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California Woman’s Mysterious Fatal "Fall" in the Middle of the Night Turned Out To Be More Sinister

When Susann Sills' mother, Theresa Neubauer, learned her daughter had taken a fatal fall, she wondered, “She fell? She never fell."

By Jill Sederstrom
Susann Sills featured on Dateline: If These Walls Could Talk

When Susann Sills was found dead at the bottom of the stairs at her San Clemente, California, home, it initially looked like a tragic accident.

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Watch Dateline on NBC and Peacock

But questions would soon emerge about whether her unexpected death had been something more sinister, as seen in an all-new Dateline airing Friday, May 3 at 9/8c p.m. on NBC.

“People fall. They fall in all kinds of ways, and sometimes those falls kill them. They are terrible — and all too common — accidents," Dateline correspondent Keith Morrison told NBC Insider of the complicated case. "But rarely, even in the best and most accomplished families, nagging questions need to be answered."

"Was it truly an accident when that athletic woman fell down the stairs? Or did she fall at all? Questions that would divide a family and — so it seemed for years — even confound Lady Justice.”

RELATED: Seemingly "Nice" Man with Two Missing Wives Discovered To Have "Chilling History" By Investigators

As the official synopsis of the Dateline episode explains, though the Southern California woman's fall looked at first to be a fatal accident, "when deputies arrest her husband, his story unravels."

What happened to Susann Sills?

The incident came to light when Dr. Eric Scott Sills placed a frantic call to 911 in November of 2016 after he claimed to have discovered his wife at the bottom of the stairs of their home.

When the dispatcher asked if he needed police or paramedics, he answered "paramedic," and said, "I’m doing the CPR," as heard in a preview of Dateline’s “If These Walls Could Talk” episode. "I’m trying to blow in some, uh, air."

Help arrived within minutes, but Susann was already dead. 

"Susann was lying on her back with a blanket covering her body," Dave Holloway, an investigator on the case, told Dateline.

Theresa Neubauer featured on Dateline: If These Walls Could Talk

"She never fell," Susann Sills' mother said

When Susann’s mother, Theresa Neubauer, learned her daughter had taken a mysterious fall in the middle of the night, she was left with nagging questions that were “needling” at her “all the time.”

“She fell? She never fell,” Neubauer told Dateline.

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It’s the first time Neubauer and Susann’s half-brother Frank Gaulden, and his wife Samantha, are speaking out about Susann’s sudden death.

“I just couldn’t believe that it was just over like that,” Frank said.

Frank and Samantha Gaulden featured on Dateline: If These Walls Could Talk

There was a lot more to the mystery, as Friday's Dateline preview shows what appears to be blood on the drapes of a bedroom window and dark marks on the carpet, suggesting the stairway may not have been the only crime scene. 

In addition to interviews with Neubauer and the Gauldens, Dateline also spoke to Peter Arsuaga, Kim Gadberry, Kristi Christensen, and Jon and Rochelle Brannon for the two-hour episode.

RELATED: "Shocking Secret" Revealed Decades After Pennsylvania Mom Was Murdered and Her Home Set On Fire

To find out more about how the case finally came together, watch Dateline at 9/8c p.m. on NBC or stream the episode the next day on Peacock.

And for even more Dateline, sign up for the show's official newsletter and check out its podcast.

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