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We sit down for a conversation with one of the suspects from a 2-part case we covered in Season 2 called “Presumed Guilty.”

Special Guest: Sergeant David

Sgt. David is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement. As a detective, he has lead investigations into murder, child abuse, robbery, narcotics, auto theft, burglary, and sexual assault. He has worked patrol, is currently the SWAT team commander, and is in charge of his agency’s detective bureau.

Read Transcript

Paul: [00:00:01] 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.


Sam: [00:00:19] I think they knew for years that we didn’t do it. When we got out, my lawyers took me home. They said everything’s different the colors, the smells. Everybody’s not wearing the same color clothes. It’s just totally different. It’s kind of a shock in a way.

Yeardley: [00:00:34] I’m Yeardley.

Zibby: [00:00:35] I’m Zibby and we’re fascinated by true crime.

Yeardley: [00:00:38] So, we invited our friends, Detectives Dan and Dave.

Zibby: [00:00:42] To sit down with us and share their most interesting cases.

Dan: [00:00:46] I’m Dan.

Dave: [00:00:47] And I’m Dave. We’re identical twins and we’re detectives in small town USA.

Dan: [00:00:51] Dave investigates sex crimes and child abuse.

Dave: [00:00:54] Dan investigates violent crimes and together we’ve worked on hundreds of cases including assaults, robberies, murders, burglaries, sex abuse, and child abuse.

Dan: [00:01:02] 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.

[Small Town Dicks theme]

Yeardley: [00:01:41] In this episode, we sit down with Sam, who was one of the suspects from a two-part case we covered in Season 2 called Presumed Guilty. If you haven’t heard that one already, we highly recommend you go back and have a listen. Meanwhile, if you’re a regular listener to Small Town Dicks, you know that we change the names of the people and places that we cover in these stories and we even change the nature of relationships in order to protect the victims and their families. But when we ran this idea by Sam, he said it would be easier for him to tell his story in his own words if he used real names.

[00:02:21] So, we struck a deal, agreeing to leave some names in and redacting others so that we could both honor our own code of confidentiality, as well as Sam’s request to tell the story the way he remembers it. This is The Accused.

[00:02:42] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have some of the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.

Dan: [00:02:48] Pleasure to be back.

Yeardley: [00:02:50] But our favorite Detective Dave is off fighting crime in small town USA. So, we will have to limp along without him today. However, we are very pleased to welcome back one of our favorite guests, Sergeant David.

David: [00:03:06] Hello.

Yeardley: [00:03:07] It’s great to see you, sir. We’re also pleased to welcome a new guest to the show, Sam.

Sam: [00:03:12] Hi. Thank you.

Yeardley: [00:03:14] Thank you for joining us today.

Sam: [00:03:15] You’re welcome.

Yeardley: [00:03:16] So, Sam, did you grow up in the town where the crime you were convicted of happened?

Sam: [00:03:22] Pretty much, yeah. Just got out of the military, and I met a girl out here, and it was 1983. There wasn’t a lot going on [beep]. It’s pretty small and things happened, I guess.

Zibby: [00:03:33] How old were you at the time?

Sam: [00:03:34] I was 19.

Yeardley: [00:03:35] And how close were you with Eric during the time that everything went down? Were you good friends?

Sam: [00:03:41] We were pretty good friends. We only knew each other probably about eight months, but we were getting to be pretty good friends. I think we had a bonding experience after that for the next 10 years.

Yeardley: [00:03:48] After you both were sentenced to prison?

Sam: [00:03:50] Yeah.

Dan: [00:03:51] So, take us back to the day of the murder. What do you remember?

Sam: [00:03:54] I was hanging out with Eric and I was going out with a girl named Liz. And we just hung around all that day, just goofed around and had dinner that evening. And Eric was going to go over to his other girlfriend’s house that he had that was turning 21. Eric was supposed to meet her sometime after midnight when the bars got close to closing. Because he wasn’t 21, he couldn’t get in the bars, and she just turned 21. And we just hung out pretty much the whole night and drank, played cards, and just messed around. And the neighbor down the street was Gil and Vicky. And I let Gil and Vicky borrow my car that night because they didn’t have a car and they were going out and we just hung out at Liz’s house.

[00:04:35] And about 01:45, 01:30, I figured they should have been back in my car. So, I walked down to Gil’s house to see if he was back with my car, and he was. I was going to take Eric up to drop him off there. There’s a store, the 7-Eleven store and we stopped to buy some beer. Neither one of us were 21, but I had some fake military ID that usually worked pretty good to buy beer. So, we stopped there to buy beer and Eric was already pretty drunk. He was drinking a lot that night. He’s pretty drunk and in the front seat of my car. He didn’t even get out of the car. He just was, “Hurry up, do what you’re doing.”

[00:05:06] And I started to go into the store, but I grabbed two empty bottles that were rolling around the backseat of my car, banging together. I took them and set them on the counter. I stood there for a minute, and I walked back to the cooler to get some beer, but I didn’t see a clerk or anything in the store, so I thought that was odd. But I figured he was around there somewhere. And the more I looked around, the more stranger it got because no one came out. I made some noise. I yelled a little bit, and I didn’t see anybody. I looked at the car to see what Eric was doing. Eric was just lying on the dash kind of half asleep, half awake. He never got out of my car. He just sat there the whole time.

[00:05:38] And so I came back out and I said, “Hey, Eric, there’s nobody in the store. We could take anything we want. There’s nobody there.” And he says, “I quit messing around [beep]. Let’s go,” or something like that. And so, I walked back in the store, and I looked around, some more I yelled. I pushed on the cooler door. It was back there. And then I opened up the glass doors and I said, “Hey, sure it’s nice, all this free beer and stuff,” No “Hey, oh anyone in here?” No, still nothing. No response. So, I grabbed a couple of six packs of Heineken. I walked out of the store and I threw it on Eric’s lap. I said, “See, I’m telling you, there’s nobody in the store.” And he just looked at me like in disbelief. He didn’t know what to say either.

