Interrogation of Suspects: Why They Lie


On the face of it, we know the answer to this question regarding crime and suspects. Guilty suspects lie for various reasons. Innocent suspects even lie when they are “worn down” by fierce interrogation for hours on end and … they just want it all to end!

The topic of interrogation techniques can be a minefield of controversy – one I do not wish to tackle in depth. However, a primer may be appropriate to illustrate the point further on in this blog.

Valuable time, and resources can truly be wasted, in addition to contributing more torment for victim families!  I was horrified a couple of weeks ago while watching an episode of Dateline about a missing person-homicide case which included two examples of lying that put the case off the track. The reasons they lied… had nothing to do with the case, only their selfish motives!  Such is my motivation for this blog!

“In the United States, scholars estimate that somewhere between 42 percent and 55 percent of suspects confess to a crime during interrogation.” 

Human Nature and a ‘Bare Bones Environment” During Interrogation-

According to several internet sources on interrogation, the keys to gaining useful information depends largely on the skill of the interrogator and the type of interrogation method used.typically only two or three uncomfortable chairs, a table, with no access for temperature control, lighting or bathroom facilities in order to “establish dependence on the interrogators.”

Physical Abuse and Deprivation-

In the case Brown v. Mississippi, the Supreme Court threw out a voluntary confession that was obtained after police officers r\ strung a suspect up in a tree and whipped him repeatedly. The Court’s decision was clear: Confessions obtained by force cannot be used as evidence at trial.

In the 1950s, it was okay to deprive a suspect of food. water, bathroom facilities and physically abuse a suspect for hours.

The benchmark case for protection of suspects during interrogation occurred in 1966 in the case of Miranda vs Arizona in which a  kidnapping and rape suspect, Ernesto Miranda, was not informed his rights of obtaining an attorney when questioned and his right to remain silent prior to providing his confession. Many modern day crime shows, particularly Law and Order, have made this case part and parcel of their stories.  

The moral compass with juries perhaps lying about nonexistent evidence versus lying about the welfare of people, particularly children, may not be palatable as have been demonstrated in documented cases brought to the Supreme Court level.

“Interrogators cannot misrepresent a suspect’s legal rights – Court rulings are clear that because the totality-of-the-circumstances, inquiry is fact specific and determinations of the limits of police deception are case specific” (American Psychological Assn.)

The Reid Technique-

A Chicago police officer in the 1940’s developed this technique which relies on observation of  different kinds of eye blinks and  body language, supposedly connoting anxiety which was interpreted as lying. This technique also uses the  control questions while developing a rapport with suspects. However, this technique has been extensively researched for 40 years and debunked. Anxiety does not mean someone is lying. Rather, it is a natural response to a stressful situation.

Good Cop- Bad Cop-

We all know this technique in which one interrogator becomes the aggressor while the other in the team supposedly takes the side of the suspect, becomes his “friend and protector” in order that the suspect will let down their guard during questioning.

The PEACE-  

Steps in the process-1) Preparation and Planning 2)  Engage and Explain, 3) Account, 4) Closure and Evaluate) is a method conceived in the 1990s and used initially in the United Kingdom. It was developed by law enforcement and psychologists, designed to be non-confrontational and to prevent false confessions.  This technique is  considered best practice. As a suspect composes lies, eventually he will be caught in an inconsistency and, voila, the gig is up! ( I dare say, I think DCI, character Jane Tennison- Helen Mirren  (BBC’s Prime Suspect Series) skillfully used this technique!

Dateline- The Halloween Party Episode -1027 October 27, 2017

What happened to Chelsea Bruck, 22 years old, who lived in a farm town located  in Southeastern, Monroe, Michigan? Chelsea was ten years younger than her two best friends and grew up the youngest of five children in the town of Maybee (Kind of like Mayberry), Michigan.

It happened at Big Mike’s Halloween bash on October 25, 2014.  700+ partiers amid several heavy metal rock bands and alcohol under two tents. In the dark with only the light of the moon and a bonfire, all masqueraded guests. What a nightmare for investigators!  

Becky, and friends Penny and Chelsea, were a threesome that night. However, they became separated and Chelsea never made it home. Chelsea did not drive and her homemade poison ivy costume which she labored for months to create, had no pockets for a cell phone.  She tried to call a friend, borrowing a phone for a ride, but it didn’t work out. In the wee hours of the morning, it was learned that there may have been foul play involved. Her friends were remorseful and filled with regrets. One red shoe, and five months later, over 600 tips helped to solve this case.

This was a very engrossing episode, but, when the leads came about, one suspect lied for the attention, and the other lied for revenge in her own sick intimate partner violence scenario.  What? How could anyone do such a thing when a young girl’s life is at stake?

