4. Playback

Dana’s conspicuous absence on Monday morning is the most telling fact revealed by surveillance video. Over the course of three hours, while Huck was up and active throughout the house, Dana never appeared on camera. Why not?

Dana was a busy, self-employed kitchen designer with a waiting-list of clients. She worked from home. Her customary routine was to get up, do a quick series of yoga poses on the carpet next to her bed, prepare a cup of hot water with lemon, and start her day. She would scan her messages on her iPad. She would check her phone, which she usually plugged in and charged along with her iPad on the kitchen hutch. Why, on this morning, did she let hours tick by without even once looking at her phone?

Not only did Dana leave her iPad near the kitchen, she left her purse and wallet in the same spot. At 9:46 a.m., Camera 6 shows Huck taking Dana’s phone from the kitchen hutch. At 10:13 a.m., Camera 6 shows Huck taking Dana’s purse from the hutch and removing her wallet.

To get a credit card and make a purchase using her iPad, Dana would’ve had to appear on camera that morning at the kitchen hutch. But she didn’t. She was noticeably absent.

I’ll walk through the video to show what Huck did prior to calling 911. Remember, the video timestamp is 24 minutes ahead of real time. This offset was calculated by Scott based on the arrival time of first responders, which is a more reliable measure than the wall clock used by Bryan to verify real time. In this timeline, I cite the video timestamp and sometimes refer to the corresponding real time on March 3, 2014.

6:35 a.m., Camera 7
Many but not all cameras suddenly start recording around 6:10 a.m. real time. Huck and Enzo enter the dining area from the hallway. Huck hits a wall switch and turns on the light over the dining table. He’s barefoot, wearing a Quiksilver-logo t-shirt and shorts. Huck follows the dog into the TV room.

6:36 a.m., Camera 4
The dog walks across the back patio, followed by Huck. Huck is wearing Birkenstock sandals and a bulky, olive-drab coat now. Their activity in the backyard triggers the exterior light near the master bedroom door. Enzo returns to the house. Huck follows. This brief clip from 6:36 a.m. to 6:38 a.m. is the only recording made in the backyard all morning.

6:38 a.m., Camera 6
Still wearing his coat and sandals, Huck walks into the guest bathroom and closes the door. Enzo paces in circles.

6:39 a.m., Camera 7
Huck walks from the guest bathroom to the kitchen hutch. He opens the blinds of west-facing windows. Huck looks at the surface of the hutch where we saw Dana leave her iPad the night before. He touches the top of the hutch with his right hand. The surveillance video image is not large enough for us to see whether the iPad is still where Dana left it.

6:40 a.m., Camera 7
Huck walks into the kitchen. He opens the blinds of the front window, which is located over the kitchen sink. When Huck stands at the sink, facing directly south, he can see the front yard and East Stearns Street. To the left of the sink and just above the cooktop is an east-facing window that looks out across the enclosed front patio toward the exterior door of the yoga room. This exterior door features a window in the center and is flanked by narrow windows. A mirrored closet door inside the room is directly opposite the exterior door. Windows and mirrors make the interior of the yoga room visible to someone standing outside on the enclosed front patio.

Prior to Dana’s death, I never heard anyone refer to this room as the “yoga room.” Rather, it was once a guest bedroom where, for some months of their marriage, Huck slept apart from Dana.

Around 2009, Huck installed the exterior door. He tore out the carpet and covered the exposed concrete floor with black stain. He bought a punching bag and practiced mixed martial arts. It was called Huck’s workout room. He hung a collection of ghastly Japanese masks depicting demon faces on the south wall. Dana didn’t like them. She asked Huck to install a curtain so she could easily cover the masks when she wished.

To my knowledge, Dana did not use this room for her yoga practice. Her brief, morning routine was something she could do anywhere, in a relatively small space, even in the cabin of a cruise ship. On some afternoons and evenings, she liked to attend yoga classes. Because she worked from home, she looked forward to going out for yoga because it was a good reason to get away from the office. She didn’t need a “yoga room.”

