Podcast featuring Leischen Stelter, Managing Editor, Edge and
Jennifer Bucholtz, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Editor’s Note: Listen to the first episode in this series.
In the second episode of this five-part podcast series, gain a local perspective about the area where Rebekah Gould was murdered in 2004. Hear what Jennifer Bucholtz learned during her trip to Arkansas and what she discovered about the likely route the killer took between the house where Rebekah was killed and the site where her body was left. This episode also features journalist and true-crime author, George Jared, who was part of the original search party for Rebekah’s body and has since written many articles about her unsolved murder.
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 email@example.com. You can also read Jen’s 11-part article series with more details about the case.
Read the Transcript:
Leischen Stelter: Welcome back to In Public Safety Matters. I’m your host, Leischen Stelter. Today we’re going to dive right into the second episode of our series focusing on the unsolved murder of Rebekah Gould. If you haven’t listened to the first episode, please hit pause and go back and listen to it. There’s just a lot of really critical information you need to know about this case. Once again, I’m joined by Jennifer Bucholtz. She’s a faculty member of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science at American Military University. She’s been really involved in analyzing some of the forensic evidence involved with Rebekah’s murder. Welcome back, Jen.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Hi, Leischen. Thanks again for having me back on the show and to AMU for hosting this podcast.
Leischen Stelter: Excellent. For this episode we have a special guest I am really excited to hear his thoughts. We have George Jared, who has been following this case as a journalist since basically day one. George, it’s an honor to have you with us.
George Jared: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Leischen Stelter: For today’s episode, I want to paint a picture for our listeners about some of the local nuances of this case. Jen, we talked a little bit before about how you actually traveled to Arkansas to see the area where Rebekah was murdered firsthand. I wanted to start us off here, if you could tell us what you were looking for when you started out on that journey and what details you really wanted to figure out for yourself or see for yourself.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Probably the main reason that I wanted to travel to Arkansas was to see some of the key sites associated with Rebekah’s case firsthand. You can look at imagery and maps all day long, but it never compares to actually putting your eyes on a location. I really wanted to see where Casey’s residence was, which was the primary murder scene, and I really wanted to see where her body had been found as well. In the course of looking at those two sites, we made some discoveries about potential routes that the killer likely took between the murder scene and the disposal site. On top of that, I had reached out to George when I started writing articles because I wanted to get his insight as I’d seen that he literally was there when Rebekah’s body was found, had written about her case since day one. I had made contact with him and we quickly spent many hours on the phone. Another motivation to go to Arkansas was to meet him and Rebekah’s father in person and go over some of the analysis that I was doing.
Leischen Stelter: Excellent. George, I was hoping that you could really give us that local perspective. Could you talk a little bit about how you got involved in this case and how you learned about it?
George Jared: Sure. I was working at a local newspaper at the time. I had been there about seven months and two days after she actually vanished I get a call from a relative who said that she was missing. I drove down to Melbourne. My office was about 20 miles from Melbourne and I drove down there and in the parking lot of the sheriff’s department, her mother handed me a missing poster and she said, “We can’t find my daughter.” I spent the next five days with the family out with the search parties. It’s a very rural area. They’re the Ozark hills. They roll through that region, down around Guion and there’s a lot of sand mines and stuff like that. There were search parties. I was with them. I got to know Dr. Larry Gould, her father, pretty well at that time. I got to know some of her sisters.
Then, Monday, one week after she disappeared on September 27th, 2004, I went down to Melbourne and I went to the courthouse. There were some people talking that there was a search party out on Highway 9, a few miles and a woman had mentioned that they were near her house or her property, I’m not really sure what she said. She said, there were people out there searching. I went out there and it was early mid-morning and when I got out there they had found her body. It was pretty horrifying. It was the first murder I’d ever covered as a journalist, I’ve subsequently covered I couldn’t tell you the exact number, but it’s probably around 20. I’ve even covered the West Memphis Three case, which is a pretty infamous murder case. But I’ve never gotten over her case, the missing poster that her mother handed me, I took notes on it the day that she handed it to me, and I still have that missing poster to this day.
Leischen Stelter: I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. Since you’ve now covered a lot more murders as a journalist and as a well-known author, could you talk a little bit about what stands out to you about Rebekah’s case in addition to it being really your first big murder case, can you talk about some of the elements that just have always haunted you or confused you?
George Jared: I have made this statement many times when I’ve been asked about her case. It might be the simplest murder case that I had ever covered from the basic dynamic of she was hit one to two times in the head with a solid object, and then she was left on the side of the road. What has puzzled me and has flummoxed me in this case, is some of the details that have come to the surface in recent years. We don’t know what she was hit with, but there was a loose piano leg in the house and it is missing according to the police and according to Casey McCullough, the house in which Rebekah’s boyfriend lived, where she was murdered. Jennifer and I have actually gone back and forth on that. It really doesn’t matter at this point, but it is missing. It is an interesting detail that she may have been murdered with a piano leg.
The other part of the case that’s specifically interesting to me, is the fact that it was cleaned up. Because I can tell you right now from personal experience I’ve covered many murders and I just have never really known a killer to clean up a scene or move a body unless they had to. What I mean by that is that moving a body is a very dangerous prospect for the murderer because, obviously, if you are found in possession of a dead body, you’re automatically going to be a primary suspect, and anybody with any common sense at all knows that and they instinctively know it as well. Putting a body into a car also exposes you to other types of dangers from an investigation. You could leave hair DNA, there’s other things that can happen.
