A man calls 911 to say his toddler is in distress: he’s not breathing. As paramedics rush to the scene, so does Detective Terry. He knows for this kind of incident, it is all hands on deck. As he begins to investigate what happened, a series of red flags go up and Det. Terry confronts every parent’s worst nightmare.
The Detective: As of 2022, Det. Terry will have over 24 years of experience in law enforcement. He spent the majority of his career in a small, rural coastal town. Over the course of his career Det. Terry has been a patrol sergeant, had special assignments as a School Resource Officer (SRO), a Field Training Officer (FTO), and a narcotics detective. He also spent a year consulting as an advisor to the Iraqi police, working in the Western Al Anbar Province. Det. Terry has been at his current agency for the past six years. For the last five, he has been assigned to the Major Crimes Team investigating suspicious deaths, child abuse, and sexual assaults. Det. Terry enjoys the outdoors and spending summer days on a boat at the lake surrounded by family. He and his wife are expecting a son in the winter of 2022.Read Transcript
Yeardley: [00:00:01] Hey, Small Town Fam, I want to let you know that today’s episode is about the death of a baby. It was an extremely difficult recording session for all of us. So, I just wanted to give you a heads up and let you know what’s in store. It’s an incredibly heartfelt episode, but it’s a tough one. Here is Red Flag.
Terry: [00:00:23] You are walking in to the absolute worst day of someone’s life. [exhales] “I’m so sorry that this happened to you, but I have a job to do and I have to do it right. Bear with me. I’ll do it as fast as I can and I’ll get you out of here, so you can start your grieving process.”[Small Town Dicks intro]
Yeardley: [00:00:43] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:00:44] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:00:46] I’m Dave.
Paul: [00:00:47] And I’m Paul.
Yeardley: [00:00:47] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:00:50] Dave and I are identical twins and retired detectives from Small Town, USA.
Paul: [00:00:54] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.
Dan: [00:01:00] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.
Dave: [00:01:08] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.
Paul: [00:01:14] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.
Dan: [00:01:19] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved.
Dave: [00:01:27] Out of respect for what they’ve been through.
In Unison: [00:01:30] Thank you.[intro ends]
Yeardley: [00:01:40] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:46] Good morning, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:01:47] Good morning. I feel like you’re ready for me.
Dave: [00:01:50] I knew I was going to be named first.
Yeardley: [00:01:52] We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:53] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:01:54] Hello. And we have the one and only, Paul Holes.
Paul: [00:01:57] Hey, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:01:58] Hey, Paul. And Small Town Fam, we are so absolutely delighted to welcome a new guest to the podcast, Detective Terry.
Terry: [00:02:07] Good morning.
Yeardley: [00:02:08] Good morning. I always like to say thank you to our guests who have very generously given up a day off to sit down with us. So, thank you for that. I know those are precious.
Terry: [00:02:18] Thank you, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:02:19] So, Terry, you have a really interesting case for us today. Tell us how this case came to you.
Terry: [00:02:24] So, this case started from a 911 call from a male. He was somewhat frantic. He says, “Our kid’s not breathing.” He’s 14 months old. And this baby was found with a blanket wrapped around his face. 911 operators start giving CPR instructions. And there happened to be a canine officer really close by. That officer was on scene within just a couple of minutes, took over 911 until EMS paramedics arrived on scene, they took over and off to the hospital. They went with the child.
Dave: [00:02:58] What time of the day was the 911 call?
Terry: [00:03:00] This call came in at 2:40 in the afternoon.
Dave: [00:03:03] Who’s a 911 caller?
Terry: [00:03:06] So, the 911 caller was later identified as the boyfriend. His name is Kyle.
Yeardley: [00:03:12] And is Kyle the actual father of the baby or is he just the boyfriend of the mother?
Terry: [00:03:17] So, he’s just the boyfriend. However, he started dating the mother. Her name is Pam. He started dating her when she was actually pregnant with the child. The child’s name was Scott. Pam is in her almost mid-30s. She’s a mother of five kids. All the children do have the same father. Their relationship ended when Pam was pregnant with Scott. From my understanding, there was some domestic violence in the past. So, that person was out of the picture and in comes Kyle.
[00:03:47] Kyle, he’s in his very early 20s. He never had children, so there’s a huge age difference. This guy stepped into an immediate family, a large family. So, for me, those were always kind of like little red flags when a young man takes on too much responsibility, especially with a toddler in the house. So, I’m taking note of that. But Kyle and Pam started dating when she was pregnant. He was actually there for the delivery. He was allowed to cut the umbilical cord. So, for all intents and purposes, he considered himself the father.
[00:04:22] So, Kyle and Pam are still at the residence. This is when we get notified back in my detective division. My watch commander comes back says, “Hey, we got a child that’s not breathing. CPR is in progress. Patrol is still at the residence.” This is when all hands are on deck. Every detective is assigned to this.
