Podcast featuring Leischen Stelter, Managing Editor, Edge and
Jennifer Bucholtz, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Editor’s Note: Start by listening to the first episode in this series.
What circumstantial evidence exists in the unsolved murder of Rebekah Gould and is it enough to obtain a conviction in court? In the fifth and final planned episode of this series, Jennifer Bucholtz shares her list of circumstantial evidence she’s uncovered and who it points to as the most likely suspect. Roadblocks Jen has encountered with various personnel associated with Rebekah’s investigation are discussed. Also learn about the current status of Rebekah’s case including the assignment of a new investigator, the establishment of a $25,000 reward fund, and a recent invitation to present the facts of this cold case to a prominent law enforcement investigation group called the Vidocq Society.
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. This is the fifth and final planned episode of our series focusing on the unsolved murder of Rebekah Gould. But if new evidence or new information comes to light, we’ll be producing additional episodes. So please subscribe to this channel to be notified of any new updates. Also, if you haven’t listened to the first four episodes, please hit pause and go back and listen to them.
So once again, I’m joined by Jennifer Bucholtz. She’s a criminal justice faculty member with American Military University who’s been analyzing the forensic evidence of Rebekah’s murder. Hi there, Jen.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Hi again, Leischen. Thank you for welcoming me back for another episode. And thank you again AMU for hosting this.
Leischen Stelter: So one of the major frustrations of this cold case is that despite there being a body, despite there being what seems like quite a bit of evidence in terms of we know where she was killed, we know where Rebekah was dumped. There seems to only be kind of primarily circumstantial evidence and not enough direct evidence to lead police to charge a suspect in this murder. Can you just talk about what it means to build a court case when you only have circumstantial evidence?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. So circumstantial evidence versus direct evidence. What’s the difference? There’s two different types of evidence, each of which can be used in a criminal case in court. So let me give the listeners a little overview of the difference between these.
Direct evidence is evidence that directly links a person to a crime. So a good example of this would be a video of someone breaking into a home, and you can clearly see the person’s face. It’s identifiable in that video so that you know for sure that there was this particular person that broke in the home. That video would be a piece of direct evidence.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Or at the scene of a murder. If we find a handgun and it has fingerprints that link back to only one person, that’s direct evidence. Those fingerprints are the direct evidence pointing to that suspect.
But circumstantial is a little more difficult because it’s not the opposite. It’s just a different type of evidence. So circumstantial evidence isn’t drawn from direct observation of a fact, or from analyzed and confirmed DNA or fingerprints of somebody. Circumstantial evidence uses a culmination of logical deductions and inferences.
So for an example, a piece of circumstantial evidence could be that there’s a suspect whose alibi can’t be proved. Now that doesn’t mean that that person committed the particular crime in question, but it’s just one piece of circumstantial evidence that could be used against them in a court of law. If they can’t prove where they were at a particular time on a particular day, they don’t have an alibi. So that’s the difference between direct and circumstantial.
Jennifer Bucholtz: I also wanted to talk about some of the requirements for a murder case to go to court and be presented in front of a jury. Before it even gets to the court phase, there has to be probable cause for an arrest warrant. Now, although the definition of probable cause is universal across our country and in theory jurisdictions, it’s interpreted differently. So every prosecutor has a little different interpretation of what they feel is enough probable cause to sign an arrest warrant.
Jennifer Bucholtz: But in general, probable cause for arrest exists when facts and circumstances within a law enforcement agency’s knowledge would lead a reasonable person to believe that that suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. So the words reasonable person to believe are the subjective part of it.
Now beyond a reasonable doubt is the legal standard of proof required to convict somebody in a court of law. So that’s the legal standard of proof to validate a criminal conviction in most of our court systems. This means that in order for a defendant to be found guilty, the case presented by the prosecution to the jury must be enough to remove any reasonable doubt in the mind of that jury, that the defendant is guilty of the crime with which they are charged. And therefore, if the prosecution succeeds in proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the person is convicted and sentenced to prison.
Leischen Stelter: Can you just quickly elaborate on who needs to make these determinations? Is this something the DA would be establishing? Would the law enforcement agency make recommendations to prosecutors? Can you explain that a little bit?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. So in order to obtain an arrest warrant, the investigating authority has to present a strong enough case to usually the local district attorney or the local prosecutor who would oversee that case in a court of law. So this is usually a group decision for an arrest warrant.
