Bill is a well-to-do tech professional who starts down a destructive road of drugs and crime with a younger, and more violent companion, named Tristan. One day, police get a call that leads them to believe Bill is dead under bizarre circumstances. An investigation leads Detective Robert and team into a house of horrors.
Detective Robert has been in law enforcement for over 20 years. He spent nine years on patrol, where he served as a field-training officer (FTO) and an FBI-trained hostage negotiator. He was subsequently promoted to corporal and later to detective. As a new detective, he worked in the crimes against children unit, which investigates sex crimes, serious physical abuse and child homicides. He was later re-assigned to the violent crimes unit, where he continues to serve. He is an active member of his county’s major crimes team, which investigates homicides and officer-involved shootings.
Robert: [00:00:05] He went through every kind of power tool you can think of, multiple blades, hand tools, kitchen tools, miter saws, hammers. This defendant severely underestimated the work that goes into disposing of a body in this way.
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: [00:01:37] Hey, Small Town Fam. Hey, how are you? It’s great to have you with us today. I’m excited to tell you that I have the usual suspects with me today, even though we’re not all in the same room like we like to be. We are actually in our respective homes, and still meeting via technology for now. So, there might be sounds of life creeping around in the background, like pets, lawnmowers. Anyhoo, let’s get on with it, shall we? I have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:02:10] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:02:10] Hello, Dan.
Dan: [00:02:12] Good to be here. Smells good in my room without Dave here.
Yeardley: [00:02:16] (chuckles) Shut up. And we have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:02:20] Great to be here and not near Dan.
Yeardley: [00:02:22] Oh, darn. The sibling rivalry never quits. Small Town Fam, brace yourselves, we have a fan favorite and one of ours. We are so pleased to welcome back Detective Robert.
Robert: [00:02:34] Hey there. It’s great to be back.
Yeardley: [00:02:36] You’re awesome. Robert, you always bring us cases that the fans adore, that we are enthralled by. Tell us how this case comes to you.
Robert: [00:02:48] All right. I was a pretty new detective just under two years at this point, but it’s a case that I will never ever be able to get out of my mind. This call actually comes into the patrol division. It’s a woman calling from another state.
Yeardley: [00:03:03] What’s her name?
Robert: [00:03:04] Anne. Anne says that she got a phone call from her cousin, Tristan. During that phone conversation, Tristan talks about stabbing his roommate, Bill, cutting him up and putting him in the freezer a couple of weeks earlier.
Yeardley: [00:03:20] Oh my God!
Robert: [00:03:21] Yes. Imagine getting that phone call. That’s a pretty disturbing phone call. She’s all the way across the country. Bill is the victim, who was 43 years old. Tristan is the suspect, who was 29 at the time of this case. Anne, fortunately, she’s a good person, and she does some digging to find out which police agency is where she believes Tristan is living. She ends up calling and talking to one of our patrol deputies. The deputy does a really good job talking to her, and Anne says that Tristan says he had to kill Bill because Bill was going to rat on him for some bank robberies that they had done together. Anne gets the call, and she ends up calling other family members in our state and tells them, and these family members go online, and they search for bank robberies. They actually think that Tristan is credible by saying this because they see media reports and the wanted posters and they think. “Hey, that looks like Tristan,” in these different robberies.
Yeardley: [00:04:26] And these bank robberies are unsolved?
Robert: [00:04:29] Correct. Anne tries her best to get Tristan to turn himself in. Not surprisingly, Tristan declines. Tristan tells her that he’s turning his life around and he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in custody. Anne also tells us that Tristan normally carries knives or gun, but that he has a particular affinity for swords. He’s really into swords and long, long blades. We have some detectives go out and watch Bill’s house. It’s in a cul-de-sac. It’s in a middle-class neighborhood. Pretty easy to watch. We’re also trying to do the neighborhood canvass without being noticed. We’re trying not to draw attention. We have unmarked cars and we’re in plainclothes. So, we have some plainclothes personnel watching the house and watching Bill’s car.
As a new detective, my job is to do the neighborhood canvass, and so I’m going around, talking to people. The neighbors are very helpful, and here’s what they tell us. Bill is a guy who likes to party hard. There’s a lot of late-night activity at the house and they tell us that Bill likes to let younger men come stay with him. Other neighbors tell us that Bill likes to hire male prostitutes and bring them to the home. There’s concerns that Bill is engaged in drug activity, either purchasing or possibly selling. We get multiple people saying this, so we feel that it’s credible and legitimate information.
[00:06:02] The neighbors also have different degrees of when they last saw Bill. Some think they just saw him a couple days ago, some think, “No, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen him.” Some know that his car has come and gone, but they can’t say if Bill’s driving. Based on Anne’s phone call, we show them a picture of Tristan and multiple neighbors say, “Yes, that’s the guy who’s currently living there with Bill.”
