Righteous Obsession Recap and Commentary
- Aired October 22, 2022, on NBC with Lester Holt and Dennis Murphy
- Season 31 Episode 6
The investigation into a deadly home invasion takes a turn when an unlikely witness comes forward.NBC
Deadly home invasion
Is it a rule that all Dateline episodes must start at the end of the story? I don’t think I’ve ever watched one that didn’t start with a 911 call. I’m not complaining but they definitely have a pattern.
On a summer night (August 2, 2018) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Deputy Jason Wheelburger responded to a call for a possible home invasion in a safe suburban neighborhood. He found a grisly scene at the home of Milton and Angel Sawyer. Milton Sawyer was dead and his wife had suffered a head injury.
His wife Angel miraculously survived the attack and had run to a neighbor’s to call 911. She claimed a masked intruder broke into the house, took their valuables and killed Milton. Angel had a head injury and a trail of blood on her face. If you know Dateline, you know where this is probably going. And you’d be right.
The man loved treasure
It’s time for the victim’s background story. Milton Sawyer was loved by everyone who knew him. He seemed like a genuinely good person, but you never know with Dateline. Was he actually a garbage person? Keep reading to find out.
He married and had children in the 2000s before starting his dream of opening an antique shop. The store was named The Treasure Hunter. It was the kind of store that you could browse for hours and still not see everything. There was junk, I’m sorry, treasures crammed on every surface and in every corner of the store.
Apparently antique shops don’t bring in the big bucks, so Milton eventually turned the store into more of a pawn shop. They bought gold and electronics and anything else really. This turn in the business model drew in sketchier customers as pawn shops usually do.
Flash forward to 2018 and Angel’s police interview. Turns out Milton’s cause of death was strangulation/asphyxiation. That is an odd choice in a home invasion. We know the guy had a gun. Strangling a person feels more personal and takes a long time. Put a pin in that.
Angel says they were having my idea of a perfect night in. That’s in bed with takeout binging Game of Thrones. Angel got up to go to the bathroom when she was confronted by a masked man in the hallway. The intruder drug her into the bedroom and tied her up. Milton was dragged to the bathroom.
Angel heard a scuffle and tried to reach a cellphone that had fallen to the ground. The attacker noticed this and pistol whipped her before sprinting out the back door. Milton was unresponsive and Angel ran to the neighbor’s house to make that 911 call.
Angel quickly cast suspicion on a man named Dillon Hostutler who Milton had met at a gas station the night before. Milton bought a TV for his shop from Dillon. Angel worried that Dillon may have followed them home. Shady characters from the shop, remember? This is the police’s first substantial lead.
Dillon Hostutler is suspiciously suspicious
Caleb’s sister broke the news of their father’s death. We see his brothers reacting emotionally and it’s so sad. It’s clear that his family loved him.
His family agrees with Angel and suspects Dillon. Dillon avoided questioning by police until he was arrested on drug charges. Dillon told police that he and his girlfriend had bought drugs and were at his house the night of the invasion.
Dillon has a black eye that he says is a stye? I’m not a doctor, but that’s weird to me.
Police found Dillon’s story suspicious and thought he was a good suspect.
Angel went to police for another interview. This time she has a teddy bear and gives way more information about her sex life than I cared to hear. She claimed they had sex twice a day usually and that she and Milton couldn’t get enough of her. This is all weird. All of it.
She also says that Milton was wildly jealous and possessive. But he had cheated on her in the past. Cheaters are always accusing their partner of doing the same.
Did Milton have a good reason for this jealousy? If you’ve watched Dateline, you probably know the answer. But Angel says he was particularly jealous of her physical therapist Isaac Melcher. Why? Basically because he was hot and was touching his wife.
Once, Milton and Angel ran into Isaac’s family at the beach and Milton lost it. He made a scene and he also complained to Isaac’s employer.
Don’t tell your youth pastor about how you murdered someone
Police checked into Isaac based on the tip from Angel. He does not have a criminal record. Isaac is a married dad with 3 kids. He didn’t fit their profile. Is there a study on how accurate criminal profiling is? Because it doesn’t seem foolproof to me.
More than a week after Milton’s death, he reached out to Louie Kazemier, his old youth pastor. After a phone call, Isaac flew out to Oregon to catch up with Louie. Louie thought Isaac just wanted to talk to his old mentor about how his life has been. But that’s not what Isaac’s real motive was.
Isaac told Louie about his relationship with Angel. That’s right. Milton was correct to worry about Angel and her physical therapist having an affair. Angel told Isaac that her husband was abusive. That made Isaac want to rescue her from this terrible marriage. Louie calls it a “righteous obsession.” We have the title, ladies and gentlemen (and people who don’t identify by those binary choices).
According to Louie, Isaac went into detail about how he committed the crime. Angel left a key outside for him to break into the house. And that blood on Angel’s head? She did that to herself after she said Isaac wasn’t hitting her hard enough to be believable. That’s commitment.
To tell or not to tell
Louie struggled with what he should do with the information that Isaac unloaded on him. Which I didn’t really understand why to be honest until Louie mentions that North Carolina is a death penalty state. So going to police could lead to Isaac’s death.
But in the end, Louie tells police who convince him to call Isaac and get him to confess on tape. Which he does after calling from an encrypted line. Cops didn’t have to bug the phone. They were just standing in the same room with a tape recorder. The most secure line in the world can’t change that.
But the real shocker here is that Isaac’s wife Darlene was on the call. She knew about the murder and the affair and wanted to stand by her man. You’re better than that, girl. To be fair, she didn’t find out about the affair until after the murder, but still, throw the whole man out.
A choir of canaries
According to Milton’s family, Angel acted a fool at the funeral. Wailing and being dramatic. This was suspicious to them. They thought it was an act. Which it definitely was. They don’t give out Oscars to murderers, Angel.
Not long after that police call Angel in to discuss some of the stolen jewelry. Or at least that’s what they told her. The truth was that Isaac had been arrested and spilled all the tea about Angel’s involvement.
When police confront her with this info, she admits to the affair, but denies any involvement with the murder. You may be wondering why she told police she didn’t know who the intruder was when she knew it was Isaac. She claimed that Isaac threatened her into going with the stranger invasion story. I’m not buying any of this and neither are investigators. Angel was also arrested for first-degree murder after her interview.
Let’s go to court
At trial, Angel steadfastly avoided looking Milton’s family in the eye.
Who do you think started that affair, reader? It was Angel obviously. She was nude when Isaac came into physical therapy. She manipulated him by claiming that Milton was abusive. She was even in on that beach trip meetup.
Rightfully so, Angel was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. Isaac took a plea deal for second-degree murder and he was only given 20-25 years.
I really wasn’t into this episode if I’m being honest. It was okay, but the hour and 23 minute runtime was too much. I miss the 42 minute episodes. But you can’t really go wrong with Dateline, so give it a watch if the cases interested you.
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