Police in a small town respond to the report of a severely injured child. She’s rushed to the hospital and police begin to investigate what happened. Not long into the inquiry, the story from the caretakers is not adding up. Detective Chris begins the delicate task of uncovering the truth from adults who have no inclination to tell the truth.
Guest: Detective Chris
Detective Chris has been in law enforcement for over 28 years. He has been at his current department for 25 years where he’s been a detective for 12 years. He spent 15 years on his agency’s TAC team, 8 years as a K9 handler, and is a certified Control Tactics instructor at the state and federal level. Before joining law enforcement, Chris was a Military Police Officer in the Army National Guard. He’s married, with 3 kids.Read Transcript
Yeardley: [00:00:04] Hey, Small Town Fam, it’s Yeardley. How are you, guys? I’m so happy that you’re here. We have an excellent episode for you today, which might sound a little strange to say, when I also warn you, it’s a child abuse case. I know some of you just skip over these episodes because you have children of your own, or you simply can’t bear to listen to the awful things people do to these small victims. We totally get it. We do. We tell these stories because they’re a big part of police work and they’re also very often the cases our detectives can’t forget. So, we bring them to you with a warning like this, as well as the utmost respect for the victims, the investigators, and you, our listeners.
[00:00:53] Detective Chris is our guest today and I assure you he is sparing in the details of what happened to Tracy, the little victim in this case. He shares with us some of the red flags law enforcement looks for when they’re called out to a crime like this. It’s an eye opener. If you live in an area where you can see your neighbors, I think you’ll find it quite enlightening. And finally, Chris, Dan, Dave, and Paul share with us some of the less than perfect ways they handle seeing the worst of the worst day in and day out, even after they’ve retired.
[00:01:33] If you’ve been listening to Small Town Dicks for a while, you know we’ve had previous discussions around law enforcement and mental health, but I don’t think you ever come to the end of that thread. So, here we are again. All that is to say, yes, this episode is a hard one. But without giving anything away, I can tell you a few pieces are also salvaged from the wreckage and that gave me hope. I hope it does the same for you. Here is, You know What You Did.[Small Town Dicks theme]
Yeardley: [00:02:08] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:02:10] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:02:11] I’m Dave.
Paul: [00:02:12] And I’m Paul.
Yeardley: [00:02:13] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:02:15] Dave and I are identical twins.
Dave: [00:02:17] And retired detectives from Small Town, USA.
Paul: [00:02:19] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State Killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.
Dan: [00:02:25] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.
Dave: [00:02:32] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.
Paul: [00:02:39] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.
Dan: [00:02:44] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved out of respect for what they’ve been through.
[unison]: [00:02:54] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:03:00] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have, are you ready, the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:03:07] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:03:08] He seems surprised.
Dan: [00:03:09] I never know what to say.
Yeardley: [00:03:10] [laughs] Hello is a good start.
Dan: [00:03:12] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:03:13] We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:03:14] On Dan’s, you hit me with a no look pass. You were looking at me and shot it over to Dan.
Yeardley: [00:03:19] I did. Again, just trying to exert the minimal amount of power I have in this quad.
Dave: [00:03:25] Pleasure to be here.
Yeardley: [00:03:25] Thank you. And we have the one and only, Paul Holes.
Paul: [00:03:29] Hi.[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:03:32] This is my favorite part. Not really, but certainly one of them.
Dave: [00:03:36] It’s so awkward.
Yeardley: [00:03:37] It’s brilliant. And Small Town Fam, we are so pleased to welcome back to the podcast, Detective Chris.
Chris: [00:03:44] Hello. How are you?
Yeardley: [00:03:45] It’s great to see you again, sir. Thank you.
Chris: [00:03:47] It’s very nice to be here. Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:03:49] We’re always deeply honored that our detectives are willing to give up a very precious day off.
Chris: [00:03:54] I appreciate it and it’s my pleasure also.
Yeardley: [00:03:56] Thank you. So, Chris, before we get into the case that you have for us today, I’m going toss it to Dave to do a little, I don’t know, recon.
Dave: [00:04:07] Yeah. So, it’s nice to know jurisdictions and how big is the county, what’s the population like, what’s the terrain, how many agencies, just the basic bio stuff of the area that, Detective Chris, you work in, what are we looking at, your department size-ish.
Chris: [00:04:24] Roughly 120 officers and that’s from the chief down.
Dave: [00:04:28] Okay.
Yeardley: [00:04:29] And in your detective agency, about how many–?
Chris: [00:04:33] We have eight detectives that work back in the bureau as we call it. We work everything. We don’t have any specialties. Everyone works homicides down to identity theft.
Dave: [00:04:45] So, trainings, you guys get all kinds of trainings on different subjects?
Chris: [00:04:50] Oh, yes. Training is important. I think it’s one of the most important things. We do get a lot of training. I will say that our department is probably one of the better trained ones that I’ve had contact with, but you can never have enough. And usually, training budgets are the first ones that get cut, which is sad.
Dave: [00:05:07] Right. Especially, with all the scrutiny. Your county, what’s the estimated population?
Chris: [00:05:13] The estimated population for the county is roughly, I’d say, 120,000, but our town is about 65,000. So, there’s a smaller town that butts up against us. It’s a small college town, but we’re pretty rural.
Dave: [00:05:28] Okay. And safe to say your department has plenty of interactions with other local county and state agencies.
Chris: [00:05:36] Yeah, we work together with all the agencies around. We have the count sheriff’s department is in our town. It’s the county seat. So, we work with them. And then all the smaller towns around us they have five officers or six officers total. We interact with them and they with us.
Dave: [00:05:52] Okay.
Yeardley: [00:05:53] Awesome. So, Chris, please tell us how this case came to you.
