One fall afternoon a man decides to inflict as much damage as possible on his small town.
Co-Host: Detective Dave
Dave began his career in law enforcement in 2007. Before his recent promotion to Sergeant, he spent six years as a detective primarily investigating Sex Crimes and Child Abuse for his police department in Small Town, USA. He still serves as a Crisis and Hostage Negotiator, and during his tenure as a detective, he served on the advisory boards of multiple children’s and victims’ advocacy groups.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.[Small Town Dicks theme]
Dave: Every time I go through that intersection, I think about this case. Every time I go through that strip mall, I think about this case. Every time I drive down the street, I look at that house, and I think about this case.
Yeardley: When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. So I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country, and have the men and women who investigated them tell us how it happened.
Dan: I’m Dan.
Dave: And I’m Dave.
Dan: We’re identical twins.
Dave: 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. 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.[music]
Yeardley: Today, on Small Town Dicks, I am delighted to tell you that we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: Good morning.
Yeardley: Good morning.
Yeardley: And we have Detective Dave.
Dave: Happy to be here once again.
Yeardley: It’s so good to see you. So Dave, you have a really big case for us today. Tell us how this case came to you.
Dave: It is a big case. You can see my case file over here.
Yeardley: It’s six inches thick, listeners.
Dave: That’s half of it.
Dave: So I was still a detective. This is a few years ago.
Yeardley: Because now you’re a sergeant.
Dave: Right. So this case comes to me, it was a weekend. I was at home that morning, and my phone rang. This time, it wasn’t from Sergeant Dave. It was from dispatch. And it was a frantic, hurried, “Hey, some guy just went nuts and started killing people, and he’s driving around, and they’re chasing him right now. Get to work.” Not even enough time to ask questions, they just hung up. So I hurriedly get dressed, hop in my car, and turn on the police radio and start driving towards the station, and I’m hauling ass.
So as I’m driving to the station, I am scanning other jurisdictions to listen to their radio traffic because I’m trying to gather what’s going on. It sounds like there’s a chase. And when I do that, I pick up this pursuit that’s happening in our neighboring city. And it’s pretty clear that this is probably the suspect that us detectives from our town are going to deal with.
So as I’m driving on the freeway, I hear that they finally got the guy stopped. I’m directed by Sergeant Dave to go directly to the scene where this pursuit ended. So I arrive, and it’s on the opposite side of our neighboring city. So quite a drive. But I get there, and I see our suspect. His name is Jason.
Jason is a stocky, 30ish-year-old white male. He’s softly crying in the backseat of this patrol car. He’s handcuffed. I start talking to the officers who were there at the end of the pursuit. It’s pretty clear that they had done, what we call, a PIT maneuver, where they spin the car out to get it stopped. And in our area, that’s a rare occurrence
Yeardley: Like, nothing else worked, so now we’re going to do this PIT maneuver.
Dan: Yeah. It’s for a suspect that there’s no way we can let this guy get away. We have to stop him, and we have to get hands on this guy.
Dave: Exactly. So I don’t know what has prompted this kind of pursuit intervention technique, P-I-T. PIT, but I know it’s something serious. So I get there, and I start speaking to some of the officers. I recognize every once in a while, there’s some overlap on our cases and we get to work with the other agency. So I recognize some friendly faces, and I said, “So what is going on?” And they said, “Oh, you haven’t heard? This guy, Jason, went on a rampage in your city, and your city aired information via the radio to all surrounding agencies, be on the lookout, B.O.L.O, for this particular vehicle.” I said that one of their officers had been responding to the scene of a vehicle pedestrian accident.
Yeardley: Does that mean the car hit people in the crosswalk kind of thing?
Dave: That’s exactly what that means. So this officer actually passed this suspect vehicle and thought, “That’s weird. That looks like what we’re probably looking for.” And he also notes that the driver’s side of the windshield is completely shattered and caved in a little bit.
Yeardley: Oh, God.
Dave: So he goes, “I think that might be the guy we’re looking for.” Turns on it and right as he goes to light this vehicle up, it takes off. And this officer with the neighboring agency, he does an outstanding job within, I would say, a few hundred yards of him turning his lights on, he’s already spun this guy once.
Yeardley: But it still didn’t stop him.
Dave: It didn’t stop him. A lot of times when you do a PIT maneuver on these vehicles, just the way that vehicles are built, it’ll stall the vehicle, this rapid spinning of the vehicle. And in this case, it didn’t work. Usually, when you do a PIT maneuver, it’s nice to have two or three units, so you can pin that person in. In this case, that didn’t work. There was too much of a gap between the officer who initiated the pursuit and the next officer that was there. So there’s a little gap and this guy squirts through and the pursuit is on.
Within a fairly short amount of time, maybe a mile or two, this initial pursuing officer does a perfect PIT maneuver again and spins this guy. Again, there’s too much of a gap, this guy squeezes through. This happens a couple more times. You can hear the frustration in that officer’s voice on the radio, and I understand it’s like, “Hey, we have to get this guy off the street.” But every time he spins this guy, of course, there’s a little bit of a delay in suspect picking back up his speed. So other officers are getting closer and closer.
So there’s information also being aired over the radio about this vehicle pedestrian accident, and that it’s a bad one. So the victims in that turn out to be Carl and his wife, Beth, and they’re in from out of town just for a visit to our neighboring city. And later on, we find out they had just had breakfast and were out for a walk and they come across the path of Jason while he’s driving his vehicle.
So we’ve got responding units, everyone’s trying to get to the area where this guy is running from the police. And finally, they get enough people and they spin him one more time and now the cavalry arrives.
Yeardley: Now you’ve successfully pinned him in and he can’t squirt through.
Dave: They pin him in. They go to order him out of the vehicle and get this thing buttoned up resolved. Jason’s not cooperative, and he ends up getting tased.
Dan: Yeah. And as the officers rushed up to the vehicle to basically drag him out of the car, he’s reaching in this bag as he’s exiting the vehicle, trying to grab the handle of this kitchen knife.
Yeardley: Oh, shit. That’s why it got tased?
Dave: Yeah. I’ve seen the dash cam video and he screams pretty loudly. The taser is an uncomfortable experience, to say the least.
