tv The Hunt With John Walsh CNN February 7, 2016 5:00pm-6:01pm PST
back in 1981, i had the american dream, the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs, and a beautiful 6-year-old son. and one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye, and never saw him again. in two weeks, i became the parent of a murdered child and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache. i still have the rage. i waited years for justice. i know what it's like to be there waiting for some answers, and over those years, i learned how to do one thing really well. and that's how to catch these
bastards and bring them back to justice. i've become a manhunter. i'm out there looking for bad guys. >> 911 emergency? >> yes, this is sam wells over at spanish towers. and there has been an accident. i just walked in from a camping trip, you know the address? >> what is it? >> we need the ambulance in a hurry. >> what kind of an accident? >> i don't know, ma'am. it looks like -- it looks like my little brother is laying here dead. i don't know what happened. >> what is your first name? >> sam. samuel wells. >> walked in on that, still have a hard time with it today. there was just no sign of life whatsoever. got to take a time-out.
and they were just active, happy little boys. >> it was a wonderful childhood, absolutely amazing. i had two younger brothers, sid and sam, and a great dad who loved the outdoors. i mean, colorado, it doesn't get any better than this. we came from very humble roots. i would say we were lower middle class, but when it came to the richness of love in the family, i think we were at the upper scale. very, very close family. >> sid was fun, outgoing. could be obnoxious at times. kind of a joking comic, always kind of a funny attitude. >> sid, he's everybody's best friend. knows no stranger. very popular in high school band, good athlete. he was just an amazing guy. everybody loved him. >> he was studying journalism
and going to the navy rotc program there at the university of colorado as well. sid was -- had a girlfriend at the time named shauna redford. after a couple, two, three dates he calls me up and he goes, rob, you're not going to believe this, but i just found out i'm dating robert redford's daughter. >> sid and shauna had been dating for almost three years. and they were just a fun couple to be around, very much in love. >> we had a condo in boulder, colorado, called the spanish towers. it was great because sid was going to school there, so he could live there all through his college days. >> sam moved in the summer of 1983.
>> he needed a roommate so i filled in for the summer. got to hang out and get to know shauna a little bit better, his girlfriend. >> that summer, we still needed a good candidate for a third roommate. >> thayne smika was the new person in our lives, so we didn't know him very well. he was from akron, eastern colorado, graduated from csu. we knew he had some things going on for him. thayne took the main room downstairs and i had the bedroom
upstairs. >> they felt that he was a good candidate for a roommate. they found after he did move in that he was not very sociable, and i think he was having trouble coming up with the rent money. >> on the afternoon of august 1st, 1983, at about 12:26 in the afternoon, the boulder police communications center got a report of a man not breathing. >> it looks like -- it looks like my little brother's laying here dead. i don't know what happened. >> is he breathing at all? >> no. >> to be the horribly unlucky person to find a loved one murdered is a scene or a snapshot that you will never be able to forget. it is a gigantic cross to bear for a loved one. >> police and fire officials were met by sam wells at the
elevator. sam took them into the apartment and on the living room floor of the apartment, they found sidney wells dead of an apparent gunshot wound to the head. >> shauna redford just had seen sid a couple hours before. he was alive and well, and then to come back and find out that he had been killed, you have absolutely horrific news. >> at 4:00, my boss called me to the front of the store and said that there was someone that needed to see me. it was a police officer from boulder. >> you're not prepared for anything to happen to your child. you're supposed to nurture those children and they're your immortality. it's unbearable.
>> you know, i was just -- i just couldn't -- i couldn't cry. i couldn't do anything but just stare at him because i couldn't believe what he was saying. that's how our nightmare started. >> who would want to kill sid, you know? >> in this case, the police started their investigation with sam wells. >> it was just almost too much. for all of us.
forced entry through the door or window, or a sign of a struggle, and they didn't see any sign that there had been an obvious burglary, robbery or assault in this apartment. that leads investigators to think that they should be looking from within, they should be looking at roommates or friends or relatives or people who had access to this apartment, people who had access to sid wells. in this case, the police started their investigation with sam wells. >> they proceeded to ask me all kinds of questions. questions like, you know, why would you kill your brother, why would you do something like that, and they decided it was time to give me what they call a paraffin test to find out whether or not you fired a weapon. and all they could find was campfire smoke, so that was my saving grace.
