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Hi. Producer Ben Keebrooke here. For the second bonus episode of Ransom, we wanted to share excerpts of an interview I did with FBI agent and lawyer Cindy Rosenthal. She explained really well how the FBI decides when to arrest a suspect. She also shared a lot of interesting stuff about other Houston kidnappings and what it's like to be a lawyer for the FBI.


Back in '95, I was a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My name is Cynthia Rosenthal. I go by Cindy. I think during the time of this case, I was acting as the Chief Division Counsel for the FBI office in Houston, Texas.


What does that mean, Chief Division Counsel?


Most of the lawyers that work for the FBI back at FBI headquarters or other places are not agents. Each FBI field office has one agent who is also a lawyer who acts as the Chief Division Counsel to give legal advice to the agents and act as a liaison between Department of Justice, the US Attorney's Office, with search warrants and Title III warrants and things like that. A lot of times my job was mediating between the US Attorney's Office and the agents, too, because we might think that we could handle something more aggressively, and they wanted to be more reserved about the way we handled the investigation.


How did your training go? Did you go to law school first and then join the FBI?


Yes. I got out of law school. I was from California, and I thought, Man, I'm not sure I want to do this for my career. And one of my neighbors said, Hey, the FBI hires agents. And I went, Oh, that sounds like fun. So I called up the FBI and they say, Well, we hire lawyers who have law degrees, but you're not going to be a lawyer. You're going to be an agent first. And I said, Oh, okay, I can do that. I've never held a gun before in my life. I didn't know any FBI agents, didn't know in law enforcement, but just blindly went into it and ended up really loving it.


I guess that must be a very rare path for people that have a JD, or is it more common than I think?


I think it's more common than you think. There was a rumor for a while that the FBI only hired lawyers and accountants. It's not true. They have people from all kinds of backgrounds, but they do look for people with advanced degrees.


When did you When did you first hear about the McKay Everett Kidnapping?


I don't exactly remember when, but I know that... I'm sure I probably heard about it from Beth Martin, who ran the Kidnapping Squad in Houston and marshaled all the forces.


So they have a specific kidnapping squad?


They divide the office up into different squads, and we handle certain violations. The kidnapping squad generally handles all general crimes, which are kidnappings, extorsions, bank robberies, and things like that. They call them reactive crimes, whereas a white collar squad, you're not reacting to a crime. You're working towards proving it. But on the reactive squad, it's like, boom, you got to go.


Is this a typical kidnapping case, or how did this compare to what they might normally cover?


When I first got to Houston, there were three or four kidnappings right off the bat, and they were pretty common. They're not so common now, but we were used to handling them. We had certain agents who had done them quite a bit. Having McKay just leave the house like that was just odd. It was just scary and odd.


Can you explain that a little bit more? What part of it was odd?


There was no forced entry. There was no indication that he was in trouble. I mean, he was 13, I think he was.


I think 12. That's a pretty mature age.


Right from the beginning, I think people were beginning to think that he knew the person that came and took him.


Yeah. Just to follow up on the You were saying there were a number of kidnapping cases. I guess I was talking to a sheriff, and he was saying something like they would get calls every weekend for a kidnapping, but it would usually be a divorce custody thing or a kid that just ran away and then comes back or something like that. Those cases you were talking about, were those similar kidnappings with ransom cases?


Yes, they were. I know exactly what the Sheriff's Deputy is talking about. There's a lot of calls like that. That's why a lot of, especially when you watch TV, they always say the FBI won't get involved for 24, 48 hours. That depends. But there's got to be some evidence that there is something going on. With McKay and the three that were there when I first got there in '86, they were legit kidnapping someone who'd come in and taken a baby or a young child with immediate ransom calls coming up afterwards.


I think of that as being, I don't know, a crime from the '30s or something like that. I don't think of that as being a modern crime.


I think the last spade of kidnappings that we had during my FBI career were, we called them drug kidnappings. Usually people selling drugs or working in the drug cartel some way, kidnapping someone to get money for the drugs. We handled them the same way, but they weren't as shocking, I guess, as like McKay or having a baby kidnapped or something.


Those earlier kidnappings that you had mentioned when you started working, how did those ones end?


There were two babies and a young man, and we successfully found them either by by paying a ransom or getting them at the ransom drop.


Based on your previous experience, you were holding out hope that McKay would be found alive.


Yes, especially after we knew it was Uncle Hilton, because we would say, Well, he wouldn't kill him. They have a close relationship. He knows this child, he wouldn't kill him, but you never know.


Okay, so you're saying you think you probably heard about McKay's kidnapping some evening. I guess, what was the first step from your perspective? What do you go do first?


Well, I remember my job is to sit back and answer questions. And Beth and the squad were usually pretty good about calling on me when something like that happened. So I'm guessing that I went into the office and just waited for them to need some help.


Are there already legal issues that you're thinking about that probably will come up or might come up?


Probable cause for search warrants, probable cause for Are there going to be any exigent circumstances surrounding it? Is it going to be one of those things where he's going to be driving down the road and we're going to have to stop him right now? And can we do that? And can we pull him over and arrest him? Making sure the boy is safe. All those things that could happen there. But cases break quickly and different things happen. So you can never be sure which way it's going to go and what's going to be necessary.


