Today we hear from our own Detective Dave as he investigates disturbing allegations of child abuse. Just as he prepares to take his suspect into custody, he learns the suspect has fled on a bus and has a 12-hour head start. Unable to make up the time and distance in pursuit of the suspect, himself, Dave is forced to rely on other agencies along the bus route to try and intercept the fugitive before he gets away for good.Read Transcript
Dave: [00:00:06] At no point in this conversation, does he ever deny the types of behaviors that she is accusing him of. He said, “If you tell the police what’s been happening, that’s going to put me in jail, but your mom’s probably going to jail, too.”
Yeardley: [00:00:23] 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. 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 [00:00:50] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:00:51] I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town USA.
Dan [00:00:54] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave [00:01:00] 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 [00:01:15] 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: [00:01:35] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have the dream team. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:42] Hello. Pleased to be back.
Yeardley: [00:01:44] Pleased to have you. We have to Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:48] Hello, team.
Yeardley: [00:01:48] Hi, team. It’s just us chickens today. Dave, you have a really interesting case for us, so take it away.
Dave: [00:01:57] I’ll preface this, I know that some people are more affected by certain types of cases. This is a child sexual abuse case. I won’t get into specifics of the type of abuse. I promise the listener that it’s an interesting case because it happens contemporaneously with another huge case that we had on this podcast in Season One titled 10 Below. Looking back to this period of time, it was uncanny how many cases we had that were huge cases, big cases. One ran into the next, felt like we were running a sprint non-stop for several months. This case comes to us where a victim, her name is Kaylee, high school aged, she’s a teenager. She and her boyfriend, Rick, show up at our police agency in the lobby to actually report some concerning behavior involving a man that lives in the same house as Kaylee, and his name is Leo. Kaylee describes that she lives with her mother, Gina. Leo is a family friend who also rents a room in this house. Then, Kaylee has her two younger siblings who are elementary school age. Gina, Kaylee’s mother, works a lot. She works a lot of hours, so Kaylee and her two younger siblings are at home alone with Leo fairly often.
When we talk about disclosures, Kaylee’s typical of most people where she’s subjected to contact and behavior and abuse. Finally, she tells when she’s ready to tell. Kaylee is understandably conflicted with what to do. She’s worried about her mother’s reaction to what she’s going to disclose, and she’s certainly worried about how Leo is going to handle any sort of disclosure.
Yeardley: [00:03:53] Is she worried her mother won’t believe her?
Dave: [00:03:56] That’s an aspect of this. There’s also some things that Leo’s said to her in the past that make her worried that if she discloses this, that her mom’s going to be in some sort of trouble. That grooming-type stuff, he’s trying to put in her head, “If you ever come forward with this, this doesn’t just end badly for me, it ends badly for your mom and your whole family.” Leo has Kaylee convinced of this, and Kaylee turns to her boyfriend, Rick. She trusts him and she starts to slowly disclose what types of behaviors Leo exposes her to when Gina is away at work.
Rick is very supportive, and let’s Kaylee know, “This is something you need to report,” and he convinces her to come to the police station. Our officer that day is Matt. He takes this initial report and does a spectacular job of documenting all stuff that I need to get in an investigation to establish the scope of what Leo has been doing and time periods, and in this situation, ages are important.
Yeardley: [00:05:00] As in Kaylee’s age is important?
Dave: [00:05:03] Yes. The charges would be more severe a certain age versus her being older. Matt does a great job documenting it, and he forwards his report back to me and I get assigned this sexual abuse case.
A little bit about Leo. Leo is a landscaper by trade. He’s got a take-home vehicle, work vehicle, that he drives around in so he can go to different job sites. Leo has in the past, kind of couch surfed, so he stayed at different addresses on and off, but the more stable residence has always been with Gina and Kaylee and her two younger siblings. There’s times where Leo will be gone for weeks at a time and stay at some other person’s residence, but he always seems to end up back at Gina and Kaylee’s.
I started looking into what Matt has documented. Of course, I have further questions and I’m going to utilize our Advocacy Center. I’m going to get Kaylee forensically interviewed, and in this situation, it was Nicole that did the interview, and I always have great things to say about Nicole.
Yeardley: [00:06:12] Yes. Small Town Fam, you may remember that we sat down with Nicole actually, and talked to her about forensic interviewing in an episode we called Disclosure.
Dave: [00:06:24] Yeah. Kaylee gives one of the most complete, detailed disclosures I’ve ever heard. She is very specific about where things happened, like in the house, which room and in which room what types of contact occurred. In a separate incident, it happened in this room, and this is what he did to me this time. Kaylee remembers this stuff really well. At the end of that interview, we sometimes use these– We call them pretext phone calls or a recorded phone call between victim and suspect. Kaylee agrees to do a recorded phone call with Leo.
