Detective Brad continues the painstaking work of building a case against a murderer. But even when he thinks the job is done, there is still more to do: He wants to get closure for the victim’s family. Is that even possible? This is part Two of Two.
The Guest: Detective BradRead Transcript
Yeardley: [00:00:03] Hey, Small Town Fam. It’s Yeardley. How are you, guys? So, you know we don’t like to pull any punches here at Small Town Dicks. Last week, we gave you Part 1 of No Such Thing as Closure. This week, right now, we’re serving up Part 2. If you feel like you might be a little sketchy on the finer points of what happened last week, don’t worry about that either. We got you covered in a little itty-bitty recap after our intro. You guys are awesome. Thanks so much for being here. Let’s get to it.
Yeardley: [00:00:39] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:00:40] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:00:41] I’m Dave.
Paul: [00:00:42] And I’m Paul.
Yeardley: [00:00:43] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:00:45] Dave and I are identical twins.
Dave: [00:00:47] And retired detectives from Small Town, USA.
Paul: [00:00:50] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State Killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.
Dan: [00:00:56] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.
Dave: [00:01:02] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.
Paul: [00:01:09] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.
Dan: [00:01:14] 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 out of respect for what they’ve been through.
[unison]: [00:01:25] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:30] So, Brad, when we left off, Johnny had woken up in the hospital after trying to take his own life, slicing himself up with a knife, but he was not being cooperative with police questions or about how Stacy’s dismembered body ended up in the trunk of his BMW. So, once Brad is well enough, he ends up back in the jail. Meanwhile, Stacy’s head is still missing. And you said in Part 1 that the focus of your investigation had shifted to finding the head that that had become the priority. The question is, how do you even begin to do that when Johnny isn’t talking and there’s no evidence leading you to where Stacy’s head might be?
Brad: [00:02:17] So, we actually even coordinated a landfill search to go out and search a landfill with cadaver dogs to try and see if we just happened to get lucky. It’s amazing the records that garbage companies and stuff keep of all the trash as they collect it and transfer it and so on and so forth. And so, we had an area of where to search, but they went out there and searched and came up completely empty. So, now, Johnny is sitting in our jail, we’re working on all kinds of stuff, chasing all these leads. And now, about five months after the time of the crime, I get a phone call and it’s an attorney. He tells me he’s got a client in our jail that wants to provide some information on a homicide. So, we’re like, “Okay. And that’s not completely abnormal.”
[00:03:08] So, we meet with this inmate whose name is Doug. Doug tells us that he befriended a gentleman in the jail. His name is Johnny, and that Johnny told him that he had killed the gal, and gave him a bunch of details about how he killed her and all this stuff. So, at this point, we get the district attorney involved in talking with Doug’s attorney, and they’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do for a deal here. Unbeknownst to Johnny, Doug is actually a former police officer. Doug was working for another agency near here and ultimately ended up getting wrapped up in an investigation that something he did before he was a cop.
Yeardley: [00:03:55] What sort of thing could jack you up like that?
Dan: [00:03:58] I’m guessing Doug probably had some skeletons in his closet.
Yeardley: [00:04:01] That sort of caught up with him.
Dan: [00:04:03] That he probably didn’t disclose in his background check.
Brad: [00:04:06] Exactly. So, Doug was in our jail actually serving time for that crime, and none of this was known to Johnny. So, all Doug was looking for out of this was that he was hoping that we could help him get his felony reduced down to a misdemeanor, so that he could go back in the military. That was all he wanted out of all this. Deep down inside though, I think that Doug’s a cop, here’s this thing that presents itself to him, he’s now investigating it. That’s the way it was really portrayed to us. So, when we first met with Doug, he actually presented me with pages of notes that he had written, which looks like a police notebook of all the statements, the date and time he met with Johnny, and what Johnny said, and all this is all documented.
Paul: [00:04:54] Which also is dangerous for him to do in a jail setting,-
Yeardley and Dave: [00:04:58] Yeah.
Paul: [00:04:59] [chuckles] -if that is found by any other inmate.
Brad: [00:05:02] Correct. So, we are very cautious with Doug. We can’t send Doug in there to go start asking Johnny a bunch of questions. That would be illegal for us.
Yeardley: [00:05:13] Why is that illegal?
Brad: [00:05:14] So Johnny ain’t talking to us. He’s already asked for a lawyer. Johnny’s been appointed a lawyer. So, if we were to direct Doug to go ask Johnny a bunch of questions, Doug becomes our agent and we violate Johnny’s rights. And then any statements that Johnny would have made, all get thrown out.
