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Author: csteiger

Emett

 

Emmet

 

It seems like these things come in bunches.  It seems all I write lately are memorials.

In early 1980, Steve Sparby and I walked in the front door of the Georgetown Precinct of the Seattle Police Department.  We were in the police academy together and were given our permanent assignments after graduation and field training—Georgetown, 3rd Watch, (8 PM to 4 AM) working Robert Sector—Rainier Valley.

The Valley was a hotspot in the city, with high crime rates, including many violent crimes.  The Twenty-one-year old cop in me was thrilled.  I wanted to go where the action is.  Steve was seven or so years older, but he was also happy with the assignment.

As we walked into the front door, the front desk officer leered at us from his perch.

“Can I help you?” he asked, the scowl on his face a permanent fixture.

We flashed out new shiny badges.

“We start here tonight.”

He waved us through.  We made our way to the stairs in the decrepit old precinct, the inside décor was early Barney Miller, to the locker room. After changing into our spotless and well-pressed uniforms, (they were actually three months old since we’d worn them in our Field Training assignments, but we kept them immaculate as was drummed into us in the police academy–that wouldn’t last–we went to the roll-call room.  No one else was in the room when we sat down, ten minutes before it was scheduled to begin.

About a minute before the appointed time, the room filled with other officers, all of them a lot older and more experienced.

A moment later, a uniformed sergeant walked into the room and stood behind the podium.  He was a big, burly black man, reminding me of the quintessential supervisor on TV cop shows and movies. His name was Emett Kelsie.

He called out names, and when people answered, gave car assignments.

“James,” he said.  A senior officer with curly hair and glasses answered, “here.”

“Steiger,”

“Here,” I answered.

“3-Robert-3”

Sparby was paired with a senior officer as well.

The sergeant addressed the room.

“We have two new officers in the squad starting tonight.  Cloyd Steiger and Steve Sparby.”

I expected long looks and sneers at a couple of boots, but everyone was friendly, always happy to have help.

“Steiger and Sparby,” Sergeant Kelsie said. “I’d like to see you in my office before you go out on the street.”

Oh shit, I thought.  What’s this about?

When roll-call broke up, everyone filed downstairs to the main floor of the precinct.  The sergeant’s office was at the bottom of the stairs.

Steve and I went in.

“Have a seat,” sergeant Kelsie said, pointing to two chairs in front of his desk.

We sat.

“I just want to let you know what’s expected of you,” he said.  “Just because you’ve got those shiny new badges and a title that says Police Officer, you won’t be considered real cops to the other guys until you prove yourself worthy.  That means when the shit hits the fan, you’re running in, not running out.  When someone says they need help (a word only used on the police radio for serious trouble), your asses better be there.

“Now go out on the street.”

We both nodded and left his office, heading out to our patrol cars.

It was only a couple of weeks before “the shit hit the fan.”

After it did, Kelsie called us in again.

“You guys did good,” he said.  “You’ve proved yourself.”

I worked for Emett for another year.  During that time, he gave me excellent advice.

“If you don’t want to be a patrol officer in this station the rest of your career, you have to get noticed.  Do things, so people associate your name with good work.”

Emett left the precinct as was eventually promoted to lieutenant.

I worked the East Precinct a couple of years later, still on 3rd Watch, when Emett became the Watch Commander.  I was glad to be working for him again, though he supervised the entire Watch, not just a squad like sergeants do.

A couple of years later, I walked up to him.

“It was good working for you again,” I said.

“Are you going somewhere?” he asked.

“I assumed you knew,” I said.  “As of Monday, I’m a detective.

A big smile crossed his face.

“Well, congratulations.”

I did a couple of years as a precinct detective, two years in Sex Crimes, and then was assigned to Homicide.  I’d been there a couple of years when Emett became the lieutenant in the Gang Unit.

I ran into him downtown one day.  I hadn’t seen him in a while.

“There he is!” he said and shook my hand.  “I was talking to (a homicide supervisor) and asked who the up and coming star in that unit was.  He said it was you.”

I was taken aback.

A few years later, Emett came to Homicide as the lieutenant.  We spent a lot more time together, mostly in the middle of the night at a murder scene.

He always gave me a hard time about living in the suburbs.  Every time there was a violent crime anywhere near (or not near) my house, he’d say, “See what I mean?”

“Emett,” I said.  “You live in Rainer Valley!”

