Case Study - Interrogation: Electrician Steals $20,000.00 Worth of Tools
Courtesy of John E. Reid & Associates. John E. Reid & Associates, Inc. proudly congratulates Mr. McDaniel, a John E. Reid graduate, for doing an outstanding job using the "Reid Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation" to resolve the Featured Case.
Mickey McDaniel, Detective for the Caddo Parish Sheriff''s Office in northwest Louisiana
My name is Mickey McDaniel and I am a detective for the Caddo Parish Sheriff''s Office in northwest Louisiana. I have been a Caddo Parish Deputy Sheriff for 15 years and a detective for two years. I am a 1985 graduate of Louisiana State University in Shreveport. I have been married for 18 years and my wife and I have three children. I attended the Reid course in April 2002, at the Bossier City, Louisiana Police Department and quickly found that the techniques that I learned were extremely effective. I have been a continuing student since then and am currently reading Criminal Interrogations and Confessions. I am grateful to the Reid Institute and to Dave Buckley and Rick Sjoberg for their excellent guidance and training.
CASE FACTS: Electrician steals $20,000.00 worth of tools
On 4/23/03, a corporal on the Sheriff''s burglary task force called me and asked me if I had any outstanding theft cases from the construction site at the General Motors plant in Shreveport. I had several cases from the site, but despite my efforts, I had been unable to solve any of them. The building projects at and nearby the plant were quite extensive and despite 24 hour security, contractors were reporting thousands of tools and equipment as lost or stolen. The corporal told me that he had received information that an electrician working at the site and living in a town on the north end of the parish had been stealing hand tools and welders from contractors at GM. The electrician was allegedly a foreman who had access to a company vehicle and took the items off the site in the vehicle.
On 4/25/03, I was able to locate the electrician''s employer and due to his cooperation, set up an interview with the electrician that same Friday afternoon. The electrician was indeed a foreman and thought well of by his employer. Though he had been with the company for less than a year, it was not unusual for construction workers to be working for different companies at different times, due to the nature of the construction business.
It should be noted that prior to the interview, I spoke to the electrician''s former employer of whom he had worked for a year and a half. The former employer mentioned the electrician''s skill and expertise, but suspected that he had stolen some expensive items while on his payroll, though he said he could not prove it.
The electrician showed up for the interview and appeared to be relaxed and confident upon our initial meeting. The interview began with the Miranda reading. He unhesitatingly read and signed the acknowledgement form and signed the waiver below it, which read, "I have read the above statement of my rights and I understand each of those rights, and having these rights in mind I waive them and willingly make a statement."
BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS QUESTIONS
Q: "We are investigating several thefts at the General Motors construction site. If you had anything at all to do with these thefts you should tell me now."
A: "No. I do my 40 and go."
Q: "Do you know who did?"
A: "No. I have heard of small tools disappearing at the site. I knew a guy that lost a drill. Silly stuff like that."
Q: "Is there anyone you feel may be involved with this?"
Q: "Is there anyone you can vouch for?"
A: "Everyone I work with."
Q: "How do you feel about being interviewed concerning this matter?"
A: "No problem."
Q: "Did you tell any of your family members about the reason for this investigation?"
Q: "Why do you think that people are saying that you are the one that did these thefts?"
A: "Who knows? A lot of people don''t like me."
Q: "Who would have had the best opportunity to do this?"
A: "It depends. Big tools are hard to get out."
Q: "Why do you feel that someone would have done this?"
A: "I don''t know."
Q: "Did you ever just think about doing something like this even though you did not follow through with it?"
A: "I would like to have, but it was just talk."
Q: "What do you think should happen to the person who did this?"
A: "Hard to say. I''m not the judge and jury."
Q: "Do you think the person who did this should deserve a second chance under any circumstances?"
A: "Everyone deserves a second chance."
Q: "Would you be willing to take a polygraph test concerning this matter?"
A: "I would suppose. Don''t see why not."
Q: "Once the full investigation is complete, how do you think it will come out concerning whether or not you were involved in doing this?"