>> by midafternoon we determined that sam wells was no longer a viable suspect. >> we had just gone through losing sid's dad in 1981, and two years later, this tragedy happened. and it was just almost too much for all of us. of course, i just wanted to know why. >> who would want to kill sid, you know? >> it is the simple question that all victims ask. before we can really grieve, before we can close that chapter of our lives, we need to see that person held accountable. >> my initial involvement in this case was being assigned to the crime scene.
mr. wells was found laying face-down on the floor, died from what appeared to be a shotgun wound to the back of his head. because it was such a close contact wound, the blast and the gases from the shell being fired all went into the head. there was very little blood splatter, although there was some. >> crime scene investigators in 1983 used a substance called luminol to look for the presence of blood at a crime scene. once the police have sprayed a crime scene with luminol, they will turn off the lights and they'll apply essentially a black light to the area that they sprayed. and if there's a presence or a
presumptive presence of blood or any kind of bodily fluid, that scene will light up in a fluorescent color. >> we got quite a bit of reaction. somebody, something with blood on it had been moving around the apartment. >> the trail in the apartment went into thayne smika's bedroom and it went into the bathroom. >> in the downstairs bathroom, we noticed that there was a red ring in that toilet. >> an inference that the police had was that perhaps the shotgun used to murder sid wells had been cleaned in that toilet bowl.
>> interestingly enough, the bathroom on the first floor was thayne smika's bathroom. what was most interesting to us was on the coffee table next to where sid's body was found, we found a note and an envelope. the envelope had the numbers $300 written on it. august 1st was rent day. thayne smika was due to pay sid $300 that he was going to take to his mother. we didn't find anything in that envelope. >> the note was a note from thayne smika, and it was to sam and sid wells informing them that he had gone home to his parents' house and he would be back in a couple of days. what was interesting to the police was that there were a number of small spots of blood found underneath the note that thayne smika wrote. >> it appeared that the note
from thayne to sid and sam and the envelope had been placed there after mr. wells was shot. >> somebody placed that envelope after the murder. after the murder. that puts thayne smika as suspect number one. >> the police drove to search the house of thayne smika's mother. shock. absolute complete mystification. staying in rhythm... it's how i try to live... how i stay active. so i need nutrition... that won't weigh me down. for the nutrition you want without the calories you don't... try boost® 100 calories. each delicious snack size drink gives you... 25 vitamins and minerals and 10 grams of protein. so it's big in nutrition and small in calories.
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they say from every murder, there's seven to ten other people directly affected, not just family members, but girlfriends, neighbors, friends and associates, and when sid was killed, that number had to be in the hundreds. we all want to know the answers to the questions of what happened to my brother. >> at this point, thayne smika was our primary suspect. friends and acquaintances of mr. smika reported him as behaving erratically. they thought that he was using
drugs and just kind of going downhill fast. we also interviewed another witness. jeff cohen was a friend of sid's. we learned from jeff that everybody had been up the night before into the early morning hours of august 1st. he told us that what was supposed to happen that evening or early morning was thayne was supposed to return some money to sid, and in addition to paying the rent was also going to give sid some additional money and some cocaine. jeff told us that his friend sid had been selling small amounts of cocaine in the previous months, and that sid had suspected that thayne smika was stealing cocaine from sid. it's our belief that thayne smika that night didn't have the
cocaine or the money to give back to sidney wells. >> i'm the father of a college student, and i think it would be very naive to not think that your college-aged son might be trying recreational drugs. he might sell recreational drugs here or there. it's not a reason for someone to kill sid wells. it's not a reason for police not to investigate this case. sid wells was murdered in cold blood. that's what this case is about. >> at this stage of the investigation, thayne smika is the focus. based on the note that thayne smika had left his roommates, the police were able to locate him in akron, colorado, which is where thayne's parents were living at the time. >> testing one, two, three, four. this will be a taped interview with thayne, last name smika.
