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A tip comes in about the possible murder of a young woman. If true, police have a pretty good idea who did it. But solving a case in the right way is far trickier than acting on a hunch. And so begins Detective Brad’s long journey to try to find answers for a victim’s family. This is Part One of Two.

The Guest: Detective Brad

Read Transcript

Yeardley: [00:00:03] Hey, Small Town Fam. It’s Yeardley. How are you, guys? We have a jaw dropping episode for you today from a terrific new guest, we’re welcoming to the podcast named, Detective Brad. So, if you listen to or watch a lot of true crime like I do, you’ve probably heard people in the criminal justice system say that there are only three reasons why people commit murder. They are love, money, and pride. I remember the first time I heard that several years ago, and I remember thinking that is an absurd generalization. There have to be more than three reasons why people kill each other. But now, every time I listen to, watch, or read about a true crime case, that’s a homicide, the motive is always one of those three. I’d be so curious to know if you also find that to be true.

[00:01:01] In the meantime, I’m not going to tell you which of those motives is the reason for today’s episode, but I will tell you that this case unfolds like a limited series on your favorite streaming platform. There is a carnival bear, scuba divers, an uncooperative suspect and his guilt-ridden friends to name just a few of the details you’re about to hear. Suffice to say, there are a lot of moving pieces in this case, and it takes quite a while for police to gather enough evidence so that they can finally arrest the killer because in addition to all of the other things working against them, the killer is not unfamiliar with the kinds of clues police will be looking for. So, he does a fair job of covering his tracks for a while.

[00:01:48] Because this case is such a big bite, we’ve broken it into two episodes. This is Part 1, and Part 2 will be next week. So, please buckle up for No Such Thing as Closure.

[Small Town Dicks theme music]

Yeardley: [00:02:05] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.

Dan: [00:02:07] I’m Dan.

Dave: [00:02:08] I’m Dave.

Paul: [00:02:09] And I’m Paul.

Yeardley: [00:02:10] And this is Small Town Dicks.

Dan: [00:02:12] Dave and I are identical twins.

Dave: [00:02:14] And retired detectives from Small Town, USA.

Paul: [00:02:16] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State Killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.

Dan: [00:02:22] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.

Dave: [00:02:29] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.

Paul: [00:02:36] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.

Dan: [00:02:41] 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: [00:02:49] -out of respect for what they’ve been through.

[unison]: [00:02:51] Thank you.

Yeardley: [00:02:57] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.

Dan: [00:03:05] Hello, everyone.

Yeardley: [00:03:06] Hello. We have Detective Dave.

Dave: [00:03:09] Happy January to you, sister-in-law.

Yeardley: [00:03:11] Oh, thank you. I have a new title now.

Dave: [00:03:14] That’s a completely different opening.


Yeardley: [00:03:17] What if this episode airs in April?

Dave: [00:03:20] Happy season, Yeardley.

Yeardley: [00:03:22] Thank you, David. I’m so happy you’re here. And we have the one and only, Paul Holes.

Paul: [00:03:29] Hey-hey, how’s it going?

Yeardley: [00:03:30] It’s so good. It’s good because you’re here, right next to me.

Paul: [00:03:33] I so appreciate you.

Yeardley: [00:03:35] [laughs] I love that guy. And Small Town Fam, we are absolutely delighted to welcome a new guest to the podcast, Detective Brad.

Brad: [00:03:44] Hello. Thanks for having me.

Yeardley: [00:03:46] Thank you so much for giving us your time and sharing a story with us. So, Brad, before we get to how this case came to you, tell us a little bit about your jurisdiction–

Dave: [00:04:00] Career path, special assignments, the type of caseload you work, maybe a little bio about your career, and any differences that your jurisdiction might have contrasted with, like, a neighboring county, demographic type stuff.

Brad: [00:04:13] Yeah. So, I work for a sheriff’s office. Now you ask about what makes our demographic, I guess, different than others is, although we are a sheriff’s office, we operate as a Metropolitan Police Department almost. We have very rural areas, but we also have a lot of, I guess, of a city feel to it. We cover a lot of jurisdictions, we cover some small cities that can’t afford their own police department, we provide those police services. So, my career, I have worked here. I just passed my 24th year. I spent a couple of years on patrol and then went to gang enforcement, where I worked for about four and a half years. Spent after that about five years working narcotics, and then following that, I got promoted to detective. So, I’ve now been a detective for about 11 years.

[00:05:13] I had the blessing that after being in detectives for about a year, I went to a federal task force, where I was signed on a fugitive task force, and I did that for about five years. So, now I’m back working in our violent crimes unit. We handle everything from child abuse cases to robberies, homicides, pretty much the full gamut.

Dave: [00:05:36] What was your favorite period of your career?

Brad: [00:05:40] They’ve all got their perks. I think being on the fugitive task force was probably one of the funnest times.

Dave: [00:05:47] I bet. We’ve worked with US Marshals on a few cases and you’re just like, “Oh, they have toys, I don’t.”

Yeardley: [00:05:52] [laughs]  

Brad: [00:05:53] Yeah, we definitely had some abilities that we were able to do. Being a task force officer, my primary responsibility was looking for fugitives associated to my agency. So, I’ve actually been able to locate a couple of fugitives and bring them back from foreign countries and stuff like that.

Dave: [00:06:11] Oh, wow.

Yeardley: [00:06:12] That’s amazing. All right. So, Brad, please tell us how this case came to you.

Brad: [00:06:19] So, in January of 2018, we received a call, actually from a neighboring city agency. They were passing a case off to us, and essentially, the information they had was a gentleman was calling in, reporting that he had met with a friend the night before. And that friend disclosed to him that he had murdered a female and that her body was in the trunk of his BMW, which was parked around the corner of his house.

