Let's use the principles of Statement Analysis to take a look at Ronald Cumming's interview with Geraldo, shortly after Misty reported to police that Haleigh has gone missing.
Geraldo Confronts Haleigh Cummings' Dad
Sunday, February 22, 2009
The following transcript is Geraldo's confrontation with Ronald Cummings, father of missing 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings. In the confrontation, Geraldo asks him about allegations he'd abused Haleigh, her biological mother and drug use.
RIVERA: "Chad and Marcus told me that during the vigil, you told them you were 75 percent sure who took Haleigh."
CUMMINGS: "There is no way — I do not know who took Haleigh. If I had — if I had, uh, five percent of where Haleigh was at, I would be there now and not here."
First he says, "There is no way" but does not finish his sentence and we cannot be certain what he is referencing. "There is no way that I know who did it?" Perhaps, but we do not know.
"I do not know who took Haleigh" in an open statement is quite strong; however, it is reduced in strength because he uses Geraldo's words back to Geraldo; therefore we cannot consider it umprompted. (The only way it could be considered stronger is if he used the contraction "don't" know who took Haleigh.) When someone says, unprompted, "I didn't do it" it is likely to be true; yet when it is in response to "Did you do it?", "No, I didn't do it" as a response, is easier to lie, and not as a trustworthy of a denial.
It could be that he doesn't know who took Haleigh; Misty or Tommy, or he could be saying that he doesn't know the person or persons that took her, or he could be lying. Note also he uses Haleigh's proper name here. It is also noted that Geraldo used Haleigh's name first, so its use is not open but a reflection. Note all language that is independent of a reflection back to the subject of the interview.
"If I had — if I had, uh, five percent of where Haleigh was at, I would be there now and not here."
Here the repetition of "If I had, if I had" is a show that he is under stress. This is to be expected under the circumstances. 2 "I's" in a statement by a non-stutter shows stress. 3 is anxiety. 6 is likley a hospitalization/nervous break down to follow. 9 is only found in homicides.
Ronald answers Geraldo's charge that he, Ronald, told others he knew who took Haleigh with "75%" certainty.
In Ronald's own language, he now lowers that percentage to "5%"
This use of "%" in language is an indication that Ronald uses percentages as part of his normal speech, since he has offered this to Geraldo. It indicates that when he denied saying "75%" to others, that he was being deceptive. It may be that he did not tell the two specific people named by Geraldo, but that he did likely tell someone that he was "75%" sure he knew who took Haleigh.
This is our first indication of deception in this interview. We do not take a statement and call it unreliable on just one indicator.
"I would be there, not here."
Ronald affirms that if he had even 5% knowledge, far less than 75%, of where Haleigh was, he would be "there" and not "here".
"there" is a specific place; just as "here" is a specific place, where Ronald and Geraldo stood. This may be an indicator that Ronald knew where Haleigh was taken. Ronald says he would be "there" and not that Haleigh would be home. This may be an indication that Ronald knows that Haleigh is deceased.
It would sound more natural to say that if he knew where Haleigh was, she would be brought home where she would be safe; not that Ronald would be with her "there", which represents danger as well as distance.
RIVERA: "Did you tell them that, though? Maybe you weren’t — maybe you were just were just — are they lying?"
Geraldo asks a compound question, a mistake in Interviewing. By asking a compound question, in an investigation, or even a hiring interview, it allows the subject of the interview to pick and choose which question to answer.
CUMMINGS: "Yes, they’re absolutely lying. No, for no reason have I ever told anybody that I have any clue where my child is at. If I had any clue where my child — you know, national TV, they’re a bunch of liars. Chad and whoever told you this are a bunch of liars. I never even spoke with them."
absolutely This is an extra word. Extra words give us extra information and weakens the denial of having told two others that he was 75% sure who had caused Haleigh to go missing. "They're lying" is strong, but the addition of the qualifier weakens the assertion.
"No, for no reason have I ever told anybody that I have any clue where my child is at. "
This is an unusual response. Ronald is upset and this can be likened to the legal term for "excited utterance" where emotions are high. He is now answering the question "why", which was not posed to him. It indicates increased sensitivity. The whereabouts of Haleigh is something that is highly sensitive. Ronald tells us that "for no reason", which is not a denial of "did you tell anybody" but that he had no reason to tell anybody.
