Police get called to a marijuana grow operation, where they find a man shot dead near the front door. The shooter is the dead man’s partner in the operation and claims the whole thing was a terrible accident. Det. Justin reviews the evidence and is ready to file the case away until he listens to the 911 tape and hears something that throws the “accident” theory out the window.
The Detective: Detective Justin has been in law enforcement for 10 years and has worked in a variety of assignments from Bike Patrol, K-9, SWAT, Field Training, firearms instruction, and as a Narcotics Detective. In fact, Detective Justin took over Detective Dan’s K-9, Fedo, after Dan had complications with eye surgery.Read Transcript
Ray: [00:00:03] Hello. Hi. Okay. I was cleaning my gun.
911 Dispatcher: [00:00:05] Okay.
Ray: [00:00:06] Walked in the door and startled me.
911 Dispatcher 1: [00:00:08] Okay. Whereon his body was he shot?
April: [00:12:14] I don’t know. Where’d you shoot him? He doesn’t know.
911 Dispatcher: [00:00:12] Okay. Are you able to see where he’s shot?
April: [00:00:14] It looks like he shot him in the head, honestly.
911 Dispatcher: [00:00:17] Okay.
April: [00:00:18] What the fuck did you do, you–
(Small Town Dicks theme)
Yeardley [00:00:21] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. So, I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them, tell us how it happened.
Dan [00:00:46] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:00:47] I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan [00:00:51] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave [00:00:57] 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 [00:01:13] We ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley [00:01:29] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have one of the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:36] Hello.
Yeardley: [00:01:38] Hello. So good to see you.
Dan: [00:01:40] Likewise.
Yeardley: [00:01:41] [chuckles] Thank you. Our own Detective Dave is off fighting crime in Small Town, USA. We hope that he is well and safe. Small town Fam, we’re super excited to welcome back to the podcast, one of our favorite original guests, Detective Justin, who brought us Bait and Switch and Supply Chain, and quite a few others. Justin, it is always wonderful to see you.
Justin: [00:02:09] Happy to be here.
Yeardley: [00:02:10] Thank you for giving up your day off actually to sit down and chat with us. We’re really enormously grateful.
Justin: [00:02:18] Anytime.
Yeardley: [00:02:19] So, Justin, I’m just handing it over to you. Tell us how this case came to you.
Justin: [00:02:24] This case started, was actually a Friday in the summer. It was supposed to be a day off for me. We’d gotten called in on a protest, two sides, flying flags, countering each other over an interstate here in our small town. They needed resources to keep the two sides apart, and so part of our assignments that day were to kind of keep the peace there. It has nothing to do with the case, but already been called in and was here, working and dealing with that. That goes fine and smooth. Both sides decided they’d said enough and go about their ways. We head back, and we’re changing out of our uniforms to go home for the rest of the weekend. As we’re getting back to the police department, the police department gets a call of a gunshot wound at an industrial park in our small town.
[00:03:13] At first, there’s talk of it being accidental and somebody was cleaning their gun, it went off and shot somebody else. At first, there was no indication that there was something more to it than an accident. Our patrol resources respond and arrive at the scene, and pretty quickly determine that the victim of the gunshot wound, Charlie, has died as a result of that gunshot wound. They’re still not sure whether or not it was an accident, as it was reported, or intentional, but because of the serious nature of the injury or death in this case, detectives, myself included, were asked for and requested to come to the scene to help handle the investigation. We change clothes real quick and then head out there to start this investigation into what happened and what led to the shooting and to Charlie’s death.
[00:04:04] The individual responsible for the shooting, Ray, is still on scene. He didn’t flee or anything like that. He’s there, kind of just hanging tight with one of our patrol guys, when I get there. I’m initially briefed on what happened or what we know to have happened. I introduced myself to Ray, and Ray’s a younger adult in his mid-20s, and him and I get along. He’s pretty calm, almost overly calm when I first meet him about what’s going on and what happened, and fully aware that he’s responsible for the gun going off and the gun is what killed Charlie. There’s no question about who done it, so this case becomes what exactly happened and why did it happen? Because accidents have happened and a lot of times, they’re not fatal, but that’s happened too where mishandling a firearm leads to a discharge and somebody gets hurt. That’s kind of where my mind was at initially. But like any case, we don’t fully commit to one explanation or the other, especially right away. We don’t know what we don’t know. We keep all avenues open and work through stuff the best we can.
[00:05:17] As I meet Ray, he pretty quickly indicates that he wants to talk to me, but he wants to have a lawyer present, which for a police detective is kind of the end of that, because the very next thing that happens is they meet with their lawyer, their lawyer says, “We’re not talking to the police,” and that’s the end of any kind of interview I may have. Then, we have to build the case on everything else, which happens and isn’t uncommon. He has that right. We transport him to the police department, but pretty quick, we have an attorney lined up for Ray, or the family does. He’s on his way to the police department.
As this is happening, everything else with the investigation is kind of occurring at the same time, which again includes processing the scene, and figuring out what we can learn from the physical evidence there. There’s some other evidence that we have that we’re able to become aware of early on that sometimes we don’t pay attention to right away. In this case, I’m talking about the 911 call. They get listened to, they’re important in all these cases, but in this one, given the time delay that we had waiting for the attorney to be contacted and arrive, I was able to actually listen to that tape.
[00:06:27] Listening to that tape is when the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I got the feeling that there might be something more to this than it was an accident. I’m on guard. And that 911 tape’s pretty compelling, the initial caller is Charlie’s girlfriend, April. What ends up happening is Charlie and April and Ray run a marijuana dispensary, grow type business here in our state. By all accounts, everything they’re doing business-wise is on the up and up. It’s not an illegal grow operation. They’re permitted and it’s a legitimate business operation, like growing tomatoes, or whatever agricultural product you want. It’s an indoor grow inside this industrial building, but it’s legal for all practical purposes.
They’ve partnered up in this group to grow marijuana and sell it. It’s legal in our state. There’s not a whole lot of money to be made because of that. So, there’s always a black-market side of these legal operations, whether it’s in state without some of the taxes or shipping it to states where it may be illegal, is where you could actually make some money.
Yeardley: [00:07:38] And the three of them run that business?
Justin: [00:07:41] Correct.
Yeardley: [00:07:41] Were they all roughly in their 20s?
Justin: [00:07:43] Charlie was a little bit older, probably late 30s. Then, April was kind of in between the two. They teamed up as a group to run this grow operation. On this day, Charlie and April are coming into town from their house just out of town to pick up a part for a car. They have no intention of stopping by the grow, the business. They’re simply headed to town to pick up a car part. Their route takes them by this industrial park, and they’re able to see Ray’s car parked at the shop. They last minute decide, “Oh, we’ll swing in.” They hadn’t crossed paths in a couple days, hadn’t talked to him, everyone busy. They figured, “Hey, we’ll stop in and say hi and see what’s going on.” They pull into the parking lot.
Charlie gets out of the car and walks in casually to the front door of the industrial building, it’s kind of a metal warehouse, opens the door up casually, takes a step or two in and then he gets shot.
Yeardley: [00:08:42] Oh!
Justin: [00:08:44] And the initial 911 call happens after April doesn’t see Charlie come back in kind of an appropriate amount of time. She’s not exactly sure what’s going on, so she goes inside to investigate and sees Charlie on the ground and Ray there with a gun. She doesn’t know exactly what’s going on and calls 911 and basically says, “My boyfriend got shot by my business partner. This is where we’re at. We need help.”