What lessons can we learn from this true account? What lessons are there about the real challenges for investigators and the unconscionable motives of people?  Chelsea’s family and friends were truly inspiring in their long journey for justice. I invite you to watch this documentary: Video-


If you know of a missing person-unsolved homicide that needs assistance, contact the Cue Center for Missing Persons –

miranda vs arizona case;

To schedule a presentation with me at your future event or  conference please contact:

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Falsely Accused Man; Forever Murdered Woman




Introduction to the Crime:

It was a Friday night in the beginning of December 1998…Twenty-one year old Suzanne Jovin, a German born senior at Yale University, majoring in political science was brutally murdered; struck down in the prime of life when she had all her ducks in a row.  Suzanne was stabbed 17 times in the back, in the neck and with her throat slit….a very PERSONAL murder! Her body was fully clothed; jewelry in tact, with one crumpled dollar bill in her pocket.  She was found lying on her stomach, feet facing the road and upper torso in a grassy area. Apparently, her wallet was found in her room. There was no mention of sexual assault.  At nearly 10 pm; 1.9 miles from Yale, Suzanne was ”left to die on a patch of grass in the moonlight.”


James Van de Velde

  • A former Yale professor-expertise in anti-terrorism; intelligence analysis and international diplomacy; Thesis advisor and instructor of two classes taken by Suzanne  Jovin;James Van de Velde
  • James grew up in Connecticut; attended Yale as an undergraduate and Fletcher School of Law and International Relations at Tufts University in 1988. He then was employed by the State Department until 1993 as a political analyst prior to being hired by Yale University;
  • A ”rush to judgment” by the police” as their “one and only suspect from December 1998 to June 2013;
  • No physical or circumstantial evidence linked to Van de Velde committing the crime – only reports of a broken relationship with another woman and ”rumors”;
  • Contact with the murder victim on her last day of life was fleeting…. “Hi… How are you?”  lasting less than a minute… As Jovin had submitted to Van de Velde changes to her thesis two days earlier…
  • Van de Velde was dismissed or fired from all of his academic pursuits including his work at Yale, his courses taken at Quinnipiac College in broadcast journalism in addition to his U.S. Navy Reserve career;
  • Main thrust of the investigation was Van de Velde’s proximity to the murder scene and a ”trumped up” relationship with Jovin;
  • Personally described as a ”profoundly disciplined man,” Van de Velde  had quirky teaching methods included pulling a gun out of his briefcase when teaching a simulated scene relating to a real-life extortion attempt  and then declaring that “it wasn’t real.”[LJ- This would NEVER be allowed in a lecture hall in 2013];
  • Statement from Van de Velde’s Attorney David Grundberg: “He went from teaching at one of the most prestigious universities in the world to being a complete pariah in academia and not being able to get a call back, an interview, anything from the lowliest of educational institutions.” (June 4, 2013)

Leading Up to the Crime: Timeline:

  • [LJ -How ironic that Suzanne Jovin lived upstairs from the New Haven police substation – a second floor apartment at 258 Park Street.  You’d think no place could be safer…. Had she been killed there, would they have done things differently?]
  • 4:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. December 4, 1998

Suzanne submits rough draft of her senior essay on Osama bin Laden;

Begins preparations for pizza party for “Best Buddies” adult developmental disabilities non-profit: [ ] at the Trinity Lutheran Church;

Dropped off volunteer with University station wagon:

  • 8:45 p.m.

Suzanne returns car to parking lot and walks two blocks to her apartment;

Friends”yell up to her window” inviting her to join them at the movies. She declines to do school work;

A “mystery someone” receives e-mail from Jovin regarding a three party exchange of some Graduate Record Exam books that were borrowed and passed on;

  • 9:10 p.m.

Suzanne logs off her computer and proceeds to walk to the Police Communications Center to return the car keys; [LJ- How ironic that she interfaces with police just an hour before she meets her death]

  • 9:20 p.m.

Brief encounter with classmate Peter Stein commenting on how tired she was, carrying papers and “walking at a normal pace;”

  • 9:25 p.m.

Returns car keys;

  • 9:25-9:30 p.m.

S. Jovin last seen walking northeast on College Street by another student –No interaction took place;

  • 9:55 p.m.

Stranger finds Suzanne bleeding profusely and calls 9-11;

10:26 p.m.

Suzanne is pronounced dead at Yale New Haven Hospital.