Yeardley: [00:04:41] So, it’s standard procedure when a child is involved, usually that you guys go out and check it out.
Dave: [00:04:48] Yeah, the way these come out is, call comes in to 911, it’s transferred to our dispatchers who are on location at our police station. They will put in a call, they’ll send patrol because they’re out and about– On a case like that, it probably wouldn’t take the patrol watch commander reaching the scene to say, “Hey, we want detectives. They request detectives.” On these, we would get it a lot of time where dispatch comes over the intercom in the building and says, ISP, Investigative Services Bureau detectives, “ISP contact dispatch,” and everyone goes, “Oh, shit. There must be something happening.” Someone back in detectives will probably look at the computer, the call screen and go, “We’ve got a CPR in progress on a baby out at this address.” And everyone knows when that intercom hits, it’s like, “Where are we going?”
Yeardley: [00:05:39] Got it.
Terry: [00:05:41] So, at the time, it was Sergeant Dave.
Yeardley: [00:05:42] Ah, Sergeant Dave, we love Sergeant Dave. He’s been on the podcast many times.
Terry: [00:05:48] Yes. So, Sergeant Dave directs myself and my partner, Jamie. We both work child abuse cases. And we go directly to the residents to make contact with Kyle and Pam.
Dave: [00:06:00] When you get to the house, what are your Spidey senses telling you? Are you thinking, “Oh, this is just a bedding issue?” Or, what were your initial impressions?
Terry: [00:06:09] Yes. So, typically, these type of cases, it’s a sleeping issue, whether it’s co-sleeping, mom, dad rolls over smothers a child, or it’s a bedding issue. They put a ton of bedding inside of these cribs or put them next to a mattress and the child rolls over and gets smothered. So, initially, I took Pam at her word that she found Scott with the bedding around his face. So, I’m thinking, “Is it a bedding issue?”
[00:06:38] It’s just myself and my partner Jamie are at the house. There’s a detective at the hospital. Medical staff is still working on Scott. We get in there at the house. There’s Kyle, there’s Pam, they’re still present. They appear upset, acting, I guess somewhat appropriate. They’re not super frantic. They’re not as upset as I’ve seen other parents in these type of calls and unfortunately I’ve been to several of these scenarios.
Dave: [00:07:03] Terry, you’ve got kids?
Terry: [00:07:05] Yeah. And that’s the way I look at it. I’m like, “If this was my child, how would I feel?” This was one of my worst nightmares as, especially as a young father, I was a teen father with my oldest daughter. And my constant worry was, wake in the middle night, checking to make sure this little girl is breathing and the thought of losing them would just be absolutely devastating. But in my experience, people handle trauma different. So, it could just be that. Maybe they just handled trauma differently.
Dave: [00:07:36] It kind of walk me through the condition of the residence. Is it an apartment, is it a house?
Terry: [00:07:40] This is a two-bedroom apartment. There’s five children living in this house. The youngest being Scott and then all the way up to early teens. The house is filthy dirty. There’s dirty dishes, there’s a cat box. It’s overfilling with cat feces. It smells. There’s two bedrooms that appear to be where the children sleep. So, Kyle and Pam sleep on a mattress in the living room. The five children sleep in the two bedrooms. Something wasn’t right with Kyle, the boyfriend. I had a bad feeling in my gut about him.
[00:08:18] I know when CPR is in progress, that it’s bad. In fact, I’ve never seen once CPR started where the child was brought back. Usually, the child’s actually been dead for quite some time. First responders don’t want to give up. They get there, they start to CPR, nobody wants to say, “This young life is over. Take it to the hospital, get to the hospital.” It’s the same thing. I’ve been in these emergency rooms while– In my gut, I know that child’s been down for a long time, I know that child’s not coming back, but then medical staff, “This is tough guys, but– God bless our first responders, our medical staff, they just don’t want to give up.” I see it on them every time. They see trauma, they see terrible things, but when it’s a small child, it’s not uncommon. These nurses, they’re crying, they’re visibly upset. They needed to just step away and just take a moment. It’s tough.
[00:09:16] For this case, I’ve got to expect, it’s the worse. In my mind, it’s a homicide until proven otherwise.
Terry: [00:09:41] So, I’ve got a crime scene up the apartment, I’ve got a crime scene at the hospital.
Dan: [00:09:46] Terry, you’ve got detectives at the hospital. Are they giving you regular updates on whether or not they’ve been able to resuscitate Scott?
Terry: [00:09:54] Yes. We get notified that Scott is actually declared deceased. I haven’t told Kyle or Pam that he’s deceased. And they’re wanting to get to the hospital. Like typical parents, they’re wanting to be with their child. These are super emotional calls, but I need to get just the basics. I’m in the house, I don’t want to lose that ground. So, I just get a real brief, “Tell me what happened.” So, now I’m going to talk about the timeline that was provided by Pam.
