Podcast featuring Leischen Stelter, Managing Editor, Edge and
Jennifer Bucholtz, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
In September 2004, 22-year-old college student Rebekah Gould was murdered near Melbourne, Arkansas. Her case remains unsolved. In the first episode of this five-part podcast series on In Public Safety Matters, learn about the evidence in this cold case from Jennifer Bucholtz, a criminal justice and forensic science professor at American Military University, who has spent months reviewing and analyzing the facts of this unsolved murder. Listen below to learn what the forensic evidence tells investigators about Rebekah’s killer and how applying behavioral analysis techniques can help narrow down the suspects.
Listen to the Episode:
To join the effort to help solve Rebekah’s murder, join the Facebook group, Unsolved Murder of Rebekah Gould. If you have any information about Rebekah’s murder, send a confidential email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read Jen’s 11-part article series with more details about the case.
Read the Transcript:
Leischen Stelter: Welcome to In Public Safety Matters. I’m your host Leischen Stelter. Today is the first episode in a series focusing on the unsolved murder of Rebekah Gould. I’m joined today by Jennifer Bucholtz. She’s a faculty member of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science at American Military University. Jen has been conducting thorough research, both online and on the ground, into this nearly 16-year-old cold case. Hi Jen, and welcome to In Public Safety Matters.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Hey Leischen, thank you so much for inviting me on the show and to AMU for hosting this podcast.
Leischen Stelter: Well, it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been working together for quite a bit of time, especially on this case. And I’m really excited to have a conversation with you about it as a podcast. So I wanted to start our conversation by just giving our listeners a sense of how you learned about this case, and then why it caught your attention as a criminal justice professional.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. I’d be happy to. The beginning for me goes back several years ago when I found out that AMU provided publishing opportunities for faculty to write articles on pretty much any topic related to criminal justice or forensic science. And over the years, I’ve collaborated with you on several articles, many based around homicide and true-crime case studies. For example, I remember one three-article series that we worked on about the Steven Avery case, which was featured on the Netflix show, Making a Murderer. And you and I have often talked on the side about our love of true crime podcasts, and we would compare podcasts that we’ve listened to and give each other ideas for a new podcast to listen to. And that’s how this whole experience started. The beginning for me in terms of Rebekah’s case goes back to late 2018, when you and I chatted about new podcasts and you mentioned the one called Hell and Gone.
Leischen Stelter: And that podcast, I remember being basically obsessed with it. If our listeners aren’t familiar, that’s by Catherine Townsend. And it’s a really interesting, I think it’s an eight-part series, that delves into Rebekah’s murder back in 2004. And I remember sending you the link. And instead of just being someone who listens to a true crime podcast like me and then goes on to the next one, you really dove into this case. And I know, obviously, you have a forensic science background. Can you tell me just a little bit about why Rebekah Gould’s murder caught your attention from a forensic science perspective?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Absolutely. I was immediately drawn to it because I felt that there was several behavioral clues exhibited on behalf of Rebekah’s killer. And I felt that those clues could help narrow down the pool of suspects. And although I didn’t know the ins and outs or the investigative details of what had been done on the case, it seemed like investigators had sort of overlooked those behavioral clues.
So the two things that immediately jumped out to me were the fact that the killer had tried to clean up the crime scene, and had also moved Rebekah’s body to a secondary location. And I know that as we go through this podcast experience, we’re going to talk more about the significance of those later on.
Leischen Stelter: And I think that’s what I like the most about your articles. We’ll put this in the show notes, but you wrote, an 11-part series that really goes into a lot of detail about some of the different elements that we’re talking about today. So feel free to check out those articles that Jen wrote, because they are very detailed.
What I liked most about your articles is your approach from a behavioral analysis perspective. And we’re going to talk about that in another episode, but I think that you bring a very interesting perspective in addition to the actual evidence and facts. Just trying to put those pieces together for the listener, so I’m really excited to dive into this with you.
