Life is shorter than it often seems. Sometimes we are only given a few minutes to be with the ones we love and hundreds of hours to spend thinking of them. Cherish the moments you have with your friends and family. In one single second, they can be taken away from you forever.
According to constitutional law, the government may not coerce confessions, as provided by the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the due-process prohibition against admitting involuntary confessions into court. To determine whether a defendant’s confession was voluntary, reviewing courts usually engage in a fact-specific inquiry into the totality of the circumstances including the defendant’s personal characteristics (e.g., age, mental health); the circumstances under which the confession was obtained (e.g., interrogation length); and the conduct of the police. (See LaFave, Israel, & King, 2004.)
The notion that confessions must be given voluntarily seems straightforward, but becomes complicated when one considers certain police behaviors. Although police have long been prohibited from using physical force, they are able to use a variety of powerful psychological ploys to extract confessions from criminal suspects, including the use of deception during interrogation. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed police to falsely claim that a suspect’s confederate confessed when in fact he had not (Frazier v. Cupp, 1969) and to have found a suspect’s fingerprints at a crime scene when there were none (Oregon v. Mathiason, 1977), determining such acts insufficient for rendering the defendant’s confession inadmissible. State courts have permitted police to deceive suspects about a range of factual matters, including, for example, falsely stating that incriminating DNA evidence and satellite photography of the crime scene exist (State v. Nightingale, 2012).
Although deceptive interrogation practices are generally allowable, they are not without limits. For instance, courts tend to be intolerant of police misrepresenting a defendant’s legal rights, such as telling a suspect that his or her incriminating statements will not be used to charge the suspect (Commonwealth v. Baye, 2012). It is important to note that because the totality-of-the-circumstances inquiry is fact specific, determinations of the limits of police deception are case specific. In People v. Thomas (2014), the New York Court of Appeals unanimously concluded that the officers’ conduct in eliciting incriminating statements from a father suspected of killing his infant son rendered the defendant’s statements involuntary as a matter of law. The officers repeatedly offered false assurances that they believed the child’s injuries were accidental and that the defendant would not be arrested, threatened to arrest the defendant’s wife, and falsely told the defendant that his child was alive and the defendant should disclose what he did to save his child’s life. The court ruled that these deceptive tactics, combined with a lengthy interrogation during which the defendant was hospitalized for suicidal ideation, all converged to overbear the defendant’s will.
Are the case-law distinctions between deceptive police tactics that are allowable and those that render a statement involuntary accurate? Although most potential jurors view police tactics as coercive, they generally believe such tactics are necessary to elicit truthful confessions and unlikely to elicit false ones (see, e.g., Leo & Liu, 2009). Future research should examine whether judges and justices hold the same beliefs. Further, mock interrogation studies could compare the coercive strength of various deceptive tactics to elucidate which ones are sufficient to overbear a suspect’s will. Findings from such studies might disabuse legal decision-makers of the view that certain deceptive tactics are not coercive.
Further, if such distinctions are not based on accuracy, research will be needed to determine what they are based on. Considering studies showing that moral judgments influence legal decision-making (e.g., Salerno et al., 2010), future work should consider whether certain tactics are perceived as more morally outrageous than others. That is, decisions about whether deception is allowable may be driven not from beliefs about what is required to overbear a suspect’s will, but rather from moral boundaries that define what is acceptable for police to lie about. Lying about nonexistent evidence may fall on the acceptable side of this boundary, whereas lying about saving a child’s life may not.
In recent years, cases that question police deception in the interrogation room have been handled mainly in the lower courts, but the frequency with which such cases arise highlights the lack of clarity regarding this issue. Psychologists interested in interrogation dynamics and legal decision-making can contribute to this area of law by investigating the links between such tactics and the actual and perceived voluntariness of confessions.
“Judicial Notebook” is a project of APA’s Div. 9 (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues).
Throughout my police career, I moved from patrol to investigations many times. After a year on the streets, I was promoted to Vice Investigator and served two years working mostly undercover. For two years back on the streets in uniform, I was promoted to Detective within the Criminal Investigations Division.
