Buried in the Backyard (2018–…): Season 1, Episode 6 - Murder House - full transcript

Investigators believe a young woman went missing on her own accord, but her mother is convinced that someone close to her is hiding a big secret. A two-year search brings investigators to the backyard of a historic location.

In a tranquil seaside town,

a landscaper made
a haunting discovery.

He found a woman's head buried
in the backyard

with a calendar from 1982.

To find the killer,

investigators unraveled
a decades-old mystery.

She had picked up a hitchhiker,

and that was the last time
she was seen alive.

32 years later,

detectives faced an
unimaginable challenge.

We don't have a lot
of evidence to go on.

All we have is a gravesite
with bones in it.

I knew that was fresh blood.

Human blood.

We had to make sure

he will never see
the light of day.

If he does not get
a new conviction,

then we will have a murderer
running around on the streets.

On September 2, 2015,

in the plush seaside community
of Monterey, California,

a routine
backyard landscaping job

was about to become
a gruesome nightmare.

I was hired to do landscaping
at a house

to plant some fruit trees
in the backyard.

I started digging.

That's when I noticed
this object.

It was very circular,

almost looked like a coconut
to me initially.

Instantly knew
it was not a coconut.

There was teeth,
it had the face.

There was still
hair follicles remaining.

I was definitely panicking,

'cause it freaked me out.

And my boss, like,
rushed over,

and we decided
to call the police.

Never in a million years

would I have thought
I'd see something like that.

A forensics team swung
into action,

carefully excavating the soil
around the skull.

They do discover the grave
of an adult female...

a woman buried face down

in the backyard
along the fence line.

There was a green,
plastic garbage bag

over the area where her head
and torso were.

She is wearing a deep red dress
bunched up toward her neck,

and ultimately is not found
to be wearing any clothing

from the waist down.

Based on the condition
of the bones,

there was no clear cause
of death.

It looked like she'd been there
a very long time,

even longer than the homeowners
who bought the house in 1998.

The homeowners could
not believe it.

they had no knowledge

that there was somebody who was
buried in their backyard.

It was certainly
a very jarring

and shocking experience
for them.

It was hard to believe
such a grisly secret

could be hiding for so long
in a place like Monterey.

When word got out
people were just shocked.

That kind of thing doesn't
happen in Monterey very often,
if at all.

Monterey is an idyllic
coastal California town.

Millions of tourists visit
Monterey County every year.

The air is clean,
the people are friendly.

It's kind of small town living.

Now, this peaceful enclave was
the backdrop to a horror story

with everyone
clamoring to know

who was the female victim
buried in the shallow grave?

One of the things
that was found in the grave

was a woman's purse
with personal items like

makeup and breath spray,

and a calendar from 1982.

So, they were operating
under the assumption

that that might have been the
year that she was buried there.

Detectives were facing
a steep challenge

finding out who committed
this atrocious act,

and unmasking the identity
of the victim.

They discovered a photograph
of an African American female.

They were very hopeful
that it was something

that would give them
a direct lead

as to who this woman might be.

Would this faded image found
so many years later

be a significant lead
for detectives?

Combing through
the missing persons files

from the early 1980s,
police feared the answer
was no,

but their luck was
about to change.

Once they pulled
the missing persons reports,

they discovered that a woman
was reported missing

on December 9, 1982.

When they compared

the photographs that they had

to the photograph of the woman
that was found in the purse,

they appeared
to be the same person.

Detectives needed more
than a picture to be certain.

During the investigation
in 1982,

the detective had obtained
dental records

for the missing woman.

It was certainly
gonna be the easiest

and best way to figure out
who she was.

When detectives compared
the dental records

against their Jane Doe,
it was a perfect match.

More than three decades
after she vanished,

local mom Sandra Steppuhn
was no longer missing.

September 3, 2015,
I received a phone call

from Seaside Police Department.

They had found remains
in Monterey, California.

Those remains belonged
to my mother.

