A woman is out jogging on a country road when she sees a white van in the area that appears to be lost. As the woman goes up to the driver to offer directions, she notices he’s holding handcuffs and a roll of duct tape.
Special Guest: Captain Terri
Captain Terri has been in law enforcement for 23 years. Over the course of her career, she has been a dispatcher, a corrections officer, a patrol deputy, and a detective sergeant before being promoted Captain in 2014. One of her focuses as a law enforcement agent has been helping victims maneuver through the criminal justice system. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice.
Mark (on recording): There was a girl outside my van, just walking, I’m like, “Hmm-mm,” felt horny and stuff. And then, I remember seeing her, I remember just thinking terrible things. And then, I saw her walking around the side of the van, and I thought, “I could have sex with her right now.
Yeardley: 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: I’m Dan.
Dave: And I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan: Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave: 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. We ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley: Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: Good afternoon.
Yeardley: Good afternoon. I’m so happy that you’re here.
Dave: Happy to be here.
Yeardley: Thanks for coming back.
Dave: I didn’t have much of a choice.
Yeardley: [laughs] And we have Detective Dan.
Yeardley: Hello. Good to see you.
Dan: Thank you.
Yeardley: Thanks for coming.
Dan: Happy to be here.
Yeardley: Yeah. And Small Town fam, we have one of your favorites, and of course one of ours, the one and only Captain Terri.
Terri: Hello. Thanks for having me back again.
Yeardley: Captain Terri has brought us several of our most listened-to cases like The Bitter End in season four, Zero Hour in season five, and of course, most recently, The Devil You Know, which was our two-part finale in season six. Captain Terri, you are a rock star. We are so thrilled that you’re here.
Terri: Thank you again for letting me be here.
Yeardley: This is great. So, Terri, you have a great case for us today. Tell us how this case comes to you.
Terri: This case happened in the early 2000s when I was a new deputy, and I was working a special assignment at that point where I was the first female deputy in my county. We had started a program where we were trying to make it easier for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to report those crimes by having a female involved and see if that would make a difference in our reporting because in the early 2000s, we didn’t have a lot of reporting.
Yeardley: What special assignment were you assigned to?
Terri: I was assigned to work with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and just to be there for them more like an advocate than a police officer, just to take care of whatever their needs were. If they need a cup of coffee, if they need a glass of water, but I would be available to them when law enforcement wasn’t. So, even if they were having a bad day, they could call me.
Yeardley: And this was based on the mandate that maybe these victims would be more comfortable talking to a woman or at least having a woman in their corner, since so much of the department was male?
Terri: Correct. And as we’ve talked about a lot of cases, there’s a lot that has to be done to investigate a case. And so, sometimes the victim doesn’t have a lot of your time. My time was to focus on what does the victim need, and the investigators could continue to investigate the case.
Yeardley: Got it.
Terri: So, this case, it was an early summer morning. I was actually off that day, as these cases seemed to happen, but because of my special duties, I was called in. The original 911 call came in at 6:30 in the morning. What we had originally been told was that a woman had been out running and when she had gotten home, she told her husband that somebody had tried to abduct her. She was screaming all the way home. It was a very rural location. Our county is rural anyway, but it is even more rural. Houses can be a half a mile to a mile away from each other. It’s in the middle of nowhere. It is a weekday, and we are one of those counties that has take-home squads. Most of our detectives have take-home squads, even our patrol deputies have take-home squads.
Yeardley: What’s that?
Terri: Oh, patrol car, sorry. Yes, patrol car squad. We actually keep our patrol cars at home. Everybody’s assigned a car. This is supposed to be because we’re so rural that if a call comes in, we could respond right away.
When this call comes in at 6:30 in the morning, and it’s a day that it is a workday, which is really nice because nobody should be gone, or fishing or whatever else they’re doing in the summertime, going swimming or whatever. It turns out that all of the detectives are able to jump into their patrol cars and go into that area of the call. But it’s such a dense location that it’s going to take a little bit for them to get there. But luckily, they get into the area. And we have a description of a white van that some male is driving in that area.
