NEWTON — In two recorded interviews last March, a sheriff's detective and a KBI agent prodded Chad Carr for information — sometimes gently, sometimes bluntly.
The investigators told Carr they sought one thing. The truth.
They wanted answers to two main questions: How did 19-month-old Vincent Hill suffer broken bones, a swollen eye and bruises across his body? Who killed him?
Throughout the interviews, Carr said he didn't know how the bones were broken, and he said he didn't kill the boy.
The recordings have been reviewed by Harvey County District Judge Richard Walker. Last week, Walker granted an Eagle reporter's request to view and listen to the recordings. Walker ruled Thursday that officers appropriately obtained statements from Carr, including the interviews. Carr's lawyer had asked the judge to suppress the statements, arguing that his client was tricked or coerced.
Some parts of the recordings could be heard at a Jan. 24 trial when Carr, 27, will face charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and child abuse in Vincent's death.
Investigators also questioned Vincent's mother, Katheryn Nycole Dale, who they found to be complicit in abuse her son suffered. She has pleaded no contest to child abuse and aggravated child endangerment and has been sentenced to more than three years in prison.
Carr's two interviews with investigators, each lasting about 90 minutes, offer a window into the case that jurors will hear.
'He didn't move'
On March 27, Carr and sheriff's investigator Robert Guest sit in a small room behind a closed door, facing each other. Guest informs Carr of his rights. The interview comes hours after Vincent has been rushed to a hospital with fatal injuries.
Guest starts by asking Carr about himself. Carr says his father was not a part of his life. As for his hobbies, he fishes for "anything that bites," hunts deer and plays golf. He works at a concrete business as an assistant supervisor, makes $12 an hour and has been working 60 hours a week. He has been living at a North Newton duplex with Vincent's 20-year-old mother and her two small children.
Soon, Carr describes how Vincent fell from near the top of carpeted stairs, trimmed in wood, the day before he died. Vincent had "real short legs" and must have tripped over his pants. He cried for a few minutes and walked slowly afterward. Vincent was put to bed around 9 p.m.
Around 9 the next morning, Dale, Vincent's mother, left the duplex to go to a baby shower in Wichita. Dale told Carr she checked Vincent before she left. She took her infant child with her and left Vincent behind.
Guest asks about bruises on Vincent's face, and Carr says they probably came from the fall.
Carr says he stayed up until 4 a.m. and woke up around 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon. He found a message from Dale that said "How's Vincent? Are you up?"
At this point in the interview, Carr says, "Wow, I thought she took him," because she had been undecided the night before about whether to take both children to the shower.
"So I ran up there real quick" and called Vincent's name, but he didn't answer. "He didn't move, do nothing."
Carr shook the boy a little. "I noticed he wasn't breathing. That's when I grabbed him and ran downstairs and called 911."
The last time he had seen Vincent was 9 the night before.
Who was watching Vincent, Guest asks.
"I was supposed to be watching him."
Guest: So there were no problems with Vincent during the night?
Carr: Only Vincent being "a little slow on his feet."
'He's a whiny kid'
The conversation shifts to drug use, and Carr says he smokes a "couple bowls" of marijuana daily.
Guest: Is there anything in the past 48 hours that could have caused severe injuries to Vincent?
Carr: "Not that I know of."
Guest: Has Vincent's mother said she beat him?
Guest asks for Carr's perspective of the child. "He's a whiny kid," Carr says. "He seems like that in general, just whiny."
Guest asks about Dale's treatment of Vincent. She has not physically abused him, Carr says. "She's yelled at him a couple times. .. . She's a good mom."
Guest notes that Vincent is not Carr's biological son and asks if he gets frustrated with the boy when he's whiny.
"I get frustrated.
"I'm the same with my kids as I am with him." His two children, ages 5 and 3, live with their mother. He sees them on weekends.
Guest asks again if there was anything that could have caused injuries to Vincent during the night or the next morning.
"Just him falling down the stairs yesterday," Carr says.
Carr says the only adults in the home were him and Vincent's mother.
"Your honesty here is going to be pretty important," Guest says. "And it's really a matter of you helping yourself at this point.
"He's got some pretty serious injuries, OK?
