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Episode 60: Jack McCullough Polygraph

On the evening of December 3, 1957, in Chicago, 11-year-old Maria Ridulph begged to be allowed to go outside as it had started to snow. She never came back. It was reported that she’d been approached by a man named “Johnny” who wanted to give her a piggyback ride. Almost six months later, in April 26, 1958, Maria Ridulph’s partially clothed body was discovered by mushroom hunters in a wooded area in northwestern Illinois. The case was closely  investigated but unsolved, and eventually closed. It was reopened in 2009, with a neighbor of the Ridulph family was arrested as a suspect in the murder. He was a 72-year-old man named Jack McCullough, formerly known as John Tessier. McCullough was arrested after a tip from his sister, who related a deathbed conversation with her mother in which her mother implicated Jack in Maria’s murder. On June 29, 2011, McCullough was arrested, and interrogated. He agreed to take a polygraph–even though he’d already taken and passed one in 1957– as long as it related to Maria, but quits when he realizes the examiner intends to ask him about his relationship with his sister, and other matters unrelated to the Ridulph murder.

In March 2016, the DeKalb County State’s Attorney announced that a post-conviction review of available evidence showed McCullough could not have been present at the place and time of Maria Ridulph’s likely abduction. McCullough was released from prison on April 15, 2016 and the charges against him were dismissed on April 22, 2016. The following year, McCullough was declared actually innocent of the crime by the DeKalb County Circuit Court.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 59: Four Mayday Calls

  (1) On December 20, 2010, rescue crews were called in to search for Casey Speed, 28, who fell off a sailboat when drunk into the San Francisco Bay. The search was suspended after eight hours. The water was 50 degrees  and Mr. Speed was not wearing a life jacket.

(2) On May 9, 1980, the southbound span of the Skyway Summit bridge over Tampa Bay, Florida was destroyed when the freighter Summit Venture collided with a pier during a thunderstorm. The collision caused six cars, a truck, and a Greyhound bus to fall 150 feet into the water, killing 35 people. The pilot of the ship was cleared of wrongdoing by both a grand jury and a Coast Guard investigation.

(3) On August 14, 2013, UPS flight 1354, crashed upon landing at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, in Alabama. The captain and first officer were killed and the airplane was destroyed. The accident was caused by the flight crew’s failure to monitor the aircraft’s altitude during landing.

(4) January 31, 2000, Alaska Airlines 261 crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 2.7 miles north of Anacapa Island, California. The accident was caused by faulty mechanical equipment. The 2 pilots, 3 cabin crew members, and 83 passengers on board were killed, and the airplane was destroyed.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 58: Shawn Grate 911 call and trial testimony

On September 13 2016, a 911 dispatch operator in Ashland, Ohio received a call from a woman who had being held captive and sexually assaulted for three days by a male acquaintance. The woman, Laurie Scihlik, 38, whispered to the dispatecher that Shawn Grate, 40, had tied her up and would not let her leave the room. She is still partially tied up, and calling on Grate’s phone. The recording is punctuated by periods of silence, as Scihlik is terrified of waking up her abductor.

A little over a year later, on the fourth day of testimony in Grate’s capital murder trial, Scihlik testified about her ordeal for almost two hours, most of it on direct examination from Ashland County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell. Dressed in a blue blouse and dark, loose-fitting pants, she never looked in the direction of the defendant, who sat impassively at the defense table. During her testimony,  Tunnell stood only a few feet from Scihlik as if to reassure her. Both here and in the 911 call, Scihlik maintains her composure admirably.

Scihlik said she was reading Bible passages while Grate went to the kitchen of his house at 363 Covert Court. She said his demeanor changed when he returned.”He started pulling the Bible out of my hand,” she said. “I looked up at him, and that’s when he said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.'”

She says she looked on Grate as an “older brother,” believed him to be “kind,” and thought he shared her interest in reading the Bible. Grate claims he did not plan to kill Scihlik, and that they were going to get married. He pleaded insanity, a grand jury indicted him on two counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of two women, and he is believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least three others.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 57: Antoinette Tuff 911 Call

On Monday Aug. 20, 2013, a young man with a AK47 and close to 500 rounds of ammunition briefly took control of the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy just east of Atlanta. Michael Hill had not been taking his medication and was not mentally stable.

The students were evacuated and the school went into lockdown mode. When police arrived, Hill repeatedly fired shots at them. The intermediary between Hill and the police was a school bookkeeper named Antoinette Tuff, who was left alone in the front office with the shooter. In between negotiating with the police on Hill’s behalf, Tuff told him about her life struggles, including the collapse of her marriage after 30 years, and her struggles with opening her own business. She eventually convinced Hill to surrender, put his weapons aside, and allow the police come in to take him to the hospital.

