A lot of people swear they’d never confess to something they didn’t do. They just can’t conceive of it, especially when the stakes are so high. But it happens — a lot more than you’d think. And as far out as it sounds, sometimes people come to believe in their own guilt.

Transcript

A quick listener note: This podcast contains adult language and descriptions of violence.

Texas Department of Public Safety recording: Most criminals know the marvels of modern law enforcement, and they know the effects of a carefully prepared alibi. But there’s one way they won’t talk but their emotions will. It’s simply a matter of reading the suspect’s emotions and pressing in the right direction until he breaks.

Liliana Segura: From the moment we first read Charles Raby’s confession, it struck us as something out of a movie, sort of improbable. He denies, denies, denies — and then breaks down and confesses. This is how Sgt. Waymon Allen described it in the police report. An actor will read it for you.

Sgt. Waymon Allen police report (read by actor): Allen advised Raby that this sergeant knew he was not being truthful. Allen advised Raby that he had been identified jumping over a fence leaving Edna’s house Thursday night at about the time she was killed. Raby looked down at the floor and his eyes filled with tears. Raby stated: “I was there. I went in through the front door,” and “I saw her on the living room floor.”

Jordan Smith: Our fascination with confessions is tied to this idea of a uniquely gifted interrogator: someone who can get a suspect to give it all up. That was Allen’s reputation within the Houston police homicide squad. Sgt. Wayne Wendel was his partner. They worked Edna Franklin’s murder together.

Wayne Wendel: Sergeant Allen was the crème de la crème of detectives in homicide. He was just a joy to work with because he was so dedicated and so concentrated on the mission to clear the case. I worked two years with him. Gosh, it was just a real joy to work with him. He’s dead now. But he could talk the horns off a billy goat.

Jordan Smith: Allen died in 2019. Wendel wrote about him on an online memorial page. He said that Allen often operated at “full throttle.” And he lauded him for his interrogation skills: “I actually felt sorry for crooks sitting across the table from him in the interrogation room.”

[Theme music]

Liliana Segura: From The Intercept, I’m Liliana Segura.

Jordan Smith: And I’m Jordan Smith. Welcome back to Murderville, Texas. Episode 4, “Confessions.”

First, let’s review. Seventy-two-year-old Edna Franklin was brutally murdered in her home in Houston on October 15, 1992. Her grandsons lived with her. They were the ones to find her body just after 10 p.m. that night. The cops asked them if they had any idea who might’ve killed her.

They named two of their own friends: Edward Bangs, who’d been painting the outside of Franklin’s house in the days before the murder, and 22-year-old Charles Raby, who was kind of an asshole. He’d supposedly gotten sideways with Franklin a couple weeks before her murder. And he’d recently been released on parole after serving several years for the armed robbery of a convenience store. This caught the cops’ attention. Just four days later, they arrested Charles and secured a confession.

That confession would be the most important piece of evidence connecting him to the murder. No physical evidence tied him to the scene. And they have never found a murder weapon. Despite the lack of evidence, the state tried Charles for murder in the summer of 1994. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

Liliana Segura: We told you that false confessions happen more than you would think. And maybe you’re still skeptical about that. But consider this: To date, 15 percent of death row exonerations have involved a false confession.

When we first read the confession and police report in Charles’s case, we were struck by how little information they contained. There’s no transcript of the interrogation — let alone a video — and it’s just impossible to know what happened in that room.

Jordan Smith: To be fair, it wasn’t exactly standard practice for cops to record these kinds of interactions back in the early ’90s. A lot of them just didn’t have the equipment. But we know that in this era, the Houston PD did have the equipment. In fact, they routinely recorded interrogations of robbery suspects. For whatever reason, they didn’t see fit to do so in homicide cases.

Nevertheless, we do know some things about Charles’s interrogation. Like what the room looked like, because that’s what’s in the police report. The walls were painted white. There were desks, computers, and rolling chairs. And Charles wore a white tank top and blue jeans, as well as white tennis shoes.

All of this would be fine, except these details are irrelevant compared to the mechanics of the interrogation itself, which are not included. Instead, there’s only Sgt. Allen’s summary of what Charles told him up until the point that Allen says, “I know you’re lying,” and Charles supposedly breaks down in tears.

