Ms Julie Marshall was a bereavement counsellor in a terminal cancer hospital in the town of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and Mark Bowling was the local undertaker.
After regularly attending funeral services for her patients organised by Mark Bowling's funeral home, the two began going out in 1998 and finally married in August 2000, much to the approval of the people of Rocky Mount. It would have been hard to have found a more sober and responsible couple who provided such a valuable service to the community. Julie was friendly and caring, Mark immaculately dressed and reverential.
But behind the doors of the luxury home on the outskirts of Rocky Mount, things were not quite as they seemed.
Julie, 45 and eight years older than her husband, was infertile and unable to enjoy a normal life. And in 2005 Mark had begun to see one of his former lovers, Rose Vincent, now married with three children. Before long it was once more a passionate affair which occupied most of Mark Bowling's free time. If Julie Bowling knew about it, she preferred to turn a blind eye.
Mark and Rose had met again when Rose's elderly father had asked her to organise prepayments for his eventual funeral — and Rose knew exactly who to contact.
She had seen Bowling only occasionally since they had parted but felt as passionate about him as ever. The meeting to discuss her father's funeral plans ended in a passionate embrace in the room next to the coffins.
Over the next year their affair reignited and Bowling told her that she had always been the love of his life and always would be. Unfortunately there was definitely no way they could be together unless his wife was "out of the way."
The longer they were together the more obsessed Rose Vincent became with the stocky black-haired undertaker who was a pillar of Rocky Mount society.
She left her husband and moved with her three children into a shabby trailer home, supporting them with a part-time job in a supermarket and dreaming of the day when she and Bowling would be together.
Bowling realised that she would do anything, even murder, to keep him, and in December 2006 they began to discuss ways of killing Julie. One involved Rose shooting her rival through the head as she drove through a seedy part of town in the hope that the killing would be blamed on drug gangs which operated in that area.
The second plan was to kill Julie while she was visiting relatives in the distant town of Greenville. Again, Rose Vincent would do the deed. "There's no way I can do it — I need a watertight alibi," her lover explained. "I'm the first one they'll suspect."
When Rose refused to kill her rival, Bowling offered her $50,000 from the million he hoped to get from the life insurance he had taken out on Julie and this changed Rose's mind.
"I'll do it — but not for money," she told Bowling. "But because I love you."
So on December 8, 2006, Rose Vincent drove to the Bowling's house, set in its own tree-shaded grounds and parked her car out of sight. In her handbag she had a 1930s .32 revolver Bowling had given her before he left for Florida and a snorkelling trip on the Crystal River, thus giving himself a watertight alibi.
Before he left he had given her an ultimatum — killing Julie would prove how much she loved him. Julie Vincent later told a court: "I waited in the garage for Julie to come and get her car.
"It was as if I was standing beside myself and there was nothing I could do to stop what was going to happen. When Julie appeared to go to work I heard Mark's voice in my head saying: 'You've got to keep shooting her until the gun stops'." Rose remembered that Julie tried to run back into the house, but it was too late. Shaking from head to foot Rose fired again and again until Julie fell in a bleeding heap on the concrete floor.
When Julie failed to turn up for work or answer her mobile, a friend at the hospital, Linda Gardner, drove to the Bowling house to check that all was well. She found Julie's body in the garage. She had been shot six times in the head and chest.
When Bowling was contacted by Nash County Sheriff Pat Joyner he responded predictably by breaking down in sobs but never asked how or where his wife had died. During an eight-hour interview with Sheriff Joyner, Bowling admitted that he been unfaithful to Julie and mentioned Rose Vincent in particular as someone who may have wanted to harm his wife.
Sheriff Joyner later told a court: "Bowling said that he had told Rose he loved her and wanted to be with her but that he would never leave his wife.
She said she told him she would do anything for the two of them to be together.
"We also found out that the undertaking business was in trouble and the family home was mortgaged up to the eyeballs. Bowling had taken a one million dollar life insurance on his wife only a month before she died."
Rose Vincent was arrested later that day and immediately confessed to the killing. At first she tried to protect Mark Bowling but when told that he had implicated her in the murder she described how he had planned for her to carry out the crime while he was in Florida with a cast-iron alibi.
She later took detectives to the town cemetery where she had buried the murder weapon. Police found matching bullets for it in Bowling's house.
Rose Vincent and Mark Bowling were both charged with first degree murder which carried the death penalty in North Carolina but in exchange for her confession and her agreement to testify against her lover, Rose Vincent was charged with second degree murder.
When the case opened in September 2008 prosecutor Keith Werner told the jury that Bowling had forced Rose to go through with the murder.
"He told her to pull the trigger until it stopped and it was his hand on the gun as surely as it was Rose's."
This was denied by Thomas Moore, defending, who said the idea to kill Julie Bowling was entirely Rose Vincent's and nothing Bowling could do would stop her.
In fact the jury didn't need to decide on Bowling's guilt because on the last day of the trial he dramatically changed his plea to guilty to second-degree murder in return for a 20-year jail sentence.
The woman who actually pulled the trigger, Rose Vincent, got a 29 years sentence. "That is really unfair," she said in a statement after the trial.
"He's the reason why Julie is dead. It was his plan. The difference was he didn't have the guts to pull the trigger.
"I still love him but I've got a lot of hate for him, too. I killed Julie because I loved Mark blindly.
"He was the centre of my world. Julie's death is something I will have to live with and regret for the rest of my life. "Sadly a million sorries isn't going to bring back a woman who never did me any harm."