The Prime Suspect
Carl Dorr looked into the back yard several times. He didn't see Michele. The pool was still, not a ripple. Still, he wasn't worried. Sudley Road in Silver Spring, Maryland was a safe suburban street, three miles from the Washington, D.C. border. Nothing exciting had ever happened in this leafy enclave. He had no doubt that his daughter was down the street playing with her pal, Eliza Clark. He stayed relaxed, paying a few bills while he finished watching the auto race. Michele didn't return.
Around 5:30 he wandered over to the Clark's house. Geoffrey Clark had returned home and was in the back barbecuing. His children from his first marriage were there, as was his new girlfriend. Eliza was part of the group. There was no Michele.
Geoff Clark said he hadn't seen Michele all day. So did his daughter Eliza. Perplexed, Carl walked to the end of the street and saw nothing. The bewildered father began knocking on doors. Nothing. Panic began to set in. He drove through the neighborhood again and then pointed his car in the direction of the nearest police precinct. There, he reported her missing.
The moment he did so, he became their prime suspect.
Hadden Clark finished his shift at the country club and began driving, the body of the six-year old girl in the back of his pickup truck, covered by a metal cap. He stopped off first at nearby Bethesda Naval Hospital to get the cut on his hand dressed. The free medical privileges were part of his benefits package he received when he was discharged from the Navy. When he left the hospital, it was nearly midnight.
Hadden drove towards Baltimore on Old Columbia Pike. When he saw some woods he pulled over to the shoulder of the road and stopped. He had a ready-made story. If the cops came by he would tell them he had to pee and couldn't wait.
Michele Dorr's killer grabbed the duffel bag, a flashlight, and a shovel from the back of the truck, stepped over a guard rail, and stumbled down a ravine and into the woods. At the base of a tree he dug a grave four feet long, digging until he hit clay. He took the little girl from the duffel bag and began dropping her in. But there was one more piece of business. He had to taste her. The flesh was his prize, her death was his revenge. Afterwards, he covered her body with parts of an old mattress he found nearby, and some leaves. He climbed back up the incline and into his truck, driving back to his newly rented room, five miles from his brother's house.
Finger of Suspicion
Every rookie cop is told that when a child disappears he is to look first in the direction of the parents or caregiver. Statistics bear this out. It's usually a 90% chance that either the parents or the caregiver know what happened to the child.
"It's page one in the handbook," said Detective Mike Garvey, the first cop to speak with Carl Dorr. And the more they looked at Carl Dorr, the more he looked like their man. After all, hadn't he threatened his wife, saying he would abduct their daughter just three months before? Hadn't he and Dorothy been battling over the kid for years? Wasn't Carl the last to see her alive? They went right at him, asking him to take a polygraph the very next day. When the polygraph examiner, a local fire marshal, told them that Carl might know more about Michele's whereabouts than he was telling them, the cops thought they had their man.
"It was good cop, bad cop," Carl later said. "They were right in my face, telling me I had failed the polygraph exam and that it had been 24 hours and they knew she was dead. 'We're going to find her,' they said, 'When we do, we're coming to get you.'"
His estranged wife told the cops she thought he had done it too. She gave them an extra motive. Her estranged husband was trying to get out of paying her $400 a month in child support. Carl Dorr was caught inside a nightmare. When he told the police that he loved his daughter, they didn't believe him. He took a second lie detector test and passed easily. In an attempt to prove his innocence, he underwent hypnosis and took sodium pentothal, the so-called truth serum. None of this convinced the cops. But then Carl may have been his own worst enemy. He snapped, and in a psychotic episode told a psychiatrist that he had abducted and killed his daughter.
"I started hallucinating," he recalled. "I couldn't take the pressure. My brain was soup."
In his altered mental state he began to believe that people on television shows were talking about him. He looked behind the set and when he didn't see anything, he thought the police were altering his reception.
The next day Carl got into his car and drove to his father's grave. He began talking to his father's headstone. He thought the headstone was speaking back. His mind was so gone that he began to believe he was God's only son.
"I believed that if I could find Michele I could bring her back to life. And if was able to do that, then I must be Jesus," he said. He began calling himself the White Messiah.
The cops took all this to be a form of confession. They had Michele's father in for questioning again and again. It wasn't long before Carl Dorr was committed to a hospital for 72 hours of psychiatric observation. As soon as he got out, he was hauled in for questioning again.
In truth, Carl did have something to hide. Ashamed that he had neglected his daughter that afternoon, he fudged the timeline. The last time he had seen Michele was around noon of May 31st. But he told the cops it was around 2:10 p.m. The time discrepancy was about to give Hadden Clark a perfect alibi.
Detective Wayne Farrell would later recall cruising Sudbury Road on the day after Michele Dorr vanished. He was grasping for any straw and came upon Hadden Clark in the driveway of his brother's house, tinkering with his truck's engine.
"Were you here yesterday?" the cop asked him.
"For about two or three minutes," Hadden claimed.
Farrell told Mike Garvey about the encounter. He said he had checked around and that Hadden Clark seemed to be the neighborhood weirdo. Garvey said to bring him in. Farrell called Geoff Clark and Geoff called Hadden and told him to be at the police precinct the next morning. He was on time but Garvey let him cool his heels for 10 minutes before going to work on him.
Hadden appeared to have an airtight story. He said he had punched his time clock at the country club where he worked at 2:46 that afternoon. Garvey and Farrell did some figuring. If Carl Dorr said he had seen his daughter at 2:10 then Hadden Clark couldn't have found, abducted or killed someone and then hid a body within 36 minutes. That was nearly impossible. Still they weren't about to let him walk out without being questioned. They went soft on him at first, asking him about the rabbits he had raised behind his brother's house and his life before moving in with his brother. They gradually began asking him about the children in the neighborhood and Hadden opened up, complaining that one of the little boys had once kicked him in the testicles while he played with a group. He also confessed he had once playfully pinned a little girl to the ground. Garvey jumped on the admission.
What Did You Do?
"Is that what you did with Michele?" He pulled out a photo of the little girl and when he did Hadden began rocking back and forth in his chair. Tears appeared in his eyes and he wouldn't look at the photo.
"Is that what you did with Michele?" Garvey asked again. Hadden mumbled an answer and then did something the cops weren't prepared for.
"I feel sick. Do you have a bathroom?" he asked. He went into the police station bathroom and began vomiting loudly into the toilet. The cops were right behind him.
"What did you do?" Garvey shouted into the stall. "The parents need to know. Tell me what happened. They need to bury their child. Was it an accident? Let's talk about it."
The suspect answered by retching loudly. As he continued to vomit into the toilet, Garvey slid a photo of Michele Dorr under the stall door.
"What did you do?"
Hadden made what was later viewed as a partial confession.
"I don't know," he said between heaves. "I may have done something. Sometimes I black out and do things I don't remember."
They were close, inches away from an arrest. But Hadden seemed to get a second wind. He said he had worked that day and mentioned the 2:46 punch-in again. Garvey checked his notes again. Clark was crazy maybe, but you can't kill or kidnap someone, then dump or hide a body, and then get to work—which was nearly 10 miles away in that kind of time frame. Carl Dorr had given his daughter's killer the perfect alibi while at the same time, directing the suspicion to himself because of his behavior.
Hadden Clark would walk away to kill again. As for Michele Dorr, it would be another 14 years until the mystery of her death would be solved and her body found.