Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Support Us
Our SuperFam members receive exclusive bonus content for $5/mo Support Us


Police arrive on the scene of what they are told is a suicide. But as they begin their investigation a different story starts to emerge.

WARNING: This case involves the death of a minor

Special Guest: Captain Terri

Captain Terri has been in law enforcement for 23 years. Over the course of her career, she has been a dispatcher, a corrections officer, a patrol deputy, and a detective sergeant before being promoted Captain in 2014. One of her focuses as a law enforcement agent has been helping victims maneuver through the criminal justice system.  She has a master’s degree in criminal justice.

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 2 is out now. Subscribe now, and thanks.

Terri: There was no notes, nothing like that. A rifle had been used, and it was positioned in his lap. But in a strange way, the barrel of the gun was down. It was confusing for us because the dad is telling us, this is a suicide, but it’s not looking that way to us.

[Small Town Dicks theme]

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.

Speaker 2: We’re identical twins.

Speaker 3: 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.


Yeardley: Today on Small Town Dicks, we have most of the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.

Dan: Happy to be here.

Yeardley: Detective Dave, however, is off fighting crime in Small Town, USA. And this week, we are so thrilled to welcome to the podcast Captain Terri.

Terri: Hello.

Yeardley: Hi. Thank you for joining us.

Terri: Thank you for inviting me.

Yeardley: So Terri, you’ve brought us a case from very early on in your career in your small town. Tell us how this case came to you.

Terri: It was about two years after I started on the road. It was a Monday night. It was the first day of spring break in our town. So all the students were off of school. And a father had contacted 911 and said that he had returned from work and found that his, son Adam, had killed himself. So we were dispatched out there. This was back when I was still a deputy, so this was one of my first suicides. My sergeant and I got there first, and we met the dad in the driveway, and he said that he had come home from work and found his son deceased in the home. So my sergeant and I went in, and we did find Adam in the living room area with a gunshot wound to the head.

Yeardley: How old was Adam?

Terri: 14.

Yeardley: Oh, God.

Terri: Yes. So at that point, just looking around at the scene, we contacted a detective to come out to the scene. The father stayed outside. I was looking around and I had noticed that there were actually two cereal bowls in the sink. I was thinking, that’s strange because the dad had said he had been gone all day long. So I had gone back outside and I asked him, I said, “Was anybody else here when you left for work this morning?” And he said, “Oh, yeah, Adam had his friend, Billy, over for the weekend. He was here this morning when I was at the house. I don’t know where he is now.” So we began to start to look around and see if we had any other information. There was no note, nothing like that.

Adam had been sitting in the living room. It was a rifle that had been used, a 280, and it was positioned in his lap. But in a strange way, the barrel of the gun was down. We believe that if he had actually shot himself that the barrel would actually be in a different position. So that started making us question things too.

Yeardley: Do you mean the barrel was down facing the floor?

Terri: Yes. So it was somewhat confusing for us, because the dad is telling us this is a suicide, but it’s not looking that way to us. And so the detectives came out, we started looking around. We noticed that there was a message on the answering machine. This was back in the days when we had answering machines. We listened to the answering machine and it turned out to be the boy that had been spending the night, and he left a message for Adam saying that he had forgotten his knife there and that he should contact him later in the day whenever he got this message.

Detective 1: When do you think you first found out that you left some things over at his house?

Billy: I think around 11:00 or 12:00, somewhere around noon. Then I called him and left a message on his machine.

Detective 1: How did you remember leaving those things over there?

Billy: I was unpacking my bag.

Terri: So now, we started to put this together a little bit. There’s somebody else there. Maybe this isn’t exactly what it looked like, because a lot of times, when you come into a scene and somebody tells you it’s a suicide, you assume it’s a suicide. But it wasn’t looking that way. It didn’t make a lot of sense to us. It was the first day of spring break. That was really what I was thinking about is like, “Why would you kill yourself on the first day of spring break?” I could see you getting to the end of spring break and being depressed about having to go back to school, but just didn’t make any sense to me.

Zibby: And how was the father? Was he distraught and fully convinced his son had killed himself, or did you get the sense that he was just leapt to that conclusion? Did he give you any intel about his son, Adam, about why suicide would have made sense for him?

Terri: So Adam was visiting his dad. He lived with his mom. So he was back and forth between his mom and his dad. There was a divorce. Dad said, he didn’t notice anything, especially since Adam’s friend had been over. This had been a friend that he’d had for years. And so he assumed, yes, that it was a suicide. He never questioned anything until we started asking him some questions. But even the medical examiner at the time was like, “Okay, this is a suicide, and we’re not going to do an autopsy.” And we’re like,–

Yeardley: Really?

Terri: Right. [laughs] So the next day, the detectives and I had all talked and they said, “Why don’t we just have him do an autopsy just to make sure?”

Yeardley: You said this to the dad.

Terri: To the detectives. And then we called the medical examiner and said, “We really want to do an autopsy.” The dad was really distraught. If we didn’t say anything, he would have let it probably be a suicide.

Dan: And I’m guessing, when you’re at that scene and you’re taking in the totality of what you’re looking at, and the hair stands up on the back of your neck and you say, “Something’s off here.”

