Popular Transcripts Full Transcript: Up and Vanished – S1 E3 – The Alibi

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Full Transcript: Up and Vanished – S1 E3 – The Alibi

Hello.

Hey. Is Anthony there?

Yeah, this is him.

This is Payne Lindsey. I'm doing the documentary podcast on Tara Grinsted.

Oh, I understood, die.

Ten years ago today marked the last time anybody reported seeing or talking to Tara Grinstead.

Officially, police are calling this a missing person's case.

GBI officials say investigator …

Latex glove found in …

$80,000 reward is being offered.

Where is Tara Grinstead?

From Tenderfoot TV in Atlanta, this is Up and Vanished, the investigation of Tara Grinstead. I'm your host Paynee Lindsey.

Before I jump into my interview with Anthony Vickers, we need to go over some of the finer details in this case. There were two major pieces of evidence that investigators found at his home. The first and perhaps the biggest one was a single latex glove found in Tara's yard. Here's Maurice Godwin on the glove.

It was in front of the steps and it was laying there at the edge of the grass with some pinestraw. They collected it and they did analysis on it. They found full profile, a white male DNA on the gloves. And it's been entered into the Georgia DNA database and it's been entered into CODIS for like 10 years and there's never been a match.

How many people did they swab in this case?

Upwards to 200, students, anybody, any males or stuff that knew her. In Georgia, you have to be convicted of a felony to be swabbed.

So in Georgia you have to willingly give up a DNA swab? They can't make you do it.

They walk up to you, they ask you for it. If you volunteer, fine. If you don't, then they have to have enough probable cause to write a warrant and go back and get the swab.

My question about the glove is this, if you have got to somebody and you're struggling with that individual, why is the glove even off of the hand to be able to even fall to the ground?

Right. So you're saying, if you're going to wear latex gloves to commit a crime, why are they off your hands before you leave the scene?

I think it's a 50/50 chance that the glove was a plant.

The second piece of evidence was a business card found in Tara's front door. But as ominous as that seemed, there appeared to be a valid explanation for it. The car belonged to a friend of Tara's family, a police officer from a nearby town called Perry.

Late Sunday night on October 23rd before she was reported missing, Tara's mom was concerned because she wasn't responding so she asked his family friend to go check on her.

He was called by Faye, Tara's mother to go check on Tara. So he drove from Perry to Ocilla, probably arriving at probably 12:0 AM, it would be Monday morning.

So Sunday night, Monday morning?

Sunday night, Monday morning, yes. So he went to the house, knocked on the door, couldn't get anyone and left the business card wedged between the door and then left.

Now that we're a little more up to speed, here's my call with Anthony Vickers.

I really and truly didn't want to talk to you but, you know, you'd probably play nicer if I was nice to you. You know, when people just quit looking at you funny, then a day, another thing comes what. You know what I mean?

So tell me about your relationship with Tara.

Yeah. I mean we saw each other after high school and went on there for a year or two.

Okay. So this relationship you had with Tara, was it at all sexual?

Oh, yes.

Okay. So when you two would hang out, where'd you guys usually go?

Most of time, it was just at her house.

So was this a serious relationship or was it more like a fling or something?

Oh, it was kind of a little bit of both but it was so recent that I got out of school that we kind of kept it, you know, just kept it on the low.

Describe to me what it was like when Tara went missing.

I really didn't find nothing was wrong there when GBI came and talked to me, you know. They told me that she missed school or whatever that night. I think it was a Monday and they come and told me and you know I was kind of upset with them, you know.

They going through her house and all that, been gone two days and she ain't really got to report to nobody so I didn't really see … if I go off the grid for a couple of days and somebody's in my house, I'm gonna be upset.

So I didn't place it to be as her being missing til later on. I mean, you know, she's grown, single. I mean she can do what she wants to. I really didn't think too much about it, there until about, you know, four or five days in where she done missed a few days of work, you know, stuff like that wasn't like her.

A few weeks after Tara disappeared, Anthony received a mysterious phone call from an unknown number. All he could hear was a girl that was screaming and crying and he was convinced it was Tara. Here's what he said about it.

It sounded like her squalling on the phone to me, dude. I mean I really thought it was her. I mean I was watching my little cousin and I had somebody come and get him so I could go figure out what's going on. It wasn't really no overreaction. I really … I still think it was her.

And the story I got told is they researched it and it was a known drug dealer's house. That's what they told me. Well, how'd you all know that? I mean the feedback they gave me on it didn't make any sense.

So what went down when the GBI reached out to you?

Basically, they asked me if I would do like a DNA swab, would I be okay with that? A lie detector or some other thing.

So you did a DNA swab?

Yeah, I did all of that.

What were the results of your lie detector test?

Oh, they said that I was true there. They cleared me after that.

Did they search your property at all?

They went through my vehicle and through my dad's vehicle. When all this was going on, I didn't want to get involved. You know, one thing tells you how you're gonna figure out where she's at. And the other ones, you know, you see people arrested for stuff they didn't do and stuff all the time. And my thing got to be just cooperate with them, do everything you got to do and get out their way.

Do you remember when the last time you saw Tara was?

Right off hand, I really don't know. I really don't remember.

Did you have any involvement in Tara's disappearance?

Oh no.

Can you give me the rundown of what happened on March 30th of '05 when you got arrested at Tara's house?

She wouldn't answer her phone and I went over there and knocked on the door and she, you know … we were still kind of on the low. She didn't want, you know, a bunch of folks knowing that I was over there and we got into a little argument but the police station's only a block away.

So a neighbor called and only a block away and I was getting in the car. I was actually driving. I was actually driving, pulling out of her driveway. And they stopped and pulled me out of the car. I was trying to leave and trying to do right, you know. Saying what I needed to say. I was leaving and then I couldn't leave. Well, I only live like two blocks down the road so it wasn't like I made a 30 mile trip or nothing.

Before I called Anthony, I scoured every detail in this police report and I found something kind of interesting. It appeared that there was another man inside Tara's house that day and this man provided the statement to police. His name was blacked out in the reports I received but at the very bottom, the officer refers to him in the report with the initials H.D. Maybe Anthony could help clarify this.

Was there someone else in Tara's house that day?

Oh, yeah. there was. I don't know who he was or I think he's some guy from Perry, some cop from Perry.

What was he like?

You know, I don't … I don't know what it was. I don't know. You know, you can't judge a book by its cover but I didn't like his cover.

So this cop from Perry was inside Tara's house that day. It seemed a little strange to me. His initials were H.D. Remember the guy who left the business card? His name was …

Detective Heath Dykes, Perry Police Department.

Detective Heath Dykes, Perry Police Department, initials H.D. Just like the police report. So he drove there with the sole intent of checking on Tara, correct?

Oh yeah.

How far is Perry from Ocilla?

It's about an hour 15 minutes.

Do you think it's odd that Heath Dykes didn't see the glove on the ground?

I think it's unusual. Also you remember, you're not dealing with just a regular just civilian type individual. You're dealing with a veteran detective. Possibly, the argument would be that it was too dark but he needs to be asked that question.

It was odd that he was inside Tara's house that day when Anthony got arrested. But it was even more odd to me that a veteran detective who drove over an hour to check on Tara Sunday night wouldn't have seen that latex glove on the ground. You would think that there would be a little detective work but all he did was leave his business card.

From the beginning, I approached this thing with the certainty that there was foul play involved in Tara's disappearance. It just seemed impossible that she could walk away from her life and remain hidden for all these years but I guess there's always that possibility. I called a missing persons expert named Thomas Loth. He has over 20 years of experience in these sort of cases. I wanted him to weigh in.

I think there's a better way that she could have found to stage the scene if she wanted to go missing. The fact that that necklace is on the floor, I agree with the investigator. To me, that's very unusual especially if her apartment is nice and clean.

Now, and the latex glove outside to me is obviously a very important piece. I definitely think that foul play was involved. I rarely have seen maliciously missing women. It's just … it's a rarity. If they go missing, it's because someone has abducted them or murdered them but it does happen.

How often, you know, man or woman do you see somebody who is gone for 10 plus years with no trace at all and they turn up somewhere alive?

It's not common at all. But it's possible. It does happen but it's not because they turned up themselves, it's because someone informed law enforcement or the family that they saw them.

But it would be a case where a subject was missing, there was a police report filed but the circumstances of the disappearance showed them that there was a small amount of detail that would reveal that they went maliciously missing such as they were last seen walking, you know, walking away to somewhere. They went on a run and then went missing in the mountains. Something like that.

People go missing on their own accord if they're suffering from schizophrenia and usually the reason they're missing is because they have such paranoia. They choose to follow those conspiracies in their head.

It's typically a medical reason. Most people don't really understand that. They think, "Oh, they just went missing because their life got complicated." But really, a lot of adults go missing because they suffer from their first psychotic episode. They become transient and homeless on the streets.

I would definitely lean foul play on this case because all of the signs are there really that she had multiple boyfriends. One of them got jealous and she let them in the apartment for some reason to talk probably and their intent was different from, you know, what she obviously expected.

We dated for about five and a half years.

When you say dated, was it a serious or a casual relationship?

It was a commitment.

That's Tara's ex boyfriend Marcus Harper in his first televised interview with Greta Van Susteren in 2005, just weeks after Tara disappeared.

We did not date other people but I was honest with her when I said I had no intentions of marriage because of my career.

Did there come a time when this dating relationship ended?

Yes. She told me she felt like it was time for her to move on.

And you've been dumped essentially?

More or less.

Were you upset by that at all?

At first, we continued to remain friends but I felt a little rejected at first but I picked … brushed my shoulders off, went on and started dating other people. She asked several times about rekindling the relationship and I told her we could stay friends but I didn't want any kind of commitment.

So then you were rejecting her essentially at this point?

Pretty much.

Did she accept that?

No.

How many times have you talked to the GBI?

Four, five times.

They've asked you for things and asked you to talk?

Yes.

And you provided all of it?

Yes.

When was the last time you actually saw her?

The 14th of October. It was on a Friday morning.

About what time?

Around 9:00.

And what were the circumstances?

She woke me by knocking on my windows.

Is that something common where she would knock on your windows or not? It's unusual?

No, it's not unusual but she was crying and was upset about something. She was very rational and she told me that if she found out I was dating someone, she would commit suicide.

The one person who has been vetted the most is her ex-boyfriend, Marcus Harper. He was absolutely tired of her. He had to hire a lawyer because … in the beginning because her sister, Anita, was going after him. Basically his timeline alibi basically clears him.

He was right. From day one, Marcus Harper had an alibi. And it was a good one. His alibi begins that Saturday night at the White Horse Saloon in Fitzgerald.

All right. We're live here in the Wild Horse. Final score of the Fitzgerald, Ocilla game, 56-19.

Yeah.

56-19 Fitzgerald.

I decided to pay this place a visit, maybe have a couple beers. I made some small talk with people at the bar. And best believe, they all had their own theory about Tara.

Basically, we were just all talking and he was like, "Yeah, you know, Tara Grinstead. I know what happened." I don't know if he was joking but all the other guys said that he was acting like really serious.

I heard a rumor she was out at boones, somebody followed her and I left. I believe it was all rumor and bullshit. Some people say the ex-boyfriend, some people say it's somebody who admire her.

So what was Marcus Harper's rock solid alibi?

October 22nd, 2005, the night of Tara's disappearance, Marcus Harper left the bar called the White Horse Saloon in Fitzgerald sometime after 1 AM and drove to Ocilla. He was looking for his friend Sergeant Shawn Fletcher, an Ocilla police officer.

Sean Fletcher had known both Marcus and Tara. In fact, he was one of the officers who responded to the call at Tara's house earlier that year when Anthony Vickers was arrested for disorderly conduct. At around 1:49 AM according to the account Sean gave to authorities, he received a call from the dispatcher telling him that Marcus was looking for him.

Sean contacted Marcus and the two joined up. In the course of the next hour, Sean had at least one conversation with another police officer. Shortly after 2:45 AM, Fletcher was summoned to a house on West 4th Street where a local man named Bennie Merritt who was known for his erratic behavior had allegedly walked inside someone's house and had refused to leave.

Marcus joined Sean on that call. By the time they arrived, Bennie Merritt was gone. A few minutes later, Sean and Marcus left the residence and searched for him. Authorities reported that the man appeared intoxicated and was later apprehended by a sheriff's deputy after he frightened the night clerk at a local gas station about a mile outside of Ocilla.

According to records reviewed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, both Sean and Marcus responded to this call at the gas station and by the time they were done, it was 4:28 AM. A few minutes later, Marcus claims he headed home to sleep. Marcus Harper's mother also vouched for his return home that night around 5 AM and said he went straight to bed.

I put in one more records request with Ocilla PD. I wanted the reports on Bennie Merritt, just to make sure all the times added up. It was pretty convenient to be with an Ocilla officer during the time Tara likely disappeared but I can't disprove that either. When all this was happening, investigators were pressed for answers. They started searching everywhere but they found nothing.

My grimness fueled by the frustration of searching nearly 400 square miles of alligator infested waters, sprawling farmland and tangled forest.

If she's in here, she likes to be on top.

To cover this whole county, it's probably gonna take us another 7 to 10 days. This county is like 380 square miles. We only got like 9000 people in here.

The Ocilla and Irwin County community undertook the most extensive search I've ever been associated with in my career.

We searched fields. We searched swamps. We searched abandoned buildings. This is actually a case where we don't even know where the haystack is to look for the needle.

Part of the initial search for Tara was a K9 unit, tons of dogs trained to sniff out Tara's scent. Tracy Underwood is the trainer that led this part of the investigation.

Dogs can be trained and are trained to find people both dead and alive. In this case, I had dogs that were trained to do both. So the initial response was of course, you know, unless we find evidence that tells us otherwise, we assume that the person we're looking for is alive.

Unfortunately, you know, being a week from the time she was last seen as far as tracking, after a week especially in, you know, this type of hot South Georgia weather with the sun and dry conditions that we had back then, if she did just walk away from her home, the scent for tracking dog after a week would be totally gone.

Oh, wow.

We just did what we call area searches. So we just took the dogs to an area and had them check the area. Not so much for a track but just an area to see if they could pick up any human scent.

The other thing that's important to note, Payne, about dogs is that the dogs always tell us two things. They'll tell us where something is but what is just as important and then sometimes even more important is that they tell us where something isn't.

We searched for over a year for this individual in North Georgia and we searched 28 different places over that year. And long story short, we winded up finding him on the 29th search.

Wow.

The dogs were 100 percent correct. They told us in all those previous 28 times we searched,"Guys, I don't know where he is but he's not here.".

Okay.

So that would certainly, and did apply to Tara's case, and would continue applying to her case if we do search for her again.

So what were the results of the initial search for Tara?

We've been asked to go down there over the years. I would dare say at least 20 or 30 times we've been down there searching in different places and we searched hundreds and hundreds of acres. I want to say 30 searches, that means 30 times we went down there and we may have searched, you know, 10 different places in one day.

Right.

With all of that, the only thing that the dogs showed any indication to was a burned house that had burnt down actually when we were down there. And they did alert there at the burnt remains there at the house.

When dogs do "alert" or indicate something, we have to look and investigate and say, "Hey. Is it something that's related to this case or is it totally unrelated to what we're looking for? Why did the dogs alert or indicate in this area at this spot? Is it related to our case?" In this situation, we determined that they were responding to some septic lines or sewage because it was an old house with exposed pipes and things like that.

Based on the searches you guys did, you know, throughout Ocilla and the Irwin County area, do you think that it's possible Tara's body is still there and it was missed or the right area wasn't searched?

Well, I will say this, Payne. You can't rule out any area 100 percent until you find the person. There's always that possibility, absolutely, but the search efforts and everything and all the resources that were used, is she there? The probability of that would be I think pretty low. But you can't clear an area 100 percent until the person has been found.

I've been doing this for about 25 years. I would say about 99 percent of these cases, they're pretty black and white. And I would say Tara's case is that rare exception. Can we definitively say she was kidnapped? Can we definitively say that she just walked away? Can we definitively say that she started a new life somewhere? That's a question that really can't be definitively answered.

Personal and professional opinion, do I think it's ever going to be solved? I do. You know, we all still have to have that hope. However long it takes, Payne, we're in it for the duration.

If the officials called me or the family called me today even after 11 years, I would get in the car, go down there with the dogs and do whatever I can. No family ever thinks that they're going to be living this nightmare and certainly not living it after 11 years.

I got my reports back from Ocilla PD on Bennie Merritt. I requested literally every report they have on him. I wanted to crosscheck the time of each incident that Marcus and Sean responded to that night.

I have four reports on Bennie Merritt but not a single one of these happened on Saturday night. None of them. What I'm about to read you has never been released to the public, Tara's e-mails.

On October 14th, Tara sent Marcus's mom an e-mail. On the bottom paragraph, Tara says this, "Just remind Marcus what I said about something happening to me or even him. He leaves it like this and something may happen to me."

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Popular Transcripts Full Transcript: Is Sugar Slowly Killing Us – The Knowledge Project

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Is Sugar Slowly Killing Us – The Knowledge Project

Welcome to the Knowledge Project. I'm your host, Shane Parrish, the curator behind the Farnam Street blog, which is an online community focused on mastering the best of what other people have already figured out. The Knowledge Project is a podcast where we look at interesting people and uncover the frameworks they use to make better decisions, live life, and make an impact.

On this episode, I have the fascinating, Gary Taubes. Gary is an award-winning science journalist who has written Good Calories Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat. You're going to learn about the role sugar, carbohydrates, and fiber, how breakfast became the most important meal of the day, what science is, and the state of nutritional science, why he says wine is okay, his next book project, and so much more. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

Before I get started, here's a quick word from our sponsor.

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As a listener of this podcast, you can get up to $10,000 off if you go to Inktel.com/Shane. That's I-N-K-T-E-L dot com slash Shane.

Gary, I'm so happy to have you on The Knowledge Project.

Great. I am happy to be here.

One of the questions that I have when I think about you is I wonder what your daily diet looks like. Like, how do you think about the food that you consume?

Yeah, it's funny. When we talked about the things that I didn't want to talk about, one of the things I was thinking, "Can I say I don't want to talk about my daily diet?" Then, I thought I probably can't say that because it'll probably come up at some point in the interview.

Easiest way to think about it is I don't eat grains, and starches, and sugars anymore because I think they make me fat and unhealthy. And I replaced them, for the most part, with, you know, fat animal products. So, not good for the animals, but I think it's good for me physically. And I'm one of these people who have convinced myself that butter and bacon are health foods. And I hope I'm right.

Why you do think nutritional science is in such a poor state compared to other areas of medical science? Like, what is it about nutrition that's led to such vast misunderstandings?

Well, first of all, we don't know that it's actually better than other areas of medical science. One of the questions I'm always … We know what we see, right. So, I study nutrition science. I write about nutrition science. I know nutrition science is, to me, almost not a functional science, but I've never had the opportunity to put that out for investigation into other areas of medicine or other areas of science. You just hope they're better.

My take on this is sort of historical. The way I see it, science was sort of honed to a very fine edge of, you know, a methodology for establishing reliable knowledge. The universe, in Europe, it's by …. You know, it was at its height in Germany and Austria pre-World War II. And, sort of, these people really understood the rigor necessary to do good science, the skepticism necessary, this idea that Richard Feynman later encapsulated by saying, you know, the first principles of science is you must not fool yourself into the easiest person to fool.

And this culture of science began to evaporate with World War II. And it crossed the Atlantic in fields like physics because we embraced these European researchers, many of whom were Jews. And the leading scientists in the world, the leading physicists in the world post-World War II in the US tended to be these European emigres who are their students. And many of the key players in the Manhattan Project were European emigres.

And so, you had this very rigorous approach to science being done in fields like physics. And you could do it in fields like physics because if you think of science as hypotheses and tests, the tests were relatively simple, relatively simple to do. You could come up with an idea. You could build a small, you know, cyclotron like Lawrence did here at Berkeley. You could, then, test the ideas, and you know that other people are going to do the same all around the world. And if you're wrong, it's going to be very embarrassing. So, there was also, sort of, a relatively quick feedback between hypotheses and tests.

And in fields like nutrition and public health, not only did we not embrace the European emigres, and, in fact, in many cases, we wanted nothing to do with these people. The hypothesis and test, by definition, was much harder to do, or the testing aspect of the hypothesis was much harder to do.

So, now, instead of dealing with subatomic particles or every particle for all intents and purposes of the like, you know, you can do these experiments. Indeed, you're now dealing with these messy humans who think for themselves in chronic diseases that take decades to manifest themselves. Even if you could do the testing of the hypotheses, it takes a long time to do it. It's very expensive, and it's very difficult, if not impossible to do right.

And so, what the nutrition and public health research communities did is they just lowered their standards for what they would consider reliable knowledge. And this just became sort of inculcated throughout the entire community such that these people almost … To me, I feel like they almost forget what it takes to do reliable knowledge. And they say, they justify it or they say the issues are so important, people are dying out there; and therefore, we don't have time to dot the Is and cross the Ts, and make sure that we're right about our hypotheses. And, to me, the really scientific response is if we don't have time to dot the Is and cross the Ts, you have no idea whether you're right.

Right.

And, you know, we end up in a situation today where we have, you know, these massive unprecedented epidemics of obesity, and diabetes, and related diseases. And medical public health community has no idea, almost literally no idea what to do about it. And everyone insists that the science is good enough to answer these questions; and yet, clearly, if we were good enough to answer these questions, we never would have gotten into this situation, so.

What role do you think genetics plays in this?

In the obesity and diabetes epidemics or in obese-

Yeah.

I think, clearly, genetics … Well, we know that obesity runs in families. And that's been known for, you know, hundred … Body type runs in families, you know. Identical twins don't just have the same facial features, they have the same body types. Clearly, genetics plays a huge role in whether, you know, someone's going to be tall and thin, or short and squat, or some combination of the two. And if it's playing a role in obesity, it's going to play a role in diabetes as well. And I don't actually know the data for diabetes, but I'm sure there's a strong genetic component there as well.

But then the question is, and this is the question I addressed in my last book, The Case Against Sugar, we have these diabetes and obesity epidemic that manifest themselves pretty similarly worldwide, independent of the genetic, you know, the genotype, the genetic ancestry of the population.

So, you know, Inuits near the Arctic Circle, or Native Americans, our First Nations people, or, you know, African populations, or South Pacific Islanders, or Middle Eastern populations, or Southeast Asians, they all experience obesity and diabetes epidemics when their environment changes from their traditional diet and lifestyle to a Western diet and lifestyle. And they manifest these epidemics pretty similarly.

So, clearly, the underlying genetics are not the key factor there. You know, it doesn't matter what type of human, you know, where your ancestors came from. You get dumped in a modern western lifestyle, you're likely to become obese, and then diabetic. And so, the question I was asking in my book is, what is it about the Western diet and lifestyle that is the agent of these diseases?

So, what do you think about, like, the Mediterranean diet, the French diet, and all of this stuff? Like are there diets suited to cultures or types of people that grow up in a certain region, or?

The Mediterranean diet may or may not be healthier than, for instance, an Inuit diet. Like, if you took the Inuits and gave them the Mediterranean diet, they may do just as well as the Greeks do, or they may do more poorly because they haven't had time to adapt to, I don't know, olive oil, or a lot of green vegetables, or, you know, whatever the grains they're consuming in this diet. It's sort of … You know it's one of the ways people tend to confuse the fundamental issue.

