TRANSCRIPT: To Live and Die in LA, Season 2, Episode 8: A Job for the Police
NEIL/VO: What you’re hearing are the sounds of cadaver dogs finishing their search of Susan Park’s property. I looked to Jayden for some indication of what the dogs may have found but his face reveals nothing.
JAYDEN: Let me talk to them outside and I’ll be right in, okay?
JAYDEN: I mean, I gotta talk to them, and, you know.
NEIL/VO: I leave with Ingrid.
INGRID: Bye, Susan.
NEIL/VO: As we’re on the highway driving back to Malibu, following the route that Elaine must have taken that last night as she went to see Divine, the phone rings. It’s Jayden with the results of the cadaver dog search.
JAYDEN: So there was a hit on the wall where the samples were collected.
NEIL: Holy shit!
JAYDEN: These dogs detect bodies, they detect blood. They’re basically like, you know— murder dogs. The fact that there was a hit is— is— is significant. They didn’t hit anywhere else, by the way, the whole house was searched. I mean, I witnessed it with my own eyes, so— I saw the dogs hit on the bed and on the closet and on the wall, so— that tells me that something went on there. They’re gonna call and talk to the Sheriff’s department, I’m gonna talk to them as well, ah, here shortly and then— we’ll see what we’re gonna do.
NEIL/VO: What this could mean is that Elaine came home after leaving Divine’s house and something happened there. It could also mean that the dogs picked up on blood or another human decomposition odor from something unrelated to the incident. We don’t know yet. All we know is that with positive cadaver dog hits in Elaine’s bedroom, as of today we are officially in over our heads.
Episode 8, Chapter 15: Bandit
NEIL/VO: The following is the cadaver dog report that was delivered to Jayden Brandt immediately after the dog search of Susan Park’s home. I’m going to read it word for word with a few slight abridgments and explanations. There are two terms to note when you listen to this report. One is interest, which means that a cadaver dog smelled what might be human decomposition or a similar odor. The other is an alert, in which the dog definitely indicated that it smelled human decomposition.
On May 6, 2017, I searched the property at (address withheld) as requested by Mr. Jayden Brandt. I searched using my two shepherd dogs, both previously certified in human remains detection.
The first dog utilized to search the dwelling showed focused interest in the first bedroom immediately to the left of the front door/entryway. (That, by the way, is Elaine’s bedroom.) Upon smelling on the outside of the bedroom door, at the bottom, near the hinged side of the door, the first dog smelled, sat, and looked at me, indicating an alert of an odor in which he has previously been trained. He also alerted on the floor molding in the hallway immediately near this door.
The first dog also showed interest in a small closet with cleaning supplies in the hallway immediately before this bedroom. Inside this bedroom, the first dog showed a focused interest in the clothes closet. Opening the closet door, he continued to show this focused interest in the contents, especially a suitcase and other items just inside the closet door.
I then searched the backyard with the first dog and the only area of additional interest was a covered storage shed, which shared a common wall with the property’s back fence. The first dog showed interest inside the shed area, but did not localize to a single spot within it.
The second dog was used inside the house and showed focused interest in the first bedroom and the closet, as did the first dog.
NEIL/VO: The letter is then signed by the dog handlers, who normally work with law enforcement agencies. Here’s Jayden on the response of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department in Malibu to this report, as well as the response to a briefing afterward of the cadaver dogs’ handlers themselves.
JAYDEN: He really talked it up, I mean, even more so than he did to me. They said that it alerted not only on the wall but they’re considering it a full alert on the closet.
NEIL: Is that Elaine’s closet?
JAYDEN: Correct. One of the things that we discussed was a picture of Elaine possibly coming home and something happening there. One of the things that was brought up was the fact that the dogs did not have a scent trail leaving the car in Malibu.
NEIL/VO: What Jayden is referring to is a scent dog search at the spot on the Pacific Coast Highway where Elaine’s car was found. This was organized by the police shortly after she disappeared. According to sources, the dogs scattered every which way and nothing conclusive was determined. There wasn’t, for example, a scent trail leading down to the beach or water.
JAYDEN: While circumstantial, of course, that could go along with the fact that she was never really there, you know. She didn’t get out of the car ‘cause she wasn’t in the car. He’s like, “Oh yeah, this is where you gotta break in, and you just, know, warrant for the whole house, and you start getting warrants for everything.” He said the dog hit is really— really solid.
NEIL/VO: There’s just one problem. Even though the Malibu Sheriff’s Department wants to look into this, there’s nothing they can do. Elaine disappeared in Malibu, but because she lives further east, near Glendale, the case belongs to the Glendale Police Department. So we need to talk to the officers there who are in charge of the case.
