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Detective Sgt. Robert catches a young man soliciting sex from a middle school girl. A careful investigation leads to the suspect’s arrest and conviction. Robert is hopeful that the victim is now safe but a few years later, he discovers that another man has targeted the same girl. And the identity of the suspect has the detective shaking his head. Fortunately, he is once again able to get the victim a measure of justice.

The Detective: Sgt. Robert

Sgt. Robert has been in law enforcement for over 20 years. Prior to becoming a detective, he spent nine years on patrol, where he served as a Field Training Officer (FTO) and an FBI-trained hostage negotiator. As a detective, he worked in a unit that investigated crimes against children, including sex crimes, serious physical abuse and child homicides. He was later re-assigned to the violent crimes unit, where he investigated homicides, robberies and other serious felonies. He was an active member of his county’s major crimes team, which investigated homicides and officer-involved shootings. After 10 years in investigations, Robert was promoted to sergeant.

Read Transcript

Yeardley:  Hey, Small Town Fam. It’s Yeardley. How are you guys? I hope you’re great. I really, really do. I am so pleased to tell you that today we have the wonderful Detective Robert. I actually think that Robert is our most frequent returning guest on this podcast. The last case he gave us was an episode in Season 12 titled OMG! If you’ve heard it, then you know exactly why we called it that. And if you haven’t heard it, well, for God’s sake, go listen to it. I’m telling you, your head’s going to pop off. The case that Robert brings us today is a sex abuse case involving a teenage girl. As always, we are sparing in the details of what this young victim endured, because, really this episode is a lesson in how patient and relentless sex offenders can be when it comes to grooming their victims as well as the people around them. It’s an infuriating cautionary tale, and there’s a twist in the middle of this episode that absolutely floored me.

 But that’s only half of what made this case so memorable for me. The other half, the perhaps more important half, is the obvious compassion and kindness that Robert showed towards his teenage victim, along with his unwavering commitment in getting justice for her. That is what really stood out for me. Here is Bad Neighbors.

Yeardley:  Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.

Dan:  I’m Dan.

Dave:  I’m Dave.

Paul:  And I’m Paul.

Yeardley:  And this is Small Town Dicks.

Dan:  Daveand I are identical twins.

Dave:  And retired detectives from Small Town, USA.

Paul:  And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State Killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.

Dan:  Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.

Dave:  Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.

Paul:  Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.

Dan:  And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved-

Dave:  -out of respect for what they’ve been through.

[unison]  Thank you.

Yeardley:  Today, on Small Town Dicks we sort of have the usual suspects. I will explain. We have Detective Dan.

Dan:  Hello. [Yeardley laughs] Let me try that again. Hello.

Yeardley:  [laughs] That’s what I’m going to explain. We have Detective Dave.

Dave: ] Hello.

Yeardley:  Hello. [laughs]

Dave:  I’m so disappointed right now.

Yeardley:  You are?

Dave:  Yes.

Yeardley:  Why?

Dan:  He’s disappointed his brother.

Yeardley:  Aww. And we have the one and only PaulHoles.

Paul:  Hello. I’m just going to keep it in the same mood.


Yeardley:  You guys.

Dan:  I can bring some more energy.

Dave:  Hello.

Paul:  No. I’m disappointed you can’t. I mean, it’s game day. Let’s go.


Yeardley:  Everybody settle the fuck down. And Small Town Fam, we are so happy this is such a good day because I think we have our most frequent guest returning with us today. We have Detective Robert.

Robert:  Well, I’ll bring the enthusiasm. I’m happy to be here.


Yeardley:  I’m thrilled you’re here. We all are. And I have to tell our listeners, I was counting up. You’ve done 7 episodes with us already over the course of our, this being our 14th season. So, this will actually be the 8th episode that you’re doing with us, which is insane and fantastic. I feel like it makes you an honorary co-host.

Robert:  Well, thank you. [chuckles]

Yeardley:  Honestly. And I want to give our listeners a little– I’m going tout your resume for a second. So, Robert gave us Trouble Follows in Season 5. He started with us in 5. And then What About Bob? in 6, an episode we called Snitch, another one called Kill Bill, another one called Straight to the Heart. Now we’re up to Season 10, Crawlspace, which will make your hair stand on end, that’s Season 12. And OMG! probably our most commented on episode ever. I remember naming it that because about every five minutes when I was listening to the edit, I was like, “Oh, my God.” I mean, just you’ll have to pull over if you’re in the car. So, Robert, you’re a rock star and we adore you. And thank you so much for spending one of your precious days off with us today.

Robert:  Well, I love being with you guys. It’s fun every time.

Yeardley:  Every time. And so before we continue, I promised I would explain about the usual suspects sweet Dan, my sweet husband, had, is it neck surgery? It’s back surgery.

Dan:  It’s neck. They went in through my throat. And that’s what you’re hearing.

Yeardley:  Dan [laughs] has a going to be a scar on his neck that looks like he got in a fight with Wolverine. And [chuckles] Wolverine, while he may not have won, he did get a good swipe in. So sweet Dan had a couple of discs replaced and, you know, they made him bionic, basically. And that was less than a week ago. Although by the time our listeners hear this, you will be right as rain. Because it will be at least a couple of months. But for today, I’m going to send you off. “You’re going to pop off,” like they say on the Great British Baking show, when it’s time for the blind bake and go rest up.

Dan:  Thank you very much. It’s great to see everyone. I mark two dates on my calendar, when I can record again and when I can swing a golf club.


Yeardley:  Forget about the wedding anniversary. Those two things are more important.


Dan:  I don’t have to check that date.

