Stage Dressing: The Murder of Susan Bailey
Welcome to Crime Raven; true crimes, real-life stories from law enforcement, and issues crime fighters face. This blog highlights crimes researched by retired Detective Sergeant Mark Rein, using publicly available information, court records, and personal recollections. Content may be graphic, disturbing, or violent. Listener discretion is advised. Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
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Saint pulled into the parking garage at 5:00 AM No one else was around. So, he drove with haste, commensurate to the screaming in his head. He had to set things right, he had to get it all done, put it away, put it behind him, and above all, protect his family. The tires screeched loudly as they slipped on smooth concrete in the sharp turns.
The big white car cork screwed higher in the concrete building. A few floors up, Saint slowed and pulled right. He opened the door and tossed out the items, shoes, a bag, and glasses. They hit the hard surface and skittered a few feet before coming to rest. Saint looked and saw how they dispersed. Thought they looked about right. Hoped they would do the job and then accelerated, tires screeching. This time he took the downslope.
The good thing about parks in his city were that there were many, somewhere civilized, manicured as a big city park should be. Some were wild, overgrown with brush and trees and animals that, on occasion, ate people; Saint usually favored the tended and trim parks. But on this early morning, he wanted the privacy afforded by the wild. So, he drove away from downtown to the southwestern periphery. He knew a road on the edge of a park. The houses on one side had huge, wooded lots, and on the other side, dense forest marked the boundary of Kincaid Park.
Once he found the road and then the trailhead pullout, Saint parked. He sat with his windows open for a minute. As the sound of the hot engine subsided, it was replaced by forest noise. After a few minutes of listening, Saint was satisfied that he was alone. He stepped out and looked around in the dim morning light. There was no traffic this early. The parking pullouts like this one allowed access to the city's network of trails. The trail here was only lightly used by runners and bikers who flew by, maybe headed to more heavily trafficked areas of the coastal trail or downtown.
Saint grew more confident as the minutes ticked by. He saw and heard no one as he paced the edge of the gravel. Looking out about 50 feet away, there was a cluster of huge cottonwoods. The brush was thinned under the tree canopy. That would have to do.
Saint returned to the car and popped the trunk. Her body was still in there. He'd half expected that when he opened the lid, he'd wake up from the nightmare. There she was, wrapped in a blanket but otherwise naked. Saint glanced around one last time and then committed. He reached in, pulling her upper body towards him, adjusting his hands under her shoulders, and heaving himself backward as he arched her upward and out. By now, her body was cold, surprisingly stiff. There was a moment as he dragged the length of her body along the trunk lip where she was almost balanced. But he pulled her across the tipping point, and the weight shifted. Saint, not nearly as strong as he once was, fell backward awkwardly, dropping the body half on him, half on gravel.
From his back, Saint felt a shock of urgency hit him. He was fully exposed, on his ass, in the turnout of Kincaid Park, and his dead wife flopped across his legs. He scrambled to his feet, hooked his arms under her armpits, and began pulling. First off, the gravel, across the grass perimeter, then plunging backward through the dense bushes.
As Saint backed through the brush, looking down at his wife of the past decade, he couldn't help but think back to the beginning. 1989. Susan had been the perfect young bride. She had been everything he'd wanted in a girl during their short courtship.
By the time the big day arrived. They knew everything they needed to know about each other. Having made promises and commitments that would fuel and guide their lives through the years. The wedding and honeymoon and Fairbank seemed to Saint like it could be the start of something that would last forever. But he should have recognized the signs. You know what they say about things being too good to be true.
The first clouds on their horizon had popped up when they returned to Anchorage. Instead of getting their own place, Susan insisted they live with her parents. Playing on Saint's compassion, Susan said her parents were getting old and needed them around to help. She said that the arrangement would also allow them to save up for their own place. He should have known. What it really meant was that from the beginning, it would be three against one. Over time as he realized what the new family dynamic would be, Saint adapted. He didn't like the setup, and he didn't like their judgmental attitudes, but he was always respectful of his in-laws and helped where he could. The next shoe to drop was the job. Susan demanded to work outside the home. They didn't need it. He and Susan were living rent-free with her parents. She got the job with the state without even telling him she was applying.
She said that it would help them make their dreams come true, but the job meant he couldn't keep an eye on her, and he was worried that she would be distracted. Being Mr. Mom wasn't his idea of any kind of respectable life. She could leave and do what she wanted, and her parents were always there to keep an eye on him. Anytime Saint tried to slip away and have some fun, there was that judgment waiting when he got home.
The problem was Saint loved his wife, and she was smart about how to keep him busy. Even though she was working full-time, Susan started having kids. That was a real trap. Saint loved his kids more than life. He wanted them to have everything he hadn't. But with each successive child, the possibility of escape, getting away, and getting their own place grew more and more remote.
The job, the kids, that was about the time the bad fights started. Susan would come home from work and take her stress out on Saint. He would try to set her straight, but she was angry and demanding. In some of these, Susan's rage would grow, and they would lash out at each other.
