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Sgt. Rick was prepared to issue a routine traffic ticket to a driver who was driving dangerously slow. But when he pulled the driver over, he interrupted a crime far worse than impeding the flow of traffic, proving that there is no such thing as a “routine” traffic stop.

Special Guest

Sergeant Rick
Sergeant Rick has been in law enforcement for 26 years. He’s held positions as Patrol, SWAT, undercover narcotics Detective, the Sniper/Observer team, K-9 Handler. Currently he serves as Watch Commander/Sergeant for his agency.

Read Transcript

Paul:  Hey, Small Town Fam. This is Paul Holes. Make sure you subscribe to The Briefing Room with Detectives Dan and Dave. Season two is out now. Subscribe now. And thanks.

Rick:  He’s got this real Backwoods Southern Drawl to him. He has no identification and he’s got a little girl with him. My Spidey senses were telling me what I was looking at was not actually what I was looking at.

Yeardley:  I’m Yeardley.

Zibby:  I’m Zibby and we’re fascinated by true crime.

Yeardley:  So, we invited our friends, Detectives Dan and Dave.

Zibby:  To sit down with us and share their most interesting cases.

Dan:  I am Dan.

Dave:  And I’m Dave. We’re identical twins and we’re detectives in small town USA.

Dan:  Dave investigates sex crimes and child abuse.

Dave:  Dan investigates violent crimes. And together we’ve worked on hundreds of cases including assaults, robberies, murders, burglaries, sex abuse, and child abuse.

Dan:  Names, places, and certain details including relationships have been altered to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.

Dave:  Though we realize that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we hope you’ll join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved out of respect for what they’ve been through. Thank you.

[Small Town Dicks theme]

Yeardley:  Today, on Small Town Dicks, we’re so excited because we have a full house with all the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.

Dave:  Good morning.

Yeardley:  And we have Detective Dan.

Dan:  Pleasure to be here.

Yeardley:  And we are so pleased to have a new special guest, Sergeant Rick.

Rick:  Glad to be here.

Yeardley:  Sergeant Rick, tell us how this case came to you.

Rick:  Well, fairly early in my career, I worked in a small community, which afforded me a lot of time to work traffic control.


Rick:  And being a young officer, typically, you’re really excited to be out there and find things. So, I ran a lot of radar and traffic, and I’d had a fair amount of success on this road because it was a smaller artery to the north, and so they would skip the larger highway to the east to get around all the enforcement that was going on.

Zibby: When you say they, you’re talking about people doing bad things.

Rick:  Yes.

Yeardley:  Oh, so they knew about this end run around the system.

Rick:  Yes. And so, I like to work a lot of drug interdiction traffic stops where you develop probable cause to then find the drugs that they’re carrying from A to B. So, we would get mules that would travel from the south, taking the drugs up and then the money heading back down, and they would divide the highways because of lot of smaller cities with less police presence going on. And what I found was I would start watching for these interdiction stops. And so, I worked a lot of traffic. On this particular night, it was pretty stormy out. It was a coastal storm that had hit, and so it was raining heavily. But I’m out there working traffic control, and I found a speeder.


Dan:  Probably going, what, three over-


Rick:  Speed is speed right. So, I went after the speeder, and at the north end of the town, the hamlet, if you will, it goes from two lanes to one lane. And then unless you’re hitting the towns, it’s all one lane. It’s a narrow road. So, right at the end of town, as I’m trying to catch up to this felonious speeder, it should change from two lanes to one lane. Well, I had four cars in between me and I’m watching my speeder speed on into the night, and there’s too many cars and the weather is too bad to get around him. And I realize I’m doing 35 miles an hour and 55. So, there’s a cork at the front of this traffic line.

Yeardley:  Oh, I see somebody who’s going too slow even for the speed limit.

Rick:  Yes, his 55 is doing between 35 and 40.

Zibby:  Those people should get tickets.

Dave:  I can picture you in your police car as you see this guy and his taillights fading away into the night, and you’re saying what to yourself as you’re stuck behind these four other cars.

Rick:  Who was experiencing a little frustration.


Yeardley:  That seems like an understatement.

Rick:  Yeah. Too dangerous to just whip it in the continuous turn lane and flip on the lights and chase after this guy at those speeds. And as I watch those taillights fade into the night, I’m prepared for some enforcement at this point. [Yeardley laughs] And I need to focus that somewhere.