Liliana Segura: The lack of detail also extends to the confession itself. We’re going to have an actor read the confession for you now. So you can see what we’re talking about. But we have to warn you, it’s pretty confusing. The only thing we’ve taken out are the addresses and phone numbers of the people Charles named.

Charles Raby (Actor): My name is Charles Douglas Raby. I am 22 years old. I was born in Houston, Texas on March 22, 1970. I last went to school at Sam Houston and have a total of 10 years of formal education.

I am at the Houston Police Department’s homicide division. Today is Monday, October 19, 1992, and it is approximately 1:25 p.m. Sergeant Allen read me my rights on two occasions this afternoon. I fully understand my rights and I have gave up my right to remain silent and right to an attorney. I have not been threatened or promised anything in return to make a statement. I told Sergeant Allen that I [had] not been at Lee’s house on Westford Street Thursday night. I was not telling the truth at first, because I was scared. I decided to tell the truth and get this over with. … I am unemployed at the present time. I can read and write the English language. I can see this statement as it is being typed by Sergeant Allen on the monitor.

On Thursday, October 15, 1992, I had gotten up that morning and I had gone over to my little brother, Robert Butler. … Robert was in school and I visited with a friend by the name of Anthony. Anthony is a Hispanic male, about 25-26 years old. Anthony lives next door to Robert. My little brother came home after school and I stayed at his house until some time that afternoon.

My little brother Robert gave me a ride on his bicycle to Jimmie’s house. We call Jimmie, “Crawdead.” Jimmie lives off of Laura Koppe Street. Jimmie was not there. I visited with his mother for awhile. I had a little pocket knife and I was cleaning my fingernails on Jimmie’s front porch. I believe my pocket knife was an “Old Timer.” I stayed there at Jimmie’s for an hour. I left there and walked over my ex-mother-in-law’s house. … I talked to Barbara, Dusty and Blane.

I left their house and walked over to a friend of mine named Larry. Larry lives off of Irvington. I had been drinking beer and whiskey. I only talked to Larry for a few minutes. I left Larry’s house and walked over to Melody’s house on Post Street. I talked to her mother and I left there. I walked over to John Phillips house on Wainwright Street. I asked John’s grandmother if he was at home and she told me, John was not there. I walked over off of Crosstimbers Street to try and locate a friend named Pookie. Pookie had moved.

I went to a little store and bought some wine. I think it was some Mad Dog 20/20. I drank the bottle of wine and then I walked over to Lee’s house on Westford Street. Lee lives with his grandmother, Edna and his cousen Eric. There is an old Volkswagon in the drive way at their house. I walked up to the front door. The front door has a screen type door in front of a wooden door. I knocked on the door. I did not hear anyone answer. I just went inside.

I sat down for a little bit on the couch. I called out when I got inside, but I did not hear anyone say anything. I heard Edna in the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed Edna. Edna’s back was to me and I just grabbed her. I remember struggling with her and I was on top of her. I know I had my knife but I do not remember taking it out. We were in the living room when we went to the floor. I saw Edna covered in blood and underneath her. I went to the back of the house and went out the back door that leads into the back yard.

Shortly after I had left Lee’s house on Westford I was approached by a man and this man told me something like “I had better not catch you in my yard,” “jumping his fences.” Or something like that. I woke up later on the ground near the Hardy Toll Road and Crosstimbers. I walked home, on Cedar Hill from there. I remember feeling sticky and I had blood on my hands. I washed my hands off in a water puddle that is near the pipe line by the Hardy Toll Road. I do not remember what I did with my knife.

The next day I knew I had killed Edna. I remembered being at her house and struggling with her and Edna was covered with blood when I left. I think I was wearing a black concert shirt, the blue jeans I’m wearing and my Puma tennis shoes. I also had on a black jacket. I have read this, my statement, consisting of 3 pages.

A view at the Hardy Toll Road near Crosstimbers Street, where Mr. Raby regained consciousness and found blood on his hands according to his confession, in Houston, Texas on September 3, 2021.

A view at the Hardy Toll Road near Crosstimbers Street, where Mr. Raby regained consciousness and found blood on his hands according to his confession, in Houston on Sept. 3, 2021.

