Five Questions – Part 2

Parts of this post were used in Aggravated. This is the second post of five questions/items that were part of a chapter in Aggravated. In that chapter I answered and/or explained all five in just a few paragraphs, so these are just more detailed breakdowns of the reasoning behind those answers. If you’ve already read the book you can just skip these posts unless you want the extra detail. If you missed the first post, and want to read them in order, start with, When Was the Rodeo? Here’s the second question.

Why Did Steve Give Rhonda and Hanna a Ride?

Why is This Question Important? Of course we want to know why Steve gave them a ride home, but would it make a difference if it wasn’t his idea?

The bolding in this excerpt is to show how strongly Hanna stressed certain words during her interview with Tom. When he asked Hanna why Steve gave them a ride home, she said, “Because my mom didn’t feel like getting out, and [imitating Steve and Darla] ‘Well, do you mind?’ ‘No, no. I’ll do it.’ He drove all the way from Driskill. The other side of Driskill …to come and get us.” Tom asked her where Steve picked them up. She said, “At the rodeo arena in Deep Springs.”

[Hanna said that Steve picked them up because Darla didn’t feel like it. And he drove all the way from “The other side of Driskill.” Was Hanna suggesting that Steve was so hot for her that he would drive from anywhere to get a chance to be with her, even if she wasn’t alone that night? Driskill, by the way, is about ten miles west of downtown Deep Springs, and the rodeo is on the southwest side of Deep Springs. Was Steve on “the other side of Driskill? No. He and Robin were southeast of Driskill, visiting Nancy, Robin’s sister. Theye were, in other words, between Driskill and the rodeo. The other side of Driskill would be west of Driskill, much farther away. Steve and Robin drove to her sister’s house in separate vehicles when they got off work. He told me it wasn’t unusual for them to meet somewhere after work rather than both driving all the way out to their home at the lake first, just to leave one vehicle there before coming back into town. So, when Steve left Nancy’s for the rodeo grounds, Robin drove home in her Jeep. Despite Hanna’s distance claims, she did know where Nancy’s house was. She told Tom she had been there before. Was she trying to make the distance seem farther than it really was? Probably, yes. Here’s a map.]

Map, The Rodeo to the Water Tower
Map, The Rodeo to the Water Tower

If Steve had been on the “other side” of Driskill, he would have driven at least twice as far as he did to get to the rodeo. In reality, he took a couple of county roads in in the general direction of the rodeo grounds, and got there fairly quickly.

In Trial #1, Ross asked Hanna why Steve gave them the ride. She said, “Mom said she would be too tired to pick us up, and Sirois volunteered, to the best of my knowledge. I’m not quite sure how the arrangement was made. I was just told what the plan was, I never asked questions.”

[Hanna told Tom that her mom “didn’t feel like getting out.” In Trial #1 she said her mom was “too tired.” Was Hanna’s statement, “I was just told what the plan was, I never asked questions,” an admission that Darla had Steve do this kind of favor for her often?]

In the same trial, Ross asked Rhonda how they were supposed to get home. She said, “We were told to call someone to get us.” Ross asked her who Hanna called. Rhonda said, “Steven Sirois.” Ross asked her what she thought when he came to pick them up. She said, “I didn’t think anything of it when he first arrived because he was a friend of their family, so I figured it would be just fine for us to go with him.”

[That’s fairly clear. They called Steve, a friend of Hanna’s family, and he came and gave them a ride. Rhonda didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.]

When Hanna’s mother, Darla, took the stand in the first trial, an odd exchange happened. Ross asked her if Hanna ever spent time with Steve other than at their get-togethers or when she spent the night with the Sirois family. She said, “No. I mean, there was, I guess, times that he, not just her alone to my knowledge. There were times that he would take a few of them to the movies or, you know, here and there. But just one on one, no.” Trying again, Ross asked her if it would be unusual for Steve to bring Hanna home from an event, or take her to his house, or something like that. Darla replied, “Well, I’m sure it happened. I can’t recall a specific incident, but he was usually one to have his daughter with him or his son or somebody. I mean, he was rarely alone.”

[The parts that stand out are Darla saying, “not just her alone,” and “just one on one, no,” and “he was rarely alone,” but I think Ross was actually trying to get her to bring up the ride home from the rodeo. She didn’t seem to catch on to his hints, though. He moved on, but why didn’t he just ask her, “Was there a time when Steve gave Hanna a ride home from a rodeo?”]

We’ve reached Trial #2 now. Some of this will be familiar, but watch for the shifts in Hanna’s story. Ross asked Hanna how they were going to get home from the rodeo, and Hanna said, “My mom was going to come get us. And then, she — She had called me sometime during the middle of the rodeo and she told me that Sirois was going to come get us instead. I didn’t see a problem with it. I had grown used to spending time with him. It didn’t bother me.” Ross asked her what happened then. She said, “He had driven all the way from Driskill to come get us and take us to Alderson.” Ross asked her why Steve was in Driskill. She said, “That’s where his sister-in-law lives.” Ross asked her how Steve knew it was time to come get them. Hanna said, “I was to call him on my mom’s cell phone, or use my mom’s cell phone to call him.”

