Investigation Discovery’s ‘Murder in the Chat Room’ features the killing of Samantha Lezark. Samantha was on a quest to find love through online dating. But this quest turned out to be the cause of her gruesome death. The investigators on the case worked through her web trail to get to the culprit. If you are curious to know more about this case, we have got you covered.
Who Killed Samantha Lezark?
Samantha Lezark was a 28-yeard-old employee at a local grocery store in Wichita Falls, Texas. She discovered that her marriage was in shambles because of her husband’s infidelity. After she separated from her high school sweetheart husband, Samantha turned to online dating to find love. Reports show that she had been conversing with many people on chatting platforms. She had last talked to her mother on January 5, 2003. The next day, on January 6, the Wichita Falls authorities received a distress call from Samantha’s friend, who had just discovered Samantha dead in her upstairs bedroom.
A medical examiner conducted an autopsy on Samantha’s body and determined the cause of death to have been strangulation by a coaxial cable bound around the neck three times and tied in a square knot formation. There was additionally a head injury which had been made by a fire extinguisher originally discovered with blood on it. The reports said that the contusions formed on Samantha’s head were aligned with being hit by the fire extinguisher. The detective assigned to Samantha’s case brought in a technician and gave directions to collect evidence for DNA and fingerprint analysis tests. The coaxial cable was tested for a palm print that matched a man called Kristopher Kyle Russell. His DNA also showed up in samples collected from the fire extinguisher.
Kristopher Russell, it turned out, was a widower who had connected with Samantha through an online chatting platform. The then 21-year-old MSU student’s wife had died just a few weeks before he started talking to Samantha. He told her how he wanted to leave Nebraska and return to Wichita Falls. Samantha had told her mother about Russell, and the last time Samantha talked to her, Samantha said that Russell was there at her home.
According to Samantha’s mother, Kristopher had never shown any willingness to meet Samantha’s friends. Recounting the time her daughter died, Samantha’s mother additionally said, “Then I know another friend had tried to call her after nine and she didn’t answer and never returned his call. So, that’s when we all thought it was weird and out of character for her.” The investigation that followed revealed how Samantha had indulged in the online dating game and how that had ultimately led her to death.
Where Is Kristopher Russell Now?
Kristopher Russell was arrested after his DNA was found on the bloody fire extinguisher, and his palm prints were discovered on the coaxial cable used to strangle Samantha. However, it took the officers involved in this case tremendous efforts to zero in on Russell. This was mostly due to the extensive history of chats and conversations Samantha had had with numerous people online. After scouring Samantha’s background and her online chat history, the officers had a list of suspects, including Samantha’s estranged husband, John Lezark, who had threatened to abuse her physically, and John Perez, the husband of a co-worker who was having an affair with Samantha.
The detective in charge of the case testified that he had ruled out both the suspects after their DNA and blood samples struck no matches with those from the crime scene. Moreover, the detective verified an alibi through cross-checking that Lezark had been home with his wife the day Samantha was killed. The two suspects had also cooperated fully with the investigation. Another potential suspect in the case was Christian Posh, whom Samantha had met online too. However, his samples also did not match with those retrieved from Samantha’s house.
Eventually, the detectives were able to track down Russell. Besides the matches of DNA and palm prints, the prosecutor also brought up the mysterious circumstances of his wife Tara’s death in Nebraska, which had been ruled as death from pneumonia. The authorities had requested the opinion of the forensic pathologist who had initially studied Russell’s wife’s body. A new autopsy could not be conducted because the body had been cremated. A new pathologist assigned to the wife’s death studied photographs and found wounds and abrasions from burst blood capillaries on Tara’s face, which had not been previously stated in the records.
The bruises were said to have occurred after Tara returned home the night she died. Prosecutors said that at the time only Russell was there in the couple’s trailer. Russell had also reportedly never been cooperative with investigators in Nebraska. A prosecutor further added that Russell had also lied to an investigator when she asked him about Tara’s death. Three years later, Russell was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder of Samantha Lezark. He is currently serving his sentence at the French Robertson Unit in Abilene, Texas, and will be eligible for parole in 2035, according to prison records.