>> mr. smika did not appear to be particularly nervous, didn't appear to be too surprised that the detectives were there, certainly wasn't surprised to learn that his roommate had been killed. there was no emotion shown by mr. smika. >> you say you left about 2:00? >> i think around 11:00 instead of 10:00. >> he left the apartment before you did? >> yeah. >> where should the money and the coke be found? >> it should be in the apartment. >> despite what we heard from thayne smika, no money was found on sidney wells' person, nor was any money or cocaine found in the apartment. >> several days after the murder of sid wells, the police drove
back to akron, colorado, to search the house of thayne smika's mother. thayne smika was not at his mother's house at the time of the search. >> thayne smika's mother talked about some not very complimentary character traits. mrs. smika thought that her son may be a psychopath and may very well have been involved in the murder of sidney wells. it was pretty significant coming from a parent, and especially a mother. we had a search warrant for the house. one of the first areas that we searched was the bedroom closet. we pulled a box off the shelf and inside that box we found a .20 gauge shotgun. we knew that mr. wells had been killed with a ,20 gauge shotgun. what added to that suspicion was thayne smika's sister lived in the house, telling us that they
had just cleaned that room and that previous to august 1st, 1983, that gun wasn't in that bedroom. i remember feeling at the time that we probably had our man. >> in early october, 1983, thayne smika was arrested for murder in the first degree. >> we heard thayne smika had been arrested, we were elated. i thought, ah. got the family settled down, law enforcement did their job, boom, we're going to get the rest of the story now and really find out what happened to sid. >> i certainly had a feeling of relief that we had solved the case, but within the next few days, the d.a.'s office, who had approved the arrest warrant for mr. smika, came back to us and
said that they felt there was not enough evidence. as a result, they wouldn't be filing the murder charges against mr. smika. bail was set and he was released. >> in order to help further the investigation, the boulder district attorney's office convened a grand jury into the murder of sid wells. at that time, thayne smika is essentially out living in society. >> at the end of a two-year grand jury run, no indictment was issued by the grand jury. >> when we found out they had not indicted him, you know, we couldn't believe it. >> shock. absolute, complete mystification. grief turned into anger that day.
>> for this grand jury to spend two years and look at a mountain of solid evidence and not indict thayne smika, something was wrong. >> a few months after the grand jury, we got some documents back from the boulder d.a.'s office. i started to go through those and i came upon an agreement then-d.a., and the lawyer that was representing thayne smika. they agreed in advance that there would be no indictment. this represented to me an abuse of the grand jury system. that's not the way the system is supposed to work. >> we were left with the pretty empty feeling that we were never going to get any kind of closure on this. >> if we can get him in custody, then maybe we have a shot at knowing the rest of the story. >> this guy's dirty and he's going to run.
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even get out of bed in the mornings. shauna quit college. she grieved in ways that i can't even imagine. >> we found out that the district attorney had guaranteed thayne smika would not be indicted by the grand jury. to this day, my family doesn't know why the d.a. made that deal with thayne smika. >> cops are powerless unless there's an indictment, unless that d.a.'s office says go arrest this guy, so cops can knock on the d.a.'s door every day and say we have the perpetrator, he's going to run, if you don't let us arrest him, he's going to run. >> the next thing we hear about thayne smika is a few years later, we get a call from the
denver d.a.'s office. what we learned was that mr. smika eventually made his way to denver, that he had gone to work for a construction company as a bookkeeper. he had written unauthorized checks to himself and that missing money had been discovered and the denver d.a.'s office was able to get an arrest warrant for mr. smika. >> shortly after that arrest warrant was issued, that's pretty much the last we've heard of thayne smika. >> it's three years after the murder. smika has disappeared but dave hayes, caring, determined, dedicated cop, never gives up. >> every year, he was bringing more information forward on my brother's case. it could be evidence like the shotgun shells and taking all of this evidence and re-evaluating it, reanalyzing it and bringing in new technologies, new forensics, in to see how that
could be applied in this case, and he would go in every year with new evidence to the d.a.s. >> we wanted to bring the case to conclusion. no matter how long it took, we were going to stay with it. >> i started in the boulder district attorney's office in 2009. i started under the new administration with d.a. stan garnett, and sure enough, in the summer of 2009, dave hayes showed up on our doorstep with boxes upon boxes upon boxes of the investigative file into the murder of sid wells. in december of 2010, 27 years after sid wells was murdered, the d.a. signed off on an arrest warrant accusing thayne smika of murder in the first degree. >> after getting the warrant, we put together a coordinated search which included sending detectives to every place where
there was members of the smika family or close friends of the smika family. unfortunately, the family, without exception, told us they did not know where thayne was and did not know how to locate him. >> i think mistakes were made. i think this family has suffered what my family did, incompetence, bad judgment, mistakes, and that precluded the real bad guy, the guy that killed sid, from facing justice. >> well, sid's been gone for 30 years. the things he's missed out on, while thayne is out there enjoying his life, such as it is, no justice in that at all. sid's murder has been agonizing for us. my brother who found sid, his life has been forever changed. it's almost like he's frozen in
