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For this first bonus episode of Ransom, I'm here with producer Ben Kebrick, and we really wanted to share more of our interview with former FBI hostage negotiator Ralph Harp. So what are we going to be listening to here, Ben?


Yeah, so this is an edited down version of our interview with Ralph Harp. So it's not the full thing, but it's a lot of the clips that didn't make their way into the main show. We go out, we interview a ton of people, and only a tiny fraction of that ends up in the main podcast. So we thought that we'd share some. So Ralph goes in a greater detail about the early parts of the investigation, that first night that he was out there with the Everett family. And he also goes into how he joined the FBI and became a hostage negotiator. I guess, can you start with what's your name and In 1995, who did you work for and what did you do?


My name is Ralph Harp. I was a special agent for the FBI. In 1995, I was assigned to the Houston Field Office of the FBI. All special agents are trained as investigators. Then there are specialized training fields that you can seek out when there are slots available. I was the team leader of our hostage negotiation team, and I was the team leader of our evidence response team. Those are the two venues that I was involved in in the McKay case.


Are you from that area of Texas originally?


I'm originally. Was born and raised in North Carolina. When I graduated from a high school in 1978. I moved to Washington, DC, and began working for the FBI as a support or clerical employee at age 17, and then continued to work for them until I got my degree, became a special agent, and was eventually transferred from Washington to Houston.


What made you, at 17, want to work for the FBI?


My family come from a background of being factory workers, and I had no plans to go to college after high school. In fact, prior to my generation, no one in my family had even graduated from high school. I had a high school principal who was encouraging me to go to college. I didn't think I could afford it. He asked me what my option was. This was the time of the Vietnam War. I told him I planned to join the army. He thought I was too young to go into the army right away, so he was trying to guide me in different directions. And in fact, the FBI recruited clerical employees from all over the country every year. When high school graduation came about, he made me an appointment with an FBI agent to be interviewed for a job without even telling me about it. And that's really the push that got me headed in that direction.


I guess he saw something in you where he thought you'd be a good fit for it.


I suppose so. I I just think he was a type of person, the type of principle that was really into looking out for all his students and trying to get them headed toward a successful future. He certainly did for me.


And can you maybe describe Texas in the late '80s and early '90s?


Houston was an energy center of the country. It was just a big city, just very active, a lot of things going on. The oil market goes up and down. When the market is good, people jump into and they make a lot of money fast. Then next year, year after, they may be broke. It ripples all throughout the economy.


Do you remember where you were when you first heard about the McKay-Everett case?


The case started late that evening, about 11:00, when the parents discovered their son was missing. They initiated a call to, I presume the police, but some way, very soon thereafter, the FBI got notified, and I got called to the Everett home.


Is it unusual for the FBI to get involved so early?


Generally, there's a factor of 24 hours, people say, but there's an indication that there has been an abduction, and especially a minor, someone extremely vulnerable. We can be called in earlier. So I would say that if we have close good liaison with local law enforcement, they may call us in sooner. And I assume that was a case in this situation.


And you said you were called in because you were a hostage negotiator.


Initially, yes. In case we got on through the phone and started having a conversation in the context of managing negotiations with them holding a hostage, I was there for that primary purpose. When we get involved in a case like that, we throw all our capabilities in to the mission. I was there as a negotiator. Mark Young, as a profiler, was there to do any psychological assessments that he could. Cindy Rosenthal was there to address any legal issues that came up. We would have an entire staff of investigators on to run down leads as they developed. We would have a squad of technical agents that are trained in intercepts, tracking phone calls. They would be on hand. They would be a primary player in this context.


Do you remember, were there any suspects at the point that you showed up?


What I remember is that we were discussing that one of the neighbors had reported seeing a vehicle, and we were trying to identify who amongst The father's and mother's range of associates had any vehicle that might fit that description. There was no indication whatsoever of any forced entry. The alarm was turned off, and I think when the father got home, the door was open. So all the indicators suggested that it would have been someone that McKay had known. You always have to keep your mind open because quite often when there's violence at home, there is a family member or a close associate being involved, so you can never exclude that. The other thing you're looking at is the emotional reaction of the family. The mother, I know right from the beginning, everything I heard, she was just completely distraught. The father was a little... His emotional level appeared a little flat, but that was not enough to raise a very considerable level of concern about him, but it was noticeable.