Yeardley:  I’m just kidding.

Dan:  Best day of my life.

Yeardley:  [laughs] Mine too. All good.

Dan:  Anyway, signing off. Great to see everyone, and I’ll be back soon.

Yeardley:  You will. Yeah.

Dave:  All right. Get better, Dan.

Dan:  Thank you. Can’t wait to hear this episode.

Dave:  GTFO.


Dan:  Thanks, Dave.

Paul:  Take care, Dan.


Paul:  Well, now that he’s gone and he can’t defend himself, that surgery ain’t helping his golf swing.

Yeardley:  So anyhoo, we digress. We still have the dream team because we have Robert and Dave and Paul-

Paul:  -and Yeardley.

Yeardley:  Thank you. And moi. So, we’re in good hands. And Robert, I’m going to hand it over to you. Please tell us how this case came to you.

Robert:  All right. So, I’d been a detective for just over two years at this point in my career. I was assigned at the time to my agency’s child abuse team, and we had about 12 detectives assigned to that unit. It’s our largest unit in the investigations division. I was home one night, it was about 07:45 in the evening, and my sergeant paged me to assist patrol with a child sex abuse call that deputies were working on. And so, as I got up and drove out to my office where they were going to meet me, the deputies briefed me and they told me that just about an hour and 15 minutes earlier, so about 06:30 in the evening, this is in the winter, a deputy had just finished up at a domestic violence call nearby, and he went over to an abandoned park and ride station, and he was just going to update his notebook and maybe write his report. But what we call go window to window with the other deputy that was at the call.

 So basically, you just park your patrol cars, driver side window to driver side window, and you can talk about the call you just went to, and who’s going to write which part of the report, who’s going to cover what. So, they were just going to debrief that call together, chat, update their notebooks, maybe write the report. When one of them before he parks, which is great practice and good officer safety, he looks all around him in the parking lot to make sure no one’s there to ambush him or sneak up on him. And over in a far corner of the lot, he sees an adult male and an underage female, and they’re illuminated under the light, but he can tell there’s an age difference. So, he sees an adult male and an underage female. And this deputy also knows that this lot is posted with many no trespassing signs. They’re all over the place. So, with the no trespassing signs in place, he gets out of his car, and as he approaches this male and female, the male immediately starts walking away from him. And the deputy knows that he has a crime. He has trespassing as a crime, and so he can legally stop this male from walking away. So, he puts his flashlight on the male, and he orders the male to stop, and he goes over, and he contacts the two of them. And then a short time later, his partner, who was at the previous call, comes over also.

Yeardley:  And what is the girl doing while you’re telling the guy to stop?

Robert:  She is staying put and kind of doing what he asks, like, he just wanted to separate him to talk to him, and he starts chatting him up. So, the deputy talks to the male and the female, and he finds out that the girl, Alexa, has just turned 13 years old. So, you know, a couple weeks ago, she was 12. She’s just now 13. And finds out that the male is 27, and his name is Thomas. Alexa attends middle school, okay, so that’s how young she is. She’s in middle school, and Thomas is an adult. And Thomas has been booked into our jail probably a dozen times already at this time in his life. And when the deputy is inquiring about their relationship, he learns that Thomas and Alexa are next door neighbors. And because it’s going to be important, in a little bit, I’m going to talk about the age of consent in our state.

 So, basically, you have to be 18 in order to be able to give legal consent to engage in sexual contact with someone. But there’s a little twist. And that twist is to prevent high school couples from being felons in sexual offenders. If the age difference is less than three years, you will not be prosecuted. So, for example, an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old, in a consensual relationship, the adult would not be prosecuted. But a 27-year-old and a 13-year-old, that’s a problem. Okay.

Yeardley:  And why had Thomas been in jail several times already?

Robert:  He had been in jail for any number of things, but none of them related to sex offenses. So there’d been some thefts, and there’s been some fail to appears, and there’s been some disorderly conduct and just nuisance kind of stuff, but nothing real serious at this point. So as the deputy is talking to Thomas and Alexa, they both claim independently that they’re just hanging out and talking. The deputy spider sense is going off. He’s like, “Something is not right here, and he doesn’t believe what they’re telling him.” And again, he just feels like there’s more to the story. So again, the deputy separates them, which is what we like to do, try to make sure we get truthful recollections of events.

 When he gets Thomas’ name and date of birth, he learns when he runs him through our dispatcher that Thomas has a warrant for a parole violation for felon in possession of a restricted weapon. And as I mentioned, he’d been to our jail several times at this point. He understands the system, and he understands what happens when he talks to the police. So at this point, we know Thomas is going to jail for his warrant. And so, the deputy reads Thomas the Miranda Warning and begins asking Thomas about the nature of his relationship with Alexa. And again, in the beginning, Thomas denies any physical contact or any kind of romantic relationship with Alexa. He says, “Hey, we just went for a walk together. And when the deputy saw us, we had stopped to talk, and we’d basically been there about 15, maybe 30 minutes prior to the deputy showing up in the parking lot.”

Yeardley:  Can you tell me again what time of day this is?

Robert:  Yes. So it’s wintertime, so it’s dark, but it’s about 06:30. And then it’s about 07:45 PM when I get called out. So, the deputy keeps pushing Thomas. And finally, Thomas says that Alexa had kissed him on his cheek. And Thomas says, “I feel that this wasn’t right.” And so I reached out with my arm, and I pushed Alexa back to keep her at arm’s length from me, and that’s what happened. So meanwhile, this second deputy on scene, he starts talking to Alexa. And Alexa’s story is a little different. She says that she met up with Thomas only about five minutes prior to the deputy coming into the parking lot. So, they literally only been there five minutes according to her. Alexa describes Thomas as a friend, a next-door neighbor, and then someone she can confide in about things that are going on in her life and kind of complain about her mom, that kind of stuff.