Yeardley: So, this man was in a van and tried to pull her into the van?
Terri: Correct. We get a deputy to get to her home. She’s very distraught. She’s got some marks on her. She’s frantically crying. This is not something that normally happens in our area. This is not a normal occurrence. So, the deputy gets her and tells her that we’re going to take her to the hospital and have a conversation with her but before we leave, we need to know as much as we can about this person. And she said, “Well, he’s in this van. He was in this area.” These are some distinctive things about the man that she remembered. And she said, “Oh, yeah, by the way, if you look outside, there’s some musky fishing poles outside. When you see him, he should be all cut up on his face because I grabbed him, and I was hitting him with those fishing lures and his face is all scratched up.”
Yeardley: Musky are quite big fish. So, those poles are pretty substantial.
Terri: Yep, it’s a large fish and it takes a very large bait to catch those kinds of fish. So, we’re looking at probably a two- or three-inch bait with several different types of hooks on them that are pretty big. And musky have teeth, so they have to have a significant bait. We knew that we were looking for this white van, which again is not common in our area.
Dave: And these lures are in the van?
Terri: In the van. Yes.
Dave: So, these are just weapons of opportunity for her?
Terri: Correct. She said, “I grabbed these when he was trying to put me in the back of the van.”
Yeardley: Okay, so Ariel grabbed the musky fishing poles from the van when she was being attacked but now, they’re back at her house. Does that mean that she was running with the poles in case her attacker was chasing after her?
Yeardley: Got it.
Terri: And she said, and his blood is on that. At this point, we are talking about DNA. She said, “The main thing that I remember is that I scratched his face and he should have all kinds of marks on him from these lures.”
Yeardley: Does she have any blood under her fingernails or anything?
Terri: We believe that she does. That’s why we’re taking her to the hospital.
Yeardley: Okay. And what’s the victim’s name?
Terri: Victim is Ariel. I should first say that I actually knew Ariel. She was actually a coworker of my ex-husband’s. She was a hard worker, a nice person. She had been to my house for dinner.
Dan: Squared away, credible.
Terri: Yes. She’s a good person that, as it turns out, happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. And that was in the middle of her neighborhood, which is unbelievable. It’s bad enough to have a victim of that, but then for it to be somebody that you know that’s your friend, is difficult. So, when I got to the hospital, I said to her, “I’m just here to help you through this process. I’m just here to help you try to get to the other side of this. If you need something and if I can get it for you, all you have to do is ask me.”
Yeardley: Is it not comforting for Ariel to have you be the one going to the hospital with her and taking the report?
Terri: I think that she did feel comfortable about that, that she knew me. Also, knowing that I was a police officer and that she knew me, I think that was helpful. In this case, luckily for us, Ariel kicked–
Dave and Dan: You can say it.
Terri: Kicked the shit out of him. And she’s obviously experiencing trauma. This man tried to take her. She’s a fighter. She did not let him take her. In the early 2000s, this was one of the things that I did, was talk to women about, “Do not let any man take you. Let your last bite be wherever that is.” Don’t let any suspect take you because we find that if somebody does take you in that way, that there’s a good possibility that you’re going to be killed. So, I was teaching all kinds of classes to women and students about fighting, don’t give up. She’s a small woman, and this man is a bigger man, like 6 something. I’m not going to say he’s physically built, but he could have easily taken her if she just would have given up.
She says that she was out running. It’s a nice summer morning. It’s sunny. It’s beautiful outside from where I live, and we wait for this weather all year long. She’s going to go for a run before she goes to work. She works for a delivery service, like a package delivery service. She sees this van. She’s running and she sees this van pass her. And then, he turns around, and so Ariel thinks he’s looking for directions. Now, that’s the kind of person she is. She’s a nice person. She thinks to herself, “This person must be lost. They need directions. I’ll see what they need.” She starts to walk towards the van to ask him, “What is it that you need?” And he comes out of the van with a pair of handcuffs and a piece of duct tape.
Yeardley: Oh God.