Leischen Stelter: And before we go further, I also want to know that you have had some firsthand experience in terms of traveling to Arkansas. Can you tell us just real briefly what inspired you to make that trip?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. When I started writing about Rebekah’s case, it was pretty easy to put together a list of the known facts because law enforcement hasn’t shared much. So that was pretty much my first article was just going through the known facts and pieces of evidence from her case and trying to just separate those from all the rumors that have been out there. And then I also provided readers a little overview of means, motive, and opportunity, which are the three things we look at when trying to figure out if someone should be on a suspect list or not.
But as I moved into my second and third articles and I was analyzing the killer’s actions in this case, I really felt I needed to see some of these key locations in person. For example, it was theorized for years that Rebekah’s killer had pulled over to the side of the road and simply dumped her on the side of the road, and that she rolled down an embankment. But knowing that bodies do not roll well, I really wanted to see that location firsthand to either confirm or deny that theory. So going to Arkansas firsthand, which I’ll talk a little bit more in detail about this later, but going to Arkansas firsthand really opened my eyes and gave me much more insight into her case.
Leischen Stelter: And there were some really revealing things from that trip. I’m excited to talk about that with you as well. So let’s kind of dive into the specifics of this case in case our listeners aren’t aware of the details of this murder. And I just want to give out a warning real quick to our listeners that some of the information that we’re sharing may be graphic and hard for some listeners to hear. Jen, can you step back and give us an outline of this case?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure, absolutely. Let me give listeners an overview of the timeline of events surrounding the murder. And like I already said, we don’t have a lot of information from law enforcement. They haven’t shared very much, so there’s definitely some gaps in this timeline that we’ve been unable to fill so far. But, essentially, what happened was the month before Rebekah was killed, she and her sister moved from the small town of Melbourne, Arkansas to Fayetteville, which is about three and a half hours away. And they moved there to live with a third sister and attend college. So Rebekah had moved out of the area where she ultimately was murdered about three to four weeks prior to her death.
She was murdered on a Monday morning, September 20th, 2004. The Friday before the 17th, she and one of her sisters had driven back to Melbourne from Fayetteville together. Rebekah dropped off her sister at that sister’s boyfriend’s house, which is where the sister spent the entire weekend. That was the last time that Rebekah’s sister saw her.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Rebekah reportedly stayed at her on-again, off-again boyfriend’s house. We don’t know the exact status of their relationship at the time she was killed, but we do know that in the months prior to her death they had been in a romantic relationship. There’s quite a bit of information and evidence telling us that. So we do not know many of the activities of Rebekah over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday before she was killed. It has been very difficult to try to fill in those gaps of time and get people who probably have that knowledge to speak with us.
So on Monday morning, Rebekah reportedly took her boyfriend, Casey, to his place of work, which was the local Sonic drive-in. There’s no hard evidence proving that she was the one that took him to work. The only thing we have is some inconsistent eye-witness statements saying that they saw her car drive into the parking lot. But because of the heavily tinted windows on her car, no one can really confirm for us that she was the one driving it. But there’s no video evidence of her pulling in or dropping him off. So we really don’t know for sure if she took him to work.
Jennifer Bucholtz: But the last place we do know she was seen, or confirm to be seen, was a local convenience store two miles from Sonic. It’s called the Possum Trot. And it was a gas station and convenience store located on main street in Melbourne. And Rebekah stopped in there that morning and bought a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. This was confirmed by the cashier working and reportedly the sales receipt from the cash register. There’s been rumors that there’s video of Rebekah on camera there that morning, but after doing a lot of digging, I think we’ve pretty much refuted that rumor. And I do not believe that law enforcement obtained any video evidence of her being there. However, because of the cashier and the receipt, we do think she stopped there.
That was around 8:00 to 8:30 AM. We then assume that she drove back to Casey’s house. However, nobody saw her after that except for her killer. So what happened when she got back to his house is unknown. But she was probably murdered within the next two to four hours, so some time Monday morning.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Her body was moved from the initial crime scene and was not found for seven days. So she was found the following Monday, September 27th. And her body was found, depending on what route you take, approximately seven to 10 miles from the primary crime scene where she was murdered. And her body was found at the bottom of an embankment about 35 feet from the nearest paved road.