Yeardley: [00:09:12] What’s Ray’s affect? Is he saying, “Yes, you have to call 911,” or is he–?
Justin: [00:09:17] Ray is scary calm. I know that because he ends up taking the phone from April while the 911 call’s connected. His first words to 911 are, “Yeah, um, okay, I was cleaning my gun and it went off,” and continues on, but just the affect in his voice is so monotone and deadpan that it’s like, if you just shoot your business partner on accident that’s not how you react. It’s just not. April’s panicked. She’s screaming. She’s all over the place emotionally as is to be expected, but as soon as she hands the phone to Ray, it’s eerie. That hair on the back of my neck that kind of started after listening to the call, this is when that happened. Everyone reacts to stress differently and handles it differently, but you have to hear this audio to appreciate it.
(911 call conversation)
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:12] 911, what’s the address of the emergency?
April: [00:10:14] Hi, I’m at [beep]. My partner shot my boyfriend, but actually he’s not moving.
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:21] Okay. Just one moment. Okay, where’s your friend now?
April: [00:10:25] What? He’s– he’s here with me.
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:26] Okay, and he shot your boyfriend?
April: [00:10:28] Yes.
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:29] Okay, where’s your boyfriend right now?
April: [00:10:31] He’s lyi– lying on the ground, he– he’s not responding. I need someone now. He’s not moving.
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:35] I have this information in for you, okay? And where’s your friend in the building right now?
April: [00:10:39] He’s not moving his legs. He’s unloading the gun. It was an accident.
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:43] Where’s the gun right now?
April: [00:10:45] He’s unlo– He’s unloading it. I saw him, he’s unloading it.
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:49] Okay, just one moment, getting all this information in for you. Okay, what’s your first name?
April: [00:10:51] Oh, my God! [sobbing]
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:52] What is your first name? (beep)
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:54] Okay, where are you out on the property?
April: [00:10:56] I’m– I’m in the– I’m in the (beep)
911 Dispatcher: [00:10:58] Okay.
April: [00:10:59] Please hurry! Oh my God!
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:00] I’m just getting this updated information in for you, okay? Are you able to put any pressure on the wound at all?
April: [00:11:05] I don’t know. He’s not moving, he’s laying on his stomach.
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:07] Okay. Is he turning in blue?
April: [00:11:10] I don’t know! (wailing)
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:14] Can you see if he’s breathing at all?
April: [00:11:16] Is he breathing? (pause) (shrieks) No, he’s not breathing!
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:20] Okay, are you able to get right next to him, so we can do CPR?
April: [00:11:24] I can’t. I don’t know. There’s so much blood. I don’t think he’s moving, he’s laying on his stomach. (crosstalk)
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:28] Okay. We need to do CPR on him, okay? Are you able to do that?
April: [00:11:32] -CPR. Oh my God. [wailing]
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:35] Ma’am, who else is there with you?
April: [00:11:37] The- the guy who shot him.
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:38] Okay, can he do CPR?
April: [00:11:40] (wailing)
Ray: [00:11:44] Hello. Hi. Okay. I was cleaning my gun.
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:47] Okay.
Ray: [00:11:47] Walked in the door and startled me.
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:49] Okay. Okay. That’s okay. Is he breathing right now?
Ray: [00:11:53] I don’t believe so. I’m– I’m feeling his pulse, I don’t feel anything, and I don’t see his chest moving.
911 Dispatcher: [00:11:58] Okay, would you be able to do CPR?
Ray: [00:12:01] I– I can do CPR, but I’m– (crosstalk)
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:02] Okay.
Ray: [00:12:03] Yes. I can– Yeah. I’m– I’m gonna put the phone down– (crosstalk)
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:05] Okay. Just put it– just put it on speaker. Okay.
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:08] Where was he shot?
April: [00:12:10] Where’s the ambulance?
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:11] Whereon his body was he shot?
April: [00:12:14] I don’t know. Where’d you shoot him?
Ray: [00:12:17] I don’t fucking know.
April: [00:12:18] Okay, (unintelligible) He doesn’t know.
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:21] Okay, we have– we have responders coming as quickly as they can. Okay, I’m just trying to get this information for them. Okay? Are you able to see where he’s shot?
April: [00:12:29] It looks like he shot him in the head honestly.
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:32] Okay.
April: [00:12:33] What the fuck did you do? You– What– Are you–
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:37] Can you lead in responders? We have people arriving right now. Can you lead in the responders?
April: [00:12:42] Can I see them? Yes, I can–
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:43] Can you lead them in to the patient?
April: [00:12:45] He’s right there. (wailing)
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:51] Okay, and where is the gun right now?
April: [00:12:54] I don’t know. It’s on the ground.
911 Dispatcher: [00:12:55] Okay, on the ground where?
April: [00:12:58] It’s on the ground– on the– on the ground in front of the door. I can see it.
911 Dispatcher: [00:13:02] Can you go lead in the responders for me?
April: [00:13:04] Yeah, they’re here. (crosstalk)
911 Dispatcher: [00:13:05] Okay, I’m gonna go and let you off the line to them, okay?
April: [00:13:08] Where’s the ambulance?
911 Dispatcher: [00:13:09] It’s on the way. Are there police officers there now?
April: [00:13:12] Yes.
Police Officer: [00:13:13] Just coming in right now.
911 Dispatcher: [00:13:15] All right. Thank you.
Justin: [00:13:20] That call right there is, like I said, what changed my mindset approaching this case to that there’s something more or at least some more explanation that we need, because that’s just not right. It’s so not normal that we’ve got to explore this.
Yeardley: [00:13:46] Hey, Producer Nick.
Nick: [00:13:47] Hello, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:13:48] How are you?
Nick: [00:13:49] Fantastic. How about yourself?
Yeardley: [00:13:50] I’m so good because I’m playing Best Fiends.
Nick: [00:13:53] Oh, I know you love yourself some Best Fiends.
Yeardley: [00:13:55] In case you forgotten, Best Fiends is all about the bugs defeat the slugs. And your job is to get as big a bug army as you can. Then, of course, they bring their own luggage, like they have outfits and hats and props.
Nick: [00:14:10] Decking them out in some gear.
Yeardley: [00:14:12] In fact, you can style your bug. Meanwhile, the slugs, because they’re slugs, they don’t have a lot of gear. The slugs have these pretty wicked powers and they try to defeat your bugs. But your bugs are a united army in this really fun, engaging, match three puzzle game. It’s a casual game. The other things about Best Fiends that are great are they invent new strategies regularly and you can play wherever you are, so you don’t even need Wi-Fi. You could play in a submarine. You could play in a tunnel.
Nick: [00:14:46] So, that means that I can play at grandma’s house because she doesn’t have any Wi-Fi?
Yeardley: [00:14:49] Exactly. In that case, you should teach grandma how to play Best Fiends. It’s like a cool river float for your brain on a hot day.
Nick: [00:14:58] Nice!
Yeardley: [00:14:59] Yeah!
Nick: [00:14:59] Download the five-star rated puzzle game, Best Fiends, free today on the App Store or Google Play. That’s friends without the R. Best Fiends.
Yeardley: [00:15:09] Slugs and bugs. Do it!
Justin: [00:15:21] We are still waiting for the attorney to show up to get a chance to talk with Ray, decide whether or not they want to speak with us. We’re able to talk with April. There’s this cloud over this whole case from both April and Ray, that have this concern about being in the marijuana business. They don’t want to fully disclose everything they have going on, because there’s this preconceived notion that it’s illegal marijuana and drugs, and that’s the last thing on my mind. Yeah, it’s important, because that’s what they’re doing, but even if they were selling every ounce of marijuana they grew illegally, I’m concerned about how Charlie ended up dead, not about drug sales, legal or otherwise.
