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A predator hides behind her gender and her husband’s profession to keep targeting victims. A frustrated detective exhausts every lead until he has what he needs to put her away. Today’s story is one of persistence and believing the victims. It’s a case that will have you exclaiming, “OMG!” at every twist and turn.

The Guest: Sgt. Robert

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

Read Transcript

Yeardley: [00:00:03] Hey, Small Town Fam. It’s Yeardley. How are you? We are so very happy you’re here with us, because we have a great episode for you today. I’ll start with the title, OMG!. We’re calling it that because I’m certain as you listen to this episode, you’ll be shouting, “Oh, my God” about every five minutes wherever you’re listening. This case comes to us from fan favorite, Sergeant Robert, and it involves a teacher and her teenage students, which of course dovetails with our own Detective Dave’s former caseload investigating child abuse and sex crimes. And so, the detectives shared experiences lead to a fascinating conversation about grooming techniques, mandatory reporters, and who knew what, when in this case. Here is, OMG!

[00:01:01] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.

Dan: [00:01:03] I’m Dan.

Dave: [00:01:04] I’m Dave.

Paul: [00:01:05] And I’m Paul.

Yeardley: [00:01:06] And this is Small Town Dicks.

Dan: [00:01:08] Dave and I are identical twins.

Dave: [00:01:10] And retired detectives from Small Town, USA.

Paul: [00:01:12] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State Killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.

Dan: [00:01:18] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.

Dave: [00:01:25] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.

Paul: [00:01:32] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.

Dan: [00:01:37] 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: [00:01:45] -out of respect for what they’ve been through.

[unison]: [00:01:47] Thank you.


Yeardley: [00:01:55] Today on Small Town Dicks, we are so lucky, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.

Dave: [00:02:02] Hello, Paul. Hello, Yeardley. Hello, Daniel.

Yeardley: [00:02:05] [laughs]

Dan: [00:02:07] So awkward.

Paul: [00:02:08] Should I be saying, hi now, Yeardley? Or should I wait? [crosstalk] [chuckles] He threw me for a loop here.

Yeardley: [00:02:09] [laughs] I don’t know. Threw us all for a loop.

Dave: [00:02:14] Do it again, I’ll make it simple.

Yeardley: [00:02:15] No. No do overs. It was perfect. We have Detective Dan.

Dan: [00:02:20] Hello, team.

Yeardley: [00:02:21] And we have the one and [laughs] only fellow with any class, today–

Dave: [00:02:27] Call him P Holes again.


Yeardley: [00:02:30] I don’t even know how to go on. We have the one and only, Paul Holes.

Paul: [00:02:34] Hi.

Yeardley: [00:02:35] [laughs] He’s like, “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Paul: [00:02:39] I’m just going to keep it simple.

Yeardley: [00:02:40] And Small Town Fam, we have Sergeant Robert, returning once again, as always, one of our fan favs. Hi, Robert.

Robert: [00:02:50] Hi, there. Thanks for having me back.

Yeardley: [00:02:52] You’re the best. I just want to say thank you so much for giving up one of your extraordinarily precious days off, because we also happen to know here that you work graveyard, so I feel like your days off are even more precious than the average Joe.

Robert: [00:03:07] Well, this is worth it. I love doing this. As you know, I love listening to the show. And so, to be on it is even more special.

Yeardley: [00:03:13] You’re the best. We’re so happy to see you. Thank you for joining us. So, Robert, you’re also a pro, tell us how this case came to you.

Robert: [00:03:22] So, when I got this case, I had been a detective for about two years, so I’m still learning things. I’m on the child abuse team, so I am quite busy. My agency has a whole team of detectives, I think we had about 12 at this point, just doing child abuse cases. We got assigned what was called a conflict case. What I mean by that is, someone makes a report to an agency, and that agency cannot work it because it involves one of their people or they’ve had some kind of interaction with maybe the suspect or the victim that they don’t feel like they can investigate it without a bias or an appearance of some kind of conflict of interest. So, we got this. The first case came in four years before I got this case. So, I got to back up and talk about that first case.

[00:04:10] The first case involves a juvenile probation officer reaching out to a police agency in my county and reporting a concern that was passed along from a parent. Basically, this parent of someone who’s on juvenile supervision had searched her son’s phone and she found some messages from her son’s teacher that seemed really inappropriate. So, this got assigned to a detective at my office. He investigated this. And this boy’s name was Adam. So, Adam’s mom reports seeing text messages between her son’s teacher, whose name is Dede and Adam. In these text messages, he’s referring to Dede as “babe” and “lover,” and there’s all kinds of just very seemingly inappropriate messages. The mom also saw a message from Dede, who’s a high school teacher, messaging Adam about a time where they were at Starbucks together, and how they were playing cards, and how she had her foot between his legs.

[00:05:11] Adam’s mom also told this detective that she was divorced from her husband who lived in another state, and that Adam, who lives in our state normally goes to her state for a couple of months during the summer to spend time with his mom, and some of these messages made reference to that time. So, for example, she found a text message where Dede was wondering how she could live without Adam in her life for two months while he was going to be there visiting his mom, and also messages that Dede didn’t want Adam to break up with her. Again, their relationship is, she’s a high school teacher and he’s a high school student.

Yeardley: [00:05:49] Just to clarify, Adam mostly lives with his dad and he goes to see his mom in another state for a couple of months in the summer.

Robert: [00:05:57] Correct. But she finds these on his phone while he’s with her.

Yeardley: [00:06:01] Got it.

Paul: [00:06:02] And Robert, how old are these two?

Robert: [00:06:04] So, at this point, she’s 38 years old and he is 15.

Paul: [00:06:09] So, we’re not dealing with a 21-year-old and 18-year-old.

Robert: [00:06:11] No, she’s a teacher, she’s married, she has a kid. So, anyway, another time, Adam’s mom says that she found him talking on the phone to Dede at 01:00 in the morning, and she just found it was very strange. She is a proactive mom. She gets his phone, she goes through and searches all the messages, and she finds that 93% of the messages on his cell phone are between him and his teacher, and they span all different hours of the day and night. She confronts Adam, and Adam tells her, “Hey, there’s nothing inappropriate going on. Dede is just a friend, and she’s helping me with schoolwork.” She points out to him, “Well, school is not in session right now, so not sure how I’m supposed to believe that.”

[00:06:55] Mom talks to Adam’s sister, and Adam’s sister confirms what mom already knew. Adam’s sister said, “Yeah, I’ve seen his text messages too. I’ve seen messages where Dede is telling Adam that she loves him, that she misses him, and she wants to play cards again with her feet resting in his lap.” So, my colleague, this detective, goes out and interviews Dede. Dede confirms that she knows Adam, that Adam was always getting in trouble at school, and she’s trying to mentor him, and she’s trying to help him with schoolwork, she’s trying to monitor his community service, and basically just keep close contact with him, so she can provide updates to both parents. She denies anything inappropriate is going on.

[00:07:41] When asked why she would go to a coffee shop with a student, she says that basically, they had started talking about his drug and alcohol issues at school, but it didn’t provide much privacy and it was difficult to do at school, so they decided to go to a nearby coffee shop, so they’d have more privacy.

Yeardley: [00:07:58] The most popular coffee shop in town where there’s always people, because that’s more private.

Robert: [00:08:03] Yes. So, Dede admitted that Adam had been to her home before, but said that was with her husband’s knowledge and permission. Dede’s husband, his name is Phil, and he is a police officer and he works for the city agency. He is also the school resource officer at the school where Dede works. Dave, why are you shaking your head?


Yeardley: [00:08:26] Dave’s shaking his head, “No. no, no.”

Dave: [00:08:28] Like Robert, I’ve worked teacher cases. Oftentimes, the argument is, “Well, it’s a boy, and he’s consenting to this.” Under the law, you can’t consent to sexual contact until you’re 18 years old. So, children cannot consent to sexual contact. Not to mention we have a law on the books in our state regarding mentor-coach relationships, where coaches cannot have sexually intimate activity with people that they’re mentoring or coaching. That’s a sex offender type charge. So, the lack of foresight to say, “This could go really sideways given all the moving parts,” it’s impossible to keep these quiet when there’s only one or two people involved in a high school where you’ve also got a school resource officer walking the halls, and you have siblings of one of the involved. It’s so complicated. I can’t imagine how stressful this was keeping the lid on it.