Terri: That’s exactly what it was. I just kept looking around, and I was pushing the detectives, I’m like, “This doesn’t make any sense.” So they did actually do an autopsy. Once they did the autopsy, the forensic pathologist said, “There’s no way that this is a contact wound.” It would have had to have been with a type of rifle, because there’s no way you could shoot a rifle from anywhere but almost contact the way that he was sitting.

Dan: So he’s looking at stippling, which is the tattooing of the skin from the blast out of the barrel?

Terri: Yes. Correct.

Dan: Can I ask, where exactly is the wound at?

Terri: The wound is right between his eyes, right at the top of his nose.

Dan: Any trajectory?

Terri: It looked like it went straight down, like, straight through. So it wasn’t straight back, like we would think if somebody actually shot themselves.

Dan: In my experience, and I’ve seen quite a few rifle suicides or shotgun suicides, any long gun, a common way for people to carry this out is they will sit on the edge of the bed or the couch, and they will put the butt of the gun on the ground with either their right hand or their left hand, like their thumb on the trigger, so the rifle is pointing straight up, and then they bend their head over the barrel of the rifle. And usually, it’s the mouth or the forehead is where we see that wound.

Terri: And like I said, in this case, where we should have seen it standing straight up and down, the actual barrel is down towards the ground, which wouldn’t make any sense. We’ve seen people use objects to try to maneuver the trigger, but there wasn’t anything like this.

Yeardley: And what was Adam’s physical position on the couch?

Terri: He was sitting back. I mean, it really looked like he was in more of a relaxed position than sitting forward, because sometimes when you do see that, you see them fall forward or to the side. But this really looked like he was sitting back, maybe relaxed a little bit.

Dan: So in the autopsy, it’s apparent there’s no way this wound was self-inflicted.

Terri: Correct. So the detectives had gone and spoken with Billy as soon as they found out about this knife call. And he said, “Oh, yeah, I was there and I left and I’d rode home and everything was fine. He never said anything to me. He did say that they had looked at the guns, which were in a gun cabinet in the living room,” which was right in the same area. We’re talking like the sofa is like 5ft from where this was. But he acted totally calm, said “There was nothing wrong.”

And so when they came back with this idea that it wasn’t a suicide, it was hard to believe that another 14-year-old would actually be involved in something like this. We really went around and around about it. And so probably about 10 days later, they called Billy in again. And by this time, I myself was convinced it had to have been him. Just the fact that he was so calm and he never cried, he never really was upset about it, it was just bizarre.

Dan: And this is supposed to be his best friend.

Terri: Yes, exactly, that he just spent two nights with, you know?

Yeardley: Do you have to question him in front of his parents?

Terri: The parents brought him in voluntarily.

Zibby: Did they seem suspicious of their own son?

Terri: No. The father works in the natural resources, so he has some arrest powers and such. So I was surprised that they allowed him to come in and speak to us like that too without an attorney.

Zibby: Well, they must have been convinced then he didn’t have anything to do with it and that he was just going to be a helpful resource.

Terri: Right. And I think that was probably most of their conversation with him. Just, “You need to tell them what you know because they’re trying to figure it out.” So Billy came in and the two detectives that were working the case at the time went through the whole story with him again, “When did you come over?” “I came over at 6 o’clock on Saturday night. I rode my bike there because this is a pretty rural area.” So he rode his bike from his home, which was probably maybe a mile away to their home, and he said he stayed there for two days, and he said that on Sunday that they had begun to look through Adam’s father’s gun cabinet and start looking at all the guns that were there.

Detective 1: You have no idea how he really died?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 2: Did mom and dad talk to you about it at all as far as what may have happened there?

Billy: Mm-mm.

Detective 2: Did anybody talk to you about a firearm being used, like a gun?

Billy: I can’t guess on that one because you guys were asking me about them.

Detective 2: Okay. And then when we did talk to you and talk to you about the guns, we asked you if he had brought any of the guns out or if you looked at them or studied them. I don’t think we talked a lot about them, and we do need a little bit more information on that. Do you have any problems talking about the guns at all?

Billy: Mm-mm.

Detective 2: Okay. Where were the guns kept in the house?

Billy: In the gun cabinet by the upstairs door outside.

Detective 2: And [beep] could get into it, right?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 2: I mean, it wasn’t locked or anything? How many guns do you think there were there?

Billy: Seven or eight, I think. I can’t remember.

Detective 2: Are they rifles or pistols?

Billy: I didn’t see any pistols. I saw a couple of rifles and some shotguns.

Detective 2: Okay. I think what you told us also, if I remember right is that you went to Hunter Safety at one time.

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 2: So you hunt?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 2: Like, deer season? You hunt birds too?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 2: Okay.

Terri: So Billy talked about the fact that he hunted and that he knew how to use a gun because a lot of people in the area that I live in, their children hunt. They go to Hunter Safety between 10 and 12 years old. So he had some experience with guns. He talked about how they touched each gun, they looked at each gun, they maneuvered each gun, they checked to make sure that each gun was empty. So none of them were loaded on Sunday. Sunday night, Adam’s cousins came over and they played outside. And then the first conversation he had, “Billy said nothing happened, he went home.”

Detective 2: I had asked you if there was anything about [beep] that morning that was different than how he had been acting.

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 2: Was there anything–?

Billy: He was a lot quieter than usual.

Detective 1: Any idea why?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: He say anything to you? I mean, did you guys talk Monday morning?

Billy: Not really. No, I just told him a little bit after I got up, “I was going to leave really soon,” and he said, “Okay.” And then when I left, he said, “Bye.”

Detective 2: Was he upset about you leaving that early?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: When you guys were messing with the guns, looking at them, examining them, was there any talk about him hurting himself or anything like that?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: Did he always handle the gun properly?

Billy: Yeah, I think so. He did.

Detective 1: There wasn’t never a time where he pointed it at you or you pointed it at him?

Billy: No.

Detective 1: Nothing like that.

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: You can’t think of anything else that can assist us in our investigation? When you got home on Monday, your sister was sleeping. When she woke up, what was the discussion between you and she?

Billy: She just asked why I was home so early, and I told her that I wasn’t feeling very well and she was like, “Oh, okay.” Sat down, watched TV.

Detective 1: So you and she were both sitting there watching TV?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 2: Okay. You know of anybody that didn’t [beep] like very much?

Billy: There are a couple of people at school who thought he was annoying, but that’s it.

Detective 2: Nobody that you know that lives right in the area where he lives?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: Was he concerned about anything? Did he talk to you, and was he doing okay in school?

Billy: [unintelligible He didn’t tell me nothing about how he was doing school or nothing.

Detective 1: Did he say he liked living where he was or living up here, or did he enjoy his visit with his dad? No talk about that one way or the other?

Detective 2: Yeah. Unless you can think of anything else– I can’t think of anything else right off the bat.

Detective 1: If we have any other questions that maybe you can help shed lights too, can we talk to you again anytime, or is that all right?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 1: We weren’t too hard on you.

Detective 2: [laughs]

Detective 1: It’s important for the family to know what’s going on too, you know? We just try to get all the answers that we can. That’s what we do is piece things together, go from there. Had there been any arguments between you and he over the weekend?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: You guys got along pretty good with each other?

Detective 2: Do you still consider yourself real good friends?

Billy: Yeah. Except for part about him jumping back and forth with his mom and dad, I didn’t see him a whole lot. Yeah, we were pretty good friends.

Detective 2: Yeah.

Terri: Then the detective started talking to Billy about the fact that he understands how accidents happen, and he started suggesting maybe this happened as a mistake. I think really in our minds at that point, we did think it was an accident gone wrong. Some kids playing with some guns and something happened. That happens often in law enforcement. So they started saying some things like, “It could be possible that you were just looking at these guns and you didn’t realize it, and one of them went off. Is that possible?” He’s sitting there listening and shaking his head, “Yes.” And so then the detective says, “Well, is that what happened in this case?” And he said, “Yes.” Billy says, “Yes, that’s what’s happened.”

Detective 1: And I can go to back for whomever would have accidentally done that, so that I can explain. But unless I get that information now, if that’s what happened, if you took the gun out of there before you took the 22 out, I need to know that today. You know what I’m saying? I mean, that’s real important here in this case. And then not really remember the rest of it, because maybe it’s very unpleasant to remember that is that, when you took it out and you looked at it like that, you didn’t know it was loaded. Does that make sense? And to pull the trigger and then because of what may happen or what may have happened. It’s so awful, a person doesn’t even want to think about it anymore. You know what I’m saying? Is that possible?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: Okay. Okay. And we know what happened then.

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: What happened then?

Billy: I took off the gun, and I pulled the trigger, and it went off.

Detective 1: Okay.

Yeardley: Oh, my God. Were his parents in the room when he said that?

Terri: No, they were actually in another room. But the detective was so shocked because again, we were still trying to get to the idea that this really is what happened. This 14-year-old killed another 14-year-old. Even if it was an accident, it’s still shocking, especially since it’s been 10 days and he hasn’t said anything to anyone. If this was an accident, you think he would have told somebody.

Zibby: And when he did say, “Okay, yes, this was an accident situation,” at that point, was he yet revealing any emotional connection to the incident?

Terri: No.

Zibby:. Oh.

Terri: So bizarre. Just calm. As a matter of fact, the detective reaches for his hand and stops, because the detective is so shocked by what’s been said. He’s overloaded with an emotion of what’s happened, and he holds the child’s hand and he’s just looking at him like–

Yeardley: The child is looking at him like, “What’s wrong with you?”

Terri: “What are you doing?” Yeah, exactly. And then he says something like, “Are you okay?” And he’s like, “Yes.” So the detective says to him, “I’m going to step out. Is that okay?” And he says, “Yes.” So the detective goes out, and then he talks to his partner. They’re trying to decide what they should do. And so now, realizing that this has happened, they go back in and they read a Miranda. They go through Miranda with him at his age level, talking about everything.

Detective 2: And I explained to you also that I would read you rights that you have, and I will read them to you. And if you understand it, if you could tell me that, okay?

Billy: Okay.

Detective 2: There’s five statements that I’ll read to you. Number one, you do have the right to remain silent. Do you understand that?

Billy: Yes.