Paul: [00:05:34] Now in this situation where Brad is prevented from telling Doug, “Hey, go do this and talk to Johnny,” however, you can work with the jail staff and just say, “Ensure that Doug and Johnny are able to have time together.”
Yeardley: [00:05:49] I see. Okay.
Brad: [00:05:51] We didn’t even take it that far. When we ended our conversation with Doug, we told Doug, “Look, we’re not asking you to go do anything. I’m not asking you to even talk to Johnny. But if you happen to hear Johnny say something, I would love to hear what that is.” And so, we went over that probably three or four times during our conversation with Doug to make sure that it was covered, like, “We are not asking you to do this.” So, some of the other things that Doug told us is that Johnny was starting to allude to the fact that he needed to take care of Jeff.
Yeardley: [00:06:27] Like, kill him or pay him?
Brad: [00:06:30] Johnny was contemplating threatening Jeff or killing Jeff to keep him from testifying. He also said that Stacy had robbed him. They like to use the word “robbed,” but basically, Stacy had ripped him off on some drug deals.
Yeardley: [00:06:45] Stacy had ripped Johnny off?
Brad: [00:06:47] Correct. And that was the whole reason for the killing. He also stated that the state got the cause of death wrong. The manual strangulation, that was wrong. Doug said that Johnny told him that he had punched her in the throat with an extended knuckle. You extend one knuckle out and make that protrude out, and he punched her right in the throat.
Yeardley: [00:07:09] Would that do it? Would that kill somebody?
Dan: [00:07:11] You’d have to hit it right in the perfect spot.
Paul: [00:07:14] Yeah, there would have to be so much damage done from that.
Brad: [00:07:16] Yeah, we weren’t necessarily buying that either. But Johnny also said that this was not premeditated, because if it was premeditated, he wouldn’t have been so sloppy.
Dave: [00:07:25] This is gold. A lot of this is very direct.
Brad: [00:07:28] It gets better. So, we send Doug back into the jail, again, made it very clear, like, “We are not asking you to do anything.” But Doug’s a former cop. Doug’s going to go pry for more information. So, about a month later, we get a call again from Doug’s attorney, and Doug wants to meet with us again. So, we make an excuse to pull Doug out of the jail and interview him again with his attorney. And Doug comes up and he’s like, “You know, I wasn’t buying all of Johnny’s story before, so I challenged him on it and told him that some of it just didn’t make sense. And so, this time, Johnny comes clean and says, ‘Well, he actually slits Stacy’s throat and then dismembered her body and was starting to dispose of it. He then goes on to describe how the murder occurred.”‘
[00:08:21] So, Doug talks about how Stacy had ripped Johnny off on some drug deals, and Johnny called her on it that she owed him money, and Stacy basically says, “I’m going to keep doing it, and there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re a bitch.”
Yeardley: [00:08:42] Stacy is going to keep ripping Johnny off?
Brad: [00:08:45] Yep, because he’s a bitch. Yeah. So, that pisses Johnny off, so he basically punches Stacy and knocks her down. He ends up tying her up to a chair, and then at one point, she tries to escape.
Yeardley: [00:09:01] And where are they at this point? Are Stacy and Johnny in Johnny’s parents’ house?
Brad: [00:09:06] They are. This whole time, they are both doing cocaine. So, this has got Johnny all amped up, which is probably a majority of the problem. So, Stacy’s tied to the chair. This is when Johnny actually starts making the phone calls to Henry about getting Stacy’s stuff from the motel. So, while Johnny’s got Stacy tied to the chair, he’s got a goal where he wants to rob Stacy’s source for drugs. He starts using Stacy’s phone to text Stacy’s source and isn’t able to get any response. At the same time, he’s talking to Henry and trying to get a gun from Henry. But Henry tells him it’s going to be $700 for a gun and Johnny’s like, “Well, I can’t do that.” So, Johnny’s plan of this robbery is falling apart.
Yeardley: [00:10:07] I also think it bears reminding our listeners that in Part 1, Brad, you said that Stacy was posting on social media after you all believed she was dead. And now we know that Johnny has access to Stacy’s phone and is trying to call her drug dealer on it. So, it’s not a stretch to imagine that he could also be updating her social media.
Brad: [00:10:31] Yep. And so, now he’s got Stacy tied to this chair. He’s starting to come down off his high, and he decides to untie her. So, he unties her. They’re talking in the basement, and Stacy makes a break for it. She tries to escape. He catches her at the top of the stairs and punches her in the back of the head several times, trying to push her back down the stairs. Eventually, he pushes her down the stairs where she tumbles, causing the dent in the wall. At that point, Johnny ties her back to the chair. And at this point, according to Johnny, Stacy soils herself in this fight or flight moment. So, as things move on, it gets to the point where Stacy asks to take a shower to clean herself up.
