Editor's Note: This story contains exclusive video and audio clips of the defendants' police confessions. Due to poor sound quality, viewers may need to turn computer speakers to maximum volume.
Mike Simons and Jenna Nannetti sat on the porch and made out. It was a Sunday night last October in the quiet suburban community of Livermore, some thirty miles east of Oakland. From the way the two of them were grooving on each other, it looked like things just might work out. He was twenty, she seventeen, and they'd gotten married after just six months of dating. Jenna's grandparents, her legal guardians, had signed off on the nuptials when they realized their headstrong granddaughter would find a way to be with him whether they authorized it or not.
Besides, Jenna was totally in love. The tough goth chick was transformed by Mike's presence -- she called him "hon," and family members said she was so happy with him that she "sparkled." Yet predictably enough, their young romance, which moved at warp speed, started disintegrating not long after it began, and Mike moved out of her grandparents' home where they lived. On that Sunday, she had gone to visit him to see whether they were going to annul their four-month marriage or get back together and try to make it work.
Jenna and Mike ran with a crowd of angry, disaffected Livermore kids. Many were high-school dropouts or teenagers who, like Jenna, ended up in a continuation school for troubled students at risk of not graduating. They hung out at a local Internet cafe, worked low-end jobs, and partied in the hills surrounding the town.
In the days preceding their reunion, Jenna tried to convince herself she'd be okay without her husband, but she wasn't so sure. An overweight but striking girl with long red hair and blue eyes, Jenna had been left behind many times in her life. Her alcoholic father had been in and out of prison for drunk driving since she was an infant. When he wasn't in custody she would pick him up from his watering holes when he was too wasted to drive home, in the hopes of keeping him from getting locked up again. And her mother had given Jenna up to her grandparents when she was a toddler. It seemed like something very sweet had finally come her way when she hooked up with Mike Simons.
Mike was an exceptionally good-looking twenty-year-old she'd known since middle school, but who had moved away and recently returned. He wasn't like the pimply, awkward teenagers Jenna was used to hanging out with. He was confident and had plans to join the Army and, at least at first, she felt like he loved her as much as she adored him.
She was wrong. Just a few months after they were married, Mike Simons met another teenage girl in Livermore and moved in with her and her mother. His new girlfriend, Katie Belflower, was a pale, unpopular seventeen-year-old with a penchant for going after other girls' boyfriends. A longtime neighbor, though, described her as a sweet teenager who loved to walk her dog around the middle-class neighborhood where she lived.
Jenna didn't know much about Katie and didn't really want to know more. She just wanted Mike back in her life, and so she drove over to Katie's house, hoping he'd agree to come back with her. The two girls had attended the same continuation school, where simply graduating was considered a huge accomplishment. Jenna, although hardly an academic star, ended up graduating a year early, a feat of which she was quite proud.
Mike met Jenna on the front lawn as she pulled up in her blue '89 Mustang. The two wrestled around outside, just like old times, and then started to kiss. Inside, Katie Belflower visited with her friend, Jeff Hamilton, a rotund twenty-year-old geek who drove a Zamboni at Dublin Iceland.
Then, without warning, as the estranged couple got cozy out front, Katie rushed out of the house holding a short wooden baseball bat, and with all her might bashed Jenna in the head. The girl screamed as the bat hit. Blood rushed down her face and a small piece of her scalp hung loose. As Jenna fled into the street away from the house, Mike bolted to get her a towel and Katie disappeared inside. A minute later in the street, Mike helped clean Jenna up. He told her he knew where Katie was going to be heading. They would go there too, he promised, and he'd hold Katie down so Jenna could get her revenge. She pleaded with Mike to take her to the hospital, but he convinced her that vengeance was the top priority.
En route to find Katie, Jenna used her cell phone to call her father, who'd recently been released from prison for his eleventh drunk-driving conviction. She left a frantic message on his machine: "Dad, give me a call. Dad, call me now," she said. "I got hit upside the head with a fucking baseball bat. I need your help now."
He never got the chance. Before the night was over, Jenna would be dead with two shotgun blasts to the chest, her body dumped under some bushes on the edge of a cornfield near Stockton.
As Katie, Mike, and their friend Jeff Hamilton later revealed to homicide detectives in lengthy, separate videotaped interviews obtained by the Express, the trio had meticulously planned the killing, which was to be set in motion with the baseball bat assault. Attorneys for all three defendants refused to speak with the Express despite repeated requests, but their clients are slated to go on trial later this summer for Jenna's murder.
They almost got away with it. For months, it looked like Jenna's killers would never be found. The young suburban trio was surprisingly sophisticated in concocting an airtight alibi and, more important, destroying evidence. Detectives scoured fields, levees, and high-school hallways trying to figure out just who had murdered Jenna and why, but the cops got their big break in the case only after two of the three suspects decided that another teenage girl needed to die.
At the center of this murderous drama sat Katie Belflower, a scrawny teenager with a melancholy face, who wasn't about to let Jenna or any other chick get in the way of her "happily ever after" life with Mike Simons.
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