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48 Hours Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery 10.08.05 Run Dates

10.08.05 48 Hours Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery

06.27.06 48 Hours Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery



Mona - Roger - Jeff - Sharon - Jen - Jason - Bev - Alice - IX center - Denise - Patty - Mary Engle - 30:00 orange


03.11.06 48 Hours Texas Confidential




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Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery
A Husband Is Accused Of Murdering His Wife

(Page 1 of 5)June 27, 2006
Ramona Krotine was 53 years old when she was murdered in 2003. (CBS)


(CBS) This story originally aired on Oct. 8, 2005.

In the early morning hours of March 21, 2003, Ramona “Mona” Krotine left an office party just outside Cleveland, Ohio, and was never seen alive again. Nearly 24 hours later, she was found in the trunk of her car, beaten and shot to death.

Who killed this wife and mother? Correspondent Susan Spencer reports.


Greg Wilczewski remembers the day he learned of his sister’s disappearance. “I think it was a Thursday. My wife answered the phone, ‘Hey, we’ve got an emergency, Ramona is missing.’”

Greg jumped in his car and began searching for his sister, fearing the worst. Hours later, he headed to a parking lot where, from the corner of his eye, he spotted his sister’s Toyota Camry. He dialed 9-1-1.

Greg had no keys, but used a pipe wrench to shatter the car’s window.

“I reached into the trunk latch and pulled up on that,” Greg remembers. Then he saw his sister.

“Mona! She’s in the God-damned trunk!,” he told the 9-1-1 dispatcher. “She’s cold.”

The death of his sister still haunts Greg. “It’s been like two and a half years. I miss her a lot. Still miss her.”

The Family
Investigators believe Ramona Krotine was murdered in her own home by her husband. “We firmly believe he killed his wife,” says Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason.

That belief is partially based on blood evidence. “We found a trail of Ramona's blood. It started in the master bedroom, through the laundry room, into the garage,” says Detective Timothy Robinson.

After his wife’s death, the detective says Krotine made several changes in the home. “Anything that Jeffrey Krotine thought he got blood on, he altered. He got either rid of it or changed it, painted it or threw it out.”

Krotine’s daughter Jennifer says she was home that night but didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary. And she believes in her father’s innocence.

Indicted for murdering Ramona, 53, Jeff Krotine has always maintained his innocence. “My life since my wife’s death has stopped. It’s like I’m in a twilight zone,” Krotine says.

Two juries had deliberated Krotine’s guilt or innocence but both trials ended in hung juries. Now, a third jury was being selected.

Ramona Krotine was murdered on March 21, 2003 in suburban Cleveland, where she and Jeff had raised their three kids.

“Ramona? She was always smiling, always helping people out. Growing up, she was a tough act to follow, she was so good,” recalls her brother Greg who with his sibling Roger portrayed the Wilczewskis as a tight-knit clan.

Patty Wilczewski adds that Mona was the perfect sister-in-law. “Whenever you needed something, Mona knew either how to do it, how to get it or who to ask,” she says, adding “We used to call this family the Waltons.”

How did Jeff fit into the Waltons? “Like a square peg in a round hole,” says Roger.

By 2003, the couple’s oldest son Jeff Jr. was married; middle son Jason, a Marine, was in the Middle East; and daughter Jennifer was away at college.

The Krotine house was empty and Mona and Jeff were alone but hardly together. “It was as if they just had developed different lives,” says Sharon.

Jeff worked long hours at his insurance agency and, when not there, was often out on the water, sailing.

Mona, meanwhile, loved people and reveled in her part-time job, managing concession stands at Cleveland’s busy convention hall, the IX Center.


Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery
A Husband Is Accused Of Murdering His Wife

(Page 2 of 5)June 27, 2006
Ramona Krotine was 53 years old when she was murdered in 2003. (CBS)

The Night of the Murder
On the night of March 20, 2003, Mona finished work at the IX Center and headed to a nearby hotel for a party. It was the big end-of-convention-season bash, an event she looked forward to every year.

While Mona was out dancing, her daughter Jennifer, at home on spring break, tried to stay up until her mother got home but, by 2 a.m., was asleep on the couch.

At about that same time, Mona was leaving the party with her friend Bev Daily. “She said, ‘I’m tired. I’m just going to go home. I have a lot to do tomorrow.’ And that was the last conversation,” recalls Bev.

