Police get called to do a welfare check on a mother and son who have been unusually hard to reach. Officers arrive at the home to find the mother brutally murdered and there’s no sign of the son. Is he a victim or a suspect?
Sgt. Ken has worked in several positions at his local agency over the past 14 years including Crime Scene Investigator (CSI), field training officer, SWAT technology officer, drone operator, and peer support. He spent a year as a detective doing fraud cases and two years investigating sexual assaults. He was promoted to sergeant 3 years ago. His department is authorized to have 199 officers for 89 square miles.
Ken: [00:00:03] They go into the residence. When they enter, they see Nancy lying on the ground. She is on her back in a pool of her own blood. She is naked, her underwear is pulled down to one ankle, and she has been disemboweled.
Yeardley [00:00:26] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. So, I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them tell us how it happened.
Dan [00:00:51] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:00:52] I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan [00:00:56] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave [00:01:03] Dan investigated violent crimes. He’s now retired. Together, we have more than two decades’ experience and have worked hundreds of cases. We’ve altered names, places, relationships, and certain details in these cases to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan [00:01:18] We ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:34] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:39] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:01:40] Hello. It’s so good to see you.
Dan: [00:01:42] Great to be here.
Yeardley: [00:01:42] Thanks for coming. And we have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:46] Armed and ready.
Yeardley: [00:01:47] (laughs)
Dan: [00:01:48] Such an asshole. (laughter)
Yeardley: [00:01:51] Dave is not making a joke referencing a firearm. He means that the recording device we use to record the audio on for Small Town Dicks literally says his microphone is armed, which means, it’s ready. Anyhoo, moving along, Small Town Fam, we are so pleased to welcome a new guest to the podcast, Detective Ken.
Ken: [00:02:16] Good afternoon.
Yeardley: [00:02:17] Good afternoon. Thank you so much for being here.
Ken: [00:02:20] Glad to be here.
Yeardley: [00:02:21] Before we go on, I feel like I should tell the listeners that my cat, Zipper, is all over Ken right now. She’s sitting between him and the microphone, insisting that he pet her. You are very a good sport, Ken. Small Town Fam, that dull roar in the background is her purring. Anyway, before we get started on the case you’ve brought us today, Ken, tell us a little bit about your jurisdiction, just sort of give us the lay of the land.
Ken: [00:02:53] My jurisdiction is located in the suburbs of major metropolitan area. In fact, we’re sandwiched in between several major cities, we have approximately 89 square miles that are divided up into three different beats. Within those beats are midnight officers, we have three officers per beat. If you break up the city geographically, there’s about three officers for 30 square miles. We operate very much like a sheriff’s office in that respect.
Yeardley: [00:03:26] That’s crazy. Dan and Dave always say when you call for cover, one minute can feel like a lifetime, and that is a lot of distance to cover if you are calling for cover.
Dave: [00:03:39] When you’re waiting for cover, it seems like forever, and you can hear it coming.
Yeardley: [00:03:43] But it’s not there yet.
Dave: [00:03:44] It’s not there yet, and a lot of things can happen in five seconds.
Yeardley: [00:03:49] Yeah, right. Ken, please tell us how this case came to you.
Ken: [00:03:54] This case was my second case being involved with the Crimes Against Persons Unit in our department. This case started off as a very routine call for service. In my 14 years of being a police officer, I’ve come to the realization that usually the calls that sound the most mundane turn into the biggest piles of poo. (laughter)
Ken: [00:04:21] And the calls for service, they usually sound like the whole world is exploding usually turned into a whole bunch of nothing. It’s weird. The universe is backwards sometimes, especially on midnights, I think. But this case started off as essentially a welfare check. Dad, whose name is Tom, called in and he lives out of state, and he wanted to have a welfare check done on his ex-wife, Nancy, as well as his son, Oliver. He couldn’t get hold of either of them, which is very unusual. They usually converse during the morning when the sun rises, as well as when the sun sets for religious purposes. He couldn’t get a hold of either of them today, which is extremely unusual. This particular apartment complex, it’s like any other apartment complex, it’s not in a gated community. There’s buildings. In each building, there is a top unit and there is a bottom unit. There’s about eight units per building, and there’s like 20 buildings in this complex. It’s a fairly large complex. With that, comes the normal noises and disturbances that come from people living in close proximities.
[00:05:38] A lot of times in these apartment complexes, you hear loud noises, you’ll hear loud cars, sometimes you hear pots being dropped, you hear doors being slammed. So, very run of the mill, nothing really unique about this apartment complex.
Officers are dispatched to welfare check. We go to tons of calls like this, and it usually turns into nothing. During this case, Tom says, “Hey, can you just go check on them? I just want them to give me a call and make sure they’re okay.” That’s it. Two of our officers go to this call, and they knock on the front door. There’s no response. They do the second thing that a lot of the seasoned officers will do. If they don’t get a response from the house during welfare check, they check the front door, see if it’s unlocked or see if it’s ajar. The door is unlocked, which is, okay, spidey senses are tingling a little bit more. “All right. Well, now they’re not answering and the door’s unlocked.” No signs of forced entry, there’s no broken windows. It could be something, it could be nothing.
