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[00:00:00]

Thanks to Green Chef for supporting this episode of Tom Brown's body, Green Chef is a USDA certified organic company. Go to Green Chef dot com slash TVB eight zero and use code TTB eight zero to get eighty dollars off across four boxes, including free shipping on your first box. All right, let's talk about talk about in terms of interrogation, because I read my notes and I thought I need a better a fuller explanation of what was going on.

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I mean, so Rachel Callejo says, please show up.

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In my office in Austin at the attorney general's office in February 2013, Tom's mom, Penny, got a phone call. It was Rachel Kaeding from the Texas attorney general's office. Keating and her partner, Chris Smith, had just been assigned to Tom's case. She asked a penny. Her husband, Chris Meek, and her older son, Tucker, could come to Austin for an interview. They made the seven hour drive from Canadian and Pene Suburban. When they arrived, they were directed to a windowless conference room where Keating and Smith were waiting.

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Here's Penny and Tucker on what happened next.

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I mean, it wasn't like we were in interrogation or we were in of Cycloset. You know, basically. I mean, everybody was just kind of a side office. That no dark window on the wall. No, there was no windows. It was not an interrogation room. I mean, it was just. Yeah.

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The two investigators, Pinny said, were pleasant. Pinny had brought along a binder with 11 pages of typed notes. It was a detailed history of the case from her perspective, beginning with the night Sheriff Lewis had supposedly hassled Tom at the movie theater.

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We just we basically went through the timeline, you know, what happened on basically day one day to, you know, what did we do the night that he didn't come home? Just things like that.

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At the end of the interview, Katie and Smith brought up a polygraph exam.

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And then they asked us if we were we would be willing to take a lie detector test. We all said, sure, because we're not going to hide. And then then that was it. That was the end of the meeting. We went home, went our separate ways, and then they did a lie detector test.

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A few weeks later, the two attorney general investigators would not talk to me for this story. But according to Pinny, they promised that the lie detector tests were a routine procedure. It was arranged for Penny and Chris to take their exam in the panhandle town of Pampa, not far from Canadian. When they arrived, Penny agreed to go first. The polygraph examiner asked her a series of yes or no questions. At one point, she was asked if she had been communicating with Tom.

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The Examiner later asked if she knew where Tom was. She answered no to both questions. As soon as the exam ended, Katie and Smith entered the room, Pinny said they were clearly bothered by the test results and they immediately accused her of knowing a lot more about her son's disappearance than she was letting on.

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From Texas Monthly. I'm Skip Hollandsworth. This is Tom Brown's body. Episode six. When I visited Penny and her family at their home earlier this year, we talked at length about the polygraph exam, Penny told me the investigators never specified which questions triggered their accusations.

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What are the questions you think you might have failed? They kept saying that I had communicated with Thomas and I to me, I mean, in my mind, I was thinking, you know, communication is a two way street.

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And so I finally I said, I have not communicated with them. I said I have sent text messages to his phone since he went missing. And I said, can I get my phone now?

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Penny explained that for more than a year after Tom disappeared, she sent text messages to his phone. Tom, of course, never responded.

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His phone hadn't been turned on since the night he disappeared.

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Do you recall what were in those text messages?

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Yeah, I mean, read them to me, OK, like what date? So on February 14th, I said Happy birthday now.

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Sorry, on February 14th, I said Happy Valentine's Day, love you. On May 7th. You were honored today at church for seeing your Sunday. Penny pauses and tries to compose herself. Eventually, she passes the phone to Tucker so that he can read the rest of the star care.

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You were on a today in church for senior Sunday, have your gifts, you are not forgotten. I hope you do not feel like you have been. Many people pray for you every day. I miss you, and I am so ready for you to come home. Love, Thomas.

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Fourth of July without you, another holiday without you home. My heart breaks, I will never stop praying for you. I love you. April 3rd. Love you. September 3rd, 2017. Good night. October 7th, 2017. Love you, Thomas. Sober 24th, 2017. Good night, Thomas. On November 9th, 2017. Can't wait for you to be home. I love you. November 24th. Twenty seventeen. Just spent our second Thanksgiving without you.

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I love you and can't wait for you to be home. December 25th, twenty seventeen, Merry Christmas, Thomas, love you always, January 1st, twenty eighteen, happy new Year. Love you. Just want you to be home. We miss you. February 4th, twenty eighteen. I hope you get to watch the Super Bowl, sorry, the Patriots lost love you and pray for you every day. March 30th, twenty eighteen, we have tried so hard to find you and bring justice to your disappearance, but I failed.