Moving a body is extremely dangerous proposition for a murderer cleaning up the mess in someone else’s house is just, you would have to have a lot of I don’t know if the word is bravery or gall, but I cannot imagine anybody staying in any house where they’ve just murdered someone for very long. And another part of it that doesn’t make any sense to me, is the murderer put bedsheets and other items into the washing machine and was washing them and they hid bloody pillows underneath the bed and flipped the mattress. What I don’t understand is how that murderer thought they were going to somehow fool the homeowner into not knowing where his or her pillows were at, or the fact that the mattress had been flipped.
I don’t know about you, but if I walked into my house today and my mattress had been flipped, my sheets were missing and my pillows were missing I would immediately be curious as to where they were at.
Leischen Stelter: It’s also surprising to me, again, if I were this murderer, instead of stashing pillows under a bed, why would you not just take them all with you if you just could drag a body out and dispose of it, I would be trying to figure out how to get rid of a mattress and pillows and bedding and not trying to wash them.
Jennifer Bucholtz: That would be the normal reaction that most killers that are trying to clean would do is they would just take some trash bags and stuff everything that had blood on it into those trash bags and find a place in the middle of the night to dispose of those. It’s like George said, this case is so curious to us because what was the motive of this person trying to wash the sheets and I assume wanting to put the bed back together to make it look normal. But again, like George said, who are you trying to fool? You’re not going to fool the homeowner. They didn’t fool police, who are you trying to cover this up for?
George Jared: Jen, you and I have spoken about this many times. It makes no sense to wash all that stuff and try to remove some of it. We’re talking about an old rickety trailer. If you had taken a match and set it on fire, you would have burned away all of that evidence and a lot more with one match. Why would you spend minutes maybe hours putting all that effort in when all you simply have to do is burn that trailer to the ground and you’re going to destroy virtually every bit of evidence in the case anyway?
Jennifer Bucholtz: That’s correct. The fact that it wasn’t burned is just another indication that the killer had a direct link to that house and didn’t want to lose, not necessarily their possessions, but for whatever reason did not want to destroy that home and the items in that home.
Leischen Stelter: Another thing that you had brought up George was the piano leg. Jen and George probably, feel free to geek out on this, but in your research, how many different styles of piano legs have you found?
George Jared: I’ll let Jennifer take this one because she studied them.
Leischen Stelter: Dozens?
George Jared: There’s been a bunch, every time I’ve seen a piano I’ve thought about it for the last 15 years, I will tell you that.
Jennifer Bucholtz: I can’t tell you how many pictures of piano legs I’ve studied. My parents own a piano and I have a couple friends with pianos and I’ve gone to their house and no one will let me dismantle their piano but I’ve done a lot of scrutinizing of the shapes and how they connect to the main body of the piano, but there are almost countless styles of piano legs. Now you could group those into round, square, some are curved you could group those into categories, but there are probably hundreds of different styles of piano legs. The main reason I really want to see a picture of the piano that was in Casey’s home is because I could probably tell you whether that piano leg was consistent with Rebekah’s injuries or not. If it’s not, that’s very curious because Casey is the one who supposedly discovered the missing piano leg and told police about it. If there’s no way that piano could have caused her injuries, that tells us that maybe he’s trying to guide police in a different direction and not actually discover the murder weapon that was used.
Leischen Stelter: George, I’m curious too, when you’re reporting on this case, were you ever able to talk to anyone who had been in that home to really understand both the layout out maybe some of the objects in Casey’s trailer? Because that’s still a mystery we don’t know for sure the exact layout of the trailer, right?
George Jared: I think we do know the layout of the trailer. Now I’ve talked to people that piano was located in close proximity to the bedroom where we think Rebekah’s body fell, or most of the blood was found on the bed and things like that. We’re talking about a matter of just a couple of feet. I talked to Rebekah’s sister, Danielle, quite a bit about this. She gave me a rundown of the layout of the trailer – it is a very basic trailer layout. In fact, some of the furniture actually in the trailer actually belonged to Rebekah and years after the fact, actually, detectives went to Danielle’s house because she took possession of the furniture after her death and detectives actually went to her house to get some pillows from her couch to see if they could try to, I’m assuming, test for DNA. I’ve never actually talked to them about it because they’ve been very tight lipped about some of the investigative parts of this case.
It’s a small trailer. I’ve been there one time. This was before they even found her body. It was curious to me because when I got there, there was crime scene tape around the trailer, but there was nobody there. I could have literally walked in if I’d wanted to. We’ve heard stories that there’s been blood found under carpets and stuff in that house. We’ve heard a whole plethora of things. I’m not sure which is true and what’s not. It would be nice if the police would probably come forth with some more information. That would be great.
Leischen Stelter: That’s exactly what I wanted to talk about with you next. You have been covering this case like we said, literally, from day one. Now that you have a lot more experience as a journalist, do you think that the way the police handled this case, obviously they need to withhold quite a bit of information from the public for investigative purposes, but do you think that not sharing more with the public has actually hurt this case and contributed to possibly why it’s been 16 years and no one’s been charged?