Photo: Christopher Lee for The Intercept


Liliana Segura: We’ve both written a bunch of stories over the years about false confessions. And for us, this whole narrative raises red flags. There’s a lot of irrelevant detail — walking here and there and back again — but when it gets to the crime, there’s very little detail.

There is also some weird language that echoes verbatim what’s in the police report. For example, investigators referred to Franklin as “Edna.” And in the confession, this is also how they said Charles referred to her. But as he told us, he didn’t even know her first name.

Charles Raby: All this time, I’m just telling them, “I don’t know. I don’t know no nobody named Edna.” And I swear to God, I did not know Ms. Franklin’s first name was Edna. I got a cousin named Edna. And I told them, I said, “I’ve got a cousin named Edna.” He said, “Well, I’m not talking about that.” But he never mentioned that it was Lee and Eric’s grandmother until later on. And then it hit me: “OK, Ms. Franklin. OK.”

Jordan Smith: And there are facts that we know the cops provided Charles before taking his confession — including that a man had been seen jumping the neighbor’s fence on the night of the murder.

We know what we see in all this. But we wanted an expert to weigh in.

Jeff Kukucka: So, my name’s Dr. Jeff Kukucka. I’m an associate professor of psychology at Towson University in Maryland.

Liliana Segura: Among the things that Kukucka studies are interrogation techniques and false confessions. He’s part of a second generation of psychologists studying this stuff, and he’s pretty much a rising star in the field.

We gave him a brief summary of the case, along with police reports and trial transcripts — the same kinds of documents he routinely gets when asked to review a case.

Jeff Kukucka: My gut reaction to reading all this stuff is this could be a case study of why interrogations should be recorded, because there is so much “he said, she said” here, so many inconsistencies, so little clarity on what actually happened. And the sad thing is we’re never going to know what actually happened.

Jordan Smith: There are a lot of things about Charles’s confession that give Kukucka pause, like the speed of it.

Jeff Kukucka: This confession goes from zero to 60 maybe faster than any confession I’ve ever seen. You know, he was denying guilt, denying guilt, and I said to him, “Well, we think you’re lying,” and then all of a sudden he started crying and confessing and that was it. Like, that’s not how it works. Having read these things and seen these things, that’s not how it works.

Jordan Smith: Generally speaking, confessions develop over time, Kukucka said, getting more and more detailed as they go.  

Liliana Segura: And he’s skeptical about some of the details included in Charles’s confession.

Jeff Kukucka: I would love to know where these details are coming from: the old Volkswagen in the driveway and the window and the — I find it very hard to believe that he remembers the old Volkswagen in the driveway but doesn’t remember what he did with the knife. It just doesn’t add up.

There is little doubt in my mind that something happened in there that we don’t know about. Whether it was coercive or not, I don’t know. But that’s just not how these stories evolve.

Jordan Smith: I’m so glad you brought up the VW thing.

Jeff Kukucka: I say this as a VW driver.

Jordan Smith: The broken-down VW and the other thing that gets me, and it’s a small thing, which is where he’s describing the door as a wooden door. And I’m like, who says that? Who’s like, “Oh, I went over to the house. They had a screen door and a wooden door”? You don’t say that. But you go look at the police report, and, of course, the crime scene guy is describing it: There’s an old, broken-down VW on the property, and there’s a wooden front door. I mean, you could see a crime scene investigator being like, “It’s a hollow core door” or “It’s a metal door.” But a random person is not going to be like, “Yeah, it was a wooden door.” Do you know what I’m saying? It just struck me as so bizarre.

Jeff Kukucka: And that’s exactly the sort of detail that they could either feed him or sort of slow-walk him to.

Liliana Segura: Then there’s the thing about jumping the neighbor’s fence.

Jordan Smith: One of the things that would seem to me to be a perfect hold-back fact, so to speak, if you were going into an interrogation situation, would be the idea that somebody jumped the back fence.

Because there’s this neighbor, and somebody did jump that back fence — it might make sense that that was connected to the murder. So I would think, as an investigator, I certainly would not want to spill that to anybody, because I’d want to see if they came back with it. Well, if you read through the police report, they told him that.

Jeff Kukucka: The last thing an interrogator should be doing is walking in the room and immediately laying all their cards on the table, because a savvy liar is going to take those cards and incorporate them into their lie, right? You should go in, withhold that information, get them to tell their side of the story, and then you can identify contradictions with known facts. They hardly did that here. We’ll never know, but it makes me suspicious about the other details that they might have fed to him to make the confession seem persuasive.