Similarly, she didn’t need to follow a yoga video to do her morning routine. She had been practicing for many years. She often encouraged me, as well as Huck, to start practicing. She gave me a gift subscription to Gaia.com at Christmas 2013, hoping I would be inspired by the videos. Since her death, I have watched Rod Stryker’s Peak Performance Yoga several times. It’s a slow, sedate program to guide beginners through standard poses. Dana was well beyond it.

Throughout the morning, we’ll see Huck spend a lot of time in the kitchen looking out the windows. He repeatedly wipes the cooktop and counters. From this location, he can keep an eye on both the yoga room and the front of the house.

6:45 a.m., Camera 7
The dog eats a bowl of food in the kitchen. When he’s finished, the dog walks east down the hallway. To return to the west side of the house, the dog has two options. He can retrace his steps and come back up the hallway into the dining area, in which case he would be recorded by Cameras 6 and 7. Or he can exit the door of the master bedroom, walk across the back patio, and enter through the TV room, which would be recorded by Camera 4.

We’ll see that the next time the dog appears on camera, at 7:36 a.m., he emerges from the TV room. This shows that, somehow, the dog can travel from one side of the house to the other without appearing on camera. If Enzo the dog can move around the house without being recorded, Huck can, too.

6:55 a.m., Camera 7
Still wearing his coat, Huck spends 15 minutes in the kitchen looking out the front windows as if waiting for someone to arrive. He prepares a beverage. Holding a cup, Huck walks through the dining room and into the TV room. Forty minutes will pass before he is again on camera.

7:15 a.m., Camera 8
Huck’s friend and neighbor pulls up in a white SUV. She parks at the curb in front of Huck’s house. This woman is a former emergency-room nurse named Marian with whom Huck has a close relationship. Later, Marian will tell police that she helped Huck clean up Dana’s blood. She lives two doors down from Huck. The golf-course footpath behind their houses allows them to travel from one house to the other.

When Marian pulls up to the curb, it’s just before 7:00 a.m. real time. Why did she park in front of Huck’s house rather than in her own driveway? Had she left to run an errand? Marian picks up something from the passenger seat before she exits her vehicle. She is recorded by Cameras 2, 5, and 8 walking down the sidewalk to her house.

7:35 a.m., Camera 7
Huck walks from the TV room into the dining area. He’s wearing his coat and Birkenstock sandals, as if he has been outdoors. He’s also wearing reading glasses. He places his iPad — he has one separate from Dana’s — on the dining table. He walks to the kitchen window where he can see Marian’s car at the curb.

7:36 a.m., Cameras 6 and 7
After looking out the front windows, Huck walks from the kitchen back to the dining table. He picks up his iPad. At the same moment, Enzo reappears on camera, entering the dining area from the TV room. The dog trots east down the hallway. Fifty-four minutes will pass before the dog again appears on camera.

Huck takes his iPad into the guest bathroom and closes the door. On Camera 6, there’s an unexplained 10-minute gap between when Huck closes the bathroom door and when the door is open. He was not recorded leaving the bathroom, so we do not know exactly when he exited.

7:47 a.m., Camera 7
While Camera 6, for whatever reason, was not recording the bathroom door, Huck is seen on Camera 7 placing his iPad on the hutch located near the hallway. He suddenly leans out of the hallway, places the device on the hutch, and disappears again down the hallway.

What’s happening in the hallway? Remember, this is where the pull-down ladder to the attic is located. This attic ladder would give Huck access to the surveillance DVR, which is located on the top shelf of the linen closet opposite the guest bathroom.

Meanwhile, a video can be seen playing on the screen of Huck’s iPad. The image resembles a human figure moving slowly. It’s possible that the device is playing a yoga video much like Rod Stryker’s Peak Performance Yoga. It’s possible that Huck previewed the yoga video that he would later claim as part of his alibi.

7:48 a.m., Camera 7
Huck walks into the dining area from the hallway. He picks up his iPad from the hutch and takes off his reading glasses. He switches off the iPad’s screen display and places the device on the dining table. He places his glasses on the iPad. He produces a cell phone from somewhere off camera and places it on the iPad.

7:49 a.m., Camera 7
Huck walks to the kitchen. He stands at the sink for several minutes. While he’s there, his phone on the dining table lights up with a notification, which he ignores.

