Read the reflections of Jay Young, the Dateline NBC producer of 'The Mystery at Heath Bar Farm' from November 18th, 2011. You can always keep the conversation going with our producers on Twitter: @DatelineNBCProd
Hi, my name is: Jay Young
I've been a news producer for: almost 20 years
When I first came across this story, I thought to myself: My introduction to this story came with the reading of Dar Foley’s poignant and remarkable obituary. I was struck by the tremendous impact she had on her community and her family, and by the number of people who had been touched by her loss. She seemed like a really neat person. I wish had the chance to meet her.
My inspirations in telling this story: I’d have to say, once again, Dar Foley. Because of Dar, I wanted to get this story right. I was motivated throughout this lengthy and often stressful process by the hope that if Dar could watch the report, she’d give it her seal of approval.
Something I won’t forget about Coldwater, Michigan: The people. Hands down. Obviously this was an extraordinarily tragic story. And when I arrived on the scene, the residents of Coldwater had been living with it for over two years. They had already been through one trial and were bracing for a second. But despite all this, the people of Coldwater couldn’t have been nicer… from the courthouse staff to the wonderful folks behind the counter at the local coffee shop, to the innkeeper that made for us a home away from home.
The residents of Coldwater had very strong opinions about the Tom Foley’s guilt or innocence and they were willing to share those opinions with me. They seemed to appreciate how I was trying to tell both sides of this very divisive story fairly and accurately and they bent over backwards to help me achieve that goal.
The most memorable words I heard: The words coming from the jury. I had absolutely no clue what the outcome of the trial would be.
The most admirable person I met along the way: Dar and Tom Foley’s twelve year old son, Heath. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person but I was there to hear him testify. My heart goes out to him. He is an extraordinary young man who handled himself in court with tremendous maturity. I wish him all the best.
The most striking image I saw: Those horrific crime scene photos. I will say no more.
What still surprises me about this story: Again, the outcome of the trial. It also reminds me of how fragile life is and how it can change dramatically in an instant - both for better and for worse. I am also still surprised by how much this dyed-in-the wool New Yorker wanted to live in Coldwater!
Biggest challenge while doing this story: Trying to find a way to tell this extremely complicated story, involving not one but two trials, in an hour -long program . If I had two hours with which to tell it, I’d still fall short.
In a word, this is really a Dateline story about: Perseverance.
Last but not least, I wish: I wish Heath Foley and all those that loved and continue to love Dar Foley the strength to heal.