I was excited to learn I was being promoted to detective in my fifth year of service. I received my orders transferring me to investigations. I only had one more duty day to serve. I would spend the next couple of days off and report for duty in investigations to link up with senior Detectives Gary Pittman and D.E. Stevens. Instead of taking my days off, I could not wait. I dressed in plain clothes and drove to the station. Pittman and Stevens were deep in a double murder case when I called them on my talkie. I told them I was reporting in and was told to meet them in their offices.
I was fully briefed on the case. At 10:30 the night before, they responded to a double murder at the Rose View Nursing home on Mansfield Road. Betty Adams, a white female age 53, and her son, Glenn E. Adams age 24, were found shot to death in her light blue Chevy Impala. The victims were inside the parked car near the main entrance of the nursing home. Glenn had been shot twice in the head and Betty once in the head with a very large caliber weapon. The driver’s window and the passenger’s window were shattered during the assault. The gun shots appeared to have been fired into the Chevy by someone outside the driver’s side of the car. No witnesses were on the scene when the detectives and crime scene members arrived. During this era, it was rare for businesses to have security cameras and videos.
It was Wednesday night when I entered the case or as they put it, began to tag along. The commander learned I had joined the investigation and wanted to know who had authorized my overtime pay. I quickly informed him I was on my own time and never intended to charge it. Since I was offering my services for free to his division, he authorized my involvement.
D.E. trained me as a rookie cop in the Cedar Grove beat and when I later went to Organized Crime and Intelligence. Just the name of the unit made many laugh at me. They often said, “Pat McGaha and Intelligence don’t go together!” I had to agree. I was now a rookie detective even though I had been a cop for five years. I had encountered many murders, rapes, robberies and lesser crimes as a street officer. I knew the basics of investigations. I knew how to canvass a neighborhood to locate good witnesses. I knew about protecting a crime scene. I quickly learned how vital they were and how easy it was for them to be destroyed.
First responders are all in the same big family. I love my brothers and sisters in the Fire Fighting services but like siblings, we did not always get along. Regardless of my current duty assignment serving as a street cop or a homicide detective, when I rolled up on a murder scene, I quickly checked on the victims. Forgive my graphic descriptions here. If a victim of a shooting or stabbing was missing half their head, or their head was almost severed, or I could almost see through their chest where their heart once was, I knew they were dead.
I learned to stand my ground with E.M.T’s who worked such calls. When I was a rookie, I watched them snatch up numerous (clearly dead) victims, load them on a stretcher and rush them to a local emergency room for treatment. I witnessed them drive into crime scenes and run over spent shells with their many emergency units. When they bailed from their units determined to save a poor victim’s life, they had no regard for police evidence. Fire and Police both know saving a person’s life trumps a police investigation. Both professions mandate it as the number one objective. When the victims are clearly deceased, our missions part company. Police want and need every crumb of possible evidence.
I can not count the murder scenes I worked that were seriously contaminated by these responders. I saw squads of them rush to the victims carrying their large, orange tackle boxes, apply bandages, start IV’s and do chest compressions on people who had long passed. They left bloody bandages, wrappers and other contaminating debris behind. In our state, only the Coroner/Medical Examiner or Physician can pronounce someone deceased. Our E.M.T.’s used this law like a sledge hammer.
Their standard declared announcement gave them the authority to pick up a dead person and remove them from the scene.
“I think I’ve got a pulse!!”
I had my own suspicions why they rush dead people to emergency rooms. I was married to a R.N. for over 30 years. Cops and Nurses are drawn together in life. They see violent and tragic things people do to one another as do Fire Fighters. Most E.R.’s are dominated by young, attractive trauma nurses. I cannot say I blame Fire Fighters in wanting to move from a rainy ghetto crime scene into a nice warm emergency room filled with hot nurses instead of packing their tackle boxes back in the big trucks and returning to their stations to sleep or play checkers until the next call. I had a job to do and I confess, I made many fire fighters angry when I told them to leave my crime scenes if the victims were clearly deceased. Did I say I love my brother and sisters in Fire Service? Well, I do.