[00:10:27] Pam says she actually went to work about 6:00 AM that morning. She worked at a nearby fast-food franchise really close. It was actually about an 8-to-10-minute walk, but it was cold this morning, so Kyle came over to the house, picked up Pam, drove her to work, came back and then did his daily duty, which is the other four children get off to school, and then he stays and cares for Scott. Pam clocked out at 1:47. She said, it took about 10 minutes to get home. So, that puts her at about 2 o’clock. That phone call doesn’t come in till 2:40 PM, “So, what were you doing, Pam?” Well, Pam says, “I got home. I go into the living room and Kyle’s sleeping on the couch. He woke up.” Pam said, “We talked for about 10 minutes and then she went to check on Scott,” finds that Scott’s lying different than he typically would be. She said, “He was facedown but his legs were flat.” She said, “He had a blanket over his face.”
Yeardley: [00:11:26] Is this in a crib or in say the parents’ bed?
Terry: [00:11:30] He’s in a crib and actually, the bed’s appropriate. It’s just a firm mattress, it got a sheet on it, and it’s got two blankets. There’s nothing suspicious about this. She did say, typically, when he lays on his belly like this, it is pretty common for babies to hike their knees up a little bit with their butts up in the air. She says, “That’s typically how he sleeps. But on this day Scott’s laying flat.” She goes to pick him up. She discovers Scott’s not breathing. She screams for Kyle. Kyle comes in. They start CPR, call 911. So, there’s 30 minutes that are unaccounted for at this point. So, this is definitely concerning something to take note at this point. So, Pam tells patrol that Kyle told her that he put Scott down for a nap about an hour prior, so making that about 1:00 PM.
Paul: [00:12:20] As you’re talking to Pam, where is Kyle located?
Terry: [00:12:25] He’s in the apartment also. He’s close by. He’s listened to this. Kyle hasn’t really given a statement yet.
Paul: [00:12:31] Okay.
Dave: [00:12:32] While Pam is speaking, is Kyle trying to correct her? What’s his body language?
Terry: [00:12:39] Kyle’s just being quiet. He’s not saying much. At this point, they’re wanting to get to the hospital. So, I know at this point, Scott’s deceased. We allow them to go to the hospital. Kyle and Pam drove in their own vehicle. They’re already there by the time we get there. And we’re starting to notify partner agencies. I need to get the medical examiner there. I want DHS notified. And in our county, we call the murder pager. So, that’s activated.
Yeardley: [00:13:09] What is that? What’s the murder pager?
Terry: [00:13:12] The murder pager is actually at our DA’s office, our District Attorney’s office, the major crimes prosecutors rotate it. So, you hold it till you grab a homicide and then it’s rotated. So, on this day, the deputy DA that was assigned to the murder pager was actually, her name was Katie. She’s known to me. At this point–
Dan: [00:13:36] How do you know her?
Terry: [00:13:37] It’s interesting. Katie actually sat on my interview panel when I was testing for my detective position. Taking Dave spot actually.
Dave: [00:13:47] I recall.
Yeardley: [00:13:48] You took Dave’s spot back in detectives?
Terry: [00:13:52] I did. I’m Dave 2.0.[laughter]
Dave: [00:13:55] Huge improvement back there.
Terry: [00:13:57] Katie, she was on the interview panel. We worked a few cases together. At this point, it’s just a professional relationship. So, I get her tapped in, I brief her up and say, “Hey, this is what I got.” She wants to stay in the loop, which is great. I’ve heard some of your other podcasts where you get a bad prosecutor assigned to these cases. If they don’t give a shit and they let these important cases go off with an easy deal, it’s frustrating.
Dave: [00:14:23] Absolutely.
Paul: [00:14:25] Terry, you made an interesting statement in there describing Katie that at this point, it was just a professional relationship?
Terry: [00:14:33] Yeah.[laughter]
Terry: [00:14:33] I want to get to that little bit later.[laughter]
Paul: [00:14:38] Okay. Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:14:40] It’s a cliffhanger.
Dan: [00:14:41] At some point, it became unprofessional.[laughter]
Dave: [00:14:45] Terry, you’re in contact with Katie from the DA’s office?
Terry: [00:14:48] Right. I have her cell phone, we’re going to stay in contact, if something comes up. If I need some kind of advice, I’ll reach out to her. But I walk into the room where Scott’s lying.[pause]
[00:15:09] My first thought is, I was like, “This kid’s big.” When I heard the blanket wrapped over his face, I’m thinking in my mind, “If that cause of death, it’s an infant.” This is a 14-month-old little toddler. He looks strong. Other than the fact that he’s deceased, he looked like he’s healthy. He’s not malnourished. He just looks like a healthy boy. There’s no super obvious signs of trauma. There was like a small little bruise on his toe, but nothing that stood out.
Dave: [00:15:48] Have Kyle and Pam already been given the death notification? Are they in the room when you’re examining the body?
Terry: [00:15:54] They were in the room when I first got there, then they’re escorted over to a family room. This is when I go into the emergency room and do the examination with a medical examiner, we work hand in hand. That way, we’re not duplicating anything. I’m looking for trauma on Scott. We roll the body over and one of the first things I noticed is lividity on the back of this baby.
Yeardley: [00:16:17] What’s lividity?
Dave: [00:16:19] Lividity, it’s the settling of the blood. Scott was found face down, but Scott’s got lividity on his back, which tells me that his heart stopped beating and the blood stopped flowing through his body when he was on his back, not when he was on his belly.
Paul: [00:16:37] What other the things that I’d be asking is what’s the lividity fixed? Because very early on when the blood pools in the body and even though the heart’s not pumping, if the body is shifted, the blood can redistribute before it actually fixes in place. So, the observation of lividity also needs to include, “Hey, does this look like it’s fixed at this point?” The fact that you’re making an observation on the lividity, that is critical. That’s a good observation.
Dan: [00:17:07] I’ll say this. I didn’t share Terry or Dave’s caseload. You guys got exposed to these kinds of calls more than I did. But I’ve been on multiple dead children. It’s terrible. When you see– I’m getting a little emotional. When you see lividity on a toddler, it’s terrible. It’s really hard to look at.
Terry: [00:17:38] Typically, these conversations we have with the families, you are walking in to the absolute worst day of someone’s life. I’ve got to tell you, I’ve done too many of these where I go in, I’m going to be intrusive, I’ve got a knot in my stomach when I’m blunt right off the bat. I say, “This is the worst day of your life. I am so sorry. [exhales] [pause] I’m so sorry that this happened to you, but I have a job to do. I have- I have a job to do and I have to do it. So, bear with me, I’ll do it as fast as I can and I’ll get you out of here, so you can start your grieving process. So, please just cooperate.” That usually works. Sometimes, I’ve dealt with parents. They can’t gather themselves, they can’t think. So, you have to redo it at another time. But I want to get this over with, because this is a terrible, terrible experience.
[00:18:39] We continue with the examination. We check Scott’s diaper. It’s full of feces, it’s full of urine, it hasn’t been changed in a long time. There was a couple nurses that actually approached us. [sniffles] They were pretty upset and they pointed out that they felt that hospital staff was more upset than the parents. Again, people handle trauma different, but I’m keeping in the back of my mind, something’s off with Kyle. I need to interview Kyle. I’m going to lock Kyle into a statement and a timeline.
[00:19:18] Kyle said, after taking Pam to work, Kyle returns back to the apartment. He gets the remaining four children off to school, they leave. He says at 7:45 AM. So, all four other children are gone. It’s just Kyle and Scott. Kyle says, he gives Scott a sippy cup. It has some milk in it. He said he rubs his little back and then Scott just falls asleep. Kyle said, he went to lay down on the couch. He said he fell asleep till around noon after hearing Scott crying. Kyle said, he went back into the bedroom, gave Scott another sippy cup with milk and rubs back and he fell back to sleep.
[00:20:01] Kyle says, he goes back after this second bottle feeding, and he goes back on the couch and he falls asleep until Pam arrives around 2:00. I ask him, I’m like, “Kyle, did you not change the diaper all day?” He says, “Oh, no, it didn’t need to be changed. It was dry all day.” I’m like, “Bullshit.” There’s no way that diaper was dry all day. When I know this because I looked at it, it’s full. This isn’t normal, guys. Being a father, these kids, they need to get out of the crib. This is noon, this doesn’t feel right.
[00:20:39] Now I want to look at their cell phones. I want to see what have they been searching for. Are they googling how to cover up a murder? I mean, that’s a little extreme, but this is important. With our digital forensics guy, he can go back and get a timeline. What did you search? What were you looking at. And they consented, they turned over their phones. Something typically also I ask is for them to submit to blood and urine samples. I want to see if alcohol and drugs are a factor. Majority of our cases involving children, drugs is a factor. Kyle and Pam have no problems. They submit to this. We collect blood and urine samples. There’s nothing that shows up.
Yeardley: [00:21:20] So, no drugs or alcohol or anything in their systems?
Terry: [00:21:23] Nothing. They were all negative. There’s nothing indicated that Kyle or Pam use any kind of drugs or alcohol. So, the body gets turned over to the medical examiner. I call up Katie, the prosecutor and I brief her. I’m like, “Something’s not right.” The medical examiner was able to get Scott in the following morning for an autopsy. Katie says, “I’m going to attend this with you,” which I don’t know about you guys, I can’t think of a lot of times when a prosecutor has actually attended one of my autopsies.
Dave: [00:21:56] They’re rare.
Terry: [00:21:57] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:21:58] What do you attribute case desire to be at this autopsy to?
Terry: [00:22:03] Katie, at the time, she’s one of the newer Major Crimes prosecutors. She made her name in the domestic violence world. And then she was the mother of a pretty young boy. She cares about this case. She wants to get involved which I appreciate, because I don’t think a prosecutor truly understands the emotions that we go. We get to see the families. We’re in that morgue. We carry that. We take these cases more personal when we’re getting involved. So, the fact that she’s there, I’m on board with this. I want her to get invested in this case. She shows up and we attend the autopsy the following morning.