Chris: [00:05:56] So, it was a weekend. I got called in the morning to come in and help out with a case. And basically, I was told over the phone it was a four-year-old child who had been rushed to the hospital and it didn’t look promising. Some of the things that the initial responding officers, and the sergeant, and the paramedics said, “It just wasn’t adding up, that 6 cents things just didn’t seem quite right.”
[00:06:24] So, I headed in. When I got in there, another detective who had already gotten in there was now speaking with Alice, who is the mother of the young girl, Tracy. So, the detective was speaking with Alice and asked me if I would go out and find Tracy’s older brother, Robert and Wayne, who is Alice’s boyfriend.
Yeardley: [00:06:51] How old are Wayne and Alice, roughly?
Chris: [00:06:54] They’re in their mid-20s.
Yeardley: [00:06:55] Okay.
Chris: [00:06:56] So, I’ll give a backstory. Initially, when the officers got there, they found Tracy unresponsive, and you could tell that she had blood coming out of her mouth, wasn’t breathing properly. Paramedics realized it and they did an incredible job. They realized something’s not right and they scooped her and went Code 3 with her. But as the officers were talking to Alice, her story wasn’t really making a lot of sense. Things that she was claiming that happened to Tracy that she got up to get a glass of water in the middle of the night, and then fell down the stairs, and had a seizure wasn’t making sense. Then she would change her story a little bit with the officers. Alice would say, “No, Tracy wasn’t getting up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, had a seizure, and fell down the stairs.” It was “Tracy just fell down the stairs.”
[00:07:50] When you look at the stairs, the officers were saying that the physical evidence just didn’t seem right. So, their red flags went up in the back of their minds like, “We need to lock this apartment down, and get detectives in here, and get anyone else that we need to, like, lab and those type of people, because this isn’t right.” So, the detective who had initially gone to the hospital was speaking with Alice and Alice changed her stories again about what happened.
[00:08:21] The emergency room doctor said that Tracy had a depressed skull fracture, she was missing a couple of her front teeth, had multiple bruising in different stages, and wasn’t responding to any emergency room care. Breathing wasn’t steady. So, they took Tracy and transported her. In our state, we have a pretty well-known children’s hospital. So, she was transported down there to that hospital immediately. The detective brought Alice back down to the police department, after initially talking to her at the hospital. Alice initially said that no one else was in the apartment except for Tracy and her. But Tracy has an older brother. “Well, where’s the older brother?” Well, the older brother is at grandma’s, then the older brother is at friend’s house and doesn’t have anybody else that stays there.
[00:09:18] So, the detective was questioning this, because, again things just aren’t adding up, and you start making note of that. I’ll go back a little bit to how the call came in initially. So, it didn’t come into 911. The call came in to what’s called Ask A Nurse and it was a male subject who called Ask A Nurse and said, “My daughter fell down and had a seizure and she’s not responding.” Then the Ask A Nurse, which is just a triage call at a hospital, you just have a question, a normal question like, “Maybe my child has a fever. What can I do for that or I cut my hand, do I need these stitches?” that kind of question. This isn’t my child that fell down, had a seizure, is not responsive.
[00:10:06] So the Ask A Nurse lady said, “Did anyone call 911?” And Wayne said, “Well, yes. My girlfriend, who would have been Alice, called 911, told them what was going on.” And the dispatcher said, “Well, if she wakes up and is better in a little while, then let us know or if she doesn’t wake up, call back.”
Yeardley: [00:10:27] I don’t believe that.
Chris: [00:10:28] Yeah, it’s horseshit. So, right there, the Ask A Nurse knew that this is not right, no one called, dispatch doesn’t tell you to call back if they get better or they don’t respond. So, the Ask A Nurse caller had said, “Hey, what is your name?” They gave her a fake name. They said, “What’s your address?” “Well, I’m not sure. Let me look on the front of the house.” “Well, okay.” Luckily, Ask A Nurse got, from the very beginning, Tracy’s actual real name and date of birth. They had a record of her, so they knew her address. So, the Ask A Nurse caller called 911 themselves and then said, “I’ve called 911, so paramedics should be there shortly.”
Yeardley: [00:11:10] Chris, why was there already a record of Tracy’s address? Had she been to the hospital before for weird bruises or something?
Chris: [00:11:19] Just for normal childcare.
Yeardley: [00:11:20] I see.
Chris: [00:11:21] Now, granted, this is a male caller at this apartment. When the paramedics and police arrived, it was just Tracy and Alice. And of course, Alice is saying, “Well, no one else lives here with me. There’s no one else here,” when a male caller was the one who called in.
Dave: [00:11:38] The timeline is, when that Ask A Nurse informs the male caller, “Hey, I’ve called 911. The police are on the way,” it’s a oh shit moment for anybody in that residence. You have to clean up a crime scene, you have to secrete evidence. It sounds like the male isn’t on scene when emergency responders get there. He just took off. There’re so many boxes that have been checked just in the first few minutes of Detective Chris talking. I’m like, “There’s another one. There’s another one. There’s another one.”
Yeardley: [00:12:09] Boxes for you.
Dave: [00:12:10] Boxes for me as anybody who’s investigated physical child abuse, I look for certain things. Number one, is there a delay in calling 911? Clearly, there is. When it comes to abusive head trauma, they call it the golden hour for a reason. That child has to get medical attention within an hour of a brain bleed to have a real good fighting chance at survival. You hear the explanation of the stairs. I have a slide in my child abuse presentation that says, The Usual Suspects and prominently displayed in the middle is a set of stairs with the child crawling like a toddler, crawling up the stairs, cribs, couches, backs of couches, beds, bunkbeds, those are all named in child abuse injuries everywhere. So, when I heard the stairs, I went, “Aha, I also heard that Tracy has a sibling.” And so, I start thinking parents also blame siblings.
