Police in a small town come across a grisly scene – an elderly woman beaten and stabbed in her own bed. As Detective Greg sets out to find out who is responsible, and bring them to justice. One of their leads comes from a young boy who tells them a story of a ginger-bearded man. A story all the more chilling when detectives discover the real truth.Read Transcript
Greg: She points out to him, “Michael, these guys think that you killed that lady.” He just shakes his head, “I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill nobody.” Stuck to that line the entire time. I then start turning it up a little bit more. Behind that door, we find Margaret dead, covered in blood. She looks like she’s clearly had the worst last night of her life. And it’s looking like you did it.
Yeardley: [00:00:34] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:00:37] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:00:37] And I’m Dave.
Yeardley: [00:00:38] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:00:41] Dave and I are identical twins, and we’re retired detectives from small town USA.
Dave: [00:00:46] Together, we’ve investigated thousands of cases. From petty theft to sex crimes, from child abuse, to murder.
Dan: [00:00:52] Every case on our podcast is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they broke the case.
Dave: [00:00:59] Names, places, and certain details including relationships have been altered to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan: [00:01:07] 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 out of respect for what they’ve been through.
In Unison: [00:01:17] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:30] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:37] Good afternoon.
Yeardley: [00:01:38] Good afternoon, Daniel. And we have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:43] Always happy to be here.
Yeardley: [00:01:45] It’s wonderful to have you. And Small Town Fam, we are so excited because today, we have a doubleheader. We have two returning guests who have given us several fantastic cases. We have Detective Greg.
Greg: [00:02:02] Hi. Thanks for having us back.
Yeardley: [00:02:04] Thanks for coming. And we have Detective Chad.
Chad: [00:02:07] Hello. Thanks for having us back.
Yeardley: [00:02:09] Thanks for giving up your days off, really. We know how precious those are. So, Greg, you have an interesting case for us today. Tell us how this case came to you.
Greg: [00:02:19] All right. This was a very recent case within three years ago. This case came to me in a way I’ve been realizing all my big cases come to me. It’s always on a Monday morning. It’s usually a day when all my partners are gone or off for the day. It’s just me and my detective sergeant. [Yeardley laughs] A call pops up on our patrol screen. A woman, her name is Brenda. Brenda hadn’t been able to get ahold of her 92-year-old mother, Margaret, by phone like she normally does every morning, and asked her neighbor, Judith, if she would mind meeting her to go check on her. Brenda drives into town, meets up with the neighbor Judith, and Judith keeps a key because she lives next door to Margaret. Brenda and Judith opened the door. They notice there’s broken glass everywhere. They check on her, find her in her bedroom, and Margaret’s covered in blood. They call 911, and the call comes on the screen as Brenda is reporting that her mother must have committed suicide by slashing her neck with broken glass.
[00:03:26] Sergeant Ryan and I, we are hearing this call being dispatched. And we’re like, “That’s not even going to be possible. Nobody does that, especially not an elderly woman like that.” So, we pack our things, hit our cars, and we’re on the way. We get there just behind first responding officers. They go in the house, make sure it’s safe. There’s nobody hiding in there. No additional victims. The rest of the house looks relatively undisturbed. It’s not ransacked. It doesn’t appear in any of the drawers, cabinets have been gone through. It’s clean. There’s broken glass through the front living room area next to the main door and the scene that’s in Margaret’s bedroom.
[00:04:09] They do find Margaret. She is in fact covered in blood. They have Brenda and Judith back outside now. This home is in this real small community, little neighborhood, homes packed pretty tightly together. And because of that, we were able to determine that Judith who lives next door was able to last see Margaret the night before, probably around 7:30 in the evening where she sat in the window and listened to books on tape. Margaret was almost completely blind, and that’s one of the things she really liked doing, was sitting up listening to books. We learned that Margaret had just hosted a New Year’s Eve party with a small group of people. We start getting the names of all those people. This is about midwinter time, so not too far past New Year’s. We find out Margaret had a landscaper. Margaret had a handyman. So, these are all people we want to talk to, figure out what’s going on, see if anybody has any issues with Margaret.
Once we get the crime lab people there, we go in, do overall photographs, trying to do the best we can with that house because you only get a good solid crime scene once. And once you leave it or walk away from it, it’s gone. We noticed a big rock that had been used to throw through the window, it had bounced off the back of a chair that’s buttered up against the window, it was still laying on the windowsill, and glass had smashed pretty far into the living room. We noticed right away that a lot of the glass shards that were laying around, inside and outside of the home had pretty obvious fingerprints on them. So, we’re glad to be able to take that in the room, with the medical examiner when they arrived. The bed is relatively undisturbed. It looked like Margaret had just been sleeping, and something incredibly violent happened. And Margaret wound up on the floor next to the bed. Blood stain in the middle of the bed, all around the floor on her and blood splatter on basically every wall in that room. Looked to be a pretty violent scene that had no explanation why she’s found like that.