Saint didn't hurt her. She hurt herself. She would be furious, crashing down on him like a wave against the shore. Her mistake was she wasn't a wave crashing down on soft sand. Saint was a rock, and Susan broke herself on him. Sometimes she was hurt bad enough to go to the hospital. Tellingly he was never investigated. Susan never reported him. She knew who was really at fault.
Susan's lying and cheating stole energy from the family. Saint didn't know when her affairs had started or who they were with, but he knew they were real. But by then, they had to have the money she was making when she stepped out under the guise of work. Home had become like a prison. Susan was the warden. The in-laws were the sentinels, and he and the kids were serving time. If there was a problem, the three would circle the wagons against him. Saint was trying to give his children a better life but was constantly foiled by the situation.
Saint's mind focused back on the task at hand. He had pulled Susan the rest of the way through the brush to the small clearing under the canopy of the cottonwood. He set about improving his lie. Returning to the car, retrieving the clothes he had brought. They were the kind of slutty things that Susan liked to wear at work. He dropped the items on the ground as if they had been cast aside during the attack. He positioned Susan on her back the best way he could. Saint was spinning a narrative for the cops who would inevitably try to read the story. This woman had endured depravities that ended her life. When questioned, Saint was fully prepared to add the subtext of blame. This would never have happened if she had just chosen a different path, stayed home, and been a Godly wife and mother.
Saint had a plan for how all this would go. He wanted his beloved Susan to be found. To have quick closure to the sorrowful chapter in his family's life. He didn't like her body laying alone in the woods. He wanted her to be found and brought home so they could bury her together as a family. That's what he was doing all this for.
Even as he completed the final touches around Susan's body, Saint's mind was pulled back to that last fight. What was it now, two nights? Last night? Through the shock, he couldn't remember. Susan was in their living room, screaming at him as usual. She was on the attack. She had been with another man, or was it, men? She didn't care about the kids asleep in their bedrooms. She just cared about hurting Saint. Rubbing his nose in the pile of shit she made him live in every day.
When she came at him, Saint pushed her a little harder than he intended but strictly on defense. Susan, at the height of her flailing rage, lost her balance and pitched backward. Everything would've been fine if the edge of the counter had not been there. She hit her head on the way down. Saint, for his part, and not realizing the full extent of what happened, fled from the room. He waited a little while before poking his head up, hoping that Susan would be calmed, but by the time he returned, Susan lay dead in a pool of blood. Her head split open.
From there, it was all a matter of saving his family from what Susan had done. If he called the police to report an accidental death, they would pin it on him. He would go to prison. Who would raise the kids? Susan's family? He had to cover up Susan's death even though it was an accident, even though it was her fault. He knew as a black man married to a white woman, no one would ever give him a fair shake. He wanted to cry when he thought about what the kids had to put up with from Susan and the rest of the family. This is probably exactly what they had planned from the start. No. Saint had to be the strong one. The responsible one. He would do the wrong thing to get the right result.
Saint stood to one side of the clearing and looked out over the scene of Susan's rape and murder. He thought it looked good, better than on tv. He added one final touch, hanging her white bra in the open from a branch. It began swaying in the light breeze. Perfect, he thought.
In June of 1999, Susan Bailey went missing. Her husband, Michael Bailey, didn't report that fact to the police, but Susan was a reliable employee. When she didn't appear or call into work for her second missed shift, her boss began calling around.
Susan's parents had no idea where she might be. Her husband said Susan had walked out on him. The boss, suspicious and alarmed by the husband's answers, called the police. A patrol officer was sent to the offices of the State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources, in the Frontier Building at 3601 C Street in Anchorage.
The officer spoke with two of Susan's coworkers, a supervisor, and a friend. They said Susan was usually a very accountable employee. She didn't miss many shifts, and when she did, she always called to let them know why. The supervisor conveyed the conversation with Susan's parents and husband. Susan's two coworkers were uncomfortable voicing their concerns. They eventually worked up to telling the officer that they believed that Susan was the victim of regular physical abuse by her husband. Both coworkers talked about knowing Susan for several years and observing that she regularly came to work with visible injuries that looked severe. They said Susan always had an explanation, an incident that would cause the marks, which Susan was embarrassed about and tried to conceal as best she could. She told them that she was just clumsy and accident-prone. Over time, the repetitive stories wore thin, and paired with some of the other observations about Susan's relationship with her, both associates believed she was regularly being battered.
After the introductory conversation, Susan's supervisor said that in addition to her unexplained absence, he was further alarmed upon hearing two messages from her work voicemail. One message was from building security, notifying Susan that they had an item of her property. The other message was from Susan's husband. In the message, he tells Susan that he's looking for her and asks that she return his call. He then said that he wouldn't be home because he was taking their children to a friend's house. During this part of the message, he listed all their children by name. The officer agreed that the husband's message to Susan seemed odd.
The next stop for the police officer was the building security department, where the officer met with the security guard, Dixie Boggess. Boggess told the officer that he was on duty the morning of June 25th. He saw a late seventies model white Oldsmobile sedan pull into the parking garage, which was a standalone multi-story structure next to the larger office building.
The time of day and the speed at which the vehicle was traveling were unusual. People didn't generally start arriving until after six am. He not only saw the car was driving with excessive speed, but he could also hear the tire squealing next door as it raced up and then back down. Boggess was unable to see on the security camera who might be driving. He walked outside to try and catch sight of the car and the driver as it exited. However, he was too late.
Boggess decided to perform a walkthrough of the parking structure, which he did periodically throughout the shift. When he reached the area, he thought the car had turned around and started down. Boggess found items laying on the floor. He saw a tennis shoe, a pair of prescription glasses, and a fanny pack. The pack held identification belonging to Susan Bailey. Boggess bagged the property and took it to the security desk. He then left a message about the property on Susan Bailey's office voicemail. Boggess told the officer that the event was definitely suspicious. The property had not been there on his prior walkthroughs that night.
The officer seized the discarded property as evidence, went back upstairs to Susan's office, and recorded copies of her voicemails. After that, he conferred with the homicide sergeant about the missing person case, and he requested that an officer be dispatched to speak with Susan Bailey's parents and coordinated with APD public relations for a media release about the case.
Mary Lou and George Hollet are Susan Bailey's mother and father. They first became aware that their daughter was missing when Susan's coworker called them. An officer spoke with them that same day, and they gave basic information about Susan's living situation.
Susan married Bailey in Fairbanks in 1989. The newlyweds moved into the Hollet's home in Anchorage after the wedding, living with her parents from 1989 to 1996, during which time the couple's three children were born. In 1996, they moved out of the Hollet's after purchasing their own home. Susan worked at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources from 1989 until her disappearance almost 10 years later. The Hollets were reluctant to talk about the relationship between Susan and her husband, but with their daughter missing, they decided to candidly discuss their concerns.
They told the investigating officer that her husband had been physically abusing Susan for years. They told several stories that illustrated the problem. Mary Lou Hollett said that in 1992, the couple was living downstairs. One evening, as Mary Lou was about to go to sleep, Susan ran upstairs and said her husband had cut her with a knife. Mary Lou saw that Susan was bleeding from a small laceration to her abdomen just below her ribs. When she got the bleeding stopped, Mary Lou went downstairs and confronted Bailey, who admitted that they were arguing, but offered no explanation as to how or why he stabbed his wife.
George Hollett said a similar incident happened one night in 1995. It was just after midnight, and the Holletts were asleep. Susan ran upstairs and said that her husband was trying to kill her. Once again, Susan had been stabbed in the abdomen and was bleeding from a superficial cut. As the parents were tending to Susan, her husband began yelling from the bottom of the stairs, demanding that Susan come down. George said he spoke with Bailey, who was enraged and would not calm down. He said that Susan was his wife, and he could do anything he wanted to her. When George told him Susan wasn't coming down, Bailey began throwing things around, damaging property in the house. George finally convinced him to leave by threatening to call the police.
There was another time when Mary Lou received a call from Susan, who said she needed to be picked up from a local supermarket. It was clear that Susan was in crisis. When Mary Lou arrived at the store, Susan appeared to be trying to hide from someone. When she got into the car, Mary Lou saw that her daughter had numerous bruises, including two black eyes. When she expressed surprise over Susan's injuries, her daughter begged her to drive away quickly because she was afraid her husband was looking for her. Susan explained that the couple was staying in a motel when the beating took place, and she had escaped the room when her husband passed out. The injuries from that beating were severe enough that Mrs. Hollett took Susan to Providence Hospital. It turned out that Susan had a broken nose, two black eyes, a probable concussion, lacerations to her back, and significant injury to her genitals. Susan turned out to be six weeks pregnant, and her husband had accused her of having sex with another man. The hospital staff joined Susan's parents in urging her to report the assault to police, but she refused. Later, the Holletts confronted Bailey about the incident, and he admitted to having had "a little argument" and getting "carried away."
The Holletts took Susan to the AWAIC women's shelter one time after a major fight. Bailey showed up at the Hollett's and demanded to know where she was. They didn't immediately tell him, but he was insistent, saying something to the effect, Susan is my wife, and I can do what I want with her. They figured that Susan would be safe at the shelter, so they told Bailey that she was staying there. Later, Susan said that she heard her husband outside the shelter yelling into a microphone demanding for her to come out.
The day after the initial missing person's report, police detectives contacted Bailey. Bailey confirmed that his wife Susan was still missing. When asked why he didn't report it earlier, he said that he had called the police on Saturday the 26th and was told to call the hospitals, jail, and Susan's friends. No record of this call could be found. Bailey denied assaulting Susan. He consented to a walkthrough of his residence, and the detective saw indications of violence. There were holes in the wall and red stains in suspicious locations. Bailey explained that some of the holes in the Sheetrock were there when they moved in. Some were caused by his punching the walls, and some by moving furniture. The red stains were explained away as coming from a cut Bailey had or from a leaking container of meat in a shopping bag. Initially, all the Bailey children denied that their parents argued or fought. They said they'd never heard or seen their father being violent with their mother.