[00:13:08] When they’ve done something and they say, “Well, the older brother plays pretty rough with kiddo and this is probably what the older brother did,” because the parents know, I’m on the hook for this, but they’re not going to prosecute an eight-year-old boy or whatever the age of the sibling is. So, I’m not sure about the accuracy of any of what’s reported, but they’re already checking boxes of a pattern of what we see in child abuse reporting. There’re all kinds of red flags that have already come up and we’re only minutes into this.
Yeardley: [00:13:38] Chris, interestingly, Alice has said, “Nobody else lives here with me.” So, at first, she’s not even acknowledging Tracy’s brother Robert, let alone mentioning anything about Wayne.
Chris: [00:13:52] Yes, correct. So, Alice is now down at the police station for a more in-depth interview. The detective was able to determine that the male caller who called Ask A Nurse was not who they said they were. Through some digging, we’re able to find out that Alice had this boyfriend named Wayne. So, when I got in there, I got briefed what was going on. They said, “Hey, go find Wayne and Robert, they’re missing.”
Yeardley: [00:14:20] How old is Robert, the brother?
Chris: [00:14:23] Robert would be, I believe around, nine at the time. So, yeah, I was asked to go find Wayne and Robert. So, I went to Wayne’s parents’ house first, knocked on the door, said, “Is Wayne and Robert here?” “Yep, he is.” So, they came out, I said, “Hey, I was wondering if you guys would be willing to come down to the station and talk.” He said, “Sure.” I said, “Listen, do you need a ride? Do you have a ride or would you like a ride from me?” And he said, “I’d love a ride. That would be great. Can you give me a ride?” “Sure, I’ll give you a ride down.”
[00:14:56] So, we took Wayne and Robert down to the police station. I put Wayne in an interview room and then took Robert to another interview room. Robert was eventually taken by another detective [unintelligible 00:15:07]. We have a child center and they’re forensically trained to interview children. So, Robert was interviewed by one of the child forensic interviewers. I went got Wayne a cup of coffee and came back a short time later. I did what’s called a noncustodial interview, since we’re basically right now just trying to gather information.
Yeardley: [00:15:31] What technically is a noncustodial interview?
Chris: [00:15:35] Well, a noncustodial interview is, when you may have some inclination that there is involvement, but you’re setting it up where the person’s not under arrest, and that’s how you set the whole interview up. That’s why when I asked him, if he’d like to voluntarily come down to the station for an interview, and if he needed a ride, he’s volunteering for a ride. When I came in, I said, “Listen, you’re not under arrest. You can get up and leave at any time. Do you remember how to get out? If you don’t know how to get out, I’ll show you out. The door’s not locked. I only shut it for privacy reasons.” You say that many times because then Miranda warnings don’t have to come into play.
Yeardley: [00:16:16] I think that’s the important distinction, because Wayne’s not in custody and this isn’t a formal interrogation. You don’t have to read Miranda. But if that shifts and it does become either of those things, then you’re still obligated to read him as Miranda rights, yes?
Chris: [00:16:33] Yeah. It can shift at any point in time, depending on what the person divulges what they tell you. But a noncustodial interview is actually a really good technique.
Dave: [00:16:43] Detective Chris is describing veteran detective stuff. This is experience and a comfortability with the room and the process. This is what solid detectives do. They are able to use case law and procedure to assist them with investigations. There’s nothing untoward or unethical about what Chris has done. Nothing. He’s letting this person know, you’re not under arrest and you can leave whenever you want.
Chris: [00:17:13] Oh, definitely. Yeah, you reiterate that. I’ve had huge embezzlement cases where I did a noncustodial interview. They asked to take a break and go out and put change in the meter, and they come back and confess, but then you let them go and say, “Hey, I’ll get a hold of you later.” So, it’s a good technique.
Dave: [00:17:29] It’s interesting to see someone’s body posture and just their overall affect and energy change when you tell them, “Hey, unless you’re telling me about something like a serial killing, no matter what you tell me today, you’re going home. You’re not going to be leaving in handcuffs.” I’ve said that to numerous suspects knowing, I know who my guy is, but I’m not taking him to jail today unless he tells me about bodies in his backyard. You explain it\, and they relax because they stop worrying about what I say in this interview means I only have a half an hour left of liberty. It calms them and they go, “He just told me, whatever I say in here, I’m walking out of here. Okay.”
Yeardley: [00:18:11] Because you need to gather more evidence to strengthen your case before you put them in handcuffs.
Dave: [00:18:16] Right. It’s all strategy. You can’t do that with every suspect. Some can harm others. They can harm themselves based on what their affect is as they’re leaving the police station after confessing to something. It’s just all strategy and it’s appropriate.
Dan: [00:18:32] It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to drive out to their house later that day and arrest them. That happens too.
Yeardley: [00:18:37] Sure.
Yeardley: [00:18:57] So, Chris, Wayne is with you in this room in a noncustodial capacity.
Chris: [00:19:03] Correct. So, I laid out all the parameters of the interview beforehand, asked him the basic informational questions, name, date of birth, things like that. And then I just asked Wayne, “Tell me about last night. Tell me about what you did last night,” just use open ended questions and let him talk. So, he gave me a statement about how he was out riding bikes, and then he went to visit Robert, and they rode bikes together. And then Wayne went to his parents’ house, and just rambled on and on throughout the night, and went to a friend’s trailer that lived right behind Alice’s apartment complex. And then Alice came over to this trailer, and then she left, and then he went back to his parents’ house. Okay, that’s interesting.
[00:19:57] So, what I did is I said, “Tell me backwards. Start at this time, tell me what you did last night and tell me in a story backwards,” which, if you know what you did for the evening, it should be easy enough to say it chronologically forward and then chronologically backward. Well, the backwards story just got very vague. The details fell off. Wayne’s story just wasn’t really making that much sense. So, I took a break, made sure he had enough coffee, and then came back in and I said, “Okay, I want to clarify a few things. Can you tell me again what you did last night?” He starts off on an entirely different story.