So, to me, the really important issue, the critical issue is these epidemics. And the numbers are just out of … I mean, almost unimaginable. In the US, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, in the US, since the late 1950s, diabetes prevalence has increased 700%, okay. So, 1 in 11 Americans now have diabetes, when the number might have been closer to 1 in 1000 or 1 in 3000 at the beginning of the 20th century. That's almost incomprehensible.

And nobody really … I mean the fact that there aren't, sort of, teams of investigative scientists, you know, and task force on every street corner walking around with, you know, I don't know, detectors of some sort trying to figure out what the cause of this disorder is, you know, why we have this out-of-control epidemic is another question. But that's the question you have to keep on asking yourself, what's causing these epidemics because we're not going to be able to reverse or prevent them until we identify the fundamental cause.

And it gets confused with issues of, "Well, should we be eating the Mediterranean diet to prevent heart disease; or should we be eating the DASH diet to lower blood pressure; or should we be eating, you know, Ornish's diet to reduce risk of heart disease?", when the very first thing you want to know is like, "What's causing these epidemics, man, because this is crazy?"

The Director General of the UN, a woman named Margaret Chan, a year ago referred to them as slow motion disasters. And she predicted. This was fascinating. This was at a keynote address at the National Academy of Medicine in Washington. And she gave a number, a prediction for the likelihood that public health organizations will prevent these slow motion disasters from getting worse. And the likelihood of even preventing them from getting worse, she said, was virtually zero.

So, you've got the slow motion disasters worldwide. You've got the head of the greatest public health organization in the world predicting that they will fail to control them. And so, the question you want to ask is, "What's the cause?", not whether we should be eating a Mediterranean diet, or a French diet, or you know.

And then, maybe, you can further ask the question, is there something about the Mediterranean diet, or about the French diet, or about these Blue Zone diets that happens to shed light on this question of what's causing obesity, and diabetes, and the conditions that are associated with it?

Can you quickly walk listeners through your beliefs on what is causing this?

Okay. So, again, if you think of it as a criminal case, the first question is, what's the crime being committed? And in this case, like I said, it's obesity and diabetes epidemic showing up everywhere in the world after they transitioned to a western diet. And so, that's the crime. That's what we want. And we want to find out who the perpetrator is. We know what the age and what the vector is. The vector is the Western diet and lifestyle. You know, it's commercialism, and urbanism, and maybe it's processed food. These are all sort of factors of the disease. But what's the age, and then the vector?

And, you know, the point I make in my book is you can chart this. Go back in time. And, actually, what you would do, again, if we had a criminal case, you would want to know when the crime was committed, the earliest sign of the crime. And so, you could do this using hospital records in the medical literature. And you find out, for instance, in the US that diabetes rates were virtually non-existent. Even though it was a very relatively easy disease to diagnose, you saw very little sign of it pre-1850, and even for the most part, pre-1870s.

And then, the numbers in hospitals, and you could see this in hospital records in Boston, in Mass, and/or in Philadelphia, at Pennsylvania Hospital. The diabetes diagnoses in hospitals go from like literally zero a year. Remember, 1 in 11 Americans were considered to have diabetes, and the major city hospitals would see, in some years, zero cases. And then, you could see the numbers go to one, to two, to three a year, to five a year, to ten. And then, by the early years of the 20th century are in double digits. And then, they just shoot up from there.

And you could find experts back then, you know, the head of the New York City Department of Public Health saying it just detracts so closely with sugar consumption from population to population that we seriously have to consider that sugar is a cause. And you look at the industries that evolved in that period. And sugar. over the course of the 19th century, went from being a sort of expensive luxury in the beginning of the 19th century when Americans, for instance, probably consumed less than in the neighborhood of five pounds per person per year. So, that's the equivalent of maybe, you know, I don't know, four ounces of sugary beverage per day, probably less, to by the end of the 19th century, consumed in the neighborhood of maybe 80 or 90 pounds per person per year.

Wow.

You know, in the neighborhood of a 20-fold increase. And in all the ways that we consume sugar today were virtually non-existent as industries in the early 19th century. So, in the 1840s, the candy industry is created, the chocolate industry is created, and the ice cream industry are all created. And then, in the 1870s and '80s, you see the soft drink industry with Dr. Pepper first, and then Coca-Cola, and Pepsi. And by the early 20th century, these foods have just exploded. And they're everywhere. And all the major food producers that we deal with today, the sugar purveyors that we deal with today are already sort of in place, and selling nationally, and marketing nationally, and, you know, sort of pioneering their marketing approaches.

At one point around 1905, a congressman asked the brother, I think, it was one of the founders of one of the main players in Coca-Cola, you know, if he could describe the items on which Coca-Cola was advertised. And he said, "The everyday items," and he said, "would be easier to describe the items on which it's not."

So, I mean, the goal of Coke, which Coca-Cola always was basically to make sure that everyone in the world, I mean everyone in the world has easy access to Coca-Cola, and is drinking it regularly. And at one point, the CEO of Coca-Cola even complains that the human body needs so many ounces of water, liquid a day, and only like 20% of it is coming from Coca-Cola, and that's just completely unacceptable.

So, anyway, you see this explode. The one industry that's now a major … But there's a few industries that are major purveyors of sugar that took a while longer to come about. So, the fruit juice industry doesn't really show up until the 1930s, and then explodes post World War II.

And the cereal industry, cereal was basically, you know, Kellogg, and Post, and those folks were health fanatics. And they were running sanitariums in, you know, Minnesota for dyspeptic wealthy people. And they were, for the most part, anti-sugar. So, cereal was a way to get fiber into the diet, and they didn't really want sugar in their products, and they had nutritionists working for these companies. They didn't want people eating sugar.

But post World War II, right around 1948, Post with, I think, it was Sugar Crisp finally breaks down the barrier and started selling a sugar coated cereal. And suddenly, every other, you know, cereal producer has to give in or go out of business. And you could see the struggles between their nutritionists and their marketing people. And in every case, the marketing people won.

And by the 1960s, you know, the American breakfast had been transformed into, basically, a dead desert with fiber or lack of, you know. So, we're drinking fruit juices. We're eating sugar-coated cereals. And then, when the low fat movement comes in in the 1960s, you know, you're adding sort of low fat or no fat yogurt with sugar and skim milk. And it's, you know, sugar from beginning to end.

So, the people, while this was happening, are arguing, "Look, you know, obesity and diabetes is exploding. Sugar consumption is exploding. Clearly, that's the prime suspect." And then, as we began to understand the physiology of how sugars metabolize, that clearly made sugar a prime suspect as well in actually causing type 2 diabetes and a condition called insulin resistance that we should probably talk about. So, there's-

Yeah, why don't you walk me through the physiology of sugar?

Okay.

And the response it generates in our body?

Yeah. So, when we're talking about added sugars, particularly sucrose, which the white powdered stuff in high fructose corn syrup, these are simple carbohydrates that are combinations of two simpler carbs. So, glucose, which is the carb when we consume grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes, are broken down in our body into glucose. And the glucose is transported into the bloodstream. And when we talk about blood sugar, we're talking about glucose, blood glucose. So, the glucose gets into the bloodstream. The glucose level rises. So, your blood sugar rises. And that glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body.

And this is the glycemic index, kind of like the response?

When we talk about the glycemic index, exactly. That's the response of your blood sugar to the foods you're consuming. So, if you're consuming a food that's almost pure glucose, and it is easy to digest, like white bread, you will have a, sort of, quick rise in blood sugar. And it's one reason why white bread was usually considered sort of a standard by which you would then compare other foods to the glycemic index.

But there's another half`of the sugar molecule in the case of high fructose corn syrup and other, 55% of it, which is this molecule fructose. So, any molecule that ends in OSE is a carbohydrate. So, fructose is the sweetest of the carbohydrates. So, it's what makes sugar sweet. But the fructose is metabolized not by every cell in our body. It's transported through the portal vein to our liver. And some huge proportion of it is metabolized by liver cells.

And, you know, this stuff was worked out by biochemists back as early as the early 20th century. But biochemists weren't doctors, and they weren't studying treating diabetes or obese patients. And the doctors, even if they were getting biochemistry, might not have gotten this level of biochemistry. So, the physicians treating diabetes never really understood what sugar was or what made it different than other starches.

So, when you began to have debates about whether sugar was the cause of diabetes that diabetes specialists tended to say no, because they thought sugar is the same as rice, and they're all carbohydrates. And look, we know that the Japanese eat a lot of rice, and they have low levels of diabetes. Ergo, it's not about sugar or rice.

They also thought that once you start giving diabetics insulin, which begins in the early 1920s, it's hard to dose the insulin properly. So, the diabetics would often experience episodes of very low blood sugar where they could go into hypoglycemic shock and die, and they had to be rescued from these episodes. And the easiest way to do it was with candy. Ergo, sugar must be good for you. That's how they thought, and you could see this in the literature.

But physiology. So, when we're talking about diabetes, we're talking about particularly type 2 diabetes, which is the common form that associates with obesity and age. So-

That's the one you're not born with; that you develop later in life.

Well, you don't … Yeah, it's not the acute form that hits in childhood, which is type 1, or that typically appears in childhood, which is type 1. It's about 5% of all diabetes. And then, type 2, there are variations now. But for type 2, it's effectively about 95% of diabetes. When we're talking about the diabetes epidemic, it's type 2 diabetes we're talking about.

And because it associates so closely with excess weight, the assumption of the diabetes experts, going back to the 1920s, is it's caused by being fat. And you get fat because you eat too many calories, you don't exercise enough. And we'll probably talk about that shortly.

But by the early 1960s, once the scientists had a tool that allowed them to measure hormones in the blood accurately, they realized that type 2 diabetes was a disorder or what's called insulin resistance. So, with type 1 diabetes, you don't have enough insulin or no insulin at all, and you can't properly metabolize the carbohydrates you eat. And in effect, no matter how much you eat, you kind of starve to death because you can't use these fuels for food.

And the assumption was all diabetes was just sort of an insulin deficit, until the 1960s when they could really measure insulin levels in the bloodstream, and the research community realized that type 2 diabetics actually have both high insulin and high blood sugar. So, the insulin must not be working. So, they're resistant to the insulin they're secreting, or it's not working well enough, so they have to secrete more insulin.

So, since the early 1960s, we've been aware that type 2 diabetes is the disease of insulin resistance. And then, this went along with the observation that obese people also tended to be insulin-resistant. They had high blood sugar and high insulin levels.

And that there's a condition that's now known as metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of abnormalities that's sort of, basically, insulin resistance syndrome. So, this is, you know, elevated blood sugar with glucose intolerance, it's called. And, also, you know, you're getting heavier, or your waist size is increasing, so you're getting fatter. And you've got an elevated level of what are called triglycerides, which are a form that fat appears in the blood. And you've got low HDL cholesterol, which is the good cholesterol. And your blood pressure is elevated. So, it's this whole sort of cluster of metabolic abnormalities that, not only sort of include obesity and diabetes in them, but also associated with heart disease, and stroke, and all these other chronic diseases.

So, when you start thinking of this whole cluster of insulin-resistant conditions, and you're asking the question, whatever causes insulin resistance causes obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, or Alzheimer's, virtually every chronic disease has a link to insulin resistance. And the best research on what caused insulin resistance suggests that it starts in the liver, and it starts with the accumulation of fat in the liver.

And, in fact, there's another epidemic going on at the moment of now what's called non-alcoholic fatty liver. And it associates with obesity, and diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. So, everything is targeting the liver. And there, you've got the fructose. Now, I'm bringing it back to the case against sugar. Now, you've got the fructose component of sugar being metabolized in the liver.

And the liver didn't evolve to metabolize at the levels we see today. So, you know, throughout the last two million years, you would only see sugar in small quantities in fruit. It's what makes, you know, fructose in small quantities. It's what makes fruit sweet. And you'd see it in even smaller quantities in green vegetables. But nothing like the amount you would see in like a Coca-Cola, or a glass of apple juice, or a candy bar, or an ice cream cone, or any of those foods where you're really just dumping fructose on the liver. And by the 1960s, the biochemistry had pretty clearly worked out that when you dump fructose on the liver, it converts it to fat.

And on the other side, you'd have the insulin resistance researchers saying, "Hey, insulin resistance seems to be caused by the accumulation of fat in liver cells." And all I'm saying is, you know, that you've got 150 years a history of people saying when diabetes appears, it does so after sugar consumption goes up. And then, you've got all these biological mechanisms suggesting that sugar is literally at the scene of the crime in the human body when insulin resistance begins, from when insulin resistance begins. You know, you're on the road to this whole slew of chronic disorders that are now becoming epidemic or are already epidemic.

Why are we so attracted to sugar?

It's a good question. You know, if you ask that question about any drug of abuse or any addictive substance, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, heroin, and cocaine, I mean, it's sort of the … On one level, the idea is we've become addicted to foods because there's an area of our brain called the nucleus accumbens or the reward center that rewards. It's there to reward behaviors that are good for the species.

So, when you have an orgasm during sex, the nucleus accumbens respond by like dosing your body with dopamine, and it feels great, and you want to repeat it. And when you eat foods, you know, which we have to do, to foods that taste good, also, it stimulates a dopamine response in the nucleus accumbens, so you want to continue eating, which means you'll continue to stay alive, and you'll continue to replicate.

And so drugs of abuse just happen to be things that, for whatever reason, just by chance, you know, over the course of human history, we sampled 10 million leaves, twigs, starches, you know, food animals. And lo and behold, there's a few things that happened to sort of overstimulate the nucleus accumbens and overstimulate dopamine. And those become addictive substances that we, then, want to repeat, and repeat, and repeat. And so, there is evidence that sugar stimulates dopamine secretion in the nucleus accumbens just like these other drugs of abuse.

And in animals, at least, so rats and mice, we can do these experiments. You could demonstrate that they will be more addicted to sugar than to cocaine or heroin. So, these experiments, some of them were done in France. They are sort of perversely fascinating. You basically addicted your lab rats to a daily bolus of cocaine or heroin. And then, you give it a choice between either sugar or the cocaine. And if it chooses sugar, it can't go back to the cocaine. It can't do both of them. You know, over the course of a couple of days, the rat will switch from cocaine to sugar. It takes a little longer before making the switch from heroin.

That's fascinating.

Yeah. I mean, clearly, you can't do these experiments with children, but if you have kids, you probably don't need to. So, there's a lot of … Clearly, sugar is a psychoactive substance. You know, we give it to newborns to when they get circumcisions. You know, a couple of drops of sugar water on the tongue, and you can remove the foreskin, and it doesn't bother them, at least, not in the short run.

You know, sugar has always been considered a painkiller. And, actually, entered Europe in the 13th to 14th century or 12th Post-Crusade, it's more as a medicinal and perceived as having medicinal uses than as a food or a spice.

But, you know, my favorite saying this is from Charles Mann, the journalist historian, who's a friend of mine, and somebody who just awes me with how good his work is. And he said in his book, 1493, he was discussing the sugar industry, and he said, "Scientists today debate amongst themselves whether or not sugar is an addictive substance or we just act like it is." And it's like, you know, clearly … Again, I think, I have kids, I don't need scientific research to tell me that this substance has power over my children that no other food does.

And, you know, even the sort of ardent defenders of sugar, and, you know, historians, and journalists would say, "Well, of course, parents still have the ration to their children's behavior." I mean, they're sugar-eating. You can't allow them to eat all the sugar they want. So, there's clearly … You know, whether it's this effect in the nucleus accumbens, or there's an interesting fact that might drive sugar consumption, also, in the liver, it's a little more technical. But I've always wondered how much role that play. But something about it, clearly, it just becomes something we like because it affects our brain and the body in a way that we want more of it. You know, we want to repeat the experience.

A lot of people seem to think it's just simply a matter of calories in, calories out. What do you say to that argument?

Gosh. No. This was … You know, I-

This is the most common thing I read, right.

So, when I started my research, okay, journalistic research on this subject, and if you go back the very first infamous New York Times Magazine cover story I had in 2002 that was called What If It's All A Big Fat Lie?, I had a line in there where I said … You know, I was speculating that dietary fat doesn't make people fat, and it's carbohydrates that do. And so I had elaborated. I said, "Clearly, it's excess calories that cause us to eat too much."

And then, I actually … You know, I get a big book advance. And I could spend five years of my life doing research. And the internet, at this point in time, made it possible for me to learn, you know, to … It's like a new technology had come along. And, suddenly, I can, you know, sit in my office, which was then in New York, and I can get every primary source on obesity, whether it's in the academic literature, or books, or conference proceedings, you know, going back to the 19th century. I mean, back then. Nowadays, you could virtually download them. Back then, 2002 to 2006, I had students all around the country whose job was to go to their local medical libraries and, you know, make copies of the 50 or 100 references I would send to them. And then, I would buy books.

So, I actually started doing my research, and I realized that this idea that excess calories is what makes us fat is the … And I'm embarrassed that I never thought of this. It's logically equivalent to saying, you know, excess money makes us rich, or I don't know, scoring access points in a football game will make you win. You know, it's almost incomprehensibly naive to me. And I, now, understand where it comes from because I've read all this literature. And to this day, I'm still sort of mystified.

So, I'm going to pet peeve time. You know, my sugar book came out. I got sort of almost universally wonderful reviews. And then, Jerome Groopman in the New Yorker condescendingly dismissed the book as the work of sort of, you know, wannabe investigative journalist on. And then, his review, he makes this statement that the one undeniable fact about nutrition research is the importance of calories. And, you know, excess calories makes you fat.

I thought, you know, if this was James Surowiecki writing about economics, and he said the one undeniable factor in the science of wealth is about the importance of dollars, you know, David Remnick or one of his crew would say, "Are you kidding us? Are you out of your mind? Like, of course, dollars, you know." I mean, if we were discussing wealth accumulation, I just kept telling you, you know, he said, Gary Weiss, you know, "Let's talk about why is Bill Gates so rich." And I said, "Well, because he makes more money than he spends." He began, "Why did I book this guy?".

And if we were talking about climate change, he said, "Why the atmosphere heating up?", assuming it's heating up, which I'm beginning to believe since we just had 100 degree weather here in Oakland a couple of weeks ago, and I said, "Well, clearly, atmosphere is heating up because it's taking in more energy than it's letting out." You know, I've just, in one sentence, sort of nullified billions of dollars worth of research into what it is about the atmosphere and various, you know, and greenhouse gases, and the wavelengths of light they reflect, or, you know, transmitted. I mean, all the intricacies of climate change science would be nullified by this statement that the atmosphere is heating up because it's taking more energy than it's letting out, which it has to be doing.

So, the point is nutrition science from the 1860s through the 1920s was completely dominated, as all sciences are, by what they could measure, the technologies available to make observations. And all they had were they had devices called calorimeters where they could measure the energy content of a food, and then they could measure the energy expended by humans by putting him in these room-sized calorimeters or dogs. And then, they could do experiments with animals where you, you know, give them vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and see what kind of diseases manifest still from there.

So, all of nutrition science was calorimetry, energy in and energy out, and vitamins, and minerals. And when people started talking about what the causes of obesity might be, it made absolutely perfect sense to think in terms of calories because that's all they could look at. That's all they had.

And so, by 1910-1920, they had this very simplistic idea with some, you know, $5 words attached to it to make it seem more complicated that said that people get fatter because they consume too many calories, or they don't expend enough. And it seemed to coincide with what we see in the environment, which is you're unlikely to see obese people running marathons or doing hard physical labor. So, you tend to think of them as sedentary or lazy.

And you often see obese people, and we have this sort of model of Falstaff and Shakespeare. You know, they're gone, even if they're not. Like you pay attention to them. You'll notice them when they are. And when you see an obese person sitting at a restaurant eating a tiny salad, you don't think it, it doesn't cross your consciousness, it's refuting your belief that they're gluttons. So, it seemed to go along with what seemed to be conventional wisdom. It was easy to believe.

And then, the weird thing is the research community just bought into it and locked into it in a way that, again, part of it can be explained by … So, not all the research community locked in, the German and Austrian clinicians. And in Germany and Austria, you know, these people were doing far and away the best medical science in the world at the time. And they pioneered all the fields of science relevant to obesity, some metabolism, genetics, endocrinology, the science of hormones, nutrition, all sort of came out of Germany and Austria. These Herr Professor Doktor types who would both see patients and theorize about what the cause of the disorders might be.

And they had concluded that obesity had to be a hormonal disorder. It had to be because there were all these manifestations. It's sort of hormonal regulatory disorder. You know, they would say things like, you know, look men and women fatten different. Therefore, sex hormones are involved with obesity. You know, we know when people are insulin deficient, they don't have insulin, they can't store body fat. So, insulin must play a role. And I mean these people get emaciated no matter how much you feed them, type 1 diabetics. So, insulin must play a role in storing body fat.

We know that there are, you know, tumors, fatty tumors called like lipomas that are independent of how much people are eating and exercising. If you have a lipoma, it could starve someone. The lipoma is not going to go away. It's still going to be this cluster of fat.

And there were even cases in the literature where people had skin grafts. You know, a graft of skin taken from their stomach, and put on, like, the back of their hand to cover a burn. And then, they get older, and they get obese. And one hand got no body fat on it. You know, if you look at the back of your hand, it's a place we just don't store or tend to store body fat. On the other hand, we have this huge tough fat on it. So, they would say there's clearly regulatory enzymes in the skin itself that are determining whether or not this area of the body will accumulate fat. And it's all got to be hormonally and may be regulated to the central nervous system as well.

And then, the German and Austrian School just evaporates with the Second World War, literally. You know, these people emigrate to the US, end up in … You know, one of the great endocrinologist from the University of Vienna ends up living in Los Angeles writing articles and working for the Hospital of Medical Evangelist, because nobody else wants to hire these European emigres, particularly the Jews.

And then, after the war, the European researchers have many things to think about more important than obesity. And in America, they just clammed onto this idea that it's all about how much you eat and exercise. You know, a lot of lean research. They didn't want to read the German literature anymore. So, the lingua-franca of medicine pre-World War II was German. The post World War II, you have a lot of young German doctors. I mean, excuse me, young American researchers who had fought in the war who have just naively, you know, justifiably have this natural antipathy to the Germans and Austrians. They're not going to read the literature. They don't cite the pre-World War II studies. And they just recreate the science of obesity as a gluttony and sloth disorder.

And by the 1960s, the major figures in the field are psychologists who are trying to change the behavior of the fat person and make them eat less. My favorite example was one idea where you would get the obese man's wife to withhold sex if he didn't lose weight that week. And it's just suddenly eating … Obesity becomes an eating disorder.

And then, later, it becomes sedentary behavior disorder by the 1970s. And none of these people … You know, if you've got psychologists studying it, well, their specialty is psychology. It's not endocrinology. It's not hormones. It's behavior. So, you get this sort of what you see is all there is phenomenon often coming in, and it never went away.

And even today, the great themes in obesity research are this idea that the obesity is caused by a highly palatable or rewarding foods. And the implication is there something about the brains of obese people. They can't control their appetite in the onslaught of all, you know, the bliss points created by salt and fat, as opposed to the simple idea that there's something about the foods we eat that trigger a hormonal response that tells the body either to store fat, or, you know, mobilize, and use it for fuel, and then bringing this all back to insulin resistance.