One lady told us that she had a beagle and her beagle got loose and went into Bill’s backyard. She went to the door and knocked, and she says it took about 15 or 20 minutes for Tristan to come to the door, even though she knew someone was in the house. Tristan seemed kind of out of it, didn’t want her to come in, said he would go in the backyard to try to get the dog, but he was unable to capture the dog. And I have a beagle, so I know how stubborn they are.
Yeardley: [00:06:54] (chuckles)
Robert: [00:06:55] When he couldn’t capture the dog, Tristan lets her in. She couldn’t really explain why, but she says, “I just got this really creepy vibe while I was in there, and I just wanted to get out there as soon as I could.” She gets her dog and she exits the house.
The neighbors on our canvas told us that there were power tools being used all day and all night, they mentioned banging. They thought maybe the house had been remodeled because they heard construction-like noises coming from the house. They noticed at one point that Tristan was bringing in several bleach containers, being brought into the house. One thing we learned about Tristan is that his driving privileges are criminal level suspended.
Yeardley: [00:07:36] What’s that?
Robert: [00:07:37] What that means is if he gets pulled over while driving, he doesn’t just get a ticket, he gets a trip to jail. He cannot drive without it being an arrestable offense, and that is good for us. On day one, we get the information in the evening, and day two, our surveillance team sees Bill’s car go mobile. Tristan, in all of our previous mug shots and I think even his driver’s license photo, he’s got really long hair, shoulder length or longer. But our surveillance team sees a guy who’s the right age and who looks like Tristan, but he has no hair, it’s buzzed. That car goes mobile, it actually pulls into a gas station. Our surveillance team has patrol units come in, stop it. They take Tristan into custody.
At this point, they just tell him, “You can’t drive. Anytime you drive, you’re going to get arrested. You have a misdemeanor suspended license.” They ask him who the car belongs to, and he says it belongs to his friend, Bill. He had driven Bill to another state and had Bill’s permission to be using the car. He says if we try calling Bill on a cell phone, we’ll be able to reach Bill. Obviously, that doesn’t work. We tried calling Bill and we don’t get any answer.
[00:08:51] Our investigation also showed that there had been no phone calls on Bill’s phone for 12 days leading up to our involvement. That day Anne calls, no phone calls have been made on Bill’s phone for 12 days. We also saw that there had been no social media activity on Bill’s accounts for over two weeks before we got involved.
When Tristan is contacted by the patrol deputies at the gas station while he’s driving Bill’s car, they take Tristan to our office, and instead taking him to the jail, they take him up to the detective division. Tristan is contacted by some senior detectives on my team. Two very experienced detectives start talking to him and the rest of us are gathered at the house. We don’t have a warrant, we don’t have consent. We’re trying to see if we can see anything that a member of the general public could see. Any vantage point that the general public has, we’re legit to be looking in the same way.
[00:09:47] During my canvas, there’s houses on the backside. I’m asking these nice residents, “Hey, is it okay if we go up to the second floor of your house and look into the backyard? We’re trying to do stuff that we can do legitimately.”
Yeardley: [00:10:00] Do they say yes?
Robert: [00:10:01] Yeah, they’re very nice. All we can see in Bill’s backyard is lots and lots of trash bags. We learn the house had not had trash service for seven months leading up to this, so everything was out there, just piles and piles of trash.
When Tristan comes to our station for that first interview, detectives noted that he had apparent blood on his shirt and his pants. They seize all of his clothing and take head-to-toe photos of him. When he’s talking to the detectives, initially, he says that he found Bill dead in bed about 12 or 13 days before we get involved.
Yeardley: [00:10:41] But wait, didn’t Tristan just say at the gas station that you guys could call Bill and confirm that it’s okay for Tristan to be driving his car?
Robert: [00:10:51] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:10:52] But now Tristan is saying, “Bill’s actually dead.”
Robert: [00:10:56] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:10:57] Okay, that sounds fishy.
Robert: [00:10:59] Yep. Tristan says Bill’s body is cut up and stored in the freezer in the garage, and because of his criminal record, he is afraid to call the police and he panics, and he has spent the last 12 or 13 days cutting Bill’s body up and putting it into the freezer.
Yeardley: [00:11:21] And that is why the neighbors heard all those power tool noises over the course of several nights.
Robert: [00:11:26] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:11:27] That’s disgusting. Did Tristan– he says he did it over the last two weeks, did he dismember Bill just a little at a time?
Robert: [00:11:38] It is hard work. I should say that this defendant severely underestimated the work and the effort that goes into disposing of a body in this way. He went through every kind of power tool you can think of, multiple blades, hand tools, kitchen tools, miter saws, hammers, jigsaws, limb saw, which I didn’t know what that was. It’s how you chop limbs off the trees. He severely underestimated the work that this would take.
Tristan had been carrying this burden about 12 or 13 days. The detectives told Tristan about the phone call that Anne made, concerns for Bill and Tristan says, “I’m happy to go back to the house with you and give you consent to look through the house. I’m totally fine with that.” Tristan gets loaded up and he comes back to the house where I still am.
