Home World Indiana man helps FBI nab his finest pal in an ex-girlfriend’s homicide

Indiana man helps FBI nab his finest pal in an ex-girlfriend’s homicide

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Indiana man helps FBI nab his finest pal in an ex-girlfriend’s homicide

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Kyle Ellis was in a panic. Two FBI brokers have been at his Indiana house with alarming information: They mentioned that they had proof that his finest pal and roommate might have been concerned within the mysterious disappearance and homicide of a onetime girlfriend.

Days later, the brokers made a proposal that was almost as stunning: They needed Ellis to confront his finest pal with the proof — and to put on a wire when he did it.

For extra about Megan Nichols’ disappearance, tune into “Dateline” for “The Observe” at 10 ET/9 CT tonight.

Ellis agreed, and his secret recording would play an necessary function in a case that had eluded authorities, serving to convict Brodey Murbarger within the homicide of Megan Nichols, 15, who vanished in 2014. Her stays have been discovered three years later. 

Murbarger, 27, who has denied the cost, was sentenced in January to 50 years in jail.

In Ellis’ first interview concerning the case, he advised “Dateline” about his recorded confrontation and the dramatic finish of a detailed friendship that he and Murbarger had spent years constructing in Fairfield, the small farming neighborhood the place they grew up in southern Illinois. 

Megan’s homicide, he mentioned, was the “final betrayal.” 

“He was being every little thing dangerous that we mentioned we’d by no means be,” mentioned Ellis, 28.

Teenage drama in a small city 

Ellis, who’s making ready to turn out to be a lawyer and lives in Fairfield, and Murbarger acquired shut as highschool freshmen. He mentioned they have been “very” related —  good youngsters from a small, rural city who didn’t slot in with the farming households and needed to get out.

Each earned straight A’s their senior 12 months and have been two of the scholars in a four-way tie for Fairfield Group Excessive College’s 2014 valedictorian, Ellis mentioned.

Murbarger had identified Megan since grade faculty. She was outgoing and considerate — somebody who considered others first and needed to make them chuckle, her mom mentioned.

Megan, who was a few years youthful, reconnected with Murbarger in her eighth grade 12 months and later in glee membership — which Ellis mentioned almost certainly magnified the animosity of what turned a fraught relationship, as a result of one other woman whom Murbarger was seeing was additionally within the membership.

Murbarger bragged about being with each ladies, Ellis recalled.

The teenage drama that adopted escalated when Murbarger — who had been spending an increasing number of time with Megan — took the opposite woman to promenade. When Megan’s mom, Kathy Jo Hutchcraft, forbade her daughter from seeing Murbarger, he confirmed up at their home anyway. 

She advised “Dateline” that he advised her: “Look, you might be manner too controlling. You’re regarding me, and I feel you want to be on treatment.”  

“I mentioned: ‘Excuse me? She’s 15 years outdated. I can inform her that she will’t date you,’” Hutchcraft mentioned.

Later, Hutchcraft mentioned, Murbarger despatched her a textual content message saying he had talked to a steerage counselor about her.

“They know what you’re doing to your little one,” Hutchcraft mentioned he wrote. “And I don’t wish to get DCFS concerned” — little one protecting companies — “however I’ll if I’ve to.”

Hutchcraft mentioned she didn’t reply.

Murbarger’s lawyer didn’t reply to requests for remark. His household declined to speak with “Dateline,” and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Workplace in Illinois declined to make Murbarger out there for an interview after he was convicted. 

Murbarger’s finest pal, Ellis, mentioned he wasn’t conscious of the exchanges. To him, Murbarger had all the time been well mannered and respectful — “like a brother to me,” he mentioned. 

“My opinion of him at the moment was that he was, not less than deep down, a really logical individual, a really good individual.”

Megan vanishes 

In April 2014, Murbarger made an odd provide. He needed to offer Ellis all of his issues — his guitars, online game consoles and motorbike — in alternate for $3,000. Murbarger was sick of his household, he advised Ellis, and he needed to run away. 

Murbarger is also overly dramatic, Ellis mentioned, and he didn’t imagine his pal was critical. However the fantasy stored evolving, with Murbarger working away generally on his personal and generally with Megan, Ellis mentioned.

Three months later, on the evening of July 3, Megan vanished. Authorities later found safety video from two native banks displaying her withdrawing money from an ATM the day she disappeared. And her mom discovered ominous clues in her bed room — a cellphone that had been wiped and a observe telling her mom she cherished her however to not search for her.

Ellis mentioned that the following morning, when he realized the information, he instantly texted his pal — to not discover out about what occurred however to offer him recommendation and see whether or not he was all proper.  

“I used to be involved that he can be blamed unfairly for Megan’s disappearance,” Ellis mentioned. “My recommendation to him was don’t discuss to anyone with out a lawyer.”

However Murbarger did, repeatedly, within the months and years that adopted, offering an account of his whereabouts to the native police division after which, after the case was handed off a 12 months later amid sluggish progress, to the Illinois State Police.