[Notice the changes? The “other side of Driskill” has changed to “all the way from Driskill” (which still isn’t true, but a little softer, see the map above). To Tom, she said her “mom didn’t feel like getting out” and talked Steve into it. Then, in Trial #1, she said her mom was too tired,” but Steve “volunteered.” Then, in Trial #2, she just said that her mom called her and said Steve would drive them. I’ll have more to say about this later, and about the route from the rodeo to Alderson.]

Steve’s attorney, Cleveland Sanford, asked Hanna some of the same questions Ross had, and received similar answers. Then he asked where Hanna’s mom was that night. Hanna said, “At home.” Sanford asked, “In Alderson?” Hanna said, “Yes.” He asked her how far it was from Alderson to the rodeo, but she seemed confused about the location of the rodeo. Sanford told her it was “kind of on the south side of Deep Springs.” Hanna said, “Okay. Well, the way traffic was that night — I assume it was that night — it may have been about — between 25 and 30 minutes.” He tried again, asking if she knew the distance from Alderson to Deep Springs. She said, “Thirteen miles.” He asked her if she agreed that Steve, by bringing them home, saved Darla a 26-mile round trip “if it’s 13 miles to Deep Springs?” Hanna said, “Yes, sir.”

[Like Hanna, I had always heard that Alderson was thirteen miles from Deep Springs, but it’s actually a little farther. From downtown to downtown, Alderson to Deep Springs is 15.2 miles; but Alderson to the rodeo grounds through downtown Deep Springs is 17.6 miles. Darla’s round trip would actually have been 35.2 miles, 9.2 miles farther than Sanford suggested.]

Darla, in that same trial, agreed with Sanford that Steve had given Hanna a ride home after the rodeo. He said, “You asked him to do that for you, didn’t you?” Darla said, “It’s possible, yes.” Sanford asked her if it was odd that Steve helped her out with rides and that sort of thing. Darla said, “No.” He asked her if Steve and Robin watched her kids sometimes so she could do other things. She said, “Yes, sir.” Sanford asked her if that was a favor to her. Darla answered, “Yes.”

[Did Darla seem a little hesitant to admit that she had asked Steve to give Hanna and Rhonda a ride home? What was she doing that night?]

Steve gets the final say. In 2014, I asked him why he gave the girls the ride. He said, “I was picking them up only because Darla had called and said she was drunk and didn’t need to drive, and asked me to go and get them.”

[Steve said the request to give the girls a ride home came from Darla because she was too drunk to drive. Hanna, in the first trial, said her mom told her she “didn’t feel like getting out,” but then, in the second trial, she said her mom told her she was “too tired” to come get them. Is Steve’s explanation logical? Yes. If you’re too drunk to drive, wouldn’t you ask a friend to drive your child home? Even if you were exhausted, or just didn’t feel like it, you might do the same.]

Analysis: Did Darla call and ask him to go get the girls because she “was drunk and didn’t need to drive?” Steve and Beau have told me on numerous occasions that Darla often spent time at the VFW Hall, which is near the rodeo grounds. Could she and her boyfriend, Eddie (or someone else) have had drinks at the VFW, or somewhere on the way to Alderson, or even at her home? All of that is speculation, of course, not an accusation. In 2016, Steve said that he didn’t think it was likely that Darla got drunk at the VFW because it was so close to the rodeo. He said, “She used to drive home drinking all the time with the kids.” He said, “If she had been that close she would probably have just driven the girls home herself.” Whatever the reason, Darla called her friend, Steve, who often did favors for her, and he agreed to give them a ride home. Steve has said that wasn’t unusual behavior for her. In September 2015 he told me, “It was not uncommon for her to go bar-hopping and leave the kids with us.” Beau also made similar comments. And Darla herself admitted to Sanford that Steve often helped her out with “rides and that sort of thing,” and also said that the Sirois’ watched Hanna and Aaron sometimes as a favor to her so she could do other things.

Henry Ross, in Trial #1, tried to get Darla to talk about the ride home from the rodeo, but she instead talked about how Steve was “rarely alone,” almost as if she was defending him. Maybe she just didn’t want to talk about the night of the rodeo. Why? Could it have been because she was dating Eddie? His name hadn’t been mentioned at that point in Trial #1. Did Darla think the defense would try to use her relationship with Eddie to discredit her testimony, or possibly to provide another suspect in the case? As a registered sex offender who had been living with her during the timeframe of the accusations, Eddie was a potential candidate for the molestation, and was obviously someone Darla and Hanna didn’t want the jury to know about.

Hanna, in Trial #1, said that Darla told her “she would be too tired” to pick them up, and that “Sirois volunteered.” In Trial #2, she said, “My mom was going to come get us. And then, she — She had called me sometime during the middle of the rodeo and she told me that Sirois was going to come get us instead.” What did that hesitation “And then, she — She…” mean? Did Hanna stop herself from saying something her mom wouldn’t want revealed, like, “And then she got drunk…” or “And then she and her boyfriend…?”

Conclusion: Darla either felt like she couldn’t or didn’t want to pick the two girls up after the rodeo, so she called her friend, Steve (who often did favors for her, including babysitting her kids sometimes so she could party), and he told her he would give them a ride home. That’s why he picked them up at the rodeo. Sorry for taking so long to say that.

Michael Sirois

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