That makes it hard, because when you have a witness that has good information about a case, but wants to be guarded, you start to distrust them, you start to almost treat them like a suspect. When in reality, they’re not only a witness, but in a way, a victim of this case as well, their boyfriend just got shot and killed. It’s a hard dynamic to manage, because you’ve got to get the information, you don’t want to treat him like a suspect, but they’re hiding something feels like and so it’s this kind of back and forth in order to move forward in the case.
[00:16:37] Another detective is tasked with interviewing April. They work through this. She doesn’t have a whole lot to add other than some historical information about the business and how they came to be partners. Again, it was all over growing marijuana and trying to turn it into a profitable business. It hadn’t been a long-term thing. It was, I think, less than a year of business partnership, but they nonetheless had agreed to do this. Charlie had more experience in the sales side of things. We never fully discovered or proved or knew anything for a fact, but it’s the belief that Charlie brought about a sales outlet where they could make more money than what Ray had been able to do with the business prior to Charlie joining on as a partner.
He had some kind of connection, whether it was in state, out of state, or something that allowed them to be more profitable, probably in an illegal manner, which again, explained some of that reluctance to tell us everything that was going on. But again, our focus is how Charlie ended up dead.
[00:17:42] We have some time. The attorney arrives for Ray. They’re given privacy and have an attorney-client conversation about whatever it is they wanted to discuss and counter to what I thought was going to happen, agreed to do an interview and talk about what happened. Dan could probably speak to it, that doesn’t happen.
Dan: [00:17:59] It happens on television.
Yeardley: [00:18:00] (chuckles)What do you mean, we don’t get it right?
Dan: [00:18:03] That’s fiction, that is Law & Order, that is Hill Street Blues type stuff. That doesn’t happen in the real world.
Justin: [00:18:10] They agreed to an interview, and myself and another detective joined Ray and his attorney in an interview room and proceed to talk about what happened. Just like before, there’s no question on who had the gun, the gun went off, the gun caused Charlie to die. It was that what was happening and what led to it. At this point, Ray had settled on this, “I was cleaning my gun, and it went off” story. What’s interesting about this is he initially tells April, when she comes inside and sees Charlie on the ground, Ray tells April, “He came at me.” We had that little piece of information, which is different.
Yeardley: [00:18:53] Really different. Really, really different.
Justin: [00:18:56] So, we have a change in story there. We start talking and he ends up abandoning, or modifying this cleaning my gun story and I don’t know why, but it morphs in the interview from that to, “I was practicing drawing my gun and pointing it at a tub on the shelf, and when Charlie came in, it startled me and I accidentally pulled the trigger and the gun went off.”
Dan: [00:19:24] Which still isn’t “he came at me.”
Justin: [00:19:26] Right. Now, we’re on third story.
Yeardley: [00:19:28] From Ray, who can’t seem to make up his mind.
Justin: [00:19:32] Right.
Dan: [00:19:32] What kind of gun is this? It’s a pistol obviously.
Justin: [00:19:35] Yep, it’s a small nine-millimeter handgun, Smith and Wesson, semiautomatic handgun.
Dan: [00:19:41] Okay. All right. My mind’s working already.
Yeardley: [00:19:44] What’s it working on?
Dan: [00:19:45] Shell casing? Where’s the shell casing at?
Yeardley: [00:19:47] What will that tell you?
Dan: [00:19:48] Well, it just paints a picture. It describes the scene. It kind of gives you the location of where Ray was standing at when Charlie got shot.
Yeardley: [00:19:57] Who cleans the gun with a fully loaded chamber?
Dan: [00:20:00] You don’t.
Yeardley: [00:20:01] I don’t know anything about guns, but that doesn’t seem to be very sensible.
Dan: [00:20:05] It’s a good way of cleaning your own clock.
Yeardley: [00:20:07] [laughs] All right, so now we have three stories from Ray. His lawyer is present. You’ve had to Mirandize him, or is this just a casual chat?
Justin: [00:20:17] He’s been advised prior to coming to the police department. I don’t know what his attorney and him spoke about, because they have a right to privacy for that conversation, but any attorney worth their weight would readvise or is aware of that. In a lot of ways, having an attorney present for the suspect shifts some of that burden off of me. Granted, I’ve already satisfied it by advising him. But anyone that’s going to argue that that statement wasn’t free and voluntary, when his attorney is sitting in the room with him, not stopping him, letting it go, what more am I supposed to do as a detective? I can only ask the questions.
Dan: [00:20:52] Well, I’m scratching my head over this, because if you’re an attorney, he probably had an initial conversation with Ray. Ray told him, “Hey, I was cleaning my gun, it went off on accident.” It sounds to me like the attorney probably said, “Well, that passes the smell test for me. Yeah, we can sit down, and we’ll talk about that with the detective.” But once Ray starts morphing his story, I’m very surprised that the attorney didn’t shut that interview down.
Justin: [00:21:19] Right. We carry on this interview. it goes on for a while. We talk about several things, obviously the business relationship and how that developed and how they met. We get into some of Ray’s background. Ray at one point wanted to get into armed private security. In our state, there’s a governing body for that type of work, and they keep training records and issue certificates and certifications for that. We talked about that. Some of his other life history stuff, he was an Eagle Scout, and not just the description of being a good person, he was honest to God, an Eagle Scout, had attained that status through scouts. We talk about all this stuff. I think they might think we’re talking about it just to pass time or something, but there’s a reason for it, and a part of scouts, or especially the armed security side of things, there’s instruction on weapon handling, and carelessness, and all the considerations that go around that practical range experience. It’s not like he’s a first-time gun buyer that had no idea what he was doing. He has a level of training and experience with weapons that make this accident less likely an accident, or again, err towards something else happened here.
[00:22:30] As I figure those things out, I’m making notes in my head, those are things that we can come back to, or I can get my hands on the training records from the state agency that governs it. I can go to the trainer that provided the training and see what their course looks like, which I did later on. There’s a question on the trainer that trained Ray in being an armed security professional, he has a written test. The first question reads, “If you accidentally shoot someone, you may be charged with a crime,” and on the test crossed out “may and will” is replaced in Ray’s handwriting. The question reads, “If you accidentally shoot someone, you will be charged with a crime. True or false?” He says true. There’s no doubt that he understands the significance and the stakes when it comes to weapons and firearms. It’s not like, “This was a horrible accident. I didn’t expect to get in trouble for it.” There’s no doubt, it’s on the test.
Dan: [00:23:23] Justin’s one of our firearms instructors. When I qualify every year at my agency, Justin’s the one who marks me off, and make sure that I hit the target every time because we can’t miss. So, Justin’s got a very good working knowledge on firearms, firearm safety, and protocols. Everything firearm, Justin is an expert in.
Yeardley: [00:23:44] Right. Okay. I can say it, Ray’s full of shit. There, I said it. He doesn’t pass the smell test.
Justin: [00:23:50] Right. That’s a big guiding tool for us is that smell test. If something doesn’t seem right, or you have questions, or you can’t wrap your head around it, it’s worth looking into, you have to. That’s what makes a good detective. You can’t just be satisfied with, “Oh, he says he was cleaning his gun that went off.” Well, that’s the second story after he came at me. Then the next story is, “I was practicing with my gun.” Which one is it? Which one is it? This case is much harder if we don’t almost immediately have three different stories. If he came at me, and we maintain that and that’s the story, it makes my life a whole lot harder in this case.