I was working the night shift in Homicide one weekend with my partner, Greg Mixsell.  The Chief Dispatcher came over the radio and asked us to call him on the phone. When I called, he told me there was a homicide scene in Rainier Valley and gave me the address. I called Emett on the phone.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Look out your back window,” I said.  “What do you see?”

“I see police lights,” he said. “What’s going on?”

“It’s a murder,” I said.  “Man, that never happens in my neighborhood.”

Later I was working a notorious high-profile murder—one that the mayor got on television about and said we would spare no expense to solve.

I walked into Emett’s office.

“John, [Nordlund] and I need to go to Saipan.”

He stared at me a moment and then said, “Where the hell is Saipan.”

“It’s an island in the Pacific Ocean, about ten thousand miles from here.”

He stared again.

“When do you need to go?

“Tomorrow.”

Another long stare and then, “Okay.”

The next morning we were on a plane.

Not long after, Emett retired. I didn’t see him after that, though we were Facebook friends and he would send me jokes all the time.

A few months ago, the Facebook God’s told me it was his birthday.  I intended to send him a note but thought I hadn’t talked to him in a few years.

I called him.

“Hello,” he said.

“Happy Birthday, old man.”

Long pause.

“Who is this?”

“It’s Cloyd,” I said—I’m a one-name person, like Cher and Madonna.

I heard his familiar big belly laugh.

“How are you doing, man?”

We spoke for an hour.  It was great to catch up.

I’m really glad I made that call.

I heard this morning that Emett died.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alki

In the summer of 2001, Mike Ciesynski and I were partners.  We were called to the scene of a body found on the side of the road in a wooded area, up the hill from Salty’s on Alki, a restaurant on the waterfront. That area of Seattle is across Elliot Bay from downtown and offers million-dollar views of the Seattle skyline. It’s definitely not the slums.

The victim, a Hispanic male in his twenties, was shot once in the head.

An anonymous call came into 911 reporting the body.  It came from a payphone at a Safeway store at the top of the hill.

A couple of days after we were at the scene, I got an anonymous call.  He saw one of the victim’s friends at three in the morning the night of the shooting at one of those self-service car washes, where you put quarters in the machine, and a pressure sprayer operates until the time runs out.  I told Mike about the call.

“That proves nothing,” Mike said. “Just because he washed his car at three in the morning.”

“He was spraying the inside of the car.”

“Oh,” Mike replied.

The guy we were looking for worked for a fish processing company at Fisherman’s Terminal, where the Alaska commercial fishing boats are based, including many featured on The Deadliest Catch.  Mike and I drove there and talked to the supervisor.

“We need to talk to Jose.”

He called Jose to the office.  When Jose came in, we introduced ourselves, showing him our badges.  He had that deer in the headlight stare.

This should be tough, I thought to myself.

“Jose, what do you know about Fernando’s death?”

“Nothing,” he said.

“Do you have a car here?”

“Yes. It’s in the parking lot.”

“Do you mind if we go have a look at it?”

“Okay.”

He led us to his car. I opened the driver’s door.  I didn’t see anything. I walked around to the passenger side and opened the back door.  There was a hunk of human brain between the door and the back seat.

I looked at the hunk of the brain and then at Jose’s ashen face. “Luuuuccccyy,” I said. “You’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!”

 

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KT

 

KT

 

I was at the scene of a homicide in early 1998.  The body’s feet and hands were bound, a gag through the mouth.  The body was completely skeletonized.

When we have skeletonized remains at a scene, we always ask for Kathy Taylor.  KT, as we call her.  At that time, she was a Ph.D. Candidate in Forensic Anthropology but would later attain her doctorate. After officially becoming the Forensic Anthropologist for King County, she contracted with the rest of the state and worked bones cases everywhere.

At this scene–we didn’t know then it was a victim of a serial murderer–KT was on her knees in front of the body.  There was a cavity under the torso, and she put her hands under there to feel around.  She pulled them out and a moment later reach under again.   She did this several times.  Finally, the last time she pulled out her hand, a huge Norwegian rat ran out of the cavity.  I was standing next to her along with other detectives.  It ran across my feet as well as those of several others.  KT screamed and jumped back.

I laughed so hard I thought I would pee my pants.

“If that thing had bitten you,” I said to her, “you’d be getting shots for the next several weeks.”

Sergeant Don Cameron took her hand and made a point of counting all the fingers to make sure they were still there.

