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As a relatively new detective sergeant at the Bensalem Police Department in 1982 I took

it upon myself to investigate a complaint made by a young teenaged girl who had just walked
into the PD with her older cousin. It would change everyone’s life for years to come.

Chapter 48a
As I was leaving his office one day after discussing some routine matter, Lt. Robinson
asked/requested/ordered, “Oh, and by the way, could you talk to some woman out front who’s
reporting some kind of sex abuse to a child? I spoke to her earlier on the phone and she’s here
now. If there’s anything to it, assign it as you see fit.”
“Uh…sure, Jack. I’ll go meet with her right away.”
Let’s see what’s going on with this woman and kid….
This “woman and kid” matter would be the last criminal investigation I would personally
handle for some time. But it was a significant one. The eventual media coverage of it was
somewhat muted, but that was for a reason.
However, what I experienced one afternoon a few days later while making the subsequent
arrest in this case was anything but muted. In fact, I can still hear the screaming.

After leaving Lt. Robinson’s office, I walked directly out into the lobby of our HQ and
was met by an attractive and well-dressed 20-something woman. Accompanying her was a
young girl who I later learned was 13-years of age. She was a cute kid, dressed very
conservatively, with glasses and her light brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. We quickly

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introduced ourselves and I escorted them back to CID and directly into the larger of the two
interview rooms.
Before we sat down and settled in I asked the woman and girl if either of them would like
any water, a soda, or to use the restroom. Both of them silently shook their heads in the
negative, thanked me, and sat down in their respective chairs. I could plainly see they were not
comfortable at all in being here. As soon as they were seated, I noticed the older woman take the
left hand of the young girl into her right hand. The smaller hand of the two had been shaking
somewhat before they connected. It seemed to stop once their fingers intertwined. I also
couldn’t help but notice that the girl wasn’t making eye contact with me. She tended to look
down at the floor, up at the ceiling, or occasionally at her older companion, but so far, not at the
law enforcement officer sitting directly across from her.
I had a feeling this was not going to be an easy interview for me, and even less so for my
newly arrived guests. The overwhelming emotionality now present within the confines of this
relatively small room, and especially apparent in the body language of the girl, even after just a
minute or two, would have been obvious to anyone present, and not just to a trained criminal
investigator. I didn’t even know the details yet as to the reason why they were here, but I
nonetheless knew I had to handle whatever this matter was very delicately. I didn’t want either
of these two people, and mostly the younger of them, leaving this room feeling worse than when
they entered it. I wouldn’t have been doing my job very well if that was the end result.

I started the interview of the woman and the girl by asking for some basic information.
This included their full names, addresses, phone numbers, work, school, family, and other related
information. While the younger girl was, in fact, answering my questions, she still would not

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look me in the eyes at this time. Something was bothering her, big time, and I knew that
whatever it may be was most likely the very reason she was here today. I then asked to neither
one of them in particular how they happened to know one another. The woman volunteered to
me that they were relatives. I believe they were cousins to each other, either by blood or
marriage. They didn’t live too far from each other and have always been friendly, she added.
The woman ended this part of our preliminary conversation by telling me that the girl next to her
was like the little sister she never had in her own family. Upon hearing these words, the younger
one looked up and smiled. I also noticed them consciously squeeze each other’s hands at the
same time. However, it didn’t take very long for the girl’s smile to fade away and return to a
very somber frown.
I thanked them both for this preliminary and introductory information. I had tried to
make some small talk regarding the young girl’s school, or something innocent to do with her
Bensalem neighborhood, but it didn’t elicit anything other than a slight nod of her head and a
barely audible “Uh-huh.” She sort of glanced up at me at the same time, then at her cousin, then
back down again towards the floor. I dropped the topic matter at hand. Something told me I
should get right down to business at this point of our interview.
I looked at the woman initially then allowed my eyes to drift over towards the young girl.
I stated, “I know you spoke to my lieutenant regarding some sort of an ongoing problem. I’m
here, and the Bensalem Police Department is here, to help you two in any way possible get
through this. Would you care to tell me what you know about it?”
I didn’t want to mention “sex,” or “assault,” or even reference or look too long at the
young one at this early juncture of the interview, even though I had a feeling that the girl played
the primary role in wherever this issue would lead us. I figured initiating this part of the

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discussion with the adult in the room would be most logical and initially protective of the child.
She/we could then transition it over to the girl when the time was right. We’d know when that
time was right…or at least I hoped we would.
The woman then stated, “Look, this is something very difficult for the both of us. Up
until an hour before coming to the police station today we weren’t sure this was even the right
thing to do. But we talked and talked over the last few days, lots of tears were shed, and we now
know this is the right thing to do. Isn’t it, Mary?” (This, of course, is a fictitious name.)
The young girl looked at her older cousin, then for the first time at me, and she started
crying. Not loudly or totally out of control, but a slow and steady whimpering. I momentarily
got up, left the room, and went to the sergeant’s desk. I grabbed a box of facial tissues and
brought them back in with me. Both parties appreciated it. Both of them took several tissues
from the box and commenced to wipe their respective eyes.
It was now my turn to say something. Not too much at first I decided, but not too little
either. Whatever I said would also have to be framed just right as it would set the tone for the
entirety of the rest of this interview. I clearly knew this was not an interview or interrogation of
a suspect in a crime or a material witness with a hidden agenda of some fashion. This was a
crime victim, and a potentially very delicate crime victim at that. From the little I could glean so
far, Mary had been holding something inside which was very personal in nature, but then finally
decided to tell her cousin about it. Now, she had to decide whether to tell me, an older male, a
stranger, a police officer/detective sergeant, of what she knew.
With these various limitations and restrictions being the hand I was dealt here, I had to
say and do the right thing. I had to start slow, convince Mary I was on her side, tell her I would
not be judgmental of whatever it was that she was about to tell me, and assure her that SHE was