Do you remember the parents, Carl and Paulette? Could you describe them?


I had very little contact with Paulette. Karl, I had contact with. He was a businessman. He looked like a businessman. He conducted himself like a businessman. Just everything about him to me looked like he was what he was supposed to be. He was American from the south. He was neat, appeared intelligent, and I saw nothing incongruent with who he was and how he appeared.


There's this lead with the car, and you're waiting to see if the ransomers will call back. Was that confusing at the time that the ransomers didn't call?


No, it's not confusing because ransomers, hostage takers, they're unpredictable. They don't act in any particular pattern. In that context, I'd say nothing is unusual. You just deal with what you get.


Did this case change you in any way or the way you looked at people that your children interacted with?


I don't think so. I think that you will find law enforcement officers in general become very skeptical and security conscious early on in their career and stay that way for the rest of their lives.


Is that like you guys know the truth, and if the rest of us knew, we would all do that?


We see the harm done. Other people read about it, but they don't see it up close and personal. They don't touch it. They don't smell it. And so they are kept back at distance from it. You're right up on the edge of it. It's because you see it, you realize that there are really very bad people out there, and they won't hesitate to harm a innocent person if they feel like it's in their best interest.


I think I struggle with the takeaway from this case, and whether it should be you can't really trust anyone, or if this is such a rare event, it's like, if every time you're out in the rain, you were afraid of being struck by lightning or something like that. Do you know what I mean?


Yes, I agree with that exactly. You have to respect lightning. When it starts lightning, I get off the golf course, but I don't live in constant fear of it. I just do what common sense tells me it's a smart, safe thing to do. I love the FBI. It was a great career. It was a wonderful opportunity. I never even dreamed of having to be a part of my life. But we make mistakes, and I'll give you a perfect example. The bombing case at the Olympics in Atlanta, Richard Juhl. There was evidence that pointed in his direction, and we leaped at it, and we followed from him back to prove that he could have been the person who did it. Yes, he could have been the person. Our mistake was, you don't go from the solution back to the beginning. You go and work your way from the beginning to the solution. He could have done it, but he didn't do it. We rushed to that conclusion, and we badly damaged our reputation by doing that. You have to remember that in every case. Just because you find the person that may have done it doesn't mean that you found the person that did do it.


You start at the beginning with the evidence and you build a chain of links, solid change, step by step, until you get to the person that could have done it and did do it. You always have to keep that in mind. Sometimes there are debates in cases where some people have convinced themselves already that this person did it, and there's not really strong evidence all along that chain. And when we get it wrong, like we did in Richard Jules, it's a bad thing. It's been a pleasure talking with you. I hope I was helpful.


Yeah, no, for sure. For sure, I enjoyed this, too. Have a good Friday.


We'll be back after a quick break with another interview, this one from Rick Metz, the family friend who got polygraphed in episode 2.


Hi, producer Ben Kiebrick here. Have you played June's Journey yet? It's a free game for iPhone or Android that you can download right now using a link in the episode description. The story will take you all around the world, from New York to the sidewalks of Paris. It's a great way to daydream about what life would have been like in the 1920s while you solve brain teasers and test your skills of observation and deduction. As you progress through the story, each chapter will uncover a new scene and a new collection of hidden objects to spy out. It will really make you look twice and become aware of all sorts of things around you you might have missed the first time around. It's a great game that you can play in little bursts throughout the day, and it's a great game to play as you're winding down for the day or if you have a couple of minutes to kill while you're waiting in line for something. So just take a few minutes to relax and lose yourself in the immersive world of June Parker. Click the link in the episode description right now and discover your inner detective when you download June's Journey today for free on iOS or Android.


I'm here with producer Ben Kebrick. We really wanted to share more of our interview with Rick Matz. Rick, you might remember, he was the friend of the Everets who became a suspect and who was polygrapht.


Yeah, so Rick told us some really interesting stories that we didn't have time to include in the series, including this wasn't actually the first time he was polygraphed by the FBI. Wow. He just had stuff to say about the Everets and Conro and what living through this horrible crime was like.


Just some great stuff. Thank you, Ben. I appreciate it.


My name is Rick Matt. In 1995, I had just started working with the Montgomery County Appraisal district.


Are you from Conroe?


Yes. I live on the same property for 135 years now. My family has been right here. Same property, most of the same house.


Is that farmland?


