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A Tragic Accident Or Not?
By Karen Marie Shelton
Lisa’s sister and clubbing companion instantly didn’t like Scott, alerting her sibling to steer clear. In her early twenties Lisa, a classic Scorpio (11/16/1972), passionately followed her heart into an intense love relationship with the beefy construction worker.
The couple wed a year later in a fairytale venue, complete with a white horse-drawn carriage.
Beauty And The Beast
The newlyweds shocked guests when they danced as famed Beauty And Beast lovers at their extravagant reception. A Scorpio (11/21/1969) like Lisa, Scott donned a grotesque beast mask while his bride wore her stunning white gown.
For many reasons, Lisa’s family never warmed up to Scott. Lisa’s mother,Lucy Rich, begrudgingly acknowledged her daughter’s happiness on her wedding day, even though she wished Lisa had picked a better spouse.
Her kin was repelled by Scott’s insistence on being called “Mr. Big,” aptly identifying his love for the biggest and best of everything life had to offer.
The Marriage Was Prosperous
After their nuptials, Scott prospered as an independent roofing contractor while Lisa successfully ascended to top marketing manager for a Central Indiana mall.
The family flaunted their prosperity by posting videos and selfies of exotic Caribbean vacations where they snorkeled with stingrays and enjoyed the good life. They also threw lots of elaborate parties.
Lisa’s young son Dillon initially seemed content, referring to his new stepfather as “dad.” But years later, he revealed his angst dealing with Scott’s ongoing and escalating cruelty towards him.
Eventually, the couple built a large house with acreage in the Indiana countryside.
Scott added a basement home gym with a tanning bed, treadmill, and professional quality Smith weight machine. It was where he and Lisa worked out to maintain their hard-earned physiques.
The Other Woman
Thirteen years into their marriage, Lisa was shocked and devastated to discover her husband was entangled in a steamy love affair with Stacy Henderson, a 39-year-old married woman.
Scott’s lover was employed by a high-level local government official, and her husband was a law officer.
When Scott filed for divorce to be with Stacy, his wife retained her council. It seemed the couple, whose marriages were in shambles, were headed for a legal battle when they suddenly reconciled. The divorce was put on hold. Even still, Lisa wasn’t convinced the marriage would survive.
Scott promised to end his affair, and Lisa decided to try to work things out with the marriage. But the unfaithful husband continued to see his lover secretly.
A friend of Lisa’s, Leah Frazier, claimed Lisa had installed internet monitoring software on Scott’s computer to monitor his affair. Also, in response to the ongoing affair, Lisa planned to remove Scott as her beneficiary on her $500,000 life insurance policy, leaving everything to her son.
Although Lisa confidentially told her sister, Christine Smith, about the pending beneficiary transfer, she never signed the final paperwork. This information was later introduced as a possible motive for her untimely death at the hands of her husband.
A Shocking Series Of Events
On July 2, 2009, a sequence of shocking events occurred in the lives of the Pattisons. Scott arrived home from work at approximately 11:30 am for lunch. He’d planned to shower for an early afternoon doctor’s appointment.
When he called out to Lisa, she didn’t respond. Scott heard music drifting upstairs from the workout room and assumed his wife, who had taken the day off, was downstairs working out.
A few minutes later, Scott went to check on Lisa. What he found in the basement was a dreadful scene. It sent him racing through the Indiana Summer cornfields in his truck, calling for help on his cell with an unconscious Lisa in the backseat.
“My wife has had an accident at home” and is in “very bad shape,” he told the 911 operator. What happened? Scott told the dispatcher, “I found her in the workout room with (weight) bars on top of her.”
Scott initially declined assistance, explaining that he had already performed CPR and that getting Lisa’s medical attention in his truck would be faster.
Raising a few eyebrows, Scott had initially told 911 not to send the ambulance, saying he had already tried CPR.
Paramedics in an ambulance, along with a police vehicle with a dash cam, intercepted Scott’s truck minutes from the hospital and transported Lisa to the nearest hospital.
