UPDATE: August 21, 2018 – Sadly, it has been reported that the body of Molly Tibbetts has been found. As of this writing, no other details currently available.
I was asked to take a look at the missing persons case of 20 year old, Iowa college student, Mollie Tibbetts.
Local farmer Wayne Cheney was questioned in the July 19, 2018 disappearance of 20 year old Brooklyn Iowa resident, Mollie Tebbetts. You can see the background of the case and a very brief news interview of the farmer here.
Some may be quick to point out after watching the interview that Cheney appears to be hiding something and “acting guilty.” That may be the case, but as a deception expert specializing in forensic statement analysis, I use a science that does not interpret or assign meaning to anything, including his demeanor.
For all we know, strictly from watching the interview, the way he conducts himself with the reporter may be the way he normally behaves. Or he could be extremely uncomfortable being interviewed. Uncomfortable does not equal guilt. For my purposes, I only look at the exact words spoken or written.
When the reporter asked what the community has been going through, what he has been seeing, and the activity, Cheney responded,
“I haven’t really seen much. So I don’t really know what’s going on. I have no idea what they’re doing. It’s just a bad deal.
What’s been the hardest part?
“(chuckle) That they can’t find her.”
When he wanted to know more about what he was asked when he was taken to a local fire station for questioning a few days earlier:
“I don’t even really remember what they asked me. It was a waste of my time. I know that. “
What was the situation like for you [the questioning of residents] in how they approached everything?
“(chuckle) Oh I don’t know. “
How do you feel they should have been spending their time?
“(chuckle) I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
I want to focus on the word “really”. In that brief questioning he used the word “really” four times.
The word “really” is a word that indicates untruthfulness. Used here, it indicates Cheney did see, did know and did remember. The farmer would have been better off not using the word “really” and keeping the sentence short; “I haven’t seen much.” “I don’t know what’s going on.” “I don’t remember what they asked me.” In deception detection the shortest sentence is the best (often most truthful) sentence.
Analysis: No Idea
It is very rare when a person can honestly say, “I have no clue” or “I have no idea.” Most people have an idea on just about everything. Some people will quickly respond that they have “no idea” but then in their next sentence they will suggest an idea. Cheney did not provide a follow-up sentence suggesting any ideas.
The word “just” is often used to minimize things. When the word “just” is used to minimize a person’s actions it is an indication more things transpired than what the person is telling us. “It’s just a bad deal.” What is a bad deal? That a 20 year old has been missing for weeks? Or that he was questioned? Either way, most people would not minimize those events.
Finally, it’s paramount when conducting a deception analysis that the exact words are used. That is why firsthand accounts – either in person or via video or audio that can be played back several times if necessary – are absolutely vital.
In the news article linked above that contains video interviews with the farmer, the author stated that Cheney responded, “I don`t remember what they asked me.” Yet if you listen to the interview and see the transcribed text above, you see what he said was “I don`t even really remember what they asked me.”
It’s not splitting hairs, it’s a distinct difference. If he had said he didn’t remember, it’s very possible that he truly didn’t remember. However, because he said that he didn’t even really remember, that is saying the exact opposite. Fake news? No, more like inaccurate news. One inaccurately reported statement can have a significant impact.
Pig farmer Wayne Cheney knows more than he is telling us.
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