By the early 1960s, it was clear that insulin. the hormone insulin, was the primary regulator of fat accumulation in the human body. So, what it does is you secreted in response to the carbohydrate content. So, your blood sugar starts to go up, and the body puts insulin out to signal your lean tissue to take up the glucose from the blood, and burn it for fuel. The insulin facilitate the technical ways it facilitates the uptake of sugar, of glucose, but it also signals the fat tissue to hold on to any fat and to store whatever fat you've eaten.

So, it sort of partitioning the fuel use to say, "Look, the immediate problem is we have this rising tide of blood sugar, and high blood sugar is toxic. So, the way we're going to deal with that is we're going to store fat get that out of the way, and then we're going to burn the blood sugar as quickly as we can. And as blood sugar starts coming down, insulin starts coming down. And then, you could mobilize the fat you've stored and use that fat for fuel, which is how your body's supposed to work.

So, there's a term called metabolic flexibility where when blood sugar starts coming down, fat's coming up. You just switch over from burning glucose to burning fat. Your cells should be perfectly happy to do that. But if your insulin-resistant, your insulin stays high, and you never successfully make that switch. So, blood sugar comes down, but you continue to lock away fat. And sort of like a ratchet wrench. And day-to-day, it only goes in one direction. You just store fat, and that's all you do.

So, you know, that's the, again, long-winded way to say as long as people believe it's about calories, you're not even paying attention to the hormones and enzymes that regulate fat accumulation. And what stuns me, so that last February, there's an article in The New England Journal on the pathogenesis and mechanisms of obesity, and you can read that article. This is the premier medical journal in the world, and there's actually no discussion of the mechanisms other than an assumption that people eat too much. And so, you know that's the implicit.

And you can go to the leading textbook in the world, and the medical textbook, the most seminal textbook, and the Harrison's Principles of Medicine, I think, it's called. And the chapter on obesity is written by, you know, a very very smart researcher named Jeff Flier who just, until recently, was Dean of Harvard Medical School. And his wife, who's equally smart and talented, Terry Maratos-FLier. And they do research together.

And if you actually look for what it is that causes obesity, in that chapter, the assumption is that the overconsumption of calories. It's eating too much. It's a behavioral problem. And there's no discussion of what's been a very well worked-out science on the sort of hormonal regulatory system that controls both the use of fatty acids for fuel and the storage of fat in the fat cells.

And, to me, I don't see how that can be defended. And, like I said, it's almost mystifying. And I've spent 20 years trying to understand it. And I, kind of, understand every step along the way, how it happened, and when it happened. And I still want to say to people, you're talking about a disorder of excess fat accumulation. Don't you have to discuss the regulatory system that controls fat accumulation, the hormones and enzymes in the fat cells, on the fat cell membranes, elsewhere in the body, and in a very beautiful system worked out by millions of years to regulate this. And it's clearly dysregulated.

Well, one thing I haven't heard you mention that I'm curious about is what is the role of fiber.

That's a very good question. Again, it's interesting. I have to talk about these things historically, and I apologize. I think about them-

No, this is amazing.

Yeah. To understand the role, you have to know where it came from. So, in 1960s, several British researchers start focusing in on this idea that it's either sugar or sugar and refined grains that cause obesity, and diabetes, and heart disease.

And so, these two, one of them is John Yudkin, who is the leading British nutritionist, and the one is a fellow named Peter Cleave who was a British naval researcher. And Cleave had the advantage that as a navy man, he had traveled around the world, and he had seen that there are all these disparities in chronic disease rates all around the world wherever you go.

So, you know, urban, westernized, urban centers had high rates of obesity, and diabetes, and heart disease. But, you know, less westernized areas and non-urban areas had lower rates. So, the question is, what was driving that? He concluded it was the refinement of the grains we were consuming, including sugar. And so, by the 1960s, Yudkin was publishing in the medical journals, and Cleave had written a book called The Saccharine Disease, explaining that it was refined grains and sugars that cause this cluster of diseases.

And then, into this walks, a guy named Denis Burkitt who, was a missionary physician in Africa in … I forget. Where was ETM? In Uganda. Burkitt was famous for a medical investigation he did that led to the identification of the first virus that causes the cancer that's known as Burkett's Lymphoma, after Burkitt, So, he was a very well-known, very famous physician.

And ETM comes into power in Uganda. And as he flee back to the UK, and he's looking for things to do, and the leading British epidemiologist in the world named Sir Richard Doll who was famous for identifying cigarettes as a cause and lung cancer, Richard Doll gives him Cleave's book and says, "You should read this. I don't know how much is right, but there's a lot of it that's brilliant." And Burkitt reads it, and he thinks it's brilliant. But then, he kind of thinks we're never going to convince the world to give up sugar, and white bread, and beer. And he's also obsessed, being a Brit, with constipation. Completely obsessed with constipation.

So, he decides that the problem isn't the presence of the sugar in the white bread and the beer. It's the refinement of the fiber, the absence of the fiber. When you refine these products, so you take a wheat, then you refine it into a white bread, you get rid of all the fiber in the process. And he knows that fiber helps with constipation, and constipation is a disease that's often seen along with this cluster of western diseases.

So, by the 1970s, Burkitt start publishing articles with another former missionary physician from African named Hugh Trowell saying the problem is the absence of fiber, not the presence of sugar, and highly-refined, high-glycemic index grains. And you can reconcile this fiber hypothesis with the dietary fat idea that's growing along through the '60s as well. So, over the course of 1960s, the bulk of the heart disease nutrition community had decided dietary fat caused heart disease. And if it caused heart disease, it also caused obesity.

And then, you had Cleave saying, "No, no, no. It's not that." Cleave and Yudkin thing it's not dietary fat, it's sugar and refined grains. And these were seen as competing hypotheses that couldn't be resolved. In parts, if you told people eat less fat, the question is what were they going to eat, if not sugar and grains. So, those two hypotheses couldn't be reconciled.

But then, Burkitt comes along and said, "No, no, no. It's not a sugar and refined grain. It's the absence of fiber. So, they should eat low fat diets that are high in fiber," and everyone goes. "That's it." You know the bran muffin craze appears. Like bran muffin start appearing on the market, you know, a year after Burkitt's first publication. And that becomes the conventional wisdom ever since.

And the problem is these are hypotheses, right. And we've talked about how people do a lousy job of testing hypotheses. They're very hard to test. But by the early 2000s, it was pretty clear that both these hypotheses couldn't be confirmed in experiment. In fact, one of the things I talked to, I talked to Richard Doll a few years before he died for my research, and all said to me, "Yeah. it turns out the only thing fiber actually cures is constipation." And I said, "Well, could Cleave have been right all along?" And he said, "Yeah, that's a good point. Cleave really hit on something."

And all I did in my book is say, "Hey, it looks like Cleave and Yudkin were probably right all along. They're more right. And then, a few other peoples too, like Atkins. So, there, that's the story. You know, fiber, we're still obsessed about fiber. The idea that … So, you know, again, I said science progresses when new technologies come along that allow you to observe new things.

So, the obesity-diabetes science is completely botched. You know they made no progress. They can't explain it. Even an article that was recently review, an Endocrine Science Society review of obesity written by some of the leading figures in the field that was kind of a response to my work and that of others in which they said, you know, clearly, obesity is caused by eating excess calories, and a calorie is a calorie. And then, they kind of said, but we don't really know what makes people fat or how to make them thin. So, these people are clearly lost.

And I'm saying one of the reasons why they're lost is because the revolution in endocrinology was obesity, research nullified that, passed it by, never took advantage of it. That was 1960 there of science. So then, obesity becomes a kind of real science to the medical community. In 1993, when the hormone leptin is discovered, then it becomes a subdiscipline of molecular biology, and the genomics, and proteomics. But this 1960, endocrinology which kind of solved it has just left behind.

So, now, another new technology comes along. Now, you can suddenly sequence the genome of the bacteria in your gut. So, new technology, you get to see new things. And, now, you assume you could learn new things. And we're desperate for a theory of obesity, right, because we don't know what caused it or prevents it. So, the gut biome explodes. And people say, "Wow, clearly, westerners who are obese and diabetic have different gut biomes than, you know, hunter gatherer populations in Africa." What the difference? Well, the hunter gatherers eat more fiber. I don't know. So, then, you get this focus that goes back on fiber. And then there are people like me saying, "Wait a minute. What about this 1960s endocrinology? Remember that?"

So, you know, to me, I'm afraid of what happened in the 1970s. You add fiber, you can slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates. You could even slow down the digestion of the sugars. So, that would probably help, but you've paid attention to the wrong thing. It's not the absence of the fiber, it's the presence of those other foods. And you could help more by getting the right answer rather than coming up with another wrong answer.

What have you kind of changed your mind about, or where have your thoughts significantly shifted since you first started to develop your alternative hypotheses, I guess, of obesity, that carbohydrates promote insulin response, which promotes body fat? I mean, what surprised you the most as you dove into this?

Well, I mean, again, when I started this, I thought that excess calories caused obesity, so, you know. But we're assuming. You're asking basically after I shed myself of that belief. So, the question, is there anything that I used to believe that I'm not convinced it's wrong?

Yeah. yeah.

Put simply. Not substantially,no. I mean, we could talk about one of the things I did in all this. In the course of this is I co-founded this not-for-profit called the Nutrition Science Initiative.

NuSi, yeah.

Yeah. We call it NuSi. Well, it could be NuSi, I guess. So, NuSI, I co-founded it with Dr. Peter Attia, who's a very, you know, talented physician with also a business background. And our assumption was, particularly with this energy balance issue, with obesity and energy balance issue, is it a hormonal regulatory issue? And the implication is to factor in foods that cause obesity, the caloric content to the effect of those foods, on underlying hormonal state.

And, again, on some level, I think, you shouldn't have to do the experiments to demonstrate it because, you know, I find the energy balance thing now so naive, but we'll accept that I just talked about it too much, I've convinced myself that it's easy to see the naivety.

So, we thought if we can get the research community to do the experiments themselves, and to understand the competing hypotheses, and to understand, you know, our arguments, and then we could raise the money for them to do the research, this would have a profound effect on their thinking. And if anything, at this point in time, we have done more harm than good.

How so?

So, of the studies we funded, the first one was a pilot study with some very influential obesity researchers. And it was a learning experience for me also. So, in my first book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, I do discuss. The epilogue is, in part, a meditation on how I don't believe nutrition science is a functioning science; that it lacks many of the characteristics that a functioning science has to have, particularly the sort of critical rigorous back and forth between scientists where they're attacking each other's ideas, and being used by each other to understand how they might be fooling themselves.

You know, Robert Murden, a philosopher of science, said that this kind of critical back and forth in science makes some mother's, you know, parenting of her child look like child's play in comparison. You know, it's supposed to be sort of …

Francis Crick said a functioning collaboration doesn't work unless you can be rude to each other. You know, you have to critically attack. And what I've seen in these nutrition public health communities are it's too easy to attack each other's work, so they don't do it. And then, they just allow the substandard work to go by.

So, I discuss that in the epilogue of Good Calories, Bad Calories. It's one place that my editor really let me sort of express my dismay, but it was on a macro level. I had no idea how hard it was to do these experiments on a micro level. In fact, because I am not a scientist or an experimental scientist, and my only experience was with, you know, my first two books being sort of mentored by some of the great physicists in the world and seeing how they did their work. I wasn't aware of how easy it is to screw up an experiment, and how unintended consequences are, unintended phenomenon will appear that will make the interpretation of the experiment almost impossible.

And, again, if you're working in a world where, like, you know, you could do your cyclotron experiment on Monday, have results on Wednesday, and have your colleagues explain what you screwed up on Friday, and then you could repeat it on Monday, this isn't a huge problem.

Right.

And the history of science is full of those kinds of, you know, examples and discussions. But if you're working in a world where the experiment cost you five million bucks, and you're never going to get $5 million to do it again.

That's so tough, yeah.

That's difficult. And same kind of problems come on. It's not like the physicists are any better at this than the nutritionists because if you're doing something new that's never been done before, you have no idea how your equipment, or your subjects, or the purveyors of your diets, or whatever are going to screw it up. You can't plan for everything.

So, part of my revelation was on this micro level, not just how easily the science could be derailed by just bad luck or, you know, the unforeseen, what was it, you know, unknown unknowns. But the tendency among the researchers to pretend it didn't happen or to ignore it because if they actually confront it, they're basically saying, "Here's a paper I've just written that isn't worth reading. So, I'm going to pretend that it is. And the only way I can pretend that it is is by not mentioning all the ways that it isn't."

And you're supposed to publish negative data, but the truth is it's very hard to get it published. And nobody wants to put in the time to finally get an article published in some forthright journal because it's negative. So, a lot of issues came up actually getting to be involved. And I'm wondering, you know, how naive was I, and will we ever solve these problems?

What do you think it's going to take for, like, the nutritional research community to get a lot more rigorous? It seems like … I mean, the influence of the epidemiology makes this difficult. Such a large percentage of nutritional studies are based on correlative measures rather than causative ones, leading people to believe that, you know, just about every food either causes or prevents cancer. Like, how does this get fixed?

Well, that's the question. I'm involved now, I'm supposed to be coauthoring an article for the British Medical Journal on nutrition policy. They were running a series on nutrition policy. So, one of the article is on dietary fat. And I'm honored that they've taken up my work that they've asked me to be a co-author with two epidemiologists.

One of them is at Harvard, and has not liked my work for 10 years. And so, I wrote a New York Times magazine cover article about the science of epidemiology using the Harvard Cohort Study as a case study of a pseudoscience. So, I can understand why he would might be angry at me and disagree with my way of thinking.

So, the conflict in this article is that the nutrition community driven by these epidemiologists think in the context of saturated fat that if all of us out there in the lay population were to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats, we'll live longer and be healthier. We'll have less heart disease, less diabetes, maybe less obesity, less insulin resistance.

So, this means, in effect, replacing … I don't know if they think this far into advance, but it means, in effect, replacing foods we've been consuming for millions of years as a species. You know, mostly animal fats with vegetable oils that a relatively new to the human diet, and particularly like soya oil, and canola oil, and corn oil.

And with the argument I've been making in e-mails, not successfully, is that if you're going, what you're assuming is that these vegetable oils are inherently healthy, that they're beneficial, they're the equivalent of statins. If we give vegetable oils to everyone,they will be healthier if they consume these things. And this is an idea that if it was a drug, you would never be able to do without long-term clinical trials to establish that you're not going to do more harm than good or, in fact, that you're not going to do any harm at all. It's not good enough to say 80% of the people are going to live longer if we find out that 20% are going to be killed or get diabetes.

You know, it's one thing for a doctor to say, "I think you should be on a statin. Here's the … You know, the pro side is, I think, we'll get your LDL down, and your inflammation down, and we're going to reduce your risk of heart disease. There is a small chance you'll become diabetic or have muscle aches, in which case, we'll discontinue the statin or switch to a different drug." It's another thing for public health organizations and governments to say the whole nation should be on statins, and not care if 1 out of 30 of the population gets diabetes because the other 29 might live longer.

So, these are two entirely different scenarios. And if the vegetable oils are supposed to be beneficial, we have to do those kind of tests. We just have to do them. And what I wrote in an email to the lead author is, you know, "You're telling me that if I cook my 11-year-old son's salmon in canola oil instead of butter, they will live longer, my 11-year-old son will live longer, and there will be no negative consequences? I need to know if you better evidence than you do before I accept that because canola oil scares me. Olive oil, maybe I'll give in. Canola oil, corn oil, soya oil, brand new foods to the human population."

So, their response, the Harvard response is we'll never get these studies done. What you're asking for are virtually impossible. They're very expensive, maybe half a billion dollars or $100 million. You're asking, what you need to test these is maybe 40,000 people that you can randomize to eat either canola oil, or butter, soya oil or coconut fat. Pick your…

And they're going to have to keep doing it for ten years. And they're going to have to comply pretty well because at the end of 10 years, we're going to want to be able to compare what are called hard endpoints on more heart disease or less. Not just risk factors, like cholesterol levels, but do they actually get more heart disease, you know, more cancers, more diabetes. Are they heavier? Do they have better or worse cognitive function?" I mean there's a whole slew of things that could happen if you feed people a completely new food.

And they're arguing, because it can't be done, we have to go with the evidence we have. It's just too hard to do this trial. It's too expensive, and the people aren't going to follow our advice, and the people we put on canola oil are going to get bored, and switch to butter. And the people we put on butter are going to get health conscious with the canola, and it's just going to … And we'll find out, as we have in the past, and we've spent half a billion dollars, and we either don't know the answer, or we don't like the answer. And so, we should go with what we have and the broken system.

So, let me just give you my counter of the counter, which is in physics, the physicists have decided en masse that they wanted to know whether the Higgs Boson existed, and they want to know if there is science behind the standard model. And the best way they know how to do that is to build a huge accelerator, which costs $10 billion. And then it costs a billion dollars a year to run. So, they did that. And then, society funded. We funded that because society thinks that's an important question, and more of a better society if we spend money trying to answer that than if we don't.

And then, they have collaborations of 1500 scientists on, you know, four detectors on this huge atom smasher, or 1500 scientists on each detector. The papers have lists of names that are longer than the papers itself. But that's what you do because you want to know the answer, you know, in nuclear fusion. So, we think, as a society, we're going to run into some serious energy problems with or without climate change involved, but we're just going to have to fuel the lives of ten billion people by 2050. That's going to take an enormous amount of energy.

Our, you know, fossil fuel reserves are going to run dry. Can't do it with renewables. It's just not practical. We need nuclear power and, ideally, nuclear fusion; as opposed to nuclear fission. And fusion power is hard to achieve. And so far, we've spent $50 billion on nuclear fusion research worldwide. It'll probably cost another 50 billion before we find out, either get to a, you know, working fusion reactor, and find out it's not possible, but we do it. We spend the money because we think it's important to our species and the survival of our species.

So, my counterargument is, I mean, these destroyers that ran into ships in the Sea of Japan, two of them in the past six months, those are billion-dollar ships. If we spend a billion dollars. Obesity and diabetes cost, the healthcare system in the US, the estimate is a billion dollars in direct medical costs in a day. If we spend one day's worth of medical cost, I think we could probably answer every one of these studies, but we have to be willing to do it, and we have to decide, as a society, that it's worth it, that epidemiologists and the public health people have to stop arguing that it's just too impractical, and it will never get done, and instead argue to do it.

And, you know, if people decide, it's all doable. You could even do these studies in a way. If they've actually tried, they could. They know how studies have screwed up in the past. You could figure out ways to do it that will give you the answers. And then, you have to have patience to get the answers.

You've taken a very public stand in, you know, what seems to be a somewhat heated debate. How do you strive to remain intellectually honest?

Intellectually honest is easy. I mean, you just do it. Although, my critics would probably argue that I don't.

Who is your harshest critic of your intellectual honesty?

I don't know. I mean, there are some bloggers out there who've … I mean, they may be behind. Do you have bloggers who hate you?

Oh, yeah. I get hate mail all the time.

Yeah, that's sort of, you know. I mean, the blogosphere just selects for people who … And the more … I mean, there are websites that exist, in part, to argue that I'm an idiot. And the more fiercely they argue that, you know, the more hits they get. In the community, at large, I'm still fighting this tendency to just … You know, it's easier to just ignore me, or where you see shifts, you know, to pay … You don't really have to pay attention to my work because, you know, it's published in books. And it's only a few peer-reviewed articles in the literature. So, it's easier to just ignore me than to confront the arguments.

And, again, one of the problems I feel with this field, nutrition epidemiology public health for 50 years, is they found it easier to just ignore skeptics, and to confront the issues, and see if the skeptics are right, and the critics are right, and what they have to do if it's possible to fix these problems. So, you know.

But I do have friends. I have an e-mail. I'm having an e-mail exchange with the head of the Department of Nutrition at Tufts, and he sent me an article that was written by Tom Frieden, the former head of the CDC, that was in the New England Journal of Medicine arguing that observational epidemiologic studies often have to be the base of decisions about public health, and medical public health recommendations, and medical treatment. And we can't hold clinical trials on this pedestal we do because the observational studies are clearly good enough in some cases. And he sent me that just to say that this sort of brilliant article put his position in words better than he could.

And so, I read the article. And I said, "Well, needless to say, I don't find it brilliant. And here are all the reasons why." And he responded with, "Well, you're cherry picking your data. You know, you're being intellectually dishonest." And it's an easy accusation to make. And if I have time, I will respond saying, "I'm not actually cherry picking my data. Look at the study you sent me. It doesn't actually make the point that you're using it to make. And I'm asking for evidence that does." So, it's sort of that kind of accusation is very easy to make.

When you do what I do, I mean, it's a problem. You know, you've got a journalist coming along and condemning an entire field, several entire fields of research that are staffed by very smart people who have done very well in their careers, have gotten enormous amount of positive feedback, who believe they're doing good for the world. Any one of them could have gone into, you know, the commercial sector and made more money.

I mean, these are really well-meaning people. And, you know, some journalists comes along, and says, "You know, missed it. You botched it. You did lousy science." Who's going to accept that? I mean, I couldn't do it. I can't expect them to do it. So, part of my job is to weather the criticism and just keep making the arguments as honestly as I can. And I do have one advantage that they don't have.

What's that?

So, you know, the implications are these chronic diseases are caused by the carbohydrates in the diet. And that's the context. And if you remove the carbs and replace it with fat, the chronic diseases won't go away, not for everybody, but for most people. So, this is, in effect, this argument that if, you know, people eat very low carb, high fat diets, the lowest carb, highest fat would be ketogenic, that's the extreme example, they'll get healthier.

And the world is now full of people who have done that and gotten healthier. And if there's one thing that I and others like me in the tight shelves have been able to accomplish is we've broken down the resistance to these diets as, on some level, fads, but also as deadly. So, the medical community thought they were deadly. So, now, you've got a whole world of people, diabetic, obese individuals, people with neurological disorders, you know, who go on these diets, and they get healthy.

And sure, you know, maybe they're raising their LDL cholesterol, and they're going to die earlier of heart disease, but this one woman put it in an Instagram post, you know, "I lost 100 pounds, and you're telling me that bacon is going to kill me. Like being 100 pounds lighter and eating bacon is worse than being the way I used to be." So, this sort of growing movement.

And the physicians do this as well because they have the same health problems and issues as the rest of us. So, if they do and it works, they become passionate about it, and they put their patients on it, and their patients become passionate about it if it works. If it doesn't, you just lose them. And unfortunately, that sort of cognitive bias with what I'm describing. But you've got this movement that people would like to talk about. It's a field, but it's basically fueled as a fad, but it's fueled by this very profound clinical phenomena, the clinical efficacy of these diets to reverse diabetes, or reverse obesity, or you know. And that's hard to stop.

I'm interviewing these practitioners for my next book, kind of, solipsistic exercise, but it's fascinating. And I was talking to a South African physician who's now working in British Columbia, who's just incredibly passionate about these low carb, high fat diet. And he communicates this to all his patients. And I said, "Why are you so passionate about it?" And he said, "It's because I can't unsee what I've seen. You know, I put that diabetic patient on this diet. I get them to follow. And this is a person, you know, he's on insulin, and overweight, and obese. The rest of his life, he eats the way he does, and the way the Diabetes Associations want them to eat. All we're doing is basically, you know, adding drugs and modulating his insulin injections. And you put him on this diet, and he becomes healthy."