Robert: [00:09:27] Yes. It definitely presented its own set of challenges. Okay, so, Dede mentioned that Adam had been to her home, but this was only with her husband, Officer Phil’s knowledge and permission. One question, she said that her principal knew that she was actively mentoring Adam, but obviously didn’t know he was coming to her home because that’s a big no-no.

Yeardley: [00:09:50] Has anybody confronted Dede during this interview with the text messages?

Robert: [00:09:55] Yeah. So, he asked specifically about, what is this about you’re meeting at a coffee shop and playing cards and having your foot in Adam’s lap and all that kind of stuff.

Yeardley: [00:10:04] Well, also, “I miss you. I can’t live without you for two months, Adam, while you go see your mom.”

Robert: [00:10:09] Yeah. Dede has a very healthy sense of self, and she describes herself as Mother Teresa to Adam and to her other students. When asked how she would describe their relationship, she said that she was basically Adam’s mother, sister, drug and alcohol counselor, best friend, mentor, and tutor, all wrapped up into one. Now that she’s being interviewed by my detective colleague, she realized that she should not have become so involved in Adam’s life. She admitted that Adam had sent her text messages stating that he loved her and was in love with her. However, she denied doing anything inappropriate with him, and she expressly denied any sexual contact with him. She said that she had hugged Adam, but she had hugged many students at the school and didn’t see this as being anything different.

[00:10:59] She told the detective that four days earlier, she learned from Adam that there was a law enforcement investigation. He basically tipped her off that his mom had seen her text messages and was concerned, and Dede said that she hadn’t been able to sleep the last four days. She’s cooperative with the detective. He has to look in her phone, and of course, she’s had a four-day heads up. And so, no surprise when he looks in her phone, there’s a total of two text messages between Adam and Dede. Dede says, now she can see how some of her contacts with Adam have been inappropriate and that she shouldn’t try to fix someone who is so much like her. She said that because Adam was struggling with alcohol that she also quit alcohol to support his sobriety.

[00:11:47] She tells the detective that she would be willing to take a polygraph on the issue of whether or not they had sexual contact, but that never materializes. It just doesn’t happen. Officer Phil is interviewed by this detective, and he said basically that he had talked to his wife at length about her contact with Adam, but she was just always very adamant that everything was appropriate, but at that time, she had agreed to discontinue contact with Adam.

Yeardley: [00:12:14] Did that conversation between Phil and Dede happen after she knows she’s going to be questioned by police or was Phil saying, “Oh, no, it’s an ongoing discussion. We talk about Dede’s relationship with Adam quite frequently just because we’re married, and that’s what we do”?

Robert: [00:12:32] Well, and here’s the loop. He works at the school. He knows Adam. He knows all the people we’re going to talk about. Basically, Officer Phil sees Dede’s relationship with these students as that of a mentor and a teacher who’s fully committed to her students. In fact, he doesn’t see anything wrong with her taking calls from them in the middle of the night, on the weekend, or being at his house when he’s working an overtime, graveyard shift. Officer Phil thinks that’s totally normal.

Yeardley: [00:13:03] So, Robert, Officer Phil isn’t just an SRO at the school. He also works a regular patrol shift or whatever for his police department?

Robert: [00:13:12] Yes. Now, while this investigation is going on, Adam is still out of state visiting his mom, and this detective gets a call from the police chief of the city where Officer Phil works and where Dede lives and where Adam lives most of the year.

Yeardley: [00:13:31] Where he lives with his dad, basically.

Robert: [00:13:32] Yes. So, the city police chief says, “Hey, overnight, we just found some graffiti on the water tower in town that basically says, ‘Officer Phil, I fucked your wife.'”

Yeardley: [00:13:44] [gasps]

Robert: [00:13:45] This gets told to the detective. And again, just to be clear, this is when Adam is out of state. So, we know that this graffiti is not done by Adam. We also noted that no city police report was ever generated and no investigation was done. This was just something that he called and gave the detective a heads up, but then nothing ever happens as a result of that.

Yeardley: [00:14:04] Does that seem odd to you that the chief calls and says, “There’s this graffiti on the water tower that has this confession, basically,” and then there’s zero follow up?

Robert: [00:14:13] Yes, it seems very unusual. We’re glad that he called and let us know about it though. It obviously is relevant to this case. So, mom calls in to this detective. And again, she’s out of state, but she’s keeping in touch with this detective, and she says, “I don’t know how this is happening, but Dede is still messaging my son, even though she’s been contacted by law enforcement.” So, Adam’s mom pulls phone records from her cell provider, and she notices in a 39-day period that Adam had called Dede 160 times and that they had made contact and actually spoken on 90 of those calls. Then mom says, “Well, even after the police interviewed Dede, they had spoken another 24 times after that.” This is after Dede told the detective, “Hey, I agree. I won’t talk to him anymore.”

[00:15:04] So, at this point, Adam is set to come back to our state for the school year, and mom is very concerned about Adam returning to a school where Dede is there and where Officer Phil is there. And so, she asks about the possibility of obtaining a restraining order. This is how serious mom takes this is. She wants to know if she can get a restraining order to prevent contact between Dede and Adam.

Yeardley: [00:15:30] Are students assigned a guidance counselor in this school system?

Robert: [00:15:33] Yes, and that’s not her though. Dede is a member of the teaching faculty. So, she’s not a guidance counselor. She has no additional training in that at all. And one thing I noted about Dede, she wants to be the cool teacher. She’s got sleeve tattoos, she dresses a little bit provocatively, she tries to be young and hip, so the kind that will swear in class and just be a little cool and edgy.

Dave: [00:15:59] This is grooming activity.

Robert: [00:16:01] Yes.

Dave: [00:16:01] In a very, very basic form, but it gets very tailored and very targeted when the offender figures out who their target is going to be that that grooming activity morphs and it becomes more intense.

Paul: [00:16:16] And, Dave, do you see with this grooming? Dede’s portraying herself like this edgy woman with the tattoos. That sounds like she’s focused in on a subset of the boys that would be drawn to that type of look, that type of attitude that she’s portraying. Would a teacher potentially portray herself differently if she were going after, let’s say, the jocks in the school?

Dave: [00:16:45] Absolutely. Think about your own dating life and how you want to go about meeting the man or woman that you’re attracted to. You do the things that attracts the person that you want. So, this is what I know about sex offenders. Everything they do is to further their goal of actually physically offending on a child. This isn’t hyperbole. Everything they do is about this one aspect of their life that seems to drive all their bad decisions. So, all of it is part of their MO, every single bit of it. So, I can look at these things and go, “Well, by itself, that’s nothing.” When taken with the rest, you go, “That’s just another check mark on the grooming checklist.”

Robert: [00:17:34] Speaking to the grooming, I’ve had many cases over the years where, how do I say this, the fox guarding the hen house kind of gets there due to what I call credentialing. So, either they have a doctor’s coat or they become teachers or they become whatever their target demographic is to have access to those victims, to have access to that group. Now, a twist here with Dede is, she’s intentionally developing these relationships with these three boys that we’re going to talk about. Two of the three have had issues. They’ve been in trouble with the police, they’re in trouble at school, they’re struggling with drugs and alcohol, they have family issues. I think part of that helps her, so that if she’s ever confronted, all she does is pull out her credential, “Hey, I’m a star teacher here. These are troubled boys. They’re liars.”

[00:18:21] I saw that with so many of these defendants on these sex abuse cases, where anytime they’re confronted, they just go after the victim, “Oh, you can’t believe him,” X, Y, Z. So, I think that’s a twist here. And also, this is unusual to have a female suspect. In my 10 years where I just did these child sex abuse cases, I think she’s the only female I ever arrested during that time. It is very unusual. In fact, of all the registered sex offenders in our county, I think it’s 96% are men. So, it is very unusual to have female suspects get caught. We think they’re out there. I think it’s just more difficult for male victims to come forward with information. So, I talked about Adam’s mom calling asking about a restraining order prevent them having contact. Now, on a different note, Adam’s dad has no concerns whatsoever about Adam’s contact with this teacher.