Kaylee calls Leo and opens with basically, “Hey, can you talk?” He confirms that he can. She mentions the touching that’s been going on for an extended period of time, and that she had disclosed it to her mother, and that her mother was suggesting that they go to the police to talk about it and that Kaylee’s expressing some hesitancy to do that, and Kaylee is going out behind mom’s back to tell Leo, “Hey, this is about to come out. What do you want me to say?”
Yeardley: [00:07:36] All of that is a ruse to see what kind of response you elicit from Leo?
Dave: [00:07:41] Exactly. We want Kaylee to confront Leo, A, to get the behavior to stop and to gather some evidence and hear what Leo has to say when Kaylee accuses him of molesting her. Kaylee did a great job. Leo’s response to this is, “Well, that’s going to put me in jail. But that’s up to you. What are you going to do? Are you going to put me in jail, and by the way, if you haven’t fully thought this through, your mom’s probably going to jail too.” The thought behind that is Leo’s basically saying, “Your mom exposed you to me, so your mom’s also liable for what’s been happening.” It’s a dirty move.
Dan: [00:08:23] It’s not true.
Yeardley: [00:08:24] Yeah.
Dave: [00:08:24] Right.
Dan: [00:08:25] Leo’s banking on that Kaylee doesn’t know that.
Yeardley: [00:08:28] Exactly.
Dave: [00:08:30] Kaylee saying things, like, “I don’t understand why you’ve been touching me? Do you have an explanation for that?” Leo says, “It’s been both of us involved in this,” implying that it’s consensual, and that Kaylee’s a party to this, not a victim of, and he characterizes it as kind of, “Hey, it’s stupid mistake. We won’t do it anymore, but you were there, and you weren’t saying no. Why haven’t you ever told anybody before this? Why now?”
Yeardley: [00:08:56] Oh, boy.
Dan: [00:08:57] How old is Leo?
Dave: [00:08:58] Leo’s 48 years old.
Yeardley: [00:09:00] And Kaylee is a teenager.
Dave: [00:09:02] She’s a teenager.
Yeardley: [00:09:03] Ugh.
Dave: [00:09:05] Kaylee is a teenager to the point that you would believe that she’s even old enough to have a driver’s license. She’s early teens. Leo’s a dirtbag, Leo’s doing this victim-blaming stuff, and he basically says to her, “You should have said no, you should have put an end to this. This is your fault, too.” Kaylee has probably a four- to five-minute conversation with Leo. It’s clear that Leo wants off the phone because he starts professing his love and how much he cares for Kaylee, basically putting in her pocket, “If you tell the police what’s been happening, you’re going to be hurting me too.” He’s trying to build some obligation out of her.
Yeardley: [00:09:46] Right.
Dave: [00:09:47] At no point in this conversation and Kaylee’s confrontation with Leo, does he ever deny the touching or the types of behaviors that she is accusing him of. He never makes any denials. He closes with as he’s parting ways with her on the phone, reminds her, “Hey, if I go down for this, your mom’s going to jail too.” Then that’s it. His acknowledgement that I could end up in jail for this is he knows he’s doing criminal activity. That goes towards intent, and so that checks a box for me. I’m feeling pretty good after that phone call that I’ve got enough evidence to go to a district attorney and say, “I don’t know where this guy is yet, but I want to get you on board early. I’ve got a great phone sting on this guy, so I’ve got probable cause to arrest him for X, Y, and Z, big charges.” I secure a warrant that day.
I team up with my partner at the time, Detective Matt, different Matt than the original officer on this case. Matt and I start going out to check addresses where Leo might be. He’s not at Kaylee’s, and I’m sure that the phone call had everything to do with that, that he’s like, “I can’t go back to there. Mom and Kaylee are waiting for me.” We’re unsuccessful that day. I actually pass off information to patrol that night that are working graveyard hours, “This is Leo’s work truck. This is what it looks like. Here’s the license plate number. This is where it might be parked. He could be in this neighborhood. If he’s with this other friend, I’d love it if you guys did some patrol checks to see if we can at least get eyes on this vehicle.” I come back into work the following morning, and no luck, nobody’s seen this truck anywhere.
Yeardley: [00:11:48] Hey, Producer Nick.
Nick: [00:11:49] Hey, Yardley.
Yeardley: [00:11:50] I’m so glad you’re here because I want to talk to you about Best Fiends.
Nick: [00:11:53] I guess.
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Nick: [00:12:02] I do see you playing it from time to time.
Yeardley: [00:12:04] Here’s the premise, the bugs defeat the slugs, now the slugs sometimes wear a hat or sunglasses, but basically they don’t have any clothes. The bugs have lots of clothes and hats and accoutrement, and they dance. They dance when you win, they dance when you choose them, and you can boost, if you boost your bugs have 30% more power.