[00:06:42] The officers open the door. They announce themselves saying that they’re doing a welfare check. They go into the residence. When they enter, they see Nancy lying on the ground. She is on her back in a pool of her own blood. She is naked, her underwear is pulled down to one ankle, and she has been disemboweled. Basically, she was cut open from her throat all the way down to her pelvic bone. There’s blood all over the place. It looks like she was left there. The actual assault partially occurred on the bed. When the officers check the bed, they find a bloody bed. There’s blood spatter all against the walls. At that time, this call no longer becomes routine.
Our agency, we average because we’re a smaller agency, I’d say three to four homicides a year. Most of the time those homicides, they have to do with drug deals gone bad, shootings, there’s never really that sort of manipulation to a body. This one seemed a lot more personal.
[00:07:53] I was a CSI for five years. So, unfortunately, I’ve been at the end and I’ve seen the end of a lot of people’s lives. Looking at this scene, this one was probably the most gruesome scene I’ve had in my life. For those who have not smelled the dead body, they’re not pleasant. The best way I can describe it is when you inhale it and you sniff the scent of death, it feels like pinpricks. It’s like the smell of purification. It’s like a really bad sandwich that’s been left out for a while. You just feel these pinpricks in your nose, like you know that smell and that’s why they say lots of cops or military people who have been in war zones have seen death. Once you smell it, you know that smell. My experience with CSI helped me with this investigation because at this time, I was a detective, and there was a lot of physical evidence that was left at the scene.
[00:08:49] The incision, like I said, spanned from her neck all the way down to her stomach, her intestines are spilling out onto the ground. The officers locate numerous knives and a hatchet located close to the victim’s body. There is blood pooling and spatter again all long in the walls. One thing was that they couldn’t find Oliver. The fact that there are no obvious signs of entry into the apartment, coupled by the fact that Tom said that Oliver lives with Nancy, we now had either an outstanding victim or an outstanding suspect.
Dave: [00:09:24] How old is Oliver?
Ken: [00:09:25] Oliver was in his mid-20s.
Dave: [00:09:28] Okay, and a question about Nancy. You say there’s this large incision from the bottom of her throat all the way down past her stomach, so she’s disemboweled. Any other trauma, either head, other parts of the body like she got slashed or stabbed or defensive wounds?
Ken: [00:09:47] There were some defensive wounds. She also had five gunshot wounds. She had four gunshot wounds to her torso and one to her head.
Dan: [00:09:55] I mean this is just overkill, right?
Yeardley: [00:09:57] Is there evidence of sexual assault because her underwear was down by her ankle?
Ken: [00:10:02] At this point, we didn’t see any obvious signs of sexual assault, but it was definitely in play, especially the fact that the body was so mutilated, and that her underwear was pulled down her side and she was naked. This was definitely one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve seen in investigation I’ve been a part of. But a lot of times when you’re dealing with blood, it has that irony smell, and you can definitely smell that in this apartment. It’s hard to really get it out of your mind once you smell it, but it smells like iron, it smells like blood and there was a lot of blood. On top of that, we also found a bloody footprint. If you think of it from a chronological point of view, the fact that there’s blood pooling, that means that she probably had some obvious signs of trauma, and then the bloody footprints left behind, they had to have been done after she was dead or assaulted. And these footprints were actually viable footprints. At our department, even though we’re fairly small, we do have a fingerprint analyst, and she was able to say that if we were able to get a footprint, we would be able to identify who was in that apartment.
Yeardley: [00:11:10] Was it a bare footprint?
Ken: [00:11:12] Yes, it was, bare footprint.
Dave: [00:11:13] You mentioned gunshots. I don’t want to get out in front of your case here, but are there shell casings?
Ken: [00:11:19] No shell casings.
Dan: [00:11:20] And where are the gunshot wounds?
Ken: [00:11:22] They are in her upper torso, in her back, and then one to the head.
Dave: [00:11:27] And you said she’s found laying on her back?
Ken: [00:11:30] On her back, so she was most likely moved from the bed onto the floor.
Yeardley: [00:11:36] How do you figure that?
Ken: [00:11:36] There are bullet trajectories inside of the bed and into the floor as well.
Dave: [00:11:42] So, shooting occurs in the bedroom, something occurs additionally, that causes additional bleeding. Do you think that the evisceration that occurs out in the room that she’s found or she’s dragged out there after she’s opened up?
Ken: [00:11:56] We think that she was actually opened up on the floor, just by the fact that her intestines were hanging out of her body and it didn’t look like there’s swipe marks from that.
Dave: [00:12:06] Got it. You mentioned that Tom speaks to Nancy and Oliver every day?
Ken: [00:12:11] Every day.
Dave: [00:12:12] And you also mentioned that the smell of dead body, decomposition, the blood, irony smell, as a CSI, you’re going to have more experience than I do, but do you think that this more prominent smells because she’s been disemboweled that it actually opened up the cavity to all those gases that we usually deal with at autopsy?
Ken: [00:12:32] Yes, yes, absolutely. I believe during this day, too, it was pretty warm. So, temperature has a lot to do with it, fact that her body was open, eviscerated, essentially. Immediately, our main concern at that point was to figure out where Oliver was, whether or not he was taken or if he is the suspect, and that’s where the detectives get involved.