[00:20:42] I just let Wayne tell me whole new story, all kinds of different facts and different things that happened and different things he did throughout the night. Just like I said, one of those things, he just looked at him going, “I don’t know where you’re making this stuff up, because none of it is coherent and none of it makes any sense and it’s not doing you any favors.”
Dave: [00:21:02] Are you getting the distinct feeling that Wayne is trying to avoid at all costs being placed in that apartment?
Chris: [00:21:10] Yes, yes. Wayne had been banned from the apartment before. So, Wayne had had incidents once he moved in over there with Alice. They had started having trouble with neighbors. One of the neighbors in particular who lived next door could hear yelling and screaming and fighting constantly coming from that apartment. Wayne had neighbors complaining he was asking for sexual favors from other female neighbors.
Yeardley: [00:21:40] [unintelligible]
Chris: [00:21:41] Yeah. So, he had trouble, so he ended up getting banned from there, had a no trespass order placed on him, but he would still spend his time over there and hide out, come over all the time, even though he’s not supposed to be there. So, yeah, Wayne’s trying to place himself, “I wasn’t actually there on the property. I came over at 02:00 in the morning to pick Robert up to go bike riding, and we went out riding bikes and going dumpster diving, and then I brought him back.”
Yeardley: [00:22:10] He shows up at 02:00 AM to bring a nine-year-old out into the middle of the night to ride bikes and go dumpster diving.
Chris: [00:22:17] Correct.
Dave: [00:22:18] That’s quality time.
Yeardley: [00:22:20] That’s insane.
Chris: [00:22:21] Well, and the sad thing is, on a lot of other times, it was probably true.
Yeardley: [00:22:27] Oh, that’s so sad.
Dave: [00:22:29] It just gives you a glimpse into the caliber of person Wayne is.
Chris: [00:22:34] Yes. On a sidenote, we had other people come forward later and say that they had seen Wayne with mostly Robert, but also sometimes Tracy going door to door and having the kids beg for money, saying that “We’re going to get kicked out of our apartment, we need this much money or we don’t have food. Can you give me money?” So, we had multiple people come forward later on in the case and tell us that Wayne was involved in that kind of stuff with them.
Dave: [00:23:03] During this interview, are you getting any inclination that Wayne is close to invoking or lawyering up?
Chris: [00:23:11] No. No. He just talked. He would just tell a story and then when I asked clarify, tell a different version of it or come up with something that he never said before or he’s trying to distance himself from the apartment or the family. So, after a while, Wayne said he was tired, asked if he could go home. “Yep, that’s fine.” So, we let him go. And same thing with Alice when she was done being interviewed.
Yeardley: [00:23:36] I see. So, Alice has been brought in for questioning at some point too.
Chris: [00:23:41] Correct. One of the things that was kind of a, oh, crap moment, interviews are always recorded. So, a couple days later, I went back to watch my interview video and do my report for the interview. As I’m watching the video, after I bring in Wayne’s coffee and shut the door and leave, as he’s sitting in the chair, he glances up at the video camera, and then he reaches down and takes a ring, a big ring off of his right hand, puts it in his pocket, and then takes a ring off his left hand and puts it back on the right hand. Well, I didn’t see that until a few days later. Going back to that morning when Tracy had been taken to the hospital, our CSI, crime scene investigator, had gone in to the hospital and taken quick snapshots of Tracy’s overall appearance and condition.
[00:24:42] I saw those photos the next day. On her left temple, Tracy had a square bruise with different discoloration in the center. I made note of that because I just thought that’s very distinct. It was a distinct pattern. So, when I saw that video the day or two after seeing the photo, and I saw Wayne flip that ring off his hand, it’s like, “Okay, I know which direction we’re going now.” So, after Alice and Wayne were released and headed home, Tracy was at the hospital for a couple days. And then, unfortunately, she did pass away from her brain injuries. So, that hospital is also a teaching hospital. They do autopsies there. So, I had to go down for the autopsy. Tracy definitely had a skull fracture. She also had multiple bruising and different stages of healing, other fractures. So, there was a pattern, she had had injuries before.
Dave: [00:25:39] Did she have rib fractures?
Chris: [00:25:41] I don’t believe she did. She had some other small metatarsal stuff.
Dave: [00:25:45] Like, grabbing fingers and toes and twisting?
Chris: [00:25:48] Yes.
Dave: [00:25:49] [unintelligible 00:25:50].
Chris: [00:25:50] So, after that autopsy was done, there’s a doctor that works at that hospital who’s a nationally known expert in child abuse, physical child abuse, and that’s all they do is study that. So, we were called down to this hospital for a department head meeting with her, and she wields a lot of authority. So, we were in this big conference room with department heads from every department, whether it’s neurology, ophthalmology, everything, and they’re going through all the stuff that they had found with Tracy. So, that was really helpful because they were able to say, it wasn’t because of this or it wasn’t because of that, this is what caused her death. That was really important.
Yeardley: [00:26:37] What was the determination? She had these skull fractures, but also, you said, when the ambulance showed up after the Ask A Nurse called 911, they found that Tracy had blood coming out of her mouth.
Chris: [00:26:51] Yeah, she had two broken teeth. Alice said Tracy had a seizure, then fell down the stairs. Alice tried to use a spoon to put in her mouth, so she wouldn’t bite her tongue, the old wives’ tale. So, that’s how a couple of her teeth got broke off. So, after I got done with that–
Yeardley: [00:27:09] Sorry to interrupt. You’re saying after you and the doctors go over Tracy’s autopsy findings?