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I'm sorry I failed. You love you all. During the time you were texting Thomas and 2072, they tape was this glimmer of hope that he might be alive.

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I mean, maybe we just we both held on onto that. Mm hmm. Because what else do you do? I mean, you don't have any proof of his death. You don't have any proof that you know that he's alive. So you just go with the more positive and say, yeah, he's I mean, we held on to that dream that maybe he would reemerge one day as a as a wrestler and actor. And he just was tired of living here.

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And that's that's what we held onto. Penny said she showed her text messages to the investigators, they then turned to a different line of questioning and then they kept saying that I knew where the body was.

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I knew what happened. I had found him that night. I moved his body and I said, I. I go, Are you looking at me? Because I go, I'm not even five five. He weighs almost 200 pounds. I go, How am I supposed to move his body? He's over six foot tall.

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I go, I couldn't even pick him up when he was alive. I can't pick him up when he's dead. I can't move a body. And then they were like, well, we think that Tucker or Chris helped you. And I said, Chris has back problems. I have my own health issues. I can't. I mean, I can, but I'm going to have surgery. So I go. It doesn't really make sense that either one of us would do that.

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And I said Tucker couldn't pick him up either.

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Did Rachel give you her theory? Why would you move? Did she say why? You said she thought you would move the body because he had committed suicide. And I was embarrassed because my dad had.

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The investigators must have listened to a recording of the interview Pinny had given at the sheriff's department back in late November 2016, a few days after Tom had vanished. During that interview, Pinny told officers that she initially feared that Tom had killed himself. She also explained that there was a history of suicide in her family. Pinnies father, who suffered from depression, shot himself in the head at a campsite near Lake Marvin in 1998. I asked Penny more about that family tragedy than tell me about your dad.

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And his name was Deputy Kendall Kendall Pinnies.

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Dad was raised on a farm outside of Canadian. After getting married and having children. He moved the family to Colorado.

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And so we went up there. We ended up buying our own farm and ranch, but we had about three or four or five years of really bad luck.

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We lost cattle, we lost crops. And my dad finally said, we're not making it. So we got to we got to go do something else.

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They ended up moving back to Canadian in the late 70s, and Penny's dad found work in the oil field. Penny was in middle school. She was in the same class as Salem Abraham. You might remember him from Episode one. He's now known as the richest man in town for you.

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Things like cheerleader drill team. I was the mascot. I played basketball and ran track classic small town girl. Yeah. OK, so your dad's moves the family down. The Canadian, he's working in the oil fields and begins to get depressed or at least shown signs of depression. Now, a temperament about him that was different. No, he I think looking back now, I think he had anxiety also. But again, people didn't really talk about it was I don't think it was really treatable or maybe.

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Well, I guess it was, but I'm not sure people really understood it then. I don't know. It was just hard.

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I think my mom really, really knew because she was with him all the time. But I think she didn't know what to do for him. I think she know how to help him because he was of that generation where you don't go get counseling, you don't go get help because that's not manly or, you know, whatever, I think just a culmination of things. And he had lost his job.

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Penny's dad had found a side gig as a carpenter one day. He didn't come home from work. They searched for him all night. Penny's brother found him the next morning near his car just off like Marvin's road. Piney was thirty two at the time. She was actually pregnant with Tom, but that wasn't the first time tragedy had struck the family. Ten years earlier, in nineteen eighty eight, Penny's grandparents, Carole and Alfa Kendall, had died near the Texas coastal town of Port Aransas, where they had lived for two years.

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Their bodies were found washed up on the shore after a sudden, strong storm. Penny said her grandmother had also struggled with anxiety and depression.

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And I think that she had gotten really scared that something would happen to my grandfather and she wouldn't know how to function because she me write a check to pay bills. And she had told my grandfather before that she was going to commit suicide and they were near the ship channel, possibly out on a pier down there because they it was a pier that they fished off of and both of them drowned.

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And we don't know any more than that.

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There were no witnesses to this day. No one is certain what happened or how they died. But around Canadian people talked about Pinney's Family being coerced by suicide. And apparently Kaeding and Smith suspected that Penny was so distressed about another suicide in her family, this one involving her son, that she had improvised a plan to cover it up.

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So they're thinking he committed suicide. He drove the car back to the house and committed suicide in the driveway.

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They never said, where do they think he committed suicide?

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I have no idea. Do they say that he committed suicide at your house and you then drove and they never said they never said where I thought.

