Polygraph “Test” Drives Innocent Steve Wilkos Show Guest to Attempted Suicide

Anca Pennington

On Wednesday, 11 December 2019, Anca Pennington, 30, of Omaha, Nebraska purchased three bottles of Tylenol, each containing 24 pills, after passing through security at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. She then proceeded to a restroom stall, swallowed all of the pills, and laid down to die.

Earlier that day Pennington, a single mother of four, had appeared on the set of the Comcast-owned, NBCUniversal Television Distribution-produced Steve Wilkos Show in Stamford, Connecticut, where host Steve Wilkos had announced that she had miserably failed a polygraph test regarding whether she had burned her infant daughter with cigarettes. The show’s in-house polygraph operator, Daniel D. Ribacoff, had come on stage to support his polygraph results.

Daniel D. Ribacoff

Ribacoff, a member of the American Polygraph Association, has previously claimed on the show, “We have tests that are 99.4% accurate, which is way more accurate than most medical tests, and way more accurate than any jury trial.”

And in a 2016 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread, in response to a question Steve Wilkos averred, “The lie detector tests are like 99% accurate.”

In fact, however, polygraph “testing” has not been shown through peer-reviewed research to reliably work at better-than-chance levels of accuracy under field conditions. Alan P. Zelicoff and Steven E. Rigdon have conducted a peer-reviewed statistical analysis of the best available field studies of polygraphy. Based on that analysis, Dr. Zelicoff opines that “if a subject fails a polygraph, the probability that she is, in fact, being deceptive is little more than chance alone; that is, one could flip a coin and get virtually the same result for a positive test based on the published data.”

Steve Wilkos

As Pennington recalls, Wilkos told her on stage that she was disgusting, that she was never going to see her kids again, and that she was going to go to jail. The audience booed her.

Pennington recounts that she had looked up to Steve Wilkos as a father figure and had never questioned polygraphs. Afraid that no one would believe her and that she would lose her children, Pennington made the decision to end her life during the ride to the airport for her flight home, writing a suicide note on the sheet of paper with her flight information that was given to her by the show’s producers.

Lying on the airport restroom stall floor after consuming the Tylenol, whose active ingredient, acetaminophen, can cause fatal liver damage in sufficiently large doses, Pennington began to feel warm, and her heart started racing. She became scared, thought of her children, and called 911. An ambulance came. After nearly a week of hospitalization, she was released and returned home to Omaha, having escaped any permanent liver damage.

Photograph of Anca Pennington’s infant daughter’s lesions provided to The Steve Wilkos Show

While in hospital, Pennington showed nurses pictures of lesions on her infant daughter’s leg: lesions that she had suspected were pinch marks or cigarette burns inflicted by the daughter’s father, who had left them, or by the father’s new girlfriend, both of whom also appeared as guests on The Steve Wilkos Show and passed polygraphs. As Pennington recalls, the nurses immediately recognized the lesions as ringworm, a common fungal infection that is easily treated.

Later in December 2019, lesions reappeared on the infant’s leg, and a medical examination confirmed a ringworm infection, for which clotrimazole, an antifungal medication, was prescribed.

Before contacting The Steve Wilkos Show, Pennington had also contacted the Nebraska Division of Family Services regarding her suspicion that her daughter had been abused. In a letter dated 3 December 2019, a full week before her appearance on the show, but which Pennington states she received only after her return to Omaha, Children and Family Services specialist Nicole Powers reported, “Based on the information obtained during this investigation, it has been determined that the allegation will be listed as ‘Unfounded.'”

Pennington reports that on Wednesday, 22 January 2020, The Steve Wilkos Show contacted her and told her that the episode in which she appeared will air in February. Pennington stated that she was “devastated and traumatized.”

AntiPolygraph.org has written to Steve Wilkos Show producer Jillian Calandra, who coordinated Pennington’s appearance on the show, and polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff seeking comment. At the time of writing, no replies have been received.

In May 2019, the long-running British tabloid television program The Jeremy Kyle Show, which bears similarities to The Steve Wilkos Show, was abruptly canceled after Steve Dymond, who “failed” a polygraph “test” conducted for the show, committed suicide.