Dan: The worst five seconds of your life—
Dave: Yeah, it is horrible. I’ve been tased just as part of our training, so we can testify to what it feels like, and I could never fight through that.
Dave: Yeah. So this guy gets taken into custody and they plop him in the back of a patrol car. While that’s happening and I’m talking to these other officers, I’m starting to filter through what has happened preceding this pursuit. It turns out Jason lives with his parents, even though he’s in his 30s. He’s even got a college degree. But Jason’s got some mental health issues. He’s not developmentally delayed. He’s just got some other crisis type mental health issues and that prevents him, in his words, from being gainfully employed. So now he’s living with his parents. His parents are supportive, but also, you can understand they’re both retired and they both want to live their retired life, they want to kick their son out of the nest, basically.
Dave: “We’re ready to relax and enjoy our lives, and we still got this anchor,” on their fun. So his parents are Marie and Gary. They live in the westside of our city, and a really quiet residential neighborhood. Rarely go over to this area for any criminal activity. I roll through there every once in a while just to see if we’ve got a guy in the middle of the night who’s trying to break into cars, that kind of stuff, but doesn’t generate a whole lot of work for us.
So Marie and Gary, they are taking care of their son Jason. Jason’s got a bit of a pass with his parents. Earlier in the year, of the same year that this crime spree happens, Jason had stolen his parents SUV, and he took off and ended up getting arrested a couple of states away.
Yeardley: Oh, he went far.
Dave: He went quite a longways.
Yeardley: I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to report that your own son had stolen your car. That has to be devastating, and it has to feel like just the last resort.
Dan: Yeah, it gives you a little bit of visibility into the dynamic in that family that you’ve got these two hardworking people. They stick their necks out for their son, give him a place to live, and we got a failure to launch issue here. “So Jason steals our car. He gets arrested a few states away, and he gets brought back to our jurisdiction. And as a result, he’s put on probation.” Parents stick to it. They want him held accountable, so they press charges.
Yeardley: Is this his first run in with the law?
Dave: It’s not his first. He’s got a couple other incidents. One of them was a pretty nasty bar fight, where people recognize Jason’s acting a little bit off, and somebody confronts him and says, “Hey, you need to move along and be on your way.” And Jason does not respond to that very positively. He starts swinging on people, and he takes a beer bottle out the door and ends up throwing it and damages a completely unrelated person’s vehicle. So he gets arrested for that, for disorderly conduct and menacing and criminal mischief vandalism.
Dan: And I’ve been to this house too, so I’m aware of Jason and his activities. His activities are just odd. Multiple times, I had responded to a homeowner reporting that his neighbor’s son, who turned out to be Jason, was standing on his property near his truck. Jason was eyeing all the tools that this homeowner keeps on his work truck, and he’s worried that Jason is going to steal something.
So the homeowner would see Jason on his surveillance cameras and come out to say, “Hey, what are you doing?” and Jason would just act like his neighbor wasn’t even there, like it didn’t even exist. Then Jason would just walk away like he was invisible. And this homeowner says, “Do I have to press charges? I don’t want them on my property.” So I go to the house and have a conversation with Marie and Gary. You can see the frustration in their eyes because they know that their son shouldn’t be doing that stuff and they don’t have a solution for it. They’re trying to figure it out. I could see how frustrated they were and ashamed.
Dave: Right. You’ve got this nice couple. They’ve raised two kids. They’ve also got a daughter. So Jason’s got a sister who lives outside the area. They’re having to answer for Jason’s behavior issues. So they turn to the legal system. After these crimes, the stolen car, they want to press charges. They figure, “If we can get him some help through probation and mental health services, that will keep him accountable for these fairly petty crimes.”
Yeardley: So that’s a condition of his arrest, he gets put on probation and is he required to go to counseling?
Dave: He is. So part of his sanction for this is that he has to get some sort of evaluation and then ongoing counseling. It’s kind of a modified anger management class. And as part of that, he has regular times that he has to go to class, he has to check in with a probation officer, he’s got to complete a workbook that walks you through how to deescalate when you start to get amped up. So he’s got all these steps and boxes he’s got to check before he successfully graduates his probation.
Yeardley: And does he agree, “I have anger management problem,” or does he deny everything?
Dave: He is in denial. Everybody else who’s close to him recognizes that he needs all of this stuff, including some medication too to balance him out. And Jason’s not on board with that. Jason is on his own program. Part of that could be his own intent to avoid the consequences. I think there’s also a piece of this where he really is off. He’s got some mental health issues that they haven’t quite been able to corral.
Yeardley: Got it.
Dave: So Jason is spotty with his adherence to his probation, and the parents are increasingly frustrated. A couple of weeks before this incident that all of us respond to this major crime spree, Jason had stolen several hundred dollars from his parents and bought a plane ticket to another state. They came across their electronic credit card statements and said, “I didn’t buy a plane ticket. Did you buy a plane ticket?” “No.” Well, guess who?” “It’s Jason.” And so this is the last straw for the parents. They get really frustrated. They contact the mental health probation officer and say, “Hey, he’s not taking his meds. He’s not going to your classes. He’s not doing his workbook. He is committing more crimes. When are you going to hold this guy accountable?” Radio silence.
Dave: Right. These parents are really at their wits end. So morning of this rampage, Jason convinces his father to take him to McDonald’s. They go get breakfast, come back to the house, and the parents, Marie and Gary, decide, “We’re just going to watch TV.” So the layout of their house is– I got this living room that if they face straight towards the TV, the majority of the house is back behind them and down a hallway. So if you’re watching TV, you’re not going to see anybody walking up behind you. You might sense them, but the majority of the house is behind them. So they’ve got this couch that serves as a separation between the hallway, the living room, and the rest of the house. They’re watching TV, and Jason comes up behind his parents and starts hitting them with a baseball bat.
Yeardley: Oh, God.
Dave: You remember what your parents were doing when you started hitting them?
Jason: They were watching television.
Dave: Did you blindside them?
Jason: Yeah, their backs were to me.
Dave: So you had the plan. You have a bedroom upstairs where this bat was? Where’d you get the bat?
Jason: The bat was from the garage. I don’t know, it was just the bat.