Yeardley:  Is her mom a single mom? Is there a dad in the picture?

Robert:  And my Alexa is now talking to me from the other room.


Yeardley:  That’s hilarious.

Robert:  Alexa, stop.


Robert:  If it does that again, I’ll have to go unplug it. So, to answer your question, Alexa has two brothers.

Yeardley:  And is Alexa, the youngest in the middle.

Robert:  She is the youngest, yes, and is being raised by a single mom who is a very nice lady, and she tries hard, but she works at a fast-food restaurant and is just completely overwhelmed. She basically has to work many, many, many hours a week, and so the kids really don’t have any supervision whatsoever. Alexa describes Thomas as being her friend and next-door neighbor. And as the deputy keeps talking to her, Alexa’s story changes. Alexa says that she and Thomas had gone for a walk, and basically where the deputy contacted them is just a place where they had stopped in the parking lot to rest before walking the rest of the way home. Alexa describes some other contact with Thomas. She says that the two of them had kissed.

 So, again, with the age difference is kind of the gauge that we use there, but their age difference alone makes that illegal. There’s a crime called sexual abuse in the third degree, and we have prosecutors who are ready to charge that every day. So Alexa talks about them kissing, and then Alexa also says that Thomas put his hands up her shirt, under her bra, and Alexa described sexual touching of her breasts and her buttocks. Alexa also says that Thomas has digitally penetrated her with his fingers. So we have moved from, you know, misdemeanor sex abuse three to an extremely serious crime called sex abuse one, which has a mandatory prison sentence, sex offender registration requirements. The whole arena just changed when she discloses this.

[Break 1]

Yeardley:  Robert, during her interview, does Alexa say whether or not this sexual contact between her and Thomas had been going on for a while, or did it just occur that night in the parking lot when the deputy happened to see them?

Robert:  Alexa says this is the first time the two of them have had any kind of sexual contact like this whatsoever.

Yeardley:  And is Alexa freaked out as she’s telling the deputy these details, or is she like, “No, it’s fine. I was okay with it.”

Robert:  She’s relatively calm. She’s young, in age, but she is pretty street smart and kind of understands how the world works. So, she was reluctant initially to talk to the deputy, but then disclosed all this. So at this point, the deputies call the detective sergeant and have a consult. And then when these deputies called the on-call detective sergeant, the detective sergeant said, “Look, I’m going to page someone out. And they paged me out.” So, I talked to the deputies while they’re still on scene, and I said, “Hey, well, if Thomas has a warrant, let’s have him transported to the office, and he’ll just think he’s going for the warrant.” So they load him up in the car, and they tell him he’s going to jail. And then instead of going to jail, they take him upstairs to my office, and then I meet him there.

 In the meantime, Alexa goes to a hospital to have a sexual assault forensic evidence kit. So from her, they collect DNA and other evidence for later use in the different forensic comparisons they do. So, Thomas is seated in one of our interview rooms up investigations, and the first thing I notice about him is he’s dirty. His hands are dirty, his fingernails are dirty. His hair is kind of wild and unkempt, just not a very clean guy. He still thinks we’re there to talk about his warrant, and so he goes into great detail about how he’s on supervision, he has a PO, and that he kind of got tired of following the rules, and he just walked away from the work release center, stopped going. I turned the conversation towards Alexa and start inquiring.

 And Thomas tells me that he knows Alexa is 13 because she lives next door to him. Thomas says he met Alexa while smoking with Alexa’s mother. So, he knows the whole family. He knows Alexa’s brothers also. Thomas said that he and Alexa walked over to his cousin’s work, which was nearby, and then were stopping to rest in the parking lot when they were contacted by the deputy. And after multiple, multiple, multiple denials, Thomas finally admits that he kissed Alexa, which I mentioned is illegal, and basically blames her, saying that, “Alexa started it and that when she did it, Thomas pushed her away and told her that she was too young for that.” And he adamantly denies that there was anything other than kissing. He specifically denies touching her breast, touching her buttocks, putting his finger inside her. He denies all that.

Yeardley:  I just want to say, just because our listeners can’t see you guys, but when you say that Thomas blames Alexa, that she came onto him, essentially, Dave is throwing up his hands. Paul is rolling his eyes and smirking. You guys, you both investigated cases like this, perhaps you could weigh in a tad and tell us what you’re thinking.

Dave  There’s just so many checkboxes on the grooming checklist that we’re already hitting. Not specifically what Thomas is doing to Alexa, but circumstances. This is a newly teenage girl who doesn’t get a lot of supervision, doesn’t have a lot of direction at home because mom is too busy working. So, you have that aspect. You have Thomas playing confidant and friend. I mean, he’s doing all the foundation work to get tighter with Alexa. And Robert’s hitting some points on ages and age of consent and different laws that we have in our state immediately when I heard that Alexa had just turned 13, I went, “Okay.” Because if there’s any disclosures about things happening prior to that 13th birthday, Thomas is going to be in real deep shit.

Paul:  And the checkboxes that I’m listening for, you know, what Robert’s saying during his interview is that Thomas is making denials and he’s denying certain sex acts, such as the digital penetration. And Robert talked about how Alexa went to the hospital for the physical evidence processing on her side. But there’s also transference of evidence from Alexa onto Thomas. And so, when he denies digital penetration and he gets processed, his fingers get processed. And if that comes back with Alexa’s epithelial cells from digital penetration into her vagina with Alexa’s DNA, now you’ve got this denial that you can absolutely refute with physical evidence. So, the fact that these deputies found them in this parking lot, contemporaneous to the actual sex acts being conducted, is huge from a physical evidence standpoint.

