daniel’s family was assured there would not be any bias shown during his death investigation, but after reviewing the videotaped interviews, were astonished to witness not only the appearance of bias, but that it was a reality.  Rebecca’s final interview by Detective Fox was six days after his death and that was mostly because rumors had circulated around town about a possible relationship between the two of them.  While Rebecca denied that she said that, she openly admitted that she had told people that she had helped with tips on other cases.  Isn’t that a conflict of interest?  Rebecca also confessed that she had deleted files off of Daniel’s computer and the detective simply told her that kind of behavior had to stop; that altering or changing anything looked nothing but bad for her.  Isn’t that a form of advising the interviewee and another conflict of interest?  During this videotaped interview, Rebecca also made it a point to tell Detective Fox that she had a recoil bruise on her thigh. Isn’t that another red flag?

 

After obtaining all of the case files, along with the autopsy report, photos and lab results showing traces of gunshot residue on Rebecca and zero on Daniel’s right hand that allegedly had ahold of the gun when it fired, the Underwood family believes his death was not a suicide.  They seek for the cause of death on Daniel’s death certificate to be officially changed from suicide to homicide or undetermined.  That would make it possible for Daniel’s case to be reopened.  The investigation could then be turned over to an outside agency with which the investigators have no personal relationship with Rebecca or anyone else involved with the case.  Daniel was a good person – a loving son and brother – a devoted father – and a hard worker. He deserves a proper investigation.

 

There has also been a great deal of controversy about the qualifications of the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office for a number of years. Perhaps it is time for a second autopsy evaluation.

 

Over the years, more and more people have come forward with new information from that fateful night.  Rebecca Nelson has actually confessed to a former neighbor, Ginnie Perry, in 2012.  Not being from the area, Ginnie figured this local dope-head was just talking a big game.  That is, until she read an article posted to social media about Daniel’s death and saw Rebecca Nelson’s name.  Ginnie reached out to the Underwood family and informed them of what she had been told.  While it was difficult to hear, they are very grateful for Ginnie’s willingness to speak about what she knows.

 

Both Maria Harvick and Ginnie Perry are available and willing to discuss Daniel’s case with authorities.  Why is it that Sulphur Springs Police show complete disinterest?  Is it because Rebecca Nelson knows something about certain police officers that they do not wish to become public knowledge?

 

For more information, visit the website www.justicefordanielrayunderwood.com