Sarah Prior is a “48 Hours” producer. She investigated the latest in the Belinda Temple murder case in “The Alternate Suspects.” Watch the full episode here.
KATY, Texas -- Did David Temple kill his pregnant wife in 1999? In 2007, prosecutors said yes, arguing that Temple, who was cheating on his wife, had a motive for murder. But David Temple has always denied having anything to do with the crime, telling CBS News, “There is no evidence that points toward me, because I did not kill my wife, plain and simple.”
Belinda Temple was killed in her bedroom closet by a single shotgun blast to the head, on Jan. 11, 1999, in what police on the scene thought might have been a burglary gone wrong. She was eight months pregnant.
At the time of the murder, police looked closely at David, whom they learned was having an affair. There was also Temple’s next door neighbor, a teenager, who had had conflicts with Belinda before. Some of his friends were involved in a burglary 10 days before the murder, and all were questioned by police. But the puzzle was missing many pieces and police did not make any arrests. The case went cold.
In 2004, prosecutor Kelly Siegler, famous for trying many high-profile cases in Harris County, Texas, took a new look at the file. Though David Temple was on video at two stores during the approximate time of the murder, Siegler thought it possible that he had staged the burglary and hurried out to create a false alibi. She believed the circumstantial case against David was strong, and he was arrested for Belinda’s murder.
At the 2007 trial, Siegler was up against Temple’s defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin, a long-time courtroom rival. DeGuerin opened with a statement about how much David loved Belinda. Siegler countered with evidence of the affair and circumstantial evidence that suggested David might have had access to a gun like the one used in the murder, and could have staged the burglary.
DeGuerin told jurors there was more evidence against the Temples’ teenaged neighbor than there was against David. And he presented evidence that supported David’s alibi—two little boys who lived behind the Temple house and said they heard a loud sound at 4:30 -- the same time David was on surveillance video at a store five miles from his home.
At the end of a four-week trial, the jury sided with the prosecution. David Temple was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Then, in 2012, Temple’s defense got a call from a man who said he believed those same teenagers police checked out in 1999 may have been involved in the murder. Siegler was no longer working at the prosecutor’s office, and the DA’s office re-opened the case.
Long time D.A.’s investigator Steve Clappart, was assigned to check out the new evidence, and spent months reading the police report and checking out leads. In a 2015 interview, Clappart told “48 Hours,” the more he looked at the case, the more he began to believe that David Temple did not kill Belinda. Facing mounting pushback from some of his colleagues for his work, Clappart left the D.A.’s office at the end of 2012.
During that re-investigation, Clappart was told to share the police report with Temple’s defense -- who had never gotten a copy of the complete report. And when Temple’s appellate attorneys, Stanley Schneider and Casie Gotro, read the 1,319-page file, they noticed details that they said could have altered the outcome of the trial—details about the alternate suspects and about the timeline on the day of Belinda’s murder.
On the basis of this evidence, Temple was granted a hearing, which stretched over several months. In July 2015, the judge, Larry Gist, issued his opinion. Judge Gist listed 36 items of evidence that he said the prosecution should have shared with the defense but didn’t, or shared too late to be of any use. Gist recommended David Temple get a new trial. But Gist’s opinion was only a recommendation. The final decision was with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals—the highest criminal appellate court in Texas.
In a 2015 interview with “48 Hours,” Kelly Siegler defended her actions on the case, saying Temple’s defense got everything they were entitled to get under the law. She said it was her decision as prosecutor to decide which evidence was favorable to the defense and she believed she did that job correctly.
It took over a year to get the ruling, but in November 2016, in a split decision, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with Gist’s recommendation and overturned David Temple’s conviction. Weeks later, Temple was released on bond. Although his conviction was overturned, he is still charged with Belinda’s murder.
The question now is what will happen next in the case? Will Temple be retried, or will the state drop the charges?
Temple’s lawyer, Stanley Schneider says that there is simply no evidence that David murdered Belinda, and wants his name cleared. But Belinda’s family still believes David did kill Belinda and want him tried again. It is now up to the Harris County District Attorney to decide.
Local politics may also play a role. Harris County elected a new District Attorney in November, Kim Ogg, who took office in January. Steve Clappart, who has said he does not believe David killed his wife, is back at the DA’s office, as lead investigator. He was hired by Kim Ogg.
Ogg has promised to personally review the Temple file and make a decision about the case. But Belinda’s family is concerned about potential conflicts and has asked for a special prosecutor to be assigned—before the decision is made about whether to try David Temple again.
Belinda’s grave is in Katy, Texas, and is marked with her name and the name of her unborn baby, Erin Ashley. All parties say they want justice for Belinda and Erin, but 18 years after that brutal crime, that process is still unfolding.