When Rebekah did not show up on Monday to retrieve her sister and drive back to Fayetteville, her sister started making phone calls, trying to get ahold of Rebekah, trying to find out where she might be. On Tuesday morning when no one had been able to get ahold of her and she still hadn’t arrived, Rebekah’s mom reportedly called 9-1-1 and asked for the local Sheriff’s department to conduct a welfare check at Casey’s house.
According to the officer who was dispatched to do that welfare check, he stopped at Sonic where Casey was at work Tuesday morning and picked him up. And they went to Casey’s residence together. They reportedly entered the residence together and walked around the house. Rebekah’s belongings were all there. Her car was parked out front. Her dog was inside. And her purse, her keys, her wallet with money in it were all found inside the residence, but she was not there.
Jennifer Bucholtz: And initially, the responding officer didn’t notice any signs of a struggle or any signs of it being a crime scene. It was when he went into the backyard and noticed blood evidence or what looked to be blood on the back deck is when he started doing a more thorough search of the house.
Upon his second time of going through that residence, he found bloody sheets in the washing machine. We do not know whether that washing machine cycle had finished or whether it was mid-cycle. But he said that he saw quite a bit of red colored water, which would lead us to believe that the red was colored by blood.
Jennifer Bucholtz: He also found a mattress in Casey’s bedroom that had been flipped over, and on the underside of that mattress was a large bloodstain. Underneath the bed were pillows stained with blood that had been stuffed under there. So obviously at this point, he realized something had happened at the house. So he called the Sheriff. The Sheriff arrived, declared it a crime scene, and that same day, the Sheriff, knowing that his department did not have the resources to investigate what appeared to be a very violent crime, called in the Arkansas State Police. And they took jurisdiction of the case from day on, and they have had jurisdiction over it since then.
Leischen Stelter: Okay. That is, first of all, very tragic. And I think it’s important for us to just keep in mind that Rebekah was a 22-year-old college student just home for the weekend. But I wanted to just ask you about a couple pieces of the timeline. So when the officer first went to the home of Casey, he had Casey with him?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yes.
Leischen Stelter: Is there any information about Casey’s demeanor or anything that provides information about his behavior?
Jennifer Bucholtz: That responding officer has given a couple interviews to journalists over the years, but he really did not speak much at all to Casey’s demeanor that day or anything Casey said. One comment he did make was that once the blood was discovered, Casey appeared stunned, I think was the word that he used. Or upset. But besides that, he didn’t provide any insight into Casey’s mannerisms or what he might have said or what kind of conversation they had or even what Casey did once it was declared a crime scene.
Leischen Stelter: And can you also give the listeners a sense of where this home is? Is it out in a fairly remote area?
Jennifer Bucholtz: It is. His home is located about eight miles, eight to nine miles from the Sonic where he worked. It’s about seven miles from that Possum Trot convenience store where Rebekah was last seen alive. It’s a quick drive though. I think the speed limit between those places and his home on the rural highway is 45, maybe 50 miles an hour. So you can get there in just a few minutes. However, his home was set back off that rural highway down a dirt road. If you knew where the house was as you were driving by on the highway, you could probably catch a glimpse of it. But it is not a place that you just stumble across or happen across. So it’s not like someone’s just going to be hanging out there and come across Rebekah in this house, and find her as a victim of opportunity. You have to know where the residence is in order to find it. And it is a pretty remote area.
There was one house that did have line of sight to Casey’s back in 2004. Besides that though, there was no other residents in the local area that could have heard or seen anything going on at his house. And since this murder occurred on a Monday morning, it’s likely that the neighbors were at work. We don’t know that for sure, but it’s probably likely that there was no witnesses or anybody that could even potentially have been a witness.
Leischen Stelter: I want to talk to you more about the cleanup aspect of this. So you said bloody pillows were stuffed under the bed and the mattress was flipped?
Jennifer Bucholtz: That’s correct. Yes.