Terry: [00:22:59] We get the autopsy and our medical examiner, call him Dr. Dan. He’s a super interesting individual. What I like about him, he’s extremely intelligent, but then he breaks it down for real simple terms for me to understand like, “What happened to this child?”
Dave: [00:23:15] Terry’s right. Our medical examiner, Dr. Dan, he’s very articulate, he’s educated. His background is from the Midwest, a very large city in the Midwest and he told me during an autopsy one time, it was a child autopsy and I said, “How do you deal with these, because they fucking bother me?” It sucks to be in a room and see a huge stainless-steel table and there’s a child taking up just a fraction of what you usually see when there’s an adult on that table. It’s troubling. And they’re so fragile. There’s nothing natural about being in that room when a child’s being autopsied.
[00:23:57] Dr. Dan has extensive knowledge and expertise in abusive head trauma with children and gives lectures on it. He educates people across the country. He told me, “The reason I left my jurisdiction and took this job is because I was doing too many child autopsies and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I needed a break.” This guy’s done thousands of autopsies. And it lets you know this is his job and the frequency of having to examine children made him make a lifestyle change and move. So, he wasn’t exposed to that.
Yeardley: [00:24:42] Wow.
Terry: [00:24:43] Dr. Dan wants to look at the photographs from the scene. He wants to hear, “What are the parents saying? What did they see?” We talk about the blanket over Scott’s face.
Paul: [00:24:57] Had you seen this blanket when you’re at the apartment?
Terry: Yeah, I did. It was a small little blanket.
Paul: [00:25:03] Was it like a close-knit fabric? Wasn’t like a yarn?
Terry: [00:25:06] It was actually like a close-knit, just a small, typical little baby blanket.
Paul: [00:25:11] I’m just wondering in terms of the breathability of the fabric, if it is wrapped around Scott’s mouth, nose area, would this be a fabric that would just naturally allow Scott to be able to breathe normally or would be something that is occlusive where it could smother.
Terry: [00:25:30] Well, so Dr. Dan explains to me that Scott, first of all, he could have just breathed through the blanket. Not to mention he’s strong enough kid, he could just grab that blanket and he could pull it off if he didn’t like it there. Dr. Dan wasn’t accepting this as an explanation. At the completion of the autopsy, he could see no obvious signs of trauma like, what cause Scott stop breathing? He has to call his death, he labels “undetermined” and says, “Until I get more information, that’s the way it’s going to stay.” With that in mind, I’m like, “Okay, that blanket did not cause Scott’s death.”
[00:26:10] I need to set up another interview, I need to interview Kyle, but I want as much information as I can. So, I reached out to my local Child Advocacy Center. They got a medical doctor assigned there. Her name is Dr. Deanna. She’s great. She does some research and she finds, sure enough that Scott was actually taken to another hospital in the area a few months prior to be treated for a laceration to the roof of his mouth. And this injury was explained to the ER doctor that Scott had fallen off of bed, while under the care of guess who, Kyle. Just Kyle. Nobody else’s home. The ER doctor, “It’s not a significant injury,” but he does note that the upper lip frenulum is completely severed.
Yeardley: [00:27:04] And the frenulum is the little piece of tissue that connects your upper lip to your gum.
Dave: [00:27:08] Correct. I would look at that in any child abuse case, because that’s pretty fragile piece of tissue was something shoved into this child’s mouth, in my experience, at least. When you have injured babies, dead babies, children, they occur during diaper changes, feeding time, or bedtime. That that’s when child gets very fussy. And that is when you hit a peak of frustration with crying baby and not being able to soothe the baby that we get these episodes of just a couple of seconds of rage and you can do tremendous damage to a child when you’ve only lost yourself for just a few seconds. And then you snap out of it and you’re like, “Oh, shit.” Too late.
Yeardley: [00:27:56] Dr. Deanna finds this report on Kyle from a couple of months ago that says little Scott had a torn frenulum.
Terry: [00:28:05] Yes. The ER doctor at that point accepted this explanation of falling off the bed. He doesn’t cross report with DHS child welfare. It just goes unchecked. Dr. Deanna reached out to that medical doctor and said, “Hey, we’re investigating. Scott is now deceased. I’m curious about this injury you observed a few months ago.” When I talked to Dr. Deanna, she says, “The doctor is like, ‘Oh, shit, looking back on it now, that was probably intentionally caused by Kyle.'”
[00:28:40] Now I’m ready to interview Kyle. So, I contact both Pam and Kyle, said, “Hey, can you come down to my station? I need to ask some follow up questions.” They both agree. They show up. So, I’m going to interview Kyle first.
Yeardley: [00:28:56] And Pam is not in the room with him, so that you can get separate statements from each, yes?