Nick: [00:12:24] How long have you been playing Best Fiends?
Yeardley: [00:12:26] I don’t know, but I’m just about level 800. One of the other great things about the Best Fiends is that you can play it without any Wi-Fi, so you could play it in a tunnel or a cave or an airplane, if you’re flying over the Atlantic.
Nick: [00:12:39] That’s a lot of options. There’s literally thousands of levels of play and counting, plus tons of cute characters to collect.
Yeardley: [00:12:46] That’s right, Small Town Fam. download Best Fiends for free today on the Apple App Store or Google Play. That’s Friends without the R. Best Fiends. They have over 100 million downloads, go get them.
Dave: [00:13:27] Leo’s in the wind, but Kaylee was aware of where Leo worked. I found out the actual starting time for this company when their employees were supposed to be at work versus when they went out to job sites. Detective Matt and I went out very early in the morning, and basically sat on this business. I see Leo’s work truck there, but I don’t see anybody around. There’s no movement. Eventually, I start to see employees showing up at this workshop. I end up speaking to the owner of this company and I say, “Hey, I’m looking for Leo.” He says, “Interesting. Yesterday, Leo came by at the end of the day, and said that he’s got some family health issues in a state south of here, and he needs his final paycheck. Thank you for the opportunity to work for you and I need to get out of here. I’m traveling south ASAP to handle this family stuff.” So, I’m a little bit behind here, timewise.
I’m thinking after this phone call, which was in the afternoon the previous day, he’s got 12 plus hours to have gotten out of town and go wherever he wants to go. Leo’s boss knows where this family member what the health issue is. We start brainstorming, and Detective Matt actually had a great idea. He goes, “Hey, why don’t we go check the bus stations and the train stations?” The first thing we did was went to a bus station. Knowing what Leo had told his boss, I said, “You have any buses that are going to this city?” I understand that there’s going to be stops in between, but the ultimate destination is this city. “I’m hoping to get the names of passengers on your bus that departed yesterday evening, that is in route to this certain city 1500 miles south of here.” The employee there says, “No problem,” and pulls up a roster and prints it and hands it to me. I’m looking, I’m looking, I’m looking, and I see a name that is close to Leo’s name, but variation in spelling.
Yeardley: [00:15:43] Okay. [laughs]
Dave: [00:15:44] I’m like, “It’s the best I got.” What are the chances? There just be a couple of letters off, I bet you that’s him, and he’s trying to throw my trail just in case. Leo, thinks, “I wonder if that detective if they’re involved, he’s going to come to the bus station.” I ask this bus station employee, “That bus left at this time last evening. When is it due at its final destination?” She says, “Couple hours.”
Yeardley: [00:16:11] Even you can’t drive 1500 miles in a couple hours, right?
Dave: [00:16:14] I’m like, “Shit.” I ask for a list of all the stops along that line. She gives me a list. I call the first available stop after he left our city. They confirmed that the same passenger that left our city also wrote his name on the roster for the bus that left their city heading south. I call the next city a few hours further down the line, and they tell me there’s nobody by that name on the roster, but the person that I talked to says it’s not unheard of for people that are on the bus in the back, they’re asleep, we don’t send the roster around. It’s as you come on the bus, you have to sign in.
Yeardley: [00:16:57] Oh, so if he didn’t get off to go to the bathroom or something.
Dave: [00:16:59] Right. He’s got a full all the way through ticket. He’s not required to disembark, he’s on the bus. He’s in the backseat. He’s asleep. It’s not unheard of for him not to sign the roster. She’s like, “Not all hope is lost, but you might check further down the line.” I checked the next stop, same thing, no name on there, and I don’t have any record of him being on that bus. This bus employee actually gave me her direct phone number because I went back to the office to start doing my homework, checking these next stops. I call her up and I say, “Hey, just confirming the time that you told me that this bus is finally supposed to arrive at its final destination, there’s a previous stop there, and that’s a city, probably 120 miles north, is that bus still on schedule?” She says, “Let me check. Yeah, that bus is still right on schedule.” I’m thinking I’ve got about 45 minutes to get a police officer out to that bus station before it arrives.
Yeardley: [00:17:58] Holy shit, that is such a small window. To basically get an agency in a whole other state who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know this case, to drop everything, go snag Leo, before the bus leaves the station? That’s nerve racking.
Dave: [00:18:16] Yeah. I call that agency and I say, “Hey, this is what I’m dealing with. I’ve got a warrant.” That gives these other agencies the ability to put the (unintelligible) on Leo, if they find him. I explained what he looks like, “I’ve actually got a picture of him, I’ve got a list of his tattoos. He hasn’t yet reached the destination where your city is.: They say, “We’ll go out and check.” I’m like, “Great. Time of the essence, I’d love for your patrol officer out on scene to give me a call, if and when they’ve got him.” I start waiting. I’m waiting, and I’m like, okay, the arrival and departure time for that bus from that city has come and gone and now we’re at about 45 minutes to an hour after I should add an update by now. I actually get ahold of that patrol officer and he tells me, “Leo’s name wasn’t on the bus roster, and we didn’t see anybody that look like him. We just cleared.” I’m like, “Could you give me a heads up? Come on, man. Work with me.” I’m livid hot on the phone, but too late now. The bus is already on its way down the highway.
I call the final destination, and that is an enormous city. I tell them the same thing I told the previous agency, “This is who I’m looking for. This is what he looks like. Here’s his tattoos. He’s got a warrant.” “Yep, he’s got a warrant. We’ll go out and check.” That agency goes and checks for Leo. I get a call back from them in a fairly quick turnaround time and they say, “Our officers got out to that final destination about 20 minutes after that bus arrived.”
Yeardley: [00:20:01] Ah.
Dave: [00:20:02] I’m like, “Why, I called you like an hour before that bus arrived? They’re like, “Well, call screen and we’re busy.” I said, “Well, so what do we got?” “Leo’s name isn’t on the bus roster, and we didn’t see him at the station. We cleared.”
Yeardley: [00:20:17] You’re not getting any help here.
Dave: [00:20:19] Right. When I call this agency at the final destination, it’s a municipal agency.
Yeardley: [00:20:25] Just to be clear, a municipal police agency is the local police agency. I live in Los Angeles, so it would be LAPD. Is that right?
Dave: [00:20:34] Right. I also had in my back pocket that I know somebody who works for a federal agency, his name is Andrew. We help each other on certain cases. I said, “Hey, just in case, this local municipal agency doesn’t have the bandwidth or the resources, do you have anyone in this large city, that’s one of your buddies that you could call in a favor?” He said, “Absolutely, I do.” The federal agency that Andrew works for, they dropped what they were doing, and said, “We’re on our way,” and rushed to this large bus station in the downtown of this major city, and these two federal agents, plainclothes, they got there may be just a few minutes after the municipal agency had cleared from the bus station, and they started walking around. You can imagine, it’s like waiting for the phone call, and my phone doesn’t ring. I’m like, looking at Detective Matt, like, “Swing and a miss, dude. This is ain’t happening?” All of a sudden, I get a text message from Andrew. It’s a picture of Leo, that was forwarded to him by his contacts in their final destination where the bus is, and I’m like, “No fucking way.”
I actually spoke to the federal agent that put the handcuffs on Leo. I said, “So what happened? I’ve got to know.” He goes, “Well, we knew we were late, but we’re like, “What if this guy is waiting for a ride, and traffic in this city is notorious, maybe he’s still just waiting. So, we did a loop of the parking lot. Never saw Leo. We just decided to quote [unintelligible [00:22:15] Unass the vehicle.” Get out, walk around, split up and went different directions, and this federal agent told me, I looked over at a guy who was sitting off by himself in corner of the station, and he looked nervous, and he was avoiding eye contact. I just walked up to this guy and said, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’” Leo gives a completely false name, not even close to Leo’s actual name. The federal agent identifies himself with a badge and says, “I need your name.” He said, “No, this is what my name is.” He actually produces a birth certificate that has this fake name.
Yeardley: [00:22:57] Really?
Dave: [00:22:58] Right. Leo’s got receipts, right?
Yeardley: [00:23:01] What do you mean he has receipts? What’s that?
Dan: [00:23:04] That’s just slang. Basically, what Leo’s done is he’s created a new identity, and he’s got paperwork to back it up.
Yeardley: [00:23:10] Oh, receipts, okay.
Dave: [00:23:14] Andrew had sent on the photograph of a tattoo that is very distinct, and one that you wouldn’t normally expect to see on Leo. The agent says, “Hey, can I see your wrist?” Leo says, “Yeah, sure,” and shows one wrist that has no tattoo, and he goes, “Oh, how about the other one?” Leo pulls his sleeve down, and it’s the tattoo from the picture. He’s like, “Hey, Leo.” Leo is like, “No, you’ve got my birth certificate. I don’t know who Leo is. I’m not Leo.” This tattoo is so particular and specific that it’s Leo. These agents hook him up, walk him out to their car, and the picture I get is of Leo leaning against the front grille of this federal agent’s unmarked SUV out in the parking lot of the bus station, showing the tattoo and this forlorn, “Oh, shit, they got me,” look on Leo’s face. I was just like, “Are you kidding me? No way.” I’m pumped.