[00:06:13] And I reached over and grabbed the keys out of my car and initially across from Eric, and I put the beer in the trunk, and I walked to the public phone. I was going to call the police. They go, “I’m going to call 911. I’m going to call the cops.” Eric goes, “What are you doing? You don’t have a license. And I’m drunk. I’m not saying I’m driving.” And so, I hung up the phone and I walked back over the [unintelligible 00:06:28] and I said, “Well, yeah, you got to say you’re driving.” So, I walked back in the store again, got my two empty bottles, I sat on the counter, walked back out to the car.

[00:06:36] I got in the car with Eric and we sat there, and we sat there for a minute, probably at least a good minute, and debated on what to do. And I started up the car and left, drove away and got up [beep] the house. Eric got out of the car and went to see if she was home. He came back about a minute or two later and told me that he was got in the house. He wasn’t here yet, but he’d wait for her, and he asked, “If he had a couple of the beers that I just took from the store.” So, I gave him the keys. He got in the trunk. He grabbed a couple of beers. I told him to call me tomorrow. I left. I drove. I was driving back to Liz’s house.

[00:07:07] I stopped I still hadn’t seen anybody at the store, so I stopped at Gil’s and told him what happened. And Gil’s girlfriend said, “Maybe you ought to go back and see what’s going on.” So, I said, “Well, hey, I stole some beer out of the store. Maybe I should put it in the refrigerator before we go back there.” So I went, got the beer out of the car, I put it in the refrigerator, and Gil was putting his shoes on and grabbed a stick, the club he had. And we drove back up the store. We got Gil drive as he had a license. We got up the store and we went in the store. I said, the only place I couldn’t get in, I looked around the whole store, the place I couldn’t get in is this wooden door back here?

[00:07:36] We walked back to the wooden door and when I was in the store, the first time I pushed on the door, it wouldn’t move. It wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t doing nothing, so I figured it was locked. So, I jumped up, kicked the door, and the door flew open and slung back in my face, and I just stood there in amazement, and the door was open. Gil stepped around me. There was a body lying on the floor of the cooler door, and Gil started to look at and I started to walk to it, and Gil grabbed my shoulder and said, “Come on. Come with me.” We went out and we called the police, and the police were there within three or four minutes, the ambulances, and pretty much that was the end of that.

Yeardley: [00:08:09] Is this the first time you’d ever seen a dead body?

Sam: [00:08:11] No. I saw a lady that died when I was coming home from high school. Some friends of mine, this guy that was drunk, ran the stop sign and hit her in a van, and she flew out of the windshield of the van and was laying in the field, and went out and tried to help her, but there was no way helping her. She was dead. And we covered her up and waited for the police to get there because the guy with the kid in the car was drunk, and he was going out of his head trying to take off and stuff. So, we just kept him there till his cops got there and that was the first time I saw a dead body of that lady.

Yeardley: [00:08:42] Your recollection of the night everything went down at that convenience store is incredibly detailed. It’s like it happened yesterday.

Sam: [00:08:49] I thought about it a million times, sitting to myself year after, year after year. I was trying to decide why something like this was going to happen to me and pretty much I figured our fate was sealed. We were already in prison. We had five, six, seven years and eight years in and pretty much get adjusted to the environment.

Yeardley: [00:09:07] When you were in prison, did you ever lose hope?

Sam: [00:09:10] I think, I don’t think I ever really gave up. I think in my heart I always believed that we’d get out of prison if something good would happen. But I have a big family, so my family was a lot of help for me. My dad, my mom, my brothers and sisters.

David: [00:09:25] Were they supportive of you?

Sam: [00:09:26] Yeah, I’m sure they probably had back of the head I might have thought because we were convicted, they could have thought maybe something, but I don’t think so. I think they pretty much knew we were innocent, but it was hard on them because they had to live out here in the stigma of it, and it wasn’t easy for them working and living here and going through it either. They were just as much as a victim as anybody else.

Yeardley: [00:09:45] When you think back on that day, is there anything that you wish you had done differently or did you just feel like it was all out of your hands?

Sam: [00:09:53] Well, sure. You always look back and think, man, I shouldn’t have lied to the police. I should have told them I drove to the store, there’s course of things. But by the end of the day, when it was all done and said and we realized how serious it really was, we told them the truth. We told them the whole story. And at that point, it was like it was an uphill battle. You thought they believed, you wanted to believe they believed you. But they’re police, they check everything out and they make their own minds up of what they want to believe and what they don’t want to believe.

Dan: [00:10:22] Were you assigned a court appointed attorney?

Sam: [00:10:25] Yeah.

Dan: [00:10:26] And were you satisfied with the case they mounted on your behalf?

Sam: [00:10:29] [laughs] I had a lady, that’s a weird story. She was a little red-haired lady that was a lawyer. She’d never done a murder case before in her life. First and only one she ever did. And my grandmother died right before I got arrested on this murder charge. Her name was Mary Ann [beep]. And then here came Mary Ann [beep] telling me she was my lawyer. So, I figured it was a godsend because my grandmother died. And here came lady with the same name. So, I just believed there was a sign, there’s a reason why she was there. So, I went with her and she told me it’s the first time she ever did a murder case and she’d do her best. And so, we tried our best and eventually we won, just took three tries.

Yeardley: [00:11:06] Are you still in touch with her?

Sam: [00:11:06] Yeah, they made her a judge after I got out the last time, she became a supreme court judge, I think 16 years. Really good lady and pretty fair lady. She’s retired now and I haven’t seen her in a long time, but I’ve talked to her throughout the years.

Yeardley: [00:11:20] Can I ask you a question? You said earlier that you had a car, but you didn’t have a license.

Sam: [00:11:25] Right.

Yeardley: [00:11:26] [laughs] How does that happen?


Sam: [00:11:28] One gets tickets and doesn’t go to court to pay the tickets.

Yeardley: [00:11:32] Oh, so you had a license, but it got taken away.

Sam: [00:11:34] Exactly.

Yeardley: [00:11:34] Oh.

Sam: [00:11:36] It was suspended.

