There at the 181
Emily, Host:0:02Mile Marker 181 is a true crime podcast and may contain discussion of graphic or disturbing details. Listener discretion is advised.
Emily, Host:0:28Welcome to Mile Marker 181. I'm your host. Emily. I'll tell you a little bit about myself later, but for now, let's just dive right in. The Mid-Ohio Valley has a population of somewhere around 160,000 people, give or take. That includes Parkersburg, West Virginia, Vienna, West Virginia, and Marietta, Ohio, and some other small towns. The median income for a family in 2000 was just $38,000 and some change. It's 97 percent white. I'm not trying to be political. I just want to paint a picture of the Mid-Ohio Valley for you. I think it's really important to have an understanding of the type of community that it is. I was born and raised in Parkersburg, West Virginia. To summarize it for you in the Mid-Ohio Valley, everyone knows everyone. Sure. You can go to the mall or grocery store and see hundreds of people you don't know, but you'll also see five that you do know.
Emily, Host:1:18Everyone is connected. Six degrees of separation isn't even a thing. It's one degree of separation. I can't visit my hometown and make a quick trip to Walmart without seeing at least two people I know well. This happened to me just the other day. This is the type of community where Friday night football games are televised and on the local radio, where we always throw a hand up in thanks when someone lets you merge into traffic. Where nothing interesting happens without you knowing, your neighbor or your in laws will have the scoop and they'll make sure you stay updated too. You might even go as far as to say that in the Mid-Ohio Valley, nothing stays secret for very long. I want you to keep that in mind. This story starts in 2011 on the evening of Friday, November the 18th. I could tell you a lot of things about Jaleayah Davis, even though I never actually met her.
Emily, Host:2:07I could tell you that she was a beautiful, gorgeous girl. Stunning. I could tell you that just like me, she'd just had her 20th birthday, that she loved her sister Taubi and from what I can tell, they were absolutely best friends. I could tell you that she loved animals. Her phone is filled with pictures of her with cats, dogs, and even a horse. I could tell you that she was tough as nails, that she didn't put up with other people's crap, that she could hold her own in a fight, but unfortunately I have to tell you that she never lived to see 21. She never lived to see her sister get married. She never lived to have her own place with her own animals. Jaleayah Davis was killed in the early, early hours of Saturday, November the 19th on I-77 north at the 181 mile marker. Unfortunately, I don't have any actual audio files, but I have transcripts of everything. So I'm going to read to you the 911 calls that came in that morning.
911 :3:05What is your emergency?
Caller:3:07Yeah, I'm calling about a car that's broke down on 77 north.
911 :3:11Okay. Where at on I-77?
Caller:3:14On the 181 or so. The lights are on. It's up against the guardrail. Something's going on there, but I couldn't see anybody. It's pretty cold out, so I don't know what's going on over there.
911 :3:24Can you give me a vehicle description? Like red car? Blue car?
911 :3:29Can you give me a vehicle description? Like a red car. Blue truck.
Caller:3:33All I know it's a car. He had his lights on, he's right by the car. He's up against the guardrail so there's something going on over there, but I couldn't see anybody standing around. So you know the car or the people I couldn't see, but the lights on in the car. So something's going on over there.
911 :3:49Can I have your name sir? Can I have your name?
Emily, Host:3:54The line went dead... That call came in at 3:41. The next call comes in at 3:48.
Tom:4:04Stay in the vehicle. I'm going to keep the doors locked. Just stay here.
911 :4:07What's your emergency sir?
Tom:4:09I'm at the 181.6 mile marker northbound on I-77. I can not make confirmation of this right now. I'm walking back. I think I just seen a human being lying dead on the highway, sir.
911 :4:19Okay, and you walked away from your vehicle?
Tom:4:22I'm getting out of my vehicle and I'm walking back where I seen the person.
911 :4:26And you think you're at 181.
Tom:4:28181 mile marker sir. I haven't confirmed it yet.
911 :4:31Okay. What's your name sir?