Yeah, it's farmland.


How did you first meet the Everett family?


First Baptist Church, Conroe.


What was your impression of them when you first met them?


Lovely people. The father and I, I soon found out he had an interest in horses, too, and that was our connection. Then I got to where I helped them work in their yard and do odd jobs around their house in between work and at the appraisal district. They were just a lot of fun.


When you first met them, had they already had McKay?


Yes, he was eight or nine. Fun child, outgoing little boy. He was just a boy. I Everybody loved the kid. He was really smart. He was their only child, so they really doded over him. He played the violin, he was in piano. If he wanted to do it, they saw to it that he was able to do so.


I hate to do this, but now I'm hearing a lot of birds and stuff.


Oh, God, yes. Hold on. Don't say... I hear them, the damn blue jays. Hold on just a second. Hey, this is still close to the router. Can you hear me?


Yeah. So you're saying you did gardening and stuff. I guess, would you have been close enough or done enough work around there that you would have had a key to the house and stuff like that?


I did have a key to their house. I did babysit that child occasionally when they would go away. Even overnight stays, I would go and stay at their home.


Had there ever been any problems with that or issues that had- Never, ever, never, never, no. What was the experience of getting the polygraph like?


I knew what it was. It was, Look, I'm the one that needs to write my own podcast, okay? It wasn't my first polygraph where I had done nothing. But I knew what it was about. I knew how to be calm. I knew if you gasped for a breath or something. So you've got to just stay calm and answer their questions.


What were you in for a previous polygraph for?


Jesus. Okay, here's the skinny. I'm not poor, but I love rich hobbies, horses. The first person were horse trainers of ours, and I lived at their home, and she mismanaged some money. And she accused me of stealing $40,000 of jewelry in cash. Good God. Back then, they didn't have polygraph here. I have it to be taken to Austin in the back of a trooper's car. But both times, I will tell you, at the end of the polygraph, I just said, Well, what do you think? The first one, he said, Get the hell out of here. You're a waste of my time. You've done nothing. In the Everett case, when I was leaving, I said, Well, will I hear from you again? He goes, Hell no. Go home and don't worry about this. It's going to be okay.


Yeah. Did that first incident, did that come up after this thing had happened with McKay? Was that one of the things the FBI brought up?


No, they didn't know about that. I never told the ever it's either. It's just embarrassing. But I was very vindicated from that one very quick. I will tell you, I was at a horse show where those people were, and it was very smooth, a new facility polished concrete, and I had tennis shoes on. I'm walking to get drinks for people in the van. It's a horse van. I step on something, I thought, Well, this is stupid. Why would they have left a big old pebble? Ben, I stepped on that freaking ring that was stolen, okay? I kid you not. I'm a believer, but it made a big believer for me. I picked it up. I'm 22 at the time. I go back to the van, I'm crying, and they're like, What the hell? I open my hand and they go, Oh, my God, where did you get that? Everybody knew about it. I told them, and our trainer's wife says, Come with me. She took me over there to that trainer and his wife and said, We have something to show you and to clear his conscience. I held my hand down. The lady told her husband, I told you I had that on this morning.


I said, Well, let me tell you something. This is proof. I don't steal, and I didn't take anything from you. Anyway, the husband sent me a reward, and she never said should. So there you go.


You passed the polygraph, and then was that the last you heard from them, or did they ever come back around to ask more questions?


No. Our pastor at the time, they hadn't been there long, but he phoned me and he said, Ricky, the Everets would love you to come over. I said, I'm not ready to go over there just yet. And he was a retired DPS officer. But he said, You know that they're not accusing you. They're trying to find McKay. I said, I understand all that. And he goes, But I get your grief, too. And I don't know how many days. It wasn't many. I went over when I knew it just would be Carl and Paul at home. And they both apologize. And again, I'm an adult. I realized this is not about me. Their only child had been abducted and taken.


Did you, later on, go back to doing handiwork for them and stuff like that?


No. For a good number of years, I was just turned off by all of it. Again, I still was not pissed. I wasn't mad at him. It It just was, I don't know. It changed everything.


What was it that initially rubbed you the wrong way?


Did it feel like- What rubbed me the wrong way is if I was such a close friend, and I wasn't really being accused, why was it that the librarians is the one who called me? All these other baskets all knew about it, and they were all over their house. But I was on the other side the county being talked about that why would he do something so stupid? So I'm just like, it was much too close.