Evidence and Lack of Follow-Up:

jovin_cropOver thirteen years’ time much collected evidence was determined to be unreliable, explained away or discredited. What remained and reported included was DNA evidence from  Suzanne’s fingernail scrapings from her left hand; the tip of the knife used in the attack located n her skull; a partial palm print on a Fresca bottle in the bushes adjacent to her body.

Other related information: Only one of the17 stab wounds was fatal:

After the initial investigation was completed the  Assistant State’s Attorney  was quoted as saying in a July 2008  issue of Yale News;

“Don’t get me started on whether the initial investigation was wonderful,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Clark ’72 said, with a hint of sarcasm. “There’s no way to rewrite history, so you move forward with the different focus.”  [LJ – Excuse me… Don’t get me started??]

THAT Focus was the identity of the “someone” to whom the GRE books were supposedly lent. It is apparent that this avenue also was inconclusive;


Questions, Questions, Questions and “Failures”

A brown or tan van was brought to the attention of police, but was not released to the public for two years and was never located;

Only one neighborhood store carried the Fresca brand, one block south of Jovin’s apartment. Reportedly, the police did not examine security tapes or question employees;

DNA analysis of the palm print had not been conducted despite public and family requests; In 2009, Jovin’s parents appealed to then Governor M. Jodi Rell to request that more advanced forensic testing be conducted on original evidence. However, at that time there was a backlog of 12,000 DNA samples. Testing on fingernail scrapings revealed matching -accidental evidence contamination by a technician.


Offer of Dr. Henry Lee to perform a crime scene re-construction was apparently not carried out;

Report of another possible suspect of another man sprinting through a church parking lot was investigated to solely rule in –rule out eyewitness identification of James Van de Velde and never followed through again; The witness failed to identify Van de Velde;

In September 2006, this case was supposedly  assigned to the Cold Case Unit after eight years. However, Van de Velde discovered that it was a lie in that it was “secretly assigned to another team of New Haven detectives”  and no reward was ever offered to remove the focus from him. To date, it is supposed to be a cold case, but is not published as such.

A theory of an unrequited love affair between Jovin and Van de Velde was considered highly unlikely by many parties, including her boyfriend. [LJ – No internet references of Jovin’s boyfriend could be found other than to deny that she did not have an affair and one phrase in one article stating that he was on a train during the murder.]

Was he ever questioned in a detailed manner? Was his alibi checked thoroughly?

The Jovin Task Force” revealed in July 2008  that the circumstances of the  exchange of GRE books was fraught with mystery. Jovin composed her last e-mail in German for a female friend to retrieve in the foyer of her apartment , giving the friend the code to her door in case Jovin was not home.  Reportedly, the books were borrowed but never returned ,nor was “the borrower-someone” ever identified…  Who had access to the code and  who was the borrower?

“The Jovin Task Force” was presented with possible evidence in December 2002 by area residents of a suspicious comment made by another Yale  student who told friends he was sure he’d be arrested for Suzanne’s murder and subsequently committed suicide. [LJ ‘Simply unstable or credible?] This lead was not pursued, although a freedom of Information Hearing request was filed against Yale and the City of New Haven,  scheduled to be heard in May 2013 only to be postponed.


Suzanne Jovin:

  • Suzanne was the ultimate Yale scholar with friends, community and extracurricular activities including the German Club and music and she also  tutored children;Suzanne Jovin
  • Her parents were research scientists who waited in quiet desperation for evidence and the advancement of science to assist in solving their daughter’s murder. However, so far, this has not occurred;
  • Following her death, A friend noted that Suzanne., “once exclaimed how good she felt simply to be young, how much  joy, optimism and sheer wonder she felt.”


Postscript: June 4, 2013 -New Haven: 


Money talks or was bound to dry up after several more years….  A judicial mediator settled the legal actions brought by James Van de Velde against administrators of Yale and the City of New Haven for “wrongfully being labeled as a  suspect.” After 12 years of litigation, the validity of his claims remained in the initial phase of legal arguments.

He planned to move forward with his career as a lecturer in securities studies at John Hopkins University, a consultant to the US intelligence community, return to the US Naval Reserves and become a spokesperson for the wrongfully accused.


May Peace always be with Suzanne Jovin…and  also with James Van de Velde! 






Lest We Forget…Being Grateful Even as Homicide Survivors

As homicide survivors, we get so caught up in our own grief in the beginning or in the cause down the road…. that we can’t see the forest for the trees.  When the victimization is new and fresh, we feel stripped of all of our reserves, questioning humanity, questioning God and life itself.  We walk in circles, try to make deals with our God or make a pact never to do this or that again, as if we could change the course of our loved one’s plight.  We were not responsible. We typically did nothing to contribute to the awful event.  And yet, it is our responsibility to fix it when others appear not to care or are seemingly incompetent.