George Jared: I understand that initially in an investigation they have to keep some elements of the investigation, i.e., some of the forensics, some of the stuff that they’ve developed during the course of investigation, they have to keep some of that under wraps. There are certain things that only a killer or killers will know about a crime or crime scene and so when you bring them in to talk to them and interview them, it’s critical that you have those details in your back pocket and if they’re dispensed in the media, then they won’t have those details. The problem I have is how much time are we going to give them before we try something different? Different states have different laws as far as defining a case as cold. Well, in the state of Arkansas, you can basically make one phone call and say, “Well, I just tried to call somebody in relation to this case so it’s still open.” To me that’s just too long.
I’ve talked to Dr. Gould about this a lot, he has spent a lot of money, a lot of time, I’ve spent a lot of money, a lot of time, Jennifer has spent a lot of money, a lot of time, we just want this case solved. We don’t care. The State Police will get all the credit for it when it gets solved. We were willing to help them in any way that we possibly can and we feel like between ourselves and all the people and connections we have across the country that we could bring to bear a number of powerful resources and we’ve tried, and we’ve been denied just about every juncture and I don’t understand it. Now there is a new detective on the case. I’m hopeful that this new detective, he seems very friendly.
I know he’s out there working hard. I do know that for a fact. I’m hoping that maybe this will be the turn in the case that we need because I think what’s happened in this case is and I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but I’ve dealt with prosecutors, I’ve dealt with detectives, and just like anybody in any other profession, sometimes they get blinders. They get an idea in their head and they can’t get it out of their head no matter where the evidence is pointing. I think in this case, if you really did an honest assessment of what we do know, what we do know overwhelmingly points in one direction.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Now, what bothers me, you mentioned the prosecutor about the DA, we don’t know this for sure but one possibility is that the DA saying they don’t feel that the case is bulletproof enough or that they don’t have enough direct evidence. Based on what we know, what George and I know, there’s definitely enough for at a minimum, a very strong circumstantial case against one person. What I want to point out is that the reason we have a judicial system and a trial by a jury of your peers with judges is because not everybody’s going to confess to a crime. Therefore, you need to gather all the evidence pointing to that person and put them on trial and give them a fair shot and see what the jury of their peers and the judge come back with. That’s the point of our judicial system. If every case was bulletproof, we wouldn’t need that system in our country.
George Jared: Absolutely. I’ll just point this out, Jennifer and we both know this. A particular person in this case has confessed to someone else according to them. Even the confession aspect of it we do have that element in this case as well.
Jennifer Bucholtz: That’s correct. That’s just one of so many pieces of, that would be circumstantial but to me it’s almost direct evidence.
Leischen Stelter: I want to ask both of you a question in terms of the evidence that you think is really the most important missing piece here, if you had a wish and that wish was you could have one element of this case revealed, what would it be?
George Jared: I’ll speak first and then I’ll let Jennifer go. For me I would want to know the murder weapon. The reason is, and it’s not just because we know it’s a blunt object. In it of itself, that doesn’t provide us a lot of forensic detail but here’s the thing, if the object was the loose piano leg, the murderer would have to know before they ever showed up at the house that leg would come loose. The number of people who could possibly know that is very small. Right then and there, because no murderer is going to show up in a murder scene not knowing what murder weapon they’re going to use to kill someone. Either the person just showed up, it wasn’t premeditated, and they just said, “There’s a piano, I grab this piano leg and I hit her in the head with it,” or if it’s some other type of weapon, and Jennifer and I’ve talked about it possibly being a tire thumper, one of these things that you use to check the pressure on a tire. It could be any one of these things, but I would like to know what the murder weapon is just because if it’s a piano leg that tells us a whole lot. If it’s not the piano leg, then it tells us a whole set of something else. That’s what I would say.
Jennifer Bucholtz: I just want to point out that although this is probably an unpremeditated murder, unplanned if Rebekah got into it with her killer into some argument, more natural weapons probably existed in that house. For example, it’s pretty common for a killer to go to the kitchen and grab a kitchen knife and try to stab her or to grab a tire iron or something like that. A piano leg is an extremely unlikely weapon of opportunity. I literally cannot find one other murder case where the piano leg was the blunt object to used to kill a person. That’s not saying it’s impossible, but it just seems extremely unlikely. Like George said, you almost have to know that leg was loose before entering that house. Now, I will caveat that with if there was a physical altercation and maybe somebody stumbled into the leg and it fell loose, okay, I could see it being more likely that could be used as a weapon.
George Jared: Jen, I’ll just throw this in here talking to Danielle, Rebekah’s sister, Danielle spent a lot of time at Casey’s house with Rebekah and Casey. She told me that about a month before the murder Casey was sitting there talking to them and he reached down and grabbed the leg off the piano and swung it in the air above his head and said, “Look how easy this comes off of this piano.” Danielle and Rebekah were both aware that leg would come off as obviously was Casey.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Going back to a wish list from the case file, I think my top thing would be some photos of the crime scene, particularly where exactly they found blood evidence, and exactly what that blood evidence looked like because I could deduce so many more details about how this murder went down if I knew those locations, and the type of blood splatter, or stains that they found.
Leischen Stelter: Well, one thing that this also brings up and George you alluded to this a little bit, but in your professional opinion, both of you, are you fairly certain that this was just a crime of passion? Or do you think that there could be something else related to this? George, I’ll start with you if you don’t mind.