And that's a low carb, high fat diet?

A low carb, high fat. And it's an easy diet because you're not hungry. It's not chewies in there. You're not getting deep doughnuts, and french fries, and cereal anymore. But he's replacing it with some pretty … So, that kind of clinical observation.

You know, there's a startup in San Francisco called Birdhealth that's doing this on a sort of on a larger scale with smartphones, and health coaches, and doctors. And, you know, until recently people believe that even type 2 diabetes was irreversible. Once on insulin always on insulin basically, until you get taken down by the side effects. And, now, people are showing that on these diet, and maybe others as well, but they're showing that this is a reversible disease. It's a disease that can be controlled without drugs. So, that alone is going to change the discussion, and I could see it already happening.

Do you think that the sugar industry will be eventually treated like akin to the tobacco industry in terms of how it's vilified?

On some level, that's already happening and much of the sugar industry's dismay. It's funny, I did a NPR thing a few weeks ago with Michael Moss, the author of Sugar, Salt, Fat or Fat, Salt, Sugar, whatever it's called. And the president of the Sugar Association, a young woman, former college basketball player named Courtney Peterson … No, Courtney, I forget her last name.

And, anyway, afterwards, I got it. Just yesterday, I got a nice card from Courtney thanking me for being on the show with her and discussing it. So, actually, it was really nice to do, but it's sort of like getting a nice card from the president of Tobacco Foundation. They are being vilified. They know it. They see the writing on the wall, you know, the soft drink industry, the purveyors of sugar rich foods.

On one level, they know they have a product that's going to continue to sell. So, they're not going to get rid of it because people are going to continue to consume it. It's just like some, I don't know, I think, 17% of Americans still smoke. So, the percentage has come way down, but there's some people. Kids are going to start doing it just like kids are going to continue consuming sugary beverages.

But they see the writing on the wall. They know where it's going, and they're diversifying. Like. man, you could see them diversifying. And, you know, they're in a bad position because, as I've argued in press, unlike the tobacco industry. So, the tobacco industry's job was to somehow try to convince the world that the research community was wrong, and to sow confusion about what the research community was saying.

What the sugar industry had to do was remind the research community that what they believed in general was true of sugar, in particular. So, the obesity researchers were saying a calorie is a calorie is a calorie when it comes to obesity. And if that's true, then sugar is harmless. You can't vilify a food for being too good to eat.

Yeah, yeah.

You know, it's all about calories. And then, the nutritionists and cardiologists were saying dietary fat causes heart disease. So, the sugar industry paid nutritionists and cardiologists to write articles saying, "We believe dietary fat causes heart disease because they did." And then, they had to remind people that the conventional wisdom is a calorie is a calorie.

So, you almost can't blame them. And I don't really blame them because had the nutritionists and the obesity researchers gotten it right, they would have put the sugar industry in a position where they had to change, rather than more all they had to do was argue that, "Hey, look, guys, we're harmless. The community says we're harmless. Don't blame us."

But, now, again, you know, once you have epidemics of obesity and diabetes, and it's clearly not being caused by dietary fat consumption, and, you know, sugar is the likely cause whether it's just because people consume too much of it, whatever that means, or because it's toxic, and it's a different world. So, now, when they fight back, people point out how they're fighting back, even if their fighting back is only a delaying tactic to give them time to diversify.

What practical tips would you offer somebody who wants to know like, "I want to do something about this. What's a step that I can take?"

You mean about the epidemics in general or about-

My health, my personal health.

Okay. And it's interesting, that's what I've spent the last two months talking to researchers about. So, you know, I clearly think that of all the … So, the problem is the carbohydrate content in the diet. And I think the fat content for the most part is benign, if not healthful.

And this is what I would tell my family, and my kids would tell you that I would tell it to them too much. So, worst of the carbohydrates is the sugars, and the worse of the sugars is the liquid sugars because we consume them and digest them so quickly. So, you get rid of sugary beverages, and ideally switch to non-sweetened beverages, which means, for the most part, water or red wine. And if you're going to drink it all day long, water's probably the better choice, or I'm a caffeine addict, so I'm fine with coffee whether I'm right or wrong.

I just want to go back there for a second. Wine is okay?

Wine is the one area or alcohol where I talk about where I think moderation is meaningful.

Okay.

So, you know, life … This is one of the lessons I came away from the sugar books. In what I'm doing, and particularly when I go on to sugar, there's clearly a Grinch Who Stole Christmas aspect to it. I'm taking away people's joy, or I'm suggesting that their joy is killing them, and they should get rid of it themselves. You know, it was my wife who like she sees part of her job in life to sort of squelch my Grinch-like tendencies. And she may be right.

So, in doing the book, you know, one of the revelations was basically, like, the human existence is not all that great. It's getting better because television is getting better. But, you know, for the most part and for most people, it's hard, it's laborious, it's tiresome, and there isn't a lot of pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And so, for the great bulk of humanity, intoxicants, something we can do to intoxicate us makes it worthwhile, gets us through the day. And, you know, that's what addictive substances do. That's why, you know, when I was a smoker, I looked forward to my next cigarette. That literally carried me through the day. With the caffeine addiction, by about 6:00 at night, I'm thinking about the first cup of coffee in the morning, and how good that's going to taste. We need intoxicants.

The drugs of abuse, their side effects are too severe, and they occur too quickly for most people, and they create behavior that are also dangerous. You gotta have something. And if it's not, sugar. You know, a lot of us self-medicate with sugar. I mean, I'm depressed, I want a doughnut. Let's be serious. What do you do with that?

And then, the question is, you know, there are people who can tolerate it. There are people who are relatively healthy, who are not, you know, pre-diabetic, or diabetic, or overweight, or obese; and aren't going to get metabolic syndrome; and can eat, you know, cupcakes twice a day their whole life, and be absolutely fine and happy. And I think, they're the luckiest people on earth.

The problem is they don't know when they're eating the doughnuts. Like smokers don't know whether that cigarette is going to get lung cancer until it's too late. With sweets, you probably have time to reverse it with these strict diets.

But all that said, I would get rid of sugar. And because I'm an ex-smoker, I could say that when I was a smoker, I couldn't imagine life without cigarettes. And cigarettes, like I said, I lived for my next cigarette on some fundamental level. And you smoked after everything. You know, after a meal, after a workout, after sex. Like most of us don't eat dessert or have a lollipop after sex, but smoking after sex, was like that's what you did. It just made your life worth living.

And then, you give it up. For three months, you're miserable. For a year, you're unhappy. And you're hoping at the end of the year, you haven't lost all your friends because you overreact to everything because you have no cigarettes to, like, moderate your emotional responses. And then, after a couple three years, you get to the point you can't imagine why you ever smoked.

So, you can give up sugar, I believe. And I've gotten there where it's like I don't need sugar to make my life worth living. And I think that can be true for most people. But maybe I'm just lucky that I have a particularly challenging, interesting life. So, that's the first thing. Second thing is high glycemic index, grains, starchy vegetables.

What are the worst in terms of starchy vegetables?

Well, it's hard to say. And I don't really know. You know, there are people who would say wheat is clearly the worst grain because of the gluten and these other issues. Bill Davis describes in Wheat Belly that starchy vegetables are fine, that sweet potatoes are fine, or if you only eat potatoes and nothing else, you'll be healthy, and lean, and happy. And I don't know if any of that is true.

What's your take on gluten?

I don't know. I really don't know. It would be … The way I think is, I mean, I know a lot of people have gone gluten-free. People used to sort of make fun of my low carb lifestyle who are now gluten-free and proud of it, talk about it too much. But when they give up gluten, they end up giving up most carbs.

Right.

And then, you find out, they've given … You know, in Wheat Belly, where it recommends Grain Brain. They say give up wheat because of gluten. That's the prime problem, but don't eat sugar either. And other starches can be problematic because they stimulate insulin secretion. So, people who go gluten-free. So there are clearly people who get healthier, and there are clearly people who have gluten-related disorders, who when they don't eat gluten don't have those disorders. It's that simple. And that's supposedly about 5% of the population, if I'm remembering correctly.

But the these other people, have this sort of general issues. I don't know if they're getting better because they're giving up gluten, or giving up all carbs, or giving up sugar with the gluten or-

Well, often, when you give up gluten, you give up a whole bunch of packaged foods. I mean, your food selection just totally changes.

Yeah. Basically, you have to give up many processed foods.

Yeah.

So, it wouldn't be an easy experiment to do. That's the fascinating thing. And I know one very high level self-experimenter who did this who said he basically gave up wheat. 400 calories a day of wheat, and replaced it with 400 calories and rice, and got healthier. And I believe in his case, he did. So, the question is, what makes it a relatively easy nutrition experiment to do is you just have to replace gluten-rich foods with gluten-free versions of them.

So, say, 400k one, you take their thousand subjects, and 500 get, you know, regular wheat bread. And they're supposed to eat four slices a day, and the other get gluten-free bread, and they're supposed to eat four slices a day. And those are the only sources of gluten. And then, you run it out for a few years, and you see-

The effect on the-

The effect. So, you're not having to worry about it. One of the big problems with nutrition studies, if I want to study sugar, if I'm going to remove that 18% of our calories that come from sugar, I have to replace it with something. Do I replace it? I can't replace with diet soda because, then, I'm not getting the calories that the sugar has. I could replace with glucose, so I could replace it, you know, with starch. I can replace it with fat, I replace with protein. All of those will have a different effect, and you won't know if any benefit or detriment you see is caused by the absence of the sugar or the presence of whatever you replace it with. But gluten would be easy to do the study if anybody wanted to, just at which point I would have more confidence that I know what to believe.

Talk to me about fasting.

Fasting is another way to approach metabolic disorder that's come on the scene in the last three or four years driven by British clinician named Michael Mosley, and Jason Fung, a nephrologist in Toronto, and Valter Longo, I think, at UCLA. So, you know, it's interesting. The idea used to be if you're obese, breakfast was the most important meal of the day. The reason breakfast was the most important meal of the day was one of these typical sort of simplistic nutrition obesity thinking.

So, obesity researchers noticed that obese individuals tended to skip breakfast, and have most of their calories from early afternoon on into the evening. And they decided that if they skipped breakfast, and they're obese, maybe they're obese because they are skipping breakfast; and therefore, they should eat breakfast. So, we should all eat breakfast, mistaking an association for a causality and never really testing it.

So, somewhere along the line, and I have to read Jason Fung's work more closely. or Michael Moseley's, people start saying, "What if you actually do skip meals?" So, the idea mind that carbohydrate insulin hypothesis is that as long as you're keeping insulin levels low, you're mobilizing fat, using it for fuel. So, you're actually getting fat out of your fat tissue, which is literally what you want to do when you want to lose weight, and you're burning that fat for fuel.

So, if you extend the periods, you know, in the morning before breakfast, when you're fasting, that's when your insulin levels are lowest. And the reason you don't get up every three or four hours to eat during the night or every two hours is because your insulin levels have dropped, and you're living off the fat you stored. You're burning fatty acids for fuel at night. So, the idea is as long as you haven't eaten in the morning, your insulin will stay low. You'll continue to burn fat. You can extend the period between meals, and you'll burn more fat, you know, and it's got to be the fat that you've stored because you're not eating anything.

So, I don't know if that was the original logic. That's why I think it could work. But people found out that if they, you know, extend the period between meals from like 12 hours to, say, 18. So, you have dinner at 7:00 at night, you don't have any snack that night, you skip breakfast the next morning, and your first meal is at lunch at noon or 1:00, you might accelerate fat burning, to use a cliche. And it might not be that hard to do because as long as your insulin is low, you're going to be mobilizing fat and burning it.

And it does turn out to be relatively easy for people to do. And then, some people, particularly Jason Fung, have realized that, you know, not only can people on low carb diets pretty easily do 18 hour fast, they could actually pretty easily do three-day fast or even three-week fast. And, now, you know, whatever I mean by pretty easily is totally relative.

And this is a way to get diabetes under control to sort of rest the pancreas, so that when it does start dealing with food again, it's may be restocked. Some of them may have given the beta cells to create insulin time to, you know, get their biological act together. There's a lot of things we don't know, and a lot of things I would like to see clinical trials to document.

But, again, talking to these practitioners, clearly, a lot of them are embracing intermittent fasting as a way to get people, you know, who go on low carb diets, and they tend to lose a lot of weight to begin with, but then they plateau. You can use intermittent fasting or longer fasting as a way to break through plateaus or to accelerate fat burning. I worry that it's a fad, and that it will turn out that it's harder, you know, that people just get bored of doing it after a while. And if they get bored and go back to the way they used to eat, they're likely to go back to being obese and/or diabetic.

Right.

But there's no way to tell. I've actually been experimenting with it myself recently because just I've been talking to people about it so much, and it is remarkably easy. Yeah, I'm surprised at how easy it is to skip breakfast. And I was just going to say it's 12:40 here in California, and I haven't eaten since dinner last night, and I'm clearly energized talking to you.

That has more to do with me though, right?

It does, it does. And, also, that I clearly like talking about this stuff some of it is interesting.

You've written about the history of nutritional sciences, the alternative hypotheses of obesity, and why we get fat, about the harms of sugar, what's the next thing you're writing about?

Well, I have to write … Again, I'm interviewing practitioners around the world who, you know, have transitioned to using low carb, high fat, or paleo diets to prescribe to their patients for obesity, or diabetes, or other disorders. So, that's going to become a book; although, I have no idea, at the moment, how I'm going to write it. It's been fascinating talking to these people.

And I would also like to, if there are any listeners, I would like to talk to doctors who are prescribing being in a vegetarian diet now or Mediterranean diet to try and understand what they're seeing with their patients, and the feedback they're getting, and try to take care of the sort of selection bias of, you know, me interviewing people who follow my Twitter feed, that kind of stuff.

How can they get a hold of you after lunch?

My website. [email protected] I don't understand Twitter enough to know when people tweet at me. I don't see how people have time in their lives to pay attention to Twitter feeds or Facebook, even though I do tweet.

I would like to write a book, and you and I have talked about this, about how science should be done, sort of, functional trench science. So, there's a lot of books and a lot of courses on the philosophy of science over the millennia, literally. And they're fascinating, but all my books have been about this sort of idea that Richard Feynman capsulized what he said, the first principle of science is you must not fool yourself into the easiest person to fool. And I think we've gotten away from that. The incentives of science today are about, "Hey, fool yourself if you can fool other people and get funding," all that's, you know, that-

Yeah, it's so much about that.

To live in facetious way to phrase it, but you know. So, a lot of it is about the kinds of learning to recognize or being aware of the kind of cognitive biases that your blog posts are discussing, and how they manifest in science and scientific experiments.

And when I did my first book. So, I lived at CERN for ten months back in 1984-'85, and I was embedded with these physicists who discovered nonexistent elementary particles, and then had to realize how they had screwed up. And that became my obsession, this question of how easy it is to get the wrong answer in science, and how hard is to do it right. And that's the book I wanna write and interview, you know, experimental scientists who have thought about these issues their whole career. Theorists are a different species entirely, but, you know.

And from them, and the history, and the literature, I'm reading memoirs of scientists now, and, you know, how you have to think and how you have to approach this because I think a lot of the problems with modern science, when people talk about the reproducibility crisis, I think we're kind of putting band aids on the fundamental problem, which is that the research community really doesn't get the mentoring that they need to truly understand the nature of this scientific endeavor, and what it takes to get the right answer, and how you have to act and communicate steps along the way. So, that's the book I want to write.

Well, if it's half as good as the books you've already written, it's going to be phenomenal, and I look forward to reading it. Listen, Gary, this has been an excellent conversation. I want to thank you so much for taking the time.

Well, thank you, Shane. You know, I'm a fan of your website, and one of the few newsletters I still look forward to receiving.

That's generous of you. Thank you.

Hey, guys. This is Shane again. Just a few more things before we wrap up. You can find show notes at FarnamStreetBlog.com/podcast. That's F-A-R-N-A-M-S-T-R-E-E-T-B-L-O-G dot com slash podcast. You can also find information there on how to get a transcript. And if you'd like to receive a weekly email from me filled with all sorts of brain food, go to FarnamStreetBlog.com/newsletter. This is all the good stuff I found on the web that week that I've read and shared with close friends, books I'm reading, and so much more. Thank you for listening.

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In the Dark: S1 E9 The Truth

Previously on In the Dark.

Today, October 12th, I'm five feet tall. My whole name is Jacob Erwin Wetterling.

911 Emergency.

Some of their boys went down to Tom Thumb to pick up a movie. And on their way back, someone stopped them.

What they called an abduction of a child. Well, my initial thought was you don't think that happens here.

When you ran, did you look back?

Yeah, once we get way down there.

What did you see?

Nothing. He wasn't there anymore.

It was just like, what do you say? What's going on? I was so confused.

Time's your biggest enemy in investigation. People have short memories. They don't remember everything correctly. You got to get out there, and talk to people, and find out what the hell is going on.

So, no one came and knocked on your door that night?

No.

And nobody came and searched your house that night?

No.

And nobody searched any of, as far as you know, the buildings, the farm buildings right around your house?

No.

I had expectation that this was hot, like, "My lead, this stuff in Paynesville, you can't ignore this, guys." I mean, I went in with that mentality.

Nobody's ever asked me a single question about this, other than you, guys. I've never been interviewed by police. I've never been talked to by any law enforcement ever. Not one person.

We haven't had a lot of luck in some of these big cases that we're working on. And sometimes, just good old fashioned police work and a little bit of luck go a long way.

Seven weeks ago, Jared Scheierl was sitting in a courtroom as Danny Heinrich was brought in. Jared had been waiting for this moment for 27 years, ever since a strange man forced him into a car off the side of the road in the town of Cold Spring when Jared was just 12, and drove him to a gravel road, sexually assaulted him, and then drove them back to town.

You know, this guy, he took a part of me that night that left me to try to understand a lot of things. And that's, I guess, as a victim, that would be … You know, I want to to hear him say it or have an opportunity to talk to him directly.

For years, Jared had done everything he could think of to try to find the man who had done this to him. He'd gone through lineups and told detectives over and over exactly what the man had done to him. As an adult, Jared had tried to find other victims of this man, and discovered a whole separate string of assaults in the town of Paynesville, and met all these other victims, other men like him, and realized that all of these crimes could have been done by the same man.

After all those years, the man who assaulted Jared had finally been caught. This was the moment when everyone would finally get to hear the truth about what happened to Jared and what had happened to Jacob Wetterling.

This is In the Dark, an investigative podcast from APM Reports. I'm Madeleine Baran. In this podcast, we're looking at what went wrong in the case of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who was kidnapped in a small town in Central Minnesota in 1989.

And in this final episode, we're going to take a closer look at the story Danny Heinrich told in court, and the story law enforcement told us about him, about why he was so hard to catch because those stories don't exactly hold up.

As part of the plea deal, Danny Heinrich had cut with prosecutors. He would not be charged with Jacob's murder, and prosecutors would drop all but one count of child pornography against him. Heinrich could be sent to prison for 17 to 20 years, and he would finally have to publicly admit what he'd done.

The confession that Heinrich made in the courtroom that day was graphic, and horrible, and detailed, much more detailed than people expected. Heinrich laid out a whole story with plot, action, second guessing, reflection, and much to the horror of everyone who listened, dialogue, lines he said Jacob told him, things he said he told Jacob just before he killed him. Jared was sitting just a few feet away listening to all this as Heinrich transfixed the courtroom with a story of what he did to Jacob.

I mean, for me, to listen to the details in court, you know, his life, his final minutes, you know, I could have been that child. I could have been Jacob.

Once Heinrich was done confessing to his crimes against Jacob, he got to what he had done to Jared. He laid out the story the same way, with all this detail and dialogue. And then, Heinrich started going into a part of the story that Jared had never heard before. Heinrich described in graphic detail a sex act he said he forced on Jared.

And then, he said that as he did it, he told Jared, "If you throw up, I'll kill you." The line was so specific. Jared told me that when he heard it, he started to feel sick to his stomach because as far as Jared remembered it, this line that Heinrich's said, with this really specific threat, it never happened. It just wasn't true. Jared was sure of it.

You can look at the dozens of other statements that I've given law enforcement. I never once stated this. And it may seem like a small detail in some people's eyes, but same time, to me, you know, it's putting truth on the table.

I've read all the public law enforcement documents relating to Jared's abduction and all the statements Jared gave at the time and in the years after. And I've talked with Jared for hours, and I'd never heard that phrase either. Jared told me that he just sat there in the courtroom as Heinrich went on and on, captivating everyone with this graphic story, and Jared started to get pretty angry.

I personally took it as a shot at me, you know, directly. It was kind of, you know, here's my account of what happened that night. And that's the moment where I just kind of want to stand and say, "You don't you have a right to tell your accounts. You know, I'll tell you my accounts."

Jared just had to sit there in silence and listen. After it was done, Jared went to the news conference, and sat in the front row. He listened as US Attorney Andy Luger addressed reporters.

Finally, we know. We know the truth. Danny Heinrich is no longer a person of interest. He is the confessed murderer of Jacob Wetterling.

And Jared delivered some remarks as well.

We're willing to create something positive out of all of this tragic news. And I promised Patty three years ago when I got involved that I was going to try to keep it positive.

But when I went out to see Jared at his home a few weeks after the press conference, he told me he couldn't stop thinking about what Heinrich had said, and that one line, in particular.

I keep going back to those details lately. And I know you can't understand the level of questions I have in my own head.

Jared said he'd started to think that maybe there was another reason that Heinrich said that line. Maybe, he thought, Heinrich got him mixed up with someone else. Maybe there was another kid.

Are there are other victims out there? You know, do we want to believe that there was no other victims after Jacob?

I also had that same question. Did Heinrich really stop with Jacob? The way US Attorney Andy Luger talked about it at the news conference after Heinrich confessed was as though this whole question of whether Heinrich harmed any other kids wasn't something we're saying much about.

You think there are any victims after Jacob?

We're not aware of any. Yes? We got somebody over here. Yes?

Just along those lines, is he being looked at as possible suspect in any other child disappearances?

Not that I'm aware of.

These were fair questions and kind of obvious ones to ask. Danny Heinrich had admitted to kidnapping and sexually assaulting not one but two boys, and is suspected of attacking several other boys in Paynesville before then.

And when authorities searched Heinrich's home in 2015, they didn't just find child pornography, they also found four bins of boys clothing in the basement and a set of handcuffs in a drawer in the kitchen next to a roll of duct tape. And they found hours and hours of videos spanning more than a decade. The US Attorney Andy Luger described the videos this way in a news conference last year.

Dozens of VHS tapes of young boys engaged in routine activities like delivering newspapers, playing on the playgrounds, and riding bicycles. The videos appear to have been filmed by the defendant, and some of them appear to have been shot from a hidden camera.

Some of the videos had a kind of elaborate setup. And several of them, Heinrich would drop a coin on a set of stairs in an apartment building, and secretly record as a paper boy would come up the stairs, see the coin, and then bend over to pick it up. Heinrich also recorded a video that's kind of an informal tour of his home. In the video, at one point, Heinrich opens the door of a safe and focuses in on a loaded pistol.