Detective 2: You know what the word silent means?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 2: That you don’t have to talk?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 2: Number two. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. Do you understand that?

Billy: Yes.

Terri: And again, this whole time, he tells the whole story. “Okay. What happened was, we were looking at the guns on Sunday. They were empty on Sunday. On Monday morning, when I woke up, I came upstairs, and he was sitting on the sofa. He took out one of his dad’s guns, and he had that gun in his hand, and he pointed it at me, but he did not pull the trigger. So I pulled out this other weapon, and I pointed it at him, and I pulled the trigger.”

Yeardley: Pulled the weapon out from where?

Terri: Out of the gun cabinet.

Yeardley: Oh, God.

Terri: Yeah, because the gun cabinet was right there. So he says, “I just took a gun out and I pointed it at him, but this time I pulled the trigger. He didn’t pull the trigger when he pointed it at me, but I did, and then it went off.” And he said, “And I was shocked. And so I took the gun out of his lap and I put it back in the gun cabinet, and then I took the gun that I had shot and I put it in his lap to make it look like he had killed himself.”

Yeardley: That’s chilling. And he’s only 14.

Terri: Right.

Detective 1: He had the other gun in his hand. And after you pose the action, what happens then? That’s when you point the gun at [beep]. Were you mad at him or were you just messing around?

Billy: Just messing around.

Detective 1: Okay.

Detective 2: Why did he point the gun at you?

Billy: I don’t know.

Detective 2: What did he say?

Billy: Nothing.

Detective 1: Did you feel that you were being threatened?

Billy: No.

Detective 1: And that’s what you had answered before?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 1: And then you picked up the gun and you pointed it at him?

Billy: Yes.

Detective 1: Were you threatening him?

Billy: No.

Detective 1: Were there any words exchanged between you and him?

Billy: No.

Detective 1: It was basically two younger people messing around with guns.

Billy: Yes.

Detective 2: Can you show me how–? Why don’t you stand up? Were you standing up when you had the gun in your hand, and say that he’s sitting over here, how did you raise the gun?

Billy: Like this.

Detective 2: Like that?

Billy: Uh-huh.

Detective 2: Did you raise it up to your head?

Billy: To my head?

Detective 1: To your eye.

Billy: Oh, no.

Detective 2: You just kept it down here?

Billy: Yeah, I had it like this.

Detective 2: Pointed at him?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 2: Do you know where it was directly pointed?

Billy: At his head.

Detective 2: And how do you know that?

Billy: Because that’s where he got hit with it.

Detective 2: Okay. And did you know that was the direction that you were pointing it?

Billy: [ Mm-hmm. Yes, I couldn’t really see because my eye wasn’t level with the barrel.

Detective 1: So you were basically just pointing it towards his direction.

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: And then you’re the one that pulled the trigger?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 1: You intentionally pulled the trigger, but you didn’t know the gun was loaded.

Billy: Yes.

Detective 2: What happened to the gun when you pulled the trigger in that position?

Billy: The one like this had fell down.

Detective 2: Okay. Fell down?

Billy: Yeah, like, it kicked back and then went down to the floor.

Detective 2: Did it break anything?

Billy: No.

Detective 2: You can sit on.

Detective 1: So what happens then?

Billy: I got scared and I put the Marlin away and put the 270 [beep] hand in, and I ran home or got on my bike and rode home.

Detective 1: Did he say anything to you?

Billy: Mm-hmm

Detective 1: Did you think at that point that he was not living?

Billy: Mm-hmm

Detective 2: How did you know that?

Billy: Because there was blood coming out of the back of his head.

Detective 2: Did you move him at all?

Billy: No.

Detective 2: Where did the bullet hit him?

Billy: I think somewhere up here.

Detective 2: Okay.

Detective 1: In the head area?

Billy: Yes.

Detective 1: So he had the Marlin after he was shot. Where was the Marlin then?

Billy: It was laying by his hand.

Detective 1: So you put that away, and then you took the 270 and you put that in his hands?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 1: For what reason?

Billy: I don’t know, I just was really scared.

Detective 1: I bet you were. You feel it all better talking about it now?

Billy: A little bit. Yeah.

Detective 1: Okay. I see you’re starting to tear up and cry a little bit. Are you okay?

Billy: Mm-hmm

Detective 2: Did you feel that putting the gun next to him or close to his hand that it would look like he shot himself?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 2: Yeah?

Yeardley: I’m just dumbfounded.

Dan: So I’m going back to his initial statement where he says, “I touched all the guns.”

Terri: Yes.

Dan: Even when he was explaining that, he was making it known that, “Yeah, you’re probably going to find forensic evidence of me touching weapons,” because he’s able to explain it away that way.

Terri: Well, and it gets better than that, because part of the story I forgot to mention is that they did take one gun outside a 22, and they tried to fire it. But for some reason, it didn’t fire.

Zibby: This, according to Billy.

Terri: Billy. Yes. Remember, he said all of the guns were unloaded. So we’re like, “How is the gun loaded then?” And we’re like, “What kind of gun is it?” Actually, a lever. It’s a lever mechanism. He went through and explained how a lever firearm works, and he explained how a pump action works, and he explained all of them. He knew exactly how each of them worked. So when we asked him specifically about the 280, we said, “Well, hey, you said that there was no ammunition in it. Now we have all this ammunition. We’re going to send it off to the crime lab. Is there any way that we’re going to find your fingerprints?”