7:54 a.m., Cameras 1, 3, 5, and 7
This is a curious sequence. At the sink, Huck fills a glass with liquid. He walks from the kitchen out the front door. He looks at the yoga room as he opens the front gate. He apparently dumps out the liquid in the glass. He looks southeast at Camera 5, which is mounted on a lamppost in the yard. He returns to the front patio and closes the gate behind him. With an anxious expression, he looks up at Camera 1. As he walks toward the front door with the empty glass in his hand, he looks anxiously at the yoga room.

What’s going on here? I suspect Huck has a helper cleaning up blood and staging the scene. Huck is worried, perhaps, that this person’s movements might be recorded inadvertently by the cameras. Perhaps Huck went through this exercise with the glass of liquid so he could check his front cameras to be sure they were pointing where he wanted them to point. Many of the cameras are positioned to capture an oddly narrow view. For instance, if the cameras were for home-security purposes, it would make sense for Camera 1 to show the entire exterior door of the yoga room as well as the front gate. These are two points of entry for a burglar, after all, and both points could be covered by the same camera. But Huck has narrowed the view to show just a small part of the patio in front of the yoga room door, plus the front gate.

7:55 a.m., Camera 7
Huck leaves the front door wide open when he walks back into the house. He returns to the kitchen. He puts the now-empty glass in the dishwasher. He again wipes down the counters and cooktop as he gazes out the windows. All his scrubbing and wiping reminds me of Lady Macbeth’s unconscious laundering of her murder guilt; “Yet here’s a spot… Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

7:56 a.m., Cameras 1, 3, and 6
Huck abruptly walks out the front door. This time he marches directly to the exterior door of the yoga room. Huck moves a wood-framed loveseat. He appears to pick up two panels of white, foam-core insulation. We can see Huck’s feet as he stands outside the yoga room for several seconds. Is he talking to someone? He walks toward the front door. He casts an anxious look back at the yoga room.

7:57 a.m., Cameras 3, 6, and 7
Huck carries the panels of insulation into the house, through the dining area, and into the TV room. Later, police will photograph these specific insulation panels in the garage. The same police photo shows the interior of the garage door lined with this same brand of insulation.

How and why were these panels in or near the yoga room? What accounts for Huck’s sudden urgency to move these panels? My guess is these panels were in the attic. One piece looks as if it would fit over the linen closet where the DVR is located. The other looks as if it would fit over the laundry nook, where the home’s Internet router and other electronics are located. Perhaps these panels were removed to make it easier to access cords and cables via the attic. Huck couldn’t leave the panels in or near the yoga room, perhaps, because he knew first responders would be coming later that morning. The panels might trigger questions or get in the way.

7:58 a.m., Cameras 6 and 7
Huck appears to be carrying empty cups and glassware as he returns to the kitchen from the TV room. Has he had company? With his left arm, he shuts the front door. He puts dishes into the dishwasher and gazes out the front window. He opens the refrigerator a couple of times and appears to be making something at the sink. He washes the dog’s bowl.

8:01 a.m., Camera 7
Huck looks out the east widow in the direction of the yoga room. He appears to hesitate, doing a double take. We see him shrug, smile, and shake his head. At the dining table, he puts on his reading glasses and checks his cell phone. He can see the notification he received earlier at 7:25 a.m. real time. He puts down the phone, removes his glasses, and exits into the TV room.

8:02 a.m., Camera 7
Huck returns from the TV room carrying a plastic jug. He walks to the kitchen. He appears to fill the jug at the kitchen sink. Later, Marian will tell police she helped Huck clean up Dana’s blood using a solution of warm water, bleach, and Simple Green. Huck carries the jug into the TV room and off camera.

8:05 a.m., Cameras 6 and 7
Huck returns from the TV room without the jug. He stops at the coffee table, which is just south of the dining table. He puts his feet, one at a time, on the coffee table and examines his Birkenstock sandals. Later, police photos of the master bathroom will show sandal tread prints stamped in stains on the floor. Huck walks into the kitchen and again looks out the front windows. At 8:07 a.m., he walks into the TV room and off camera.

