Police often keep certain case details secret, away from the public and media. It’s nearly maddening, I know, to people who’d like to help locate a missing person. However, there is a purpose or two to keeping these important and oftentimes scant particulars, those known only to the perpetrator, out of public view. One is to afford police the opportunity to solidly place the suspect at the scene if the person in the hot seat mentions those undisclosed, key details during an interview with investigators.

In the case of Mollie Tibbitt’s disappearance, it seems as if she vanished from the face of the earth without leaving a single trace. However, those who’re familiar with Locard’s Exchange Principle—theconcept that was developed by Dr. Edmond Locard—”that every time someone makes contact with another person, place, or thing, an exchange of physical materials takes place.” The item(s) could be as large as a footprint, a leaf, or a fingerprint, or as small as DNA, skin cells, or body fluid.

The same is true in reverse. The unsuspecting criminal, no matter how careful, will also take similar material away from the crime scene—carpet fibers buried in the tread of a shoe, DNA transferred to the suspect from an item only found in the apartment belonging to the victim, a unique plant seed stuck to the gas pedal of the suspect’s car, and so on. The list is nearly endless. Actually, I once solved a murder using soil and plant material found on a gas pedal and carpeting of the killer’s car. The material was unique in that its characteristics were exclusive to the location where the murder took place.

It’s quite possible that police have in hand one of those a tiny bits of evidence that would or could place a kidnapper or an accomplice in one of the five or six areas police have identified as locations of interest in the case of Mollie Tibbitts’ disappearance. Keep in mind, though, there may be other areas they’re keeping to themselves in hopes the suspect will relax, thinking police are not closing in, when in reality the net is slowly and methodically tightening as clues are revealed.

For the safety of Mollie Tibbetts, it’s imperative that a kidnapper, if this is indeed the case, not be alerted that police are hot on their heels. Desperation on the part of the criminal could led to an unfortunate end to the investigation.

On the other end of the spectrum are the people who confess to crimes they didn’t commit. These individuals often crave attention so badly they’ll march into a police station where they admit to crimes ranging from burglary to murder. When this occurs, it takes away from the valuable time needed to focus on real leads because each false-confessor’s story must be thoroughly scrutinized.

Others who falsely confess to crimes do so because they sometimes succumb to effective and often intense questioning tactics used by skilled police interrogators. For example, The Reid Technique, a method that utilizes three distinct components—factual analysis, interviewing, and interrogation—is designed to help eliminate those who aren’t good candidates as suspects for the crime in question. Once the pool of suspects is narrowed down to a single person, well, police typically have their man, or woman.

A person who seeks notoriety by falsely claiming to have committed a crime that’s receiving national attention will use the information announced by the news media to concoct a believable story. This is a second example as to why police closely guard some details about a case.

Regarding those false confessions, when the innocent confess to crimes they didn’t commit. We see this in cases where death row inmates are exonerated based on physical evidence, even after confessing to the crime. The same was true when John Mark Karr falsely confessed to killing Jon Benet Ramsey back in 2006. Karr’s DNA didn’t match the DNA found on the body of the six-year-old girl’s body. Or, in 1932, when over 200 people who confessed to abducting Charles Lindburgh’s infant son.

Several other factors contribute to confessions offered by innocent people. For example, after being subjected to lengthy, hours-long intense interrogation, some individuals simply become exhausted and profess guilt simply to end the process. In addition, police interrogators often “minimalize” the crime, making it seem less severe. The idea is to convince the suspect that it’s in his or her best interest to confess. And they often do.

Stress leads to false confessions. A person’s level of anxiety generally increases when accused of a crime they didn’t commit; however, those who are not guilty of the crime in question typically feel their innocence will allow them to breeze through the interrogation without fear. They feel protected by their guiltlessness. Unfortunately, this lack of concern sometimes puts them at risk to admit to a crime they didn’t commit because their guard is down, and they’re weary, which increases the likelihood they’ll succumb to a skilled investigator’s use of tried and true tactics and techniques.

With these factors in mind, police try to hold insider information to themselves, away from the public eye. It’s sort of like playing poker. The idea is not show your hand until the last card is dealt and all bids are in. Otherwise, the criminal, who is well aware of the details of the act, could call their bluff and literally get away with murder. That, and have dozens of people confessing to the crime merely to see their names on national news.

I do find it interesting that on the official police-generated “Finding Mollie” website, they use the pronoun “he” when describing characteristics or changes in behavior patterns of individuals who would be likely to commit a violent crime that could be associated with Mollie Tibbitt’s disappearance.

And, there’s the possibility that Mollie Tibbitts is with someone she knows and now that person is afraid to come forward fearing prosecution. This case is a head-scratcher for people not in the immediate circle of people in the know. And it may be a real puzzle for police investigators. But my bet is that the police have a piece, or pieces, of evidence that could tie someone to the case—piece of evidence known only to them and they do not want to suspect(s) to know “they know.”

*Anyone with tips in relation to Mollie Tibbetts’ disappearance is urged to visit findingmollie.iowa.gov. A reward for information about the case leading to her safe return has nearly hit $400,000 ~ Fox News

Excerpts from this article are featured today in the Fox News article “Mollie Tibbetts’ father says Pence meeting was ‘touching’ as 200 new tips pour in.”

To read the entire article, please click here.

1 reply
  1. Angela
    Angela says:

    This is so true! We had three women go missing in Springfield, Mo., years ago. At this point, if their remains are found, it would be difficult to get a conviction because the entire case was put before the public. There is virtually no information that was not made public. It is unfortunate, but I think it reflects how things were done in the 80s and what law enforcement has learned since then.

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