Springfield, MO -- Aug. 9, 2000 -- To those at Glendale High School, Jon Feeney was a dedicated teacher who would give up his free time to attend science conferences.
But to police, Feeney was a prime murder suspect after his wife and two young children were viciously slaughtered inside their Springfield home.
The 35-year-old teacher maintained that he was gone the entire weekend at a teaching conference more than two hours away. But prosecutors said that while the conference may seem to be the perfect alibi, there was an unaccountable window giving Feeney enough time to drive home, commit murder and return to the conference.
After a 14-month investigation and an indictment on three counts of capital murder, Feeney went from the classroom to the courtroom, facing the death penalty if convicted of murder.
The Feeney Home
Cheryl Feeney seemed to have it all a husband of 13 years, a successful career as a nurse and two children, 6-year-old Tyler and 19-month-old Jennifer.
But that all ended on Feb. 25, 1995, a Saturday that began as a seemingly perfect family day.
Cheryl, 35, went shopping while her husband watched their children. When she returned, the family ate lunch together in their home. Feeney did some yard work before heading off to the conference in Lake of the Ozarks, which happens to be Cheryl's hometown.
This picture-perfect family fell apart when Cheryl, Tyler and Jennifer were brutally murdered that night as they lie in their beds.
Cheryl was found lying face down on the water bed, beaten to death with a piece of metal pipe. The words "die" and "bitch" were reportedly splattered on the wall with paint.
Tyler had also been bludgeoned with the pipe, and Jennifer was strangled with a shoestring.
The house had been ransacked drawers were pulled out and their contents were dumped on the floor. While Cheryl's purse and jewelry were missing, cash was left inside the house.
The trunk of Cheryl's car was found loaded up with stuff taken from the house. A battery charger was attached to the car, though police don't know why. The battery wasn't dead.
Shoeprints of paint tracked through the house were a size smaller than Feeney's size 12 foot.
Family pictures were turned to face the wall. The back door appeared to be pried open, but the screws of the latch seemed to be unscrewed rather than pulled out.
The bizarre, grisly scene sat dormant for two days until the bodies were discovered that Monday by Feeney's mother, who used her key to enter the house with at Feeney's request.
Shortly after his Saturday night arrival, Feeney had dinner with a female colleague. On the way back he was stopped by police for speeding at about 8 p.m.
Perhaps his strongest alibi is the Osage Beach police, who can vouch that Feeney was inside the station at about 10:30 p.m., paying a $60 speeding ticket.
The defense said a witness heard noises in Feeney's room in the middle of the night meaning he was not on the road, as prosecutors theorize, rendering it impossible to squeeze in more than five hours of driving plus time to commit the murders.
On Sunday morning, Feeney went to a McDonald's nearby the conference for breakfast at 7 a.m., and has a receipt to prove it.
He claims that he was unable to contact his wife by phone all day Sunday, and the children's babysitter left a message for him at the school saying she couldn't get in touch with Cheryl.
That prompted Feeney to call the sheriff's office and his mother Monday morning, urging both to go to the house to check on his family. Feeney says he only discovered their fate hours later when he received a call from his parents.
Within days, Feeney's car was impounded as part of the investigation. He spoke with police three times and wrote a seven page statement in the days following the murders, telling authorities that he was more than two hours away. He later volunteered hair and blood samples for examination, but followed his attorney's advice to refuse to take a lie-detector test.
Police sent questionnaires to most of the 1800 teachers participating in the conference to help prosecutors piece together a timeline of Feeney's whereabouts.
During the grand jury proceeding, a Springfield gas station employee testified that Feeney bought gas early Sunday morning, placing him near his home within hours of the murder. Work records, however, indicate that the witness, Ron Gann, didn't even work that night, the defense counters.
Dedicated Family Man or Husband Looking for a Way Out?
According to investigators, Feeney wasn't the dedicated, professional family man he portrayed, but a cheating hubby who would buy alcohol for his underage students.
That information prompted Feeney to file a suit against investigators who he charged were unfairly ruining his reputation. The suit was dropped before the trial began.
Prosecutors believe that Feeney committed the vicious killings, not only to collect on life insurance policies on all three family members, but as a necessary step in a quest for freedom.
The defense, however, maintains that Feeney never left the conference and is innocent. In addition, they contend that the evidence, which is entirely circumstantial, is slim at best. They also contend that even if Feeney was an unfaithful husband, it doesn't make him a murderer.
On Sunday, Oct. 6, 1996, after five hours of deliberations, the jury acquitted Feeney.