Dave:  On the cork.

Rick:  On the cork. So, I turn on my overheads and get past the other three cars and I pull over the cork.

Zibby:  So, those people do get tickets for going too slow.

Rick:  Absolutely. It’s very dangerous.

Dave:  It’s funny when we’re in traffic and honestly trying to get to another place or our target is way out in front of us, and a car sees the police car behind them and they slow down to even below the speed limit, and they’re probably freaking out going, “Oh, he’s on me. He’s going to pull me over.” And really all we’re thinking is, “Please get out of the way. I don’t care. I’m looking at the guy way in front of you. Please get out of the way.”

Rick:  Yeah, absolutely. So, I get up there and I contact him, and he’s got this real, Backwoods Southern Drawl to him. And he has no identification, no driver’s license. Says he’s never had a driver’s license, no paperwork on the vehicle. He’s got a title, but no official documentation as to who this guy is. And he’s got a little girl with him, two-year-old little girl sitting in the passenger seat and the car’s loaded up with camping equipment. And obviously this guy’s on the move. He can’t give me the names or address of any relatives, any previous address that he’s ever had, like, zero.

Yeardley:  Did he at least give you his name?

Rick:  Yes. His name was James.

Yeardley:  And what’s the little girl’s name?

Rick:  Autumn. So, the only documentation that he does have is some documents or paperwork from child protective services out of another state. And basically, this documentation lists him as a bio parent. And he tells me on the stop that this paperwork was issued to him because he had volunteered to stay and get tested because they were worried that the girl may not be his and that he didn’t want to keep getting accused of or contacted regarding, “Did you abduct this child?”

Yeardley:  So, get tested for paternity?

Rick:  Yes.

Zibby:  And did he, without being prompted, hand you this documentation or were you inquiring about who she was to him and what they were doing?

Rick:  Yeah, I was inquiring. He offered it up pretty quick. But I’m asking him questions like, “Where’s mom? What’s mom’s name? How come there’s no documentation?” Everything he’s presenting to me, which is, “Yeah, my name is James and this is Autumn. There you go. That’s it.”

Dan:  And how old is he?

Rick:  He’s in his 40s.

Dan:  So, for law enforcement, when we’re out there and we run into somebody that’s even 20-21 years old, and they don’t have these basic things, especially when you run into an adult who should have a work history and they don’t know their Social Security number, things like that, those are big red flags to us saying, all right, I’m about to play the name game.

Yeardley:  You mean you assumed they were giving you a fake name?

Dan:  Absolutely. They’re not giving you information. They’re purposely trying to lead you off the track of what their true identity is.

Zibby:  Did he seem nervous?

Rick:  No, he was actually fairly comfortable. The interesting thing was he had commented, “Well, they gave me this so that I wouldn’t be accused of abducting my daughter.”

Zibby:  The child protective documents.

Rick:  Correct. And I said, that’s weird because that’s exactly what I think you’ve done.


Zibby Rick:  Did you say that?

Rick:  I did.

Zibby:  And what was his response?

Rick:  He had this story where I’m from the Backwoods of Mississippi. Every question I asked him, he had a very quick, fluid response. I asked him, “What’s your Social Security Number?” Don’t know. “How could you not know your Social Security number?” Well, I was born in the Backwoods of Mississippi, and so I don’t think one was ever issued to me. “Well, how old are you?” Well, I think I’m 40, but I could be 35. I’m not really sure about my date of birth because I never saw my actual birth certificate. “Well, what are your parents’ names?” I don’t really remember because I was abused and I blocked it out.

Zibby:  So, what can you do in that case?

Rick:  Well, my Spidey senses were telling me what I was looking at was not actually what I was looking at. And ultimately, I placed him under arrest for failure to carry and present a driver’s license. In this state, you have to present a driver’s license or I can arrest you until I can prove who you are.

Zibby:  And when that happens, do you call for backup? You arrest him, what happens to the girl?

Rick:  Well, in this case, yeah, I had another officer, officer Mike come out and assist me, and they helped me work through this case as it progressed, we placed him in custody for failure to carry his driver’s license. And then I brought in child protective services, to take protective custody of her while we figured this out.

Zibby:  What was Autumn like? She’s two, so that’s really young.