Yeardley: [00:24:27] Why is it harder if Ray just sticks to that one story, “Charlie came at me”?
Dan: [00:24:33] Well, for a couple of reasons. The first reason is you have to be able to corroborate what he’s telling you with the evidence that’s in front of you that you’re seeing at the scene. Why it becomes easier for Justin for the hair on his neck to stand up and you have that, it’s not passing the smell test moment, is Ray’s story’s changing, and that is a big red flag to us that, “Okay, there’s more to this than what we’re hearing,” and now you’re going to be really critical of the evidence and what is being told to you.
Yeardley: [00:25:04] It’s kind of a gift when a suspect says, “It happened this way. Oh, no, no, wait. It happened this way.”
Dan: [00:25:10] Absolutely, because the truth is the truth. The story shouldn’t be changing. If the story’s changing, then the bullshit meter’s spiking.
Yeardley: [00:25:17] Yeah, you guys always say, it’s easy to remember the truth.
Dan: [00:25:21] Yeah.
Justin: [00:25:21] Yeah. We keep talking with Ray and his attorney. It’s odd, because this isn’t something we do. We don’t talk to suspects with their attorney. I’ve never done it before this, and I haven’t done it since. But I’m aware of this attorney in the room, and I don’t want to push so hard, and ask such pointed questions that they say, “Okay, we’re done talking.” At the same time, I have to try to get the information I need, and so it’s this weird balancing act that I’d never done before.
Yeardley: [00:25:49] That’s a very special sort of dance.
Justin: [00:25:51] Yeah, it’s a weird one. There’s like two people in the room on each side, me and another detective, and Ray and his attorney. It’s this like four-person dance. I know Ray is feeding me untruthful statements about certain things, but I just accept them at the time because I know I’m either going to circle back to that, or I’m going to be able to come up with physical evidence to contradict that. I’d much rather keep the lines of communication open, as opposed to, “I know that didn’t happen. You’re lying. You said he came at you.” Well, as soon as I start getting accusatory, that attorney’s probably going to shut it down. Now, could I’ve gotten away with it? Maybe.
Yeardley: [00:26:28] But why take that chance?
Justin: Why take the chance? A provable lie is almost as good as the truth in our world. I give Ray the rope he needs to hang himself, and let him talk and just accept it, get as much information as I can through the initial portion of the interview. We get towards the end of it, and again, we have three stories now. It’s weird, hair on the back of the neck, the statements from April, that Ray said Charlie came at him inside, not everything’s adding up. We want to do what we call a walkthrough, where they take us to the scene and then the real environment, show us where people were, what happened, when it happened, it can show us how they’re standing. You learn so much more from that than talking about it.
At one point, we had Ray draw a hand-drawn map kind of the inside of the business location with the different rooms for different stages of plant growth, and where are the things were inside, and that helped, but it’s still not as good as being there for real. The problem is, with this case, we’re in the midst of executing a search warrant, searching a location, processing the scene for the physical evidence that we need that we don’t want to contaminate by going back into the scene, and so we’ve got some time to kill.
Yeardley: [00:27:44] Sorry, you have time to kill in order for that search warrant to be executed?
Dan: [00:27:48] You’ve got to wait for them to finish processing that crime scene before you go in and do this walkthrough, because you might contaminate it.
Justin: [00:27:56] Right. It’s getting late in the day now, people need sleep, need food. I’ve got other things that I need to do instead of just sitting room with him, because we’re kind of at that point interview wise, where all I have left is to confront him on stuff, but I really want this walkthrough. We are able to negotiate with his attorney and with Ray, for Ray to spend the night in our municipal jail, voluntarily, which is always nice when they agree to it. I have probable cause at this point to arrest him for crimes. At the same time, we can detain individuals for a reasonable amount of time to investigate crimes. But again, it’s nice to play nice, and I’m trying to keep him and the attorney on our side, so they’ll talk, they’ll do the walkthrough. We agree that Ray’s going to spend the night in our jail and first thing in the morning, we’ll all get back together, meet at the scene, and conduct this walkthrough.
Yeardley: [00:28:49] Dan is shaking his head in disbelief.
Dan: [00:28:52] I just like– I have a lot of questions, but I’m grateful that the attorney is being so accommodating, but I just am not used to that. Most attorneys would say, “No, my client is going to go home and sleep in his own bed tonight.”
Justin: [00:29:06] Well, I kept waiting for that to happen. I talk about pushing and pushing my luck, at some point, I’m going to get told, no, I’m going to have to play my card of, “Well, this is what I think or no happened, and then this is all. It’s going to be over.” Every time I get to, that’s one of those points where it’s like, “Hey, I want to do a walkthrough.” “Okay, yeah.” Then, I’m worried that, “Well, no, my client’s going to go home.” “I can’t let that happen. I’m thinking he murdered somebody, I can’t let him go.” We do this little back and forth dance, and they agree for him to stay in our jail overnight and then we’d meet back together in the morning and do the walkthrough.
Ray gets taken over to our jail and he’s held in a not lodge or housed like a full inmate would be, but he’s in a prebooking type sell where he’s got access to water and food and the things he would need, and so he’s there basically spending the night while I’m able to go back and help process the scene and that helps me get a better understanding of what I’m going to get into the next morning in that walkthrough.
Dan: [00:30:04] You must be the most charming young man.
Yeardley: [00:30:07] [laughs] He’s pretty charming.
Dan: [00:30:09] He is charming. I love me some Justin.
Yeardley: [00:30:11] Or that attorney is– it was their first day or something. It doesn’t make any sense, does it?
Dan: [00:30:17] Maybe this is what’s going through the attorney and Ray’s head is, “The more cooperative we are, the more they’re going to believe us.”
Yeardley: [00:30:26] Sure. Okay.
Dan: [00:30:27] That’s the only thing that I can think of.
Yeardley: [00:30:29] That, and I think whatever Ray told the attorney, I think the attorney just took that for the truth and didn’t pick up on the changing in stories and/or not hammering on, “Well, you said earlier this.” I never once went down that road, because at some point, it’s going to kind of tip them off to, “Wait a second. My client’s lying, we’re done.”
Dan: [00:30:47] Oh, that definitely changes the temperature in the room.
Justin: [00:30:50] Exactly.
Yeardley: [00:30:51] Yeah, just as a side note, had Ray or Charlie, had you ever met them in law enforcement capacity prior to this?
Justin: [00:31:00] Nope. Neither one of them were known to myself or anyone else. They had relatively minor, if any, criminal history to speak of, traffic stop kind of stuff. Charlie had some history from other states before he came to our state, but nothing violent or dynamic, but some drug-type stuff, which kind of furthered our belief that maybe somehow he was involved in the drugs being sold out of state or on the black market side of this. He had a little bit of criminal history, but he wasn’t a known player in our small town.
Dan: [00:31:32] Well, you have to pass background checks to have a marijuana grow too, don’t you, to be certified by the state?
Justin: [00:31:39] There are some checks. I think that’s where some of the business relationship came in, where Ray was able to pass those checks. I mean he’s an Eagle Scout, former armed security guy, and so they kind of were able to get it on his credit, if you will.
Dan: [00:31:52] So, Charles is got the market for it.