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Robert: [00:14:53] I want to take a second and talk about Bill and Tristan. Bill is a military veteran and his whole professional career has been in high tech. Well paying, very decent, and stable job. He’s living in a decent house in a decent neighborhood. His life took a big turn when he became addicted to methamphetamine. He just became enamored with going to clubs, specifically gay clubs in the city right next to us, and then bring some unsavory folks back to his house. Again, with a good job and a good salary, he has money to burn, and he is attracting attention because of his income and stable lifestyle. He’s hanging out with the male strippers, dancers, and the club personnel and the other patrons at this club, and he just kind of got sucked into the lifestyle. That was just a way for Bill to get attention from these people and to get them to hang out with him, was to buy drugs, use drugs and provide drugs for them.
Yeardley: [00:15:52] But meth is such a destructive drug, like it affects your skin and your teeth and everything. I should think it gets harder and harder to keep that good job as you continue down that path, no?
Robert: [00:16:03] Exactly. Bill stops showing up to work regularly, he would disappear for five days at a time without calling work. Finally, work was done with him. They had to let him go. His life began to spiral downward. Unfortunately, that’s the time where he becomes acquainted with Tristan, who has a way to help Bill make some money. So, Bill has been the getaway driver for Tristan in some bank robberies. Bill at some point tells trust that he doesn’t want to do that anymore, that he feels it’s unsafe, he feels they’re going to get caught and he does not want to participate in that anymore.
A little bit about Tristan. Tristan in 29 years old. He is charismatic and charming. He would be a great salesman. He’s a good talker. He’s very smart. But he was also a troubled youth. He was getting into trouble when he was a youngster. In fact, as a teenager, his mom sent him to a reform school in the Caribbean that cost over $4,000 a month to try to get him to change his ways.
Yeardley: [00:17:05] What sort of stuff was he doing?
Robert: [00:17:08] He was involved with drugs and stealing. He started this affection for swords and like bladed items early in his life, and so got arrested at a very young age, I think, 14, for stealing a car. He’d been stealing from his family, and so his mom really tried to intervene. He was a Satanist and then he was a card-carrying member of some satanic church. He was really interested in blood. At one point, as his family was trying to help him, they paid for him to go to vocational school where he actually became certified as a phlebotomist. He was working legitimately in a hospital till he ran into some troubles there. He had some coworkers report that he was especially eager to draw blood from infant patients. Basically, when they get a cue on their computer of, “Hey, here’s what we need to have done,” he was always the first one to volunteer to draw blood from infants, and he would use an unnecessarily large needle on these infants, and his coworkers were very concerned that he was enjoying it.
[00:18:14] Another coworker reported that he was stealing supplies from the hospital, and another coworker said that Tristan would take extra blood from people who are HIV positive or who had hep C and he would take it home and store it. We even had one report that at a party, Tristan would throw blood on someone and say, “Now, you have HIV.”
Yeardley: [00:18:36] This is so bad!
Robert: [00:18:38] It is. He was also a heroin addict that fueled the crimes that he was committing was to get his drug of choice.
Dave: [00:18:46] Is he injecting or smoking?
Robert: [00:18:48] He is injecting. When he couldn’t get heroin, he would use meth, but his preference was heroin. Another thing about Tristan is he had a very fluid sexual orientation. What I mean by that is people would tell us that he was gay for pay. If he needed money, he was happy to do what it took to get some money. We also heard that he was gay for the stay. What that meant was if Bill or someone like Bill would give him a place to stay, he would do what he needed to do to be able to stay there. I also learned in the investigation that Tristan was a father. We learned that he had a young son in a city not too far from us. His son and the mother of this child, they had cut off contact with him because of his drug use. Tristan was also a suspect in a really terrible crime in the southern part of our state where someone was walking down a running path and was pretty nearly decapitated. The suspect used a sword, and the head was almost completely removed from the body, but not quite.
Yeardley: [00:19:51] So that’s a murder.
Robert: [00:19:52] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:19:53] He’s a suspect in a murder already.
Robert: [00:19:55] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:19:56] How long ago before Anne gets the phone call about Bill being chopped up?
Robert: [00:20:00] Roughly maybe 10, 12 months.
Yeardley: [00:20:03] Okay. Not like years, not when he was 17 or something?
Robert: [00:20:07] Nope. He had been living down there. He was suspected for that. Tristan’s main bread and butter was robbing banks. He really enjoyed robbing banks, he found it to be challenging. He enjoyed the planning that went into it. That’s what he did.
Dan: [00:20:23] Heroin addiction drives bank robbery so much.
Yeardley: [00:20:27] Really?
Dan: [00:20:27] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:20:28] Doesn’t heroin make you sleepy?
Dan: [00:20:30] Well, it’s the withdrawals that people are afraid of. That’s why you see people with a $200 or $300 a day heroin habit, is because they don’t want to go into withdrawal because it’s horrible.