Leo comes off his story fairly soon. He’s got a pay stub from his employer in my city. These agents start asking him for regular booking information that you ask for like place of birth, if you’ve got a social security number, phone numbers last known address, and Leo’s given all actual Leo’s information.
Yeardley: [00:24:38] Does he give Kaylee’s address as the last known address?
Dave: [00:24:41] He does.
Yeardley: [00:24:42] Yes.
Dave: [00:24:43] So, feeling pretty good. We got the right guy.
Yeardley: Hey Producer Nick.
Nick: [00:25:04] Hello Yardley,
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Dave: [00:26:57] Leo goes to the local jail facility and waits. He’s lodged on a warrant on the charges that I have associated with Kaylee’s case, and he’s awaiting extradition to our state. Turns out that Leo waives extradition and says, “I already know what’s going to happen, just get me up there as quick as possible.” Leo doesn’t fight it to get Leo fully extradited back to our state after write an affidavit that basically vouches that I know Leo is the person in custody in this jail currently because of X, Y, and Z and it’s very factual, like, he has a tattoo on this, his last known address is this, it was a big deal for me to get the phone from Leo.
Yeardley: [00:27:41] His phone?
Dave: [00:27:42] His phone. I wanted to match up the phone call between Kaylee and Leo, before he fled town with a date and timestamp, showing her as an incoming phone call to Leo’s phone. So, I really wanted Leo’s phone. Leo chucked his phone out the window somewhere between our town and the final destination, which to me is an acknowledgment of, “If they’re looking for me, this would be the way to track me.” That phone is probably in a ditch somewhere, so I never got the phone, but it turns out Leo, he doesn’t play too many games. He confirms who he is and where he was coming from when he got off the bus, and Leo is extradited back to our state.
Once I get the heads-up that Leo is now in custody in our local facility. I go over and I interview Leo. I say, “Hey, I’m Detective Dave, and I’m investigating a case involving Kaylee. I want to talk to you about it.” He says, “Sit down. I’ll tell you.”
Yeardley: [00:28:46] Is it usual for sex offenders to confirm what it is that you’re investigating them for?
Dave: [00:28:51] Typically, no. There’s usually some component of either denial or victim blaming or minimization.
Yeardley: [00:29:00] When a sex abuse victim comes to you to disclose, how aware are they that all of the touching that they felt uncomfortable with would be considered inappropriate, just because they weren’t comfortable with it?
Dave: [00:29:17] Sometimes, you see the light come on with sex abuse victims as you’re describing certain behaviors, and certain touching and certain circumstances like, “Oh, no, that– He was just tickling me that time and we were all laughing, and it was funny.” Or, “Every time he’d walked by me in the hallway, he grabbed my ass.” That’s him grooming you to be desensitized to physical contact. He’s seeing how you react, and then ultimately, they get more intrusive with the touching. This is a situation where Leo, he didn’t do the victim blaming that I had anticipated.
Yeardley: [00:29:55] Did Leo minimize his involvement?
Dave: [00:29:57] Leo minimized to the extent of the amount of times that this had happened. Then, I would ask him several minutes later, how many times it’s really happened and the number would grow.
Dan: [00:30:08] I’m sure in the back of Leo’s mind is this phone call with Kaylee. To some degree, he’s got to address that because I’m sure he’s processed in his mind, “I just got stung.” Think about Leo. Leo’s been on the bus, sitting in a seat for hours upon hours, covering hundreds of miles.
Dave: [00:30:26] Probably thinking at every stop, the police are going to be waiting for me at the bottom of stairs.
Dan: [00:30:33] Maybe Leo’s seen police along the way. The amount of stress that he was probably under for that bus trip, I don’t think you can discount that. He’s got to be thinking, “That phone call, I have to address that phone call.” That’s the thing that’s just hanging out there in the air. So, he’s got to talk. He has to talk.
Dave: [00:30:54] Yeah, he’s made admissions and he’s going, “Kaylee probably outsmarted me on this one. And I bet you there was a cop nearby.” Dan’s right, he’s sitting there stewing for hours and hours, marinating on, “What do I do when the police are in front of me? I’ve got an answer to what was on that phone call.” He’s got to say something, he has to have a story.
In Leo’s case, he confirms he had a phone call with Kaylee, and we’re talking about the phone call that I was present for that I was recording, he confirms that that call took place. He confirms the basic subject matter of that call. I asked Leo, “Why were you on the bus and why did you head south so abruptly?” He says, “Well, I just agreed to take a new job in a different state.” I said, “Well, it kind of looked like you’re running.” He goes, “It definitely look like I was running, but I promise I wasn’t.”