Yeardley:  Okay. And Robert, you said that Thomas says he met Alexa when Thomas was smoking with Alexa’s mom. Are we talking weed? Are we talking meth?

Robert:  Cigarettes.

Yeardley:  Oh. Literally, just like on the back porch smoking?

Robert:  Yep.

Yeardley:  Okay.

Robert:  So at this point in the interview, it’s the time where we need to have the come to Jesus talk with Thomas, let him know kind of how things really are versus what he thinks. And so, I explained to him the basics of DNA and how his story can be proven or disproven. But at this point, I explained to him the disclosures that Alexa has made and how DNA can also prove her story. And Thomas says, “There’s no reason that her DNA would be on his fingers.” So at that moment, I decide to swab Thomas’ fingers under exigent circumstances. I want to talk about that real briefly. So, obviously, police officers need to obtain a search warrant anytime a search is done. And that’s where kind of a government interest collides with someone’s privacy rights, or something that belongs to them.

 There are several exceptions to the search warrant requirement, one of them being exigent circumstances. And so, I can articulate at this moment that the second Thomas washes his hands, like, for example, if he tells me, “Hey, Detective Robert, I need to use the bathroom.” He’s going to go and use the bathroom. And then, I assume, wash his hands, maybe not, but I can articulate that I need to collect that evidence now in order to prevent it from dissipating or going away. So, I swab his fingers, but I don’t know which finger or fingers Thomas used. Now, one of the deputies that was on the scene, he’s there with me, and he’s in a room nearby watching the video interview. And as soon as I take a quick little break to step out of the room, Thomas lifts up and sniffs his right two fingers.

 So I now have a little clue on which to submit first, because our crime lab, they want as few items of evidence as possible because they’re busy. And it’s after we do the swabbing that Thomas gives us a little more. So, Thomas finally admits that things went a little further than he had previously said with Alexa. And Thomas says that he didn’t stop things right away once Alexa started them. And he claims that now his conscience is bothering him. He told me he felt, “like a fucking creep.” And his main concern is being labeled as a sex offender. That is the only thing holding him back from making the disclosure is he knows, because he’s been in custody, how sex offenders are treated in custody, and kind of what the pecking order in hierarchy is. And that’s literally his only barrier to confession.

Yeardley:  Which contradicts him saying, “My conscience is getting the better of me.” Because he doesn’t give a shit about Alexa.

Robert:  Correct. It is not because of his good nature. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, Alexa is at a nearby hospital, and she is going through a forensic examination. And part of the evidence collection there is they swab her breasts and they collect some evidence. So, Thomas finally admits that he touched Alexis breasts over the clothing and rubbed his fingers on her vagina under her clothing. And he says that he kissed her breasts. Again, all of these are in violation of our state law because of the age difference. So even if it were consensual, which it’s not in this case, because she’s too young to give consent, it’s illegal and problematic for him.

 So this night, when I’m done interviewing Thomas and we talked for about 2 hours, it took quite a while to get there, but I charge him with three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, and they charge him with unlawful sexual penetration in the second degree and his warrant, and he goes to jail. So, we don’t conduct in depth interviews with children under 15. They go to a special center. It’s a pediatric clinic who specializes in sex abuse, sex crimes, and child abuse and neglect. And Alexa goes to a forensic interview three days after this incident, and she discloses all the same things that we’ve already gone over. And she says that she’d been honest with Thomas about her age. So, Alexa told Thomas she was her true age of 13, and Alexa thought that Thomas was either 32 or 33.

Yeardley:  Robert, it seems like Alexa knows that what Thomas did is not right and that she’s not entirely comfortable with it, because if she were, somehow, whatever the story she was telling herself in her head, she might not have disclosed as much to you and certainly to the forensic interviewer. So, I’m trying to understand why it got as far as it did, and I don’t mean that in a victim blaming sort of way, I’m curious how Thomas would overcome Alexa’s potential misgivings about something that she knows isn’t right and didn’t make her feel good.

Robert:  So I think that young people her age are quickly overwhelmed by the scenario that’s unfolding. So, it is simultaneously exciting, but also scary. You know, she’s at the age of puberty, and I think she is lonely. I mean, there’s so many things going on here. There’s no father figure, there’s no male role model. So I think there’s a lot of things going on, and I think the adult here took extreme advantage of the situation. You know, she’s also not at home. She’s not around where she could call out for help. There’s no other witnesses. I think she just became completely overwhelmed very quickly with Thomas’ aggression and just things evolved really rapidly.

 The grooming that occurred just on that one night with. “I’m your confidant, I’m going to isolate you and take you away from home. I’m going to take you to an area that is dark and secluded, and you’re going to want me to be around, because now it’s dark out. I’m going to have to walk you back home and make you feel safe.” There’s so much work that was done that, I think folks gloss over how many opportunities Thomas had to not take this girl for a walk and become her confidant, and that these smoke breaks with mom, or perhaps Thomas planting the idea. “Hey, don’t worry. When you’re away at work, I’ll look out for your kids. They’re safe. I won’t let anything happen to them.” We talk about it all the time. These folks groom the parents, they groom the friends, they groom everybody, because the end of their fantasy, or whatever they’re doing, is discovery by parents, discovery by prosecution, getting talked to by the cops. They do everything they can to avoid that piece of the grooming process, which is discovery. I’ll do anything I can to not be seen. They’re really good at it.