They were sure it was my mom,

because she had three crowns
in her mouth.

I was shocked.

At the time she disappeared,

32-year-old Sandra
Steppuhn was living

in the neighborhood town
of Seaside,

a loving mom
with three daughters,

12-year-old twins,
Gigi and Bridgette,

and seven-year-old Tammy.

My mother was an amazing woman.

She was the life of the party.

She was the one that,
nobody's dancing on the floor,

my mom would be out there
on the floor dancing.

Nobody was singing,

my mom would get out there
and start singing.

My mom was not afraid
to do anything.

All the neighborhood
kids liked my mom,

because she would always let
everybody come to our house.

I mean, she was just--
she was the neighborhood mom.

Everybody loved her.

She would mother
everybody's child.

She gave the best hugs.

You know,
she was a full-figured woman,

so it was like cuddling up
to a teddy bear,

'cause she was just--

She felt safe.

she always felt safe to me.

She met her husband, Patrick,

when he was stationed
at Fort Ord in Monterey,

but it wasn't a match made
in Heaven.

My parents were kind
of an ironic couple.

They were like two ships
passing in the night.

They never wanted
to be with each other

at the exact same time.

They split in 1976,

and Patrick moved
a few towns away.

For the kids' sake,

they maintained
a friendly relationship.

They co-parented well.

They had an agreement:

every six months
we would stay with my mom,

and then six months later
we would stay with my dad.

In summer of 1982,
we had already started talking

about not wanting to keep
rotating every six months.

We wanted to stay
with my father for a year,

and then go back
to my mother's for a year,

because it was just getting

Sandra agreed
to the new arrangement.

it was heartbreaking for her.

We were her world.

All of a sudden you no longer
have your girls at the house.

You just kinda feel
a little sad,

but, ultimately, she was like,

"If this is what's gonna
make you all happy,

then I'll go with it."

Sandra welcomed in
two roommates

to help her pay the rent.

Gigi, Bridgette, and Tammy kept
in close touch with their mom

through weekly phone calls
and regular visits

until the end of 1982

when their perfect sheltered
world began to fall apart.

On December 11th,

we got a phone call
from my grandparents

asking us if we had heard
from my mom.

Sunday night was
not her night to call,

so we had not heard from her
at that time.

Sandra's parents filed
a missing persons report,

and police discovered
that Sandra was last seen

on the night
of December 9, 1982.

Her two roommates told officers

that Sandra was heading out
to a bar to go dancing,

but no one had seen her since.

Christmas rolls around,
still hadn't heard from her,

which was odd.

Our birthday comes
right after that.

Still, nothing.

One month after
Sandra's disappearance

her little girls struggled
to understand

why their mother had stopped
calling them.

Inevitably, they reached
the only conclusion

that made sense
in their young minds.

As a little girl,
nobody mentioned to me

that my mom could
possibly be dead.

So, in the back of my mind,

all I thought was
that my mom had left me.

I thought
that a lot of the things

that happened
after that moment

were because we chose
to stay with my father

at that point and not go home
and stay with my mom.

So, yeah, I blamed myself
for years.

Decades later in 2015,
when Sandra's body was found

in the backyard
of a Monterey home,

investigators were faced
with the task

of finding Sandra's killer.

It's incredibly daunting

to begin an investigation

where you're already
32 years behind.

It was a long time ago.

Finding out
if witnesses are still alive,

still in the area,
if their names changed.

It's very difficult.

As detectives opened

an official homicide

there was a startling

A commander
with the police department

recalled having worked on

another homicide that had
occurred at that same home

back in 1983.

That is the time period

when Sandra Steppuhn
had been buried there.

We had learned that another

homicide occurred
at the exact same property.

Made my hair stand up.

When I shined my flashlight
on a clock radio,

I could see that it had
the appearance of human blood.

I just put my hands up and went,

"I don't wanna hear any more."

Without a body,
without physical evidence,

they couldn't make a case.