Leischen Stelter: I know we’re going to get a little more into the behavioral analysis of this later on, but can you just talk a little bit about when a murderer cleans up a scene? What does that indicate and what would be the motive behind that?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. So like I said earlier, this is what struck me immediately about this case was the cleanup and the moving of Rebekah’s body. In nearly every case where a cleanup is conducted of the crime scene and the body is moved, the killer has a publicly known, direct link to both the victim and the murder scene. So that tells us right away that Rebekah’s killer most likely had a publicly known link to her and to Casey’s residence. Strangers who commit stranger homicide or have no link to a particular residence, they don’t stay around to clean up the crime scene. It’s too risky. They don’t know when the occupants of the house might return. They don’t know when neighbors might return.
I also want to bring up the fact that not only Rebekah’s dog was in that house, but Casey had a dog reportedly as well. So this killer would have to contend with two animals, being in a stranger’s house, not knowing when Casey or his father who was also a resident might return. Not knowing when the neighbors might come home. It’s very, very, very unlikely that this was any sort of stranger homicide. All indications are that Rebekah’s killer knew her well. And was very familiar with Casey’s house, knew where everything was. Knew where he lived, and knew that she’d be alone and that there’d be no risk of one of the occupants returning home and surprising them.
Leischen Stelter: And from a forensic science perspective, I guess in the mind of the killer, the thought was, “Okay, I’m going to try to clean up the evidence of this whole situation.” But is actually the opposite true? The longer you stay at the scene, the more likely you are to leave DNA or other forensic evidence. Is that true?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yes, you’re absolutely correct. The longer you stay at a crime scene, the more traces of yourself you are leaving. Whether you conduct a cleanup or not. But in Rebekah’s case, there was a cleanup conducted, although it wasn’t completed. And we can talk about that later, but there was an attempt to clean the scene. It appears to have been a very rushed attempt, but the killer did flip the mattress. They obviously stripped that mattress of the bloody sheets before flipping it. Stuffed the pillows underneath, so that at quick glance, I guess the pillows wouldn’t be seen. Put the sheets into the washer. Now our understanding is that there was towels in the dryer as well, that may have had Rebekah’s blood on them. Although law enforcement hasn’t confirmed that, but what that indicates is that the killer took the time to grab some towels and wipe up blood from various parts of the home. And then for whatever reason, instead of disposing of those bloody towels, decided to wash them. That’s also an indication that this is somebody who may live at the home. Because again, a stranger to the home is not going to care if they get blood on a stranger’s towels or on a stranger’s sheets. It’s not going to be important to them to stick around and do laundry.
Leischen Stelter: Doing laundry is a fairly personal thing. I mean, knowing how to operate a washer and dryer is not that hard, but they’re all different.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. Their laundry soap could have been sitting out, but maybe it wasn’t. In my house, my laundry soap is in the cabinet above my washer, so it’s easy to find, but in some people’s houses, it’s not. You have to know where these things are. And if you don’t, it’s going to take extra time to find them. And on top of that, they probably found some cleaning supplies. Because it’s not really effective to just take a dry towel and try to wipe up blood. You need to wet it down, and you need probably some sort of cleaning supplies, so they’re going to have to hunt and search for those things. And as they do that, they’re touching different surfaces, so at a minimum leaving fingerprints. They may be shedding hairs off of their head as they move around the house. They may be shedding fibers off of their clothing that they’re wearing. As they had to touch Rebekah’s shirt and the clothing she was wearing, and they may have left their Touch DNA, or they may have left fibers from their own clothing on her shirt because her shirt was definitely bloody. And we’ll discuss the injuries in another episode, but on top of that, they had to touch the washer. They had to touch the dryer. They probably had to go to a sink and turn the faucet on to wash their hands, or maybe even take a shower. They had to touch the back door to take her body out. They had to touch the front door to get in and out of the house. I mean, there’s just so many different surfaces that the killer likely touched or came into contact with. And hopefully law enforcement processed all of those surfaces to get clues that would lead them to the killer.