In December 2019, Pennington shared her story in a series of video clips that AntiPolygraph.org has assembled as a YouTube playlist:


Update (28 January 2020): On 26 January 2020, The Steve Wilkos Show released a 30-second video clip titled “THE COLD HARD TRUTH…ALL NEW…ALL FEBRUARY LONG!” with snippets of episodes to be aired in February 2020:

At 22 seconds into the video, a few seconds of the as-yet-unaired episode in which Anca Pennington appeared are shown. Steve Wilkos is seen gesticulating at her and shouting, “You’re the one burning your children!”

Pennington replies, “I did not do that!”

The Steve Wilkos Show‘s apparent decision to air this episode, despite compelling evidence that no one burned her child, may be explained by the fact that February 2020 is a Nielsen “sweeps” period during which audience measurements are taken.

AntiPolygraph.org’s inquiries to Steve Wilkos Show producer Jillian Calandra and polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff remain unanswered.

Correction: This article originally stated that Ms. Pennington’s appearance with Steve Wilkos and attempted suicide took place on Tuesday, 10 December 2019. This is incorrect. Her polygraph examination with Daniel Ribacoff was conducted on that date, and her studio appearance and attempted suicide took place the following day, Wednesday, 11 December 2019.

Comments 499

  • Every single person that goes on the show knows what they signed up for. If you can’t handle the results or aren’t stable enough to…. DON’T GO ON THE SHOW!!!! He’s put more people away and has helped more people than anyone else.

    • https://dirtycopsandpis.com/yanti-greene-a-k-a-michael-cruz-p-i-hired-by-dan-ribacoff-iigpi-accused-of-rape-guilty-of-criminal-and-civil-contempt-in-high-profile-long-island-sexual-assault-case/

      You do realize you’re wrong. Hell a guy who passed his polygraph is now sitting in jail after confessing to police he killed his girlfriends 15 month old daughter.

      • Wilkos is a hypocritical tyrant who banks on ‘being a cop means being a good guy’ which is contrary to reality. I have witnessed Wilkos propositioning women for sex in a hotel restaurant when he was away from his wife. Trust me he’s not the ‘good guy’ he likes to portray himself as. Let’s not forget he got busted for DUI but how many times did he get away with it? Why not give Wilkos a polygraph test about his adultery and/or his drunk driving? After he fails that test, he’ll be the first to claim polygraphs are not accurate, like I said, he’s a hypocrite and yet millions adore and trust in him but trust me people, it’s a con job… As far as those polygraph tests, accuracy is questionable at best and morally irresponsible at worst but the show must go on, as they say…

        • I totally agree if you answer the easy one correctly I know myself when the big question comes I will react to it it only a normal response to get elevated heart rate and skin get hot because your temper goes up I think the so called poly graph is a joke

        • I agree, he is 100% a hypocrite. Steve acts like he is so honorable, but yet lied about drinking and driving. He could have killed innocent people. I personally know someone who has been on that show too

      • Lie detector tests are not admissible so I think that guy only confessed to avoid the death penalty imo. There’s a lot of innocent people sitting in prison right now that pled guilty or confessed to a crime they didn’t do because they don’t want to risk being found guilty and receive a harsher punishment. My husband was one of them

    • She was 100% innocent dumbass.