Dave: So you’re just walking around the house freely there and watching TV on the couch?
Dave: How long after you grabbed the bat did you go hit?
Jason: I don’t know.
Dave: Minutes, seconds?
Jason: Maybe like minutes. Took a little bit.
Dave: Marie, she just knows that she’s being attacked from behind. She doesn’t know by whom, but at some point, it stops. And so she realizes, “This is my opportunity.” And she runs out the back sliding glass door into the backyard, circles around, and runs directly to the neighbor’s house, saying, “Call 911.” So Marie’s neighbor is on the phone with 911 explaining, “My neighbor is here. She’s injured. You need to get people here right now. She and her husband have been attacked, and her husband’s still at the house. He’s still in danger.” Marie, who is sitting in the entryway of this house, she sees her SUV drive by. That’s when she realized, “That’s my son. That’s Jason.”
Yeardley: Now, is that the light bulb moment where she goes, “And I think he’s the one who hit us in the head with the baseball bat”?
Dave: Correct. So we’ve got mom recognizing, “This is my son Jason.” Jason drives right past the residence where mom’s being treated by her neighbor, and police are on their way, but they’re not there yet. Jason drives directly to a strip mall a few blocks away. This strip mall is probably 500, 600 yards long, and he’s driving through the parking lot, sees a pedestrian, a guy who was at a restaurant, picked up a to go order and was just walking out to his car. Jason accelerates and steers right towards this victim. His name’s Doug, and strikes him with his car.
Dave: So Doug is pronounced deceased at the scene in this parking lot. And about the same time that our agency is getting calls about this first vehicle pedestrian accident, we start getting calls about a residence that’s on fire.
Dave: So there’s a vehicle pedestrian accident, there’s a fire, there’s Marie and Gary. Nobody’s pieced together these are related at this point. So our officers arrive to attend to Marie and make sure that the scene is safe, so we can get the fire and medics there. And our officers note this house, Marie and Gary’s house, is fully involved on fire.
Yeardley: Oh, shit. The house fire that people were reporting was actually Marie and Gary’s house?
Yeardley: Oh, God.
Dave: So our officers go over and try to make entry to this house. And in reading their reports, we’ve had Detective Justin on the show before.
Dave: He’s one of them. Another is an officer named Eric. He was my field training officer. Both of these guys are good cops. They don’t hesitate to respond. And in this situation, they try to make entry to this house to see if they can save anybody. And in reading their reports, the smoke is so heavy that there’s only a few inches between the smoke and the floor.
Yeardley: Oh, my.
Dave: And Justin notes that he can hear a dog whimpering inside the house. They call for this dog. The dog never comes. So fire gets there. They start dealing with the fire. Our officers go over to Marie to attend to her.
Yeardley: She’s still at the neighbor’s house?
Dave: Yeah. And start getting some information about what’s going on, and that’s when we discover that it’s probably Jason and he’s got her vehicle. She describes it. That description matches the same description we’re being given from the strip mall by multiple witnesses who say this SUV just drove right through here, like, he’s on a freeway and hit somebody and took off. So now we’re starting to piece together, “Okay, this one has to do with this one.”
Dan: When the fire department puts the fire out at the house, they discover Jason’s father, Gary, is deceased on the couch and there’s a dog at his feet. They also have another dog that is unaccounted for at this point. They find evidence what they believe to be the other dog in one of the more burnt parts of the house. You’re looking at flesh, but it’s unrecognizable and it’s horrible to think of what happened to that dog.
Dave: Right. We’ve talked about– For me, if you can hurt animal like that, oh, I mean, you’re just unredeemable to me.
Yeardley: Yeah. Did dad die from the fire or from the hit to the head?
Dave: Both. Gary received trauma from these strikes with the bat, and that would have killed him. On top of that, we’ve got the fire. I went to the autopsy for Gary, and there was some soot in his airway. So we know that he’s still breathing. Probably was not going to regain consciousness. So now we have Doug in the parking lot. He’s dead. We’ve got Gary in the house. He’s dead. We’ve got two dead dogs. This dog at Gary’s feet is like ankle biter, a real small dog, and it’s pretty clear that there’s no fire damage to this dog, but you can tell that it’s been bludgeoned to death.
Yeardley: Oh, no.
Dave: So it gives you a little glimpse into how horrific, how violent this is. This stuff doesn’t happen around here. That happens in other cities. In the interim from this vehicle pedestrian crash in the parking lot, we have about 30 minutes where every agency in our county is looking for this vehicle, because everyone knows, “There could be another one. We got to get this guy off the street.”
Yeardley: How far could he get in your small town?
Dan: Within a mile. You’ve got access to a freeway that will take you to any corner of this state. So our search area is pretty big. It’s at least our county, and it’s probably the county north of us, east of us, and south of us.
Yeardley: Right. Okay.
Dave: So within 30 minutes, we get another flurry of 911 calls in our neighboring city. And it’s at a pretty major intersection. We get a call of a vehicle pedestrian accident. And this is the one that sparks the neighboring agency’s response to the area, and that officer sees a suspect vehicle with the smashed in windshield.
Dave: So in this case, we’ve got Carl and Beth. They’re in from out of town just to spend the weekend. They just had breakfast. They’re walking towards a downtown area, and they’re in the crosswalk, and they’re just about to make the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. There’s video of this intersection, surveillance video from a local business. And when you rewind through this video, you can see what happened. They’re walking southbound across the street. They are literally one or two steps from making the sidewalk on the opposite side. You see a vehicle come from the left, drives right through a four way stop, steers into the opposite lane of travel, and drives directly towards this couple and strikes them.
Yeardley: Oh, my God.
Dave: It’s violent, and that prompts numerous calls. It’s a downtown area. There’s lots of pedestrian traffic. There’s shops open. So people see this and run out and try to provide care to Carl and Beth. Beth was on Carl’s right. So as they’re crossing the street, carl would have been the first to get hit by Jason’s vehicle. I think that’s what saved Beth’s life is that Carl was the one hit. When the momentum of the vehicle went through them that she didn’t hit hard surfaces like a hood or a windshield. She hit Carl, soft tissue.
Dave: So certainly she’s injured severely. Carl ends up dying as a result of this.