In 2015, detectives

the buried remains
of Sandra Steppuhn

discovered that another woman
had been found murdered

on the very same property.

The initial reaction
from the community

was they were shocked.

You know, Monterey has some
crime for sure,

there's no doubt about it.

But to hear
that two bodies had been found

in the backyard
of a Monterey home,

they couldn't believe it.

Four months after Sandra
vanished in March of 1983,

another young woman was
reported missing,

30-year-old Suzanne Nixon,

who lived with her close-knit
family in nearby Pebble Beach.

Suzanne was very artistic.

She went to college and earned
an Associates Arts degree.

She was very beautiful.

She had a lot
of wonderful traits.

Suzanne was really outgoing,

and very friendly
and very sociable,

always thought the best
of everyone.

And she was a lot of fun
to be around.

On the evening
of March 3, 1983,

Suzanne told her mother

that she was going to meet
some friends for pizza,

but she never came home.

I was home
when I got a phone call,

and Mom was on the phone,

and she told me,

"Suzanne's missing."

And I went, "What do you mean,
she's missing?"

Suzanne was never missing.

"What do you mean,
she's missing?"

So we all knew
something was wrong.

Suzanne's mom called police,

and detectives quickly began
retracing her daughter's steps.

Suzanne's friends told them
they'd last seen her

leaving a pizzeria with
a friend named Alfred Powell.

Since Alfred Powell
was the last person

we had information who had
contact with Suzanne Nixon,

we immediately went
to his residence

to see if he had any
information concerning Suzanne.

Records reveal that in 1983,

Powell rented a property
in a suburb of Monterey.

Alfred Powell befriended
an elderly woman

living by herself,

and she had made arrangements
with Alfred Powell

for him to live rent free
in her garage

if he would do the gardening,

and take care of some things
around the yard.

Detective Doug Sanderson
would never get

the night of March 4, 1983
out of his mind.

I arrived.
It was very dark,

a little bit windy.

I walked to the side door
of the garage,

and I knocked.

Alfred Powell answered,

and he invited us into
the garage to talk with him.

The garage was maybe 20 feet
by 30 feet at the most.

He had no facilities.

There was no running water.

No lights.

Despite his hardships, Powell
seemed friendly and

He told me
that he had last seen

Suzanne Nixon about 1:30 AM,

that she had come down and
met him at the pizza parlor.

They had pizza.

Afterwards, she drove him
to his house.

He then went into the garage,

and that was the last time
he saw her that night.

But minutes
into the conversation,

the mood took an eerie turn.

As I was talking
to Alfred Powell,

I shined my flashlight
on a clock radio.

I could see that it had
the appearance of blood.

The blood still had
the glistening effect

that it has
if it's pretty fresh.

I then asked Powell where this
blood came from on this radio,

and Powell told me, he said,

"That was a raccoon
that had tried to get in
through the garage.

He said, "I smashed it
in the head,

then grabbed it by the throat
and strangled it,

and then I skinned it
and ate it."

Now, raccoons,

they are about the most vicious
animal that you can deal with,

and nobody, but nobody is
gonna be wrapping their hands

around a raccoon and trying
to strangle it,

because their hands
would be shredded.

So I didn't believe
the raccoon story,

and I felt definitely
he's describing what he did,

but it wasn't to a raccoon.

When detectives asked
Alfred Powell

if he would mind
accompanying us

back to the police department

to interview him further

the disappearance
of Suzanne Nixon, he agreed.

Meanwhile, officers bagged
the blood-smeared radio,

and raced it back
to the police lab for testing.

Back in that day,
we did not have DNA.

What we could find out quickly

was whether it was human blood
or animal blood.

What we found out was the blood
on the clock radio

was in fact human blood.

Which then caused the hairs

on the back of my neck
to stand up.

Detectives returned
to the property,

and in a tool shed attached
to the garage,

made a grim discovery.

And there they found
Suzanne Nixon's body

wrapped in a trash bag.