[00:11:21] So, Johnny obliges and takes her to the downstairs bathroom, allows her to take a shower, and he also decides, apparently, to go get her some food. While he does that, he’s already made the decision that he’s going to kill her at this point. He retrieves the kitchen knife and returns to the bathroom. When Stacy’s done with her shower, he tapes her hands back up in front of her and sits her on the floor of the bathroom. And then he portrays that he’s going to take a shower. So, Johnny starts pretending this. As he steps over her to step towards the shower, Doug says that Johnny demonstrates that he squats down and sits on top of Stacy’s hands and proceeds to slit her throat with the knife, and then covers her neck with towels to prevent the blood from squirting everywhere. Johnny told Doug that he then watched the life drain from Stacy’s eyes. And so, that’s the best story we have as to how Stacy ultimately was killed.
Dave: [00:12:28] This is Doug relaying this to you guys in a pretty controlled setting, as far as narrative and walking you through a case as if you’re the detective and a patrol guy is saying, “Here’s the story, here’s what we’ve got,” how did Doug do?
Brad: [00:12:42] Yeah, Doug did very well in describing everything. He had a very good recollection. Just like the first meeting we had with Doug, Doug provided me with another stack of papers of his notes detailing everything down to the day that they had these discussions inside of our jail.
Paul: [00:13:01] Some of the details that he is relaying that Johnny is recounting is matching up with the evidence. You’re always wanting to look at those types of details. Here, you have the pathologist saying potential manual strangulation. Johnny is indicating that he took towels and applied those around her neck. Depending on how much force he used during that process, that may account for maybe some of the injury in the soft tissues around the neck that the pathologist noted.
Brad: [00:13:35] Yeah,-
Yeardley: [00:13:35] Oh.
Brad: [00:13:36] -that’s correct. Johnny accounts for a lot of stuff that matches some of the forensics information. He goes on to talk about how he started to dismember her body. He talked about going to the store to go buy a blanket and then seeing the bear and going, “Oh.” So, he buys the bear and lawn and leaf bags. He’s telling Doug all these things, and it’s really confirming everything that we’ve seen, and it’s matching the evidence. The big red stain at the bottom of the stairs, Johnny talked to Doug about during this process, he threw up multiple times in doing this. And so, that big stain at the bottom of the stairs is actually from him throwing up Gatorade. We found vomit on the stairs. We found the loppers that he used to cut her fingers off that had some of Stacy’s hair in it, but they’d been cleaned with bleach, so we didn’t find any blood.
[00:14:31] So, a lot of everything that Johnny’s telling Doug, I talked about, we like to keep certain details of the investigation to ourself. Well, Doug’s relaying this information to us and it’s like, “Well, that matches completely with the evidence we’re seeing.”[music]
Brad: [00:14:59] So, we are at a weird spot now, because we now have all this information coming from Doug, but Doug is in the jail with Johnny. And so, it’s like, when do we disclose this information, because there’s discovery. At some point in time, we have to tell Johnny and his attorney that, “Hey, you’re talking to a dude that’s talking to us.” So, we were in this weird spot, but we knew that Doug was going to be getting out of jail pretty soon. So, we really sat on all this information for a long time.
Yeardley: [00:15:34] Did you sit on all that information to protect Doug while he was in jail?
Dan: [00:15:39] I think it protects Doug. And also, you have to corroborate all these things that Doug is sharing with you.
Brad: [00:15:45] That’s right.
Dan: [00:15:45] And that takes time.
Yeardley: [00:15:47] Right.
Brad: [00:15:48] One of the things also that Doug and Johnny talked about is Stacy’s head. So, Doug tried and tried to get Johnny to give up any information at all about where Stacy’s head was. All that he could find out was something to do with a shallow body of water, something that was potentially man made, but wouldn’t be affected by raising and lowering of water levels and stuff like that, because Doug’s like, “Well, dude, aren’t you worried about the water level going down and somebody finding it?” And he’s like, “No, it’s fine. It’s in a secure spot. Nobody’s going to find it.” And so, Johnny talked about holding on to this. This was going to be his bargaining ship at some point down the road. And then, all of a sudden, Doug shed light on us that knowing that Doug’s getting out of jail pretty soon, Johnny had actually offered him $50,000 to go take care of Jeff.
Yeardley: [00:16:44] To go kill Jeff?