 One thing I’ve noticed working so many of these cases is how charismatic and how chatty these offenders can be. But a lot of these offenders, they feel like they can talk their way out of everything because of how successful they’ve been at convincing victims to engage in this criminal behavior with them.

Yeardley:  Right.

Robert:  So DNA results come back from the state crime lab, and basically, they’re very clear. They say that Thomas’ DNA is found on Alexa’s left breast, and her DNA is found on his fingers from the swabs that we took. So, it’s very, very abundantly clear. In fact, we used to get these DNA results back in a format that says it’s less than a 1 in 10 billion chance that it’s someone other than Thomas. [laughs]

Yeardley:  Wow.

Robert:  So, I like those numbers.

Yeardley:  How long is the lag time between when you swab Thomas’ hands and Alexa has the sexual assault kit done and you get those results back?

Robert:  Our lab at that point was probably about two to four months. It wasn’t terrible.

Yeardley:  And is he in custody the whole time, Thomas?

Robert:  He remains in custody the whole time. So, these crimes that I charge him with, one of them is one where it’s a mandatory prison offense, and so he would have needed to post a lot of money to be released from jail. So, he actually stays in our jail 289 days before he’s shipped off to prison. So that’s a long stay and, of course, there’s plea negotiations and all kinds of stuff going on. Lots of court appearances, lots of delays sought by the defense so they can investigate. There’s a lot going on, kind of behind the scenes. But the crime that he pled guilty to sexual abuse in the first degree, it has a mandatory prison sentence of 75 months in custody. And so, Thomas goes off to prison. However, that is not the end of the story.

[Break 2]

Robert:  So two years later, I’m sitting at my desk, and detectives and I get a call on the phone, and it’s Alexa’s mom Mary. And I had met Mary during the investigation involving Thomas. We’d gone to the forensic interview together, we’d gone to several court appearances together, I’d met her, and I had a good rapport with her. So, Mary tells me something’s come up again, and I like to meet with you in person. Instantly we make an appointment. I think we got together later that same day. So we meet up in person and Mary, Alexa’s mom, brings her friend Claire. Claire is Mary’s friend, not Alexa’s friend. Basically, Mary tells me that Alexa has been getting money and cigarettes in exchange for sex with a 49-year-old man named Fred. And I’m sad that poor Alexa is being victimized again by adults, but I’m shocked when Mary tells me that Fred is the biological father of Thomas.

Yeardley:  Stop it.

Robert:  Mary goes on to explain that Alexa came home recently after being over at Fred’s house and she had $20 with her that she couldn’t explain how she got it. And Mary had also noticed that after going to Fred’s house, Alexa had been coming home with cigarettes too.

Yeardley:  Can I just stop you for a second?

Robert:  Yeah.

Yeardley:  It strikes me that when you said that Fred is the biological father of Thomas, I’m the only one who actually reacted. As I look at Paul and Dave, they literally didn’t even bat an eyelash. It just goes back to this thing. Whether you’re still in it or you’re retired, you had the most not normal job ever.

Robert:  I think my record is I arrested four generations of a family in one call.

Paul:  Yeah.

Robert:  I did an episode. I think it was all in the family, but it was three generations of bad guys.

Yeardley:  Yeah, dark, yeah.

Dave:  You’re late. I thought you were going to say, “We’re numb to that kind of stuff.” It’s hard to shock us now because [laughs] of all the nastiness.

Yeardley:  I do think it’s hard to shock you all, but I actually don’t think that you’re numb to it. I think you absorb it really quickly, and it goes into a little box, and you lock it up tight quickly so that you can get on with the job. But I don’t believe that it doesn’t affect you. I think it affects you all deeply.

Robert:  Good. I agree with that. I completely agree with that. So, I’m talking with Mary and Claire, and Claire says that Alexa has disclosed to her that she’s been having sex with Fred, and it’s been going on anywhere between 6 and 12 months. And so, I asked Mary and Claire, “Is this something that Alexa would talk to me about?” And they said, “Hell no. She absolutely does not want police involved in this.”

Yeardley:  How old is Alexa at this point?

Robert:  She is just a couple of years older, so now she’s 15. And Mary also tells me that basically once Thomas goes off to prison, there’s no bad blood between the two neighbors. They still interact socially, hi and bye. They’re very friendly with one another. So, there’s no bad blood even after Thomas goes off to prison, which is where he is when this is happening.

Yeardley:  I just have to say I find that remarkable, because the very reason that Thomas is in prison is because he assaulted Alexa.

Robert:  Yep. So, I don’t like to do this. It’s not my preferred investigative choice, but I also want to hold Fred accountable for what’s being reported. And so, what I arrange with Mary and Claire is we’re going to make a recorded phone call to Alexa. So, we make a recorded phone call to Alexa with Claire as the voice. And Claire encourages Alexa to tell her mother, to tell Mary. And Claire reassures Alexa that what happened with Fred is not her fault. Fred’s the adult, Fred’s responsible, Fred knows better.

Yeardley:  So Alexa actually discloses to Claire, “Yes, this is happening.”

Robert:  Correct. Because Claire was Mary’s friend, Alexa had a good rapport with her, and they also were friendly with one another.

Yeardley:  And she just decided that she needed to get something off her chest. I mean, thank goodness.

Robert:  Yeah.

Yeardley:  When Mary contacts you saying Alexa’s in this situation, how did her mother find out before this phone call?