that moment in time. >> there's not a day that goes by that i don't think about it. i would love to see thayne smika arrested and charged duly. it would make me very happy. i'd be probably the happiest guy alive. >> because of a terminal illness, i don't know that i'll live long enough to see a resolution in this case, but i would hope that i can, and i have never given up hope. >> thayne smika has brown hair and hazel eyes. he may be working as an accountant or bookkeeper. unconfirmed sightings have placed him in southern california and in mexico. if you've seen thayne smika, or
have any information as to his whereabouts, please call 1-866-the-hunt or go online at cnn.com/thehunt. you can remain anonymous. we'll pass your tip on to the proper authorities and if requested, will not reveal your name. jehovah's witness. they are a very close-knit community. then here comes rick mclean and he destroys all of that. >> he was like a wolf in sheep's clothing. >> he can't turn it off. he's not going to stop. everyone's lookin' red carpet ready. my man, lemme guess who you're wearing... toenail fungus!? whaaat?!? fight it! with jublia. jublia is a prescription medicine... ...used to treat toenail fungus. use jublia as instructed by your doctor. jublia is workin' it! most common side effects include... ...ingrown toenail, application site redness,...
the first time i met rick mclean was at a meeting at the alpine congregation of jehovah's witnesses. >> he was a ministerial servant so he had privileges of helping the elders maybe read during the meeting. i thought he was liked by everybody. he was very easygoing. >> i could relate with rick because he worked on
high-performance cars, and i've worked on race boats and race cars myself, so on that level we had a lot in common. and often, our two families would work together out in door-to-door ministry. >> we started doing family things with them right after their daughter was born. they wanted to go on vacation with us in the summers. they invited us over to dinner a lot. so we ended up doing a lot of things with the mcleans. he always wanted to do stuff with us kids, whether it be like do you guys want to go like play games at the arcade, or do you want to go get ice cream. he was definitely respected in the church. i felt like everyone got along with him. he was definitely trusted, well-liked.
>> i remember when it started, he would always have my brothers and i, do you guys want to come spend the night? so we would spend the night frequently. he would want to tell us like stories. as time went on, that's when he started molesting me. basically right in front of my brothers, but they didn't even know it.
i mean, lights were off and no one knew what was going on. this started probably around 8. it went on for about -- i would say until i was about 13. i didn't really know what to do, so i just didn't say anything. >> pedophiles have a compulsion that they can't deal with. they will risk family, fortune, reputation, to satisfy that narcissistic desire. >> the first step in his process would be to gain the trust of
the parents of the young girls he intended on victimizing. so he would leverage that fact of how close-knit a jehovah's witness community is. he would build on that to get the parents to bring children to him. finally, in the spring of '04, the first victim confronted him and said point-blank, you molested me, and he admitted to it in front of her, in front of the adults, and in front of his wife. that was the dam-busting moment and the floodgates opened from then. >> nancy mclean called me and told me someone had come forward and told them that she had been molested by rick. i says, well, don't worry, we love rick. i actually remember doing that. but then i think i realized, it sunk in.
she said, you need to talk to your daughter. i called her up to my bedroom and as soon as i said it, i knew that it had happened to her. i could just tell by her face, by the look on her face. so -- and then i said did anything happen to you? she said yes. and she started crying. >> it's just something that i just tried to forget about for so long, at that point i had just like suppressed all of this. like, you know, you block out so much. >> we were very angry. immediately we wanted rick caught. >> absolute betrayal. i just couldn't imagine anything worse. >> more victims started coming
forward through summer of 2004, >> so at this point, mclean's been charged with 16 counts of sexual assault on four children. rick mclean's family left him. they packed up all their stuff and moved out, left him on his own. >> he wrote us a letter apologizing to us and asking for us to remember the good rick, but i really feel there was no good in him. >> he started liquidating his businesses. sold off race cars, sold off the properties that he owned. and i kind of believe he had a plan for a long time. he, some level, knew this day was going to come. at one point, rick mclean called his wife and asked her and the kids to meet him off a
particular off-ramp in southwest riverside county. they went out there and they met. and he said something along the lines of, i can't go to prison, so the easiest thing for me to do is get out of everybody's life. so i'm going to disappear, you're never going to see me again. >> they are the vampires of our children that live amongst us. >> we found a treasure map. i'm thinking this might be my one shot to get this guy in custody. dad, you can just drop me off right here. oh no, i'll take you up to the front of the school. that's where your friends are. seriously, it's, it's really fine. you don't want to be seen with your dad? no, it's..no.. this about a boy? dad! stop, please. oh, there's tracy.