I worked with KT many times over the years.  When she had a case with an outside agency she thought was screwing it up, she’d call me.

“Cloyd!  Can you call and speak to these people?”

Kathy was an expert in buried remains and not only processed them but also taught detectives all over how to identify them,  secure them, and mostly what not to do at them.

She worked on many searches for bodies with me and many others.  She was still trying to identify the remains of victims from Ted Bundy and Green River cases.

She was passionate about unidentified remains and worked hard to get them identified.

She was never married but became a foster parent, mostly of children from neglectful or abusive families.  She was telling me about all the kids she’d fostered over the years.

“It takes a special kind of person to take in kids that you know will eventually leave,” I told her.

She was taken aback.

“Thanks,” she said.

One little boy touched her heart.  So much so, she ended up adopting him. He was her pride and joy. She would tell stories about him, her face beaming with pride.  When she got called to scenes, she’d say, “I have to drop him at my mom’s house before I can come.”

A couple of years ago, Kathy was found unconscious at her home.  She was hypoxic; doctors didn’t know how long she had been deprived of oxygen.  She was in a coma. We all feared the worst.

Miraculously, she came out of that, her mind entirely intact.  While treating her, they discovered cancer unrelated to her collapse.  She took the challenge head-on.  Mostly she missed work and wanted to get back.

I spoke to her about that when she was home.

“I’m afraid they’ll replace me,” she said.

“Kathy, you’re irreplaceable.  Not only that but [Dr. Richard Harruff, the Chief Medical Examiner in King County and a huge fan] would never do that.”

Eventually, she was able to work from home and then split time between home and the office.  She was thrilled.

A couple of days ago, I only found out after sending her an email and getting no response, which is very unusual, that she was back in the hospital. I heard today that she died overnight.

A tremendous loss to everyone who used her services, but more so, to everyone who loved her.

 

 

 

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Josephenum

In November of 2001, my partner Mike Ciesynski and I were notified of a murder in the Josephinum Hotel in Downtown Seattle.  The Josephinum is kind of like the bar in Star Wars.  Full of oddballs and miscreants of various descriptions. I refer to it as Seizure’s Palace.

Diane Pollard had been found dead in the stairwell of the building.  Paul Suguro from our office responded to the scene, but no one saw an injury.

To find someone dead there is not that suspicious. With no obvious injury, they assumed she’d overdosed.  They took her to the Medical Examiner’s office for autopsy.

On the table the next morning, the pathologist found something everyone else missed.  A .22 caliber bullet hole under her arm pit.

Oops.

To have a murder with a scene that wasn’t processed is very bad.  It hurts its chances of being solved exponentially.

We learned that Pollard often hung out with a group of guys who lived at the Josephinum.

She normally walked with a cane, but there wasn’t a cane at the scene.

Ciesynski and I went to the Josephenum to visit her friends.

When we knocked on the door, the man who answered had dark hair, a dark goatee and dark horn-rimmed glasses.  We identified ourselves and he let us in.

The layer of cigarette smoke hovered four feet off the ground when we entered.  Three guys sat around a table.  Though it was just after ten in the morning, a bottle of whiskey sat on the table, with beers all around.

As I talked with the group, Mike looked around. He carried a notepad.  He kept dropping the damned thing.  When he knelt to pick it up, he looked under beds and other furniture, hoping to spot Pollard’s cane.

One guy seemed particularly nervous.  He drank beer and slugged shots of whiskey as fast as he could while I was there.

I spoke to the oddball with the goatee who’d answered the door.

“You know,” I said.  “We checked Diane for DNA.  How would you explain it if we found your DNA inside her?”

I was bluffing.

“Do you mean in her vagina?” he asked.

“Yes.” I answered.

“Well, I can tell you,” he said.   “I have ejaculated exactly three times in my life.  The first time was a wet dream and the other two, I masturbated.”

Okay then.

When we got back to the office, Mike and I discussed the other guy.  The one slamming the beer and whiskey at ten in the morning.

“We need have a heart to heart with that guy.”

Mike agreed.

To prepare for the interview, I made up a phony lab report.  The report listed its author as Russell Weklych, BS MKER.  (Bullshit Maker).

Russ Weklych was a detective in our office.

I wrote in it that Pollard was examined for the presence of deoxyribonucleic acid, and that it was found.  We compared this to deoxyribonucleic acid from Billy, (our guy—not his real name), and it matched.