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Ken: [00:14:51] This was not my main investigation. I was the search warrant writer. In small departments, usually we divide up the work in between all of us. Usually, you have one person that writes all the search warrants so that the consistency of what you’re writing for those search warrants, on top of the fact that it’s just easier. In this case, I was the search warrant writer. I ended up writing a search warrant for the residence. We were a little bit concerned the fact that there were bullet trajectories, but no one ever called it in.
Yeardley: [00:15:24] By bullet trajectories, you’re not actually talking about bullets going through walls or floors or anything. You’re talking about gunshots. Why didn’t any of the neighbors call to say they had heard gunshots?
Ken: [00:15:37] Yes. That’s kind of unusual, but then again, you always have that X factor of how loud is this complex. You get people slamming doors, people yelling all the time, people arguing. In this particular area, we do get a lot of calls for disturbances. It’s right next to one of our main drags in town. A lot of car noises, a lot of noises in general. So, the fact that no one called was not so concerning. The fact that we couldn’t find Oliver was very concerning.
Our detectives, all hands on deck, so that’s all 20 detectives start roaming the streets at this point, try to gather certain types of evidence. Our CSI starts processing the residence and that’s where they recovered the trajectories and the bullets. There were no casings, so that made us believe that it was shot from a revolver. Once we wrote the search warrant, we actually did recover a .357 revolver that was still at the residence. It was originally in a box, and that box was now out in plain sight, as well as we did find several different knives with blood spatter located on them.
[00:16:44] The fact that the doors were unlocked, the fact that we had a footprint in there, there was no obvious signs of injury, the fact that they knew where the weapons were located, everything was pointing more towards Oliver being a suspect than an actual victim, but we still had to prove it.
Yeardley: [00:17:02] Did Oliver and Nancy live together in that apartment?
Ken: [00:17:05] He lived off and on at that apartment, but the last that Tom spoke to Oliver, he was with Nancy. We start going out and looking for evidence. Like I said, CSIs, we’re processing the residence and then detectives went out and started scouring the area for surveillance. My main job at this point was to write search warrants for all of the cellphone records, so the detective, Detective Craig at this point wanted me to write search warrants for Oliver’s phone, for Tom’s phone, and for Nancy’s phone. Main reason for that is to see who they corresponded with last, as well as the location, the GPS coordinates of where those phones were at this time of certain calls. So, that was my main objective, to write the search ones for that.
Dan: [00:17:50] Because potentially Tom could be a suspect here, too.
Ken: [00:17:53] Yes.
Dave: [00:17:54] You said Tom calls from out of state, how many states away are we talking?
Ken: [00:17:57] Two states away.
Dave: [00:17:59] Okay. It’s not beyond the realm of reason that this could have happened up to 24 hours before or more. I mean he’s just claiming I talk to him every day.
Ken: [00:18:08] Right. At this point, everybody is a suspect until ruled otherwise. We write the search warrants. We get the exigent results back, probably within a couple of hours. This call came out right before noon, and we’d pretty much worked this for a couple days, but we got our results back fairly quickly. Sorry, cats. Very cool cat. I like the cat. (laughter)
Yeardley: [00:18:32] The cat is cozying up to Detective Ken.
Ken: [00:18:36] (laughs) It’s a cool cat. Yeah, feeling the love. I like the purrs, purrs are good. We do a follow-up interview with Tom. He tells us that he was unable to get hold of Oliver during their prayer time, which was around sunrise the same day that we went out for the welfare check, which was really out of character. Tom said that Oliver had been arguing with Nancy, but to what extent, he didn’t know.
Detectives also reached out to one of Oliver’s friends, and that friend said that Oliver showed up at his work, close by to our city sometime after the welfare check call came out. So, that means he was alive, and he was out and about. The fact that Tom talked to Oliver and Nancy the night before means that there was a fairly large window of where Oliver could be. There was a fairly large window of opportunity. We canvassed the nearby area. There’s a fast food restaurant that’s right around the corner that kind of covers the entryway of the apartment complex.
Yeardley: [00:19:45] And that security camera captures the entry to Nancy’s apartment building also?
Ken: [00:19:51] Yes, we reached out to that fast food restaurant. Sure enough, sometime that night, around 10:00 or so is when we see Oliver walking away from the residence. When we get the cellphone results back for Oliver’s phone, it shows that it’s close to the freeway, close to one of our hotels, and then the phone turns off.
At this point, our major investigation is pointing towards Oliver being around the window that Nancy was killed, as well as him leaving the residence late at night, and according to surveillance cameras, he never returns. At the very least, we need to contact him to figure out, if he even knows that Nancy has passed away, or at least do a death notification, at the very least. All signs are pointing towards that. He’s a suspect.
[00:20:44] The other cellphone records show that Tom is in fact a couple states away from our jurisdiction. That being said, there are also times when you get these cellphone results back, and it just proves that the phone itself is in that jurisdiction, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that person isn’t there. So, in order to do our due diligence and because of my former fraud background, I also had to look at bank records.
We started looking at bank records. I sent out an email through the International Association of Financial Crimes investigators looking for accounts belonging to Tom. Pretty much, Tom’s results for his bank accounts come back and everything is pointing at he is at home. The ATM withdrawals, all transactions are done where he lives. At this point, we’re thinking, “Okay, he’s probably not going to be involved.” So now, we’re focusing a lot more on Oliver.
