‘48 Hours Mystery’ premiere recap: Cold case coverage emphasizes show’s dedication, impact

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"48 Hours Mystery" goes beyond scandalous headlines to explore the human side of sensational cases. The outcome is usually emotional, but the show can also rally interest and impact cases. The season premiere highlights the show's role in a daughter's decade-long journey to prove her own mother is a murderer.

"My Dad's Killer"

The season premiere focuses on a 10-year-old cold case without any physical or forensic evidence. Why would prosecutors devote resources to such a case? Because the slain man's children, now adults, are confident their mother is the murderer.

In 2002, someone shot Mike Sisco and his fiancee, Karen Harkness, 11 times. Karen's parents, Harold and Betty Worswick, discovered the gruesome scene. Authorities ruled out robbery and suspected Mike's ex-wife, Dana Chandler. No charges were filed due to a lack of evidence.

The late Harold Dow and "48 Hours Mystery" first covered this case in 2009. Although Dana lived 500 miles away, she allegedly stalked Mike, behaved erratically, and changed her alibi many times. Dana's own children, Hailey and Dustin, publicly revealed their suspicions about their mom on the show. Mike and Karen's family members worried the crime scene was mishandled. They searched for evidence on their own, and Hailey secretly recorded phone conversations with Dana.

"48 Hours Mystery" explored the stagnant case, hiring private investigators to review the details. They unraveled Dana's alibi and a Topeka Kansas Police document identified her as "the one, and only person who had the motive, means and opportunity to have committed these murders." Still, the district attorney chose not to pursue the case based on circumstantial evidence.

In 2009, the show appealed to incoming District Attorney Chad Taylor for help. A detective had already made the same request, and the Harkness-Sisco case became a priority. The case went to trial in March 2009, and a jury rapidly found Dana guilty of both murder charges. The judge later sentenced her to two life sentences.

Emotional emphasis

Although "48 Hours Mystery" focused on the emotional aspect of Hailey's quest for justice, Dana's life deserved more exploration. How did she manage to find the time and money to stalk people who lived out of state? Did she seem unstable or threatening to people in her hometown?

Her attorney cited potential holes in the case and claimed the real killer was still at large. The prosecution rebutted, but it felt like a brief footnote. It would have been more powerful to see additional coverage of the refuted evidence. Based on this episode, the many questions made it difficult to share Hailey's confidence that justice was served.

"48 Hours Mystery" tends to focus on emotions instead of untangling all the intricacies; however, the show actively fosters dialogue. The real-life drama and rotating cast of correspondents make each episode fresh and interesting.

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