Dan: [00:11:38] So can we back up a little bit? I’m assuming the police, while you’re out at the scene at the convenience store, they ask you to come downtown?

Sam: [00:11:45] No, they told us to go home and they– they will contact us.

Dan: [00:11:47] Okay, so when’s the next time you see the detectives?

Sam: [00:11:51] I think the next time we see them is like 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning.

Dan: [00:11:54] Okay. They ask you to come down to the station at that point?

Sam: [00:11:57] Yes, they sure did.

Dan: [00:11:59] Walk us through what it’s like coming back down to the station.

Sam: [00:12:02] Well during the interrogation they go, “You hear that guy screaming over there? You hear that? You hear that guy screaming? That’s Eric [beep].” He said that you killed this guy. We don’t think you did it. We think he did it. He’s got a worse record than you and one of us can tell the truth. You can tell us the truth.” This was after hours and hours of them talking to me and I told him I didn’t do it and they weren’t buying that and basically, we just tucked our story. We told them what we did and what we didn’t do and they just interrogated us separately for a long, long time and then they detained us in a cell. I saw Eric for the first time.

[00:12:37] He was in a cell across from me and we talked and I think they had another cop in another cell next to us that was acting like a prisoner too because he gave us cigarettes. It’s kind of weird for somebody to passes out cigarettes in [laughter] county jail but then we woke up in the morning, that guy was gone so obviously he got out in the middle of the night or something but the next day we were getting transferred to jail.

Dan: [00:13:02] So, at what point during those interviews and that interrogation do they come in and tell you that you’re under arrest for murder?

Sam: [00:13:08] Basically, I think the way they were acting from the very beginning I felt like I was under arrest. They didn’t really tell us, they just detained us and took us to jail.

Dan: [00:13:16] What’s that moment like when you really realize holy shit, I’m going to go down for this?

Sam: [00:13:21] I really didn’t think like that because I figured they figured it out, there’s no way this is going to happen. I grew up watching Adam-12, Dragnet, and Mob Squad and shit like that when I was a kid and I didn’t think stuff like that really happened with the police department. I thought they were pretty square shooters and most of them are. Dave’s great cop here, I’ve never had any bad actions with him and we’ve interacted a few times out here and I’ve pretty much been straight to his words, I think, it is what it is. I think a lot of it was growing up too and realizing they’re not all bad cops. Everyone’s got bad apple in their department or their career or whatever.

[00:13:57] Everybody’s got somebody that bends the rules and realizes how to make things work their way without really—It’s like you get somebody who knows how to do something for so many years they can make it happen how they want to make it happen because they know how to work the system. And that’s the bad part about it. When you get somebody that can manipulate the system then that’s when people’s rights and liberties are taken away.


[Break 1]


Yeardley: [00:14:33] This is an odd question, but how did you get along in prison?

Sam: [00:14:38] I was mean in prison. I was angry and I beat a lot of people up in there. Yeah. I wasn’t a very nice prisoner.

Dan: [00:14:44] With a charge like murder. I think a lot of people on the outside think that there’s some currency to that when you’re in prison. Is there any truth to that?

Sam: [00:14:54] What do you mean?

Dan: [00:14:53] Is that a charge that carries some weight when you’re in prison?

Speaker: [00:14:57] Status.

Sam: [00:14:58] I think what carries weight in prison is how you carry yourself. You can do forgeries, but if you carry yourself the right way, you’re going to be respected. It’s about respect. If you don’t respect yourself, stand up for yourself, it doesn’t matter, they won’t respect you. I mean, Eric is a little guy. Eric didn’t ever lift weights or do anything the whole time he was there. But not anybody ever messed with Eric because they respect him, because he kept to himself, did his own time.

Dan: [00:15:19] He didn’t disrespect other people, just kept to himself.

Sam: [00:15:23] I don’t think Eric even got in a fight the whole time he was there.

Yeardley: [00:15:25] Really?

Sam: [00:15:27] Yeah. Eric was pretty quiet, but he had respect because he knew he did his own time, he didn’t bother anybody. It was basically prison is– what you want out of prison is what you’re going to put into prison. If you want to be an asshole and you want to fight the cops and you want to be just a gang member or whatever you want, you can be whatever you want to be. It’s up to you. Now it’s all about gangs in prison. I mean that’s all it is, sad really, because it’s even harder than when I was in there.

Zibby: [00:15:54] It is.

Sam: [00:15:54] Oh, yeah.

Dan: [00:15:55] You have to clique up in there, don’t you?

Sam: [00:15:57] Well, you have to.

Zibby: [00:15:58] What did you say it was? Clique up.

Yeardley: [00:16:00] Join a clique.

Dan: [00:16:01] Yeah. I mean, you got to run with somebody that’s going to protect you and you’re going to work for them.

Sam: [00:16:05] Yeah. And the worst thing about that is if you get in gang fights and you got to be in the middle of that, but if you got one or two partners, you only got to look out for one or two partners. But you don’t want a bunch of partners in prison because you don’t want to clean up their messes. But to answer your question, I think that of course if you got a murder, being from in prison, they’re going to treat you a little different because you’re not getting out and they know that, so they look at it a little different. Yeah.

Dan: [00:16:28] Did you have a relationship with your codefendant when you were in prison?

Sam: [00:16:32] I looked after Eric, Eric looks after me and but– we know we could do for each other, we did. Basically, that’s all you could do.

David: [00:16:39] You got arrested twice, right? You got released the first time.

Sam: [00:16:41] Yeah, we did.

David: [00:16:42] Yeah. You got arrested on the original charges and the district attorney’s office didn’t file. And you guys were released, right?

Sam: [00:16:48] Yes.

David: [00:16:48] And then there was a period of how long before you got rearrested?

Sam: [00:16:51] Three and a half years, wasn’t it?

Yeardley: [00:16:52] Oh, wow.

David: [00:16:54] So during that time, were you still in contact with the police?