At that time, we had a JTTF officer, which is a Joint Terrorism Task Force officer. What happens is, we can reach out using that resource who has a direct connect to the FBI, and the FAA and a lot of other government agencies, US Customs, and we can see what their travel habits are. Did he flee the area? Did he leave? Did he jump on an airplane? Did he take off? We contacted our JTTF task force officer and asked him basically to look into Oliver’s his travels.
[00:22:12] One thing we did notice is he did not leave because of post-911 requirements, you can tell when someone has left domestically on a flight to a different jurisdiction.
Yeardley: [00:22:23] Oh, really?
Ken: [00:22:24] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:22:24] There’s like a digital footprint of you checking in so that you don’t have to check with every single airline individually to see if this person was on the passenger manifest?
Ken: [00:22:33] Right. We reach out to the airports directly. Airport police can look at the manifests and see if he’s supposed to be going somewhere. On top of that, intelligence was saying, that one friend that we reached out to said that Oliver doesn’t have a car. He basically takes our public transit, either the bus or the subway, or he bikes everywhere he goes. We have a pretty robust public transportation system in our area. We reached out to those departments as well. There’s cameras on public transit.
Yeardley: [00:23:07] We’ve talked a lot about the fantastic surveillance cameras on buses in Dan and Dave’s jurisdiction.
Ken: [00:23:14] Oh, they have very good cameras. They have like 4k cameras.
Yeardley: [00:23:18] That’s right.
Ken: [00:23:18] 360 inside, it’s good.
Dave: [00:23:21] And there are folks that work those cameras and liaise with law enforcement, they are all about working, because they get to be detectives for a little bit. They’re really eager to help and they’re really resourceful, and they will dig through hours. They’re like, “I’m happy to do it. I’ll take care of it.”
Yeardley: [00:23:38] (laughs)
Ken: [00:23:38] Not to mention the overtime.
Dave: [00:23:40] Right. No, they’re great to work with.
Ken: [00:23:42] We threw everything but the kitchen sink trying to find Oliver. We knew that he hadn’t flown away. We knew the bus route, and we knew the bus route that was close to his residence at that time, and we check that with the fast food restaurant the time that we saw him leaving. And that fast food restaurants, it’s kind of hit or miss. It really is depending on what restaurant you go to whether or not they have good cameras. This particular one had good enough cameras for us to positively identify Oliver as leaving the area. But the buses didn’t show anything. The buses didn’t show any cameras of him leaving. We’re running out of ideas at this point, and our local subway police department, we also checked in with them, they checked their cameras and there was nothing. He was kind of a ghost in the wind at this point.
The fact that his phone was turned off at a particular time, the ping, it was in an area that a lot of our hotels are. It is close to the freeway, but there’s also a bunch of hotels. We ended up checking the hotels around that area and they positively identified Oliver as being there within that window that we were talking about before. But after that, he checked out and he left. So, he was off in the sticks.
Dave: [00:24:56] He’s there after the fast food catches him on camera. He’s gone, within the amount of time where police are out with a welfare check, he’s checked out. Gotcha.
Ken: [00:25:05] He’s off in the sticks at this point. The small little caveat to this is, when our Joint Terrorism Task Force officer checks the manifests, he realizes that Oliver has done some traveling, and he ended up going to a country as listed on the terrorist watchlist, which our JTTF officers well versed in some of the terrorism cells and some of the terrorist activities, especially within the United States. He’s like, there may be a possibility he was radicalized, so adds another element to everything
Yeardley: [00:25:40] Is Oliver an American citizen?
Ken: [00:25:42] Yes. At this point, we’ve tried all our tricks. LPR cars, the license plate readers aren’t good in this facet, because he doesn’t have a car. Our cameras, they’re all around the area, show him leaving and walking off, and that’s it. It’s funny how policing has moved into the digital age, where a lot of times we’re relying so heavily on these cameras, on high-tech plate readers, on drones, on helicopters, on everything else. But what happens when you can’t track somebody like that? And that’s when it falls back to good old fashioned police work.
What ends up happening is, at this point, we have enough probable cause to at least question Oliver. When a jurisdiction can’t find somebody within their city limits, and they want to talk to this person, and they have probable cause based upon the circumstances, the fact that they were arguing, fact that dad can’t get hold of him, the fact that Oliver turned off his phone, we issued a Ramey warrant for his arrest. Ramey warrant is a probable cause warrant, saying that I have enough probable cause to at least detain you to talk to you about what happened.
Yeardley: [00:26:52] Do you know what Ramey stands for?
Ken: [00:26:54] I think that’s the name of the person that this case was based off of.
Dave: [00:26:58] Like infamous Ramey warrant, right?
Ken: [00:27:01] Yeah.
Dave: [00:27:02] Like, “You ever want a case law named after you?” Well, then we went out and got a Ramey warrant. You’re like, “Shit. I’m going to be known as the Ramey, and the Ramey warrant.”
Yeardley: [00:27:11] What’s the difference between a Ramey warrant and a regular you just have a warrant for your arrest?