So, I went looking for other unsolved cases of strange men trying to kidnap children. We sent a researcher and an intern to the State History Center to go through microfilm of old newspapers from the Paynesville area, and we found something.

In February of 1991, about a year and a half after Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped, a notice appeared in the Paynesville press. "Be on the alert," it said. It warned that in the past three weeks, there had been three calls to police about a suspicious man spotted by school children in the Paynesville area watching them and trying to approach them. A man described as medium sized, a man who drove a blue car.

And then, about a month later, the Paynesville Police called the Stearns County Sheriff's Office because they'd been getting reports of a car following paper boys on their morning routes. An officer from the sheriff's office showed up, and found the car. It was following a paper boy. He ran the plates, and realized the man was Danny Heinrich. But Heinrich wasn't breaking any traffic laws, so the officer didn't pull him over.

There are other reports like this in small town papers all across Minnesota in the years after Jacob was kidnapped, reports of suspicious men in cars following around kids or even trying to kidnap them. Whether any of those men was Heinrich or whether Heinrich actually did kidnap and murder anyone else, we may never know because as part of the plea deal, law enforcement agreed to only ask Danny Heinrich about Jacob and Jared. They agreed not to ask Heinrich about any other crimes.

So, how did law enforcement get to this point, to this point of accepting a plea deal with Heinrich, a deal that meant they couldn't ask about any other crimes, a deal that meant that Heinrich would never be charged with the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling, and would get out of prison in 17 to 20 years? The prosecutor who agreed to the deal, US Attorney Andy Luger, told me they agreed to it because they just didn't have a better option.

We had belief but not evidence before he told us. So, my job is under all of these awful circumstances with no really great choices was to do two things: Put him behind bars for a long time and get the answers that this family and the State of Minnesota have been looking for for almost 27 years.

So, it's the best deal that could have been made?

In my view, it's the best deal that was available.

And to hear law enforcement talk about it in interviews with reporters in the days and weeks after, the reason they didn't have any options wasn't because of anything the investigators did or didn't do. It was because Danny Heinrich was just uncatchable. He was that rarest of rare criminals, the kind of murderer who hides the body in a place so remote and so random that no one would ever find it, the kind of killer who didn't have any friends, who never talked to anyone, not about his crime, and not about anything really.

So, it was almost impossible to find out what kind of person Heinrich was, how he made decisions, where he liked to go for fun, the little things that can help investigators piece together what a person might have done, and how they might have done it. Here's Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall.

One person did this. One person never told anyone else. And it literally took this long, following up absolutely every lead they had.

You know, we didn't have the proof in the case. When you're a lone actor and you never tell anybody what happened, and we have no reason to believe that he ever told anyone, you're making a deal with the devil here. There is evil in the world.

And Stearns County Chief Deputy Bruce Bechtold.

That's the bogeyman, the monster that your parents warned you about growing up.

The way they talked about it, it was like Heinrich was the perfect criminal who had committed the perfect crime.

Over the past seven weeks, we spent some time looking into this picture that law enforcement had painted of Danny Heinrich. And we started by trying to find out more about who Danny Heinrich was. One of the people we found was a trucker named Roger Fyle who knew Heinrich from his early days in Paynesville.

Oh man. We were in Mr. Snyder's third grade class. He and I were both in the same class then already, so, you know, I've known him that long, you know.

And Roger said that even though he, now, knows that Danny Heinrich is a rapist and child murderer, he still looks back fondly on their childhood together.

No, I do cherish the times that we did have because we had a lot of, you know. A lot of laughs. We laughed a lot together. But I don't want to know if he's fucking just, you know, got the dick, you know.

Roger remembered Heinrich as a kind of nervous and shaky kid, indecisive.

He would think about something for a long time before doing it, meditate on it. Is this is the right thing to do? Is that the right thing to do? Should I ride my bike or should I walk? You know, these simple things. These simple things in life, he had trouble with.

Roger says Heinrich was so indecisive that he wasn't surprised when he heard that Heinrich had gone back to the burial site a year later and moved Jacob's remains.

He never could make decisions, you know. Had a hard time making decisions.

Growing up, Roger and Heinrich would just run around town a lot, mostly at night. As for what they did-

I really don't want to say it. Yeah, we were naughty little boys, you know. There's some good-looking girls out there, you know. And they were probably in their house, you know, and we were running out the backyard. But I got to see a few of them.

Basically they would go around at night looking in girls' windows. As Roger put it, peeping tom stuff.

They were 18-year olds, you know. We we're like, "Wow, I got to go." "Hey, she is over." Go a little bit over there, so we'd run over there and over here. He were curious, you know. He's always Curious George.

Roger remembers Heinrich is not the most popular guy by any stretch but not a recluse either. He said, as an adult, Heinrich was the kind of guy who you'd go out for beers with. Roger ran into Heinrich in Paynesville in the early '90s, a few years after Jacob had been kidnapped. Heinrich was working for a granite company at the time.

I saw him getting out of his pickup. So, I hollered at him, "Heiny." We called him Heiny. And we chatted for a while. He invited me inside. We had a beer.

The scene Roger described was oddly domestic, Roger said Heinrich's apartment was very clean, and that Heinrich even gave him a gift, something he had lying around from his job at the granite company.

I asked him if I could get a piece of granite for one of my table tops. The glass had broke, and he said, "Sure." He gave me one, and that's the last time I saw him. We never got together again after that.

Over time, Heinrich settled into a job as a laborer at a company called Buffalo Veneer And Plywood. He started working there about 11 years ago and was still working there at the time of his arrest last year.

I was his direct supervisor for quite a while, so I worked closely with him, you know.

Heinrich's boss, Derrick Bloom, said Heinrich didn't really stand out

Pretty much a standard paid employee. You know, he'd come to work, did his job, and it didn't really have a whole lot of problems with him.

Pretty average, except for one little thing.

You know, like I say, when he was here, he's pretty normal person, other than the fact that he did openly talk about being investigated.

Being investigated for the Jacob Wetterling case.

He openly talked about being investigated on that abduction the whole time he worked here. I ,mean it started probably the day, or, you know, shortly after the day he started, he openly talked about being investigated on it. So, I got …. You know, I don't know that it was real, real big shock to anybody that, you know, there may have been more to it.

Heinrich was not exactly a loner. He had other friends besides Roger. He had a drinking buddy. He had co-workers. He even liked to talk about the Wetterling case. But it's not clear whether law enforcement knew any of this because when we asked all these people – the people who said they knew Heinrich pretty well, his friends, his boss – whether they had ever been contacted by law enforcement, they all said the same thing, "No, not back in 1989 right after Jacob was kidnapped. Not in 1990 when authorities brought in Heinrich for questioning. And not even in the past year when Heinrich was sitting in jail on child porn charges." And authorities were hoping he would confess to the Jacob Wetterling kidnapping.

So, Danny Heinrich wasn't exactly hiding out. He talked to his neighbors, talked to his friends. invite people over. He lived with his brother. As best they can tell, he was kind of a chatty guy, awkward but chatty.

Still, there was one group of people that was expecting Heinrich, the guy who'd gotten away with the most notorious crime in Minnesota, would really not want to talk to. A group of people it would be downright reckless to talk to, law enforcement. But when we requested records from small town police departments and sheriff's offices in Central Minnesota, we found out that actually Heinrich called the cops for all kinds of things.

In 2008, he called about some drunk guys who were being annoying. In 2005, he called police twice, once for his car window getting smashed, another time to complain about some kids who were yelling and fighting outside near his house.

In 2003, he called police in the small town of Benson, where he was living at the time, to report a burglary at his house. When the officer showed up to investigate, Heinrich invited him in. And as the officer looked around, he didn't find much evidence of a burglary. As he put it in his report, "Mr. Heinrich had many items of value located on both levels of his home including televisions, VCR, DVD players, computers, collectibles, including Diecast model cars, knives, swords, and an extensive collection of DVDs and VHS tapes, all of which was easily accessible and not taken."

This man whose home the Wetterling investigators had wanted to get into for years had actually invited a police officer inside, himself, voluntarily to look around to see what was there. But as far as we can tell from the police report, the officer had no idea that Heinrich was one of the top suspects in the Wetterling case because the officer just treated it like any other call.

I want to tell you about another person Danny Heinrich's spent time with growing up, a man named Duane Hart. Heinrich was just a kid when he met Hart for the first time. Everyone I talked to described Duane Hart or Dewey, as he was known, as a kind of psychopath, someone who would talk about setting people on fire and tying people to trees without using any rope.

Roger, Danny Heinrich's childhood friend, said the kinds of things that Dewey Hart would talk about really freaked them out.

But I remember him telling Danny stories when he was 12 years old about things he did and did not, you know. I mean, it's so scary that you couldn't sleep at night. But when he came around, there was something that came with him. There was a darkness that came with him and you could feel that. Yeah, you could feel the darkness.

Hart would buy alcohol for some of the boys in town, including Danny Heinrich. And he always seemed to have a group of boys around him, a lot of them drunk or high. I talked to another person who knew Hart as a kid, a guy named Brad Froelich. And Brad told me that Hart sexually abused him and lots of other kids. For Brad, it started when he was about nine.

When it first started, you know, he'd offer us money, a $50 bill. You know, a $50 bill, I've never seen one of them probably in my life. But he started with the money, and then it was the booze, and then it was pot, you know, getting us high, you know, drinking when we're nine years old. And then, you know, you're a little kid, so you think, "Wow, I'm getting high. I'm getting drunk. I mean, this is what we're meant to do." He had us all twisted and confused, you know. We didn't know what was right and what was wrong.

In 1990, Brad came forward and reported hard to police. Hart pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting four boys. He's now being held at a secure sex offender treatment facility. He's there because he was committed as a sexual psychopath. He didn't respond to my request for an interview, but I did talk to someone a few months ago who'd spent a fair amount of time talking to Dewey Hart.

My name is Larry Peart. I'm a licensed private investigator in the State of Minnesota. License number is 549.

Larry Peart served in Vietnam. He says he was exposed to Agent Orange while he was serving there.

And that's why my voice sounds this way.

Back in 1990, Larry was hired by a defense attorney to go talk to one of his clients, a guy named Dewey Hart, who had been charged with sexually assaulting Brad and several other boys. The attorney was concerned because he knew Hart was on a short list of suspects in the Jacob Wetterling case. So, he wanted Larry to go talk to Hart to get a sense of how concerned he should be. Larry told me he talked to Hart for 60 hours or so, and he came away convinced that Hart wasn't the one who took Jacob.

Mr. Hart was not that type of pedophile. He was for the want of a six pack of beer or a couple of joints of marijuana. He had all the sex he could handle, okay.

And, in fact, Larry told me that Hart had even tried to come up with some names of people he knew who he thought could have been capable of kidnapping Jacob.

He was providing me with a lot of information on his known pedophile acquaintances, so to speak, up there.

Larry took notes and all the people Hart mentioned. I have a copy of his notes, and they run for 25 pages.

He was trying to give names of everybody that possibly could be involved. And Dan Heinrich was the most notable one that he provided.

He was even known as the most notable one back then?

Yeah.

So notable that Larry even drew a circle around Heinrich's name, and put an asterisks by it. Larry can't remember exactly why he thought Heinrich was such a good suspect, but his best guess now is that it probably had to do with certain things Hart was telling him about Heinrich, things that matched pretty exactly what law enforcement had told the public about the person who kidnapped Jacob and Jared. This is how Hart described Heinrich.

This guy has a raspy voice when he's excited or angry. And he wore military fatigues. He has all the scanners in the car and drove that kind of car.

Larry said, Hart also told him he would party with Heinrich and other boys, and that he even had sex with Heinrich at some point.

And here's the really interesting thing about Dewey Hart, he had a spot he liked to go to, a place where Brad Froelick has said Hart would take him and other boys to get them drunk and sexually abuse them; a spot where you think the investigators on the Wetterling case would have searched, especially because both Hart and Heinrich were top suspects in the Wetterling case; a little place out by a field near a gravel pit just outside of downtown Paynesville right off the main road into town; a place where Roger Fyle, Heinrich's childhood friend, said Hart and Heinrich's older brother Dave would go to party. Roger said Danny Heinrich could have been brought there by his older brother.

Oh yeah. It was a hangout place for some of the older kids. Dewey spent a lot of time down there and some of their friends. Yeah, you go down there and smoke weed, you know, a drink beer, foxfire, party.

They had a name for this place.

They used to call it The Big Valley.

The Big Valley.

One day in late August of this year, investigators went and got Danny Heinrich out of jail. They put him in handcuffs and loaded him into a car, and Heinrich brought them to the area near where he'd taken Jacob Wetterling, on the night of October 22nd 1989, sexually assaulted him, killed him, and buried his body.

The way the Sheriff of Stearns County, John Sanner, later talked about this area where Heinrich brought them was as if it was miles away from anything.

This specific area, I'm not sure if it was ever searched. It was on private property. It was very remote.

Someplace so remote that it would have been impossible to find if Heinrich hadn't shown them the way; a place that had no connection to anything. But no one in law enforcement would say exactly where the spot was. All he knew was the general description that Heinrich gave when he confessed to the crime in court. So, I asked a reporter I worked with, Curtis Gilbert, to try to find it. Curtis pieced it together by looking at old property records, plot maps, and by talking to people in the area. He showed it to me on a map.

Okay. So, I can show you. So, Okay, if we look here. So, this is 1991 aerial photography. This is 23. This is 33 coming up north.

Okay.

This is the grove of trees that used to be a state gravel pit right there.

Last week, I drove out to the site with Natalie Jablonski, a producer on this podcast. We pulled over to the side of the road, next to a field lined with trees.

It's like this is just off the main road that leads into the town where Heinrich lives. It's like right there.

The site where Danny Heinrich killed Jacob Wetterling was just outside of downtown Paynesville, right off the main road into town, out in a field, near a gravel pit, not a random location, not a remote area. This was a spot Danny Heinrich knew well, a place he'd almost certainly been to before, a place that investigators might have searched on their own if they had talked to Heinrich's friends from back then, a place they should have paid attention to because this place had a name. It was called The Big Valley.

We tried to find out who owned The Big Valley back when Jacob was kidnapped. In 1989, the land was in the process of being sold because the elderly couple who owned it had died. We found the person who bought it, but we weren't able to reach him. So, Curtis found someone else, a guy named Bob Meyer, who bought some land right next to the Big Valley in 1997, eight years after Jacob was kidnapped.

Can you show me?

You know, just go here from the gravel.

And Bob told Curtis that he would sometimes go wandering around on to his neighbor's property, right in the area that we now know is where Heinrich killed Jacob; an area that Bob said, back then, was almost entirely covered by grass, trees, and brush. But Bob said there was one small section that stood out, a little patch of dirt that always struck him as strange.

There was a hole in an area that just looked out of place and just had my curiosity up for many years that I looked at it from a distance and until one time I looked at it closer, but nothing really registered other than it was out of place with everything else because it was a rocky bowl, and everything else was overthrown by grass, or trees, or brush. But this place just stood out as a rocky bowl.

How big was it? What did it look like?

Probably four foot in diameter or something, and little oblong-shaped with nothing but good sized stones in there with one big rock just off the center.

Bob told Curtis he wishes someone would have come and asked him back then if he'd seen anything strange because, now, he wonders whether this hole was where Jacob was buried. That would have been nice to let the people that owned the property in the area that kind of keep an eye out on. And if they see anything that stands out, maybe this thing could have gotten brought out a lot sooner or a lot better.

As far as we know, investigators still haven't dug up the Big Valley, the site where Heinrich says he sexually assaulted and murdered Jacob Wetterling, the main crime scene. Instead they focused on another site, the place across the street where Heinrich said he took Jacob's remains about a year later and buried them in a hole about a foot or two deep.

A few weeks ago authorities showed up with shovels to excavate the site. Today, it's a cow pasture owned by a farmer named Doug Voss.

Throughout the day, then, we made sure that the cattle weren't interfering with their work, and keeping them occupied, and seeing to it they could do what they needed to do.

The investigators plan was to use a metal detector to try to get a reading on the metal buttons from Jacob's red jacket that he'd worn that night. Jacob's red jacket was the most recognizable detail that people had been told to look for. Everyone in this part of Minnesota knew what the jacket looked like because after the kidnapping, the sheriff had a replica made of the jacket, and a lieutenant held it up to the cameras, and told everyone to be on the lookout for it.

He was last seen wearing a jacket identical to this one.

So, this red jacket would be the most obvious sign of Jacob. It was what everyone had been looking for for nearly 27 years. And out in the pasture that day, as they got closer, an investigator noticed something poking out of the dirt, a piece of red fabric. It was the jacket right there sticking out of the mud in Doug Voss' cow pasture, right across from the Big Valley, just out there for anyone to see.

Danny Heinrich was not the perfect criminal, and he didn't commit the perfect crime. He just got lucky, lucky that he committed his crime iin a place with the sheriff's office with a bad track record when it comes to solving crime, lucky that the investigators assigned to handle the case didn't canvass the neighborhood that night, didn't talk to all the people who knew him, didn't stay focused on the most likely suspects, and didn't listen to what the kids were telling them.

And, in fact, this whole notion of the perfect crime, all these TV shows, books, and movies about impossible cases, cold cases, unsolved mysteries, people who vanished without a trace, all that is turned our attention away from the actions of law enforcement, away from asking tough questions of the people who are supposed to be solving these crimes.

The perfect crime is just an excuse for the failures of law enforcement, and we buy it. But really there are no perfect crimes. There are only failed investigations. And the truth is there will always be people like Danny Heinrich. The question is, what kind of law enforcement will we have to catch them?

In the Dark is produced by Samara Freemark. The associate producer is Natalie Jablonski. In the Dark is edited by Catherine Winter, with help from Hans Buetow. Significant additional reporting for this episode by Curtis Gilbert, Tom Scheck, Jennifer Vogel, Emily Haavik, and Jackie Renzetti. The editor in chief of APM Reports is Chris Worthington. Web editors are Dave Peters and Andy Kruse. The videographer is Jeff Thompson. Our theme music is composed by Gary Meister. This episode was mixed by Corey Schreppel. Thanks also to Will Craft, Stephen Smith, Johnny Vince Evans, Cameron Wiley, Steve Griffith, Eric Skramstad, Sasha Aslanian, Brita Green, and Molly Bloom.

Go to InTheDarkPodcast.org to learn more about Danny Heinrich, about what his life was really like, the jobs he held, the police reports, the places he lived, and to sign up for our e-mail list, so we can let you know when we decide on our next project.

In the Dark is made possible in part, thanks to our listeners. You can support more independent journalism like this at InTheDarkPodcast.org/donate.

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In the Dark: S1 E7 This Quiet Place

Previously on In the Dark.

It's a case that defied logic then and now.

On the outskirts of his hometown of St. Joseph, a young boy's mysterious disappearance.

What they called the abduction of a child. Well, my initial thought was you don't think that happens here.

People of all ages and walks of life came out to keep the hope alive, hope that 11-year-old Jacob will return home safely.

I don't know. I know we reached the point after the investigation there, we had really nothing. At that point, we let Heinrich go.

They had all of that. None of it was new. None of it is new. Stearns County, the FBI, they've all had all of this. None of this was new.

Just like, "What? We lived here the whole time. He's just down the damn road all those years," you know. And it's like, "What?"

The people that worked on that case gave truly 110% every day they were there. And I don't know. I don't know that there's anything we could have done differently.

In December 1978, in a farmhouse in a remote part of Stearns County, the same county where Jacob Wetterling was later kidnapped, a woman named Alice Huling was getting ready for the holidays. Alice was divorced, and she lived with her four kids: Susie, Patti, Wayne, and Billy. Susie was the oldest. She was 16, and she worked part time as a waitress at the cozy cafe in a nearby town.

On the night of December 14th 1978, Alice and her four kids went to bed. Alice's bedroom was on the first floor. The kids slept upstairs. Sometime late at night, a man entered the Huling house. He cut the phone line, and then he went into Alice's bedroom, and attacked her. He hit her with some kind of heavy object, maybe a metal club, and shot her.

And then, the man headed upstairs. He shot and killed three of Alice's four children in their beds. And then, the man approached 11-year-old Billy who was hiding under his covers, trying to stay as still as possible. The man fired two shots in Billy's direction. Both hit the pillow, just inches from Billy's head. Billy kept still, hoping the man would think he was dead. Then, the man left.

The murders shocked the rural Stearns County community where the Hulings lived, and left State Crime Bureau investigators and sheriffs puzzled searching for some fragment of reason behind the slayings. No arrest had been made, and officials would say nothing about suspects.

The case was still unsolved 11 years later when Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped in the same county.

This is In the Dark, an investigative podcast from APM Reports. I'm Madeleine Baran. In this podcast, we're looking at what went wrong in the case of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who was kidnapped in a small town in Central Minnesota in 1989.

After Jacob was kidnapped, everyone, the media, law enforcement, neighbors, talked about how surprising it was that a crime like that could happen here in this quiet rural place.

The kind of place where you don't expect a child to be kidnapped at gunpoint.

Considered to be America's quiet and safe heartland has-

One night, one awful event has robbed this town of its innocence.

The implication was that the agency in charge of investigating Jacob's disappearance, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office, had never worked a case like this before, a case so mysterious and terrifying. But that wasn't true. Jacob's kidnapping wasn't the first big case the Stearns County Sheriff's Office had dealt with. And it wasn't the first big case they'd failed to solve. The Jacob Wetterling case was just one in a long line of failed investigations.

After the killer left the Huling house, the boy who survived, 11-year-old Billy Huling, ran through the snow to a neighbor's house. He told them his family had been shot. Jim Kostreba was the first officer called to the scene.

I can still remember driving up to the house how cold it was and how bright the moon was shining. It was a beautiful evening, a beautiful night. And I think what I remember most about stepping inside the door was the smell of the gunshot powder. Then, I knew that something terrible have happened at that house.

Kostreba peered into the bedrooms.

And I can remember seeing those three children dead in their beds along with their mother. The four homicides at the house was a little unnerving to say the least.

Kostreba would go on to work on the Jacob Wetterling case. He even became the sheriff of Stearns County two years after Jacob was kidnapped, and held that job until Sheriff John Sanner took over in 2003. But back then, Kostreba was just a patrol deputy, not an investigator. So, he secured the scene until the investigators could get there.

Meanwhile, a young EMT named Steve Mund arrived at the Huling house. Mund later got a job as a deputy in the sheriff's office, and he worked on the Wetterling case too. But that morning, Mund was there to take the bodies to the coroner.

Obviously, this is a huge deal in the same quiet area in 1978. I mean, homicides are normally one person. You don't have an entire family killed or nearly entire family killed except for Billy.

Mund watched as the investigators arrive to collect evidence. They took photos of the inside of the house. In some of the pictures, you can see the kids' toy cars scattered around. I'd read a statement Mund gave later about seeing investigators at the scene do a few things that seemed pretty questionable. That statement later ended up in court.

And in it, Mund said that he saw a state investigator pick up a phone in the Huling house before he dusted it for fingerprints, and that a captain from the Stearns County Sheriff's Office realized the mistake and, "Said something like, 'Oh well.'" Mund wrote that at that point, he turned to his co-worker, and said, "Maybe we should wait outside until the sheriff's office is done."