Brad: [00:16:45] Yep.
Yeardley: [00:16:46] Also, where does Johnny have $50,000?
Brad: [00:16:49] Well, that’s a good question. We wondered that too.[laughter]
Brad: [00:16:52] And so did Doug. So, Doug agrees to this offer, essentially, but he doesn’t make him any promises. He’s like, “I’ll look into it.” And Johnny starts providing Doug information on Jeff, where Jeff works, where Jeff lives, what he looks like, and all this stuff. So, Doug ultimately ends up getting released from our jail. We hadn’t heard anything from him. It was like two weeks later, we get a call from Doug’s attorney again, and Doug wants to meet with us. So, we now meet with Doug, who is now out of custody. And Doug tells us about his last couple of weeks in jail with Johnny.
[00:17:30] Johnny now has provided Doug with everything about Jeff that he needs and even offers some suggestions like, “Well, you can follow him around for a while, put a GPS on his car, and look for your perfect opportunity to take care of him.” Doug provides Johnny his phone number, which I don’t think was a good number.
Yeardley: [00:17:52] So, a fake number?
Brad: [00:17:53] Yeah. And he also provides him a fake address, so that Johnny could send him letters. And so, they come up with the plan that Doug is going to stay in contact with Johnny, and they come up with a code word of Sparta. And so, when Doug would send Johnny mail, somewhere in that letter, write the word Sparta, and that would be the code word to indicate that Doug had taken care of Jeff, that Jeff has been eliminated. So, with that information from Doug, I was like, “Well, what is this address you gave him?” And he’s like, “I have no idea.” [Yeardley laughs] I’m like, “Oh, Jesus.” So, I’m like, “Okay, well, he’s going to be mailing you letters to this address?” And he’s like, “Yeah, probably.” Okay, well, maybe it’s not even a good address. So, I search it and no, it is, it’s a good address. There’s actually people that live there. So, I go to our jail and I say, “Hey, look, I need you guys to monitor any mail leaving this facility that’s going to this address and let me know if anything comes out.”
Yeardley: [00:18:59] Brad, did Doug’s sentence in exchange for all this information get knocked down from a felony to a misdemeanor, in fact?
Brad: [00:19:08] No.
Dan: [00:19:09] But he’s got a clear conscience.
Yeardley: [00:19:10] Sure. There’s no substitute for doing the right thing.
Brad: [00:19:13] So, one other thing that Doug added is that Johnny told him that Johnny’s attorneys were in possession of Stacy’s cell phone, that Johnny had hid her cell phone somewhere in a bush, and that the defense investigator had gone out and retrieved that phone, and that the defense attorneys were trying to access her phone.
Yeardley: [00:19:40] All the detectives are shaking their heads.
Dan: [00:19:43] You can’t do that.
Yeardley: [00:19:43] Oh, you can’t.
Dave: [00:19:44] That’s dirty-dirty. Defense attorneys are officers of the court. They’re supposed to be above that. That evidence belongs to the state, and they know that they have to turn that over.
Dan: [00:19:54] Dave wrote a search warrant for a defense attorney’s office one time, because they were withholding evidence. So, Dave went over and executed a search warrant and said, “I’m going to go get that.”
Dave: [00:20:02] They did not like that.
Brad: [00:20:04] I was about ready to do the same thing, but cooler heads prevailed, and I was told to stand down.
Yeardley: [00:20:10] [laughs]
Brad: [00:20:11] So, with that information, I go straight to the DA and I let him know. So, now we’re playing this game trying to figure out when we’re going to confront these attorneys about this. This is about August. So, in November, we take this case back to the grand jury, and we now reindict Johnny with some new charges of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted aggravated murder, and the solicitation to commit murder for Johnny soliciting Doug to kill Jeff. So, once those new charges are now added, the DA approaches the defense attorneys and they’re like, “Hey, we understand that you are in possession of Stacy’s phone.” I wish I could have been there, but apparently, the defense attorney’s response was, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
Yeardley: [00:21:06] [laughs]
Brad: [00:21:07] Long story short, we ultimately end up getting the courts to force the defense attorneys to turn over the phone, at which point the lead defense attorney delivers the phone to the courts, which now makes him a witness.
Yeardley: [00:21:22] Why is that?
Dave: [00:21:23] He’s a witness to the secretion of evidence. He’s tampering with evidence, really.
Yeardley: [00:21:27] So, does that mean this defense attorney is no longer on the case?
Brad: [00:21:31] Yep. The phone was then ordered to be surrendered to me, and the defense team was removed from the case. So, Johnny had to find new attorneys.