Ken: [00:27:18] One is a charged case. You’ve gone through all the steps of taking your investigation, taking your case, a lot of times, it depends whether or not you have an interview with the suspect. If you take your case, you bring it to the district attorney, and he says, “Yep, I’m going charge this case, we don’t have them in pocket. That means he’s still out and about.” They’ll charge the case, they get it signed by the judge, and it’s entered into the system.
Yeardley: [00:27:44] And now you have a warrant. If you get stopped on a traffic stop, they find out you’ve got a warrant, and they can arrest you for that.
Ken: [00:27:51] Right, exactly. That’s a regular arrest warrant or a walk warrant, if you walk through that process to have it physically entered yourself. Ramey warrant is a probable cause warrant where you don’t have enough to charge the case, so you don’t have enough to actually walk it to the DA to say, “Yes, I know he is guilty of X, Y or Z, and this is why you need to charge it.” In fact, the DA probably won’t charge it based upon what you have, and that you need to rely on the interview to get some sort of admission, or in this case, since we had the footprint, it would be to get his footprint to see if it matches. We enter the Ramey warrant in the system. By this time, I believe four days have passed. He is off in the wind. Like I said, we’re monitoring, we have all these agencies looking for him. We have no leads, nothing. We’re truly relying on just police work at this point.
Yeardley: [00:28:55] Hey, Producer Nick.
Nick: [00:28:57] Hey, Yeardley.
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Ken: [00:30:44] A local agency close by, a very small town, extremely small town to a point of, I didn’t even know that they were in our county. I think they have like two cops. The one sergeant, he’s working midnights. His beat is so small, I literally think it’s like a hillside, like one hillside. He sees somebody walking around his hillside and he’s like, “What’s this guy doing up here? Nobody comes up here.” Ends up doing a pit stop, and long and behold, it is Oliver.
Yeardley: [00:31:08] Is Oliver on foot? Or is he on his bike.
Ken: [00:31:11] He’s on foot. He’s on foot in a random area in our county that no one ever goes to with two cops in it. The one cop that says, “Hey, this isn’t right.” Sometimes, it’s that spidey sense, that cop intuition, “Huh, this is kind of weird.” He decided to make his investigative stop, and sure enough, it’s Oliver. Just funny how we spend all this time and resources and millions, millions of dollars on all this high-tech equipment, and yet, how do you catch somebody if they don’t use any of that?
Yeardley: [00:31:42] It’s a good point.
Dan: [00:31:44] And it’s an old school Terry stop that finds him.
Yeardley: [00:31:46] Terry?
Dan: [00:31:47] Terry v. Ohio. It’s very famous case law, and it’s really crucial to patrol cops working out on the beat. It’s basically if you come across somebody in a car on foot, if you come across circumstances that you have a reasonable suspicion that you can articulate, that a crime has been committed, is about to be committed, that kind of thing.
Dan: [00:32:09] Yeah, that you can stop and detain somebody for purposes of identification, so you can identify that person. Furthermore, if that person flees from you, then you can use a reasonable amount of force to stop that person, so you can detain and identify that person. It’s a landmark case law for police officers, and it’s one of the things that you go over when you’re teaching young officers about this is how you do this job, and Terry v. Ohio is a case that you go over.
Dave: [00:32:42] When I’m a watch commander, especially working the midnight shift, I spend a very minimal amount of time on the main streets. I’m off in neighborhoods, darked out, driving through neighborhoods that typically we get– we call them car clouders, people breaking into cars, people going up into people’s driveways, checking doors, those types of things. Those are the people that I’m looking for that have no business being in the neighborhood. You get to know your beat or your district so well that you recognize when cars are parked in certain spots, and when they are probably off to work that they work this shift. You recognize which 70-year-old man loves to take his dog for a walk at 2 in the morning, and he always waves at you. You get to know your district so well that when something is out of the ordinary, like Oliver walking on a hillside in this cop’s district, he says, “That’s suspicious, I’m going to talk to him.” It’s just great old school police work.
Yeardley: [00:33:41] That’s really interesting.
Ken: [00:33:43] Thank God that he did, because it was a good catch. We were so amazed. I’m sure not the old school cops were amazed, but you have this new generation of cops, they’re so reliant on their iPhones and looking at the maps, it was just a good spot. We were able to arrest Oliver and bring back to our station for interview.
Yeardley: [00:34:01] And to get his footprint.
Ken: [00:34:02] And to get his footprint. Right.
Dave: [00:34:04] As part of this warrant, a search warrant for his person?
Ken: [00:34:07] I did have to write a separate search warrant for his person eventually, just because with fingerprints and stuff that’s a little bit more routine, but with the footprints, especially if this is a homicide trial, we want to do everything by the book.
Dave: [00:34:19] Absolutely. You don’t want to lose that evidence.
Ken: [00:34:20] Right. Don’t want to lose any of the evidence. We bring him back to our interview room where we have two detectives do the interview. One is Detective Craig and the other one’s Detective Jake. With our interviews for us, we’d like to have two detectives just because you have a primary investigator and primary interviewer and then you have your secondary that’s taking notes about stuff. “Okay, I missed here.” “Okay, we need to ask this question.” Also building rapport as well. Just being that good cover officer, good cover detective for each other. We advise Oliver of his Miranda rights. He totally waives them. He says, “Okay, yeah, I’m willing to talk to you.” His demeanor is very vanilla. Vanilla in the sense of this isn’t somebody that you would expect had killed somebody. He was very lackadaisical about things. He was actually very numb, as reported by our detectives, showed very little sign of emotion, very to the point.