NEIL: So it sounds like, what they said is, if this was us, we’d pull the search warrants for this house, however, this is Glendale.
JAYDEN: Oh yeah, he was like, “We’d be writing the warrant right now.”
NEIL: When are you gonna contact Glendale?
JAYDEN: I mean I may contact him early— next week? We’ll try to set something up. You know, we really need to solidify that timeline so that we can step them through our investigation and then we can step them through, you know, a— a reasonable series of events that led to whatever happened.
NEIL/VO: It’s essential to find out more about the significance of these cadaver dog alerts and interest. How reliable they are and what they may or may not indicate happened in Elaine’s home. Especially since the lab technician we brought over who collected a sample from a stain on the wall near where the dogs alerted said the sample was negative for DNA. So I reach out to local cadaver dog professionals, and this is what they tell me.
EXPERT 1: Cadaver tends to be a bunch of different odors. There’s some main odors for putrification and different levels and different variances, but it’s a wide array of odors, whether it’s fresh, or whether it’s really old, whether it is decomposition of flesh, of bone, of blood, of hair. There are a bunch of different components that will give out that smell.
NEIL/VO: If a cadaver dog can smell things like decomposing hair, or dead skin, how do we know that the dogs didn’t just pick up on something innocuous in Elaine’s room? Though the cadaver dog experts I spoke too would not comment on specific cases, here’s what they said a full alert means.
EXPERT 2: I would say a dog that’s trained on human remains detection would not do a full alert on, if he’s been trained on… fingernail clippings, a small amount of blood. Something like that. I think that would be more of an interest or maybe a slight alert with a questioning look back at you? But— if they do a full alert, the chances are that there was something that they’re trained to detect that was there. Whether it’s a large amount of blood, or human remains that had been there for awhile, or somebody had deceased in their bed and was taken to the morgue, or whatever it was, that’s possible.
NEIL: If— If we’re talking again about a localized or specific area where there’s an active alert, the possibilities are a body, a large amount of blood. Are there other possibilities?
EXPERT 2: Personally, I would think so, if two dogs did it in the same area and had full alerts and not just interests? So that’s when you, the investigators, or whoever takes it over, or the crime scene, you know, we’re only there to help. We can’t figure out the crimes unfortunately, but we are another tool. So, we just try to work alongside other people that are trained to figure that out.
NEIL/VO: As for the areas in Elaine’s room, in the cleaning supply closet, and in the shed, where the dogs had interest, that is less conclusive.
EXPERT 2: Well, if there’s no human remains detection there, and they really want to find that, they’ll be interested in human— cells, ‘cause that’s what they’re smelling, human skin cells. So it could be human feces, like, urine, ah, blood—
EXPERT 2: Yeah.
EXPERT 1: Feminine products.
EXPERT 2: You know, if somebody had something on the bed, if there was blood on the mattress, stuff like that. Even dead human cells that have fallen off a human over years that are sitting on the bed, the dogs may find that interesting, ‘cause it’s close but it’s not exactly what they’re supposed to find. So, they’ll have interest there, but they won’t usually alert.
EXPERT 1: They won’t alert on it.
NEIL/VO: The cadaver dog experts added, however, that while the dogs are very reliable, they’re not 100% accurate, so we can’t deduce for a fact that either Elaine went home, she was harmed in her home, or something that had been in contact with her body was in her room. According to studies, a well trained cadaver dog is about 95% accurate.
EXPERT 2: Dogs are— not perfect. You know, we do what we can to help, they’re a great tool, they really work hard, they have great noses. We train hard and hope we never have to use ‘em, but when we do, we know that they’re not 100%.
NEIL/VO: One thing we noticed in Elaine’s room was a crack on her room door, a crack stretching from the door handle to the edge of the door. The most recent picture I could find of her door from her camera roll was from August 2016, 5 months before she went missing, and the crack was not on the door then. We also noticed scratches along the wall in Elaine’s bedroom that seemed to indicate the bed being slid along the wall on multiple occasions to block the door from being opened. Jayden did ask Susan about the crack and Susan explained it was from Elaine slamming the door, but slamming the door, Jayden believes, wouldn’t result in that type of damage.
SUSAN: Oh this? This? That happened.
JAYDEN: It’s not from slamming the door, because the door rests along the—
SUSAN: I don’t know but it happened somehow.
JAYDEN: (door slams) Opened. It never— the door— never got forcibly opened?
SUSAN: Oh no. Nobody came to forcibly open, but she would, this slamming came through inside and so this, constantly like— This happened. She was here.
