Lemhi sheriff: I just pray little DeOrr will be found
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The sheriff of Lemhi County sat down with EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton this week to discuss the DeOrr Kunz Jr. missing child case.
Lynn Bowerman says he has no idea where DeOrr is but he believes the child is dead, and his parents, DeOrr Kunz, Sr. and Jessica Mitchell, know what happened.
Bowerman also discussed inconsistencies in the case, polygraph tests, and where the investigation goes from here.
Here’s a transcript of our in-depth conversation:
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com reporter: Let’s go back to Monday. You announced that DeOrr Kunz Sr. and Jessica Mitchell are suspects.
Sheriff Lynn Bowerman, Lemhi County: They were the top persons of interest, but I believe they are suspects. (The decision was reached) after an extensive week of interviewing, re-interviewing and an announcement from the FBI that they were being less than truthful on their polygraphs. Plus there are a lot of irregularities and discrepancies in their interviews (so) I felt it was necessary to come forward and say the parents are being less than truthful.
Eaton: Where have they been inconsistent? Can you go through a few examples?
Bowerman: Our timeline has constantly changed. A lot of small facts – things that should be important to them, important in their memory – have changed. From who made the decision to do what or who cooked that morning or who took a fishing pole down to the creek – just minor changes like that constantly changing.
Eaton: Are Isaac (Reinwand) and Grandpa (Robert Walton) still considered persons of interest?
Bowerman: Their polygraphs were inconclusive, which we figured from the get go was probably going to be the case, so I still can’t rule them out.
Eaton: But the focus of the investigation is steering toward the parents?
Bowerman: I believe so.
Eaton: What has their reaction been since Monday? Are you communicating with them?
Bowerman: I’m not personally. Most of the communication has been from Bonneville County detectives because they’re down in the area where the family and the friends live. They have helped us extensively on the investigation. All along (the parents) have been very cooperative and met with us but when confronted with the irregularities and the being less than truthful, they haven’t changed their story.
Eaton: I would imagine they’ve been questioned separately, together – any variety of ways.
Bowerman: I don’t believe they’ve been questioned together for quite a while. The first time we questioned them they were probably together, I assume they were together, but I think everything after that has been separate.
Eaton: What do you think happened?
Bowerman: I have no clue. Absolutely no clue. There’s a lot of things I could speculate but I really don’t want to go there. I don’t want to have to apologize for making a statement that wasn’t true. I want to get it right.
Eaton: Where do you go from here?
Bowerman: We’ve asked the public to come forward. I had four or five telephone calls this morning from individuals who either know Mom and Dad and the child and have seen them either interact in the past or they’ve overheard something or they think they can provide information. We just ask the public to come forward with any information that might be helpful either on the parents and/or on little DeOrr. Even if they think it’s insignificant, give us a chance to take a look and see if we can solve this.
Eaton: Talk about the private investigator (Philip Klein). He says you guys have been the best agency to work with. You and the FBI and Bonneville County – everyone seems to be on the same page. Has he been able to assist much in the investigation or is he doing his own thing?
Bowerman: He’s pretty much doing his own thing. I’ve met with him once just recently otherwise I allowed him to come in cold with no preconceived ideas of what this investigation has been about other than a missing child. He’s working on a timeline that’s even varied from our timeline. We’ve gained some new information. He’s been pretty intensive on his interviews of all people involved, including a lot of the other family members and friends, so we’ll have to wait and see how that all comes together. From what I’m hearing there’s a lot of inconsistencies that he’s found. He doesn’t believe that this isn’t an abduction.
Eaton: Which you’ve said from the beginning?
Bowerman: Yeah, I’ve felt from the beginning. I’ve tried not to be as firm on that just in the outside chance that there was a possibility but I’ve come to the conclusion this is not an abduction.
Eaton: You’re hoping for honesty from the parties involved.
Bowerman: Absolutely. One hundred percent. And the real victim here is little DeOrr. I just want to find him.
Eaton: Do you think he will be found?
Bowerman: I just pray that he will.
Eaton: You’ve been in law enforcement a long time. Have you seen anything like this?
Bowerman: I’ve seen a lot of unusual cases over the years and every one of them is so different. This has been a real challenge.
Eaton: I’m sure you know that not just people in east Idaho but all over the world are following this case.
Bowerman: Absolutely. I get emails from all over the country. A lot of people, of course, they’re curious and there’s been so many rumors and innuendos and so forth. With social media it’s almost impossible to clear all those up without giving away some information that might harm the case, so we’re just being patient and we’re trying to get it right.
Eaton: Do you think an actual crime occurred there at the campsite?
Bowerman: I don’t know.
Eaton: But we do know DeOrr was up there?
Bowerman: I’m fairly confident DeOrr was there. I can’t find anybody that says they’re 100 percent positive he was there, but I feel fairly confident he was there at one time.
Eaton: Mr. Klein mentioned he was originally focused on 17 minutes of time. Now he’s focusing on a four-hour time period. Is that in line with what you guys are looking at?
Bowerman: I don’t think that’s outside the realm. I think our timeline might be a little smaller, but I don’t think that’s outside the realm of possibilities.
Eaton: Any idea how many hours you’ve spent working on this?
Bowerman: No clue. Thousands.
Eaton: How has it been for your guys? Mentally, physically, and emotionally?
Bowerman: Overwhelming. We’re smaller, we’re more rural and we know most everybody in the county. We know all of our volunteers, and they’re really dedicated people up here and I’ve seen the toll. It’s been tough.
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com producer: When we spoke with Isaac, he said DeOrr was up there. Has his communication with you guys been questioned?
Bowerman: He’s probably been more consistent on his story from the very beginning. We haven’t seen any of the big discrepancies with him. Of course he hasn’t talked to us a whole lot either, so that’s been a challenge. He asked for an attorney before anybody else, but I think that kind of stems from some of his background. He’s had a lot of interaction with law enforcement over the years, so he’s probably just being cautious. But his actual statements have been pretty consistent, and they haven’t varied a whole lot.
Eaton: How about Grandpa (Walton). Has his story changed?
Bowerman: He struggles with remembering certain things, and I think he gets frustrated quicker. You ask him something and sometimes he’ll say, “Yeah, maybe that’s what happened,” because he doesn’t truly remember. I can’t say his stories have been inconsistent. He just hasn’t been as knowledgable and forthcoming as the parents. The parents have been very forthcoming. I just don’t think it’s been truthful information.
Eaton: And the story has changed.
Eaton: It’s important to note these just aren’t tests you guys are doing. These are FBI polygraph tests.
Eaton: Sheriff, if there anything you want the public to know?
Bowerman: I just want them to know that we’re doing everything that we think is feasible to try and find little DeOrr. That’s maybe the most important thing. We’re just going to take it painstakingly slow and try to make sure we do things right and that we don’t make any huge mistakes. We’re not perfect, but we just want to find out what happened and find DeOrr.