What Was The Cause Of Death?
Tragically the 36 year-old-Lisa Pattison couldn’t be revived.
Her cause of death was listed as “unattended” because her husband reported Lisa was alone in the basement when he found her. Legally police were required to investigate before Lisa’s manner of death could receive a final ruling.
Scott gave a brief statement to the police at the hospital. He told authorities he’d discovered Lisa straddled face up on the Smith bench with a 105-pound weight bell crushing her throat.
Scott said she was “blue and not breathing, with her arms dropped down at her sides, not doing anything.”
He claimed he felt for her pulse and immediately performed CPR right on the bench, but Lisa did not respond. Police assumed she had expired before Scott discovered her.
Was This A Shocking Accident Or Not?
Family and friends were horrified by the news of Lisa’s death because she had been so healthy and vibrantly alive. Even though all the initial signs were pointing toward an awful accident, police immediately opened an investigation into Lisa’s untimely death.
A member of the Indiana State Police was assigned the task of examining Scott’s truck that he used to transport Lisa to the hospital. Nothing suspicious was uncovered.
Scott was examined closely and had no marks of any kind on his body. The investigative team searched the house and the workout area, which was pristine, with no indication of any physical struggle.
Initially, Lisa’s injuries seemed consistent with Scott’s story.
Police discovered two security cameras mounted on the exterior stone facade of the house, but the DVD tray with the tapes was empty. Where was the security footage for the day of Lisa’s accident?
Was Scott trying to cover his tracks by removing surveillance footage for the day of the murder? Or was the missing information just a coincidence?
The brand new widower gave additional details about Lisa’s death during a videotaped interview at the local police station, and a series of red flags immediately popped up.
Scott Referred To Lisa As A Body
The distraught husband reported backing out of the driveway and dialing 911 when Lisa rolled off the back seat onto the floor. He told a policeman, “It’s hard to drive while reaching in the backseat to hold a body.”
A body? Did Scott refer to his wife as a body? Did that mean Scott knew Lisa was already dead?
The detective noted Scott’s suspicious reference to Lisa as “a body.” This information also added to the overall controversy of the unexplained death.
What Was The State Of The Pattison Marriage?
When the investigator asked about the state of the Pattison marriage, Scott replied, “Is there ever a perfect marriage?”
Then he confessed to his ongoing affair, which he said he’d ended. Scott told police he and Lisa were trying to work things out, and the divorce was on hold.
Examining The Smith Weight Machine
Suppose the weight bar had slipped while in use? It could have plummeted onto Lisa’s neck with bone-breaking force like a guillotine.
But the machine appeared in working order, and the detective couldn’t make it fail. No matter how hard he tried.
Police noticed a few unusual details about the case:
Lisa wasn’t using free weights as initially imagined. She was working out with weights mounted on a bar that rides up and down on fixed cylindrical rails. The bar was easy to operate and was secure using a hook and hold along the frame.
Once a machine user finishes their rotations with the bar, it’s easy to rotate the wrists, and the hooks on the bar easily engage. This is a known safety feature of the machine.
Two safety stoppers which would have offered Lisa extra protection, were resting unused at the bottom of each rail. Although unusual, it’s not uncommon for the stoppers to be removed from Smith machines.
The weight bar was misaligned on the rails. It was positioned over the neck area instead of over the chest, which is a traditional alignment.
Lisa’s best friend and family indicated to police she was into cardiovascular exercises and shunned weights. Lisa had experienced a previous neck injury and had difficulty lifting heavy objects or weights. Why was she on the Smith machine on that fateful day?
Had Scott enticed Lisa to use the weight machine and then placed the bar on her neck to kill her?
Or suppose the weight bar had slipped while in use. It could have plummeted onto Lisa’s neck with bone-breaking force like a guillotine. But the machine appeared in working order, and the detective couldn’t make it fail.
But even without the extra safety features, exhaustive tests showed that Lisa should have been able to wiggle freely out from under the bar if she had gotten stuck.
