I walked into my office at the Special Assault Unit (otherwise known as Sex Crimes) at the Seattle Police Department one morning in 1993.
A police report lay on my desk, my name written in the upper right corner, indicating that this case was assigned to me.
The report alleged that a young woman working at a downtown hotel had been raped by another hotel employee, a maintenance worker.
I called the number listed for the victim. A young woman answered. It was evident from our conversation she was developmentally delayed.
“Can you come into my office?” I asked her.
She said she could, and we made arrangements for her to come in later that afternoon.
She showed up, accompanied by a person she introduced as her case worker.
Her name was Lynette.
I spoke to her for several minutes, talking about everything except her assault, trying to make her as comfortable as I could before we got into the difficult conversation.
She was very forthcoming. I thought she had the mental capacity of about a ten-year-old.
Finally, I transitioned into the assault.
She told me everything and wasn’t reticent about describing what happened.
The suspect, Jose, was a Mexican National and had fled, most likely to Mexico.
When I had all the information I needed, I handed her my business card with my direct line.
“Call me whenever you want to,” I told her.
After she left, I did everything I needed to do to have Jose charged with the rape and have an arrest warrant entered into NCIC, the nationwide police computer system.
A couple of days later, my desk phone rang. It was Lynette.
“Hi Detective Steiger,” she said.
“Call me Cloyd.”
She wanted to talk about her assault. I listened to what she had to say.
She explained that her family was Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“When I told my mom what happened,” she said, “she hit me.”
“Lynnette, this wasn’t your fault,” I said. “Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.”
Like Zenith Morningstar, whose tale I told in an earlier post, Lynette called me almost every day. And much like Zenith, she only kept me on the phone for about five minutes.
These conversations went on for months. At first, they were about the case, but Lynette asked me about my personal life. I told her that I had three sons and what was going on in their lives, so she always asked me about them.
In 1994 I was transferred to Homicide. Lynette called one day, and I told her about the transfer. I gave her my new phone number.
The calls continued for several months; then, she stopped calling.
A couple of years later, I was called to an officer-involved shooting in the middle of the night.
A man tried to break into his estranged girlfriend’s house. She had a restraining order against him and called the police.
Officers arrived, and a foot chase ensued, culminating in a shooting. The suspect was killed.
Though I was called to the scene, it wasn’t my case. Dick Gagnon was the assigned detective.
Around ten in the morning, he came up to me.
“I have to go speak with the suspect’s family. Will you go with me?”
“Sure,” I said, knowing this wouldn’t be easy.
We arrived at the Central Area home. The house was filled with about fifteen people, their eyes like lasers, glaring at us when we went in.
Dick had just begun speaking when a sound came from a back room.
Lynette appeared, ran up to me, and wrapped her arms around me.
“This is my friend I was telling you about!” she said to the people gathered.
The tension leaking out of the room was palpable.
After we spoke to the people gathered and left, Gagnon looked at me.
“Man,” he said. “Am I glad I brought you with me.”