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the one who set the rules during our talk today and any subsequent times that we may meet. I
knew this young girl had taken a big step today in coming to the police department to talk to an
investigator. I was now that person. It was now up to me to convince her that I could be her
friend and get her through this difficult issue, whatever it may be.
“Mary,” I said softly, ”I know something is bothering you. I know something is upsetting
you. It seems you’ve experienced something that makes you very uncomfortable. I understand
that. Really, I do. From what I also know, you told your cousin about it. Even in this short
time, I can see that she really cares about you. You’re lucky to have a cousin, a friend, such as
her. And she felt this matter was serious enough to bring you here to tell me about it. I’d like
you to do that for me when you’re ready. Please, and I mean this, I want you to take your time.
I want you to go as slow as you’d like in walking me through this situation you’re now
experiencing. We have as long as you want today to do this.”
Upon me uttering my last words, Mary looked up at her older and more life-experienced
cousin. She finally made eye contact with me for the first time with more than just a glance. She
then looked back at her cousin one more time. The older woman at this point was slowly but
surely nodding her head up and down, imparting to her a form of unspoken confidence, telling
the young girl without actual words that she knew she could do it. I noticed their still
intertwined hands softly squeezing the other’s once again.
Then, Mary spoke. “Uh…my dad is doing bad things to me, it’s happening more now,
and I don’t like it. I never did but I was ascared [sic] and I didn’t know how to stop him or what
to do. I told my cousin over the weekend and she said we should come here. Oh, I’m so scared.
He waits ‘til mom goes to work, comes in my bedroom…oh, I hate this…I hate him!”

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After this essentially unprovoked statement, what were initially just light tears had turned
into twin waterfalls down both sides of Mary’s face. The floodgates were now open, and not just
those of her tear ducts either. Mary’s unbridled emotions, probably pent-up for days, weeks, or
even months now, had just found their outlet too.
Now, I’ve got to bring Mary back to conversational mode. I had to if I wanted any hope
of resolving this issue for her, for them, for all involved.

A few months before, when still an acting detective, I had been assigned a case in which
a four-year old girl was being sexually abused by both her biological mother and father. It was a
very difficult investigation to work as I had my own son who was approximately the same age as
the little girl. Despite that, I interviewed her. It wasn’t easy and it took a while to attain the
information from her that I needed. The child didn’t know yet in her young life what was right
or wrong, good or bad, “normal” or “abnormal.” However, I managed to actually get a very
cogent and succinct statement from her telling me of the sexual abuse that her parents had been
inflicting upon her.
I later separately interviewed both mom and dad with minimal success. However, upon
bringing in a polygraph examiner to test the father, he agreeing to take the test, and he clearly
failing the test, in independent interviews immediately afterwards both parents admitted to that
which they had been inflicted upon the little girl. Their daughter was subsequently put into
foster care and I arrested both of the adults. They eventually pleaded guilty to various charges
relating to child sexual victimization and abuse. They were each sentenced to multiple years in
prison.

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This case today was obviously different than the one involving the aforementioned fouryear old girl. Interviewing Mary would require me once again to get all the details, specifics,
facts, etc., as they related to her experiences with her father. However, being nine years older
than the little girl of my last sexual assault case, Mary knew enough about what society
considered right and wrong, good and bad, “normal” and “abnormal,” and that made these issues
a bit more difficult to address, especially as they related to her and her own flesh-and-blood
father.
There’s no doubt, from what I’ve observed so far and now heard from her, Mary felt
guilty about what she had just told me, about what’s been happening to her for the last few
weeks or months, at the hands, literally, of this man. On top of this inherent sense of guilt
(which we all know should NOT be present in a sexual assault victim, but almost always is),
there’s also the additional guilt she is no doubt feeling that upon telling me this information she
is aware of the fact that she will be drastically changing her family dynamic forever. This is
most definitely not a small burden to be carrying on any person’s shoulders, much less on the
small shoulders of a 13-year old girl who is also a sexual abuse victim.
I was telling myself in the interview room that day, “Jim, walk gently here, just one step
at a time. She is much too fragile to cut right to the chase. Do it in baby steps, and at her pace
too.”
I did my best to follow my own advice here.

Over the next two hours, I engaged in what I would best describe as a simple
conversation with Mary. Mary’s cousin provided some assistance too, filling in missing pieces
to this slowly evolving puzzle. The young girl eventually laid out to me the details, in the best

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words she could come up with to describe them, of her dad’s nocturnal activities of the last two
months or so. They were lurid.
I really hated to do this to Mary, but I had to ask her a few separate times to be more
specific in describing these assaults upon her. She subsequently provided those details. While
she was still crying on-and-off to some degree, for the most part by about the forty-five minute
point of the interview she was actually handling herself in a rather composed manner. When she
was asked to describe various body parts, of both the male and female anatomy, I gave her the
choice to use the street slang for them or the official physiological terms. For the most part, she
stuck with the latter.
As I further learned that afternoon, Mary’s mom had a part-time job which required her
to work some evenings, until at least midnight or so. The dad would make sure that Mary and
her younger sibling went to bed at their appointed hour, by 9:00 or so. It seems on some of those
occasional nights when the mom was at her job, Mary’s dad would sneak into her bedroom at
around 10:30, awaken her, and sexually abuse her. That was his pattern, based primarily on his
wife’s/Mary’s mom’s work schedule.
I will, of course, omit the salacious details of this young girl’s victimization at the hands,
and other appendages, of her father. I will, however, include here that he did not engage in
actual sexual intercourse with her, as he most likely knew that he would physically injure the
young girl and/or leave incriminatory evidence behind. However, based on all that Mary told
me, there wasn’t much else, sexually-speaking, that her father did not inflict upon her during his
on average semi-weekly, late evening secret visits to her bedroom.
While relating this information to me, Mary remained remarkably consistent in dates,
times, locations, biological and physiological descriptions. In the course of this two-hour