NEIL/VO: On the day of the cadaver dog search, Susan had told us that she gave Elaine’s cats, Coco and Bandit, up for adoption, and Ingrid, being an animal lover, couldn’t let this happen. She called the animal shelter to check on the status of the cats, then hung up in tears.
INGRID: That fucking sucks. Elaine’s cat passed away.
NEIL: What happened?
INGRID: The cat was like really, really sick—
NEIL: Mm hmm.
INGRID: —and they had to euthanize him— yest— her— yesterday.
NEIL: Do you want to go get Bandit, I’ll stay here with Ten? Why don’t you go now? Then maybe if Sadie, or whoever wants it, ah— or Emily, you can just give it to them?
INGRID: I can’t have a— I can’t bring a cat to the house because of the bird.
NEIL: Just go get the cat, we’ll figure out where to put it. I think we should go save the cat.
NEIL/VO: According to the shelter, Coco passed away due to stress within 24 hours of arriving, and Bandit, they said, wasn’t doing well either, so we decided it was best that Ingrid leave right away and rescue him from the animal shelter where Susan had brought the cats.
VET: Bandit, he, he’s already been neutered, so we just need to micro-chip him. Um, yeah, just looks like, we, we can do that here, doesn’t take much time.
INGRID: Okay, yeah I’d just like to pay for everything.
NEIL/VO: Once Ingrid brought Bandit back, we hoped to find a good home for him, hopefully with one of Elaine’s friends.
VET: Sure. You want me to bring him in?
INGRID: Sure, and also, can I just, come just also so I can do the transaction?
VET: Yeah, we’ll do that, yeah. And we’ll— we’ll get a carrying case for you, we’ll head back to the doctor’s office—
NEIL/VO: Ingrid successfully returns home from the shelter with Bandit in a carrying case. We wish we’d been able to save Coco also, but we were grateful we at least got to Bandit in time, and we can’t help but wonder what he may have witnessed in the days before Elaine went missing. Its upsetting to see the speed at which all traces of Elaine’s life are disappearing. Her room, her cats, her car. Everything she loved and cared about.
Chapter 16: Beauty in This Life
NEIL/VO: You may have noticed that during all the chaos of the dog search, two people weren’t present: the other half of our Malibu Team, Mike and Ann Marie. This is because in the midst of this, Ann Marie was at Cedars-Sinai Hospital delivering twins. Hours after the twins were born, we went to visit them at the hospital.
MIKE: —and we got—
VOICE: Hey guys.
VOICE: Ann wants to hear some stuff, she’s covered up.
ANN MARIE: Come in. (crosstalk)
NEIL: Congratulations. (lots of crosstalk)
ANN MARIE: I could not have had, like, a smoother birth experience. Seriously, came in—
INGRID: What time were they born?
MIKE: 8 AM. 7:51 and 7:52. It was like one came out and then the next one came out, like right after it. (baby crosstalk)
ANN MARIE: So tell me the update, today, fr—
NEIL: Let’s take a moment to acknowledge this miracle before us.
NEIL/VO: Ann Marie was lying in her hospital bed, still recuperating as she asked that question.
ANN MARIE: Sorry guys. (baby cries)
MIKE: Crazy, you know, crazy. It’s like, we’re looking for somebody’s missing daughter, and like, I’m sitting here, going through this whole process of like, trying to find someone who’s missing and it happens to be a daughter. You know, someone’s daughter. And then having two of my own daughters for the first time in my whole life, you know, having kids, it’s just like really heavy. I can’t even fathom how somebody, like, doesn’t want their own child.
MIKE: Elaine is so beautiful and vibrant and full of life. If I knew her as a friend, I would love her so much.
ELAINE: —I want to eventually have minis that look up to me and call me mom, I wanna open my fridge and have it stocked with peach Snapples, I wanna—
MIKE: I already love her so much. Like, I don’t even know her, like I just know— I love what I know about her. I love what all her friends say about her, that she’s like the most generous person, and just wanted to take care of all the people around her, it’s like. It’s almost like she created this environment that she never got to have at home, of like nurturing other people and being generous, and— and like. It’s just so— It’s just such a shame.
ELAINE: —sincerely, I really do mean it, because the beauty in this life is way more than I expected, every element it’s own, you see the details quite satanic, one things for sure, you can influence your life but you can’t plan it.
NEIL/VO: A few days afterward, Mike and Ann Marie were back home with their new twins, and Elaine’s brother Dustin came over for an update on our investigation. We began by showing Dustin around Mike’s music studio.
MIKE: I have a live room in here with like, you know, instruments and whatever—
DUSTIN: Yeah, yeah.