Terri: She realizes, “Okay, something’s not right here.” And so, he immediately grabs on to her, she says the handcuffs get stuck in her hair. And she’s screaming, it’s the middle of nowhere. She knows there’s no houses close to her. He’s dragging her to the back of the van, and he opens up the back of the van. She sees those fishing poles, like I was telling you, those very large fishing poles. She just grabs onto them, and she just starts beating him as much as she can. She knows, “I’m fighting for my life here.” It’s one thing when somebody gets out and grabs you, it’s another thing when somebody gets out and grabs you with handcuffs and duct tape. Ariel said, “I knew that this was not going to be–”
Yeardley: Yeah, not okay.
Terri: Not okay. But first, it’s so surreal in our area. I’m telling you, nothing like this has ever happened before. So, this poor lady is just trying to grasp what’s going on. When we talk about training as law enforcement officers and we go to different calls, we’re constantly running things through our head, like what could really happen. I’m telling you, you do not live in my county and think to yourself as a civilian. You’re thinking, “Okay, what would I do if I got a flat tire?” At that point, there wasn’t really good cell phone coverage. But this is not something that a person is actually thinking what actually happened in our county, but she knows that she’s got a fight to get away. And that’s what she does.
She beats the crap out of him with these musky poles. And then, she takes off running and she’s screaming all the way as she’s running. She’s just screaming help, and somebody heard her screaming. They actually thought it was one of the neighbors. So, they called the neighbor and said, “Hey, were you screaming?” They’re like, “No.” And so, then nobody does anything. Here she is. She’s running. She ran like a mile and a half to our house, screaming.
Yeardley: Ah. And what’s the suspect’s name?
Yeardley: Mark. Is Mark following Ariel in the van while she’s screaming her head off down the road?
Terri: No, as soon as it didn’t work, then he just gets back in his van. Now, he’s trying to figure out what’s he going to do now.
Dave: Mark wants some easier game. He underestimated Ariel. And it’s like, “I need to get out of here.”
Terri: She’s running home. Her husband hears her screaming, like a block away. He comes to the front door and she’s screaming, “Call 911! Call 911!” So, her husband gets on the phone right away, he calls 911, and we’re all on our way out there. The gist of what we have is, this man stops tries to abduct this woman. And luckily, she beats the crap out of him, and she’s safe. Safe physically, but still has lots of trauma. She’s much better today. But for years, this was very difficult thing for her to deal with.
Terri: I’m called in to go to the hospital to meet with Ariel and they are out looking for Mark. Ariel goes to the hospital. And Mark is eventually– somebody sees the van. It’s not hard to find. One of the two detectives see the van, they do a traffic stop. They walk up and they immediately notice that his face is all cut up, and that he’s got scratch marks on his face. It’s very easy to see that he’s been in some kind of altercation. At this point, they place him under arrest. And while I’m at the hospital with Ariel getting the sexual assault nurse examiner kit done, they’re getting Mark back to the sheriff’s office.
Dave: So, Mark gets pulled over by deputies responding to the area they see a van that matches. He’s got the corroborating injuries on his face. What’s Mark’s history in your local area?
Terri: He doesn’t have a lot of history with us. We know that he lives in the area and he’s got some small crimes, but nothing like this. He’s a carnival worker.
Yeardley: Like literally, the mobile carnival with the Ferris wheel and the merry-go-round?
Terri: Yes. The nice thing about Mark is, he actually tells a story. He actually tells exactly what happened.
Mark (on recording): There was a girl outside my van, just walking, I’m like, “Hmm-mm,” felt horny and stuff.
Detective (on recording): You felt horny and stuff?
Mark (on recording): Yeah, I don’t even really remember a lot about it. I have never seen her. I remember just thinking terrible things. Like, I just want to grab her and fuck her. And then, she started walking around the side of the van, and I thought, “I could have sex with her right now.”
Detective (on recording): How did you prepare yourself at that point?
Mark (on recording): I just grabbed some duct tape and some handcuffs, I don’t know.