Yeardley: [00:06:54] His house, meaning the friend who said he committed the murder.

Brad: [00:06:58] Correct. His name is Johnny. Jeff went on to say that the girl had owed Johnny some money, which is why he ultimately ended up killing her. In order to start disposing of the body, he had actually dismembered her, and put those body parts into black plastic bags with bleach, and put the parts into his BMW, and parked it around the corner from his house. So, you get a call like that, it’s like, “Is this real?” That was our first thought. Like, “Is this a legitimate call?” So, we found out from the city agency that they had received the call about three hours prior. So, they did some digging on it on their own. They had figured out where Johnny lives. As they were driving around out there, they were not able to immediately locate the BMW, but they did learn that Johnny’s house was in the county. So, it was our jurisdiction, which is why they were then handing it off to us.

[00:07:58] So, with that information, me and my partners scramble. We start doing some work up on Johnny. We also send some people out to go look for this BMW. So, we send about three detectives out there, three or four. Me and another partner start digging into Johnny, getting this information. We end up calling the original caller, who is Jeff, and getting the information directly from Jeff. It wasn’t too long after that that we got a call from our detectives that they had located the BMW parked around the corner. They pretty much stumbled on it right away.

[00:08:38] So, they started sitting on the BMW. One of the detectives goes up and takes a peek inside. When he looks inside the BMW in the back seat, he sees a large suitcase sitting on the back seat. Underneath that suitcase, the seat is lined with black plastic lawn and leaf bags. Sitting on the floorboard right underneath that suitcase is an empty box of lawn and leaf bags. So, he feels it’s suspicious. It looks like these bags are laid out, like, protecting the seat from whatever might be in that suitcase. So, with that, we start actually preparing a search warrant for this car. Based off the information we got from Jeff and the information the detectives are seeing in the car, everything seems to be aligning.

[00:09:23] So, at that point, we’re a little questionable whether we have enough probable cause to get that search warrant. So, we’re trying to think of ways that we can bolster that. Reaching back to my narcotics background, I thought, “Well, what if we get a cadaver dog to just go walk by this car and do a search, essentially.” So, we reached out to our local search and rescue team, and they get a cadaver dog. Takes them a couple of hours to get out there. When they get there, they start out having a dog walk down the sidewalk, checks a couple of cars that are parked around the BMW. So, they walk by those. Dog doesn’t alert to anything. Dog walks past the BMW, walks around the car, and alerts on the driver’s door and the rear door of the BMW. So, that was pretty much exactly what we were hoping for. So, we were then able to get a search warrant for that car.

Paul: [00:10:25] Brad, I’m just curious. Was there an odor of bleach at all detected?

Brad: [00:10:30] We couldn’t smell anything at that time.

Paul: [00:10:32] Okay.

Brad: [00:10:33] To go back as all that’s going on, we had done some work upon Johnny. We found out that Johnny was 35 years old. He’s on parole. He had just been released from prison about eight months before that, and he had been imprisoned for distribution of cocaine. Other than that, he’s got some drug, and identity theft type charges, and that’s kind of history. Nothing violent. So, while we’re preparing the search warrant, detectives are sitting in the car, just watching it. Pretty soon, a vehicle rolls up and two guys get out, and the detectives immediately identify one of them as being Johnny. So, Johnny retrieves a moving blanket from the car they were in and starts walking towards his BMW.

Yeardley: [00:11:24] Can Johnny see the detectives, or are they in a spot where they spot him and he can’t spot them?

Brad: [00:11:30] They’re in unmarked cars. There’s one across the street, I think, and another one down around the corner.

Dan: [00:11:36] We’re very good at hiding in plain sight, some cops are not.

Yeardley: [00:11:41] [laughs]

Brad: [00:11:41] Yeah, that is very true.


Brad: [00:11:45] So, as Johnny approaches his BMW, he’s greeted by one of the detectives, who asks if that was his car, and he said it was. The detective goes on to ask if he’s moving somewhere, because he’s got a moving blanket and he sees the suitcase in the backseat of his car. Should be noted that Johnny instantly became very, very nervous, was not very interested in talking to the detectives. Johnny said that they were planning on just moving the car somewhere. So, the detectives ask for consent to search the car. Johnny, of course, denies and asks if he has to stay there. So, that put us in a dilemma.

[00:12:27] We’re at a point where we’re writing a search warrant for this car to see if this homicide has actually occurred, and our suspect is standing right there talking to a detective. So, do we let him go, or do we hold on to him? The detective has to make a quick decision and just decides, “No, you’re free to go.” So, we let Johnny walk. He and his buddy get back in their car, and they leave.

Yeardley: [00:12:51] So Johnny and his friend get back in the car they arrived in and they leave the BMW where it is.

Brad: [00:12:57] Correct. So, I asked the detectives to try and keep an eye on him, see if they can follow him. They lost him very quickly. I don’t even think they could catch up to him.


Yeardley: [00:13:21] That’s an interesting dilemma, the detective deciding to let Johnny go, even though you all strongly suspected that he’d hidden the body of a murdered woman in his BMW. Tell me about that.

Dave: [00:13:34] When people think about, “Well, why’d they let him go right then?” It really is all strategy. You have to balance, is this an ongoing public threat or is this an isolated incident where we don’t have this huge pool of potential victims? Is this suspect going to talk to me at this point or is he now hinked up and he wants to get out of there? And so, if we slow play this and let the suspect take off, he’s like, “Oh, well, they’re not on to me yet.” They think something’s up, obviously, but there’s always risks and rewards to these scenarios. When Brad said, the detective decided, “I’m going to let him go,” I was like, “I would have done that too.”