Chris: [00:27:14] Yes. Then it went down to reinterviewing Alice again. And again, stories changed a little bit more. We executed a search warrant at the apartment. In the apartment, it was just a mess. There was stuff everywhere. But one thing I noticed is Tracy supposedly had had a seizure, had fallen down the stairs, but mom initially had said, she found him on the first landing. Well, it’s carpeted stairs. The landing is carpeted. The stairs turn at a 90 degree, they’re carpeted. There were some toys and things on the landing, but it just didn’t seem feasible that the fracture Tracy had came from falling down these stairs. And that was one of the things that the child abuse specialist in the hospital would make a big note on. This type of injury, what you’re claiming is not consistent with the injuries that Tracy has. So, it’s not plausible that this could have happened that way.
Dave: [00:28:15] Yeah. It’s difficult for me to imagine a fall downstairs carpeted, usually have a pad under them. It’s a series of six-inch to eight-inch falls downstairs to get a patterned impression or depression in the skull is, it’s hard to explain based on what Chris just described of this stairwell that seems to be the culprit for Tracy’s injuries.
Chris: [00:28:38] Yeah, it just didn’t match up.
Paul: [00:28:40] Yeah. There is a misperception in terms of the types of injuries that falls downstairs will do in terms of the stairs themselves. You think about the stair. It’s like a broad, bludgeoning weapon, each one. So, the types of injuries, the forces are distributed across a large area.
[00:29:01] I had a man in his mid-40s fall down the stairs and he died, he broke his neck. The only thing he had on were boxer shorts. So, all of his skin was exposed during this fall. There was nothing visual on him. He just happened to break his neck. So, a depressed skull fracture– I don’t know the size of the skull fracture, but you’re generally looking at a concentrated force to crush in that part of the skull, and that doesn’t happen unless Tracy had hit a corner of something on the furniture. Now you start evaluating other objects, but the stairs themselves don’t cause that type of injury.
Dave: [00:29:42] Right. And hitting the corner of something would typically cause some sort of laceration. You’re going to have some blood, you’re going to have a scrape, some sort of mark. When Detective Chris described a few days after his interview with Wayne, he notices, “Oh, what’s he doing with his rings?” I don’t want to jump ahead, but I have a feeling I know what caused the depression in the skull.
Yeardley: [00:30:05] When I fell down the stairs in 2016 and broke my neck, I fell down a flight of cement stairs in a parking garage. You’re right, Paul. I had no bruises. I did have a concussion and almost died, but there was no blood.
Paul: [00:30:21] Right.
Chris: [00:30:21] Yeah. And that was one of the things when we did the search warrant is myself and the other detectives were like, “Okay, let’s look at every aspect of what’s on the stairs could have matched up with the bruising that we saw on Tracy’s temple.” We’re going to seize it, and then we’re going to go through and see if there’s anything else we can find in the apartment that may be matched up to Tracy’s bruise. So, I’m sure the lab and the property weren’t too happy that day because we seized a lot of stuff, but we weren’t going to leave anything unturned.
Yeardley: [00:30:58] Chris, just to clarify, are you saying that this depressed skull fracture was on the side of her head where you saw this peculiar pattern, which I’m just going to blow it, which I’m pretty sure is related to one of Wayne’s rings? It’s not a different skull fracture, is it? Not like on top of her head or something?
Chris: [00:31:17] No. The bruising was on Tracy’s left temple.
Yeardley: [00:31:21] That’s related to this depressed skull fracture, which is the cause of her death.
Chris: [00:31:25] Correct.
Yeardley: [00:31:45] So, Chris, you’ve gone through Alice’s whole house and you’re trying to match up the injuries on Tracy’s body with the stairs, but you can’t because it doesn’t add up, which means Wayne and Alice are lying.
Chris: [00:31:59] Correct. So, we went with that information, and that’s when we started doing background interviews, and neighbor interviews, and school interviews. Because when Robert, the older brother, had been taken to get interviewed, he really didn’t say much. So, that was fine. We understand this. Sometimes, it’s traumatic and they don’t want to open up. But we went and talked to some neighbors who witnessed Tracy riding on the handlebars of Wayne’s bike, and Tracy falls off and started crying. Wayne tells her, “Bitch, get up.” Grabs her by her hair, drags her to her feet, and then drags her back into the apartment. So, those were kind of the interviews and things that we were putting together with the neighbors.
[00:32:48] The loud yelling and screaming constantly in the apartment. How when Wayne moved in with Alice, Alice’s demeanor completely changed. She wouldn’t let the kids outside to play anymore. Family members couldn’t come over and come in the house. If family members came over to Alice’s house and wanted to see Tracy and Robert, Tracy and Robert had to go outside. Just all that kind of information gathering was really important for the case down the road.
Yeardley: [00:33:16] Dave, you’re nodding your head as Chris describes those new rules in Alice and Wayne’s house.
Dave: [00:33:22] Yeah, we just see it in law enforcement so often that a guy who is toxic to everybody around him probably moves in with mom and takes over discipline, takes over the rules of the house. It’s complete control of who comes in and who comes out. And sometimes that’s because they don’t want anyone to go outside and report what they saw inside that apartment. About conditions, about conditions of injuries on children. Why are we [unintelligible 00:33:50] secreting children? You control what is exposed to potential witnesses, and that’s what I’m picturing. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here, but there’s just checking lots of boxes.
Paul: [00:34:00] I’m just starting to get a little bit of concern about what is happening to Alice, what’s happening to Robert inside that house as well.
Dave: [00:34:09] Right.
Chris: [00:34:09] Yeah, definitely, family members said that Alice started losing weight, wasn’t herself, wouldn’t let him see the kids. People would come over all the time wanted to speak with Wayne. Supposedly, he was selling bikes and lawnmowers and things out of his place and Alice would go out to sell the lawnmower. If the person had a question, then Wayne would yell out from the house to answer a question. So, just really odd dynamics that were going on in that house, in that apartment.