I will never forget
the moment I saw her.

That'll be with me forever.

The phone rang all of a sudden.

And Mom was on the other end
of the line,

and she told me,
"They found her body.

They found Suzanne,
and she's dead."

And I had the receiver
in my left hand,

I clenched my fist
with my right hand.

I slammed the receiver down.

And I screamed, "No!"

And I put my hands up and went,

"I don't wanna hear any more."

We were all in shock.

Suzanne Nixon's death
was attributed

to blunt force trauma
to the head,

and strangulation.

It seemed to be
the same description

that Alfred Powell had given me

concerning his killing
of the raccoon.

With Powell maintaining
his innocence,

Sanderson formed his own theory
of what happened to Suzanne.

I think Alfred

got in the car for her
to give him a ride home,

and invited Suzanne Nixon into
the garage to talk with him.

Well, this got her
out of the car,

into the secluded garage.

And then he took
the clock radio,

and began thoroughly
beating her in the head.

Strangled her until she died.

Alfred Powell's motive--

it's hard to say.

He was mentally unstable.

In 2015, police investigating
the murder of Sandra Steppuhn

made a startling realization.

Sandra had been buried
just a few feet away

from where Suzanne was killed,

at a time when the garage was
being rented by

none other than Alfred Powell,

which raised
the inevitable question:

did Alfred Powell kill
both Suzanne Nixon,

and Sandra Steppuhn?

And, if so, would detectives
be able to prove it?

It was troubling,

because he made no confession
regarding Suzanne's murder.

He made no statements regarding
Sandra's disappearance.

We didn't have a lot to go on.

Well, as an investigator,

I think that when you believe
you know what happened,

and you feel in your gut
that you have the right person

but you can't prove it,

that's a very frustrating

In September 2015,

Monterey County police were
trying to solve the murder

of Sandra Steppuhn, who was
buried in the same backyard

where Alfred Powell killed
Suzanne Nixon 32 years earlier.

In 1983, Alfred Powell was
sentence to 15 years to life

for the murder
of Suzanne Nixon.

Which means after 15 years,

he could be paroled
at any point.

In 1998,

Alfred Powell had served
his 15-year sentence,

but was denied parole.

He couldn't prove
he'd been rehabilitated,

since he never admitted
to killing Suzanne Nixon.

By 2015, he was still
behind bars.

But that was little comfort

to the loved ones
of Sandra Steppuhn.

I don't feel like

at any time during the process

of them finding my mother,

and then finding out that
Alfred Powell was incarcerated,

that didn't make me feel
any better.

I just wanted my mom back.

I'd hoped for 32 years...

...eight months and 22 days,

that she'd come home
and she didn't.

It was important
that we'd be able

to bring justice for our mom.

And so we felt like
it was her right.

Determined to help
Sandra's family

bring their own case
against Powell,

investigators pored
over every word

from Sandra's original
missing persons case.

It chronicled the last night
Sandra Steppuhn was seen alive,

December 9, 1982.

The missing persons report
was very detailed.

It was an account by two of her
roommates who lived with her

in a house in Seaside.

At the time
of her disappearance,

Sandra was sharing an apartment
with two friends.

In that report they described

that Sandra had intended

to go out with them
that night to a club.

And as she was driving home

to get ready to go out for the
evening, she saw a hitchhiker.

And she picked that person up.

Being someone who wanted
to help other people,

Sandra drove the hitchhiker
back to the house

where she was going
to pick up her roommates.

They described him
as an African American male,

on the shorter side.

They described him
as bowlegged,

and they described him

as having very large,
empty eyes,

like there were nothing
in them,

that they were dead.

Sandra went to change
her clothes in her bedroom,

put on a red dress
and a black blazer.

By now it had gotten late,

and Sandra's roommates
were growing tired.

Sandra's roommates had decided

that they were no longer
interested in going out,

but Sandra decided
that she still wanted to,

so she was gonna go out alone.