Dan: [00:31:50] Well, he lied about that too, because he told his boss he had family issues that he had to attend to.
Yeardley: [00:31:55] Good point.
Dave: [00:31:56] I’m feeling really good about this case, but I would really like to validate what Kaylee’s told us to our patrol officer, in her forensic interview, and what she’s been dealing with ever since Leo left. Leo admits to several instances of sexual contact to varying degrees with Kaylee. He initially minimized it as, “You know, I accidentally might have brushed against her in this area, but it wasn’t intentional.” Then, that grows to, “Okay, yeah, there’s a certain factor where this is intentional and deliberate, and I’m touching her in certain areas on purpose. And, yeah, it just happened to be when Gina is at work, and her siblings are either out of the house or asleep.”
Dan: [00:32:46] I’ve had occasion to watch Dave interview people and these initial explanations are more about plausible deniability. It’s the follow-up questions that really crushed that plausible deniability. You get a little more specific, and you basically tell them, “I don’t accept that answer.” Their objections quickly are disarmed, and they start giving you more of the truth.
Dave: [00:33:09] Leo, I mentioned to him how specific Kaylee was about occasions and locations in the house specific to different rooms and different behaviors, and he confirms those, not to the degree of the amount of times that Kaylee describes, but Leo is confirming, “Yeah, there was some of that contact in that room about this time of her life.” I ask him how many times this happened, and his quote is a typical quote, “A few times.” I say, “Well, let’s talk about those few times. What’s a few times to you?” A few minutes later, he says, “Maybe five, six, seven times.”
Yeardley: [00:33:46] Which by the way, is appalling.
Dave: [00:33:49] Right.
Yeardley: [00:33:50] Unbelievable.
Dave: [00:33:52] Kaylee had mentioned some more involved touching that Leo had tried to subject her to, but she would say, “Uh-uh, no.” She would not fight back but she would protest and not let it go that far.” She’s starting to stand up for herself.
Yeardley: [00:34:07] Is this toward the end of the abuse?
Dave: [00:34:09] This is towards the end. Yeah, you can tell that Kaylee starting to get a little bit more empowered, “I’m tired of this shit from Leo.” Leo still multiple times in this interview describes Kaylee as “a willing participant.”
Yeardley: [00:34:24] No.
Dave: [00:34:25] Right. Dirty. After admitting that, this has happened five, six, seven times. I asked him several minutes later, I go, “So, let’s talk about real numbers. What are we talking about? How many times has there been actual deliberate sexual contact between you and Kaylee?” He goes “Probably 20 times,” which I still think is a low number. Kaylee describes that anytime mom would go to work that Leo was on the prowl.
Yeardley: [00:34:55] It was years that it was going on.
Dave: [00:34:56] Right. Again, he’s minimizing. He’s not going to give us everything, but he gives enough in that interview. Honestly, without a confession, I was prepared to go to the mat with Kaylee’s case, and so as the district attorney. We’ve got a great disclosure, we’ve got a great phone call as evidence, a great timeline by the initial officer, Officer Matt, and compelling circumstances where this suspect flees when confronted by a victim. Those are all things that a jury would look at and be like, “Hmm. Okay.”
After that initial interview with Leo at our local jail, I lodged him for the charges listed on the warrant. We still have to do grand jury on this case to get an official charging document. It’s a way to take what Kaylee testifies to and put that on top of what she disclosed in her forensic interview. The evidence I obtained through the phone call with Kaylee’s brave confrontation with Leo, we have that as evidence and then Leo’s admissions himself. We go to a grand jury on that. The majority of the grand jury’s deliberations was due to the number of counts that they were going to charge him with, not whether or not it happened. Leo ends up with a slew of large charges that will result in a lengthy prison sentence. Nineteen charges.
Yeardley: [00:34:57] [gasps] Oh, wow.
Dave: [00:36:22] Yeah. Including Leo, he actually introduced marijuana to Kaylee to ply her basically. That’s a big charge actually, delivery of marijuana to a minor under 18. That’s prison time in our state, but it pales in comparison to all the other touching-related charges that he gets. I remember that day of grand jury very, very specifically. It’s due not to this case with Kaylee and Leo, but to the 10 Below case.
