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The kidnapping of a young girl puts a small town police force on high alert.

A little girl is kidnapped from her home. A harrowing search gets underway in hopes of finding her before she’s killed. Police know time is of the essence. The story is about the little things that go right and the inspiration a victim can provide decades later, without ever knowing about it.

Guests: Lieutenant Scottis a 31-year veteran of law enforcement. Scott has worked at a variety of assignments from patrol, SWAT, Detectives, and Special Operations, to gang enforcement, Internal Affairs, and Special Investigations. Lt. Scott is also a forensic artist.

Lieutenant Nate served in the US Navy prior to beginning his 28 years of service with his local police department. During his career, Nate was a Field Training Officer (FTO), an Emergency Vehicle Operation Instructor, a SWAT team leader, and SWAT Sergeant. Nate promoted to lieutenant and was an acting captain prior to his retirement in 2018. He now works in Sporting Event Public Safety Planning in the private sector.

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Read Transcript

Yeardley: [00:00:00] Hey, Small Town Fam. So, this episode is about the kidnapping of a young girl. And we know from your comments and emails to us that you find the cases where children are involved the hardest ones to listen to. It’s the same for us. But without giving anything away, the story of the abduction in this case is as much about an investigation where the detectives left no stone unturned as it is about their humble and enduring gratitude for the little things that went exactly right during their search for this tiny victim. It’s also about the inspiration this little girl has provided these officers for over two decades without even knowing it. So, please settle in for Snatched.

[Small Town Dicks intro]

[00:00:54] 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: [00:01:20] I’m Dan.

Dave: [00:01:21] And I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.

Dan: [00:01:24] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.

Dave: [00:01:31] 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: [00:01:46] So, 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.

[Small Town Dicks theme]

Yeardley: [00:02:02] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.

Dan: [00:02:08] Good morning.

Yeardley: [00:02:09] Good morning. So good to see you.

Dan: [00:02:10] Thank you. Likewise.

Yeardley: [00:02:12] And we have Detective Dave.

Dave: [00:02:14] Great to be here.

Yeardley: [00:02:14] Great to have you. And Small Town Fam, this is a big, big day. We have one of our very favorite really iconic, epic guests back with us. We have Lieutenant Scott.

Scott: [00:02:28] Wow. Thanks for the intro. I’m so excited to be back.

Yeardley: [00:02:31] We are so excited to have you. And seated next to Lieutenant Scott, we have a new guest that we are thrilled to welcome to the podcast, Lieutenant Nate.

Nate: [00:02:40] Well, thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Yeardley: [00:02:42] We’re so happy you’re here. Dave, take it away.

Dan: [00:02:46] So, in this job, you build relationships, and clearly I’ve worked with Lieutenant Scott at length. And as you guys hug it out over there, [laughter] getting nostalgic.

Yeardley: [00:02:57] A lot of shenanigans going on over here, Small Town Fam.

Scott: [00:03:00] It’s been a long time.

Nate: [00:03:01] It reeks of leadership in this room.

Yeardley: [00:03:03] Lieutenant, lieutenant, carry on.

Dave: [00:03:06] So we talk about intriguing cases that might be worthy of highlighting on a podcast. And talking to Lieutenant Scott and independently with Lieutenant Nate, this case has always come up.

Scott: [00:03:17] Yeah, maybe I’ll start, since I am the boss of Nate. We should clarify that right now.

Yeardley: [00:03:23] Uh-oh. [laughs]

Scott: [00:03:25] So, this case, we’re going to talk about occurred in 1993. Nate and I came up in the department. We spend a lot of time together.

Yeardley: [00:03:34] So, you guys are often paired up together. And by the time you get this case, Scott, Nate, you’re– [crosstalk]

Nate: [00:03:41] Yeah, we’re operating as a two-officer car.

Yeardley: [00:03:43] Got it. That’s cool.

Scott: [00:03:45] So, this was late August of 1993. It was early morning, and the area town we were working, which was south of the university was quiet, that time of night. And then the silence was broken with this call. A father called in this family, small family, husband, wife, and the two-year-old daughter lived together. And the father got up in the middle of the night after hearing a noise and every parent’s nightmare, he figured that his two-year-old was fumbling around and maybe a gone to the bathroom or something like that. She was potty training. And so, he looked in the bathroom and she wasn’t there. He looked, obviously, in her bed and she wasn’t there and he started to investigate, and he found the front door open.

