911 Call Shatters Life Maine Couple Built Together

Linda Dolloff calls 911 after vicious attack on spouse -- but no intruder found.

July 15, 2010 — -- The town of Standish, Maine, is a quiet corner of America. The Dolloff family has called it home for generations. A street is named after the clan, bordering a piece of land that has been in the family for more than 100 years.

"It's a close-knit town," Sheriff Mark Dion said. "Everybody's connected in one way or the other. ... Unfortunately, bad things do occur ... from time to time."

On an April night last year, at the Dolloff family home, one of those bad things was under way. A call came in to emergency dispatchers.

"My husband's not responding. He shot me, he shot me," a yoga instructor cried in a frantic recording of the 911 call. "Somebody shot me."

"Your husband did?" the dispatcher asked.

"No, no my husband ... he's in bed," the woman replied. "He's not answering me. I just hear this gurgling noise."

Watch the full story Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET

Jeff and Linda Dolloff had been married for 11 years. He was a high-powered management consultant. She was a yoga instructor. They had built a life together.

"His family's been in this area for six generations," Linda Dolloff, 48, said. "And shortly after we met, he said, you know, 'I've been waiting my whole life for someone to love this place as much as I do.' And I still love it."

Not long after the Dolloffs married in 1998, they started on their life project: the dream house on Dolloff road.

"We harvested the trees, we sawed the lumber, we planed them into boards, we stood up the walls, we installed our own flooring," Linda Dolloff said. "... It's a spectacular home with a beautiful fireplace. It's like being on vacation every day."

For her, the centerpiece of the home was her yoga studio. It defined her. It was her hobby and livelihood. She taught a handful of students the body-stretching and mind-calming effects of yoga.

"I'm a yoga instructor, and it's not just a physical activity to me, or it's not just that I'm a teacher," she said. "It's my way of life."

A Crumbling Marriage

But after a dozen years of an idyllic life, their marriage began to crumble. She was having trouble with his three daughters from a previous marriage, he complained that she was never happy anymore. He wanted out.

But Linda Dolloff was holding back. She was worried about losing her house, despite a generous settlement offer to which her husband agreed.

She said she had not given up on the marriage.

"The door was not completely shut," she said. "We were moving forward, we negotiated the divorce, up to a point where I actually felt very comfortable."

Linda Dolloff: Night of the Attack

Indeed, even after agreeing on terms of the divorce, they remained in the same house they both loved so much. Things were so amicable they sometimes ended up in the same bed.

"I loved him, and if we wanted to get into the hot tub and have wine, then that's what we were going to do," she said.

And that, Linda told "20/20," is exactly what happened April 11, 2009, the night of the attack; a night shared by two people on the verge of divorce. There was a hot bath, a bottle of wine, sex. And then a return to their separate bedrooms for sleep.

"I had heard some nondescript noises, nothing that seemed alarming to me," she said. "I walked down the hall. I remember, I had my head down ... and ... heard ... a loud bang. Experienced some pain, fell."

She said the pain was sharp, and from the bang she figured out she had been shot in the midsection, but the dark room made it impossible to see who fired the shot as she crumpled to the floor.

"I saw a movement, and that's all," she said. "When I opened my eyes, in front of me, there was a gun on the floor. I reached for the gun, made contact with it, it fired, it scared me. ... Certainly my husband would be here, and I called out to him, got no response. I heard him gurgling."

Click HERE to listen to a recording of Linda Dolloff's 911 call.

Police Arrive on Scene

Surprisingly, help was not that far away. Sheriff's Det. Sgt. Jim Estabrook was in the area at the time of the attack.

"There apparently had been a shooting ... a home invasion of some sort," Estabrook recalled. "So I immediately start responding. And started down the driveway. ... We don't know ... what's there, who's there, where they are, or where they're going, or what their motivations are."

Estabrook had his gun drawn and eyes on the house when he saw something.

"Right in the windows at the door, there's movement. It's a flash. It's a person, is what I say it is," he said. "I see one person in the window."

Estabrook asked the 911 operator to have Linda Dolloff reveal herself.

"And when the door opened," he said, "she came outside by virtue of just kind of falling out of the front door, onto the front steps."

Estabrook made his way upstairs, not knowing what he was walking into.