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interview, I became convinced that the young girl was telling me the truth. I could find no
reason to disbelieve the girl, despite asking and re-asking her the same questions, reworded at
times, but getting exactly the same responses with each answer. I could find no weaknesses or
discrepancies in what she was telling me. I even asked Mary’s cousin to step outside of the
interview room at one point and while out of Mary’s presence I asked her if there was anything
different or inconsistent about what I was being told. She said no, and that what Mary had just
told me was precisely what she had heard over the last few days, albeit, in more graphic detail
this time.

As I was wrapping up the interview, I knew this young girl could not stay at her house
again with her father in it, whether mom was home at night or not. As it was a Friday afternoon,
it was suggested and agreed that Mary could stay overnight at her cousin’s house, perhaps even
for the whole weekend. It’s been done before and would not seem unusual to the family. They
agreed to do so. In fact, Mary seemed very excited at the notion. So did her older cousin.
I next told them both that I would need some time to contact the Bucks County District
Attorney’s office, run the facts of the case by an Assistant District Attorney (ADA), and then
attain an arrest warrant for the father. It was then that Mary became highly emotional again,
bursting into tears upon learning that what she told me over the last two hours would result in her
dad possibly being sent to prison. I told her that’s how it has to be, for her own protection and
for that of her younger sister, and that at this time we really had no choice. She shrugged her
shoulders, nodded her head in understanding, wiped her tears away with a fresh tissue, and
wrapped both arms around her cousin as tightly as she could.

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I also told Mary and her cousin that someone from the Bucks County Office of Children
and Youth as well as Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) would be contacting her in the
very near future. I reminded them that it was my duty to contact these offices with what I know
of this matter at this time. Everyone agreed that it would be very important for Mary to have
some counselling sessions and even a medical exam from these professionals who deal with
young girls in these type situations all the time. While I’m not sure the 13-year old fully
understood all this would entail, she nonetheless told me she would be willing to do so when the
time came. “As long as they were as nice to me as you were to me, Sgt. Fitzgerald,” she added.
I assured Mary they would be.

I thanked both the girl and her cousin and walked them outside to their car. I had the
older woman’s contact information and I told her I would call her and advise her of what was
going to happen next. She thanked me and told me she was greatly appreciative of how I
handled this whole situation. I, in turn, thanked HER. Without her courage and the ability to
convince her young cousin to come forward, Mary and maybe even her little sister could have
been victimized for a long time to come. She nodded in appreciation and half-smiled as she
assumed her position in the driver’s seat and started the car’s engine. It was the first happy look,
even if just partial and temporary, I had seen from either of them all afternoon. As they slowly
backed out of their space to exit the PD parking lot, Mary enthusiastically waved goodbye with
her right hand as the car passed by me. I waved back. The older cousin, however, while driving
away, couldn’t wave back to me as I could see she was once again holding firmly onto Mary’s
left hand. She nodded her head demonstratively, in her own way, also indicating a “goodbye” to
me.

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I’m not sure how close these two were before this incident of parental sexual abuse
began, but from what I could observe they were as close as any two extended family members
could be right now. I was so glad for Mary that she had someone like her older cousin. She’d
prove an invaluable resource for her as this ugliness progressed. And it would get uglier, much
uglier, for Mary before it got any easier. That was for sure.
Inside the PD building I returned to CID. Mary and her cousin had the weekend off from
work and school. My weekend was just about to get busy. Real busy.

Once back at my desk, I made sure the notes from my just-completed interview were in
order and readable, adding a few points of clarification here and there for me or anyone else who
may be referring to them in the immediate or long-term future. I’d want to have the typewritten
version of it done within a day or so. This is not the kind of interview an investigator waits days
or weeks to memorialize. Doing so would be next on my agenda, but first I had to call the
D.A.’s office.
I asked for an ADA in the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s Office. Upon
running the whole scenario by her it was agreed that it seemed we had a viable case to prosecute.
She then advised me to contact the Children and Youth offices and ask to have a caseworker
assigned to my investigation. He or she may have other questions to be answered by the child
victim. I agreed to do so. I also emphasized to the ADA about how important it was to get this
matter resolved immediately, as Mary was forced to live in the same house with her sexually
abusive father, and was only temporarily reprieved of his assaultive behaviors by staying at her
cousin’s house. She understood, but again suggested I get a social worker who specializes in

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these matters involved right away. Once we cleared that hurdle, she guaranteed, we could
institute the arrest proceedings. I concurred with her and got ready to make the next call.
I would have preferred to have started the arrest warrant affidavit right then and there, get
it signed by a district magistrate, and throw cuffs on the father by midnight tonight. But, the
ADA said this was the normal protocol, especially as the girl was in a safe haven for now.
Who was I to argue with her? What she told me to do was somewhat similar to the case
protocols I followed a few months before with the four-year old as a rape victim. As long as
Mary was, in fact, safe for the next forty-eight hours or so, which I was sure she was, I suppose
we could do it this way.