[00:06:23] We divide up tasks, finding whatever video is looking out on the streets, out of doorways, businesses. We want every video we can get our hands on in the small town because we don’t know who or what we’re looking for yet. Ultimately, we’re hoping we can start following a video trail of whoever it is coming and going from Margaret’s house.
Yeardley: [00:06:44] Are there a lot of video surveillance cameras in a tiny town like that?
Greg: [00:06:49] There actually is.
Yeardley: [00:06:51] Cool.
Greg: [00:06:52] There’s several schools, there’s a park, there’s a business area, where there’s a fuel station, a few restaurants. And then, doorbell cameras, cameras people just have on the corners of their garages. So, there was plenty to go around and collect. And as you’ve found in other cases that you’ve done, not all video works. [Yeardley chuckles] The people who have video systems, a lot of them don’t know how to use them or retrieve the video. We’ve been finding out with businesses when we tried to go obtain surveillance video from businesses. It’s always the manager who knows how to work it. And the manager is constantly on vacation, no matter what business you walk into [Yeardley laughing] at any point in the year, the manager is always away on vacations.
Dave: [00:07:35] Sounds like Chad.
Greg: [00:07:36] Yeah.[laughter]
Greg: [00:07:38] We tried to grab whatever video is available. We are able to start contacting a lot of these folks, the neighbors, the handyman, the landscaper, all these people she had over for her New Year’s party. Her family that extended down into the county to the south of us are getting their statements and we’re getting voluntary elimination fingerprints and DNA samples from them. We tell them, “Obviously, we know you guys have been in the house for this party,” or, “you come here to work on the house, the yard, that sort of thing, it would be reasonable for us to know that your prints, probably your DNA is inside the house. So, we just want to take these so we can eliminate who’s who inside the house.”
Dan: [00:08:18] Anybody refuse?
Greg: [00:08:20] No. This was also a night where garbage was being collected the next day. So, neighborhood garbage and recycling is pushed out on the curb. We’re looking up and down through every garbage can, looking for what is starting to look like a knife attack, something somebody might have used and then ditched on their way out of the area.
Yeardley: [00:08:41] So, it looks like Margaret has been stabbed with a knife, not with any of those shards of glass that had fallen out of the window.
Greg: [00:08:50] Correct. We believe Brenda and Judith had come in to check on Margaret, saw the broken glass, horrified by what they saw in Margaret’s bedroom, and probably just made some kind of mental connection, that that’s what happened, refusing to see what actually happened.
Dan: [00:09:08] I think it’s kind of a defense mechanism for them, to justify what they’re looking at and it not be the worst thing that they can imagine. I just think it’s kind of human nature.
Yeardley: [00:09:19] That makes sense.
Greg: [00:09:20] Yeah. Margaret’s body clearly had been stabbed, slashed with a cutting-type instrument or weapon. There was not one found in her or near her in the room where she was found deceased, nor anywhere in the house.
Dave: [00:09:37] Any missing knives from the cutting block, kitchen area?
Greg: [00:09:41] No, just basically a drawer of random knives. Margaret was mostly blind. She did do most of her cooking for herself, but I don’t know that it was to the extent where she could use a variety of knives, that sort of thing. So, we keep the house all day. We leave security on it all night. The next day, we have our search and rescue coordinator gather some volunteers. There’s some ground searchers. And they do a more complete search around Margaret’s house, in the yard, the bushes, in neighboring yards and bushes as neighbors would allow. And everybody liked Margaret, so everybody wanted to help.
Yeardley: [00:10:21] You’re looking for this bloody weapon?
Greg: [00:10:23] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:10:24] Okay.
Greg: [00:10:26] And autopsy is scheduled for the next day. So, I attend the autopsy for Margaret. Medical examiner notices many stab and cutting wounds, some very shallow ones in her head, on her neck, and two very deep ones in her left arm. Some bruising, very obvious bruising in the center of her chest and on the left side of her neck with also cuts through those. The medical examiner determines she had definitely been struck by some sort of blunt object also in the chest and side of the neck as well as been cut and stabbed multiple times. Though searching the pathways of these stab wounds and slash marks, it appeared that nothing vital had been punctured or severed. It appears that she had just bled out from the wounds that she did have. Most disturbing was the defensive wounds that we saw. A large slash across the back of the hand that severed some tendons as though you’re holding your hands up in defense. So, that’s pretty sad to see that. Sad all the way around, by all accounts, even though she’s early 90s seem to be in pretty good health and there’s no telling how many more years she could have hung in there unless somebody had interrupted in the way they had.
Dave: [00:11:44] Imagine trying to defend yourself as a blind person.
Dan: [00:11:47] The terror.
Chad: [00:11:48] And 90 some years old.
