(MOBILE, Ala.) A day after a Baldwin County judge sentenced Steve Nodine, Local 15 News is showing you never before seen crime scene footage and speaking exclusively to the man at the center of it all. The former Mobile County Commissioner once accused of murdering his mistress, Angel Downs, pleaded guilty to domestic violence and perjury charges. Judge Charles Partin sentenced him to ten years on perjury charges, one year for an ethics violations, and one year on domestic violence. He will serve just two years of that sentence. Local 15's Andrea Ramey has covered this sensational story since the beginning and reports on the rise and fall of the charismatic county commissioner.
In May 2010, Nodine was a political leader dealing with the early stages of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. But his life would soon spiral out of control. It all started May 9th, Mother's Day, after he spent the day at the beach with Downs. By that evening, she was dead in her driveway and police were looking for Nodine.
Local 15 News obtained exclusive video of Gulf Shores Police Officer Paul Meliska as he responds to a shots fired call at 501 Ridge Road. As Officer Meliska handles the 9 mm Kel Tec found next to Angel Downs' body, a neighbor approaches.
"I heard a gunshot and I stepped outside, and there's a red truck in this driveway, and it was a county," said Roger Whitehead.
Whitehead had just sat down to eat pizza with his family when he heard the single shot.
"I know that it was his county truck that went by almost right when the gun shot. It was like the gun shot and he was pulling off," said Whitehead.
By now, officers know the driver of that truck is Stephen Nodine. They soon learn more about Downs.
"Showing back in 2006, she attempted suicide," the said dispatch operator.
"Uh,oh, you hear that, 2006, she attempted suicide," said one of the responding officers.
Now comes the single most important question investigators would grapple with for years: who pulled the trigger?
"She killed herself in that driveway," said Nodine's former defense attorney Dennis Knizley.
"She pulled the trigger and I think he was standing right there," said Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon.
"She didn't shoot herself," said former Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb.
After spending an afternoon together at Pensacola Beach with friends, Nodine left Downs' condo. Cell phone records show he didn't get very far before he started calling her.
"I get up the road, find out I forgot my wallet, and call her and tell her I'm on my way back to pick my wallet up," said Nodine.
Nodine called Downs at 7:38, 7:42, 7:43, and again at 7:44. The longest call is at 7:38 for 20 seconds.
"He's calling. He's calling. He's calling. He's going back to her house," said Dixon. "And I don't believe it's the conduct of someone who had just left his wallet."
Meanwhile, Angel is making calls of her own. At 7:42, she calls her sister Susan in Georgia and asks, where you do you shoot an intruder?
At 7:46 she texts her sister, "Stepehen nodine is here."
Newcomb says the timeline is telling.
"As she said and as I'll always remember when you read it, Steve Nodine is here," said Newcomb. "And six minutes later there's a 9-1-1 call. Six minutes later. I think that's as close as you can get to somebody telling you about what happened. Steve Nodine is here."
"When I first get the case, I have the same reservations everyone else does. He's over there. People say he's speeding away from the scene. There's a dead woman there. There's an adulterous relationship here. Things don't sound very good so far," said Knizley.
"I never harmed that woman," said Nodine.
"How do you account for people hearing a gun shot, and then see you leave and you not see or hear a thing?" asked Ramey.
"You got to remember, my radio was on. My air conditioner was on. I have horrible hearing from my Army days," replied Nodine.
Nodine sat down with us for an exclusive interview. For the first time since the shooting, he revealed new details about his relationship with Downs. Details, he says, that shed light on what happened that night.
"It's just emotional to think about. Angel loved people. Angel did not want to hurt anybody. She was probably sick of everything, you know," said Nodine.
Nodine says about a month before the shooting, Downs made the comment that they should be like Romeo and Juliet... a Shakespearean tragedy where the lovers each take their own life after believing the other is dead.
"I think she was tired of me going back home. I think she was sick of the relationship," said Nodine. "I believe if I walked into that bedroom, she was going to shoot me and shoot herself. It's hard for me to even talk about, but I think that was her intention."
Prosecutors had a different theory.
Fifteen days after the shooting, and just days before the Republican primary Newcomb was running in, Nodine was indicted for murder.
"I have not seen such a spectacle," said Knizley. "It was rushed to an arrest to get more face time, more publicity, and look what I'm doing. I'm prosecuting the bad people."
"Everything that's been said, that it was political, not true," said Newcomb. "We took it to a grand jury because that's what everybody who was involved in the investigation thought would be best procedure, and because coincidentally, there was a grand jury in session."
Newcomb lost the election. And a judge declared a mistrial in December 2010, when jurors couldn't reach a unanimous verdict. Nine were ready to convict, while just three thought he was innocent.
The following January, Hallie Dixon was sworn in as the new district attorney. It soon became clear, she was taking a much different approach to the case.
"Many law enforcement officers articulated to me, look we don't believe the evidence in this case shows murder. We don't think the evidence is there," said Dixon.