Robert:  So Alexa had initially told Claire, and then Claire went to Mary, but Alexa didn’t know that Claire had gone to Mary. And so, then this recorded phone call is the first evidence that’s recorded of it. And then Claire, on the phone call, is pretending that Mary doesn’t already know and encouraging Alexa to tell Mary.

Yeardley:  Got it.

Robert:  Okay. So again, during the phone call, Alexa admits that she’s been having sex with Fred. Every time they get together for sex, he pays her, he gives her cigarettes, he’s given her marijuana, and he’s given her about $20 each time. Alexa discloses that they’ve always used condoms, that she’s not worried about getting pregnant from the encounters. And then Claire again encourages her to tell her mom and tell the police. And Alexa, in the phone call, is very opposed to the police getting involved. She again says, “Hell no, she doesn’t want the police involved.”

Yeardley:  Does she say, why?

Robert:  No. These aren’t fun. These aren’t fun cases for anyone. Not for the police, not for the suspect. Of course, not for the victim. It’s not fun to go to the hospital and have all these samples taken from you and being probed in all these different ways and give your statement. It’s just not fun. I think she just wanted to avoid the unpleasantness of all that.

Dave:  Also, we talk about the disclosure process. This is accidental. Alexa is not ready to come out and say to the world, this is what happened to make an official statement. She is reaching out kind of, for some guidance and to get it off her chest about what this neighbor is doing to her. So, she’s not ready to talk yet? She was just reaching out, needing a little bit of a consult. It sounds like these things get going real quick after the initial disclosure is made.

Yeardley:  Right. I was wondering if Alexa was also protecting Fred. Like, is there real affection there?

Paul:  Probably to some degree as well.

Robert:  So then after finishing up that recorder phone call between Claire and Alexa, we transition into making a recorded phone call between Claire and Fred. So, this is same day with minimal time in between. Claire makes a recorded phone call to Fred. Claire starts off the phone call with, “I know what you’ve been doing with Alexa.” And Claire lets Fred know that Mary doesn’t know yet, which she does. And Claire reports that law enforcement doesn’t know yet, and law enforcement is not involved. Claire basically says, “I have enough proof, Fred, to get you in a whole lot of trouble. And I just want this behavior to stop. I just need this to stop right away.”

 Claire says to Fred that Claire’s on the fence about speaking to the police, and she says, “I don’t particularly like dealing with the police, so you’re lucky, but this needs to stop.” Fred says, “This phone call is exactly what I need to stop. This relationship with Alexa has been a big temptation to me, and I feel kind of powerless to stop it. But now that I know another adult knows, I will stop.” Claire asked Fred, “If they need to worry about sexually transmitted infections,” and Fred says, “No, we’ve used condoms every time we’ve had sex.” This is also just the greatest evidence that one can get in a recorded phone call.

Yeardley:  And why do you say that?

Robert:  Because, let’s say we go out to interview him, and he says, “Well, I’ve never had sex with her.” All I do is hit play, or we can play it in court, or we can play it in grand jury.

Paul:  And you’re corroborating and shoring up the initial reports. So, you’re corroborating information that you already had, and now it’s the suspect doing the corroborating for you.

Robert:  Yeah.

Dave:  So I forgot to mention here, Fred is married.

Robert  He lives at home with his wife. Fred was a plumber. He’s got a van with the company name and logo on it, and he’s a pretty hardworking guy. During this phone call with Claire, Fred admits that this relationship with Alexa has been going on for about a year. He says, “I know there is no excuse for what I’ve done.” And the only other thing we get out of that phone call is Fred admits to giving Alexa the marijuana, which is also not a good thing to be giving minors in our state.

Dave:  That’s manufacturing delivery.

Robert:  Delivery to a minor is a problem. Yes, [chuckles] that is another problem Fred has.

Paul:  That’s going to be worth over a year in prison just for that one.

Robert:  Correct. So, with this information, I know Alexa does want the police to get involved, but this is something that, I’m not going to sit on no matter what, even if she doesn’t want to. Now, the work that went into it, these recordings, and getting Fred to admit what happened, is greatly going to relieve Alexa from having to testify in trial and having to go through all that kind of stuff. So that makes it easier to sell to her. So, I go to Alexa’s school unannounced, unexpected, and like I said, “I’ve always had a good rapport with her.” So as soon as I walk in the room, she remembers me and recognizes me. And she’s always been nice and friendly. And I just talked to her like an adult.

 I said, “Hey, Alexa, I became aware of this relationship you have going on with Fred. It’s illegal. We got to make it stop. I know you probably don’t want to talk to me about it, but we need it to stop.” She’s now 15, so she doesn’t need to go to the child interview center, but I offer it to her if she wants, and she says, “No, I’d rather just talk to you.” So, Alexa then tells me that Fred has always been friendly with her, even after Thomas got arrested. Alexa says that they’ve been having ongoing sexual contact for 6 to 12 months. That started when Alexa was 14 years old. Alexa said that Fred would invite her over after his wife went to work. And Alexa disclosed multiple instances of vaginal intercourse and says that they use condoms almost all the time. She said there were multiple instances of oral sex. She said there was never any force involved. Alexa said that Fred never took photos or videos of their encounters. And she reported that Fred gave her marijuana over the length of this relationship and that he paid her each and every time.

 So again, some cases kind of sit on the back burner and others you want to take action on right away. This was one I just let’s go take care of this today. So, I grabbed a partner who I really like working with. He’s just a fantastic interviewer, good mentor to me. And we just showed up to Fred’s house that afternoon. We noticed his van was there, and we just knock on the door. And it’s him that answers the door. And it’s also one of those where I just instantly put him in handcuffs. It’s like, “We can talk later at my station, but right now, you’re going into handcuffs into a patrol car.”