"His issue is not a simple fall down the stairs."
So, Guest says, there are only two situations: Carr is lying or someone broke into the house.
Guest asks again if something went wrong between 9 p.m. and 3:30 the next afternoon.
"Nothing at all," Carr says.
Investigators can tell something about the timing of the injuries, and the time that Dale left "kind of" eliminates her as the culprit, Guest says. Also, Guest notes that Dale is small, yet her son has "got some pretty serious injuries." She would have less strength to cause the injuries, Guest says.
"Which again brings us back to you," he tells Carr.
Guest asks "if things got a little out of hand."
"I'm not lying to you at all," Carr says.
In a smooth motion, Guest reaches over to a folder and lays photographs of Vincent's injured body on the table beside Carr.
And the conversational tone of Guest's voice changes. His voice grows louder, more assertive.
"Look at these," Guest says. "This stuff is not something that a kid who fell down the stairs would have. If he was tossed down maybe some concrete stairs from a couple stories high. Maybe. But to fall down carpeted stairs, that's not going to happen.
"He has a broken clavicle (collarbone), spiral fracture in his leg. That doesn't happen on carpeted stairs. Just absolutely doesn't happen.
"Something else happened. ... And it boils down to one of two people. It's either going to be you or Nycole. ...
"Right now, that evidence points to you."
And when Guest asks Carr if he understands why the suspicion focuses on him, Carr answers, "Yeah, I do," and quickly adds: "I did not do nothing to that kid from 9 o'clock last night until 3:30 this afternoon when I woke up, and that's the truth, the God's honest truth."
Guest says that Vincent wouldn't have been able to walk up the stairs with a broken leg and wouldn't have been able to sleep easily with a broken collarbone.
And Carr interjects: "Well, then somebody broke into the house."
Child 'deserves better'
Guest tells Carr he's not judging him. "Things happen." Then Guest says, "Vincent is unfortunately no longer here to tell us what happened ... but in some ways he is able to tell us what happened, and that's through his injuries" and medical documents.
"Vincent deserves" to have the truth come out, Guest says.
After more discussion, Carr tells Guest, "I need to get a drink," and Guest leaves. As Carr sits there, his hands folded, the audio picks up his breathing.
After Guest returns with a cup, he tells Carr he wants to let him vent.
Guest says he doesn't believe someone broke into the home and beat the 19-month-old to death.
"Vincent deserves better," Guest says again. "I would hope whoever did this feels bad.
"He's having a lot of bruising showing up when he's in your care.
"You can't go wrong with the truth. Bad things happen to good people too." A lack of sleep and a bad day at work can influence someone's behavior, Guest says. "Nobody makes the best decision all the time."
Carr: "He was fine when I put him to bed, and that is the truth."
Guest: "It's not the whole truth. ... I don't know if it's a matter of you protecting yourself or trying to protect her. But the fact of the matter is, it's one of the two of you. She left at 9, so it's hard to believe it's her."
Carr blurts out; "I'll take a lie-detector test."
Later, Guest asks Carr: "Explain to me the injuries on your hands there."
"Work," Carr says.
Guest asks Carr to place his hands on the table and clicks off photographs.
'I'm not lying'
Guest leaves the room again, and the door clicks shut. When he returns, he asks Carr how he disciplines the boy, and Carr says he puts him in his room if he screams.
When Guest asks if he does anything else, Carr says, "Put a washcloth in his mouth."
Guest: "Does that sound like a smart or safe thing to do with a child?"
Carr: "No, but."
"That is a contributing factor to what could have caused this," Guest says.
(An autopsy would find that Vincent died from a combination of blunt-force wounds and a brain injury most likely caused by suffocation.)
Guest's voice gets louder.
"I know who did this," he says. "It's just a matter of that person ... saying, 'I have a problem.' ... It's just a matter of manning up, dude, because it's not going to go away. And the truth is going to come out."
Carr says: "I'm not lying to you at all."
In a rising voice, Guest says, "At some point, you got up pissed off and shook him around, threw him around or whatever."
"I did not kill him," Carr says.
"I don't think you set out to kill that kid," Guest says.
"I already told you my story, man," Carr responds.
"All right," Guest says. "Then turn around."
