I parked my police car on the road overlooking Lawson’s Eagle River home. The arrest teams were in place. The first team consisted of FBI and Secret Service agents assigned to arrest Bob, while the other team, made up of APD and ATF Agents, was to take Lawson into custody. Each group was decked out in their flat black tactical uniforms. The front and back of each officer’s ballistic vest was emblazoned with each agency’s logo. Every officer had his handgun in a drop-down black thigh holster and each agent carried his or her rifle of choice, usually a short barreled Remington 870 shotgun or an H&K MP5 submachine gun. Each of the teams moved into position just around the corner of the house and was awaiting the signal. My radio sounded a momentary click followed by a static buzz. It was Rebecca, my eyes and ears on the ground.
“The teams are in place. Standing by for okay,” she said.
I looked at my watch. It was 9:25 A.M. I knew Bob’s routine was consistent. He left for work on time every morning at 9:30 A.M. I watched through my binoculars, waiting for anything that would tell me Bob was coming out alone. A few minutes later I could see the front door open. A man exited and shut the door behind him. He was wearing a black coat, a baseball cap, and he was carrying a coffee mug in his left hand. The hot steam from his coffee was easy to see in the cold of the morning. It was Bob. I pressed the button on the side of my radio.
“Initiate. Initiate. Initiate,” I said into the microphone. As soon as I spoke the command, I could see the first team begin moving towards the house on foot. They were in a direct line to meet Bob at the corner of his white pickup truck. By the time Bob came around the corner of his house he was met by half a dozen handguns and shotguns.
“Police! Stop! Don’t Move!” the scout in the front of the team yelled. Bob immediately stopped in his tracks. Instinctively he put his hands up. Two of the team members came up from behind him and pushed him facedown into the snow bank. Bob’s coffee mug went flying into the yard, leaving what looked like brown blood spatter across the snow. As the first team was securing him, the second team was already moving towards the front door of the house. Four members took positions on each side of the door while a fifth officer approached with a large breeching ram. With a single swing of the metal ram, the door exploded inward, splinters of wood flying. Right on cue, the team entered one at a time with guns poised in a ready position as they entered the house looking for Mike.
“One suspect in custody,” I heard on the radio. I looked back and saw a snow-covered Bob being escorted in handcuffs into a marked police car. The APD vehicle was purposefully set up near the scene just to transport him back into Anchorage. I watched as the agents placed the disheveled, snow covered man into the backseat of the car.
I turned my binoculars back to the house. I prayed Lawson was not going to take the chicken-shit way out and shoot himself or start a losing gun battle with trained professionals. I wanted him to face a more earthly justice. I held my breath.
“Team Two coming out with one,” Rebecca radioed. A moment later I saw her coming out of the house with a sleepy and pissed off Mike Lawson. He was still wearing his pajama bottoms and a large, wrinkled t-shirt. He was barefoot as the officers walked him, in handcuffs, over the snow-covered road and into an unmarked ATF SUV.
I hope your feet freeze, Mike.
“Is everyone 10-2?” I asked over the radio.
“Everyone is okay and the residence is secure,” Rebecca radioed back.
“Have the teams begin searching the house,” I replied. A moment later I pressed the microphone key again.
“Great job everyone.”
I threw my radio onto my front passenger seat, I put my car into drive, and began the 30-minute ride back to Anchorage.
Part one down. Part two to go.
I had to walk through several layers of heavy security at the FBI headquarters in order to just get to the meeting room. Special Agent Colton Seale escorted me through the heavily fortified doors and into the main conference room. Inside Sharon Marshall was waiting for me, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bradley and Mac Whisler from the Secret Service.
“Do you have the file?” I asked Colton. “Right here,” he said, pointing to a thick white binder. On the front of the notebook he had plastered a photograph for each of the agencies involved in the case. In the middle of the page there was a photograph of Bethany, the same one that was on all of her missing posters. On the top of the binder it read, “Bethany Correira Task Force.”
“Nice name,” I said.
Colton and Mac both stood at attention, waiting for the order to leave. They had an important role to play and I had chosen these two special agents for a reason. I wanted them to be the first people Bob gets to see. I was way too familiar to him. I wanted him to feel lost, alone, and without anyone he recognized. Additionally, I knew the image of the FBI and the Secret Service carried a lot more weight with people than my little local police badge. I looked at Sharon.
“Anything else before they go in?” I asked.
“Don’t forget to read him his Miranda Rights,” she said with her brow furrowed. I knew when Sharon made that face she was being serious. I looked back at Colton and Mac. They both nodded. I had confidence in them. I had to. I could not do this part myself. I shook their hands and wished them good luck. Colton picked up his one-of-a-kind notebook and they left through a side door.
I took off my jacket and sat down at the conference table. I put my hands together, took a deep breath, and waited. No one said anything. The FBI did not have video or audio feeds in their interview rooms so we had no way of knowing what was happening. We could only wait. The clock in the conference room ticked loudly. Two minutes became five minutes and five minutes became ten.
“What is taking them so long?” I asked Sharon. She looked at me and said, “The longer they are in there, the better it is for us.”
Another ten minutes passed before the door opened. In walked a woman, dressed in a dark suit. I didn’t recognize her, but she definitely looked like an FBI Agent.
“Detective Klinkhart?” she asked.
I nodded “yes.”
