Aug. 17, 2007 — -- Just after midnight on Oct. 2, 2005, Christina Cleland said goodbye to her co-workers at a local bar in their small Ohio town, and hurried home to her boyfriend, David Heinricht. When she reached their apartment, she found a white rope knotted around a pillar of a living room wall. Heinricht's body was on a black futon, a noose wrapped around his neck.
"I turn the light on," Christina said, "and that's when I see the ropes. And I, for a whole second, I stood there because my eyes were lying to me and I didn't want to believe it."
In Heinricht's right hand was a broken cigarette; in his left, she found a typewritten suicide note, bearing the signature "Dave." "Dear Christina," it read, "I don't love you…you need to go back to your husband."
In a strange coincidence, Heinricht's father, Guy Arginziano, was at home that night with the police scanner crackling in the background in his kitchen.
"I heard David's name and information come over the air waves," Arginziano said. "And so I knew he was involved somewhat in whatever incident occurred. When I got to the apartment, a police officer opened the door. He had a sergeant come out and say that my son had passed away. And I thought about it, and I thought, well, now, 19-year-old kids don't pass away."
For Christina, the clue to Heinricht's death was in the note that she found. It brought up all the unhappy circumstances of the love triangle she had been trying to untangle. She wanted to move on from her unhappy first marriage to a young soldier, Shaun Cleland.
Nearly four years earlier, the two had married in Hawaii, where Shaun was stationed. It was a whirlwind romance and gave the teenage Christina an opportunity to escape her strict Mormon upbringing. Soon, Christina and Shaun moved into an apartment in his Ohio hometown, right next door to Heinricht. Shortly after the move, they began to argue over Shaun's career in the military.
"We had discussed at first when we were together that he would not make it a career, and here he is about to make it a career," Christina recalled. "I told him, if you go, that it's going to be the end of us because we have been apart more than we have been married, and I don't know who you are."
Tensions between Shaun and Christina escalated. She said he would slam things and there were times when he would break things against the wall.
"When he gets upset when he drives, he'll start going 100, 110 miles per hour, weaving through traffic. And you're scared for your life," Christina added.
Shaun agreed to try and make a fresh start by leaving the military life. But after losing two jobs in a row, he gave up and moved to Texas to study to become a military medic. Christina remained in Ohio and got a job as a bartender.
After a few weeks, she decided to visit Shaun in Texas, to test their marriage. She bought some nice lingerie and tried to plan a romantic night, but she says Shaun didn't seem interested. Christina got the sense that he might be seeing someone else.
Hurt and angry, Christina returned to Ohio and soon began her own relationship with the couple's former neighbor, David Heinricht. In the meantime, Shaun rebased to Hawaii. He tried to stay in touch with Christina, but she was ready to move on. Faced with the loss of his wife to another man, Shaun began a desperate campaign to win Christina back.
He sent Christina pictures of himself at the beach where he proposed to her, and for three weeks he called her incessantly -- one day calling 87 times in 30 minutes. And then, there was silence. Two days of silence.
On the morning of Oct. 1, 2005, Christina and her boyfriend woke up late. Christina later said that she sensed something strange and threatening that morning.
"There was something about the air that was very heavy," she said. "And so we were very careful throughout that morning."
At noon, Shaun arrived in Cleveland from Hawaii -- he had gone AWOL. Meanwhile, Christina left home and headed for work at the bar. Heinricht soon called her. "Your ex is downstairs," she said he told her. "And he was buzzing at the door."
Heinricht called the police who shooed off Shaun. Enraged, Shaun headed to the bar where Christina worked. He stayed there for four hours, drinking beer and begging Christina to return to him. And then, he abruptly left.
When Christina saw the knot on the rope around Heinricht's neck, she immediately recognized the work of her husband.
"There's a special knot on the rope that he always used to close his laundry bag so people wouldn't steal his clothes. And I knew when I saw that, that it was him," Christina said.
Christina shared her information with police who hurriedly tracked Shaun down at the airport. He was sending text messages to his new girlfriend in Hawaii, whom he planned to marry. In searching his bag, police at the airport found erotic pictures of Christina that matched the same batch of intimate photos found scattered near David's body. It was these photos, Shaun told police on a taped confessional, that drove him over the edge.
In court, Shaun pleaded guilty. There would be no trial. But several weeks before his sentencing, he said he wanted to change his plea, and that his confession was a lie.
Shaun said that the real killer was hiding in his car that night at the bar.
"He basically made me drive to the apartments, had me get out, and had his hand in the pocket with the gun that he had," he said. "When David Heinricht came home, the man jumped up, grabbed him, slammed the door, and attacked him and eventually killed him."
Shaun claims the real killer threatened that if he told what had happened, he would harm Shaun's niece. The judge refused to let him withdraw his guilty plea at his sentencing, and Shaun was sentenced to 28 years in prison with no parole. He has filed an appeal asserting that he should have been allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
Asked if he would change anything, Shaun said, "I'd just like to go back to that week, and not come home."