Justin: [00:31:52] Right. We’ve agreed for Ray to stay the night in our jail. I go on out to the scene, and we’re processing the scene, and kind of what you would expect inside. It’s a metal building with a couple garage-style overhead doors with a man door kind of in between them. As you go into the man door, to your right, there’s kind of an office/living/sitting room area set up. To your left is some storage shells, and then built within the large metal building are smaller grow rooms, and each of them have marijuana plants in different stages of growth. I don’t know enough about it to comment on it, but some are ready to harvest and some are not ready to harvest.
At one point, Ray took us through the whole lifecycle of it, because he knows it and he’s an expert, but I didn’t commit it to memory, because that’s not what I was there for. There’s rooms within rooms is what’s important to remember here, and there’s probably four or five feet from the ceiling of these grow rooms to the top of the metal building. So, there’s a crawlspace, attic loft, whatever you want to call it. There’s not good access, but there’s buckets and some old duct work and stuff stored up on top of the grow rooms. We were searching the common area as you come into the door. The shooting happened right as Charlie walked in the door. Half a step inside the building, happened almost immediately as he entered the building. There’s evidence and blood consistent with that on the floor, just inside the door.
[00:33:28] Dan had talked about the shell casing. It’s in the room, kind of off to the right, and it’s a ways away from the front door.
Dan: [00:33:37] Any gun cleaning materials sitting out?
Justin: [00:33:40] Nothing. No gun cleaning supplies, nothing that you could even be using to clean a gun. Nothing. He wasn’t cleaning a gun. That’s probably why Ray changed that story, I think, is because he realized in his mind as he’s trying to keep up, that, “They’re going to go in there and they’re not going to see it. So, I’ve got to modify this to something that they can’t disprove based on evidence.” We’re finding what we expect to find. But then, one of our detectives on his own, he crawls up on top of the grow room in the main portion of this business, crawls up there by scaling the two by four walls and spidermanning between–
Yeardley: [00:34:16] [laughs]
Justin: [00:34:16] –the inside wall and the outside wall to get up there. Gets up there and he’s going through junk that’s been stored up there for who knows how long. As he’s doing that, he finds a black hooded sweatshirt. Okay, black hooded sweatshirt. Well, it’s on a hanger through the neck hole like you’d hang up any shirt. Also hanging on the same hanger is a bulletproof vest carrier with a ballistic steel plate in the carrier.
Yeardley: [00:34:39] What’s the carrier?
Dan: [00:34:40] Your vest is just fabric. The carrier is actually a pocket in your bulletproof vest where you put the Kevlar panels in it. Then, there’s also a secondary carrier for a trauma plate which is usually what, like a five-by-five-inch square piece of Kevlar or you can use a hard panel to go in there, that gives you extra protection for your vital organs right in the middle of your chest. That’s a carrier.
Justin: [00:35:05] So, we find this, but we don’t know what it means. It’s armor, it’s thrown up there, it’s in a weird spot. It doesn’t match the level of dust and dirt, but everything else it’s freshly put up there and there was a shooting there. Now, we have body armor, what’s going on?[music]
Yeardley: [00:35:28] Hey, Producer Nick.
Nick: [00:35:29] Hey, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:35:29] Where are you going to go this summer?
Nick: [00:35:31] There’s a bunch of weddings, some bachelor parties here and there. Who knows? But no matter where I go, I always bring my Raycons along.
Yeardley: [00:35:39] I saw your Raycons, what’s that color?
Nick: [00:35:42] Rose gold.
Yeardley: [00:35:43] Those are beautiful! Small town Fam, whether you are, let’s say, listening to an episode of Small Town Dicks, or Nick Smitty’s playlist on Spotify– How many of those do you have?
Nick: [00:35:56] I sample about two or three of them.
Yeardley: [00:35:58] You want to be listening on your Raycons.
Nick: [00:36:01] Raycons look great and feel great. They come in a range of colors too. Even though I have my rose gold, you can get yourself some flair red, or carbon black, electric blue, colors for days. And Raycons are built to go wherever you go, quick and seamless Bluetooth pairing and a compact charging case.
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Nick: [00:36:50] That’s 15% off at buyraycon.com/smalltown.
Yeardley: [00:37:01] [scatting]
Justin:[00:37:12] We see this sweatshirt, and carrier and armor plate. It gets lodged at our police department. I’m able to then watch the security video from the complex. There’s a camera angle almost directly across from the front door of this business that shows the whole thing.
Yeardley: [00:37:29] Is the camera inside the business or is that at another business facing this business?
Justin: [00:37:34] It’s at the neighboring business across the parking lot. It covers the outside front door area of the marijuana grow, but it’s clear, color. It’s good video. It’s rolling and it captures everything from when Ray arrives that day, to when Charlie and April arrive, and it shows Charlie’s walk to the door and almost catches the entirety of the actual shooting. You see Charlie open the door, casually. He doesn’t swing it open. He’s carrying in a drink in one hand, opens the door, takes a step in, and just as he starts to disappear kind of into the shadow of the interior, because you can’t see in because it’s a bright day, but just as he steps inside the threshold, you see his body recoil and then collapse. You see him get shot without seeing the actual round fired, but you see his body react to being shot.
Yeardley: [00:38:25] But didn’t you say that the shell casing was about 20 feet away from the front door?
Justin: [00:38:29] Correct.
Yeardley: [00:38:30] Would the showcasing fly that far? Or, would that indicate that Ray was 20 feet from the door not right at the door?
Justin: [00:38:37] Well, the casing wouldn’t travel that far and end up that far away. So, Ray was farther from the door than he says he was or than he wants us to believe. He was kind of deep inside this room off to the right. The video shows Charlie step in, get shot. He falls, and when he falls, he falls kind of into a seated position with his back against the door. It’s kind of holding it open, and he’s down. He’s clearly taken a very significant gunshot. The next thing you see and you can’t see what’s causing it, but you see his body lurched forward, and he’s actually being pulled into the building. The only other person in the building at this time is Ray.
So, Ray is pulling Charlie’s body into the building. He gets that done. Then from inside, you see an arm reach up and grab the top of the door that leads outside and just grabs the top of it and tries to shut it from the inside without being visible, tries to shut that door. That doesn’t work. I don’t know it was the angle that he was grabbing at or whatever, but he’s unable to shut the door without being seen.
Yeardley: [00:39:42] So, Ray grabs the top of the doorway after Charlie is shot and tries to close it and he can’t. Why doesn’t he use the doorknob?
Justin: [00:39:49] The door opens out towards the parking lot and the hinges are on the side that Ray is on, and so for some reason, he doesn’t want to expose himself in that open doorway. He’s trying to stay kind of hidden behind the door and out of sight. You just see his hand come up and try to shut the door. It’s an effort to try to conceal everything and keep it inside the building and doesn’t go as planned.
Yeardley: [00:40:11] Okay.
Justin: [00:40:12] Ray, then goes to step out of the business to see what the coast looks like and look out in the parking lot. There’s an uninvolved foreign exchange student in the parking lot working on his car, has nothing to do with this business. He just happens to be there working on his car. As Ray steps out, he puts his finger to his lips and gives this foreign exchange student shush motion.
Yeardley: [00:40:38] No.
Justin: [00:40:39] Shushes this exchange student, and so this foreign exchange student beats feet, gets in his car and leaves. He takes off. Well, Ray’s now exposed, and this is when April kind of is like, “What’s going on?” Gets that, “This has been a while,” and gets out of the car to go check on things and see what happened.