"ever" weakens the assertion. It is an extra word and is not necessary to complete the sentence, therefore can be viewed as important to us.
"that I have any clue"
This is different than what was asked. He was asked if he told individuals that he knew, with 75% certainty, who had taken Haleigh. We have already seen that Ronald does speak in percentages, not simply repeating Geraldo, but using a different number, taking ownership of the expression.
"100 percent not guilty" when used in court will statistically point to guilt.
Ronald was not asked if he had "any clue" who took Haleigh. Ronald's own language went from who took Haleigh to location "there", shifting the focus away from who might have taken her, to where she had already been taken.
He is not telling us that he has "no clue" as to who took Haleigh, but that he has "no clue" as to where Haleigh is. Ronald was not asked this question, which makes location central to Ronald's thinking.
"...where my child is."
Note that Ronald uses "my" personal pronoun.
He also uses "child", which is associated with abuse. Parents who are concerned that their child may have been abused, or could be abused will use the word "child". It is not an indication that of who, including Ronald, may have abused Haleigh, only that it indicates that abuse is on the mind. If Haleigh was kidnapped, this would be an expected response for any parent who believes a their son or daughter to be kidnapped would be thinking of abuse.
Ronald states that he does not have a clue where Haleigh is at. The issue is that he was not asked where Haleigh was at, but rather the subject was "who" took Haleigh, and if Ronald knew who took her. At this point, Ronald redirects the interview away from who may have taken Haleigh, and shifted it to where Haleigh was taken to.
"I never even spoke with them."
In Statement Analyis, never does not mean "no". We have the extra, unnecessary word, "even", which adds emphasis. This is likely an indication that Ronald spoke with both of them and is lying.
RIVERA: "They told — they told me that you hit Haleigh. Is that true?"
CUMMINGS: "No. Never, ever have I ever hit my child. Me and my child have an agreement. Daddy, daughter. She has been spanked on her behind the way DCF says that you can take care of disciplining your children."
Statement Analysis: never does not mean "no".
Ronald makes an emphasis with the denial, "no" but then weakens the denial with "never", an extra word. But then he adds "ever" further indicating a weakening of the denial suggesting deception. Haleigh is again referred to as "child" which indicates abuse, or fear of abuse. "my" shows possession. The denial appears weak, and it is likely that he hit Haleigh.
"Me and my child have an agreement."
Notice the order: Ronald comes before his child.
In Statement Analysis, order is always significant.
Note also the absence of Haleigh's name while talking about Haleigh being hit. They have an "agreement" between them. Did 5 year old Haleigh enter into a an agreement with her father? An agreement suggests the cooperation of both parties. > Itis unusual language and weakens Ronald's credibility as he is seeking to show that Haleigh, age 5, approved of this agreement. Had Haleigh never been abused by Ronald, why would such an agreement be necessary.
"Daddy, daughter" repeatsthe word, and emphasizes order again.
He has claimed that Haleigh has never "ever" been hit (repeat emphasis sign of deception) but then says,
"she has been spanked on her behind"
Notice passive language. He does not say by whom Haleigh has been hit. He removes himself from the statement; distancing himself from hitting Haleigh. She has been spanked. Since she likely did not spank herself, and no one else is added, we can only conclude that Ronald did the spanking.
"...the way DCF says that you can take care of disciplining your children."
Ronald says the way DCF says that youcan; not that he can. This reduces commitment and continues to remove himself from responsibility.
He says the spanking is the way DCF says. This means that Ronald may have had another way of disciplining Haleigh.
The inclusion of DCF answers the question, "what agreement?". It is likely that DCF workers confronted Ronald Cummings about hitting his child and that he signed a Family Agreement, that he would no longer do so, but only spank her on the rear end. Haleigh may have been in the room when this "agreement" was reached if the DCF social workers thought it necessary to bind Ronald to the agreement. The reason DCF would put this in writing is that should they receive evidence that Ronald has violated his agreement, they would use this to present to the court in order to remove Haleigh from his custody. For many agencies, having a parent sign a Family Agreement (it is under various names from varying states) is the final step, along with parenting classes, that they take before seeking court ordered protection. The written agreement may have included other issues, common to such documents, as parenting classes, random drug tests, etc. This may be the "agreement" that he and Haleigh had. "Daddy, daughter" is used to establish authority, as Ronald likely felt his authority threatened by the Department of Children and Families consideration to seek court ordered protection for Haleigh.