Terry: [00:29:01] Correct. This interview is recorded. I explain them, “You’re not under arrest. I’m going to keep it real friendly. I just want to get information.” I do read him their Miranda rights. I do this typically in this room, but I just need to know, “Do you understand those rights?” We go over that and then we’re going to start breaking down timelines again. So, here we are, the day after Scott is found deceased. We’re a little over 24 hours at this point. Kyle’s story’s changed a little bit. He’s now telling me that the four children were gone by 8:10 AM. The previous day, he said it was 7:45 AM. Maybe he’s confused. I don’t know, but I’m jotting these times down.
[00:29:43] Kyle said, soon as the kids left, he got on his phone, he’s looking at some social media and then fell asleep. Kyle said, he woke up, went to the bathroom, looked in the bedroom, checked on Scott. And he said, Scott was fine, he’s sleeping. He doesn’t know the time. So, he goes back to the couch and goes asleep. Kyle tells me the next time he wakes up is actually when Pam comes home from work, which we know is right around 2 o’clock. The day before he said that Scott was given a sippy cup and rubbed his little back. This has changed. So, again, these red flags keep popping up. Kyle says, Pam comes home. He says, they talk for a bit. Then Pam goes into check on Scott. Kyle hears Pam screaming, that’s when he comes to call 911.
[00:30:35] I talked to Kyle about the amount of time that Scott was in that crib. It was too damn long. I point out to Kyle, I say, “Kyle, you lied to me about feeding Scott.” I start calling out Kyle about “your stories changed.” And then he makes it mentioning, Kyle tells me, “I wasn’t honest with you yesterday.” Kyle says, “After I went to sleep, I never woke back up. I never gave Scott a bottle or a sippy cup. I didn’t want to tell you this, because I didn’t want Pam to think that I wasn’t caring for Scott.”
Yeardley: [00:31:13] Except that he wasn’t.
Terry: [00:31:14] He wasn’t. I want to get on his level like, “Listen, Kyle, I was a young father, I know what being tired is, man. If you just lost your patience just for a moment, let’s talk about this.” He’s sticking to his guns. He says, “I didn’t do anything to Scott.” Then I bring up the possibility of maybe submitted to a polygraph for Kyle to take. I explained to Kyle, “This isn’t a trick. I just want to know specifically, let’s talk about did you cause the death of Scott that day?” At this point, Kyle, he looks nervous. And he’s hesitant, he’s not really saying, “Yes, I’ll take this polygraph.” I don’t want to push it too much. I’m like, “Hey, you know what, you really stepped up, Kyle. You’re not the biological father to Scott, but you were there. You were there from the beginning.” I’m trying to play that, but then I’m starting to sense a little bit of pushback. So, I need to give a break. I’m going to get him a cup of water, calm things down, I don’t want to have Kyle invoke his right to not say anything and shut this interview down.
[00:32:19] I get the water, come back. I start put a little more pressure on Kyle. I said, “Kyle, I think you caused the death of Scott.” I call Kyle out about this blanket over the face. At this point, Kyle says, “This is the point I should ask for a lawyer.” And I’m like, “Fuck.” “Before we can go any further, I need to clarify, are you willing to talk to me, Kyle?”
Paul: [00:32:47] Right. Well, he truly didn’t invoke. He just questioned whether or not he should consider getting an attorney.
Terry: [00:32:56] Correct.
Dave: [00:32:57] These quasi-invocations happen all the time. Paul’s right. And Terry recognizes that’s not an unequivocal invocation of rights. However, we’re starting to head down that path and you don’t want the unequivocal invocation.
Paul: [00:33:15] Exactly.
Terry: [00:33:16] Kyle’s throwing in, “I didn’t do anything,” but he’s not saying, “I’ll talk to you without a lawyer,” but he’s still making comments. So, I got to shut this interview down. I tell him, “My investigation is not over, it’s just getting started. I’m going to work this.” He says, “I understand.” And then I escort him out.
Terry: [00:33:51] I next talk to Pam, she’s waiting out in the lobby, she comes back. I do similar introductions. I do a Miranda. She doesn’t really change anything. Pam is still maintaining that time that she got home and that it was just 10 minutes chatting with Kyle on the couch before find– I know this is bad timing, because I have a call log to prove otherwise. I ask, “Pam, will you take a polygraph and ask specifically did you cause the death of Scott?” Pam says, “She’ll do it.” Pam is going to take a polygraph. I want to play Pam against Kyle. I tell Pam that, “Kyle said he does not want to take a polygraph, that Kyle has asked for a lawyer. He did not want to continue further with this investigation.” And then I broke it to Pam that, “Kyle never actually gave Scott a bottle all day like he said he did. He slept through the entire day.”
[00:34:48] Pam insisted that she didn’t think that Kyle was capable of hurting Scott. I was expecting a different reaction from her. I end this interview, I call up Katie, the prosecutor, I explained her, Kyle’s request for an attorney. He didn’t say, “I have an attorney,” he didn’t say, “I’m represented by an attorney.” Katie says, “Let’s give it a couple of weeks. Give it a couple of weeks and then he’s fair game for another interview.”
Yeardley: [00:35:16] If he doesn’t actually secure an attorney on his behalf.
Terry: [00:35:20] Correct.
Dave: [00:35:21] There has to be a cooling off period where we wait two weeks.
Yeardley: [00:35:25] Oh, so there’s an actual set time.
Dan: [00:35:28] There’s a prescribed amount of days for us to wait until they secure an attorney before we can recontact. So, this is all strategy on Terry’s part.
Yeardley: [00:35:37] I see.
Terry: [00:35:38] I wait a couple of weeks. I contact a polygraph examiner. His name’s Detective Mike. He works for the state agency. He’s been working Major Crimes for 20 plus years. I’ve worked with Detective Mike on multiple cases. I reached out to Pam and I go, “Pam, we talked about a polygraph. Here’s the date, here’s the time, show up at station and it’s available to both you and Kyle. So, if you guys want to come down, it’s voluntary.” She says, “Okay, we’ll be there.”
[00:36:10] On the day of the polygraph, sure enough, there’s Kyle and Pam. In my mind, I’m like, “Kyle, you’re going first. You’re the first guy I want on [Yeardley chuckles] this polygraph.” Kyle’s feeling the pressure, because he’s telling Pam, “I’ve done nothing wrong and I didn’t say I wouldn’t take a polygraph.” We get Kyle back to the exam room. He submits to a polygraph for Detective Mike. During the pre-exam for this polygraph, Detective Mike, he’s goes over a bunch of medical stuff, but also he reads him his Miranda rights again, in fact, Kyle has to sign it that he understands his rights. And this is completely voluntary. I’m dealing with another interview at some point, then a detective knocks on the door and he sticks his head and he says, “Hey, Detective Mike needs you. Your guy just bombed the polygraph.”
[00:36:56] I get a little adrenaline dump and I’m like, “Oh, shit, it’s go time.” So, I got clarification from Detective Mike, regarding the questions that Kyle was asked and there were two questions. Like I said, it wasn’t a trick. The first question was is, “Did you physically caused the death of Scott?” He said, “No.” And then asked, “Did you physically cause the death of Scott on that day?” He said, “No.” Both questions came back deceptive. Detective Mike and I go in and we start to interview Kyle. Detective Mike breaks it to Kyle, “You failed the test today.” And Kyle’s response wasn’t like, “That’s bullshit.” He just sat there and he’s like, “Okay.” He just accepted this.
[00:37:38] We go back and forth for not a long time and I start to see Kyle, he started to look physically sick. Kyle starts talking about, “Well, Scott woke up crying. Scott was fussing. So, I went into the bedroom to lay Scott down.” Kyle says that he put a blanket over Scott and then he started to think, “Well, maybe I put two blankets on Scott. This could have potentially caused the death.” And I’m like, “No, two blankets did not cause Scott to stop breathing.” Detective Mike starts pumping Kyle’s ego up and he says, “Kyle, good guys, they make mistakes.” I see Kyle, he’s getting more ill. He voices like, “I’m having a hard time breathing.” He starts to cry a little bit. Snot is coming out of his nose, this emotions coming out on him and I’m starting to feel like, “Oh, shit.” He’s getting ready to talk.” Kyle says, “Okay, maybe I laid Scott down and maybe I wasn’t so gentle about it. I didn’t want to deal with the crying. Scott was lying on his back. He covered his entire body with a blanket to include his face.” [breathes heavily]
[00:39:07] He started to like point to his chest and I’m talking about Kyle who was pointing his chest, he says, “My chest is hurting.” So, I broke from the interview real quick and I got a doll that I have near my desk. I got two blankets like he described. I took the doll into the interview room and I lay it out on the table and I have him explain to me, “How did you put this blanket over Scott’s body?” You guys can understand the initial excitement, the adrenaline when you’re getting an admission on a case that, man, you’re solving something, this is important.” You’ve got that initial just that, “Oh, my God, this is great.” And then we start getting into the dirty details of what was Scott’s last moments like. And I’m going to be honest with you guys, I’m sick to my stomach, but I’m trying to keep my shit together. I’m not showing emotion, I’m not showing that I’m shocked. I want him to feel he can tell us what happened.
[00:40:17] Kyle shows us with a doll how he held this blanket over Scott’s face. And Scott’s little body was wiggling as he was trying to fight off. Kyle’s hands around his face and then he went quiet. Kyle would go back and say, “But he was breathing.” At some point, I’m like, “Kyle, he wasn’t breathing.” He wasn’t breathing, you stopped the crying when you smothered him.” Kyle says, “This smothering incident happened soon after the other children went to school.” We know between 7:45 and 8:00 AM. This would put Scott deceased somewhere 8:30. So, by 2:40 PM Scott is long gone.