Yeardley: [00:14:11] And obviously, it strengthens your case as you’re getting the search warrant for the BMW. If you then find evidence of the body or homicide in it, then you have a much stronger case to go and arrest Johnny and say, “Dude, you’re on the hook.”

Paul: [00:14:26] Now, let’s say Johnny, instead of getting into his friend’s car, he goes over to his BMW and tries to drive off.

Dave: [00:14:33] Now you’ve got PC for the search warrant, so you’re not going to let that go.

Brad: [00:14:37] Yeah, we were not going to let that BMW leave, I can tell you that. So, Johnny and Cameron get back in their vehicle and they leave.

Yeardley: [00:14:45] Cameron is the friend who’s with Johnny?

Brad: [00:14:47] Yes. We are able to determine that the vehicle they’re in is actually Johnny’s stepdad’s vehicle. So, we put out a BOLO for this car, keep an eye out for it, just within the local agencies like, “Hey, if anybody sees this thing, let us know.” So, at that point, we also decide, “Well, let’s send some detectives over to go talk to Johnny’s mom and his stepdad at the residence.” As they’re going over there, my partner gets a call from our original caller, Jeff. Jeff’s freaking out saying that Johnny just called him, wanting to know who he told about what Johnny had told Jeff.

Yeardley: [00:15:26] And that is that Johnny told Jeff he’d killed a woman and chopped up her body.

Brad: [00:15:33] Correct. So, Jeff actually did a really good job, played it off that he didn’t tell anybody anything and turned it back on Johnny saying, “Who else did you tell?” So, that was enough to cool things for a little bit. Johnny tells him that he was just contacted by police at his BMW and they let him go and he was out of there. So, back to the detectives then that go to the house, they start talking to Johnny’s parents. They don’t mention anything about a homicide investigation or anything like that. They’re investigating something and they believe that Johnny might be a part of it and try to get some background information from them. So, Johnny’s mom says, “Well, I just got a text from Johnny and it says, ‘I’m sorry, I love you,’ and that’s it.”

[00:16:22] She then tried to reply to him several times and got no response. So, a couple of hours later, we finally get the search warrant signed for the car and we had made arrangements for a medical examiner to come on out. So, we didn’t actually do any searching ourselves. Once we had the warrant, we let the medical examiner execute it, basically. So, we pop the trunk of the car, and when they open the trunk of the car, there’s another suitcase. This suitcase has what looks like a large teddy bear sticking out of it. So, if you have seen those big like four-foot-tall teddy bears– [crosstalk]

Dave: [00:17:04] Like big carnival prized teddy bear.

Brad: [00:17:06] Correct. So, we got one of those that the legs and stuff are hanging out of this big suitcase, because it’s too big for the suitcase, but the suitcase is zip shut. So, the medical examiner unzips the suitcase enough just so he can stick his hand in there and he starts feeling around, and he finally gets to the point where he says, “I am pretty confident this is a human body” that he feels inside of this teddy bear.

Yeardley: [00:17:33] Oh.

Brad: [00:17:34] So, based on that, we stopped all searching right there. We basically sealed up the car and we had it towed back to our sheriff’s office where we could process it in a more sterile environment. So, we bring the car back to the sheriff’s office where the medical examiner meets us to continue this search of the car. From him talking to the pathologist, they determined that, “Don’t disturb anything, bring it to us exactly how it is.” So, all we do is remove the suitcases, both suitcases, the one from the backseat, the one from the trunk, we remove them from the car, and the medical examiner takes those, and takes them down to the pathologist for an autopsy the following day. So, we’re still left with this unknown of what we have, but we know more likely than not that we’ve got a body inside of these suitcases.

[00:18:35] At that point is when I really put out the BOLO, we are now looking for Johnny and we have probable cause to arrest Johnny should anybody find him. So, those BOLOs go out and we put them out statewide. We end up serving the search warrant on this car at about 09:00 PM. At about 10:30, the detectives go back to the parents’ house. This time, we’re going to press the parents a little bit further, because now we know we’ve got a homicide. So, the detectives go to the house, they inform the parents that we are now doing a homicide investigation. And Johnny’s stepfather, all of a sudden says, “Well, I can tell you where the homicide occurred.” The detectives were just like, “What?”

[00:19:16] So, the stepfather takes him over to the stairwell and points down the stairs, and there’s a big indent at the bottom of the stairs. The stairs end in a wall. In the wall, the sheet rock is completely dented in as if a body had slammed into it and dented all the sheet rock. So, the parents continue to tell us that they had been out of town for the weekend. Johnny was left at home alone. He had actually asked, if he could have a girl come over for the weekend. Didn’t say who or provide any names or anything like that. Parents didn’t ask. So, the parents are also really into CSI, and Law & Order, and stuff like that. So, they like their cop shows. So, they were intrigued in this as well.

[00:20:02] The stepdad proceeds to lead the detectives down the stairs. One of the detectives goes down, he gets to the bottom of the stairs, and the stairwell splits to the right and to the left. When he looks to the right, which is towards this living room area, there’s this huge red stain in the carpet. So, the stepdad proceeds to tell us that Johnny had told him that he spilled some Red Gatorade, which seemed plausible because Johnny drinks a lot of Red Gatorade. The detective at that point is like, “What am I walking into?” So, he stops. “We don’t want to contaminate the crime scene if this is actually our crime scene.” So, he stops stepdad from going further. Stepdad continues to tell him that around the corner is the downstairs bathroom laundry room. When they got home, that bathroom smelled very strongly of bleach, and they noticed that there were two gallons of bleach missing.