Dave: [00:20:43] They’re afraid of getting dope sick, and it’s awful.
Dan: [00:20:46] It is.
Dave: [00:20:46] And lasts for days.
Dan: [00:20:49] So if you need cash, who has cash? Banks.
Robert: [00:20:53] It’s rare, a place where you can write a note on a piece of paper slightly across the counter and have someone give you money. It’s an easy target, unfortunately.
Yeardley: [00:21:01] How much money approximately did he accrue in these robberies?
Robert: [00:21:05] You know, that’s everything I don’t think that most people know is you don’t get a lot. Sometimes you might get $2000 or $3,000, sometimes you might get $200 or $300 but there’s no guarantee on what you’re going to get. You risk a lot when you do it– even if it’s a note job at a bank where you’re just handing the note over the counter, you risk a lot. You risk state prison time and/or federal prison time, but you don’t get a lot. To risk many years of your life being behind bars for small amount of money, the risk versus reward does not work out for rational people.
Okay, so Tristan comes back to the house. There’s a lot of us there, several detectives are there. Here’s what I call Tristan’s evolving story. Again, he started by telling Anne that he stabbed and killed Bill, cut him up and put him in the freezer, because he didn’t want Bill talking about the bank robberies. When Tristan comes back to the house, this is the first time that Tristan mentioned suicide. After he talks about finding Bill’s body, he also produces two handwritten notes written by Bill, and one of them is things that Bill wants done, like a typical, “These things should be done with my personal effects,” that kind of stuff. The other one is a suicide note. When my team tries to ask more about that, Tristan lawyers up. So, he asks for counsel, we book him into jail on a single count of murder, and that allows us to hold him without bail.
Dave: [00:22:35] So does he lawyer up at the house during this follow-up?
Robert: [00:22:39] Yes.
Dave: [00:22:41] And did he walk detectives down to this freezer and say, “There it is.”
Robert: [00:22:44] Because he’s asked for counsel, we pull out of the house, we’re no longer operating on consent. We don’t get to the freezer yet. Once we get a search warrant, we’re able to go in. I volunteer to suit up and wearing full Tyvek suits with masks, four of us go through the house to clear the house. It was unanimous among my team that this was the nastiest house that any of us had ever been in. We had 25-, 30-year veterans saying they have never seen a house quite like this. It was filthy. I can’t do it justice describing the smell. I know we are animal lovers and Bill had several cats. It smelled like cat urine, it smelled like feces. There’s power tools everywhere with tissue, with blood residue, human body parts throughout the house. Every surface is covered by needles. This house is covered, covered with capped and uncapped syringes.
[00:23:44] Everywhere we went, we had to be super careful. I wear some really thick work boots, and I was still worried about accidentally stepping up against something that was terrible. We noticed that in the house, very few light fixtures worked. The house had electricity, but there was one or two lightbulbs in the whole house that worked.
Yeardley: [00:24:04] Why is that?
Robert: [00:24:05] When you’re so focused on drugs and getting high, it is not your priority to change lightbulbs.
Dan: [00:24:11] We’ve had instances where they actually remove the lightbulbs and use them to smoke methamphetamine.
Yeardley: [00:24:18] Wow.
Dan: [00:24:19] It’s crazy.
Robert: [00:24:20] Yep. We have a detective on our team. She loves animals, and her job was to capture these cats, so we could get them to animal services. The cats have blood on them. They’ve been walking around and eating on body parts and human tissue, and they are terrified. They have lived with whatever’s been going on in the house for the last couple of weeks and now here are these big scary people wearing Tyvek suits with masks on. They’re hiding, they want nothing to do with us.
One thing I notice is that the toilet in the hallway bathroom has been removed from the floor and set aside, and there’s blood all around the floor surface and it’s very obvious that Tristan’s plan was to feed body parts down into the plumbing system.
Yeardley: [00:25:06] Oh, to take the toilet off and just put body parts down into the drain that goes directly into the sewage system.
Robert: [00:25:13] Yes. This bathroom had a circular saw, a pry bar, three hammers, a limb saw, a hacksaw, a putty knife, multiple screwdrivers, and we noted that the hacksaw had blood on it and tissue adhering to the blade guard. This was not the easy project that he thought it would be. This was extremely challenging, and it kept him busy for two weeks.
Dan: [00:25:37] You’re taking all these tools that he’s using, you’re swabbing them, you are bagging them up, boxing them up, and having to store those things. Then, you’re also trying to find out where the initial attack took place, where was he dismembering certain parts of the body. And I’m sure that that’s got to be really difficult to find in a house where maybe you can’t even see the floor.
Robert: [00:26:00] Correct.
Dan: [00:26:01] Brutal.
Dave: [00:26:03] I’m recalling our Season 1, 10 Below, the episode with the parents in the freezer.