A: "It will come out pretty clean."
The thefts from the construction site had been occurring on a regular basis for at least two years. It appeared logical that everyone working at the site was familiar with the problem due to the security measures at the site and from employers. Earlier this year, I interviewed about ten workers from one construction crew that had access to the entire location, making it safe to say that word of the thefts spread quickly to other workers. However when asked, "What have you heard concerning the thefts at the construction site?" the subject responded, "I haven''t heard any rumors and I don''t know anything about any thefts."
From the beginning of the interview, the electrician displayed shallow or no eye contact. He often kept his legs or his arms crossed. Upon hearing the first question I asked, his foot began to bob up and down, he would then stop after several seconds as if he were in deep thought. The foot bobbing continued off and on through out the interview. At times he would put both hands together at his waist in a sort of ''prayer'' position. There were at times significant pauses between his statements, as if he were attempting to be cautious about what he said.
The electrician did not have a criminal history other than minor traffic violations. The major theme of the interrogation was that he was basically a decent guy who had some financial problems and needed some extra cash. Along with this general theme was the alternative that he had a dark side that included drug abuse and black market tool sales. A second alternative was the extent of his involvement in the thefts, (was it just a few thousand dollars worth of missing tools or were there hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tools missing that he was responsible for?)
He did not respond to the direct positive confrontation statement that the results of the investigation clearly showed that he was definitely involved in the thefts. Once the themes were stated, he began offering answers to simple questions about his criminal history, involvement with drugs and his financial problems. Less than two minutes into the interrogation, I asked him if he had experienced a financial crisis that he needed money for. He responded that he had always been poor. I asked him if that was what the whole thing was all about. His response:
Yeah, I''ve taken a couple of things. I mean, I ain''t gonna sit here and lie no more. I mean, I have took a couple of small things and just ''cause I needed the money, you know, the extra money. I don''t do it for a living and I don''t do it for drugs.
After the initial admission, I began asking him about specific items he had taken. The process was slow and painstaking. He admitted that some items he had taken were at his home and others he had sold to an electrician in a town about 70 miles away. In his confession he downplayed the value and number of the items that he had taken.
JUSTIFICATION FOR THE CRIME
The electrician''s excuse for his behavior was his financial problems, specifically his need for a new motor in his pick-up truck and his condition of being ''poor''. (Nevertheless, he was a foreman at his job and did better financially than average electricians.) His secondary justification was inferred by the low value that he placed on the items he stole, his claim that some of the items were given to him and his statement that, "What I got was just lying there." (In his mind the items seemed to be better suited in his possession, because he could make good use of them.)
LENGTH OF INTERROGATION
The entire length of the interrogation was near 20 minutes, however, amazingly, the initial confession came in less than ninety seconds. After the stating of the positive confrontation statement and the presentation of themes, the electrician showed a willingness to talk. I asked him simple, straightforward background questions initially and when he answered them without any denial to his involvement in the thefts, I did not stop him from telling his story. Though it did not seem obvious during the interview, once the interrogation began it appeared obvious to me that the electrician was ready to talk. Once he began talking about the thefts, I directed him to specifics that would later corroborate his confession with the thefts at the site.
The electrician was arrested for felony theft and he lost his job. His case is still pending. Over $20,000 worth of tools, including two welders were recovered and all items were returned to the owners. Over 12 contractors had items taken in the thefts, some had never reported their tools as stolen. About $5000 worth of the tools were located at the electrician''s home, and another $15,000 were located at another electrician''s home, 70 miles away. The second electrician was able to provide a copy of a cancelled check where he paid almost $4000 for the tools from the first electrician. The second electrician was not charged.
This is a good case to illustrate the importance of corroborating a confession. It sounds like after the interview and a brief interrogation the subject was ready to talk. However, this subject, like many, tried to minimize the extent of the thefts. Sometimes it takes more time and effort to get the details of the crime than it does to get that first admission of guilt. There is a good article in the investigators tip section of the John E. Reid website that discusses this issue. Click on this link to see that article.