Yeardley: Good God. And does Jason just drive off? He hits them and then–?
Dave: He didn’t even hit his brakes. He just kept going.
Yeardley: Shut up.
Dave: So what’s fortunate is we’ve got this neighboring agency, the officer who’s coming to the area of where this vehicle pedestrian crash is, he’s trying to think like a criminal. He’s a good cop and he is thinking, “Where would this guy go if he was traveling westbound on this certain street?” And he anticipates and it pays off. The guy drives right by him, and that’s when the chase begins.
Dave: Right. So we’ve got all this carnage spread across probably 10 miles east to west. Multiple large–
Dan: Crime scenes too. Like, the strip mall, that crime scene is hundreds of yards long.
Dan: And like we said, we’re small agency, now, since these crimes have occurred in two different jurisdictions, we’ve got some help, but still, it’s a lot for us.
Dave: Overwhelming. Every detective got called in from our agency, which is rare.
Dave: So luckily, at the end of this chase, we’ve got Jason in custody. So crime spree is over, now we got to deal with the fallout. There’s death notifications to be made, we got to ID people, we’ve got a broad expanse of crime scene at this strip mall, lots of witnesses. So now we’re trying to get surveillance video from the strip mall. We’re trying to determine direction of travel. All that takes time, because we, as police, I can’t just walk in behind your counter, find your DVR that holds all your surveillance video, and pull it up and download it.
Yeardley: You can’t?
Dave: We have guys that can do that. We have forensic computer guys that will do that. But a lot of people, unless you’re the main manager, you don’t have access to the DVR. So we have this employee who says, “Yeah, it records, but I need my manager to get here before I can access it.”
Dave: So you wait 45 minutes for the person to respond, and then you realize they don’t have the right password. So it’s not clockwork.
Yeardley: Doesn’t happen like it does on TV.
Dave: No, it does not happen that way. [Yeardley giggles] So we’re trying to establish a timeline of where Jason went. Do we have victims that there were no witnesses, and they got hit and they’re lying in the bushes somewhere? Do we have other crime scenes? Because what did this guy do in that 30-minutes between crime scene number two and number three.
Yeardley: That’s a lot of time when you think about how much can happen in just a minute.
Yeardley: When you stopped Jason’s car, what evidence did you find in it, if any, and where does your investigation go from there?
Dave: There’s a baseball bat, there’s a gas can, there’s a bag with a handle of a kitchen knife, a big butcher knife.
Dan: His backpack that was on the front passenger seat, and you could see the handle of a big– I mean, you think about a big kitchen knife that is in the butcher block, that’s what he had in there, and that’s part of the reason why he got tased when the officers finally stopped him in this strip mall. It’s because Jason’s frantically trying to grab at this knife when he was stopped, and he’s not compliant with any of their directions. Thank God, he didn’t get his hands on it, because that knife will go right through our vest. Our vest will not stop that knife. It’ll stop a bullet, but it won’t stop the knife.
Yeardley: So interesting. Do you suspect or know that he used that knife in his crime spree, or did he just take it as defense for himself?
Dan: I think it was a weapon of opportunity.
Yeardley: He thought, “I’m probably in big trouble. I should take something to defend myself. I choose this knife.”
Dan: Yeah. So he’s got the baseball bat, he’s got the car, which is his big weapon. But the car was severely damaged. Not from the PIT maneuvers, but from him running into people. You can see visible jacket fibers in the glass on the windshield. When a vehicle hits a human being and you see damage, it’s pretty unmistakable.
Yeardley: Blood and biological matter too, no?
Dan: Yeah. It was obvious that a human being had been struck by that vehicle. There was blood inside the vehicle.
Yeardley: Inside the vehicle?
Dave: He had blood on his hands that there was transfer to the steering wheel.
Dan: Steering wheel, seatbelt, the backpack, because he was trying to grab for the knife. And then the baseball bat, there was visible blood on the barrel of that bat.
Yeardley: So dark.
Dan: And then you’ve got the gas can in the car. I don’t know, if he was going to burn the car, torch the car, drive until he needed more gas, so he didn’t have to stop at a gas station. I don’t understand that.
Yeardley: It seems as though he just thought he would take all the evidence with him not thinking ahead that if and when you caught up to him, you’d be like, “Oh, and there’s all the evidence.”
Dave: I think he was in a frenzy.
Dave: Clearly not thinking straight. But I don’t think he could gather his thoughts to think that far ahead. So as you know, just because we’ve arrested somebody, now comes all the paperwork and all the things we have to do. So we write a search warrant for the house, because he’s got an expectation of privacy.
Yeardley: And is the house still standing? How badly burned is it?
Dan: There areas of the house that are completely destroyed, but there are also areas because of a lack of ventilation and oxygen getting to the fire, say his room, where he had poured gasoline on his bed and lit it on fire. Well, he had also closed the door, and there wasn’t an open window. So once the fire consumes all the oxygen in that room, it extinguishes itself.
Yeardley: It suffocates.
Dan: Yeah. But the area where his parents were watching television, the heat had actually melted parts of that room. So like lighting fixtures and plastic things had melted. There’s water damage from fire hoses and everything. But for the most part, it’s fairly pristine.
Yeardley: So you can actually get some evidence out of this scene.
Dan: We got a lot of evidence, especially from the couch. Jason’s father, Gary, was seated on the couch, and I don’t think he ever moved. From the first blow he took to the side of his head, he never moved. The dog was right at his feet at the base of the couch. There was blood where I assume the mother was seated when she was struck. There was a lot of blood on the couch there. And then in an adjacent room, the dining room was probably about 12ft away. That was completely destroyed. But the television room, other than smoke damage, there really wasn’t that much.
It was an odd scene. One of the things that I remember upstairs by Jason’s room was he had bags packed, and he had his passport sitting right on top of his bag, and I was like, “Why didn’t he take his passport?” I don’t understand that, which tells me that it wasn’t very well organized, his whole plan, and I really think that he thought this was going to be the last day of his life as well. I don’t think he ever planned on having a conversation with Dave.