Nate: [00:04:34] And so, if you visualize the house, it sits back off the street just a little bit to one storey, two bedroom, 1940s, 1950s era. You walk in the front door, there’s a little living room, and immediately to the left is a little girl’s room. And the window on her bedroom is on the front of the house right next to the front door. And it’d be in August, they had that window open.

Scott: [00:04:55] It was obvious that someone had forcibly removed the screen and she’s gone.

Nate: [00:05:05] Dad stepped out the front door looking for the girl to see if she’s in the yard. And about two blocks down the street, turns a corner to the right and he sees a bicycle turn that corner with a guy riding in, and that’s all he sees.

Yeardley: [00:05:19] But doesn’t see his daughter.

Nate: [00:05:20] Does not see his daughter anywhere.

Scott: [00:05:22] So, at the time, I didn’t have children. But even if you’re not a parent, you recognize that this is a consequential situation, obviously, and you don’t get those calls every night where it sounds at the onset like, this could be an abduction.

Yeardley: [00:05:38] A stranger abduction, which is what’s so unusual about it.

Scott: [00:05:41] Yes.

Nate: [00:05:42] The procedure that patrol officers will follow in a situation like this is somebody will respond and go get the information from the parents at the house. And then more officers will go and set up a perimeter, four corners or however many you can get, and start looking around inside that perimeter. And you’ve set that perimeter distance based on an estimate of how far you think a person could have gotten realistically between the time you arrive and the time the call comes in.

Dan: [00:06:05] And it’s going to be a big perimeter, because this guy is on a bicycle.

Nate: [00:06:07] Correct.

Dan: [00:06:08] You can cover a lot of ground a little time on a bicycle.

Dave: [00:06:11] So my question is, given the size of the city, how many officers do you have on graveyard shift at this time? And I imagine, based on the circumstances of the call that people from other districts are now coming to flood that area, because this is drop what you’re doing and get there now.

Nate: [00:06:26] Correct. At that point, especially that time of the morning, we had pretty much everybody that was in town, if I remember it. And at that time, I think we had about 10 cars on. And then Scott and I were not one of the cars that were on the perimeter. We were one of the cars that was mobile, actually, looking for somebody on a bike.

Scott: [00:06:42] Yeah. So, you end up with stationary quadrants. And the idea behind it is, if you’ve got the person inside the containment area, if you remain in a stable, stationary observation platform that’s visible, maybe with emergency lights, that if there’s a suspect within there, he will go to ground. Or, if he moves within your containment area, you’ll see him and you can redirect focus, if he looks like it might be your guy.

Yeardley: [00:07:10] When you say go to ground, do you mean he literally will get on the ground?

Scott: [00:07:14] Go to ground, as in find cover, find concealment, secrete himself into a vehicle under a car inside of a shed or a house.

Yeardley: [00:07:24] Right. Okay.

Nate: [00:07:25] So, the part of town where the house is a flat area, but just south and west of it, some hills start moving up and there’s a little school and stuff up there. We actually were in the southeast part of the perimeter at that point, which was in the flat area. We were wandering around the streets in the residential area, again looking for somebody on a bike. We popped up a little hill, turned bright onto a street that started going back down that hill. And as we crossed over across street, there was a bicycle laying in the entry ramp of a driveway of a duplex right on the corner, dropped over with a basket on the front of it and some stuff laying on the ground.

Scott: [00:08:03] Yeah, that’s one of those visions that has stayed with me or headlights casting across this bicycle and it was just out of place. It’s at the foot of a driveway and it looks like somebody just crashed it, but there’s belongings there with it.

Nate: [00:08:17] And not like a kid dropped a bike in a yard or something like that. This is not normal.

Scott: [00:08:22] We get out of the car and we walk up onto this bike to see what the deal is. Among other things, there’s a glass pickle jar and it’s full of coins, pennies, dimes, nickels, quarters. Among the coins, there’s a check, a written check. So, we pull it out and the check is written to Aurora, the little girl. And as it turns out, it’s from grandma and grandpa.