Greg and Dave: Yeah.
Greg: [00:11:51] In bed where you feel safe and asleep. It was tragic.
Greg: [00:12:11] Some neighbors are saying there’s basically a transient fella. Everybody calls him Roy. He’s known to have a hatchet hanging from his side of his pants. He’s got large knives, he’s always seen with. So, as we’re looking for Roy, we find out that he’s actually been arrested in the city just to the south of us but still within our area. We sent a couple of investigators to go contact him and we’re able to determine he had been locked up before, wasn’t in the area, wasn’t around whenever this appeared to have happened.
[00:12:47] Canvassing in the immediate area gets accomplished. Not much to go on. We decided let’s take it out another block. One of the investigators, Detective Dusty, comes across the door of this woman named Alison. He asked if Alison had seen or heard anything in suspicious. She says no, but she was aware there’s police activity in the area. And people talk and she knew that there was a homicide investigation underway. She suggests that maybe Detective Dusty go find this boy that she watches for a friend of hers. His name is Michael. She says Michael is a frequent runaway. He likes to sneak out of the house at night, roam around town, either on foot or on a bicycle. He’s basically very hard to manage for his mother. His mother’s self-employed, and so she relies heavily on Alison to get Michael to school, pick him up from school, and do her best to try to manage to keep an eye on him.
Dan: [00:13:47] How old’s Michael?
Greg: [00:13:48] Michael is a preteen. She tells Detective Dusty, “Go try to find Michael. Chances are good he ran away that night, and he was walking around. He might have seen somebody.” Detective Dusty comes to us and gives us this information. We go try to find Michael at home. Nobody’s there. We look around at school. School is out, just missed him. Eventually loop back around to Alison’s house to see where else we could find him in. This time, Michael is there. Detective Dusty talks to him outside, says, “Hey, we’re looking into this event that happened at an elderly woman’s house a block or so over. Alison says you might have been out and around that night, might have seen something that would be useful for us.” And Michael tells them, “Yeah, I actually throw a rock through the window of that house.” “Okay, we’re listening.”
[00:14:38] Detective Dusty, he plays it very cool. He says, “Okay, well, that’s helpful. Michael, thanks for telling me that. Would you mind if we get some fingerprints from you?” Michael allows us to get his fingerprints. When Michael’s mother, Wendy, shows up from her job, Detective Dusty talks to her, says, “Hey, Michael just told us some pretty important information about a case we’re working on a block or two away. We’d like it if you two could come down to the office, so we can talk to him a little more about it.” She agrees. We follow her back to our office. So, cameras are rolling. I advise Michael and Wendy that the room is being recorded. And then we just start talking to Michael.
Detective: [00:15:20] You know why we’re here to talk today?
Michael: [00:15:22] Yes.
Detective: [00:15:23] Okay. I understand that sometimes, you don’t like to be at home. What’s that all about?
Michael: [00:15:30] I like to sneak out because then I can go and do basically whatever, you know. And I just like to hang out, especially when I’m grounded.
Greg: [00:15:40] This conversation is punctuated pretty frequently by Wendy interjecting her anguish, the pain that Michael has been putting her through. He’s just given this poor woman a hard time almost his entire life. She says Michael has behavioral issues, has been kicked out of every school he goes to, is hard to manage. He thinks it’s fun and funny to run away and make her cry, make her upset, steals things from the house, starts fights, starts drama within the home with the other people that she lives with. He’s just been a terrible handful for her. And Michael just nodding his head. He thinks it’s pretty funny that we’re even just sitting there talking with him about this. As we’re talking to him, we’re pulling any reports that our contract officers may have taken and we see that there are plenty of runaway reports that were taken. She’s reported him run away nearly a dozen times.
Wendy: [00:16:35] It’s a habitual thing with him that he takes off.
Greg: [00:16:38] Michael tells me he had snuck out of the house, and Michael comes across this guy he says.
Michael: [00:16:45] I was walking down that street and a guy came out from around back and said he was locked out and asked me if I could help him get in. He has like a ginger-type goatee, black beanie, black zipper coat, black pants, and work boots.
Greg: [00:17:02] Michael just minding his own business, walking down the street, when this man with the ginger beard told him he locked himself out. This strange man asked Michael if he would help him get back into his house. This guy is standing at the end of Margaret’s driveway.
Michael: [00:17:19] So, he walked up, it’s kind of weird.
Detective: [00:17:23] How weird was it? What was he, like, aggressively walking up or kind of-
Michael: [00:17:27] No– [crosstalk]
Detective: [00:17:27] -being shady.
Michael: [00:17:29] It was kind of like he was scoping out the place, but not quite, like he kept looking back.
Detective: [00:17:34] Uh-huh. You said he had like a red goatee–
Michael: [00:17:37] Yeah, ginger.