Dave: [00:20:57] There’s your bleach, Paul.

Brad: [00:20:59] Yep. In fact, mom had made Johnny go to the store and buy more bleach as a lesson of, “If you use something, you need to replace it.” So, Johnny did.

Yeardley: [00:21:09] I feel there’s a much larger lesson to be learned here rather than replace the bleach.

Brad: [00:21:15] [laughs]

Yeardley: [crosstalk]

Brad: [00:21:17] So, at that point, detectives stop, and my partner starts working on a search warrant for Johnny’s house. As all that’s going on, the city agency then at 11:15 receives a 911 call of a person yelling for help in a wooded area that’s behind an apartment complex, which also neighbors this big shopping complex. So, the city agency responds, they get down there and ultimately find the source of the screaming, which is a male laying in a small creek, and he’s got stab wounds to his neck and both of his wrists are cut. There’s a large knife laying next to him, and they are very quickly learned that this is Johnny.

Yeardley: [00:22:05] Oh, the man whose throat is cut is Johnny?

Brad: [00:22:08] Yep. So, it became very clear to us that Johnny, knowing that we’re on to him, decided he was going to go take his own life. I later learned from medical personnel that probably the only reason he didn’t die is because this is in January where it’s very cold. He fell into the creek, which he became hypothermic, which lowered his blood pressure, so he didn’t bleed out.

Yeardley: [00:22:31] Wow.

Brad: [00:22:32] That’s how it was portrayed to me. So, we’re able to get Johnny to the hospital and the doctors saved Johnny’s life.

Dave: [00:22:39] Did he thank them?

Brad: [00:22:40] I don’t think so. [Dave chuckles] So, all this is going on. We start directing detectives, “His car has got to be around there. You got to find his car, the stepdad’s car.” So, they’re scouring around. They end up finding it in the shopping complex near a large grocery store. And so, we get some video eventually of this store. We see them park. It’s not very good video, but you can see him park in the middle of the parking lot. Johnny goes one way, and Cameron, his buddy, goes the other direction, like, walks back towards the main road. So, I’m able to determine that Johnny had gone into the grocery store, purchased the knife from the grocery store. We actually caught that transaction and used that knife then to walk over to this wooded area and try to kill himself.

Dave: [00:23:32] Was the screaming, was that buyer’s remorse where he’s going, “Oh, shit, didn’t want to die” or, “It hurts so bad?”

Brad: [00:23:40] He was screaming for help. I think it was, I didn’t die, so now what do I do?

Yeardley: [00:23:45] And it’s freezing cold. I’m in the freezing cold water.

Dave: [00:23:48] It’s a series of screw ups. Johnny’s one of those criminals that is reliable. Criminals make mistakes. And he gets caught, he goes to prison for things.

Brad: [00:23:56] Where he just got out of.

Dave: [00:23:58] Right.

Brad: [00:23:59] So, we get stepdad’s permission to search his car. We get a spare set of keys from stepdad. We search the car. Nothing really of any relevance inside stepdad’s car. Cameron, nowhere to be found. Our focus that night then turned to just focusing on the house. We know Johnny’s in the hospital, so we got detectives in the house with mom and stepdad, while me and my partner are working on the search warrant for the house.

[00:24:30] We basically end up deciding like, “Once we get the search warrant done, we’re going to leave somebody at the house all night, and we’re not going to actually serve this thing until the next morning because this is going to be resource intensive. Forensics is going to have to come out. They’re going to have to do their thing before we can even search it.” So, we decide we’re just going to start the next morning.

[00:24:49] So, we actually leave a patrol guy in the house. Mom and dad don’t want to go anywhere, so they actually stay at the house that night with a deputy sitting in their living room to make sure that they’re not going down on the basement or disturbing anything in the house, getting rid of any evidence.

Dave: [00:25:05] It seems like the parents, at least my initial read is that the parents are cooperative.

Brad: [00:25:10] They are very cooperative. They’re concerned about Johnny, but they aren’t trying to cover for him in any way, shape, or form.

Yeardley: [00:25:18] So, Brad, when they tell you initially, “Oh, we know where the homicide happened,” and Johnny’s stepdad takes the detective down the stairs, what’s his affect? Is he concerned? Why wouldn’t he volunteer that information right out of the gate, I guess, is my question.

Brad: [00:25:35] He was just very matter of fact, really. When the detectives were there the first time, they had no idea why they were there. And so, when the detectives came back the second time and said, “Hey, just so you know, we’re doing a homicide investigation, we think Johnny’s involved.”

Dave: [00:25:50] Light bulb.

Brad: [00:25:50] Light bulb went off for stepdad, “Oh, I know where the homicide occurred.”

Yeardley: [00:25:55] I see.

Dave: [00:25:56] Here’s a bunch of shit that wasn’t here four days ago.

Paul: [00:25:58] That Red Gatorade stain is looking a little bit thicker [Yeardley laughs] and darker than Gatorade normally looks.

Dave: [00:26:03] Right.

Yeardley: [00:26:03] I get it. So, right out of the gate, stepdad would not have suspected a homicide took place there. But when the detective shares that information with him, he’s like, “Oh.”

Brad: [00:26:14] Yep.

Paul: [00:26:15] Brad, at this point, and this is just really to put it out there is that you’re doing all of this before the autopsy has even occurred.

Brad: [00:26:23] Correct.

Paul: [00:26:23] You know you have a body, and the body, I’m assuming, you know at this point, it is consistent with what the reporting party Jeff said is that it has been dismembered. But you don’t know cause of death, you don’t know what kind of injuries this body has up and beyond the dismemberment. This is also going to be details that as you’re searching the crime scene, you’re going to want to know. This is a very dynamic situation that is going to be occurring over the next 24 hours.

