News & Politics

My First Time . . . Coaxing a Confession From a Suspect

Brad Garrett shares his tale of a career first.

As told to Harry Jaffe

When I joined the FBI in 1985, my first assignment was in Nashville. We investigated a lot of bank robberies. I started establishing relationships with local police—a practice that worked well in solving murder cases when I later worked out of the field office in DC.

A cop on the Nashville police department came to us with a tip about a guy they suspected of being involved in a child sex ring. The US government had just started actively investigating child abuse, child pornography, and exploitation. We followed the lead.

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We discovered that the guy was into Satanic worship. He had sealed off his house, covered the windows with black curtains, hung goat heads on the walls. The only light in the house came from candles on the fireplace mantle.

It wasn’t against the law to have Satanic material in your house, but he used it to lure troubled children into his den. “Worship the devil, worship me,” was his come-on. He told kids he knew Satan.

We raided his house one night and brought him back to our offices. He was a polite man, shy. Embarrassed and scared. My goal was to establish a relationship with him, make him confess, solve the case.

I gave him the sense I was going to take care of him. I told him what was going to happen to him, that he was probably going to jail, and we talked in that vein for at least an hour before I actually started the interview.

He gave it up to me pretty quickly. He admitted that he never believed in Satanism—he used it as a tool to have relationships with kids.

You have to treat suspects as human beings no matter what you might think of them. If you do, they will trust you—and talk. That has served me well whether I’ve been interviewing a terrorist or a murder suspect.

This was a very troubled young man. He was schizophrenic. He was on meds. My job as an investigator was to solve the case—my personal feelings couldn’t get in the way.

He pleaded guilty and served time in jail. When I transferred to DC, he contacted me. He said he had gotten his life back in order and was in graduate school.

Retired FBI agent Brad Garrett is a private investigator and a consultant for ABC News.