The next morning, Jennifer woke to find her father in the kitchen getting ready for work. “I came down the stairs, like, ‘Hey, where’s Mom?,’ being surprised, you know, that she wasn’t there,” she remembers.

Jennifer says that her father’s reaction to this was that he was “irritated.”

But both father and daughter say they knew the annual party could get a little wild. Jennifer first thought her mom might have stayed at a friend’s house but became alarmed when a friend of her mother’s, manicurist Denise Turowski, called.

“My mom just never misses a nail appointment. And that was my red flag,” Jennifer says.

Meanwhile, Jeff had gone to work and says he had no reason at all to be concerned.

Worried, Jennifer phoned around trying to locate her mother, without any success.

Mona’s frantic family also had little luck. They called police, who said they would have to wait 24 hours before filing a missing persons report.

“Gregory and my husband and I went out searching,” recalls Mona’s sister-in-law, Patty Wilczewski.

Some 20 hours after Mona’s disappearance, Greg found the car.

Police descended on the parking lot. There was blood all over the back seat and $900 from Mona’s work was missing.

At first, police suspected a botched robbery. “We just felt that it was a straight-up robbery when it started,” remembers Det. Robinson. That was before he began getting some strange reports about what was going on at the Krotine house.


Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery
A Husband Is Accused Of Murdering His Wife

(Page 3 of 5)June 27, 2006
Ramona Krotine was 53 years old when she was murdered in 2003. (CBS)


The Odd Duck
From the moment Mona was murdered, friends and family all told police the same thing: that her husband is a strange fellow.

“I always thought he was an odd duck,” says Mona’s friend Denise Turowski. And the couple’s daughter Jennifer agrees. “Weird. He’s different. He’s his own little character.”

“Maybe I listen to a different beat that the drummers beat. Being different, I hope that never becomes a crime,” says Jeff Krotine.

But his behavior raised questions.

Patty Wilczewski wonders why he wasn’t out looking for his wife with the others instead of keeping a routine appointment with his accountant.

“What could I do? I knew people were out looking for her,” he says.

And police say odd things began happening the very night Mona’s body was found, when they first tried to interview Jeff.

As the night wore on, his health seemed to deteriorate. “His face was flushed. He looked ill,” remembers sister-in-law Patty, who is a nurse. She began rubbing his back. “I was really concerned that he was having a heart attack,” she says.

Jeff spent the night in the hospital. It turned out he hadn’t had a heart attack but police didn’t bother him with more questions.

After all, daughter Jennifer had been with her father in the house. And she says she even was in her parents’ bedroom the next morning and saw nothing out of the ordinary. “I was doing sit-ups on their floor and I was sitting on their bed,” she says.

But people began to wonder. “I actually said these words, ‘Is it possible Jeff did it?’” remembers Denise Turowski. And it wasn’t long before the Wilczewskis were asking the same questions.

“The weekend after we buried Mona, he wanted everything of hers out of the house….That really bothered me,” recalls Sharon.

Soon, even detectives were focusing on Jeff. “We started hearing the tidbits. We heard about the headboard and it was like, ‘Wow, that’s weird,’” says Robinson.

Krotine had sawed up the couple’s wooden headboard and then burned it piece by piece in a fireplace. His explanation: “There was nobody in this world that was going to make love anywhere near that headboard,” he said.

Police were eager to talk to Jeff but, with a lawyer in tow, he was no longer talking to them. Robinson says Krotin refused to cooperate and never asked about his wife or the investigation.

Krotin maintains his children kept him informed about the murder investigation.

Robinson says the alterations in the house made police curious. “We learned that when they went into that bedroom, there was a six-foot section, four-foot by six-foot, cut out and missing carpet and padding.”

But Krotine has an explanation for the missing piece of carpet. “I spilled a very excellent full bottle of Courvoisier. The smell of the Courvoisier was just overpowering to me and I just cut it up and threw it away.”

Police scrambled to get a search warrant.

Meanwhile, Jeff hired a professional cleaning company to go through the house. Asked why he spent $2,400 for professional cleaners, he says it was a spring cleaning.

Two months after the murder, police got their warrant and a forensic team descended on the house. Investigators found droplets of what they believed to be Ramona’s blood in the bedroom, the utility room and on a step in the garage.

Police believed Jeff struck Mona in the bedroom, rendering her unconscious and then carried her down the stairs to the garage, where he placed her in the back seat of her car and shot her in the head.

A search of his office turned up four guns, one of them potentially the murder weapon.


Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery
A Husband Is Accused Of Murdering His Wife

(Page 4 of 5)June 27, 2006
Ramona Krotine was 53 years old when she was murdered in 2003. (CBS)

The Affair
In January 2004, Jeff Krotine was charged with Mona’s murder.

“We couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know he had guns. Of course, I had no idea he had a girlfriend either,” says Greg Wilczewski.

When Mary Engle, 39, went to work at Krotine’s insurance agency, the rumors began. Their affair started long before Jeff’s wife was murdered, with secret meetings in an upstairs office.

Krotine says he fell in love with Engle but never considered divorce. “Yes, I fell in love with her. And I'm still in love with her.”

Engle is completely convinced of Krotine’s innocence and says she never even asked him if he was involved in the crime.

Police think Mary Engle may have been her lover’s accomplice. That could help answer a puzzling question: if Jeff Krotine killed his wife at home and drove the body to a parking lot eight miles away, how did he get back?

The police theory upset Engle. “How can they say that?” That’s not me. I don’t have any criminal record.”

Mary Engle was never charged, but the affair gave prosecutors a possible motive.

The Trial
Richard Drucker, Krotine’s lawyer, says having an affair doesn't make Krotine a murderer. “I mean for Christ’s sake, Jeff could go across the street to get a divorce. He didn't have to kill his wife to do that.”

Lead prosecutor Steve Dever says the case was mostly circumstantial. Explaining why two previous juries could not agree on guilt, he cites the C.S.I. effect and says that juries have come to expect that science will provide an answer to every question.

Still, as trial three starts, Dever insists this is a solid case. “I’m confident that this jury is going to be able to reach an answer and I wouldn’t be trying this case unless I thought that Mr. Krotine killed his wife.”

He tells the jury police did find a few blood drops in the house and calls DNA expert Carey Martin to testify. Martin’s results are clear. Three of the carpet stains match Ramona’s DNA.

In what Dever insists is a blood trail, Mona’s DNA also turns up in stains on the bedroom door jam and on a downstairs wall of the room leading to the garage.

The DNA evidence did not impress defense attorney Richard Drucker, who says it is irrelevant. “Ramona lived in that house for 25 plus years. She might have bled like all of us in our own house,” Drucker says.

Asked about a murder weapon, Assistant District Attorney Anna Faraglia says, “It’s a pretty close call for what was left of that murder bullet.”

In court, ballistics expert Ronnie Freels agrees it is only a close match. “I could not be positive the two bullets are from the same gun.”

Without the direct proof, prosecutors returned to Krotine’s behavior.

They tell jurors Jeff looked at pornographic Web sites before Mona was buried and they suggest his supposed heart attack was a fake, calling the nurse who treated him that fateful night.

The nurse testified that she once entered his hospital room and saw him doing push-ups on the floor, a claim Krotine says is a lie.

“Each piece lends something to this case and when you look at it as a whole, the only resolution that you can come to is that Jeffrey Krotine murdered his wife,” said Faraglia, summing up the case.

But neither push-ups nor porn prove Krotine killed his wife, says defense attorney Richard Drucker. “Jeff Krotine did not commit this crime and if the Brook Park police had done their job, today there might be another person sitting at that defense table but they didn't, because they didn't follow up on the first thing you look at, eyewitness testimony, ear-witness testimony.”

Drucker claims two new witnesses say Mona was killed during a carjacking in the hotel parking lot after she left the party. Both witnesses came forward right after the murder but neither testified.

In fact, the defense was never even told about them.

Mel Twining, a friend of Mona’s, says he saw something strange in the parking lot after she left the party. “I thought someone was struggling with a suitcase trying to put it in the backseat,” he says.

The other new witness is Paula Smith, another party guest and also a friend. Smith says she heard a gunshot. “I heard a bang.”

A third friend, Sue Ziegler, took the stand with an amazing claim that there was an eerie message on her cell phone voicemail hours after the party ended, from a woman crying for help. “It was very faint. I do know it was a woman’s voice. It said ‘Help me,’” Ziegler recalled, crying.

Zeigler never testified about this message before and didn’t save it but she did play it once for Twining, who testified he heard somebody crying for help. “It was ‘Help! Help! Help me!’ Something in that context. And it was chilling. We were shocked.”

Det. Robinson was also shocked, saying neither Ziegler nor Twining ever mentioned the call to the police. Krotine says he also wishes he had heard that message. “I don't know if it was Mona's voice or not. I'll never be able to tell.”