Sandra said goodbye
to her roommates,

and left with
the African American male.

Sandra told her roommates

she was dropping the hitchhiker
off at his house

and heading
to a club downtown.

And that was the last time

the roommates had ever
seen her alive.

After Sandra vanished,

her roommates were able
to ID the hitchhiker

from a photo lineup.

The man they identified was
none other than Alfred Powell.

At the time,
police questioned Powell

about Sandra's whereabouts,
but he claimed he didn't know.

Without proof that a crime
had even been committed,

investigators' hands
were tied.

Without a body,

without physical evidence,

they couldn't make a case.

Three decades later,

investigators had
Sandra Steppuhn's body,

but lacked forensic evidence

because of the advanced
state of decomposition.

Could they overcome the odds

and prove that Alfred Powell
killed her?

The chances of two

separate killers killing
two separate women
at the same property,

it was highly unlikely

that there was somebody else

32 years is a long time ago,

and we don't have a lot
of evidence to go on.

All we have is a gravesite
with bones in it.

That's all we have.

So, looking at this case
in 2015,

we needed more evidence
to make this case

beyond a reasonable doubt

We were gonna pull up
everything in his past,

every police report that was
ever mentioned about him,

every contact he's ever made.

Powell refused their attempts
to question him in prison,

but investigators found other
ways to dig up Powell's past.

We had found that
at least two women

had made rape allegations
against him.

In each of those cases,

Powell said he did have
consensual sex with them,

and that it was not rape.

Those cases were
not prosecuted

because there was
no other evidence

that a sexual assault
had occurred.

And with each of those victims
there was credibility issues.

Some of these women
who made these initial reports

were kind of living their
lifestyles on the margins.

You know, some were involved
in prostitution,

some had mental health
or substance abuse issues.

And also, Alfred Powell,
he was a smooth talker,

and for whatever reason,
talk his way out of it.

Powell had done a good job
of covering his tracks,

but prosecutors soon realized

that he hadn't buried
all his dirty secrets.

We got very lucky.

We were able
to uncover a victim

who had not
come forward before.

Matt and I went
to go interview her,

and she remembered
in great detail,

what happened to her
that night.

It shocked us.

In 2015, Monterey Deputy DA
Matthew L'Heureux

finally caught a break
while building a case

against Alfred Powell for
the murder of Sandra Steppuhn.

We were able
to uncover a victim

who had not
come forward before.

Her story was important to us.

She said that Alfred Powell
crashed a party...

that her brother was holding
at his home.

And she reported
that on her walk

after the party,
he followed her.

And she reported

that he actually
then just jumped on top of her

and started strangling her

for no reason.

The victim said
that she remembered

that she was going to die,

and there was nothing
she could do about it.

She said if it wasn't for
the person who was walking by,

and called 911 for her,

she probably would've
been killed.

So by the time
the police arrived,

Powell had stopped
strangling her

and was pretending
that he was asleep,

and later would tell
the officers

that she had just freaked out
and he'd done nothing to her.

She never disclosed
that to anybody.

She said she was embarrassed.

She felt like it was her fault.

She didn't want
her family to know.

That was the first time she
ever mentioned it to anybody.

And Matt and I were shocked.

That victim's story was
very close in time

to Sandra's disappearance
and homicide,

and it showed that the very
first thing he did

when he got this woman alone
was to attack her.

And when you're trying
to develop a motive

for why he would kill the good
Samaritan Sandra Steppuhn,

who was just giving him a ride
when he was hitchhiking,

you have to understand
in context

that he was someone
who was preying on women.

Without hard evidence

to connect Powell
to Sandra's murder,

prosecutors needed to prove
that Powell engaged

in a pattern
of predatory behavior,

not just towards Suzanne Nixon
and Sandra Steppuhn,

but other women as well.

As we were going
through our interviews,

looking through all the reports
of the prior incidents,

we were starting to see
a pattern that was emerging.

Women were reporting
that Alfred Powell had
sexually assaulted them.