Detective (on recording): So, you establish inside the van while she’s approaching your van that you’re going to take this duct tape and you’re going to take these handcuffs to help you in filling your urge to have sex with her, right? I mean these are instruments you’re going to use on her?
Mark (on recording): Yeah.
Detective (on recording): Okay. What do you do when she gets to the side of your van?
Mark (on recording): Opened the door and tried to grab her.
Terri: It’s healing for a victim to know the exact truth about what really happened. And I think he is just so not smart that he did just tell us exactly what happened.
Detective (on recording): You said she was resisting you and resisting all your efforts to get her into the van, and she’s still resisting at this point, correct? At the back of the van I’m pointing at?
Mark (on recording): Yeah.
Detective (on recording): Okay. How did she resist you at that point? What did she do to you?
Mark (on recording): Kick, scratch, scream.
Detective (on recording): Kicked, scratched, screamed. What did she take out of your van?
Mark (on recording): Well, she took the fishing poles out.
Detective (on recording): And what did she do with those?
Mark (on recording): She carried them away.
Detective (on recording): Okay. Did she strike you with the fishing poles? Was that one of the means that she was using to try to get you off of her?
Mark (on recording): She might have.
Detective (on recording): If you would have accomplished in what you wanted to do, and that is get her in the van with the handcuffs, you were planning on having sex with her, that was your intent?
Mark (on recording): Mm-hmm.
Detective (on recording): Where would you have done that?
Mark (on recording): I wasn’t even thinking that far ahead.
Detective (on recording): You weren’t thinking that far ahead?
Mark (on recording): I think, honestly, if I did get her, I did put her in the back of the van and everything, I think I would have probably drove a mile down the road, and probably thought, “What the hell am I doing? This is stupid. This is not something I want to do.” I don’t know why it happened and I think maybe, probably just talk to her for a little bit and said, “I’m sorry. I know you will never ever be able to forgive me,” or anything. And then, I would just either drove her to the hospital.
Dave: So clearly, this guy’s got some buyer’s remorse at the earlier statement that he made regarding his intent. What I hear and this is him trying to mitigate what he had previously said and said, “Uh-oh, that’s going to get me in trouble. I need to do some damage control right now.” Somebody who commits a crime like this, isn’t all of a sudden going to have a change of heart and say, “You know what? I’m going to take you to the hospital. That’s probably a better idea.”
Yeardley: No, he approached her with handcuffs and duct tape.
Dave: And evidence in these cases, points to the intent. He’s got a kidnapping and rape kit assembled. He’s obviously been thinking about this, and that speaks to his intent.
Yeardley: So, if the area where Ariel was almost abducted is so remote, what was Mark doing there in the first place?
Terri: Mark says that he has a girlfriend in the area and that they broke up a couple days beforehand. He went to one of the local casinos and was drinking overnight, and then had gone to a bar and then pulled over on the side of the road and had gone to sleep.
When he wakes up, he sees Ariel, and he decides that he wants to have sex with her. “I’m here, she’s here. I’ll go ahead and take what I want.” He tries to get her in the van. He says that he’s planning on just having sex with her. But inside the van, we find the duct tape, we find knives. He has handcuffs. So, we talked to his girlfriend and she says, yep, they have used handcuffs in the past consensually, but he does have a fetish for that kind of sexual contact.
We also find in the investigation that Mark has actually been in that area for a couple days. People see him in that area at that time of day in his van. What we believe is that he actually was scoping out and looking for somebody else. We actually believe that the day that he goes out there, the person that he really wanted didn’t go running that day, and Ariel is the one that just happens to be in the area because we know that another lady that was much like Ariel’s build is in the area and goes running every day at that time, but she didn’t that day.
Yeardley: I have so many questions, like, “Okay, I see this woman. I decide I’m going to take what I want and have sex with her. She’s going to agree that I put handcuffs on her and I got some duct tape. That’s going to be okay too.” Like, what the fuck are you talking about, dude?
Terri: It’s just not normal.
Terri: It’s not normal.
Dave: Well, even if he’s not pulled over that day and he gets out of the area before deputies respond, that van is identifiable enough, or when Mark shows up at the next carnival and looks like he got in a fight with a cat.