Detective: [00:17:38] Yeah, was it long or short? [crosstalk] mustache too?
Michael: [00:17:42] It was really dark, so I couldn’t really tell.
Greg: [00:17:44] Michael follows him through the empty driveway around the back of the house to what’s basically the front door of the house, but it’s concealed by brush and fence from the neighbors and from the street. The man suggests that Michael throw a rock through the window to get access into the home.
Michael: [00:18:02] So, I threw a rock at the window, leaned in, and opened it for–
Greg: [00:18:08] So, Michael says he finds a rock, chucks it through the window, little big window right next to the front door, where he’s able to manipulate the glass shards and pull them away from the frame so he doesn’t cut himself. The man suggests he lean through the hole that he had just created and unlock the door from the inside. He figures that’s a pretty reasonable request. So, he says he does it. Opens the door and him and this man with this ginger beard walk inside where Michael says he hears a loud machine running. Turns out that’s an oxygen machine. Margaret needed oxygen assistance. And he asked the man if he could use the bathroom. The man with the ginger beard says, “Sure, go ahead.” So, he starts walking to the back bedroom door and puts his hand on the doorknob when the man tells him, “No, it’s not the bathroom. It’s on the other side of the wall there.” Michael says he goes in, uses the bathroom, comes back out and the man hands him a $20 bill and says thank you.
Dave: [00:19:08] Michael approaches Margaret’s bedroom, puts his hand on the doorknob, doesn’t enter, gets redirected to the bathroom?
Greg: [00:19:17] Yes. Probably in his effort to explain why we’re going to find his fingerprints on the doorknob. He says this man gives him $20 and he goes on his way. Michael walks a few blocks over to the city park where he finds a homeless person sleeping on the slide there. Michael says he wakes the man up, gives him the $20, figures he really needs it and goes on about his way around town. I asked Michael to back up, tell me specifically which streets he’s walking on, how he winds up in front of Margaret’s house. And this is where his story just starts going off in different directions. He starts interjecting new bits of information, where all of a sudden, he’s on one side of town, and now very quickly he’s on the opposite side of town. And his mother is also getting frustrated listening to this and she said, “Well, how did you get there all of a sudden?” Michael remembers, “Oh, yeah, I had stopped by my friend, Kylie’s house,” which is half mile north of Michael and Wendy’s home, knocked on her window as he’s guessing around 10 o’clock at night. Kylie lets him in. They hang out, play videogames for a while, until he hears Kylie’s mother coming down the hall. He hides in the closet. And Kylie’s mother eventually finds him.
[00:20:32] She was pretty upset about that, tells him to get outside and she’s going to drive him home. He walks out to the car with her and then Michael bolts. He stops down the street and sees that Kylie’s mother’s getting into a car anyways after she learned who this boy was and where he lived from Kylie, and he knew that Kylie’s mother was going back to his house. So, he runs all across town, to a vantage point where he can watch Kylie’s mother go knock on his door, and he watches. And listens to this confrontation of Kylie’s mother telling Michael’s mother that she just caught Michael inside her daughter’s closet.
Dave: [00:21:11] Michael is claiming that he ran faster than the mother drove to his residence?
Greg: [00:21:16] Basically.
Dave: [00:21:17] And does mom confirm that this girl’s mother arrived at the house that night?
Greg: [00:21:22] She does.
Wendy: [00:21:24] At 11 o’clock at night, I got a knock on my front door from a woman coming to tell me that she just found my son in her daughter’s closet, and that she was trying to get him in the vehicle to bring him home, and he bolted on her. And so, at 11:15, this woman was at my home, because my son had been in her daughter’s closet, and that he was on the run.
Greg: [00:21:45] At least that little part we know happened. From there, he zigzags, back north and south across the small town, until he winds up on Margaret’s street, where he’s contacted by the strange subject, standing at the end of the driveway, asking him to break into his own house for him. I question him about why would a grown adult man need a preteen’s help getting into his own home when an adult like that may have other resources available to him?
Dave: [00:22:12] Like a fist?
Greg: [00:22:13] Like a fist or throwing his own–
Chad: [00:22:14] Throw his own damn rock?
Greg: [00:22:15] Yeah, if you don’t want to cause a lot of damage, you know you’re going to have to fix your own home, maybe think of other ways of getting inside your house. None of that made any sense to him and you can see the wheel spinning behind his eyes. He’s doesn’t have an answer for that.
Dave: [00:22:30] And Michael’s mother’s kind of tag teaming the interview with you?
Greg: [00:22:33] She is at this point because she realizes–
Dave: [00:22:36] My son’s full of shit?