The day after the murders, Stevens and Pittman’s list contained one witness who stopped at the nearby traffic light just before the shooting. The motorist saw a light colored car pass through the intersection and pull into the entrance of the nursing home parking lot. The light changed to green and the motorist drove off. The witness recalled seeing two white males in the possible suspect’s car. Stevens and Pittman continued down their list. We spent several days in the office as waves of our victims’ friends and family flooded into the division offices.
We learned Betty Adams was a R.N. loved by many of her friends and co-workers. We ruled out any possibility her death was connected to her son’s. She had a spotless nursing record and her reviews were at the top of the charts. We interviewed the nursing home staff and focused on prescription drugs. It was an obvious starting point. Betty dispensed drugs for a living. We studied the distribution program and found it to be airtight. At no time in Betty’s tenure did she lose drugs or have a bad count.
By day three, our list of possible motives in the killing of Glenn Adams had grown to six. His close friends told us he was closely connected to the Outlaw motorcycle gang. Our Intelligence Division investigators shared reports about them. We knew the Bandido’s motorcycle gang had long been established in our area. Reports indicated the Outlaws were trying to move in and take over their illicit operations.
At first we interviewed each known associate, friend or family member as a team of three detectives. By mid morning, our conference room was filled with people waiting to be interviewed. D.E. called us into his office for a quick review. We talked about the gang connection and I was tasked with running down this motive. We learned Glenn had a long running feud over drugs with a former friend. A couple of his friends said Glenn was dealing with a Dixie Mafia guy and negotiating the purchase of some type of explosives. We had the name of the redneck mafia member. This had to be investigated thoroughly. Pittman was going to run this down.
My status changed that morning out of necessity. Instead of hanging around watching D.E. and Pittman conduct interviews, I became a real team member. We split up and went one on one with the crowd of people. By dinner time, I had interviewed 15 or so people. The same for Stevens and Pittman. We each took recorded statements so as not to be constantly writing every word.
We held numerous meetings as a team. Every couple of hours, we joined together to share our information. We made a master list of motives and possible suspects on the large white board in the conference room. When citizens entered the room, we covered it with a large sheet of thick paper. We did not want the details of our leads seen by others. Pittman was great at creating a time line which started a week before the murders and we updated it each day of the investigation. It gave us insight on the activities of Glenn and Betty leading up to their deaths.
- Outlaw motorcycle gang. Assigned to Pat
- Drug feud with old friend. Assigned to D.E.
- Dixie Mafia explosives. Assigned to D.E.
- Another drug conflict with dealers. Glenn may have ripped them off. Assigned to Pittman.
- Glenn had a girlfriend. Her ex-boyfriend did not get along with Glenn. Assigned to Pittman.
- Glenn was listed as a suspect in a burglary case in Shreveport. One of his friends suspected Glenn broke in his house and took his stereo. Assigned to Pat
D.E. and Pittman had now been working the case for over 30 hours without rest. Pittman and I smoked. D.E. chewed Red Man tobacco. From time to time, we would go outside to the smoking deck, as it was called, and take a tobacco break. We never stopped discussing the leads we were establishing. We ran down our information and each time the leads fizzled out. We encountered challenges in tracking down suspects. I had to rely on our Intelligence Division guys and their unsubstantiated reports. I spent a couple days digging down on the gang theory and came up with nothing supportive. Because I was not able to connect the dots to the murders, I was frustrated knowing it may still be a connection. Every lead on the possible motives was actually a separate investigation. Every step we took required recorded statements and investigative reports written. It reminded me of the neighborhood football games I played as a kid. We strategized and formulated our next play in our huddles. We launched the new play, completed it and returned to our huddle to brief our little team.