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Did they ask, you know, how he had committed suicide? I mean, there's no blood.

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And they said it was some kind of I found him in some kind of sexual, some kind of suicidal, something like I don't even know what that is. I know what she's talking about.

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Pety said they kept returning to the same accusation. You know where he's at. You know his body. You're embarrassed because he committed suicide. And you just don't want people to know. So Rachel gives you this interrogation. I mean, it's not like I know, you know. No, not like that. It was more like I think, you know, they kept saying, I think, you know, it's like now I don't to to hide the suicide because you didn't want to be ashamed in this community.

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Yeah.

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If what Penny's telling me is accurate, then Keating and Smith, a pair of respected and seasoned investigators, had come up with a flabbergasting theory. But did they have any evidence to support their premise or were they simply using an old cop trick, pretending to know something in hopes of provoking a confession? Whatever their strategy was, Pinny confessed to nothing. When the interrogation was concluded, she was ushered out of the room and Chris was brought in. He, too, denied knowing anything about what happened to Tom that night.

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In 2016, Katie and Smith eventually told them both they could go home. The Penny and Chris were shaken by the experience. Pinny was especially upset. She told Chris she did not want Tucker taking a polygraph because I felt like he was really struggling.

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And I was like, oh, I'm all end up losing both my boys. If they polygraph him and we don't have anything, we don't know anything. And I was like, I'm not doing that. You mean because they knew you had been so anxious that the register would go off saying you'd answer the first question?

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I just will because we took the polygraph and then we got interrogated and I was like, they're just not going to do that to him because like I said, he was struggling.

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I felt like he was depressed. And I was like, I'm not going down there. I'm not going to lose both my kids. I mean, it could I mean, you could push him over the edge. I was like, I'm not doing that.

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Were you worried that they were going to say things to upset Tucker so much that he would want to in his own life?

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Yeah, I thought it was very possible. I mean, if you haven't been interrogated like that, it messes with you. Pinny called Tucker during their drive home from the polygraph exam. He was a senior at Oklahoma State at the time.

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I would have been outside. I usually I usually went outside of my house. We had a little patio and she said, if, you know, our polygraph was pretty rough. And she said, you know, if they call you and ask you tell them that you want that you don't want to do that. You're not going to. And if they push any further, just say call your attorney.

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Tucker is a wiry, intense, intelligent young man, he was majoring in political science and he planned to work for the government, perhaps the FBI or CIA. He was also contemplating running for public office someday. But Tom's disappearance had upended his life.

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I tried to, you know, because I was I was in college and I was hell bent on living a normal college life despite what was going on. So I, you know, usually just drank it all the way and partied. And, you know, I forced myself to live a college life. And, you know, there were days that I would definitely have breakdowns. Sometimes when I was, you know, at a party, I'd have a breakdown and I have to go home.

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But for the most part, I just I told myself, I don't know what happened. Therefore, I can't you know, I'm just going to hold on to the to the the possibility that he may still be alive. And so, of course, there was some anxiety there that, you know, on the darker days that he wasn't going to come home. And that bothered me because there's always that possibility. But I tried to stay as positive as I could.

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I don't be offended by this question, but a reader is going to read this section and go, well, why not take a lie detector test even if you were emotionally upset, takes a lie detector test, clear your day.

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I mean, I didn't really I've no idea. I mean, I don't know how to answer that because I had not done anything. You know, I. I mean, I never was guilty. And so I was trying to get through school. And I guess to answer the question, lie detector tests are not a good way to measure somebody's honesty. People can crack them all the time. I mean, you can you can buy books on cracking those things.

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And so they're not a very accurate way. And they're really just kind of a tactic to scare you or to try to make you think that they have an upper edge on you.

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Tucker is absolutely right about this. By the way, lie detectors are widely regarded as unreliable. The results aren't even permitted in court as evidence. But it turned out that Tucker never had to refuse the polygraph because Rachel Kaeding never followed up with him to take one she never asked again.

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So to answer your question in a roundabout way, if they're not going to ask, I. I mean, you're not going to volunteer. I'm not going to volunteer.

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But another thing is that people who never go through this, they don't understand. You know, what what what what it's like. I mean, they have no idea. So they can make judgments like that and say, why didn't he clear his name? Why didn't he do this? I mean, they they don't have any idea. And the fact is, she never called you and said, will you come to Tampa? She never called me and asked me to do a polygraph test.