Dave: [00:21:41] I used to always tell people, I’d say, “I’d prefer to keep you as a witness in this or not as a witness at all.” Like, “If you have no relevance to the case, I don’t want to involve you.” But there are times where people will insert themselves or they do things, like, this defense attorney made himself a witness in a case that he’s supposed to be a defense attorney on. It can’t be both. [chuckles] You’re going to question yourself?
Brad: [00:22:05] Yeah. So, Johnny gets new attorneys. We end up meeting with the old attorneys and the new attorneys, because now we’re wondering, what other evidence do they have and were they ever able to get into Stacy’s phone? So, the old defense firm ends up getting their own attorney. And under advice of that attorney, they cannot discuss the case with us any further without having consent from Johnny. So, Johnny’s new attorney says, “Absolutely not. You’re not to tell them anything.” That spurred a separate investigation done by a separate agency and I’m not going to go into that. [chuckles]
Dave: [00:22:45] I’m going to say that bar. B-A-R had something to do with that.
Brad: [00:22:49] Yeah, that got involved too, but there was a criminal investigation done as well.
Dave: [00:22:53] Good. They deserve that.
Yeardley and Brad: [00:22:54] Yeah.
Brad: [00:22:55] So, that was a side thing that was going on. So, after our last meeting with Doug and the information about water, if you remember back when Johnny tried to kill himself at the very beginning, he went into a wooded area where there’s a small stream that he fell into. Well, that stream leads down into a small, little holding pond. That holding pond then fills a large pond with a fountain that’s in the middle of this shopping center. I start communicating with this property management company about draining this pond and what it would take. And it took a lot. It took me many, many, many months of communicating with this company. They had to send divers out to look at their valve system for their drain. They found out it was broken, had to be repaired. It was going to cost a significant amount of money. Of course, they asked if we would pay for it, which we kindly declined, [Yeardley giggles] but they did it.
[00:24:01] So, they paid for the repairs. Once that was all done, we’re now almost a year past the time when Stacy was murdered, and we ended up getting this pond drained. When we drained it, all that dirt and stuff at the bottom of that thing was exposed to the air. We fumigated half of a city. [Yeardley laughs] When we finally drained that thing, it was pretty rancid for a while, but we didn’t find anything in the pond.
Yeardley: [00:24:30] Oh.
Brad: [00:24:31] We diverted back to the holding pond, thinking maybe there. That didn’t drain as well, but it drained quite a bit, and we ended up finding a suitcase from the shore. I could see a suitcase sitting out there. So, we end up trudging out. I don’t remember exactly how we ended up getting the suitcase out, but we pulled it out and it was empty. Nothing in it. It was completely uninvolved as far as we know. So, back to plan B. We let them fill the pond back up. Then the information about Stacy’s phone is coming to light, and the court had ordered her phone turned over to me. So, I retrieved this phone, and the defense investigator did a good job of noting on the packaging that he seized it from this location at this date and time, which was clear back in June, so almost six months they’ve had this phone.
[00:25:22] I pull up the location where he found this phone, and it’s a business park, but right behind it is a pond. I’m like, “Oh, my God, we got it, right?” So, I call a local dive team and get them to come out to help out. These poor guys go out, search this pond, and they have to search it by hand. What they do is they get on floats, because the pond isn’t deep enough to actually scuba dive it. So, they go out on these floats and literally search the bottom of this thing by hand, and we don’t find anything.
Dave: [00:25:55] The thing about this state, and particularly the county that Brad works in, I’m familiar with it, there’s rivers, creeks, ponds, there’s water everywhere. Not to mention the man-made fountains and ponds that you have at all these properties.
Brad: [00:26:10] Every apartment complex,-
Dave: [00:26:12] Right.
Brad: -we literally were looking for the needle in a haystack.
Brad: [00:26:28] At that point, things had slowed down a little bit. And then about a month after our third meeting with Doug, if you remember, Doug provided a fake address. I asked our jail to monitor for letters leaving our jail going to that address. Well, about a month later, I get notified by the jail. They found a letter, but it’s not coming from Johnny. It’s coming from some other inmate within our jail. Well, the letter was written to Doug at Doug’s fake address. When I looked at it a little bit closer, I noticed that the inmate’s name was spelled wrong. So, I’m like, “Okay, this has got to be coming from Johnny. He’s just using another inmate’s information.”