Based on detective's observations at the Bailey residence, they obtained a search warrant for the home. Upon close inspection of the holes in the Sheetrock, some were found to contain trace evidence. Inside two round holes, Susan's head hairs had been trapped as she pulled her head out of the wall. In other holes, there were tiny smears of her blood. In the kitchen and living room, there was evidence that Susan had discharged a large amount of blood on the sharp edges of the countertop. With a large blood stain on the carpet below. When the carpet was pulled back, it was clear that Susan had laid bleeding in this location for some time, as the carpet, pad, and wood were all soaked through and stained. There was also evidence that someone had attempted a superficial cleanup of the blood. In the laundry area of the house, detectives found a garbage bag containing several damp items. There was a pillow with a blood stain and a pair of cutoff sweatpants with a wide elastic waistband. When detectives asked Bailey about the damp pillow and clothes, he said that the blood stain was old, but when Susan disappeared, he panicked and washed the pillow because he didn't want anyone to think that it had anything to do with her being missing.
In addition to the house, a search warrant was obtained for Susan's hospital medical records. Among other things, there was the record of the visit that Susan's mother had described. The records confirmed her broken nose, rib, genital injuries, and the fact that Susan identified her assailant as her husband.
On July 5th, 1999, a citizen walking a dog on a trail off Jodhpur Street in Kincaid Park was attracted to a wooded clearing by the site of a white bra hanging from a tree branch. He saw a woman's body beneath and summoned the police. By the time Susan's body was found, police had been expecting the call for almost a week. The house crime scene had warned them that she was out there somewhere, and even the newest rookie would've been able to guess that somewhere would end up being one of the many city parks.
When the crime scene technicians began their work, they found several anomalies. The pieces of clothing strewn around the body looked like they hadn't been worn. It was like they had been clean and folded before being put into place. Nothing appeared to have been forcibly removed. Examining the body, it was clear that Susan died in a location and position other than what she was currently in. She had a major injury to her head and face, yet there was no blood pooling on the ground. The lividity pattern on her body was not correct for her position, and there were marks on her waist, indicating that she was wearing pants with a wide waistband as her blood pooled after her death. These observations led APD Captain William Gifford, a crime scene reconstruction expert to assert that the scene where Susan Bailey was found was staged, and that the bra left on the tree was a flag to draw the attention of someone to the body.
Upon autopsy, the medical examiner, Dr. Frank Falico, determined that Susan's death was caused by blunt force injury to her head. She had suffered a very severe laceration to her head, and several bones in her face and nose were broken. Dr. Falico noted extensive bruising to Susan's chest, abdomen, back, and upper extremities. Several of her ribs and her left wrist were broken, and her brain was swollen. Dr. Falico testified that the lividity of Susan's body was not characteristic of the place and position her body was found in, indicating that she had been moved after she died.
A grand jury indicted Bailey in April 2002, charging him with alternative theories of homicide and four counts of tampering with physical evidence. In pretrial evidentiary hearings, Bailey's attorneys made sweeping objections to the state's evidence, asserting that almost all witnesses were being called to provide hearsay and unfounded circumstantial evidence. After hearing the arguments, the judge suppressed several pieces, but most were allowed in either as evidence of a pattern of behavior or as the product of excited utterances.
When Bailey proceeded to trial, the prosecution called numerous witnesses to testify. Three of Susan's coworkers testified about their observations of Susan over the last decade. How she often came in with alarming physical injuries. How her explanations of those often didn't make sense. One female coworker who also identified herself as Susan's friend said that Susan always wore turtlenecks and long sleeve shirts to cover her injuries. She also said that Bailey was controlling of Susan and that he demanded to know where she was and who she was with at all times.
In relation to Dixie Boggess's observations in the parking garage, Susan's supervisor testified that there would be no reason for her to come to work at 5:00 AM. He also described his conversation with Bailey about Susan being missing and how Bailey seemed to not want to contact the police.
Susan's mother and father were called before the jury to describe their experiences with
Bailey abusing their daughter. They talked about the stabbing incidents in 1992 and 1995. Mary Lou Hollett also gave testimony about the incident where she took her daughter to the emergency room after she had been severely beaten. There was a witness who testified that Susan took shelter at AWAIC three times over the years and described the time that Bailey went to the shelter and demanded that she come out.
In 1997, Bailey's moved out of Hollett's home and into a condominium complex. Jennifer Martin, who lived downstairs from the Bailey's testified about regularly hearing loud banging noises from the apartment in the early morning hours. She asked Bailey about those noises, and he joked about having to "beat the wife to keep her in line."
Mykaela Bailey was 11 years old when her mother was killed. Initially, she denied any violence in the home. By the time of the trial, her account had changed. Mykaela testified that her parents often had fights and usually had fights late at night. She testified that sometimes she would hear yelling and banging against the wall when she was in her room. During the fights, she could hear her mother crying and asking her father to stop. After hearing the banging sounds, she would see damage to the walls, and her mother would have obvious injuries. Mykaela testified that she heard her parents fighting the night before her mother disappeared. Mykaela admitted that she initially told the police that she had never seen her father hit her mother. She also stated that she was afraid to tell the police about the fights between her mother and father because her father had said it was "family business."
Captain William Gifford and Dr. Frank Falico gave testimony about the crime scenes, the condition of Susan's body, and evidence of crime scene cleanup and staging. Security guard Dixie Boggess described the incident with the white sedan in the parking garage. He testified that the late seventies white Oldsmobile sedan that the Baileys owned was identical to the vehicle that he saw driving into the parking garage on June 25th, 1999. His testimony was logically tied into the narrative of the crime scene staging.