Tom:4:32My name is Tom. We drove by and you know how it's dark and you can't see and I'm just about pretty sure it might've been a person. Gosh, I really don't want to walk back here. You know what I'm saying?
911 :4:43I understand what you're saying. If you don't feel comfortable doing that sir you don't have to stay where you're at and I'll have somebody come up there.
Tom:4:49I'm getting closer to it. I'm hoping it's a deer sir. I really am, but I'm pretty sure I saw what I saw. Oh Man. In fact, here's some other people. I don't know if you're getting more phone calls ,two other guys just stopped here at the bottom of the hill, oh man.
911 :5:02Okay. Sir. Do you know your cell phone number? Is it _____?
Tom:5:06I'm getting closer to it. Oh Man. I'm hoping it's a deer. I'm hoping. I can't. I got my boy.
Emily, Host:5:12Then there's some fuzziness on the tape...
911 :5:14in any way. When hit. Did you pull alongside the guard rail, sir?
Tom:5:19Yes sir. I'm pulled alongside the guard rail. There is a chemical tanker truck that just pulled over. I'm getting closer to it. There's a semi tanker truck that's coming at me right now. Nope. Stay over here truck driver! Stay over here! Stay over here! Oh my gosh. I can't get over here in traffic. Yes sir. Confirmation human body. Oh my gosh.
911 :5:37Do you want to check if this person is still alive or breathing, sir?
Tom:5:41There's parts of him I can't. Oh my God. Oh my God.
911 :5:44Sir turn around and don't look at him. Okay. Turn around and don't look at him.
Tom:5:48Oh my god Sir Sir. You need to hurry up and get people here, please.
911 :5:52Okay. We got people on the way out to you sir.
Tom:5:54Can I start stopping traffic? This might be a crime scene, right?
911 :5:58Do you have a flashlight? I don't want you getting hit.
Tom:6:01Yes I do. No, no! Another person just about hit him! Oh my God. Oh my God. If you can get the county Sheriff Department here as soon as possible, Sir.
911 :6:08Sheriff's department is on the way, so is the fire department and an ambulance.
Tom:6:13Okay. There's a tanker driver who just pulled in front of me. There's a vehicle... I can't.
911 :6:17Can anybody turn their hazard lights on? Put as much light on that situation as you can. Okay?
Tom:6:22Well most of us are already past it, sir. I'm getting kind of like... Sir, This is a crime scene. I'm just about positive. I see the. This is a crime scene, sir. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. This is unreal. This is unreal. This is unreal.
911 :6:36Sir, You said you had your son with you?
Tom:6:38Yes. My son is with me. ...Kinda like a crime scene.
911 :6:42He's not out there walking around with you?
Tom:6:44...see a shirt. There's his head and skull right there. See it? Oh God.
911 :6:49Is the head not attached to the body?
Tom:6:51No Sir. Part of the head is right over there. I need you to get over to the right over to the right!
911 :6:57Make sure that you tell him...
Tom:6:58The Sheriff's department is here. He's getting ready to block both lanes, sir.
911 :7:02Okay, sir, you go ahead and talk to that deputy.
Tom:7:04Yes sir. Thank you sir.
Emily, Host:7:06A third call comes in at 3:52.
911 :7:10911. What's your emergency?
Caller 3:7:12Has anybody called in on a... It's in wood county on the interstate, 182 right before the 182. Looks like somebody busted a deer. They got a...
911 :7:21I'm sorry, what?
Caller 3:7:22It's 182 northbound. Interstate 77. Looks like somebody hit a deer. There's a couple of trucks on the side. Keeping people away from the deer. There's a car by the guard rail. I don't know if anybody...
911 :7:33Okay. It's around the 182?
Caller 3:7:35Yes. Just right before the 182 northbound.
911 :7:38Okay. We've got deputies on the scene out there, sir.
Caller 3:7:41Okay. I just went by and there wasn't anyone there, so I just thought I'd call.
911 :7:45Okay. Thank you.