[00:27:13] I write a search warrant to seize the letter and to open it. In the process of me writing the search warrant, another letter shows up, this time coming from the same inmate. It’s going to Johnny’s stepdad. So, I serve the search warrant on the first one, and sure enough, it’s a letter from Johnny to Doug. He’s just talking about how things aren’t the same, they’re just small talk. And then at the very end of the letter, he says, “PS, Sparta?” which is their code word for Jeff being eliminated. So, that was a nice little final golden nugget. With that, now we know that Johnny’s using another inmate’s identification to send mail. That gives our jail the authority to open that second letter that was going to Johnny’s stepdad.
Yeardley: [00:28:03] Why is that?
Brad: [00:28:04] Well, they have certain rules and regulations in the jail. They have rules as what mail they can read, can’t read. They’re looking for certain things. So, now that Johnny is using another inmate’s name to send mail, that’s a violation of the jail rules. So, they now have the authority to open that second letter to see what it is. It’s actually a letter that is addressed to another inmate at one of the prisons in our state. Well, that’s also a violation of rules. Inmates can’t send mail to other inmates.
Yeardley: [00:28:41] Really? What if you’re in love?[laughter]
Dave: [00:28:45] You’re in a society approved time out.
Brad: [00:28:47] So, nothing real exciting about the letter. Actually, a majority of the letter is Johnny’s talking about his drawing. He’s been drawing, and he’s been starting to do portraits, and included with the letter is a portrait that he drew. I walked over to the clerk’s desk, and I looked at this portrait sitting on the desk, and I couldn’t believe it. It was a spitting image of Stacy. I’m like, “What in the world? How did he do that?” I’m like, “He’s got to have a picture of her.” So, I coordinated a cell search. I want to know what pictures and everything he’s got in his cell. He’s got to have a picture of his victim inside of his cell. No, he didn’t have one. So, his letter claims he drew it from a magazine, but I think he drew it from memory. I really don’t have answer to it, but it was creepy.
Dave: [00:29:35] Are there indications from his past that he can draw with that kind of ability?
Brad: [00:29:39] No. In fact, in the letter he talks about, this was the 15th one he’s done as far as portraits. Like, he’s still working on his abilities and stuff like that.
Dave: [00:29:48] But still feels like a trophy memento type thing.
Dan: [00:29:52] A little bit of me also hopes that, when Johnny goes to bed at night, I hope Stacy’s face is the last thing he sees.
Yeardley: [00:29:57] Yeah.
Brad: [00:29:58] So, now about four months past that, we’re almost two years after Stacy’s murder. With everything we have, Johnny decides it’s time to take a plea deal Johnny ultimately ends up pleading guilty to murder in the first degree, kidnap in the second degree, abuse of a corpse one, conspiracy to commit murder one. Johnny gets sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 65 years. So, I believe that was the part he was clinging to that there’s this possibility of parole out there, because otherwise he was likely to get no parole.
Dave: [00:30:35] And he was 35 at the time of the crime?
Brad: [00:30:38] Correct.
Dave: [00:30:39] So– [crosstalk]
Yeardley: [00:30:39] He’ll be 100.
Dave: [00:30:40] Yeah. And it’s an appropriate compounding of the sentences. Like, that guy shouldn’t breathe the air that the rest of us breathe.
Yeardley: [00:30:47] Not much of a deal though.
Dave: [00:30:49] Yeah, Johnny didn’t get much of a deal, but it probably pulled the death penalty off the case.
Brad: [00:30:53] Exactly. So, after Johnny’s sentencing, I make one last try and I meet with Johnny to try and get him to give up the location of Stacy’s head. Johnny would not give it up. I don’t know why, but he was holding on to that. So, fast forward now about another two years, and Johnny gets transferred to another facility. He gets into a program in the prison system. It’s basically a religious program, and we start hearing rumors that he might want to give up the location of where Stacy’s head is. So, I contact an investigator I know at the Department of Corrections and I ask her to go have a chat with Johnny. So, they start conversations, and Johnny ultimately says, he will give it up if he can stay at that facility and stay in the program and he can have a single cell. He doesn’t want any cellmates.
[00:31:53] So, I told the investigator at Department of Corrections, I’m like, “You guys do what you think is right. Don’t let me influence you one way or the other. I don’t want to give him some benefit that he doesn’t deserve or is uncalled for. I don’t want to reward him, basically.”
Dave: [00:32:12] Right. This is all about Johnny trying to improve his circumstances.
Brad: [00:32:16] Completely. So, the investigator takes it to the Director, and ultimately, they come up with a decision that they’re likely going to do it. The investigator goes back and meets with Johnny, and Johnny presents her a seven-page contract written by another inmate that he wants the Department of Corrections to sign and they’re like, “Not a chance.”
Yeardley: [00:32:40] Also, would that even be binding?