Greg: [00:22:37] Yeah. So, we go through the story again. Same thing, he’s sticking to this, the man invites him, asked him to help him break into the house, they go around the house, directs them to throw a rock through the window, lets himself in, they go in, goes to use the restroom, directed to the other actual restroom, and is given $20 and he splits. From there, he says he goes back to this church that has kind of a loose view of his house where he hangs out on the playground there for a couple hours until it’s getting pretty cold. So, he decides he’s going to go to his friend’s house, who lives back again on the north side of town and use their hot tub. That was new information. And Wendy, Michael’s mother, asks him, “You never said that the first time.”
Michael: [00:23:21] They have a hot tub and I felt cold.
Wendy: [00:23:25] This is a whole new story.
Detective: [00:23:27] Yeah. When did you go there?
Michael: [00:23:29] I went there after I went to the playground. Before I went home, I went over there because it was cold.
Greg: [00:23:36] And at that point, Michael’s mother says, “Was that why your clothes were wet?” She finds his clothes the next morning all watered up inside his bedroom, soaking wet. He says, “Oh, yeah.” Instead of walking the one block away to his house where he already was, he’s going to walk another three quarters of a mile to his friend’s house to sit in their hot tub for an hour, he says.
Dan: [00:23:58] Fully clothed.
Greg: [00:24:00] He strips down to his shorts and gets in. This hot tub’s on the back patio of their home. It’s early, early hours of the morning. They have no idea he’s out there.
Detective: [00:24:10] What street does he live on?
Michael: [00:24:11] [beep]
Detective: [00:24:11] So, that’s all the way back over by the dog park again. So, you go from the playground at the church, all the way back up to [beep] instead of going directly home like you told me. And you go there because you know he’s got a hot tub.
Greg: [00:24:26] So, he’s just enjoying himself in their hot tub for a little while. Then, he decides, “Now it’s time to head on home.” Like I said, middle of winter, so now you’re walking across town.
Yeardley: [00:24:37] Cold and wet in the cold, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
Greg: [00:24:41] Nothing Michael talked about made sense that night. He gives me a description of the clothes that he was wearing that night. These orange slide sandals, he was wearing, this zip up hoodie. He had a backpack, he can’t remember where he left that at some point. We didn’t want to believe that we’re possibly talking to this preteen kid who is starting to look a lot like he just murdered this woman. He went from just being a runaway, pain in the ass for his mother, to a big-time suspect at this point.
Dave: [00:25:15] Is mom tracking what you guys are tracking?
Greg: [00:25:16] She is. And she points out to him, “Michael, these guys think that you killed that lady.” He just shakes his head, “I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill nobody.” Stuck to that line the entire time. I then start turning it up a little bit more. Said, “You know what? You put yourself in the house. We all agree on that. You went to the back room, which happens to be Margaret’s bedroom. And behind that door, we find Margaret dead, covered in blood. She looks like she’s clearly had the worst last night of her life. And it’s looking like you did it.” “Nope. Wasn’t me. Not me. Never went in there. Used the bathroom, took my 20 bucks and I split.” I asked him if he took anything from the house, says he didn’t. “Well, why did you stab her then?” Coming at him a different way. “I didn’t stab her. I never saw anybody in the house other than the man who followed me in.”
[00:26:13] It was frustrating that he was sticking to this and he was clearly having a good time during this whole thing. This is over a four-hour period now where I’m interviewing Michael, letting his mother vent. She’s crying, she’s upset. I feel bad for her because he’s clearly put her through a lot over the years. And now, she’s sitting here listening to this in her own disbelief.
Yeardley: [00:26:36] I can’t imagine what a realization like that must feel like for a mother.
Greg: [00:26:41] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:26:42] Unbelievable.
Greg: [00:26:55] So, it’s getting late again. We decide to lodge Michael in the juvenile facility for at least the crime of burglary at this point, because we know he got inside this house. That’ll be enough to hold him there till we start putting the rest of this case together. At same time, search warrant’s being written for Michael’s house, and this house where he says he goes to sit in these people’s hot tub. Maybe he took a knife with him. Maybe he left it there. Maybe hidden in his house with his clothes. Who knows? Early hours in the next morning, 1:00, 2:00 in the morning again, we got our search warrant signed, we go to both places, and we’ve got to go wake up these other people and say, “Hey, surprise, we got a search warrant, we need to look in your backyard and your hot tub.”
Dave: [00:27:39] I’m guessing the people in the hot tub house are aware that a woman’s been killed in their town.
Greg: [00:27:45] Yes.
Dave: [00:27:46] Any pushback?
Yeardley: [00:27:47] You mean pushback, like being woke up in the middle of the night with a search warrant? That kind of pushback?
Greg: [00:27:54] There was some surprise to be expected, not pleasant for anybody. We find a sweatshirt Michael left behind, tucked behind the hot tub. I think that was the only item of clothing he left there. We search Michael’s house where he lives with his mother Wendy, and two other roommates. And this is a large house, very cluttered. It’s been well lived in, I should say. We go into Michael’s room, and this room just speaks of raging issues. There’s no TV, no radio, there’s a bed, a mattress and a box spring on the floor. There’s holes punched in the walls, all over the place, a pile of clothing on the floor and a couple of books.