Dan: There was another living room there. I remember walking around with the fire investigator, and he showed me the point of origin of basically the downstairs fire. And you can tell by the marks on the wall how the fire started in a certain spot in this house, and it traveled up the wall, and he was able to map how this fire grew and lived inside this house.
Yeardley: So interesting.
Dan: And then at the house, one of the things we’re searching for is, does he have a laptop? I already knew from talking to the family before this happened about the neighbor who had called the police that Jason was dealing with some mental health issues, and I already had a feeling that this was going to go the mental defense. What you’re looking for is evidence to either support or refute that, and that’s what we’re looking for. And laptops are a gold mine for stuff like that.
Yeardley: Did you find anything on a laptop?
Dave: It was unremarkable. There is no writings like journal entries, those types of things or indications that he’d planned this out weeks in advance or anything like that.
Dan: Some of the things that I found inside the house, like, a broken set of eyeglasses that were knocked off his father’s head, they were on the floor. There was a blood-soaked rag on the end table nearby.
Yeardley: What’s that from?
Dan: I think Jason may have gotten blood on himself and just wiped his hands and tossed the rag. Cell phones, we always like to get cell phones, so you’re finding cell phones on the floor. I don’t know if maybe mom had her cell phone in her hand and when she got hit, it fell onto the floor.
Dave: He had his workbook from his probation class, which gave some insight into where Jason was coming from.
Yeardley: What did you learn?
Dave: It just revealed that Jason had a lot of resentment towards his parents and felt like he was a letdown for them, like a disappointment.
Dave: Right. It was clear from his writings, a lot of them are, what is stressing you right now, those types of questions. And a lot of the answers were about his home situation.
Dave: So Jason gets transported from the end of the pursuit back to our police station, gets put in an interview room. And at some point in this process, Sergeant Dave selects me as the person who’s going to be the case agent or the lead investigator on this case.
Dave: So we’ve got a triple murder, and then two counts of attempted murder, at least, the animal abuse stuff, the arson. So at this point, it’s the biggest case in my career. I don’t want to screw it up because I’ve got all these victims and their families who I’m going to have to answer to if I do something wrong or I don’t advocate for their family the right way. That’s a lot of pressure. In addition, you’ve got all the detectives who aren’t at the crime scene. They’re watching your interview on the big screen in the other room.
Dave: So you’re like, “I don’t want to screw this up.” So it’s time to square off with Jason in the interview room, and we ask him if he’s hungry, and he says, he is. And I ask him, “If you could eat anything you wanted right now, what would it be?” He said, “McDonald’s.”
Yeardley: They’re always hungry. I can’t eat when I’m stressed out. I would abstain.
Dave: Yeah, he’s hungry. So we get him lunch. I happen to get lunch too, which I’m sure I’ll be ribbed [Yeardley laughs] and give him plenty of shit for.
Dan: You have been ribbed for a couple years now.
Dan: For what happened in this interview.
Yeardley: Do tell.
Dave: Well, he and I got matching value meals and sit down and I ask, “Do you want to eat alone or you mind if I hang out?” And he says, “No, you can hang out.” So we’re sitting there. You can imagine it’s a little bit odd to be sharing a happy meal with a guy who just killed three people.
Yeardley: I should think, but at the same time, I would also think it’s a way to establish some sort of rapport that there’s a reason behind, it’s not just because you don’t have any other place to eat.
Dave: That’s exactly what it was. I remember Detective Don, who we’ve had on here. I asked, “Do I eat with him? “And he goes, “Heck, yeah, you eat with him.”
Dave: Yeah. He’s like, “Why wouldn’t you? This is an opportunity.” “Yup, you’re right. I’ll take it.” So I have an agenda. My job is to get us to the what, the why, and the how and all those questions, so we can get a successful prosecution and keep this guy from ever doing that again.
Dave: So we start talking. And I’m a little bit awkward at first. It’s like, “Well, “What’s the transition into–? Do you enjoy your fries to why’d you take a baseball bat to your parents, or why’d you run over somebody in a parking lot?”
Yeardley: Dave, you’re such a good interviewer. We’ve watched a number of your interview tapes. Why is this interview different than interviewing a sex offender?
Dave: Sex offenders, I hate to say I’m comfortable around them, but I know where they’re coming from, because I’ve studied them and dealt with them so much.
Yeardley: And that was your department.
Dave: That was my area of expertise. Triple murder, this is my first one. [Yeardley giggles] At some point, you just revert back to, “Hey, I’m just talking to somebody.” He tells me that there’s been some ongoing angst in the house, him against his parents, because they confronted him on this theft of money where he buys the plane ticket that he was upset about that that they had contacted his PO, his probation officer, and were asking to get a sanction for him committing crimes like theft. He had been thinking about hurting his parents, killing them for a couple of weeks. And I asked him, “And this just happened to be the day that it was going to happen?” Like, did you wake up saying, “Today, I kill my parents?” And he’s like, “No, it’s just one of those where I just said, okay, today is the day.”
Yeardley: Good God.
Dave: Do you wake up this morning thinking, today’s the day?
Jason: Yeah. Probably, I’ve been thinking about it.
Dave: How long?
Jason: Couple weeks now.
Dave: Is this the plan that you had devised?
Jason: I don’t know.
Dave: When you started thinking about it a couple of weeks ago, what was your plan?
Jason: I did not really have a–I was just really, really serious in the whole thing. It was terrifying the whole thing, so I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I got the job done.
Dave: You know that people always want to understand this kind of stuff, right?
Dave: So that’s all I’m trying to get is where you were at with things, and people always want to know why.
Dave: So that’s what I’m hoping to get from you. It sounds like you just, for the last couple of weeks, been thinking about killing your parents, and today, it’s just happened to be the day?
Dave: Had you gotten close to it over the last two weeks to before?
Jason: No, I wanted to run away. I wanted to run, and then stuff just kept happening. I wanted to run away.
Dave: So you think of where his pursuit ended, had he gotten out of that car with this big butcher knife, it’s late morning right around noon. Where this pursuit ended was a big box store. There’s a pizza restaurant there. That’s a chain. There’s a McDonald’s nearby. This is an extremely well populated area at that time of day, and say this guy gets out and starts running and they have to shoot him. Horrible situation.
Yeardley: Really dangerous.