And he said, “Oh, yeah, you are.” Even though the 280 was in a container all by itself? He said, “Well, I looked in there because I was looking for a 22 long shell to put in this 22. I just looked in there. I just pulled it open.” So he had an explanation even for why his fingerprints would have been on the ammunition that wasn’t even in a gun that he had tried to fire.

Yeardley: Wow.

Dan: I want to go back to the wound, and I want to paint a picture here because I think a lot of people are thinking that there’s just a hole in his forehead.

Terri: No, there’s not.

Dan: The wound from a rifle, the velocity and the gas that comes out of the end of that barrel, especially if it’s close to a contact wound actually enters that wound and will expand when it gets inside a confined space. And I would imagine that that wound was catastrophic.

Terri: This was my first head wound. And so I was trying to imagine the most graphic head wound I could imagine, because I knew what I was walking into. When I walked in, he was sitting on the sofa. And the front of his face was peeled forward, and his eyeball was at the end of it.

Yeardley: Like, dangling out?

Terri: Yeah. And so when I do say, yeah, there’s this one entrance wound. It’s a little hole. There’s a whole bunch going on the side of his face that has nothing to do with the fact that the gun entered there. Like, you were talking about all that pressure.

Zibby: Which just goes back to how wild it is to me that a 14-year-old boy could have done that, seen that impact, because that is gruesome. That’s like a nightmare.

Dan: That’s why I wanted to bring that up, because it shocks your conscience when you see something like that.

Terri: It’s not something you ever forget. It’s so clear in my mind today, over 20 years later, how graphic that wound was. And to imagine that a 14-year-old would see that, that was part of the conversation we had with him. “Have you been having any nightmares? Have you been having any problems sleeping?” “No.”

Detective 1: You could tell basically, because of the damage to him that he probably was not alive.

Billy: Yes.

Detective 1: Are you okay?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 1: You’re sure?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 1: Have you been having problems sleeping or anything like that?

Billy: No.

Detective 1: You just put this out of your mind?

Billy: Yeah.

Detective 2: Have you told anybody that this had happened?

Billy: No.

Detective 2: Not even your better friends at school?

Billy: No.

Terri: One of the things that really got me was he never said, I’m sorry. You know what I’m saying? Even though it was an accident, I still think that people would feel like they would say, “I’m really sorry for his dad. I’m really sorry that this happened. I shouldn’t have touched the gun.” He never said one thing like that. Never made any kind of comment like that.

Dan: Was he ever suggesting this was self-defense?

Terri: No. We talked to him about that too. He said, “Well, were you mad at him because he pointed the gun at you?” “No.” “Did he call you a name? Is that the reason–?” “No.” He had no explanation for why he did it. He did say that he didn’t raise the gun to his eye to actually aim it where he did. He said he had it held down lower. But that doesn’t make sense to us because the gun had a scope on it. We do believe that he probably used the scope to position the wound where it was.

Zibby: It was like a hunter.

Terri: Yes.

Yeardley: Wow. So the detectives read him Miranda rights, and explain it in terms for a teenager to be able to understand. And then what? Because now you have a confession, but not entirely, I’m guessing.

Terri: Right. And so like I said, then he does say that he did this by mistake. And so we leave with that idea that this was some kind of an accident gone wrong, that he has at least finally admitted that this is an accident gone wrong. He was 14 years old. In our state, he can be waived into adult court if they decided to. But in a case like this, if it’s an accident, maybe we will treat it like something else. But of course, that’s not the end of the investigation.

Dan: A lot of follow up to do.

Yeardley: What were the rules around the guns and the gun cabinet in Adam’s house? Because it sounds like he had pretty easy access to everything.

Terri: Well, the rule was that he’s 14 years old and he hunts. So his dad left that cabinet open. All the guns are unloaded in the cabinet. So there’s nothing in there that’s loaded. You’d actually have to load it yourself. And that is where I live. Guns in a gun cabinet is part of the decor of the home. That is pretty normal. If we go to a home, we’ll find gun cabinets. People usually own between 10 and 20 rifles or long guns. That’s not unusual where I live.

Yeardley: And the ammunition is locked up?

Terri: The ammunition is not locked up, but it’s kept in a different place. So yeah, there’s no rules. Because dad wasn’t there on Sunday, it sounds like when they were trying to shoot the 22. And a lot of kids do shoot 22s, like squirrels. I know 10-year-olds that hunt squirrels with 22s. So now, we need to make sure that what we actually have is the truth that this was an accident, okay? So we decide to do search warrants both at Billy’s house. And we actually don’t originally think about doing a search warrant at Billy’s school, but the school contacts us about some stuff that they found that was pretty concerning.

Yeardley: Like what?

Terri: Well, during these search warrants which were done about 10 days later, we found some interesting things that changed our mind about what was actually going on here. So Billy had a notebook that it sounds like he had like a club or a gang, but they had weird names like psycho and killer and this and that. But in this book, he has these seven rules. But the number five rule is to kill Adam.