Brad: [00:26:51] That is correct. Yeah. So, the next morning, we have to divide and conquer, because we got the autopsy going on, which is crucial. As Paul just alluded to that, we need to figure out what happened to this person, who is this person. And then at the same time, several of us are out at the house getting ready to serve this search warrant on the house. So, me and one of my other partners are at the house with mom and stepdad. We relieved the deputy that sat on their couch all night long, so two of my other partners, along with the district attorney and stuff go to the autopsy. So, as we’re at the house, we’re talking to mom and stepdad, and we’re trying to figure out who this victim might be.

[00:27:35] Mom, again, is retold us the story of how Johnny had asked to have a girl come over for the weekend. She throws out a couple of names, but she has no idea who was coming over. So, I learned that Johnny’s on their cell phone plan. I ask mom, “Can I log into your wireless account and see who he’s been talking to?” “Absolutely.” She gives me the account password and everything. I go to my computer, log in, start going through call logs for Johnny. And I come up with a few names, but it could be any of them. So, at the same time, detectives at the autopsy are telling me that they determined that the arms and legs of this female body had been cut off. She had been decapitated. They had all the body parts except for the fingertips and the head.

[00:28:32] So, the fingertips and the head were missing. The head to the bear was also missing. They had also noticed that all the tattoos that this person had either been cut off and discarded or mangled. So, you couldn’t tell what they were.

Yeardley: [00:28:49] So, Johnny’s watched a lot of true crime.

Dave: [00:28:51] Well, no, Johnny’s a criminal and knows what we ask for on face sheets when I book you into custody. Scars, marks, tattoos. He’s doing everything he can to obscure this woman’s identity. That’s familiarity with the system.

Brad: [00:29:05] Yes. Johnny screwed up in one spot though. And that one of the tattoos was left in one of the black garbage bags. So, the detectives shoot me a picture of this tattoo, which has a specific word on it. With that information, I’m still going through phone records, trying to identify names. I take the few names that I have and I start looking for tattoos in our jail database. So, our jail fairly good at when people come in, what tattoos do you have, they snap pictures of them and enter a description, which is somewhat searchable for us. So, I start going through some of the names I get from the call records, and running them through our jail database, and I come up with one girl named Stacy.

[00:29:51] Stacy has a tattoo with the exact same word as this tattoo they found in the garbage bag. I pull up a picture of it, and sure enough, it is exactly the same tattoo.

Brad: [00:30:15] So, we now have an identity for our victim, which is Stacy.

Dave: [00:30:20] What can you tell us about Stacy?

Brad: [00:30:22] So, Stacy, she’s 28 years old. She lives locally. Her family lives actually very nearby where Johnny lives. She has a history of some property crime stuff, very minor criminal history. But we can see some of her associates and some of them are very familiar to us, particularly from the drug world, and so on and so forth. We end up finding her Facebook account, and we start seeing some posts on there from couple days after when we think this homicide occurred. So, when Jeff initially reported it, the info he got from Johnny was that he had killed this girl four days before. So, we had an idea when this homicide occurred, which lines up with when Johnny’s mom and stepdad were out of town as well. So, we see some Facebook posts that are past that timeline, which was curious to us.

Dave: [00:31:18] What were the posts? Like, pictures, status posts? The way my mind thinks is, I’m like, “Oh, suspects posting to alibi himself and show that this person was alive long after I had last contact with him.”

Brad: [00:31:30] You’ve done this before. Just a post that she put out is that she was going to the beach, and if anybody wanted to join her. We found more later, but at the time, that was the one we saw is that she was going to the beach. So, now that we know who Stacy is, we got to notify Stacy’s family. We get a couple of detectives, they take a chaplain with them, and they head over to Stacy’s parents’ house, which is only probably a quarter, half a mile away from where the BMW was found. So, they’re over there talking to the family.

[00:32:06] They end up running into Stacy’s sister, and they’re like, “Are your parents around? We need to talk to them about Stacy.” And they’re like, “Well, is something wrong?” And she’s like, “Well, I’m sorry to tell you that Stacy is deceased. She was murdered.” The family, as you can imagine, is just devastated.

[00:32:28] So, the parents are notified. Family members from all over started showing up at the house while the detectives are there. One of them starts searching the internet and comes up with a news story about a girl who was found murdered in this town, and her body was dismembered, and comes running at the detectives with her phone going, “Is this her? Is this her?” We hadn’t released that information yet. So, our detectives were completely taken aghast by it and are overwhelmed at that point, because they don’t know what to think. Like, “I don’t know what to tell the family.” So, that actually, as a side thing, we started figuring out somewhere along the way, we had a leak. Information was getting to the media that we were not officially providing, and we never actually did get to the bottom of that.

Dan: [00:33:21] So frustrating.

Brad: [00:33:22] Yeah, we never could figure out where that information came from, but it got out to the media. So, for our investigation, that’s a real hindrance, because there’s a lot of details for these investigations that we like to keep secret and keep close to the chest, so that only people that are involved in it know these details. Well, now some of our details are getting out to the public, and so that, to us, was concerning. So, I’m talking to Stacy’s family, particularly her mother. They find out that the day before we suspect Stacy was killed, mom had gone out to pick up Stacy at another jurisdiction not too far away.

[00:34:00] Stacy wanted to go to rehab. She wanted to go to an inpatient rehab. So, mom goes and picks her up, takes her to a local hospital to get treatment, and Stacy gets refused. They don’t have room for her, and they refer to this other facility that she can go to the next morning. So, when Stacy gets denied at the hospital, she tells to the mom, “I need you to get me a motel room for the night and then come pick me up in the morning and take me to this other rehab facility.”