8:28 a.m., Camera 7
For the past 21 minutes, no activity has been recorded inside the house. Ten hours have passed since Dana was last seen alive and well in her own home. Sunlight fills the house now, so the indoor cameras record in color. Huck walks to the dining table from the TV room. He has taken off his coat. He’s wearing a bright orange t-shirt. He’s barefoot and appears to be breathing heavily. He puts on his eyeglasses and checks his phone. At 8:29 a.m., Huck walks down the hallway toward the yoga room.

8:30 a.m., Camera 7
Huck returns from the hallway carrying a change of clothes. He’s carrying camouflage shorts in his right hand and a green tshirt in his left. He walks into the TV room.

8:31 a.m., Camera 7
Enzo the dog enters the dining area from the hallway. The dog was last seen on camera at 7:36 a.m. Where has Enzo been all this time? He walks into the TV room.

8:33 a.m., Camera 7
Closely followed by the dog, Huck walks out of the TV room and into the dining area. He is wearing camouflage shorts, socks, shoes, and a dark coat covered with a pixelated camouflage

Why did Huck change his clothes in the TV room rather than in the master bedroom or bath? Later, police photos will show a pile of Huck’s clothes on a chair in the TV room, and a blanket on the sofa. It’s possible that, as had happened previously in their marriage, Huck was not sleeping with Dana in the master bedroom. Rather, it’s possible that he was sleeping on the sofa in the TV room.

Huck picks up his cell phone from the dining table and puts it in his pocket. He walks into the guest bathroom and closes the door.

8:33 a.m., Camera 5
At the same time Huck enters the guest bathroom, his neighbor Marian walks out of her house. She pauses on the sidewalk. All morning, a construction crew has been doing repair work on Stearns Street west of her house. The construction workers, most of whom appear to be wearing orange t-shirts, have been walking up and down the sidewalk in front of Huck’s house. Marian looks in the direction of the repair work. She turns and walks toward her car. She appears to be carrying bags over her shoulders.

8:34 a.m., Cameras 2 and 8
Marian pulls away from the curb and into slow traffic heading west on Stearns.

8:35 a.m., Cameras 6 and 7
Huck exits the guest bathroom. He’s now wearing sunglasses with attached Bluetooth earbuds covering his ears. He pauses at the dining table near his iPad, touches his ears, and walks to the kitchen. He looks out the front window. He can see Marian’s car is no longer parked in front of his house. He looks west down the street in the direction she has driven. He lingers at the window. He puts a collar on the dog and again looks out the window. He grabs the dog’s leash and returns to the window. Huck puts the leash on the dog.

8:36 a.m., Cameras 1, 3, and 5
At 8:12 a.m. real time, with the Enzo on a leash, Huck walks out the front door and out the front gate. He walks to one of the raised flower beds in the front yard. Moments after he walks to the flower bed, Camera 5 switches on. Twenty seconds after the camera is activated, Huck leads Enzo to the sidewalk. Camera 5 shows them walking west on Stearns, in the same direction Marian drove just three minutes earlier.

Ten houses down on Huck’s block in the direction he’s walking, there’s an open lot that allows public access to the footpath along the golf course behind Huck’s house. I suspect that he’s carrying Dana’s iPad under his camouflage-pattern jacket. He knows Marian isn’t home because he has seen that her car is gone. I think it’s likely that he walks to the open lot, doubles back to Marian’s house along the footpath and, once in range of a Wi-Fi network he can access, he uses Dana’s iPad.

According to police, the iPad is used at 8:28 a.m. real time to buy a purse on Levenger.com. While Huck is away, no activity is recorded inside the house. Dana has not appeared on camera all morning. At 8:33 a.m. real time, her iPad is used to log on to the Rod Stryker Peak Performance Yoga video on Gaia.com.

Later, Randy Candias, one of Nuch’s investigators, will tell me he spoke to Gaia.com about Dana’s account. Months after Dana’s death, Randy learned, someone continued to log on to her account and watch videos. Meaning, someone other than Dana was able to access her account, and I’m guessing that person was Huck.

9:03 a.m., Cameras 1, 8, and 10
Huck appears on camera with Enzo. It’s now 8:39 a.m. real time. Six minutes have passed since the yoga video started playing on Dana’s iPad. I suspect that, through his Bluetooth earbuds, Huck can hear Rod Stryker’s voice narrating the video. With a garden hose near the front gate, Huck sprays the front walk. Later, he will tell police that he is washing his shoes and Enzo’s feet.