Women in particular, are the “fix-it people,” the great organizers, and the “hold it together people” in the family line… We see women pursuing the helping professions in droves.  Some pursue corporate life and cast a distaining scowl on the glass ceiling as if to say, “I’ll show you….”  Well, LadyJustice wants to show them too…but in ways that make a real Impact and touch other’s lives differently than climbing the corporate ladder.

Women typically are nurturers and have a lot of love to give. When that nurturing is interrupted by a horrendous life event or when there is no one single “object of my affection,” the cause becomes the fiery passion.  At least that’s the way it is for this writer…

As single, unmarried survivors, we have our biological families who have their own connections.  We don’t always fit into their scenarios except around the Thanksgiving turkey.  Therefore, we create our own personal celebrations.

LadyJustice is here to tell you that it is okay to celebrate survivorship itself.  Yes, you may have overcome neglect, harassment, stalking, emotional and physical abuse, or other violence in its many forms… It is not something we wish to exploit for Hollywood tabloids, nor is it something to be hidden in the closet forever.  Hiding such things will make you physically ill over time…or turn you into a raving manic.  So, pick your poison as they say.  This writer believes it is better to come clean, however painful in the beginning. ‘For to share and educate others is a perpetual way of healing over and over through the rough patches. So, celebrate the fact that you have survived and will be on the road to a different path!  You are strong!  You will not grant power to the evil forces!  You too will smell the roses again, but in a much different way!

Given our personal landscapes and unspeakable new histories, we need to build bridges and make surrogate families. Whether we lose our own families to violence, divorce and emotional stress or being viewed as “damaged goods” for awhile, we need to build others into our new reality.   If we are at odds with the uncaring world outside and cannot shout “Honey I’m Home” daily, what does one do besides talk to the cat??

We reveal our true personalities with those who have a stake in our new lives.  We form new business and personal friendships around the fiery passions which we have acquired much to our initial dismay.   Then…. suddenly we discover that paying it forward, helping someone else even in a small way who has been through it, has a huge payoff!  We no longer see the world through rose colored glasses.  And better still, we never say, what’s in it for me? What’s in it for me is yet to be determined by others more powerful than we!

Thirdly, we must celebrate resources in this information age.  Admittedly, at times there is far too much personal information shared to the detriment of some.  But when it comes to victimology, in the past 30 years, relatively speaking, we have grown from a barren desert to a strong and sturdy oak tree with many blossoms…..

‘Truth is, when our family homicide occurred just 30 years ago there was no such animal called a support groups for homicide survivors.  If you were a widow, if your spouse had a terminal illness, if your loved one perished in an auto accident, these things were covered.  But the tragedy menu did not include those matters of escalating violence, least of all homicide.

Now we have a world of search engines and websites to address every malady possible (with a wary eye toward accuracy versus b.s.).  We have a myriad of universities sources, public broadcasting stations, “helping professional organizations “galore and internet radio just to scratch the surface.  Lest we forget, in the infamous words of Auntie Mame, “Life is a banquet, so stuff yourself!”   So…let us be grateful for resources!

Finally, composer John Bucchino tells us with the heart so eloquently in his wonderfully moving rendition of the song “Grateful” sung by Michael Feinstein. Take just 4 minutes to enhance your spiritual self and listen to this link:

Selected lyrics from above:

I’ve got a roof over my head; I’ve got a warm place to sleep….

I’ve got a heart that can love; I’ve got a mind I can think

There may be times when I lose the light and let my spirits sink….

But I can’t stay depressed

When I remember how I’m blessed

Grateful, grateful

Truly grateful; I am truly blessed and duly grateful.

In a city of strangers, I’ve got a family of friends….

I feel a hand holding my hand…  It’s not a hand you can see

But on the road to the promise land,

This hand will shepherd me through delight and despair

Holding tight and always there

Grateful, grateful

Truly grateful I am

Grateful, grateful

Truly Blessed

And duly grateful

Truly Blessed and Duly Grateful,

Donna / LadyJustice

A Plea to Stop Using Craig’sList in Favor of SafeList

In the aftermath of Donna Jou’s disapperance and possible murder, another example of the predatory behavior of Craig’s List  looms large…..  (See Garrett Berki story below)

Reza Jou found a solution to the lack of security  problem that contributed to the  in the form of a blog posting from abusinessman named Karim Pirani, the president and founder of, a website

 that requires users to submit to questions to confirm who they are before gaining access to the site’s core features.