I contacted the Children and Youth caseworker, I told her what I had learned, she said she
wanted to also interview Mary, and we could then move onto the next step. She assured me that
her interviewing Mary was in no way a negative reflection of my initial interview, but simply the
ongoing policy within the child protection system in Bucks County. I agreed and requested that
she try to set up this re-interview in the next day. She agreed and we did.
I re-contacted Mary through her cousin and the second interview was scheduled for the
next day, Saturday. We all met once again at the BPD, and in the same interview room. There,
Mary was asked many of the same questions I had asked her less than one day before, but this
time by the female social worker. At one point, the interviewer respectfully asked me to leave
the room because she wanted to ask Mary some rather personal questions. I agreed to her
request. However, after about five minutes, the door swung open and the caseworker came out
and told me she got what she wanted. Also, she added, Mary wanted me back in the room with

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her. I took that as a compliment as to my interview style and the trust that I had obviously
established with this young victim.
In summary, after having talked to me, Mary, her cousin, and me again, the caseworker
advised me that there were no contradictions or missing parts to the child’s story. Mary was one
hundred percent consistent in her recounting of the facts as she knew them. The caseworker
believed that the girl was telling the complete truth as it related to the abusive behavior on the
part of her father. In view of that, after this second go-round of an interview, lasting only about
ninety minutes this time, we allowed the two cousins to once again leave the premises. They did,
and I told them I’d be calling them soon.
Once the two of them left the BPD, the caseworker and I called the ADA. It was a
Saturday afternoon, but she had told me the day before she wanted to hear the results of the
interview as soon as it was completed and gave me her home phone number. We told her via
speakerphone what we learned (re-learned, on my part) and she verbally approved me to prepare
an arrest warrant for the father. I’d get it signed by the District Magistrate and then go and arrest
him. Later that Saturday afternoon, after bidding adieu to the caseworker, I prepared the
affidavit and the arrest warrant for Mary’s father. I found the magistrate on call for that evening,
travelled to his office, had the warrant signed, and now it was just a matter of when I would
serve it on the father.

As I knew Mary was secure, and that she was going to go right to school on Monday
morning from her cousin’s house (something she’s done before), I figured I’d wait until Monday
afternoon to affect the arrest on the father. I’d do it as soon as he got home from work and when

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neither of the kids was in the house. Mary and her cousin had no issues with this plan, so that’s
what we went with.
By Monday morning, I let Chief Richard Viola and Lt. Jack Robinson know the results of
my Friday afternoon interview, and the work I’d done over the weekend on this matter, including
the attainment of the arrest warrant. (I also came in on Sunday and typed up the interview
report.) My boss and his boss were certainly supportive of my investigation so far, knew I
crossed all my “t’s” and dotted all my “i’s” and wished me good luck. At around 3:30 that
afternoon I asked a detective to accompany me and coordinated with the patrol sergeant to have
two uniformed officers ready to meet me at the house in Sector 2 to initiate this arrest.

Interestingly, in doing my earlier research on the father, I learned that he had no known
prior arrests or convictions. He had a decent white-collar job of one variety or another. If there
had been any police calls to his/their address over the last several years, it was for nothing to do
with domestic assault or abuse of any kind. And, from the address itself, I knew the family lived
in a nice home in a nice neighborhood.
What then, pray-tell, drives a man to such insidious behavior? What demons compel a
man to violate the sanctity of a parent-child, in this specific case, a father-daughter relationship?
I was a father of two kids at this time and I recall thinking that this sort of behavior was the very,
very last thing I could ever imagine doing. In fact, my imagination didn’t even allow me the
ability to conjure up such thoughts or anything remotely close to them. It was all such an
aberration to me, such a demented and perverted way of thinking, that there simply was no
thought-process I could muster up which could come close to this mindset, much less this way of
acting. But that was just me….

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As I would learn later in my career, especially when an FBI profiler, these men are called
pedophiles. It is a sickness, a disease. Although, whatever it is, it is NOT an excuse to sexually
victimize the young and innocent. I was taught during my future FBI training that there are
“Preferential Sexual Offenders,” that is, men who generally only victimize one sex and within a
very limited age range. And there are “Situational Sexual Offenders,” that is, men who will
generally take what comes their way, sex and age-wise, if a victimization scenario presents itself
and they deem the time and place to be right for them (although, of course, always wrong for the
child).
The odds are, I would later glean through my academic research, Mary was not this
man’s first or only victim. If he had not acted out with other young girls, he most certainly
fanaticized about doing so. There’s nothing illegal, of course, about a person fantasizing. But
when one chooses to act out upon them, and that act or acts constitute a violation of the law, it
then becomes a serious problem for the parties involved, especially if the one acted-upon is a
minor.
I wasn’t sure at this point where Mary’s dad may fall on the sexual abuser/pedophile
continuum. In 1982, I wasn’t fully aware of all the scientific research involving these types of
offenders. That knowledge would come later in my career. However, I did know for now there
was a positively identified sexual offender for whom I had an active arrest warrant. Whether he
was Preferential, Situational, or fell into some other category in-between, I didn’t really care. He
violated Mary, on numerous occasions, and I was about to make sure he never did it again. I
owed it to that 13-year old girl. I wasn’t going to let her down, either.

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On a breezy, late fall day, with leaves cascading in a small spiral around the front yard of
the property, I assigned one of the patrol officers to a position in the backyard of Mary’s family’s
house. I put him there just in case this guy wanted to run out the back door when he knew the
gig was up. I, along with the other detective and a patrol officer, walked up onto the porch. I
looked and listened, didn’t see or hear anything untoward or suspicious coming from the inside,
and I knocked on the door of Mary’s family’s house. It only took twenty seconds or so for a
woman I believed to be Mary’s mom to come to the door, part a lace curtain on the inside of a
small vertical window, and look out at us. Little did she realize what was about to befall her
family in the course of just another minute or two. In a strange way, it made me uneasy, very
uneasy.