Sam: [00:16:57]
They followed me around and made their presence known to me. They pulled me up quite a few times in different situations where they came across me. And we had words, basically, because I’d go places and they would be interrogating my friends and people I knew, and they’d show up, and I’d not show up there, and they’d be there, and then there’d be animosity, the words would be said, and then you know how that goes. You’ve been there in that situation.

David: [00:17:19] So, you knew you were a suspect the whole time still, right?

Sam: [00:17:21] Yeah, I knew they considered me a suspect because they wiretapped my phone, followed me around for three and a half years.

David: [00:17:28] And all your friends knew that you had been arrested originally, so there was probably talk amongst a lot of people about it during that three-year period of time between when you were arrested and released. Right?

Sam: [00:17:38] I think there was talk about it. I think most of my friends believed me and they pretty much stood behind me.

Yeardley: [00:17:44] So what changed in those three and a half years that made them go, okay, now we have enough evidence to rearrest you? And the DA actually filed.

Sam: [00:17:51] That’s the most crazy part of it all, because Eric moved away [beep], and he’s had a good friend down there, Jerry [beep]. And Jerry had a job down there for Eric because Eric said he wanted to leave [beep] because people were giving him bad time. He just felt like he was being stared at, he was being watched, he’s being judged, so left. He went to [beep]. And he had some friends down there. One of them [beep] was but Jerry and him were friends in grade school. So, he felt like he had somebody down there he could trust, like a big brother. Eric didn’t have any brothers or sisters. He didn’t have much of a family but his mom and that’s really all he had. So, he left.

[00:18:24] And two and a half years goes by and I think what happened [beep] is went down to investigate Eric, and Jerry [beep] was with him. And they supposedly got some statements from people that Eric was close to down there, that Eric was drinking, playing cards one night and he admitted that something happened. He wasn’t sure because he couldn’t remember the whole night. It was a blur to him. But Eric was said to have made statements about the crime, which to me, he’s always told me he’s never made.

Yeardley: [00:18:52] Were those people out to get Eric?

Sam: [00:18:54] Well, they had charges up here. Police knew they were wanted up here.

Yeardley: [00:18:57] The people who were saying Eric was making statements about the crime?

Sam: [00:19:01] Yeah. And so, they brought him back here, and they helped them take care of their charges in lieu of statements that were given. Basically, that’s what happened for the next three and a half years.

Yeardley: [00:19:11] And what about you during that time?

Sam: [00:19:13] I was thinking– everything that happened in sequence of events that I think all came along and in the fact that I was suing [beep] the police department for a million dollars for a wrongful conviction and slander and defamation of character. I think that’s what was the big fire behind the whole thing to make them rearrest us and put us in prison. I think if I wouldn’t have filed a lawsuit, if I wouldn’t have done anything, I think it would have went away. But I think that I pushed their hand when I filed a lawsuit against them.

Dan: [00:19:44] Skipping forward a bit. What was that feeling like when you found out you were actually going to get released from prison?

Sam: [00:19:48] I didn’t believe it. [laughs] Yeah, it was pretty weird. They called me down from the dorms in the county jail, and Mary Ann was there with the other lawyer I got, and she was crying. I just couldn’t figure out why she was crying. And she goes, you need to sit down. So, I sat down. She told me the whole story about them knowing for a while that they had the wrong people in prison. I think they knew for a while that me and Eric didn’t do it. I think they knew for years that we didn’t do it. That’s my personal opinion of it. So, the DA knew that we didn’t do it. The blood they used to convict us came back. It wasn’t even the victim’s blood. They didn’t have DNA in 1983 and 86, it wasn’t a proven technique yet.

[00:20:27] And so they were going to let us go, but they didn’t know what they were going to do with Eric because he lost all his appeals, and so he was pretty much stuck in where he’s at. And they were trying to figure out how to get Eric out of state prison and it was a mess for him for a minute. I think Dave went up and saw Eric in prison, didn’t you?

David: [00:20:42] I did, yes.

Yeardley: [00:20:44] What did you go up there for?

David: [00:20:46] What was needed to be set emotionally to let people out of prison was an unknown thing, especially for murder, and our bosses were figuring that out, but they wanted us to go talk to Eric one last time to see if there’s anything different in what he said. And I remember we weren’t supposed to talk to his lawyer on the way up there, but we had to take him with us. And he was really quiet the whole time. He didn’t know what was going on. And we didn’t know what was going on.

Yeardley: [00:21:09] Oh, my God. That’s awkward.

David: [00:21:11] Yeah. And Eric’s story wasn’t anything different than when I read the original case file and he was actually in tears talking to us about it still. He started crying. He asked, what do you guys want to know this again for? I’ve said it a million times. And we drove away. And the lawyer all the way back was really, “What are you guys doing? What’s going on here?” And the next day he was released.

Yeardley: [00:21:33] And were you there when Eric and Sam were released?

David: [00:21:36] No, I wasn’t.

Yeardley: [00:21:37] And when did you meet up with them again. I feel like I want to know if there was a big Lassie Reunion.


David: [00:21:44] No, there really wasn’t. Eric did come by the station and say thanks and I saw him later. We ran into each other, you, me and Don.

Sam: [00:21:53] Yeah.

David: [00:21:54] And it was soon after that and he very cordial thanked us and we went on our way.

Zibby: [00:22:00] You say you were angry in prison. Did that anger ever leave you? I mean, I know you guys have a really nice cordial relationship between the two of you, but where do you put all that? How do you feel like this changed you if it did?

Sam: [00:22:13] Oh, yeah, it changed me. You couldn’t experience something like this and not be changed. But I think I finally let go of the anger from going down to chaplain. I grew up Catholic, and I went down to mass, and it was Christmas mass, and I guess we all joined hands and we prayed and said the words of the Lord. And I felt that something had come over me, something that was different came over me and kind of like the weight came off me and just lifted me. And I looked around, I looked at these people. There were child molesters, there were rapists, there were robbers, there were burglars, there’s black, there’s white, there was just assortment of people in the church, but didn’t really have a [unintelligible [00:22:55] just it was Christmas.