"disciplining your children"; not Ronald's children. Language shows distancing. He did not say "disciplining my children".
Haleigh was not just spanked, she was spanked by someone. Ronald conceals the identity. Remember this is in response to Geraldo's statement about Ronald hitting Haleigh.
Ronald's answer shows deception, as his claim of "never ever" been hit, to his passive admission that she has been hit, howbeit now "spanked", and that to be on the behind, which most people would assume a spanking means. The added words "on the behind" tell us that Ronald:
a has hit Haleigh before
b. he has hit Haleigh in other places besides the behind, which is not DCF way
and now he is limited to only her behind by the agreement he made with Haleigh.
RIVERA: You never backhanded her to the face?
CUMMINGS: [OVERLAP] Never. Never have I ever backhanded my child in the face, ever.
Never does not mean no. We have a double response, weaking the denial. Ronald does not use her name and reflects back only Geraldo's language. This would lead me to believe that Ronald has hit Haleigh in the face, specifically by use of his backhand. Notice that Ronald puts the first person singular back into the sentence: we have "never", and "never" and "ever" in the same sentence, further indicating deception. Ronald does not call her "Haleigh" here, but only "my child" again, indicating concern over child abuse. The absence of the proper name is an indication, here, that Ronald is again concerned about child abuse. He has been investigate by the State of Florida for child abuse, as he referenced his dealing with DCF.
RIVERA: "Did you hit Crystal when she was pregnant?"
CUMMINGS: "No. I did not. Never."
No, I did not, is a strong denial by itself, but then it is weakened with the additional word "never" and is an indication that Ronald is being deceptive about domestic violence with Crystal. When he says "never" is he referring to only "never while she was pregnant" or is it inclusive of all time?
RIVERA: "You didn’t hit her in the back of the head and kick her?"
CUMMINGS: "No. No. I never have."
3 negatives in one sentence. This is indicative of lying. There is no reflection back to Geraldo of the language that Geraldo used. It is likely that he did hit her in the back of the head and kick her, specifically.
RIVERA: "You swear to God you never hit your pregnant woman?"
CUMMINGS: [OVERLAP] Never. Never, never have I ever hit any woman, period. Never. And I’d like to know where all these allegations are coming from because I would like to talk — talk to law enforcement and have these false allegations, um, known that, um, the false allegations against me, somebody needs criminal charges pressed against them."
In this one sentence, we now have the denial 4 times, indicating deception in even stronger terms. Never. Never. Never. Ever. But before that, we have another principle in Statement Analysis:
If your subject has not answered your question, he has answered your question.
Ronald was asked if he would swear that he never hit his pregnant woman
Ronald does not answer the question ,but instead broadens it to "any" woman, and then adds the unnecessary emphasis, "period". This leads me to believe that Ronald has hit more than just one woman in his life. He introduces the subject of more women, than just Crystal, who Geraldo asked about being hit while pregnant. This investigation would then seek the names of prior girlfriends, and look for past allegations of domestic violence, Protection from Abuse Orders, and the possible intervention of Domestic Violence Shelters or Counselors into the lives of women involved with Ronald Cummings.
RIVERA: What about the allegations of cocaine use, methamphetamine use?
CUMMINGS: There’s nothing. I do not do drugs.
Ronald did not answer the question about allegations, plural, of cocaine and meth use. He said, "there's nothing"; which is not a denial. "There's nothing" may speak to prior arrests without convictions but does not answer the question of the allegations. In Statement Analysis, if the subject has not answered the question, he has answered the question.
This tells me that Ronald has used cocaine and methamphetamine.
"I do not do drugs".
This may be a truthful statement, especially given the time he said it.
In investigations where drug use may play a part in domestic violence or child abuse, when a crisis hits, when asked about drugs, many drug users will say "I don't use drugs!" even while flunking a drug test.
Because when a crisis hits, and this is certainly a crisis, Ronald may have, quietly to himself, or loudly to others, have sworn off drugs, forever.
Sobriety, even if it is just 1 hour old, or 1 day old, is still sobriety. 10 years of sobriety still had its first hour and first day. In fact, he could be sincere, even though drugs may still be in his system, that he does not use drugs, because he has made a promise to himself, or others.
He does not deny the two specific drugs to Geraldo, which would indicate that he has been involved in those two drugs, as well as the pills he was caught on video selling later.
