04-05-2010, 09:14 PM #1
Rod Buchanan Interview
News4Jax interview with Rod Buchanan, whose stepdaughter and fiance found child porn on Jarred Harrell's computer, and along with Rod and Lisa, turned it over to the authorities.
Transcribed by me; may not be 100 percent accurate.
REPORTER: Well, start from the beginning. This goes back to August. What happened in August?
R. BUCHANAN: Um, back in August, or actually a little before August, Harrell was asked to move out of his parents’ home on Gano. Um, they used the excuse that they wanted him to get out on his own, become a man, and take care of hisself.
(Coughs) Excuse me. He didn’t have anywhere to go, and, uh, so they had called our daughter and asked if he could move in with them, be a roommate, and they said sure. While he was there, some things came up missing.
Um, they went out one night while he was asleep, searched his car, found their iPod that he had stolen, woke him up in the middle of the night and told him he had to get out or they were gonna call the police. And, uh, he left his computer and a bunch of disks there and asked if they, you know, would keep hold of it until he could find a place to go.
During that time, about a week passed, since they hadn’t heard from him, uh, conversation came up about the possibility that child pornography being found on his computer by our, at the time, minor son a year prior to this.
So they went out and turned the computer on and saw things that nobody should have to see. At that point they became very emotionally upset, called her mother at work, told her about it.
And we took it to JSO (Jacksonville Sheriffs Office) thinking that was where we needed to take it. Once we handed everything over to JSO, they then sent it back to Clay County to be processed, and Detective Eckert took over from there.
And then when the little Somer girl came up missing, uh, didn’t really think too much about it, um, because we didn’t know that he had moved back to his parents’ house on Gano. And, uh, somebody called, and I don’t remember who had told us that he had moved back there with his parents, and then somebody called and said that his parents had actually moved out of the house about two weeks before Somer came up missing.
And on our way up to Orange Park, my wife said “Let me take you by and show you where the house is.” And when we rode by, his vehicle’s in the driveway and it was right across from the athletic field. Right where she had to walk every day.
Um, we went down and we found – the whole detective squad was still working the area since this was like two days after they found her – and we found a deputy on the side of the road and we told him our concerns and showed him the house. He took us around to, um, the lead detective. We filled him in on everything, told him. He sent the deputy back around, he ran the tag on the vehicle, found out it was his, and that he had been living there. Um, and I guess his parents moved to somewhere in Calahan prior to that happening. Um, and yeah, they did have a white dog, a little white dog. So …
REPORTER: Are you surprised – because you brought this to the attention of authorities back in August – and were you surprised that by October, when Somer was reported missing and ultimately her body was found, were you surprised that he hadn’t been arrested on these child pornography charges?
R. BUCHANAN: A little bit. Um, but at the same time, you know, I know there’s a process. And I see so many of these sick perverts, they get off with a slap on the wrist or probation because some slick lawyer finds a technicality to get ‘em off on. So, you know, hats off to Clay County Sheriffs Office for doing their job and doing it the right way and taking their time to make sure they got ‘em.
And I am so sorry about little Somer and her family and what they are going through. I can’t even begin to imagine that, but at the same time, there’s no guarantee that had they rushed in and arrested him that it would have prevented this from happening.
REPORTER: You know him. Would you have ever have thought that anything like this could happen?
R. BUCHANAN: Never. I mean, never. The booking photo on his arrest report does not reflect the same person I remember seeing in my house. Um, in that photo, he looks sinister. I mean, but in person, if you knew him, he looked like a gentle giant. I mean he really did, he was very quiet, very laid back, he was into his computer games. He never spoke to children, um, never made lewd remarks, he never even cussed in front of ya. So, no, I never would have even thought that.
REPORTER: So when he was at your house – he was just – ?
R. BUCHANAN: Um, he was to me, a normal young person, a normal teenager.
REPORTER: So how is your daughter reacting to all this upon finding that material? I know it must be hard?
R. BUCHANAN: Um, visions in her and her fiancÚs heads that nobody should have to live with. Emotionally she is distressed over it. Um, we’re, uh, we’re talking to her about possible counseling to deal with this. Um, we didn’t want to see the images. We didn’t want to plug it in and see it. We just wanted to take it to the Sheriffs Department. Because I didn’t want the images in me and my wife’s, and we’re just very sorry that they had to see what they saw. And hopefully, nobody else will have to see that. So …
REPORTER: How long was he living there, in that apartment with your [step]daughter and his – the fiancÚ?
R. BUCHANAN: Um, I wanna say probably about two months.
REPORTER: Two months. And then it was upon the theft that they asked him to leave and found the child pornography.
R. BUCHANAN: They found the pornography about a week after they threw him out because he left the computer there.
REPORTER: Okay. And did he leave anything else behind when he left?
R. BUCHANAN: Uh, I don’t think so. Well, I mean, he left a bunch of disks and the computer. I think what happened is, he just had a small car, so once he got everything in the car, he just didn’t have any room, and he didn’t want – you know computers are fragile and you don’t want them bouncing around while you’re driving and stuff, and so, you know, there was no reason at the time for anyone to suspect anything like that, and I’m sure he didn’t think anybody would suspect something, and he probably just figured it was safe to leave it there.
REPORTER: And how did your daughter find out know to turn the computer on to look for that?