[00:22:56] I was thinking, this supposed to be my family, and here I am. Here I am in prison again, another Christmas. But I felt that everything was going to be all right. I don’t know, it was probably five, six years into I just felt like someone’s lifted off me and I felt something I don’t want to say it’s the Holy Spirit or something that touched me and told me it was going to be all right, everything was going to be all right, things would get better in my life, and they surely started slowly getting better. I won my first appeal, came back, lost that appeal in 45 minutes and found my way back to prison again, doing life pretty much basically when that happened. And three and a half years later, we won the appeal again. I came back. That’s when Mary Ann came across with people that did the crime and we were released.

Yeardley: [00:23:42] That’s incredible. If I were ever sent to prison for something I didn’t do, I feel like my days would be consumed with wondering who was actually guilty of the crime and where are they?

Sam: [00:23:55] Yeah, I remember sitting out in the prison yard with Eric. We smoked a joint because there’s weed in prison.

Zibby: [00:24:01] There is?

Yeardley: [00:24:02] There is?

Zibby: [00:24:03] How do they get weed in there? [Sam laughs]

Yeardley: [00:24:05] Wow.

Sam: [00:24:05] There’s pretty much anything you want in prison.

Yeardley: [00:24:07] Really?

Zibby: [00:24:08] Even hard drugs?

Sam: [00:24:09] Even hard drugs.

Zibby: [00:24:10] Stop it.

Sam: [00:24:11] We were walking around the track, smoking a joint, just talking one day, it was a nice summer day and Eric’s big thing– Eric didn’t want to lift weights or nothing in prison. He said, “Look, I’ll lift weights the last 5 years to 20.” He played handball, he kept to himself, and that’s what Eric did. And he worked. We sat down. We were just saying, “Man, 2006, that’s a long time.” Because it was like, I think it was 1992, 1993. We were only in there for five years at that time. We looked at each other and I asked Eric, “Has he ever get the feeling that the guys that did this crime are sitting in here with us right now? They’re in this prison with us because who knows.”

Yeardley: [00:24:46] Did you ever meet the man who committed the crime?

Sam: [00:24:48] Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:24:49] What was that like?

Sam: [00:24:50] It was pretty weird. He was cordial. He was pretty respectful. I mean, I probably wasn’t that respectful to him. I just said, “I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you.” And I asked him what happened and what really happened there. And he told me his version of it. And I told him that it’s pretty shitty what happened there, it was a sad thing that the kid had to get killed over some beer and some money that wasn’t about nothing. And I said, we lost a lot of our lives. And he said it wasn’t easy for him out here either. He was scared and he had a hard time too, because it was his cousin or his uncle, and they were all scared of him. So, I guess he was supposedly a badass.

David: [00:25:27] Because it was his uncle who committed the murder.

Sam: [00:25:29] Yep.


[Break 2]


Yeardley: [00:25:41] How long were you in prison? A decade?

Sam: [00:25:43] Eight and a half years.

Yeardley: [00:25:44] Eight and a half years, that’s a long time. Tell me what it’s like to get out and have to reacquaint yourself with everyday life.

Sam: [00:25:53] When we got out, my lawyers took me home. I was worried to get in the car, riding the car, you don’t think the car is going to stop before the light just everything’s different, the colors, the smells. Everybody’s not wearing the same color clothes. It’s just totally different. It’s a shock in a way, because you’re not used to seeing–, the new environment where I was contained the whole time and everybody’s wearing the same thing and your senses get numb to it me, a lot had going for me, I had a big family, so I got to my mom and dad’s house. My brothers are there. My sisters are there, my aunts. I had my family there, so that helped me a lot. I just kind of stuck close to them for the first couple of months.

Yeardley: [00:26:33] Did you get a job?

Sam: [00:26:34] No, I didn’t get a job right away. I just helped my mom. My dad died right before I got out of prison. He worked for the railroad for 37 years and he had a heart attack and died at 57. So, my mom and dad were pretty well off. They weren’t struggling bad or anything. All my brothers and sisters were raised. They had jobs and they stayed with my mom for a while and eventually I got a job for a couple of friends doing a weatherization and got a job in a mill, and I worked a few different jobs, but basically, I just went on about my life, lived. And Mary Anngot us a lawyer. He had us doing things too. He had us going to see a psychiatrist twice a month, which was probably pretty good. It was Dr. [beep].

[00:27:17] He was like a forefather in forensics and psychology. He did all the PE tests for prison evaluations and he was like a mentor to most other guys for psychology. He was like the head of the head. He designed a lot of the tests that they use now. They judge how to let people out. He was head of [unintelligible [00:27:32], but he didn’t have to work there. He just sat on the board. And his son was a lawyer and my lawyer knew his son, so they asked Dr. [beep] he could come out and study Eric and I and see what was going on with us. He hadn’t had two people that had been locked up that much time, like, eight and a half years in a confined environment for something they didn’t do. So, he wanted to see what the difference was between Eric and I.

[00:27:54] So, he split us up, made Eric go on Thursdays and I would go on Tuesdays. Gave us all the same tests. He had all these different repeater tests that you had to go through and fill out. And I remember the first time I went there I asked him where the couch was because there was no couch. And so, he goes, “Oh, you want a couch? I’ll get you a couch.” And he did. He got a couch. it’s kind of cool. He was a good guy. He looked like Colonel Sanders, Kentucky Fried Chicken. [Yeardley laughs] He was a good old boy. He was just a really nice guy. He ended up not being in the picture very long. He did it for, like little over a year.

[00:28:24] He studied me and Eric and come to find out he had bone cancer and he was going to die in the next six months. And so, he said he couldn’t help us anymore. He couldn’t work with us anymore because he had to give the last six months to the year of his life, to his family, his wife and stuff. And he didn’t want to quit without doing what he started, but he said he had a list of 20 other guys that were willing to volunteer their time for free, to take over where he left off if we wanted it.

Yeardley: [00:28:48] Did you?

Sam: [00:28:50] No, we didn’t want it.

Yeardley: [00:28:51] How come?