Working a hot murder case taught me several things I applied throughout my career. A murder case is like a big meal. It is at its best when it is hot off the stove and on the table. The longer it sits, it grows cold and starts to deteriorate as time passes. Pittman often said, “Never stop. Work it while it’s hot.” I also learned how different they were from other detectives. They stayed with the case at all cost. They made sacrifices in their personal lives. They put the case ahead of their families, friends and other obligations in life. Some detectives worked cases differently. Those guys made the initial call, worked 8 or 10 hour shifts and headed home or to their children’s sporting events, plays or birthdays. D.E. and Pittman set all these things aside marching on with the case for endless hours without a bath, food or sleep. It became clear the reasons they were considered the best detectives on the force. They were passionate and highly motivated. They liked the challenge placed before them. Working murder cases was all that mattered to them and they gave everything they had. They cared about the victims and their loved ones.
This case was no different to them. Glenn had a shady lifestyle but he did not deserve to be murdered. His mother, Betty, was totally innocent. When we grew tired wanting to go home, take a shower and go to bed, Pittman put things back into focus.
“What if he was your brother? What if she was your Mom? Would you want the detectives to clock off the case to work an extra job at the Mall?”
After working those forty some hours without rest, we decided to take off a few hours. We needed to go home to see our families. We needed a homecooked meal, a hot bath and a soft bed to lie on for a couple hours. Robbin, Paxton and I lived in the country several miles south of Shreveport. We had a small two bedroom, one bath farm house. A black chow dog and a rescued cat. I called Robbin before I left the office to let her know I was on my way home, tired, hungry and stinky. When I opened the back screened door to the small kitchen, my warm bath water was waiting for me. I kissed them as I passed through heading for the tub. We had an old, giant claw foot tub. I could stretch out leaving my head just above the waterline. This was the first of many times in years to come I would come home exhausted and fall asleep in the warm water. However, each time ended with my head sliding beneath the surface of the water and quickly waking me.
After eating supper, I hit the thick mattress on the old, iron framed bed. I loved our homemade feather pillows and in seconds I was asleep. I asked Robbin to wake me in two hours. She gently touched my arm to wake me. I tried to open my eyes but my lids felt like sandpaper. She doused my red eyes with a contact solution that eased the pain. Two cups of hot coffee in me, I dressed, said goodbye and out the door I went. This short break did wonders for me. Over the next several days this would be standard operating procedure for our little team. Every twenty four hours, we would take this break.
With fresh clothes, food in our guts and clear minds, we met back in D.E.’s office. D.E. retrned to work a few minutes ahead of Pittman and me. He tracked down the witness from the car who had possibly seen the suspect’s vehicle moments before the double murders. The witness was in route to the station. I had done all I could with my motive assignment on the motorcycle gang connection. Pittman had dug deep into his assignments on possible motives and so had D.E. The only thing left for me to do was walk to central records and run Glenn Adams through the system. D.E. and Pitttman met with the witness and hit the streets in D.E.’s ugly, unmarked detective unit. Their plan was to ride around town with the witness looking at various cars in hopes of finding one that resembled the suspect’s ride.
Glenn Adams’ name appeared in several police reports over the last few years. He had been arrested for a couple of petty crimes. The only thing that caught my attention was on a burglary report filed by Clifford Brake. In the report, Brake said his home was broken into and several things of value taken. He listed several pieces of jewelry and an expensive stereo. The patrol officer who responded to Brake’s home for the report noted Glenn Adams was a former friend and possible suspect in the case. Since Adams had been a guest in Brake’s home on many occasions, there was no need to compare his prints against the ones lifted by the patrolman at the scene.
Within the investigative division, there is a small unit called the Pawn Shop Detail. A couple of seasoned detectives worked this detail and were very good. Each time a person sells or pawns something in a local pawn shop, the owner of the shop must copy the seller’s driver license and complete a small ticket with carbon copies. The pawn shop keeps a copy on file and the other goes to S.P.D. investigations. On my way back to D.E.’s office, I went to the pawn shop detail office. I found the bank of filing cabinets that housed all the tickets of things sold and pawned over the last 10 years. I looked for Glenn Adams’ name in the cabinet that contained the most recent tickets. I searched the files for a couple of hours and gave up when I could not find the stereo listed in Brake’s report.
