MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - May 9, 2012 marks two years since Angel Downs, the longtime mistress of former Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine, was found dead in her driveway.
It's a case surrounded in mystery about what really happened - was it murder or suicide?
Downs was found with a single gunshot to the head, a weapon beside her.
Two years later, questions still arise about what happened that night and who pulled the trigger. Nodine said Downs did, but the state said it doesn't matter who fired the fatal shot.
TWO YEARS LATER
In the last two years, the beach community of Gulf Shores has seen it share of change. Each day, the surf slaps the sand, changing it's landscape. Condos spring to life along the strip. A music festival has drawn thousands to Pleasure Island with promises of doing it again.
Yet just blocks from the beach, tucked away along a tree lined street, not much has changed. Especially when it comes to the death of Downs. She died on Mother's Day 2010.
Downs' sister, Susan Bloodworth, said it's hard to believe it's been two years since Angel's death.
"However, it is just as fresh today as it was two years ago. I constantly replay the conversation I had with Angel that Sunday morning, talking about her coming in June for Father's Day, our trip to Alabama in July, and the upcoming birth of my granddaughter. Then I replay the conversation that night with Angel, just moments before her death, the call I received from her landlord telling me that Angel was dead, and lastly having to face my mother and tell her that Angel, her daughter, was dead," she said.
Downs' longtime boyfriend, Nodine, quickly became the number one suspect. He was subsequently arrested and charged with her murder.
Nodine stood trial, which turned into a battle of the experts.
The Baldwin County District Attorney's Office said Downs was shot by Nodine. However, Nodine claimed she committed suicide.
After two weeks of testimony and seven hours of deliberation, a jury was unable to reach a verdict on the murder and stalking charges. Six jurors thought Nodine killed Downs, but the verdict had to be unanimous. The jury did find him guilty of abusing his position as a Mobile County commissioner.
Nodine spoke out publicly after the trial.
"I think people who know me, know never in a million years would I hurt anyone. I have to live every day with what could I have done to make sure Angel did not harm herself. I'll live with that for the rest of my life," said Nodine in April 2011.
In the months to follow, Nodine would be sentenced to federal prison for a gun conviction.
While behind bars in a Miami correctional facility, Nodine would be charged with murder again for the death of his mistress.
Downs' family and friend hope the case ends much differently than the first.
"Angel may no longer be with us here on earth, however, we will forever have and cherish our memories with her. We love and miss her!" said Bloodworth. "While it will be very difficult for our family to go through the emotions and pain of another trial, we must be strong for Angel. We are hopeful that justice will be served in the next trial, as that is simply all our family wants... justice for Angel."
Just weeks shy of the two-year anniversary of Downs' death, Nodine was released from a federal prison after serving a 15-month sentence.
FOX10 caught up with Nodine at his attorney's office in Baldwin County.
"Mr. Nodine looks forward to his day in court, and to clearing his name aggressively," said Attorney John Beck, while walking Nodine to a waiting car.
DEVELOPMENTS SINCE FIRST TRIAL
Since Nodine was sent to federal prison, a lot of things have changed.
Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb, who tried the first case, lost her bid for re-election to Hallie Dixon.
Nodine got a new legal team - Pascal Bruijn and John Beck will head up his defense.
From the get-go, Bruijn claimed Newcomb's office tainted evidence.
"We want to make the court aware that evidence has been mishandled or misplaced and from here on out we want it to stop," said Bruijn in 2011, following a court hearing.
Dixon decided not to go after a murder charge, so the Alabama Attorney General's office stepped in. They appointed David Whetstone to serve as a special prosecutor.
Now, Nodine faces a new indictment on top of the murder charge - criminally negligent homicide.
Whetstone said he has a potential game changer. He added Nodine didn't have to fire the gun to be responsible.
"We have gone back and analyzed every aspect of the case. There will be new evidence in this case and the defense may some new evidence," said Whetstone.
Nodine's defense attorney Pascal Bruijn said he isn't concerned.
"We've seen the evidence. [We] don't think it's too compelling. [We're] not worried about it," said Bruijn.
Both sides are being tight-lipped about that new evidence.
We do know what came out in the first trial. Witnesses testified seeing Nodine speeding away from the scene.
"Mr. Whitehead testified he heard the shot, immediately came out and saw my truck down the street through the blind curve. That is probably exactly what happened in a matter of split seconds," said Nodine in an April 2011 interview.
The state said after the shooting, Nodine made several stops - to a convenience store, the Timber Creek Golf Course, and a Mexican restaurant. The restaurant is where he got a call police were looking for him.
"Why not call Angel when you find out police are looking for in connection to the death of a woman?" FOX10 asked in April 2011.
"That question has been asked and I have no real answer. I was in shock. I don't have an answer for that," Nodine responded.
TWO YEARS LATER
Now, two years later, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what exactly happened the night Downs was shot in the head.
Nodine's second murder trial is expected to take place in August 2012. A hearing on the case is scheduled for May.
Meanwhile, Nodine has not been sentenced on the ethics violation he was convicted of during the first murder trial. Whetstone said it will be up to the Alabama Attorney General's Office to decide if it should be before or after the murder trial.
As for Nodine's federal conviction, his federal attorney Gordon Armstrong said there is a case out of Virginia he is watching closely that deals with the same federal charge that sent Nodine to prison.
Armstrong said if that statute is overturned for being unconstitutional it could have an impact on Nodine's case.
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