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Scoop: 48 HOURS on CBS - Saturday, January 7, 2017

Should a convicted killer get a shot at parole? Two California women say no way. But what if the convict maintains he’s innocent?

Tracy Smith and 48 HOURS examine what happens to a family after a murder rips them apart in “Crime & Punishment,” to be broadcast Saturday, Jan. 7 (10:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. It’s a heart-wrenching story about a young mom’s murder, the conviction of her husband, and the mom’s two daughters’ steadfast belief that their stepfather did it and their dedication in keeping him in prison forever. It’s also a story that raises questions about the parole process and whether someone must admit guilt to be freed.

In 1992 Phonthip Ott’s body was found by a fisherman in the Sacramento River, in Sacramento, Calif. Her daughters, Tippy Dhaliwal and Jeanette Marine, say they immediately knew their stepfather, Dennis Ott, then a 41-year-old Coast Guard Petty Officer, did it. Police investigated, but the case dragged on for nearly two years. The case turned when Tippy, then 16, wrote a note to the district attorney and the Coast Guard, urging them to arrest Ott. Ott was eventually taken into custody and charged with murder. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Most stories end there. Not this one. For nearly 25 years, sisters Dhaliwal and Marine have been on a mission to keep Ott in prison, and they won’t give up.

“Our mother doesn’t get a second chance,” says Dhaliwal. “Why should he?”

Each time Ott comes up for parole, the sisters are there to fight for their mother.

“He deserves to rot and die in prison plain and simple,” says Marine. “He took everything from us, everything. And I want to take everything from him now.”

Ott has maintained throughout that he’s innocent, which could be a sticking point in his parole hearings. While admitting guilt or showing remorse isn’t mandated, legal experts believe it goes a long way with those deciding whether prisoners are paroled. But what happens to a family when they realize that the fight for justice for their mother does not end with a guilty verdict and they must face their mother’s convicted killer year-after-year to keep him in prison?

What happens to Ott now? And will Dhaliwal and Marine ever get closure?

“It would have been a whole lot easier a long time ago to say, ‘Yeah, I did this crime,’” Ott tells Smith in a phone interview. “But that’s not true. I didn’t kill Phon. I’m not going to say it.”

48 HOURS: “Crime & Punishment” is produced by Marcelena Spencer. Ryan Smith is the field producer. Elena DiFiore and Gayane Keshishyan Mendez are the development producers. Jud Johnston and Jason Schmidt are the editors. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer. Al Briganti is the executive editor. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.


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