    • Okay but this woman was innocent

    • And that’s sad that’s how you see it – you know what your coming on for if you want the truth …… not for a lie detector to give a false result and then to have your name and face smeared on national tv – you realize all episodes are pre- recorded ever wonder how a lie detector could be right in every single episode for 15 years ? And at least 60,000 tests ???? It’s impossible statistically impossible according to Dan himself – a lie detector is 99.4 percent accurate or so they say which is actually wrong – that is their “combination accuracy” when using his lie detecting skills also – but again 99.4 percent – so so basically out of 100 tests … TESTS given not people , and sometimes they give out 3-7 tests per person – 1 is inaccurate ! And that’s if you stick to the numbers like religiously – it could be the second test and the 50th test out of 200 given are false ! And I understand entertainment I understand it’s a show and what not – but that innocent women suffered because of a testing mistake ! Now put yourself in that position your a mom of a child whose been abused , you know you didn’t do it ! So you go on Steve (stupidly but with good intentions ) to prove to your crazy mother in law thag your innocent with the worlds most accurate test- and then your test is the one out of 100 that is false- not only are you confused because you know you didn’t do it – the whole audience , Steve , and your family are barrating you for hours – it’s a load of shit idc who you are ! There are many whose lives were ruined because of that – and I agree he’s helped a lot of people but I’m so sick of this world being okay with the sacrifice of one for the benefit of many – your a god damn human being man ! It doesn’t matter if he’s helped a million if he’s caused the life long pain of only one fellow human being ! Two things then I’m done justifying stupidity – 1. police can’t use only lie detectors to put people in jail , ya know why ???? Well now it’s your chance to do a little educating for the reason …… and 2. 60,000 test given is over 60 people that had false results , and that’s putting it into a very low percentage ! Think about that number ! 60 ….60 mothers and fathers abused and “proven” to abuse their children , 60 people on national tv who went back to their hometown to have the rest of their 50 years plus of life spent living stigmatized – all for your entertainment – sick and twisted and the exact reason that human beings will never be able to get along with each other and create a nice peaceful society – drama crazed , moronic , and downright hateful uneducated people love seeing others fall and get crushed to make their own lives seem smoother – gag for real !

    • Helping people by putting them in Jail on false polygraph results? lol

    • If one isn’t stable enough to appear on the show. How would one know this? Are they expected to conduct their own psychiatric assessment. Perhaps they believe they are stable enough given they believe only the truth would be revealed.

  • Steve has not put anyone way since leaving the Chicago PD. He is no longer an officer of the court. Christians believe Jesus Christ has helped more people than anyone else.
    The only part of your generations I believe is no one should go on the Steve Wilkos show.
    The Steve Wilkos show is trash TV.

  • His fuck up show put so many people in sad place it’s a fuck up show putting a lots of people in jail for nothing I wouldn’t even go on that fuck up show ask him about him being drunk all the times

    • Steve is a piece of white trash…
      That’s right WHITE TRASH…
      YOU know those poly teat are not allowed as evidence in the court room ,but you chose to destroy people’s lives with bullshit poly test ..
      Burn in Hell for all the pain you caused those families….

      • Racist much?

      • Do true I been looking for closer for my deceased brother who deaf is labeled as a suicide he died from two broken air bones and a congestion to the back of his head no more marks on his body supposed to jumping out a car that his girlfriend was driving we tape a show 03-13-23 and she passed the polygraph let’s let Steve tell it piss me the fuck off my head’s so fuck up right now my brother you got hurt 03-25-21 and was pronounce that 03-27-21

  • In that polygraphy has never been shown by scientific review to be any better than 50 to 60% accurate, Wilkos and his buddy ( Ribacoff ) have created sufficient havoc in some lives worthy of serious liability . I suspect they have their quests/victims sign a wavier stating they will not hold the show or it’s host/crew liable for any damage due to their appearance. This , however will not hold water, as his assertion that polygraphy is 99% accuracy is not true and thus not acting in good faith, violates any contract on which the victims rely. In fact it may actually be a criminal offense to intentionally lie to cause injury . I suspect a good personal injury attorney could get something in the range of 5 to 10 million from the sponsoring network, without even going to court .

    • If that was the case half of America would be after those millions

    • Love this answer! I hope those who need to see this do. Too many people damaged by a man who enjoys belittling, humiliating, and lying to his guests for the sake of money.

      • Do true I been looking for closer for my deceased brother who deaf is labeled as a suicide he died from two broken air bones and a congestion to the back of his head no more marks on his body supposed to jumping out a car that his girlfriend was driving we tape a show 03-13-23 and she passed the polygraph let’s let Steve tell it piss me the fuck off my head’s so fuck up right now my brother you got hurt 03-25-21 and was pronounce that 03-27-21

  • Steve cannot put people away because polygraph tests do NOT hold up in court. He may have been able to have old cases reopened, but that is all he can do.

  • I bet 99.4% of ppl in these comments would fail a test lmao, no wonder yall are afraid of them.