Yeardley: [00:19:12] Really?

Robert: [00:19:13] Yeah. I’m not going to say that he encourages it, but he just doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it at all. So, when Adam comes back to our state, my colleague goes out and interviews him in person, and basically, Adam says, “Hey, I care about Dede like a mother. I’d be upset if anything happened to her. She’s been a big help to me on my schoolwork.” As far as these messages about her saying, “Don’t break up with me,” I think all she’s doing there is she was worried about me going out of state to spend time with my mom. By breaking up, she means that she doesn’t want us to stop working together on homework anymore. So, he explains that away. My detective colleague, he suspends the case. He finds a lack of evidence. There’s no disclosure made by Adam, there’s no disclosure made by Dede, and so the case goes away. And because the case went away, CPS nor the school district, neither of them take any action against Dede. Life goes on normally for her.

Dave: [00:20:14] So, Child Protective Services is out of Dede and Phil’s life for four years until you get this new case.

Robert: [00:20:21] Yes.

[show theme music]

Robert: [00:20:36] So, fast forward, four years later, I get assigned a case, and it comes in from a teacher in another county, not even close to us, like, a couple of hours away. And this teacher said that he was at a family gathering, and he overheard some information about a high school teacher named Dede, who he knew her husband was a police officer at the school, so that describes Officer Phil perfectly. They also knew that Officer Phil was the baseball coach at the school. This teacher says, “Hey, I heard some information about some inappropriate contact between Dede and a student, and that’s really all I want to say. I want to comply with my requirements as a mandatory reporter, but I don’t really want to get involved. I don’t want my name out there.”

[00:21:21] So, my partner, Detective Carey and I, we took the time to go out and meet with that reporting party in person, and not just wing it over the phone, but we wanted to know everything he knew, and he really did not want to talk to us. He knew what was required for him to report, he made the report, and he said, “The rest is on you.”

Dave: [00:21:39] Everything you just told me is not surprising at all, because we’ve all dealt with the mandatory reporter who says, “I’m just doing my job.” And you go, “Are you? Are you just doing the bare minimum? You don’t want to be involved, even though this is way bigger than you be on the right side of this.” I’ve dealt with cops who are mandatory reporters who can’t do that. I’ve dealt with attorneys, doctors, teachers, all sorts who don’t have the integrity to stand behind that label. They’re a mandatory reporter. It means you count more than this other person who isn’t required by law to come forward and report criminal activity involving children.

Robert: [00:22:20] Right. Now, my sergeant at the time, he said, “I want this case to have fresh eyes, so I’m not going to give it to the original detective.” He gave it to me. And so, I look at it, I read this old case from four years earlier, I talked to the detective because he sits two seats away from me, and I get a feel for it, and I think there’s definitely something happening here. And so, we launch an investigation. Then he gives me Detective Carey, who’s this fireball in our unit. She was a lot of fun to work with. So, the school, now that this is not the first complaint involving Dede, the school finally launches an investigation. What this means is Dede is allowed to continue working. They’ve just let her know that they’re aware of this, and this is going to be looked into.

Yeardley: [00:23:03] So, Dede gets to keep working at the school while the investigation goes on?

Robert: [00:23:07] Yes, there’s definitely things that the school did and the school district did that had me shaken my head. Also, this is not normal in investigation. We want to do our investigations without the target of the investigation knowing about the investigation. And part of that is so they can’t tamper with evidence, tamper with witnesses. But in this case, the principal has alerted Dede that someone made a CPS complaint against her and that it was going to be looked into.

Dave: [00:23:34] I had the same exact thing from a school district and a principal to a teacher in one of my cases.

Dan: [00:23:40] So, I was working as a detective when this happened with Dave, and I remember us being in briefing, and our police chief came in and spoke with Dave, and you guys ended up contacting the local DA’s office and had a meeting with the school district, basically threatening them, “If you guys do this again, we’re going to start arresting people.”

Dave: [00:24:01] I was real close to arresting a principal, and the school district leader almost went to jail for hindering the investigation. It sounds like Robert had the same experience.

Robert: [00:24:13] Yes. Another challenge in this case, we could not go to the school. We didn’t want Officer Phil to know about our investigation. We didn’t want Dede to know about our investigation. And then we talked to dozens and dozens of kids. And so, that was unique in this case too, because instead of being able to do my interviews at school, where it’s easy to find kids, you could talk to 12 kids in a row because they’re all there at school. We would be going after school and trying to find kids who are at work or who are at sports. And so, that really slowed down this investigation, not being able to do our job at the school.

[00:24:47] So while I’m looking into this case with Detective Carey, the school administrator, he tells us that, “Hey, last year someone raised a concern about a boy named Barry also having an inappropriate relationship with Dede. The vice principal said that he pulled Barry out of class, he talked to Barry, Barry denied it, that was the end. He did not make any report to CPS. He did not make any report to law enforcement. As far as this administrator was concerned, it was just a rumor.

Dan: [00:25:17] School administrators and school teachers are not investigators. You don’t know what you’re doing.

Yeardley: [00:25:21] How do you know that?

Dan: [00:25:22] Because they don’t know how to ask questions. The order you ask questions, the way you gather evidence, I’ve watched it. I’ve had an “investigation” handed to me from a school administrator. It’s incomplete. I can’t use any of it. I have to do all that work over again. They’re just not trained to do investigations.

Yeardley: [00:25:42] So, the better practice would be, “We need an investigation done, we need law enforcement to do it.”

Robert: [00:25:48] Let us do it or at least let somebody who’s trained in how to do those things do it. When we call “investigation” being done by someone else at the school, these are their coworkers, these are their peers. They potentially have years and years of history interacting outside of work at parties and special events. It’s just not an objective investigation in any event. Detective Carey and I, we go out and we talk to that teacher who overheard the conversation at the family gathering. Again, we contacted Dede’s school, and we learned that Dede was now teaching a special class that was designed to connect troubled kids with an adult. And so, these were small classes of less than 10 students, and she taught three sessions of this in her work day.

Yeardley: [00:26:38] It just feels like a luring strategy.

Robert: [00:26:42] Oh, yeah.

Dave: [00:26:43] Everything’s intentional.

Robert: [00:26:45] Again, I’m using my credential, “Hey, I need to be the one to be with these kids, so that I can help them.” And she has the proper credential.

Paul: [00:26:55] Predators go to where the prey are at.

Dave: [00:26:57] Yeah.

Robert: [00:26:57] Yes.

Dave: [00:26:58] The dynamics between this and what Paul dealt with serial killers, if you eliminate the labels and you just put predator and prey and the types of things that offenders do to avoid capture or to entice someone to a residence where they then get attacked, all of the behavior is related. It’s just, they have different targets.

Robert: [00:27:22] Yeah, exactly. So, again, Dede school tells us she’s teaching this class, three of them in her current day. It’s designed for troubled youth to be able to talk to this teacher and their peers about issues and strategies for getting better. They tell us, it’s an open forum, so there’s no consequences for students talking about substance abuse, minor criminal matters. This class also requires Dede to be available to the kids 24/7 by phone or text. This is one of many red flags in this case. And the school says, “Hey, this required Dede and the students to basically sign a confidentiality form that anything shared in the class won’t be shared outside of the class.” A red flag.

[00:28:09] So, we basically chased rumors for a few months and we talked to anyone whose name came up. Obviously, at the end of any interview we did, we would ask people, “Who else should we talk to about this, who else knows about this,” and we would chase them down. This was very labor-intensive process. But we noticed consistent names in a lot of these interviews, and so we were able to focus on several potential victims that way. For example, lots of the students we talked to said there was a rumor going around the school that Dede was involved in sexual relationships with male students. A lot of our students said, “Hey, you really need to talk to Barry. Dede and Barry are always seen talking together. They’re in the little nooks and crannies throughout the school. They’re always standing very close together.”