It said, Conclusion: Billy killed Diane Pollard.

We brought Billy in and placed him in an interview room.

We interviewed him.  There was plenty of room in his skull, so the likelihood of two brain cells bumping into each other was remote.

I showed him the lab report.  He didn’t understand.

“I don’t use acid,” he said.

At first I didn’t understand what the hell he was talking about. Then it came to me:  He didn’t have any idea what DNA was.

“Just read this line,”, I said, pointing out the ‘conclusion,”.

When he read it, his head bent down, and he cried.  We’ve got him, I thought.

“I’ve always heard of this, but I didn’t think it really happened,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“I heard of people going to prison for murders they didn’t commit, but now it’s happening to me!” he sobbed.

We helped him to the door.

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Roubideaux

In March of 2006 I arrived in my office to work the night shift. When I walked into the office, Ed Striedinger approached me.

“A guy got arrested at a Rite Aid on Broadway for shoplift,” he said.  “When he was arrested, he gave the name Donald Witt.  They ran his fingerprints in AFIS and found out that he was really Joseph Roubideaux.  He’s wanted out of Rapid City, South Dakota for Capital Murder.”

Capital Murder is a charge that potentially carries the death penalty.

“Cool,” I said.  This was an issue for the detectives in Rapid City, not us.

“We contacted Rapid City PD today,” Striedinger continued.  “They asked if we’d interview him.”

“What?” I said.  “We don’t know anything about the case.  Why don’t they just fly out here and do it?”

If I had a murder, especially one that carries the possibility of the death penalty, I wouldn’t want some other agency to interview my suspect; I’d be on the next plane out to do it myself.  We do it all the time.

We called Rapid City PD.  I spoke to Kyle Akers, a detective with the PD there.

“Are you sure you guys don’t want to come out here to interview this guy?” I asked.

“They won’t fly us out,” he said.  “The bosses think he’ll just lawyer up.”

That’s the real problem with administrators.  They’re so worried about spending a dime, but they don’t know a thing about investigations.   Most of the time, they just fuck things up.

It’s never a good thing to have someone who knows nothing about a case interview witnesses, let alone the suspect.  He could make some comment that means nothing to the person doing the interview, but if the person who knows the case in and out hears the same fact, he or she would recognize it as important.

As it was, we were on the hook to do the interview.  I didn’t blame Akers; he wasn’t the one making the decision.

We’d give it our best shot.

I had no stake in this case.  I wasn’t involved in any way.  But when outside agencies ask me to do something for them, I pull out all the stops.  I take on the case as my own.  It’s the way Seattle Police do business, and it’s definitely the way I roll.  I would hope if the roles were reversed, I would get the same dedication in return.

My partner Jason Kasner and I talked with Kyle Akers over a speakerphone for about ten minutes, trying to get as much information about the case as we could.  When we finally got all that I thought we were going to get, we ended the call.

“I’ll call you when the interview is done,” I told Akers.  “Hopefully, we’ll have some good news.”

When Roubideaux was brought over from the jail, we placed him in an interview room. The interview was audio and video recorded.

When we entered the room, I took my place on the same side of the table as Roubideax.  Jason sat across from us.

“We just want to talk to you and find out what’s going on,” I said.

We talked for a few minutes, just breaking the ice, playing it lowball.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“I’m from Montana,” Roubideaux said.

“Where in Montana?”

“Browning,” he replied.

We talked for awhile about Montana, and the tribe Roubideaux belonged tol

“Have you ever been to South Dakota?” we asked.

Roubideaux yawned, a sign of deception, and said, “No.”

We carried on the conversation for several minutes, before I said, “I thought we saw that you got a traffic ticket in South Dakota.”—I was totally making that up.

“Oh, yeah,” he said.  “I forgot.”

How convienent.

We chatted for several minutes more before I dropped the bomb.

“We have a problem, Joe.” I said.

“We found your fingerprints at a house in Rapid City of a guy named Lloyd Redbull.

“I think you know there’s a problem,” I continued.  “You see, Lloyd was found stabbed to death. You see, we’re not shoplift detectives.  We’re homicide detectives.

“We found your fingerprints at his house.”  I was totally making that up.

“Maybe you were there,” I said, “and you left and someone else came and killed him.  I think you heard about it and panicked and left.”

“I don’t know anything about it,” he said.

