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Case Study - Child Sexual Assault Investigation

Detective Scott Renalds

Louisa County Sheriff’s Office


        My name is Scott Renalds.  I am currently employed as a detective with the Louisa County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office.  I have been a law enforcement officer for 17 years.  I attended the Reid Child Abuse Course in March 2008 and attended the Reid Advanced Interview and Interrogation training in July 2008.  I have found the Reid Technique to be extremely effective and have utilized it frequently in all types of criminal investigations.

Case Facts

        Detectives received a report from Social Services that a female child under the age of eight had disclosed to a counselor that her stepfather had been responsible for inappropriate touching.  The victim was forensically interviewed at a Child Advocacy Center.  She disclosed unlawful genital contact with her stepfather on several occasions.

        The mother of the victim provided information which enabled detectives to obtain a search warrant for their home.  Background investigation revealed that the suspect had been charged with a major sex crime some ten years prior but all charges had been dropped by the prosecution.  The suspect had been married to the victim’s mother for about three years.

        Detectives found the suspect at home when they served the search warrant.  This resulted in an interview and interrogation occurring in the suspect’s own living room.  Although not in custody, the suspect was advised of Miranda and he waived his rights.

Behavioral Analysis Interview 

Q: What do you know about why we are here? Because you didn’t appear surprised to see us.  This didn’t appear to be a shock to you.

A: Apparently, my stepdaughter has made accusations or whatever that we’ve done things.  I don’t know where she got it from. I’m flabbergasted, you know. I know that I guess it was two days ago my wife took off with her and my son, you know.  She says she had to take my son, too, because CPS would have took him away from both of us or whatever.  And I just figured she’s being – it started with church, you know. I guess (the victim) told my wife some things. She went to the church. She had nowhere else to go. The church, we went and talked to a counselor at church. The counselor said, “I want the child to go to counseling” and since then my family is gone.  I mean, I just figured, you know, that my wife said they had to let the authorities know.  That’s why I just – I’ve been waiting, you know.

Q: How would you describe (the victim)?

A: She’s a good kid.  She likes to be the center of attention. I think she’s fairly smart. She doesn’t act that way all the time, you know. I mean, she’s, see, I don’t know if its just my deep voice, if I’m the first man that’s ever really took an interest in raising her. Her father’s not worth a damn. You know, he wanted to come down (for a holiday). I said “well, if you ever start paying child support, you can come see her anytime you want”.  He says “well, I’m not coming down to fight”.  I’ve never threatened him. I hardly talk to him.  I have no respect for him.  He has never taken care of his children. He can’t keep a job. He can’t keep a place to stay. He moves around all the time, you know. So I guess I’m the first man that’s ever been like a daddy to her.  And she calls me Daddy.  You know, I never asked her to call me Daddy and she started calling me Daddy. And I mean, she kind of – actually she’s scared of me sometimes.  Like I said, I don’t know whether it’s the deep voice. I mean, I don’t holler.  I raise my voice sometimes, you know. When she’s doing stuff, like you ask her to do something three times and she’s still sitting there. You can’t talk to her.

Q: How would you describe the relationship between the two of you?

A: I don’t know. Like I said, I feel like I’m the one that’s raising her.  I’m the one that’s, you know, when she sits at a table, “please don’t chew with your mouth open”, you know, that kind of stuff.  I don’t know, I guess I’m just trying to give her structure.  That’s what I’m saying, I think I’m the only one in her life that’s ever done that.  When I first met (victim’s mother) she was living at her mama’s house and the kid run wild and done everything crazy, you know, stayed up all hours of the night and all that.  She’s got a regular bedtime now. Her mama reads her stories, you know. She’s doing better.

Q: So you said you’re raising her. You’re giving her structure, but how do you all get along? Do you get along good? Is it strained?

A: We do well. I mean, I’m just starting to get accustomed to children, you know. I’ve been on my own since I was like, well, I’ve been on my own like 40 or so, you know. 39 is when I met (victim’s mother) and up til that point, I’ve been on my own.  I’ve had girlfriends here and there and lived with a few of them, but I’ve never worried about kids and all that.  So I’m trying to learn as its going along, you know, how to tolerate, how to be patient, how to try to educate, you know.