He advised officers that he gave Megan an iPod the evening she disappeared and that he drove round looking for her after he realized she was lacking, mentioned Keith Colclasure, the Fairfield police chief who interviewed Murbarger days after Megan disappeared. 

Ray Hart, the FBI agent who later investigated the case, mentioned Murbarger’s account shifted over time, revealing inconsistencies and particulars that didn’t add up. 

As an illustration, on the morning after Megan vanished, as her mom and grandmother frantically looked for her, they discovered Murbarger at dwelling, washing his automotive. 

“That’s an enormous crimson flag,” Hart mentioned, noting the strangeness of a 19-year-old’s cleansing his automobile at 8 a.m. on July 4, hours after his girlfriend had vanished.

Murbarger advised authorities he’d cleaned the automotive as a result of he couldn’t sleep, Colclasure mentioned. And when state police investigators field-tested a stain in its trunk, believing it could possibly be blood, the outcomes got here again unfavourable.

A key piece of proof 

The automotive — a 2009 Dodge Avenger — turned key proof after state police turned to the FBI for assist.

In 2016, Murbarger wrecked it. Ellis — who by then was dwelling with Murbarger in Evansville, the place they attended the College of Southern Indiana — recalled his roommate saying he’d been concerned in a single-car crash: He’d handed out whereas driving to his dad and mom’ and veered right into a tree.

He was floored when Hart, the FBI agent, confirmed up two years later with essential new details about the automotive.

A stroke of luck had allowed Hart to trace down the Avenger. After the crash, it was bought to a salvage yard, which then bought it to a Missouri couple, who allowed the FBI to conduct extra intensive testing on the trunk, Hart mentioned. The couple agreed to the testing with out a warrant, which wouldn’t have been potential to acquire due to how a lot time had handed since Megan disappeared. 

The assessments confirmed that the stain was Megan’s blood, Hart mentioned.

“I’m positive the colour simply drained out of my face, and the one factor I used to be considering, like, the entire time they have been speaking was ‘oh, s—!’” Ellis mentioned, recalling his first assembly with the FBI.

Placing on the wire

Ellis mentioned he didn’t sleep for days. Fearing what Murbarger would possibly do to others — together with a brand new girlfriend Murbarger was seeing — Ellis met with the FBI once more and agreed to assist. When Murbarger left city for a few weeks, Ellis moved out — and he later deliberate a get-together to elucidate why he’d left so out of the blue. 

The FBI can be listening as he did. It wanted Ellis, Hart mentioned, as a result of Murbarger was not speaking to authorities with out a lawyer, and officers needed to see how he’d reply to the brand new proof. 

“He was clearly nervous, however Kyle is actually motivated by the best factor,” Hart mentioned.

On July 2, 2018, Ellis made the case the FBI had made to him, telling Murbarger that the blood the brokers had discovered was Megan’s, in line with a transcript of the dialog obtained by “Dateline.”

“Why is her blood in your automotive?” Ellis requested.

“That’s a very good query,” Murbarger replied. “I want to know that, too.”

When Ellis pressed him, Murbarger once more denied understanding something about it. And when Ellis requested whether or not he’d killed her, Murbarger responded: “I didn’t kill Megan.”

Murbarger repeatedly denied having killed her in the course of the dialog, however at one level he supplied what Hart mentioned was the closest factor to a confession he can be probably to offer.

Ellis had requested about Megan’s post-mortem. Her stays had been found a number of months earlier than, in a shallow grave in a rural space south of Fairfield, and authorities concluded she had almost certainly been strangled or suffocated, Hart mentioned. 

Murbarger mentioned he wouldn’t have been capable of perform such an act. Then he started describing his state the day earlier than Megan disappeared: He’d barely slept, his canine had died, he’d eaten little, and he’d by accident backed into a girl’s automotive at Walmart.

“I in all probability couldn’t even have lifted my very own physique weight, a lot much less strangled — if somebody with anger points discovered about one thing and strangled her,” he mentioned.

Ellis described the alternate as a “pin drop second.”

Ellis had all the time identified Murbarger to be a wise, well mannered individual, however he had one other facet — one which appeared fueled by anger and management and that responded badly to disagreements, Ellis mentioned.

Murbarger’s remark didn’t quantity to a confession, Ellis mentioned, “however it was fairly shut.”

Investigators had suspected all alongside that Murbarger had strangled Megan in a match of rage, and when his trial started final 12 months, prosecutors introduced the idea to a jury. As Ellis watched jurors ship a responsible verdict, he was relieved that justice had been served. However he nonetheless finds himself dwelling on his onetime pal, evaluating day-to-day conditions as Murbarger would have.

“I used to be round him for thus lengthy that he’s type of a voice in my head,” Ellis mentioned. “However I would love for him to not be anybody in my life now. I’d type of like for him to not exist.”

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