An emotionless Yolinda Doss turned to Orange Park police Det. Cody Monroe at the viewing for her slain Navy husband and made a request suggesting a gesture of love: She asked that Alphonso Doss' wedding ring be returned to her for his burial.
Six months later, police charged Doss with masterminding what newly released records describe as a diabolical plot to collect at least $600,000 in insurance money by having her lover and his buddy kill her estranged husband.
Records said Doss admitted serving as a lookout for the two men -- with the couple's unsuspecting teenage daughter in her car -- as they hid in her husband's motel room and waited for him to arrive before attacking him in a staged burglary.
Their murder trials could begin as early as this summer.
Hundreds of pages of police reports and other records about the February 2014 strangulation describe the couple's failed marriage and the troubled life of the 44-year-old decorated commander.
The documents also give new details about the crime scene and killing in room 183 of the Astoria hotel and the case police slowly built against Yolinda Doss as she grew increasingly anxious to collect the insurance money.
Six weeks into the case, Doss, 44, she spoke giddily when Monroe told her he was making headway.
"Yippee! Forward progress!" Doss said, the exclamation points inserted by Monroe in his report.
Doss gave no indication she knew police were slowly closing in on her.
DECORATIONS AND DEMONS
Alphonso Doss enlisted in the Navy after graduating from a Mississippi high school with honors in 1987. He completed two combat deployments in the Mediterranean, including one aboard the Mayport-based USS Forrestal in 1991.
He was commissioned a naval officer in 1996 through programs at the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University. He completed two secret overseas counter drug missions and was part of at team charged with interviewing suspected enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay beginning in 2006, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Doss returned to Jacksonville after working at the Naval Education and Training Command in Pensacola, where he'd been stationed since November 2011. He was temporarily stationed in Jacksonville at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, a Navy spokeswoman said.
Doss's father, Tom Allen, described his son as an ambitious leader who dreamed of becoming a commander one day. He achieved the rank in 2012 and his many awards included the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
"He wanted to go all the way to the top," Allen said. "He went for it and he got it."
Whether it was his crumbling marriage of 22 years to his high school sweetheart or for another reason, Doss spent at least the last few years of his life as a troubled man.
Doss was convicted of DUI in Santa Rosa County in August 2012, state records show, and began attending a substance abuse treatment program in Jacksonville in the fall of 2013. Three weeks before his death, Doss told his father he was struggling with alcoholism and was undergoing the treatment.
Doss moved alone into the Astoria off U.S. 17 in northern Orange Park about the same time he entered treatment. The home he lived in with his wife and daughter in a middle-class Jacksonville subdivision was lost to foreclosure that December.
The day she reported finding her husband's body, Yolinda Doss told police he was a bipolar, long-time alcoholic who repeatedly attempted suicide. She said he'd become mentally and physically abusive and that his troubles caused them to split. But she also mentioned he was a good man and she still loved him.
"I feel horrible at having to paint a negative light on him because I know he did as best he could," she said in a written statement. "It was hard on both of us. But we were still trying."
THE EARLY CASE
A woman acting calmly outside Doss's motel room erupted into hysterics as soon as police began arriving on Feb. 12, 2014, witnesses said. It would be the first time police met Yolinda Doss.
Alphonso Doss, dressed in a white sweater and jeans, was face-down on the side of the single bed. His military identification was under his feet.
Clothes were strewn throughout the unkempt room and two of Doss's Navy dress hats and sat on a shelf near several Navy uniforms. Two empty Bacardi bottles and prescription pills were among the mess, as were two writings adopted by substance abuse programs: "Letter from your addiction," an imagined letter sarcastically touting the upside of addiction, and The Serenity Prayer, which holds a three-fold request to God for serenity, courage and wisdom.
All but one dresser drawer was open and a laptop belonging to Doss was missing, part of what police said was a staged burglary. An autopsy the next day found Doss was strangled.
Yolinda Doss said she'd gone to check on her husband and denied any knowledge of what happened to him. Initial police interviews with hotel guests and people who knew Doss offered few clues, though they did elaborate on his troubles with alcohol and his marriage.
Doss was buried eight days later. His wife initially told the family he'd committed suicide, but told them after the funeral he'd been killed. Police didn't publicize the killing until a reporter's inquiry two weeks after the discovery and never asked for the public's help in solving the case.
But behind the scenes, police were slowly piecing together evidence against Yolinda Doss, as well as Anthony Washington, whom she revealed to them was her lover, and Ronnie Wilson II, who was Washington's buddy and her roommate.
Doss contradicted parts of a time line she gave in several police interviews, including the days she spent with Washington during the week leading up to her husband's death and afterward. Washington and Wilson also provided time lines early in the investigation, but Wilson, drew some suspicion by refusing to give his fingerprints or DNA without a lawyer.
Police also learned less than two weeks after her husband's death that Doss inquired about a $600,000 military life insurance policy, telling the Navythat investigators had two suspects and that she'd been cleared.
Police told Doss five weeks into the case that they'd learned about the policy. She made it clear in the following months, with no news of an arrest, that it was money she was eager to collect.
"You need to send off the police report to the Navy so they can give me my money," Yolinda Doss said in a May 1 phone call to Det. Monroe. "My girl [her daughter] and I are innocent of all this. We are the victims We need the money to get by."
Doss assumed that if police gave the Navy a report of the investigation's progress officials would release the insurance money to her, the records said. She told police a small novelty business she ran could not support her and her daughter and that they would become homeless if she didn't get the money.
She expressed similar concerns in later interviews and had her interest piqued in late July when police told her the investigation was nearing an end. Police used search warrants in early August to get cell phone records linking Doss, her lover, Washington, and his friend, Wilson, to the day of the killing, and had all three in for further interviews Aug. 4.
Police told Doss they had evidence that she got new key cards made for her husband's room Feb. 10 -- she reported finding his body two days later -- and then drove him to his abuse counseling session.
Police also told her one card was used to enter the room that afternoon. She replied Washington called her to say that he and Wilson were hiding in the room at the time, the newly released records said.
Doss said she had just picked up her daughter from school and parked across from the hotel to act as a lookout for when her husband returned, the records said. She told police she called Washington and told him her husband was headed to the room. She later met Washington and Wilson at her home.
Doss said the two men told her the attack didn't go as planned, but what else she said was redacted from the new reports. The police chief said that Washington strangled Doss by hand as the three men struggled.
Doss, 44, Wilson, 33 and Washington 29, are all charged with second-degree murder and assault and battery during a burglary.
BURIED WITH HONORS
Yolinda Doss asked her husband's family to leave her alone with him at the funeral home before his burial at the Jacksonville National Cemetery, a pristine Northside spot where military veterans are laid to rest.
The family complied and never learned why she asked.
Cmdr. Alphonso Doss was buried in Section 9 under headstone 1744.
"I dreamed and soared," reads his epitaph.
His wedding ring was on.