Dave:  I’m picturing opening the door and seeing Robert and his partner there, gulp. And then you have a detective who is not going to waste any time. They’re not going to play the game. We’re not going to do the interview in your living room where you dance around the subject. I’m cutting through all that bullshit. You’re going in cuffs, and we’re going to go talk down at the police station. It probably put Fred way on his heels. Like, “Oh, he’s not even asking questions. I’m just going.” It lets Fred know this detective isn’t here to mess around. And so, I should probably either invoke and not talk at all or I should just be honest.

Yeardley:  And if Fred says, “I want a lawyer.” And therefore Robert, you can’t question him, do you still get to take him into custody?

Robert:  Yeah. So, our goal always is to build a case where if the suspect invokes or lies, that we can still prosecute and still convict. And in this case, I knew I had enough.

Yeardley:  And what’s Fred’s affect? Is he surprised? Is he resigned?

Robert:  He is surprised. He has also resigned, and he’s also very happy. And I’ll tell [chuckles] you more about that in a minute. It’s a weird affect.

[Break 3]

Robert:  So going right into the video interview at my office, I lead off with a question that I don’t usually do because I don’t like it. I said, “Hey, Fred, why are we knocking on your door today?” He immediately responds, “Because I was having an inappropriate relationship with the girl next door.” Fred then goes into detail about his dad was a convicted child molester. His son is currently in prison for being a child molester. And I had to tell Fred, “I knew a little bit about that.” [chuckles]

Yeardley:  Oh, he didn’t know you were the guy who investigated Thomas.

Robert:  He had no idea I was the detective on that case. So I just kind of said, “Tongue in cheek. Yeah, I know a little bit about that case.” [Yeardley laughs] Fred basically admits to several generations of the family being incarcerated with child sex abuse. Fred was happy that we stopped him. He was happy to go to jail and eventually go to prison.

Yeardley:  So, Fred, he’s glad that you’ve arrested him, because he feels like this is the intervention that he needs. What’s your reaction to that, Robert? Cause you’ve probably heard that a thousand times.

Robert:  It’s actually rare. I don’t hear that too often. You know, I hear most people telling lies, denials. So, I feel Fred was sincere here. And it doesn’t really get him too far in the criminal justice system because for these particular crimes, there’s mandatory sentences. So it doesn’t get him too far, but it does make the process go a lot smoother for the victim. The survivor has fewer court appearances, doesn’t have to tell the story so many times. It does make it a lot easier for the survivor.

Yeardley:  Right.

Robert:  So Fred explained to us, and one of the most honest, kind of sad interviews I’ve ever done, how miserable he was with his life and how this thing with Alexa was an escape from his terrible marriage, from his terrible career. It was very sad. He said, “I knew it was wrong. I knew this day was going to come, that you guys would come knock on my door and arrest me.” And he kind of saw this as an escape from a marriage and a career that he hated. Fred gave a full confession. He admitted to sexual touching, vaginal intercourse, digital penetration. He admitted to oral sex. He said that they always use condoms and were very careful. Fred admitted to giving Alexa money to prevent her from getting mad and telling someone.

 He told us he’d given Alexa approximately $170 over the time they’ve been together. So not tons of money, but money every time they met. Fred admitted to giving Alexa marijuana and cigarettes. So, this case obviously does not have a trial either. Alexa needed to testify in grand jury, and this was painful for her because, again, in her teenage mind, she doesn’t see things necessarily the way that adults in the world see things. So in her mind, this was a consensual thing that she was doing. And so, this grand jury testimony was painful because she doesn’t hate Fred. When grand jury is done, Alexa is overjoyed, and she kind of reverts back to a younger, happy self. She becomes almost, like, childlike happy that her testimony is done. It wasn’t that bad. And the grand jurors voted, obviously, to indict Fred on these charges.

 What happens next is something I will never, ever forget. Our courthouse is on a busy street, and to go in the front door, you have to climb up kind of a grand staircase to go up to the second-floor entrance, and there’s a basement. So, there’s staircase going up to the front door, and there’s a staircase going down to the basement, where employees go in that court entrance down there. Alexa is so giddy that grand jury is over that she thinks it’s a good idea to slide down the rail of this big staircase. It’s just a thin metal rail. As she’s sliding down the rail, she falls backwards and falls down two floors, landing on her head.

Yeardley:  Oh, my God.

Robert:  I will never forget the sound that that made. And she’s completely unconscious, and I assume dead just minutes after walking out of grand jury. Fortunately, I carried a portable radio with me, and so I’m able to get on the radio immediately and ask for emergency medical response. And there’s a fire station just two blocks away, the downtown fire station. And so, paramedics are there within a minute. And Alexa’s taken off to a trauma center and fortunately, Alexa survived. I thought for sure, based on the impact and how she landed, that she died. Fortunately, we have great medical care and she survived. And the next time I saw her, she had a big metal plate in her forehead, but they’d done a great job. And if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know.

Yeardley:  So she wasn’t even paralyzed or anything?

Robert:  She wasn’t paralyzed or anything. She was very resilient. She’s a very tough young lady, and needless to say, life’s been very challenging for her. She did suffer that traumatic brain injury. As best as I could tell, the times I’ve seen her since, she is back to normal, and I wish I could say that things had gone well for her. They have not. She’s been in and out of our jail many, many times. She’s been to prison. I recently stopped one of her brothers on a traffic stop, and I recognized the last name, and I asked how she was doing, and he said, “Oh, Alexa just got out of prison two days ago.” But he says, “I think this is going to be the time where she has her act together. She struggled with substance abuse disorder. She’s had some struggles with her mental health.” But he says, “I think that she’s in the best place now that she has been in years.” And he thought this was going to be the time where things change for the better for her.