    • It’s all about ratings-and there is a reason polygraph tests are not admissible in court, because they are not accurate. Like George Costanza said on Seinfeld- IT’S NOT A LIE IF YOU BELIEVE IT

  • YallFullOfBS. Excellent post that is a metaphor for the pseudoscience lie industry. First off, pulling the 99.4 percent fake stat out of your ass. The lie industry loves phony stats in the high 90’s. If you still stand by the 99.4%, please advise where you found that stat. Second, failing a test. Did you mean false positives like the test given to Ms. Pennington?
    Finally, about “yall being afraid of them.” Do you mean the terror of the victims being killed by Gary Ridgway after he “passed” a polygraph?

    • That’s crazy but true I been looking for closer for my deceased brother who deaf is labeled as a suicide he died from two broken air bones and a congestion to the back of his head no more marks on his body supposed to jumping out a car that his girlfriend was driving we tape a show 03-13-23 and she passed the polygraph let’s let Steve tell it piss me the fuck off my head’s so fuck up right now my brother you got hurt 03-25-21 and was pronounce that 03-27-21

  • This bitch jus trying to get sympathy , the person who wrote this article is the woman in that picture btw lol. Look up her name on YouTube

  • Cause y’all lie

  • Shelly House, cause y’all lie you are talking about polygraphists and voice stress analysts, right?

  • I am amazed that this rag of a show is still on the air! If anyone should be in jail, it is Steve and Dan! There are so many gullible folks out there that are “drinking the Kool Aid” that it is ridiculous! How can he look in the mirror after ruining so many lives? Fake polygraphs and chair throwing have made this snake rich.

  • I’m just waiting for someone to get ahold of Wilkos and beat the crap out of him on stage, in front of everybody. I enjoy the show. It’s my guilty pleasure. But Ribacoff is full of shit if he thinks polygraphs are 99% accurate. If you believe otherwise, you’d be a great guest on the show. I’ve taken polygraphs before, was guilty as sin, yet I passed with flying colors.

  • For all you believing in the show and polygraph Steve went on a podcast himself and said he would never take a polygraph. It’s just for tv. He’s out here ruining lives.

  • Steve says he’s “never failed at anything since [he] joined the Marine. He never mentioned that he had two short-term marriages before his third & current marriage.

    Btw, thank you for your service, Steve, as a Marine & as a police officer.

  • You published this, an article proclaiming this woman’s innocence, on the basis SHE said a nurse said it looks like ring worm? Do you know what ringworm looks like?Was the daughter even treated for ringworm? You’re taking her word for literally everything. It doesn’t even look like ringworm.

    • The show is full of shit. How about the one episode where a lady went missing, and her mother failed the lie detector test about the whereabouts of her missing daughter, and harming her, and here she was alive and well, unharmed and was living in Texas! But yet she failed the test about harming her. Smh. The test is not as accurate as u think

  • Bracken, you may want to work on your reading comprehension. Ms. Pennington’s children were treated with an anti-fungal by medical professionals, and the Nebraska Department of Family services also advised no abuse was indicated. We are not taking the mother’s word; we are merely following the facts.
    Daniel Ribbacoff will not admit he made a mistake, and he will also not admit that the polygraph is not a legitimate scientific instrument.
    In regard to the last part of your post; please advise where you received your medical diploma and what date you personally inspected Ms. Pennington’s children.

    • Anthony your response is right on point. I like it.

      • Hi Steve, respect your show. You have brought cases to seek justice. Furthermore, the recent case with seizure/dogbit. I think your team should ask was it anyone else in the house of the disagreement/attack.
        Thank you Steve maybe the family of the mother of the child and the mother as well as family can get closure. If ruled out dogbit due to not familiar with persons having medical issues as seizures?. Was there ANYBODY else in the home at the time of scene for his mother, the son mother of the discease father and the family. Thank you. Ms. V

  • Steve Wilco or whatever his name is seems like a money hungry LIAR he knows how to beat the lie detector, he did it before! He is always bragging about being a cop! WOW! I bet a racist cop that did a lot of wrong doings against blacks. How many took that damn test and it was a lie? Even Dan was found out to be a jerk liar! That show is a disgrace! Steve you will answer to a higher power for all the lies on that show, so you don’t fool everyone and you will pay one day! That show has an idiots shouting STEVE! STEVE! they are told to do it, and I can’t wait until Steve pays for all the LIES he and Dan told! Dan too I pray both of them get what’s coming to them!! SCAM JOB THE WHOLE SHOW!