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By then, Katie and Smith had moved on to other sources they wanted to polygraph. Next up, the private investigator, Philip Klein. Matty and Johnny here and we teamed up with Green Chef Green Chef is a USDA certified organic company. Meal plans include vegan, vegetarian, paleo and Kitto Use Code TEEB eight zero to get eighty dollars off across four boxes, including free shipping on your first box at Green Chef Dotcom Igby eight zero. When I'm cooking, I want to feel great about what I'm eating and how the ingredients got to my table with green chef.

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Green Chef managers have a real variety of meal plans with clean ingredients you can trust, and they're seasoning sauce for peak freshness. I could tell from the meal I made last week because it's fall and you know, that means Johnny, it's butternut squash season. My favorite. I have the Ketumile and made cumin roasted pork chops with a side of roasted butternut squash. It was full of flavor and the perfect weeknight meal not going to lie. That sounds pretty good.

[00:20:47]

Many I have the balance loving meal plan and the shepherd's pie is definitely fitting this cold weather vibe right now.

[00:20:53]

Totally. We all need some warm comfort food right now. Go to Green Chef Dotcom teeb eight zero and use code TBP eight zero to get eighty dollars off across four boxes, including free shipping on your first box. Thank you for supporting Tom Brown's body. Klein said he got a call from the investigators early that summer, they had a brief conversation on the next words out of their mouth was, we'd like you to come to Waco, Texas.

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You said before we believe you planted the phone. We want to put you on a polygraph machine. I said, I'll be up there tomorrow. Let's go. We'll call you in two or three weeks. Now, I want to go tomorrow. I'm on the box. Tomorrow I'm on the box.

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Put me on the box.

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On the box, you'll recall, is cop parlance for a polygraph machine. I'm ready. Let's go.

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Well, we can't do two or three weeks because we got schedule. OK, fine. Put me up there. But you get me on that box as best you can. Get me on that box because I'll be God damn. I've got a few words I want to say to you both as soon as I get off the box. When the polygraph was finally administered, Klein said that he was asked several questions about the October 2017 discovery of Tom's cell phone on like Marvin's road.

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He claims investigators were convinced he'd planted evidence to make himself look like a hero for making a big break in the case. Klein also said he was asked if he was involved with Tom's family and a cover up sent him a box of chocolates.

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When goes he's righteous and then I wingless. Keating wasn't there, but Klein said he confronted Chris Smith for insinuating he had planted the phone. So let me tell you something.

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You guys got a sheriff problem. You don't got a private investigator problem. You got a sheriff's problem. You only pull your heads out of your asses. But I'll tell you what, I'm tired of being treated like the bad guy here. I'm the good guy. My team are the good guys. I got people from all over the United States that are top in their in their in their careers.

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I don't have fly by night people that I hire yesterday and say go investigate homicide.

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Undeterred, Keating and Smith forged ahead, calling in another source, Sheriff Nathan Lewis. Lewis, of course, had wanted the attorney general's office to come up to Canadian and investigate Tom's case. He said he was fed up with all the gossip and he hoped the investigators would uncover the truth and in the process clear his name. But Lewis wasn't expecting to be put on the box. He told me he was an anxious person and he knew that didn't bode well for a polygraph.

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A person that, you know, like me and I'll tell you about myself. Oh, I'm more of a nervous Nellie pill. I'll take Lexapro because, you know, I've I have anxiety, Rowlatt. I've always had I've always had anxiety.

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When he was hooked up to the polygraph machine, he said the examiner had a hard time even getting a baseline reading.

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Well, I'm here to tell animal shit if you I mean if that's all right. Messing up. Yeah. And I'm telling the truth, this ain't going to be good. I said I'm nervous as a son of a bitch. Just sit strapped in your damn chair. I'm the sheriff. I'm a law enforcement guy. I give these test and now I'm being strapped in here as as a name suspect. But I said I feel like a damn suspect criminal sitting here in this damn chair.

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I'm nervous. Son of a gun.

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Lewis said that toward the end of the examination, he was asked a question that he thought was unfair.

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They asked me the question, are you involved in the disappearance of Tom Brown? And they said yes or no answers. And I said, well, well, that ain't that question a bunch of crap because I am involved in Tongeren disappearance. This whole thing is eat me up. This whole I'm involved in this case. My mind races on that question. Well, you're still being deceitful, said my bullshit. I'm done. I've done this. You know, I took this lie detector test because I wanted one because I'm trying to clear my name.

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But then you asked me a question of are you involved in the disappearance of Tom Burnett, who. Yeah, I am. But my answer's no, because I'm not involved in the in the way that they're asking the question.