In that less than half-a-minute, while standing on the well-maintained front porch of
Mary’s house, I couldn’t help but to think back momentarily to the summer of ’81, when I was
knocking on the door of another residence in another neighborhood in Bensalem. I recall
standing on that nicely kept porch area also holding a piece of paper in my hand. On that bright,
sunny day, it was the name and phone number of a chief of police in Ohio. Upon him receiving
the eventual telephone call from the woman about to answer that door, he would be telling her
the news that her son had been killed in a car crash earlier that day. I remember thinking back
then how I was about to deliver a message which once acted upon would change forever the
dynamic of this mother, this household, and this family.
Now, today, for entirely different reasons and an entirely different scenario, I was once
again holding a piece of paper in my hand. This time, it wasn’t a name and phone number and it

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didn’t involve a deadly car accident. It was a duly authorized arrest warrant for the
husband/father of the house upon whose porch I was now standing.
Here I was, about to deliver a “message,” directly to at least two people this time, and a
family’s dynamic was once again about to be altered forever by these actions of mine. But, in
the seconds before the pretty, middle-aged wife I could partially see through the glass window
was about to unlock and open her front door, it occurred to me. What is about to happen to this
family is not the result of MY actions. No, I’m only here at the tail end of this ongoing situation.
Yes, I’m the “messenger” to some degree, but this soon-to-be familial upheaval was put into
motion months or even longer ago when dad started sexually abusing his daughter. I’m now just
the conduit, the law enforcement officer, somehow attempting to get things back to normal for
them, or at least try. Maybe “normal” is too much to ask for here. How about simply making
the household safe and secure for Mary and her sister once again?

“Yes, may I help you?” Mary’s mother, dressed in casual yet stylish clothes, asked us
while taking in the no doubt surreal sight of three badge-displaying police officers standing at
her front door.
I responded, “Are you Mrs. __________, the mother of Mary __________?”
“Why, yes” she responded quickly but then immediately asked, “Is Mary okay?”
“Mary is fine. Is your husband in the house?”
“Um…yes, he’s upstairs…what’s this all about?”
While walking through the doorway with my two colleagues in tow, I asked, “Could you
request Mr. _________ to come downstairs so we can talk to him?”

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“Uh, sure…Honey (directing her vocalizations up towards the second floor), could you
come downstairs right away? There are some police officers here and they’re asking for you.”
In less than a minute the husband/dad came bounding down the living room steps. I
recall thinking that he looked so average, so unassuming, so… “normal.” But I listened to Mary
tell her story, not once, but twice. And she never wavered. This was the guy. This was the man
who victimized that little girl. No matter what he looked like, no matter how “normal” he acted,
he had to go.
Now came the part where the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania authorized me to deprive the freedom of someone if probable cause existed and
either I witnessed the crime or had a warrant and affidavit stipulating what happened. Upon
holding up the legal document for the husband and his wife to see I then said in the most
authoritative speaking voice I could convey, “Mr. _________, I’m Sergeant James Fitzgerald of
the Bensalem Township Police Department. I hold in my hand an arrest warrant for you for
multiple counts of Statutory Rape, Involuntary Deviant Sexual Intercourse, Corruption of a
Minor, (etc.), that minor being a juvenile, Mary _______, over a time period of approximately
six to eight weeks. You sir, are hereby under arrest! Put your hands behind your back, please!”
The father stopped dead in his tracks at the bottom of the stairway. He placed his hands
behind his back. As I began to approach him with my handcuffs, and was about to order him to
turn around so I could apply said cuffs to his wrists, I suddenly and unexpectedly heard the most
blood-curdling scream I believe to this day I have ever experienced in my life. It was especially
traumatic as it emanated only five feet or so from my right-side eardrum. Yes, it was Mrs.
_____. She was in total disbelief, denial, and desperation, approaching total emotional
meltdown at any minute; make that at any second.

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At the top of her lungs, to me, the two other officers, her husband, and even persons not
present, she began uncontrollably yelling and screaming. Some of what she said was
understandable, some was incomprehensible. All of it was unscripted, raw emotionality to its
core. It was very loud. It actually hurt my head to be as close to her as I was. But at the same
time I understood, at least somewhat, what she was going through. She was an eye and ear
witness to the virtual instantaneous dismantling of her known family structure, the one she
helped built over the prior one-and-a-half decades. This deconstruction was starting at the top of
her family pyramid with the physical arrest of her husband, but the genesis of it all was down at
the bottom of the pyramid, that being Mary. And she let us know she knew that, all the while
releasing the full audible spectrum of unbridled passion in what and how she was emoting to all
in in the room, the house, and likely the surrounding properties too.
In the highest volume I’ve ever heard an unamplified human voice express itself, Mary’s
mom verbally exploded, with multiple targets all initially within one long litany of damning
comments, questions, answers, and expletives.