Rick:  She really was unaware that anything was different. She was just too young.

Yeardley:  How long can you hold him as you try to figure out what the real story is? Because your hackles are up.

Rick:  Well, until we identify him, I just really felt something was wrong with this, despite his paperwork.

Zibby:  So, where do you begin with someone who doesn’t have any identifying paperwork other than this document proving he’s the biological parent of Autumn?

Rick:  Well, we take their fingerprints, and usually somebody who has gone to this length to hide who they are. If they’re from the US, chances are high that they’ve had run-ins with law enforcement. Chances are high that they’ve had their fingerprints taken. And so, we start with that, take the fingerprints and send them off to the FBI and usually get pretty quick hits. Sometimes, we find identifying marks on them, like tattoos, and they’ve been identified from previous arrests, so, you know, it starts falling apart for them fairly quickly usually.

Zibby:  And in this case.

Rick:  Well, in this case, he was pretty resolute that he was James from Mississippi with no knowledge of any of his past.

Yeardley:  Did he tell you who Autumn’s biological mother was?

Rick:  He said that Autumn’s mother’s name was Leslie, and she’d taken off from out of Mississippi with some bikers and was gone. And he didn’t know her last name. He’d been with her for three to four years, has a child with her, but just didn’t really want to know her last name.

Yeardley:  What?

Nick:  It’s just so far out there. But I had asked him for consent to search his car, and he did give me consent, but he said he wanted the car brought to the department. So, I facilitated that. I towed it to the department and then start searching it, and this is where it starts falling apart for him. I found a couple computers, and I found one with a different name than what James was telling me. And I didn’t know at that point if it was a phone number or some type of a code, a password, or whatever, but I found this different name and I found a code. So, when I’m doing this officer Mike was passing through and I’m like, “Have you ever seen numbers like this or this is pre-googler. [Yeardley laughs]

Zibby:  This was in the early 90s, right?

Rick:  Yes.

Yeardley:  Okay. Oh, wow. So, pre-google.

Rick:  You could get on and do some searches for the information I’m looking at, but really minimal information coming back to me. So, Mike, he was old salty cop, ex-marine, and he was my first FTO. And he’s like, “Well, that looks like it’s from Europe. While he was in marines, he was stationed over there. So, he starts checking with the telephone company and figures out that the numbers I’m looking at are a UK number. So, I call the UK and I get who I ultimately identify as Leslie, the mother. I get her on the phone and I start asking, I’m from the United States. Do you know James or an Autumn? And Leslie has a meltdown on the phone.

Zibby:  Oh, God. How so?

Yeardley:  What was she saying?

Rick:  Why are you doing this? Is this a prank call? I’ve been looking for James. He stole my daughter three weeks ago.

Zibby:  What?

Yeardley:  Oh my God.

Rick:  And ultimately her boyfriend gets on the phone. She’s so upset, I literally cannot communicate with her. She’s just beside herself. So, her boyfriend gets on the phone, and I said, “Hey, I’m the real deal. I’m a police officer in America, and I’ve got this little girl whose name is Autumn as far as I can tell, and James in custody. What’s going on?” He tells me, “James is the father of Autumn, but he had stolen her from their UK home three weeks ago, and they haven’t heard anything since from him.”

Yeardley:  What the–

Zibby:  Oh, my God.

Rick:  They’re so desperate and so just wore down that they want to believe I’m real, but they just really couldn’t. They kept going back to, “Well, if you’re the real deal, why are you calling and not the bobbies? How come our local police department’s not contacting us? If this isn’t a prank, how come they’re not contacting us?”

Dave:  So they had reported the child missing through their local law enforcement.

Rick:  Right. So, I said, well, give me the number to your local agency, and I’ll try to call. I don’t know if we had gotten the number wrong from them or what, but we could never get through. We tried and tried, couldn’t get through. And so, I called them back and I said, “Hey, I can’t get through, but I have your daughter. I have your daughter in America.”

Zibby:  Oh, my God.

Rick:  They must really think this is a total crank, because who can’t get through to the local police department?

Rick:  Well, me.


Zibby:  I mean, he’s right here.


Rick:  Yeah, I can hear you. You know that.


Rick:  Yeah. Whatever I was doing, it was wrong.