Do you remember just when you heard about this guy, Hilton Crawford and your reaction to learning the details about the case?


I was shocked. I think I mentioned before that we anticipated that it was someone who knew him just because of how easy McKay went with him. And once we heard that solidified what we thought, but it was just so hard to believe that someone who was loved by that family would do such a horrible thing. It was It was really shocking. What I remember the most about this case is how much it affected his parents, and especially his mother, and how distraught she was, just inconsolable. I'm not sure she's over it today. I think it was one of the hardest things I'd ever seen.


You've referred to him a couple of times as Uncle Hilti. Is that the name that you think of when you think of him?


Yes, that's how he was referred to in the FBI office was Uncle Hilti. It just told you everything you needed to know that he was a friend of the family, and that's how McKay knew him, was Uncle Hilton.


Yeah. Dude, he was like an ex-law enforcement person. He had worked for the police and the sheriff in Beaumont, Texas. Did that also bother people that he'd been in law enforcement?


Yes. Everybody was really shocked to hear that, thinking that he'd lost his moral compass.


After a brief break, we'll be back with FBI lawyer Cindy Rosenthal, who explains how the FBI decides when to arrest a suspect.


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I think one of the things that's been interesting to me about this case is there's this period where Hilton Crawford, he's the main suspect. They're pretty sure he did it, but But they feel like they can't arrest him quite yet. But then this kid is also missing. I'm curious how that decision gets made. How do you decide when do we have enough to arrest this person? How do you factor that against the fact that this child might be out there and in danger.


It's two different situations there because probable cause to arrest him is more probable than not that he committed the crime. Finding the The boy is a completely separate thing. You want to try to talk to him as much as you can. The boy's life is first and foremost what we're worried about. The probable cause to arrest is just going to come with everything that leads up to it before or after that. We got to find him. That's the main focus of anything is finding him.


I think from my naive perspective, it's like, well, you think this guy did it and the kid's still out there. Just arrest him and try to start putting the pressure on him to give this kid up. Curious if you can explain that thought process.


Okay. We can talk to him as much as we want without arresting him. Custody plus interrogation means arrest. If we're talking to him in his home or if he voluntarily comes in to talk to us, we can talk to him as long as we want about where the boy is without placing him under arrest. It's once he knows that he's no longer free to leave when he wants to, then he's under arrest and we have to have probable cause at that point. It's a fine line, but talking to him is not a problem. If he wants to talk to us and he wants to engage us, we can do everything we can to try to find out where that boy is without him being under arrest.


Is there something, too, where once you arrest him, you read him the Miranda rights, and he might just get a lawyer and stop talking? In some ways, it's easier to get him to talk before you arrest him?


It all just depends on the circumstances of the case. It's really that freedom to leave question. That really doesn't come into play unless we're afraid that we're going to lose him. If we've got everything we need and we think we've got enough, we know where the boy is, and then we're going to go ahead and arrest him anyway. But if we're just talking to him to find out where the boy is, in my experience, they play it up a lot on TV. But if people want to talk, they want to talk. Often, Miranda doesn't keep him from talking. It just doesn't make a difference whether he's Mirandized. I mean, of course, it makes a difference for the law if he's Mirandized, but whether or not he's going to talk, it doesn't really matter.


At that point where he's the main suspect, but he hasn't been arrested yet, I mean, would he probably be surveilled around the clock?


I'm sure. I'm sure because he could also lead us to the boy at that point.


Yeah. Are there any other memories that have popped up as we've been talking about this?


I think it was one of those things where I'm sure parents in the community were locking up their kids and doing background investigations on everybody they knew that were coming to the house afterwards. It really had a chilling effect on everyone.


Did you have kids at that time?


Yes, babies.


Did it affect the way you raise your kids at all?


I'm not sure. I think just in general, my job did. So this was one of many that might have affected that. Sometimes I think some of my friends who had nothing to do with law enforcement were much more worried about it than I was. But the FBI and the academy, they teach you to be cognizant of your surroundings and to vary your routes to and from work and to just be careful of those things. It just became a part of our lives. My kids tease me about it all the time that for their how-to demonstration that they had to do in eighth grade, they did how to handcuff a defendant because that was just the stuff they knew about in our house, just from talking to everybody about it all the time. It became a way of life.


That's like the dinner table conversation and stuff like that?


Yeah, exactly.


One of the things I struggle with this story is what is the takeaway message? Curious if there is anything that you've taken away from it.


It's just one of these things that you hate to say it, but sometimes stuff just happens, and stuff happens to good people. It's just a confluence of events that becomes the right thing because any murder case, any of these kidnapping cases are just like, wow. No, they're not the norm. They're rare. You just can't stop living your life because of them.


Yeah. Well, anyway, it's been great talking to you. Thanks so much.


Yeah. And if you need anything else, let me know. I told you, I get in my car and I turn on a podcast, and true crime is my I am.


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


Hi, producer Ben Kiebrake here again. Hope you've been enjoying Ransom and these bonus episodes. If you have, please share it. Let other people know. Follow us on your favorite podcast app. That helps more people find this show, especially early on in the show's run. It can really make a difference, and we'd love to hear from you. So leave a rating and review as well. All right. Thanks so much.