Yeardley: [gasps]

Terri: So in his own handwriting, he has this list of things, this list of rules, and one of the rules is that he’s going to kill Adam.

Yeardley: So for our listeners, we have a photocopy of Billy’s notebook. And it should be noted that the detectives who were working this case had not yet seen this notebook when they conducted the interviews with Billy that you’ve been listening to today. So now I’m just going to read some of his rules. Hold on to your hats.

Rule number one, kill teacher. Rule number two, don’t do homework. Rule number three, ignore principal. Rule number four, do what you want. Rule number five, kill Adam. Rule number six, suspended. Rule number seven, beat somebody else that he had in mind. This is dark.

Terri: Yes. Now, I want to remind you that this is the year before Columbine.

Yeardley: Oh, jeez.

Terri: The other thing we found in his locker was a map of the school that he goes to with things marked out such as where they’re going to put guards, where there’s going to be hostages. And so in his mind, he has some other documents stating that he’s thinking about doing something at a school. So it increased our concern. How do you go from this is an accident to rule number five? That changed everything for us. We were dealing with somebody different. We knew we were dealing with somebody different in the way that he reacted. Like I said, “No, I’m sorry. No, I’m crying. No,” nothing like that, and then we find these things, and now we’re like, “This is a plan that Billy must have been making in his mind for some period of time, and it just played out that first day of spring break.”

Dan: I’m guessing that initial interview– If you get over the sociopathic, psychopathic component to this kid you’re talking to, he’s thought about this so many times that he’s so desensitized to, I’ve already killed Adam so many times that he’s numb to it

Zibby: In my mind.

Yeardley: In his head.

Dan: Yeah. You’ve even got 10 days after this where you’re talking to him again. And he’s probably relived that moment so many times. He’s so desensitized to it that you’re not going to see any emotion or reaction out of him.

Terri: Well, the scary part was, when he first came in and sat down and talked to the detectives, we were looking at his interview again, and he was actually smiling. He was like smirking, at first when he was talking to them. Not when they were talking about the murder. But when they were first just asking him general questions, he was really smirky. And we’re just, “Is he nervous?” But then after you know this, when you put things together after you know everything, then you look back again and you’re like, “That’s what that was about.” He’s getting ready to play the tape that he’s made.

Yeardley: In his head.

Terri: Yeah.

Dan: Because he knew it was coming.

Terri: Right. And if he’s a kid and he shot somebody by mistake, it’s probably not that big a deal. You know what I mean? And then the detective just opened the door a little bit and he’s like, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense. I’ll use that. I’ll say that. Is he going to get away with it?”

Yeardley: What about Billy’s parents at this point? Are they having an “Oh, God” moment with all these revelations? I feel so bad for them.

Terri: His parents are– and they’re really concerned now. He lives with his mom and his stepdad. Like I said, his dad had some connection to us. So they are really concerned, but Billy’s not necessarily concerned. He is very calm, just scary.

Yeardley: Yikes. So what do you do now that you know he really did pull the trigger?

Terri: Well, that changes things. Because before we were treating it like it was a big mistake, and now we’re going to step it up here, this is intentional homicide. So now he gets placed into protective custody before he was placed by social services into the custody of his parents, but now we need to look at things differently. And then he’s waived into adult court because this is intentional. It’s not a mistake. And it’s planned. We talked about how he must have been thinking about it, and he’s so calm about it. So obviously, we have a person here that we need to handle at an adult level.

Dan: I really can’t ignore. We talked about this occurred the year before Columbine. Well, the year before Columbine, we had the Thurston shooting that we’ve talked about on this podcast. If this was spring break, I’m thinking about the timeline of this shooting where Billy shot Adam, that is likely maybe a month or two months before what our shooter did at Thurston. And you wonder if this event, him killing Adam, prevented whatever was going to go down at that school.

Terri: That’s what we’ve always said. We talk about how this case actually was the prevention of probably something much worse happening, because he was making a plan. Even some of the officers– I know this is how old I am. [Yeardley laughs] Some of the officers that work with me now actually went to school with him, and they said, “He was a little strange. He was always off, and we all knew that. We just didn’t know what it was.”

Dan: You wonder if that Thurston shooting would have been the inspiration, where he would have said, “All right, I’m going to do it too.”

Zibby: Absolutely. Because we’ve talked a lot about how all of these events seem to influence one another. And even in certain cases have cited previous school shootings as the blueprint from which to improve upon their own plans. And you had mentioned briefly that Billy was part of some group with funny names like psycho or whatever. So was he really acting alone? Was he influenced, or were they encouraging one another to come up with these even fantasy plans?

Terri: Well, I think he was the leader. And like I said, they were all like, “Well, that was just him and we were just being friends with him. We didn’t really think he would ever do anything like that.” The whole idea of the school, I don’t think they knew anything about that. Because when we asked Billy, “Did you tell anybody about this accident?” “No”. “Did you talk to anybody about this accident?” “No.” He never told anybody. He never expressed any emotions to his parents, even his mom at the end of the interview comes in and holds him, and he’s just so calm. At one point, the detective says to him, “Well, it looks like you’re tearing up.” I don’t know that he was really tearing up. I think that he was just–

Yeardley: Sort of creating an opening in case you want to.