[00:28:56] So, after hearing this name over and over and over, we talked to Barry. We actually find Barry at his girlfriend’s house because she’s someone that we also wanted to talk to, someone that supposedly had information about this. Detective Carey and I split up. I go talk to Barry in the garage, and Detective Carey talks to Barry’s girlfriend in the house. Barry’s girlfriend is extremely happy to talk to us. She says, “Oh, thank God, you’re investigating, because something definitely is going on.” But she says, “I can’t go report this.” She goes, “Normally, I would go report this to the SRO, but that’s Dede’s husband. He’s an intimidating man. He’s very scary. I don’t feel comfortable talking to him. And then he has a great working relationship with the school administration, so I don’t feel like I can talk to them. So, thank goodness you’re investigating.”

[00:29:45] She was relieved that we worked for an agency other than the city police department, and she felt comfortable talking to us. What Barry’s girlfriend tells us is that she seen text messages between Dede and Barry that were sexual in nature. This girlfriend suspected an inappropriate relationship between Dede and Barry, but every time she asked Barry about it, he became very defensive and denied it. The girlfriend goes on to tell us that she has seen Dede openly flirt with male students, and she knew that Dede was texting them way more than appropriate. She says that she knew and was bothered by the fact that Dede would share confidential information she learned from students with Officer Phil, and that Officer Phil had then used the information he learned from his wife to kick someone off the baseball team and take enforcement action that he otherwise wouldn’t have known about it.

[00:30:39] Barry’s girlfriend said that Dede had called her a cunt, harassed her, and urged Barry to dump her. She said, “This was such a weird relationship for a teacher to be having.” She said, “Dede was acting more like a jealous ex-girlfriend than she was a teacher.” And then she gave us something that we were able to pursue more. She said that Dede had sent Barry nude images of herself and told Barry that she loved him. Dede confided. This is, again, according to Barry’s girlfriend, that she didn’t love her husband, Officer Phil, but had only married him because she got pregnant and they had a kid together.

[00:31:19] So, meanwhile, I’m having a conversation with Barry in the garage, and Barry says that he met Dede during his freshman year, and she provided him her personal cell phone number. He had her as a teacher during his freshman year, his sophomore year, and his junior year. And then during his senior year, he was a TA for her, so a teacher’s assistant for her. But here’s the problem. He was a TA for her during her planning period. What that means is there’s no other students in the class. This was a huge red flag and something that just infuriated me that the school would allow Dede to have one on one with Barry during her planning period with no other students around really surprised me. And then to make it worse, these classrooms have those little skinny windows that you can see through. Hers is completely covered up, taped up. So, there’s complete privacy, a locking door, and she’s one on one with him during her planning period. It’s just mind boggling.

Paul: [00:32:22] Robert, do you know what the selection process is or the approval process at the level above Dede to allow her to have a male student during her planning period as a TA?

Robert: [00:32:34] No. I don’t know if any specific thought went into it or if it’s more these kids say, “Hey, I want to be Dede’s TA,” and they sign a slip, and that just gets fed into the computer. I don’t know if there’s any human buyout of it or not, but that’s definitely something I brought up with the district when this was all done is, this is a failure. You really botched this one.

Paul: [00:32:53] Well, there’s already smoke on Dede from four years prior, right?

Dave: [00:32:57] It also lets you know how comfortable Dede is with what she’s doing that knowing that things were really close to coming to a head four years prior, but she just eases back into it, and four years later, she’s regained the trust of folks. There was no disclosure in the past. It’s like, “Oh, you got wrongfully accused.” Now, the person who would have really driven that case further down the road wasn’t ready to disclose.

Robert: [00:33:24] The twist, of course, is she spun that as she was the victim. “See, I’m falsely accused because I’m putting my heart and soul into this work with my students, and, look, I’m getting these false accusations towards me.”

Robert: [00:33:51] So, again, Barry told me that Dede gave him her phone number his freshman year. He said that she was constantly flirting with him. She invited him over to her house several times, and he said he wanted to. He said, “I am very afraid of Officer Phil.” He’s a big, intimidating guy. I’m very afraid what would happen if he found out about me going over to Dede’s house. Barry acknowledged that his girlfriend was extremely jealous and suspicious of how Barry and Dede interacted. Now that some time had passed, Barry at this point says, I think Dede’s crazy. He said that Dede was texting him even after graduation, and he said she would freak out if he didn’t respond right away. And so, he just wrote her off. He just discontinued any contact with her.

[00:34:38] Barry, fortunately, felt comfortable talking to me. He said he had not told anyone else about this before, but he said that he had made out with Dede on multiple occasions. He said this happened at school, and this was in her classroom at school when he was her TA during this prep period. He said that he had already turned 18 when this happened. And that’s significant in this case, because we were not able to bring criminal charges against Dede, because she waited until Barry was 18. Barry also told me that Dede had sent him multiple nude images of herself. He said he always deleted them. He said he never synced them to another device. And at the time, we were talking to him, he had got a new phone, and the old phone was not available. He said that Dede was very meticulous and always told them to delete their text messages, so just basically eliminate the history. But Barry was very clear that they never had sex. He said that he definitely would have, but he was very intimidated by Officer Phil, and that’s the only thing that stopped them from having sex.

[00:35:46] So, we did this interview in the evening, and the first thing in the morning, we were at the school. We notified the school district, and we notified the school, and they immediately placed Dede on administrative leave. But we also had the night to think about how we’re going to tackle this. We had a plan in place to interview Dede and Officer Phil. Now, again, they work at the same school. They’re always seeing each other. It was very challenging. So, we had a plan with Officer Phil’s agency that at 08:00 AM, they would call him back to the police department saying they needed to talk to him, and then that’s when we had two of our coworkers there to interview him. Detective Carey and I, we were at the school to talk to Dede.

[00:36:31] Now, what happens is we ask the principal to basically have someone cover her class, so that she can come up and talk to us. What the principal does is not that. The principal goes down and tells her, “The police are waiting for you in my office. You’ll want to get your union rep, and you’ll want to decide what you’re going to do.” And so, we’re sitting there waiting for a while, and we’re wondering what’s taking so long. And in walks her union rep and wants to know what it’s about. We basically told him, “Look, we understand your role, but this is really, really personal and sensitive, and she might not want you to know what this is about. So, until she tells us that we can tell you what this is about, we’re not going to tell you.”

[00:37:14] So, we introduce ourselves to Dede, and we give her a little bit of a tidbit why we’re there. Obviously, we have in mind that four years ago, she was questioned by a detective about similar things. So, we weren’t quite sure if she would talk to us or not. But she says, “I demand to talk to my husband before I talk to you.” So, she gets him on the phone and we say, “Well, do you want us to step out?” She says, “No, I’m fine.” And then after a short conversation with him, she says she’s only going to talk to us if Officer Phil is present. She doesn’t want to talk at the school. She wants to go to where he is, which he’s at his office. So, we follow her as she drives over to the city police department. It’s a very short drive.

Yeardley: [00:37:55] Why does Dede get to drive herself? Why don’t you take her to the police department in a patrol car?

Dan: [00:38:02] That’s a great question. That is a tactic that we use on occasion, especially if we don’t have enough to arrest Dede at this point, this is a tactic that might promote a little more cooperation on her part.

Yeardley: [00:38:14] I see. All right.

Robert: [00:38:16] So, we notice on the way that she’s talking to someone on the phone, which we assume is Officer Phil. So, we get to the police department, and it’s very awkward for many reasons. We’re now in an interview room at the police department where Dede is crying and Officer Phil is crying, and Detective Carey and I are both terrified that Officer Phil is going to pull out his gun and kill us. He’s emotional, he’s upset, and he’s in uniform, and he’s armed. We took a few breaks during the interview, and then the first one, I asked the captain, I go, “Hey, can you please have him just change out of his uniform and just get into civilian clothes?” And he says, “No, I’m not comfortable doing that. I don’t think I want him to be without his uniform and gun while he’s in his own office.”