Q: What do you think about the allegations?

A: I think they’re false.  I know they’re false.

Q: Have you told friends or any of your family about the allegations?

A: No, I haven’t, and I haven’t because it’s just embarrassing, you know, to actually be in a situation like this. I’ve thought about calling some of my family members and just letting them know what’s going on, but this is the first real serious stuff that’s gone on.

Q: Have you ever been questioned about anything like this before?

A: No sir.

Q: What do you think happened?

A: I don’t know. I don’t know where she’s coming up with it. The first time was – I mean, I don’t know what you guys know. I’m pretty sure you know everythings been said or whatnot, but the first time they talk about the shower thing, I was in the shower. She walked in the bathroom.  Of course, I left the door open so I could hear what’s going on in case something happened.  She walked in the bathroom and said “Daddy, I want to take a shower”.  I said “Well, you’ve got to wait.”  I got out of the shower.  She got in and I just – you know how kids are – let her play in the shower for a minute.  She didn’t do nothing but let the water run on her and got out, that was the end of it.  The rest of the stuff, I don’t know where she came up with it.  I got a good idea that she’s probably seen me in my birthday suit coming out of the shower.  I go in my bedroom and change, not having kids around, I don’t think about stuff like that.


Q: Is she lying when she says you did this?

A: Sir?

Q: Is she lying when she says you did this?

A: Yes sir. And I don’t know if she knows she’s lying or if it’s just like another story, you know.  I mean, she’ll tell stories all day long. You know, she’ll play in her room and make believe. I don’t know if she’s trying to gain attention. I don’t know where it’s coming from. I don’t know if maybe seen one of my (adult porn magazines) and just went on from that.

Q: Why do you think someone would touch a child?

A: I have no idea unless to pick them up, hug them and change their diaper or something like that.

Q: Why wouldn’t you do it? Why wouldn’t you touch a child inappropriately? What would keep you from doing it?

A: I think it’s despicable. Children aren’t meant for that.  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Aren’t we supposed to nurture them and bring up the best we can so that they’re good people?

Q: What do you think should happen to whoever did touch her?

A: I think they ought to go to jail or something or get some kind of help or something.

Q: Should whoever touched her get a second chance?

A: I don’t know. I’ll tell you this myself – if I’d ever seen anything like that, I wouldn’t have been very calm.  You know, if somebody grabbed her and touched her or done something like that to her, I wouldn’t – yeah. The same with my boy, you know. Just don’t make no sense.

Q: Who could have touched her?

A: I don’t know. She don’t see her daddy. Her birth daddy is never around. She goes to church on Sundays. Other than that, she’s nowheres else.

Interrogation Summary

        It was presented that a forensic interview of the victim had been conducted, which meant we knew that the child had told the truth.  It was presented as fact that the suspect had inappropriate activity with the victim.  

        The first theme presented was simply a choice between detectives trying to determine whether the suspect doesn’t understand boundaries or is a pedophile that doesn’t care about the victim.  The scenario posed to the suspect was in helping us determine if he needed help or if he was a danger to the community.  The suspect said he was not a danger to anybody.  

        The theme of a 39-year-old man with an instant family and an inability to cope was presented as opposed to the suspect targeting the victim’s mother for marriage solely to access the victim.  The suspect denied targeting the victim and her mother.  

        The theme of the suspect possibly having been victimized in his past was presented, which the suspect denied.  

        The theme of the victim making sexual advances was presented.  The suspect responded by blaming the victim - first saying the victim had grabbed his penis, and that was the extent of the incident.  It was reinforced that detectives were not intending to judge him, we just wanted him to be honest and we wanted to be able to tell people who looked at the case that he was honest.

        The suspect eventually began admission by saying he was disgusted with himself.  He said he was aroused when the victim was laying on him watching TV.  The victim asked what “it” was and he told her.  Suspect said victim pulled his pants down and went on to characterize the victim as participating in activity as if she was a consenting adult on more than one occasion.


        The suspect was arrested for two counts of sodomy and was later indicted on an additional count of aggravated sexual battery.  He pled guilty in court pursuant to a plea agreement receiving 198 years in prison with 183 years suspended.  He will be on 99 years supervised probation when released and is now listed on the Sex Offender Registry.