Now, this is different from if you witnessed somebody committing a crime and the police officer puts handcuffs on the person and takes them to jail. That’s a different situation, because they witnessed the crime. But when we’re talking about a crime where there was no witnesses, it takes a group of these people to agree on having enough probable cause to get an arrest warrant. And unfortunately, one person out of that group can hold up the whole process.
So for instance, if the district attorney does not agree with the investigators that there’s enough evidence, they can decline to sign an arrest warrant. And then the investigators can’t go arrest the person.
Leischen Stelter: Okay. Thank you for clarifying that. So in terms of the circumstantial evidence that exists in Rebekah’s case, can you kind of just go through that list?
Jennifer Bucholtz: In addition to that, Casey has allegedly confessed to Rebekah’s murder on more than one occasion. There’s a former friend of his who has come forward with detailed information on what Casey told him about the murder. And after listening to his interview on the Hell and Gone podcast and obtaining other information behind the scenes, there’s at least four critical details about her murder that this friend knows about. And therefore, the only way that the friend can know is if the killer told him. At least that’s how I deduce it.
Whoever killed Rebekah most likely would have to have DNA and fingerprints that would not appear out of place if discovered in Casey’s home. So likely somebody who frequented that home. Obviously, Casey’s fingerprints and DNA would be all over the house as a result of him being a full-time occupant.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Rebekah’s killer would also likely have had a history of a personal and intimate relationship with her since we believe that this murder occurred out of a crime of passion and resulted from an argument that they had. We know Casey had a romantic relationship with Rebekah over the summer months of 2004. It wouldn’t be out of place if her killer had a history of previous violent outbursts and an inability to control their emotions. Her killer would have to have had access to a vehicle. Now that does not mean that they had to have their own vehicle that day. They could have borrowed a vehicle from a friend to transport her body or even rented a vehicle although that’s probably unlikely. All they would need is access to a vehicle.
Leischen Stelter: And also, especially in this case, she was just there visiting for the weekend. It’s not like she lived there and everyday kind of seems like the same. You live with someone and see them every day. This was an unusual circumstance. She was visiting for a short period of time.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. Yeah, exactly. His schedule would have been altered because of her coming to town most definitely that weekend. And I’m sure that’s because they hadn’t seen each other, I don’t know exactly how long it had been. But for at least a little while, they probably hung out together in all their free time that weekend. So it’s very unnatural to not be able to remember those last moments that you’ve spent with a loved one who died.
Continuing on with the list of circumstantial evidence, Rebekah’s killer would have had to have access to Casey’s house and his backyard, possibly on both Monday and Tuesday. They’d have to feel confident that they wouldn’t look out of place even if seen by a neighbor.
And to me, that stands out as well. If I lost my husband, I would be calling every friend I could think of to come help me search for him. Nobody has come forward to say that Casey asked them to join the search party and tried to find her body. So to me, that’s a red flag.
Leischen Stelter: Wait, so he didn’t attend her funeral?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Not that we know of, no. Nobody who was there can remember him attending. Her family members don’t remember him being there. I have the guest sign-in book. Now I realize people go to funerals and weddings, and they don’t always sign in. So that doesn’t really mean a lot. But his best friend signed in. And the story supposedly is that he attended with the best friend. So why wouldn’t he have signed in right after his friend did? I think what’s also interesting is that Rebekah’s family asked Rebekah’s ex boyfriend from high school to be a pallbearer at her funeral, but they did not ask Casey. So to me, that speaks volumes on how they felt about him.
Leischen Stelter: Yeah. And this is a small town. I mean, this isn’t a big city where maybe she didn’t know a lot of people. This is a small town, her father is fairly prominent. She’s got lots of siblings. I would expect that her funeral would have been a really big deal. Obviously it’s a tragic situation. So I would imagine that her funeral was very well attended. And you would remember who was there, and I guess who wasn’t. Especially if it was someone who was involved with her, that’s really shocking to me.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. And her funeral was very well attended, and you’re correct. A small town, literally everybody’s connected in one way or another. So this was a very big deal.
I have evidence of Casey serenading Rebekah with a song he wrote and playing his guitar in front of her family earlier that summer. So it’s surprising to me that if he had no involvement, he wouldn’t want to get up there at her funeral with his guitar and play that song, or play a song for her. That just really surprises me. But again, this isn’t even circumstantial evidence. These are just red flags that stick out to me.