“Our people at the Lawson residence found this and thought you should see it.” She handed me a single sheet of paper. I looked at the note. I immediately recognized Lawson’s terrible handwriting. The letter appeared to have been written some time ago, but it was addressed to me.
To Detective Klinkhart:
I did nothing wrong now go and find the real person who had something to do with Bethany. You are trying to get to me through my brother. That is about as low as you could go. How dare you lie to my boss, my brother, but most of all to Bethany’s parents?
How can you put your head on your pillow at night knowing that you staged a witch hunt on an innocent man?
I know that in your eyes once a con, always a con. Did you ever think that one con may have changed?
I sighed, laughed a nervous laugh, and slid the note into my binder.
“What was that?” Sharon asked. I was about to say “nothing” when the door opened again. It was Colton and Mac. Immediately I stood up. They didn’t say a word. Colton looked at Sharon and then at me. Finally he said, “Bob wants to talk to his brother.”
“We can’t let them talk,” Sharon snipped, “He will convince Bob to shut his mouth.”
Tom Bradley agreed. I looked over at Colton hoping for something, anything that might help me understand. He explained Bob would not tell them why he wanted to speak with his brother. I rubbed my face. I had to think. You never let suspects talk to each other. That is the basic rule of police interrogation. You separate them in different rooms and you play each of them against the other. That’s how it’s done. Letting them talk to each other leads at best to collusion. At worst they both stop talking.
Goddamn it, we are so close.
Why does Bob want to talk to his brother?
Does he want to warn him?
Does he want to help him?
Why talk to Mike?
I had interviewed Bob a dozen times over the past year. Each time I talked with him, I gained a little more insight into the brothers’ co-dependent lives. I learned from Bob how the two inseparable brothers relied on each other for everything. Clearly, Mike had an evil side to him. He was the more aggressive brother, the talker, while Bob was passive, but a hard worker.
Is Bob evil like his brother?
I didn’t think so. I had to believe Bob had a conscience. If he didn’t have a conscience, then whatever I did next wouldn’t mean shit anyway. I had to have faith in something. I had to have hope.
“Let Bob talk to his brother,” I said.
Sharon was about to say something and then she stopped. She could tell my mind was made up. Maybe she agreed with my decision or maybe she didn’t, but all I cared about was finding Bethany. If I had to trust someone that I shouldn’t trust, then so be it. If I was wrong, then it was going to be my fault and mine alone.
I grabbed the phone and called Rebecca over at the ATF building. I told her to set Lawson up with a telephone. I wrote down the phone number on a piece of paper. I ripped off the paper and handed it to Colton. He and Mac turned and left the room. I sat in my chair and waited. No one said a word. Finally Sharon asked, “What do you think, Glen?” I nodded my head.
“I think Bob wants to know that his brother will do the right thing,” I said.
She looked at me and replied, “You think so?”
“Lawson won’t ever do the right thing.” I said, not answering her question. “And that’s the problem. That’s been the problem the entire time.”
Just then Colton came racing back into the room.
“Bob wants to speak with his attorney,” he said. Sharon picked up the phone and began frantically trying to reach Bob’s lawyer. I asked Colton to sit down and tell me everything. He began by saying when they first entered the interview room they introduced themselves and told Bob they were with the FBI and the Secret Service. They read him his Miranda Rights and he agreed to waive those rights and to speak. Colton said he did just as we had planned. He explained to Bob the multiple federal charges against him. He went through each charge, one at a time, to show Bob just how fucked he was. Colton then explained the potential penalties and how both brothers were looking at fifteen years in federal prison.
“How did Bob react?” I asked.
“He was scared shitless,” he said. “He was shaking the entire time.”
“Good. What about the call to his brother?”
“Bob called the number you gave us and they talked for about a minute. Bob tried to explain to his brother that things were really bad and we weren’t going away. Afterward Bob didn’t say much. I could not hear what Lawson was saying on the other end of the phone but he was yelling a lot. When his brother was done yelling, Bob told him he loved him and then he simply hung up on his brother.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and I turned to Sharon.
“I already got a hold of Sidney,” Sharon said. “She is on her way.”
Attorney Sidney Billingslea is a great defense attorney. I have a lot of respect for Sid. She is smart and she defends her clients honorably. By that I mean she won’t stoop to underhanded or unethical means, but she works hard for her clients. I tell all new officers who have a case against her that they’d better have their shit together, because she will. That being said, I was extremely happy when I heard Bob had hired her after our last conversation. I had confidence she would see the federal case against her client was solid and that we had him between a rock and a hard place. It took a while for Sidney to get to the FBI headquarters but when she did, two FBI agents escorted her directly into the conference room. She walked in with her usual commanding presence, threw her coat onto a chair, and got right to the point.
“What do you have and what’s in it for my client?” she asked. Telling a defense attorney everything you have right away is not usually the normal process, but this wasn’t the normal process and this wasn’t a normal case. I opened up my folder and went over each of the federal charges against her client. I then explained to her what we really wanted. We wanted Bob to tell us everything he knew about his brother and about Bethany’s disappearance. The deal was simple: if Bob told us everything, he would be charged, but would not serve any time in prison. Sidney nodded. She was then escorted out of the room to speak with her client. I was again left to just sit in my chair. A few minutes later Sidney walked back into the room.
“Bob will tell you everything,” she said.