Dave: Then, people will be like, “Huh, I wonder.”
Terri: He’s like, “I just don’t know what I was thinking,” and we’re all looking at him going, “We don’t know what you were thinking either, guy.”
Mark (on recording): And then the next thing I really remember is the back of the van open, and I had her, and I was like trying to get her in. And then, I’m, it’s like I stepped beside myself and said, “What the hell is going on here? What the hell are you doing?” This horrific thing. I just backed up. And I said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Detective (on recording): You told her you’re sorry?
Mark (on recording): Yeah. By then, she was starting to run. And then, once she got down the road, I said, “I really am sorry.” And then the next thing you know,I started panic and just got in my van.
Yeardley: How old is he about?
Terri: He’s in his 30s.
Yeardley: Okay. And Ariel?
Terri: She’s in her 30s as well.
Dave: But Mark doesn’t have anything in his past to indicate this is something that would be in a strike zone?
Terri: Not that we caught him at.
Dave: Well, you just gave us a hint there, I think.
Terri: That’s how we feel about it. We feel that he might have done this before.
Detective (on recording): These type of cases generally don’t come to us, where the guy is 38, he just decided to do this and there’s no history of it before that. My thoughts are is that there is a history that something else has happened here, something else that you could tell us about.
Mark (on recording): This is the first time I ever attempted anything like this.
Detective (on recording): Thing is here– [crosstalk]
Mark (on recording): If it was, I would tell you guys. This is something that I want to help to figure out know why the hell this happened.
Terri: What kind of person just wakes up one day and says, “I’m going to get a woman with handcuffs and duct tape?”
Yeardley: And you have knives in the back.
Dan: Yeah, what I’m looking at here is he’s got like a rape fantasy, a power fantasy, where he can immobilize his victim. You’ve talked to his ex-girlfriend, who just so happened to just break up with him. So, he’s probably angry and sees a woman and says, “I’m going to take it out on her.”
Detective (on recording): My feeling is very strong right now that you probably have thought about this, at least, prior to this happening, and that is to have sex with a girl under these circumstances, that is to take her where she is struggling and everything, and that excites some people. And then, take her somewhere and have sex with that person. I guess, my question to you right now is, have you fantasized at least those type of feelings?
Mark (on recording): Yeah. I have thought about it, but I never thought that I would actually try it.
Dave: We’re not so naive as to think that Mark hasn’t tried this before or done it somewhere else. I guess, my assumption would be start tracking down former addresses and seeing which cities and counties he was living in if there’s any unsolved or unreported cases.
Terri: We did look for that, we didn’t find anything. I think sometimes these things are– it’s hard for people to report it, which is why I was working the kind of grant that I was at the time. So, either people didn’t report it, or who knows. That’s the thing with people that work in carnivals, they go from state to state all the time. That’s the kind of job that they have.
Dan: Simply the way you title your report might lend itself to being actually findable as a crime. So, if somebody put suspicious conditions as their title, you might not necessarily know that it was an attempted abduction. If it’s titled attempted abduction or attempted rape, then, yeah, it’s easy to find, but depending on your patrol officer who’s taking that initial report, you might not get that.
Terri: True. And even the idea that he was actually sitting in that neighborhood. For me, if you’re sitting in the middle of nowhere where there are no houses on the side of the road, that’s not normal. You should have called law enforcement.
Yeardley: You’re saying that the neighbors who said they saw Mark earlier just sitting in his van for days in the neighborhood, should have called law enforcement?
Terri: Yes. Because obviously, then we do a neighborhood canvass. “Have you ever seen this vehicle in the area?” And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, I saw that.” And I’m like, “Why didn’t somebody call?” Not that would have stopped anything. But I just think, thank goodness that Ariel– and we’ve talked about this. Ariel and I have talked about this, who knows if it had been a little kid, a little girl that wouldn’t have been able to fight him off, or another woman who may have been submissive at first, just because that’s her personality. This could have been a very different case. But Ariel from the very beginning took on the idea that she was just going to fight her way out of it and not let herself be taken.