Yeardley:  By the way, what was Leslie’s boyfriend’s name?

Rick:  Simon.

Zibby:  Okay, so you say to Leslie and Simon, listen, I can’t get through to your police department, but I definitely have your daughter.

Rick:  Yes.

Zibby:  What can you do then?

Rick:  I told them, here’s all of my information. Have your local police get hold of me immediately. So, they took all of my information and then I got off the phone and waited. And in a pretty short period of time, we got a phone call from Interpol.

Zibby:  Like a couple of hours or a couple of days. What are you talking?

Rick:  I’m talking probably less than an hour.

Zibby:  Great.

Yeardley:  Oh, wow.

Rick:  Yeah, it was quick.

Yeardley:  Sidenote, do you tell James what’s going on at this point? Does he know that you’ve been in touch with Leslie?

Rick:  Not yet.

Zibby:  Okay.


Rick:  So, now it’s coming together behind the scenes, and he’s just sitting in custody while I’m doing my thing.

Yeardley:  So, what does Interpol tell you?

Rick:  So, about three weeks ago, James stole Autumn and has disappeared. We have an international warrant for him. What do you guys need to get this process going? So, I said, “Well, send me the reports, and I could really use some pictures, because this guy has been steadfast on his story,” and he doesn’t miss a beat like, you ask him, and he’ll tell you. And you can come back two hours later and ask him, and he will give the same story and not miss anything. He’s just told it and told it.

Yeardley:  Which I’ve learned is also a red flag. If the story is the same verbatim, almost word for word, then that’s probably rehearsed as opposed to people who are actually speaking off the cuff. Not that details change if they’re telling the truth, but they might express it slightly differently because people don’t usually say the exact same thing over and over.

Rick:  Yeah, this was so rehearsed that it was just automatic for him.

Dan:  And he’s drawing off the experience that he’s had with these other police contacts of what is successful and what gets him away from the police quicker is when I say these things, they start probing a little more when I say these other things, so he avoids those things.

Zibby:  Did they send you a photo?

Rick;  They did.

Zibby:  By fax?

Rick:  They did, yeah.


Dave:  Okay, so that’s just a dark photo.


Rick:  Yeah. It was not of high quality by the time it made it from the UK over to my little hamlet, but it was clear enough that I could see it was James and Autumn.

Zibby:  Wow. So, I’m assuming there’s a warrant for his arrest in the UK.

Rick:  Yes, they’re looking for him. There’s a warrant for him, international warrant.

Yeardley:  How do you get on a plane without any identification?

Rick:  He did have identification, but when he made it to America, he burned all of their paperwork.

Yeardley:  Oh, my God.

Rick:  Yeah. Passport, everything. What we find out later is he came to the US and started traveling by bus, making his way to the west. And then somewhere in the mid US, he buys a Yugo, a 1990 Yugo, which ultimately was his demise, because he tells me, well, I couldn’t go faster because it was raining and the Yugo’s wiper blades were so cruddy that I couldn’t see.

Zibby:  Aha. The Yugo made him the cork. And the cork became your new person of interest when you couldn’t catch the speeder. And that new person of interest turned out to have an international warrant out for kidnapping his own child.

Rick:  Exactly.

Yeardley:  I mean, wow. That is, wow.

[Break 1]

Yeardley:  Okay, what happens next?

Rick:  Well, at this point, I’ve got everything that I need. So, I go back and I interview him one last time and I ask him, I’m really missing some parts here, so can we go over this one more time? And yet again he nails it. It’s just like point after point after point, the same thing over and over. And when he finishes, I’ve got this Interpol report which has his photos. And when it’s done, I go, boy, that’s really weird because– And I hold it up to him and I go, because you sure look like this guy, and this sure looks like your daughter. And we sit and we look at each other for a little bit, and the head drops. Mississippi Backwoods accent gone, British accent, hello. And he says, “What do I need to do to get my daughter back to the UK?”

Zibby:  Just like that.

Rick:  Just like that. So, I said, “let’s just start with the truth.” That would be fun. And so, he tells me about his adventures and how he ended up in my custody. And it’s pretty interesting as he moved his way across the United States and his encounters, his end game was to disappear without him. This was the great times of Rajneeshee in Oregon, and he had watched a special on the communes in Oregon, and he decided that he was going to make his way and disappear. He made it pretty close really.