Nate: [00:08:49] At that point, we didn’t have her name yet. So, we asked back over the radio to the officer at the house if there was any property missing. And very shortly came back, there’s a jar of coins missing from her bedroom.

Dan: [00:09:00] Bingo.

Yeardley: [00:09:01] Is this bicycle, her bicycle? You said it had a basket.

Nate: [00:09:04] No.

Yeardley: [00:09:04] It’s a grown-up bicycle.

Nate: [00:09:05] Yeah. But the other piece that was in the basket, which made this worse, was envelope that had a whole bunch of child pornography in it.

Yeardley: [00:09:13] Oh, no.

Dave: [00:09:15] So, just what you found with the bicycle that seems like hastily abandoned out of place, the property clearly the coin jar ties him to the house where this crime occurred. But the child porn, guys that have child porn do not leave it behind.

Nate: [00:09:30] It’s a treasure.

Dave: [00:09:31] Yeah. That is prize possession stuff. It’s like someone who’s addicted to drugs. They rarely lose their bag of drugs, because that’s the most important thing to them. So, the fact this guy has left his child pornography behind gives me some insight into his state of mind as he probably sees police cars rolling through the area.

Scott: [00:09:50] You bet.

Nate: [00:09:51] And how serious the situation is, if he’s willing to leave it.

Yeardley: [00:09:53] It probably supports your strategy also that you’re trying to get the suspect to go to ground.

Scott: [00:09:59] Yeah.

Dan: [00:10:00] So, you guys arrive in the area, start going mobile. How long are you in the area before you find this bicycle?

Nate: [00:10:06] We had been driving around for quite a while at that point. So, 20 to 30 minutes.

Dan: [00:10:10] I’m guessing, he maybe saw headlight. I don’t know, if you guys are blacked out or if you’ve got overheads on trying to get people to go to ground. Do you remember?

Scott: [00:10:19] We’re being stealthy, I think, but we’re also driving around with some urgency, because the more time that goes by, the more likely it is that she’s going to disappear. I know in me that anxiety was building that this is not good. You know you get that intuitive sense that this is a real potential tragedy.

Dan: [00:10:40] Yeah, I’m thinking of two scenarios. He either sees you guys coming down the block and he lays his bike down and takes off on foot. Or, the other side of this is, he’s been looking for a hiding spot to do whatever he’s going to do to Aurora and he’s in the middle of doing that right now.

Dave: [00:11:09] Regardless, the circumstances of this call, we get calls of missing child or overdue subject, like a child hasn’t come home from school and it’s now 8 o’clock when the child is usually home by 03:30. Those circumstances alone get your blood pumping. Most police officers you speak to, you talk about a nightmare scenario, it’s going to involve a child abduction, stranger child abduction. When those come out and children are oddly overdue by hours or a parent wakes up in the middle of the night and their child’s not where they expect them to be, you can imagine from the parents’ perspective the frenzy that’s going on in that house.

[00:11:49] Then once you discover that now the child is definitely not in the house, that’s an “Oh shit” moment that cops dread. When I said everybody would drop what they’re doing, I’m talking you’re in the middle of a police report at another address. You say, “We’re done here. I’ll come back and talk to you, but I got to go.” You drop what you’re doing and you go.

Scott: [00:12:08] Yeah. It’s not unusual during regular business hours and school time to have children that aren’t accounted for.

Nate: [00:12:16] Yeah. As a patrol officer, you’re actually pretty used to missing children calls. They’re fairly regular, routine. Most of them are fairly predictable. You don’t have any evidence of anything wrong and you just start checking the places where a kid’s going to be, “Did we check the closets?” And all that kind of stuff, or the friend’s houses. And eventually, they turn up. This one was different. We now had very clear signs 20 to 30 minutes in that this was a real deal and it was a real bad deal.

Yeardley: [00:12:40] You guys always say that one of the first places you look is to the family. So, it’s also not unheard of that a parent would call and say, “My child is missing,” and then you find out it was one of the parents who did it, right? So, while you guys are investigating the perimeter and see this bike, do you think patrol are questioning the parents in trying to figure out, if they had anything to do with the disappearance of Aurora?

Scott: [00:13:03] Sure. There’s a protocol as far as missing children goes that you want to make sure that you thoroughly check the house and have a couple of people do it, because among the possibilities would be that a child will hide, because it’s fun. So, you have to have an escorted search and you assume the parents have done that, but I think you have to avail yourself to any possibility. But I think what I recall is that there was this sense of urgency that the parents were reacting in a way that was panicked and–

Yeardley: [00:13:34] Seemed appropriate.

Nate: [00:13:35] Yeah. And I think it was probably too early to have gone down that thought process at this point. By the time, we actually have concrete evidence that something actually bad happened.

Yeardley: [00:13:44] What do you mean too early?

Dan: [00:13:46] When you arrive on the scene of a call like that, your first impression of the caller, the victims in this situation or the parents is crucial. And they pass the smell test.

Yeardley: [00:13:59] Right away this set of parents passed the smell test.

Dan: [00:14:02] Absolutely. All of us have been to calls, where somebody is reporting a crime that didn’t occur or there’s something off. You can usually pick up on that with cop instincts. And it sounds like in this case that it was very obvious. The parent’s demeanor, their behavior, the way they were acting, they’re not setting off any alarm bells.

Nate: [00:14:25] Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:14:26] Got it.

Dave: [00:14:27] When you go out to these, like they said, they’re standard protocol. And for parents who have called in their missing child, our first thing is, we want to eliminate one place at a time. And the first place, it’s going to be the house, because kids hide under piles of clothes or under beds. So, the parents, when you say, “I need to search your house,” and I’m not saying this one specifically, but as a general rule of thumb, parents are, “You’re wasting my time? Why are you checking the house? Do you think we wouldn’t have checked that house before we called you?” And then you find their child in the house. So, there is some frustration with the parents.

[00:15:02] I think the parents just see that there’s a police officer or two in front of them, and they want to check the house, and they don’t know that the rest of the shift is out there in the neighborhood. So, those are interesting dynamics on these missing child cases. The parents understandably are like, “Why are you wasting my time at my house? We know my child is not here.” But usually, we find them in the house or in the yard.

Yeardley: [00:15:23] Okay. So, we found the bike tipped over in the basket. We have the coins, the check to Aurora, and an envelope of child porn.

Nate: [00:15:33] Yeah. So, obviously, the perimeter is centered around a place. So, it starts at the house originally in the call, but now we have a new center, a more recent probable location of where the suspect had been. And so, that whole perimeter shifts and moves down and around where we are with the bicycle. Part of it’s still in the flat part of town and part of it’s up on the hill that I referenced and around that direction.

Scott: [00:15:56] Right. It’s low light. Right off the road, it goes into Christmas tree kind of growth and it’s thick, dark brush. And so, we recognize that this is a hot item related to our search. We’ve verified now this little scene we have here is indeed Aurora’s belongings. Among the resources that we called was a canine officer who had been helping with the search. And so, we brought him to the scene. His name is Frosty.

Yeardley: [00:16:26] That was his nickname around– [crosstalk]

Nate: [00:16:27] His nickname was Frosty.

Yeardley: [00:16:29] [laughs]

Nate: [00:16:29] So, the duplex where we found the bike was right on the verge of that hill and where it got flat again. And the block to the west, behind the house was a school, a grade school. And then there was a fairly major street that ran up the hill to the south, heading into a heavily residential but heavily wooded area. So, there’s lots and lots of foliage and it’s very dark and hard to see.

Yeardley: [00:16:51] Does it not seem like a hill and carrying a child would be a deterrent?

Scott: [00:16:56] Certainly. But I think as Dave alluded to Aurora, there’s a coveted prize. That sounds disgusting to say, but for a predatory sex offender who preys on children, this little girl is a prized possession. I think the suspect was a little disorganized. I think that he came upon her during the course of this break in and he decided, “I’m going to take her.”

Yeardley: [00:17:23] Oh.

Scott: [00:17:24] His transportation was a bicycle. And so, he’s trying to ride a bicycle with a two-year-old on the handlebars and carry these possessions that he stole. We surmised that he’s looking for a place to take her and do things to her and I think he just dropped his bike. As it turns out, he was coming back to get his bike out of the road, because he knew that would be a clue for us and that’s how we found him.

Yeardley: [00:17:52] Oh, my God, I bet you couldn’t believe your luck when you saw the suspect just walking towards you.