He would tell the police
it was consensual,

and he was being believed.

And what was different
about Suzanne Nixon

and Sandra Steppuhn from some
of the other women

is that they were

well-respected, productive
members of society.

He couldn't risk
those women coming forward

claiming that he had
assaulted them,

because they would be believed.

And they are both murdered.

The parole board asked Powell
how did he treat women,

and he replied that women were
there for his sexual desires.

It just confirmed everything
that we thought,

that he was out raping women.

For Sandra's daughters,

learning of Powell's
violent past

only added to their frustration
and outrage.

I think what surprised me
was that no one saw this.

People that are violent

just don't wake up one morning
and just be violent.

There has to be a pattern.

And so it just boggled my mind

that no one had concerns
about his behavior.

It was like he just slipped
through the cracks.

If he had been convicted
of these crimes,

then my mom and Miss Nixon
wouldn't have been murdered.

As prosecutors embarked
on the task

of convincing Powell's alleged
victims to testify

at Sandra Steppuhn's
murder trial,

they received alarming news.

Alfred Powell had just
had his 60th birthday,

and in California,

a bill had just been
put in place

that if you had
not been charged

with first-degree murder,

you could be put up for parole

and the possibility
of getting out of prison.

We needed to make sure
we got him to trial

before that particular bill
affected Alfred Powell.

It certainly scared all of us.

With the change in law,

if we did not convict
Alfred Powell of this crime,

he could and very likely would
be paroled and kill again.

The stakes suddenly
became much higher.

If he does not get
a new conviction,

then we will have a murderer

running around on the streets.

After more than 30 years
in prison,

convicted murderer
Alfred Powell could soon
walk free

due to a new law granting
parole to older inmates.

In the state of California,

if you are not convicted
of first-degree murder

and you are over 60,

you are eligible to be
released from prison.

So it was important
to make sure

that he didn't come out.

The only way Deputy DA
Matthew L'Heureux

could make sure
that didn't happen...

was to bring Powell to trial

and prove that he also murdered
Sandra Steppuhn back in 1982.

In terms of our evidence
against Powell,

it was largely circumstantial,

but we felt that it was a very
strong circumstantial case.

We had him positively

as the person
who was last seen with Sandra

the night that she disappeared.

We had Sandra
being discovered buried

in the same clothing
that she'd been wearing

the night that she was last
seen with Alfred Powell.

And we had her buried
in his backyard

at a time when he lived there.

It was apparent to me

that Alfred Powell
was the person

who had committed
both of these murders,

but Matt and I needed
to prove it.

I was excited to see
what we could do

about getting justice
for the family.

We told them
that we would fight for 'em.

Their mom deserves justice.

Their mom deserves that
first-degree conviction,

and Matt and I agreed.

I knew that Matt
and Peter were gonna fight.

You know, and they were going
to do their best

to make sure that the man that
murdered my mom was punished.

I think it became mandatory

for them to solve this.

And it became them

sharing the experience with us.

The biggest thing
that my family wanted,

we wanted our day in court.

We wanted Alfred Powell
to see us.

We wanted him to understand

what he did.

Whether he looked at us or not,
we didn't care,

but he needed to hear us.

With the trial looming,

prosecutors scrutinized
both cases

and turned up a number
of striking details.

Both vehicles had
the keys in the ignition.

They were both dumped in public
parking lots in Monterey,

actually not very far
from each other,

and both of them were wiped
clean of fingerprints.

Also the similarities

between how Suzanne Nixon's
body was found

and how Sandra Steppuhn's body
was found were very staggering.

Suzanne Nixon and
Sandra Steppuhn were both found

with their heads and torsos
in green plastic garbage bags.

Both had evidence that a sexual
assault had occurred.

Both had their bottoms removed.

Both had their tops up
above their torso area,

and they were both found
facedown on the same property

where Alfred Powell lived.

During the pretrial hearing,

L'Heureux flooded the courtroom
with witnesses.

