WCCO-TV Minneapolis, MN

Interrogation Gone Bad

Nov 17, 2003 2:37 pm US/Central
(WCCO-TV) October 24, 2001. A 13-year-old girl on her way to Central Middle School in White Bear Lake, Minnesota is approached by a stranger.

"He came up behind me and so I didn't really know what he was doing, and he grabbed me around the waist by gunpoint and brought me into the car..."

The girl said a man blindfolded her and took her to a house where he sexually molested her. He then dropped her off in a parking lot behind a movie theatre in Oakdale about an hour and 20 minutes after he abducted her. She walked to a nearby Fleet Farm and told employees what happened. They called police.

Sketch of abduction suspect. The suspect is described as a white male between 40 and 50 years old with gray hair. He is around 5'9" tall and 200 pounds. He had a mustache and goatee at the time of the abduction.
For more than a week, White Bear Lake police didn't alert the public to the stranger abduction. The WCCO-TV I-TEAM has learned that the lead investigator refused to believe the victim's story.

Instead, during a taped interview at the police station, Detective Tim Stevenson told the 13-year-old girl who had just reported being sexually molested and kidnapped that she was making it all up.

Detective: "Do you want some guy to get arrested? Some innocent guy, driving around doing his own business, to get arrested?

Girl: "No."

Detective: "Tell me the truth then. You need to tell me the truth. What happened yesterday, how did you get to Oakdale?"

Girl: "I don't know. Some guy drove me. And I don't care if you don't believe me because I know what happened..."

The girl told police she had been dropped off at a movie theater parking lot. Surveillance cameras mounted at several different locations record there all day.

The detective reviewed surveillance tape from the morning of the abduction. He told the victim he didn't see her.

"I'm watching the whole thing, you never show up there," said Detective Stevenson. "You were never there. You never got dropped off there. You never walked around the theater..."

Officer Stevenson told the girl's parents she wasn't on the tape and he didn't believe her story.

"They discussed what they felt were inconsistencies in the story..." said the girl's father.

After just one day, Detective Stevenson closed the case, calling it "unfounded."

But the girl's parents believed their daughter, so they began looking for proof on their own.

"So my husband and I contacted the cinema and asked if we would be able to, if we could get the tape and come back and view it..." said the girl's mother.

The time on that surveillance tape was off. Even though neither of the parents had any detective experience, their own investigation and persistence found what the 12-year veteran police officer had missed. Stevenson had apparently looked at the wrong part of the tape.  [Click HERE to see frames from surveillance cameras showing the abductor dropping off the girl at the cinema.]

"You're not in, you're not even in one of those cameras," he told the girl. "That's a lie."

But it wasn't a lie. If Detective Stevenson had watched the whole tape he would have seen a car driving around the movie theater parking lot. A man got out of the car, took the girl out and drove away, just as the girl had said.

More than a week after the abduction, the public was finally notified. White Bear Lake police apologized to the family and a new detective stepped up the investigation. But critical time was lost.

Now, two years later, the abductor is still at large. Stevenson is still a White Bear Lake police officer. The young victim still lives with the traumatic memories of the abduction, and the brutal interrogation by Detective Stevenson.

The family is filing a suit against Detective Stevenson and White Bear Lake police.

The case has been turned over to the Ramsey County cold case unit.

For other real-life examples of police use of T&D (trickery and deception) against crime victims, see:

State v. Jenny Doe - Jenny Doe, a juvenile, was charged with obstructing (lying to police) because of two minor inconsistencies in her testimony against another juvenile who admitted he raped her.  The inconsistencies?  Whether her assailant pushed her onto a bed or forced her down with his hand on her shoulder, and whether or not she wore a different shirt after the rape because her own shirt had been ripped.  Two days after she was charged, her father beat Jenny Doe severely, calling her a slut, because he no longer believed she had been raped.

Link:  Cry Rape - A blind woman is raped at knifepoint, grilled by detectives who don't believe her, and criminally charged with filing a false report.  The charges were eventually dropped, but even after the woman's rapist was identified (by DNA) and convicted, the police have continued to stand by the treatment she received at their hands.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice