The Silicon Valley Beat



Season 1, Ep. 12

Have you had your 'a ha' moment today?

That's what Mother Champion, our chaplain here at the Mountain View Police Department, talks about as she discusses the chaplain program, the power of laughter, and the reasons why she loves to care for others on this latest episode of the Silicon Valley Beat.

Mother Champion delivers an incredible conversation about why mental health for first responders matters so much, and how heavy their burdens can be. She also talks about how chaplains help provide a pathway to ease concerns, to build bridges, and to ultimately be a light on dark days.

Get ready to feel inspired and to look for ways to have meaningful moments every day -- thanks to tips from Mother Champion -- on this next edition of the Silicon Valley Beat.

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Who is Daniel Garcia?

Season 1, Ep. 4
Finally, when it seems like investigators are closing in on a man who may be connected to Saba Girmai's murder nearly thirty years later, it all begins to fall apart. In an hours-long interview with Fresno resident Daniel Garcia, detectives learn just how his DNA ends up under Saba's fingernails, and it's a perfectly plausible explanation. Once so full of hope, now investigators think that once again, Saba's killer may have slipped free. This is the fourth episode of our special edition podcast series, Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________[[Disclaimer: The Silicon Valley Beat, Major Crimes, is a podcast that deep-dives into major cases investigated by the Mountain View Police Department. Because this podcast covers investigations including critical incidents and homicides, what we discuss here may contain material that is not suitable for all listeners. Names and other sensitive information may be changed to protect the identity of the innocent.]]On last week’s episode -- a new lead brought a new hope to a decades-old cold case. But as we began to reinvestigate the case, Saba’s life in and around Mountain View continued to remain shrouded in mystery, even more than two decades later.But with DNA evidence now tying a known criminal to the case, the question becomes -- how did Daniel Garcia know Saba Girmai?This is the Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes.[[Opening bumper]]Episode 4: Who is Daniel Garcia?Katie Nelson: At the time, Garcia’s formative years were spent in a city once known as being part of “the Valley of Hearts’ Delight.” San Jose, once a bountiful farming and orchard community, began to shift into more of a concrete jungle towards the 1980s with the impetus of Silicon Valley beginning to show in companies that planted their seeds in and around the area, including Intel and IBM.San Jose’s population in the 1980s boasted more than 620,000 people, up from less than 450,000 just a decade earlier. Today, San Jose is home to more than 1 million people, making it one of the largest cities in the country.Fresno, Garcia’s new home, very much mirrored the growth of San Jose. Once a small farming community, Fresno has grown into a city of more than half a million people, making it the fifth most populous city in the state. San Jose is the third most populous.Daniel Garcia was no stranger to brushes with the law. In and out of the justice system for a majority of his adult life, the arrest record for Garcia was decades old, with crimes running the gamut. In fact, his adult record begins when he was just 20 years old, living in the San Jose area.In the span of seven years, from 1979 to 1986, Garcia was arrested five times by the San Jose Police Department. His arrests included multiple incidents where he was under the influence of a controlled substance and, at least once, he resisted arrest.His record begins to show even more aggressive behavior after he moved to the Fresno area. He was arrested for willfully harming a child, assault with a deadly weapon, sexual battery, and driving under the influence, among other charges.His last arrest -- in December 2012 -- was just one month before he would meet Detective Chris Kikuchi and Investigator Nate Wandruff.[[interlude]]Saul Jaeger: But his arrest record doesn’t make up all of who Daniel Garcia is. Like every person, there’s more to his story.Daniel Garcia also is a father of four. He is a brother. And, he has a father who lives in Mexico, but they aren’t close. Daniel was a Bay Area native, born in San Jose, where he actually lived in the 1980s, after he left high school in Fresno. At least one former girlfriend would describe him as ‘cool.’When speaking with investigators, Garcia noted if he had stayed in high school, he would have graduated in 1978.Daniel Garcia is also a recovering drug addict.After dropping out of school, Garcia worked various labor jobs, digging trenches and working on construction sites. He was exposed early to drugs -- the seventh grade, he later recalled -- starting with uppers and downers. He avoided heroin, though, because a family member had died after using the drug, he stated.Garcia was sure of one thing, though, when it came to his preference when he was using -- his favorite drug was PCP.NEWS SAMPLE OF rampant PCP use in the 80’sKatie Nelson: Phencyclidine, sometimes known as angel dust, rocket fuel, killer weed, or the ‘peace pill,’ is actually an anesthetic. It sedates its users, creating a trance-like effect. Those who use PCP have described its effects as creating an ‘out of body’ experience.When someone uses PCP, they can, among other effects, experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, and a person can become exceptionally violent at the peak of their high. The drug is highly addictive, and can be fatal.According to Garcia, he used PCP for about 15 years, beginning after high school. He used PCP until just before 2000, when while high, he was involved in a serious collision that injured a woman.While high in Fresno, for example, Garcia said he and others engaged in a water fight in the backyard of a home. Police were called at some point. When officers arrived, one of them attempted to grab Garcia, and he noted that he thought it was a friend and actually “flipped him” over.Saul Jaeger: In another instance, Garcia experienced such intense hallucinations and paranoia during one high that he broke all of the windows at his mother’s home in Fresno, and yet another time, he removed all of his clothes.Garcia recognized he needed help after his collision in 1999, and he stayed sober for more than 13 years, he said.[[interlude]]Between 1984 and 1987, Garcia lived in and around the downtown area in San Jose. Though he didn’t have a license to drive, he said, he still drove around in his sister’s purple, 1968 Chevrolet Impala. When she took the car back, Garcia remembered buying a late 1960s plum-colored Plymouth Fury, which had a loud, aftermarket exhaust.He had that car for less than a year.According to Garcia, one day, the car experienced mechanical issues, so he dumped it in the Pacheco Pass, and it was impounded. He never saw it again.Garcia knew the Mountain View area, too, confiding at one point he even had an aunt that lived in the area. He knew of Moffett Field, but it had been years, perhaps, since he had been back.Katie Nelson: During some of his time living in San Jose, Garcia noted that he lived near a 7-Eleven, in a complex on Reed Street. At the time, he lived there with his cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend. This simple statement may become very important later.It was in that same complex that Garcia first met Saba.[[interlude]]Saba made quite an impression on Garcia, it seems.In speaking with investigators, he recalled her as being ‘thin’ and ‘wild.’When shown a picture of her nearly three decades later in 2013, Garcia didn’t hesitate in his acknowledgment that he recognized her.“I’ve seen her,” he said, underwhelmingly.When another picture was provided by Investigator Wandruff who, for clarification, asked if it was possible that Garcia maybe didn’t recognize Saba, or if, perhaps, he thought she was maybe a different woman.“No,” Garcia said. “I remember that face.”Here is Daniel Garcia talking about Saba as he knew her back in 1985.Saul Jaeger: Just a quick warning, what you are about to hear are portions of the actual interview with Daniel Garcia and the investigators. There may be content and language not appropriate for all listeners. Discretion is advised.Daniel Garcia: To me, she was just a happy, kooky, money-making girl. Yeah, she would come around sometimes with no shoes, no jacket, no nothing, crazy and hungry. And if you were drinking, she wanted your beer. You were getting high, she wanted to get high. That’s how she was, that was how I knew her. I mean, she wasn’t my girlfriend, she wasn’t nothing to me. She was just a trick around the complex.She came and left, came and left. That’s how she was. She came and left. Came and left. Sometimes, she’d be gone for two weeks, three weeks, then she’d show up again.Katie Nelson: In 1985, in fact, Garcia distinctly recalled an incident where Saba ‘scratched’ him as he was trying to eat.Daniel Garcia: It wasn’t a fight. It wasn’t a fight. I didn’t hit her. She scratched me. End of story, you know what I mean? I didn’t fight her, physically hit her, physically do anything to her. I’m just saying, I never had any contact other than being scratched by her. Sexually, physically, or anything. Besides her slapping me and clawing me.Saul Jaeger: According to Garcia, that was the last time he saw Saba. He moved, he said, sometime after that incident.He said when he went upstairs after the incident occurred, he noticed he was bleeding. He had scratches on his face.“When I went upstairs, I could see imprints from her fingers,” he noted. But initially that was as far as he provided.The next day, Garcia said, while at work, his father inquired what happened to his face. Garcia explained that he didn’t call police about the alleged attack because, in his words, “she didn’t have anywhere to go.”Garcia never told his cousin, with whom he lived, about the incident, nor, according to Garcia, did his cousin ever ask about the scratches on his face. However, and this is important, this was not what Garcia initially told Kikuchi and Wandruff.In his first iteration of the story, Garcia claimed he told his cousin about the attack, and that his cousin “laughed.”“Of course I was mad, but like I said, I wouldn’t hit a woman. I never have. She scratched me and I went inside and that was the end of it,” according to Garcia.Daniel Garcia: Yeah, well of course I was mad, but as I said I wouldn’t hit a woman. I never have. I went inside and that was the end of it. We got into a conflict there and she scratched me on my face. And when she did that, I went into my room.Chris Kikuchi: Why did you have a conflict?Daniel Garcia: Huh?Chris Kikuchi: Why did you have a conflict with her?Daniel Garcia: Because I was eating McDonald’s and she wanted my dinner because she was hungry. ‘Share your hamburger with me.’ ‘Share this with me.’ ‘Do this with me.’ And I said, ‘You need to leave. You don’t even live here.’ And she grabbed one of my beers and I grabbed it back and she went [[makes scratching noise]]. Like a cat.Chris Kikuchi: What did you do?Daniel Garcia: I went inside. I didn’t want no fight with a girl.Katie Nelson: A reasonable, and plausible, explanation as to why Garcia’s DNA was under Saba’s fingernails.Wandruff and Kikuchi has just spent two hours in a room with a man who they thought was the killer, and now this?Countless hours of planning, a three hour drive to Fresno, all leading up to this moment of … what, exactly?Was it really time to give up? Was this the last lead, the last hope for this case?Another half hour went by. Investigator Wandruff again reminded Garcia that his DNA was on Saba.“She scratched me,” he replied matter-of-factly.Wandruff pulled out a photo of Saba’s tombstone. Garcia looked at it, but denied he had done anything to her.Daniel Garcia: I don’t know man, I didn’t do it.Nate Wandruff: Didn’t do what?Daniel Garcia: This right here. I know what that is. It’s a tombstone. I’ve been telling you. I don’t know what happened to her. I didn’t do this right here. I would never take anybody’s life.Katie Nelson: Perhaps, this was it. Perhaps this was, in fact, the end. Perhaps, Saba’s killer had once again slipped free.One last shot. Asking, simply, for the truth.Nate Wandruff: How do you want to be perceived? How do you want people to look at you behind this incident?Chris Kikuchi: Just the truth. That’s all we want.Katie Nelson: And then … something incredible happened.Daniel Garcia: I don’t even know if I’m going to walk out of this room right now. I got a lot to lose.[[End episode]]Thank you for listening to this episode of The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes. For more details and for credit for the music and other source material used throughout our podcast, please visit the episode’s website at material utilized in this podcastResearch sourcing:,_California,_California sourcing:Interlude/interview background music:– MorningLightMusic– MorningLightMusic– FesliyanStudios Background MusicTheme Music:– Over Time by Audionautix– AshamaluevMusicAdditional resourcing: Special Report: “Angel Dust” Scott-Heron, Pieces of a Man “Angel Dust”

A New Hope

Season 1, Ep. 3
Nearly 25 years after Saba was killed, a lead on this decades-old cold case emerges.But with this new hope comes an almost "too good to be true" feeling for one detectives. "Who in their right mind would admit to killing someone?" he wonders.But, he has a lead to follow, a case to build. It just comes down to one thing -- whether or not the man whose DNA is under the victim's fingernails admits to what he's done or, some believe more likely, provides the perfect seed of doubt to bring down the entire investigation. This is the third episode of our special edition podcast series, Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________[[Disclaimer: The Silicon Valley Beat, Major Crimes, is a podcast that deep-dives into major cases investigated by the Mountain View Police Department. Because this podcast covers investigations including critical incidents and homicides, what we discuss here may contain material that is not suitable for all listeners. Names and other sensitive information may be changed to protect the identity of the innocent.]]On last week’s episode we talked about -- DNA, the ultimate tool to use to pursue investigative leads in a case. In 1985, in a remarkable adaptation well ahead of its time, a Santa Clara County coroner clipped fingernails that could, one day, hold the secrets to Saba’s killer. The investigation hit snags though, and soon turned cold. But when a new lead shows up more than two decades later, we have to ask ourselves -- are cold cases ever really cold?This is the Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes.[[Opening bumper]]EPISODE 3: A NEW HOPESaul Jaeger: The start of the holiday season, a time of hope and goodwill.In 2008, while some began to string up lights at their home, gather family around to celebrate good tidings and cheer, at the Mountain View Police Department, it was a time of reflection, and certainly of cautious hope.On December 1, then Captain Max Bosel was head of the Mountain View Police Department’s Investigative Services Division, home to the trove of detectives who investigate cases ranging from homicide, to robbery, to kidnapping, to cold cases.“While assigned as the Special Operations Captain,” Bosel wrote in a supplemental report, “I reviewed the January 18, 1985 homicide of Saba Girmai. Based on the fact that the victim’s body was lifted into the dumpster where she was found, I believed the suspect’s contact DNA could have been left on the victim’s clothing or property. This technology was not available during the initial investigation.”“I inquired about the availability of evidence items in order to determine if there was physical evidence that could be analyzed for DNA,” Bosel went on to write.In his report, Bosel noted that five items were re-sent in hopes that, perhaps, after 23 years, advances in technology could present an opportunity to re-examine the case and perhaps even identify and arrest the person responsible for Saba’s gruesome murder.Katie Nelson: Those five items included:-- her black, plastic wrist watch, that had been found on her left wrist-- her blouse-- a sample of her scalp hair-- a sample of hair from other areas of her body-- and, fingernail clippings from both of her handsWhile he was never arrested, Bosel noted that the man some had described as Saba’s boyfriend was still a person of interest and, following any results from the Crime Lab, “should be contacted for an interview.”[[interlude]]The incredible news came in the form of an unremarkable fax on January 12, 2010, just after 6 a.m.In a letter dated just days before, a CODIS administrator with the California DNA Data Bank Program, a section of the California Department of Justice, wrote a letter to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Crime Lab.An excerpt from the note reads as follows: “The DNA profile from your evidence sample was submitted for search against the CAL-DNA Data Bank and resulted in a candidate match to an individual profile in the database. This offender hit constitutes an investigative lead in your case.”This was the moment everyone had been waiting for. This match, and the name included in the letter, was 23 years in the making.Saul Jaeger: But even with this incredible leap in the investigation, we could not get ahead of ourselves. We had to re-open the investigation as if to begin from scratch, and to build a case so airtight, that there would be no question, if an arrest was made, that we had our man.Nevertheless, we finally had a suspect. It took nearly 25 years, but there he was. Who was he?But as we said, first, we had to go back to the beginning.Katie Nelson: You see, when investigators catch a break on a cold case, they must be meticulous going forward. They have to essentially open a new investigation, with the original as well as any new evidence, to go back and ensure that there are no holes, that every question that could possibly arise has an answer.As Detective Kikuchi says:Chris Kikuchi: DNA is not enough. Because, that explanation of ‘yeah she scratched me’ during some kind of argument where she wanted food … technically, he’d be a victim. If she scratched him, if he stuck with that story, we would not have anything.Katie Nelson: You’ll hear more from Detective Chris Kikuchi later on in the series, but he was the lead detective assigned to the Saba Girmai investigation when it was reopened in 2012.Yes, 2012. If you’re listening closely, that’s four years after the DNA was resubmitted for testing. We’ll address that later in the podcast as well.Saul Jaeger: So, investigators began at square one with a decades-old homicide, but with two crucial pieces that had been missing for so long -- a lead … and hope.First on the list of interviews: Saba’s suspected boyfriend, who you’ll remember from the first episode failed his polygraph examination.We needed to figure out why that happened.On the morning of April 21, 2010, officers again interviewed Saba’s alleged former boyfriend.Remember, this man originally disputed his relationship with Saba, despite multiple people telling investigators they were an item. The man claimed he didn’t date her, only that they sometimes lived together.According to police reports, the man said the following:“With her personality, [[sic]] honestly, I don’t know where she could have been at any given time,” he added. (Saba) knew ‘various people,’ she had ‘a lot of friends and a lot of acquaintances,’ but she never took any of them to his residence.He also added that he “did not know any of the places Saba would frequent. He also did not know where she would go or which “club or bar” was using the red stamp that was discovered on Saba’s hand when she was found in the dumpster that January morning.More than 20 years later, he remained adamant that he had nothing to do with Saba’s murder. And, there was still no real answer as to why he had failed the polygraph exam.Katie Nelson: A small blow. But what we began to realize as we once again looked into this case, it was clearer than ever that Saba had a distinct inability to stay in one place for long.Detectives reached out to and spoke with several former friends and family members about Saba. Saba’s friend “Tena,” who had since relocated out of the area, stated she had known Saba while she lived with family in San Jose. Tena said Saba was “intelligent,” and that any accent she may have from her former life in Africa was long gone. She stated while Saba didn’t talk much about herself, she did “laugh” frequently and was seen often walking in and around San Jose.When pressed if she knew of any male companions Saba may have caught a ride with, Tena stated she never “saw any male with Saba, so she would not be able to identify any suspects by looking at photographs.”Even years after her death, Saba’s life was still very much shrouded in mystery.[[interlude]]Saul Jaeger: Throughout the re-opened investigation, Saba’s family was always on investigators’ minds. Helping them to learn the truth about what happened to her, and why, was paramount.Katie Nelson: The emotional implications of this case reached far and wide. Detectives realized that this wasn’t just about closure for the family, it was a little bit about closure for themselves as well.Again, here is Detective Chris Kikuchi.Chris Kikuchi: It’s a pretty horrible way for anybody to die. She was basically tossed out like trash, just thrown into a dumpster. And you know, partially clothed. I don’t know, it just, to me, she wasn’t treated as a human. Nobody should be killed, obviously, but to be disposed of in that manner, that was just horrible.Saul Jaeger: In April of 2010, investigators called Saba’s sister, who had come to visit California in 1984 with Saba.Much like with other interviews we conducted as we re-opened the case, Saba’s sister did not know much about Saba’s life once she came to California.Throughout this investigation, this was a common theme. But how could Saba’s sister not know what she was up to, where she had been? That question was never really answered in any of our reports. Nobody seemed to know where she was, or who she was with, at any given time.Again, remember, this was the age before cell phones, before social media, before any immediate way to contact somebody. Perhaps it was pretty easy to disappear.Katie Nelson: She said Saba did not tell her much, most likely because Saba thought her sister would not approve of her extracurricular activities. She did say that her sister, like how many others had described her, was “friendly,” but that she believed the way her sister lived her life “put (Saba) at risk.”She added, though, that she did not recognize the City of Mountain View nor know anyone who could have lived there.As we spoke with Saba’s sister, something resonated clearly that was noted in the report. When asked about Saba’s dating life, her sister noted that she believed Saba would have “fought a man off who tried to make a pass or [[sic]] advance on her” and that she believed, per a detective’s report, “this may have been what led to the victim’s death.”We heard this in a later interview with another friend of Saba’s -- she stated that she recalled a specific incident where she and Saba had been “chillin’ at someone’s house” when Saba had suddenly “become undone” when a man tried to make a pass at her.Was this the personal connection that led to Saba’s death? Did she tell someone ‘no?’Saul Jaeger: We also learned both from Saba’s sister and from another man detectives spoke to that Saba could not drive, and that “someone would always drive her.”Two night’s before Saba’s murder in 1985, Saba’s friend also recalled that Saba had suddenly shown up at her home, looking for a place to stay, saying she was unwell. She added that Saba at the time stated she “was refusing to go home to her boyfriend’s house,” according to the report.So, with this knowledge, we knew now, however Saba got to Mountain View, she didn’t get there on her own.Katie Nelson: Between January 2010, and July 2010, investigators worked not only to track down and re-interview as many people as they could, they were also looking to try and glean any information on who the new lead was and what motive they may have had.The case frustratingly stalled once again, as detectives and prosecutors tried to work out a strategy about how to move forward with such a heinous, but 25-year-old, case.It wasn’t until October 11, 2012, when newly minted Detective Chris Kikuchi -- we heard from him before -- was officially assigned as the lead investigator on the case.This would be Kikuchi’s first homicide investigation as a detective, and, it was his first cold case as a detective.You met Detective Chris Kikuchi briefly in the first episode. He’ll be playing a prominent role in the story going forward. Now assigned back to patrol, Kikuchi had been with Mountain View Police for 10 years when he obtained a coveted spot in the Crimes Against Persons Unit, the group of detectives assigned primarily to investigate homicides, domestic violence incidents, abuse and assaults.Saul Jaeger: As he began to dive into the case, much of what he needed was already there -- allowing him to bypass legwork that could have delayed the investigation even further. He was able to look over all the information that had been sent the year before, to see what DNA evidence was useful, and how that hopefully could lead to the arrest and conviction of Saba’s killer.Katie Nelson: That’s thanks to the good old fashioned police work we discussed in Episode 2 with Lt. Mike Canfield.Saul Jaeger: One thing that struck him in particular, was the way in which the Saba died.Chris Kikuchi: It was interesting just from the standpoint because obviously we knew how she died. It looked like a strangulation, she had petechiae in her eyes. She was dumped in a dumpster.Katie Nelson: According to WebMD, petechiae is a sign of blood leaking from capillaries under your skin. Capillaries are the tiniest blood vessels that connect arteries to veins. They help move oxygen and nutrients from your bloodstream to your organs and tissues. According to WebMD, leaking in the capillaries could be caused by an illness or by severe trauma, such as when you strain intensely for a long period of time, if you cough hard, if you vomit, if you lift heavy weights, or in our cause, because of strangulation.Saul Jaeger: Chris had everything he needed to take this case to the next step. In mid December, 2012, a team of Mountain View police detectives, including Detective Kikuchi, met with Santa Clara County District Attorney Investigator and former Mountain View Police Officer Nate Wandruff. Wandruff was then assigned to Cold Case investigations for the District Attorney’s Office and was brought in to help with the case.In that crucial meeting, Kikuchi and Wandruff, who had been colleagues for years, began to form a plan that will ultimately lead them to a real suspect.Katie Nelson: As much as information is crucial in an investigation to help move cases forward, relationships are equally important among investigators. Kikuchi and Investigator Wandruff were old colleagues, so they already had a solid relationship established going in to working together on an active cold case investigation. According to Kikuchi, this positive foundation of their relationship was huge.Chris Kikuchi: Absolutely. I think that’s true in any type of collaboration. If you feel that you know the other person and the other person knows you, or the team knows each other, there’s definitely a more positive influence because it’s not like you feel uneasy if it’s someone you don’t know.Katie Nelson: Chris Kikuchi and Nate Wandruff, after years of starts and stops, would finally be the ones to look straight into the eyes of a killer and get to know the man who murdered Saba Girmai.Or, was the DNA found under Saba’s fingernails, just another guy caught up in this case? Was the man whose DNA that hit in the state system, just some man who had a perfectly plausible explanation. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. It’s happened before. Who’s to say it wouldn’t happen this time?Chris Kikuchi: Any time we have an opportunity to speak with someone about any type of crime, I at least feel, somewhat reasonably that yeah, we can maybe get something from it. Maybe the person will slip. But in this case, like I said, given the fact that it was so many years ago, I wasn’t too confident, to be honest. I just kind of felt that, where were we going to go with this? My initial response was I thought: ‘He’ll deny it.’ Who in their right mind would admit to killing a person? Especially this many years after?Katie Nelson: He’s right. Who would, after all these years, admit to a crime that was more than two decades old? Who wouldn’t find a way to provide reasonable doubt? Who was the man investigators were tapped to talk to?That man … was Daniel Garcia.[[end episode]]Thank you for listening to this episode of The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes. For more details and for credit for the music and other source material used throughout our podcast, please visit the episode’s website at material utilized in this podcast sourcing:Music sourcing:Interlude/interview background music:– MorningLightMusic– MorningLightMusic– FesliyanStudios Background MusicTheme Music:– Over Time by Audionautix– AshamaluevMusic

Then and Now

Season 1, Ep. 2
The case seemed open and shut -- someone was lying. Or was it that simple?It doesn't seem like a long time ago, but it's been more than 30 years since Saba's death, and in that time, technology has advanced at a rate far faster than most developments.So we have to ask ourselves -- could this case, as it was, have been solved with the tools of the trade at the time?This is the second episode of our special edition podcast series, Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________[[Disclaimer: The Silicon Valley Beat, Major Crimes, is a podcast that deep-dives into major cases investigated by the Mountain View Police Department. Because this podcast covers investigations including critical incidents and homicides, what we discuss here may contain material that is not suitable for all listeners. Names and other sensitive information may be changed to protect the identity of the innocent.]]Saul Jaeger: On last week’s episode -- a young woman, newly transplanted to the Bay Area, found dead in a dumpster. A 20-something immigrant, in the prime of her life, taken too soon. Her death puzzles investigators -- who killed Saba Girmai? The one lead detectives had -- a lie detector test that indicated Saba’s apparent boyfriend wasn’t being so truthful about his relationship with her. But was that enough to pursue him as a potential suspect in her murder?This is The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes.[[Opening bumper]]Episode 2: Then and NowKatie Nelson: It would have appeared that police had a major lead.‘Deception indicated’ reeks of foul play, or at the very least, that something was wrong. Or, does it?The investigation into finding Saba’s killer seemingly comes to a stop in April, 1985. There are no notes beyond that the polygraph exam showed something was perhaps amiss between Saba and her alleged boyfriend. There was no glaring error, no hesitation in his responses, no obvious sign of a tell that he was lying.In short, it simply wasn’t enough. In California, for lie detector test results to be admissible in court as evidence,both the prosecution and the defense have to agree on their use.Saul Jaeger: John Larson, a medical student working for the Berkeley Police Department, invented the first polygraph in 1921. This first polygraph simultaneously traced a subject’s blood pressure and respiration. Under Larson’s assumptions, irregularities in blood pressure and breathing patterns would indicate lies.Katie Nelson: But that’s for the modern technology, when in fact for centuries, humans have looked for reliable means to detect lies. In ancient Hindu and Chinese civilizations for example, authorities would look for lies by asking a suspect to chew a grain of rice and then try and spit it out. In China, a dry grain of rice would be indicative that the person was lying. In India, rice was believed to stick to the mouth of those who were guilty.So, by April 1985, the investigation had stalled mainly because the evidence trail went cold. And truthfully, that is something that many departments grapple with on a daily basis.In some cases, this reality haunts us. Because who knows what could have been, what steps could have been the turning point if we had just had one more piece of evidence, or one more lead? But talk to anyone who later worked on this case and you will hear a unanimous agreement that in Saba’s case, at the time detectives did everything they could to try and pinpoint her murderer. But with no DNA evidence, no cameras, no witnesses, it certainly made the investigation that much more difficult.Saul Jaeger: What is fascinating here is just how much work the detectives actually did at the time that ended up being game-changers when advances in investigative techniques – chiefly, DNA – became available over 25 years later.DNA was brand new to investigative work back in the 1980s. Remember how we mentioned that fingernail clippings were taken during the autopsy on Saba? That the medical examiner automatically knew to do that at the time was extraordinary.Why?Because it wasn’t until later that DNA was first used to solve a major crime.In 1986, a revolutionary -- and new -- DNA testing process helped police solve two cases in which two teenagers were raped and murdered in and near the village of Narborough in England.Katie Nelson: Here is a clip from a 2017 documentary that highlights the use of DNA evidence in its early iterations to capture and convict murderer and rapist Colin Pitchfork back in the late 1980s.[[Clip from documentary]]Saul Jaeger: In that investigation, DNA blood samples were obtained voluntarily from roughly 5,000 men working or living near where the crimes occurred. The testing ultimately led to the conviction of a local bakery employee in January 1988.This begs the question – what did detectives have at their disposal in 1985 to help further the investigation of this case, and what would this investigation look like if it were to take place today?Katie Nelson: We sat down with Lt. Mike Canfield, who most recently headed our Investigative Services Division, which is where allmajor crimes – including cold cases – are investigated. Mike also played a role in investigating Saba’s case in 2012 and 2013.On this episode you’ll hear from Mike how the bones of investigative work haven’t changed much, but what has been phenomenal is how tools have helped elevate the idea of what is “good old fashioned police work.”Here’s Lt. Canfield.Mike Canfield: The main tenets of investigations in law enforcement have not changed, we’ve just added new tools. But in regards to how detectives would talk to people then, I think now we would use technology to narrow down that field and start looking at ‘Ok, based on this person’s cell phone patterns or their social media patterns, we’ve narrowed down their main, most important connections to six people.’And so instead of doing canvassing, where you’re talking to everybody at a bar or everybody who might possibly know this person, we’re able to use better analysis and narrow down the number of people we have to talk to.Katie Nelson: Keith Wright, a former detective in England, agrees. In an article he wrote for Police One, in July 2019, Wright talks about how just roughly 30 years ago, CCTV was still a new thing, and only a handful of private companies had it. Today, it’s one of the first things we consider in an investigation, he said, but in the 1980s, it was probably one of the last.Saul Jaeger: Keith Wright continues -- in the 1980s, in the absence of DNA, CCTV, location devices, social media, cellphones, and high-tech covert equipment, investigation in those days relied heavily on interviewing, particularly in investigative divisions.“The art of the interview was king. If you could find what buttons to press, catch them in a lie and sell them your product -- prison -- you might just prove the case. Nothing to it.”“When you look at the changes in technology in society during and since the 1980s, this incredible change has made a huge impact on our lives, both as people and as law enforcement officers.”And he’s right. What will the next 30 years bring?And this brings us back to today.Katie Nelson: So, that’s how our investigative work today has been helped in terms of how traditional police work has been elevated by new technologies. But what is the one thing that has changed the way in which we have improved investigations now?It’s a cell phone.Mike Canfield: Virtually every victim of a violent crime then, if they were in our current time, would have a cell phone. And that would create a volume of information to pour through and look through so their connections in cell phone, their location based on the cell phone, their last actions before the homicide, maybe even where the cell phone went after the homicide -- we’ve certainly seen those. I think the biggest change is everyone, well virtually everyone, has a computer on them virtually all the time. And that opens up so much more information and a whole other field of investigation for these cases.Saul Jaeger: This then took us to the science of crime scene investigation in 1985; how it was completed, how it differs -- or not -- from today, and what they were looking for at that time.Mike Canfield: You know, one of the main tools would be crime scene analysis, predominantly probably looking much more for fingerprints than for DNA obviously at the time. But they would also be looking for trace evidence, perhaps fibers that were transferred from a vehicle onto a person that they could later match.So, there was definitely an emphasis and a skill placed on crime scene analysis and photography of the scene, for sure.And then, in fact I bet, a lot of detectives were probably more skilled in this in the past and ... with so much more riding on interviews and information from people versus machines and computers, you have to be able to speak to people very well and figure out who has information for your case and while I don’t think it’s a lost art -- we do have some people who do a fantastic job -- it was practiced more then and probably in some ways they were better at it than we are a profession now.Saul Jaeger: Another major difference is the prevalence of video cameras in our society. This wasn’t the case in 1985, but today, cameras are everywhere.Mike Canfield: Video surveillance today is dramatically better obviously now than it ever was before. And, it’s not just video surveillance at a store, but they’re everywhere. Front doors have cameras, people’s personal homes have cameras, bridge tolls have cameras. There are opportunities, and it’s not always recorded, but there are opportunities to gather visual data, video data, everywhere.It’s kind of like the old method -- theymay have had to go interview dozens of people to get information when they really only needed to find the two. Now, we have to pour through tons of video data to find something that may or may not be relevant. So, we are out there scouring. And, I’m looking forward to technology that improves that.Saul Jaeger: CODIS is an acronym for the Combined DNA Index System. It is a national database created in 1989 by the FBI. But that was just when it was created. It wasn’t until 1990 that the FBI actually began testing the system with a pilot program involving 14 state and local labs. But even then, the system wasn’t launched nationwide. It would require an act of Congress in 1994 to authorize the FBI to officially create a national DNA database of convicted offenders. It also allowed the FBI to create separate databases for missing persons and any forensic samples collected from crime scenes. So, nearly a decade later, the information needed to even remotely begin to narrow down who might have killed Saba was launched.Katie Nelson: But that would have only gotten investigators potential leads in California. It wasn’t until 1998 that the National DNA Index System was launched, which allowed investigators from different states to compare DNA information with one another – meaning if Saba’s killer was from somewhere other than California, the earliest the DNA could be tested and checked against other databases was nearly 15 years after she was killed.To add to that, quality assurance documents from the FBI were first issued 1998, four years after the program began testing, meaning that at least initially, the science and accuracy may not have been up to the standards we know today. It also means that over time, the system had to grow.Saul Jaeger: Now, back to Sgt. Don McKay, to talk about DNA and its use in investigations around that time.Don McKay: We figured that we could use DNA in rape cases for you know pubic hairs and stuff like that, but that was what a rape kit was for. We didn’t have any really way to, if we had a suspect, tie him to the scene. We didn’t have any database. We couldn’t just plug something in and find out who the suspect was. That was nonexistent at that time. DNA was obviously in its infant stages, basically, in 85.Saul Jaeger: In a 2008 interview with the CBS news show, Eye to Eye, correspondents spoke with the FBI’s Bob Orr, about the bureau’s national DNA database. In this interview, he speaks about the importance of the collection of DNA, and why it is significant in investigations then and now.[[Eye to Eye interview plays]]Saul Jaeger: And once again, Lt. Mike Canfield.Mike Canfield: If there was, if things had maybe at the time had given more information as to who the suspect was, that vehicle I imagine would have been a very pivotal part of this investigation.And I would suspect that there was probably fiber evidence on our victim from that car, and probably even, I would bet, some DNA of her’s inside the vehicle as well. We believe she was assaulted inside of the vehicle.I would expect to see it in an atypical manner, you know in different locations than you would find in a normal car.Katie Nelson: Lt. Canfield mentioned a car. That means that Saba could have potentially been in more than one place between the time that she was assaulted and killed. How would officers in different jurisdictions communicate back in the 1980s?Mike Canfield: I imagine that detectives then were like the detectives now and they knew their peers and communicated regularly perhaps even moreso, because it was more difficult to share information.Katie Nelson: In 1985, to share information, more often than not, detectives from surrounding jurisdictions would need to meet in person in order to share vital information regarding cases that they were investigating. Or, it was possible that they would share information by sending it through the mail, or by having carriers bring it from one department to another.But, this certainly added time to investigative loads, delaying expediency and possibly solving crimes.Today, however, things like emails, bulletins, and video conferencing and cell phone calls exponentially speed up the process.But, even in the midst of all this technology, tried and true practices like solid communication and information sharing is still vital to the success of any investigation.Mike Canfield: But now, our ability to share information has never been matched in history. It’s so easy to push out information, and request information, and share information, with our neighbors, with our neighboring law enforcement, and global law enforcement, that if somebody has information and they see that request, it’s a phenomenally great tool.And, it’s very easy for them to then share that information that they have with us. So not only can we ask, but we don’t have to worry about how we get a VHS tape from Florida to us. They can email it, they can Dropbox it, they can do a number of things for us to get this information while we log into their same portal they use to record it.Saul Jaeger: Knowing all of this, comparing and contrasting investigative work in 1985 to that of the 21stcentury, was it possible that this case had a real shot at being solved?Before the 90s? Most likely? No. There were too many variables that had no hard foundation. By the time the investigation stalled four months after Saba was found, investigators had learned definitively she wasn’t from Mountain View, that she didn’t live in Mountain View at any point, and that she more than likely spent little, if any, time in the city.Also, we didn’t nearly have the reach and resources available that we do today, even in today’s high-tech investigative world, cases still take time, can be hard to track, and suspects can still evade capture.Katie Nelson: Speculative, for sure, but highly probable that we’re right about just how difficult this case was on investigators, given what they had to work with in the 1980s.But one thing we do know for certain – in 2008, a fortuitous decision to re-test DNA would change the course of this case forever.[[End episode]]Thank you for listening to this episode of The Silicon Valley Beat: Major Crimes. For more details about our source material and where we found it, and for credit for the music in this episode, please visit the episode’s website at material utilized in this podcastResearch sourcing: sourcing:Interlude/interview background music:– MorningLightMusic– MorningLightMusic– FesliyanStudios Background MusicTheme Music:– Over Time by Audionautix– AshamaluevMusicAdditional resourcing:– Eye to Eye FBI and DNA Robots– Science behind Polygraphs– True Crime Stories, the Story of Colin Pitchfork