Zibby:  This is the same Rajneeshee commune that that documentary Wild Wild Country is about, right?

Rick:  Right.

Yeardley:  Holy shit.

Zibby:  Holy shit.

Yeardley:  What would inspire this guy to have this plan where he escapes from the UK with his two-year-old daughter in tow, drives across the country, and disappears into this supposed utopian community?

Rick:  Well, he and his wife were separated, not divorced, but separated. And he was getting denied equal access in his opinion.

Yeardley:  To his child.

Rick:  Yes, to Autumn. This was frustrating him quite a bit. He had been trying to take her on trips to spend more time, and his hope really was that they could mend the relationship. So, he had gone over for a pre-planned visit to pick up Autumn. And when he went there, there was another male in the house.

Yeardley:  Simon.

Rick:  Simon, enter Simon. This really upset James. So, he sold everything he had and saved up what he said was $4,000 or $5000, got plane tickets, and flew to America.

Yeardley:  Wow. What did he do for a living?

Rick:  He was a part owner in a bar.

Zibby:  How did he manage to get Autumn and take her away? Was it a sanctioned visit?

Rick:  Yes.

Zibby:  Okay, so on a sanctioned visit from Leslie, she says, yes, spend time with your daughter. Then he takes that time to bring her to the airport, get on a plane, and bring her to the States.

Rick:  Exactly. Like, once he found out Simon was in the picture, it’s unclear to me whether this immediately went into action or if he then planned it, sold everything, and was waiting for the next sanctioned visit.

Zibby:  I see.

Rick:  That would make more sense to me because it worked out pretty well for him.

Yeardley:  That is bizarre.

Rick:  So, he came to America. Once he got to America, he burned all of his paperwork and wiped out anything that would identify him or Autumn. He started by bus travel. They’d travel four ways and then take a few days and then travel further. He really wanted to take her to the beach. And so, he did that think around in the Gulf area somewhere. And in that area, he bought the Yugo, the 1990 Yugo-

Yeardley:  With the crappy windshield wipers.

Rick:  -with crappy windshield wipers. So, somewhere mid America, the Yugo breaks down and he ends up getting towed to a garage that night in a larger city. And then they sleep in the car, waiting for the garage to open. Well, he wakes up and there’s two patrol cars, and the police contact him.

 It’s funny because speaking to him while he’s telling me this story, he mentions because everybody in this country thinks that you’re abducting a child, because you are, Sir.


Zibby:  Jesus.

Rick:  So, this department contacts him and of course they run into the same thing. I do, this story that has a lot of holes. You can’t disprove anything, but you can’t prove anything. And so, they bring in child protective services and they actually ask him if they would be willing to stay and do a blood test to test for paternity.

Zibby:  So that was the one.

Rick:  Mm-hmm.That was the one. That was his first police contact. And of course, he already knows the answer. So, he’s like, “Hook me up with a hotel.” And so, they set him up in a hotel for four days. They do a rush on this test and of course it comes back and he’s the father. Interestingly enough, he stayed an extra day voluntarily because there was a couple from another state that their daughter was missing. And the police said, “Would you be willing to at least let them come look.”

Yeardley:  At Autumn?

Rick:  At Autumn? And he knows the answer. So, he’s like, “Yeah.” So, he gets another night of hotels and food, and this couple flies in and looks at her, and obviously it’s not their daughter.

Zibby:  Was the irony just lost on him when he’s telling you this?

Rick:  He so flippantly commented, there was a lot of tears and such, but I already knew the answer, it’s my daughter.

Yeardley:  How disturbing.

Zibby:  One would assume that child protective services is now also taking a good look at Autumn to make sure she’s not being abused in any way. They’re interviewing her to the best of their abilities since she’s two years old. And so, did they determine whether or not her father was abusive or inappropriate with her in any way?

Rick:  Yeah, she was in good health. I mean, he really loved her and she wasn’t being mistreated in any way. Seemed like this was more of a spiteful punishment to mom. He was going to take Autumn and disappear because Leslie’s hooked up with Simon now, so he’s going to punish her.

Dave:  And he gets a little bit of a trade off with this interaction with child protective services in that state because they’re providing him some documentation in the names that he provided. And now he’s got something that he knows is false, but it adds weight to his story. And he says, “Hey, look, this state agency just provided me with this.”

