Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Joubert, Nebraska Boy Snatcher

Fortuitous Incident

On January 11, 1984, a staff member of a preschool spotted a young man driving around in the area, seemingly scoping it out.  The town was on the alert for such people, especially after the reports of a white man in a car following young boys, so the woman took note of his license plate number.  (Ressler says he was loitering, but Evans indicates he was driving by and when he saw her write down his number, he stopped and demanded that she give him the paper.  Pettit says he was driving by and got out of the car to ask her for directions, and she memorized the number to write down later.)  She later reported that he said he would kill her and, when she eluded him, he ran to his car.  As he fled the scene, the woman ran for help and called the authorities.

The car was not tan, as they had hoped, and did not have a matching license plate number, but they went to work on this tip anyway.  At least she knew that the car she'd seen was a Citation.  They traced the vehicle, says Evans, to a dealership that had rented the car to John Joubert, a twenty-year-old enlisted man at the Offutt Air Force Base, while his own car was under repair.  That was interesting.  He had another car, and it turned out to be a tan-colored Nova sedan. The license plate contained two of the seven digits (some sources erroneously say all seven) reported by the witness under hypnosis.  It appeared they had a real break in the case and they rapidly prepared themselves.

Photo: Frayed rope used in murder
Frayed rope used in murder

As they learned more about John Joubert's background, a warrant was issued to arrest him and search his quarters.  That search turned up an important item: rope that seemed consistent with the rope used to bind Danny Joe.  A search of Joubert's car turned up more rope and a large hunting knife (Ressler says this was in his quarters).  There was also a stack of racy detective magazines, and Ressler indicates that one contained a story about the murder of a newsboy.  While DNA analysis had not yet been discovered and applied in criminal cases (that was two years away), the rope proved to be essential in making the case.  Because of its unusual composition, it was nearly as good as other types of identifying evidence, such as a fingerprint.

Joubert was arrested and charged in the murder of Danny Joe Eberle.   That same day, the FBI indicated that the rope from the Danny Joe Eberle murder had likely been made for the military in the Far East.  That fact would soon become crucial. 

A comparison of Ressler's profile against Joubert's situation showed that Ressler had gotten a number of things right. Joubert was 20, resided at least temporarily in the area, was sexually disturbed, was an enlisted man who worked with radar, was of a slight frame (five-foot-six and slender), and was good with his hands.  He was also, according to Evans and Pettit, an assistant scoutmaster, which gave him access to boys.  He hadn't been at it long, but long enough to have become good friends with the scoutmaster and one of the boys in his charge.

In fact, before his interrogation, says Pettit, John Joubert asked to speak to the boy and reassure him that he'd never been in any danger.  That cleared the way for a confession, which was precipitated by two things.

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