Yeardley: [00:28:37] Do you think he had a TV and it got taken away as punishment?
Greg: [00:28:42] I do. Wendy had mentioned during our interview that she has just tried everything to try to manage Michael’s behavior by taking things away, trying to do a reward system. “You do what you’re supposed to, the very least we asked you to do, and you start earning some of these things back.” She talked about taking everything out of there, and then slowly gave him at least his box spring and mattress back, only to tell us that maybe a month or two before this event occurred–
Yeardley: [00:29:09] You’re talking about a month or two before Margaret’s murder?
Greg: [00:29:13] Yeah. She was in searching his room because she felt he was up to something again. Lifts up the mattress and found a kitchen knife under there and saw that he had slashed up the bottom of his mattress in there.
Dan: [00:29:26] I’m sure you’d like to know what happened to that knife.
Greg: [00:29:29] Right. So, we searched around, we find the clothes, we find the orange slippers that he said he was wearing. And looking really close at the slippers, we see what looks a lot like a drop of blood on them. I’m like, “Okay,” so we hope this is going to come back from the crime lab with Margaret’s DNA in that blood.
Dave: [00:29:50] And to state the obvious, Margaret’s bedroom, it would be difficult to imagine anyone being present in there, not having some blood on them.
Greg: [00:29:59] Yes. Very much so. In the days that followed, we start contacting Michael’s friends, the people he hung out with, reading any police reports from Michael. We find that the previous summer, a couple from the southern part of our state had come up to visit some friends and family. They were visiting their parents’ home, and were going to walk about a mile to some friends’ home that they were going to see while they were in town. It’s about 1 o’clock in the morning, they say, just this man and his wife, they’re walking on the sidewalk, when they get the feeling that they’re being followed. So, they step up their pace a little bit, they can obviously hear footsteps falling a lot closer. They spin around and they find this young boy who’s following them wearing this hooded sweater. The boy calls out to them, “Hi, my name is Michael. Can I walk with you?” They said, “What are you doing out here? It’s pretty dangerous for to be out here by yourself in this town.”
[00:30:53] Michael then produces a kitchen knife from his sweater pocket, and Michael says, “Nobody’s messing with me tonight.” This is summertime before this murder happened. We talk with Michael’s friends. They all have different opinions on Michael. They say, “He’s okay. He’s pretty persistent,” and the things he wants them to do. He wants them to do the things he wants to do. They direct investigators to this vacant house where they say is Michael’s own little clubhouse. They find a board that can be moved and allows access to a crawlspace under the house where they see that he has set up camp with just a bunch of food wrappers, little items he’s stolen, and it has a view of this other neighborhood. Michael has told these kids that he hangs out with, “This is my place where I just go and watch people. I spy on them.” Over the weeks that followed, we got at least three different calls. People found various knives in their backyard. “Well, maybe this is the one.”
Yeardley: [00:31:51] You’re thinking maybe this is the murder weapon in Margaret’s case?
Greg: [00:31:55] Exactly. We go collect, take photographs, send all these off to the lab. We still haven’t come up with anything we felt comfortable as the actual murder weapon at this point.
Dave: [00:32:06] They’re all exposed to the weather.
Greg: [00:32:08] Yes. At that point, after this murder occurred, we get a very major snowstorm in the area. So, yeah, these items have been laying out and been discovered later on. And we’re now in to our third or fourth day, the end of the week now and I have a meeting with the crime lab folks. And as we’re sitting there, another call comes in, officer-involved shooting. So, that means all of our investigators now have to go work this pretty complicated officer-involving incident that happened at an area school.
Yeardley: [00:32:37] Is Michael still in school? Is it his school?
Dave: [00:32:40] Totally uninvolved.
Chad: [00:32:41] Yeah, totally unrelated. Like Greg was saying, Michael was in custody. We weren’t still looking for him.
Dave: [00:32:47] The clock is still ticking, but it slowed way down.
Greg: [00:32:51] Yeah. So, priorities switch immediately. About this time, the department that Dan and Dave work with, very close by, they give us a call. And they say, “Hey, we have this guy we’re talking to about an unrelated matter, who tells us he knows Michael and has some information he thinks you guys would like to hear.” “Okay.” I drive over to their office, and they’re talking to Ted. Ted tells me that he sleeps on the couch of some friends of his during the day because he works a graveyard shift. That means just working all night long, at an area, manufacturing plant. In this home, that family has several ids that go to school with Michael. And he says Michael would stop by every few days randomly and even very late at night. Wants those kids to come out play with him at the park. He’d asked if he can stay the night there, tells them sad stories about how he’s being mistreated, neglected at home.