Terri: Right. I think our detectives were shocked. Nobody wants to believe a 14-year-old going to kill another 14-year-old in cold blood. But that’s really what this was about.

Detective 1: Well, thanks for telling the truth. Now we have to do some things as far as what’s going to happen to. You’re only 14 years old. I guess I certainly don’t believe that you intentionally did something, but it was just an awful accident.

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 2: Do you want to come in here right now?

Detective 1: I’ve been involved in a few of these things. Sometimes things just happen and people start out to be safe. That’s not what happens, you know? It’s just have to call an awful accident. But there were some things that just we knew that something happened and they were just not lining up with what we were finding out from the lab.

Billy: Mm- hmm.

Detective 1: So you’re in 8th grade?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: How do you do in school?

Billy: Pretty good.

Detective 1: Your mom said you like to read. I think you go and talk to your mom. Bet you do just about anything to get that day back over with, don’t you?

Billy: Mm-hmm.

Detective 1: I think what would be good for you to do is eventually be able to sit down and talk to somebody, whether you realize it or not, I mean, you’re feeling bad. Yeah, you have talk to somebody and help you deal with your feelings and stuff like that. As far as you not being truthful with us about this, why was that?

Billy: I don’t know.

Detective 1: Was it that you just didn’t want to get into trouble?

Billy: I was scared.

Detective 1: Scared? I would imagine so. It certainly appears to be an accident, a tragic one. I don’t think anybody intentionally tried to hurt anybody. It was just two kids messing around with guns.

Billy: How did it happen, I don’t want to talk about it.

Yeardley: Oh, man. He’s just playing those detectives without the slightest quiver, isn’t he? They’re buying it, because they don’t know about the notebook yet. I feel for them,

Terri: Yeah.

Yeardley: And so you then charge him with intentional murder?

Terri: Yes.

Yeardley: And does he plead not guilty?

Terri: No. That’s another strange story about this case. He ends up making a plea deal, but see, for a while, a public defender. For some reason, she finds real connection with him. She’s actually letting him live with her.

Yeardley: Oh.

Terri: and yeah, just really strange.

Yeardley: Is that even legal?

Terri: Well, she took custody of him.

Yeardley: And his parents said, “Okay.” Did they just go, “We can’t handle him. This is above and beyond us”?

Terri: Well, I think that they realized it was a little bit over their head too. So he ends up making a plea deal to reckless homicide, which is not being an intentional.

Yeardley: It’s like manslaughter?

Terri: Right.

Yeardley: But it wasn’t that.

Terri: Right. But I think that’s what they decided to do to resolve the case.

Dan: So if he took a plea deal, the case didn’t go to trial, how much time did he get?

Terri: It was originally 24 years, but he had it brought down to 16. So he is [Yeardley sighs] out and about.

Yeardley: Is he still in your small town?

Terri: No.

Yeardley: How do you feel about the sentence he got? How do you feel about the plea deal?

Terri: Like I said, at that point, I was just a deputy, so I didn’t have a lot to do with it. It was a whole, like, two years later that they finally got to a resolution of the case. So I don’t know why it took that long to get there. I just feel like, “Wow, he’s out amongst us.”

Yeardley: You know what’s interesting to me is that, this kid, Billy, can intentionally murder one of his good friends, have no remorse, sit in prison for 16 years, get out, and nobody knows that he murdered his friend when he was 14. However, if you’re a sex offender, that follows you around for the rest of your life, no matter where you go.

Terri: That is interesting.

Dan: Let’s talk about Adam for a little bit. Adam was 14 years old?

Terri: Yes.

Dan: Bright young man?

Terri: Yes. Just visiting dad too, so his poor mom.

Dan: And he brought the wolf to his house.

Terri: Yes.

Zibby: I also feel like if it was Billy’s plan all along to kill Adam, it feels like he spent two nights there with an end game in mind.

Terri: True. When did he start that? Remember, these kids have been friends for a long time. Before Adam moved to wherever his mom was, they lived in this house and they went to school together, and then he moved away. And so now, how long has Billy been–? And again, he’s not talking about any of this. So we don’t know what turned him to want to kill Adam.

Dan: I’m guessing you never got any explanation for why Billy wanted to kill Adam.

Terri: No.

Dan: Because his plea deal meant he never has to tell you.

Terri: Right. He’s not really going to tell us his thoughts, either. Because I don’t think he’s ever even been honest about how the whole thing happened. I think he did put the scope where he planned to shoot him, but he won’t tell us that.

Dan: I’m trying to creep into his mind too. And you take all of this evidence into account and you think about him pointing the gun at his so-called friend, Adam, who he’s been fantasizing about killing. I’m wondering how that whole situation went down where Adam’s sitting there looking down the barrel of this gun, frightened out of his mind. Because by no means do I believe that Adam ever pointed a gun at Billy.

Zibby: You don’t. That was my next question. What do you think, Terri?

Terri: Yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think, because we did find something sitting next to him, I thought maybe he was eating or something or doing something different. Maybe watching TV because of the way he was sitting on the sofa. So I don’t think that it was really as he talked about it.

Dan: That’s really troubling to me.