The day that we had grand jury on Kaylee’s case, Kaylee did not have a ride, the mom was able to drop her off, but Kaylee didn’t have a ride back home. I agreed to drive Kaylee back home. Kaylee was subdued, but she thought it was cool to ride in a police car, even though it’s an unmarked police car. We’re just chatting back and forth, and I said, “Hey, where do you want me to drop you off?” She said, “Just drive me home.” While driving to her house, I hear radio traffic. The initial radio traffic for this call, I had missed because I wasn’t in the car yet. But as we’re driving, I’m starting to pick up some urgency and I hear Sergeant Dave saying, “All right, activate SWAT,” other officers and detectives saying, “I’m en route.” When you hear six, seven, eight units copying up on call in our city, you know something big is going on. I’m staying off the radio because I don’t want to interrupt. I’ve got a victim in my car, juvenile. I hear somebody say, “I’m out at this location,” and they give the address. I recognize the address is fairly close to where Kaylee lives. I know it’s not related to Kaylee’s case because Leo’s in jail, but the circumstances of that call come out as person involved in this call where SWAT’s going to doesn’t want anybody else to get hurt. This is 10 Below.
Yeardley: [00:38:23] That’s exactly right.
Dave: [00:38:25] I drive, Kaylee to her neighborhood and drop her off, and I wish her well and said, “You need anything, let us know.” She gets out of the car, I close the door, and I hit lights and sirens and I go to 10 Below.
Yeardley: [00:38:43] Wow. Nonstop. I feel we should just remind our listeners and/or inform our new listeners what we’re talking about because we keep referencing 10 Below. New Small Town Fam’ers. 10 Below is a jaw-dropping murder case that we covered in Season One. It’s amazing, Dave, that all of that was also happening while you were advocating for Kaylee. As you said at the beginning of this episode, that year was just on hyperdrive for you guys, wasn’t it?
Dave: [00:39:17] Yeah. I’ll never forget that day. There’s so much going on early in this case with Kaylee, from the time that Kaylee’s case happened, and we’re doing the manhunt for Leo along this bus route to the time of the 10 Below call was a little bit over a month. The time from us looking for Leo on this bus route and final destination to the time of grand jury is 30, 40 days.
Yeardley: [00:39:44] That seems fast.
Dave: [00:39:45] It’s actually delayed. Usually when I charge somebody within 7 to 10 days, we’ve got to have grand jury. In this case, I’ve got Leo who’s in a different state waiting for his extradition, but the day of grand jury, it just so happens it turns out to be a day of 10 Below.
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Yeardley: [00:42:19] What did Leo get? Did he go to trial or did he plead?
Dave: [00:42:23] Leo pled guilty. Part of his deal was consideration for Kaylee having to go through the process of testifying, and he pled guilty and took a little over 10 years.
Yeardley: [00:42:38] How did Gina, Kaylee’s mom, take the news that Leo had been doing this to her daughter for years?
Dave: [00:42:45] Gina was a protective mama bear. I think Gina had some of her own internal issues that a mom would, I imagine, for having some guy being around her daughter. But Gina was a protective mama bear, proud of her daughter.
Yeardley: [00:43:02] So, she believed her?
Dave: [00:43:03] She believed her. Leo and his, “Your mom’s going to get in trouble. Your mom’s going to go to jail,” that’s just such a dirty tactic. I mean, it’s coercive on its face, which probably could add another charge for that. But Kaylee showed tremendous strength. I give some credit to Rick for letting her know, “Hey, let’s go tell the police. We can trust them. This isn’t just going to fall on deaf ears.” I think any situation you can imagine, high school aged girl that is scared of the process and scared of what might happen, Kaylee overcame a ton of fear to bring this case forward and to continue. I think that Gina probably had some worries about maybe something of what Leo was saying that she might be exposed to some trouble too. But it turns out that’s not the case. We really want anybody to come forward. If you got worries about, “I’m a victim of crime, but I don’t want to bring it to the police’s attention because I might be in trouble for this,” no, come forward. We’re here to help. I want to put the bad guy in jail. The Leos of the world don’t need to be out there put their hands on kids. I’m really proud of Kaylee, really proud of Rick.
Dan: [00:44:22] We’ve talked about on this podcast on forced disclosure sometimes and how parents can sometimes maybe pressure their child and do a disclosure. They’re directed questions, they’re leading questions. Have you ever had a parent try to do a pretext phone call, putting the cart way before the horse? What they should have done is got law enforcement involved and let people like Dave and these detectives who have experience doing these pretext phone calls and how to check all these boxes.
Yeardley: [00:44:52] Also, they’re impartial.
Dan: [00:44:53] Well, yeah. We’re recording a phone call and, in some states, if you record a phone call and you don’t notify the other person on the end of that phone call that they’re being recorded, you can violate laws. So, we want people to know that the police know all those laws, and we know how to conduct these investigations in these stings effectively where they will hold up in court.
Dave: [00:45:19] Any sex crimes detective, or even child abuse like physical abuse detective, that’s had a few years under their belt, has I’m sure come across this where we get parents well intended, or sometimes there are occasions where I’ve felt like a parent with some sort of axe to grind against an axe or an estranged husband or wife, will coach a child into a disclosure or pressure a child into a disclosure. We get people that watch TV and go, “Oh, I know how to start the wheels on this. I’ll do my own forensic interview, and I’ll video record it,” and they’re nowhere near qualified to ask questions that the Nicoles and Drews and other forensic interviewers are qualified to ask.