“I just want you to know that I love you, though, O.K.?” she tells him as he prepares to give himself up. “And I’m proud of you.” Ms. Tuff sounds completely calm, poised, articulate and in control all the way through the call, maintaining a good rapport with both Hill (whom she refers to, before she knows his name, as “the gentleman,” and then “Michael”), and the 911 operator. Yet when the police finally arrive to arrest Hill, she breaks down in  relief

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 56: Jodi Arias Police Phone Calls

These are recordings of phone calls made between Jodi Arias and Arizona Police Detective Esteban Flores on June 10 and June 25, 2008. When handsome young Mormon salesman Travis Alexander was found brutally murdered in his home in Mesa, Arizona on June 9,, his friends all told Flores he should investigate Travis’s “stalker” ex-girlfriend, Jodi Arias. “I talked to a number of people about you,” Flores tells Jodi, “and I hate to say this, I don’t mean to make you feel bad, but they didn’t have the best things to say about you.”

Arias called to speak with Detective Flores the night Alexander’s body was discovered, but he didn’t return her call until the following day, after Jodi had called him again and left another message. She tells Flores that she wants to offer him her assistance, presenting herself as a devoted and heartbroken ex-girlfriend. In fact, she tells Flores that she was the one who broke up with Travis due to his infidelity, and they were both trying to “move on.” Flores said he suspected Arias right from the start, and it’s pretty clear why. In these conversations, her show of grief and concern give way very quickly to oddly flirtatious reminiscences, boasting about Travis’s “soft, Egyptian cotton linen” sheets and his “Intelligel bed,” asking Flores for discretion while at the same time spilling her soul. Her verbosity makes it easy for Flores to back her into a corner and confront her about when and from where she last accessed  Travis’s e-mail and social media accounts.

On April 13, 2015, Jodi Arias was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 55: Grim Sleeper Police Interrogation

On July 7, 2010, the LAPD reported that an arrest had been made in the case of the serial killer responsible for the deaths of at least ten poor black women, many drug addicted prostitutes, in south central Los Angeles between 1980 and 2010 (detectives later estimated the perpetrator may have killed up to 25 women).  The case became controversial when it was revealed that the LAPD had originally marked the deaths with the identification “NHI” (meaning No Humans Involved, an internal code used for cases involving chronic drug users and prostitutes).

The suspect was 57-year-old car mechanic Lonnie David Franklin Jr. As the police interviewer reveals, Franklin was arrested after DNA was retrieved from the crime scenes. When there was no exact match with any of the profiles in California’s DNA profile database, police searched the database for stored profiles that demonstrated sufficient similarity to allow police to infer a familial relationship. They found similar DNA belonging to Franklin’s son, Christopher, who had been convicted of a felony weapons charge. Detective then obtained a piece of discarded pizza containing Franklin’s DNA to make the match. The fact he does not confess is irrelevant: the DNA profile has already spoken. To add insult to injury, Franklin refers to two of the victims, when shown their pictures, as “fat” and “butt ugly.”

On May 5, 2016, a jury convicted him of killing nine women and one teenage girl, and on August 10, 2016, Lonnie Franklin Jr. was sentenced to death.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 54: Dylann Roof Police Interview

This is an abbreviated version of Dylann Storm Roof’s two-hour FBI interview in which he confesses to killing nine people at a South Carolina church Bible study in June 2015. The interview was recorded the day after the shooting.

Roof appears child-like and baby faced, unsure of himself, both uncannily relaxed and, at the same time, intimidated by the FBI.  He is obviously anxious, and struggles to conceal his confusion about what he’s done. He laughs nervously a few times, and has trouble explaining why he committed the massacre, other than that he has become “racially aware” after reading about black-on-white crime on the internet. One woman in the church reported that Roof told her he wasn’t going to kill her because he wanted to leave at least one person alive to tell his story. When an FBI officer asks him if this was true, he says, “Yeah, but there isn’t really a story to tell.”

He says he originally considered shooting drug dealers, but realized they might shoot back, he said. Instead, he picked the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church because the black people there wouldn’t fight back. “I knew that would be a place to get a small amount of black people in one area,” Roof says, later adding, “They’re in church. They weren’t criminals or anything.”

Roof’s confession shows the 21-year-old to be less inscrutable than simply naive and immature. Online, he called himself “The Last Rhodesian,” but seems ignorant of African history and racial politics general. Nevertheless, he meticulously prepared for the shootings. He carried eight magazines that could each hold 13 rounds, but loaded only 11 each so that he could shoot 88 times. He explains that 88 stands for “Heil Hitler” because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

At one point, an FBI agent asked if Roof had thought about killing more blacks. “Oh, no. I was worn out,” says Roof. He says he left bullets in a magazine so that he could kill himself after the slayings, but changed his mind when he didn’t immediately see any police. He believed he’d killed maybe one or two people. About 45 minutes into his interview with the FBI, an agent decided to tell him that nine people were dead. “Are you lying to me?” asks Roof, incredulously. “There wasn’t even that many people in there!”

At trial, Roof’s defense attorney offered a plea of guilt if the state took the death penalty off the table. Prosecutors refused, and in January 2017, Dylann Roof was sentenced to death by lethal injection. In April 2017, now aged 23, he was transferred to death row at Terre Haute Federal Prison in Indiana.

Listen to the interview here.