Dan: [00:26:08] Season 1. Yeah.
Dave: [00:26:10] So that house was fairly clean. Maybe some clutter, but you could tell that the house was regularly cleaned, and it was fairly orderly. But you’re trying to figure out where these bodies were for the longest period of time, and I remember walking down the hallway, it’s hardwood floor. Dan had pointed out, “Hey, we got some buckling here.” Clearly, there’s been some moisture on this area of hardwood floor, but you could smell the decomposition centered in that area. You’re like, “I bet she was right here.” Sure enough, Dan pulls up the wood floor, and there’s blood down all the way to the sub floor. In that house, this crime scene, you don’t have that ability. It’s kind of like, you can’t narrow it down that easily without big dried pools of blood on the floor.
Robert: [00:26:59] Yeah, so he had tried to clean up some of the areas with bleach, and actually had some white primer. He had removed a chunk of carpet and was priming over it. I don’t know what he was thinking, because we’re doing the presumptive blood tests throughout the house. I mean, it’s everywhere. Then he would drag different pieces from one room to another just by inserting a knife and twisting it. He told us he would move these big pieces from room to room to try to have more room to work.
Dave: [00:27:27] Oh, God! I cannot imagine. For days, you’ve got to search this house.
Robert: [00:27:32] It was nasty. When we lift up the freezer door in the garage, it is very obvious that there’s a human head in there with human hair and multiple other body parts. On top of the freezer was a handheld miter saw with blood and human tissue.
Yeardley: [00:27:50] Is it a big box freezer, where you lift the top open instead of– it’s not attached to a fridge?
Robert: [00:27:57] Correct. It’s a self-standing freezer. This starts a crime scene that took several days to resolve were there with two different forensics teams. I worked for an agency that’s large enough where we have our own forensics team. We needed help, so we called out the state police forensics team to come help us. They divided the house up into parts and it was massive.
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Robert: [00:30:50] As we’re going through the house, we also noticed that just a couple months before he’s killed, Bill had pawned some guns. He pawned an AK-47 that he had and a .22 pistol. We’re finding stuff like that, that Bill needed money, he’s becoming vulnerable to Tristan when Tristan is asking him to help with these bank robberies. We also found in the house and in Bill’s car, because our search warrant covered the house and the car, walkie-talkies, matching sets. This also is good evidence in these bank robberies, these suspects are communicating. We also found in the house multiple wigs and multiple license plates, and we noted on Bill’s car that the rear license plate where on a normal car it has screws holding the license plates, in Bill’s car, the rear license plate had Velcro strips on it. We could tell that Tristan and/or Bill when they’re out scouting these bank robberies, that they would change out the license plates.
Yeardley: [00:31:51] Did those license plates come back to stolen cars?
Robert: [00:31:54] Yes, they did. Inside the car, we found receipts from different parts of the state that helped us piece together our timeline. It helped us link Tristan to bank robberies in those jurisdictions, which maybe we wouldn’t have been able to link him to otherwise, but because we had receipts knowing where they were, different parts of the state, was pretty cool. We also found a journal in the car where Tristan was keeping notes on different banks that he had scouted on their security and where to park and that kind of stuff. We also found a cell phone in the car belonging to Bill and/or Tristan. When we did analysis on that cell phone, it showed us that they were doing web searches for media coverage on specific bank robberies, that helped us also link him to bank robberies there.
We also noted in the house that the kitchen refrigerator and the freezer were warm. You open them up and they were full of rotten food and flies. There was bleach smell in the kitchen. We just kept finding different body parts and skin throughout the house.
Yeardley: [00:32:58] Different body parts?
Robert: [00:33:00] Yeah, he was very interested in anatomy and physiology. Of course, he’d worked in a hospital setting before. Yeah, he was doing his own kind of autopsy. In fact, during interviews, he talked about making the Y incision on the body.
Yeardley: [00:33:13] And the Y incision is when they cut a person open during an autopsy, starting at the shoulders, and literally making what looks like a Y down to their abdomen or their pelvis. Yes.
Robert: [00:33:26] Correct. He was just going to town.
Yeardley: [00:33:29] Eww.
Robert: [00:33:30] This is a case that’s unique because our property evidence receipt listed items such as Ziploc bags that previously contained left hand, black plastic bag previously containing right leg and right foot. These are things that you’re just not going to write again in your whole career. Someone opened a gym bag, and it was found containing body parts. We found five Ziploc bags containing internal organs. It was just a brutal crime scene.
Yeardley: [00:33:58] Robert, all of the body parts that you found in the house were Bill’s body parts, right?
Robert: [00:34:04] They were.
Dave: [00:34:05] So, you get into the freezer and you find two left hands, you’re like, “Shit.”
Robert: [00:34:10] Right, that did not happen in this case, so that was fortunate.
Yeardley: [00:34:13] Are those Ziploc bags in the freezer or are they out?