The defense asserted that the state's case was all about pinning Susan Bailey's death on the usual suspect. They asserted that while Bailey had some flaws, he didn't kill his wife, and it was lazy police work to say that he did. They stated that Susan Bailey's real killer was still out there and that the state had overlooked and cherry-picked evidence to fit the story that they wanted to tell.
The jury convicted Michael Bailey of second-degree murder and all counts of tampering
with physical evidence. Superior Court Judge Dan A. Hensley imposed a composite sentence of 91 years to serve. At sentencing Judge Hensley also found that Bailey's likelihood of rehabilitation was "almost nil." He reached his conclusion because Bailey never sought counseling or treatment or even acknowledged that there was anything unacceptable about his behavior, and Judge Hensley found that Bailey's long criminal history, despite lacking felonies or assaults, indicated that he was not amenable to rehabilitation.
The judge found that Bailey presented a danger to society because of the high risk that he would commit similar crimes of domestic violence in the future. He added that Bailey's years-long practice of severe abuse established his case as exceptional. The evidence admitted at trial showed that over the course of their marriage, Bailey repeatedly committed felony-level assaults on his wife that required medical attention, even though Bailey was not prosecuted for those assaults.
Judge Hensley said that the purpose of the sentence was "to keep Mr. Bailey locked away to protect the public."
Marcy: To begin the discussion of this case, tell everyone why you picked it.
Mark: I picked this case because it was prominent in my career. There are a lot of women who live in horrible situations, like Susan Bailey. Most don't get murdered like she did. But these relationships are often a matter of degree of severity, and they often escalate over time. As we see in this case, children are silent witnesses. In some ways, this case is representative of my whole experience. Working nights, I went to a lot of fights in progress. Ironically, when this case came in, I was on day shift for rotation. You know, I only left night shift a couple times, like twice in seven years, before I went to the detectives.
Marcy: And you were the area car that took this initial call?
Mark: Yeah, I was a responding officer. The call went pretty much like I wrote it. One of the attractive things about working patrol is you never know what's gonna come out of the radio next. I remember being sent to it, it was missing person, plus it's a little suspicious based on what they were telling the dispatchers. It's unusual that a missing person's called in by, somebody who isn't a spouse or family member. I'm saying that as when the person has a family in town, Anchorage, sometimes people only have friends. But when people have family members in town, it's unusual that a missing person be called in by somebody else. That's unusual about this case.
After I arrived, I started gathering information, and it was clear that I was stepping into kind of a much bigger story. If you get a theft report, it's simple. There's no hidden mystery to solve Scooby Do. But this one felt different from the start.
Marcy: Talk about why you called Bailey Saint and why you wrote the narrative from his perspective.
Mark: I wanted to portray the kind of attitude, excuses that men who commit these kinds of crimes come up with to justify their actions. I get this perspective from lots of experiences interviewing people who are abusers and listening to rapists spin situations so that they can claim the moral high ground.
Marcy: Do you think that they actually believe it, or is it just a lie that sounds really good?
Mark: I think it's a little both, especially over time. I think these guys come up with what's necessary to try and get through the moment, and, over time, they buy into their bullshit story.
Marcy: Well, studies have shown that people can actually start to believe a story that's a lie if it's presented to them as fact over time repeatedly. People have the ability to sort of brainwash themselves if it's in their self-interest.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. Do you think OJ Simpson lives every day thinking, I tried to cut off my ex-wife's head? No. He morphed that in his own mind to encompass the rationalizations and warped memories to allow himself to live with himself.
You know, actually, OJs a good example. He brought that shit on himself. He brutally murdered two people in a fit of jealous rage. But today, he has himself convinced that he's the victim. In this case, I called Bailey Saint because despite all he did to his wife over what the judge rightly saw as years of torture, eventually brutally murdering her while their children lay in their beds, trying not to listen. Bailey would tell you that he'd done nothing wrong and was a true victim here.
So Marcy, when we discussed this, you wanted to call him Martyr. I thought that was close to the mark, but the label gave way too much too soon. and for that reason, I went with Saint.
Marcy: We'll use Martyr someday. During that initial call, at what point did you suspect that Susan was actually dead?
Mark: When I started talking to coworkers, there was a feeling of doom. By that time in my career, I'd had enough context, what I have about five years on? I'd seen enough to know the score. It really struck me as really strange the husband wasn't the one to make the missing person call. The concern of the coworkers, they were obviously very worried about her. The woman who said this is my friend was almost in tears telling me her suspicions. They didn't wanna tell me anything about, you know, they didn't wanna talk about this. They didn't want to, cast dispersions on the husband. But, after 10 years of watching her basically come in, just getting beat, they thought they had to say something. Then we listened to the weird voicemail from Bailey. It sounded like a script. When you call and say, Hey, can you call me? When you call your wife, and, you know, even if she's mad at you, you say, Can you call me? I'm taking the kids over to a friend's house. This was more like, Very scripted. He listed all his kids out by name, and we're going over to John doe's house to have a birthday party like he expected somebody to listen to this, and it was part of his plan. It was unusual, and I remember looking at the coworkers there, and they looked at me, and I said, Does that sound right? And they both said no.