Ray’s out of the building, sees April. Ray retreats into the building before her, and as he does that, you’re able to see in this camera angle, he draws the gun again out of the holster– it was in in his pants. He draws the gun as he retreats back into the building. April follows him a step or two behind and enters the building and the door shuts and you can’t see what’s going on. April says that inside, Ray points the gun at her, then offers that first explanation that Charlie came at him. He quits pointing the gun at her. She gets on the phone calls 911 and Ray panics, and is moving around inside and coming out and unloading the gun and sets the magazine on the hood of a car that’s in the parking lot, and then retreats back into the building several times while April’s on the phone with 911. Ultimately, she hands the phone off to him.
Yeardley: [00:41:50] Why does April give the phone to Ray?
Justin: [00:41:52] She’s so distraught at what just happened that she’s provided a very basic amount of information, but the call taker is not going to get any more from her, and they’re trying to determine if somebody needs to perform CPR or any kind of first aid on Charlie. The 911 operator actually asks if there’s anyone else there. Of course, April indicates Ray’s there, and so they ask to talk to Ray because maybe he’s got it together enough to maybe render some aid. That’s how the handoff happens and then that 911 call ends up sounding the way it does.
What’s more interesting about the video is we have video from when Ray arrives at the location, he gets there first well before Charlie and April. When he gets there, he makes three trips back and forth to his car carrying things in. Well, one of the things he carries in is a black sweatshirt on a hanger.
Yeardley: [00:42:41] [chuckles] Does Ray not know that there’s a super good security camera from another business right across the parking lot?
Justin: [00:42:48] He’s aware of cameras. They have cameras of their own that are in various stages of functioning, but we don’t catch the smart ones.
Yeardley: [00:42:56] [chuckles] That’s not true. The dumb ones make your life easier, but you also catch the smart ones!
Dan: [00:43:02] I just had a lightbulb moment in this case.
Yeardley: [00:43:05] Dan’s had a couple. He’s sitting across from me and his jaw has dropped twice in the last, I’d say, four minutes as Justin goes through the tale, and Dan goes, [gasps] he’s much less vocal about his gasping than I. Okay, carry on.
Dan: [00:43:19] Hey, I’m going to get this out there. Talking about the surveillance footage and Ray saying that Charlie came at him, that’s bullshit, because on the surveillance video, we’ve got Charlie having a drink in one hand, and he makes it a half step inside the building. I’m guessing he got ten-ringed. Ten-ring is Charlie got hitting the off switch by this bullet, and if you think about the way that Justin describes Charlie falling to the ground, where he just collapses, that’s like flicking an off switch for the human body. He was dead before he hit the ground. That’s how fast that happened. It’s like a robot, if you hit the off switch, and [imitating quick fall sound] they just fall.
Yeardley: [00:44:00] Plus, as you say, Charlie had a drink in his hand as he opened the door.
Dan: [00:44:04] He wasn’t coming at him. It’s just BS.
Yeardley: [00:44:07] Okay, go on. We have all this video, which is incredible.
Justin: [00:44:13] As we’re watching Ray arrive at the location first, he’s carrying some stuff in– well, he carries a sweatshirt in. But then, you can see from the video what he does with the sweatshirt. If you’re looking at the outside of the building, open man door, and just inside of that is a plastic shelving unit that’s like six and a half feet tall with four or five shelves on it. You can see it in the video, he takes that sweatshirt and hanger, and hangs it on that shelving unit. It’s hanging there. It looks like it has some weight to it but you can’t see anything other than this black sweatshirt, but it’s got some heft to it. You can just tell when something’s heavy. It’s not just a sweatshirt. Now, just on the video, you can say, “Ah, maybe looked odd, but maybe just the way the video was pixelated or something.” No, it’s got the vest underneath it.
Yeardley: [00:44:59] You’re certain of that.
Justin: [00:45:00] Yes. And it gets hung, just inside of the front door to this business. So, the shooting happens, and after April goes in and interacts with Ray, 911 calls being made, Ray disappears back into the business. You see him go over to the shelving unit and pull the sweatshirt off. Take the hanger off, you lose sight of him on the video because he disappears into the shadow of the interior of the business. He takes the hanger and the vest off of that shelving unit and puts it somewhere. Well, he puts it up on top of the grow room, where we find it.
Yeardley: [00:45:32] Didn’t Ray wear the vest when he shot Charlie?
Justin: [00:45:35] No.
Yeardley: [00:45:36] I don’t quite follow.
Dan: [00:45:38] There are two scenarios here. If that bullet misses Charlie, or it goes through his head, that vest will stop it.
Yeardley: [00:45:45] Okay, but if Ray isn’t wearing the vest himself, I don’t understand why it’s important to have the vest stop the bullet going through the wall.
Dan: [00:45:56] Well, the vest is important because bullets go through walls very easily, and you don’t know what’s on the other side of that wall. I’m familiar with this property that this happened at their businesses, it’s a row of businesses. If the bullet goes through the wall, you might hit somebody on the other side, so that’s why you’ve got the vest there to catch this bullet, potentially. Ray doesn’t need a vest. He’s the only one who’s got a gun, so he’s got that vest on the wall as a backdrop. Law enforcement when you talk about shooting guns, you’re always aware of what your backdrop is, that’s a gun term, that’s firearms term. You always have to be aware of what your backdrop is when you fire your weapon, because you’re responsible for every round that comes out of your gun. If you miss your target, what is standing beyond your target that you might be hitting?
Yeardley: [00:46:46] I see, and Charlie’s the target, so Ray is making sure he takes care of whatever’s beyond it.
Dan: [00:46:51] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:46:51] Okay.
Dan: The other thing I’m thinking here is, Ray wants to dial in his weapon, so he’s going to use that vest, so he can zero in a shot. He’s going to practice before Charlie shows up. That’s the two scenarios that I’m thinking, when that light bulb went on in my head?
Justin: [00:47:07] Dan’s right, this vest is the backdrop for this shooting. I see this on the video and my light bulb goes off like, “Oh, that’s what that is. That explains the vest, that’s more important than we thought.” I go to our property the next morning before the walkthrough, and pull this piece of evidence out, open the box. I started taking a series of photos and looking, and there’s a hole in the sweatshirt. There’s a hole in the armor carrier. There is a nine-millimeter bullet embedded in the steel armor plate that’s in there. This vest caught the bullet.
Yeardley: [00:47:41] Okay, so let me just paint this picture because it took me a minute to catch up. Charlie is standing in front of where the vest and the sweatshirt are hanging.
Yeardley: [00:47:50] It is the backstop for this shot?
Justin: [00:47:53] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:47:54] I understand.
Justin: [00:47:56] Immediately, I’ve got new information. I’ve confirmed now where I have the shell casing the gun. I also have the bullet that went through Charlie’s head caught in this vest that was then disposed of and thrown up, hopefully in a spot that we wouldn’t find it. This isn’t an accident. There’s too many “that’s odd” occurrences in this case. Changing your story is odd, hiding evidence is odd. It’s another piece of information I have in my back pocket that at some point, I get to try to work into the walkthrough with Ray, but I’m worried because his attorney is going to be there and if I come too hot, too heavy too soon, we’re going to shut the whole thing down.
We take Ray to the scene, meet his attorney there, and proceed through a walkthrough. Introduce who’s there, what we’re doing, where we’re at, all that kind of formality stuff. Then, Ray takes us through his final version of the story of, “I was drawing and practicing my draw, and wanted to do it with a loaded gun, so the weight felt the same as if it was a real-life scenario,” which you don’t do.