[00:39:01] So, I didn’t like that, but we talked with them for well over an hour recorded, and again, it was very awkward. Now, as we’re beginning the interview, Dede denies multiple times that she’s had sex with Adam. Now that we know what we know happened with Barry, I’m, of course, re-approaching her about what happened with Adam, and she denies multiple times that she had sex with Adam. She does confess to making out with Barry twice, but she says he initiated it. She’s an innocent victim, and he initiated it. She says that she never told her husband about it or she never told the school about it. She tells us that she consciously waited for Barry to turn 18 before she started making out with him. So, she did learn something from the previous case.

Dan: [00:39:49] How did Phil react to that admission?

Robert: [00:39:51] This is very emotional, and they’re both crying throughout the interview. It’s an interesting dynamic, because the whole time, my partner and I, Detective Carey, we’re wondering, how much does Officer Phil know? How much does he know about this, or is he an unwitting? And then it turned to, well, how much should he have known? Even if you don’t know exactly how much should you have known? And so, that becomes part of the investigation later on.

Dave: [00:40:17] He’s still armed throughout all of this?

Robert: [00:40:20] Oh, yeah. And it’s not comfortable. [laughs]

Dave: [00:40:23] I’m just picturing you just let this officer who’s armed know that his wife is committing adultery to some degree. How many murder scenes do police go to about infidelity? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that that ends with a triple murder suicide.

Robert: [00:40:42] Yeah, and I think you know this too. We want the confession. The arrest is not the ending point at all. We want a confession. And so, yeah, I’m not going to lie, I was terrified. That was definitely not my most ideal interview setting to have him there armed and highly emotional.

Yeardley: [00:40:59] You need a controlled environment for a reason.

Robert: [00:41:02] Right. So, yeah, we dealt with that. We’re talking to her, Dede, and later on in the interview, she admits that she had gone to the movies with Adam, the kid from the first case. She admitted that their relationship could be viewed as a high school relationship. I got nothing to lose here. So, I just ask her very directly, “Dede, how many times did you and Adam have sex?” And at this point, she doesn’t answer. She looks over at her crying husband, Officer Phil, and he says, “Don’t look at me. I don’t know.” I think he wanted to know the answer to that. And so, through her tears, she confessed to having multiple incidents of sexual intercourse with Adam.

[00:41:49] She goes on to tell us that this happened at her own house when Officer Phil was working, graveyard shift. It also happened at Adam’s house, and it also happened in Dede’s vehicle while they were parked at a city park. So, she talks about multiple, multiple times of this.

Dave: [00:42:08] Phil’s going through it at this point, I actually feel really bad for him. I mean, can you imagine an ambush like that in your life? Devastating.

Dan: [00:42:17] I feel terrible for Phil, as long as he didn’t know what was going on.

Yeardley: [00:42:21] I don’t feel badly for Phil. I think he’s a bully, and Dede’s actions seemed like the worst kept secret in town. How could he not have any idea what was going on, at least to some degree?

Robert: [00:42:34] Right.

Paul: [00:42:34] Yeah.

Robert: [00:42:35] So, we had already talked to our prosecutor, who’s a fantastic attorney, and we had decided that we were not going to make a hot arrest because we realized that there were potentially more victims. And so, we were not going to make a hot arrest that day, we were going to continue investigating. So, we ordered her not to have any contact with Adam or Barry, and we explained to her this crime in our state called witness tampering, where if she talks to one of the witnesses or victims that we would arrest her for a felony charge. Dede reaches me a short time later by phone, and she says, “Hey, that whole witness tampering thing you talked about, I probably should tell you guys that short drive between the high school and the police department, I actually called Adam.” And so, we thought she was talking to her husband. She actually calls Adam. So, that day, Detective Carey and I get on an airplane, and we fly to the state where Adam was.

[00:43:34] Years have gone by, he’s now in college. We get there, we wait outside his home. He lives on a very large gated property with family. We can’t go up and knock on the door. So, we’re waiting outside, this gate waiting for the gate to open, and fortunately, it’s morning and a car is leaving, and it’s his mom. His mom, as you’ll recall, she was thrilled with the original investigation, but disappointed that it didn’t go anywhere because she knew, mother’s intuition, something’s not right here. So, mom is thrilled. Wherever she was going up, “No, that can wait, I’m going to march you in the house and you can talk to him.”

Yeardley: [00:44:08] So, is it just Adam and his mom living in that big house?

Robert: [00:44:11] He’s graduated from high school. He’s now in college, but he’s living with his mom, his sister, and I think grandma. And so, he’s like, “Hey, I might want to talk to you, but I really need to leave to get to class, but I might be willing to talk to you later. I want to think about it.” And so I say, “Hey, Dede’s confessed. She was honest with us. She’s taken a lot of the pressure off you, but we still want to ask you questions.” Adam is extremely skeptical. He really just can’t believe that Dede has confessed to anything. And so, we ended up providing him a lot more details than I normally would. So, Adam admits that they had sex less than two dozen times. He said the first time was at Dede’s home while Officer Phil was out working graveyard shift and her son was asleep. Adam said that he was either a sophomore or a junior. The first time that he had sex with her, he was definitely underage, and the age of consent in our state is 18.

Yeardley: [00:45:05] You have different mandatory sentences for the age of the minor, correct? Right, Dave?

Dave: [00:45:11] Yeah. So, like, the rape statute, we have a rape statute for 12, we have a rape statute for 14, and we have a rape statute that’s if you’re under 16. If you’re over 16, it goes to contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor. And so, there’s a big difference. If you’re a sophomore or a junior, those are like 15, 16, you might get hit with the felony rape in the third degree. Or, if he’s 16, then you get the misdemeanor charge of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor. One of those is a registerable offense. The other one, there’s some discretion. So, what Robert is getting to is he’s looking for landmark dates that allow him to put this in a window of time that’s going to get him Adam’s actual age at the time of these acts.

Yeardley: [00:45:57] Does Adam’s statement that he was a sophomore, junior corroborate Dede’s timeline of how old Adam was, or did she not get into that?

Robert: [00:46:06] No, it definitely matched up. Yeah, everything matched up. So, we’re making progress now, because these stories match up. And then as our investigation continued, it was evident that they had sexual contact before and after the first investigation. So, after my detective colleague interviewed Adam and Dede on that first case, that did not stop them. They continued having sex. Adam told us that he had known Dede and Officer Phil since he was 13 years old, and that Dede had told Adam, “Hey, you and I, we were in a monogamous relationship together.” She said, she and Officer Phil hadn’t had sex together in years. And Dede said to Adam, “Hey, if you graduate and you move out of state, I will leave my husband, and I’ll move there with you.” And he said, “I’ve been waiting now for several years for this to happen, and she hasn’t moved here.’

Yeardley: [00:46:58] So, even now, when you finally catch up with Adam, Robert, he is hoping that Dede is going to leave her husband?

Robert: [00:47:05] That was his expectation, even years later. He says, “She hasn’t moved here yet.”

Dave: [00:47:09] It tells you how well she groomed Adam.

Robert: [00:47:11] Yes.

Yeardley: [00:47:11] That’s awful and heartbreaking and terrible.

Robert: [00:47:16] Yeah. So, even with everything that’s gone on, Adam tells us very plainly, he says, “Look, I don’t want anything bad to happen to Dede. In fact, I hope that she and Officer Phil can reconcile.” Adam’s mom later talked to– She wasn’t there, he didn’t want his mom to hear this. But later on, the mom calls and she tells me, she says, “Look, the only reason he talked to you is because you guys convinced him that Dede had had a relationship with someone else.” One of themes of our interview was telling him that we knew that there were multiple victims and we needed his help to prevent this from happening to younger students. Adam’s mom said that that’s what convinced him to cooperate. So, we definitely have enough to charge Dede with multiple felonies. So, at this point, my office issues a media release with her name, with her school.

Yeardley: [00:48:07] What does a media release entail?