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But in reality, in my mind, my internal thinking, they I'm wrapped up in this damn case. This whole case is run in my damn life right now.

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As you can hear, Lewis is still pretty steamed about all of this. I just think the whole thing was a sham. I really do. I don't feel like it went well. I don't feel like that I was asked the right questions, you know, and I'll never take another one again. I showed up there rear. I'll never take another lie detector test in my life just because of the way I was treated. I'll never do. Despite the suggestions that both Lewis and Penny had failed parts of their exams, nothing seemed to come of the lie detector tests.

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In fact, as the months pass, Katie and Smith didn't seem to be making much progress on the case at all. They double checked the alibis of various teenagers, and they even reinvestigated, of all things, the woodchipper rumors. They studied the security camera footage showing Thomas Tarango driving up and down the Canadian streets. And they subpoenaed records from the gas station where Tom had filled up on Thanksgiving Eve to see who else had purchased gasoline around the same time.

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Still, it seemed like they couldn't catch a break. In October 2013, eight months after Cadigan Smith had arrived in Canadian, Pene went on Chris samples radio show, he asked her what she was picking up from the attorney general investigators.

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I do not hear a lot from them. I really try not to contact them too much because they always tell me the same thing. They say we can't tell you anything, but we are working. And really, that's all I want to know is that they're working. They are very tight lipped. And all I know is that they're working. Sheriff Lewis was actually in the same boat as Penny, he wasn't privy to the investigators work either, but he, too went on samples show to talk about the case in closing.

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Sheriff, what have been the impacts in your take on your community, the community of Canadian, with this horrible case?

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I think the community and myself and this department, they want closure for this case and they're ready for it to be handled. I think that's basically what it comes down to. So I think everybody is they pray about it. They pray about it daily to have this thing done with. I wake up every day praying that something happens. I pray for the attorney general. I want them to figure the mess out and get it dealt with.

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Everyone's prayers, however, seem to go unanswered. Then on January 9th, 20 19, one of Lewis's deputies, Gregory, was on patrol. He was driving near the very end of Lake Marvin's Road, 12 miles from where Tom's cell phone had been found. He spotted a deer trail from the road as a hobby. Gregory collects antlers that have been shed by deer. So he pulled over, got out of his truck and followed the trail for a few hundred feet.

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He ducked under a row of trees, and as he came up the other side, he noticed something in a thicket.

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And I see what it looks like as to what all lining up under the thinking. What the heck is that? So I kind of walk around some shrubs, come up to where that is. As I get closer, I can see that it kind of looks like foam. And I'm thinking, what the heck is that? You know, so I step up, there's a little bald spot on the ground, you know, kind of closer to where that is.

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I step up to it and I kind of lean over and look at the front side and I see what appears to be two sockets.

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I see he sprinted as fast as he could back to his truck and he called Sheriff Lewis.

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He's like, oh, you know, messing with me, whatever. I said, no, seriously, I just found a skull. I'm pretty sure that's what I said, cause I was shocked.

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He didn't know it for sure at the time.

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But that skull, that Pine Gregory had found. Was Tom's. Next week on Tom Brown's body. I think that Tom hid his secrets very well. He wore a mask a lot of the time and I don't think a lot of people knew the real him. Tom Brown's body is a Texas Monthly production executive producer is Megan Krait, produced and engineered by Brian Sandefer, who also wrote the music. Jaquet Neko is our editor and Paul Knight is our fact checker.

[00:30:02]

Audio assistants are Sean Cronin and Imogene Hopper. Our theme music is No Hard Feelings by The Avett Brothers. I'm your writer and host Skip Hollandsworth. If you like the show, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening. See ya next week. Looking for more Texas Monthly podcasts, check out one by Willy, a new Willie Nelson podcast hosted by Texas Monthly staff writer John Spong in the wise words of Spong. Times are tough for just about everybody.

[00:30:36]

People need some good news. They need some WELI. Have a listen.

[00:30:40]

I'm John Spong with Texas Monthly magazine and I'm the host of One by Willie, a podcast in which I talk each week to one notable Willie Nelson fan about one Willie song that they really love. Tune in to hear artists like Margo Price and Lyle Lovett discuss a Willie song that might be among your favorites or in some cases, one that you've never even heard of.

[00:30:58]

But in every instance, you learn about Willie's singular ability to make a profound connection with one simple song, Fine One by Willie at Apple podcasts or wherever you go for your favorite shows.