Fingerprints were not lifted from the gun. Gun powder residue tests were not performed, as a matter of procedure. Blood was not found on the clothes Nodine was wearing and was not found on or in his county issued red truck.
But Newcomb argued the gun was pressed so hard against Downs' head, most of the blood went out the other side, opposite of where Nodine would've been standing. She also argued scratch marks on Downs' button indicated she was dragged.
"The totality of the scene. The muzzle print on her head. Her hair, they way she's laying on the driveway was all indicative of, that she didn't shoot herself," said Newcomb.
"If he's in that car headed out of the subdivision immediately when the shot was fired, there's not enough time to do that," said Knizley.
Toxicology results showed Downs had alcohol, ambien, xanax, and adderall in her system at the time of her death. Enough drugs and alcohol, the defense says, to cloud her judgement.
"I believe he went in there and grabbed the billfold just like he said and walked out, before she had to much react, she had the gun in her hand, she was upset once again that he was going back to his wife, the mother of his child on Mother's Day, and when he left, it frustrated her so much that she wanted to show him and she killed herself in that driveway," said Knizley.
"Why I did not see her physically do it or whether it happened in the split second once I left, we'll never know," said Nodine.
Now, new experts Dixon consulted were weighing in on what they believed happened that night.
"The blood spatter was very, very indicative to everybody that I had looking at it that it was self inflicted," said Dixon.
Autopsy photos of Down's right hand show some of the blood spatter. The defense says it's important to note where blood is not present on her hand.
"The lack of blood right there, which would've been where her gun was, I think it was indicative of the fact she was holding the gun," said Knizley
"I would disagree with the way he describes it. No, I think the blood on her hand is indicative of exactly the opposite," said Newcomb.
"I would say every single expert I talked with say the opposite of Ms. Newcomb," said Dixon.
And once again some were questioning if politics and the highly public feud between the dueling DA's was playing a role in the case.
"Ms. Newcomb had nothing to do with my evaluation, never has and never will," said Dixon.
Unlike Newcomb, Dixon didn't pursue a murder case against Nodine. Instead, the grand jury she presented evidence to returned a charge of criminally negligent homicide. A misdemeanor charge that said while Nodine may not have pulled the trigger, his negligence caused her death.
"I think he new that he was morally, at least, responsible for what had happened," said Dixon. "I think he was scared and fled and lied about it. Inhuman is what I would call it. If Mr. Nodine would have actually stepped up and been man enough to admit what actually happened that night, I might believe something that he said."
Dixon would never take the case to court. Before she had the chance, the Attorney General's Office swooped in, took the case away, and appointed special prosecutor David Whetstone to once again pursue the murder case against Nodine.
"I think the evidence would reveal a Jekyll/Hyde where some days he was very charming and nice and loved her, and the other days when he doesn't get his way he becomes violent," said Whetstone.
Emails obtained by Local 15 News document the tumultuous relationship. In one, Downs writes about a fight the two had in New Orleans, "I didn't fall you tried to kill me and get your kicks off beating me up.... Next time you may succeed in killing me."
"I think the facts are very powerful," said Whetstone.
While prosecutors had different interpretations of the forensic evidence, all agreed his behavior after the shooting was odd. At 8:12, roughly twenty minutes after the shooting, Nodine had driven 30 miles to the Bay Shores Market in Fairhope and bought a Diet Mountain Dew. The purchase is caught on surveillance camera. Nodine said he then went to Timbercreek in Daphne to hit golf balls but after seeing it was closed, he went across the street to Ruby Tuesday, where he said he changed clothes in the parking lot. After deciding the restaurant was too busy, Nodine said he drove to Don Carlos down the street, where again, he was captured on surveillance camera. At it's here, he says, where he learned, something horrible may happened to Downs.
"Why don't you call, why don't you do anything, why do you call an attorney? It kind of seems a little guilty, you know, that you don't anything cause you know what has already taken place," said Ramey.
"Once I found out, obviously, as the tape shows, I was very distraught," Nodine replied.
Ultimately, the question of who pulled the trigger was never decided by a jury. Nodine took a deal from the state and pleaded guilty to domestic violence and perjury. The murder and stalking case was dropped.
"Al Capone didn't go to jail for murder. He went to jail for tax evasion," said Whetstone.
But the plea deal leaves Angel Downs' family frustrated that justice was never served.
"Steve will pay for what he did one day. There is a higher judge," said Downs' mother Thelma Hinckley.
"Their hearts are sunk, and I'm so sorry for them. They wanted a jury to make a decision. I made the decision. I made the hardest decision I have made in 40 years of prosecution," said Whetstone.
"The only reason I took the plea is to try and move on with my life," said Nodine.
"Can you still hold your head up high?" asked Ramey.
"Absolutely," replied Nodine. "People have it worse. I know it's tough to say, but people have it worse than I do. God has a purpose for everything."