“THIS CAN’T BE TRUE! NO, NO, IT CAN’T BE! HOW DARE YOU COME INTO
MY HOUSE AND DO THIS TO ME, TO US?! WHERE IS SHE?! WHERE’S THE LITTLE
BITCH WHO CAUSED THIS?! GODDAMN YOU, MARY! GODDAMN YOU!”
The mom/wife continued, now looking at her husband, “YOU! YOU! WHAT DID
YOU DO TO HER?! WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?! WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?! I
CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING TO ME…TO US! WHERE IS SHE?!”
At this point, the mother/wife literally threw herself on the floor and began sobbing
uncontrollably. She was banging the floor with her fists and her feet, talking for a while face-

19

down incomprehensively to the veneer wooden floor beneath her. Then, she ever-so-slowly
glanced up at her husband from the floor, her mid-length hair now an untidy mess and draped
unevenly over her distorted and perspiring face, tears mixing in with beads of sweat, her voice
seething with anger and contempt the whole time.
“YOU! YOU! HOW DARE YOU?! LET ME GUESS, YOU WERE DOING THESE
DISGUSTING THINGS WHEN I WAS AT WORK, RIGHT?! SHE’S YOUR
DAUGHTER…YOUR DAUGHTER! NO, WAIT! SHE’S LYING! YOU WOULDN’T DO
THESE THINGS, WOULD YOU? WHY IS MARY DOING THIS TO US? WHY? WHY?
OH GOD, IT’S ALL MY FAULT! WHAT KIND OF MOTHER AM I? WHAT KIND OF
WIFE? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THIS FAMILY?!”

I knew we had to remove the now legally under-arrest father from the house. He was
strangely very circumspect during all of this commotion. His hands were still visible alongside
of him, but otherwise he was not moving at all and not responding to anything that his wife was
saying or doing. I wasn’t sure how to read him, but now wasn’t the time to do so. I placed him
in handcuffs (behind him, naturally), quickly recited his Miranda warnings, and escorted him
along with a patrol officer to the marked car parked outside at the street. I put dad in the back
seat and put his seatbelt on him. I told the officer to drive to HQ, start his processing, and I
would be there shortly to interview him.
Before I left the property, however, I instructed the other detective and the remaining
uniform officer (now in from the backyard) to stay with the still very upset woman. I advised
them to ascertain the name of a friend or family member (not the cousin, not yet) and have that

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person proceed to the house. Mom was going to need some help getting through this traumatic
situation over the next few hours, the next few nights, hell, the next few years.
While still at the scene and making sure everything was safe and under control for all
parties, I pondered momentarily if I could have undertaken this arrest scenario in some other
way. That is, to have avoided the presence of any of the other family members at the arrest. In
most cases, I never believed in arresting a person at his or her place of work if the crime(s) didn’t
involve the job itself. So, I ruled out arresting dad at his office. My primary goal, of course, was
to not have the two kids around when dad was taken into custody, and that was successfully
accomplished. But, as for the wife…I felt that there was no real other option for me in that
regard. Based on what I knew of the parents’ schedules, there was no way around her not being
there for the arrest itself. I knew I wanted to interview her too at some point, but this particular
point in time was not the place to do it. Her present emotional state would just not allow it. Her
interview would come a bit later in the follow-up investigation.

As soon as I arrived at HQ, I was also going to call the cousin to give her and Mary the
news of the arrest. In addition, I had to call the ADA and the social worker. I made all three
calls upon returning to HQ, before I even sat down with the father. I told Mary’s cousin to stay
put at their present location and to NOT go to Mary’s house, at least not yet. The ADA was
happy the arrest went down without incident and reminded me to make sure I took the father to
his preliminary arraignment within six hours.
I lastly advised the social worker to separately contact Mary and her mom. Mother and
daughter would have to sit down at some point in the next day or two and work this whole
horrible situation out, or at least try. The social worker told me this wasn’t the first time she was

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asked to act as a mediator, if not negotiator, in this sort of abusive family environment. They
were often difficult to undertake and resolve. She reminded me that each family is different and
has to be treated according to those differences, and sometimes it takes weeks or months for
emotions to finally settle. However, the social worker felt that she could help here once all the
people agreed to meet with her.
The meeting with the county social worker, as well as a complete medical check-up of
Mary, was scheduled for the very next day. I was invited to the meeting, but my attendance was
not mandatory. For right now, back at BPD HQ, my primary concern was interviewing the
father. I’d decide later if attending tomorrow’s meeting at the Children and Youth offices would
be on my agenda. First things first though….

Like with the mother and father I arrested a few months earlier who were sexually
abusing their four-year old daughter, I learned that when dealing with suspects of this sort of
crime, this sort of unspeakable abuse, an investigator has to act in a very non-judgmental
manner. In fact, he or she should try to act almost empathetic to the person being interviewed on
the other side of the desk in terms of understanding them, their situation, knowing how “these
things” can happen, and that the investigator is on their side. It’s not easy, as there have been
times when I wanted to leap across the desk surface and punch one or more sex offenders
senseless. But, of course, that’s not how it works, and that’s not how I work. It was illegal and
just as importantly it wouldn’t help in getting the confession from the person either. That much I
knew.
After the father was fingerprinted and photographed by the desk sergeant, I brought him
to the CID interview room. I purposely reserved the same room that Mary and her cousin sat in

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just a few consecutive days before. I would tell dad eventually that this is where I first learned of
his abhorrent activities, but for now, he doesn’t have to know this was the place. It would be
baby-steps with him too, just as it was with his daughter the preceding Friday. I formally read
him his Miranda rights, and he agreed to sign the waiver form and talk to me. Okay, we were off
to a good start, but this was clearly the easy part. Let’s see where he takes this when the going
gets tough.
After attaining some basic pedigree information from the dad, including where he was
born, raised, went to school, job specifics, hobbies, etc., I thought I’d tell him something about
me. I told him that we had some things in common. Specifically, we’re hard working guys,
married with working wives, two kids each, and we loved our families very much. He agreed
with me so far. I then told him how I was aware that stress at work, at home, and even in other
parts of one’s life can lead any one of us to doing certain things, certain stupid things, with or to
people we love. I confided in him that I’d certainly done stupid things in my own life.
I noticed dad at this point nodding his head up and down. Interesting too, like his
daughter from about seventy-two hours before, he wasn’t making direct eye-contact with me
either. Was this a learned personality trait from dad to daughter, or was it a behavioral clue
which manifested itself when a person is embarrassed or ashamed of something he/she did (or
was forced to do) and in a similar such confrontational environment? Perhaps it’s some of both
in this example, but I lean towards the latter, that being, shame and embarrassment being the
causal factor in dad not wanting our eyes to meet.
I ended my preliminary talk with the father by telling him that I know things recently got
out of control at his house; that I know he did some things which HE knows were wrong; that it’s
done now, and it won’t happen again. And that’s good news, right?

