Listen: The Case of the Abusive FatherThe man was tall with jet black hair and ice blue eyes that seemed to pierce your soul. He worked for a U.S. government defense contractor at Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls. He held a Q clearance and had been there for almost two decades serving in a position of trust. His security clearance required him to be re-investigated every five years as a matter of routine. During the course of one of these re-investigations his ex-wife Dolores revealed that the man had sexually abused his daughter many years ago.
As a rule of thumb, statements from ex-spouses are usually taken with a grain of salt . . . if they’re taken at all. It’s a little known fact that the government often declines to interview the ex-wife or ex-husband simply because they rarely provide a balanced and objective testimony. The man’s divorce had been particularly acrimonious and his ex-wife was known to be a tippler. Her adult beverage of choice: peach schnapps. Yet another reason why her statements seemed unreliable and didn’t garner the attention that in retrospect they should have. As it turns out the man’s case was somewhat similar to the case of John A. Walker, Jr., the U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer who turned over highly classified material to the KGB from 1968 until his retirement from the Navy in 1983. Walker had operated with impunity for 15 years. Barbara Crowley, his ex-wife, was aware of his espionage activities however she was an alcoholic and was initially not interviewed. When the FBI did interview her they brushed her off as a bitter drunk, angry at her ex-husband. And so it was with Dolores. However for some reason this time the government took her serious. They decided to look into the matter. But they needed to corroborate her story. And the best way to do that was to interview the daughter. If fell upon me to conduct the interview. The daughter was in her early 20’s and living in Taylorsville where she attended Salt Lake Community College. I met her on campus and we retreated to a sound proof study room in the library. The first rule of interviewing is to be prepared. I knew the case forwards and backwards so I was ready. However, because of legal constraints I couldn’t simply ask “did your father sexually abuse you?” Maybe it wasn’t true. The man had a long illustrious career and a clean record. If it did happen, I had to get her to tell me. And that’s not easy. In order for that to happen I needed to build rapport. Aside from being prepared for an interview, the art of building rapport is the next important element of interviewing. I also began mirroring her body language. Mirroring is a non-verbal way of building rapport with your subject. You mirror the subject’s body movements, as well as the speed and timbre of their speech patterns…you become like them. It involves copying their gestures, hand motions, facial expressions, how they sit and and even how they speak. For example, folks in the country speak slower and more deliberately while people in the city tend to speak faster and more direct. Finally, I left the difficult questions until later on in the interview once I had built rapport. Interviews involving sexual abuse are like any other interview in that they require specifics. It’s not enough for the subject to say he molested me. I had to gather specifics. And that meant determining what type of abuse occurred, how often, etc. As it turns out, it was true. And I was able to get her to admit that the abuse had occurred. A successful interview…but at a high price. Until next time, This is Scott Fulmer, the Utah Gumshoe, reminding you the game…is afoot!
As a private investigator you sometimes find yourself dealing with things that are rather unpleasant. Certainly cases involving sexual abuse are the worst.”