Leischen Stelter: And I just pictured trying to do all these domestic sort of activities with what I could only imagine a massive adrenaline rush. This incident just happened. It’s not like it’s a weekend and you’re just doing laundry. This very horrific crime was just committed and you’re trying to figure out how to do laundry. It’s very puzzling.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. The killer for sure had a very high level of adrenaline going. Probably a million different emotions. I’m sure anger, maybe even sadness or remorse, but also panicking because they obviously did this cleanup to try to mask the crime scene so that they wouldn’t be discovered as the killer. And something else I’d like to say about that is people who clean the crime scene and move bodies, they usually believe that they will be the number one suspect if they don’t complete those actions. And what they don’t realize is taking those actions still makes them the number one suspect. So in this case, police need to take that into account and say, “Okay, who would be the top suspect?” And that’s probably who the killer is.
Leischen Stelter: So despite all these activities at the initial crime scene, there haven’t been, that we know of, reports of foreign DNA being present, right? Or we don’t know about that in terms of the law enforcement report.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Right. Law enforcement hasn’t shared what DNA or fingerprints they did or did not find at the scene. I don’t tend to believe they found any foreign DNA. When I say foreign DNA, I mean DNA or prints belonging to a person that never should have been at that house or claimed to have never been at that house. There were some persons of interest or suspects in the beginning who told police, “I didn’t know where Casey lived. I’ve never been there.” So, for example, if they found DNA or prints belonging to the person, well, that’s pretty overwhelming evidence that they were the killer. The fact that no one’s been arrested tells me that most likely they did not find any foreign DNA or fingerprints that looked out of place in that house.
But naturally, Casey’s DNA and prints are going to be all over the place. Rebekah’s, because she had lived there on and off and she was visiting that weekend. Casey’s father’s DNA and prints should be all over the house because he was a resident. And maybe even some of Casey’s other family members, if they visited on a regular basis, their DNA and prints may have been there too. And that would be expected. That’s normal. But if you find somebody else’s who claims to have never been there, that should have raised a big red flag.
Leischen Stelter: So I want to talk about the transportation a little bit here. So first of all, Rebekah was a pretty small person. But, still, moving a body is a major undertaking. Can you just talk about how you believe her body was moved?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. Yes, Rebekah was small framed. She was about 5’2″ and 100 pounds or so, which doesn’t sound like a lot of weight, but I’ve worked with a medical examiner and I have lifted many, many bodies. And I’m by the way, 5’10”, 5’11”. I lift weights. I rock climb. I cannot lift a 100-pound body by myself. Unfortunately, unconscious or dead bodies are just extremely difficult to manage and you really do need two people. So that being said, I don’t think whoever moved her was a female. If there happened to be a female involved, there would have had to have been an accomplice. I do believe that a male who was much stronger than a female would be, could have lifted Rebekah up and put her into a vehicle.
I strongly believe that Rebekah was hit somewhere in the house, and we don’t know exactly where, and fell to the ground. She would have been bleeding profusely. And I think that alarmed her killer. Also the dogs may have been creating a ruckus or trying to get to her. And the killer became worried that the dogs would start tracking blood through the house. So I strongly believe that the killer picked her up and put her on the bed in Casey’s bedroom. I do not think she was killed while sleeping. And we’ll discuss that later as well.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Once on the bed, the bed would at least contain the blood flow to one area and obviously a bed would be easier to dispose of than ripping up all your carpet. So I think that was the motive for her being on the bed. At that point, once she expired or the killer thought she was dead, I tend to believe they wrapped her in the top layer of the bedding. Whatever that might be. A blanket, a comforter. It could have even been the sheets. Because nobody in their right mind transports a dead body out of the house without it being wrapped up in something or covered by something. And also knowing that they were going to drive that body elsewhere, you don’t want to take the chance of a passerby looking in your vehicle and seeing a dead body. So almost guaranteed that she was wrapped or covered in some form or fashion. I do believe that a strong male could have picked her up once wrapped in something, and carried her out that back door to a vehicle.