Nate: [00:17:58] Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:17:59] What was his name?

Nate: [00:18:00] Rusty. So, when we find the bike, we’re pretty certain that this is the bike and this is the jar from the house. We still don’t know the girl’s name. We don’t know at that point that the check is to her. But Scott stays with the bike, and I grab our car, and I run over to the house to grab one of the parents, come take a look at it and identify it.

Yeardley: [00:18:17] Identify the–

Nate: [00:18:18] Jar of coins.

Yeardley: [00:18:19] Okay.

Nate: [00:18:20] Because the parents are the ones that had told us that was missing. So, this is where it gets a little personal for me, because I’m working in the town I grew up and went to high school in. And so, I pull up to the house, get out, go in to pick up dad to come and take a look at this jar of coins and mom is actually somebody I went to high school with.

Yeardley: [00:18:38] Oh. And you didn’t know that at first?

Nate: [00:18:41] I did not know that at that point until I walked in the door.

Yeardley: [00:18:44] Is that comforting for her, or is it unnerving for you, or–?

Nate: [00:18:49] I don’t know, what the emotion was for her. We never talked about that afterwards. But for me, it made it real-real. When you’re in law enforcement, you go through these things on a daily basis, and have to go through these horrible things, and go tell somebody that their kid died or their parent died in a car crash, and then we’re going to go get lunch after that. It’s just part of your day and it’s horrible stuff. But when I walk in and the mom is somebody I know, that just brought it home a little bit.

Nate: [00:19:28] Yeah. So, I’m at the house. I pick dad up. We get in my patrol car, our patrol car. Sorry.

Yeardley: [00:19:34] [laughs]

Nate: [00:19:36] He, I didn’t know, I had never met. But we drive back over to where Scott is now while that piece is playing out, remember we talked about the perimeter cars that sit there and watch. Well, the perimeter car that was sitting up on the top of that main road on the top of the hill, probably six, eight blocks down the hill, sees somebody come out of the trees on the west side of the road and run across the road right on the south side of that school I referenced. And so, Frosty was actually really close to that and goes and intercepts Rusty about three quarters of a block from where he’s going back to get his bike.

Yeardley: [00:20:12] And it’s Rusty who’s running out of the woods.

Nate: [00:20:14] Correct. So, our perimeter officer had seen Rusty hop out or drop out of the woods across the street. And then, Frosty finds him as he’s half a block from where Scott was.

Yeardley: [00:20:23] But no sign of Aurora.

Nate: [00:20:25] No sign of Aurora at that point.

Yeardley: [00:20:27] Oh, God.

Nate: [00:20:28] So, I’m still back at the house. We now have Rusty detained and there’s several officers there that are talking to him, asking him questions, and he’s denying everything at that point. Well, Frosty’s dog, then backtracks Rusty’s trail. The dog is following the scent of where Rusty came from. Goes right back up to where he came out of the woods and starts going up the hill. Well, Frosty had already been on duty all shift. So, he was really at the end of his shift for the night. His portable radio battery dies. So, now his radio doesn’t work.

Dan: [00:21:00] He doesn’t have a cover officer with him?

Nate: [00:21:02] He does not have a cover officer with him. Just he and his dog. So, going up the hill, there’s a bunch of houses around. He’s behind these houses going through backyards. In that neighborhood, yards aren’t really fenced, so you can move from one to the next, because it’s just a hillside with a bunch of trees on it. The hills run up to the back of the houses. So, some of them have daylight basements, a lot of them have decks that protrude out over the hill. So, there’s space underneath them. The dog tracks underneath one of these decks behind a wood pile and finds Aurora laid there and wrapped up.

Dave: [00:21:35] She alive?

Nate: [00:21:36] She is alive.

Yeardley: [00:21:37] Oh, thank God.

Nate: [00:21:38] So, he tries to get on the radio to tell dispatch, he’s found Aurora, but his radio won’t get out, because he’s got a dead battery. So, he goes and pounds on the door and wakes up the resident and says, “I need to use your phone.” And he then calls dispatch. See, I told you it’s going to make me cry.

Scott: [00:21:57] So, she was last seen wearing a red long sleeve cotton sweatshirt and she had a green blanket. My recollection is that the green blanket was around her, just huddled under this deck.

Yeardley: [00:22:10] She still has her clothes on?

Scott: [00:22:11] Yeah, she has a pull up as I remember and then she’s got a sweatshirt on, but it’s chilly outside.

Dan: [00:22:18] Still dark out when you find her?

Scott: [00:22:19] Yeah, pitch black. Of course, looking at this from a two-year old’s perspective, she’s gone on a surprise field trip. She’s on a bike ride and this is an area of town that’s got wildlife at night and deer, and she’s up underneath this deck and she’s just sitting there.

Nate: [00:22:40] I recall that he told her to stay here and wait. I’ll be back.

Scott: [00:22:44] And so, she’s an obedient little child and she’s got no idea what he has in store for her.

Yeardley: [00:22:51] So, she’s not crying?

Scott: [00:22:52] No.

Dave: [00:22:53] So, Rusty’s abandoned the bike, because it’s too difficult to handle two-year-old and the bike and all the awkward property that he’s got. So, he needs to be hasty about getting out of sight. He finds this trail up to these backyards, stows her, leaves, thinking, “I got to get my bike out of there, all that stuff. I got my child porn. And something that ties me to the house, I need to go collect that and secrete it somewhere, so I can have my time with my two-year-old that I just snatched.”

Yeardley: [00:23:27] Oh, God. Given what Dave just said, there hasn’t been a sexual assault yet.

Nate: [00:23:34] Correct.

Yeardley: [00:23:34] Okay.

Nate: [00:23:35] We were lucky. And so, Frosty running up the hill and finding Aurora, that’s all occurred in the time that I went to pick up the father, and then have driven back to where Scott is with the bike, and they now have Rusty stopped. I pulled into the driveway with dad in the passenger seat, and Scott, you were standing right there, I think, leaning in the window talking to him and he had said, “Yeah, that’s the jar out of Aurora’s room.” When dispatch came on and [chokes up] said that she was fine.

Scott: [00:24:07] Yeah. It does. It chokes us all up. What more innocent victim is there that we deal with than a child?

Nate: [00:24:17] Yeah. So, I immediately, obviously run up there with dad, and he grabs and holds her, and I drive him back with Aurora to where mom was and saw them reunite. And so, that was a nice closure for me that day.

Dan: [00:24:32] So Rusty is detained?

Nate: [00:24:33] Correct. And now under arrest.

Dan: [00:24:35] Okay. Is he talking?

Scott: [00:24:37] My recollection is that there were items within that backpack that connected Rusty to the bike.

Yeardley: [00:24:46] So, he had a backpack.

Nate: [00:24:48] That’s what the envelope with the pornography was in.

Yeardley: [00:24:50] Got it.

Dan: [00:24:52] I’ve come across like stolen cars before and you find a traffic citation in there and it’s got somebody’s name on it? It’s a stolen car and you’re like– “Oh, I wonder why that’s in there.”

Scott: [00:25:01] Yeah.

Dan: [00:25:01] [laughs] This isn’t the name of the registered owner or jail paperwork.

Nate: [00:25:06] Oh, yeah, that’s a common one, release paperwork.

Yeardley: [00:25:08] [laughs]

Dan: [00:25:08] Yeah, I’m guessing it was something like that was in this backpack.

Nate: [00:25:12] You know, it’s actually funny. I think it actually was jail release paperwork.

Scott: [00:25:17] As we all know and I think we’ve talked about, these sex offenders go on the hunt. When he’s on the hunt, which I think he probably was that night, that overrides common sense organization. He’s being driven by his sexual desire to offend against a child. And when he found this child, I think he just became tunnel vision.

Nate: [00:25:42] Well, and that’s where I actually was going to take issue. Not issue, because I’m not mad at you, but [laughter] I was going to disagree with you about the fact that I think he came across Aurora while committing a burglary. I think he was probably going house to house looking in windows, if nothing else then just to get a visual on some kid sleeping and that he came across Aurora, could see her, and the window was open.

Dan: [00:26:02] First story right on the front of the house.

Nate: [00:26:05] Easy to get in and out.

Scott: [00:26:06] Probably, bicycles or toys outside, that’s something that I’ve talked about with families as well, is these monsters are out there, and they prowl the streets in the neighborhoods at night, and they do look to offend. So, make sure you bring those things in, because it does just present to a passerby that you have children.