Leischen Stelter: So what other circumstantial evidence can you point to?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Well, having knowledge of the loose piano leg, if it was used as a murder weapon. Because as we’ve discussed, it’s a really unusual and unlikely object to grab in the heat of the moment. So most likely the killer would have known that that piano leg was loose. And it doesn’t appear that too many people had that knowledge.
Again going back to the dogs, the killer almost certainly had familiarity with both Rebekah’s and Casey’s dogs, and vice versa. And we base this on the fact that the dogs weren’t injured or killed.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Going back to Casey, he’s been asked what his theory is on what happened to Rebekah. And he refuses to divulge really any solid ideas. I think his quote was that, “It could have been anything.” Well, it doesn’t matter what topic we’re talking about. Everybody has a thought or an opinion on it, especially when somebody is murdered in your home. I can tell you if somebody comes in my home and murders my husband, I’m going to have an idea at least to start with on what might’ve happened. I’m not going to just claim ignorance and say, “I have no idea.” I mean, I’m going to try to figure it out. So even to this day, he continues to just say, “I have no idea. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know who would want to hurt her.” Things like that. Very vague.
Leischen Stelter: And that is kind of supported by what George Jared was telling us in an earlier episode about how Casey initially spoke to him, but then really withdrew and refused to talk later, probably when he realized that that may not be a good idea.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Correct.
Leischen Stelter: There’s some potential involvement.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yeah. Because in 2016, her case started getting more publicity again. So there’s a good chance that that started making him really nervous. So he just decided to shut down and not talk to anybody.
And there was a couple more things on my list. One would be that the killer must have had some trust from Rebekah in order for her to remain in her underwear in their presence. I don’t ever answer my door in my underwear. The only person that’s going to see me in my underwear is if my husband comes home and comes through the door, and I happen to be changing or something. But I would never answer the door, let somebody in my house without first putting pants on. So I think that’s a clue that she knew her killer very well and trusted him.
Leischen Stelter: And what about the results of your behavioral analysis on this case that we discussed in episode 3? What circumstantial evidence did that identify?
Jennifer Bucholtz: As we discussed on that episode, we can be pretty confident that Rebekah’s killer had a publicly known link both to Rebekah and to the murder scene. This is evidenced by them taking the immense risk of moving her body to that secondary location and to stay on scene for a while after the murder, trying to clean up and remove evidence of the crime inside that house. Again, a stranger to a location isn’t going to take these risks. They will just leave the body where it drops and run.
Obviously Casey was linked to Rebekah based on their relationship over the summer of 2004 and that they had been seen together the weekend before her death. If he was the perpetrator, he probably felt he’d be the top suspect if her body was found in his house. We also know he had a known link to the murder scene because he was a resident of that house.
Leischen Stelter: And you mentioned earlier about the killer being right-handed. Do we know what Casey’s dominant hand is?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yes, he is right-handed. We have proof of that.
Leischen Stelter: That’s a lot of items that would have to be addressed by the defense in a court of law. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yes, exactly. This is where the concept of “beyond a reasonable doubt” comes into play. Can you adequately explain away all 21 of these items to a jury? I don’t think that’s possible. What other person can the defense point to as a suspect that has this many pieces of evidence pointing in their direction? There is no one.
Leischen Stelter: Having that much circumstantial evidence and also things, even when we go back and talk about the disposal site, and the person having to be local, and familiar with Rebekah. There’s just a limited number of people that this really could be. Are you just continuously surprised that this is a 16-year-old cold case?
Jennifer Bucholtz: I really am. I have seen so many cases resulting in an arrest and conviction with so much less evidence. Now, I don’t support a weak court case by any means. I want to see evidence well beyond a reasonable doubt. But there’s cases that I can cite, which I’ll give you a couple examples in a minute, that had so much less evidence than this one. And they still achieved a conviction.
Leischen Stelter: Can you tell us a few cases that come to mind?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. So one of them that always comes to mind is the Scott Peterson case. And this was a really infamous case back in 2002. Most listeners are probably familiar with it, but, Laci Peterson, Scott’s wife disappeared on December 24th, 2002 in California. So she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant when she disappeared. And the father of her child was Scott, her husband. So Scott claimed to be fishing on the San Francisco Bay at the time that Laci went missing. When he returned home from fishing that afternoon, he was apparently not alarmed that Laci was gone and that he couldn’t get ahold of her.