Sam: [00:28:53] Because Dr. [beep] told us a few things before he left. He told us both, “You guys got long ways to go, but you’re going to be all right. You still have the ability to love. If you love your family, you love. So right there, you’re going to be all right.” It’s not going to be easy. He goes, “You’re not going to get an apology from anybody. No one’s going to say they’re sorry to you, but you don’t need that. What you need is just to have faith in yourself and your family and stay strong. You’re going to be just fine. You’re going to be all right.” And he goes, “If you want see some of these other psychiatrists, they know what I’m doing, they know how we started, you can follow up with them, and they could finish where I started.” And me and Eric both decided we didn’t want to see another one. We just went with him.

Yeardley: [00:29:34] Are you still in touch with Eric?

Sam: [00:29:36] I haven’t talked to Eric in 14 years.

Zibby: [00:29:38] Really?

Yeardley: [00:29:39] Oh, wow.

Zibby: [00:29:40] On purpose or-

Sam: [00:29:40] Well, yeah, pretty much.

Zibby: [00:29:42] Do you guys have a falling out?

Sam: [00:29:44] We just had a difference of opinion, I guess. And Eric’s been in prison pretty much a lot of the time that I’ve been out, back and forth in the penitentiary. And like I said, Eric didn’t have a lot of family support. Just had his mom and he just went back and forth.

Zibby: [00:30:00] How are you now?

Sam: [00:30:02] Me.

Zibby: [00:30:03] Mm-hmm.

Sam: [00:30:04] I’m, I guess fine. I’m going through my elements of life, living with it and dealing with it. I’m sure that I’ll never forget it. It’ll be an experience that never leave me, I’m sure. I have my issues about things that I don’t think are probably perfect, normal thinking, but I think you get away thinking when something like that happens to you. It’s hard for you to believe or trust in the system or certain people or you get stuck in an environment with people like that for eight year, nine years and when you get out of prison, you can’t just see people that you knew in there, people you ran across, like you don’t know them anymore.

Yeardley: [00:30:43] Did you make any friends in prison?

Sam: [00:30:46] I wouldn’t call them friends, but, yeah, I met a lot of people because I played sports.

Yeardley: [00:30:50] Oh, in prison?

Sam: [00:30:51] Yeah. Played a lot of sports.

Zibby: [00:30:53] You can play sports and smoke weed in prison. [Sam laughs] I am learning, wow.

Sam: [00:30:56] And go to college and everything else.

Yeardley: [00:30:58] Did you do anything like that? Learn about the law or go to college?

Sam: [00:31:01] Yeah, I got a social science degree same as Eric. We went to community college and I went to the law library and studied law for years.

Yeardley: [00:31:09] And you did that, obviously, I’m assuming, so that you could be more informed about your own case. Yes. And the appeals and all that stuff.

Sam: [00:31:16] Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:31:16] It’s so striking to me that you said you won your first appeal. Does that mean that you got a new trial?

Sam: [00:31:22] Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:31:23] And then it was over in 45 minutes and you’re on your way back to prison?

Sam: [00:31:26] Pretty much, yeah.

Yeardley: [00:31:27] That’s got to be devastating.

Sam: [00:31:28] Well, they did something they’d never done before in the United States. They told the jury that I was guilty of murder, and there’re no questions about he’s guilty of murder. And they gave us a chance to put on mitigating factors, and the state would put on aggravating factors, and the jury could cite as aggravated murder, simple murder, felony murder. And I refused to participate in the trial because my whole case said was Innocent. How do I put on a defense when they tell the jury I’m guilty of murder? So, I just objected to it and didn’t participate in a trial and it took them 45 minutes, and they convicted me and sent me back to prison. But it got overturned by [beep] the Supreme Court that took three more years.

Zibby: [00:32:04] How do you feel about Sergeant David?

Sam: [00:32:06] I’ve had a couple of runs with Dave and Dave’s a cop, [Zibbylaughs] small town. Dave’s a pretty good cop.

Zibby: [00:32:14] We know

Sam: [00:32:15] He’s one of the smarter cops out there. He knows what’s going on out there, and he’s got a feel for things. But Dave’s a pretty straight shooter from what I’ve interacted with. I mean, if he tells you where he’s at and he pretty much stands behind his word, from my interactions with him, ever not told me the truth, what’s going on. He laid it out there as my choice whether I wanted to believe it or not and how I wanted to act with it, and has never done me wrong that I know of.

Yeardley: [00:32:39] So, Detective Dan tells a story about running into a guy that he had arrested multiple times and then being someplace else. And this man walks into the men’s room where Dan is, and he has a little boy with him, and he says to his little boy, this is Detective Dan. He’s a really good guy, and he was always really fair and very respectful towards me when I was in trouble, and it meant so much to Dan, obviously. And we know from speaking to Sergeant David on multiple occasions, your characterization of him fits what our experience of him is as well. And Sergeant David, we wonder, I know you’re not a man, you’re not sentimental, you’re not a sentimental fellow, but to hear from somebody who has really been through the system that you’re always fair, what does that mean to you?

David: [00:33:33] It means a lot, actually. It does. We’d always try to get it right, the best we can. And what this case showed me earlier was that never think you know everything. You have to really be confident in what you’re doing. I am going to take away people’s freedoms like that. And like I said, this community is not small, but it’s not big either. And you run into people all the time and word in the criminal community gets around, and the truth gets embellished a lot. And if you’re a jerk to people, it gets embellished tenfold. I think most people that I’ve arrested in my life understood why they’re getting arrested. They’re not shocked by it because [Yeardley laughs] they know what they’re up to. I always treat people with respect till they’re not respectful to me. And it’s pretty easy thing to do really. I could leave the room. You could really talk about me, though, if you want.


Sam: [00:34:22] You are fine.

Zibby: [00:34:25] So, can I ask, is there anything in your life now that you aspire to or are passionate about? I’m just curious.

Sam: [00:34:32] Yeah. My family, I guess. My family, I have a little girl that’s a year old now.

Zibby: [00:34:38] A year?

Yeardley: [00:34:39] You do?