Since I had not been given an office yet to work, I camped out at D.E.’s desk to read all the reports and statements again. I read over all of D.E.’s and Pittman’s reports and listened to the recorded statements they took from the people they interviewed on their possible motive list. Every lead seemed to fizzle at the end of a long, winding and bumpy road. We were all getting frustrated. I learned most often in many murder cases, there are only one or two possible motives. The fact we were dealing with six was almost overwhelming. We worked hard running down these possible leads. At this point in the investigation, we had tracked down and interviewed over seventy people. We built a mountain of information in our pile of police reports and transcribed statements. None of it worked in our favor. I watched D.E. and Pittman handle their frustrations. They were both methodical in their efforts. They were in the race for the long run. I struggled with impatience. I wanted to do what Barney did on Mayberry. I wanted to “Nip it!”
D.E. and Pittman returned to the office with the first break in our case. The witness riding around town with them clarified his description of the suspect’s car. Instead of a light, full size, American made car, they spotted an eight year old rust colored Buick Skylark. They were on E. Kings Highway at Youree Drive stopped at a red light. The witness saw a rust colored Skylark pass through the intersection. He shouted, “That’s the Car!” Well it was not our suspect’s car. It was driven by an elderly lady with blue hair.
At least we now knew the type of car. This new information energized us. Finally we had something to sink our teeth into, even though it was a small lead. The new information did not provide enough details for D.E. to put out a B.O.L.O. (Be On the Lookout) to every officer on the streets. This new information did open a vast array of options for us. We all headed back to central records to pull accident reports under all the names of the seventy people we had interviewed. Hours later we walked out once again with empty hands.
Pittman had a great idea. If we went to the police dispatch office, we could enter all the names of the people we interviewed on the state computer. We could input their names, dates of birth, driver license numbers and do a search. When the responses appeared on the little green screen, we saw every vehicle the person had registered. We stayed at this for hours and finally hit pay-dirt. Clifford Brake’s name was on our list as a known associate of Glenn’s. When his query responded, it showed he owned a rust colored Buick Skylark. I told D.E. and Pittman about the report where Brake listed Glenn Adams as a suspect in his burgarly.
Though it was after midnight, D.E. called the witness and asked him to come back to the station. Once he arrived, he rode across town with D.E. and Pittman to the home of Clifford Brake. The house was located near the State Fairgrounds on Samuel Street that deadended just south of I-20. The Skylark was parked in the shadows to the of the small, older woodframed home. D.E. pulled directly behind the car in the drive shining his headlights on it for a few seconds. He quickly reversed his unmarked detective unit and headed back to the station. As soon as D.E. shined the lights on the car in question, the witness proclaimed it was the very car he saw the night of the shooting.
The witness was once again released and we brain stormed for hours to list our several points of probable cause for Clifford Brake. We had proof of a conflict. Brake listed Glenn as his primary suspect in his theft. Brake’s home was only ten city blocks from the Rose View Nursing home. He owned a car that matched the only witness’s statement. However, we still did not have enough to arrest him and we had no idea who was his accomplice.
Once again, we stayed with the case all night waiting for the District Attorney’s office to open for business. At 9:00 A.M. we walked into Dale Cox’s office to discuss the case. Dale was a senior assistant D.A. with several years of aggressive and successful prosecutions under his belt. Dale was easy to talk to and welcomed us to brief him on the matter. When D.E. and Pittman finished, Dale wanted us to keep at it and confirm what we already knew. We did not have sufficient probable cause to arrest Brake at that time.
We went back to D.E.’s office and met with several other seasoned detectives. Present were Charles Owens, Bobby Wyche, John Snell, Lieutenant Melvin Ogburn and Chief of Detectives Sam Burns. D.E. and Pittman ran down all the facts on Brake to them in great detail. Collectively they advised us to approach Brake as a prime suspect. Let him know he was our target in the double murder. Get him to come into the offices for questioning.
Pittman and D.E. went to Brake’s house to confront him directly. To call him and ask him to voluntarily come to the offices for questioning, he would realize how weak the case was against him.
I agreed and stayed at the station. We were trained it was proper for two investigators to confront suspects. Courts indicated if three or more investigators were present, it could be considered coercion.