"I stepped into the house, quickly cleared the room to the left, to make sure there were no people in there," Estabrook said. "And I immediately started up the stairwell. The first thing I notice is on the second step, there's ... a shell casing. So, now I know, there's been a gun introduced in this house somehow, somewhere.

"Halfway up the stairs, there's another shell casing. As I break the plane of the second floor, there's a handgun, lying right at the top of the stairs and I'm looking right down the barrel of it. No one behind the handgun, this is good."

Estabrook was prepared for just about anything, except, perhaps, what he saw next.

"In the open door in the bedroom, ... a body on the bed," he recalled. "And ... it ends up being Jeff Dolloff. He's lying ... with his head at the foot of the bed. He's naked ... he's covered with blood. He was just an absolute mess. ... If we didn't get help to this guy ... he was going to die."

Police searched the house without finding an intruder. A police dog was called in but it did not pick up any tracks. The Dolloffs were taken to the hospital.

Linda Dolloff's wound required surgery to repair torn flesh and blood vessels. She had bullet fragments lodged in her hip.

But Jeff Dolloff appeared to have been attacked with a baseball bat. His wounds were much more serious. He was admitted to the hospital in critical condition, with fractures on both sides of his head, a broken nose, both cheek bones broken, and more chipped bones inside his skull.

"I had doubts that he would make it," Fire Chief Brent Libby said. "His injuries were life-threatening."

Linda Dolloff: Hunt for Suspects

Since Linda Dolloff said she saw neither the attack on Jeff nor who had shot her, police were hoping Jeff Dolloff would be their "star witness." But he was unconscious in a medically induced coma for weeks.

Now, Jeff Dolloff said, "They said they had never seen anyone survive injuries like this. I had a nose bone shoved up into my brain.

"What I am left with today is somebody else's teeth in the front and no teeth in the back," he said "I can't smell, I can't taste. Apparently there is no hope for that. The side of my face ... I have feeling but it's almost like it's in Novocaine. My eye waters all the time. ... The guys that worked on me, God bless them, they put Humpty Dumpty back together again."

For police, there was another big problem. Whoever tried to beat Dolloff's brains in had succeeded in killing his memory.

He said he remembers "absolutely nothing about the night of the attack."

And when asked who could have done this, Dolloff told Maine State Police Det. Bill Ross that he had lots of enemies. His job as a corporate consultant involves downsizing, deciding who gets big-dollar contracts and who does not, sometimes costing people their jobs.

"Who would want me hurt?" Dolloff told the grand jury. "I can give you a list of 1,000 people."

But police weren't buying a retaliation attack or burglary gone bad. The house looked too occupied to encourage a home invasion.

"I think with any job, you're going to piss people off, you're going to, people are going to be aggravated with decisions that you make," Ross said. "But at what point does that rise to, 'I'm going to come to your home on a holiday weekend with five cars in the driveway, and commit this crime'?"

A Call From Husband to Wife

Police interviewed his co-workers, without generating a lead.

And then Ross turned his attention inside the house. He began asking questions about their impending divorce, which has yet to be finalized.

"I want to know about your relationship with Linda," Ross asked Dolloff. "Did she want a divorce?

"I don't think so," he replied.

Sitting with Dolloff in his hospital room, Ross had an idea.

"I've got my phone right here, I've got my recorder, let's call Linda right now," Ross said. "Are you willing to do this?"

Ross wanted to get her talking. He had begun to suspect that she had a hand in the crime. He hoped that hearing her husband's voice for the first time since the attack would lure her into making a mistake.

"He asked me if I had a problem calling Linda, and what he was looking for was a story," Dolloff said.

Dolloff placed the call. His wife had no idea she was being recorded, or that police were beginning to look her way.

"I'm hearing rumors that somebody took a baseball bat to me and shot you," Dolloff said to his wife on the phone. "Is that right?"

"I was shot," she replied. "I don't know what happened to you, specifically, I don't know."

She told him what she said she remembered.

"We got in the hot tub and had some wine," she said. "Oh, we made love ... after a while you started snoring, I couldn't sleep. I went back in the other bedroom."

Linda Dolloff said she was heading to the bathroom when "I just heard a loud bang and I fell."