While they waited, Mund said he saw the sheriff come out of the house holding what looked like the flashlight he'd seen on the Huling's kitchen table. The sheriff used it to search the woods for any sign of footprints. But that flashlight, it might not have belonged to the Huling's. It might have been the killer's. When I reached Steve Mund, he didn't want to talk about any of that.

From 1978 to now, police training and education, and crime scene processing techniques have improved a thousandfold. So, there's no doubt in my mind that people there did the best they thought they were doing at the time. And looking back, maybe they could have done better. But I think, at that time, they've done the best that they think they're doing, so.

The murder of the Huling family terrified people in Stearns County. Newspapers reported on how parents were arming the children with shotguns, and men were taking time off work to stay home with their wives and children. People sat facing their front doors with guns ready. One man told a reporter, "All I can say is I would hate to run out of gas at 2:00 in the morning and have to knock on any of my neighbor's doors."

I was talking to a woman in Stearns County named Jen Kulzer about the panic in the community back then.

When we moved out here in '72, he would never lock that door, never ever. We never locked the door. But all at once, we're locking doors because we live back here on the end of the road. Somebody could come in here, and nobody would ever know it. Actually, he started having a gun in the house, a pistol.

Wow. Because you're thinking like, "If this happens, I want to be…"

They're not getting in.

Jen told me a policeman actually gave her some advice on what to do.

If you have to shoot somebody outside, drag him in because he had to be in your house.

Okay, to be legal?

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Okay.

And it would be a good idea to shoot a warning shot in the wall, so they could check.

The sheriff of Stearns County at the time seemed just as baffled as everyone else when he spoke to a TV reporter shortly after the murders.

Biggest question in my mind is how could this type of crime happen in this somewhat remote area of our county. And this one has to take a close look at determining a motive for this type of crime because it certainly is unusual.

Four days after the Huling murders, in the next county over, Wright County, a man named Joseph Ture stopped by a truck stop for something to eat.

I'm in there having breakfast, and I'm trying to get a couple of dates with a couple of the waitresses and all that. And, you know, that's how I get most my dates is with waitress because I eat out a lot. Everywhere I eat, just eat out, you know.

I talked with Ture on the phone, and he told me he used to go to that restaurant all the time. It was a popular place. Alice Huling used to go there sometimes for coffee. Ture was a regular. He'd been living in his car. And in the weeks leading up to the Huling murders, some of the waitresses had started complaining to their boss that Ture had been harassing them, and that, sometimes, he even followed them in his car when they drove home after their shifts late at night.

So, I guess, they called the cops and said that this guy was harassing them or something.

So, a deputy from the Wright County Sheriff's Office stopped by.

So, he comes in there, and he … I guess, he went around the parking lot, and my car was sitting right out there. And then, he comes in, and he says, "I got to talk to you outside for a minute."

The deputy thought the car Ture was driving might be stolen. So, he arrested him. It would later turn out that the car wasn't actually stolen. But what caught the officer's attention was what was inside the car, a small brown diary with a list of the names of waitresses, their addresses, and their license plate numbers, a metal club, and a little toy car, a Batmobile car, to be exact.

Immediately, the chief deputy of the Wright County Sheriff's Office connected it to the murder of the Huling family that had happened just four days earlier, and he contacted the Stearns County Sheriff's Office. He told them he had a possible suspect they should interview, a man named Joseph Ture.

Now, let the records show that we're at the Wright County Sheriff's Office. The time is 2:40. And Officer Kostreba and I are talking to Joseph Donald Ture. Date of birth is 2/7/51.

I got this recording from the archives at the Stearns County Courthouse. In the interview, two officers from the Stearns County Sheriff's Office are interrogating Joseph Ture. One of the officers is a detective named Ross Baker. He died a year later. The other is Jim Kostreba, the first officer called to the scene of the Huling murders.

In that 1978 interrogation, the officers sat down with Joseph Ture. And out of nowhere, Ture starts saying he didn't rape anyone. "Look," he says "just because I have this diary with a list of waitresses doesn't mean I took these women out and killed them." The officers put some items from Ture's car on the table in front of him, the toy Batmobile, the metal club. Detective Baker asked Ture about the metal club.

Did you make that?

No, I found that.

And where did you find it, and we're talking about that.

Well, what difference did we get from-

Well, just … I don't know.

That evening, well, they had another kind, a gun or a shotgun.

I don't know. No, I don't know. I don't think it's illegal to have it, but it might make a policeman a little unhappy if you step out of the car and have this thing in your hand.

And they asked Ture about the toy Batmobile.

And there was a little toy there, a little thing with Batman. Was that in the car when you got it too?

That's mine. I have grandkids.

Ture was just 27 years old. So, what he's saying here that the toy Batmobile was for his grandkids didn't make a whole lot of sense.

Oh, you have grandkids?

My daughter does. I'm uncle or …

Well, if your daughter had children, well, then, you'd be grandfather.

Yeah.

How old are you?

No. I mean, my sister.

Oh your …

Uncle, yeah, uncle.

Ture changes his story, and says, "Okay. So, no, no, I'm not a grandfather. I'm an uncle or whatever."

Well, what does a difference that a couple toys make?

Well, it might make a lot of difference.

The officers tried to ask Ture more detailed questions about the toy Batmobile. But Ture, he wasn't having it.

You'd sink in a ship.

Well, bury me once you dig a hole and throw me into some ditch.

Oh, that's because this is the first time I've ever even talked to you, you know, and everything was proceeding real nicely. And we mentioned this toy, and you get a take about the toy. If the toy was in the car, it belonged to your sister's child, there's nothing to get upset about really there.

The officers left. Ture stayed in jail. And over the next few days, the officers did some investigating. They had the seats and door panels torn out of Ture's car looking for a gun, but they didn't find one. They went to the place where Ture had worked as a mechanic and looked at his time card. It didn't give Ture an alibi for the night of the Huling murders.

They went back and questioned Ture again and brought up the Huling murders directly. Ture responded by asking them all kinds of questions about what kind of evidence they had, whether they'd found the gun, and whether anyone had identified him as the murderer, but there was one thing the officers didn't do.

They didn't take a closer look at that toy Batmobile that they'd found in Ture's car. They didn't bring it to Billy Huling, the boy who survived. They didn't ask Billy if he owned a toy Batmobile like this one, and then check the house to see if it was missing. The officers didn't do any of that. A week or so later, without any evidence to hold him, a judge let Joseph Ture go.

Once Ture got out, he went on a murdering and raping spree that's so complicated, I had to create a timeline just to keep track of it. He kidnapped a waitress from the side of a road in West St. Paul, drove her to a secluded area, sexually assaulted her, and killed her. He broke into a house and killed a teenage girl who was home alone.

He started driving around Minneapolis late at night looking for women outside. He grabbed, at least, two women off the street and raped them. And he kidnapped and raped a 13-year-old girl. He also tried to kidnap, at least, two other women, but they got away. One of them escaped by smashing a lit cigarette in his face.

Ture's crime spree didn't come to an end until 1980. And it wasn't the Stearns County Sheriff's Office that put an end to it, it was the Minneapolis Police. They arrested Terry for several rapes. And while Ture was in custody, he was charged with murdering the waitress from West St. Paul.

And then, everything broke loose, you know. All the shit hits the fan, you know.

You have one minute remaining.

Damn.

Ture received a life sentence for killing the waitress, and he's been in prison ever since. The Huling case remained unsolved until about two decades after the murders, an agency from outside Stearns County got involved, a cold case unit from the State of Minnesota. The State Cold Case Unit took a look at the case. They went to find Billy Huling, the boy who survived the murders. He was, by that point, grown up with a family of his own.

One of the people involved with the case told Billy there was some evidence they wanted him to look at, some evidence that might help solve the case. And Billy replied, out of nowhere, "Did you guys find my Batmobile?"

From there, the State Cold Case Unit investigators quickly built a case based not on high-tech DNA testing or advancements in police technology, but on the exact same evidence that the Stearns County Sheriff's Office had known about since 1978, the metal bar and the toy Batmobile. 21 years after Ture had killed four members of the Huling family; and after he'd gone on to kill, at least, two more people; and sexually assaulted, at least, three more. A jury finally convicted him of the Huling murders.

We still don't know exactly how many people Joseph Ture raped or killed. He's suspected of killing another girl in Stearns County in 1979, but he hasn't been charged with that crime.

I talked to a woman who told me she was attacked by Ture five years before the Huling murders. Lavonne Engesether was working as a waitress in Hudson, Wisconsin back then. And one night, she served a customer who just didn't seem right, a kind of greasy looking guy. And at the end of her shift, she left and started walking home.

He jumped out of some lilac bushes, and had a 12-pack in his hand, and he just swung it up, and hit me across the side of my head, and knocked me out into the street.

Oh my gosh.

And then, the next thing I knew, he was on top of me. I knew it was the customer guy. And he's on top of me and all. I don't know what he was doing, but I just realized that no cars were coming down Main Street, and nobody was going to save me, and I had to wrestle away.

Yeah.

And I just somehow threw him off of me, and I threw him off, and I ran.

Lavonne told me she reported it right away to the local cops in Wisconsin, but she said they didn't take it seriously. Lavonne got married and moved away. And she didn't think much about the attack until two decades later when she was watching a TV show about an unsolved murder. And all of a sudden, the face of the guy who tried to attack her was on the screen. And she learned his name, Joseph Ture.

The only sad part is that we couldn't have found this out sooner, and made sure, you know, other girls didn't have that happen to them. And, I guess, I would really stress to police, you know, pay attention, and just … And go after these guys.

I talked to Lavonne about the Huling case too.

What gets me, I guess, about it is that they didn't go and ask Billy-

If he had a Batmobile toy, I know. I think about that too that they could have caught him. And it just took too long.

I called Jim Kostreba, the officer who questioned Ture in 1978, and I asked him about this.

Why didn't you go to check with Billy Huling to see if he had a toy Batmobile?

That's a question that comes up in my mind many, many times. It's something that I think about quite a bit because it's something that should have been done, and it wasn't. And in retrospect, it should have been.

Over the past year, I've talked to a lot of law enforcement officers. Kostreba was the only one who acknowledged he'd made some mistakes.

I don't think it's unusual to look back and see what could have been done differently, or what was missed, or not done properly. And certainly, in this case, because of what he did over the years, certainly, makes it much more difficult, yes. I think experience is very, very important. And you learn from every case you do. And if you aren't willing to do that, then you shouldn't be an investigator.

But Kostreba said, as far as he knows, there were no changes made at the sheriff's office to prevent this kind of mistake from happening again. In fact, as best I can tell, there was never any formal training or review at the sheriff's office about how to learn from the Huling case.

This kind of looking back is something we're used to in other professions, even if it's not always perfect. Hospitals conduct postmortems when patients die unexpectedly. Companies do a review when a new product fails. Farmers reassess after a bad year. And the reason for doing this is to try to find out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.

And it's not as though this was a one-time problem in Stearns County, having a case they couldn't seem to solve. One day, I went to the archive of the Stearns County History Museum to do some research on the Jacob Wetterling case. I was there to copy flyers from the early days of the search for Jacob, and to read old news clippings about the case.

But I got distracted, and I noticed a filing cabinet with a bottom drawer labeled "crime." I opened it and discovered file after file of unsolved murders from the 1970s and '80s, the years leading up to Jacob Wetterling's kidnapping, all of them in Stearns County.

There is a file about a bomb that had exploded in a small town post office in 1976. The blast had killed the assistant postmaster, and the case was never solved. There is a file about a murder of an elderly woman named Myrtle Cole in 1981, and how investigators had failed to take prints from her hands. So, they had to exhume the body. That case was never solved either.

There was one file in particular that caught my attention. It was labeled,"Murder, Reker, St. Cloud." It was about the disappearance of two girls, Mary and Susanne Reker in 1974, 15 years before Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped. I went to meet up with the mother of Mary and Susanne. Her name is Rita Reker.

It has happened so many years ago. In some ways, it's like yesterday. But most of the time, it's like 41 years has gone by, and it's still unsolved.

We sat on the couch at Rita's neat two-story house in St. Cloud, just a few miles from St. Joseph where the Wetterlings live. Rita has lived in this house for more than 40 years. It's where she raised six children. And one day, in September of 1974, two of Rita's daughters, Mary and Susanne, went out to buy school supplies. They never came back.

My husband and I went down to the police department, and we asked if there was … I forget what the term is, but a murderer squad or something. And the police department, like, they should have people there who would investigate murders and-

Well, shouldn't they?

And they just looked at me and said, "Lady, you watch too much TV." You know, that was … Yeah that's that. But yeah, I assume that if something serious happened to our kids that somebody would be there to investigate.

Right. So, what was the reaction instead?

That we were just imagining too much. We should go home and wait. And when they got hungry enough, they'd be back.

No one from law enforcement was looking for the girls. So, Rita and her family just started searching on their own.

Everywhere that we could think of, yeah. My husband took off work. And there were days we kept the kids home from school and just looked wherever we thought, you know. I mean, there's all kinds of … There's ditches, and water, and that sort of thing right in St. Cloud itself, you know. And how would we even know where to look? Yeah, yeah.

Rita and her family didn't find anything.

26 days after the girls went missing, two teenage boys were walking in a quarry on the outskirts of town, and they noticed something in the brush. It was the body of Susanne Reker lying face down, covered in leaves. Officers arrived, and they found Susanne's sister, Mary. Both girls had been stabbed to death.

Because the bodies of Mary and Susanne had been found outside the city limits, the case passed into the hands of the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.

And, I guess, we expected a big time investigation to start from there on. But our case could not have happened at a worse time in history for an investigation. If you read the details over, I'm sure you'd know a little bit. You don't know too much about that?

No. What was that?

Rita told me that her girls' bodies were found five weeks before the sheriff's election in November.

So, some of those deputies on the sheriff's force were running for the office of sheriff, which was not a time for them to do a big investigation. They were busy with the elections and all, you know, before they could really get serious about an investigation.

The Reker case got really tangled up in the politics of the sheriff's office. The lead investigator seemed to want to have the case, so that he could use the solving of it to get elected as sheriff. When that didn't happen, he refused to let the sheriff even look at the case file.

And when the sheriff finally managed to pry the case away from his lead investigator four years later, the investigator held on to some evidence, a pair of eyeglasses that had been found at the crime scene. He kept them in his desk drawer. No one found them until he died nine years after the Reker girls were killed.

One year, opponents of the sheriff tried to spread a rumor that the sheriff was looking to arrest someone, anyone, right before Election Day to gain political points. A man running against the sheriff leaked a strange story to the local media about a possible suspect, a goateed sketch artist who'd used a knife to sharpen pencils in a taxi in a suspicious manner. That lead didn't pan out, but it did damage the sheriff. He lost the election. The case was a mess.

Meanwhile, Rita Reker kept waiting to find out what had happened to her girls. 42 years later, she's still waiting.

It's such a mystery to me. It's just that there are questions unsolved. All those little details about your child are important. Those are the last things that took place in their life. And, I guess, it's because you want to identify with your child till the last minute of their life. And somehow, you wish you could have been there to save them. Even now.

So, there were a lot of questionable things going on in the Stearns County Sheriff's Office, but it was hard for anyone to do much about it. There just wasn't much accountability for the sheriff. And I think part of the reason why has to do with the Office of the Sheriff itself. We talked to a former Stearns County sheriff's detective named Lou Leland. He worked on a lot of the big cases back then. And Lou said the sheriff back then and now just has too much power.

And they can't fire him. You know, unlike the chief of police, he works at the pleasure of the city council. They can fire him any day they want, and they don't even need a good reason. But, you know, the sheriff is … Oh god.

The thing about sheriffs is, for the most part, no one's in charge of them. And there are around 3000 sheriffs in the United States, and almost every one of them is elected. Sheriffs only answer to the people once every few years, when they come up for re-election. That's different from how it works for a lot of other law enforcement agencies. Most police chiefs are appointed, usually by the local mayor or the city council. If the chief messes up, the mayor can fire them. Sheriffs are the exception, and that exception has given them tremendous power.

Just look at Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona. He's a sheriff who set up a tent city outside in a hundred-plus degree heat for inmates of his jail. He's reinstated chain gangs, and forced inmates to wear pink underwear. And although Sheriff Arpaio has been sued, and subjected to court orders, and criticized by human rights groups, he's still in office because he keeps winning elections. As he put it in an interview I found on YouTube-

I can get elected on pink underwear.

And sheriffs are especially powerful outside of big cities. If you live in a rural county, it's usually the sheriff who's responsible for solving major crimes, not the police department. So, I wondered, had anyone ever, at any point, tried to do something about this, like tried to put a check on the sheriff's power in Stearns County to try to change the way sheriffs work?

And then we came across an old bill that had been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature in 1979, five years after the Reker girls were killed, and one year after the Huling family was murdered. It was written by a state lawmaker for the Stearns County area, a guy named Al Patton, that proposed getting rid of elections for Sheriff. Al Patton's been retired for a while. Our producer, Samara, called him up to see if he'd be willing to talk a bit about his bill.

What's on your mind, kid?

I was calling you because we came across a bill that you put forward about sheriff election.

Framing, it takes a while. Geez, after almost 40 years, we're going to stir up this cat again. Okay. Let's see what we can stir up. Where do you want to meet?

Samara and I drove out to meet Al at a coffee shop near his house.

How are you doing?

I'm doing fantastic. If you keep up with me, we're doing business.

Right.

Al told us that in the 1970s, he started hearing about problems in the Stearns County Sheriff's Office, problems with evidence handling, infighting among deputies, a lack of training, failed investigations.

Crimes are being committed that were unsolvable for the education and background of the individuals holding the position of sheriff.

And the way Al Patton saw it, the public wasn't doing a very good job of scrutinizing the sheriff before deciding whether or not to vote for him. There's just not that much information that comes out in the media during a campaign for sheriff.

The newspaper interviews, everybody, four or five candidates on the same page. Well, that page gets flipped over. No one's going to read that. And so, they'd read a couple of campaign ads, and that's how you elect your sheriff.

So, Al Patton came up with a possible solution.

It got to a point that I'm going to introduce a bill. We're going to try and flush these people out. You know, there's a bill to abolish the sheriff's department.

That is like a bold move.

Yeah.

The bill wouldn't have actually abolished sheriff's offices, but it would have gotten rid of elections for sheriffs, and turned the job into an appointed position. Sheriffs would be appointed by a county board. That would be a huge change. So, it's not a surprise what happened to Al Patton's bill in the Minnesota legislature.

Actually, the legislation that I introduced was not with mixed feelings, I'll tell you. It was very straightforward. It was resisted.

Al told me that lobbyists from the State Sheriffs Association came to pay him a visit pretty quickly.

I was met with severe backlash from the Sheriffs Association.

I tried to find someone from the Sheriffs Association who remembered this, and they said no one's around anymore from back then. But I did talk to the general counsel for the Sheriffs Association, and he told me they've always opposed any effort to get rid of elections for sheriff. He said switching to a system of appointed sheriffs wouldn't make the process any less political. And he said elections are good because that way, it's the public who gets to decide, and they can hold the sheriff accountable directly.

Al Patton told me the lobbyist back then made a similar argument. They turned it into a question about democracy and the will of the people.

"You don't want to take the power to vote away from the people do you, Al?"

Did they tell you, like, withdraw this bill or?

No, they're very … You need to understand lobbying. There's no threats available. They're just very nice, polite suggestions.

So, what did they suggest then?

Oh, yes, definitely, they'll look into it, and deal with it. "We'll do that for you. We'll do that right away." Yup, they dealt with it, all right. Next question.

They squished it, he said. The bill never even came up for a vote. Patton's effort had failed.

What has changed in those 40 years? Nothing has changed. So, the problems that were back 40 years ago and beyond are still with us today. But there has to be an element in there to have accountability. And when accountability is not there, disastrous things happen.

And this whole long history of the failed investigations, the murder of the Huling family, how they let a serial killer go, the murder of the Reker girls, the politicization of police work, the failed efforts to fix things, all of that had been more or less forgotten by the time Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped in 1989. When Jacob was kidnapped, it was like none of that had ever happened.

I've read and watched all the old news coverage I could find, hundreds of articles, and many hours of TV reporting. And as best I could tell, no one was writing stories about how the sheriff's office had a bad track record when it came to solving big crimes.

There are no editorials in the papers saying, "We should be concerned that the sheriff's office is the one in charge of this case. Just look at all these other cases, all those mysterious, violent, high-profile, unsolved crimes." No one mentioned any of that. Instead, they said what people always say about a place like Stearns County, "What a quiet, peaceful place. These small town cops had no idea what hit them. How could this happen here?"

Next time on In the Dark.

Headed for Cold Spring, 200 Main Street, behind Winners Bar, I'll get there in a minute. It looks like shots are fired, officer down.

Stearns County Sheriff's Office has quite a reputation for horrendous investigations, false accusations, leaving families in the dark.

How does Stearns County compare to the rest of Minnesota and the rest of the country?

And what's going on down there? Why can't anybody solve crime? I mean, why is everything such a secret?

You know, what you don't see on this are all the crimes we do solve. And I'm not trying to make excuses. I consider this unacceptable too.

In the Dark is produced by Samara Freemark. The associate producer is Natalie Jablonski. In the Dark is edited by Catherine Winter, with help from Hans Buetow. The editor in chief of APM Reports is Chris Worthington. Web editors are Dave Peters and Andy Kruse. The videographer is Jeff Thompson. Our theme music is composed by Gary Meister. This episode was mixed by Johnny Vince Evans.

Go to InTheDarkPodcast.org for a closer look at convicted killer, Joseph Ture, and to listen to audio from that interrogation in 1978, and to watch a video of Rita Reker talking about how she tried to get help with the search for her daughters.

In the Dark is made possible in part, thanks to our listeners. You could support more independent journalism like this at InTheDarkPodcast.org/donate.

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In the Dark: S1 E8 What's Going on Down There

Before we get started, I just wanted to let you know that we'd planned to have this be our last episode, but we're adding one more, and that's next week.

Previously on In the Dark.

This question in my mind is, you know, how could this type of crime happen in this somewhat remote area of our county?

The kind of place where you don't expect a child to be kidnapped at gunpoint.

The only sad part is that we couldn't have found this out sooner. And, I guess, I would really stress to police, you know, pay attention and just go after these guys.

I assume that if something serious happened to our kids, that somebody would be there to investigate.

I've been in doing major cases. I think, experience is very, very important. And you learn from every case you do. And if you aren't willing to do that, then you shouldn't be an investigator.

Over the past year, as I talked to law enforcement officers about the Jacob Wetterling case, there was one thing I heard all the time, "Things were different back then," they'd say, "Nowadays, we have all this new technology, new training. If a big crime happened in Stearns County these days, it would probably be solved right away."

But I had a reason to be skeptical about that claim that times had changed. And that reason had to do with the crime I'd been assigned to cover in Stearns County a few years before I started reporting on the Wetterling case, a type of crime that is almost always solved, the murder of a police officer.

I covered shootings of officers in Minnesota before, so I knew that most of the time, if someone kills a police officer, one of two things is going to happen pretty quickly. Either that person is going to be arrested, or they're going to be killed. But that's not what happened in this case.

This is In the Dark, an investigative podcast from APM Reports. I'm Madeleine Baran. In this podcast, we're trying to find out what went wrong in the case of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who was kidnapped in a small town in Central Minnesota in 1989.