They rolled up behind the Skylark and knocked on the door. Brake answered and allowed them to enter the front room. They took seats and informed him he was under investigation for two counts of 1st degree murder. They read him his Miranda warning and went straight to the heart of the matter. They did not allow him time to respond or deny his involvement. They advised they had a witness who had seen him and his partner in his Skylark the night of the two murders. His car had been identified and the witness was willing to go to court to testify against him. Brake was knocked off guard and began to breathe quickly. The investigators observed his hands began to tremble and he started tapping his foot unconsciously on the floor. They hammered with everything they had. Brake came close to rolling over on the murders but seemed to realize he still had wiggle room. He shut up and would not budge.
When D.E. and Gary Pittman returned to the offices, they filled me in on the details. We continued to brainstorm how to make a case against Brake. Finally, it dawned on me. The presence of D.E. and Pittman had rattled Brake tremendously. He knew he was a double murder suspect now and the cops were hot on his trail. He had to know it was a matter of time before everything came crashing down around him. I felt we were close to making this case and ran my idea by my partners.
“Let’s continue to follow this direction with Brake. He needs more heat put on his ass and I know how to do it. Let’s put around the clock pressure on him. How about we have a marked unit parked directly across the street from his house 24 hours a day. Every time he leaves, they follow him. If he leaves our jurisdiction, we break off but let him know the cops are watching his every move?”
My partners liked my rookie detective idea. We approached the Chief of Detectives to garner his support. Chief Burns liked the idea and called his counterpart over all uniformed officers. Within minutes, we had a cop in a marked unit sitting in clear sight at the end of Clifford Brakes’ street.
We continued to work the case but were not able to catch another break. At the end of the seventh day of the investigation, we had a suspect but not enough evidence to arrest him. We needed one more thing to tip the scales to our favor. We were running out of gas. Our bodies and minds were exhausted. I smoked so many cigarettes, I kept a constant headache. I drank so much coffee, my hands shook like a wino. My clothes were sticking to my skin and I could hear my bed calling me. We decided to take the night off. It was after 5 o’clock when we headed for our homes that evening. I crawled into the ugly, unmarked pool bomb I was assigned to drive home for the night. I was a block from the station thinking about Brake. I realized I searched the pawn shop records on Glenn Adams but not searched under Brake’s name. I turned around. It only took a few minutes to find what turned the case in our favor. Clifford Brake had reported his stereo stolen and listed Glenn Adams as the suspect a month before the murder. The day he called our department reporting the theft, he sold it to a local pawn shop for quick cash. In Brake’s report, he provided the brand name, model and serial numbers to the officer. The same brand name, model and serial number appeared on the pawn ticket I was now holding in my dirty hand.
I called D.E. and Pittman with this news. We decided to take the night off and run with this new information the following morning. In the meantime, Brake could simmer in his little house knowing the cops were outside waiting on him to stumble. We kept the pressure on him. I went home energized. I took a bath and did not fall asleep. I ate a big homecooked meal and spent time with my wife and little boy. When my head hit that old feather pillow, I closed my eyes thinking I would fall fast asleep. Wrong! I was so wired, I could not sleep. I knew I had stumbled across the lucky break we needed. I envisioned how the next day would go. I played the case over and over in my mind. Sometime after midnight I must have drifted off.
I was in the office before D.E. and Pittman the next morning. I asked other detectives where blank arrest warrant forms were kept. In the file where I was directed, I learned one more thing I would use to our advantage. The crime Brake had committed was a simple charge. It was a misdemeanor and basically equal to a shoplifting or running a red light. Every misdemeanor charge had to be issued out of our City Court. Felony arrest warrants were approved by the D.A. of the parish and issued out of state court. I was disappointed when I studied the two warrants. Both warrants had the words “Arrest Warrant” at the top of the page. The city warrant’s version was in tiny lettering. The state or parish warrant had the same words in giant, bold letters. “Arrest Warrant“. When my partner arrived, I ran another idea by them.
“Can I go to the D.A. of our parish and get the arrest warrant for filing a false police report on Brake? Or am I required to seek it through our city court?”