We brought in everybody
we could,

everyone who was still alive,
Sandra's roommates,

the detective who did
the initial investigation.

I wanted to get them into court.

You know, make sure
that Alfred Powell

saw the strength
of our evidence.

As multiple victims from
Powell's alleged attacks

took the stand
during the pretrial hearing,

DA L'Heureux felt a wave
of momentum

in the right direction.

He also noticed a shift
in Powell's behavior.

Every witness that we put on,

every piece of evidence
that started clicking,

I think he started
to get nervous.

I saw him start to lose
his composure a little bit.

He was clearly
frustrated and upset

at some of the things
that were being said.

He started to get a little
antsy, a little jittery.

I saw him, you know,
whispering pretty furiously

to his lawyer.

It seemed like
we had rattled him.

Prosecutors held their breath.

Then, moments before the trial
was set to begin,

they got a call that brought
the case to a grinding halt.

I was shocked.

I-- I think Matt and I just
stood silent in my office

for a good couple minutes.
Couldn't believe it.

On January 5, 2018,

Monterey Deputy DA
Matthew L'Heureux

was just three days away
from trying Alfred Powell

for the murder
of Sandra Steppuhn

when he got a phone call
that changed everything.

My cell phone rings,

and it's Mr. Powell's attorney,

and she said
he is willing to plead

to second-degree murder
right now.

I really never
in a million years

thought he was actually
going to try to plead,

'cause that would
involve admitting

that he had killed her,

and it would involve
having to deal

with what he had been trying
to bury for those 32 years.

On Monday, January 5, 2018,

Alfred Powell pled guilty
to second-degree murder

of Sandra McGee Steppuhn.

Alfred Powell received
15 years to life

on top of a sentence
he was already serving

for the murder
of Suzanne Nixon.

For prosecutors and
the families of both victims,

justice was served.

I don't believe Alfred Powell

will ever see
the light of day.

He will never choke
another woman.

He will never rape
another woman.

And I believe that.

Alfred Powell
will be in prison

for at least another
15 years to life,

and with his age
there was a good chance
he was gonna die in prison.

This was the best option
to get their mother justice

and to make sure
that he never got out again

to hurt anybody else.

Detective Austin was convinced

that Powell got the sentence
he deserved,

especially after
piecing together

what happened
to Sandra Steppuhn

on the night
of December 9, 1982.

Powell took her back
to his house.

He invited Sandra
into his living area,

which was the garage.

There was no evidence
of a struggle.

She was not beaten.

There was no traumatic injury
to her bones.

And I believe,

just based off everything
I've learned about him,

is he choked Sandra to death.

And then he raped her.

And then he buried her
in the backyard.

Getting Powell off the streets

was a bittersweet victory

for Sandra's loved ones,

but the pain endures
for Suzanne's family.

For many years we weren't
reminded of Suzanne's murder,

but it's really hit home
in these last two years

when they found Sandra

My whole family just is--

we're still in shock
over this whole thing.

And our heart really goes out
to the Steppuhn family.

For years, Sandra's daughters
grappled with the pain

of not knowing what happened
to their mother.

Learning the truth was painful,

but knowing that their mother
never deserted them

was a gift
from beyond the grave.

They released our mother's
remains to us.

35 years later,
we're gonna lay her to rest.

So, January 17, 2018,

we officially said goodbye.

For all of us,

we finally have closure.

We finally know where she is.

I have gotten a sense of peace

that I haven't had
for 35 years.

Knowing that my mom didn't leave

is a weight off my shoulders.

She loved me.
She didn't leave me.

The most difficult part
of this case for me

was listening to the girls
talk about their mom.

To grow up 30 years thinking
your mom abandoned you...

...that was hard.

This tragedy took a mom
from them,

but I felt like I gained
three sisters in the process.

This evil man
took their mom from them,

murdered Suzanne Nixon,

and he will spend the rest
of his life in prison for it.