Marcy: And they had Susan's property at the security office.
Mark: Yeah. So I went from talking to her coworkers, who were very concerned, down to talk with the security guard Dixie Boggess, who told me the story about, this car comes rocketing through the parking garage early in the morning, very unusual, suspicious, like, what's that guy doing here? And as he told that, I thought, oh shit, she's gonna be dead. I know in describing it sounds like I'm jumping to conclusions, and of course, you know, I don't know any of these people, and we're only scratching the surface here, and I wouldn't bet the farm that she was dead, but I pretty much knew.
Marcy: I remember about the time you took this call cuz I worked in the same building as Susan, and there's a lot of state offices in there. At 14 stories, that building is one of the tallest buildings in Midtown Anchorage, and that parking garage is about five stories. It's kind of attached to the frontier building with a walkway. And Dixie was a fixture there. He was this old guy who did night security, and he was just this kind old man that you would see every morning as you headed up the elevator.
Mark: He came in for a shift on June 24th. Do you think he was thinking today, if I do my job, I'll be the key to solving a murder?
Marcy: Well, he always seemed like he cared about that building. I was happy to know that he was the kind of guy who would do a good job, even at night when nobody was around to look.
Mark: A surprising number of cases during my career were solved by somebody who was conscientious like him, who did the right thing at the right time. I mean, if he hadn't seen the vehicle, if he hadn't been paying attention, and if it hadn't found the stuff, that stuff probably would've been scattered around, by the morning rush. It would've been treated like garbage, probably overlooked. Instead, Dixie saved the day.
Marcy: Bailey told Detective Shell that he had reported Susan missing on the 26th and was told that he couldn't file a missing person report. Even if that were true, every single call to the police department is recorded. There would be a record of that contact,
Mark: There's all these little things that tell you that he's lying and that's one of those things, Right. He's full of crap. He said he called dispatch and told they wouldn't file a report unless he called the jail's, hospital's, friends. That isn't policy. I guess it could have happened, but it didn't because that's not the requirement to file a missing person report. But we really know he was lying because there was no record of any call, no log, no recording. and if he had called there would be a trace that he did.
Now, what he is doing there is taking advantage of what people say about the difficulties of filing a missing person report. The problem is he didn't. His reluctance to report later, and the mysterious, he panicked and washed the blood stained pillows, they're small pieces of the larger pie.
Marcy: Did you do anything particularly special to get this investigation going once you realized how very suspicious it was?
Mark: As a responding officer, I'm not gonna be the primary investigator, but I'd been around long enough to know that to get missing persons investigations started, you know, actively you had to send up a flare, you know, get some attention, even within the department. So I called homicide and spoke with a sergeant there. I impressed on him the seriousness of the situation. He asked that we interviewed the parents, to see what they said, and said that, in, this is a conversation, well, do you want me to go contact the, the suspect and see what he says? And he told me no, that they would speak with Bailey, but just to let him know what the parents said. And he also gave me permission to put the missing person announcement out over the local news.
So at that time, our public information guy was Ron McGee, who was a former on-air reporter. And he actually came to the building while I was wrapping up, the investigation and I briefed him on what we wanted to release. And I remember him asking me, you think he killed her? And I said, We can't put anything like that out. We just need to put out that she's missing. But I told him, Yeah, I think he killed her.
Marcy: You had a special attachment to this case and we talked about it as you followed the progress were more frustrated when it became stalled.
Mark: For a long time this is one of the few cases that I, I'd been involved with that needed to be closed. It went on long enough to make me worried that it would join, Sophie Segie as a cold case. At that time only a handful of cases that I thought, Boy, I've been involved in this and it really needs to be closed. But, actually now I think about it, there's only one now, uh, on my list that Sophie surgery's gone down.
I knew the case pretty well by then. And I knew as prosecutable, very prosecutable. But in those three years it seemed to languish. I went into homicide regularly to inquire about the status. For a while the answers I got were like, we're waiting for the evidence to come back. We're waiting for the state lab. We had a lot of movement through the homicide unit so the case changed hands several times, moved around. Finally, I was flattered, one day I walked in homicide and the sergeant who was Slav Markowitz at that time, I'd come and talk to him several times about it. And so without me, having to ask about it, he said, Mark, I just reassigned the case to Detective Glenn Klinkhart. Glenn wasn't in the office at the time, but he later came and found me, and told me they were moving forward with the indictment. I was very happy. Glenn cared about this case and his cases in general, and he did a good job finishing it up.
Marcy: Why do you think it took so long for him to be charged?
Mark: There are many, many things. It took time for the forensic stuff to come back. The prosecutors have to weigh what are things gonna look like when they go to trial? This case has the staging element. So if you're not gonna just, buy the defense's thing, well there was a rapist that, kidnapped her and did this to her, you have to have a good explanation of what staging is and so forth. So there they have, to plan for that testimony. And I'm sure the prosecutors weren't like, Oh boy, overjoyed have to explain something like that.