They asked what difference it made. Why was I thinking this way. We were using psychological pressure against Brake. I wanted to show him an arrest warrant with big bold lettering for impact. They thought it over a minute and said get the state warrant. It took me most of the day to draft the affidavit and arrest warrant for Brake’s petty charge. I had to wait for Cox to take a recess from a court trial. Finally I met with Dale Cox and he signed off on my documents. Next I went to the duty judge and gained his signature. It was late in the afternoon when I linked back with my partners. We discussed how we wanted to proceed. We wanted to make a major show of force in arresting Brake. We decided to ask for ten marked units to lead the way. We called the officer watching Brake’s house and verified he was at home. We met our uniform officer team at the fair grounds and briefed them. We did not tell them our warrant was for filing a false report. We wanted them to be on guard. We were about to arrest a man who shot and killed two people. He was considered armed and dangerous.
Our convoy headed out with flashing overhead lights of the units. We rounded the corner and was joined by the officer watching the house. We blocked the street to Brake’s house for the entire city block. Our officers bailed out of their cars leaving the lights flashing. Many of the officers were armed with shotguns. They set up an airtight perimeter around the house. Several officers lead the way to the front door with D.E., Pittman and me. They pounded hard on his front door and in seconds it opened. Brake had lost weight and was pale. He looked sick and ready to cry when I shoved the single sheet of paper in my hand up to his face. All he could see were the big black letters, Arrest Warrant.
I said, “Clifford M. Brake Jr., you are under arrest! You knew this day was coming! You knew it was only a matter of time before we busted your ass. Now you are hereby under arrest! You have the right to remain silent. You are not required to make a statement unless you want to do so voluntarily. Anything you say may be used against you in court. Now officers, cuff him and take him to jail!”
Before Brake could speak, he was snatched out of his front room on to the small porch and cuffed. He was quickly walked to a marked unit and stuffed in the back seat. We cleared the arrest scene and headed to the station. I rode with my partners and discussed our strategy. D.E. and Pittman were the lead investigators on the case. It was clear they had the experience and the right to interrogate Brake. I sure wanted to sit in on the interview but knew I was the third guy out. Brake was placed in D.E.’s office and we closed the door. We wanted it to sink into his brain that he was going down for murder. We let him sit alone for a while. We drank a cup of coffee and it was time for Brake to be confronted once and for all. Just before Pittman reached the door, a thought came to me. I asked him to walk down the hall with me for a second. I had studied police interrogations by one of the best in the country when I attended L.S.U. He was a salty, retired F.B.I. agent and one of the most intelligent cops I ever met. He had been a street cop as he worked his way through college. When he received his degree, be became a federal agent. I told Gary Pittman about the technique the old agent taught me.
“The best setting for an interview is a very large room with only two chairs. Place the chairs as far apart as possible. Ease slowly into the interview and increase the pressure in stages. Each time you ask a pointed question, get up from your chair and push it toward your suspect. Continue this. Every time you do this, you are getting closer to the suspect and asking more powerful questions. He will wonder what in the hell you are doing. He is thinking of your questions and at the same time wondering why you are moving in on him this way. Finally, when you hit him with your best shot, be close enough that both of your knees are touching his. Reach up with both of your hands and lay them on his shoulders.”
Pittman liked my plan and promised to use it. Someone at Brake’s house had called his father. He had just walked in our offices when D.E. and Pittman went in to talk to Brake. We needed him to confess to the murder. We were gambling with everything we had. Our receptionist paged D.E. I responded to the front desk to handle whatever it was. I met Clifford M. Brake Sr. and escorted him to a vacant office. He asked why his son was arrested. He was sure his son had not done anything wrong, especially killing two people. I really did not know what to do with this man so I followed my common sense. I told him about the murders of Glenn and Betty. I gave him graphic details about their brutal murders. I stressed how Betty was an innocent victim. I told him his son had an ongoing conflict with Glenn and that was the motive for the murder. When I finished, Mr. Brake put his head in his hands as he attempted to collect his thoughts. As a father, he was understandably upset. I went to the coffee station down the hall to give him some time and space. After a few minutes, I returned with his cup. He took it and began to sip. What he said then made me very nervous.