Brad: [00:32:42] Probably, yeah.
Yeardley: [00:32:43] It would be?
Dave: [00:32:44] You can make a contract on a cocktail napkin. I’ve gotten consent to medical records, I’ve gotten consent to phones not having a consent to search form, but just writing it out, and that’s held up.
Yeardley: [00:32:56] All right, I get it.
Brad: [00:32:58] So, our deal is off the table. And so, I’m talking with the investigator and she’s of the impression that Johnny’s not going to do well in this program, because Johnny’s not religious. So, we decide to just wait, because if Johnny’s not in this program, Johnny’s going back to the prison that he had originally come from. So, we wait. Two months later, I get a call from the investigator. She says, “Johnny was kicked out of the program.” I actually also, again, start hearing through the rumor mill that Johnny might want to talk again. So, I send the investigator back. She approaches Johnny. Johnny has had a change of tune. Johnny no longer wants a single cell, because he’s realized that in prison, that makes him a target. It makes him privileged, and he doesn’t want that. All Johnny wants is to be able to stay at this facility and he’ll give up the head.
[00:33:52] I guess, it’s a nicer facility. I don’t know what his reasons are, but that’s where he wants to stay, probably closer to his family. So, Johnny’s willing to disclose if they’re willing to keep him in the facility. And so, that was made very clear to him that he still has to abide by all the rules and if any point, any disciplinary issues come up, deal is off. And so, next thing I know, I get a phone call, and it’s the investigator, and she’s like, “Here’s somebody wants to talk to you,” and she hands the phone to Johnny.
Brad: [00:34:34] So, now I’m talking to Johnny on the phone, and he starts describing to me where we could find Stacy’s head. I’m scribbling notes as quick as I can trying to get him to describe it to me. Next thing I know, I get this ding on my phone, a text message from the investigator, and it’s a map with a pin put in it of where we can go to find this head. So, we quickly scramble out, and within 20 minutes, we walk out to this little marshy land behind an apartment complex nowhere near Johnny’s residence, across the county. But we walk out and sure enough, the bear head sitting right there in the open, poking out of this little wetland area.
Dave: [00:35:21] So, it’s the stuffed bear head?
Brad: [00:35:24] Yep. And the information we had is that Stacy’s head was inside the stuffed bear head, and he had sewn it shut.
Dave: [00:35:32] Wow.
Brad: [00:35:32] We then called the medical examiner, and we had to traipse out into the wetland and retrieve the bear head. They did the autopsy the next morning and confirmed we had Stacy’s head inside. We were able to positively identify her by her dental records and confirm that it was her.
Dave: [00:35:50] I got some, like, goosebumps when you said, “No, the bear’s head is just peeking out at us,” like, “Holy shit.”
Brad: [00:35:56] Yeah. And there’s a paved walking trail that walks right by this wetland. So, what I found out later is that this area had actually been overgrown, a lot of bushes and tall trees and stuff like that. About a year or so prior, some company came through and cleared it. Like, cleared all the trees, cleared all the brush. And so, it’s just this wetland and I’m like, “This bear head is just sitting there in the open.” I mean, we got so lucky.
Paul: [00:36:23] Yeah.
Dave: [00:36:23] Yeah, absolutely.
Brad: [00:36:25] But knowing what we were looking for, we walked out and it’s like, “There it is.” But if you weren’t specifically looking for that, because it had been in the water and the dirt and everything for so long, it just looked like a clump of mud or grass or something just sitting out there in the water.
Yeardley: [00:36:42] How decomposed was Stacy’s head since it’d been stuffed inside and sewn up this bear head?
Brad: [00:36:49] Actually, I was really surprised at how well it preserved. I think partly because it was in the plastic bag, but I think more importantly because it was in water and kept cool. That’s purely guess on my part.
Dave: [00:37:03] [chuckles] Paul?
Paul: [00:37:04] This is one of those things where my expectation would have been, it would have been in really bad shape. However, the environmental factors, the packaging factors, sometimes funny things happen. The plastic bag being sewn inside the bear head would have probably prevented any type of insect activity from gaining access, because I’m thinking this mucky swampy area which there’s going to be a lot of bacteria and everything else, but if it’s really protected from that, then really what you have is you just have the innate decomposition that the head would naturally go through, the tissues would naturally go through. But if it’s being refrigerated in this water, then yeah, that’s going to slow things down.
Brad: [00:37:44] Yeah. There was enough decomposition that we couldn’t identify her just by looking at her.
Yeardley: [00:37:48] But at least, now you had all her teeth, so you could also do dental records.