Nate: [00:26:28] Keep the front of your house lit up. Keep the windows closed on the ground floor.

Dave: [00:26:46] So, this guy goes off to prison for a couple of decades.

Nate: [00:26:50] 25 years. He got 25 years.

Yeardley: [00:26:51] For that kidnapping?

Nate: [00:26:52] Yes.

Dan: [00:26:53] Did he make a statement? What’s his story?

Scott: [00:26:57] So, we brought in a person’s crime detective. They came in early in the morning. The investigator was able to get quite a statement from him and revealed that, “Yeah, Aurora was a target,” and his plan had been to sexually assault her and likely kill her.

Yeardley: [00:27:16] Was he already a registered sex offender?

Scott: [00:27:19] I think this was pre-registration time. As a young man, he had demonstrated this sort of grooming activity, but this is his first substantial step.

Dan: [00:27:30] Is he homeless?

Scott: [00:27:31] Yeah. He was couch surfing.

Dave: [00:27:34] So, he goes away for 25 years and– [crosstalk]

Nate: [00:27:38] He does all of it. He does all 25. No early release, because he continued behaviors in prison and talking about child sex abuse.

Yeardley: [00:27:46] But he’s out.

Nate: [00:27:48] He is out now.

Yeardley: [00:27:49] Oh.

Dave: [00:27:50] I remember getting an email at work, we have different levels of sex offenders. They used to flag them as predatory sex offenders. They changed the verbiage to level 3 sex offender in our state. And we got an alert. This guy’s in the community and just alerts law enforcement. It gives you an insight into what he looks for in victims, what his crimes were and basically, if you have a case that’s like this, this might be your guy. We just want you to know he’s in the neighborhood. And so, we get that alert. It’s within a few days of his release from prison and released back into the community that there’s a story and it blows up on Facebook. Rusty is on a public transportation bus and he’s videoing with his cell phone. He’s videoing girls, little girls.

[00:28:42] There is the appropriate blow up in the community and he then gets recognized. Someone’s like, “I know who that is. That’s Rusty.” He’s been blown up around this community. His face is blasted everywhere, everyone knows of him now. He’s been re-arrested since his release for doing creepy things. And my understanding of his time in prison is, they’re availed to all these programs for rehabilitation. He had no interest in participating in any of that. In fact, his time in prison, he continued fantasizing about children and offending and he had writings about the graphic things he wanted to do when he was released from prison. He’s the boogeyman.

Yeardley: [00:29:29] So, he’s ripe to do it again.

Dave: [00:29:31] Wouldn’t surprise me a bit, if he goes back to prison for the rest of his life, because he finds another opportunity to offend.

Nate: [00:29:38] On the police side of things, when he did get released and that notification came out, it was within a week that the communication center started getting calls on him again. And prior to that, when that notification came out, Scott and I recognized his name as well did other people. But the police department dug this case back up and publicized it with all the new cops now, the baby cops that are out there now. So, they’re aware of who they’re dealing with. So, it was good info share.

Yeardley: [00:30:02] When you guys arrested him the first time back in 1993 on Aurora’s case, what was his affect? Was he defiant, was he a matter of fact about having taken her? What was he like?

Scott: [00:30:15] He was just caught. He didn’t have an attitude, really. He was just a sheep, when he got handcuffs on him. He’s familiar with it. He was a prior offender and he just, “I’m caught. So, I’ll stop until you take these off me and then I’m going back at it again.”

Dan: [00:30:33] Just an interruption.

Scott: [00:30:35] I remember we were elated. Throughout our careers, we need a carrot, all of us. And this is motivation for us, because this is a moment that you know you’re going to remember and you take note of who’s around you. Nate and I, we remain close friends. It is a life experience that as working with partners, when you go through these things, they make you stronger and they become motivation for your career and they change your trajectory.

[00:31:04] You stay close with those people. And I feel lucky because you can start to become disgruntled. I suppose in our work, we see people at their worst and we deal with dregs of society at night and we’re suspicious of everyone. And so, it helps you put things into context. For me, I think that’s how this changed me.

[00:31:28] What’s particularly rewarding to me from this? I have this picture of this little girl, Aurora, and it’s like a school portrait. She’s resting her little head on her hands and she’s just got this wonder in her eyes.