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The father continued nodding his head up and down in the affirmative to all I was saying
to him. He stared blankly ahead, focusing not on me or any other material object in the room
that I could discern. Otherwise, he was completely silent up until now that we were into this
next precarious stage of our interview.
I then asked him in a sincerely passionate tone to tell me what’s been happening in his
home between him and Mary. I told him I knew it would be difficult, but I’ve been here before
with other men, with other dads, and he’s not the first one to find himself “in this sort of a
predicament.” I didn’t even tell him yet that I had already talked to Mary, but I am confident
that he already guessed that I had done so.
I continued, “John (not his real name), let’s just get it all out on the table, let’s get you
some help, let’s get Mary some help, and we can all move beyond this difficult situation we now
find ourselves. Let’s do it for your family’s sake, the family you so dearly love. I can clearly
see it, John, you do love them, don’t you?”
I wanted him to say something at this point, anything, and I figured that would be a very
easy question for him to answer and possibly even expand upon. It took some time, but he
swallowed the bait.
“Very much,” he eventually responded, “very, very much.”
Then, complete silence.
This was one of those times, I had learned, as the interviewer you just shut up. Let the
silence make the interviewee a bit uncomfortable. Make it where he or she feels compelled to be
the next one to speak, to break the silence. This ploy usually works for me, and it eventually did
this time too.

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After about two solid minutes of dead quiet in the room, John softly stated, “God…I’m
so sorry for what I’ve done. You must think I’m a monster, don’t you?”
Actually, I did think he was a monster. However, he was not going to hear those words
from me. Not today during this interview. I needed more details of his abuse, of his criminal
behavior, of his pedophilic activities with his daughter. This was the place to begin, with him
providing full details as to what he’s been doing to his daughter over the last few months.
While he was a despicable person for what he did to his daughter, from what I saw and
heard so far, he at least had a conscious. Maybe just barely, but it was there. He didn’t appear to
be a psychopath, that being, a narcissist with lack of emotional attachment or any caring or
sympathy at all towards other people. That was good to learn early on here, at least as it related
to John and his family.
So, while it wasn’t easy for him, John slowly started talking. And once he got into it I
almost couldn’t get him to stop. Not that I tried, of course. In time, he admitted to everything.
It seems that Mary was his only sexual abuse victim, or at least the only one to which he’d
confess on that day. He adamantly denied violating his other daughter as she was just “too
young,” he told me. I responded that I believed him, although I wasn’t truly convinced yet. He
continued to tell me that he did not engage in actual sexual intercourse with Mary because he
knew it would physically hurt her and it would also leave visible evidence behind on her bed
sheets. I’m not sure which of these two issues was the more important to him, but as long as he
was talking away I wasn’t going to challenge him about it yet. He did then admit to engaging in
other, somewhat less physically intrusive sexual acts upon Mary. He advised it had been going
on “only” for a month or two, after some difficult issues at work, some difficult issues with his
wife, drinking more than he should, when “it all just kinda happened one evening.” Then, it

25

occurred maybe another half dozen times when his wife again was not at home. The total
number of separate sexually abusive events matched up pretty closely to what Mary had told me.

John went on to provide a complete verbal statement of his offenses against Mary, which
I eventually had him transcribe into a shorter written statement. He acknowledged that he had
“recently developed a sickness” and he wanted treatment for it. He also wanted Mary and the
rest of his family to receive treatment for what he did to her individually and to the others by
extension. I told him that everyone involved could and would attain this treatment and
counseling, and that I agreed with him it was important for all to receive it. What I didn’t tell
him right then and there, but what I’m sure he already knew, was that he would be attending his
particular sexual offender treatment program behind prison walls over the foreseeable future; for
just how long, remained to be seen.
Like a doting father, well, more or less, John at one point asked me how Mary was
presently doing and whether she was she safe. I assured him that she was fine and secure. I
didn’t volunteer to him that it was her cousin who ran interference for Mary over the last few
days and ultimately played a large role in John finding himself in the situation he was in right
now, but I think he may have figured that part out on his own too. The fact that he never did
mention the cousin’s name, but seemingly knew where Mary was all weekend was a clue to me
that he knew she played some factor in this whole matter.
With the interview completed in just about three hours, I took John to his preliminary
arraignment at the district magistrate’s office. His bail was set, I believe, at $250,000. As part
of the condition of bail IF he got released, he could not go back to his house or be anywhere near
his two children, at least not unsupervised. I don’t think John called anyone requesting

26

assistance at this time. I know he didn’t call his wife to ask her for the bail money. Based on
how she was acting when he was escorted from his house just about five hours earlier, he figured
it would have been fruitless. I told him to give his family some time and perhaps afterwards they
would be willing to talk to him again. They were probably the last words I said to the father
before the constables took him off to Bucks County Prison where he was remanded in lieu of
making bail.

