Monday, October 24, 2011

True story: Holding Hands with Evil (pt. 5)

What follows is a true story. I wrote it following interviews with murderer Eric Nenno and Mark Young, and after reviewing newspaper accounts of the case. All names and information are public record. What is different is the perspective: of the killer, and the man who caught him. Parts One through Four are below.

PLEASE NOTE: while not unduly graphic in description, this is the story of the murder of a young girl. Do not read this if the subject matter is disturbing to you.


Earlier in their interview, Special Agent Young had asked Eric Nenno if he would sign a consent-to-search form, allowing officers into his house. Nenno agreed to the request and several deputies were dispatched to see what they could find.

With Nenno’s written statement in hand, the next step was obvious to Young.

“Eric, would you mind taking a polygraph exam?” he asked. “We’ve had the family and several neighbors take one.”

Nenno hesitated. Slowly, haltingly, he said he had “concerns,” and he was afraid that one concern in particular might skew the results.

“Our polygraph technicians are pretty good at dealing with outliers,” Young reassured him. “What are you worried about, exactly?”

Nenno told him that he had thoughts, fantasies, and one recurring fantasy that might interfere with the polygraph. It was about his ex-girlfriend and her daughter. He often imagined that he and his ex would have sex in front of the ten-year-old girl. It was for her education, Nenno added hurriedly, it would help her develop a healthy knowledge and understanding of sex. In fact, Nenno would later write this:

At the initial interview with Special Agent Young and Detective Johnson, I was at first unconcerned with their questioning. But as they broadened the topics to include any sexual interest or predilection I might have toward underage women and girls, I started to be deceptive and evasive in my answers. I do not know if they had intuitively perceived some suspicions; had reservations as a result of my body language, responses, etc.; or if they were just being thorough in their investigation. Their interview began to unlock some of the realization that I had been involved in an actual crime.

Young again reassured Nenno that the polygrapher would not let that fantasy mess up the test, and after a minute’s thought Nenno went into the small room at the back of the trailer. He would later admit that he only took the test because he thought it would look suspicious to back out. He also believed that if they asked him any tough questions, he would be able to bluff his way through them. The door closed behind Nenno and Young sat outside, waiting.

Time ticked by. Young checked his watch. It was taking a long time, longer than usual, he thought. His impatience was checked when the deputies who had been searching Nenno’s house reported in. No sign of Nicole, one officer said, but in Nenno’s bedroom they found a pair of binoculars on a credenza.

“And?” asked Young.

“And from his bedroom window,” the deputy said, “you can see the house where she was playing.”

A few minutes later the door to the polygraph room opened and Young saw Nenno slumped over in the chair, his body language telling of a man utterly defeated. Nenno stood slowly and walked towards Young and Johnson. For several minutes, no one said a word and then Nenno blurted out: “I flunked it, didn’t I?”

“I don’t know,” said Young. “Did you?”

Young and Johnson conferred with the examiner. Without being specific, Nenno had suggested during the polygraph that Nicole might still be at his house somewhere, so Young asked Nenno if he would accompany them over there. He agreed.

They left the trailer and walked to Young’s FBI car, Young intentionally leaving Nenno unhandcuffed. Young held the front passenger door open for Nenno and then took the wheel. Johnson stationed himself directly behind their suspect, and they drove the two blocks to Nenno’s house. They walked down the short driveway to the garage, which stood open.

(To be continued on 10/26)

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