[00:33:47] As I’m talking to Ted, I’m looking at him, I realize he’s about 5’9″, kind of what Michael had described, and he’s got a very obvious red ginger colored goatee. Well, maybe this is the man at Margaret’s driveway. So, if that’s the case, “Okay, where do you work?” So, he tells me, and I leave Ted in the company of that department. And I go to his work where I find out that Ted actually was working that night. They show me his timecard. He clocked in at his normal 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening, and he clocked out 8 o’clock in the morning the following day, so he was at work. I believe Michael had seen this guy frequently enough that this is the first image he pulls to mind as to describe the subject dressed all in black at the end of the driveway who asked him for help breaking into his house that night. Total fabrication in the story. I think that’s just the first face he could think of to describe this guy.
[00:34:44] The situation why Ted’s talking to the police is one of the workers finds a cell phone on the floor. They bring it into the office. They try to open it to see who belongs to, which one of their workers so they can get it back to them. They turn it on and what they see is it automatically opens up to some pretty horrible child pornography videos. So, that’s why the police are talking with Ted. As this snowstorm, like I talked about, was starting to subside away, people are going about trying to dig out of the snow, repairing damaged bushes. About this time, the house next door and on the other side of Margaret’s house, the people they’re fixing their shrubbery, which is destroyed by the snow and they find this big frozen towel that’s wrapped up pretty tight and stuffed way down deep in their bushes. They fish it out. They think, “Ah, this might be connected to what happened a few doors down.” So, they give our office a call. We sent one of our investigators down there to go see what it is.
[00:35:44] He photographs it, opens it up. And inside is a large kitchen knife and a walking cane. And in going back looking through the photographs and showing these items to Margaret’s adult daughter, Brenda, she says, “Yep, that’s my mom’s cane.” And that towel matches the other towels that were hanging up in the bathroom at that time. “And that is a knife I know that she kept in the kitchen.” So, now we believe we actually have the murder weapon we’ve been looking for. I don’t know, because he wouldn’t say, but I think Michael used her cane in her room to strike her with causing those large bruises on her chest and on the side of her neck.
Dave: [00:36:24] Going back to the hot tub, you find an article of clothing near the hot tub. Do you believe that he jumped in the hot tub to hopefully soak up water to dilute any biological trace?
Greg: [00:36:37] That’s what we figured. He got into the tub, hoping a lot of the blood would dissolve away. We actually took a sample of the water from the hot tub to submit to the lab also. A few weeks go by, and we finally get the word back from the crime lab. That is Margaret’s blood DNA in the blood drop on the shoes.
Dan: [00:36:57] The orange slides that he was wearing?
Greg: [00:36:59] Yeah. That was where we saw the one blood stain, and that’s what the lab tested and did come back with Margaret’s DNA on that.
Dan: [00:37:08] That’s a homerun.
Greg: [00:37:09] That is. We were also able to find Michael wearing the shoes in several video surveillance films that we were able to collect along the route. And so, we got this pretty tight now. It doesn’t look good, and he’s out walking around following people with a knife in his pocket in the middle of the night. He sliced up the mattress in his house, raging, punching holes in his wall, all that sort of thing. Just his behavior, his past, the thing that he’s done, and the evidence that we’re finding now as time goes on, his defense attorneys are like, “You know what? We can’t fight this.” The district attorney work in this case files a murder charge on him in juvenile court, and that plays out over the course of the next six months.
[00:37:56] It’s a legal issue between prosecutor and their defense attorneys. They do what they do. But ultimately, they decide Michael’s going to take a plea of guilty to a murder, burglary and we go on with sentencing. We get Margaret’s family there and we explain that in our state, they’ve determined that children can only be held in custody until age 25. It didn’t used to be like that. We’ve had several significant cases prior to this where those kids were charged as adults and received adult sentences. So, we explained that to the family, they weren’t too happy. Nobody’s really happy about that in this case, but it is what it is.
Dave: [00:38:46] It’s important to think about, in our state, to get charged as an adult for a major crime like this, you have to be 15 years old. And there’s some court wrangling that goes around to either place that case in the juvenile court or to move it to adult court. But Michael is several years prior to 15. So, he’s not even going to be eligible for this. I’d imagine the defense attorney was like, “You’re really lucky. I would imagine you’d want to take this deal.”
Greg: [00:39:18] Yes.
Dan: [00:39:19] How did Michael’s mom, Wendy, react to the outcome of this case?
Greg: [00:39:23] She was in disbelief. I can’t speak for Wendy, but maybe there’s some sense of relief that she can just finally do something with her life now and others are managing Michael, and hopefully getting him some help, some counseling, and she can put her life back together. I’m certain she misses him. She loves him very much. It’s her son. That was heart wrenching to just listen to how she broke down and just talked about how basically terrible her life has been trying to live with him.