George Jared: I definitively think that this was a crime of passion. There was nothing taken from the house that we’re aware of. There was money found in the house. There were two dogs found in the house who were unharmed by the way. Her car was found there. Her keys were found there. Examining her autopsy report, we’ve all come to the same definitive conclusion as has the medical examiner there’s absolutely no evidence that she was sexually assaulted. She was wearing a pair of panties when her body was found and so had she been sexually assaulted, then I would imagine that the killer wouldn’t go to the trouble of putting her panties back on her. At this point, you’re eliminating every other possibility. At that point, it has to be considered a crime of passion. That’s just my personal opinion. Usually, when you’re in a rage like that, it’s emotional. When you strike another human being with enough force to kill them with one to two blows, then that’s a rage killing to me. That’s what I think.
Jennifer Bucholtz: I agree all indications are that this was a result of a crime of passion. Probably an argument that escalated into an unplanned murder, there’s nothing that we know about that indicates the killer planned out any of this. That really reduces the number of motives. If someone had already been angry with Rebekah before arriving at the house, and thought they might get in an altercation with her, it follows that they would have brought their own weapon, or that they would have come a little more prepared but it doesn’t appear that there was any preparation for this murder or especially for the aftermath. Now, again, whatever’s in the case file might point us in a different direction and we don’t know those details but like George said, nothing of value is missing from the house so we can pretty much rule out robbery.
Sexual assault, there was no indication of it no. Her body was pretty decomposed is a possibility, but it seems unlikely because her underwear was in very good condition when found and that underwear should have held any trace evidence that may have remained if she had been sexually assaulted and from what we know nothing like that was found.
George Jared: Jen, I’ll just add to that also her radiological scans of her bones and it said this in the autopsy, there was no bone bruising. Usually, if you sexually assault someone, it’s a very violent act. It’s not just going to be superficial tissue damage, you’re almost certainly going to cause some bone bruising at some point, she was a very feisty woman, she would have fought back. There was none of that. Also, going back to what you were saying, Jennifer, about the fact that it wasn’t planned, if you plan a murder, if you’re going to take the body from the house, you also know where you’re going to take it to. Her body was found at the very end of an ancient gravel road that was used by guys who work in the timber industry, and she was in plain sight.
If you were walking along that highway, if you look down an embankment, you could easily see her. She was in plain sight she was going to be found. If the intention was to kill her, the hardest way to catch a killer is to never find the body. There would be a hole dug somewhere, there would have been a mine shaft somewhere where they would have planned on dumping her and none of that happened.
Leischen Stelter: That’s really some really good points. One other element of this case, that, I don’t know if it’s puzzled me, but I’ve just always been curious about it and I’m curious to see what the two of you say, in terms of the killer, Jen talked about in an earlier episode carrying a body even if it’s a small woman like Rebekah, who was only about 100 pounds is still pretty difficult. George, do you have some thoughts on whether you think this was done by a male or female? Or did there have to be two people in order to really carry out this crime? Do you have thoughts on that?
George Jared: It’s funny, Jennifer and I come from way different backgrounds. Then we came together on this case and when I very first started talking to her, she had some initial thoughts about the case similar to what I had thought for several years and that was that it was two females who had committed the crime and that was because I thought that Casey had an ironclad alibi and so I thought, “Okay, well, this is obviously two women.” It seems like a maternal instinct to me almost to clean a crime scene. That’s the only thing I could come up with. There were some theories and there were some rumors swirling around that there were a couple of females who did have a beef or a grudge with Rebekah. It made sense in a way because nothing else made any sense to me.
I strongly feel there’s more than one person involved. I don’t know if there were two people there when she was murdered, but I definitely feel like someone came in to aid whoever committed this crime. The problem is, and Jennifer and I, we’ve struggled with this is that if we had the case file, then we would know exactly how much blood was found because we don’t know how much blood they found. We don’t know how good the cleanup was. We don’t know if the towels in the dryer had been washed were part of the cleanup of the crime scene or if the load in the washing machine was the initial load, and when did that washing machine start?
George Jared: There’s a whole lot of variables that we don’t know, I can tell you this, Rebekah was small, but carrying a dead body is very difficult. If a female committed this crime, and there’s another element, when I thought that a female had done this, I didn’t have access to the autopsy report. After Dr. Gould, let me examine it, the first thing that jumped out to me was that she’d had virtually no damage to other parts of her body like significant bone damage, because if a woman attacked her, I would think that she would have been struck more than just twice. Jennifer has done a very thorough analysis. I always say one to two blows just because the autopsy report says that, but Jennifer and I are pretty sure it’s two blows and it’s because of the great work she did in examining it. But I would expect there would be a lot more damage and also the fact that she was wearing a T-shirt and panties, it indicates that she was with someone that she was comfortable being around when she died.
If an angry female were to burst through the door and start to attack her, you would see defensive wounds, there are no wounds to her hands. All that being said, I really am moving away from it being a female killer or female killers. I think that it could be one male killer, but I also think he might have had some help.
Jennifer Bucholtz: The reason I thought originally that a female was the killer was for two reasons. One was the location of the injuries which was Rebekah’s face and head, and then two was the way in which she was left on the side of the road. Traditionally, if, let’s assume that Rebekah knew her killer well and engaged in an argument with them prior to her death. If this was a male and ostensibly a male that she had been romantically involved with, it’s pretty rare for the killer to attack the face of the victim. It’s not unheard of. I’m just saying it’s pretty rare. Because that’s the face that they wake up to. That’s the face you kiss. That’s the face you love that you look at longingly and subconsciously, you don’t want to destroy that person’s looks.