I guess just to be a little bit of devil's advocate or something. Randy Bartlett was a neighbor who was out with them that night. So he was one of the first people that found out, not because they told him, but just because he was at the Amway meeting or whatever.


Yeah, but he I was also eager to point a finger at a poor kid on the other side of town, too. Yeah, that pissed me off. I was more pissed off at the community of friends than I was at the Everts.


Why did the library call you? She was hearing rumors Well, she was the librarians at McKay School, and her daughter and I were best friends.


She's married now and we're still very good friends, but we hung out a lot. So she knew where I worked. I mean, I saw them all the time. And she heard he was kidnapped, so she called it to ask me, Is it true? I hadn't heard about it.


Yeah. But this is just the morning after he was abducted?


Yeah, it was the morning after. That is correct.


Sorry if this is too personal.


Listen, nothing's personal to me. Okay.


Are you gay?


I am.


And Do you think that was a factor in you being a suspect? I do.


Yes, because they wrote in the stupid little book that I fit the mold of a pedophile because I'm, I don't know, 35 maybe at the time, and I lived at home with my mother. I don't live at home with my mother. My dad was alive. I have an apartment on there. It's attached to their home. But I told you, we lived here in 35 years. There's 14 people that live here. Yeah. Come on, say it correctly. Yeah, I was pissed. Did we ever talk about me being gay? No, but they knew.


Yeah. Was that a factor in why you were angry about it? Did you feel like they were discriminating against you or stereotyping you unfairly?


No, because I don't care about that. No. Be strong in who you are and if they don't like it, then go to hell. I don't care. I mean, I don't do anything that should offend anyone because people know, but I don't wear some rainbow flag. I don't wear pink slippers. I don't do all that. If you want to, you can. It's just not me.


I've got to say, reading through the books, I was also confused about the way they worded it, too. And I was like, Why did this guy emerge as this suspect early on? Then I wondered if there was this unwritten reason that they didn't really want to put in the book, I guess.


Probably, no, they didn't. I'm glad they didn't because it wouldn't have been very nice. You know what? That's 20... What is that? 27 years ago now?


Yeah. At that time in that area, was it common for people to be out?


Not as much now, but the efforts really were accepting of others. The organist and pianist at the big first Baptist Church where I went were gay, and everybody knew it. No one was as open to talk about it as they are now.


People didn't talk about it, but people knew it was a thing.


That is correct. 100% correct.


Do you remember then, did you follow along with the rest of the case and hearing about- Oh, yeah, because it was on the news daily, and it was on for a long time.


Yeah, I did follow it because I cared. It was horrible. I mean, it was their only child, and he was a wonderful kid. I mean, he had been here and stayed with us here. And then, yes, you would follow it.


When you think back to Mickey and Paulette, are there any stories that pop into your mind when you think about them?


No, except a really wonderful connection between a mother and a son. I never heard him have to get in trouble. He never got in trouble. I He was a little boy, but he never got out of line. At end Sunday school, he was just a good kid.


I think one of the things I struggle with this, what's the takeaway from this story? Is it you can't trust anyone? Do you know what I'm saying?


I do. I just say never let your guard down, which basically is what you're saying. You can't trust anyone. But you have to have some trust or you're in isolation.


Has it changed the way you view people at all?


No. I mean, I've been through a lot, and a lot I didn't ask for. But I just think sometimes life just dishes you out bowls of untasty food, and you just have to spit it out and keep going. But no, because if you get all crass and crusty, then you become a hermit, then you don't trust anyone. But at the same time, you just can't let your guard down.


Yeah. Anything else that's popping up in your mind before we- No.


I think I've told you plus. Well, Ben, thank you. It's been an event. Take care.


Yeah, you too. All right.


All right. Bye-bye. Bye.


For more information, including pictures, find us on social at the Ransom podcast or visit our website, ransompodcast. Com. Ransom is written and researched by Ben Kebrick and hosted by Art Rascone. Production and sound design by Ben Kebrick, Erin Mason, and Trent Sell, co-created by Austin Miller. With Podcast One executive producer, Ellie DeVorkin. For Workhouse Media executive producer, Paul Anderson. And with KSL Podcasts executive producer, Sheryl Worsley. Ransom is produced by KSL Podcasts in association with Podcast One and Workhouse Media.