Dan: [00:39:54] Was he ever physically abusive towards her?
Greg: [00:39:55] He was, she says. As he’s gotten bigger, more defiant, he’s taken to pushing her around in the house. And I believe that would have continued.
Dan: [00:40:05] Michael really sounds like he has a problem with authority, particularly female authority.
Greg: [00:40:10] He does. Michael had been victimized as a young child in a number of ways. He has a lot of mental health issues as a result of that. Wendy believes that’s driving a lot of his behaviors. But he won’t quite participate in the help she’s tried to get him. She has reached out to almost all of the resources in our area, trying to get help her son. And she says they just haven’t been able to come through for her. So, she feels helpless. She feels sad. She’s angry that she’s been trying to reach out, do the best she can, raising this kid that’s rapidly accelerating and being out of control. And now here we are. And I had asked her, “Do you feel like Michael could have done something like this?” She hesitated and said, “I don’t like to think so but yeah. I don’t know if he did this tonight. But I could totally see him doing this down the road to somebody.”
Yeardley: [00:41:07] Wendy said that when you were first questioning Michael?
Greg: [00:41:10] Yeah.
Dave: [00:41:11] As a parent, just having that thought roll through your mind.
Greg: [00:41:15] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:41:16] Did Michael ever say what his motive was?
Greg: [00:41:18] He didn’t. He totally denied ever going into the bedroom or even seeing Margaret.
Dan: [00:41:23] When you think about, I mean, Margaret is like the ultimate defenseless victim?
Greg: [00:41:28] She is. It had to be terrifying for her.
Dan: [00:41:31] Yeah. It’s really sad.
Greg: [00:41:34] Yeah. So, we don’t know what prompted Michael to do that if it was the house. From the street would have probably a vacant appearance to it. Margaret didn’t have a car, not much hanging up on the walls that you can see through the windows. Maybe he just wanted a new hangout instead of crawling under the crawlspace at the other house, decides to let himself into this one. Most likely, hears the oxygen machine that was running and leading a cord into the back bedroom where Margaret was sleeping. Went in there to investigate and maybe just sees an opportunity to satisfy some crazy desire.
Dave: [00:42:12] There’s a level of inhumanity that most people don’t possess and that we see played out in the Ted Bundys of the world.
Dan: [00:42:24] I mean, he sounds like a budding serial killer. Any history of him abusing animals?
Greg: [00:42:30] I asked Wendy about that. He had one dog that he actually lavished a lot of attention on. She couldn’t speak to what he was doing. Beyond that dog outside of her home, it’s anybody’s guess. But regarding Michael and his behaviors, and what we now know as proclivity for extreme violence is, again, well, we’re looking into his background, we noticed that he used to live in your town, where your department is, just a few years prior to this. And there, you have a very similar as yet unsolved homicide where an elderly woman is stabbed to death in her house, and nothing is taken or ransacked.
Dave: [00:43:13] It’s important to note that he was alibied out.
Greg: [00:43:16] He was. That was looked into pretty extensively by your agency and they did find somebody who could vouch for him. He was on a field trip with the rest of his class that day.
Dan: [00:43:26] But the crime scenes are eerily similar. And that case was actually assigned to me. And that’s when I had to let my sergeant know that I’d found a woman.[laughter]
Dan: [00:43:40] And I was moving to Los Angeles so I could not be the lead investigator on that case. But I don’t want to get into too many details of that case, because it is unsolved. But that murder scene, I still think about that murder scene, walking through that murder scene, because it is so specific, and it’s eerie. There are a lot of similarities to this case that you just gave us.
Greg: [00:44:04] It is. And for Michael to just lash out at Margaret in the way that he did, for no reason. Here’s this woman, she’s lived an incredibly long time. Probably could have scratched out a few more years. They were robbed from her. For no reason, he took that away from her. I brought that to his attention when I was talking to him. I said, “You know the things this woman has seen and experienced in her lifetime in this world, the advancements she’s seen? And just like that, you took it away from her for no reason.” And he just smiles, turns his head, looks around, and he couldn’t care.
Dave: [00:44:43] Unbothered.
Dan: [00:44:44] Unbothered.
Greg: [00:44:44] And that’s what made us think, “You know what? If he’s that unaffected by this violent act, maybe it’s not the first time he’d done that.”
Yeardley: [00:44:54] God. Thank you so much for bringing us that today. I just feel whether or not Margaret had 2 years or 10 years left, nobody should go out that way.
Greg: [00:45:10] Yeah. Tragic.
Yeardley: [00:45:12] Yeah.
Dan: [00:45:14] Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate it.
Dave: [00:45:16] Yeah, great work.
Greg: [00:45:17] Thank you.
Chad: [00:45:17] Thanks for having us.
Yeardley: [00:45:21] 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, the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin, with additional editing assistance from Jacqui Fulton. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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