However, if it’s female on female, and there’s a jealousy aspect, especially if the victim is good looking, then they absolutely want to go after that females good looks. Now what changed my mind on that I spent a significant amount of time recreating Rebekah’s injuries. I’m not going to reveal the details of exactly how I feel those two blows were delivered, but let me just say that I don’t believe her face was the target of those blows. I’m going to leave it at that. In my mind that gets rid of one big indicator towards a female killer.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Now, the way Rebekah was left is one anomaly in this case to me because she was left in the open, exposed in a pretty degrading position. I’m not saying she was staged, I’m just saying the way she was dressed, not covered up, she was given no dignity in death. That indicates that somebody who left her there did not care about her at all. That could easily be a female rival. But then again, like George said, if the male killer had help from somebody who didn’t know Rebekah or didn’t care about her or thought she was just a cheater or whatever, they might not have cared how they left her.
It’s also possible that her killer did care for her very much, but moved her there at night. If he did that at night, there’s obviously not going to be any lights on the most light he might have his the taillights from his vehicle, and that’s it. She could have been dumped there and the person didn’t realize what a degrading position that they left her in. There’s many different possibilities there but for me at this point the only indicator that it may have been a possibly a female killer is the way that Rebekah was left. But when you put everything else together, I believe is a male, like George said, I don’t think a female could accomplish this murder with only two swings of a weapon. Just the extensive damage that was done to Rebekah’s nasal structure and her skull indicates that someone very strong swung that weapon at her and it was probably a male.
Leischen Stelter: And that person had to be strong enough to pick up her body, not just drag it but actually physically like you mentioned earlier, pick it up.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Correct. We don’t know if she was carried or drugged out of the house because we don’t know what the blood pattern look like. That’s one reason I’d love to see some of those photos especially the blood on the back deck because that would be well-preserved immediately after the blood fell on the wood, you can’t clean it out. That would be a huge indicator as to whether she was carried or dragged out of the house and if she was carried then most likely she’s carried by a male. Also, one thing I want to bring up because George mentioned the maternal instinct of cleaning a crime scene. I did not know this until recently, but statistically more male killers clean crime scenes than female killers.
Leischen Stelter: That’s seems very surprising to me. Especially, Jen and I were talking in the earlier episode about what’s involved with finding laundry detergent and the logistics of cleaning up in someone’s house if you’re unfamiliar with it. Not to gender stereotype here, but I would think that a woman might be more inclined to figure that out?
George Jared: I totally agree. The thing that bothers me about this case so much is the thought of someone being in that house. How are they sitting in that house cleaning up this mess, not knowing if someone is just going to come in that door at any second and catch them? Why would you try to clean all that stuff up? It just doesn’t make any sense.
Leischen Stelter: George, I’m also curious, are there things that have really surprised you in your coverage of this case things that, we just talked about the gender of the murderer, that issue. But are there other things that over the years you’ve really changed your mind on? Or the evidence has really pointed you in a different direction than your initial either reporting or your own thoughts?
George Jared: A lot has actually changed over the years. This was my first murder case and I’ve told Jennifer this many times. I made mistakes, I didn’t take notes as meticulously as I should have, especially at the crime scene or not the crime scene but the place where her body was dumped. Huge mistake on my part, I should have just stayed and took notes. I literally got out of there as fast as I could because it just sickened me. I’m not going to lie to you. Of course, since then, I’ve covered a lot of murders been around a lot of this type of stuff. Now I’m a little hardened to it. It’s not the same deal. The first eight years or so, well, I’d say longer than that probably the first 10 years, this case just floated along. I wrote about it a few times, I went on and started working at other newspapers, started covering other high profile cases and then started writing books and all that stuff.
George Jared: In my first book, I thought, “Okay, I’m going to devote a chapter to her unsolved murder.” I wrote about it and in that chapter, I still pointed towards possibly being female killers. Well, one thing that happened in 2016 is I reconnected with Dr. Gould. When I was reconnecting with Dr. Gould, we started talking about I would go to his house, he had a private investigator, and we even talked to a film producer who was considering doing a documentary about the case and we would put up a list of suspects and I always would say to him, Casey would always be on the list because he has to be because he’s a love interest and in any murder case a love interest is always going to be at the top of the suspect list. That’s just natural.
George Jared: He would always say, I think we really need to look at Casey harder and I’d always say no Dr. Gould, he’s got an ironclad alibi, I think we need to look at some of these females that are on this list. Well, back in 2005, I’d actually interviewed Casey. Then I interviewed him again in 2006. He would talk to me, if they’re willing to talk, that’s always an encouraging sign for me as an investigative journalist. Then in 2016, long before the Helen Gunn podcast came out long before my second book came out or third book which include chapters about this case, I decided to try to give Casey a call. This sounds unbelievable but he worked at the sonic in Melbourne, one afternoon, I just called that Sonic, and I said, “I don’t know if anybody there would know have any contact information for Casey McCullough, but I really need to get a hold of him.”