Liliana Segura: And it’s not just the details that are there that trouble him, it’s also those that aren’t there. Kukucka told us that he went through the confession and circled every verb in the section where Charles describes the murder.

Jeff Kukucka: The verbs in here are so innocuous. “I walked into the kitchen. I grabbed her. I remember struggling. We went to the floor.” These are very passive verbs. There’s nothing in here like, “I tackled her. I stabbed her. I hit her. She scratched me.” The verbs in this sentence are all very benign. I don’t really know what to make of that. I don’t know if this is deliberate or not on the part of the officers who sort of “took,” and I say “took” in quotes because I have doubts about whether this confession was really dictated or not.

Jordan Smith: There’s another thing about this confession that we need to get into. Remember when we told you about the suppression hearing and how Charles seemed to double down on the truth of his confession? We want to try to unpack that a bit.

Charles has always been clear in his conversations with us that the reason he gave the confession was that he was worried about his girlfriend, Merry Alice Gomez, and her infant son, Christopher. He thought that the cops might try to arrest her if he didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.

Liliana Segura: But there’s another piece of this too, and it might sound a little out there. For a long time, Charles told us, he wasn’t sure if he’d committed the murder or not. This is also something that happens with false confessions — and with memory in general.

Take the case of the Beatrice Six, a group of friends in small town Nebraska who were convicted of raping and killing an elderly woman in 1985. All but one of them gave false confessions after being questioned by a police psychologist who convinced them that they had repressed the memory of committing the crime. But one of the six insisted on his innocence — and ultimately they were all cleared by DNA.

Jordan Smith: And then there’s the Norfolk Four, a group of sailors accused of raping and murdering a Virginia woman in 1997. All of the men told the police they had nothing to do with the crime. But each of them ended up confessing anyway. And one of them came to believe he was guilty and became the star witness for the state. They were eventually cleared by DNA too.

Liliana Segura: These are pretty extreme examples, but the truth is that people develop false memories about all kinds of things, from the most inconsequential childhood experiences to major life-altering events. It feels counterintuitive, but we’ve all experienced some version of this.

Jordan Smith: And science tells us that memory is unreliable. People think that our minds record things exactly as they happen and then that memory is stored intact, but that’s not how it works.

Our brains reconstruct memories every time we recall them. And research has shown that things like trauma or drug and alcohol abuse can further distort our recollections. Charles had a history of violence. He’d broken the law plenty of times. He’d been in prison. And his memory of the night Edna Franklin was killed was pretty sketchy. He was really, really drunk at the time and on pills.

Notes by Charles Raby about the events leading up to and after the murder that was made while he was in prison in Houston, Texas on September 3, 2021.

Notes by Charles Raby about the events leading up to and after the murder that was made while he was in prison in Houston, Texas on September 3, 2021.

Photo: Christopher Lee for The Intercept

Mike Giglio: For me, the idea of memory itself being so fallible was really important.

Liliana Segura: This is Mike Giglio. He’s a journalist who used to write for the Houston Press.

Mike Giglio: I know that in every interview I’ve ever done since as a journalist, that has informed even the way I approach stories. It was so, for me, enlightening just to realize how memories can change and people can think that they’re telling the truth and really actually have kind of a composite picture of what happened based on all these questionable ways that they built their memory.

Liliana Segura: He wrote a bunch of stories about Charles’s case — not at the trial stage but years after he was convicted, including one from 2010 that was all about the confession and the questions swirling around it.

Mike Giglio: And so, it’s not that he confessed, right? It’s that he stuck to the confession. It’d be much simpler if he confessed in the interrogation room and then right away or at trial had gone back on it, but he basically admitted it twice.

Liliana Segura: Giglio went to visit Charles on death row.

Mike Giglio: I was really struck … that he was still wrestling with his own perception of himself. There’s a quote in the piece, like, “Did I do it? Could I do it?” He wasn’t even 100 percent sure. But I felt what was really honest was him questioning himself. The fact that he wasn’t saying, “I didn’t do it.” He was saying, “I just don’t think I could have. I’ve really mulled this.”