He took a shower and later called a couple of Laci’s family members to inquire about her. I know it was at that point, one of those family members called 9-1-1. So already, similarities to Rebekah’s case where the significant other comes home to not being able to get ahold of their wife, girlfriend. And is not alarmed, goes about their business in the house, and doesn’t call 9-1-1. I’ll continue on.
Anyway, so Scott had some unusual mannerisms. And he was extremely calm in the days following the disappearance of his wife. There was no direct evidence leading investigators to believe he had any involvement in the disappearance, despite his strange mannerisms. But mannerisms aren’t enough for an arrest. They raise red flags and they give us indications of maybe directions to keep looking in. But it’s not enough for an arrest. So without any direct evidence linking him to her disappearance, there was no arrest. So more than four months later, the remains of Laci and her unborn child were found washed up on a beach near San Francisco. That’s the point when Scott was arrested and later convicted of his wife and unborn child’s death. And he was actually sentenced to death row.
Jennifer Bucholtz: What’s important here is that there was only one piece of direct evidence tying Scott to the murders. That piece of evidence was two hairs found on a pair of pliers in his boat. Those hairs could not be positively identified as Laci’s. They were simply consistent with her hair. So in reality, it’s actually not even direct evidence because the hairs didn’t have the root ball on them, which holds the DNA of the person. So all they could say is that the hairs matched and were consistent with the hairs found in Laci’s hairbrush. But they couldn’t say 100% that it was her hair. That was the only direct piece of evidence in that case. Everything else was circumstantial. And while I feel that that case is really weak, it just shows that with a motivated prosecution and investigating authority, a suspect can be brought to trial based primarily on circumstantial evidence.
Leischen Stelter: That’s a really good case example. Does anything else come to mind?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yeah. So there’s this other recent case actually from my state Colorado. And this case was featured on the Cold Justice show, which is hosted by Kelly Siegler. The arrestee or the suspect’s name is Jesse Hogue. In 1994, Jesse’s wife Jackie was raped and shot to death in the bedroom of the home that she shared with Jesse. As with Rebekah’s case, there was no sign of forced entry in the home, and robbery was ruled out as a motive. But the gun used to kill Jackie was never recovered by law enforcement. And based on accounts by people who knew Jesse, he reportedly avoided talking about his wife’s murder and did little if anything to help find justice for her. Which again, resonates with us in Rebekah’s case. Very similar.
So when the show Cold Justice began looking into the case, an anonymous witness came forward who had known both Jackie and Jesse. And that person stated that Jesse confessed to the crime during a night of drinking. But Jesse said police would never be able to arrest him because they would never find the gun that was used. So this eyewitness account by itself was enough for an arrest warrant. And Jesse’s now charged with the murder of his wife and is awaiting trial. So in Rebekah’s case, not only do we have someone who confessed to her murder on more than one occasion when drunk and sober. But we have so much more additional evidence also pointing to that person.
Leischen Stelter: Just based on those other cases, it’s obviously possible to get convictions using circumstantial evidence. Can you talk a little bit about what you know in terms of the status of this case right now with law enforcement?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Well, the investigating authority has been really tight-lipped almost since day one. There’s really been no public updates over the years, not even any private updates to Rebekah’s family members. I think one of the biggest impediments was there was an investigator assigned to her case for 14 years, who really just felt that somebody else, or a particular man from the local area had committed Rebekah’s murder. But this was despite no evidence pointing in that guy’s direction. And we base that on the fact that that guy was never arrested.
I had some dealings with this investigator last year. He’s extremely abrasive. He’s very unresponsive. He rarely would acknowledge the emails I would send or the letters that I would send with what I felt was pertinent information.
That aside, we got a breath of fresh air a few months ago, and a new investigator was assigned to Rebekah’s case. This man appears very professional. He has a great track record. He does not appear to have any issue arresting and working towards conviction of murderers. He’s done it many times. And I’ve spoken with him and corresponded with him on several occasions, and he’s very receptive to any information that I’m willing to send.
Unfortunately, he will not give us any detailed public update on the case at this point, but he assured me that he is actively working on it. And based on the investigative actions I know about that he’s taken, I believe that to be true.