But if Mona Krotine was murdered at home, why did her daughter not hear anything? She was sleeping just a dozen feet away and says she slept through the night, without any interruptions.

Prosecutor Steve Dever says investigators fired nearly 40 shots into a test tank inside of the car and measured the sound reading you would get in Jennifer's bedroom. He says she would not have heard it, making it plausible that she was sleeping just feet away from the bedroom.

Mona’s co-worker Alice Smach is convinced Mona did go home because she was found in tennis shoes, which she was not wearing at the party. “She had black strappy shoes. I told her I like them and she said she had bought them and that was what she was wearing to go dancing,” she testified.

Dever says the shoes show that Mona made her way home that night and suggests she took off her shoes when she arrived home that night and after Jeff killed her, he mistakenly put the wrong pair on.

Jennifer is adamant on the stand that her mother did not come home that night. Past juries haven’t found her very believable.

“The daughter had a very bad case of selective memory. There's a lot of things she just plain didn't remember. But she could remember doing sit-ups, you know, in her father’s bedroom,” one juror told Spencer.

Their judgment was so harsh that, at trial number two, neither side called her as a witness. But this time, all three children testified.

To show that the children believe their father, Drucker put Jeff’s youngest son Jason, the former Marine, on the spot.

“If for one minute you thought your father brutalized your mother in that house, what would you do?” Drucker asked.

“He wouldn’t be here right now. I’d have to use ungodly restraint to keep myself away from taking matters into my own hands,” Jason testified.

He also spoke about learning the news of his mother’s death while serving in Iraq.

In a suddenly hushed courtroom, the jury, for the first time saw emotion in Jeff Krotine, a former Vietnam vet.

“When he described receiving friendly fire, receiving incoming, being in a foxhole sleeping in four inches of water, I knew from my own personal experiences what he was going through. And it just brought it all back. And I felt sorry for him,” Krotine says.

Jason was the trial’s final witness.


Strange Truth: A Murder Mystery
A Husband Is Accused Of Murdering His Wife

(Page 5 of 5)June 27, 2006
Ramona Krotine was 53 years old when she was murdered in 2003. (CBS)

The Jury Decides
Midway through day five of deliberations, there was word of a verdict: not guilty.

Local reporters, who have lived with this story through three trials, were clearly astonished.

Asked by a reporter what he would say to people who think he got away with murder, Krotine says, “Nobody got away with murder.”

D.A. Steve says, “I apologize to the family. We gave it our best effort.”

Greg Wilczewski was the only family member who got to the courthouse in time for the verdict. “I got a very strange sensation when I heard the verdict. I kinda lost all peripheral vision. It was not a good feeling.”

The verdict also shocked Greg’s wife Sharon. “I think our justice system is confused as to what ‘reasonable doubt’ is because, for us, there was no doubt about it.”

Juror Michael Lisi says he went into the deliberations convinced of Jeff’s guilt but began having doubts. “Did Ramona make it home? That was a big ‘if’ to the jury.”

Also, Lisi says the jury gave a lot of weight to the testimony of Jennifer Krotine. “It made it very convincing that maybe the bedroom wasn’t the murder scene.”

When asked what he thought had happened to Ramona, Lisi gave a surprising answer: “I think he did it. I think he did it.”

And it turned out Lisi was not the only one. After the verdict, 10 of the 12 jurors – who had just acquitted Krotine – told the judge that in their heart of hearts, they thought he probably did kill his wife. But with no direct evidence, the jurors just could not vote to convict.

These days, Jeff is no longer an insurance agent and lives in what once was his office, surrounded by boxes from his past.

Mary Engle is still a big part of his life but that relationship has shattered his relationship with his children, who have cut off all contact with their father.

“We stood behind him because we thought he was being falsely accused and we were his family but now it’s, you know, he cheated on our mother. It’s over,” says Jennifer.

And it’s over for Mona’s family as well because they’re convinced Jeff killed Mona; the Krotine kids want nothing more to do with them.

Mona’s brother Greg says he won’t give up hope of a reconciliation. “I don’t care if it takes 20 years, I’ll still wait for them...I carry a lot of sorrow in me but I could not imagine what the kids are going through.”


Jeff Krotine can never be retried for his wife’s murder. Officially, the murder of Mona Krotine remains an open case. Police say they have no other suspects.