Jennifer Bucholtz: In terms of what vehicle was used for transport, law enforcement never figured that out as far as we know. Casey’s truck was supposedly processed. Rebekah’s car was processed. I’ve heard that a couple other vehicles were processed, but it doesn’t really sound like they did a real thorough analysis of all the potential vehicles that might’ve been used. I mean obviously since they didn’t find the vehicle, they overlooked someone’s vehicle. I don’t believe Casey’s truck was used. I don’t tend to believe Rebekah’s car was used. Although her car would have been more appropriate because it had a trunk versus an open bed of a truck. So her car would have been a safer choice. And the killer could have used it. And it’s possible back in the day that we just didn’t have the technology to detect those small traces of DNA or fibers that would have given us some clue that her car was used.
Leischen Stelter: You bring up another good point and something that I have to continuously keep in mind here. Is that this case happened in 2004. Which doesn’t sound like that long ago, but it was 16 years ago, almost 16 years ago. And technology has come such a long way. Like you mentioned earlier, Touch DNA. Was Touch DNA even a thing in 2004?
Jennifer Bucholtz: It was not. It did not come around until probably closer to 2010, but even then it was in its infancy. So what Touch DNA is for the listeners that don’t know is they’re individual skin cells that slough off of usually off of your hands. Although you shed skin cells from all over your body. But the most common places for them to slough off when we’re talking about a crime is the hands because you know the killer had to use their hands for all different activities surrounding that crime. So you can deposit even three or four individual skin cells. And if the crime scene is processed properly with the new technology and they can find those individual skin cells say on a piece of evidence or a weapon, they can link those skin cells positively back to the person who sloughed them off.
The thing with Touch DNA is that it can be transferable. Meaning you and I could shake hands. And then I could go shake hands with another friend and transfer your skin cells to that other person. So that has to be taken into account when we’re analyzing Touch DNA. But in the case of Rebekah, I really hope that they are retesting her clothing that she was wearing when found. Because the killer could have sloughed off skin cells onto her shirt. And those could still be there today. They could still be detectable today. And if there’s only one person’s skin cells on her shirt aside from hers, that’s pretty overwhelming evidence I think.
Leischen Stelter: Let’s talk a little bit about where Rebekah was brought. So she was moved from the trailer in a vehicle to a dumpsite basically. I forget. It’s several miles from Casey’s house, right?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Correct.
Leischen Stelter: I know we’re going to dive into this later.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yeah. Depending on what route you take between the two sites, it was about seven to 10 miles. There’s two routes you could use to get between the murder scene and the disposal site using paved roads. Neither one makes logical sense. This was one reason I really wanted to go to Arkansas because neither one makes logical sense at all. One would be a 45-minute loop around, going into another town, and over bridges, and all this stuff. The other one would be going north through the town of Melbourne, right past the police station and other businesses down main street. That one didn’t make a lot of sense to me either. So when we went to Arkansas and got on the ground, we realized that there was dirt roads leading almost directly from Casey’s residence to the disposal site and I’m fairly confident that the killer took one of those back dirt roads between the two sites.
Now that indicates to us that the killer was a local resident. Because especially in 2004, we did not have Google Maps. We did not have mapping on our phones. We did not have crisp, overhead imagery. So unless you knew where you were going on those back roads, you’re not going to find them. They’re not well-marked. In fact, the most likely route that I think the killer took for which the entrance is less than a quarter mile from his house. When you drive by it, you think that it’s a driveway to someone’s house. But in fact, it’s a dirt road that keeps going past that residence into the backwoods heading west towards the disposal site. But it’s not marked. So if it’s not marked now and it’s hard to find now, it was definitely hard to find back in 2004 and that tells me that her killer had to be a local resident and knew those back roads really well.
Leischen Stelter: So that back road, it’s like a class three or class four. Not maintained, basically. That type of road?