[00:41:15] I take a break and I consult with my sergeant, Sergeant Dave. He says, “Bring Pam in and we’re going to let Kyle break the news to Pam that he killed her child.” We bring Pam in. At this point, I’ve got Katie. She’s actually in the briefing room watching this interview. Pam sits down in the interview room with Kyle. Kyle’s crying. He says, “I’m sorry.” And her response is, “What did you do?” Kyle talked about being tired. Pam says, “Why didn’t you call me? I would have come home.” Kyle apologizes. And then from his neck, he pulls a necklace off and it’s actually an urn. It’s got Scott to ashes in it. He takes it and he hands it to Pam like, “I don’t deserve this.”
[00:42:15] Pam, her response to me wasn’t what I would expect. She was pretty calm. She did at one point say, “I hate you but I love you.” Pam leaves the room. I go into the briefing room. Katie says, “I need some clarifying questions. Is it a manslaughter or is it a murder?” I needed to get Kyle to admit that he knew that cutting the oxygen off from a human being was dangerous. Kyle tries to explain it to me in simple terms, the way he looks at this. He goes, “If you think about when you go to the dentist, they cut your oxygen off, you go unconscious, then they let you start breathing again, and you just remain unconscious.” In my mind, guys, I’m thinking, “What the fuck are you talking about? That makes no sense.” I’m not showing shock. I’m accepting this. These are great statements. I want jury. If this goes to trial, I want them to hear all this detail.
[00:43:20] After this interview, Kyle is placed under arrest. I explained to Kyle that he’s under arrest and asked if he had any questions. Kyle said, “How’s life on the outside?” And Kyle told me, “I was trying to make a joke,” and I was thinking to myself, “What a strange time to make a joke.” At that point, the initial decision by Katie is to charge Kyle with manslaughter in the first degree. Next day, she rethinks this and she changed his charges to felony murder. Kyle is lodged and arraigned on felony murder of Scott. About a year into the process, we’re getting ready for trial. And these dead baby trials are terrible. They’re terrible for everybody involved. Court staff, they don’t want to see these pictures of these dead babies. The jury, it’s super traumatizing.
[00:44:19] We’re down to just a few days before trial. And defense reaches out to Katie and says, “Hey, we’re wanting to make a deal. Here’s the offer.” In our state, felony murder carries 25 years to life. However, it does not mean life. At 25 years, they’re up for review and in our state, typically, they are released at 25 years. Kyle has no criminal history. The offer is manslaughter and assault in the first degree and they agree to serve 25 years. Kyle accepts this. Kyle pleads guilty. He is sentenced to 25 years. He’s going to get out and 25 years, but he was going to get out in 25 years, no matter what. So, this saves everybody from going through the trial.
Dave: [00:45:14] Creative dealmaking by the defense and Katie recognizing the resolution regardless of what the charge is. The resolution is acceptable because you’re getting the same pound of flesh with a guilty plea, you also eliminate a bunch of appeals.
Terry: [00:45:35] Exactly.
Dave: [00:45:36] They’re really safe. There are some times where we see plea deals and we’re like, “What the hell? That’s not justice.” In this, it’s like, “Okay, it’s essentially the same thing as murder conviction.” After working with Katie for years, she is a bulldog and she goes after people when it’s appropriate. She’s also compassionate and merciful when it’s appropriate. But I’ve seen her on kid cases and she makes sure that the charging is right and that any deal is going to be sufficient for our community standards. She’s good.
Terry: [00:46:15] We try to look at a positive from these. For me, one positive is Katie. After this case, it was quite a while. We actually started dating, we were married about a year ago, and we’re expecting a little boy in December.
Yeardley: [00:46:34] Aw, congratulations. I’m so happy for you both.
Terry: [00:46:38] Thank you, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:46:41] You all are a stoic bunch. I always hear that the cases involving children are the worst. And each of you had to pause at a moment in asking a question or telling part of the story. And I just think it’s one of the pieces of the job that you do that the public doesn’t often see. I always want to thank you for being so candid, and open, and trusting us with that.
Terry: [00:47:13] Thank you for having me.
Dave: [00:47:14] Great work, Terry. Please give Dr. Katie, “Juris Doctorate,” Dr. Katie is I call her. Please give her my best.
Terry: [00:47:22] I will.
Dan: [00:47:23] Great job and really heavy topic.
Yeardley: [00:47:26] Yeah, so hard, but so important as you say. So important.
Paul: [00:47:30] Awesome job, Terry. And make sure you take care of yourself as you work these tough cases.
Terry: [00:47:35] Thank you, Paul.[Small Town Dicks theme playing]
Yeardley: [00:47:39] 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.
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Yeardley: [00:48:51] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-
Dan: [00:48:58] -in search of the finest,-
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Dave: [00:49:02] -as always by the detectives who investigated them. So, thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.
Yeardley: [00:49:07] Nobody’s better than you.
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