Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Love Triangle Murder of Lt. Commander Fred Trayers

The Marriage is Tested


The USNS Mercy
The USNS Mercy
The Trayers lived in Fort Lauderdale from 2001 until 2005 so Fred could attend medical school at Nova Southeastern University. Jennifer took a job at a timeshare company to earn money for the couple's living expenses. Fred began spending time with Danielle Merket, a female psychologist who did research with Navy pilots. Danielle became a friend to both Fred and Jennifer, who was happy to meet a work colleague of her husband's. However, as Fred grew closer with Danielle (Jennifer stayed behind when the two went on a week-long hiking trip with another friend,) Jennifer began to suspect her husband was having an affair. When Danielle came to visit the Trayers for Thanksgiving in 2002, Jennifer noticed a tenseness between the three of them. Although Jennifer never confronted her husband about her suspicions, she noted that Danielle and Fred had stopped communicating by the Spring of 2003.

Jennifer's distress over her husband's suspected affair helped drive her to an affair of her own. In early 2003, Jennifer became romantically involved with Orvill Webb, a co-worker at the timeshare company. Although both were married, they began a sexual relationship that went on for a few months until Webb's wife discovered the affair and called Fred Trayers. Jennifer didn't deny the trysts and offered to leave Fred if that's what he wanted -- but recounted that Fred blamed himself for ignoring her.

Although the next two years in Florida were strained, the Trayers never resorted to violence or even loud arguments. In 2004, Jennifer even began seeing Webb again because she thought Fred was still in love with Merket. Still, when Fred finished medical school in mid-2005, the couple agreed to forget everything that had happened in Florida. The Navy would next station Lt. Commander Fred Trayers at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California. The Trayers would start fresh on the west coast.

The Other Woman

Once out of medical school, Fred resumed his regular salary, and the Trayers' were able to buy a home in Oceanside in 2005. Jennifer was happy at her job at Pacific Western Bank. The couple renewed their wedding vows in 2007 to mark their 15th anniversary. By 2010, Fred was sent to work at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, so the couple moved to a condominium in the San Diego neighborhood of North Park. Fred was popular with his colleagues in emergency medicine, many of whom would later say they had never seen him lose his temper or act aggressively.

Jennifer Trayers thought they had have emerged from the past with their relationship intact. But in mid-2010, Fred went on a humanitarian mission to the South Pacific and set off a chain of events that would spell doom for the Trayers' marriage and their lives.

On August 5, 2010, Fred Trayers flew to Australia to board the USNS Mercy, a floating hospital tasked with sailing through Timor, Indonesia, and Guam on a Naval humanitarian mission. It was on the Mercy that Trayers met Ensign Danielle Robins, a pretty young Navy doctor over 10 years his junior. Over the course of the trip, the two became close -- they even shared a romantic kiss just before Trayers was to return home. For Ens. Robins, this was a precarious situation because a Navy officer caught committing adultery is subject to sanctions from demotion up to discharge.

The two kept in touch via e-mail and text -- and as fate would have it, Robins was soon transferred to San Diego after her stint on the Mercy. With Robins living in the Bachelor Officer's Quarters at the Balboa Navy base, she began seeing Trayers more often. By October 2010, the two were discussing a possible future together. Still, Fred Trayers was conflicted about his marriage, and seemingly unsure if he wanted to end it. That ambivalence was a major theme of his e-mail correspondence with Robins.

On October 16, Robins wrote an e-mail to Fred that was "addressed" to Fred's wife about his great qualities and their unhappy marriage. The e-mail had the salutation "Dear Mrs. Wonderful" -- Robins wrote: "I apologize for the presumptiveness in telling you all about the man to whom you are married... you have daily access to an amazing person... One day they will be gone and the only thing you will be left with is wondering why you didn't appreciate what you had at the time. I guess the point of this stupid letter is to remind you how lucky you are and to ask that if you can't see that, you should let him go."


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