Terri: Well, and we even talked about, “Did you know he was dead?” And as we talked about the wound, he’s like, “Yes, there was so much blood.” I’m like, “You think that was the first clue, there was so much blood?” But then to set everything up, to go back home and make the phone call. That’s the stuff we’re talking about. He is so planning and conniving at 14 years old.

Yeardley: It’s true. When you consider that Billy left that message on the answering machine about forgetting his knife after he had shot and killed his best friend, that is calculating on a whole another level.

Terri: Right. And he admitted to us. He did that so that we would think, “Oh, yeah, he didn’t have anything to do with it.”

Dan: He’s trying to build an alibi.

Terri: Yeah. Again, so calm on the phone. At first, when we listened to the message, we didn’t know what it was. We’re like, “Well, if that kid had anything to do with this, he’s goner.” Because he’s so calm and collected, he couldn’t have had anything to do with it.

Yeardley: What’s the takeaway?

Terri: Even kids can be psychopaths, and have no emotions, and that not to be surprised when that does happen.

Yeardley: Right. So would you say that this case and maybe in particular that interview with Billy was an accelerated learning curve for you?

Terri: Yes. We just always when we talk in law enforcement, tools in your tool belt. If you’ve never seen it before, if it’s never happened before, you don’t know what to do when it does happen, or you don’t know that it’s possible that that could happen. So it was one of the biggest learning experiences for me in several ways.

We actually talk about it even now at my agency, because I was pushing the detectives because I had a feeling about it that they didn’t have. And so we talk to our younger deputies now, and we say to them, “Hey, if the detective is not getting it, tell them what you’re seeing, because that’s really important for them.” The other thing was, “Don’t just assume something’s a suicide.” That’s basic Cop 101. But sometimes we forget it, especially when the family member is going, “Yeah, this is a suicide. This is a suicide.” And everybody’s like, “Okay, this is a suicide.” Had we not recognized it for what it was, we would have ended up with something at a school where there had been way more injured, and poor Adams family would have gotten no answers to their questions

Zibby: And potentially taking the blame.

Terri: Yes. “What did we do wrong? Why didn’t we notice this? I didn’t realize he was that depressed,” those kinds of things.

Yeardley: So when you’re talking to new officers and encouraging them to speak up if their detectives are missing something, does that go against protocol at all? For instance, if someone below their commanding officer says respectfully, of course, “Hey, what about this?” Is that welcomed or is it frowned upon?

Terri: Well, see, that is one of the nice things about working in a small agency, because we all work together. It’s more of a team. I myself am a captain, but I expect my detectives to say to me, if I’m not getting it right. Because we are all on the same team, working towards the same goal, which is to find what the real answer is and to hold somebody accountable if something’s a crime. And so that’s why we really try to empower them, because sometimes you might be going too fast or you might not have a perspective. I’m just going to say this from my point of view that sometimes I think a female perspective is very different from a male.

I used to work very closely with another male detective. We were partners and we felt that that balance was really helpful because I looked at things totally different than him. I look at things with emotion oftentimes. Like I said to you, I kept thinking, “Why would I kill myself on the first day of spring break? This doesn’t make any sense to me.” Those are things that I was thinking was important. I was looking at cereal bowls in the sink. “Why is there two?” Just different things that maybe they were looking at the wound, and the gun, and the positioning of that, and I was looking at the things around it. And so it’s important for all of us to put away your pride, put away your stuff, and just deal with the crime and the victims and what you need to do to make it right.

Dan: Listening to you reminds me of my team. Each detective has their own unique life experiences and skills, and that is valuable to a team. Each person needs to trust their own instincts and their observations and feel empowered to share them, because we can’t do it alone.

Terri: Right. Well, I’m not from the small town that I live in and that I work in. And so my perspective is totally different from theirs. Their perspective is very localized by how things are done there, which is important. And sometimes, I bring another perspective that’s like, “Well, when I was young, we didn’t do that.” So everybody has a different perspective, everybody has a different life story, and all of those things add up to what makes you a good team, what makes you have a different perspective.

Dan: This was certainly my fear in my career and I always took these things into account when I was doing a death investigation is, in 20 years, I don’t want to be the guy who’s profiled as the moron on Cold Case Files.


Dan: Because I was overlooking something or I wasn’t being detailed enough. Those are the things that motivated me. I’m not perfect by any means. But if you have coworkers there who feel empowered enough to say, “Hey, I think you’re overlooking something, or why don’t you try it this way? I think you’re going to get better results.” And you’re open to that, at least you can swallow your pride and do your job right, because the end game here is let’s get it right. Let’s find the truth.

Terri: I’ll say in this case that I always felt like something was wrong. This was the case where I thought, “We are not on the right track.” And so when we finally did get on the right track, I was like, “Okay, this makes sense to me now. I can understand it,” even though it’s evil in the world and I really don’t want to believe that evil can come up at 14 years old and be that strong. It’s the truth.

Yeardley: Terri, this is fantastic. Thank you so much. I hope you’ll come back again.

Terri: Sure. It was great. Thank you for inviting me.

Yeardley: Thank you.

Small Town Dicks is produced by Zibby Allen and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel and Gary Scott. 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.

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.

[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]