Episode 53: Andrew Watson Police Interrogation

Lise Fredette, 74, was last seen on Nov. 12, 2014 after leaving her shift at a Walmart in Peterborough, Quebec, where she worked as the store’s jewellery department manager. Ten days later, when the grandmother-of-two still hadn’t been found, her ex-boyfriend, Andrew Watson, 78, was arrested and questioned by Ontario Provincial Police Staff Sgt. Scott Johnston. Fredette broke up with the elderly Scotsman in April 2014 after they had dating on and off for three years. When she left him, he had threatened her with violence and sent her angry letters.

Watson tells Johnston that he’s spoken with a lawyer before the interview, who told him not to say anything. But he’s annoyed by the way he’s been treated by the police, and wants to vent his complaints. “You should see the mess in my house,” he tells Johnston. He asks multiple times what will be happening to him next, and asks if he can get a pillow and blanket for his cell. He also asked to be released and he’d just “sit and wait” at home (“You could let me stay at home where at least I’d be comfortable”).

Finally, Johnston begins asking questions about Fredette. Watson says he last saw her  the Saturday before she went missing, when they were both at a dance, but he didn’t speak to her, he said, as he’d got a second warning from police a few days earlier, telling him to leave Fredette alone. Watson tells Johnston there’s nothing going on in his life and he spends 95 per cent of his time in his house alone, “so no matter what crime would be committed in Peterborough, I could not give the police an alibi.” When Johnston asks Watson what he thinks happened to Fredette, he says, “I don’t know.” When asked, for the sake of Fredette’s loved ones, to tell them where her body is, he says, “I’ll tell you, no one is missing her more than I’m missing her.” When asked where he was the night Fredette went missing, he replies, “I’m not supposed to be speaking to you.” When asked about blood that was found in his house and his Subaru, he says, “Well, there’ll be blood all over my house … because I’m always bleeding.” The constant clicking sound you can hear is the sound of Watson attempting to light and re-light his cigarettes, cadged from Johnston, who doesn’t smoke.

On April 20, 2017, Watson was convicted of the first-degree murder of Fredette, even though her body had still not been found.  “Mr. Watson, the road is now over for you,” said the Judge. “If you have a heart, sir, I would strongly suggest you speak … to put closure to this, so this family can lay this very kind, compassionate woman to her proper rest.”

“No thanks,” the unrepentant Scotsman replied.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 52: Stephen Duxbury Trial Testimony

 This episode presents audio from Nov 14, 2017 in the trial of Stephen Duxbury, 35, who was charged with the first-degree murder, sexual battery and burglary of Sasha Samudean. The 27-year-old was found dead on Saturday, Oct. 17, inside her apartment on Orange Avenue in Orlando, Florida, where Duxbury worked as a security guard. According to the prosecution,  Duxbury followed Samsudean into her apartment, raped her, strangled her, then rolled her body in her comforter and covered it in bleach. It was, according to the prosecutor, “a crime of opportunity.”

On the stand is Anthony Roper, 30, a mechanical engineer, a close friend of Sasha Samsudean. Roper recounts the evening he spend with Sasha, the bars they went to, and the amount they drank. Roper admits Sasha had been drinking a lot, but says she did not intend to see anyone after she went home. In fact, he says it was uncharacteristic of her to bring a stranger home. “She never explicitly took a guy home from the bar in front of me,” he says. “She never did that.”

Anthony explains that he tried to reach Sasha the morning after their night out in Orlando but she didn’t pick up. He testifies that he messaged and called her all day before going to her apartment. When she didn’t answer her door, Roper called Orlando police to file a missing person’s report between 7 and 8 p.m. Duxbury was found guilty of murder, and given life without parole.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 51: Jonathan Broyhill Trial Testimony

This audio is from Day 7 (March 12, 2015) of the trial of Jonathan Broyhill, 31, for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill after he stabbed young Democratic strategist Jamie Kirk Hahn and her husband, Nation, 27, at their North Raleigh residence in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 2013. Jamie, 29, sustained fatal stab wounds to her abdomen; Nation recovered.

On the stand, Nation Hahn is being cross-examined about the day of the murder by defense attorney Joseph Arbour. We learn that Broyhill was as a longtime friend of the couple. He and Nation Hahn grew up in the same town and Broyhill was the best man at the Hahns’ wedding in 2009. Since at least 2010, Broyhill worked for Jamie’s policy firm, Sky Blue Strategies.

Brad Miller (D-NC) had worked with both Jamie and Broyhill through Sky Blue Strategies in 2012 on his re-election campaign, which he ultimately abandoned. Miller’s campaign had been independently investigating Broyhill for alleged campaign-finance irregularities. We learn that Broyhill had been lying about the fact that he had cancer, and stealing money from the Miller campaign. The attack on the Hahns, we learn, came from a confrontation about the money.

Nation Hahn maintains his composure on the stand, although Arbour’s chummy tone clearly grates on his nerves. He responds to most questions with a “yes, sir,” “no, sir,” or “I can’t recall, sir,” remaining dignified even when being questioned about taking his iPad to the bathroom with him, or whether or not his pants were down or up when he heard Jamie scream. His poise and self-possession make Arbour sound like a chump. Broyhill was convicted, and is serving a life sentence in prison.

Listen to the episode here.