Yeardley: [00:48:58] Nobody believes that!
Justin: [00:49:00] No. This gun, loaded or unloaded, the difference is ounces. It’s not a significant amount of weight. It’s not safe gun handling in any way, shape, or form. He knows that, but that’s the story, and he’s sticking to it. He takes us through the inside and where he was and he puts himself in his position in the room that’s consistent with where the shell casing was, and everything’s going along fine. I’m just letting him talk. I’m not challenging him on anything or anything like that. We’re getting towards the end of his story about what happened, and it’s go time. The first I asked Ray was, “What’d you bring in from the car?” And he goes through a list of zip ties, my coat, sunglasses, clipboard, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, a handful of things. “Did you bring anything else in?” “Nope.” “Okay, well, I watched you carry a sweatshirt in, now you’re lying. But, okay.”
Yeardley: [00:49:51] Do you tell him that, “I watched you carry a sweatshirt in”? No, you’re thinking that.
Justin: [00:49:55] Well, I’m thinking that, but then I’m also thinking how can I confront him on this without ending this right here. I tip my hand at this point that, “Well, I’ve watched the video.” I go, “I watched the neighboring camera feed, and it looks like you bring something in and hang it on the shelf over here.” I point that out and give that piece to him, and he turns and looks at me, looks at the camera that we’re filming this on, and has this panicked look in his face, kind of wide eyed like, “Oh, you know.” And goes, “Yeah, the vest,” and gives us kind of this explanation that I thought it would look really bad for me because I have an armored vest, which it does and then he moved it. He tells me that, and so I keep pursuing that. I asked him where the vest ended up, where’d this sweatshirt go? Ray can’t think of an answer. His attorney is like, “If you don’t remember, don’t guess.” He’s like, “Yeah, I don’t remember.”
[00:50:51] As I ask him where this vest went, his eyes look up to the top of this grow room ceiling area where we found it. It’s a common thing people do. Like if you ask him, “You have any drugs in your pocket?” They like grab the right front pocket, because that’s where the drugs are at. They just can’t help themselves. He does the same thing. “Where did it go?” And he goes, “I don’t know.” “Thrown away outside, is it inside?” “I just don’t know.” Ray’s staring to where we found it.
I share that we found it and he is nervous about that. Then, I clarify some things with Ray about that vest, and why he has it and if it’s ever been shot before, or anything like that. “No, it’s not been shot, it’d void the warranty,” kind of has a whole explanation, just narrowing down on that bullet that’s in it is the bullet that went through Charlie’s head. I’ve narrowed the scope of this down to, that got hung there, caught the round after it killed the guy, and then he tried to dispose of it.
At one point, I had the same thought Dan did. Was he practicing shooting in there with his armor plate, and maybe Charlie did step in at the wrong time, and reaction time wasn’t fast enough, and Ray accidentally shot and Charlie just stepped into it? Not the case. Ray assures me that vest has never been used, and he just hung it there because he didn’t want it at his house because he had company over or something like that. Total BS story.
Dan: [00:52:08] You hang it in your closet, like every other normal body armor owner.
Yeardley: [00:52:13] But also, who would practice shooting outside of a shooting range? Ah, it doesn’t make any sense.
Dan: [00:52:20] That’s why the truth is so much easier to tell, because usually it doesn’t need explanation. But he’s got so much stuff in play here that he has to explain away, it’s just– can’t do it.
Yeardley: [00:52:32] Do you think this is the first time the attorney has heard these little branches of explanation, because an attorney will usually ask you, “Is there anything that I’m going to find out that I should know now?”
Justin: [00:52:44] Yeah, I don’t believe that Ray had shared any of these details with his attorney because good, bad, or otherwise, I can’t fathom any attorney advising someone else to continue telling the story when they have the option to stop talking with some of these details provided. I think it’s easy to talk about the attorney not doing his job or being skilled or how unskilled he may or may not be, but I think a lot of it is, Ray didn’t provide him the full story or thought he could convince his attorney that, no, this is what happened and get one more person on his side, which turned out to be problematic for him in the long run.
Dan: [00:53:17] I think that attorney trusted him and thought he was telling him the truth. Any other explanation for that, the attorney would have shut it down.
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Yeardley: [00:55:30] What happens to Ray? Where do you go from there? You arrest him for first-degree murder, or whatever that charge is in your state?
Justin: [00:55:38] We do. We get done with the walkthrough and we officially arrest Ray for murder. As we affect that arrest, the attorney comments something to the effect of, “You know, guys, that seems kind of harsh. I thought this one was different. I thought this was the one where telling the truth was going to set us free.” I’m thinking, “Did you just hear the same story I heard?”
Dan: [00:55:59] How naive are you?
Justin: [00:56:00] Well, and the big thing is, the attorney didn’t know, and nor at the time, is it my job to tell him about the video and some of that stuff. That’s why we guard a lot of the details of some of our cases so closely, is that video, no one outside of law enforcement or anyone that would know the business park knew it existed. No one had seen it other than a handful of detectives, and so I know what’s on it. Any attorney that’s going to want to do a walkthrough, if there’s video, they should want to see the video to make sure it matches their story. Whether he didn’t know it existed or didn’t care, I don’t know the answer to that, but I had a whole lot more knowledge about what happened than they knew and wasn’t just down to the interview. I had physical evidence and video evidence to direct this case.
Yeardley: [00:56:44] Justin, that is some fine detective work.
Dan: [00:56:47] Are we talking trial here? I guess, what we’re trying to figure out is why?
Justin: [00:56:52] We don’t know. I still don’t know. This case ultimately resolved prior to any kind of trial with a plea deal. For not intentional murder, for a manslaughter charge, which is a lesser form of homicide, that plea agreement was reached with our prosecutor’s office based on some of their evaluation of where the arguments would go and the risk versus reward that may come from a full-blown trial on this case. The defendant, Ray, fired his initial attorney and hired another attorney, arguably a much more capable trial attorney, defense attorney than his first. I don’t fully agree with the resolution of the case. I think it was an intentional, set up murder. I’m lacking evidence to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt. I think it’s pretty obvious to us as we talk about it, but there’s no indication through cell phone search warrants, the investigation as a whole that there was any motive for Ray to kill Charlie.
Dan: [00:57:50] Really the motive is, “I’ve got everything I already need from Charlie, his contacts for business networking. That now if Charlie’s gone, then instead of it being split three ways, now it’s only split two ways.”
Yeardley: [00:58:04] Oh, you think it was greed?
Dan: [00:58:06] That’s the motive that pops into my head, is now Ray’s got a bigger stake.
Justin: [00:58:11] Right. There’s that greed and money is always a leading motivator in any crime. I think there may be– and again, there’s nothing in any of the phones, Charlie, Ray, and April’s phones, been through all of their messages to each other. There’s nothing in there indicative of any kind of set up, or the problem for the case is there is absolutely no evidence that we found that shows that Ray knew that Charlie was coming there at that time, which is a big problem for us, because if we want it to be this elaborate set up, execution, Ray has to know Charlie’s coming. In fact, we have the opposite of that. We have April saying, “We were going to the store and his car was there, so we decided to swing in.”
Dan: [00:58:55] Did the grow have cameras on the outside where Ray could potentially be looking at a computer monitor and see that Charlie and April had arrived?