Emily, Host:7:46Keep in mind there was a seven minute gap between that first phone call to 911, and Tom's phone call to 911. I just want you to remember that for later. And so you know, I'll be using some false names for some of the people involved. Tom Isn't really Tom. He doesn't want his identity revealed. I'll explain a little more about why during another episode. I want to walk you through the events after Tom called 911. The following is a written statement by Tom, taken at the scene where he actually stayed for hours...
Tom:8:16"Traveling north on I-77 at 181 mile in the right hand lane. I saw a glimpse of what I hoped wasn't a person lying in the passing lane of I-77 north. I immediately stopped to the side and stepped out and called 911 and started walking back to the object in the road while talking to 911 operator. I told 911 that I was not sure, but I might've seen a body in the highway. When I approached the body, I tod 911 that there was a body in the highway. I then tried to direct and stop traffic, so the scene would not be disturbed. That's when driver number two, (I'll be referring to him as Dave) Dave arrived and stopped also to assist and soon after officer Zak Schaad arrived and was able to stop traffic totally. A few minutes later, two young ladies going southbound stopped and asked if we had seen her sister. I asked what her sister looked like. She wasn't able to give me a description. I was able to get the two girls to walk back to the vehicle and calm her down. I think she could see the individual in the highway. The car I returned them to had a license plate number of ____ West Virginia, red vehicle. After this, I just waited for the officers directions."
Emily, Host:9:31Tom couldn't have known or expected that one of the two girls that came running from the southbound lane was indeed Jaleayah's sister Taubi. Taubi had been in contact with Jaleayah exactly 15 minutes prior to Tom's 911 call. For reference, that would mean she had been in contact with Jaleayah only eight minutes before the first 911 call where the caller didn't actually see a body, only the car with its lights on. Jaleayah had called her sister Taubi at 3:28 to ask her to meet her at a BP gas station at the end of Rosemar Road. That's in north Parkersburg. Taubi doesn't drive but had a friend staying the night who did, and they headed from Marietta to meet Jaleayah. At 3:33 Jaleayah had called Taubi again to make sure she was on her way, but also to change the location where she wanted to meet to the Welcome Center in Williamstown.
Speaker 1:10:17When Jaleayah didn't show up, Taubi and the friend got on the interstate to look for her. That's when they came upon Tom, Dave, and Deputy Schaad standing around the body. But let's rewind for one second. It's important to mention the second driver, Dave. Remember during Tom's 911 call when he says, "stay over here truck driver stay over here!" He was talking about Dave who was driving a tractor trailer. Imagine you're driving your car and you see a tractor trailer or another car pulled over on the berm of the road with it's hazards on. The common courtesy is to merge over into the passing lane to avoid hitting the car with it's hazards on, or anyone outside that vehicle, especially if you see someone actually walking alongside of the interstate waving a flashlight around. As a truck driver you're likely to show that courtesy and merge over for their safety.
Emily, Host:11:02The second driver, Dave, couldn't have predicted that Tom was actually out there attempting to confirm a body in the passing lane, so he merged over as we all might and at this point he actually ran over Jaleayah who was already deceased. As horrific as this is, I think anyone familiar with the events of that night puts absolutely no blame on Dave. I hope he knows this and I hope he doesn't feel guilty. Here's the statement to the Sheriff's department also taken that morning before he left the scene...
Dave:11:31"Traveling north on 77 at the 181 mile marker. I seen a tractor trailer on the side of the road on the right shoulder and the driver walking with his flashlight towards oncoming traffic on the shoulder, so I moved over into the passing lane and all of a sudden I see a body in the road. I didn't have time to swerve and ran over the body that was already hit multiple times. I pull off the road in front of the other driver for ___ trucking and walked back to confirm it was a body in the road and he told me he had already called 911."
Emily, Host:12:03By the way, if you're wondering how I have these documents and statements, Jaleayah''s mother Kim obtained all of them through the Freedom of Information Act. She shared them all with me. So after Dave pulls over, Deputy Schaad arrives. This is the supplement report that he wrote for this case for the Wood County sheriff's department... On this date Schaad was dispatched to either a disabled vehicle or a crash on I-77 northbound near the 181 mile marker. While en route to the scene, central dispatch advised they received another call advising that a driver believed they had just struck a person on the highway. As Schaad was nearing the scene, central dispatch advised Schaad that a driver confirmed there was a person that had been struck on the highway. Schaad arrived on scene and upon arrival observed a white male waving a flashlight at him and advising that this was a crime scene. At this point Schaad observed a body lying in the passing lane of 77. Schaad was advised by the male that he called it in and that the other truck involved had actually ran over the body. The driver also advised there was a vehicle with its lights on further down the road against the guardrail. Upon closer inspection of the body, Schaad observed that it was an African American female that appeared to have been decapitated. At this point, Schaad observed two females running up the southbound side of the interstate screaming. Schaad questioned who they were and a female replied back, "I'm looking for my sister." Schaad advised them to stay where they were and to return to their vehicle. At this point, the truck drivers Schaad was speaking to advised he would try to help them. Also at this point, Tennant arrived on scene to assist in the matter. After securing the scene and closing down the lanes of traffic, Schaad went further up the road to investigate the other vehicle. Upon approach of the vehicle Schaad observed that the lights were on and the vehicle was still running. There was no one around the vehicle and the doors were locked. The vehicle was a gold colored Kia. Schaad observed that the vehicles sustained damage to the windshield and entire passenger side. Schaad also observed a large amount of blood and matter on top of the vehicle and going to the rear. Schaad advised Tennant that this was the striking vehicle and secured the scene. Tennant arrived at the location to assist Schaad and began his part of the accident investigation. Schaad and Tennant were also assisted by Parkersburg PD. Detective Stalnaker. Stalnaker and Tennant took photos and measurements of the scene and began their investigation. Schaad remained at the scene until the wrecker arrived to impound the vehicle. Schaad escorted the wrecker and vehicle to the Wood County Sheriff's Office to impound the vehicle. The vehicle was unloaded and secured in the maintenance garage at the Wood County Sheriff's Office. While securing the vehicle the wrecker driver advised that there was a cell phone in the driver's side door. Schaad observed the cell phone and collected the phone. Schaad turned the phone over to Detective White and cleared the scene.
Emily, Host:14:42I hate to bore you with supplement reports. Hey, maybe you don't find supplement reports boring. I mean I don't, but the devil is in the details. Actually. I don't think there's a better way for me to describe the death of Jaleayah Davis to you. The devil really is in the details. It just happens that there's a lot of small details. At some point shortly after Tennant arrives. Deputy Deem also arrives after being notified by central dispatch. Deputy Deem's supplement report is a little too long to read to you. It basically covers the next 48 hours, so I'm going to give you the highlight reel. I promise not to leave anything important out.
Emily, Host:15:19Deem gets to the scene after both northbound lanes are already closed. He observes a body covered in a sheet lying in the left lane. There's a white coat hanging from the guard rail just south of the body, and also another sheet lying on the berm of the road just south of where the code is hanging. So if you were headed north consistent with the direction of traffic, you'd first see a sheet covering something then a white coat hanging from the guard rail, and then a body covered with a sheet over in the passing lane. Just to clarify, Sgt. Brett Pickens asks Deem to make contact with the believed victim's family members who are in a vehicle alongside the southbound lanes of the interstate. Deem goes to the vehicle and speaks with Taubi, who tells him about the phone call to meet Jaleayah at the rest stop in Williamstown.
Emily, Host:16:03According to Taubi, her sister was upset with a friend named Kristin Bechtold and wanted Taubi to meet her in Williamstown. Taubi advised that Jaleayah told her that she would explain what was going on when they met. Taubi then tells Deem that her sister didn't show up. She attempted to call her with no answer, and then Taubi and her friend got on the interstate to look for Jaleayah when they came upon the scene. Taubi also advised that during a phone call she had heard Jaleayah say, "give me my keys Kristin." Taubi also explained that she didn't know what Jaleayah had chosen to wear out that night, but she guessed that she would probably have on jeans, a halter type shirt, boots, and a white peacoat. Deem accompanies the Wood County Coroner to talk with the family. With the information that Deem provided to the family, the family advised that they are sure the person lying in the roadway is indeed Jaleayah.
