Local woman fights to solve friend's cold case murder - WSMV Channel 4

Local woman fights to solve friend's cold case murder

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Sheila Wysocki Sheila Wysocki
Donald Bess Donald Bess
BRENTWOOD, TN (WSMV) -

A Brentwood mother's story is so intriguing, so inspiring and so unbelievable that it will soon be a book, a movie and an hour-long documentary on NBC.

Many adults likely remember being young and becoming blood brothers with a best friend. At the time, it seemed like nothing could ever break that bond.

Well, Sheila Wysocki knows the kind of friendship that could not die - not through decades or even through murder.

These days, Wysocki enjoys strolling through her beautiful Brentwood neighborhood.

Some might guess that she is nothing more than a suburban mother, but they would be so wrong. She is a woman with a surprising skill.

"There are no secrets," Wysocki said. "If people think there are secrets, there are none."

Thirty years ago, she was a freshman at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Her new roommate was a young woman named Angie Samote.

They were opposites. Wysocki was a dyslexic scholarship student and the daughter of a working mom. Angie Samote was wealthy, beautiful and one of the few female computer engineering majors in the country.

"She was full of life. She had a very big personality, happy and always smiling," Wysocki said.

But all of that changed in the most dramatic and awful fashion when someone knocked on Samote's apartment door in 1984.

"The man at the door said he would like to use the phone and the restroom," Wysocki said. "She let him in, and he went directly to the phone. And the phone went dead."

Samote was raped and murdered. She was stabbed 18 times.

The scene was so terrible that police at first believed the killer had ripped her heart out.

"It was horrific," Wysocki said.

Samote's murder changed everything. Wysocki reeled and did not recover. She dropped out of college.

"It totally changed what I thought, how I thought and where I was going," she said. "It was kind of a fog at that time. I didn't have a clear path."

But Wysocki remained obsessed with her friend's unsolved murder.

For two years, she kept in close contact with detectives and even personally met with suspects, always taking detailed notes.

But this was interrupted when Wysocki met her husband, moved to Nashville and had kids.

"I thought I needed to move on with my life, and I did," she said. "I just thought it's going to be solved. Someone is going to solve it."

Then, the introduction of DNA evidence in the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial got Wysocki thinking about researching Samote's murder once again.

But still she left it alone until 2004. While doing a Beth Moore Bible study in bed, an intense, soul-searching Bible study, Wysocki had a vision.

"I was sitting at my bed and at the end of my bed, as you and I are sitting here, I saw my roommate. I saw her smiling, I saw what she was wearing," Wysocki said. "As crazy as it sounds, I know what I saw, and I knew it was time. And Angie always came to me whenever there was a problem."

Wysocki believed Samote was telling her to solve the murder. She knew she had to do two things. First, call Dallas police to get an update on the case.

"It was 2004, and I thought they would pull the file on Angela Samote. The saddest thing I had heard was no one had called in 20 years, and that broke my heart," Wysocki said.

This made her second idea seem less outrageous and confirmed she was on the right path.

The Brentwood mom, a serial entrepreneur, was going to step out and do something she knew would stun her family.

She was going to become a private investigator.

"I wanted to make sure they got this guy," she said. "The problem was I wasn't a police officer or law enforcement. I had to be a private investigator for them to even look at the case."

So, Wysocki set out to obtain her private eye license and take on a 20-year-old cold case that is 700 miles away. And police don't want to help her.

Wysocki called again, this time as a licensed private investigator, armed with questions such as how well preserved was the DNA from the autopsy and what about old leads or could she meet with old suspects.

"It was closed. They had no intention of opening this case. They were not even going to look at it. So when I called 1 to 500 times, it was clear I wasn't going away," she said.

After hundreds of calls and conversations over a four-year period, police finally set up a meeting with an investigator.

"I will never forget what he said to me. He said, 'some cases are not meant to be solved and this is one of them. You need to back off.' And I thought at that moment I am not backing off," Wysocki said.

Finally, Dallas police reopened the case, and Wysocki demanded they test the DNA, even offering to pay for it.

Police relented and tested the DNA.

And they found a perfect match in five-time convicted serial rapist Donald Bess.

Sheila Wysocki finally put a face to the murder that haunted her.

"I felt like the room was full of evil. I never experienced something so big and horrible in my life, and I thought that was last person she saw. He was a beast of a man, and it just broke my heart," Wysocki said.

Bess was found guilty of Angie Samote's murder and sentenced to death.

It was the one and only cold case solved by Dallas police in 2010. Or maybe, it was the one and only cold case solved by Brentwood private investigator Sheila Wysocki.

"I always think that I wasn't meant to go to college. The only reason I think I went to college was to meet Angie," she said.

Wysocki retired her license after the Bess conviction. It seemed like a one-case career and really was never about being a private eye.

"She was my friend, and that's what friends do. Why wouldn't I? It seemed to me nobody else was doing it, and we have to start standing up for people," she said.

Grace Pulpit said, "A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out."

That is Sheila Wysocki, who by the way is in the process of reinstating her private eye license.

She wants to help other women who are victims of unsolved crimes.

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