Jennifer Bucholtz: I would venture to say it’s not maintained by local county officials, but the road is easily drivable. Especially during the dry season, which it was when Rebekah was killed. When there had been no rain for weeks, it would be very easy to travel along those roads in any type of vehicle without any trouble. And if you knew the roads well, I’m venturing to say that you could drive pretty quickly and get to that disposal site in under 15 minutes. So although the roads aren’t officially maintained, they are easily passable and as long as there has not been a lot of rain and moisture, I would say any car could have made the trip.
Leischen Stelter: So it’s not like you’d need a pickup truck necessarily or an off-road vehicle.
Jennifer Bucholtz: That time of year, you would not have needed four-wheel drive. No.
Leischen Stelter: And I also am curious what time of day it’s believed that her body was moved. I mean, I would assume you would wait for the cover of night to move a body. But do we know that?
Jennifer Bucholtz: We don’t know and this is something that has been of great debate with me and some others who have helped work on this case. Initially, I believe the killer just did all of this at one time: Did the hasty cleanup, loaded her into a vehicle, disposed of her body, and then went to wherever that person needed to go that day in order to have an alibi.
In re-examining it and debating it with a lot of people, and doing more analysis, and talking to some people who have some firsthand information, I would not exclude the possibility that her body was moved temporarily and stashed somewhere on Casey’s property until nightfall. And then the person may have come back at night, retrieved her body, and moved it then.
His family owns a very large piece of property with lots of woods. There was even a cabin and a couple of other outbuildings and structures on the property where it would have been pretty easy to hide a body, especially if no one’s coming looking for her until they could get back under darkness and move her. So we don’t know for sure when she was moved. I can debate both sides of that, but I do not have a solid answer to it.
Leischen Stelter: So there could actually be three sites. Three crime scenes, instead of just the two that are generally highlighted. Very interesting.
Jennifer Bucholtz: That’s absolutely correct. There could actually be a tertiary site, a third site.
Leischen Stelter: So when her body was found, we’re going to talk about this in the next episode, her body was brought to the dumpsite. And you mentioned earlier that you believe that she wasn’t just kind of pushed down an embankment, that she was actually brought there. What was there, what was with her? Was she just in the clothes she was wearing? Was there a blanket or was there a shallow grave? Can you tell us more about her body?
Jennifer Bucholtz: From what we’ve been told, she was in a tee shirt and a pair of underwear and that’s it. She was not buried or there was no attempt to have buried her and there was no attempt to cover her up.
Now it is not uncommon for law enforcement to find a body with pieces of evidence near it, or with a covering over it, but not inform the public about that, so they may keep that to themselves for investigative reasons. But as far as we know, she unfortunately was just laying out in the elements, completely exposed and no attempt to cover her.
Leischen Stelter: And so she was found, you said seven days later?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yes. She was killed on Monday the 20th, and they found her body almost exactly seven days later on the morning of the 27th.
Leischen Stelter: And I remember you wrote a really interesting article about the entomology. Do you want to talk briefly about that element?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. So entomology is a study of insect activity as it pertains to trying to determine time of death on a human body. So maggots, which start out as just a regular house fly, are the first insects to flock to a dead body. And they’re there within minutes. I mean, they have this amazing sense of smell where they can sniff out a dead body, so the flies start arriving within minutes of death and over the course of the next several days, they lay eggs.
They utilize the body to lay eggs, and then those eggs hatch and they hatch into maggots and then the maggots grow. So based on the development of the flies or the maggots found on the body, we can help determine a rough time of death. And when I say rough, I’m saying down to maybe an eight-hour period if we’re good. Probably more like a 12- or 24-hour period.
In Rebekah’s case, I don’t know the species of maggots that were found on her. But based on the maggots that are most common to that area and the size reported in the autopsy report, it is consistent with her having been killed seven days prior.
Leischen Stelter: And would the maggot issue, would that start, say she was put in another site initially even just for a couple hours, would that begin then do you think? Or would it not really start until the actual dumpsite location?