Carr stands, and Guest clicks handcuffs behind Carr's back.
"You're being placed under arrest for the murder of Vincent."
The second interview
On March 29, two days after the interview with the sheriff's investigator, a KBI senior special agent, Roger Butler, interviews or speaks with Carr for an hour and 46 minutes. The recorded interview is supposed to be a prelude to a polygraph examination, but the examination won't occur.
For the second interview, Carr comes from the jail wearing an orange jumpsuit. Butler informs Carr of his rights, and Carr signs a waiver. Butler says Carr can end the interview at any time.
From time to time during the interview, Carr yawns.
When Butler asks Carr what he knows about the investigation, Carr responds: "They're trying to pin the death of Vincent on me."
Carr says he didn't kill the boy.
When Butler asks why he would be considered a suspect, Carr says, "Because I was the one at home at the time."
As they discuss bruises on Vincent's body, Butler asks about Vincent's swollen eye, and Carr says he doesn't know what caused it but says Vincent's mother had said he might have hit his eye on the edge of the car door as she was taking him out of the car. Vincent had an injured eye when he was taken to see his paternal grandparents on a previous weekend, Carr says.
He says he could have bruised Vincent's hand by slapping it — to try to stop the toddler from picking things off the floor.
"When he whines, I'd put a washcloth in his mouth," Carr says but adds that he didn't see how that could have caused injuries to the boy's mouth.
On the Friday the day before an EMS crew took Vincent away with fatal injuries, Carr was home on a lunch break. Carr gives this description: Vincent fell down the stairs, apparently by tripping on his pants. The 19-month-old makes his way downstairs from the second floor by crawling backward. When he fell that day, "he was rolling down ... kind of like a backward cartwheel."
After the fall, Vincent began to cry, his mother picked him up and a few minutes later he stopped crying and seemed OK. She had been at the bottom of the stairs waiting for him. He had fallen down the stairs a few times before, but Carr didn't see the previous falls.
At times, Vincent would get bruises from falling and hitting his head on things, including a door jamb.
Carr says he and Dale have been together about six months.
When Butler asks if anyone got mad during the night, Carr says no.
When Butler asks how Carr plays with Vincent, Carr responds, "Tickle him."
Butler notes that Vincent had several broken bones. Butler says he has "a tough question."
If Carr and Dale were the primary caregivers and an examination showed the broken bones and other injuries were consistent with abuse, and if the two didn't cause the injuries, who did?
"Good question," Carr says, adding, "I'm not saying I haven't been a little abusive towards Vincent ... but breaking his bones and stuff like that," and he stops talking.
The smacks on the hand and the cloth in the mouth didn't seriously injure him, Carr says.
Butler asks if Carr learned the use of the cloth from his parents.
"I don't know where I learned that from, to tell you the truth," Carr says.
Carr says he never saw Dale do anything abusive.
Does Carr think Dale caused Vincent's injuries?
"Probably not," Carr answers.
If Carr were one of the investigators on the case, what would he believe?
"Really don't know," Carr responds.
Was there anything else that happened in the last two weeks that could have caused even the slightest injury to Vincent?
"Probably so," Carr says. He says he once tied Vincent's hands — with the boy's shirt sleeves — to keep him from grabbing things off the floor. Asked to explain how he tied the child's hands, Carr at one point puts his hands behind his head. Carr says he doesn't see how that would have caused broken bones.
Butler asks if there was anything else, and Carr says, "No."
And then, about an hour and a half into the interview, and before a polygraph examination can begin, Carr ends the questioning when he says:
"I think I'm done for now until I talk to an attorney. ... I don't know what my best options are at this point. I haven't got to talk to anybody since I've been arrested."
Butler stops the interview, opens the door and steps into the doorway. He then returns to talk with Carr for about 10 more minutes.
At one point, Carr asks: "Do they know what caused his death?" Butler says a lab is conducting tests.
Butler says that a goal of investigators is to eliminate suspects, to get to the truth.
"That's why they were so delighted when you said you'd take a polygraph," Butler says.
When Butler asks if Carr ever felt mistreated in the interview, he says, "Not at all."
And Butler finishes with: "Chad, let me know if you change your mind.
"We'll work through this."