Leischen Stelter: So there hasn’t been a ton of headway with law enforcement. Like you said, a new investigator. That is a great step, and hopefully something will come through. But since that’s kind of a dead end trying to work maybe directly with the ASP, can you talk about some other ways that you’ve tried to generate progress on this case?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. One of the big efforts that really wasn’t on my behalf, but that I got involved in, was an invitation that was provided to the Arkansas State Police from a member of the Vidocq Society. Now for those who don’t know about the Vidocq Society, I’ll give you a quick overview. But basically, it’s comprised of dozens of volunteers who are considered subject matter experts in forensics and criminal investigations. For more than 25 years, the Vidocq Society has provided pro-bono assistance to law enforcement agencies around the world, in order to help them solve their cold cases.
The society does not conduct independent investigations, meaning they don’t go out on their own seeking out a case to solve. Police agencies have to come to them and apply for their help. So they can only act as a catalyst to assist law enforcement. And like I said, that’s at the request of each individual law enforcement agency.
They have a really high success in helping agencies bring closure and adjudication to cold cases. And just to note, when an agency is approved to travel to the monthly meeting, that Vidocq hosts in Philadelphia, all the costs associated with that are funded by the Vidocq Society. So there’s no cost to that investigating agency in order to participate in the process.
So what happens is this group of experts get together once a month. And they have one or two agencies who come in with a cold case and they spend several hours giving a presentation on the facts of the case, the known evidence, what the analysis from the crime lab showed. And then these experts weigh in and try to give them ideas on how they can positively identify a suspect or put together enough evidence for an arrest warrant.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Long story short, I came to know Jim Fitzgerald. He is the FBI agent credited with catching the Unabomber. And he essentially developed the field of forensic linguistics, which is analyzing written and spoken word to obtain clues about a person’s involvement or not in a crime.
So we were communicating last year, and he sent me an email saying … it was basically an invitation for me to present to the Arkansas State Police, inviting them to present Rebekah’s case in front of the Vidocq Society. Why would you not jump on this opportunity? We were so excited. And then we sent in the invitation, and we heard nothing. Literally not even a response, not even an acknowledgement. Rebekah’s father finally prodded the previous investigator’s supervisor, who said he was thinking about it and discussing it with the DA. Okay. Not quite sure why that needed to happen. Again, they should’ve just jumped on this opportunity if they really wanted to solve Rebekah’s case.
Jennifer Bucholtz: So initially, that supervisor did agree to take Rebekah’s case to the Vidocq Society. So you can imagine again, we were really excited. Then nothing happened for months. It was just silence. We didn’t hear anything more. We couldn’t get anything out of him about when are you presenting? And finally, I got the investigator on the phone and just asked him straight out, “Why isn’t your agency taking up Jim Fitzgerald on this invitation to present Rebekah’s case?” He literally said, “We’re not presenting her case to a bunch of civilians.” It was infuriating.
So in response to that, I just want to read to the listeners a quote off the Vidocq Society’s website. Which is that, “The Vidocq Society’s assistance to law enforcement necessarily involves a review and analysis of case materials. Such as reports, statements, and physical evidence. The confidentiality and security of these materials are of paramount importance.” Additionally, all their members have to sign an annual ethics statement, which puts forth a strict requirement for confidentiality. And the society’s chief information security officer oversees and enforces the protected transmission of all case file documents. So it’s obvious that they have many rules and restrictions in place in order to protect the confidentiality of these case files and the information contained within that they’re sharing with these law enforcement agencies.
Jennifer Bucholtz: So let me tell you, the Vidocq Society would not have stayed in existence for 30 years if they were known for leaking information or not abiding by strict rules of confidentiality. So that claim made by the previous investigator was like I said, offensive and quite frankly, narcissistic. Whatever resources the Arkansas State Police have available, I guarantee that the Vidocq Society has resources and experience that well outweigh those of most any investigating agency in our country. So that was kind of long-winded, but it takes a bit to explain.
