Coercion Alleged in Riverside County, CA Polygraph Interrogation

North County Times staff writer Tim Mayer reports in an article titled, “Fogelstrom said investigators deceived them” that the Riverside County (California) Sheriff’s Department conducted a coercive polygraph examination of a minor under false pretenses. Excerpt:

CARLSBAD —- The father of the teenage companion of 17-year-old Eric Sears —- who was found dead in Joshua Tree National Park last month —- said Thursday that investigators have presented a concoction of events and statements involving his son that are either false or taken out of context.

“They coerced, badgered and intimidated Ben until he didn’t know what he was saying,” said Joe Fogelstrom, the father of Ben Fogelstrom, 17.

“I feel like a sucker. Our kid trusted us, and we put him in the hands of these (investigator) guys.”

Fogelstrom said an affidavit released Monday by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was based in part on a polygraph exam of his young son that was obtained under false pretenses. The affidavit was used to obtain a warrant to search their Carlsbad home.

Fogelstrom said the polygraph exam was done without parents or an attorney present.

No charges have been filed against Ben and law enforcement officers have said he is not a suspect, but investigators said in the affidavit that they were looking into the possibility that Eric had been murdered.

Fogelstrom said he, his wife, Valerie, and Ben drove to San Bernardino on July 18 at the request of investigators who told them they had found items in the desert that they needed Ben to identify.

But when the family arrived, investigators suggested that a polygraph test of Ben might help him remember more of the incident, the father said.

During the exam, Fogelstrom said he was told, Ben would “create the questions to ask so maybe it would jolt Ben’s memory about which direction Eric went.”

“The polygraph (idea) seemed weird, but I said anything we can do to help as long as Ben has a say in it and his mom’s there,” Fogelstrom said. “Well, Ben didn’t have a say in it and his mom wasn’t there.”

As it turned out, Fogelstrom said that after he left, Ben was taken into another room, where he was questioned for about four hours, and his mother was left in the locked reception area unable to go to her son. Fogelstrom said he left to drive a pair of neighborhood kids back to Carlsbad.

Fogelstrom said his wife reported that by the time she was allowed to see Ben again, “he was crying, he was upset, he was traumatized.”

“He told Valerie, ‘They made me say stuff, Mom. They made me say stuff that wasn’t true.'”

“We believed them and we trusted them,” Fogelstrom said. “They used that trust to get Ben in a back room to interrogate him, to just hammer him.”

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