Dan:  They created an identity for him.

Yeardley:  Oh.

Rick:  absolutely.

Zibby:  The audacity is pretty staggering to me. One, he’s not even from the states, so he’s entering another country with no real sense of the culture or law enforcement and law practices, and he’s really getting away with a lot. And to use your description, his flippancy is really disturbing to me. So, he may not have been hurting her, but there’s something slightly psychotic about the audacity.

Yeardley:  Yeah, he’s just kidnapping her, but he’s not physically harming her.

Rick:  Yeah.

Zibby:  Were they camping? You mentioned camping equipment in his car.

Rick:  Yeah, they had camping equipment. Not a lot of money for them to be traveling. And so, most of what they were doing is camping. I’m probably going to guess that they were either generally sleeping in their car, which is maybe one reason why he was so happy to get a hotel room in this other state.

Dave:  Does he give you information on where he picks up this drawl, this accent?

Rick:  He had traveled through Mississippi. He said, as he was traveling west, when he was in the Mississippi area that he came to the final conclusion of, I’m not going back. And I’m guessing he just decided to assimilate right then. He nailed it. Like, not a hint of a British accent.

Yeardley:  About how long was this Odyssey from once he landed in the States to what he intended his final destination to be?

Rick:  Well, when I ran into him, it was three weeks. So, this is probably after roughly a week. I’m guessing that he just decided for sure I’m not going back.

Yeardley:  But do you think he had this plan to go to the commune when he was still in the UK or did he get this idea once he got here?

Rick:  Yeah, he may have made his final decision over here, but I think that was always the plan.

Zibby:  How do you go about getting Autumn back to her mom?

Rick:  Well, Autumn is in protective custody at this point.

Yeardley:  Is she placed in foster care or?

Rick:  Yeah, foster care, but not for long because mom was on a plane real quick.

Zibby:  I was going to say that child shouldn’t be in foster care. The mom got on a plane instantly, right.

Rick:  It was literally within a couple days. She just had to secure the tickets and make the plans and then she was flying in.

Yeardley:  And how does James get dealt with?

Rick:  He still got the charge of failure to carry. But the interesting thing with that charge is once you identify them, you have to release them with a citation. That’s what I was holding him originally. So, once I discover he had given me a false name, well, I have to charge him with false information. What else could I do?

Zibby:  Great.


Zibby:  Tricky.

Yeardley:  How convenient.

Rick:  Because I’ve already written him citations for the impeding traffic and failure to carry. So, he’s already provided that info, which is part of the statute anyway. So, then I charge him with false information.

Yeardley:  Can you charge him with kidnapping because the mother of the child has reported her missing?

Rick:  Well, that’s where it gets sticky with Interpol versus us. And essentially, Interpol really did a good job of immediately working on extraditing him from the States. And he had said, “I’m not going to fight extradition. I’m not going to fight her extradition. I want all of us to be back in the UK.” He wanted it over at this point.

Yeardley:  So, you don’t try him in this country?

Rick:  Well, he was convicted of providing false information to me and sentenced to six months in our jail. Six months is a pretty lengthy time for lying to a police officer about your name for a citation purpose. But basically, that ensured that there was more than enough time, and it took nowhere near that amount of time for him to be extradited.

Zibby:  I noticed that you use the term stole, like he stole her versus kidnap. Is there a reason for that?

Rick:  Yes, I choose that term because I think of kidnapping as the whole stranger danger thing. And for this, at least for me, I don’t know whether it’s correct or not, but in my mind, he stole her from the rest of the family, he stole her from mom and where she’s supposed to be. So that’s why I refer to it that way. I didn’t even actually realize I was doing it, but that’s how I’ve always felt.

Yeardley:  Did you get to meet Leslie when she flew into your town to collect Autumn?

Rick:  I did not.

Zibby:  No.

Yeardley:  Really?

Zibby:  Would you have liked to?

Rick:  I would have loved to. Unfortunately, my lieutenant at that time did not want to pay the overtime it would cost to us. So, I worked patrol shift that day.

Yeardley:  Oh no, Sergeant Rick, [Rick laughs] wow.

Rick:  Yeah.

Zibby:  Have you ever spoken with Leslie since this whole thing?