Jordan Smith: “I do know I’m crazy. But killing crazy?” Charles told Giglio for the 2010 piece. He said Sgt. Allen “planted the seed: Did I do that? A long time I was walking around with that guilt — did I do it?”

When we met Charles, he was no longer questioning whether he had killed Franklin. He is adamant that he didn’t. But it’s not entirely clear when or how he turned that corner. The one thing he comes back to time and again is that he said what he said to protect Merry Alice.

Liliana Segura: What do you remember, I suppose, about this confession and how you came to think about it, when you realized that you had confessed to this? I guess it’s a little unclear to me, like, how you came to realize — how this all began to sink in.

Charles Raby: Oh, you’re talking about when I realized that I actually messed up? When I was getting loaded into the van, getting taken to the courthouse. That’s when I realized I actually messed up, because of all these cops. They’re saying, “That’s him right there. That’s him right there.” Everywhere I’d go, they said, “That’s him. The granny killer.” That’s what the one cop called me, a granny killer. And that’s when I started getting like more frustrated and angry, starting just hating everything and everyone at that point. But, that’s when it really dawned on me that I really fucked up.

Jordan Smith: He said that it was while he was in jail, awaiting trial, that the gravity of his confession started to sink in. But, he said, he didn’t really regret it because he’d protected Merry Alice.

Charles Raby: I got her out of there. That was my main focus, and I fight with that all the time. One guy asked me back there, he said, “Do you regret it?” And I said a yes and no answer. Yeah, 27 years of this right here, I regret it. But I don’t regret that she never got humiliated by being in the strip search or fingerprinted. She never went to jail. She never had the baby taken from her.

Liliana Segura: Was there a moment where you started — either with your lawyer or with other — insisting, like taking back your statement?

Charles Raby: Oh yeah, yeah.

Liliana Segura: Maybe you can describe that a little bit.

Charles Raby: OK, well, the first time I told my attorney, Felix Cantu, I met him at the courthouse when we go up before the judge. And the judge, he says, “How do you plead?” And I said, “Not guilty.” I think that was at the arraignment, and then that’s when Felix was talking to me. I said, “Man, I didn’t do this, man. I didn’t kill nobody,” you know.

Liliana Segura: He told Cantu that the cops had used Merry Alice as leverage to get him to confess — but that his confession wasn’t true. He said he didn’t think Cantu believed him.

Charles Raby: But the last time I talked to him about it was, I just knew he wasn’t believing anything I said. He was, “Well, they got the confession. They got this.”

Liliana Segura: Charles said he wanted to press the issue with Cantu, but then realized that if he started changing his story, the cops might still go after Merry Alice.

Charles Raby: Then I’m listening to all them guys in the county jail, telling me, “Man, you got to be cool,” that they can still arrest her if you fucking start changing your story. All these jailhouse attorneys, they know everything but they don’t know nothing. So I’m listening to all these guys talk.

Jordan Smith: Did that scare you when they were saying that?

Charles Raby: Yeah, it did. I really thought they could still arrest her. I never — I quit talking to my attorney about it and everything. I just let it go, thinking they could still arrest her.

Notes by Charles Raby about the events leading up to and after the murder that was made while he was in prison in Houston, Texas on September 3, 2021.

Notes by Charles Raby about the events leading up to and after the murder that was made while he was in prison in Houston, Texas on September 3, 2021.

Photo: Christopher Lee for The Intercept


Jordan Smith: If you can’t quite decide what to think of Charles’s confession, that’s fine. Jeff Kukucka, the confessions expert, found himself going back and forth too.

Jeff Kukucka: I found it really interesting because at different points in reading these materials, and particularly this confession in the trial transcript where he kind of half-heartedly reaffirms the truth of his confession, I found myself kind of going back and forth trying to figure out what kind of confession it was.

There’s three different types of false confessions. There’s voluntary false confessions, which is effectively the same as un-coerced, meaning someone gives a confession that they know is false — well, they don’t necessarily know it’s false, but they do it of their own volition. And then there’s two different types of coerced confessions. The key distinction between them essentially boils down to, do you know that the confession is false?

Liliana Segura: The first is called “coerced compliant,” where you knowingly give the cops false information for some short-term gain.

Jeff Kukucka: So you give a confession that you know is false just to get out of the situation.

Liliana Segura: The second type is probably the hardest to wrap your head around.