Emily, Host:16:51Deem meets with Detective White at the scene and it's determined they will go to Vienna, West Virginia to attempt to make contact with Kristin Bechtold. At 7:35 AM. they arrive at her residence. There are two vehicles parked in the driveway. One is a Cadillac and the other is a Dodge. The Cadillac appears to have been operated recently in the fact that there's hardly any frost on the windshield of the vehicle and the Dodge sitting right beside it is completely iced over. Remember, this is a November morning. I looked it up and at that time it was about 30 degrees. Just a side note, the supplement claims that photographs of both vehicles are taken and will be placed with the supplement, but in all the documents and photos that Kim was given, these photos aren't to be found. Both Deem and White go to the door and attempt to make contact.
Emily, Host:17:40The doorbell was rang several times and Deem beats on the door several times in order to gain the attention of someone in the home. No one answers so White leaves his card behind asking them to contact the Sheriff's Office. At 7:48 they both clear the home. I'm not claiming they rang the doorbell and beat on the door for 13 minutes, we don't know when they started knocking, but they were on the property for 13 minutes, which is worth mentioning. There are several more pages of that supplement report from Deputy Deem and I will come back to those contents later. The rest is mostly procedural stuff. They begin processing Jaleayah's car, go back out to the crash scene later on in the day, et cetera. Before I wrap things up for this episode, I want to mention something really significant that is documented later on in Deem's supplement report.
Emily, Host:18:27A young woman named Katy Nelson comes into the Sheriff's office voluntarily to write a statement, after being urged by her parents. She had been one of a group of several who had been out at a bar with Jaleayah in the early hours of the 19th, before Jaleayah was killed. She confirms that she, Jaleayah and Kristin had all been at a bar called the Nip N Cue or the "Nip", along with a guy named Freddie Scott and his friend Jordan Campbell, but that they had dropped Jaleayah off at her car where her sister Taubi was supposed to pick her up. At 6:47, two hours after Katy gives her statement, Deem and Detective White go back out to the Bechtold residence. This time they do make contact with Kristin's father. Deem asks to speak with Kristin in regards to the matter, but Mr. Bechtold advises that Kristin didn't feel like talking to anyone at this time. Deem and White explain that that was understandable, but there was also an active investigation underway into the death of the victim. Mr. Bechtold advises that his daughter Kristin didn't want to talk to anyone without the assistance of counsel present. Deem advises that that was her right and asks that she contact the Sheriff's office as soon as possible after retaining counsel, so that she could be talked to in regards to the matter. Mr. Bechtold advises that he would do that and both officers clear of the Bechtold home.
Emily, Host:19:40So to summarize at this point, Jaleayah is found already deceased, essentially in pieces in the passing lane of 77. Her sister Taubi comes up on the scene after Jaleayah failed to meet her at the rest stop. Taubi spoke to Jaleayah who was upset with her friend Kristin, and heard Jaleayah saying, "give me my keys Kristin." When Taubi speaks to Jaleayah on the next phone call, she tells Taubi "I'll explain when you get here", and Taubi even hears her crying during this call, which by the way is extremely out of character for Jaleayah. Officers begin to investigate her death and at first can't get in contact with Kristin, although it appears someone is home based on the lack of frost on one of the cars parked in the driveway. They attempt to speak with her again later in the day, but her father answers the door and says that Kristin isn't going to speak to them without a lawyer.
Emily, Host:20:25My mother has always told me that I have to know everything or my head hurts. And it's true. The not knowing is what drives me nuts, but what is there that isn't clear at this point? You might think that things are pretty straightforward so far that you've got it all figured out, but trust me when I say that after day one, things got exponentially more complicated and confusing, especially when you consider the fact that Kristin Bechtold's grandpa is a former Sheriff for Wood County...
Emily, Host:20:54I want to give a very special thanks to Kim Davis, who without her this podcast would not exist. And I want to give another thanks to Daniel Birch who allows me to use his song Flowing Bells as our intro music. I'll see you next time on Mile Marker 181.