Justin: [00:59:04] Yes. There’s the same cameras that I’m watching on the other business building in this complex. There’s matching cameras on the involved building. There’s a monitor inside the unit that Ray would have absolutely been able to see they were on when we got there. It’s kind of a live, closed-circuit-type monitoring capability. He would have absolutely been able to see him arrive. Again, if we want to make it this set up, there’s no indication of that. Now, there’s the panic element where Ray’s down there at the shop, hasn’t been around for a couple days because he’s doing some private family-type stuff and feels like he’s getting caught by Charlie and April being down there when he shouldn’t, but then why do you hang the vest out? There’s a piece that’s missing to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt as a total setup, execution-style murder. I still believe it is.
Yeardley: [00:59:57] I don’t understand why isn’t Ray supposed to be down there at the shop.
Dan: [01:00:02] Well, they just probably didn’t expect him to be there, because they’re just dropping by too.
Yeardley: [01:00:07] Right.
Justin: [01:00:08] There’s too many things in this case that point in that direction, but I don’t disagree with the prosecutor’s office’s decision that they don’t think they can prove that charge beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. I don’t like it, but I understand their evaluation.
Dan: [01:00:22] They’re trying to mitigate risk because it’s risky if you got to trial and Ray gets found not guilty, then you don’t get anything.
Yeardley: [01:00:29] Right. I think Ray was going to practice and see if the vest would serve the purpose that he wanted it to. Once you confirm that, and he knew Charlie was coming back, then he was going to do what he did to Charlie. Charlie just happened to show up much sooner than Ray expected.
Dan: [01:00:49] Yeah.
Justin: [01:00:49] Yeah.
Yeardley: [01:00:49] That’s what I think.
Dan: [01:00:50] On the first day of practice.
Justin: [01:00:51] Right. I think the business motivation, I have no evidence to support this, but I think there was a love triangle developing with April in the mind of only Ray. Again, there’s no evidence to this, but it sounds like through the course of business operations, Ray and April spent a lot of time working together, processing stuff, where Charlie was kind of off doing business-type things off site, and I think as they spent time together, even though Ray’s married and has his own family, I think he kind of developed an interest in April. I don’t think April was aware of it. I don’t think Charlie was aware of it, but I think in Ray’s mind, if he was able to eliminate Charlie, he opened several doors, the business side of it, maybe a relationship opportunity. Again, it’s just my theory.
Dan: [01:01:39] Well, it makes sense. Ray didn’t hurt April when she came in. He pointed the gun at her– I mean, this is all speculation, but pointed the gun at her, he didn’t hurt her, and he allowed her to call 911. I think he probably thought, “Well, there’s a different way out of this.”
Yeardley: [01:01:55] Justin, did it ever occur to you in this investigation that maybe despite her hysteria, because people do that a lot on their 911 calls, and then you find out, they’re involved, that April actually purposefully drove Charlie to the grow that day, even on their day off, because she knew that Ray was waiting for him?
Justin: [01:02:16] It did. We leave all avenues open on cases and let the evidence kind of guide us. That was absolutely a thought and theory that we discussed as this case was developing, and something we may never know with 100% certainty, and April’s continued cooperation, as the case move forward, willing to be a witness, wanting to have victim’s rights as far as being a victim impacted by this killing and then probably most significantly, going through the cell phones, and looking at that information– I’m not talking about just scrolling through your inbox of your text messages, we’re able to forensically process these cell phones and recover deleted messages, deleted photos, tracking data, all types of information that may be relevant to our case. For one person to get rid of something they don’t want us to see and us not recover it, maybe. But two people in this case would have had to sanitize or wipe their phones to the state where we don’t find it on April’s nor do we find it on Ray’s, it’s hard to believe. Could they have communicated some other way? Sure. But there’s no evidence to lead us in that direction at this point, or, as this case was developing.
Yeardley: [01:03:31] I’m assuming Ray never even attempted to throw April under the bus and say she was in on it. Once he realized, “Oh, the gig is up. They actually know this wasn’t an accident. Now, I’m going to rope April into it too, and we’re both going down.” That never happened.
Justin: [01:03:44] Correct. Nope, it never happened. We had conversations with April pretty pointedly about we’re going to prosecute this case, but if at some point, we discover that you’re part of this on some level, don’t expect any favors. Ray pulled the trigger, there’s no doubt about that, but if you set Charlie up, you’re going to be held accountable too, and she didn’t bat an eye at that. She could be a great actor. I have that same suspicion and uneasy feeling. I’ve talked to Charlie’s family about the case, and they have that same gut feeling about April, and just don’t fully trust her, but there’s no hard evidence to substantiate any of these feelings. We’re stuck with the evidence we have, the statements that we have and making the best out of what we know. I know that Ray fired the shot and killed Charlie.
Yeardley: [01:04:33] Right. Justin, you said you recovered the bullet that went through Charlie from the vest because it lodged in the vest. Presumably, that bullet got sent off for processing, right? Did you get any other information from it?
Justin: [01:04:47] The bullet was ultimately sent off for that type of processing at the lab and results, I wish, came back faster, but even on a rush type case, it’s weeks out. On a case like this, even though it’s a significant case, there’s not an outstanding suspect, and so we’re probably in the months’ timeframe. The lab report did come back, and they confirm that that bullet that was in the vest was fired from Ray’s gun, they were able to match that, but they weren’t able to recover any kind of DNA or blood or anything like that, from the bullet itself.
Yeardley: [01:05:21] How come?
Justin: [01:05:22] That’s a good question, and I’m sure there’s a long lab tech or scientist answer for it. But my understanding is, based on the construction of the bullet, it’s a smooth, full-metal jacket round, so it’s copper jacketed with no ridges on it or anything that would grab any type of material, so it passes relatively cleanly through Charlie. Then, when it hits the armored vest, it deforms slightly, but there’s heat and friction associated with that. I think a combination of those two things, the shape of the bullet combined with heat and friction of it being fired and stopped in this armor plate destroyed any evidence that would have been there, and it would have been just a small amount.
Yeardley: [01:06:01] You know so much about that!
Dan: [01:06:03] Did you get the look on Ray’s face when you told him you’re going to charge him with the homicide? Or, is that after the walkthrough is over?
Justin: [01:06:12] That’s after the walkthrough is over. Camera been turned off, we ended things. I remember it, it’s the same like, “Ooh, they caught me but how am I going to spin out of this and just keep rolling?” There’s a moment of panic and then kind of collects himself and carries on.
Dan: [01:06:26] Is the business still there, is April still involved in it?
Justin: [01:06:28] Last I knew, it wasn’t. The owners of the business park wanted them out anyway, and this gave them kind of the ammunition they needed to have them pack their bags and move somewhere else.
Yeardley: [01:06:38] Right. How much time did Ray get in prison?
Justin: [01:06:42] 10 years.
Yeardley: [01:06:43] 10 years. Wow! That’s an incredible case, Justin.
Dan: [01:06:48] I feel terrible for Charlie, and for April.
Yeardley: [01:06:50] And for April.
Dan: [01:06:51] Yeah. One minute, you’re enjoying a latte walking into say hello to your coworker, coincidence happens, and you’re like, “Oh, there’s his car, I’ll just go say hi to him.”
Yeardley: [01:07:02] It’s my day off.
Dan: [01:07:03] And it costs you your life. It’s terrible.
Yeardley: [01:07:05] That is awful. Justin, the world is a better, safer place because of you. Thank you for joining us today. It is always such a pleasure to see you.
Justin: [01:07:15] You bet.
Dan: [01:07:16] Thank you.
Yeardley: [01:07:17] Thank you.
Yeardley: [01:07:21] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Sorin Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, The Real Nick Smitty, and Alec Cown. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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