George Jared: The car hop there said, “Well his is wife is here right now, do you want to talk to her?” I was like, “Yeah.” They put her on the phone. We start talking. She was very friendly, very warm. We talked, probably for five to 10 minutes. I don’t know exactly how long. She told me to friend him on Facebook, and she gave me his personal cell phone number. I said, “Okay, that sounds great.” Literally, I got off the phone with her and I thought, “Well, this is just going to be another dead end.” Now I did make one good decision while I was talking to her asked her for her cell phone number as well. I call him I leave messages. I sent him Facebook messages. I wait and I never ever hear from him. I sent him more than half a dozen messages. I’m like, “What’s going on?” Because this guy’s talked to me before and you got to remember the timeframe.
George Jared: At that time, no one had ever mentioned that he was even a potential suspect. The rumor around town was that he was totally cleared. Even in my first book, I said my inclination was to think that he didn’t do it because he has an alibi. Well, I finally decided, okay, I’ve had enough of this. I get a hold of his wife. I said, “What’s going on?” She literally lost it with me and said, “I don’t want to talk to you, we don’t want to talk to you just leave us alone. We don’t want nothing to do with you.” She hung up on me. From that point on, I became suspicious. Again, not to say that he did it, but it did happen in his house. Does he have some knowledge of maybe who did it? I started going down that path. Okay, maybe he does know.
George Jared: From that point on, I started talking with Katherine Townsend, who did the Hell and Gone podcast, I did some interviews with her. Then the podcast came out, well, then all this new information started trickling to the surface. One thing that always bothered me about my interview with Casey from the beginning was he said that when he found out that she was missing, that he was at work that Tuesday morning, he left work to go try to find her and that he ran into the police officer, Charlie Melton and so he said that he ran into him. That made no sense to me. Because I was sitting there thinking, would it make more sense that her family makes the call to the sheriff’s department and then he goes to Casey’s work and then and says, “Hey, I need to do a wellness check at your house.”
George Jared: That would make more sense to me. Even in 2005 I was like that story makes no sense. You’re not just going to randomly run into a cop and just happen to be the cop who’s going to look to your house. That story made no sense to me. Well, what came to the surface was that he actually visited his home before he went to work that morning. See, the story is that on Monday, he was at work all day, he takes off with his friends after work, they go to Batesville, they go to a movie, they go to a restaurant, several different stores, and then this group of five guys go back to a friend’s house and they spend the night there and then Casey’s original story was he went from the friend’s house to work.
George Jared: Well, come to find out that’s not actually the case. He actually went home, her car was there, her dogs were there, everything was there and he said he walked in, grabbed a shirt for work and then turn around and walked out the door and went to work with all that stuff there and she had been missing for a day at this point. That was hard to take. I literally was very suspicious about that. But then what made me more suspicious was that two of the guys he was with were reinterviewed by the state police. The state police actually emailed them copies of their original statements from when days after she went missing. In those statements both friends said he described her as missing that night meaning Monday night. He was telling his friends that she was missing on Monday night and both by the way, said they couldn’t believe he wasn’t running out the door to go and try and find her because he was obsessed with her.
George Jared: I’m trying to square this, how he could tell his friends this the night before and then go to his own house the next morning, see all of her stuff there, see her dog there, go into his own bedroom and see his mattress at the very least had no sheets on it we can argue whether you would know whether your mattress was flipped or not. But the fact that he didn’t do anything, did he not look under his bed? Did he not look in the washing machine? I can just tell you if I walked into my house and all this stuff was missing out of my bedroom, I would be very suspicious especially if I lived by myself. Well actually, his dad lived there too. But still, his dad’s not going to go in there and wash his sheets on his bed.
George Jared: At this point, I became really suspicious about the whole circumstances of this crime. My mind completely changed at that point I’m like, no, two females, I just don’t believe did this. I’m going to have to see some very compelling evidence that someone else did.
Jennifer Bucholtz: What got me in listening to the Hell and Gone podcast, I was upset because I felt Casey got railroaded on that podcast with no evidence. In the last episode or two, Katherine talked about how basically she debunked his alibi, but didn’t really say how and so that was one thing that coming to light when I started looking into the case and writing about it is that the story was that reportedly there was video of Casey at work Monday morning. Well come to find out that’s impossible because I had several former employees of Sonic reach out, a couple even sent me diagrams of the restaurant showing me that there was only one camera and that one camera pointed towards the front door. You know how Sonic works. Customers don’t normally come into the restaurant, you usually either drive through or go to the drive-up.
Jennifer Bucholtz: But they consider that front door the customer door. Well, what these employees told me also is that there is a back door an employee door and there was no camera on that door and there was no camera watching the employee work area where the cooks would be, which was Casey’s position there. This claim of there being video of him at work is absolutely false. On top of that, I think George pretty much got confirmation from law enforcement that by the time law enforcement even went to inspect that camera video, it had been too long or was too far after Monday and if there had been video say of him arriving at work, it had been recorded over. Now you’ve got at least probably five hours of him at work, but with no proof of that.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Then you’ve got him spending the night at a friend’s house and they supposedly they got back, I think around 11PM and he stayed till 7:30 the next morning, well, there’s another eight and a half hours you can’t prove that he was there, because obviously the friend’s house didn’t have video recording 24 hours a day. We can’t figure out where law enforcement could make the claim of a solid alibi nor Casey.
