Wife Sought for Husband's Slaying Alters Face

ByABC News via logo

Nov. 5, 2002 -- By the time U.S. Marshals knocked on the door of her cottage in southern Florida, 33-year-old Michelle Theer's hair had been bleached from red to blonde, and her face was drastically transformed.

The psychologist's new look was no accident, police said.

Authorities in Fayetteville, N.C., were looking for Theer in connection with the December 2000 slaying of her husband, 31-year-old Air Force Capt. Marty Theer, a C-130 pilot based at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville.

A military jury had already convicted Michelle Theer's lover in her husband's murder, but authorities had long suspected that his wife also played a role.

Just days before she was indicted, Theer, who had moved from Fayetteville and was living in New Orleans, disappeared. Three months ago Theer was arrested and authorities found she had deliberately had her face altered, and changed her hair color and skin tone in order to conceal her identity.

She still had laser burns on her face from recent plastic surgery, police said.

A Fatal Stop

Michelle Theer's story began on the night of Dec. 17, 2000, when she and her husband dropped by the office where she was a psychologist in a clinical practice. She needed to retrieve some documents after a Christmas party, she said. On the stairs leading up to the office, Capt. Marty Theer was shot five times and killed.

Shortly after the shooting, police became aware of another man in Mrs. Theer's life: Army Sgt. John Diamond, a man she reportedly met over the Internet.

Military authorities at Fort Bragg became convinced Diamond was involved in Theer's slaying, and charged him in the shooting in February 2001. When the case came to trial, in August 2001, a military court convicted Diamond of Capt. Theer's murder, and Diamond is serving a life sentence, without parole.

Diamond admitted carrying on an affair with Michelle, but denied shooting her husband.

Deborah Dvorak, Diamond's sister, told Good Morning America that her brother is an innocent man who simply became involved with the wrong woman.

"He didn't commit a murder," Dvorak said. "What I tried to tell everybody is that their motive is because he loved her, but he was in love with women. He didn't love Michelle Theer, he was just involved with her at the wrong time," she said.

Dvorak also notes that her brother is an expert with small arms, and whoever killed Marty Theer shot him five times, and "didn't know how to shoot," she said.

Military authorities felt that Diamond had not acted alone, but with the help of Michelle Theer, but they had no jurisdiction in cases involving civilians. Meanwhile, police in Fayetteville were investigating the case, but had not charged the newly widowed woman.

Missy Stoddard, a Tampa, Fla., reporter who had previously covered the story for the Fayetteville Observer, said police found suspicious items in Theer's apartment after her husband's death.

"From what my sources have told me, inside her apartment were books on how to get lost in America, how to change your identity, some books on Mexico and learning to speak Spanish," Stoddard said

Indictment Comes Late

Earlier this year the district attorney's office in Raleigh, N.C., secured a murder indictment against Theer, charging her with first-degree murder and conspiracy in the death of her husband.

There was just one problem: Michelle Theer had fled.

Since she had not been charged with anything, she had moved to New Orleans after her husband's death. But days before her indictment, she took off. Her life on the lam did not last long. Within three months of going underground, U.S. Marshals caught up to Theer at a cottage in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla.

The woman they confronted said her name was Liza Pendragon, but despite the new name, and the new face, the authorities were not fooled.

By the time authorities found her in Florida, Theer had maxed out her credit cards, and was broke, Stoddard said. She had also left a string of boyfriends in her wake who gave the authorities information on her whereabouts.

Theer was taken into custody, extradited back to North Carolina, and is now awaiting trial. She faces a possible death sentence if found guilty.

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