March 13, 1977. Robert Dirscherl and his wife Jinny of Dunedin, Florida, were dressing in preparation for church. Jinny Dirscherl recalled:
"I heard a sound, a loud sound. But I assumed it was the slamming of the back door."
A few minutes later, Jinny went to the bedroom to dress. She found her husband dead, shot through the chest. Investigators found no evidence of a break in. No sign of a struggle. A shotgun was found on the bed nearby.
Jinny tells the police that her husband was applying medicine to a foot ailment before putting on his Sunday shoes. But within 15 minutes, the police concluded that Robert's death was a suicide. And with that they close the case.
Sixteen years later, Robert Dirschel's son, Guy, received a mysterious letter. It was short--just 33 words--but the disturbing message put the theory of suicide in question. When Guy got the letter, he noticed it was postmarked March 13, exactly 16 years to the day after his father's death:
"I read it once and I read it the second time. And I was just totally flooded with emotion. It was as if I'd been kicked right in the chest."
The letter said: "I have AIDS. I am dying. I must make my peace with the Lord. I killed your daddy 15 years ago. He found me in his bedroom. I had no choice. Please pray for me."
The unsigned letter prompted the Dirscherl family to obtain a copy of the original police report on Robert's death. The Dirschels had never seen it before, and they went over it word by word. Kandace Whitehurst is Robert's daughter:
"It was just so full of untruths, guesswork, interviews with people that hadn't seen my father in more than two years. Close friends weren't spoken to."
In the report, investigators had concluded that Robert committed suicide because of an unsuccessful surgery years earlier. Robert's son, Guy, said his father was relatively healthy:
"The one interview that they probably weigh on most heavily is from a nurse who hadn't seen him in two years who gives a report about his health that is so far from the truth, it's ridiculous. She portrays him as a bedridden vegetable, where he was a happy, fairly healthy man, had a social life, he still traveled, and still was a productive salesman."
Jinny Dirscherl accused the police of botching the investigation:
"It was strictly investigated as a suicide. I don't think there were any fingerprints taken of the gun or any place in the house. And that was the biggest mistake they made, not investigating."
Marianne Pasha of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department defended her agency's work:
"In law enforcement, we have to deal with what the evidence tells us. There seemed to be no sign of a struggle. No forcible entry. No disarray of any description in the bedroom where this encounter allegedly occurred, which, again, gives us more belief that this was a suicide."
But for Robert's wife, Jinny, and their children, the case was far from over. In February of 1995, while traveling by train from Florida to California, Jinny's sister, Fran, met a psychic who was able to describe Robert's death in eerie detail. The young woman was a total stranger, yet she seemed familiar with Fran and the Dirscherls. According to Jinny, Fran told her the woman correctly named long dead relatives:
"I didn't believe in psychics. I'm sorry. And yet, the more I heard, I had to say 'I believe in this.'"
The psychic told Fran she saw a narrow door opening, with a gun case showing. Robert went to a cabinet to look for foot treatment for athlete's foot. When he looked up, he saw a stranger in the adjoining room. A brief struggle ensued, and Robert was shot. Robert's daughter, Kandace, found the story hard not to believe:
"The things that were written by the young lady on the Amtrak train were startling in that, some of this information wasn't anywhere to be found. It was just too real. It was as if this person was in the room."
Guy Dirscherl also believes the woman had some type of ability:
"She made no effort to gain from it. She did not approach us, which you would expect if there was a hoax, and I honestly believe that it was a situation that took place that I can't explain in the reality of this world. It's kind of spooky."
Robert Dirscherl died at 54, well before his time. Robert Dirscherl's wife passed away without ever resolving the mystery of her husband's death. But Robert's children hope the truth will someday be revealed. His son Dan:
"There may be somebody out there who was talked to by the killer, revealed something in prison to an attorney, to a parent, to a friend. That's one of my hopes, that somebody out there can fit the last piece of the puzzle into place."
The unsigned confession letter was mailed from Tampa, Florida, and postmarked March 13, 1993.