“That’s not going to work, Joe,” I said.  “There’s a warrant out for your arrest out of Rapid City.  It’s for murder.  If there’s some innocent way your fingerprints showed up at Lloyd’s house, you have to tell us now.”

Joe felt the noose wrapping around him.  His left leg bounced up and down continually; he rubbed his head so much I thought his hair would soon fall out.

I upped the ante a little more.

“The problem is,” I said, “is your fingerprint was found in blood.”

Again, I was totally bullshitting.

I produced a copy of his arrest warrant.  Written on it were the words, Death Penalty Offense.

“What we have to do, Joe,” I said, “is find ways to get this down to something less than the death penalty.

“Just tell me mitigating circumstances,” I said.  “Those are things that make it better for you.  I’m not even asking for anything that makes it bad for you.”

“I guess this wasn’t the perfect crime,” he said.

“No Joe,” I said.  “This couldn’t have been worse for you if you’d planted evidence yourself trying to be convicted.

“You’re the only one alive today who was there when this murder happened”

Joe nodded—perfect.

The interview lasted more than three hours.  Though Roubideaux didn’t explicitly confess, he wrapped himself in so may knots, it was as good as a confession.

We booked him for the murder.

Almost a year later, I traveled to Rapid City to testify in his trial.  The prosecution was thrilled with the interview.  It was played in the trial.

Roubideaux was convicted of the murder, though he received a life sentence rather than the death penalty.

While I was there, I went to Mount Rushmore on a Tuesday evening.

I’d been there before several summers earlier, but this time I was the only one there who wasn’t at work.  It was fabulous.

 

 

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New Television Show

 

I’m happy to announce my involvement in a new true crime television show that will start taping in the fall along with Dr. Lee Mellor and Suzanna Ryan. It’s called Relentless. We’ll be looking into cold case murders from across the country and try to solve them using advanced forensic testing at no cost to the submitting agency.
Every day cold case murders are solved that were thought to be unsolvable. Thousands of cases are sitting on a shelf in a police station right now that could be solved if the latest techniques were applied, but agencies are understaffed and underfunded. We’re here to get you past that point. If your agency has a case you think could benefit at no cost to you, contact us.

 

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Joel

In my last few years working Homicide at police headquarters there was a janitor that worked our floor in the evening. His name was Joel.
Joel was mentally delayed. It was a result of being assaulted by his brother, who struck him in the head with a weapon causing brain damage.
Prior to that, Joel was enrolled in a Culinary Arts program with dreams of becoming a chef.
Joel loved working the seventh floor of police headquarters, where the Homicide Unit is housed. Everyone in Homicide treated him with kindness. He called us all his buddies.
Joel was very meticulous in his routine. He did everything in order and did everything well.
At one point several years ago, the powers that be changed which floors their employees were to work on, and Joel was removed from the seventh floor.
He was inconsolable, crying that he wanted to work with his “buddies”.
Several of us emailed his supervisors.
“What the hell are you thinking?” we asked. “Put Joel back on the seventh floor.”
After a week or so, they did just that.
Joel was elated.
Joel would show up about three in the afternoon every day.
“Joel,” I asked him. “What time does your shift start?”
“Four-thirty,” he said.
“Why do you get here so early?” I asked.
“I don’t want to be late,” he said.
One day I asked him, “Joel, are you enrolled in Deferred Compensation?” It’s the government’s answer to a 401k.
“I don’t know what that is,” he said.
I made an appointment with him to meet with an advisor and sign up.
A few months later, I asked him how that was going.
“It’s really good!” he said. “I have a lot of money!”
Joel had never taken a sick day in his entire time working for the city. One day he showed up for work, obviously sick.
Joel took a bus in and took another home at one o’clock in the morning.
“You need to go home,” I told him.
I found out he had almost six months of sick time built up. I drove him home.
About a year before I retired, Joel came up to me.
“My brother died,” he said, referring to the brother who had assaulted him.
“Even though he hurt me,” he said, “I still love him.”
I learned a lot from Joel. About what’s important in life, and about forgiveness.
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Serial Killers prefer Matts

When my partner Mike Ciesynski and I were investigating murders by serial killer Dewayne Lee Harris, we took him out on “field trips” where he would tell us about murders he committed. When we did, we would stop at Matt’s Hotdogs in Georgetown to feed him. He loved the place.
Four out of five serial killers prefer Matts.

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