Dave: Right. So they have to contain him. And our neighboring agency did a really good job that day. Great job.
Dave: And then the pedestrians you hit, what do you think their condition is?
Jason: I have no clue.
Dave: Based on what you experienced today, when you hit them with the car, do you think you clipped them or you think you hit them dead on?
Jason: I don’t know. Don’t know.
Dave: Okay. Well, the guy you hit [beep], he died. Do you remember what part of your car you hit him with?
Jason: I clipped him with a corner, with flip left corner.
Dave: Okay. Remember how fast you’re going?
Jason: 30, 40.
Dave: Okay. Do you accelerate to hit him?
Jason: I believe, yes.
Dave: Okay. [clears throat] Were there other people in the parking lot?
Dave: That guy just in the wrong place, at the wrong time?
Jason: I guess. I have no clue. Not a clue. Not a clue in the world. No idea.
Dave: But you clearly remember hitting the guy and remember aiming for him?
Dave: What about the couple over in [beep]?
Jason: I aim for them too.
Dave: Did you see him in the rear view or anything?
Jason: No. No, I think they landed on the car. I smacked them good. I smacked them good. I don’t know about how I hit them.
Dave: One of those people are dead, at least. I don’t know about the second. So the innocent people that don’t even know you that got hit today, what do we tell their families? Are you sorry for hitting them?
Jason: I don’t know what to make of that, to be completely honest with you.
Dave: So I’m telling you killed two innocent people and maybe a third, how does that make you feel?
Jason: It was very frightening, very fast, very out of the body.
Dave: But you know you did it, right?
Jason: I do. It was spur of the moment.
Dave: So killing your parents wasn’t spur of the moment, but these other people, they were in front of you, and you’re like, “Well, I’m going to hit them?”
Jason: Yeah. [crosstalk]
Dave: But you’ve been planning to kill your parents.
Jason: Wrong place at the wrong time.
Dave: Okay. All right. Would your parents have had any indication that today was going to be the day?
Jason: I know me and my father on bad side. I don’t think they would ever be afraid of me though. I don’t– [crosstalk]
Dave: What time did you wake up today?
Dave: And how were you feeling this morning? Did you know you were going to kill him today by the time you woke up?
Jason: No. I don’t know, I was just getting so bad that I was definitely thinking about it, and today was just the day I guess.
Dave: So help walk me through this. At what point did you form the intent to go grab the bat and kill him? At what point today were you like, “It’s going to happen today”?
Jason: All this week I was getting very deathly ill, and my nose even bled a little, and it led up to today.
Dave: So we started talking about his family situation. I learned that he’s got a sister, and I ask, “What would you have done if your sister was there today?” And he’s like, “Probably the same thing to her.” I mean, he’s just cold blooded.
Jason: Both my parents are alive?
Dave: Your dad’s dead, and your mom is still alive. What do you feel about that?
Jason” I don’t have any feelings about that.
Dave: What if your mom was sitting in this room right now, what would you say to her?
Jason: I don’t think she’s right mind right now. What would I say to her? I’d probably start yelling at her.
Dave: This guy is cold.
Yeardley: Right. He really is missing something on the inside.
Dave: Right. So it’s not the longest interview I’ve ever done, but at some point, we start talking about what’s going on with him, what are his issues. And he starts talking about headaches and things that hears in his head, like, this buzzing sound and things like that.
Yeardley: Headaches? Do you mean like migraine headaches?
Dave: Yeah. He describes getting fairly frequent headaches, and he would go to urgent care, the hospital, get treated. He was peculiar. This is told to me by other family members and friends that he didn’t trust the local water supply. And so he lives in fairly close proximity to the river, and he would walk down with buckets and fill up buckets at the river and walk back to his house with two buckets of water and he would use that to bathe.
Yeardley: But that’s not cleaner than one comes out of your faucet.
Dave: It lets you know there’s something going on with this guy.
Dan: One of the things that we have to do in these interviews is, it’s not just getting the facts of what happened, if they’ll give it to us. I think Dave probably already has a good idea of where this guy’s defense is probably going to be, and he’s going to build a mental defense. And if the guy has mental issues and that’s part of his defense, then so be it. But we have to try to establish whether or not this person knows the difference between right and wrong and try to zero in on what his issues are or is he malingering?
Yeardley: What’s malingering?
Dan: Faking it.
Dave: So we go down that road and I start asking him about taking any medications? “No.” “Do you have any mental health diagnoses?” “No.” So he’s saying that he’s of sound mind, body and soul, and he’s intelligent, articulate, doesn’t give me these long open-ended narratives, but it’s clear he’s tracking everything that I’m saying and denies any sort of mental health issues. So I’m thinking, this guy just went on a rampage today.
Yeardley: He’s a sociopath. He has no empathy.
Dave: Exactly. The more people we talk to, the more people you come across that had experiences with Jason that they knew him back when he was in high school or when he was going through college. I’ve got a friend who knew Jason from late high school, early college timeframe and said, that’s about when Jason started to have a little bit of a tick, a little bit of an oddity to him. They would play basketball with him and then just notice that he faded away.
Yeardley: You mean in the game or no longer part of that group that used to play?
Dave: No longer part of the group that they noticed a behavior change in him in his early college years, and that started the onset of his more pronounced mental issues.
Yeardley: He became more of a loner.
Yeardley: Did he have any drug or alcohol issues?
Dave: No drugs, no alcohol, not hitting the meth pipe or anything like that. He’s a homebody. There’s really nothing that would point to, someday this guy’s going to jump in a car and start running people over.
Dave: Jason, by his own admission, had a great childhood, was raised well. Whatever he perceived from his parents, they were not mean to him, they were not bad to him, they just wanted him to be accountable and wanted him to get out of the nest.
Dan: He was really into basketball, too, wasn’t he?
Dave: He’s really into basketball. This is where in the interview I start getting the, “Ah, okay, he’s a little bit off.” He’s not obese. He’s bulky. He’s not fat, but he’s not in shape.
Dave: Stocky. Really stocky, and he starts talking about his basketball prowess and how he’s trying to be a pro. He didn’t play in college.
Dan: He’s in his 30s.