Nate: [00:31:47] Very angelic looking.

Scott: [00:31:48] Yeah. So, it’s just a photocopy. At the bottom, it says, white female, 34 inches tall, 31 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes. And for me, it’s so valuable what we prevented those eyes from seeing. So, we prevented her last moments, I think, from being terror. And we also enabled her to see what her future was going to be. At the time, I know for me, I had no idea how this small incident would become inspiration for the rest of my career.

Nate: [00:32:27] I was lucky enough to run into her two more times over the last 20 something years with her mom. Once she was in, I think, middle school or high school, just in, like, brief passing in Costco or something. And then, one was when she was 21, getting ready to graduate. She, I don’t think, had any idea who I was. I have no idea what her parents told her, if anything. I didn’t bring it up, obviously. I just said hi to her mom briefly and introduce myself as a high school friend or that’s how her mom introduced me.

Dave: [00:33:01] It’s interesting. That just reminded me of a case that I had where a little girl was taken off into a back bedroom during a party where a bunch of adults were present and something bad happened to her, but she was asleep during this thing and never woke up. And recently, I saw her. It’s been several years. [quavering] I’ve never cried on this podcast. I saw her recently, and she’s much bigger and it’s been several years, and she doesn’t know me from Adam, but I know her and I know her father. I see him regularly. He’s a great guy. He always gives me updates on his family and how they’re doing. And this time, I got to see her and–

Nate: [00:33:52] It’s a pretty cool feeling.

Dave: [00:33:53] Yeah.

Nate: [00:33:54] When you know you’ve had an impact on somebody’s life and whether they know it or not.

Dave: [00:33:58] It was one of those where I’m like, “I’m so glad she doesn’t know what happened to her that night and I hope she never knows.”

Scott: [00:34:04] We talk in law enforcement about burnout. It happens that they say four-to-seven-year intervals. I think in our industry, we blame it on job exposure and that kind of thing. But I think what happens, in my opinion, is that we tend to lose inspiration. And what Nate, and I, and Dave are talking about is, for us, these investigations, these incidents provide inspiration.

[00:34:34] That night, I kept that eight and a half by 11 photocopy of this little girl and I’ve kept it in my locker since then. I’ve changed lockers over the years. Over 34-year law enforcement career, I’ve changed agencies, but I’ve carried that with me and deliberately put it where I could see it. It doesn’t mean anything to pass by. But the inspiration that I’ve gotten from Aurora’s incident, 25 years ago has taken me through some dark times in my law enforcement career. We’re lucky, really, to have experienced this early in our career, because sometimes, first responders experience things that don’t create inspiration and maybe cause you to become jaded and biased, or whatever. So, I think we’re lucky that way, because it gives you a reality check. You can go back to that. Every time I open my locker, I see that little girl and I remember. You remember that moment, the reaction of her parents, that is everything for us.

Nate: [00:35:45] Through our careers, so much of the stuff that we hate and that we don’t like and all the ugliness, this is one that I can say, and I think Scott said it too. That one call made 28 years worthwhile.

Yeardley: [00:35:56] I have nothing, but the utmost respect for all of you. You are extraordinary people. I am so grateful and proud to know you and this podcast has shone a light on a world that I already admired. Thank you, Nate, for joining the Small Town Dicks family.

Nate: [00:36:17] My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Yeardley: [00:36:18] Scott, my God. It’s been too long.

Scott: [00:36:21] I know.

Yeardley: [00:36:21] Please come back.

Scott: [00:36:22] Thank you. It’s been great.

Dan: [00:36:23] Thank you, gentlemen.

Dave: [00:36:24] Thanks for your time, fellas.

Yeardley: [00:36:35] 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: [00:37:02] If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at And join the Small Town Fam by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @smalltowndicks. We love hearing from you.

Dave: [00:37:18] 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 towndickspodcast.

Yeardley: [00:37:30] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-

Dan: [00:37:36] -in search of the finest,-

Dave: [00:37:37] -rare-

Dan: [00:37:38] -true crime cases told as always by the detectives who investigated them.

Dave: [00:37:43] So, thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.

Yeardley: [00:37:45] Nobody’s better than you.

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