MIKE: So, stuff I produce, like, you know, stuff where people are playing live instruments, I do a lot of that recording here, and—
DUSTIN: Dang. That’s so cool.
NEIL/VO: As Mike showed Dustin his home studio, Dustin talked about how much he and Elaine loved music.
DUSTIN: It’s— It’s crazy about her music, cause, like, maybe like two years ago, like, she started listening to, like, more of the music that I listen to, like old school hip-hop.
MIKE: Uh huh.
DUSTIN: And I was telling her, like— I was so happy, because, I was like, finally you’re seeing—
MIKE: When she started getting into the stuff that you were into?
DUSTIN: Yeah. We even, like, sampled the songs together one time.
MIKE: I was gonna say, like, at the appropriate time, you know, I don’t know when that is, or— you know, whatever. But, like, I know that Elaine obviously loves music—
MIKE: —she loves hip-hop, she loves all kinds of music, and it would be awesome to, like, do something for her.
DUSTIN: No, definitely.
MIKE: At some point I would love to, like, help, like, in whatever way, facilitate, like, I could help, like, put something together.
DUSTIN: That sounds awesome.
MIKE: Her story needs to exist.
NEIL/VO: We all sat down on the couch and as we spoke we realized Dustin had no idea that his mom had given Elaine’s cats up for adoption.
NEIL: —the house. Your mom said she’d given the cats to a shelter.
DUSTIN: She gave— aw, man. I actually didn’t know that. She didn’t tell me anything. So, she said she gave the cats to— away?
NEIL: Yeah, so she gave them to a shelter, ah, Bandit and Coco.
DUSTIN: Oh my god, dude, I can’t believe—
NEIL: I’m sorry.
DUSTIN: No, I mean I’ve just grown up with them, so I just, it’s like— It’s kinda sudden, I didn’t know she was thinking about that. Cause, I have a cat at my apartment, I could have easily just taken— at least, like, my cat, Bandit, or something, you know, but.
NEIL: Well, we called the shelter ’cause Ingrid is such an animal lover, and the bad news is, ah, Coco had passed away at the shelter.
DUSTIN: Are you serious?
NEIL: Yeah. But Bandit had not, and we’re like, “Is Bandit still there?” They’re like, “Yeah, but get here today.” Ingrid drove to the shelter, got Bandit, and Bandit is at our house.
DUSTIN: Whaaaat? (laughing)
NEIL: Yeah, so if— (laughing)
DUSTIN: Damn, that’s crazy. If I could, yeah—
NEIL: So if you’d like Bandit?
NEIL/VO: We were relieved that Dustin wanted Bandit.
DUSTIN: I— I just wonder why my mom did that. I’m gonna ask her, ’cause that’s not— (something moves across microphone)
MIKE: Yeah, I don’t—
DUSTIN: Um, especially just cause, like, she doesn’t do anything without (inaudible), so I didn’t even know. Yeah, I had them since I was in 8th grade, so—
DUSTIN: Since I was 13. So, I’m 23, yeah, it’s been ten years.
NEIL: You know, stuff— (doorbell) Oh, there she is.
NEIL/VO: That was the sound of Ingrid arriving. As soon as Dustin told us that he wanted to take care of Bandit, I called Ingrid and she brought him right over.
EVERYONE: Hi. Hey.
DUSTIN: Oh my god.
INGRID: Sorry, I had to cover him, ’cause he likes to—
DUSTIN: Hi. (to Bandit)
INGRID: Hi, I’m Ingrid.
DUSTIN: I’m Dustin, nice to meet you.
INGRID: Nice to meet you.
DUSTIN: Lemme see if he remembers me. Bandit! Bandit!
BANDIT: Meow 😻
Chapter 17: The Erasing
JAYDEN: Listen, I just left Susan’s.
NEIL: Uh huh?
JAYDEN: And Elaine’s room, they’re like, doing construction on it. Everything is out of there, all of Elaine’s furniture is out in front of the house on the curb.
NEIL/VO: One of the reasons it’s so concerning that Susan is giving away Elaine’s furniture, is because we or the police may need the items that the cadaver dogs showed interest in for further analysis, especially the suitcase.
JAYDEN: —and the whole room was empty, it’s like all taped up. The living room was— was— a few more things were missing.
MIKE: I mean, did you ask her, like, what she’s doing to Elaine’s room, or any questions, or?
JAYDEN: No, like, I didn’t want to be too pushy. I don’t know what they’re gonna do in there.
MIKE: That’s so crazy.
JAYDEN: I— I think we oughta get somebody there to get that—
MIKE: Yeah, yeah.
JAYDEN: —furniture probably.