Dave:  That’s the tale to this, is you’re a victim. Horrible things are done, and it’s by adults, people you’re supposed to trust. And this is the wake of that stuff. This is what happens in certain cases that people don’t recover, and they have issues themselves. Like, there’s no victimless crimes. They impact everybody in a different way.

Robert:  I have a soft spot for Alexa. In fact, I’ve seen her many, many times over the years. I hope that she comes out of this and makes some positive changes in her life and is able to have some good things happen to her.

Yeardley:  How old is Alexa now, roughly?

Robert:  She’ll be 25 this year.

Yeardley:  Oh, she’s so young still. Can we go back to Fred for a second? So when you arrest Fred, he’s happy because he feels like this is the intervention that he needs, which raises more questions than it answers. For instance, if you’re that disturbed by your behavior, why don’t you come up with your own intervention? But also, this explanation that there’s generations of sex offenders in his family, as though that’s the reason why he’s a sex offender. As though, for instance, if you’re athletically gifted, it passes from one generation to the next that behavior does as well. Paul, Dave, you have any thoughts on that? It just seems ridiculous to me.

Dave:  I often call it a wiring issue. Sex offenders have a wiring issue. I also believe in environment and what you learn growing up, what you learn is acceptable. What you learn is this happens in every family. And then later on you realize, “Oh, shit, none of that happens in other families.” So it’s learned, and it’s a wiring issue, in my opinion.

Paul:  And I agree with that. You know, I think that whether you’re dealing with being a pedophile, you’re dealing with being a predator. You know, it’s a combination. There’s always this debate, nature versus nurture. And it really is nature and nurture that contributes to this type of criminality or antisocial behavior. I’m kind of curious, Robert, about Fred. You know, here he is in his late 40s when he’s starting this relationship with Alexa. And he’s married, but Alexa, she is his neighbor still. So, Fred has access to this underage girl. There’s opportunity, and he takes advantage of it in this scenario. But he’s in his late 40s. Does he have any priors that you know of? Cause I’m thinking there may have been other victims in Fred’s past that are unknown at this point in his life.

Robert:  Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head. He could have many prior victims, but we just don’t know about it. Fred had no criminal history. But of course, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have many victims along the way that we just don’t know about.

Paul:  Here you have a situational versus preferential child molesters. The preferential child molester is one who prefers to have sex with the underage kid versus somebody like Fred. He’s in an adult relationship, presumably has had sexual relationships with his wife over the years. Yet the situation arises where he now has access to an underaged girl and he takes advantage of it. He is the prototypical situational child molester?

Dave:  Yes.

Yeardley:  What sort of sentence did Fred get?

Robert:  So Fred plead guilty also so there was never a trial. And he also got 75 months in prison. And I don’t know if he went to the same prison as his son or not. We have multiple in the state.

Yeardley:  This case happened a number of years ago. Thomas would certainly be out of prison by now. Does he still continue to come across your desk, his name?

Robert:  Yes, he’s been booked into our jail numerous times since being released from prison also and lots of probation and parole violations. [chuckles]

Yeardley:  But no more sex offenses, at least that you know of.

Robert:  Yeah. You know, now that I’m back on patrol, don’t know if he has come up in other sex cases, but yeah, I know he’s what we call a frequent flyer.

Yeardley:  And what about Fred?

Robert:  Fred, as far as I know, has successfully reintegrated back into society. I’m sure not with his wife and probably not at the same job. But yeah, he has not been any trouble or come up in any other investigation since.

Yeardley:  Aww. Oh, Robert, I just have to say, despite Fred and Thomas getting several years in prison for what they did to Alexa, I don’t feel totally satisfied with the conclusion of this case. And I don’t mean that to say there’s something else that you should have done. Robert, your investigation was excellent and thorough as always. I just wish Alexa was doing well too, you know? I want her to gather a village around her to help her move forward.

Robert:  Yep.

Yeardley:  Anyway, thank you so much for bringing that to us today. It is always such a treat to see you.

Robert:  Of course. Thanks for having me.

Yeardley:  Please come back now that you’re an honorary host. It’s what I’m dubbing you. You’ve been knighted. [laughs]

Robert:  Well, thank you.


Yeardley:  Awesome.

Dave:  Nice work, Robert. Always a pleasure.

Paul:  Yep. Absolutely, great job.

Robert:  Thanks for having me.


Yeardley:  Small Town Dicks was created by Detectives Dan and Dave. The podcast is produced by Jessica Halstead and me, Yeardley Smith. Our senior editor is Soren Begin, and our editor are Christina Bracamontes and Erin Phelps. Our associate producers are the Real Nick Smitty and Erin Gaynor. Gary Scott is our executive producer, and Logan Heftel is our production manager. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell. And our social media maven is Monika Scott. It would make our day if you became a member of our Small Town Fam by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube at @smalltowndicks, we love hearing from you.

 Oh, our groovy theme song was composed by John Forrest. Also, if you’d like to support the making of this podcast, hop on over to There, for a small subscription fee, you’ll find exclusive content you can’t get anywhere else. The transcripts of this podcast are thanks to SpeechDocs and they can be found on our website, Thank you SpeechDocs for this wonderful service. Small Town Dicks is an Audio 99 production. Small Town Fam, thanks for listening. Nobody is better than you.

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