Mr. Brake wanted the detectives to stop interviewing his son. He had called a lawyer who was in route to the station. I informed Mr. Brake his son was a legal adult. He was given his rights about talking and having a lawyer. His son waived his rights. I asked him a hard question.
“Mr. Brake, we know your son was present the night they killed Glenn and Betty Adams. We know he had a partner with him. What we don’t know is, did your son pull the trigger or was it the other guy with him. If he wants to tell us the truth about this murder, that’s his choice as a grown man. Are you telling me, if your son wants to tell us how it happened and tell the truth, you don’t want the truth to come out?”
He never answered my question. He just sat in his chair and studied me.
Pittman appeared in the hall and signaled me to come out. We closed the door to another office and he gave me the news. I did not realize it but I was holding my breath as he spoke. “We got him on tape confessing! He says it was over the stereo.He had a partner but the partner is the one who shot Glenn and his mother. We have his name and address. We need to book Brake into the jail and go after the trigger man! By the way, I used your trick. I sat way back from him. Each time I asked him an important question, I scooted my chair toward him. It worked! When I finally asked him why he shot and killed Betty, my knees were touching his. He broke down and told me he never wanted Betty hurt, but it was his partner who shot them both!”
We booked Brake into the city jail on two counts of 1st degree murder and went after his partner. He gave us the suspect’s name, Virgil Echard age 29. His address was 909 Traffic Street, Bossier City. We did not have an arrest warrant on Echard for the murders. When we ran his name through the nationwide N.C.I.C. computer system, we learned he was wanted for escaping a prison in Maryland where he was serving time for armed robbery under an alias of John Phiefer. D.E. and Pittman went to Bossier and linked up with officers. Echard lived on the left side of a double duplex house. When officers hit the house, he was inside. His wife answered the door and told officers he was not home. Echard ran to a closet in his home and climbed into the attic through a small access panel in the ceiling. He crawled across the attic and dropped down into the next door apartment. Soon officers found and arrested him and his lying wife.
Once he was booked into our jail, D.E. and Pittman interrogated him. He confessed to being at the murder scene but blamed Brake for shooting Glenn and Betty. He too was charged with two counts of 1st degree murder.
Eight days later, we arrested the two men who killed Glenn and Betty. We interviewed over 80 people and worked through six different possible motives. Once Brake and Echard were formally charged in court, they lawyered up. During their confessions, they told us the murder weapon had been tossed out of the Skylark’s window as they drove over the Red River on I-20 moments after the murder in route to Echard’s house.
We sent divers down twice searching for the large caliber pistol but it was not found. We battled the two defendants for months in court. Their lawyers claimed our arrest of the two men were bad arrests and the confessions resulted from threats and coercion. At one point, their lawyers claimed the two suspects were mentally unfit to stand trial. Two psychiatrists examined them and testified they were both intelligent and stable enough to stand trial. Their lawyers advised them to plead guilty of manslaughter. Months later, they did make pleas to this charge and were sentenced to 21 years at hard labor for each count of murder. Last I knew, they were rotting in the Louisiana State Pen.
After D.E. and Pittman confronted Brake, before his arrest, he became so distraught he attempted to kill himself by overdosing with pills. The officer watching him followed the ambulance to the hospital but was not allowed to see the medical reports. He was told the victim had taken too many meds. Brake’s stomach was pumped and he was sent home. The officer notified our team at the time but we thought it was an accidental overdose. Later in his confession, he told D.E. and Pittman he could not take the pressure of knowing he was the prime suspect in the case. The cops outside his home drove him over the edge. I am glad he survived the overdose. If he had died, we would have had a hard time learning his partner’s name.
At no time did we coerce Brake or Echard. We never threatened or abused them. We did use every psychological tool we could imagine to break them and solve the case. When I shoved the arrest warrant with big bold letters in his face, I knew he thought the warrant was for the murders, I let him think what ever he wanted. This was challenged vigorously by his lawyers in court. The judge ruled in my favor. May God bless the families of Glenn and Betty Adams and may He also bless the innocent family members of Brake and Echard.