And today, we're going to look into whether the problems in Stearns County stopped with Jacob. We're going to do something that seems like it would be pretty straightforward. We're going to look at the agency responsible for investigating Jacob's kidnapping, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office. And we're going to try to answer one simple question, how good are they really at solving major crimes?

The first person in our newsroom assigned to cover the police shooting was a reporter I worked with named Conrad Wilson.

Here's what happened. So, I got a call really early from the morning news editor, and she said, "Can you go to Cold Spring? There's been a cop shooting." I get there, and it was a strange scene to cover.

And then, it's just like … It seemed like it just kept getting weirder.

Right.

Here's what we know from law enforcement accounts. On the night of November 29th 2012, law enforcement in Stearns County got a call from a woman asking them to go check on her son. He lived in an apartment above a bar called Winners in the town of Cold Spring.

Around 10:35 at night, an officer named Greg Reiter drove over. And when he got there, he called another officer for backup, a 31-year-old policeman named Tom Decker. When he arrived, Officer Decker got out of his squad car; while Officer Reiter stayed in his. And then, with no warning, and from out of nowhere, someone shot Officer Decker in the head and killed him.

After the murder, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office didn't say a whole lot about what happened next. But Conrad and I found some of the details in a leaked document from inside the sheriff's office.

So, I remember getting that document. I got it from a source. And I remember reading it, and it was stunning. I mean, it was this account of what just seemed like police ineptitude.

Once Officer Decker was shot, the other officer, Greg Reiter, didn't get out of his car and try to chase down the shooter. He didn't run out and try to see if Officer Decker was okay. Instead, Officer Reiter stayed in his squad car. And then, he put his car in reverse, and watched as the suspect walked away.

I mean, it's like-

It's crazy.

It makes no sense. And I even talked to like some … I talked to like a retired police chief in this tiny town in Minnesota. He had like four officers. I mean, it was a small town. And he was just … He couldn't believe it, you know. I remember when we're talking, he's like, "That's not what you do." Like, "You go towards the suspect. You pursue." And-

Yeah. I mean, we were like asking people these ridiculous questions like, "Is this normal when a police officer's shot?" And they're like, "No. No, it's not normal. How stupid are you, reporter?"

The first person to find Officer Decker was a woman at the bar who went outside and spotted him on the ground. Then, she ran back inside, and someone from the bar called 911.

Shots fired. Officer down. Headed for Cold Spring, 200 meters-

Deputies from the Stearns County Sheriff's Office raced to the scene. And right away, people told police they'd seen a black van with a loud muffler leaving the parking lot right around the time of the murder. While all this was happening, the man who lived above the bar, the man who Decker and Reiter had arrived to check on was fast asleep.

I was awoke to people screaming, "Police."

His name is Ryan Larson.

I've seen the flashlights bouncing around on the crack of my doors, my bedroom door. The door flew open, a bunch guys came in with assault rifles and flashlights. And they handcuffed me, opened up the backdoor, and led me outside. I mean, there are hundreds of squad cars, two or three helicopters. I said, "What is going on? This is crazy."

A few months ago, I started talking to someone who worked in the Stearns County Sheriff's Office back then. He asked that we not use his name and that we distort his voice because he's worried the Sheriff's Office might retaliate against him.

You know, I still live in Stearns County, so I don't need them following me around looking for anything and everything to harass me and retaliate against me.

This person told me that the night Officer Decker was killed, the lead investigators were convinced they had the right guy, that Ryan Larson was the one who did it, but that other officers who'd responded to the call weren't so sure.

There were other people on scene that were saying, "Hey, I think we should … You know, why don't we get the dog, and track, and do this, that, the next thing?" That's investigation 101. We're going to follow up on leads, and check all avenues, make sure everything checks out. And they said, "Absolutely no. We have the right person. Why would we go any further? Why would we do any more?"

The officers brought Ryan Larson down to the Stearns County Sheriff's Office, and put him in an interview room. Ryan said two investigators came to interrogate him, Stearns County Sheriff's Captain Pam Jensen and State Investigator Kenneth McDonald, the same team that had interrogated Dan Rassier about the Jacob Wetterling case a few years earlier.

Captain Jensen has came in and asked me, you know, why I did it. I'm like, "Why did I do what?" You know, I had no clue what they're talking about. "Why did you shoot the officer?" I'm like, "What? Excuse me." "Just admit it. Tell us why you did it. It's okay. You know, sometimes, some people snap." "No, I didn't do it."

Ryan Larson stayed in jail while investigators tried to build a case against him. I ended up finding out about this part of the investigation from that document that was leaked to us back then. The document was a two-page written statement from the Stearns County sheriff's Office signed by two officers. And it was created to get permission to hold Ryan in jail for a little while longer.

The document includes Officer Greg Reiter's accounts of what he saw that night. It's not clear from the document whether Reiter actually saw Officer Decker get shot. What it says is that Reiter heard two loud bangs, and then saw a man standing near Officer Decker's squad car holding a weapon, and that it was a handgun.

And that detail about the weapon was a big deal because when officers stormed into Ryan's apartment above the bar, right away, they saw a handgun next to him. But it turned out that wasn't the gun that was used to kill Officer Decker because Officer Decker wasn't killed with a handgun. He was killed with a 20-gauge shotgun.

And after five days, investigators still couldn't find any other evidence against Ryan that would have allowed them to charge him.

All of a sudden, on Tuesday, one of the jailers asked me what size shoes I wear and what size pants I wear. And, you know, I told my I wear a size 11 shoe and 34 pants. And he comes back, and he said, "All I can find is size 10 shoes, and a 38 pants, and this shirt." And I said, "Well, what's this for?" And he said, "Well, you're going home." And I said, "All right then. That'll work." I probably would have left there naked if I had to.

So, Ryan got out of jail. And, at some point, officers got a tip about a different guy, a 31-year-old man named Eric Thomes, a man who owned a dark van that matched the description of the van that people reported seeing that night. They went out and questioned him a few times.

And then one day, a little more than a month after the murder, investigators went to Eric's house to question him again. But this time, Eric fled and ran into a metal outbuilding close by. He refused to come out. And after a few hours, officers finally decided to go inside and found Eric dead. He had hanged himself.

Authorities held a news conference to explain what had happened. They said that after Eric killed himself, they found a gun on a property that Eric had access to, a 20-gauge shotgun. They tested it, and said they believed it was a gun used to kill Officer Decker. Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said a few words, mostly just praise for the investigation.

This was a real good example of how the community and law enforcement worked together to get to the point that we're at today. We had a tipster call in based on the information that we were asking for. It actually couldn't have worked even better. Thank you.

A few months later in August of 2013, a spokesperson for the State Crime Bureau told reporters that if Eric hadn't killed himself, he would have been arrested for the murder, and that Ryan Larson was no longer a suspect in the case. But it wasn't the State Crime Bureau that was in charge of the case, it was a Stearns County Sheriff's Office. And the Sheriff, John Sanner, has decided to keep the case open. When I went to see Sheriff Sanner a few months ago, I asked him why.

Because we're still hopeful that new information will come in. I have considered closing the case if it stays inactive for a period of time. If no new information comes in, that certainly is something we would consider.

Keeping the case open means the public can't look at the files. It means that none of us can see exactly what happened in the investigation into Officer Decker's shooting. And it means that the sheriff doesn't have to clear Ryan Larson even three years after the State Crime Bureau, known as the BCA, ruled Ryan out as a suspect.

I don't know if he was involved or not. I can't say that.

So, you're not prepared to say like, "He definitely didn't do it."

Oh, absolutely not.

Oh okay because the BCA has said that. Like the spokesperson, at least, said he's no longer a suspect.

Okay.

At this point, Sanner shrugged, and he provided no evidence that Ryan Larson had anything to do with the shooting.

Ryan Larson used to trust law enforcement. Growing up, he lived just a few blocks from Jacob Wetterling, right off the dead-end road. Ryan was the same age as Jacob. Their birthdays were just three months apart. Ryan still remembers the night Jacob was kidnapped.

I was woke up just before midnight by search lights in my bedroom window. I got up just to see police vehicles, helicopters all over the place.

Investigators even came in to Ryan's house that night and looked around.

Checking closets. I believe they went through the kitchen, youk know, bathrooms, tubs, anywhere there could have been a child hidden, I guess.

And as an 11-year-old kid, Ryan was impressed by all the searching for Jacob. And it was what he expected from the cops because growing up, Ryan really looked up to law enforcement. By the time I met Ryan, that trust he'd felt in law enforcement was gone.

When I went over to his basement apartment a few months ago, Ryan showed me his laptop. The screen was filled with files from his own investigation of the Stearns County Sheriff's Office. Ryan told me he tried to figure out what really happened the night Officer Decker was killed. He'd even called up Greg Reiter, he left the force after the murder, and asked him what he saw.

Ryan said there was one thing in particular that really didn't make any sense to him. And that was how Greg Reiter could have seen a handgun, the same kind of gun Ryan had, when really the crime was committed with a very different kind of gun, a shotgun. It was a difference that should be obvious to anyone with any experience with guns, and especially to a cop.

And Ryan said Greg Reiter told him that despite what was written in the statement that was used to hold Ryan in jail, he actually didn't see much at all that night. And that matches what I heard from my law enforcement source who told me that inside the sheriff's office, investigators were saying pretty much the same thing.

But when Ryan tried to get Greg Reiter to come forward and tell the public what he really saw or didn't see that night, Greg Reiter hesitated. Ryan showed me texts they exchanged, including one he said was Greg Reiter's last message to him, sent on July 1st 2013, about seven months after the murder.

It said, "I talked with my attorney and Captain Jensen last week. I did give them, again, the details that you and I talked about. They, then, told me that if I said anything that I would be interfering with the investigation, and would be sued and/or charged. They also said that we are not to have any more communication."

Ryan said he hasn't heard from Greg Reiter since. I couldn't reach Reiter either. I tried to ask Sheriff Sanner about this and Captain Pam Jensen, who since left the sheriff's office, but they didn't respond.

All of this has really damaged Ryan Larson's life. He said even today, four years after the murder, people still look at him differently.

You know, law enforcement kind of baited the hook, and threw my name out there for the media. But the public, the people, you know, that I walk amongst, you know, every day, some of the comments they were saying suggesting to build the gallows and all back, bring back public executions, you know, get the lynch mob ready.

Did anyone at the sheriff's office ever apologize?

No. No. And that's, you know, probably the things I have the biggest problem with. I mean, you publicly accuse somebody of one of the most heinous crimes that a person could be accused of, you know, and it doesn't matter. It's not going to go away. It will always be there.

Ryan started seeing a therapist. He was diagnosed with PTSD.

I haven't actually gone out with my friends since 2012. I spent a lot of time at home.

Ryan dropped out of school for a while and almost stopped leaving his apartment entirely. He started spending hours and hours late at night reading about other cases the Stearns County Sheriff's Office had failed to solve.

It's more than me that have a similar story to tell. The Stearns Sheriff's Office has quite a reputation for horrendous investigations, false accusations, leaving families in the dark. I mean, why can't anybody solve crimes? I mean, why is everything such a secret? I mean, what's going on down there? People of Stearns County just need to realize that something needs to change. You know, it might not affect them right now, but it's going to someday if something doesn't change now.

Ryan Larson had become a part of a kind of sad fraternity, a loose brotherhood of people who felt wronged by the Stearns County Sheriff's Office, people like Dan Rassier, the man who was named a person of interest in the Jacob Wetterling case, and the boys in Paynesville who were attacked by a strange man in the '80s, people without a lot of money or community support, people who are just out there on their own trying to figure out what happened, trying to solve their own crimes, or clear their own names.

And out of all of these people I talked to, no one seemed more alone than a man named Brian Guimond, whose son, Josh, had gone missing in 2002, 13 years after Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped. I went to meet up with Brian Guimond at his house. He's a landscaper and lives alone. He has boxes full of his own research into his son's disappearance.

All kinds of stuff in here. I haven't looked at these forever.

Like what's in this notebook?

Whatever happened that particular time.

Notebooks, each one numbered. Some of them had a copy of a missing person's flyer for Josh taped to the front. And inside were all his notes about phone calls with detectives, interviews with the media, and possible leads to check out.

It's the only way you can remember. There's a lot of things I got in here and times, you know.

In November of 2002, Brian's son, Josh, was a 20-year-old student at St. John's University in Stearns County. And one night, Josh was at a small party at a friend's apartment on campus. His friends said there was a little drinking but not much.

And at some point, Josh left. He was never seen again. Authorities found his car still on campus. None of his stuff had been disturbed. He didn't leave any kind of note behind. He just vanished. Brian said, right away, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office had a theory about what had happened to his son.

Right off the bat, we are told he's in Stump Lake. Pretty much, that was the end of the story as far as the Sheriff Department is concerned.

Stump Lake is right on campus. Josh would have passed it if he'd walked back to his dorm room that night. A dog that investigators brought in the next day appeared to track Josh's scent to an area near the lake or maybe to the bridge that crosses it.

Investigators did search the lake. And the family even paid for a separate search by a private company that specializes in this kind of thing. But none of them found any sign of Josh. Brian said investigators came up with an explanation for why Josh could still be in the area but not be found. That explanation, quicksand.

Okay. I went and got a hold of the soil and water guy for Stearns County. No, we don't have any quicksand around here. So, that's impossible. I got papers on it from him proving no, this can't happen.

Brian showed me the letter from the government soil expert.

I got that letter right here.

Oh, this is the letter.

And no. As far as the soil expert knows, there's no such thing as quicksand just lying out there in Stearns County. Brian told the sheriff's office about the letter. He says that investigators came up with a new reason why Josh's body wasn't found.

Turtles ate him.

Snapping turtles.

That was just one of their excuses. Now, he's in that swampy area, you know. And, now, you can't find anything. Well, let's see. They ain't going to eat the skull. They ain't going to eat the clothes.

We checked this out and talked to not one but two experts in snapping turtles. Both of them told us the same thing. No, a snapping turtle won't eat a whole human being like that. I brought these two theories, the quicksand and the turtles, to Sheriff, John Sanner. Sanner became the sheriff a few months after Josh disappeared. And Sheriff Sanner told me he still does think it's possible that Josh was sucked into some kind of mud and ended up completely submerged in it.

Did he have too much to drink maybe and wander off into an area that's very boggy and swampy? And then, of course, if you lay down, and become tired, or else, you get stuck. And you simply pass out because of the amount of alcohol you've consumed. These are just theories and possibilities.

And then, I got to the turtles.

And then, the other explanation he said that he got from the sheriff's office was that perhaps, like, Josh's body was consumed by turtles, snapping turtles.

I can't imagine. I can't imagine that happening.

Okay.

That didn't come from me.

Have you heard that before? Because that's what he's saying he heard from the sheriff's office.

I have. I think that was published in the St. Cloud Times years ago.

Okay.

Did it come from somebody in law enforcement? Possibly.

I asked Sheriff Sanner if he ever tried to figure out whether anyone in his office was the one who told Josh's dad that snapping turtles could have eaten his son.

What does it matter at this point?

Josh Gimound is still missing. The case hasn't been solved. You can probably find one or two stories like this of unsolved cases in any sheriff's office in the country. So, the question is, does the Stearns County Sheriff's Office have more than just these few cases? Do they have a bigger problem when it comes to solving crime? And to help me figure that out, I brought in Will Craft, our data reporter.

Hi Will.

Hello.

Will started out by looking at one number in particular.

So, there's this thing called the clearance rate.

Clearance rates aren't quite what you might think.

So, a clearance rate is not actually a measurement of how many crimes are solved. A crime is cleared when an agency arrests someone for a crime and charges them for the crime. There are a few strange things such as if they find out who committed a crime, but that person is dead, or they're overseas and can't be extradited. But, in general, a crime is cleared when an agency makes an arrest and charges them.

So, they don't actually have to convict the person?

No.

Wow. Okay. So, all right. Is there another … something else we can use then? Like, is there a solved rate?

No. Even though clearance rates are problematic, they're the best thing we have for measuring how effective an agency is.

So, Will want to look at the clearance rates for Stearns county. He found them in an office at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, also known as the BCA.

I had to go to the BCA.

So, that's a state agency.

Yeah. So, the state agency, they only keep one copy of these crime reports.

What? Like an actual one copy?

Yes, they have one copy.

But, so, do they hand it to you? Do they bring it to you and say like, "No water"?

Well, I did have to sit in a room with another person while they watch me read through these crime reports and take scans with my phone of all the relevant pages.

Okay.

So, I had to go, and I had to scan each page. So, I took my scans. I brought them back, and I copied them into a computer by hand. I sat down for a week and just transcribed crime reports.

Will is looking at one group of crimes, the major crimes, also known as Part 1 crimes.

In technical terminology, these are Part 1 crimes. And they are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

So, we're not looking at like DWI, or my mailbox has been vandalized, or there's graffiti at the school?

No.

Will looked at more than 40 years worth of clearance rates for these Part 1 crimes in Stearns County.

So, I looked from 1971 to 2014.

Okay.

So-

And you've got a graph there of all this?

Yes, I have graph.

Will showed me the graph he made. It's just one line. It goes from 1971 to 2014. And it's the percentage of Part 1 crimes the Stearns County Sheriff's Office has cleared. The line goes up and down a lot. It starts out in the 1970s. Well, some years, barely above single digits. And then, it starts to go up in the 1980s. It reaches its highest point in 1984, five years before Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped.

In 1984, the Stearns County Sheriff's Office cleared 38% of Part 1 crimes. They haven't had a better year since. Under the current sheriff in the past 10 years or so, the line mostly bounces around in the teens. And for some years, the clearance rates are so low, the line is almost touching zero.

In the year 2000, the Part 1 clearance rate was only 8%.

8%?

It was 8%. And the second lowest was in 1978 when they only cleared 9% of their Part 1 crimes.

What could explain this?

I have no idea.

In 2014, Stearns County cleared 16% of its Part 1 crimes. And I want you to think about that for a moment because what it means is that if you were the victim of a major crime that year in Stearns County, it's way more likely than not that your crime wouldn't be solved.

I wanted to know how that number, 16%, compared with the rest of the sheriff's offices in Minnesota that year. So, I asked Will to figure that out. And he found that there was a wide range of clearance rates from 98% all the way to 0%. But Stearns County's rate was definitely low. It was in the bottom third for the entire state.

I wanted to run these numbers by an expert, so I called the researcher in Pennsylvania named Gary Cordner. He spent a lot of time looking at rural crime, in particular.

Way back in the day, I was a police officer and a police chief in two different departments. I'm actually retired from about 30 plus years of teaching at two different universities.

I told Gary Cordner what we'd found out about clearance rates in the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.

So, in the '70s, in the mid '70s, it dropped as low as 9%.

Wow.

Yeah, which is remarkably low. I mean-

It is.

Gary Cordner was especially surprised by how low these numbers were because Stearns County is a mostly rural place.

In general, police departments in non-urban areas solve a higher percentage of crimes than in cities.

What Gary Cordner is saying here that rural areas are usually better than big cities when it comes to solving major crimes, I think that's the opposite of what a lot of people assume. When you think about our culture, we have these two main images of law enforcement, and we see them all the time on TV shows and in movies. There's a small town bumbling cop who has no clue what he's doing. And then, there's the big city detective with all the fancy CSI gear who could solve almost anything. So, why would it be the opposite? Why are rural areas usually better at solving crime?

Since my background is in small and somewhat rural policing, I'd like to say, you know, it's because of, you know, the smarter and more savvy police that we have out there, but-

Right.

But I don't think that's actually the main reason. I think police departments in more rural areas, first of all, all-in-all, are less busy. So, they might actually spend more time investigating crimes.

Okay.

That's one reason, but I don't think that's the whole story either. I think, in general, solving crimes is easier in rural areas, in small towns than it is in cities. If you got to witness, the witness would be more likely to have literally recognized the person, maybe even know their name, you know, tell you where they live, which is not as likely to be true in a city.

Right.

And then, you know, if it's a burglary, let's say, in a small town or a rural area, police are right away going to have several suspects in mind. You know, it may be even just one suspect just because of the local knowledge that you tend to have an in a more rural area.

Right. You know, like a short list of, like, this kind of crime, that's either like John, Steve, or Joe. That's like a classic Steve crime.

Exactly.

But these are all just guesses. The reality is there's just not that much research on why one place does a better or worse job than another when it comes to solving crime. We just don't know. In fact, there's a whole lot we don't know about law enforcement. The federal government doesn't even know how many police departments there are in this country.

One expert I talked to said the best estimate is somewhere between 12,000 and 18,000. The whole system is so decentralized, split between police departments, sheriffs offices, state crime bureaus, each with their own data and their own procedures. But even getting the most basic facts can be really difficult.

And this is surprising when you think about it. In this country, we're obsessed with crime rates. It seems we always want to know whether crime is going up or down. But once the crimes happen, plenty of us don't seem to be all that interested in whether or not law enforcement actually solves them.

I was talking about this with a guy named Thomas Hargrove. He used to be an investigative reporter. Now, he runs a nonprofit called the Murder Accountability Project. The group collects information on murder clearance rates from across the country, and posts it on its website, so the public can be better informed. And one of the most striking things about Hargrove's website is just how wide the range is. Some places clear almost every murder. Other places clear almost none.

We were a little concerned about making this data available because if you wanted to kill someone, you would be well advised to go to our site. You'd find the many cities in America quite easily where it is statistically unlikely that you'll get caught for murder.

So, you actually … You have that as a legitimate concern like, "I'm providing the data to…

Yeah. Yeah. In the end, we decided the only way that we were going to make improvements on murder clearances was to make this information very available. The people have the right to know this. I mean, they simply do, and they should be holding politicians accountable.

And Thomas Hargrove told me something else I found interesting.

In the case of a well-performing department, you ask the police chief what his clearance rate is, he knows to the decimal point and can cite those statistics year after year. He's watching very carefully. In those underperforming police departments, it's common for the chief to say, "I don't know." And he genuinely may not know. After all, why would you want to study things that don't make you look good? So, they don't.

So, I went to the sheriff of Stearns County, Sheriff John Sanner, and I asked him Hargrove's question, "Do you know what the clearance rate is?".

Right now, today, not off the top of my head.

Okay.

You obviously know what it is.

I do. So, I can just jump to that.

I showed the sheriff the graph that Will had made, the graph that showed the clearance rates in Stearns County for major crimes, the ones known as Part 1 crimes.

Okay. So, we looked at Part 1 crimes. And we went back from 1971 to 2014. It was the last year that we had. This is our diagram.

Sheriff Sanner took the sheet of paper in his hands, and stared at it.

So, this is the percentages of the clearance rate. So, highest in the '80s, 38% in '84. And then, kind of 20s, 30s. And then, as low in 2000 as 8%. And then, 16% in 2014. These seem very low to me. Like, is this an acceptable clearance rate?

I don't think anything under under 100% is. I want to clear everything that we get involved in.

Sure, but you're not going to be able to clear 100%. So, it's like-

No, but I would-

… what's the threshold of, you know? Is there a bar that's, you know, every year, let's aim to clear 60% or let's aim to-

Actually, the bar is we aim to clear them all.

So, then, why is there such a gap then between like-

I don't know. I have no idea why there is. And again, I'm not satisfied unless it's 100%. I shouldn't be satisfied unless it's 100%.

Given the clearance rates though, I mean, how can people in Stearns County trust that law enforcement will solve crimes?