And as a matter of fact, I called Ariel before I was coming to talk to you guys and told her that I was going to be talking about this case. And I said, “You know, Ariel, I looked at the case again.” Back then, I thought it was such an important case. I said it’s still as important now as it was back then to talk about this case, because this is what women have to know is that you have to have the fight there. You can’t let yourself be taken.
Dan: Yeah, it’s that second location, that’s where we find the body.
Dave: So, now you’ve got suspect in custody. Mark’s on the hook for at least an attempted abduction, attempted sexual assault. I’m curious, did this go to trial?
Terri: He did plead to false imprisonment, attempted kidnapping, and attempted second-degree battery, because at that point, we didn’t have necessarily the sexual assault part of it, even though we knew that that’s probably where it was headed. So, he pled no contest and was sentenced to like 27 years in prison.
Yeardley: And is he still there?
Terri: He is still there.
Yeardley: Wow. What year was this about?
Terri: In the early 2000s.
Yeardley: Had the laws change then since the 80s?
Terri: Since the 80s, they have, yes.
Yeardley: Okay, because I’m remembering the Convicted Criminal and the Devil You Know, which was also your case, Terri. And that guy, whose name was Mitch was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor, and he got a fraction of the time that Mark gets for attempting to kidnap and who knows what else.
Terri: I know. I think the same thing when I look at this case, compared to other cases that I’ve worked that have been so significant.
Dave: I love that the deal that was worked out. You think you pleading guilty, and you’re taking 27 years. I’m glad that the prosecutor recognized, “This is a guy who cannot be walking free among us. I’m going to go for the biggest bite I can.”
Terri: Besides Ariel being an awesome fighter at the scene, she continued her fight throughout. I wish that back in that timeframe that I had actually recorded her statement because she gave an amazing victim statement.
Yeardley: Do one of you awesome detectives want to tell our listeners what a victim statement is?
Dan: A victim statement is a crime victim’s opportunity at sentencing to tell the court and address the suspect, the perpetrator, against that victim how this crime has affected them and other things. Sometimes, it’s insults, sometimes it’s, “Your crime against me did not defeat me. And I’ve been empowered by this.” I particularly like those, because a lot of these suspects, they get off on victimizing people. And if you are no longer their victim, that’s something that they have to take to wherever they’re incarcerated and stew about for hopefully years.
Yeardley: Right. So, Ariel in effect got one over on this guy because she refused to be a victim for the rest of her life.
Dan: She reclaimed the power in whatever this relationship is.
Yeardley: That’s well said. Captain Terri, what did Ariel say in her victim impact statement?
Terri: She was over the top. She was like, “I hope that what you were going to do to me gets done to you.” She really got to get her stuff out there. And I think part of that had an effect on the judge that she was so able to put into words what this trauma had done to her, because some people say, “Well, nothing really happened. She’s safe, right? She got away. She didn’t have anything broken. She didn’t have any real injuries.” It was a life or death thing for her, and she knows it, because she knows what Mark said in that interview and she knows what he was trying to do with those handcuffs. And every day, she has to live with the thought that somebody tried to kill her. Somebody tried to take her and kill her.
Dave: Well, every time she sees a white van on the street approaches, any of the doors, she’s got to worry that the boogeyman is jumping out and grabbing her. There’s this tale of trauma that continues to, I hate to say give, but the victim, the survivor continues to feel that for years.
Terri: Well, and then remember what I told you her job is. She delivers packages at people’s homes. Very difficult for her, anytime she’d have to go to a home and there would be a male there. Ariel and I have been talked off and on throughout the years, and especially in the first couple years, and she just be like, “I’ll go up to a house and I’ll just get this feeling over me. And I just can’t.” And I’m like, “That’s acceptable. Nobody can tell you how you should be healing. Nobody should tell you how long it should take you to be better.” I said, “This is a traumatic thing that doesn’t happen here. And it happened to you.”