"The way my injuries look ... it looked like someone took a baseball bat to me, not a gun," Jeff said. "Took out both eyesockets. Took out my nose. Took out my throat. Took out my head on both sides."

"Oh my God," she said.

"Why would they beat me with a baseball bat and shoot you with my gun? They were sitting on 15 hundred dollars cash they left in a drawer."

"I have no friggin' idea," she said.

Then, for the first time, Jeff Dolloff said it out loud. He told his wife of a dozen years that he was beginning to think she had something to do with his beating.

"You should have heard somebody 10 feet away from you," Dolloff said. "You should have seen somebody 10 feet away from you. A lot of this s*** doesn't make sense to me. ... This is going to cost me the rest of my life."

"Are you saying you think I had something to do with this?" she replied.

"Well, there's only one person in the world who's pissed off at me right now, and that's you," he said.

There was nothing in the conversation that she'd like to take back now, Linda Dolloff told ABC News.

"Absolutely not. ... Perhaps he needed that call to allay any of his fears that I, you know, I was responsible for it in any way," Linda said. "That was a way for him to be able to talk to me and hear my own voice saying that it wasn't me."

She had admitted nothing. Still, within a month, even without a confession or direct evidence against her, police made the Maine yoga instructor the central suspect in the brutal attempted murder of her husband.

Linda Dolloff Case: The Other Woman

Police had a changing sense of her possible motive for the attack. She had always claimed the pending divorce was amicable, and that her husband was generous and open to reconciliation.

But police had found out from Jeff Dolloff something she had not told them. Just before the attack, he had announced that he was bringing a woman to the house Linda loved for a look-see.

"I had told her ... there was a woman in Massachusetts I had met when I was working down there, and I would like her to come up and see the farm," he said. "To meet the dog, to meet the kids, to meet my mother ... and to meet the neighbors."

She admitted it was hard to hear. "When I had plenty of time to get accustomed to what was going on and he was, started talking in February, and I was hurt, of course," she said.

Ross brought Linda Dolloff in for an interrogation. He told her that her story of an outside intruder didn't make sense.

"It's difficult for us to see how Jeff was assaulted by someone else that came in from outside the house," Ross told her Linda in a tape of the interrogation. "What else happened that night?"

"I don't know how to answer that question," she said. "We had a nice dinner together."

Ross grew direct at one point.

"I think Jeff wanted to move on with his life," Ross told her on the tape. "I think Jeff was looking to push you off to the side."

"I didn't feel that way," she said. "He was taking care of me."

Linda didn't budge. She said she wasn't feeling well, stood up and ended the interview.

"Until I sat in that room, I guess I just, I didn't want to believe it," she said. "And I didn't want to accept the fact that somebody would think I was capable of doing such an act."

Two weeks later, Linda Dolloff was handcuffed, put in the back of a squad car and charged with attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and filing a false report. She would plead not guilty to all charges.

ABC News asked her directly whether she tried to kill her husband.

"Absolutely not," she said. "Never thought about it, no. Never. No. Absolutely not."

A Hotly Contested Trial

"This whole thing about the yoga and the peace and the tranquility ... there are two Lindas," said Stephanie Anderson, the Cumberland County District Attorney in charge of prosecuting the case. "There is this facade of Linda that is very, you know, naturopathic, and meditative, and, and all of that. ... But there's also the Linda on the inside that is very, very different.

"Do I think she's a murderer? I mean, generally? No, I don't think she's a murderer generally. I think she tried to kill her husband."

Dolloff, who still limps from the bullet in her hip, hired defense attorney Dan Lilley, a veteran of more than 50 homicide cases, to defend her. He said Linda was offered a plea bargain.

"The prosecutor, prior to the trial, offered a three-year term in jail and two years probation," Lilley said. "She turned that down because she said she didn't commit the crime and she wanted a trial."

It was a huge gamble. Linda Dolloff was facing up to a 30-year prison sentence if convicted.

"This was going to be a Super Bowl from our point of view," sheriff Dion said. "I mean the best on both sides had gathered within this case to wrestle it out in the courtroom."

Visit the '20/20' site Friday for Part 2 of the Linda Dolloff story, and watch the full story on '20/20' Friday at 10 p.m. ET