Sam: [00:34:40] So I’m passionate about that and basically just trying to put this behind me really. It’s been way too long, too many years, too much about it, and it doesn’t ever seem to go away.

Dan: [00:34:54] I know there are rules in prison on what kind of content you can have. I don’t know if guys in prison listen to podcasts.

Sam: [00:35:01] I’m sure they could. Yeah.

Dan: [00:35:03] Obviously, there are probably people out there that have been convicted of crimes that they did not commit. If there’s something that you can say to those folks, what would it be?

Sam: [00:35:12] Don’t ever give up. If you know you’re right and you didn’t do it, stay true to yourself. And there’re people out there like Project Innocence and Barry Scheck and different organizations that you can write letters to, and they will help you. It might take a while, but someone will get in contact with you and just stay positive. Trust in the Lord and just pray and hope for the best in life. Don’t give up either way, one day at a time.

Dan: [00:35:37] Yeah. It’s probably a pretty difficult thing to do in that environment too.

Sam: [00:35:41] That’s pretty much all you can do is one day at a time. Prison wasn’t as bad as people make it out to be.

Yeardley: [00:35:48] Why not?

Sam: [00:35:49] Why not? Why wasn’t it that bad?

Yeardley: [00:35:51] Yeah.

Sam: [00:35:52] Because if you go in there and do what you need to do, if you’re only doing a year or something like that some people really need it. Maybe it’ll straighten their lives out. Some people keep coming back because it just doesn’t work for them. But there’re things you can go, you can go to school in there, you can educate, you can get clean, you can play sports. I had a lot of partners who come in, 16 months sets, and then they get out and you think they’re going to be doing good. But my rule was if you got out twice and you came back the third time, I didn’t know you, I didn’t talk to you, I didn’t know you anymore because you got out three times, and I’m sitting here doing life, and I haven’t got out one time. So obviously you don’t value your freedom, so I don’t value you much.

Dan: [00:35:52] You ultimately filed a lawsuit against the city and got a settlement. Did that feel like a win for you?

Sam: [00:36:37] I think what we always strived to have and what we always wanted was maybe an apology that never was to come. Like our lawyer said, you don’t need apology from them, money’s the apology. But to me, the money never was the apology. They couldn’t be wrong, kind of had to, they never believed the truth, and that was probably the hardest time. I think Dave is the first cop I ever met that truly believed and knew I didn’t do it. And I think that’s I respected him the most for his guy. I think he got involved with it. He looked at the case, he knows what happened, and he knows the truth. I think that was one of the biggest things for me that I was thankful for.

Yeardley: [00:37:17] Can I ask how much you sued the city for?

Sam: [00:37:19] We were suing it for $44 million, but the city only had $2.3 million when we sued them. That’s all they were insured for, went to arbitration and settled out.

David: [00:37:28] How much did your lawyer take?

Sam: [00:37:30] They took 333,000 from both of us, 666,000 and then 187,000 out of pocket expenses, so they didn’t leave us with too much. [laughs]

Dan: [00:37:40] So you do the time and they get paid for it?

Sam: [00:37:43] Well, that’s the way it works. They got the money. You got to take what you can get. At that point, what can you do? You figure something’s better than nothing.

Yeardley: [00:37:52] I guess so. But like you said, an apology would have gone a really long way.

Sam: [00:37:56] Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:37:57] Well, Sam, yours is an incredible story. Really. Thank you so much for sitting down with us. We really appreciate you taking the time.

Sam: [00:38:05] You’re welcome.


[Break 3]


Yeardley: [00:38:18] Sergeant David, we want to take this chance to sit down with you after the fact and ask you what your impressions of that interview were because it’s an unusual situation that we would have an opportunity, first of all, to interview a suspect, and you rightfully so, wanted to be present for that interview.

David: [00:38:39] Well, one of the big reasons I wanted to be present was because I know criminals and I know how they manipulate situations to better themselves and make themselves look better and the police look worse and that kind of thing. And although this case was a mistake by the police department, they arrested the wrong people. But that case went all the way through the court system too. So, it’s just one of the examples of when you have a system that is run and judged by humans, mistakes can be made.

Yeardley: [00:39:07]: You refer to Sam as a criminal and by his own admission, he hasn’t lived a completely blameless life, but he was also a victim in this pretty significant miscarriage of justice situation. So, can you get into that a little bit more?

David: [00:39:23] That’s a good question. I need to clarify that point. When I, as a police officer, as long as I’ve been doing it, call someone a criminal. We, as police officers, we deal with criminals all the time. I mean, everybody we talk to is a criminal. This is one of those different cases where instead of putting someone in jail, we’re working on getting them out of jail. But he’s still within that criminal element. And when he is arrested and put in that jail and around all the other criminals, he’s got to become a criminal of somewhat to look like he fits in and to get any sign of credit. It’s a survival thing.

Zibby: [00:39:57] Yeah. He’s playing the part.

David: [00:39:59] Yeah. And for me to refer to him as a criminal, he wasn’t a criminal in this case. He was not smart in trying to play a criminal, though, because he was trying to play a criminal sometimes in what he was saying to other people who were in that criminal element.

Yeardley: [00:40:12] When he was in jail.

David: [00:40:13] When he was in jail and before he went to jail, a lot of the things that he said to people were hinting toward, “Yeah, I might have been had something to do with that.” And even to the point where today I still have people come in and ask about that, because they say he’s made statements today that he got away with that. I know that’s not true. I’m 100% confident of that. But it’s still it’s that bragging that I’m someone to be dealt with kind of thing that has been there and done that in that world.

Zibby: [00:40:44] And yet when he was with us, there wasn’t any flicker of that.

David: [00:40:48] No. And I’ve had conversations with him about this and the first time I met him is when he got released from prison. And we’ve had interactions since then. And he is, I would say, somewhat a product of what happened to him there. But he was already headed down that road before he got arrested. And it’s just one of those things where it’s this human element where you just don’t understand how you get from there. And I’m sure he didn’t, at some point, about three years in sitting in jail for murder for the rest of his life. One of the most interesting things he said in that thing was how he didn’t respect people who came back to prison, because somebody who doesn’t respect their freedom, he doesn’t respect them.