The next thing that she did was– I teach at a community college. I teach sexual assault investigation, domestic violence investigation, and we also have a section on victims. She actually comes in and talks to recruits about what it’s like to work with law enforcement, what it’s like to be a survivor of this type of incident, and how it affects the survivor. She’s still willing to put her stuff out there and share it, and even though it’s really difficult. Every time she does it, it’s like going through it again. But she really is willing to put herself out there and try to empower other women, and to make law enforcement aware of, if you don’t treat a victim right, that can make them stay a victim or make them be a survivor depending on how you treat them. She really puts that emphasis when she comes out and talks to them and tells them about her story.
Yeardley: That must be invaluable insight for your recruits into how to handle victims the right way, with empathy and kindness. Instead of what we’ve heard about in some cases, even back to the Devil You Know in season six, where one of the victims, Jody, said she was basically told the first time she was interviewed by a detective, that the sexual assault was her fault. I cannot imagine what would make a victim shut down faster.
Terri: Ariel does talk about that. The other thing she talks about too, was when she first ran up to her house, her mother gets there and her mother wants to go and hug her and we’re like, “Uh, uh, uh. Don’t touch her. Don’t touch her. She’s evidence.”
Yeardley: But how hard not to hug your mother in that moment?
Terri: Yes. What you need to do is explain, “I know that you really want this right now. I know this is what you really need. But what I really need from you in order to hold this person accountable is for you to wait just a little bit longer to do that, so that we can get from you what we need.”
Dave: And I can speak to law enforcement when they go to these, victims and families and witnesses want to know that it’s happening with them, not to them. If you explain along the way why law enforcement wants this and why we need to do this, people buy in, it makes sense to them. If you just say, “Nope, you’re evidence, you can’t hug this person.” If you say it in a way that’s relatable, you say, “I understand you probably do need a hug. Please let us work through this so we can get this evidence. But I understand where you’re coming from.”
It’s another topic that when I had child cases, or any domestic violence or sexual assault case with a victim of any age is, I always let them know they’re in charge throughout the process. It empowers them. It lets them know that things aren’t going to be done to me, they’re being done with me with my consent. You empower that person to make choices about how this process is going to go. You respect what they’ve been through.
And officers who are unable to make that adjustment, don’t have any business having interactions with people that have just suffered trauma like this. Those are officers I want to keep as far away from that scene as possible because they’re going to do something that completely gums up our victim and the whole process of getting information that we need, because now they’ve been victimized again and it’s by someone they called to the scene. Frustrating stuff.
Terri: It is.
Dan: I’m struck by the initial day of this incident. She thinks that the driver of the van needs some directions, and she’s willing to offer that. Now, in her occupation, she delivers packages and she has those instances where the hair on her neck stands up. And that’s something that when I was talking to younger officers, I would encourage them to listen to that. That is a survival instinct that I think a lot of people try to justify, “What are you freaking out about? There’s nothing going on here.” Well, no, your body is picking up some stimulus out there that is telling you, you need to lock it in right now. Be cognizant of what’s going on around you. It’s a survival instinct that your body has, and you need to pay attention to it. Don’t ignore it.
And listeners out there, if you find yourself in a situation like this, it’s a cautionary tale. I don’t trust anybody. If the hair on my neck stands up, I don’t go. “You’re probably overreacting right now.” No, there’s a reason. People are assholes out there, and they try to victimize people and take advantage of them. Please listen to that feeling that you have.
Terri: I think that you’re right. Problem with law enforcement, us, law enforcement officers is that we always see the bad. And so, we’re like looking for the wolf all the time. We’ll see it real easy. And the problem is that the people that aren’t in our field, they don’t want to believe that, that that person really would try to hurt them. “I’m going to go give them directions. They’re lost. This is what we do in this neighborhood. We don’t let people drive around. Even if it’s a man who doesn’t want to get directions, I’m going to go and offer it to them.” [chuckles]
Dave: It’s a fundamental perspective on life is that people that don’t have the experience and training that we do, they don’t have the exposure to night in and night out on patrol going to the worst day of people’s lives ever. They see the good in people and they want to believe that there’s good in everybody, and that there’s no evil or sinister motive behind what people are doing. Whereas in law enforcement, you’re so programmed to always expect the worst from people that I constantly tell people, even if I don’t know that they’re a suspect, but they’re not a victim, I keep telling them, “Keep your hands out of your pockets,” because law enforcement gets ambushed.