MIKE: Yeah, GP— GPD needs to know what the hell is happening over there, big time.
JAYDEN: Yeah, I mean, cause they, they could be pulling the—
MIKE: The boards up.
JAYDEN: —or who knows.
NEIL/VO: We immediately jump into action and make a plan to get the furniture from Susan’s house before it’s all gone. We really want to ask Susan why, some 3 months after Elaine’s disappearance, she’s getting rid of Elaine’s possessions and renting out her room. And we still want to get her response to the “Die, Die, Die” texts and the insurance claim we found, but you only get one chance to ask someone questions of this magnitude for the first time and maybe that’s best left for the authorities for now. Meanwhile, Jayden says he’s going to call the Glendale Police Department and inform them that Susan is throwing out possible evidence, whether she knows it or not. So, Ingrid called her cousin who fortunately had a pickup truck.
INGRID: So, the— Jessica has a Silverado, everything will fit in the, the Silverado.
NEIL/VO: And she agreed to go over there with a friend and get the furniture for us before the garbage trucks picked them up or they were otherwise given away.
NEIL: I’m gonna call your cousin.
INGRID: Call cousin. And then—
NEIL: Hey, Jess, its Neil and Ingrid.
JESSICA: Hey, what’s up?
INGRID: So, the— wait, ah, wait in the, in the— a little bit before the cul-de-sac where she lives. Ah. (incoming call beeps)
INGRID: And then, um—
NEIL: Do you wanna answer Jayden, or no?
INGRID: —and then call—
NEIL: We’re gonna call you right back. Okay?
NEIL: Call you right back. Hey, Jayden?
JAYDEN: Hey guys.
INGRID: What’s up?
JAYDEN: Um, so I just talked to Tucker—
NEIL/VO: Tucker is one of the Glendale Detectives investigating the case.
JAYDEN: —he definitely was like, “Yeah, that’s great, let’s see what it is that they’re throwing out.” And he said you bring it to my house and then they said that they’ll either come look at it now or they’ll come look at it Monday. He’s— I mean, this— breaking down the— the evidence.
NEIL: Ah, okay, cool, we’re on it, we’re getting two people over there, grab everything.
NEIL/VO: Ingrid’s cousin returned two hours later with Elaine’s furniture.
JESSICA: Um, so, we started loading, and then I see someone in the living room. The— the window is wide open.
NEIL: Mm hmm.
JESSICA: And then I see someone painting, it’s Jeff, and then he looks up, and then he says—
INGRID: Elaine’s bedroom. That’s Elaine’s bedroom they’re painting.
JESSICA: So then we start packing, we start putting the furniture and the rope, and then Jeff comes out to smoke a cigarette.
JEFF: —I go there, I just separated mine like 4 months ago, so—
NEIL: And, uh, question, did the bedroom look empty through the window, or you couldn’t tell?
JESSICA: Ah, I couldn’t really— I can’t really say, yeah.
JESSICA: Enjoy your day, thank you.
NEIL: Then you brought everything over to Jayden’s?
NEIL/VO: After going through the furniture, one thing that concerns us is that the suitcase the dogs had hit on is nowhere to be found. In addition, apparently nothing that’s currently in Dustin’s room is being removed or altered. So in light of the results of the cadaver dogs search, which I should mention have not been shared with Susan yet, because we don’t want to interfere if the police decide to do anything, Jayden presses Glendale police for an immediate appointment.
JAYDEN: Ah, just, getting out. I literally just walked out the door.
NEIL/VO: Afterward he gets in touch with us.
JAYDEN: We went through everything quite exhaustively. They were just blown away, and what I thought was really great was he said was, I’m gonna have our forensics data guy call and you’ll have to come in and just go over everything with him. I gave him Neil and Mike’s number, which he said he’s definitely going to get in contact with you guys. I was very clear with him twice that you guys are allies and friends in this case. He needs to talk to you guys, in way that is inclusive. You know, without you guys, we wouldn’t have this information, we wouldn’t have what we have. They’re working on writing warrants and really crafting that final plan. They’re very eager to, ah, figure out what’s going on here. The last words, were, “We’ll keep you in the loop, keep us in the loop.” He said specifically, to keep working. There are things that I’m gonna share with you, that I don’t want you to share with anyone.
NEIL/VO: Thank you for listening to this episode. This is still an active investigation and please keep in mind that the police have not named any suspects and everyone mentioned should be presumed innocent. We are sharing this information with you in hopes that this podcast leads to justice for Elaine Park, so if you have any information regarding Elaine Park, her disappearance, or any of the parties that have been mentioned over the course of this serious, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call us anonymously at 213-204-2073.
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