You know, what you don't see on this are all the crimes we do solve. And I'm not trying to make excuses here. I'm just telling you that I consider this unacceptable too.

I ask Sheriff Sanner what he thought could be done to improve his office's clearance rate.

I suppose what you're thinking about in answering that question is more training, that type of thing.

I actually don't know.

Sheriff Sanner told me a lot of crime solving comes down to one key factor.

I guess, the one factor that is kind of out there in any investigation is you have to factor in a certain amount of luck.

Luck, and Sanner said, sometimes, you get lucky, and sometimes you don't.

We haven't had a lot of luck in some of these big cases that we're working on; although, it doesn't deter us from continuing to work as hard as we possibly can and do everything we possibly can to get them resolved.

But if you're looking at specifics as to how do we improve this, the first thing that would pop into somebody's head is we need to do a better job of training our investigative staff or we maybe need to do a better job of collecting and preserving evidence, so it can be used. Those are the easy things. It's the intangibles, that luck thing I'm talking about, that's hard to gauge. And sometimes, just good old fashioned police work and a little bit of luck go a long way.

About two months after I talked with Sheriff Sanner, as we were putting this episode together, the State of Minnesota released the latest Part 1 clearance rates, the ones for 2015. The Stearns County Sheriff's Office rate had dropped from 16% to 12%.

I also wanted to ask Sheriff Sanner about what he thinks of the investigation of the Jacob Wetterling case. At the time I talked to him, it was still a few weeks before Danny Heinrich confessed to the crime and led officers to Jacob's remains.

When I first started looking to this case, it was always described as like this giant mystery that, you know, Jacob just vanished, it's dark, and there is like nothing that could have been done differently to solve it.

But then, when I started looking into it, the way that I looked at it has changed, and especially some of the failures of the policing 101 stuff, like not knocking on all the doors that night, not searching nonstop, you know, calling off the search in the middle of the night. And then, you know, the decision to name Dan Rassier as a person of interest. Like all of these things strike me as mistakes of the investigation or things that could have potentially negatively affected the investigation. And I just want to give you a chance to respond to that.

Of course, if things weren't done in the right order, if things weren't done at all early on, looking backwards more than 25 years ago, I can't do anything to change that. No. So, I'm not going to get wrapped around the axle about things that law enforcement did or didn't do. Do I wish some things would have been done differently? Sure. Can I talk about that in this particular case? No.

I just wonder about like to the people in Stearns County whether it would make sense to say, "You know what, we really messed up some things in this. And we're going to tell you that we're … This is what we did that we wouldn't do again." Is there some accountability to the public that's needed?

You know, I guess, I've never really looked at it like that. When I've looked back and looked at things that, "Boy, I wish we would have done this," or "I wish this would have been done," again, that's all we can do is wish about that, but I can't go backwards and change time. Nobody can.

So, this is what we settled on in this country as the best way to handle solving major crimes, to leave it up to people like Sheriff John Sanner, sheriffs who don't know their clearance rates, have no clear plan about how to improve them, and who refuse to look back and see what they could have done differently.

And Stearns County isn't the only place with a crime solving problem. There are all kinds of places all across the country with Part 1 clearance rates in the single digits or not much higher. Farmington, New Mexico, your average clearance rate from 2005 to 2014 is 13%. Chicago, Indiana, your clearance rate is 9%. Honolulu, your clearance rate is 6%. Assumption Parish, Louisiana, your clearance rate is 12%. King County, Washington, your clearance rate is 5%.

The way our country handles law enforcement with complete local control and no oversight means that you could live in a place that hasn't solved a single crime in 50 years and nothing would happen. Your sheriff's office could have a zero percent clearance rate, and no one from the government will step in and say, "That's unacceptable. Here's what has to happen," or even just ask the question, 'What's going on down there?"

And what this all means is that you are stuck with the law enforcement you've got. If you or someone in your family is murdered, you just have to hope that the place where you live has a law enforcement agency with a good track record of solving crime. And if your case is never solved, nothing will happen. No one will come in and take over the investigation. And eventually, your name will be forgotten. Thomas Hargrove put it to me this way.

You essentially disappear from the radar. Your name is not recorded in any central authority. There is really no one out there who is assigned to review what happened to your case, and whether more needs to be done, or even who you were. You know, you become anonymous. Nobody can put together a list of the names of those 216,000 Americans who perished in unsolved murders. And that really is kind of a national tragedy.

And in Stearns County, what this means is that no one can intervene when the sheriff's office took nearly 27 years to find out that Jacob Wetterling had been killed and buried about a mile from the home of a man they all suspected had abducted a kid before, a man whose car a witness saw that night, a man whose name had been in the Wetterling case file since almost the beginning, a man who investigators had sat face-to-face with, a man named Danny Hiner. Everyone just had to wait and hope that somehow the Stearns County Sheriff's Office would managed to solve the Wetterling case.

So, this is where the story was supposed to end with the sheriff's office that doesn't get held accountable in a case that took nearly 27 years to solve. This was supposed to be the last episode of In the Dark, but over the past six weeks, as we've been airing this podcast, we've kept reporting, and we found out some things about the Jacob Wetterling case and about Danny Heinrich, the man who confessed to Jacob's kidnapping, that we want to tell you about. And so, we're releasing one more episode. That's next week on In the Dark.

In the Dark is produced by Samara Freemark. The associate producer is Natalie Jablonski. Significant additional reporting for this episode by Will Craft. In the Dark is edited by Catherine Winter, with help from Hans Buetow. The editor in chief of APM Reports is Chris Worthington, Web editors are Dave Peters and Andy Kruse. The videographer is Jeff Thompson. Our theme music is composed by Gary Meister. This episode was mixed by Johnny Vince Evans.

Go to InTheDarkPodcast.org to learn more about the case of Officer Tom Decker and the case of Josh Guimond, and to learn more about clearance rates, and for a link to find out the murder clearance rate where you live.

In the Dark is made possible in part, thanks to our listeners. You can support more independent journalism like this at InTheDarkPodcast.org/donate.

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Review Should I go to Podcast Movement? -> A quick review of Podcast Movement

Attendees are bullish on the future of podcasting

We just finished up Podcast Movement in Philadelphia. An event where podcasters, podcast producers, and radio folks convene to talk and learn about everything related to podcasts. We loved meeting face to face with many of our customers and meeting a bunch of new people too. There are so many great stories being told and so many interesting projects among this community. For many attendees podcasting is their livelihood. For others, it was another ‘must-have’ marketing medium for their brand or a place to learn how to start a podcast. One thing was incredibly consistent: everyone was bullish on the future of podcasting.

            

 

What’s the structure of Podcast Movement?

Much of what you’d expect happened at Podcast Movement including keynotes by industry influencers like Pay Flynn, Jarl Mohn, and Terri Gross. Google made an appearance to talk about their new foray into podcasting. There were break-out sessions every day on topics ranging from marketing to production to monetization to ‘how to create a podcast’. But what we found made the conference great was the hallway conversations. So great to meet loads of geniunely great people with passion and interesting stories.

 

    

 

Things outside the event
Philadelphia treated us well. The Reading Terminal is an awesome place to grab lunch; it’s filled with every kind of food you could imagine strewn with stalls from end to end of the iconic building. We lucked out with our dinner choices too. Talula’s Garden was our favorite. If you’re going to Philly make a reservation. It won’t disappoint.

 

Should I attend Podcast Movement in 2019?
Every individual and company is different. We base our decisions on a mix of ROI and exposure. We found it a good use of our time and plan on going in 2019. See you there!

 

Popular Transcripts The Cloud Accounting Podcast: Supreme Court sales tax ruling is a windfall for Avalara

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The Cloud Accounting Podcast: Supreme Court sales tax ruling is a windfall for Avalara

Welcome to the Cloud Accounting Podcast, a show for accountants using technology to make their jobs more strategic, and impactful. I'm Blake Oliver-

-and I'm David Leary.

So, David, I hear that you were at Scaling New Heights this week. How did that go?

Yes. I'm still in Atlanta, actually. I'm hanging out for a couple more days. I have a honey-do list to do at my mother-in-law's house, so I'm still hanging out here. Scaling New Heights was really, to be honest … It was pleasantly, surprisingly great, if that makes sense.

I don't know how many people followed, but maybe about eight weeks ago – feels like maybe 10 weeks ago – there was just a lot of, let's say, drama around Scaling New Heights. Whether it'd had a bankruptcy; they changed venues; people's hotel rooms were getting canceled. There was just a lot of uncertainty that this conference was even gonna happen.

You could feel like it was scaled back a little bit, but it was scaled back in that more of a grassroots way. Once the community was there, it was just … It was great. I've talked to everyone … The app vendors … Everybody who was there had a really good time at the conference. There was deep conversations. We had a really great time. We brought our App Showdown finalist. It was, like I said, surprisingly, surprisingly, surprisingly refreshing. Did you travel this week, too?

Yes. On Monday, I was in Indianapolis, at the IMA Conference, and then, on Tuesday, I was in Minneapolis, at the Minnesota Society of CPA's conference. Busy travel week for me, but did it all very compressed, and I'm glad to be back.

Yeah, one thing I like about these conferences are sometimes these travel weeks like this. I was just so … You get in the conference, and that's the only thing you're living, and breathing, and touching for 48 hours or 72 hours. I admit, it was kind of refreshing. All this drama that was going on in the outside world …

It's like going down into a nuclear bunker, and then, you come out, and the world is changed.

Exactly, exactly. It was nice not to be distracted by that, or kind of, in a way, I'm encouraged now. I think maybe two or three days a month, I might just not pay attention to anything outside of my own world. It's kind of a refreshing break, actually.

Well, fortunately, we had come out of our caves of conferences by the time the biggest news broke, this week, which is the Supreme Court has overturned Quill v. North Dakota, which was the decision that governs sales tax in this country, for many, many years – decades.

Now, according to this new decision, South Dakota, and any other state, can leverage, or require sales taxes to be collected by out-of-state retailers. Previously, if you were out of the state, if you didn't have what's called Nexus, which means, typically, an employee in the state, or inventory in the state, or some sort of physical presence in the state, you didn't have to collect those sales taxes, when you shipped into those states.

Those states have been losing out on a lot of revenue – big ones and small ones. South Dakota, it was something like $50 million a year in revenue that wasn't being collected. It was a big problem for brick-and-mortar retailers, because if you had a physical presence in the state, like a store, you'd have to collect those sales taxes, but if your customers went online, and bought from somewhere out-of-state, then they didn't have to pay sales taxes. They were required to do so on their personal tax returns, but, effectively, nobody does that, so, basically, they were getting to buy stuff free of sales tax.

Huge implications for this decision; potentially, lots of compliance requirements, now, on small businesses that do e-commerce, because, where they may have only had to collect sales tax in one state, now, they may have to do it in many states, and some really big benefits for some of the sales-tax-automation-software developers, right, David?

Yeah, I think there's so many takes. I think I have an article that's an argument about why this is so bad for small business. I have another article we'll get shared that … Why Amazon wins in this. I think, really, the big winner has to be Avalara. I think it went public on Monday morning, or was it last Friday?

It was very recently.

They go public. Their IPO goes up like 57 percent, or something, and then, three days later, the Supreme Court makes this ruling. Then Avalara stock goes up another 30 percent. Avalara's definitely the winner in all this, for sure. Yeah, congratulations to all those Avalara friends that I have.

It's almost like they timed it perfectly.

Yes, yes, yes. It's actually amazing that all this happened in the same week – their IPO, and the decision that finally came out.

Yeah. It's interesting, because the Supreme Court … I've been digging into this a little bit more, over the last day, since this just happened yesterday morning. The Supreme Court didn't actually get rid of nexus, they just redefined it. Now, nexus can include having a … I'm not sure what the actual wording is, but they changed the substantial-presence definition, so, now, that can include shipping packages into the state.

In the case with South Dakota, they have set a threshold of a hundred thousand dollars a year, in annual sales, into the state, or two hundred items being shipped into the state. I've just been thinking about this, going around in my head, and if you ship a lot of volume, but low-cost products, you could very easily meet that 200-quantity threshold, even though you're nowhere near a hundred thousand dollars in sales.

This could really hit some smaller mom-and-pop-type e-commerce retailers. If you're selling 200 $10 items into South Dakota, now, you'd meet the threshold. You're only making $2,000 gross, and perhaps, your profit margin is less than $200 a year. It may cost you that much, far more than that, just to file all of these forms that you've gotta file, now.

I think that's the argument Steve Forbes is making, this like … The average small-business entrepreneur is now gonna have this burden that is … It's a very expensive burden to track this, comply to, for 50 states, essentially. It's gonna be tough for small businesses, for sure. They're the ones that are gonna feel the pain from this, first.

I think the hardest part is just going to be staying on top of all the different sales-tax legislation that gets passed in all of these states, now. There are a group of states that have come up with standardized rules, but most of them, especially the big ones, have not. Congress has the opportunity, now, to step in and do some national sales-tax legislation. I think they should set up a centralized system for collecting, and remitting sales tax, and all the states can then divvy it up amongst themselves, that sorta thing. That would be ideal, if you ask me, but, given how paralyzed Congress has been about many, many issues, I really doubt they're gonna do anything.

Yeah, that seems a little dreamy, I think, but I do … What's your take? Do you feel like a bunch of states, now, that have kind of kicked around this, somebody's proposed it … They probably have things like this, proposals that have came through, on the shelf, right?

Yeah.

There's just gonna be like … In the next six to eight weeks, every single state's gonna be like, "Great, we want our piece. Here's our sales-tax rules." Just like boom. We're just gonna see this every week, five states come out with new sales-tax rules.

Yeah-

You need to pay here …

They can't lose, because it's the state legislatures passing legislation that affects people that aren't in the states, or that are not in that state. It's basically a taxation without representation. It's a no-brainer for them.

I've been reading this L.A. Times article, this morning, about the states that would gain the most from expanded e-commerce-tax collection. California, actually, is the biggest one. Could gain anywhere from 1 to 1.75 billion dollars in additional revenue by collecting from out-of-state retailers. That makes sense, because we have very high sales taxes in California.

People try to avoid those sales taxes by purchasing from out-of-state retailers on, say, eBay, or Amazon Marketplace, where they don't collect the sales tax, so it's a no-brainer for California to pass legislation. Texas is next. They've got about a billion dollars that they could be collecting. Then New York, Florida, Illinois, Washington, Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia. I would be expecting to see legislation in the next few months from all of those states.

Wow. I think a related article … This is about Amazon's gonna win, because Amazon … They kinda have two plays on this. One is they're already set up to do this, as well, but Amazon's really good at punting. They get to play that, "We're a marketplace," and they can punt this down to the third-party sellers on Amazon, cuz there's millions and millions of third-party sellers on Amazon. Versus somebody like a Wayfair, or Overstock, where they basically are the retailer.

Right. Yeah, Wayfair is really screwed. One of the big perks of buying from them is that if they don't have a presence, it's that you don't pay the sales tax, and you get that free shipping, so you're willing to put up with the hassle of not really being able to return these giant items, because you're getting such a huge discount. That's going away.

One thing that's great, right, we do live in America. Entrepreneurs always figure out a way. I think there's a … I'll try and find it. There was a podcast I listened to about the duty-free stores at the airports. People shop at those, cuz you don't pay sales tax. I guess there's duty-free areas on the ports. Could there be some interesting … Could entrepreneurs start figuring out how to … Somebody might spin up some sort of distribution center in the ports of certain cities, or maybe at certain areas of airports. I could see, somebody's gonna figure out ways around this, and very creative, creative ways. That's what makes America great.

Something that has not been discussed widely in the press, but that will potentially impact accountants, and bookkeepers, and software developers, dramatically, is that this ruling not only applies to hard goods, to products, it also potentially applies to services.

South Dakota, if they wanted, they could tax services delivered from out-of-state to residents of their state. That might mean tax work. That might mean accounting work. I would be very surprised if we didn't see some states start taxing services delivered from out-of-state to in-state.

I know that state of Arizona, on our ballot, this year, there's gonna be an initiative that will write it in to our constitution that doesn't let the legislature ever pass a sales-tax law to tax services-.

Hmm, interesting.

It's funny that you brought that up, because I think it's actively a table discussion in probably state legislatures everywhere, right now, like taxing services. You're right, for our impact, these cloud accountants … Because we've been telling people, "Hey, if you go cloud, you can take on clients in any states in America." Now, you, as the cloud accountant, if you have 45 clients, now, you gotta deal with nexus in 45 states, that you didn't have to do before.

Yeah.

This is a huge ripple effect of this, and I think we'll be talking about it next week, and the week after, and the week after. This is not anything done, anytime soon.

No, this is gonna be a big-impact ruling that has consequences for years, and it's gonna change how people do business, I think. We're gonna see some retailers choose not to ship to certain states. We're going to see some retailers choose not to do online, and we'll … If the services component expands for taxation, we're going to see some of these cloud firms probably choose not to do business with certain states, or be selective.

It was already a challenge with my cloud firm, because whenever we had an employee in a state, we then had an income-tax obligation, there, and then, you have to apportion your income. That gets very complicated, so, I know how that goes.

I feel like Amazon, early on in the e-commerce game, so this is probably going a dozen years ago … I feel like one of the states wanted to tax everything they shipped, and I think Amazon played hardball, and said, "Fine, we won't ship to your state." I think that kinda killed it, but, we were in a whole different game about this.

Now, the other interesting thing is the … People have to understand, in the grand scheme of retail, I think e-commerce, even as big as Amazon is, I think e-commerce is still barely eight percent, or just broke eight percent. In the whole grand scheme of everything, most states are not getting … They're not getting a ton of revenue from e-commerce- [crosstalk 00:13:16]

No, but if you look at the trends, and you see … You look at how it's growing, more and more people are getting comfortable with buying online. I'm an early adopter, and I buy as much as possible … Anything that I can buy that I'm comfortable buying online, I do, cuz I hate going to the store.

My wife is the opposite of me, so, she's a good case study for the rest of America. She hates technology. She always resists adopting it, but even she has gotten much, much more comfortable with buying on Amazon, and buying … Especially like clothes for our son, we buy all of that stuff online, because it's so much easier than trying to go to the store with him. If she's comfortable, getting comfortable, with it, then I think it's just gonna explode. That's why this ruling was very timely. If they hadn't addressed this, if the Supreme Court hadn't addressed this it, would've just ballooned outta control.

I think we're still all comprehending it, but I … This is one of the biggest things to come down in a long time. I can tie it back to the election. I heard an argument somebody made that when you go to vote, this year, at the polls, you should just vote for only people that understand technology, because decisions like this that are gonna keep coming down the pipe, there's gonna be more and more.

Regardless of your political stances, only vote for candidates that understand technology, because if they don't, it doesn't matter where they stand on the other issues, they'll just make wrong decisions about technology, and it's just gonna affect us even worse than any of their political stances.

I can get on board with that. Hey, before we go, I've got one more fun story that's a little less intense than this whole sales-tax issue-

Oh, yeah, that's good.

-I'd like to share that. This has to do with artificial intelligence machine learning. It's a story in the MIT Technology Review, from June 15. The headline: A Machine has Figured Out Rubik's Cube All by Itself. That caught my attention, because I've always played with Rubik's Cubes on and off. I've never actually owned one, but I've always been really impressed by the people who could solve them very quickly, and I've always [crosstalk].

You really have never owned a Rubik's Cube? We have to stop right here for a second. You've never owned a Rubik's Cube?

I've never owned a Rubik's Cube. Maybe I'm a little bit intimidated, but I've never gone online, and learned how to solve it. I know there's YouTube videos that will show you how to do that, but I've always … It's sort of been like on my bucket list of I wanna get a Rubik's Cube, and I wanna figure out how to do it, on my own, without anyone teaching me.

Well, it looks like the machines have beat me to it, because an artificial intelligence, or, it's actually called a deep-learning machine, has figured out how to solve a Rubik's Cube, all by itself. In the past, we've, of course, had computers, and programs that we've taught how to solve Rubik's Cubes, but that's because we have given it clues, and given it an algorithm, or whatnot.

In this case, a computer was given the Rubik's Cube, and was not given any clues. It had to learn how to do it, itself. It's interesting, the way they did it was they had the computer go backwards. They had it learn how to solve the Rubik's Cube by starting from a solved Rubik's Cube, and then messing it up. Then, once it had learned how all that worked, it was able to put it back.

That's an interesting approach, because that's how, actually, it works in real life is you envision the completed product. You envision what you wanna create, or what you wanna accomplish. Then, often, you will work backward from the completed state to your current state, to figure out a path to the solution. The computer did it the same way.

Interesting. There's this independent hacker that … He's creating a self-driving car, and his self-driving car is just almost as good as Tesla's. He did it from that way, like he just has it pay attention to how he drives, and it just learns from proper driving, instead of trying to program every … Like distance to stop signs, and program, "This is a stop sign. This is not a stop sign. This is a yield sign." It just learned from watching him drive, essentially.

That's how human beings learn, so, you think it would work with computers, and it does. The thing that's kind of scary about this algorithm is that it is able to solve 100 percent of randomly scrambled Cubes, while achieving a median solve length of 30 moves, which is less than or equal to solvers that employ human-domain knowledge, and is way, way faster than almost anybody can do, except people who are really, really good at Rubik's Cubes.

Yeah, I don't know … My boys, for a while … Last summer, that was the thing, Rubik's Cubes, and I think he got it down to 1:06, or something, that he could do a Rubik's Cube in. I'm telling you, though, Blake, I know you're a little younger than me … If you're gonna do this, you gotta do it now, because it's hard to memorize these algorithms when you cross 40. It's very, very hard. You better buy your Rubik's Cube, get online, pay the sales tax, order it, and get your Rubik's Cube as soon as you can.

All right. I'm gonna do that. Unfortunately, I missed the … I think I missed the boat for getting it tax-free. You know, we'll have to leave it at that. I've got to do some work today, and I know you're a busy guy. I'll look forward to seeing you next Friday.

Yeah, absolutely. Wow, everybody go research about sales tax.

Yep, and connect with us online to continue the conversation. I'm @BlakeTOliver, on Twitter.

I'm on Twitter, @DavidLeary.

We'll look forward to hearing from you, and thanks for listening.

Later, Blake.

Bye.

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Education How to fix mic bleed with multi-track recordings

If you are using Sonix’s multi-track feature you may experience an issue called “mic bleed”. Mic bleed happens when you can hear two or more voices on one track.

Isolating audio tracks is challenging especially if you have multiple microphones in the same room. Sonix has built technology to help with mic bleed. We can spot areas of duplicated text and remove them from the combined transcript. Having said that, if the mic bleed is loud, Sonix will struggle to isolate voices.

Mic bleed is less problematic when you record speakers in different rooms or locations. It used to be a logistical challenge to capture each participant on their own audio track, but with all the great communication apps, it’s no longer a problem. If you are using Skype, Zoom, or some other tool to capture the audio, each speaker is using a different microphone input. This helps reduce mic bleed.

Can I fix mic bleed?

There are ways to strip unwanted audio from your tracks using other audio tools like Audacity, Final Cut, and Pro Tools. The feature is typically called “Strip Silence” which will detect areas in an audio track that are quieter than others.

Here are the links to instructions on how to strip out mic bleed.

  1. Audacity
  2. Apple Logic X
  3. Pro Tools

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