I think part of the delay was, the kids' original statements were troubling. They denied there was a problem. It's not insurmountable, but it depends on how that, interview or that testimony would go in front of the jury. If it went wrong, it could gut the prosecution. When Mykaeyla admitted that there was violence that they had witnessed it and heard it, that's a green light for the case. That's what I think happened. I don't know for sure, but looking at this case in, retrospect, I think that was probably the delay.
Marcy: I wonder also if there was the need to do pretty extensive preparation with her, if she's gonna testify as a child. That's a lot of therapy and work wouln't you think?
Mark: Yeah, I'm sure that's a concern. But the other thing there is you can't prep a child. That all has to be recorded and when you present that evidence, Hey, we're gonna use this kid and she's gonna testify to this, you have to give them what you did to get that right, the interviews and so forth. That's all in recording. So you could be accused of basically getting her to say what you wanted to say. So you gotta be careful about pulling that kind of testimony out of a kid.
Marcy: Certainly there's a lot of planning for having a child testify even if you're not doing that kind of preparation with the child, you're doing preparation sort of around the child. What supports you're gonna have and how you're going to choreograph all of that. I guess you do that with all witnesses, but it just seems like the fact that you have children testifying would make it particularly sticky and maybe take longer to get ready for that.
Mark: Yeah, I mean, you're talking about you're gonna contact this child to interview her or them about their dad who's in prison and what she says is probably gonna be very important to how this case goes, if it gets prosecuted and so forth. So I'm sure there was a lot of consideration of the sensitivity of those.
There's a lot of great evidence in this case. I knew it was prosecutable and I'm not surprised that eventually it went down. But, those are the concerns. I'm certain that some of the testimony, if the kids had been adamant about, no, no abuse ever, if that was believable testimony and not just, to protect the father, then you pretty much gutted your case. The theory of your case.
Marcy: The abuser victim dynamic can look a lot like a cult of one. The more you look at this from the outside, the more you sort of say, What the hell? Why did she stay? Why didn't she report? And how could you let it get this bad?
Mark: I don't know. There are some answers that are common when you talk to victims when they look back. They love the abuser and were trying to just ride it out until the good times came back. They feel responsible for the situation and they feel, some of them feel like they deserve the abuse, that they earned it. Some of them grew up in abusive situations and think, well, this is normal. This is how, this is love. They might be the kind of person that will keep a commitment even if it kills them. That sounds funny, but when your family and social networks say, you know, marriage is an inviolable contract sealed by God, how are you gonna get out of that?
Sometimes the victim really relies on the abuser for financial support. It's weird. In this case, the opposite was true for Susan Bailey. She was the only one making money. But if you listen to the episode about the Simmons family, the wife in that case was trying to figure out finances, what she was gonna do, when she left her husband, and, she just didn't get out in time before the murders. Closely related to the financial reason victims stayed because it seems like the, it's a path of least resistance. Susan knew that leaving would be dangerous. She was probably afraid that Michael would go, potentially be a danger to other members of her family. I don't think she doubted he would kill her, but maybe she feared, that he would also hurt her parents or the kids.
Last but not least, they stay because the children are that leverage point. The abuser threatens to take the kids. Sometimes he may even threaten to hurt the kids. That can backfire in the abuser. it's in situations like this, it often the abuse or threatened abusive kids, that's what shatters the spell. Victims that would normally just endure abuse, sometimes leave to try and save the kids.
Marcy: You went to a National Violence Against Women Act or VAWA conference. What influence did VAWA have on how law enforcement responds to domestic violence?
Mark: Yeah, it was huge. A lot of the things in VAWA came into effect in Alaska right just before I became a cop. I couldn't imagine not having some of these things in place. Basically, VAWA was a set of laws that go back three decades. The goal of that law is to improve services for victims of sexual violence and domestic violence and stalking. It's a huge law.
Just to give you an idea, part of the law recognizes that domestic violence is best handled by government organizations that have an understanding of the problem and work together cooperatively. So it funds education and training about violence against women for victim advocates, police officers, prosecutors, judges, probation, corrections, healthcare officials, and, faith leaders.
Part of the law encourages states to enact certain laws that are considered best practices. An example of this are stalking laws. There's also federal bans on things that would inhibit victim services, like fees for sexual assault examinations. Over the years, VAWA has made sweeping changes, things that we now take for granted like, you can enforce a domestic violence order across state lines.
Marcy: I'm looking at a fact sheet on VAWA and it says, since 1994, O V W has awarded nearly 4 billion, with a B, dollars in VAWA grants to fund state, tribal and local governments, non-profit organizations and universities focused on ending violence against women. The law helps fund shelters and other services well beyond just emergency medical care and the best practices that you talked about.
Mark: VAWA goals and standards were a big thing in my training. When I started, like I said, the law had recently been implemented in Alaska, and, one of the big things was that it meant we had mandatory physical arrest in cases where the primary physical aggressor could be determined or there was corresponding physical injury. This is a departure from other misdemeanor crimes in that usually a police officer has to be present, for a misdemeanor when a crime occurs for a misdemeanor arrest to be made, unless you have a private person complaint. With DV the officer just has to have probable cause that an eligible DV related crime happened.
Marcy: This prevents the situation where the victim says, No, I won't press charges, and it takes it outta their hands. Is that right?
