The Killer Beside Me looks at the murder of Denise Vasseur by jilted lover Patrick Hamilton, whose response to being spurned was to strangle the San Diego zookeeper and dump her body in the Californian desert.
On September 22, 2000, at 5 am, Denise Vasseur kissed her husband goodbye as she left their home in Oceanside for work. It was the day after she’d celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary with her husband, Marine Staff Sgt. Charles Vasseur. Tragically, Charles would never see her wife again.
The next day, her abandoned car was discovered near her home, with the keys still in the ignition. Unfortunately, there were no clues as to her whereabouts.
Denise had been a zookeeper at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and the investigation into her disappearance revealed she’d been having an affair with one of her colleagues at the zoo, a Patrick Hamilton.
What’s more, detectives also learned that Denise had wished to end their romance and had already told Hamilton it was over. The police grew suspicious of Hamilton; however, the case was blown wide open when he admitted to murdering Denise while on the phone with a friend.
Patrick Hamilton led cops in police chase
When police attempted to arrest Hamilton, he tried to escape; however, he was eventually apprehended after a car chase. While being questioned, he admitted to killing Denise.
He told the police that he strangled her while arguing and dumped her body in the Anzo-Boregga desert to the east of San Diego.
In November 2001, Hamilton’s trial had already begun when he agreed to a plea deal. Hamilton agreed to plea guilty to second-degree murder, and as part of the deal, he also agreed to help the authorities find Denise’s body.
He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, and the judge recommended that he not be considered for parole until he agreed to locate Denise’s remains.
Detectives took Hamilton out into the desert twice, but they could not locate Denise, and the case is now closed.
In 2013, California’s District Court of Appeal rejected Hamilton’s request to withdraw his guilty plea and upheld his conviction and sentence.
More from The Killer Beside Me
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Gail Spencer was held hostage before being strangled to death in her own home as her colleague Tracy Jones stole over a million dollars from her employer.
The Killer Beside Me airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.