The Medical Examiner’s Findings
Lisa’s official manner of death was listed as asphyxiation.
It appeared the weight bar had been lying on Lisa’s neck for an extended period, cutting off her air supply rather than creating a Guillotine decapitation effect. Was it deliberately pressed onto her throat to murder her?
There was also an abrasion on Lisa’s shoulder and a bruise on her neck. Detectives also discovered a circular smudge on the center of the bar, which appeared to be body oil or sweat, possibly a mark from Lisa’s neck.
Could Lisa’s death be a fatal accident? Perhaps her death had happened, as Scott had said.
Secrets And Lies
As the investigation into Lisa’s untimely death progressed, Scott’s lies started to surface. Police eventually located the missing home surveillance video footage.
It showed that Scott had been home hours earlier than he’d claimed. That information placed him inside the home at the time of his wife’s death.
Footage also showed Scott during that period.
He was spotted outside the house on his phone, which police directly linked to calls and texts to his lover.
Scott lied about ending his secret affair. But did lying about when he arrived home or regarding his affair mean that Scott was a murderer?
Investigators believed his lying provided enough evidence to arrest Scott on suspicion of Lisa’s murder.
Scott Was Indicted For Murder
In September 2009, Scott was indicted for murder. But it took a year for him to stand trial. Prosecutors had to bring their A-game because the murder case against Scott was based solely on circumstantial evidence.
The police held firm on the theory of homicide. But the case was mostly innuendo.
One of their strategies was to have the Smith weight machine hauled into the courtroom. It was positioned right in front of the jury for the entire trial.
It proved to be a crucial part of the state’s case. Jurors used the bench during their deliberations to re-enact what they believed happened the day of Lisa’s death. It helped to convince them Scott killed her.
The Defense Argued Lying Doesn’t Prove Murder
Scott Pattison’s defense team fought hard to prove his innocence.
There was no smoking gun, but the surveillance tapes were critical evidence against Scott. The defense argued that the police illegally acquired the recordings.
An expert coroner was called to testify in the case and introduced information that Lisa may have been taking powerful weight loss pills, which may have played into the accident.
The witness suggested the powerful weight loss formulas may have caused Lisa to lose consciousness while working out.
Lisa’s Life Insurance Policy
Prosecutors posed the idea that Scott knew Lisa was getting ready to remove him from her life insurance policy.
Was that motive for murder? It was believed that Scott’s description of discovering his wife was inconsistent with what the doctors reported.
Police hypothesized that Scott enticed Lisa to the weight bench, where he murdered her by crushing her throat with a bar.
Stacy Henderson Was Called To Testify
The prosecution called Stacy Henderson to the witness stand. She testified she was no longer in love with her boyfriend. One jury member later told the media Scott looked devastated by her confession.
Ironically the 39-year-old Marion woman pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false informing in the case.
She received a suspended jail sentence of 180 days, one-year probation, and 60 days home detention. In return, prosecutors also agreed to drop a felony charge of perjury.
The Case Came Down To The Jury
Three weeks and nearly 30 witnesses later, the case against Scott Peterson was finally in the hands of the jury.
Scott was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 60 years behind bars after eight long hours of deliberation He is incarcerated at Indiana State Prison. His earliest possible release date is 09/28/2039.
Did Scott kill his wife? He has maintained his innocence from the very beginning.
Will we ever know whether Lisa was murdered or died accidentally? Probably not. It’s a mystery for the ages.
Karen is one of our writers at Crimebeat on Medium. When she first submitted a piece to me, I knew what an extreme talent she was. She has one of those rare gifts that she carries you along with her writing. She is always well researched, and I was delighted when she agreed to add a piece to Murder Mayhem UK.
Her new book How to Avoid Murder While Using Dating Apps, is of that high standard. This is a book dedicated to crimes where victims used dating apps. It is also a manual for anyone navigating the complicated world of dating online. If you loved the article above, you will love her new book. Pick up your copy today.