Jeff Kukucka: The other type is an internalized — coerced internalized — false confession, where you actually come to believe that you committed the crime.

The more and more I read it, I’m inclined to think that this is in fact an internalized confession. That he does — he at least did at the time, even if he doesn’t now — he did believe that he had actually done it, or that it was at least very plausible that he had done it. But there are striking inconsistencies between the content of the confession and the known facts of the case.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to know the relative incidence of the three different types of false confessions, but anecdotally, internalized seem to be the most rare. Which is not surprising. But we’ve known for 30 years that people can form false memories of things that didn’t happen. Even if those things are really vivid autobiographical events that have very real consequences.

Liliana Segura: Not only is memory unreliable on its own, there are factors that increase the risk of corrupting a person’s memory.

Jeff Kukucka: You have the effects of social pressure, and the setting, the environment of the interrogation room, and the authority of the interrogating detective. Those are meaningful social pressures that can foment the creation of false memories very quickly, as we see in a case like this, especially, not even to mention, when there’s drugs and alcohol involved. Probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody that drugs and alcohol impair memory. You kind of have the perfect storm here for an internalized false confession.

Liliana Segura: We’ve told you about a couple of cases where this happened and Kukucka gave us another example: the case of Michael Crowe.

Jeff Kukucka: The prototypical example of an internalized false confession that I always think of is actually a case of a juvenile, his name was Michael Crowe. Michael Crowe was 14 years old when his little sister, who was 12, was murdered in their own house. Long story short: Police decided there was no sign of forced entry, therefore it must’ve been someone inside the house, therefore it must’ve been her older brother. His interrogation actually was recorded, you can watch excerpts from it on YouTube.

[Crowe interrogation in 1998]

Det. Chris McDonough: Hypothetically, could that have happened?

Michael Crowe: [crying] No, not that I know of.

Det. Chris McDonough: Not that you know of.

Michael Crowe: Like I said, I would have to be completely unaware of it.

Det. Chris McDonough: OK. Have you ever blacked out before?

Michael Crowe: No, never.

Det. Chris McDonough: OK. I believe you.

Jeff Kukucka: The interrogators sort of concoct this whole narrative about how he was jealous of his sister, and he decided he wanted to get rid of her, and he insists, “I don’t remember. I don’t remember. I don’t remember.” And what the interrogators did is they sort of manufactured this vulnerability in his memory, and they said, “Well, sometimes people do things while they’re sleeping, and they don’t remember that they did it.” They effectively convinced him that he did it in the middle of the night, that he was sleepwalking and he didn’t even remember it. And he actually did come to believe that he had actually done this, and he even implicated two of his friends who had nothing to do with it whatsoever.

In a case like that, the vulnerability arguably is the fact that they’re interrogating a juvenile. And juveniles, their memories are more malleable, and they’re more vulnerable to social pressures, and all those things. But even so, they had to sort of manufacture his memory vulnerability.

Liliana Segura: In Charles’s case, he said, they wouldn’t even have had to do that.

Jeff Kukucka: The guy had been drinking, doing drugs. I mean, he already sort of came into the interrogation room with this added vulnerability of “Well, I’m not entirely sure what happened.” So they very well could have exploited that to get him to agree to just about anything probably at that point.

Jordan Smith: And there’s another difference between Charles Raby and Michael Crowe.

Jeff Kukucka: Thankfully, he was never convicted. They found the real killer through DNA evidence before his trial.

Liliana Segura: We spent a lot of time trying to unravel Charles’s confession and figure out where he was, when, and who might’ve seen him on the day Edna Franklin was murdered. There are people who saw him earlier that day and testified at trial, like the woman who said he sat on her porch cleaning his nails with a pocket knife.

But there are also people who saw or talked to him that night, after the murder had taken place, who weren’t called to testify — including Timothy. People call him Timmy. We met him at a noisy Starbucks.

Timothy Ferrier: My name is Timothy James Ferrier, and I’m Charles’s younger half-brother.

Liliana Segura: He saw Charles that night at the home their mom and grandmother shared in northeast Houston. He was about 10 years old.

Timothy Ferrier: I can remember him coming into the door, you know what I mean? I didn’t see no blood whatsoever, just a sweat stain like he had been walking for miles from wherever he was at.