Dave: He’s in his 30s, and he’s talking about going to tryout camps and things like that. So that’s when I’m in this room going, “Okay, Jason’s got some issues.”
Dave: Do you work or anything?
Jason: I do not. I haven’t worked since 2006. I graduated from [beep] 2008.
Dave: What did you get your degree in?
Jason: Business and sociology. Sociology and business.
Dave: Remember what your GPA was?
Jason: It was like 2-3. 2-3, 2-4.
Dave: Not to get the piece of paper though, right?
Jason: Yeah. I had a professor let me pass on my business degree. I was on ESPN, like, six months later for basketball, and made it inside the building and everything. It was great. And I tried playing basketball for a while and we did good– I was doing all right, but they only come around once a year or whatever. I finished [beep] 2006, went back to school. I was just living at home. I don’t know, I was going to go to Los Angeles for basketball tryouts, and my sister moved and all sorts of crap just started happening.
Dave: So that gives us a little glimpse into Jason’s-
Yeardley: -his mindset, and what his mental issues might be.
Dave: Right. And so after he’s arrested and thrown in jail begins the process of, “We need to do a mental eval on this guy.” And through that, you have these mental health professionals, doctors evaluating Jason, and he eventually gets transported up to the state mental hospital.
Yeardley: And I’m assuming that they used that transfer and that evaluation as part of his defense that he was not mentally fit to stand trial?
Dave: Right. He’s got to be able to aid and assist his defense attorneys with his case.
Yeardley: But how does that square with him saying, “I know what I did. I know it was wrong. I don’t have any mental issues,” how does that square up?
Dave: These are things that frustrate me, because in looking at Jason in the interview room and his acts that day, he knows what he did that day. He knows it was wrong, and there’s no remorse. What he has I guess in his favor is that he’s got these mental health issues. He gets evaluated by his own doctors, he gets evaluated by the state’s doctors, and they try to hash out a resolution to make sure that he’s in the right place, whether it be the prison or whether it be the mental hospital. But in either regard, he’s locked away from the public. He can’t go out on another crime spree. So this resolution of this case took years for them to finally get it to where it was resolved, and the resolution is that Jason will be in the mental hospital for the remainder of his life.
Yeardley: Oh, okay. So if someone is determined to be unfit to assist in their own defense, does that mean a trial never takes place?
Dave: So in this situation, the decision was made after he was indicted before his case was ever going to go to trial that he would be evaluated and treated up at the mental hospital. We run into this a lot in law enforcement. “Do you take your meds?” And the guy goes, “No, meds make me feel weird.” Well, that weird is actually making you feel normal. But for them, it feels off. So they don’t like to take their meds. In this situation, Jason was regularly given meds, and gets actually to the point where the eval comes back and says, he can assist in his own defense. So we were feeling optimistic about this case like, “Oh, this might go to trial.” They’ve not cured him, but he’s treated.
And this goes on for months and months and into years where we’re trying to get to where Jason is balanced and has reached a homeostasis he can aid in his defense, let’s get him to trial, and we just never got there. So the resolution from our prosecutor, and I’ve worked with her. I’ve mentioned her work, she’s been the prosecutor on some of my other cases I’ve done on this podcast, she’s tough and she gets after it, and she determines the resolution, “He needs to be in custody for the rest of his life. Whether that be at the mental hospital where he gets treatment, that’s the humane thing to do or whether he goes to prison, either way, let’s get him off the streets.” And that’s the way it went.
Yeardley: And did he plead guilty to his crimes?
Dave: He did.
Yeardley: So that supersedes having to have a trial.
Dave: Right. So when he pled guilty and clearly agreed with whatever resolution there was going to be, he was facing three counts of aggravated murder. Those are death penalty eligible cases. So there’s some incentive for him not to take this to trial and take the resolution the state offers. At the same time, his defense attorneys are skillfully advocating for him that he needs to be in a place where he’s treated, not where he just is forgotten.
Yeardley: So where did he end up? The mental hospital or prison?
Dave: He’s in the mental hospital. His plea deal was routinely called guilty, but insane. So he’s taken care of. He’s put away, and we’re left with all these families that lost their loved ones.
Yeardley: How is his mother?
Dave: I haven’t spoken to her since right around when the case was happening. I remember I had a follow up interview with her a week or two after this incident happened. Nice woman. She felt horrible that there were other families that were irreparably harmed by her family member. Completely appropriate. She loves her son, and she doesn’t like what he did, and we find that pretty often. Every family that this case touched, it’s tragedy. How do you swallow all of it? But they’ve all been gracious and poised. I’ve not been in this situation, but I imagine there’s a period of time where you’re trying to come to grips. It’s like, “What the hell? What?” You can’t make sense of it. So I just feel bad for all these families. There’s some frustration with this case. Family’s trying to get Jason held accountable. I can confidently say that I recognize where the ball was dropped in this case, and so do others.
Yeardley: Oh. Can you speak about that?
Dan: There’s a lawsuit about it.
Dave: I can just say that it was interesting to me, these are all facts I’ll try not to offer an opinion. When we finally get him into custody, I start digging into his past a little bit. And Dan had located this workbook.
Dan: It’s called How to Escape Your Prison Workbook.
Yeardley: Wait, what?
Dan: His workbook for his anger management counseling that he was going through was called How to Escape Your Prison.
Yeardley: Meaning, your anger is your prison.
Dave: So, I realized that he’s on probation. I start trying to track down who’s supervising him, and it leads me to the county’s mental health arm of the courts. So Jason had given me a signed copy of a records request where he authorizes me to get his records. I hand it off to the people that are in charge of his probation and no response. I mean, I get some emails, I get some discussion back and forth, but I never get the requested documents. And then I find out that Jason’s probation was set to end the next day after this crime spree.
Dave: And when I finally talked to the probation people about this case, they say, “Give me everything you’ve got on this guy.” It was a few days after this crime spree, and they said, “Well, he just graduated his probation a couple of days ago.” And I go, “You guys aware that he committed a triple murder the day before you guys graduated him from his probation?” And I got crickets. It was silent on the other end of the phone, but I could hear the “Oh, shit moment.” I could hear it through the phone line.
Yeardley: First of all, in a small community, how do you not hear about a triple murder and realize, “Oh, God, that’s one of our people”? I don’t get that.