[00:34:31] So, mom agrees and makes a reservation for her at a local motel. They take Stacy to the motel, and Stacy checks in and goes into her room. A couple of her sisters come and check on her later in the evening, have talks with her. At one point, Stacy gets upset with them and just asks them all to leave.

[00:34:50] So, they all leave, Stacy’s at the motel by herself, and that’s the last anybody’s seen her as far as we know. So, while they’re talking to the family, we had already started the search warrant on the house at Johnny’s house. That was pretty much forensics. And forensics worked that house for about two days with just them. So, that was without detectives in their way. We were there to provide security, but for two days, forensics processed this house looking for evidence.

Dave: [00:35:26] Paul, can you talk about, not to go off on a tangent, but I just want listeners to be aware. You have this set of facts. You’re leading this forensic team that’s going into this house to seize evidence. How do you tackle that? How many people do you need, what kind of equipment would you want? I want you to give us a game plan.

Paul: [00:35:45] Well, in terms of number of people as well as the type of equipment, it is all dependent upon the circumstances of the case. The reality is, and you see this all the time in the movies where you see a crime scene inside a house being searched, and you have 25 individuals with windbreaker jackets on that say FBI on the back doing the search, and that’s absolutely not what you want to do. We really minimize the number of people inside doing the crime scene processing. Typically, it’s two. Now, sometimes the size of the scene might dictate more or bringing in specialized people. When I first get on the scene, I’m told what I call as the story.

[00:36:31] Now, there are certain objective facts that are within that story, but we’ve all experienced that. What is understood at the time that that crime scene is being looked at often changes as the investigation proceeds. But as I’m processing that crime scene, if I am noticing evidence that suggests that the story is wrong, I need to inform the investigators as soon as possible, because they need to be armed with that information as they are contacting witnesses and interviewing suspects.

[00:37:04] Now, as far as crime scene processing, there are the standard steps in terms of documenting photographically, sometimes video, sketching. You don’t disturb anything, and you go through a series of non-destructive steps, both from a documenting standpoint and a searching standpoint. But then you start getting into the destructive processing, “Okay, I’m now going to collect trace evidence from certain locations, either via tapeless or vacuum or even just using forceps and collecting that latent processing where now I am actually applying powder, superglue, etc.” But in a homicide case, oftentimes, you have, let’s say, a house, and that entire house inside can be the crime scene and could contain evidence, just there’s so many differences from one scene to another.

Dave: [00:37:54] Since I’ve got you on the hook, I just want to go back since we’re on the topic of Paul holes knowing a few things. The autopsy, you’ve got body parts stuffed inside of a carnival bear and you, I’m guessing, have been to several autopsies with dismembered bodies. Walk us through what that looks like in the morgue where the medical examiner is.

Paul: [00:38:19] Well, this particular situation, we have two suitcases. We have one that was in the trunk with the large teddy bear with body parts that have been placed inside of it, and then you also have the suitcase from inside the car, which I’m assuming contained other parts of her body. So, between the two suitcases is all of her body, at least what was present, right, Brad?

Dave: [00:38:39] Well, everything, but the head and the fingertips.

Brad: [00:38:42] Correct.

Paul: [00:38:43] So, the suitcase, that’s evidence. That needs to be documented, and you document from the outside in, and it’s a layered approach. Document that suitcase from all angles, photographically, looking for trays, looking for blood stains. Then the suitcase can be opened up, and then now you’re documenting again. As you go deeper and deeper to where now the body parts are being exposed, this is now where the pathologist or the pathologist assistant comes over, and it’s the removal of the body parts. And then the body parts between the two suitcases would ultimately be laid out in anatomic position. And now I’m evaluating from a criminalist level, each body part for types of forensic evidence that might be present, such as, “Do I have trace evidence that I need to collect before they start doing their autopsy procedure? What about the bone ends? Is there any tool marks that I need to be able to record both what they look like face on, as well as using oblique lighting in order to be able to illustrate the types of striations?”

[00:39:46] Let’s say it’s a saw that was used. Is there any unusual stains, whether it be blood stains or other types of stains? And it just all depends on what’s there. Ligature present, knots. So, whatever’s present, I need to focus in on that. But because we are now dealing with the human body, this is the purview of ME’s office, the coroner’s office. So, I am constantly having to talk to the pathologist and say, “Okay, I’m going to be doing this now,” or “I need to take this swab, and I have to get that okay in order to proceed to the next step.”

Dave: [00:40:17] Yeah. And I just wanted folks to understand. In these situations, I’m hearing Paul describe a crime scene processing like this case or an autopsy and the documentation. This is an all-day affair.

Paul: [00:40:31] Yeah.

Brad: [00:40:31] I guess to go back to the autopsy, when they did start taking the layers off as Paul put it, and opening the suitcases, and then opening this teddy bear, and then inside that is plastic bags, as they’re starting to do that, they’re being overwhelmed with the odor of bleach. So, that aligns with stepdad’s statement about all the missing bleach and also the story that Johnny told Jeff. So, as far as the forensics go, they process the entire basement of this house, Johnny’s house. They also can still smell the strong odor of bleach in the laundry room, bathroom, downstairs in the basement. They treat a pretty good portion of the house with chemical agents that react with blood to look for trace amounts of blood.

[00:41:20] Surprisingly, Johnny actually did a fairly good job of cleaning up, but they were able to find some trace amounts of what appeared to be blood. They found some spots in the carpet where it was clear that the carpet had been cleaned or attempted to be cleaned. But when they pulled the carpet up, the padding underneath is soaked with what appears to be blood.