George Jared: I’ll just add a little bit to what Jen said. We assumed that they got back to the friend’s house around 11. But it could have been as early as 9:30 or 10. That opens the window up even further. We just simply don’t know and another element of that is they all got high on pot that night, and two of the friends left at some point. Really all you’ve got is three guys in this house, they’re high on pot it’s late, they could fall asleep and someone could leave the house. I’m not saying that’s what happened but it’s still an open window. Also, another problem that I think cropped up in this case going back to that whole premise of having blinders or sticking to a theory, I know for a fact that the police had a working theory for a good portion of time that she died in the afternoon.
George Jared: They predicated their investigation around whether they could prove Casey’s whereabouts in the afternoon. The problem is that they didn’t do much to verify his whereabouts in the morning. His alibi as far as the afternoon and evening is pretty solid. They do know he was at Sonic that afternoon. They do know he was in Batesville, they got video in a number of places. That part of his alibi safe, but we don’t know where he was at in the morning, and we don’t know what happened after he got to his friend’s house.
Leischen Stelter: Georgia I’m also curious, do you still live in the area?
George Jared: Not in that area. I live several hours away now. I still live in Arkansas but I don’t live relatively close to there anymore.
Leischen Stelter: Because I was just curious is this something if you have any local ties to that area that residents are still talking about this case? Do you stay in touch with the Gould family about developments in the case?
George Jared: Absolutely. This is one of these things. For years, Dr. Gould and I had a good working relationship in relation to this case. I would go and see him periodically. He lives in a town called Mountain Home which is several hours from here. I would go and visit him literally, he runs a big time dental practice in Mountain Home. I would go and see him all the time. We were talking about the case we would go over theories in fact when Jennifer contacted me, the first thing I wanted her to do was go to meet him in Mountain Home. I arranged for them to meet and that was very successful. Now Jennifer has a lot of contact with doc. In fact, she stays in contact with them at this point a lot more than I do. That’s simply because I know she’s going to, I don’t want to burden him too much. We’re friends. Every time I see him, I give him a hug, and he gives me a hug. I tell him, I say we’re going to get this solved one of these days.
George Jared: I was very pleased when Jennifer came on board. I even told him when I first talked about it, I said, this is a serious person. I don’t think she’s going to let this one go. That helps because I can tell you right now, when you go 15, 16 years investigating a case like this, it’s like a roller coaster ride and sometimes when you’re at the bottom of the roller coaster, it’s not that you want to give up it’s just you get tired, you feel like there’s no point anymore. You’re not getting anywhere. I went through that. I covered the West Memphis Three cases and those guys were in prison for 18 years before they were finally released and literally if you would ask me the day before I found out they were getting out of prison, I would have told you, they’re never going to get out. I always tell Jennifer that I’m just hoping one of these days, I wake up, turn my phone on and there’s 10,000 messages that say, hey, guess what? Something happened.
Jennifer Bucholtz: We’re not giving up until, or at least I’m and I know George won’t either but we’re not giving up until we exhaust whatever resources we can because quite honestly, in most jurisdictions, an arrest would have been made a week or two after Rebekah’s body was found. This case is easily solvable. It’s just, quite frankly, ridiculous that it’s gone on for so many years, but we hope that we can remedy maybe some of the shortcomings or shortfalls that happened years ago and get things on the right track, but we’re determined to just keep the public interested and keep gaining followers. It’s not going to go away. I’m sure the killer is just gritting their teeth right now. Come on, this needs to fall off the radar again it did before. We’re not going to let that happen.
Leischen Stelter: Well, that actually brings me to the last things I wanted to talk to the both of you about. I might just be new to this. Perhaps it’s been in action for a long time. But I wanted to talk about just this online sleuth crowdsourcing approach to investigations. I’m a true crime podcast junkie myself. I can’t stop listening to all these cases. I know in several popular podcasts that they’ve actually been solved because they’ve been produced as podcasts or other forms of media. But George, I wanted to get your take as a longtime journalist, how have you seen the evolution of this cold case approach that really engages the public in trying to solve these cases?
George Jared: I think it’s fantastic. I’ve been doing this a long time. Literally the effort that we’ve had in Rebekah’s case would simply not have been possible even five years ago. The thing about it is people when they get into social media, they get onto these podcasts they listen to them, they get into these groups, and they feel involved, they actually can be very beneficial. I can tell you right now there might be somebody in this case who’s reticent to talk to a police officer or detective who’s reticent to talk to a journalist but if they just talk to somebody who’s interested in the case, they might divulge some details. It may be minor to them, but it might be major to the case.
George Jared: Actually, we’ve seen some of that happening in this case. I think it helps when you have one good brain thinking about a problem, that’s good. When you’ve got two, that’s great when you’ve got 15 or 20, all of a sudden you’re building a network of people who are trying to solve this case. It’s not just one detective sitting in one office in Mountain View, Arkansas, studying this stuff. It’s funny because we’ve actually gotten a lot of stuff. In fact, the police I’ve been told off the record, that the police have been stunned by how much stuff we’ve been able to dig up that they just didn’t want released to the public. I think it’s good from my perspective, I think that involving people is just a better way to do it.
Leischen Stelter: Do you think law enforcement is starting to see the light on this approach?
George Jared: I hope so. Law enforcement is like many other institutions in our society, very slow to change. It’s glacial. They just need to understand they live in a different time. I can give you a good example of that. It used to be a situation when I started writing about cases like this, there would be the initial okay, we found the body or we’ve arrested somebody, you’ll get the details and we decide you get them. In 2013, I covered a case with a young teenage girl who had gone missing and her step dad had been found a day after she went missing had shot himself. Her body had been missing for months. Well, some people were floating on a river with their family on a Sunday afternoon picnic and while they were floating in the river, there were some trees growing up out of the river and they noticed something in a tree line look like a mannequin.