Jennifer Bucholtz: It would have begun at whatever secondary location she was taken to. Whether that was her final, I’m not going to call her final resting place, but the place she was found or whether there was an intermediate storage place. The thing is, within the first of 24 hours, you mostly just notice the fly activity. It’s not to the point of having maggots yet. So although the killer, if he came back, he or she came back at night, say 12 or 14 hours after she died, they would probably just notice some flies flocking to the area. But they would not have had to deal with the type of insect and maggot activity that was seen when she was found seven days after her death.
Leischen Stelter: So that basically gives us the timeline and the general outline of her murder. I know there’s a lot more, but any other kind of big picture pieces that we didn’t really talk about?
Jennifer Bucholtz: I think one other thing to bring up, which we’ll discuss in more detail, is that there was reportedly a piano leg missing from Casey’s home off of a piano that he owned. Now he has said that that piano leg was always loose. And he has alluded that he thinks that was the weapon used to kill Rebekah. Law enforcement will not provide any of their insight on what they think, or speculate on what might have been the weapon. We’ll talk about her injuries later in more detail. We don’t know what that piano leg looked like, or whether it could have even been consistent with her injuries, but it was reported to be missing.
Aside from that, law enforcement has said that there were several other items missing from the home, but they will not elaborate on what those other items were. So we’re left wondering what else did the killer take with them or feel the need to remove from the home? And I want to point out that the missing items weren’t items of value, as if a robbery had taken place. It appears that there was other items missing that either maybe got her blood on, that there was just no way to clean or that had been used in the process of that cleanup or transporting of her body.
Leischen Stelter: So difficult because there’s so much information missing that it would be incredible to have some of these details and gaps filled in to really help build a full picture of what really happened to Rebekah and who is most likely to have murdered her. But this is really a great start, Jen. I think that it gives the listener a real sense of how this happened, and just so our listeners know, in future episodes, we’re really going to dive into some of these additional elements. Jen is going to use more of her forensic science background to talk about details of the autopsy, we’re going to talk about some of the behavioral analysis elements to really build a profile of who could potentially be the murderer, and then we’re also going to talk about what it means to use this evidence to potentially build a court case.
In the next episode, we have an incredible guest who is really familiar this case and has been working on it basically from day one. We’ll be joined by George Jared. And we’ll talk to him about his perspective on this case. He’s been working with Jen, I know quite a bit, to help her fill in the details so we’re really excited to have him on next. So please join us for that.
So Jen, thank you so much for outlining this case for us and we’re excited to talk to you in the next couple episodes. Do you want to just mention, if someone believes they may either have some information or is interested in learning more, can you tell them how to get involved?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Definitely. So if you think you have any bit of information that could be pertinent to the investigation of the case, I would ask you to reach out to the investigator who’s assigned to it, his name is Mike McNeill, he’s with the Arkansas State Police. He can be reached at phone number (501) 322-3365.
I also have a confidential tip email set up. If people aren’t comfortable calling him, I’m happy to relay confidential messages to him by removing the writer’s name. You can email me at email@example.com.
And if you want to follow the progress of this case or just reach out to me or George, who you’ll meet in the next episode, he and I actually have a Facebook discussion group dedicated to finding justice for Rebekah. That can be found at Unsolved Murder of Rebekah Gould and we invite anybody to join the group, join our discussions, and provide any theories or ideas they might have. We believe that the more people thinking about this and brainstorming, the better. Because you just never know what one idea might lead to so we are very open to new members and new discussion.
Leischen Stelter: And that’s kind of the beauty of this podcast medium is that we can really have this conversation. People can listen, get involved. You obviously have ways through the Facebook group for them to chime in, in real-time, but just putting this out in the minds of more people can really bring a case like this to a resolution. So any information or thoughts you have, please reach out to Jen. She’s really enthusiastic and doing an awesome job of learning everything she can about this case. So thank you, Jen, for all your hard work.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Absolutely. It’s my pleasure. Thank you for again, for sponsoring this and helping put this together.
Leischen Stelter: Wonderful. Well, we’ll talk again real soon.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Okay. Take care, Leischen.
Leischen Stelter: This is Leischen Stelter signing off from In Public Safety Matters.