Robert: [00:34:17] Freezer. Yeah, they’re in the freezer. We have just under 400 items of evidence that we seized from this house in this car. We interviewed over 40 different people in-depth recorded interviews and some of them multiple times. I’m not talking about the neighborhood canvas, we’re talking about people who actually had knowledge.
Dave: [00:34:36] To be sober and cutting up the body is one thing. I’m guessing given Tristan’s love of heroin and drugs, Tristan probably maintained his high during these sessions with the body.
Robert: [00:34:50] We know that he kept weird hours, but yeah, I’m sure he would nod off and wake up and realize, “Crap, I still have to take care of this,” and get working again. Interestingly enough, there was a guy who was a dealer who had accepted a laptop in trade for some drugs. He had taken that laptop to Bill to work on because remember, Bill works in high tech. This dealer came over to the house to pick up this computer. He’s like, “Bill’s not answering my calls. He’s supposed to be working on my computer.” This dealer told us that he had such a scary feeling, he couldn’t describe it either. Just like the lady whose dog got in the backyard. He said, “Something’s not right here.” He said he got that computer and he hightailed it out of there.
Yeardley: [00:35:35] It must be bad when a dealer gets all hanked up at a house.
Robert: [00:35:39] Yes. As I talked about, Tristan had already invoked his right to counsel, so we’re not asking him any more questions at this point. I’ll talk next about the autopsy. The autopsy took place over a weeklong period. We convened three different times, and the reason for that is the body parts were so frozen that they weren’t able to be examined. We had to wait for them to thaw out just to be examined and pieced back together. The autopsy was crucial in this case, because putting the body back together when it had thawed out, we saw clear defensive wounds on Bill’s body. On his hands and on his wrist, defensive wounds, premortem stab wounds, which contradicted what Tristan wanted us to think that Bill was dead in bed from suicide.
Yeardley: [00:36:26] So,Tristan story is ever evolving, because as you say, first he says he found Bill dead in bed, and he didn’t know what happened to him. Then he says, “Oh, no wait, Bill took his own life, and actually, I have a suicide note here to prove it.” Now with the discovery of all these defensive wounds on Bill, it’s obvious that Tristan murdered him.
Robert: [00:36:48] Exactly.
Yeardley: [00:36:49] Where was he stabbed?
Robert: [00:36:51] He was stabbed in the heart and upper chest multiple times. Through these premortem stab wounds, we’re able to determine soft tissue hemorrhaging. This proved that blood was filling Bill’s chest cavity premortem, he was aspirating his own blood. Bill did not commit suicide. The manner of death was ruled a homicide and the cause of death was stab wounds to the chest. A couple more of Tristan’s evolving stories. He told one of his friends that he had been in a fight with Bill and that it had escalated and he had accidentally killed Bill. Every one of these evolving stories we have to run down and we have to be able to prove it or disprove it.
[00:37:34] Another one that was important, Tristan loves to talk, he loves to brag. This case, as you might imagine, it got a lot of media attention. He was known in the jail as chopper, but it caused people to respect him. It gave him some street cred in the jail and he would brag about it. We also had two informants, two jailhouse snitches that talk to him and told us that Tristan had told them that Bill was asleep when Tristan stabbed him. Tristan himself told these other inmates that Bill was asleep when he stabbed him. He attacked him in bed. Tristan was a very unique defendant. He would call from the jail phone, he would call the detectives on this case, we would pick up our phone, and it would say, the recorded message, “You have an inmate calling you from such and such county jail, will you accept the call?” And because he had lawyered up, we cannot reapproach him. He would call the lead detective on this case, and say he wanted to meet.
[00:38:33] There were several times where I, again, I’m the new detective at this point, but the lead detective asked me to go with him to interview Tristan. Tristan is basically demanding a meeting. There were several times where we would go down, get him from jail, talk to him in the parking lot, or bring him up to detectives. We’d go through the Miranda warning, and we would go through very, very specifically, “Tristan, we just want to make sure you are asking for this meeting, is that correct?” And he would say, “Yes.” We said, “Does your attorney know that you’re talking to us?” And he would say, “Oh, yeah, he told me I’m an idiot.” “Tristan, is it still your wish to talk to us?” “Yes, it is.” We’d be like, okay, we’ve covered our bases.
[00:39:16] Tristan tells us that he hoped that we would fall for the suicide story. He said, “I hoped that you would fall for this suicide story so that I could go on with my life.” Tristan also told us that detectives from the southern part of the state had come up to interview him on bank robberies, and on that homicide down there.
Yeardley: [00:39:34] The one where the person almost had their head cut off?
Robert: [00:39:37] Correct. These other agencies were narrowing in on him. He had a good rapport with us and wanted to talk to us. Every time he would call, we would run through that whole spiel and every time he would say, “My attorneys told me absolutely not to talk to you, but I still want to.” This is going on over a period of several months, and I don’t know if he was just going bored but he talked and he liked to be heard and he liked to tell us stuff, so it was helpful. Each time we would talk to him, he would give us nuggets of information. I don’t know if he was doing that knowingly or not. This is still an ongoing investigation. We’re still getting tips from the public, people responding to the media, we have lots of other jurisdictions interested in Tristan for many reasons, so they’re coordinating visits through us. They know that we have a really good rapport with him, and that he’s talking to us just fine.
[00:40:30] One day, a man calls the sheriff’s office and I get to talk to him. He says, “I don’t know if this is important or not, but about 18 months ago, Bill gave me a DVD, and told me I should turn it over to the police if anything ever happens to him.” This is months into the investigation. I was just like, “What?”
Yeardley: [00:40:49] Had he watched the DVD? I’m guessing not otherwise, he would have been like, “Oh, shit.”
Robert: [00:40:53] He said he had not, but I don’t know how you could get something like that and not watch it. Maybe I’m noisier than the average person.
Yeardley: [00:41:00] (laughs)
Robert: [00:41:01] I meet him in a nearby city. we sit down and talk. He hands over this DVD. The DVD is labeled Sex Acts, and it’s a homemade DVD. It’s water damaged. This guy apparently lives on a boat and he says, “I didn’t know it got damaged.” We paid a very, very expensive forensics company to try to recover something off it. We still had to pay them but they didn’t recover anything off it.
Yeardley: [00:41:28] Argh!
Robert: [00:41:29] So we don’t know what was on there, but to have the foresight to tell someone, “Hey, if I turn up dead, give this to the police.”
Dan: [00:41:37] It’s an odd title for such an important DVD.
Robert: [00:41:40] We’ll never know what’s on there.
Yeardley: [00:41:59] Hey, Producer Nick.
Nick: [00:42:00] Hey Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:42:01] I want you to tell our listeners about Article and their laid-back elegant designs because lunch in the garden?
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Yeardley: [00:42:28] And I would say your barstools are sort of bohemian mid-century-ish?
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Nick: [00:43:14] I’m going to need to get some more barstools.
Yeardley: [00:43:16] (laughs) I think Article can hook you up. Do it!
Robert: [00:43:49] About a week after Tristan was arrested, he told a jail deputy in his housing unit that he was disappointed that he wasn’t on the news. The deputy, they’re really busy and they have a lot of people to supervise, so he wasn’t really clear what case this was. Tristan reapproaches him because he wants to assert who he is and kind of what he’s done. So, he really approaches the jail deputy and shows him a newspaper article that had been written about him. Even then, the jail deputy is busy, he doesn’t have a lot of time to talk to him. So, he asked Tristan to just summarize what’s it about. And Tristan says, “It’s about me cutting my roommate into pieces, but don’t worry, I’m going to be released soon because the state doesn’t have anything on me.”
Yeardley: [00:44:34] How does Tristan say, they don’t have anything on me when there are multiple power tools around the house with body schmutz on them?
Robert: [00:44:42] I don’t know, maybe he’s an eternal optimist and maybe in his mind, he thought he would have some kind of out, but he really didn’t. This was the most clear case everything pointing to him.
Dave: [00:44:54] Given the rapport that your team had with Tristan and he keeps contacting you guys, is he specifically talking about Bill’s case or has he given you guys nuggets of information on other cases and other jurisdictions? I’m particularly interested in the murder down south.
Robert: [00:45:11] He is not interested in talking to us about the murder down south, but he continues to give nuggets about bank robberies. I think in his head, he’s talking to so many people, he’s talking to fellow inmates, he’s talking to people on the phone, I don’t think he remembers who he has told what to. So, he doesn’t realize when he’s telling us something new. Of course, we’re very hungry for information, and we’re doing a good job of collaborating with all these other agencies that are interested in him.
Ultimately, Tristan is linked and positively IDed in several bank robberies throughout the state, so the Feds are interested in him. He is looking at significant time for several bank robberies. At one point, he told fellow inmates who were also happy to talk to us that he had robbed 32 banks. Tristan also bragged about eating human flesh. He hinted to others, strongly hinting about decapitating another person. Tristan is represented by the public defender’s office.
[00:46:13] What happens in our state, when you’re accused of murder, you actually get a team of really experienced, they’re called murdered-qualified attorneys. You don’t get the new guy out of law school, you get a really experienced team of attorneys. That was the case here. But here’s what they had going against him. We had some amazing facts in this case. We had a lot of facts that only pointed to Tristan, and they could not control him, he talked to us nonstop and there wasn’t much they could do with that. That’s what kind of cooked his toast in this case, is we had the facts on our side and he kept talking. The ever-evolving stories coming out of Tristan, he told us that Bill had been a driver for him while he did somewhere between 10 and 13 different bank robberies. He was very afraid that Bill was going to inform on him. Because Bill, up to this point where he gets hooked on drugs, has been a productive member of society and Tristan was concerned that he was going to talk, and so that is why Tristan killed Bill.