R. BUCHANAN: Uh, about a year prior to that, our then underage son, had [been] at General’s house where Harrell was living at the time, on Gano, and he had gotten on Harrell’s computer to play a game – Call of Duty or something – whatever kids are playing now – and there was an icon on the desktop, and it said something about “child penetration” or something, and when he questioned him about it, he (Harrell) shut the computer off and said, “Don’t you ever get on my computer again.” Well, our son told his dad about it and then he was told to tell Harrell’s parents about it and of course he did, but you know, he was a minor and told them, and he figured they’d handle it but it was never brought up again.
REPORTER: And how old was your son when all this happened?
R. BUCHANAN: Uh, I think he was about 16.
REPORTER: Sixteen. So this was a year ago.
R. BUCHANAN: Yeah. I’m sorry, this was – he just had turned 17.
CAMERA MAN: Have detective given any indication in the last couple of weeks … maybe they think they are getting close and and this guy may be related to Somer’s case?
R. BUCHANAN: Uh, no. I won’t say anything as far as the detectives go, they have been around, they have been talking to family members and so forth, but no, they didn’t say they were fixing to arrest him yet.
REPORTER: Is there anything else that’s been reported that you want to correct?
R. BUCHANAN: Uh, yes – the conspiracy theories freaks out here who think that we waited for the reward pool to be a certain level before we came forward is so wrong. Um, we did this back in August before Somer came up missing; there was no rewards then. Within a couple of days of Somer being found, we went to the police and the detectives at that time. And whatever reward there was available at the time was such a small amount, I mean, that was the last thing on our mind. Okay? The fact that the reward has grown over these months had nothing to do with us. And so that was -- that’s just so far from the truth. And as far as JSO and Clay County not working together, that’s all – I mean that’s very unfactual as well. We accidently gave the computer to the wrong law enforcement agency, they in turn had to ship it back to Clay County so that they could do their job, which they’ve done very well by the way. And, you know, these people just need to get over theirselves. They really do.
REPORTER: Yeah. Yeah. The truth of the matter is that as soon as you guys found that information back in August –
R. BUCHANAN: It was turned in the same day.
REPORTER: Yeah. So you obviously have done your part and did it very quickly.
R. BUCHANAN: Yeah They found it at like 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning. We were at JSO as soon as my wife got off from work at 7 a.m. – we were at JSO by I think, 8:15 or 8:30 that morning with the computer. So it was turned in right away.
REPORTER: How do you know that – the family? How does your daughter have that relationship?
R. BUCHANAN: Um, Harrell’s stepfather and mother are her godparents, okay? And, uh, they’ve known the family for years and years. So … and, uh, they also have a couple other teenage kids in the house. Uh, my understanding is that DCF and law enforcement is – are going to be questioning quite a few kids that Harrell had contact with over the years. So they’re going to be looking at, uh, you know, to see if there was a pattern building or if he has abused anyone else in the past.
REPORTER: I mean I hate to ask this but has you son in any way, shape or form – was he ever – has he ever said anything about that?
R. BUCHANAN: No ma’am. No, ma’am.
REPORTER: Good. Is there anything else about the whole situation you’d like to say? He is still a person of interest; he’s not a suspect yet –
R. BUCHANAN: I don’t see much difference in the terms myself, but I understand their careful wording. Um, I would like to say that at this point that I am so extremely proud – the whole family is – of our daughter and her fiancÚ for what they’ve done. You know, we told them from the beginning, right before we walked into the police department: “Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing in the world to do, but it’s still the right thing.” And we could not be any prouder of these guys than what we are. They undergone intensive questioning. Lie detector tests. Invasion of their privacy. Their computers being searched. I mean it has been a nightmare for them.
Our daughter is emotionally upset right now because of this, and so is her fiancÚ. But hats off to these guys. Um, we love and respect them and we appreciate what they stepped forward and done rather than just brushing this under the rug and not wanting to be part of it. So, yeah, we’re extremely proud of them.
REPORTER: Interesting that it seems that she is being investigated just as much as he is.
R. BUCHANAN: Well, I mean you have to. The computer was left in their home. I mean, in order for law enforcement to be prudent, they need to make sure that the people that bring in the stuff are innocent, you know, and not planting the stuff on the computer to set the guy up for whatever reason. So, yeah, they’re doing their job. They’re clearing everybody else. And that’s what led to his arrest. I mean, they cleared everybody else. So …
REPORTER: Do you know any reason why he went to Mississippi?
R. BUCHANAN: He ran.
REPORTER: You think so?
R. BUCHANAN: I think so.
REPORTER: Does he have family there?
R. BUCHANAN: He has family there. Aunts and uncles. And, uh, I do believe – I don’t think he’s had contact with him for years and years – but I believe that’s where his real father lives as well. Which, if I’m not mistaken, his real father’s the one who’s the actual convicted sexual offender.
REPORTER: His father was.
R. BUCHANAN: Yeah. Not his stepdad. But his real father.
REPORTER: His real father. Do you know if he’s behind bars?
R. BUCHANAN: I have no idea to be honest with you.
REPORTER: Yeah. This is obviously not easy, is there anything you’d like to say maybe to the Thompson family watching. You’ve done everything your family can do.
R. BUCHANAN: Yes, and I hope that in my heart that this guy didn’t do the thing to Somer Thompson, um, just for the fact that he is a family friend but at the same time, if he is the one, Mrs. Thompson, if he is the one, I hope this helps. I hope this brings some kind of closure. It’s going to be hard for everybody. I can’t imagine what she’s feeling. And I hope I don’t have to go through that. I would never want to bury one of my children.
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