We have to have a defensible interview with a victim, and that needs to check a lot of boxes, and there’s a reason why and Nicole is qualified as an expert in child forensic interviewing. She’s done thousands of them. She knows the right types of questions to ask. She knows what it means to introduce a subject, that if I’m just interviewing someone saying, “Hey, I heard your parents might be worried about your safety,” that’s a different question me saying, “Hey, I heard your parents are worried about you when you’re around Uncle John.” You’re introducing the actual subject. So, you ask open-ended questions. I sometimes see where an officer will ask a targeted question like, “Did he touch your breasts?” My question would be, “Has any touching ever happened?” Or, if I’m going to ask about certain areas, “Was the touching on the clothes, under the clothes, or some other way?” You give them options. You’re not trying to rope them into one specific thing.
There’s ways to ask those questions. I’ve certainly seen where right off the bat because of a parent’s well-intended, or not, desire to get the ball rolling on gathering evidence for my case, that we’re already behind the eight ball because we’re going to have to overcome that later on with a defense attorney, or even with the prosecutors, we’re already contaminated here.
Yeardley: [00:47:34] Dave, what do you recommend if a child starts to disclose to a parent?
Dave: [00:47:38] Your child makes a disclosure, I’m not saying shut it down right there. I’m saying hear what your child has to say. You can ask a few clarifying questions, but once you’ve arrived at, “We need to get the police involved to shut it down,” it’s the same way I do things, when I go out to do a field interview after somebody suspects that there’s a crime, we don’t even have a full disclosure of a crime, but they’re like, I think they might be describing something criminal, and I go out and do a field interview, I’m certified to do so. I’ve done hundreds of them. When I get the disclosure of a crime, I ask a couple of clarifying questions, and I shut it down because I recognize Nicole and Drew are the people I need to rely on for this. I’m not the guy.
Yeardley: [00:48:22] So, you can use it.
Dave: [00:48:24] Yeah, it’s evidence gathering. I’d rather the experts do it than me.
Dan: [00:48:28] Please, whatever you do, don’t confront the suspect, say, “It’s Uncle John or neighbor Charlie,” don’t confront him with a text message.
Yeardley: [00:48:37] Right, unhelpful.
Dan: [00:48:39] That does not help. Dave’s had to deal with that too.
Yeardley: [00:48:42] Again, I recognize the inclination as mama bear or papa bear to go out and go, “You did this to my child? I’m going to handle this right now.”
Dan: [00:48:54] Absolutely.
Dave: [00:48:54] Totally get it. If we’re thinking big picture in mind, for a defensible case, call the police, let the police handle it. I know you have to trust the police to do that. You have to trust that the police are going to follow through. I can speak for the people that we brought on this podcast that handle the same caseload as I do. In those situations, I have confidence that they would do the same thing I would do.
Yeardley: [00:49:23] I will never tire of hearing how you guys pull out all the stops and do whatever it is you can think of doing and then ask somebody else what they would do in order to get the job done and do it well, so that, as you say, it holds up in court.
Dave: [00:49:37] Right.
Yeardley: [00:49:37] Well done.
Dave: [00:49:38] That’s the big picture.
Dan: [00:49:40] Thank you, Dave. I remember when he was going through this case, and the elation upon Andrew, the federal agent, providing some good news to Dave.
Yeardley: [00:49:49] Yeah.
Dave: [00:49:50] That was remarkable, and Kaylee is the remarkable component of case.
Yeardley: [00:49:56] Indeed.
Dave: [00:49:57] She’s big time.
Yeardley: [00:49:58] Yes. Go Kaylee.
Yeardley: [00:50:03] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Gary Scott, and me Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. And our books are cooked, and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
Dan: [00:50:32] If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at smalltowndicks.com.
Yeardley: [00:50:39] Small Town Dicks would like to thank SpeechDocs for providing transcripts of this podcast. You can find these transcripts on our episode page at smalltowndicks.com. For more information about SpeechDocs and their service, please go to speechdocs.com.
Dan: [00:50:55] And join the Small Town Fam by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @smalltowndicks. We love hearing from you. And if you support us on Patreon, your subscription will give you access to exclusive content and merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else. Go to patreon.com/smalltowndickspodcast.
Yeardley: [00:51:16] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-
Dave: [00:51:22] -in search of the finest rare true crime cases told as always by the detectives who investigated them.
Dave: [00:51:29] Thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.
Yeardley: [00:51:31] Nobody’s better than you.