But I can’t even remember what time it was. My mother was at work, I believe, that night. I didn’t want to go to bed. I was trying to stay up late, trying not to go to school tomorrow probably. And then I heard a knock on the door. “Who is it? Who is it?” “It’s Charles. It’s me, your brother.” “Oh, OK.”

Liliana Segura: Timmy described Charles’s behavior that night as normal. He said he looked sweaty from walking, but there were no signs that he’d been in a fight or anything. At one point while they were talking, Charles called Merry Alice.

Timothy Ferrier: I vaguely remember that, and I think she had asked him what he was drinking, and I think she had said it was a beer, but it was in fact water. And I just so vaguely remember that. I can’t say that’s the biggest thing I remember, but I kind of remember having a short interaction with him in the kitchen, and then shortly after I went back to bed. And then I couldn’t tell you what happened the next day. It’s just been so long ago.

Jordan Smith: Given what Kukucka was saying about the fallibility of memory, there’s reason to question Timmy’s recollection, which he acknowledges is fuzzy. But where the basic facts are concerned, Merry Alice’s recollections have been consistent, and they corroborate Timmy’s  account: that nothing seemed off about Charles the night that Franklin was murdered. Merry Alice said she hadn’t heard from Charles all day, which was odd. Then, around 10 p.m., her phone rang.

Merry Alice Gomez: I just asked him, “Where are you?” He said, “At my grandma’s house.” And I said — I guess I probably doubted him, I said, “Are you sure?” He goes, “Yeah, Timmy’s right here. He can tell you.” And that’s when I heard him. I can’t remember what he joked about, then I said, “Are you drinking?” And then he goes, “No!” He goes, “Timmy, do I got a beer in my hand?” And I said, “You know what I mean. Have you been drinking?” And then he goes, “A couple, you know, a little bit.”

So I heard Timmy. He said, “No.” He goes, “Do I got a beer in my hand?” He goes, “No.” I said, “All right. So go to bed.” And he was at my house early the next morning.

Jordan Smith: And how was he the next morning, do you remember? Just normal or what was that next day like?

Merry Alice Gomez: Just — I feel like it was just this day, just normal.

Jordan Smith: With the unreliability of the confession, the lack of physical evidence connecting Charles to the murder, and the lackluster representation he got at trial, there are plenty of reasons to question the case against Charles Raby.

Liliana Segura: But there’s an even bigger one. One that doesn’t come to light until 2006, 14 years after the murder. DNA: an unknown male profile found in blood caked under the fingernails of Edna Franklin’s left hand. It doesn’t match Charles Raby or her grandsons Eric Benge and Lee Rose.

Jordan Smith: On the next episode of Murderville, Texas: DNA, the Houston Police crime lab, and what Charles’s jury didn’t know.

Lloyd White: This is a really vicious attack. I mean, it’s what we usually refer to as overkill. In other words, not somebody that just kills somebody, but they just really produce injuries upon injuries upon injuries intentionally.

Sarah Frazier: You would have to be incompetent as a scientist to believe that that was an inconclusive result. The other possibility is that you were lying.

Elsa Alcala: It just seemed like they were bending over to affirm the death convictions.

Liliana Segura: Murderville, Texas is a production of The Intercept and First Look Media.

Andrea Jones is our story editor. Julia Scott is senior producer. Truc Nguyen is our podcast fellow. Laura Flynn is supervising producer. Fact-checking by Meerie Jesuthasan. Special thanks to Jack D’Isidoro and Holly DeMuth for additional production assistance. Voice acting in this episode by Dan Triandiflou and Jake McCready.

Our show was mixed by Rick Kwan, with original music by Zach Young. Legal review by David Bralow.

Executive producers are Roger Hodge and Christy Gressman. For The Intercept, Betsy Reed is the editor-in-chief.

I’m Liliana Segura.

Jordan Smith: And I’m Jordan Smith.

You can read show transcripts and see photos at theintercept.com/murderville. You can also follow us on Twitter: @lilianasegura and @chronic_jordan.

If you’d like to support our work, go to theintercept.com/donate. Your donation, no matter what the amount, makes a real difference.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show. And please do leave us a rating or review; it helps people find us. If you want to give us feedback, email us at [email protected]

Thanks, so much, for listening.