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the monster that he is, very shortly thereafter he disappeared. one morning his father-in-law wakes up. he had dumped his truck in the father-in-law's driveway. wallet, cell phone, letters for the family are sitting in the truck. we also found a treasure map. there was a schematic on it. there was instructions about where to find this buried container. mclean wrote this cryptic note to his family. he said, if something happens to me, someone will contact you and tell you where to find the house where this treasure is buried. so on the map there was a number. 6-1-4. we knew it was part of a house number. we weren't sure we had the complete number. we had no idea what street it was on. didn't know what city it was in or even what state it was in.
we looked and looked and worked with the postal service, looked at maps. were never able to really break the code of the map. we were analyzing his last business transactions. we were able to account for everything except one car described as a three-quarter scale replica 1955 chevy race car. pretty unique car. i was actually able to backtrack all the way to the guy who originally built the cars who lived down in florida. he calls me and says, this guy in daytona beach has one of these cars. i get hold of that guy. he says he bought the car from a dealership in georgia. i talked to the guy in georgia. he bought the car from an auction in arizona in 2005. now i'm excited. this falls into my timeline. i end up with a huge stack of paperwork from all the auctions that happened in scottsdale in 2005. found the car, pulled the
information. i didn't recognize the name. but as soon as i read the address it was the biggest, most exciting moment of the investigation. oh, my god. i decoded the treasure map. because the address was the partial from the treasure map. perfect absolute match for the sketch that he had left behind in the truck. i'm thinking it might be my one shot to break this thing open and get this guy in custody. what we found was a retired guy living by himself in this house. >> they showed me a picture and said, do you know this person? i knew it was mclean. a longtime neighbor brought rick to my house. rick was going through a divorce. i invited rick to stay in the spare bedroom. i didn't know he had a different side. i only feel badly that i helped
perpetuate his freedom. >> it's really sad how these guys work society. how they are able to exist amongst us and constantly count on the charity and goodwill of people. >> we used the map to identify the exact spot on the side of the house where mclean indicated on the treasure map something was buried. we called in a special forensics team. unfortunately when they dug it up there was nothing there. but there was an indentation in the ground that showed that a container had been buried there, just as he had described in the treasure map. our best guest that is he hid some money or maybe some other important documents in there to try to keep them away from law enforcement. once he decided to leave the house where he was staying, he dug it up and took it with him.
the hardest part about this case is that i know, after nine years, that this guy is still out there. his use for the jehova's witness church was his access to victims. there are several other churches and organizations in the country that would take him in that would give him similar access to victims. >> what most people don't understand about pedophiles is the depth of their cunning. you have to live in society while you are molesting your best friend's, your neighbor's or your relative's children. they are vampires that live amongst us. >> i thought they would find rick. i didn't think it would be ten years later we are wondering where is he, are we going to find hip. we don't know how many kids he's molested over the past how many years. >> best-case scenario that could happen is he's caught as soon as
possible, trial, life in prison. prison population has a way of taking care of business. >> rick mclean enjoys camping and is a fan of traditional country music. he's a night owl. if you have seen rick mclean or have any information as to his whereabouts, please call 866-the-hunt or go online at cnn.com/thehunt. you can remain anonymous. we'll pass your tip on to the proper authorities and, if requested, we'll not reveal your name. >> you know, i even have dreams like this. it's like the same recurring dream where he's there and i can't get help, you know. it would be nice to find him so he can get what he deserves and go to jail and not hurt any more kids. >> i'm sure rick mclean is out there. i'm sure that he's got children in his crosshairs. he's not going to stop. he's out there trying to convince you to let him have
your children so that he can rape them. back in 1981, i had the american dream, the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs, and a beautiful 6-year-old son. and one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye, and never saw him again. in two weeks, i became the parent of a murdered child and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache. i still have the rage. i waited years for justice. i know what it's like to be there waiting for some answers, and over those years, i learned how to do one thing really well. and that's how to catch these bastards and bring them back to justice. i've become a manhunter. i'm out there looking for bad guys.
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