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The Assignment Letter from the FBI provides your goals for the investigation: (1) determine the circumstances and facts relating to the killing of the victim, (2) uncover the identity of the killer, and (3) determine the motive for the murder. Your investigation should establish the most likely theory of the case that is supported by the evidence.


John Lee’s body was found in the woods near his home dressed in a Santa Claus suit. Careful investigation of the evidence reveals the facts and circumstances surrounding the killing. John obtained the Santa Claus suit himself from Wild Bill’s costume shop, as evidenced by the receipt found in the case file. Sometime after giving his Christmas Eve toast, John went to the garage in his residence and changed into the Santa Claus outfit. 

John walked from the garage to the front lawn where he was struck in the head with a hammer by his assailant.


The pertinent FBI evidence report indicated that blood trace and spatter found on the grass in the front of the residence belonged to the victim. The autopsy report concludes that blunt force trauma to the skull was the cause of death. It also places the time of death at sometime between 9:05 pm to 9:20 pm on Dec. 24.  

John’s body was then dragged from the spot where he was killed a short distance into the woods near the residence. The murder weapon (a hammer) was thrown into a thicket in the woods where it was later found during a search of the grounds by the FBI. It is likely that the killer threw the hammer into the woods in a hasty attempt to conceal it. These facts suggest that the murder was not pre-planned since the efforts to conceal the body and the murder weapon appear to have been done in haste and without significant planning. 

According to the pertinent FBI evidence report, a muddy shoe print from a men’s hiking boot was found on the front walk of the Lee residence. A boot matching the print was found in the garage with fresh mud in the treads of the sole. It appears likely (but not conclusive) that the killer wore the boots while dragging the body in the woods and disposing of the murder weapon, and then changed back into their normal shoes before returning to the Christmas Eve party.


An old newspaper article in the case file provides the first clue about the motive for the murder of John Lee.  Misty Holden, the daughter of Dr. Barry Holden and Nurit Holden (neighbors of John and Cynthia Scott Lee) went missing when she was a teenager. A handwritten note on the article states that Misty was never found and was presumed dead. Photos in the case file reveal that Misty Holden was friends with the three Lee children in the years before her disappearance. She is seen in those photos with Rowan, Angie and Thomas.


A note in the case file divulges the circumstances surrounding the death of Misty Holden. Although she is not mentioned by name, the details contained in the note almost certainly reference Misty Holden (i.e. her father was a doctor, they were neighbors, she had diabetes). Careful review of the note also reveals who wrote it. The author of the note states that they occupied a bedroom “on the second floor” that “overlooks the terrace.” A guest at the party tells us who occupied that bedroom. In his statement about his father becoming ill at the party, Jeffrey Lee indicated that his father was taken upstairs to the bedroom overlooking the terrace: Angie Lee’s childhood bedroom. According to the floor plans for the Lee residence, only one bedroom overlooks the terrace. Since the note states that the author’s bedroom window overlooks the terrace, it is almost certain that the author of the note is Angie Lee.


The case file identifies six suspects. One of these suspects is the killer: 

Cynthia Scott Lee (52)

Roman Lee (32)

Kevin Doran (43)

Dr. Barry Holden (56)

Thomas Lee (29)

Jeffrey Lee (34)

Angie Lee (28)



The DNA report in the evidence concludes that DNA found on the handle of the hammer used to kill John Lee is a familial match to the victim. Therefore, the killer is a blood relative of John Lee. This eliminates Cynthia Scott Lee, Kevin Doran and Dr. Barry Holden as suspects. As explained below, it also eliminates Angie Lee.


A document in the evidence titled “Order of Adoption of Minor Child” revealed that Angie Lee is actually not the biological daughter of John Lee and Cynthia Scott Lee.  Angie was adopted at two months of age by John and Cynthia Scott Lee and the adoption order was kept confidential and held under seal by the court. Since Angie is not a biological relative of John Lee, she is not the killer.


Jeffrey Lee is the nephew of the victim. A photo in the case file shows Jeffrey Lee sitting in a wheelchair. The handwriting on the photo says: “My new wheels! Finally!” A note says that the photo was taken this year. Since Jeffrey Lee utilizes a wheelchair for mobility, it is unlikely that he could have killed the victim and then dragged the body into the woods.


The only two viable suspects remaining who are blood relatives of John Lee are his sons, Rowan Lee and Thomas Lee. Uncovering the motive for the murder of John Lee will reveal which of the sons is the killer.


Texts between Brie Lee and John Lee suggest that John planned to divulge a dark secret he had kept for many years, and that this act would destroy the lives of some of his family and friends. Does the secret relate to the disappearance of Misty Holden as described in a newspaper article in the case file?  And why would John Lee choose now, after so many years, to divulge his secret?  


Two pieces of evidence suggest the reason for John’s desire to tell the secret. First, Dr. Holden stated that he was treating John for a serious illness, but would not reveal the nature of the illness or the treatment. However, an advertisement in the newspaper for the medical practice in which Dr. Holden is a partner indicates that Dr. Holden’s area of specialty is oncology (the treatment of cancer). Second, careful reading of the autopsy report for John Lee reveals that John had cancer (adenocarcinoma) in his gallbladder, liver, and colon. It appears that John Lee was concerned he might not have much time left and wanted to come clean about the dark secret from his past.


The note about Misty Holden’s death found in the attic of the Lee residence reveals that one of Angie Lee’s brothers accidentally caused the death of Misty Holden.  Angie has two brothers: Rowan and Thomas. But which one? And which one killed John Lee?


Jones told the FBI that on the night Lee was killed, he was standing in the great room of the Lee residence getting a drink when the automatic flood lights came on in the back terrace. He saw Rowan Lee and Brie Lee (Thomas Lee’s wife) together on the terrace acting suspiciously. A note in the case file indicates that the automatic flood lights on the back terrace are set to come on automatically at 9:00 pm. Jones further stated that Roman and Brie continued to talk on the back terrace for another twenty minutes. Since Rowan was with Brie on the back terrace during the time period that the murder of John Lee occurred, he cannot be the killer.


Since the only two viable suspects remaining who are blood relatives of John Lee are his sons, Rowan Lee and Thomas Lee, and it has been established that Rowan Lee has an alibi, Thomas Lee is the killer. But why?

Thomas Lee murdered his father because John Lee intended to publicly divulge the circumstances surrounding the death of Misty Holden and the cover-up of her death. Thomas Lee’s wife, Brie, was aware that John intended to divulge this secret and had been trying to convince him not to do so. Brie encouraged John to talk to an unidentified person at the Christmas Eve party about his intentions to reveal the secret. The evidence strongly suggests that this person was Thomas.

Furthermore, as discussed above, the evidence suggests that the murder of John Lee was an act of passion and was not pre-planned. We can surmise that John asked his son Thomas to join him in the garage to discuss the issue while sharing a bottle of wine (as suggested by Brie). We can further surmise (based in part on the statement made by Nurit Holden) that an argument ensued and, in an act of anger, Thomas picked up the hammer, followed John onto the lawn, and killed his father by striking him in the head with the hammer.

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