Mark: Yeah. The mandatory arrest part means that it's the government. So here's an example. When I made a DV arrest, the offender would often, say, Well, is she pressing charges?
And with this law, I could say, no, it's out of his or her hands. It's the government that's pressing charges. And this is a powerful thing because, We would go to trial with evidence, even when you have a DV victim that becomes uncooperative because, well, maybe they've gone back with him, but we have the evidence, we call her as a hostile witness. We still have, the basic evidence to go forward with trial. And, it's a great deterrent, for this crime.
The thing about that is it's a lot like the broken window theory. If you make an arrest for DV, that's shown to be a deterrent for future violence. Studies show if a person is arrested early, they're less likely, continue an escalating pattern of abuse. If it had happened to Bailey could have head off some of the violence that, Susan regularly endured and that's assuming that the assaults were reported the police.
Marcy: This case made me think about how a lot of violence prevention curricula focus on the importance of bystander interventions. That standing up and saying something is important to break that violence cycle. Susan Bailey's murder seems like an illustration of how difficult it is to put that kind of thing in practice.
It seems like a ton of people in her life either suspected or had witnessed what was happening to her, but no one was able to stand up to the point where they could convince her to stand up for herself or, take action, and some of those people were her parents where they lived in the same house. Why do you think that they didn't intervene, more strongly than they did in this situation?
Mark: I don't know. Maybe it's generational. Maybe they thought, kinda like MyKaeyla was told, this is family business. I think that they saw that Susan didn't wanna do anything and they entered into a pattern of rationalization. They wanted to support her decisions. It's her marriage. Then there's the possibility, the issue of alienating her and the grandkids, when they really wanted to keep them close. Maybe the parents were afraid of driving Susan and, Michael away. If they were to, make an issue of it, maybe they're afraid of losing all contact. If that happened, they lose the ability to help when help is needed.
Those seem like similar reasons to why the hospital isn't a mandatory reporter of domestic abuse. In this case, you had the staff looking at felony assault evidence, broken nose, raccoon eyes, concussion, genital trauma, which is extremely troubling. but it isn't, they aren't mandatory reports. There are things like gunshots are mandatory reports, but dvs not. And the reason that is if you make it a law that you DVs a mandatory report, it has a chilling effect on people seeking medical attention. The hope is that when a victim arrives at the hospital, that person is gonna be convinced to make the right choice about reporting. But it's easy in hindsight to say that the family should have done things differently, but when you allocate blame, in this case, 99% has to go to the abuser.
Marcy: Bailey showed up at the AWAIC shelter, which is the abused women's shelter in Anchorage. and him showing up there is really alarming. It was like, he was totally unhinged. But what I remember as a dispatcher is those calls came in with some regularity and they were of special concern because of it being a domestic violence shelter. And sometimes guys would come and rant and rave outside like Bailey did. But I also remember that men would go and jerk off on the door and do other creepy, disturbing things. How off your rocker do you have to be to think that that kind of thing is effective? I guess I just have trouble putting myself in the mindset of thinking that like a giant man tantrum is gonna make this person feel bad and come home with me.
Mark: I remember a call where a guy was actually urinating on the doors of the AWAIC shelter. AWAIC is Abused Women's Aid In Crisis - that's what it stands for. Just consider the mindset of a man who hears is, you know, his wife's taken refuge in the shelter and this guy doesn't look inward and think, uh, this has gone all kinds of wrong. What should I do to help? Instead, he thinks something else jumps in his car, goes down there, and what, what's he doing? Is he trying to prove he's an asshole? I can't understand it, but I responded to calls like that. What was interesting was the staff at AWAIC often didn't like me. They didn't like me much more than the men I I came to deal with. Many were suspicious, some were downright hostile with officers.
I remember they, they locked an officer in their back gate one time, and I don't, I can't remember the full problem, but they were really hostile to that officer. I came as backup and I'm outside the wall. I don't know. I didn't understand the dynamic until much later in my career when I started working closely with advocates.
Marcy: What do you think it was?
Mark: Okay, so for obvious reasons, males, male motivations are suspect there. Most of the women who work there do so to help others because they themselves have gone through the same thing. And the ones that haven't gone through that, have heard the stories or worse, they've had to deal with people like Bailey showing up outside, screaming into the call box, It's very frightening to them. So the guys that show up, those guys know there are women inside. They know the cops are coming, they don't care. They're there to demand their property.
Marcy: You wanted to talk about this case as representative of your experience with domestic violence.
Mark: That's why I brought this case up. As a cop working at night, I went to all kinds of domestic violence calls right up to spousal homicide, suicide. Unfortunately I went to several of those, and obviously not every relationship where there's domestic violence ends in murder. Those are a small piece, but terrible. But DV is a huge societal problem that affects entire families. Just like this one, kids growing up in this situation learn to be victims and abusers or in the Bailey family's case orphans.
Marcy: 91 years to serve seems like a good sentence for this asshole. He's lost a couple of appeals, so I think it's probably safe to say the judge's goal of keeping him from hurting anybody else will be met. I think about those kids though. I hope they got lots of therapy and I hope that they have found peace in their life.
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