[00:41:28] I think that the lesson he got taught there, was value your freedom, because he’s sitting there every day knowing he didn’t do something and knowing that his freedom is gone for the rest of his life at some point. And so, I have respect for him for that. I mean, he came in here, he said his version of what he thought happened and what took place, and it just shows you that even though sometimes it seemed like we’re worlds apart in the criminal-cop world, we’re really not in a lot of ways. That’s the secret for both sides, especially police, as far as being able to talk to these people, because you got to understand all that so you understand where they’re coming from when they’re trying to talk to you.

Zibby: [00:42:04] We talk a lot on this show about the imperfect victim and how it’s really hard for people who are looking at a situation or a case and trying to judge who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s guilty, who’s innocent, to really start to think in terms of black and white. And it gets very difficult when you look at somebody who’s the imperfect victim, somebody who is a victim in one circumstance but is out in the world doing some things that we would otherwise point to and say, “Oh, that’s really shady.” The story’s horrible, but it wasn’t like this big Hollywood wrapped up. Now he’s coming on the show and talking about how he’s either fully reformed or it broke him for life. It’s just he’s just riding this wave of gray area. And it was really striking to see the two of you sitting next to one another and to see the amount of respect even still in the midst of all that you actually have for one another.

David: [00:42:51] Well, one of the reasons I do respect him, you can’t really change what happened to him. He got paid a pretty good sum of money, but money doesn’t solve that kind of thing. But he’s accepted his fate. He’s accepted what’s happened and trying to get on with his life a little bit the best he can. It’s hard to overcome sometimes. Humans are fascinating creatures. I think you have to understand all the motives that they have to do the things they do and say the things they say if you’re going to be successful in getting the right information or the so-called perfect victim to tell you everything. Or even witnesses. Because they have preconceived notions about law enforcement and we in law enforcement have preconceived notions about what we call criminals. So, you got to work through that all the time.

Yeardley: [00:43:29] I’m curious to know because a lot of your job is being able to put yourself in, say, somebody’s shoes like Sam to recognize where they’re coming from in order for you to be able to communicate with them effectively, to get the information that you’re after. Were you always like that when you were growing up? And were you always interested in people and what made them tick?

David: [00:43:53] I don’t think I really gave it much thought when I was a young man because young men don’t think much-


David: [00:43:58] -but I accept about certain few things, but when I finally took a job as a police officer, I realized how much power there really is to take away someone’s freedom, because I value my freedom more than anything. I could not be chained in a building like that. I couldn’t do it. Not that I’m afraid of who’s in there, it’s just it drives me crazy to be locked up. And so, I’ve always respected that. And Dan and Dave can attest this too. 85% to 90% of the people you put in jail, they’re not mad at you for putting them there. They know that they’re going.

Yeardley: [00:44:26] Really?

David: [00:44:27] If you explain to them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and they understand that they basically got caught. They’re not mad at you. Some of them are– sociopaths and psychopaths are going to be mad for anything. But as long as you respect that you respect and I know I’m taking your freedom away, I got to feel good about it too. I don’t want to do that to anybody that doesn’t deserve it.

Dan: [00:44:45] One of the things you absorb when you’re working for Sergeant Dave is the professionalism and showing people respect and being noble when you are dealing with a suspect. And what I’ve learned over the years is if I treat somebody fairly with respect, they’re going to get out of prison eventually. And when you see them again after they got out of prison, it’s pretty powerful when they look at you and they give you a nod that they respect you. And I appreciate that because they’re not mad at me. They know that they screwed up. But I showed them a measure of respect and we can move on from it.

Yeardley: [00:45:24] I’m struck by what both of you are essentially saying, is that you want justice for the victim, but as much as you can remove the judgment about why that person has the lifestyle, the criminal lifestyle that they happen to be in, that’s not really your concern. Your concern is, I need to right this wrong. And it’s terrible that things didn’t work out for you, but you don’t seem to lord it over them.

Dan: [00:45:52] You want the light bulb to go on for them and that’s the hope.

David: [00:45:58] Well, not everybody’s the same as far as criminal wise. There’re some people who are just truly evil throughout their soul. They really are. I don’t mean this for them at all, but I do mean that most of the people that are in prison for the circumstances they’ve done, they’re really not that different from us being cops. They’re really not. And we and they need to realize that at some point.

Yeardley: [00:46:24] Can you draw that line a little more clearly? What do you mean by that?

David: [00:46:27] Well, we all grow up and we know what the rules are. And some people on one side think that the rules are kind of they’re a gray area or whatever, and then there’re people on the other side and the cop’s side. The key to all that is figuring out with each individual where that line is. How can I make you understand what you’re doing is wrong and you’re going to go pay for it in whatever way you’re going to do it, and then you’re not going to be back. I had a saying when I worked dope when I worked narcotics and I did a lot of undercover stuff and that kind of thing, but when we would arrest people and people that I had relationships with, people that I was buying drugs from, you get to know them in a different light. And I would say, you’re not a bad person, but you’re doing a bad thing. There’s just not a lot of difference sometimes. That’s what’s always fascinated me.

Yeardley: [00:47:11] Such a good answer.

Zibby: [00:47:12] So cool.

Yeardley: [00:47:13] Thank you again, Sergeant David. Honestly, we could talk to you every episode. Every time you come see us, we learn something new. You’re just a fascinating human being. Thank you.

David: [00:47:25] Thanks.

Yeardley: [00:47:33] Small Town Dicks is produced by Zibby Allen and Yeardley Smith and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave.

Zibby: [00:47:39] This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Yeardley Smith, and Zibby Allen.

Yeardley: [00:47:45] 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: [00:47:55] 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: [00:48:09] Yeah. And also, we have a YouTube channel where you can see trailers for past and forthcoming episodes.

Zibby: [00:48:14] 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: [00:48:30] Nobody’s better than you.

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