Dave: I think you can see the frustration on my face. I think you could probably imagine the frustration on his parents, what they were experiencing. And then you talk about Doug, you talk about Carl, talk about Beth and their families, and they get this piece of information.
Dave: I understand where the lawsuit’s coming from. I won’t comment on it, but–
Yeardley: That’s a pretty big ball dropped and rolled under the sofa.
Dave: I’m pretty disappointed.
Dave: Not to say that forever this would have been prevented, but who’s to say it wouldn’t.
Dave: The what if lets you know the liabilities in these situations are pretty immense, and we’ve got some families that will never see their loved ones again because of the ball being dropped.
Yeardley: Yeah. Presumably, the probation office would have heard about the rampage and said, “Oh, now you violated your probation and you’re not off.” It seems like a huge error.
Dave: Yeah. You could go two ways with this. One is probably how Jason’s parents were feeling is that he’s lost in the shuffle and they’re not paying attention. The other is, I know that these probation officers, they have large caseloads. So you might not recognize the name associated with this crime spree. And later on, you go, “Hey, can I get this guy’s records?” “Well, why do you need him?” “Oh, he’s the guy that killed three people a couple days ago.” “Oh, shit.”
Yeardley: There just was a delay. And because he was so close to getting off probation, the system collapsed.
Dave: Right. I think that is Marie and Gary’s hugest frustration as they continuously reported these transgressions that Jason was making over the last few months of his probation program is that he’s not in compliance, he’s not doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s committing more crimes, and he’s not going to be held accountable. I imagine that’d be really frustrating. And for the rest of these victims that had no connection to Jason and his issues, I imagine it’s incredibly frustrating.
Yeardley: Did Jason’s mother suffer any permanent injuries having been hit in the head so hard?
Dave: No, she’s recovered.
Dave: Yeah. To my knowledge, she’s recovered. She had the physical injuries. I’m sure there’s an emotional toll that she’s dealing with, but physically, no brain damage that I’m aware of. Nothing like that.
Yeardley: That’s incredible.
Dan: If you saw this woman’s injuries just after the attack, it’s a miracle that she’s even alive. They were massive injuries in her arm, in her face, her head. It was bad.
Dave: Yeah. Jason’s family truly are remarkable people. And these other families too. Great families, great people, touched by a guy having a bad day with no remorse.
Yeardley: Jesus. And after such a horrific day, we always ask, what do you do when you go home that day? Where does it go?
Dan: The thing for me is, you think about Doug, Carl, and Beth, and they’re just minding their own business, Doug went and got lunch and was walking back to his car and never had a thought that was going to be the end of his life. And that, to me, is when you’re out there in the world, you’re at the mercy of people following some rules, some basic human decency rules. And if people don’t want to follow rules, you see what we get.
Dave: Yeah. It’s the same for me as you just realize how things can change in a moment. So when I go out to a movie or we go out to dinner, I try to always be aware that there could be a guy out there having a bad day. I try to be situationally aware to the point that I’m not going to be a victim of his bad day. First responders see that when people have bad days, other people get injured, they get affected. And so the takeaway for me is you never know.
Yeardley: Yeah. Since you guys live in this small town and things have less of a tendency to melt back into the background like they do in a big city that when you drive past these intersections, do you revisit that crime?
Dave: Yeah, I’ve got landmarks all over, certainly, our city. I have landmarks over in the neighboring city. We had dinner last night, and I mentioned, “Hey, this crash happened right down there at that intersection.” Every time, I go through that intersection, I think about this case. Every time, I go through this strip mall, I think about this case. Every time I drive down the street where Marie and Gary lived, I look at that house. There’s plenty of other cases.
Dan: Cases that we’ve done on this podcast where if I drive by and I’m like, “It puts me right back there.”
Yeardley: Does it ever make you want to move?
Dave: No. No, it’s just a reminder of past experiences.
Yeardley: And this is part of your job. It’s your day to day.
Dave: Yeah. I don’t dwell on this stuff. My hard drive up here and my brain would get too full if I was dwelling on this stuff too much.
Yeardley: I mean, I guess that’s my question. If almost every intersection, every couple of miles, you go, “Oh, I arrested a guy there. Oh, that happened there,” it just becomes this morass of bad memories.
Dave: I’m trying to get to the point where if I’m at capacity up here, the new memory comes in and knocks one out.
Yeardley: [laughs] Fair enough.
Dan: I remember it was the day after because this happened on a Sunday, didn’t it?
Dave: I think so. Yeah.
Dan: And Monday morning, we sit in briefing us detectives, and we already know what our day is going to consist of, we got a lot of work to do. But we also hear from Sergeant Dave, we got a big meeting after this because we got three different crime scenes in two different jurisdictions. So we had a big meeting with our neighboring agency, and there were like 40 people in that room. It was amazing.
Yeardley: And that’s unusual.
Dan: That is unusual. We’ve got our prosecutor, who’s awesome. It’s her case. And then brother Dave is sitting next to her and she says, “Everything goes through Dave.”
Yeardley: I love that.
Dave: Talk about herding cats. [Yeardley laughs] I show you the notebook. There was so many volumes of reports, and background documents, and medical records and the records that I didn’t receive but I had the request forms and all those things for, it just, oh, I don’t miss that stress.
Dan: Those are, what, five-inch three ring binders?
Dan: He had three of them full.
Yeardley: That’s a lot of paperwork.
Yeardley: Well, thank you, both. It’s so tragic, but it’s always fascinating to hear how you do what you do and why you do it.
Dave: We had a large number of investigators from multiple agencies work in this, and everybody worked together. It was honestly a great team. Prosecutor’s office, victims’ advocates, the families, everybody made the best of this situation.
Yeardley: Thank you both so much. It’s always a pleasure.
Dan: You’re welcome.
Yeardley: Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin, and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
Dan: If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at smalltowndicks.com. And join the Small Town Fam by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @smalltowndicks. We love hearing from you.
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Yeardley: That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-
Dan: -in search of the finest-
Dan: -true crime cases told-
Dave: -as always, by the detectives who investigated them. So thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.
Yeardley: Nobody’s better than you.
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