Leischen Stelter: Well one thing I just wanted to chime in and say that I feel like this is just more evidence in terms of law enforcement not wanting the assistance of others—in this case, these are subject matter experts with decades and decades worth of law enforcement experience. We talked with George Jared earlier about how podcasts, which are this public medium, how much this has helped to crowdsource information and helped investigators. And something like this, which is even more direct assistance, seems like just kind of a common sense decision to really help give fresh eyes to this case. So I would just agree how shocking it is, and just unfortunate. I’m sure Rebekah’s family is just heartbroken.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Her father was pretty much beside himself, and I don’t blame him one bit. Because we thought we had this golden opportunity to finally solve this. And then the investigating authority was the one who turned it down. It was just astounding to us.
Leischen Stelter: So I know there’s also been talk about a reward. Can you talk a little bit about what’s been going on around that?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. So last year, had a few different people ask me if I had thought about doing a GoFundMe to raise a big reward in hopes that maybe that would get somebody to come forward, who knows what happened or has pertinent information. And I told all of them that I’m not comfortable with GoFundMe or asking people for money. I felt that there was other avenues or strategies we could try to use first.
Well a couple of those people pledged quite a bit of money, which added up to $25,000, to put towards a reward fund. So because those were volunteers that came forward with that money, I said, “Okay, that’s fine. If you guys want to volunteer, pledge that money, then let’s do this.” So one thing we did was get a billboard and put it on main street in Melbourne with Rebekah’s picture and an announcement about this reward fund and then the confidential tip email. Obviously in hopes that somebody would come forward with some information.
Jennifer Bucholtz: I will say that I got many emails off of that. I’m not going to go into detail of any of those, but I did get quite a bit of good information behind the scenes. So that might still pan out. But what angered us is that I emailed several officials from the Arkansas State Police asking them to take the money and establish an official reward fund through the ASP. And they set up a confidential phone number or something people could call. I am a civilian. I mean, I have law enforcement and military experience, but I’m technically a civilian. I shouldn’t be the one handling a confidential tip email. But they never responded or acknowledged my emails. So we finally just moved forward on our own.
Well, the media found out about this and they finally got ahold of the director of the ASP. And here’s his response that he gave: “Commanders within the Arkansas State Police consulted with the prosecuting attorney of jurisdiction about the offer of a cash reward. In the interest of protecting the integrity of the case, there was a consensus that it would be left to the friends and family to coordinate the reward publicly.” And that’s so nonsensical, because so now you’re forcing me, like I said a civilian. Who you don’t even know, you don’t know my integrity. But to be put in charge of this, I’ve gotten some extremely sensitive information through that tip email. And they’re just lucky that I have a lot of integrity and that I didn’t share it with anybody except the investigating authority. But I just felt that was almost reckless on his part to make that claim that it would protect the integrity of the case to let us be in charge of confidential information.
Leischen Stelter: So as you’ve been getting some of these tips, which I know that you’re treating with the utmost confidentiality, and you’re passing them along to the ASP. Have you gotten any response about those tips? The value, or whether they’re following up with anything.
Jennifer Bucholtz: I have not. I mean, they acknowledged each piece of information that I forwarded. But that’s it. They won’t inform us whether they dug into it or what the results of looking into it were, or anything like that. So again, they’re just staying very tight lipped.
Leischen Stelter: Did the new investigator have any thoughts about the reward?
Jennifer Bucholtz: You know, I actually haven’t even talked to him about it. I don’t want to burden him. He seems to be doing his due diligence. So I just want to leave him alone and be respectful of the fact that he came onto this case more than 15 years after it occurred. May have had no knowledge of it before coming on and being assigned to it and he needs time to process it. I’m sure it’s a large case file. There’s been from what we can tell a lot of different persons of interests over the years. He just has a lot to digest. So I just don’t want to bother him at this point. He knows that we’re willing to help in almost any way possible and that he can reach out any time, and we’ll do everything we can to assist him. But for now, he just needs that time to process all this and sift through it. And figure out what’s important and what’s not.
Leischen Stelter: You know, another element of this case that we haven’t dug into too much, because sometimes I tend to forget, first of all, how advanced technology has gotten in such a short amount of time. But can you spend a few minutes here talking about Rebekah’s phone and possibly getting that analyzed again? Whether that’s something, we don’t know if the new investigator is doing that. But how critical her phone could be in this case.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. If her phone was found at Casey’s house, which I’m still not a 100% confident that it was. And if it was not there, that’s a huge clue. But anyways, if they did recover her phone, we have new technology nowadays that can recover deleted text messages. And that is the main reason why I think it would be really valuable to reanalyze her phone, just to see if there were any text messages that were deleted around the time of her death.
