It was a marriage that seemed sure to blossom in the golden California sun.
Richard Hamlin was a savvy Sacramento prosecutor. His wife, Susan Hamlin, had been a law student at the top of her class.
"I met her at law school," Richard said. "I was knocked out of my shoes by her. We then, you know, really had a very … a very blessed life."
"He was my Prince Charming," Susan said. "I married at 27, and had always looked forward to falling in love and getting married and having a family."
Richard became a high-profile defense lawyer, and Susan put her law career on hold to be a hands-on mom to their four children.
"On the surface, yes, life did seem to be good," she said.
It was a life drawn into the core of the A-list Sacramento society. As time wore on, though, their sparkling surface concealed a marriage that was coming unpinned. And Richard and Susan have very different explanations about what went wrong and how their storybook marriage turned into a nightmare.
Richard says that his wife put on "a very good front."
"She started dealing with severe bouts of depression," he said. "For as successful as she was, she had major self-esteem issues. And there was … this, um, real change of personalities."
Susan puts the blame for their troubles elsewhere.
"He was experimenting with drugs, and he had always been unfaithful," she said. "Nothing would ever be enough, whatever it was, success, money, drugs, alcohol, partying, sex, anything. Uh, he was insatiable."
The Hamlins' marriage was headed for divorce, but the couple wound up in court for something far more serious and disturbing.
The darkness surfaced after Susan went to authorities to make a confession, one so shocking police wanted to be sure they'd heard her correctly.
"I knew that she was an attorney at one time," said Sgt. Tom Hoagland, who handled the case. "And I explained to her, 'Now, Susan, you had just admitted to being involved in a conspiracy to murder your husband.'"
It was a bombshell in the couple's social circle, a murder plot hatched in a home and family that was picture-perfect.
Richard says his wife's plans to kill him grew out of some disturbing discoveries about her secret past: buried memories of rape and abuse at the hands of her father.
"This was a father that took her puppy and gutted it, and said, 'If you speak about what goes on, this is what's gonna happen to you,'" Richard said.
Richard said that his wife had talked about "her father being involved in a satanic cult" and about a "lifetime of being raped by her father."
Richard says that night after night, he encouraged his wife to let out the pain and the secrets, which he says led to a startling revelation.
As a brainwashed follower of her father's satanic cult, Richard says, his wife had been in on a plan to murder him in order to protect her family secrets.
Richard says their love and dedication foiled the murder plot. He says Susan got the courage to expose the conspiracy, first to him, then to police.
Richard accompanied his wife as she went to make a shocking string of confessions at the sheriff's office, but the detectives handling the case weren't entirely convinced.
"[The murder] was supposedly gonna make her the 'high priestess' of this satanic cult," Hoagland said. "It was bizarre. It was the most bizarre thing I had ever heard."