Paul: [00:41:41] What often is seen, you may see on the carpet itself, a bloodstain that’s maybe 10 inches in diameter, and you think it’s a smallish bloodstain. Then when that carpet is pulled back, that carpet pad has a blood stain that’s like a sponge. And now you’re dealing with a three-foot diameter bloodstain. It’s a very interesting thing, but that’s what’s so important. Anytime you have carpeting, you are going through those layers, the carpet, the padding going down to the subfloor.

Brad: [00:42:15] Yep. So, they seized a lot of swabs of apparent blood. We seized some of that carpeting. The big red stain that was at the bottom of the stairs did not appear to be blood.

Yeardley: [00:42:27] It really might have been Red Gatorade?

Brad: [00:42:29] It very well could have been Red Gatorade.


Brad: [00:42:33] So, they collected a lot of hair, a lot of fiber stuff where it looked like it could have been the stuffing of the bear and stuff like that for fiber analysis later at the crime lab, some duct tape things along those lines that were in the basement. So, that goes on for, like I said, two days before detectives are finally called back to actually do a physical search of the house looking for any evidence of the crimes.

Dave: [00:43:00] During this time, what’s Johnny’s condition? Is he improving?

Brad: [00:43:04] Johnny, he’s in critical condition at the hospital. So, we hadn’t even tried to contact him yet. But we send some detectives over to the motel where Stacy had been staying to try and lock that down, see what we can figure out there, is there anything in the room? We don’t want to assume that Johnny’s house is actually where this homicide occurred. Is it possible the homicide actually occurred at the motel? So, we send people over there. What they’re able to learn from there is that, Stacy had actually left there at about almost midnight the night she checked in, and she had asked her sisters and everybody to leave. She actually leaves the motel and they can see that on camera. She doesn’t have any of her bags with her. She just has, what looks like, her cell phone or wallet in her hand. And now this is the last time there’s any sighting of Stacy.

Paul: [00:43:57] Does Johnny’s cell phone records indicate that he had called or had communication with Stacy around the time she left the motel or after she left the motel?

Brad: [00:44:09] Yes, they had been in contact around that time.

Dave: [00:44:25] Brad, what are the initial findings at the autopsy regarding how Stacy died?

Brad: [00:44:30] So, the medical examiner makes a finding that Stacy was likely killed by manual strangulation, and that was based off of some tissue damage around the neck. However, they added that her head is missing, so we can’t factor that in at this point. So, after processing the house, we still have Johnny’s BMW at the sheriff’s office, and nobody’s doing anything with it, because all of our manpower is out dealing with the house. The BMW is secure. It’s in our facility, like, it’s not going anywhere. So, they finally get back to it a couple of days later. And as they’re searching that, sitting on the floorboard in a garbage bag inside of, I think, it was like a Dorito bag, we end up finding all of Stacy’s fingers.

Yeardley: [00:45:21] On the floorboards of the BMW?

Brad: [00:45:24] Correct.

Yeardley: [00:45:24] Oh, boy.

Brad: [00:45:25] I should also add that we also had confirmed Stacy’s identity based off of her palm prints. By that point, I had already identified her, but they were able to confirm her identity through those palm prints. So, detectives do try and go talk to Johnny at one point up at the hospital. Johnny decided to just play games, ignored anything they would ask, and say that he was in a lot of pain, and he needed to go to the bathroom, and all these things, so it just got to the point where they just gave up. So, they leave. A few days later, Johnny gets released from the hospital and he gets escorted by our deputies out to the jail. Before getting lodged into the jail, the detectives take another shot at interviewing Johnny.

[00:46:10] So, this time, Johnny actually talks. Johnny’s story is that he had loaned his car to his friend Jeff, the original caller, and that Jeff was supposed to be doing some work on Johnny’s car, and that it must have been Jeff that parked the car there, because Johnny didn’t do it. He hasn’t seen his car since he left it at Jeff’s place. So, Johnny’s really trying to shift the blame here onto Jeff, that Jeff is our guy. So, of course, we do our due diligence. We do some background on Jeff, we talk to friends. It turns out Jeff was off camping somewhere and has several friends that backed his story and everything else. So, we’re confident, Jeff’s not our guy.

Dave: [00:46:55] It’s interesting, this is just more work that detectives have to do, because at trial, the defense is going to be like, “Well, you didn’t even check into this guy. You didn’t do this.” You do so much extra work just proving that somebody didn’t do something in addition to the work you’ve done to prove that the suspect in this case, it’s Johnny, did do something.

Brad: [00:47:16] That is correct. So, that was pretty much Johnny’s statement. He ultimately ended up asking for an attorney, and that ended that interview. So, one of the leads that gets developed in all of our interviews is that a gentleman by the name of Henry may be involved or may have some information. So, we send some detectives out to go talk to Henry. Henry is a usual suspect for us, seems to find his way into a lot of stuff. They go out, they talk to Henry, and we learn from Henry that Stacy is like a little sister to Henry. He’s very close to her, they grew up together, went to school together, have been very tight growing up.

[00:48:00] Henry was pretty shaken by what had happened to Stacy. But what Henry sheds to this story is that he and his girlfriend were hanging out at a casino one night, which happens to be the same night that Stacy had checked into the motel and left. So, he says, in the early morning hours, he gets a call from Johnny, and Johnny’s asking for a favor. Henry also grew up around Johnny, so they know each other and they all went to school together.

[00:48:34] So, Johnny asks Henry to come over to the house, but he doesn’t want Henry to pull up to the driveway. He wants him to park at this park behind the house, walk up through the green space that runs up behind Johnny’s house, and come up to the house. Well, Henry, being savvy as he is like, this is weird and gets the feeling, like, he’s getting set up.