It’s also important to keep in mind that whoever her killer was had access to her phone for about 24 hours. They could have been sending texts, or maybe making a couple of phone calls to make it look like she was still alive. And I think that would be really valuable to reanalyze as well.
Jennifer Bucholtz: So when we had the previous investigator on the case, I actually told him I would pay whatever it was to have a forensics phone analyst come in and reanalyze the phone. And I think he was thinking I wanted to take possession of the phone. And I said, “I don’t want to see the phone. Because I don’t want to mess up the chain of custody.” I said, “No, we would find the expert. You would sign a chain of custody form to them. They do their analysis and give it back to you. I don’t even want to see the results. I just want to pay to make sure that this piece of evidence has been properly analyzed.” And his response was, “Yeah, we’ve done all that.”
Leischen Stelter: So there’s obviously been some roadblocks to say the least, with the investigating agency. Can you talk a little bit about efforts to reach out to state and federal agencies?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Sure. I mean, our efforts have mostly been within the state. Because although Rebekah’s father and I did go have a meeting at the FBI office in Little Rock, we can’t actually be the ones to request that they step in and provide assistance. It has to be the investigating authority that makes that request. But last year, we went and met with agents there because we just felt that the case was mishandled. And that was the main reason we spoke to the FBI. We understand that the FBI can’t just take over jurisdiction of a local murder case. That’s not how it works. But if they find evidence of mishandling or a coverup, then they can open an investigation on the investigating authority. And in turn, that can turn the murder case over to the FBI’s jurisdiction.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Now the FBI did follow up with me later last year, and I sent them additional information that they requested. But beyond that, I don’t have any status on whether they did open an investigation into this or not. But the fact that they did reach out asking for additional information leads me to believe that maybe they at least took a cursory look at how the case was handled.
We also met with the Lieutenant Governor. His name’s Tim Griffin. He appeared extremely helpful in the beginning of our meeting and then ended with not being helpful. So we really didn’t get any traction there. We’ve mailed letters to the governor with no response. We did mail a letter to the director of the Arkansas State Police. And Rebekah’s dad did get a pretty vague response saying, “Yeah, we’re still working on it. Sorry about the death of your daughter, but we’re still working on it. And we’re not going to release anything.” So yeah, we’ve been hit with a lot of roadblocks and frustration.
Leischen Stelter: So to try to put a silver lining on this if possible. Are there things that you can point to, specific things that you think could really help this case tomorrow?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Well, you already mentioned crowdsourcing. Which is basically publicizing a case on a podcast or other media platform. And having discussions from citizens, you just never know, one on one idea might spark. A great example of that was the up and vanished podcast about a missing woman, I mean missing without a trace woman. And after the podcast aired, somebody came forward. The wife of the accomplice came forward and spilled the entire story. So you just never know whose heartstring you might touch, whose emotions you might touch, who you might finally convince to just come forward. And in Rebekah’s case, I am confident that several people know exactly what happened to her. So I think that could be very useful.
Jennifer Bucholtz: And then of course my understanding is the Vidocq Society invitation is still valid. So if the new investigator comes to a standstill and needs help, I can assist in getting them in front of the Vidocq Society to present Rebekah’s case.
They could also request the assistance of the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit. We talked on another episode about criminal profiling and behavior analysis. And you and I discussed how many behavioral clues that we know about in this case. And there’s likely more. Those profilers will come in. They field requests for assistance all the time, and they will come in and help with unsolved violent crimes. And they don’t charge for that assistance.
Another action that would be helpful is if the ASP could give an update and release some information from the case file. Releasing some information from the case file could jog someone’s memory that they don’t even realize what they know that’s pertinent to the case.
Leischen Stelter: Yeah. And I think that just goes to show that it’s really going to be a matter of law enforcement sort of being willing to take this in a new direction in terms of how they’re trying to source their information, and not just trying to keep it all in house. It’s been 16 years. How could this hurt to just release something that’s not critical? We talked earlier how investigators obviously want to keep things that only the killer would know to themselves, and not make that public. But there’s lots of other details I’m sure that could only help people better understand this case and possibly how they can provide additional information.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Yes, and if the police have pieced together the activities of Rebekah in the couple days before her death, it’s possible them releasing information about her activities will jog someone’s memory who came into contact with her. There may be people who crossed paths with her that weekend before she was killed and have forgotten or don’t realize it. And you never know what detail is going to break this case wide open.