Yeardley: [00:35:20] Is this after they’ve told him that his mother’s dead?
Ken: [00:35:23] No, they haven’t told him yet. Usually, when you get arrested or pulled off the street, you either have somebody who’s really upset, really angry being, like, “Why are you arresting me? Argh, I didn’t do anything!” Or, you have somebody which is more of an indication, in my opinion of guilt, when they don’t say anything. You’re not even concerned why we brought you in here? We took you from your hillside 20, 30 miles away.
Dave: [00:35:45] Well, and it’s true, you go out and two detectives, not in this situation specifically with Oliver, but I’ve gone out and had Dan covering me, and I walk up to somebody, and I’m in civilian clothes with a badge on my belt, and my gun, but I look like civilian clothes detective. You walk up and you say, “Hey, man, I’m so and so from this police department. You want to come to the station, talk to me?” They go, “Okay.” And you walk in and you start talking, and they never ask why they’re down there because they already know. They’ve been waiting for it. Oliver already knew that when the police stopped him, he was going to end up in a different building.
Ken: [00:36:23] Oh, yeah. It’s one of those little subconscious things that you notice when you’ve been around long enough. Not only the things that they do say but the things they don’t say, which can be equally as indicative. In this case, very vanilla, very plain responses to the questions. We usually have these questions in the beginning to establish rapport and you want to build some sort of relationship before you really get the interview started. Once he does start going, they start talking about his travel history that he had been out of the country for a little bit. He did spend time in a country that was on the terrorist watchlist. But in a sense, I don’t think it really played too much into this.
Yeardley: [00:36:59] How long ago?
Ken: [00:37:00] He was there for three months, and that was about a year prior to this incident. It was interesting, the fact that he was at this country for three months, we weren’t really sure what he was doing there. But, okay, fair enough.
When he comes home, he says that he goes to work on a marijuana farm in a different part of our state, and that’s where he is for quite some time. During in an interview, you don’t want to interrupt these suspects. They say you give them the rope to hang themselves, or you give them the rope to essentially create this false narrative that you can prove, is actually not the truth. In this case, we had enough surveillance footage to place Oliver in the area, as well as the fact that his dad just talked to him night before, and he knew that Oliver was with Nancy. Oliver gives us a story that he wasn’t at the house. He was just hanging around. The reason why he wasn’t at home was that he went to go visit a friend in that big metropolitan area. He then just decided to go on a walkabout until he was picked up by the police department.
[00:38:05] They confronted him with the evidence, they confronted him with all of the facts that they knew. Going back to the when your enemy is making mistakes, you don’t stop them. Like we have you on footage by this fast food restaurant. “Hey, we know that your cell phone turned off at a certain time over in our town.” “Hey, we know that you did X, Y or Z based upon your spending habits.”
Finally, he says, “Okay, well, yeah, you actually got me. I did it,” which is kind of unusual, just to have somebody just outrightly say, “Okay, well, it sounds like you guys have been doing your homework. You got me,” which was kind of weird. But he said that he did, in fact, kill his mom. And the reason why he said that he killed her is because she was killing herself with oxycodone anyways, that she had been addicted to it, and that he felt like, “Well, if she’s killing herself anyway, might as well do the deed myself.”
Yeardley: [00:39:02] I’ll just finish the job?
Ken: [00:39:05] Yeah. Weird. This whole case is kind of weird. Just the severity and the degree of how the body was mutilated. It was so out there, and that’s why this case just sticks in my mind. But he said that he did it because she was killing herself with the oxycodone that she had become addicted to from her hip and knee problems and surgeries. She had been “treating him badly.”
I think after speaking with Oliver, he realized that he absolutely was not in his right mind, that he was definitely having some mental health issues. He said that on the night that Nancy was killed, Oliver was basically the victim. He said that Nancy had become mad at him, and that she had pointed the handgun at him. Then, he decided that he would defend himself, so he was able to wrestle the gun out for her hand, and then once the gun was out of her hands, Oliver retreated out of the bedroom. All this did take place in the bedroom, the initial accosting.
[00:40:09] Then, he grabs an axe that was outside. Took the axe, and that’s when he actually hit her with it over the head. That’s when she fell down unconscious. He took the gun, and I’m guessing at this point, when she got hit over the head, fell down face first. That’s when he fired five rounds for into the upper torso, one to the head, all over through the back. After she is killed, he flips her over, takes her off the bed, and that’s when he takes the axe and he cuts her open.
Yeardley: [00:40:44] Jesus!
Ken: [00:40:45] He pulls her underwear down– you’ll hear about this from certain sociopathic killers where there’s this exhilaration after you kill someone. Oliver actually admitted that he went to the bathroom and he masturbated in the shower. And then, he just cleaned up, and he walked out without locking the door. Some very interesting sociopathic tendencies, I think that you hear about, something that we didn’t expect to happen in our town, there’s usually some sort of different motivation than just–
Yeardley: [00:41:16] Right. “You’re mad at me, I’m just going to end it here.”