Dan: [00:34:40] When Alice and Wayne began dating, how long did it take for Wayne to move in with Alice?
Chris: [00:34:46] It was almost immediate.
Dan: [00:34:48] That’s a big red flag to us in law enforcement, especially Dave’s former caseload, which was sex crimes and child abuse. And obviously, Chris has worked child abuse and sex crimes against children. That’s what we see. We see an initial meeting, a spark between a man and a woman, and the next thing you know, he’s moving in with her. That’s what it typically seems like. He’s moving in with her. I know I moved in with you, Yeardley, but–[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:35:16] It was three years.
Dan: [00:35:17] Yeah, it was three years. And like Dave said, Wayne moves in with Alice and immediately now he’s in charge of discipline in the house, and he’s also isolating the children and he’s isolating Alice. These are all just big, huge red flags. To our listeners, if you have friends who you see a situation that’s similar to this, I encourage you to reach out to that woman, because it’s typically a woman who’s in this position and just check in on them.
Dave: [00:35:44] A listener actually sent me a message last week. It was just a scenario. “Hey, I have a friend who is dealing with an issue where the friend owns a business. She has an employee who’s a female. Female stops reporting to work. When employer calls, the female employee who’s now AWOL, a male answers and says, basically, ‘Yeah, she’s not coming back to work. She’s done and we’ve moved out of this city.” And this employer is like, “This guy’s new in her life and why is he answering her phone? Why can’t I get a hold of her?” And said, basically, “Detective Dave, what should I do?” And I said, “Do you know the address? Call in a welfare check.”
[00:36:28] The police do welfare checks all the time. It could be a two-minute welfare check. Knock on the door, everyone’s cool, you do a quick little walk through, make sure there’s no threat of harm in the residence, and you’re on your way with a quick 15-minute report. There’re other cases where that turns into something and that people should trust their gut. If something’s wrong, call for a welfare check. It’s nonintrusive for police. We do them all the time.
Dan: [00:36:55] It’s a daily occurrence.
Dave: [00:36:56] It’s part of our job.
Dan: [00:36:58] If you’re concerned about being a caller and being named, we don’t have to name you. We can keep your name out of it. Don’t worry about those things.
Dave: [00:37:06] But give us enough information that we know what the nature of the complaint is. I used to hate that we would get welfare checks that says, “Check on children at the residence.” I go, “For what concern?” Just, “Yeah, they’re there.” I want to know if there’s a threat of harm. Is it drugs? Is it alcohol? Is it a threat of harm by a sex offender who now dates mom and is not supposed to be around children? There’re all sorts of things. Just call. We’ll go out and check.
Chris: [00:37:33] Yeah. So we went, talked to the neighbor. I mentioned that Wayne said he had gone to a trailer house behind there because, of course, he didn’t want to be on the property. I went and spoke with them and they’re like, “Yeah. No, he wasn’t here. He was here early in the evening, but he wasn’t here the time that Wayne said he was here, absolutely not.” Then they did say that Wayne came over in the morning knocking on the window wanting to use a phone about the time that Ask A Nurse [unintelligible 00:38:46] would have been calling 911.
[00:38:05] We did find out through the wife of one of our officers that the morning of the incident, they had seen a gentleman with a young boy at a local convenience store begging for money. So, we pulled the surveillance video and it was Wayne with Robert. At the time, the ambulance would have been at their apartment, and he was there saying, “My daughter’s going to the hospital. I need to borrow a phone. I need some money.”
Yeardley: [00:38:33] That was Wayne’s story as he’s begging for money outside this store?
Chris: [00:38:37] Yes.
Paul: [00:38:38] Wayne is utilizing this medical response into the neighborhood to try to convince the patrons of this convenience store, “Hey, see, I need money.”
Chris: [00:38:47] Yes.
Dave: [00:38:47] He’s a grifter.
Paul: [00:38:48] Yes. Even after doing this to Tracy, I’m assuming that’s where this is headed, he’s out there continuing to do this type of scam.
Dave: [00:38:58] Yeah. Hey, I’ve got a little kid. I can get the sympathy $5 bill here and there.
Chris: [00:39:03] Yeah. So, again, we’re a small department. This was a priority case, but we had other things we’ve got to work on. And so, it was a while before anything came to a head. Myself and the other initial detective did go down to speak with Alice one more time and she was living with her parents now in another town. We went down and spoke with her, and lo and behold, story changed a little bit again from what Alice had told before. It was interesting because she actually did say, “Yeah, Wayne did stay there. Wayne was there the night of the incident.” “So, you’re saying it was just Wayne and you and Tracy and Robert? What happened to Tracy? If she got hurt, how did she get hurt?” And Alice’s response, “Well, it wasn’t me.” “So, who’s the only other person?” So, that was a clue telling.
[00:39:59] So, those are things that are good to just take all those interviews and all those little statements that people make and then you just keep adding those and adding those and adding those, because it comes to credibility, and it comes to show how they change your story from one thing to another and they’re not telling the truth about what happened.
Dave: [00:40:16] Chris, I’m trying to picture these multiple interviews with somebody who isn’t being honest despite their child dying. Are there moments where you’re getting frustrated and you have to confront her like, “Hey, your daughter is dead. Show me that it matters to you. Tell us the truth”? I imagine that would have been a frustrating series of interviews with her.
Chris: [00:40:41] There was times, yes, we would say, “You know, this is what happened. Your daughter’s gone. Tracy’s gone. You’re changing your story every single time a little bit, but there just really didn’t seem like this priority or there was really no crazy emotional outbursts or anything. It just really a flat effect the whole time, which you say, kind of gets frustrating.”
Dave: [00:41:04] Why do I care more about your daughter than you do?