On an investigation, if you ask "Did you smoke pot, last Wednesday night, on your shift?" and you get the response, "I don't use drugs!" you will likely know that last Wednesday on that particular shift, the person used marijuana. Geraldo continues to go after him and the sensitivity runs high:
RIVERA: "You don’t do drugs? All those arrests were all —:
Ronald interrupts Geraldo to say "no" to the charge of "you don't use drugs". This interruption is due to increased anxiety and stress: sensitivity. We did not find the same level of anxiety over the identity of who took Haleigh. Why is this, drug use, more sensitive than a missing child?
This would be an indication that Haleigh's demise is linked with drugs.
RIVERA: "Do you work for the police? Are you an informant?"
Geraldo asks another compound question. It is always a mistake and allows Ronald to answer whichever question he wants to. In this case, he addresses both. Geraldo gets a "pass" on this error that someone conducting an Interview, no matter how excited, should do:
CUMMINGS: "No, I am no an informant. I do not work for the police. I work for PDM, which is a, um, bridge building company. That’s who I work for."
"No, I am not an informant" is a strong denial. Ronald is likely not an informant for the police. "I do not work for the police" is also a strong denial. Notice that the straight denial is the most credible. Here, he does not add "no, no, never, never ever". These two statements should be viewed as trustworthy, credible statements.
I conclude that Ronald did not, at the time of Haleigh's disappearance, inform or work for the police. He is telling the truth.
"I work for PDM...building bridge company. That's who I work for"
This statement is straight forward. Why the emphasis? His repeat "that's who I work for" is not necessary. Why is it repeated? There are no qualifiers added here; Ronald is not lying. He may have added the repeat due to sensitivity. It may be that part of his "agreement" in terms of custodial issues and the involvement of DCF, that he maintain employment. Ronald feels the need to describe what PDM does as a company. This is an extra detail that is not necessary. The subject of Ronald working is sensitive. Notice it follows after the accusation that he may have worked for the police (which he did not). The extra emphasis may also be an indicator that Ronald has done other things to earn a living that he no longer does; related to his arrests. On face value, he has told us the truth about not informing, not working for the police, and that he has a job with a bridge building company.
RIVERA: And you’ve never been involved in the drug trade?
Ronald uses no qualifier here; no extra words. Is his simple "no" trustworthy? Geraldo pushes him.
"Yes and no" questions are to be avoided whenever possible. It is easiest to lie in a yes or no question primarily, and then it is easy to lie with a reflection answer; where the subject uses the words of an Interviewer. It is still stressful, but not nearly as stressful as lying in an open statement. A yes or no question reduces stress of lying.
RIVERA: And when they tell me they saw bricks of marijuana that you had in the house, plants all around the house, is that a lie?
CUMMINGS: It is absolutely a lie and I would like to know where the information is coming from so that I can get, um, the proper authorities to take care of this.
Ronald's denial is weak due to "absolutely" added and then he attempts to change the direction of the questioning and asks about where the information came from.
Notice that as to the marijuana plants, specifically, Ronald does not answer the question.
"I would like to know where the information is coming from that I can get,um..."
Ronald stumbles on what he would like to get in order to deal with whoever told Geraldo that marijuana was being housed. He then recovers for an answer. "um" is sometimes used as a stall tactic, to think of an answer. Was he going to get revenge? a gun?
He continued, "the proper authorities to take care of this.
notice: "proper authorities" rather than "authorities". This indicates that there are some, with authority to handle snitches, that may not be considred "proper".
"this" indicates closeness; "that" indicates distance.
RIVERA: You’re — put all this stuff aside. If some associate of yours, some associate that had something to do with drugs and this is not about drugs but if these people are on the dark side of life, don’t you think that you should share that information? Share — tell us about — when you told Marcus and Chad that you were 75 percent sure and you had your gun ready and your — and you had your gun ready and you were gonna go get em, didn’t you say that? Isn’t that a fact, Ron?
Geraldo asks a very long question; one that Ronald nor many others would be able to follow; but conludes with asking if all the details he has laid out is a fact. Notice that Geraldo has now given us additional information about what Ronald was allege to have said to "Marcus and Chad"; not only that he was 75% sure of who took Haleigh, but that Ronald had planned to get his gun to go get those who took Haleigh.