Ken: [00:41:19] Right. It was a crazy case. It was a good case in that sense, and we got the confession. A lot of times during cases, you’ll call the charging DA at that point, and then they’ll come and actually watch part of the interview to say, “Okay, we’ve got a good case. Hey, we’re going to charge this. We’re solid.” We ended up taking Oliver’s footprint, which was a match, to prove the sequence of events that he actually was there. Originally, he was convicted, but later on court deemed him to be mentally incompetent.
Yeardley: [00:41:49] Was that the first time anybody had delivered a diagnosis of Oliver having mental health issues?
Ken: [00:41:54] I believe it was. I’m not sure if that’s because of, again, cultural issues. A lot of times we don’t want to have doctors involved with things of mental health or mental illness issues.
Yeardley: [00:42:06] By we, you mean the general public?
Ken: [00:42:08] That’s right. But I’ve found that a majority of the people that we’re dealing with, especially right now in these times, have some sort of mental health issues. And COVID is not making it any better. I think you have people that normally they’d be perfectly fine, functioning people, but the isolation, the lockdowns have been presented or creating the circumstances where I think people feel like they’re in jail, and you’re starting to see good people doing bad things.
Dave: [00:42:35] Well, looking back to Oliver’s account of this, that he’s basically defending himself by wrestling this gun away. Once he removes the weapon from Nancy’s hand, that’s all gone. She’s not a threat anymore.
Yeardley: [00:42:49] So no more self-defense.
Dave: [00:42:50] Self-defense is over. You’ve disarmed her.
Dan: [00:42:54] Anything that happens after that, any aggression after that, that’s on him.
Dave: [00:42:59] It’s really tragic. One thing I’ve noticed, of course, not every adult son who lives with their parents kills them. But we do see it a lot.
Ken: [00:43:08] Yeah, we do.
Dan: [00:43:10] We’ve done a bunch on this podcast.
Yeardley: [00:43:11] Yeah, we have. There’s 10 Below in Season 1. We literally have an episode called Matricide. There’s also Getting Over Sandra, Rampage, to name a few. Yeah, ugh. Awful.
Dave: [00:43:28] How did Tom take the death notification, did that he immediately suspect, it’s my son?
Ken: [00:43:33] I mean, he knew they were feuding. I think he thought that it was a little bit beyond what Oliver was capable of. It was also one of those things where you let him know and he’s like, “Okay,” he accepted it that was in the realm of possibilities. It was definitely the most brutal case, and one of the most violent cases I’ve seen. Hollywood does such a good job. They really do such, a good job at the sight of the gruesome way that a body is hacked up for a better term. The sight has never bothered me, because I’m able to disassociate it. It’s the smell. It’s always been that smell that sticks with your mind. It gets in your nose, and there have been times when I’ve been to these dead bodies where you go home, you still smell it.
Dan: [00:44:21] Oh, yeah, it’s in your clothes.
Dave: [00:44:23] Yeah.
Dan: [00:44:24] Oh, yeah. patrol uniforms, I swear to god, they’re sponges for that stuff.
Ken:Yeah, they truly are.
Yeardley: [00:44:29] That’s gross.
Ken: [00:44:30] It is, and I feel so bad for my poor wife because multiple times I’ve done this during investigations with dead bodies, I’d go back home and you [sniffing] start sniffing around like, “I smell it,” and you just start looking around, you’re doing this witch hunt to see, “Where’s that smell coming from?” Going back to the when you smell death, you know what it smells like, there have been times when we’d have dead mice in our garage, field mice, and I could smell it. I’m like, “Something’s dead in here,” and my wife be like, “You’re just paranoid. You’re a cop, turn it off.” “No, I can smell it.” Then sure enough, when we’re cleaning out the garage, and I find five of them or something, that is like, “Oh, man.” Yeah, I mean, this case was good on a whole bunch of levels, but I also think that reaffirms that there’s no substitution for experience, for patrol experience.
Dave: [00:45:15] Absolutely.
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Dave: [00:47:13] Where does Oliver reside currently?
Ken: [00:47:16] I believe he’s at one of our state hospitals.
Dave: [00:47:19] Getting rehabilitated.
Ken: [00:47:20] Rehabilitated.
Dave: [00:47:22] Unpacking that, is there a chance that he could be released? Or he needs treatment for the rest of his life?
Ken: [00:47:29] Yeah.
Dave: [00:47:30] And I hope he gets treatment for the rest of his life. That’s an appropriate place for him, is the state mental hospital.
Ken: [00:47:37] Yeah. With mental health issues. We all experienced it. I mean, I know cops are probably the worst out of all of it, and we have such a hard time admitting when we need help, and we’re holding on too tight. The mild PTSD episodes that I’ve had, they’re real. We talk about taking these cases with you, and Locard’s exchange principle.
Dave: [00:47:58] What’s that?
Ken: [00:47:59] It’s the essence of what CSI work is all about and detective work is about. That’s when you go to a crime scene, a suspect will either take something from it or bring something with them from that crime scene. That applies to cops too. We take our experiences, and we take our own baggage into these cases, and then we also leave with something. It’s almost like no one’s winning in these cases.