Chris: [00:41:07] Yeah, exactly. So, Wayne ended up going to local prison on some other warrants. So, we decided we’ll go out and talk to him one more time before we decide on any final charges. So, we went out and talked to him at the local prison. He admitted a few things while we’re there that, yes, he was there that night. Yes, he had been using drugs. But then when I started pressuring a little bit more, then he said, “I’m done,” and he got up and left.
[00:41:40] Now, Robert did talk to other people. So, we’re talking maybe a year later. Robert did finally start talking to a third party and then that third party was brought in and interviewed, and then Robert was interviewed again. He did say that, “Yeah, Wayne did abuse us, did hit us,” both Robert and Tracy. So, we did have that background then too to establish a history of abuse.
Dan: [00:42:08] We’ve said so many times on this podcast that people will disclose at their own pace when they feel safe. It can take years and might not happen all at once as is the case with Robert.
Yeardley: [00:42:39] Chris, you said it was a couple of days after your first interview with Wayne that you see on the video in the interview room while you’re out of the room that he takes his rings off, puts one in his pocket, and puts the other one on the opposite hand. At what point do you confront Wayne with this ring exchange?
Chris: [00:43:00] Actually, I never did. I just left that on the video and in the report. It had been a couple days later, finding that video evidence, I just left it as it is.
Yeardley: [00:43:10] You didn’t need it to say, this is the possible weapon that caused this injury on Tracy’s head?
Chris: [00:43:17] Well, the county attorneys who prosecuted it did an amazing job. Actually, one of them is now a judge and the other one is the head county attorney for our county. So, they did a great job. They didn’t specifically go into that detail. They more showed the pattern of all the statements, the physical evidence, all the provable lies, flat out lies, everything that Wayne and Alice and everything had done. Medical records, medical examiners, and just showing that Wayne was the primary suspect.
Dave: [00:43:48] I imagine Wayne’s awareness in this break in the interview where he swaps rings and puts one away. I doubt that Wayne retained that ring that caused the injury after leaving the police station. Like, he realizes in real time, “Oh, shit, the murder weapon’s on my finger.”
Chris: [00:44:07] Right. Again, the county attorneys, their argument in the trial that was brought up, but the whole aspect of the abuse and being in charge of a child causing death.
Dave: [00:44:23] Really, the hand is the weapon, but you have chronic abuse where you have healing fractures. In this situation, once Tracy’s brain started bleeding, it really was like TikTok. You can’t overcome that if you don’t get it addressed quickly.
Paul: [00:44:39] Wayne recognizing that that particular ring was something that was incriminating. I’m thinking about, okay, so, Tracy has received this injury, and then at autopsy, this pattern bruise is observed. That bruise was invisible probably during the time that Wayne was still inside that house. Do you have a sense, Chris, on how long Tracy probably had been laying there before Ask A Nurse was called?
Chris: [00:45:08] Roughly an hour. Hour and a half is what we’re getting, because we’re going by Alice’s own word.
Paul: [00:45:13] So, it’s possible Wayne observed this pattern as it developed. I just wonder if previous pattern bruises had been left on Tracy with that same ring. And so, he’s very cognizant that this is something that could be compared.
Yeardley: [00:45:27] That’s a good point.
Chris: [00:45:29] Yeah, there were other pattern bruises on Tracy at the local hospital when she was initially observed. Other pattern bruises, not just I get hit with a baseball and I have a big glob of a bruise, but other things that are distinct. One of the things that was interesting too that came up is in interviewing Wayne asking, “Does she have any injuries or anything about that [unintelligible 00:46:05] speaking about Tracy? He came up with the story and it was that Tracy would wake up with bruises, but she would say that ghosts came in the room and did the bruises to her.
Yeardley: [00:46:07] Really?
Chris: [00:46:08] Yeah. So, there was a lot of history of abuse.
Yeardley: [00:46:13] And victim blaming. Like, how dare you? Doesn’t that seem like victim blaming, like, she makes these stories up?
Dave: [00:46:19] Yeah. And none of what Wayne says is ever believable. So, you have to take everything with, “Okay, it’s Wayne telling me this.”
Yeardley: [00:46:27] Right. So, you’re a year on and Robert has finally started to disclose some things. Has Wayne been arrested and charged by then?
Chris: [00:46:35] No, it was shortly after. So, he was incarcerated on other charges. We had gone to talk to him one last time, and we had talked to Alice one last time, and then it was decided that we have enough to charge. So, we ended up charging Wayne with murder in the first degree and then child neglect causing death. And then we charged Alice with child neglect causing death. So, Wayne went to trial. Wayne ended up getting life in prison and Alice, I believe, did 10 years for child endangerment causing death.
Dave: [00:47:12] Did either of them take the stand?
Chris: [00:47:14] No.
Dan: [00:47:15] And what was the defense’s strategy during the trials?
Chris: [00:47:20] Basically, it wasn’t Wayne, it wasn’t Alice. It was a medical condition that Tracy fell down the stairs, and that caused the injury, and that caused death.
Dave: [00:47:31] Detective Chris, in your community, I imagine, there would be in any community, there’s outrage. What’s the community’s expression over what they’re hearing in the news?
Chris: [00:47:44] You can imagine. Just outrage, shock, can’t believe this happened. That’s why talking to everyone afterwards, the neighbors, the family members, the school teachers, and getting that pattern of, “Oh, this happened.” They show up to school one day and have a big bruise on the side of their face, getting those things established. But yeah, when it came out, the community was upset, shocked.
Dave: [00:48:07] Right.
Dan: [00:48:08] Chris, what became of young Robert?
Chris: [00:48:12] He is with another family now and doing well, doing very, very well. He’s developed into a young man and he’s thriving.
Dan: [00:48:20] That’s great.
Yeardley: [00:48:21] That’s so great.
Dan: [00:48:22] Was Robert’s biological father in his life at all?