CUMMINGS: No, it is not a fact.
Weak denial, as Ronald reflects back the wording of Geraldo. Geraldo is not conducting a solid interview, but in television interviews, it is often more important that the Interviewer be seen and heard more, as he is building a career, rather than gathering relevant information about the disappearance of Haleigh.
RIVERA: Why would they make that up? Why would they make that up?
CUMMINGS: I don’t know why they would make [OVERLAP] for you. But I — I am fixing [OVERLAP] to have the law called right here, right now because you’re making up things or they’re making up things and you’re getting into —
Ronald's response uses Geraldo's language (reflection) again but then adds in two seemingly unneccessary words: "for you". This may indicate that Ronald believes that Marcus and Chad have given this information because of who Geraldo is; a celebrity and not an investigator formally attached to the case.
then Ronald says that he is preparing to have the law called "right here" and "right now" because "you" Geraldo, is making things up, which would indicate that Ronald does not believe that Marcus and Chad would tell Geraldo these details, but then adds that "they're making up things". He does not specify which things are being made up. The drugs? The abuse of Haleigh? The certainty of who took Haleigh? The domestic violence against Crystal?
RIVERA: I am — I am relating to you what they are saying.
CUMMINGS: [OVERLAP] My face, man.
Ronald is now escalated and demands respect from Geraldo. The demand for respect in this situation is what often leads to violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to back off, man. That’s my son.
A man steps forward and tells Geraldo what he "needs" to do, and identifies himself, after this threat, as Ronald's father.
RIVERA: Alright. Well I’m sorry — I am sorry for what has happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you’re not sorry. [OVERLAPPED CONVERSATION]
A woman does not believe that Geraldo is sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are — [OVERLAPPED CONVERSATION] Listen. You wanna come up here and make [OVERLAP] allegations. Why don’t you go back to —
RIVERA: These are not my allegations, man. These are not my allegations. You have to understand that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: [OVERLAP] Okay. [OVERLAP] All we care about —
RIVERA: You have to understand this is not my allegation. Don’t touch him, don’t touch him, please. We’re leaving. Come on, let’s go. Let’s go.
CUMMINGS: [OVERLAP]" I wanted you to see that all this is about is my daughter. I love you, baby. [OVERLAP] If you are out there, I want you to know that I love you and I will find you, baby. I love you. And two, whoever — whoever has you, please bring my daughter home to me. I love my daughter. I love you, baby. I will find you."
Ronald said that he wanted Geraldo to know that "this" (this means close; that means far away; this that has been about drugs and domestic violence and child abuse; the subjects asked by Geraldo) is about Haleigh; except Ronald does not use her name.
"If you are out there..," Doesn't Ronald believe that she has been taken? Why the question? A parent who's child is kidnapped does not question whether or not the child is alive. Protective instincts put them firmly in denial. When Christ raised Jairus's daughter, we are told that the parents were stunned. He jolted them out of their denial by directing them to feed the little girl.
"whoever, whoever has you..." The subject of who took Haleigh triggers the repeat; this shows an increase in sensitivity. He repeats his love for her. He calls her "baby" which is a term of endearment, showing affection. Geraldo reacts to this speaking directly to Haleigh and interprets it as Haleigh being alive, and asks:
RIVERA: "You believe she’s alive then?"
CUMMINGS: I’m always gonna believe that my daughter’s alive until they find her. [SILENCE]
This is a powerful indication that Ronald Cummins knows that Haleigh is deceased and that when she is found, she will be seen as she is: dead. While she is not found, he is going to believe that she is alive but when they find her, he will then no longer believe that she is alive.
This form of statement is common in cases where it is known that the missing person is dead. OJ Simpson was going to search for Nicole's killer. How long? For the rest of his life. Why did he think it would take that long? John Ramsey and others used similar language.
When someone says that they will search for the rest of their lives, they are likely telling the truth. They likely hope the killer is not found soon; and for good reason, so the search must go on for as long as they are alive.
Ronald did not take the time to think about his words. He just spoke them. In less than a microsecond, the brain tells the tongue what to say, using words and tenses; many instilled within us from a very early age.
It is not a slip, nor a mistake.
In statement analysis, we believe what someone tells us unless we find indicators of deception.
Ronald has told us that he will go on believing that Haleigh is alive but only until they find her.
This is a strong indication that he knows she is deceased.
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