Dan: [00:48:10] So, generally at a media release, you’re going to give a summary of the incident or incidents that have taken place. I’m guessing in this particular instance, a media release could prompt other members of the public and other victims to come forward knowing that now they’re not alone.

Yeardley: [00:48:29] Let me ask you this though. If you put that information out, particularly in a sensitive case like this, does it not potentially taint a jury pool?

Dan: [00:48:39] Ah, that’s a concern, but no more than a newspaper article might do that also. So, in this media release, it’s going to be fairly general. It’s a summary. We’re not going to give away certain details of the case that would affect the outcome. We’re not going to give away details that would affect a jury pool. It’s just going to be general. This woman has been arrested for a series of incidents with her students. And usually, you have the detective’s name at the bottom of that media release, “If you have information, reach out to,” in this case, it’s Sergeant Robert.

Yeardley: [00:49:13] All right, I get it.

Robert: [00:49:14] Yeah. So, after we get more calls and it gets the media attention going, Adam calls one day and says, “Hey, I’m not testifying.” He says, “I’m out of state. I’m not going to comply.” And of course, we had thought about that as being a possibility. There is a complicated process, multiple steps to go through, to compel someone who’s out of state to come and testify in your state. He went through all these hoops to get a judge in this other state to compel Adam to come testify.

Yeardley: [00:49:44] He jumped through all those hoops to make that happen.

Robert: [00:49:46] Yes. And so, we later learn from Adam’s mom, who, again, is our advocate, she’s really wanting this to go through, so that Dede can be held accountable, and she says that Adam received a phone call from Dede’s attorney, and the attorney convinced Adam that those detectives that came to visit you lied to you and manipulated you.

Yeardley: [00:50:05] Isn’t that witness tampering?

Robert: [00:50:07] It’s not. If the attorney does it, and not Dede.

Dave: [00:50:10] They know the boundaries.

Robert: [00:50:12] Yeah. Talking to Adam is considered discovery, and the defense is entitled to do their own investigation. And so, we’re not privy to exactly what was said, but yeah, it’s not uncommon for a defense attorney or their investigator to reach out to the state’s witnesses.

Yeardley: [00:50:26] But to say that, you guys, your department is lying to Adam, that’s okay? They’re allowed to do that?

Robert: [00:50:32] Again, that’s her zealously advocating for her client. We won’t know exactly what was said or how she phrased it, but that’s how Adam’s mom summarized it to us. Yeah. So, one of the things that Adam had told us in our interview with him is that he had talked to another person about it. We call these people disclosure witnesses. So, Adam had talked to a youth pastor at his church. He didn’t give us tons of information about who this person was, but, hey, we’re detectives, and we tracked him down.

Yeardley: [00:51:01] [laughs]

Robert: [00:51:03] This guy remembered his conversations with Adam. He remembered telling Adam, “Hey, that doesn’t sound good. You should probably break it off. Her husband’s a cop. It’s not a good idea. She’s a teacher. You’re a student. You should probably break it off.” But this person did not make any report at any time to law enforcement or to Child Protective Services.

Yeardley: [00:51:21] Are they not mandatory reporters? Clergy?

Robert: [00:51:24] He is a mandatory reporter. This is, again, one of these many, many things that just didn’t happen in this case that had it done, we may have been able to prevent more victims.

Dave: [00:51:33] I’ve had clergy tell me, “It’s a privileged conversation.” “Well, what did he say?” “I’m not telling you.” “What else did you tell him?” “I told him he should get an attorney.”

Yeardley: [00:51:42] Wow.

Robert: [00:51:43] So, again, this out of state friend of Adams, he testified in grand jury when Adam would not, and it was very helpful. As our investigation goes on, we found over 5,000 text messages between Dede and Barry, so the second victim in a one-year period. And 3,000 of those 5,000 were sent by Dede. And again, these were at all hours of the day and night. Now, as our investigation is going on, we now have Adam and Barry as victims. Our plan is to call Barry, even though we can’t have criminal charges against Dede because he was already 18, but he can testify to how she groomed him, what her motives were, how she operates. We can call him in to help our case.

Robert: [00:52:42] So, during our investigation, several people told us about a guy named Charlie, and they said, “Hey, you really need to talk to Charlie.” We kept hearing his name. And Charlie, again, was the kind of kid who was always in trouble, always getting suspended, thrown out of school, getting stopped by the police, always getting involved in criminal issues. He avoided us like the plague. He probably thought we were trying to arrest him. So, when his dad would tell him, “Hey, you need to call these detectives,” he’s like, “Oh, that’s not going to end well. I’m not going to call them.” So, he avoided us. We didn’t talk to him till very late in the investigation.

[00:53:18] Charlie finally agreed to call us. And so, we had an interview by phone, and we knew this was going to help our case when he starts off the conversation by saying, “All of my problems in life started after this relationship I had with Dede.” So, Charlie said that after he and Dede had a sexual relationship, that Officer Phil made him a project. He said that he always stopped him, always harassed him. He would have him on a traffic stop, he would draw his gun. He said that Officer Phil would harass him anytime he had him stopped. Charlie told us he was afraid that anything he told us was going to get back to the local police department, and it was just going to lead to his family being harassed. We assured him, “Hey, we’re a completely independent agency, and that we’re mandated if we learned anything unethical about Officer Phil, something that he did or said, that we would have to refer that to state regulators.” And so, we built a rapport enough with Charlie, where he finally agreed to talk to us.

[00:54:21] Charlie told us that he had a sexual relationship with Dede, beginning when he was a sophomore. So, he’s 15 years old, and he was having sex with her. He said, it started with kissing, and mutual sexual touching, and then it led up to intercourse. And he said, in one month, they had sexual contact between 15 and 18 times in that month. He told us details that they would meet in a city park away from school, away from home. And that after this month, he thought that this was not a good idea anymore, and he said he went in to the guidance counselor and asked to be transferred out of her class.

Yeardley: [00:54:58] Charlie asked to be transferred out of Dede’s class?

Robert: [00:55:01] Correct. And he said, the guidance counselor asked why, and he said he told the guidance counselor, “It’s because we’re having a sexual relationship, and I’m not comfortable with it. And I want it to stop.” The guidance counselor sent him over to the vice principal’s office, and the vice principal says, “Why do you want to be a transferred out of her class?” Charlie again repeats, “Because we’re having a sexual relationship, and I don’t think it’s right, and I want it to stop.” He said this was when he was 15 years old, and neither the guidance counselor nor the vice principal believed him, because he was the school troublemaker. And so, they let him transfer out of the class, but that’s it. They didn’t make any report to law enforcement or to Child Protective Services.

[00:55:46] When Charlie had told Dede that he was going to transfer out of her class, she begged him to stay and reminded him that her husband was a cop, and she reminded Charlie that their relationship needed to stay between Dede and Charlie.

Yeardley: [00:56:02] So, in that statement, was she implying, “Our sexual relationship needs to continue, or you need to keep your mouth shut,” or both to Charlie?

Robert: [00:56:10] She wanted him to stay in the class, and she just basically says that he shouldn’t open his mouth about the relationship. However, right after he transfers out of her class, Charlie feels that Officer Phil starts targeting him. Charlie had a mouth on him again. He was known for causing problems. But one time he was fed up with Officer Phil harassing him, and he yelled at Officer Phil, “Hey, Officer Phil, I had sex with your wife.” And he said another time, he yelled at Officer Phil, “Have fun raising my kid.”

Yeardley: [00:56:43] Whoa.

Paul: [00:56:44] Oh, damn. [laughs]

Robert: [00:56:46] He said that this harassment by Officer Phil and this targeting by Officer Phil just basically continued and got worse and worse. It got to be where Charlie was being stopped by the city of police, like, any time he was out driving. And he said that Officer Phil would often draw his firearm during these stops, even though there wasn’t any reason for it. Charlie remembered another time specifically where he was stopped by a different officer. And during the traffic stop, Officer Phil rolls up hot and heavy and angrily confronts Charlie about what Charlie had yelled at him. Charlie says, on this particular stop, Officer Phil grabs him by his throat and yells at him never to shout anything about Dede or Phil again. Charlie remembers another time where Officer Phil stopped him, because Officer Phil didn’t believe that Charlie had a driver’s license. Well, Charlie that day had got his driver’s license back. So, even after he produces a valid driver’s license, he says, Officer Phil kept him on this stop for an unusual amount of time, he thought it was an hour, which is highly, highly unusual.