Brad: [00:37:52] Yeah.
Dave: [00:37:52] How did Stacy’s family handle this new information?
Brad: [00:37:57] So, that was an interesting call to make. I was excited on one side to make that call that we’ve reached this conclusion, but I was really nervous about the reaction from them. I mean, it’s one of those where you’re glad it’s over, but the circumstances are just horrible.
Yeardley: [00:38:17] It’s still the worst news ever that you’re delivering.
Brad: [00:38:20] Oh, absolutely. So, that was a very hard call to make, but they were super appreciative.
Dave: [00:38:28] You give them their daughter. They have their daughter, and fuck Johnny for using that as currency. I understand inmates do that, but it’s a shitbag move.
Yeardley: [00:38:41] Yeah.
Dan: [00:38:42] My experience is families appreciate that you care enough that you’re going to keep looking. Their loved one is cared about by members of law enforcement who never knew them. What strikes me is, the night Stacy checks into the motel, she’s making an effort to get her life right. She’s going to go into rehab, and her family cares about her so much, they keep going and checking on her, and it irritated Stacy. But she had family that cared about her.
Brad: [00:39:06] Yeah, they’re a great family. I still talk to them to this day. They were super appreciative, and it was very important for them spiritually that she be whole. And so, it was nice to be able to provide that to them.
Dave: [00:39:22] I can tell you this, we’ve been at this for a couple of hours, but just in the last couple of minutes, I could hear it on you, Brad, how much you care about this case and about this family.
Brad: [00:39:33] Yeah. I mean, it was a long road. This was three and a half years from the time of the murder to the time we were able to provide that closure.
Dave: [00:39:42] How are those three years for you personally and with your family and professionally? How’d that impact you?
Brad: [00:39:49] I was fairly new to our Violent Crimes Unit at the beginning of this. And for probably the first two years, I had five homicide cases all going at the same time, and this was one of them. I don’t know really how to answer that. I don’t think it affected my family or my personal life, but I constantly had that drive, like, “I got to find this head.” There was a time where I thought like it’s never going to happen. Johnny’s just going to take it to the grave. I was pretty convinced of that for a while, and then I was shocked when I got the call that, “Hey, he’s entertaining the idea of giving it up to stay in this program type of thing.” That kind of revived things like, “We got to make this happen.”
Dave: [00:40:40] I love it, and I love that you went to the investigator and said, “Do what you guys would normally do under these circumstances, but I don’t want him getting extra privileges,” like, it is what it is.
Brad: [00:40:51] Yeah, I did not want to reward him.
Dave: [00:40:54] For doing the right thing?
Brad: [00:40:55] Right. And the family was also– I included them in every part of this decision, because I didn’t want to give Johnny something in return and have them turn around and be mad that we did that for him.
Yeardley: [00:41:11] You say that you guys often shrug things off when one of us asks, what sort of personal toll did a case like this take on you over the years? I imagine that in many ways, you have to just find a way to compartmentalize it, because otherwise, it could not permeate every aspect of your life. Is that sort of accurate?
Brad: [00:41:32] Yeah, I think that’s pretty true. I also deal with the child abuse crimes, the child sex abuse and stuff like that. So, all that stuff. You got to store it somewhere, and I think we all do, and I’m sure some day down the road I’m going to pay the price for that and maybe have to go through some therapy or something.
Dave: [00:41:51] I’ll say this, I’ve been out for right out a year right now, and I would have never admitted this ever in my career, but going to therapy was the best thing I ever did after working a child abuse caseload. I don’t know why I waited so long. I don’t know what I was afraid of.
Yeardley: [00:42:08] We know why.
Dave: [00:42:09] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:42:09] Because the culture of law enforcement and first responders doesn’t encourage it even if they offer it, and that’s a whole other conversation.
Dave: [00:42:17] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:42:17] Brad, thank you so much for this and for sticking with it for three years. Of course, Stacy’s family is forever grateful.
Dan: [00:42:26] Thank you, Brad. Really good work.
Paul: [00:42:28] Brad, I think from the very beginning, this wasn’t a whodunnit case, but this case really underscores the complexities and the different avenues that you had to take in order to not only be able to get this case to the point where it pled, but also, ultimately, to get the family all the answers that they wanted, including getting their loved one back. So, great job.
Dave: [00:42:52] Yeah. I was thinking about the process and then also about the patience that that’s really what it takes. You have to let things play out sometimes.
Brad: [00:43:02] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:43:02] Well done, sir.
Brad: [00:43:03] Thank you.[music]
Yeardley: [00:43:13] 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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