The next day, another BPD detective sergeant advised the Bucks County Courier Times
reporter during their daily morning call-in about John’s arrest from the day before. However,
because it involved a sex crime committed by an underage victim’s father, no names were ever
released to the reporter nor referenced in the article. The story had the basic facts correct, but
with no names, the young girl couldn’t be identified. That’s the way it should be.
The case eventually ran its natural course through the Bucks County criminal justice
system. John, through his attorney, waived his preliminary hearing, which is supposed to be held
within ten days of an arrest in Pennsylvania. Through the ADA I learned that John didn’t want
to put his daughter or family through testifying at any such hearing. That same philosophy on
his part carried over to any subsequent trial, as Mary’s dad wanted to avoid that at all costs for
the sake of his family. I’m sure he also wanted the best deal the D.A.’s office would give him
too, and I believe he and his attorney worked out a fair plea bargain. For John pleading guilty to
the main charges, and his family’s agreement to the proposed deal, he was sentenced to less than
five years in prison. Of course, that would include mandatory treatment for any and all of the
psychological issues which caused him to commit these awful acts upon his daughter, and a
lengthy supervised parole once released from prison. What would be left of his family at that

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time, or at least his position in that family, would depend on many issues yet to be worked out
among the four of them, and the county officials, too.

Through the social worker with Children and Youth Services, I met with Mary, her
cousin, and even her mother once or twice during the next few months. They seemed to be
getting along well and moved on from any sort of blame game between Mary and her mom.
They all realized that John, the father, had a diagnosable illness and was now receiving treatment
for it. They too were attending ongoing family counseling sessions and they seemed to be
helping them. On the whole, despite John being in prison and some to-be-expected household
financial concerns, they seemed to be doing alright as a family.
I last saw the mom and Mary as she was about to graduate from the eighth grade. I
wished her well in her high school years. This was the final time I saw or heard of this little girl
within the context of the criminal justice system, but not the final time I would see her.

In 1986 or 1987, I volunteered for the annual springtime overtime detail at the Bensalem
High School senior prom. Although there were never any actual problems at the yearly event,
the school administrators like to have at least four off-duty BPD officers there…just in case. In
advance, they would sternly put the requisite fear of God (and also of not graduating) to the
attending seniors that IF they tried something stupid (such as consuming alcoholic beverages,
smoking pot, etc., before, during, or after the event), the law in the form of the BPD was right
there to make the arrests. In the several years I worked this detail, there were no arrests as every
student behaved himself and herself accordingly, or at least wasn’t caught doing otherwise.

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This prom, like the others, was a gala event. Like the others, there was no tomfoolery or
illegal acts of any sort observed on the part of the otherwise festive young prom attendees.
While standing there looking official, keeping an eye on the crowd, chatting with my fellow
officers and a few of the teachers, yet at the same time enjoying the live band, some decent
heavy snacks and soft drinks, and absorbing the overall positive experience of the youthful
innocence on display in front of me, I noticed the crowd of youthful attendees in front of me
slowly but somewhat deliberately parting. Out of this mass of tuxedo-wearing young men and
brightly colored gown-wearing young women walked up to me a very attractive representative of
those so-adorned teenaged female prom-goers.
The almost-adult looking female simply said to me, “You’re Sergeant Fitzgerald, right?”
“Yes, I am. And you are…?” She did look vaguely familiar to me, but I just couldn’t
quite place her.
“Remember me from about four years ago?”
She didn’t offer any more details as to what happened “about four years ago,” but at that
moment she didn’t have to as I then came to recognize her.
Yes, it was, in fact, Mary, the same Mary. She was a decidedly different young girl than
the one I remember from late 1982. She was no more the skinny little kid in pigtails wearing
glasses. This Mary was a very attractive young woman, all decked out in the finest formal gown,
with hairstyle, make-up, and high heels to match.
Temporarily without her date at her side, Mary told me she had noticed me earlier and
wanted to wait until the right moment tonight to come over and say “HI” to me. I said a very
genuine “HI” back to her and told her I was glad she came over to me and introduced herself. I
then asked her how she and her family were doing. She replied they were all doing well, things

29

were much better then when I had first met her, and that she was looking forward to graduating
from high school going off to college in the next year.
Before I could even respond to Mary’s very positive news in and of her life, she
continued to tell me that she simply wanted to thank me one more time for all the help I provided
her and her family back when she was in junior high and had that “problem.” I told her that I
was sorry we had to meet the way we did back then, but that I was nonetheless glad to have
played a role in her and her family eventually working things out. At that point, we stood sort of
just looking at each other for a few seconds. Then, Mary surprised me by giving me a
spontaneous hug and a quick peck on the cheek. I thanked her for that and we shared a heartfelt
“goodbye and good luck” to each other. I watched her drift back through the dancefloor to her
handsome boyfriend/date as the band kicked in to a high-intensity cover of The Romantics’ What
I Like About You.
That was, in fact, the last time I ever saw or heard from Mary. Her attitude and demeanor
that night, even if just observed for a few minutes, convinced me that she was and is a survivor.
It may not have been easy for her back when it all first happened, perhaps at times later on in her
teen years, and no doubt occasionally to this day. But, as I could see she was a fighter within
just about thirty minutes of our initial contact with each other in the BPD interview room in ‘82,
I soon had the feeling that if anyone could recover from such abuse, it would be her. Of course,
having a strong family structure to back her up and some professional counseling along the way
would help too. And it seemed she had all of that, older cousin and angry mom included, once
the dust settled in their household and they agreed to work together on this “problem.”

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The way Mary looked, acted, and her overall persona on her prom night was a strong
indication to me that she moved on from her youthful victimization successfully. It may never
leave her completely, but she seemingly learned to cope with it and move on with her life.
Among other reasons, it’s “what I like(d) about” Mary and her extended family.

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