George Jared: Well, it ended up being her body. Within seven minutes of them finding her body, I was at the park playing basketball with my kids when my wife was running the track she came running over to me because somebody had messaged her on Facebook and said that they had found the body. Well, an hour later, the sheriff called me and said, “Hey, you’re not going to believe it.” I said, “You found Cindy’s body didn’t you?” He goes, “How did you know?” I said, “It’s all over the place.” They need to understand that this time of hiding all this stuff is coming to an end. I’m not saying that they’re trying to hide it. I don’t want it to be like that is they’re trying to preserve the integrity of these investigations, they need to and I support them in doing that. But some of the details that they don’t release are just ridiculous.
George Jared: Like in this case, I think Jen’s FOI how many times and FOI is a Freedom Of Information Act request, she’s asked for just simple things like the call logs from when the 911 calls were made. There is no reason that those call logs, they could tell us a whole lot more, the killer’s not going to go in there and be interrogated, and then ask him about when the mom made the call to 911. That’s just ludicrous.
Jennifer Bucholtz: It’s also Arkansas law that 911 transcripts are a public record. They’re breaking their own law literally by refusing to release it. Really the only thing we want at this point of that 911 transcript is the timestamp of when it came in. I don’t care who took the call or who the dispatcher was or any names, they could redact the entire transcript as far as I’m concerned. I just want to know the timestamp of when this call came in and when the ball got rolling Tuesday morning because that would provide us insight into how much time the killer could have had that morning if they had returned to the house to continue the cleanup. We’ve put in the request probably 10 times various routes and they continue to refuse it.
Leischen Stelter: I want to start wrapping up here. But George, I just wanted to ask, I know there’s probably lots and lots of things with this case but anything really critical that we didn’t talk about that you want our listeners to know about whether it’s new evidence or information or anything like that?
George Jared: I don’t know if there’s anything new right now, the main thing that Jennifer and I have talked about, is we’re trying to get the word out about this case because again, in my experience with the West Memphis Three, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that case or not, but literally, it started in an international frenzy at one point from all the documentaries and the books that were written and they even made a major Hollywood movie about it. What that did was it created a ground swell where they could come up with resources, they literally were able to generate millions of dollars to where they could go out and hire the best forensic experts in the world to where they could go out and get the best attorneys in the world. These three guys who are almost certainly innocent of that crime of killing three little boys in West Memphis, Arkansas back on May 5th, 1993, in the middle of that I wrote over 100 new stories about that case.
George Jared: I saw literally the power of building these networks up. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. We just want people to be aware of her case, and this case is solvable. Jennifer said something before, most killers in this circumstance would have been arrested a week or two after the fact, because this case is actually pretty simple. I know of people who are sitting in prison right now who had far less cases brought against them and in this case, we do have a person who claims that the killer confessed to them four separate times and one person had mentioned on a social media post, well, that person has a minor criminal record. Well, I can tell you right now from being in a courtroom in a capital murder trial, I’ve seen many people who claimed that a killer confessed to them, they walked in that courtroom in shackles in an orange suit because it was in a jail cell where it happened.
George Jared: To say that person is not credible just on the face of it is not credible to me because I’ve seen the types of people who get up on the stand and talk about these things in a courtroom.
Jennifer Bucholtz: I think our efforts are working because but I did a webinar last week on Rebekah’s case, which we can provide listeners the link too to watch but my hope for that panned out because I had several people from American Military University, either students or colleagues who have backgrounds in law and law enforcement investigations reach out to me and are now on board helping us with some new efforts for the future behind the scenes. Obviously I’m not going to publicize what those efforts might be because I’m not going to give the killer a heads up but we are having great success now and getting more people on board with the type of knowledge and experience that could really be helpful.
Leischen Stelter: Well, I want to thank both of you so much for both your work on trying to bring justice for Rebekah and her family. Hopefully in the near future we can come together on this podcast and talk about some good news of someone being arrested and convicted. George, thank you so much, George Jared, thank you so much for joining us today. It was really wonderful to talk to you.
George Jared: Thank you for having me.
Leischen Stelter: Thank you Jen as always, for helping steer us through this conversation in this case. For the next episode, Jen’s going to put on her death investigator hat and delve into the forensic evidence to discuss what the evidence tells us about the murderer and their motive and whether it was planned or spontaneous. Jen, can you just tell our listeners if they have some information or anything to share. Can you tell us how they can get ahold of you.
Jennifer Bucholtz: For sure. If you have any piece of information that you think could have any relevance to Rebekah’s murder please reach out to the newly assigned investigator from the Arkansas State Police. His name is Mike McNeill. He is very open and receptive to information and he can be reached at area code 501-322-3365. I also have a confidential tip email set up for those who aren’t comfortable talking directly to law enforcement. I can pass information without passing your name and that email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you want to follow George and my progress on the case and join our discussions, you can join our Facebook group, Unsolved Murder of Rebekah Gould and we urge everybody who has an interest in this case and who has interest in brainstorming with us to please join the group.
Leischen Stelter: Great. Well thanks again to both of you. This is Leischen Stelter signing off from In Public Safety Matters.