In late 2018, the residents of the little community of St. Johnsville, New York, were terrified by a terrifying incident. Michaela MacVilla mysteriously vanished on her way home from work one night, prompting a massive search. The young woman’s body, on the other hand, was discovered a few days later.
‘True Conviction: The Final Heartbeat,’ a documentary on Investigation Discovery, examines how the investigators built a case against Michaela’s killer based entirely on circumstantial evidence. So, shall we investigate what transpired?
What Caused Michaela MacVilla’s Death?
Michaela was born in Missoula, Montana, and moved to St. Johnsville with her family about 15 years before the incident. The 21-year-old worked as a clerk at a neighbourhood convenience store after graduating from high school.
She was close to her mother and planned to attend beauty school to follow in her footsteps. Michaela was a pleasant presence in the store, getting along with nearly everyone.
Michaela went to work on September 24, 2018, like any other day, and was scheduled to return home just after midnight. Her family, on the other hand, became concerned when she didn’t return till the next day. As a result, Michaela was reported missing. A heavy brush was discovered during the search in St. Johnsville, New York, at a property in Oppenheim.
Michaela was discovered on October 2, 2018, with her clothes torn off, as per the episode. The cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound to the back of the head from a.38-caliber handgun, according to an autopsy.
Who Was Michaela MacVilla’s killer?
Authorities discovered Michaela’s smartphone on September 27 somewhere in St. Johnsville during the early phases of the search, which gave a wealth of information. Daniel Nellis, who resided in Oppenheim, was identified by one of the final numbers dialled on her phone.
He had a long criminal history, including charges for drugs and alcohol. He was previously engaged with local illegal motorcycle gangs and had a past felony record, according to the show.
Daniel told the cops that he knew Michaela from her position at the convenience store, but that he hadn’t seen her in weeks. A search of his home uncovered a sizable guns collection. Daniel was subsequently arrested because, as a felon, he was prohibited from possessing firearms. Meanwhile, officials searched for additional evidence linking him to Michaela’s disappearance.
On September 25, 2018, surveillance footage from her office showed her departing at approximately 12:10 a.m. Security cameras near Michaela’s home were shown getting into a car shortly after, according to the show.
When security footage from Daniel’s home was uncovered, the case got a significant break. At 12:45 a.m., both of them were seen entering his home. They then left a couple of hours later, about midday.
It has been a long road for Michaela’s parents, who lost anther daughter about a month before Michaela was shot and killed. They say today was a bittersweet moment and they are ready to close this chapter. @SPECNewsAlbany pic.twitter.com/5sVAEMPyel
— Melissa Steininger (@melissasteinTV) June 20, 2019
On their route to the scene where Michaela’s body was discovered, the police looked for CCTV cameras in the neighbourhood in order to track Daniel’s automobile. They were in luck since a security camera on a home property caught the vehicle driving past at 12:20 p.m. on September 25 and returning the same manner just minutes later.
Michaela’s heart rate sensor showed that her rate increased about 12:24 PM before stopping fully six minutes later. Later, the prosecution claimed that this was the exact moment the 21-year-old died.
Apart from security film, cellphone evidence linked Daniel and Michaela before her phone died at the area where it was eventually discovered. Furthermore, it placed Daniel in the same location as the body. Daniel’s case was strengthened by the discovery of his DNA under Michaela’s fingernails, on her body, and in her clothes.
What Happened to Daniel Nellis and Where is He Now?
Daniel maintained his innocence and admitted to having consensual sex with Michaela at his 2019 trial. A test to see if a.38-caliber gun found at Daniel’s house was the murder weapon came back inconclusive, according to the defence.
Despite this, in June 2019, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree criminal possession of a firearm. Daniel was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the murder and an extra 15 years on the weapons charge when he was 45 years old. According to prison records, he is still detained at the Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, New York. In August 2056, Daniel will be eligible for parole.
It’s been a long road for Michaela Macvillas family. After almost a year since she went missing, they say they finally have justice. Daniel Nellis is sentenced to 40 years to life in prison for the killing of the 21-year-old. Full story tonight on @SPECNewsAlbany pic.twitter.com/oeuR5gLeBi
— Melissa Steininger (@melissasteinTV) August 22, 2019