[00:47:21] Ultimately, this case resolved with a global resolution, a plea and that means many jurisdictions come together, and they decide what is a fair sentence to resolve all these cases. For our case, Tristan pled guilty to the crime of aggravated murder, and a crime called abuse of the corpse, which means that after someone dies, that you do something to alter the body, hide the body, dismember the body, that kind of stuff. As part of the global resolution, so solving our case, solving all these bank robberies that all these other agencies are interested in, and I don’t know how that murder down south played into this, he was sentenced to true life in prison. What that means is, 20 years from now, there’s not going to be a parole board that has any authority to let him go. His plea is true life in prison, he will never be a free person again.
Dave: [00:48:13] So they take the death penalty off for the ag murder charge?
Robert: [00:48:17] Correct.
Yeardley: [00:48:18] I am sort of struck by his hubris, at the fact that he could not keep anything to himself that he needed to talk about everything and that he honestly thought you didn’t have any evidence against him when he left it all over the house.
Robert: [00:48:36] What is interesting is people have to unburden themselves. When you take a life, you’re either a psychopath, a sociopath, or you’re a normal person who needs to unburden themselves. This was not what he normally does in the course of a day. So, whether for that murder down south or killing Bill, he needed to unburden himself, and he trusted Anne. He was very, very angry and disappointed that she had talked to the police, very disappointed that she couldn’t keep that secret for him, which is interesting, because he couldn’t.
Dave: [00:49:13] How close was Tristan with Cousin Anne? Was it normal for him to reach out? Or, was this where her phone rings one night and she’s like, “Oh, it’s Tristan. Let’s see what he has to say.” Then 20 minutes later, you get off the phone, you’re like, “What the hell did I just hear?”
Robert: [00:49:29] No, she had said that they were very close, and that she was the only person that he trusted and reached out to, because he’d been kind of distant from his family and they were tired of his shenanigans and he’d been kicked out by his parents. She said sometimes they would talk twice a day, and sometimes it’d be a couple days, but they were very close. They were in very regular communication.
Dan: [00:49:50] The case that my brother talked about earlier, 10 Below, where we had a son, he murdered his parents and put them in a freezer, the closest family lived out of state, so they had to come and deal with the estate. Was it like that with Bill’s house?
Robert: [00:50:07] Yes. When his family members flew in, we tried to prepare them that, “This is not a place that you want to go into. We’re not exaggerating. We’re telling you, you don’t want to go in here.” They heard our narrative and they heard our descriptions. They hired one of those firms.
Yeardley: [00:50:24] There are companies that will clean up crime scenes professionally. Yes?
Robert: [00:50:28] Yes. This house would have needed a complete from top to bottom, new drywall, new floors, new sub floors. Someone is living there now. I’m sure it looks brand new inside.
Dave: [00:50:41] I’ve got a follow-up question about the suicide note. It’s in Bill’s handwriting?
Robert: [00:50:47] It is in Bill’s handwriting. Bill and Tristan, come to find out, they both wrote suicide notes. I’m sure it was Tristan thinking ahead, but they both wrote suicide notes in their handwriting, so that if they felt that the police were closing in on them, that they could commit suicide, instead of going to prison for a long time. They knew that there had been multiple robberies and they were going to get a significant amount of time. I’m confident that Tristan was the brainchild of this. It was undated, and we don’t know really when they did it. That was what Tristan told us.
Dave: [00:51:22] That makes sense.
Dan: [00:51:24] Thinking about this case, took me right back to 10 Below. I can feel it in my body, what that felt like to be in that house, knowing what occurred there. This was a really hot summer day, so I can feel what that was like standing outside. The smells, it’s just all coming back to me.
Dave: [00:51:44] I’m having the same thing. This is nastiness that– law enforcement and firefighters, paramedics, those types of first responders, we all know exactly what you’re talking about. I would never wish that on anybody to have to even step one foot inside a building or a house like that.
Robert: [00:52:03] We were all really sad for the cats. It was not fit for animals or humans. It was terrible.
Yeardley: [00:52:11] I’ve said this before, but I just always hope that it’s you guys who show up to solve whatever crime I need solved, because the thoroughness and integrity and care and thoughtfulness that is so present in all of your narratives is impressive and comforting, and one of the reasons why I love this podcast.
Robert: [00:52:32] That’s the ultimate compliment and that’s what we want is, if I was a victim of a crime or a family member of mine, I have four sisters, who I love dearly, if any one of them were a victim of a crime, I would want someone to go all out. I would want someone to expand every resource and chase every single lead down. Treat others as you want to be treated. But that’s the ultimate compliment, so I thank you for saying that.
Yeardley: [00:52:57] Thank you, Detective Robert, always. We will see you again. You’re just extraordinary. Thank you.
Robert: [00:53:03] Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Dave: [00:53:05] Thanks for joining us, Robert.
Dan: [00:53:07] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:53:14] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, 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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