Dan: [00:57:48] It’s unreasonable.

Robert: [00:57:50] I can stop. Someone write a ticket and have them on their way in six minutes. Like, it’s a quick process. Charlie remembered that Officer Phil said, “You won’t have this for long, and I’ll be the one to take it from you.” We were able to corroborate that statement from a passenger who was in Charlie’s vehicle at the time.

Dave: [00:58:06] Were you able to corroborate all these stops with call logs?

Robert: [00:58:09] Absolutely. And then, Charlie’s passenger that we interviewed also told us after the traffic stop, the passenger asked Charlie like, “Why does Officer Phil have it out for you?” And he remembers Charlie telling him, “Because I had sex with his wife.” So, that was also an important statement that we were able to use to corroborate what Charlie had told us.

Dan: [00:58:31] Also, now there are some other issues and some other follow up that you’re going to have to do with Phil.

Robert: [00:58:36] Yes.

Dave: [00:58:37] Phil’s proactively looking for contact with Charlie.

Dan: [00:58:40] Well, and if he did know that his wife was sleeping with an underage kid, Officer Phil is a mandatory reporter also. There are a lot of things going on here. This is a complex situation.

Robert: [00:58:51] I like how you say that. Yeah, definitely, [chuckles] it is a complex situation. So, we talked to other people who said they’d been stopped by Officer Phil, and one of them was someone who had reported to the school that there was potential for an inappropriate student-teacher relationship involving Dede. This student said right after it was reported, Officer Phil would stop him on a traffic stop and asked him why he made that complaint. And then Officer Phil told him he should rethink his decision on making the complaint. This student said, “Officer Phil, just curious, what was your legal reason for stopping me?” And Officer Phil said, “I just wanted to talk to you.” Never gave any legal justification for making the stop.

Paul: [00:59:32] This is where I’m hearing about Officer Phil’s actions. After the Barry incident, and you guys bring Dede and Officer Phil in for that interview, he’s distraught. This is like a big shock. Yet, it almost sounds like he’s complicit in these cases. He’s jealous, he’s harassing these boys, but he seems to be understanding what is going on with his wife.

Dave: [00:59:57] Absolutely. There’s this coercive nature to Phil’s interactions with these students and the admission that I didn’t have a lawful reason to stop you. Do we need any more of an explanation? I feel bad for Phil, but he has no business being a police officer.

Robert: [01:00:14] Well, and you’ve had SROs on the show before, and you, as hosts, pointed out how important it is to have the right person in that position. Phil is not the person you want to have as the SRO. So, anyway, our concern is, what did Phil know and what should he have known? While we’re doing the criminal investigation, we’re also like, “Hey, what do we need to turn over to our state regulatory agency that licenses police officers?” Because we think there’s some huge ethical gaps and just a lot of stuff going on. So, when our investigation was done, our agency head asked us to write a memo. And our memo was several pages, and we went into great detail about how many times and when we felt that Officer Phil had failed to make mandatory reports to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.

[01:01:05] Based on his interactions with all these people and all these different complaints had been reported that Dede had had sex with students. And the total number of reports that Officer Phil made was zero. Officer Phil also told us that he had heard Charlie say multiple times that he had sex with Dede. Yet, Officer Phil made no report of that whatsoever. Officer Phil also said that heard one of the victims, in this case, Adam, saying that he was in love with Dede, but Officer Phil still allowed that person to hang out at his house when he was working night shift. He allowed Adam, this underage student, to be at his house with Dede alone.

Paul: [01:01:45] What does Dee have on Officer Phil?

Robert: [01:01:47] They had this very weird codependence, and there’s no better word for it. They were extremely codependent that if one wasn’t there, I think the other one would just, like, slowly die. It was weird. It was weird just being in the same room with them and seeing this. Officer Phil admitted that he should have reeled in his wife from her relationship with two of the three victims.

Yeardley: [01:02:11] Only two of the three? So, Phil’s basically saying, “It’s okay that did he slept with Barry because he was 18, but she shouldn’t have slept with Charlie and Adam.”

Robert: [01:02:20] Right.

Yeardley: [01:02:21] I think that’s some specious reasoning on Phil’s part.

Robert: [01:02:26] Yes. And Officer Phil told us that he knew that Dede had gone to a movie alone with Adam. He knew that Dede had one on one meetings with Adam in a park, in a nearby city where they’d sit in Dede’s car and talk, which, of course, later we learned that that was one of the locations where Dede and Adam had sex. Dede mentioned that Officer Phil had come home multiple times during his graveyard shift and found Dede and one of the victims in the home and was fine with it. So, these were all things that we put in this memo to our sheriff.

[01:03:00] The other one was that graffiti that was found on the water tower. It never generated a police report by the city police, but it did cause Officer Phil to go confront one of the victims about it. So, we felt like there were many avenues where Officer Phil had not lived up to his duties and responsibilities. Many people we talked to during our investigation, this is probably at least a dozen or more said they were afraid Officer Phil and his role as the SRO. He was not approachable. They would not talk to him for any reason.

Yeardley: [01:03:29] Do you know which victim Officer Phil confronted about the water tower? Did he, in fact, confront Charlie?

Robert: [01:03:36] Charlie, yeah. We also talked to many parents during this investigation too, and one of the complaints that we received from a parent was that Dede had been messaging her son, asking where the parties in the city were, and how to get drugs. The parent was concerned that Dede was just basically acting as an agent for Officer Phil. And then once some particular information was shared. Officer Phil took enforcement action against this particular student, which got the student expelled from school. So, there’s just this information loop that was going on that was really just used for their own benefit. We also alleged that Officer Phil helped Dede violate her release agreement.

[01:04:18] What I mean by that is, when someone gets arrested, if they bail out of jail, they basically have to raise their right hand and swear that they’re going to follow a long list of rules. One of the rules on that list is, you’re not allowed to have contact with any of the state’s witnesses. In this case, it was an awkward situation where Dede is the suspect and Officer Phil’s her husband, but Officer Phil’s, the state’s witness. And so, they were having contact, and he was helping her violate that release agreement.

Dan: [01:04:47] I get it, but at the same time, we have the privilege, the married privilege.

Dave: [01:04:51] But there’s no privilege in child abuse.

Robert: [01:04:53] Yeah. [laughs]

Dan: [01:04:54] Ah, yes, I’ve been out of the game for a while.

Yeardley: [01:04:57] Oh, wow. So, in your state, if the case involves child abuse, the marriage privilege, where you can say, “I’m not going to testify against my spouse,” that’s off the table?

Robert: [01:05:08] Exactly. I was going to say, I admit it’s a unique circumstance, but Officer Phil, the state’s witness, we were very concerned about them getting their story straight and getting a timeline together. And so, that’s one of the conditions. Dede is not allowed to talk to her husband. Upon her arrest, she was not able to have contact with her own child either. She’s got a son, who at this point was probably 9 or 10. And immediately until they had the first hearing to modify her release agreement, she wasn’t allowed to have contact with her own son. So, this was just one of our list of things where we felt that Officer Phil had violated his duties.

[01:05:45] Now, the last one was pretty significant. But as this case was gearing up to go to grand jury, Officer Phil sent a long email to our prosecutor. And in this email, he says, what a great person Dede is and how that now that the police have been investigating and she’s gone to get professional help, she’s been diagnosed with multiple heretofore unknown mental health diagnoses. And he goes into like, I think there’s five or six different mental health diagnoses that suddenly she has. My favorite part of the email is when Officer Phil says that Dede was not aware of her high level of vulnerability, which made her easy pickings for predators.

Dan: [01:06:26] He’s calling the children predators.

Yeardley: [01:06:28] He’s blaming the victims.

Dan: [01:06:30] Unbelievable.