Leischen Stelter: And in terms of what you would like to see released from the case file, can you talk about a couple of things that would be really helpful?
Jennifer Bucholtz: I think some of the most helpful things would be releasing some of the crime scene photos and providing us a diagram of the locations where Rebekah’s blood was found in the house. That will give us so many clues about what actually took place during the murder. And that in turn may give us even more clues about who the killer was.
It’d be nice to know the position that Rebekah’s body was in when she was found at the bottom of that embankment. I would like to see a sketch of the manner in which her body was laying. I don’t know if she was her back, stomach, side, or anything. But that could provide us some clues as to how and when she was transported to that site.
Jennifer Bucholtz: I kind of do statement analysis or language analysis on the side here and there. So me personally, I would love to analyze the transcripts or recordings. Especially if the interview is done with Casey and his family members, and other persons of interest too. Because language is like the key to our soul. The language that we use provides so many clues to our personality. and you can really uncover so many inconsistencies if you know how to break down sentences word by word. And then finally, I would like the timestamp from the 9-1-1 call that Rebekah’s mother made. We discussed this in our previous episode. But having the timestamp would just help us fill in a piece of that timeline and let us know how many hours were available that morning for the killer to maybe go to Casey’s house.
Leischen Stelter: There’s just so many pieces of this case that make it frustrating, frankly. And I know I can hear it in your voice, that obviously you’ve been so involved in this. And it’s just like one roadblock after the next. And I think you’re making some amazing progress. But at the same time, it kind of feels like two steps forward, one step back.
Jennifer Bucholtz: It definitely does. There’s days where I feel extremely discouraged. But what’s really awesome is there’s so many supporters and people who are assisting in this effort that I can reach out to any of them and say, “I feel like just throwing in the towel.” And they’ll always bring me back up. And knowing that you have that support system out there has made such a difference in this. I had no idea really what I was getting into when I started writing about her case, but I refuse to give up at this point. I’m going to exhaust every resource I can because this case needs to be solved. I mean, this is ridiculous that it’s gone on this long. And her family deserves answers if nothing else. So the killer cannot sit peacefully at home at night and think that this is going to go away again, because it’s not.
Leischen Stelter: Well, I really commend you on all the work that you’ve done on this case. All the hours you’ve dedicated in trying to bring justice for Rebekah. I mean, at the end of the day, that’s really what you’re trying to do is bring her justice and help her family finally know who did this to her. I know that closure is just not something you can ever achieve when you’re a family member. But you’re doing a really wonderful thing here. So thank you so much. It just continues to be a tragedy that we’re coming up on nearly 16 years since her murder, and no one’s been held accountable yet. So again Jen, you’ve been doing some amazing work and keep it up. We’re all with you.
Jennifer Bucholtz: Well, thank you for the kind words. I don’t need them, but I appreciate them. And thank you again for taking your time to assist me, because you’ve spent hours discussing with me, and brainstorming, and editing my articles, and putting together this podcast. And so you’ve definitely brought so much to the table and been of such great assistance. I really appreciate it. But I have a feeling we’re going to be conversing on another episode pretty soon.
Leischen Stelter: I know. I hope so. Fingers crossed. I can’t wait. I can’t wait for that day when I get that email from you, and we’ll have to set up another recording session. But Jen, can you just tell our listeners one last time, if they have any tips or any information, what they can do to participate?
Jennifer Bucholtz: Definitely. Again, if you have any information that could even possibly be relevant to Rebekah’s case, please reach out to Mike McNeill of the Arkansas State Police. His phone number is (501) 322-3365. I also stated earlier that I have a confidential tip email line set up. I’m the only one that has access to it and can monitor it. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a note that the four in that address is a number. That’s if you don’t want to talk to law enforcement directly, I’m happy to relay any information anonymously to Mike.
If you want to follow the progress of George Jared and me, you can join our Facebook group, which is titled Unsolved Murder of Rebekah Gould. We welcome anybody who wants to join, and brainstorm with us, and analyze, and participate in our discussions.
Leischen Stelter: Thank you again, Jen. And thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of In Public Safety Matters.