  • I am convinced the women in the picture wrote this article as well. I’ have viewed her YouTube page. Oh boy! Even the correction in this article jumps from December 10, 2019 to appearing on the show December 11, 2021. Talk about proof read. According to her YouTube comments she aparently doesn’t have custody of her children present day. It’s hard to believe this isnt a “poor me” search for sympathy!

    • Anca Pennington is not the author of this article. Thank you for pointing out the error in our correction at the end of the article. December 11, 2021 was incorrect; the correct date is December 11, 2019. This error has now been corrected.

  • Anca Pennington’s only mistake was in assuming Steve Wilcos and Dan Ribacoff are honorable men. They are not. Steve has problems with alcohol and could have killed someone when he flipped over his Lexus while driving drunk. He also appears to have issues with marital vows.
    Dan is the principal of an organization whose agents were credibly accused of raping a surveillance target and Dan tried to cover up the crime by attempting to erase texts. Also, Dan is prejudiced against African Americans as evidenced by the racist cartoons he sent his co-workers. Also, Dan apparently has no problem with his daughter Susan running bogus lie detector tests to exclude African Americans from positions on the New York Transit Authority.
    Anonymous, I can back up my statements. Can you back up yours?

  • This woman deserves to sue Steve Wilkos for deflamation of character. She is a good person that is judged based on a lie

  • I had ringworm as a child, and that does not look like ringworm. It does look like burns

  • There are about 40 types of fungus that can cause ringworm, so many different looks are possible. More importantly, medical professionals determined the marks on Ms. Pennington’s children were a type of ringworm. An antifungal was provided to the children. I trust medical professionals more than Ribacoff, who is a liar, racist and condones/hides apparent criminal actions of his employees. If Ribacoff told me the sky is blue, and the grass is green on a summer day, I would look out the window.
    On the first comment you made, this brings up concerns about authorities doing an end run around the Constitution. I do not know the facts of your husband’s case, but I can see how a plea bargain can be made with the caveat that an accused would avoid prison time, or longer prison time, with the caveat that a polygraph or VSA test be given as a “compliance” measure. If the test is “failed,” the accused goes to prison without the Constitution right of a trial.

  • He will answer for all the injustice. If not now at a later time the Lord above will take care of him.

  • So stupid. If you’re REALLY trying to off yourself, you aren’t going to do it with Tylenol, not even 72 of them. Idiot.

  • Interesting, and where did you attend medical school, and do your residency?

  • I know anca personally and knw for a fact she would never do that to her children and thats facts i knw this b/c i’m her ex anca baby im here for u always i love you baby just hang in there and be patient dont give up on me now stinky butt… i seen her with her children i’m more than a ex as well to… i wish i was there for u …

  • That stupid show needs to be cancelled. Sensationalistic crap with horrible fans.

  • To me I never believed in polygraphs innocent people has been been in prison for crimes they have never committed. DNA is the best. Steve wilkos is a disgrace!!He should be banned from ? forever!!

  • I was just following up on the Jordan Neely/Daniel Penny case whereas Neely was accidently killed when he was threatening passengers on the subway.
    I then remembered how Susan Ribacoff was using the polygraph to exclude black candidates from consideration as NYC transit police officers.
    Most of us that live in large cities are being overwhelmed with crime, and we need more police, therefore, the last thing we need are the racist Ribacoffs finding ways to keep future police officers off the street.
    Perhaps if the NYC subway was better patrolled, Neely would still be alive today. Because of polygraphists, we are losing several potential police officers to a discredited pseudo-science and forcing citizens to self-police, leading to unnecessary deaths. Thanks so much, Susie and Danny.

  • Be sure to sign the petition to cancel Steve Wilkos to help prevent other innocent people from being harmed.


  • All I can say, Is that you can’t believe everything you read anymore……
    Hands down I, self admit that I just came across this article, have not read everything on this thread. I am curious if she is legitimately innocent, she has a civil case. Has she sued the show? If not…. Why not?

  • As I said many times before on this forum, I am not a lawyer, but I suspect the guests sign a waiver and somewhere in the contract it is written that this is an entertainment program, not a show that tries to determine guilt or innocence. However, several of members of the audience believe that Steve Wilcos is a serious investigator, and not the dancing monkey for the man at NBC Universal.

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