9:05 a.m., Cameras 1 and 3
When Huck and Enzo enter the front gate, the dog runs west toward the front door. Huck calls him back and leads him east toward the exterior door of the yoga room. We can see Huck lift his jacket, as if adjusting the waistband of his shorts. He walks toward the patio furniture directly in front of the yoga room.

Later, police photos will show a small table between the two patio loveseats. This table is just out of view of the surveillance camera. I suspect that Huck removes Dana’s iPad from his jacket and places on this table. We can see Huck’s feet as he stands briefly outside the yoga room.

9:06 a.m., Camera 3
Enzo runs to the front door. Huck follows. Huck spends a long minute rubbing down the dog with a white cloth. This cloth was resting on the loveseat cushions, which are near the front door. It looks as if the cushions had been washed and were propped up to dry. After drying the dog, Huck puts the towel on the cushions.

9:07 a.m., Cameras 6 and 7
Huck and Enzo enter the house through the front door. Enzo runs to the hallway but turns around and runs to the kitchen. Indoors, Huck is still wearing the sunglasses with attached earbuds. He places his cell phone on the kitchen hutch and stands at the front window. He feeds something to the dog. Huck takes off his jacket and walks with it to the TV room. He’s wearing a green t-shirt. He continues to wear his sunglasses.

9:08 a.m., Cameras 6 and 7
Huck walks from the TV room down the hallway. About 15 seconds later, he returns with an armload of bedding. Huck covers the sofa with sheets and prepares a bed for Enzo. To me, the dog seems sad. This preparation and protection of the sofa is something Huck and Dana would do when they planned to leave the dog home alone for more than an hour. The whole time, Huck is wearing sunglasses with earbuds.

9:09:45 a.m., Camera 7
Huck walks toward his laptop computer, which, according to police photos, is on the dining table but unseen by surveillance cameras. At this moment in the yoga video, Rod Stryker says, “Triangle pose.” As if on cue, Huck abruptly pushes an orange dining chair under the table. At last, he takes off his sunglasses.

Later, a police photo will show the sunglasses on a yellow note tablet on the dining table next to a stack of papers marked with State Farm Insurance logos.

Huck casts a glance over his shoulder. He walks off camera into the TV room. To me, the dog seems confused. After Huck walks off camera, Enzo stands in the dining area for 30 seconds before turning and walking down the hallway toward the yoga room. He doubles back, goes into the TV room, comes out of the TV room and stands by the dining table.

9:11 a.m., Cameras 6 and 7
This is the clip that Bryan McMahon showed me, the one that he said exonerated Huck. Huck enters the dining area from the TV room. He walks to his iPad, which is still on the dining table. He puts on reading glasses and taps on the screen of the device. After a minute of looking at the screen, he turns off the display, removes his reading glasses, and leaves them on top of the iPad.

Next, he does something extraordinary. Huck runs his fingers through his hair. He walks to the center of the room and looks at himself in the mirror above the sofa. Huck grooms his hair in the mirror. He looks at his profile, turning his head from one side to the other. He raises his right hand to his right cheek, and with a caress of his face, he spins around and marches down the hallway.

Enzo follows Huck down the hallway. Fifteen seconds later, Enzo returns. As if commanded, the dog gets on the bed Huck has made for him on the sofa.

Three seconds later, at timecode 9:12:34 a.m., Enzo raises his head and looks toward the hallway. Looking puzzled, the dog remains on the sofa.

This, according to police, is the exact moment when Dana supposedly fell out of a risky yoga pose and cracked her head on a bare concrete floor. In real time, it’s 8:48:34 a.m., which corresponds to 15 minutes and 34 seconds into Peak Performance Yoga. At this exact point in the video, the yoga practitioner is merely standing on her yoga mat, breathing deeply and, in the words of Rod Stryker, feeling “vibrant and alive.”

Ten seconds after Enzo raises his head, Huck steps out of the hallway. He looks at the dog. Huck turns to his right to face the camera. Huck acts as if he’s brushing his teeth. He walks down the hallway and off camera. Two minutes will pass before Huck calls 911.

Read Chapter 5: Dirty Call