Chris: [00:48:27] No. No, his biological father was also incarcerated.
Dan: [00:48:31] [gasps] No, that’s unfortunate.
Dave: [00:48:34] How did this case hit you personally?
Chris: [00:48:37] Well, funny you should mention that. So, this happened several years ago, but it’s one that stuck with me. I’ve been to lots of autopsies, I’ve been to a couple of infant ones and a couple of children. They’re tough. This one being in there for two days, 10 hours a day, it hit home, because if you have kids, it gets to you and it did. It stuck with me. It’s still stuck with me. I’ll never forget this. I’ll never forget the case. You add that on top of all the other things you see day after day, it’s whether they say the average person will see two critical incidents in their lifetime, and first responders, police officers especially will see over 800 in their career. So, you take those numbers, and then you pack that in what you see every day and how to compartmentalize it, and pretty soon you run out of compartments.
[00:49:34] So, I just said, I keep thinking about this case. It’s just stuck in my head. So, I went and talked to a therapist, just said, “Hey, I just want to talk about it. See what you have to say.” Went through several sessions and he’s like, “It’s okay. It’s just normal. It’s just something that sticks with you. It’s just something that’s traumatic. It really hit home with you and it’s okay to think about it.” It’s just when we start to see negative aspects of too much critical incident, too much stress that it gets to be a problem. No sleep, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, social interactions falling apart.
[00:50:10] So, I guess, I got to say that if you’re having problems with something, go talk to a therapist. Our community, especially law enforcement, we’re just terrible at taking care of ourselves, especially mentally. There’s nothing wrong with going to talk to someone. Even if it’s your best friend or your wife, get it off your chest, talk to someone. And if you go see a therapist, there’s nothing wrong with it. If arm gets broke, you go to a doctor. You’re having intrusive thoughts, go talk to a doctor about it.
Dave: [00:50:40] Yeah.
Paul: [00:50:40] When I finally got to go see the therapist and described the repeated incidents that I had experienced over my career, she really opened my eyes, because you think about trauma in law enforcement, at least I did, it was that acute trauma, being involved in a shooting or seeing somebody being killed right in front of you. But my therapist, and it really of is, along with what Chris was experiencing with Tracy, is that every time you are dealing with this type of case, it’s like a little nick that never heals. And then after a career, you’ve got a thousand nicks and you’re bleeding out. I never recognize that in myself until you have the psychological boom, what the hell’s happening to me? Chris is just spot on. You need to go take care of your emotional state early in your career. Don’t wait until afterwards, because then you’re really suffering.
Dave: [00:51:39] Yeah, I waited 14 years. I was about 13 years late.
Yeardley: [00:51:43] But we always say that even if resources are available, there is a real stigma about law enforcement first responders taking advantage of those resources that like, “Oh, the whispers of, oh, there’s crazy Dave walking down the hall.” Suddenly, they’re like, “You know what? We’re just going to put you on admin leave for a little while.” It can create, I think, a culture of shame, which is the absolute opposite and worst thing that you need.
Chris: [00:52:13] That’s exactly right, because we have to police ourselves, number one. We have to realize that through education and knowledge that sometimes, I need to go talk to someone, or someone I just need to all these little compartments, all these critical incidents and traumatic events that I’ve dealt with, I need to unpack those compartments, so I can then put more stuff in later if I have to. You just got to get it out and that goes down to and I’ll say this to any administrators that are listening out there, chiefs, sheriffs, start a program of wellness, not just physically but mentally within your department.
[00:52:51] Culture is a huge thing. If you can start that culture from the top down and say, “Hey, it’s okay. Here’s a program. We’re going to introduce this in this month’s training.” We’re going to talk about EAP program.
Yeardley: [00:53:06] What’s that?
Dan: [00:53:07] Employee Assistance.
Chris: [00:53:08] Yeah, Employee Assistance Program, where you can go talk to a therapist. Then if you need a psychologist, they can forward that on to you. But it’s just coping skills that I don’t think people know about or they just have this personality, we can handle it and we can take care of this. Well, we got to remember, we are human beings first and foremost, and then we’re there to protect society. It affects you just as it affects everyone else. Even just simple coping skills that some people don’t even know about, exercise, meditation, good diet, social interactions, family, friends. Do you have a group you belong to where you can go and get out instead of just getting off work and stewing in the house until it’s time to go to work the next shift?
Yeardley: [00:54:01] It’s so well said and it’s so incredibly important. If we don’t take care of the people who take care of us, then we’re fucked.
Dave: [00:54:09] [laughs]
Chris: [00:54:10] Yeah, we just need to get past that stigma of, just because you go and talk to someone, because something’s bothering you, that it’s wrong, it’s not.
Yeardley: [00:54:20] I agree. Taking care of yourself that way is a strength. It’s not a weakness. Chris, thank you so much for bringing us that case today. You know, these cases with kids are particularly hard to listen to for all of us, but thank goodness, there are detectives like you and everyone at this table who advocate for the youngest victims, like, Tracy and Robert too for that matter.
Chris: [00:54:46] Thank you very much.
Dan: [00:54:47] Thank you, Chris.
Dave: [00:54:48] Chris, glad you got to the bottom of it and glad you are doing well in the aftermath and everyone else involved.
Paul: [00:54:56] Keep up the good work, Chris. Thank you.
Chris: [00:54:58] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:54:58] Thank you.[music]
Yeardley: [00:55:08] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and me, Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. Our production manager is Logan Heftel. Our senior editor is Soren Begin, and our editor is Christina Bracamontes. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our social media is run by the one and only, Monika Scott. Our music is composed by John Forest, and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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Dan: [00:56:30] -in search of the finest-
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Dave: [00:56:34] -as always, by the detectives who investigated them. So, thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.
Yeardley: [00:56:39] Nobody’s better than you.
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