Robert: [01:06:31] So, we had a very strong prosecutor on this case. He’s now a federal prosecutor. Great guy. We recognize the challenges of getting Adam, Barry, and Charlie to come testify. The media coverage did not help this. The victims wanted to be anonymous. The victims also did not want to run into who, they didn’t want to run into Officer Phil, who was going to be there. So, we have multiple doors at our courthouse where we have our grand jury, and we have rooms, and we’ll tuck people away and make sure that people don’t have contact with one another. But what happened here is, we had Officer Phil served, and we didn’t give him a lot of notice, so we might have showed up to work and handed it to him the same day.

[01:07:14] So, Officer Phil shows up to grand jury with a high-powered defense attorney who used to be our chief deputy district attorney. Officer Phil goes in to testify in front of the grand jury in uniform again with his gun and badge on. I was very uncomfortable with that. Our prosecutor was uncomfortable with that. Multiple grand jurors said afterwards that they were very uncomfortable with that. Again, he was crying, he was emotional, and he’s sitting there with a gun on his hip.

Dave: [01:07:43] Phil probably recognizes his uniform, and all of this is inappropriate. He’s called as a witness, not as a police officer in that situation. Had he been doing police officer things and being a mandatory reporter, I’d be okay with him wearing his uniform. But he’s not there to be a police officer. He’s there to talk about witness stuff. I think it’s just a horrible look.

Robert: [01:08:07] This violated courthouse rules. It violated state law for accessing the courtroom and being armed in a courtroom when you’re there on personal business. To further solidify that, we had someone watch Phil after he left the courthouse, and he had come to the courthouse in his personal vehicle. We believe it was intentional that he came in his uniform to influence the grand jurors. When Officer Phil goes in to testify, he starts off by saying, “I claim spousal privilege. I am not going to testify.” Now, we had anticipated that. Again, this prosecutor was awesome. He had a judge who is a former child abuse prosecutor. And so, we marched Officer Phil upstairs in front of this judge, and this judge laid into him. He told him that spousal privilege does not apply in child abuse cases. He really went after Officer Phil’s lawyer, telling him, “You of all people should know that.” He ordered Phil to talk, and he said if he didn’t talk and tell the truth that there would be consequences.

[01:09:07] So, we go back down to the grand jury room and Officer Phil testifies. At the end of grand jury, Dede was indicted for six counts of sexual abuse in the second degree. And again, these were for acts done with Adam, and Charlie, and again, we couldn’t charge for any acts done with Barry. Now, what we had done is we completed this grand jury, and we had worked it out with the defense attorney that Dede could turn herself in the following day before 05:00 PM. They did take her into custody. She was crying. We marched her into the jail. And so, now she bails out. And this case, we don’t necessarily want to go to trial. Our victims, we know they don’t want to testify. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard for everyone. And so, our prosecutor and the defense attorney, they work out a plea deal. The plea deal made everyone just go ballistic, except for Dede. She pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 18 months of formal probation.

Yeardley: [01:10:12] What?

Dan: [01:10:13] Isn’t there a mandatory sentence?

Dave: [01:10:16] Not for sex abuse too. This is where I was curious, because we have a mandatory sentence crime when it comes to these types of things that is using a child in the display of sexually explicit conduct, which is, if I make a visual recording of the sexual explicit activity or I request it over the phone, you ask for nudes. And I’ve had teachers ask students for nudes. That is 70 months in prison every day of it. You can have an attempt if you ask, but you don’t receive. But once you receive that, you’ve received child sex abuse material, you are now in possession of child pornography. It’s always a question I have in these text cases, I’m like, “How many times did the adult ask the child for photos?” Sometimes, you can prove that. Sometimes, it’s deleted and it’s unrecoverable stuff off of phones. Sometimes, it’s not something that they’re able to prosecute, but it’s always something that’s out there in these cases, you go, “I wonder how many requests for this happened.”

Robert: [01:11:18] We just didn’t have that in the facts of this particular case. So, again, everyone was just livid. There were all kinds of accusations that they got special treatment, because Officer Phil was a police officer, and this would be different if it was a male suspect. So, there was just lots of anger about this one. The same judge who admonished Officer Phil, the date he came to grand jury, I believe is the judge who had this, and he told Dede during sentencing, he said this, “I will not hesitate to send you to prison if you violate any of the terms of the probation. So, if you do anything wrong, you’re going to prison. Do you understand that?” And she said, “Yes.” Again, the community was enraged.

[01:12:03] The aftermath of this, one of these victims did sue the school district. We’ve talked about some of the many things that the school did wrong, and that lawsuit was settled quietly for an undisclosed amount of money outside of court. And then six months goes by, and I’m sitting at my desk, and I get a call from an off-duty police officer from another agency. It’s not Officer Phil’s agency, it’s not my agency, it’s another agency. And he goes, “Hey, were you the detective that worked on the Dede case?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he goes, “I’m just curious, like, what’d she get?” And I said, “Well, she got 18 months formal probation. She’s not allowed to have contact with minors or be where minors congregate or gather.” And he goes, “Okay. I was wondering about that, because my wife was just at this event at the school last night, and Dede was there.” And I said, “Well, were there kids there?” And he goes, “There were hundreds of kids there.” And I said, “Oh, well, that’s interesting.” And he goes, “And because she’s a cop’s wife, she took lots of pictures of Dede being there.”

Yeardley: [01:12:58] Oh, this person who’s reporting Dede’s presence at this function took lots of pictures.

Robert: [01:13:04] Yeah. So, needless to say, I drove straight out to meet with her and get these pictures. And we picked up Dede again, and she went to prison for 18 months, just like the judge had warned her would happen. And that’s the Dede case. In case you’re wondering, Officer Phil is still a police officer. He had no consequences or repercussions whatsoever. Most everyone felt sorry for him and sad for him, but he’s still a police officer to this day.

Dan: [01:13:33] Is he an SRO?

Robert: [01:13:34] He is not an SRO. He was immediately removed from the SRO role, and his role as a baseball coach. As is typical in these child abuse cases, there’s often fan clubs that emerge. And so, his whole baseball team and all the baseball parents and everyone showed up to the school board meeting saying that he’s the best baseball coach ever, and there’s no reason that he should get in trouble for what his wife did. And fortunately, the school district’s like, “Yeah. No.”

Dave: [01:14:00] It’s a judgment issue. He has really bad judgment, and he uses the uniform as a coercive use of power to intimidate. Police supposed to be community servants. Can you imagine having a community servant you can’t even come up and say hi to? It’s absurd. I hate to talk trash about people. I feel for Phil, but Phil made some emotional decisions that weren’t lawful.

Yeardley: [01:14:29] I’m just speechless. 18 months and he’s still a police officer.

Robert: [01:14:34] Oh, and they’re still together. So, she’s out of prison and they’re still together.

Paul: [01:14:37] She’s not teaching, is she?

Robert: [01:14:39] No, she lost her license. She’ll never teach again.

Yeardley: [01:14:42] Robert, wow, that was such a tangled web. Thank you for bringing that case to us today. Although, I admit that all the pieces that fell through the cracks that could have helped those boys, plus Dede’s tiny sentence, it’s ruined my day. But thank God for investigators like you, Robert. Thank you for that.

Robert: [01:15:02] Thank you.

Dave: [01:15:03] It’s good to see you again, Robert.

Robert: [01:15:05] Yeah, great seeing you guys.

Dan: [01:15:06] It’s a really interesting case and you did a really good job, especially with some victims who they weren’t on board. The way you convinced them, I’m very impressed. It’s just the way you are.

Paul: [01:15:18] Yeah, I think it was a very interesting case. Just here you have a rare situation where you have a female predator, but Dede operated like you see male predators operate. And so, this was, I think, very enlightening for me because I haven’t personally been involved in these types of cases. So, it was fascinating. Thanks, Robert.

Yeardley: [01:15:38] Thank you. It’s so great to see you always. We’re so delighted to have you back.

Robert: [01:15:43] Thank you.

[show theme music]

Yeardley: [01:15:51] 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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