[00:48:58] So, he says no. And finally, Johnny clues him in like, “Look, I just want you to go and get Stacy stuff from the motel. She left all her stuff there. Can you go get her stuff from the motel room, and I’ll pay you $50.” Henry’s like, “Okay. Well, I need the money for gas.” “I’ll leave the $50 under the doormat.” So, Henry goes to Johnny’s house. He and his girlfriend go to Johnny’s house. They retrieve the $50 from under the doormat. They proceed to go play some video poker with it.

Yeardley: [00:49:28] They don’t get gas?

Brad: [00:49:29] I don’t know if they got gas or not, but they definitely went to go play video poker.

Dave: [00:49:33] You can turn your $50 into $3,000 just like that for investment purposes.

Yeardley: [00:49:37] Uh-huh.

Brad: [00:49:38] So, Johnny had left the $50 and the room key for Stacy’s room under the doormat. Henry and his girlfriend ultimately make it to the motel room. Henry goes up to Stacy’s room, and when he opens the door, he sees that the receipt for the room had been slid up underneath the door, and she’s got a couple of bags there, which he gathers up, takes them down to the car. They then tool around for a few hours and finally end up making their way back to Johnny’s house, where they leave Stacy’s belongings on the front doorstep. Johnny had left him another $50 underneath the doormat as agreed upon. So, Henry gets $100, basically, to go and retrieve Stacy’s belongings from the motel room and deliver them to Johnny’s house.

[00:50:27] So, that was the extent really of Henry’s involvement in this. We really questioned that. We looked into that intensely as to whether Henry could actually be involved in this, whether it was the two of them or not. We scoured that very thoroughly, and we don’t see any link there whatsoever.

Dave: [00:50:45] This is yet another example of all the work you have to do to run down every lead, because we could assume Johnny killed Stacy from what we know so far. But you have to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Henry could be a loose end. Jeff could be a loose end. There’s the unaccounted for time when Stacy wanders away from the motel after midnight and isn’t seen again. Brad and his detectives have to show they’ve run down every possible suspect and scenario. Due diligence.

Brad: [00:51:16] Exactly. So, when forensics had searched the car and they found Stacy’s fingers, well, they also found a receipt in the car for a local store. And on that receipt is the purchase of a 51-inch bear and lawn and leaf bags. So, detectives go out to the store and obtain the store video. In that video, you can clearly see Johnny walking into the store, walking down the aisles, and he grabs this bear, and he drags it around the store, goes over, buys the lawn and leaf bags. It’s funny, because Johnny’s wearing gloves this entire time.

[00:51:56] One way we were able to bolster our ID that this was Johnny is that the sweatshirt he was wearing, when went back and looked at Johnny’s last booking photo in our jail, he’s wearing the exact same sweatshirt, got the same design on the front and everything.

Yeardley: [00:52:11] Brad, when you say Johnny was wearing gloves in the store dragging the bear around, are they like surgical gloves or are they winter gloves?

Brad: [00:52:19] Well, we can’t tell. They’re black gloves. They look like latex gloves to me, but they could be maybe like a leather glove or something, I’m not really sure.

Paul: [00:52:29] It’s interesting. I’m going over different scenarios of what Johnny was thinking on how this bear was going to be anything more useful than just the suitcase.

Dave: [00:52:41] The way I pictured it for me is, I’m patrol guy say I get in a car X, somebody rear ends me, and my trunk opens up. I have to have an explanation for whatever’s in the back and you go, “Oh, it’s just a teddy bear.” Nobody thinks, who would put body parts into a teddy bear? There’s some sort of disguise issue with this teddy bear. It’s not like you went, “You know what? I need some company.”

Dan: [00:53:04] I imagine Johnny walking through this store looking for lawn and leaf bags and seeing the teddy bear and the light bulb going on. “Oh, I could probably stuff her inside that. And then if I pitch her out on some country road, then it just looks like a teddy bear sitting on the side of the road.”

Paul: [00:53:20] But then once he gets her body parts inside the bear and he’s realizing, “This ain’t working,” now that bear goes inside a suitcase.

Dave: [00:53:25] Yeah.

Brad: [00:53:26] So, that brings us to a point where we have this lull in this investigation, like, a lot of the real important stuff that needs to get done gets done. But there’s a lot of background information. We’re contacting friends of all these people. We’re contacting family. Of course, by this point, we had put out official media releases. So, there’s tips coming in, and we got to follow up on every single one of those. So, for several months, there’s lots of this just busy work going on where we’re running down leads and trying to really piece this whole thing together. But at the same time, in the background, we’ve got this burning thing of where’s Stacy’s head.

Yeardley: [00:54:12] Oh, Small Town Fam, I told you it was a lot, and there is so much more to come. As Brad and his team run down every lead and prioritize the search for Stacy’s head in an effort to give her family some answers. Along the way, they will be tipped off by a jailhouse snitch, they’ll get wind of a murder for hire plot, and they’ll run afoul of a shady defense attorney. Trust me, you don’t want to miss a minute of Part 2. In the meantime, please stay safe out there. Remember, you guys are the best fans in the podcast universe, and we’ll see you here next week for the conclusion of No Such Thing as Closure.

[00:54:58] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and me, Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by detectives Dan and Dave. Our production manager is Logan Heftel. Our senior editor is Soren Begin, and our editor is Christina Bracamontes. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our social media is run by the one and only, Monika Scott. Our music is composed by John Forest, and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.

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Dan: [00:56:20] -in search of the finest-

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Dave: [00:56:27] So, thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.

Yeardley: [00:56:30] Nobody’s better than you.

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