Rick:  I haven’t. I would personally love to hear from Autumn and Leslie and see how they’re doing and how this worked out for them. But that’s never happened.

Zibby:  How bizarre that must feel. You came across this guy really on kind of a fluke, only to uncover a really extreme case of child abduction while it’s happening and then not to be able to see it to its very end.

Yeardley:  We always ask our guests, what’s the ROI for you? What’s the return on investment? What’s the resolve? And almost every single time you guys say that it’s once the bad guy gets sentenced, that’s closure for you. But you didn’t even get that in this case.

Rick:  Well, the payoff for me was that Autumn was returned to her mom. That’s the ultimate payoff for me. Whether I ever hear what happened to them, the reality is, James was taking her from not only mom, but grandparents and family and from a life that she should have had, and he’s stealing that from her and from the family. Yeah, my payoff was that she got back to where she was supposed to be and she’s safe and she’s living the life that she should have lived. And whether I ever find out what the ultimate outcome was, I know that I made that happen because I went further and found it out. So that’s my payoff.

Dan: I think it really speaks to the attention to detail and you not getting frustrated in these other police contacts that he had. I think officers got frustrated because they weren’t getting anywhere, and they just said, ah, screw it. And they walked away. And I can’t say I understand that because part of the fun for me in playing the name game was winning the name game. And then the other side of this is the Rajneesh, that commune. I watched that documentary, Wild Wild Country, and I can tell you that is a horrible place to take a child. That environment, all the disturbing things that were going on within that community that could have been very damaging for that little girl on a lot of levels.

Zibby:  Yeah. Would have completely and utterly changed the course of her life and sense of self and all the rest.

Rick:  Absolutely.

Zibby:  You said at the beginning of this episode that this all happened fairly early on in your career. How do you think this case changed you and your sense of yourself inside of this work?

Rick:  Well, it was a great lesson of, you have no idea what’s coming that day or what you’re going to get. And it’s all really about how hard you look and how much you invest in it. It’s that attention to detail that you pick up and go, wow, it’s not just a traffic stop because you’re driving too slow and corking up the road. You just always have to be ready for what you were not anticipating. And I think that’s one of the things that I love the most about this job, is I walk in and I have no idea what today is going to bring me. And it’s really what you bring out of every encounter. This was, thankfully, an early lesson for me. It’s never going to be exactly what you think it is when you’re walking up on these cars.

 And this turned out to be so much more than an irritating poor driver, really. It altered so many paths from this one traffic stop. So, it’s not just a traffic stop, and they’re never just petty. You don’t know what you’re going to get.

Dave:  And I imagine the payoff as far as affirming your instincts and learning to trust your instincts when you recognize there’s something screwy going on here, I’m going to dig, dig, and dig until I figure it out.

Rick:  Absolutely. I mean, especially as a new police officer, there’s these uncertainties. Am I on the right path? Am I not on the right path? Is it okay to do this? Is it not okay to do this? And that’s where you see the old salts, and that’s why they seem fluid. They’ve seen this, they’ve done that. They know what they can and can’t do. They’re calmer. There’s a lot to figure out as a new officer. Figuring this out, it was a great experience and lesson for me.

Dan:  And I think that’s another reason why the media and newspapers and laypeople out there who have never been on a traffic stop, call them routine traffic stops. And all of us cops in general, would say there’s never a routine traffic stop.

Rick:  Exactly.

Yeardley:  Thank you so much for bringing this story to us.

Zibby:  Thank you.

Rick:  You’re welcome. Thank you.

Yeardley:  Small Town Dicks is produced by Zibby Allen and Yeardley Smith and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave.

Zibby:  This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Yeardley Smith, and Zibby Allen.

Yeardley:  Music for the show was composed by John Forest. Our associate producer is Erin Gaynor and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.

Zibby:  If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, head on over to and become our pal on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @smalltowndicks. We love hearing from our Small Town Fam, so hit us up.

Yeardley:  Yeah. And also, we have a YouTube channel where you can see trailers for past and forthcoming episodes and we’re part of Stitcher Premium now.

Zibby:  That’s right. If you choose to subscribe, you’ll be supporting our podcast. That way we can keep going to small towns across the country and bringing you the finest in rare, true crime cases, told, as always, by the detectives who investigated them. Thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.

Yeardley:  Nobody’s better than you.

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