There’s always one-offs that is programmed into law enforcement, like 99 times out of 100, nothing bad’s going to happen, but I want to program you to be prepared for that one. We operate in a different space. I don’t default to this person has my best interests in mind, that they have no evil motive about what they’re doing. I don’t just blindly trust when someone calls 911 and says, “I need help.” If there’s circumstances around that that make the hair on my neck stand up, I go, “Is this the one where the guy ambushes me because he hates the cops, and he’s having a bad day?”
Yeardley: Right. Well, hats off to Ariel for trusting her instincts that once she got close to that van, she was like, “No, no, I’m in danger.” And then, she fought for her life. This is on a much smaller scale, but I remember being about eight years old and I was going to summer camp, and I used to walk about a mile to summer camp. And part of that walk was on– it was a busy road, but there were no houses. It was pretty remote, and it was pouring rain, and I was by myself. I’m not very big now, but I was really small. And I looked really, really young when I was a kid. When I was eight, I probably looked like I was five. I have a raincoat. I don’t think I look like an orphan. But I’m walking down this hill and this car pulls up, big car. And this man by himself opens the passenger side door and says, “You want a ride?” I remember looking into the car at him, and I said, “No.” I walk a little faster, and he won’t leave me. He drives several yards and opens the car again and says, “Come on, get in.” And I say, “No,” and then I start to run down to our driveway.
There’s something about that moment, about that car, about that man, that was like, “Danger, do not, do not even go over to the car. Do not do that.” And I’m here today. But even today, I remember that. I remember that moment. I remember it, as people say, like it was yesterday.
Terri: And you can remember all the feelings in that. I’m telling you, Ariel remembers that every day too, and I don’t care what anybody says. That terror that I can only imagine. I’m just her friend that’s lived by her side, and I can imagine the terror and bring myself to tears about how scared I would be. Here it is, it’s 20 something years later. And when I talked to her last week, things were going really well and she’s like, “I’m really glad that you haven’t forgot the case.” And I’m like, “No, I haven’t forgot. I haven’t forgot about you, and I appreciate all you’ve done for us. And we’re not going to ever forget that something traumatic like this has happened to you and that you’ve been good enough to continue to share it with the community.” Because it is important that we remember these people. She’s going through that every day of her life.
Yeardley: I hope it has encouraged other victims to come forward because I know that’s historically really difficult for people to report those things that have happened to them.
Dave: It is. And there’s been a lot of work done in law enforcement to be more sensitive to a victim who’s coming forward, trying to tell you about the worst thing that ever happened to them. We as a profession have evolved. We’re not where we absolutely have to be, but we’re heading in the right direction, and people’s hearts are in the right place. We’re still going to make mistakes, but law enforcement has evolved even in the last 10 years, much less 20 or 30. We’re getting better.
Yeardley: Yeah. Great. Well, Captain Terri, as always, it’s so great to have you sitting across the table from us.
Terri: Thank you for letting me share a story about an awesome survivor. I’m very happy to say that Mark is still in prison and I hope he stays there for a few more years.
Dave: I love it. I love Ariel kicking his ass.
Dan: And he’s got all the handcuffs he could ever want.
Terri: True, true.
Dan: They’re everywhere.
Yeardley: Thank you.
Yeardley: Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by detective Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, 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: If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at smalltowndicks.com, and join the Small Town fam by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @smalltowndicks. We love hearing from you.
And if you support us on Patreon, your subscription will give you access to exclusive content and merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else. Go to patreon.com/smalltowndicks podcast.
Yeardley: That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country.
Dan: In search of the finest rare true crime cases told, as always by the detectives who investigated them.
Dave: Thanks for listening, Small Town fam.
Yeardley: Nobody’s better than you.