Pirani came up with the idea not because of a personal tragedy but because he saw a market disconnect with sites like

“If you see a must-have item on eBay, what do you do?” Pirani asked rhetorically. “You look up the seller’s ratings, you then can buy through PayPal, which gives you a certain amount of protection. Craigslist has no PayPal, so a transaction is like Russian roulette. People are nonchalant where they should be vigiliant.”

To become a verified user of SafeList, individuals must submit themselves to a series of questions based on their personal life history that the system pulls from a comprehensive public database. They must correctly answer these questions within 240 seconds.

In addition, failure to respond correctly will keep the person at the basic user level, and SafeList will also report any convicted felon or sexual predator that attempts to register on the website to law enforcement.

***Currently, SafeList is available only in San Diego, but other West Coast cities are expected to be added in 2011. 

About SafeList Ventures
SafeList Ventures, Inc. a privately held start-up, is working to make online classified advertising safer and more secure. The portal provides a “one click” ID verification and criminal background check, allowing members of its community, both individuals and merchants, to interact within a safer online marketplace. To learn more about the company, please visit its website at


Calling for Justice Justice for Garrett- San Diego Style 

An 18-year-old Mission Beach man was shot and killed and three 17-year-old boys were arrested Wednesday night in Paradise Hills after a Craigslist deal turned into a robbery, San Diego police said. Family and friends identified the victim as Garrett Berki, a 2010 La Jolla High School graduate who was attending Mesa College.

Three teenager charged in the shooting death of Garrett Burki stood in court during their arraignment. The judge ordered not to show their faces.

San Diego police said. Family and friends identified the victim as Garrett Berki, a 2010 La Jolla High School graduate who was attending Mesa College.

Vigil held for teen slain answering Craigslist ad

SAN DIEGO — Three San Diego teenagers accused in the death of an 18-year-old man who was robbed and shot after he responded to a Craigslist ad for a $600 computer pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and other felony charges.

Rashon Abernathy, Seandell Jones and Shaquille Jordan, all 17, also face counts of robbery and shooting into an occupied vehicle, as well as gun and gang allegations. They have been charged as adults.

If convicted, they each face a potential prison sentence of 50 years to life.

Dressed in orange Juvenile Hall-issued clothing, the three teens stood together Friday in front of a San Diego Superior Court judge to answer to the charges. One looked down at the floor as attorneys asked for appropriate bail amounts, given the seriousness of the case and available information about the boys, such as their criminal histories, if any.

Judge Joseph Brannigan ordered the teens held in lieu of $5 million bail.

Defense attorney Kevin Milmoe had asked that bail be set at $1 million each, adding that two of the boys — Abernathy and Jordan — did not have criminal records. A prosecutor asked for $2 million bail.

The teens are accused in the Wednesday night shooting of Garrett Berki of Mission Beach. Berki was a 2010 La Jolla High School graduate and was attending Mesa College.

San Diego police said Berki went with his girlfriend to Casey Street off Alta View Drive in Paradise Hills shortly before 10:30 p.m. to buy an item that was advertised for sale on the Craigslist website. Deputy District Attorney Kristian Trocha told the judge the item was a computer.

The couple met three teens who pretended to be sellers, and one of the three produced a handgun.

The robbers took cash and cellphones from the couple and drove away in a green Honda Accord. Berki and his girlfriend followed the Honda to try to get its license plate number.

Authorities said the Honda driver, identified as Jones, pulled onto Artemia Way, a cul-de-sac, and turned the car around. Berki then tried to “box in” the Honda but was unsuccessful.

As the Honda passed the couple’s car, someone inside the suspect vehicle fired a single shot, hitting Berki in the chest. The driver of the Honda kept going, jumped a curb about two blocks away and crashed at the end of Fleming Drive.

The driver and passengers got out and ran.

Officers found three suspects minutes later, hiding in backyards about a block away.

Trocha said Abernathy is believed to be the shooter. Investigators recovered a computer and an expended .45-caliber shell casing.

The prosecutor said all three defendants are members or affiliates of a southeastern San Diego gang. Only only one of them has been documented as such by police.

Mothers of two of the teens said after the hearing that they were sorry for Berki and his family but stressed that their sons did not fire the fatal shot.

Patricia Dykes said police told her that her son, Shaquille Jordan, was in the car Wednesday night when the robbery occurred.

Both she and Shearese Johnson, mother of Seandell Jones, described their sons as good students who were poised to graduate this year from local charter schools.

“I just want my son back safely with me,” Johnson said.About 100 people gathered Thursday night at a vigil for Berki at Mission Beach, including his father, mother and sister. Berki has four siblings. • (619) 293-1287 • Twitter @danalittlefield