Dan: [00:48:22] When you talk about that smell of iron, and when you said that, it took me right back to a case where I went to a man who had shot himself on purpose. When I opened his bedroom door, that smell hit me because of the vapor, and it’s unmistakable. I’m telling you, I mean, it took me right back to clearing that room. Again, this is a real thing,
Ken: [00:48:46] Especially with mental health. We need to find a better treatment, a better way to address it all around, whether it’s our general population or our police officers, everybody, first responders, firefighters. There’s a lot of bad things that happen to good people out there and no one wins. And I wish we did have a better system. I have family members too that also suffer from mental health issues. I bring that with me when I go to calls for service and try to help people, but I feel like it’s just shuffling the deck, shuffling the chairs around the Titanic’s deck, because people are just saying, “Hey, that’s not my problem.” “Hey, that’s not my problem.” “Hey, that’s not my problem.” Then, we call them 5150 holds where you place somebody under a psychiatric evaluation, but even then, that really doesn’t solve the problem. It’s just triaging.
Dave: [00:49:33] Yeah, we’ve had plenty of those police officer mental holds where a couple hours after they’re released, I go to a scene where there’s a dead body and they’re wearing the scrubs that they were given at the hospital, because there’s only so much someone could do. This person says, “Yeah, I promise I’m not going to hurt myself. I want to be released. I’m just going to walk home.” They’re going to walk home and they run out in front of a semi-tractor trailer on the freeway. Then somebody goes, “Well, why did the hospital release them?” It’s not necessarily their fault. We can’t just impact people’s liberty, just willy-nilly. At some point, there’s a limit to what a doctor in a facility can do. There’s a limit to what the police can do to impact people’s freedoms and civil liberties. We all have rules. It’s not necessarily anybody’s fault. But Ken’s right, the problems get pushed into somebody else’s lab, doesn’t necessarily mean anybody has the answer. Sad, it’s the way it is. You can’t save everybody.
Dan: [00:50:36] We try to.
Yeardley: [00:50:37] Yeah. Ken, how would you say and/or would your wife say that this job has changed you since she met you?
Ken: [00:50:46] Yeah, I would definitely say so. I was once told by one of my mentors, when I first started being a police officer that if your significant other survives FT, they are a keeper because of the stress that goes through.
Yeardley: [00:51:01] FT is field training. If your partner survives your field training, they are a keeper.
Ken: [00:51:10] Yeah. To be honest, it’s so much more than that. If you look at your career, you’re thinking about checking boxes. It’s like the FTO manual. When we go through FTO, there’s certain calls for service that you have to see. And after you see those calls, you get checked off saying “Okay, you’ve completed that call.” My mentality, I think, when it first started was that, like this is a checklist, “Okay, homicide, okay, I’ve done, homicide, check. Sexual assault, okay, I’ve done a sexual assault, check.” Little did I know that this is not an FTO binder. You get the checkmarks and keeps on piling on. You just put more checks, more checks, and that binder just gets fuller and fuller with these calls for service. Each one that you go to, you take, like I said, with Locard’s principle, you take something with it, and you introduce something into it.
There’s a book, it’s called, I Love a Cop. When we first started, my wife read that book, and our department was very proactive about it saying, “Hey, everybody should read this book because you’ll see the changes in your officers.” She read that book, she’s like, “This doesn’t apply to you at all.” My main goal was not to change. The problem is when I’m around this job more than I am around my family, more than my friends outside of this job, it changes you. This whole time I thought my life, I could compartmentalize, I thought I could say, “Okay, Work Ken is 10-8 right now.”
Yeardley: [00:52:30] What’s 10-8?
Ken: [00:52:31] In service. “Hey, I’m ready for the job.” Then right when I’m done, I can turn that off and become Normal Ken. It was easy in the beginning, and it’s harder and harder and harder as your life goes on. You get more secluded just because of the shift schedule. I’m on a four on/four off rotating schedule where I work 8 PM to 7 AM, I don’t think my parents even know where I am right now. My wife lives and dies by this calendar. I’ll be honest, being a detective was close to a breaking point for me and my relationship with my wife, just because on patrol, at least you get to turn it off, sort of. You can say, “Okay, I’m logging off, I’m taking my uniform off. I’m done. I’m going home. That’s it.” Whereas detectives, you’re on call. That’s all you work. With sexual assaults, and when you’re specialized in that realm, it never stops, it’s like shoveling sand after a while, and it just keeps on going and going. I’m sorry, it’s a long answer, but yes, I’ve changed. That’s why I try to focus on the positive things in life. Before COVID I was watching a lot of baseball, I’m a huge baseball fan. Go (unintelligible) As. (laughter)
Yeardley: [00:53:45] Thank you so much for spending the time with us.
Ken: [00:53:48] Oh, no, thank you.
Yeardley: [00:53:48] These cases are awful, but the work that gets done– I always say, the way that dominoes need to line up perfectly in order for justice to be served, always feels a little bit like a miracle.
Ken: [00:54:00] Absolutely.
Yeardley: [00:54:01] Thank you.
Dan: [00:54:02] Good stuff, sir.
Dave: [00:54:04]. Thank you, Ken. Appreciate it.
Ken: [00:54:05] My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Yeardley: [00:54:07] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:54:16] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty, and Alec Cown. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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