Brion Hanley had what he needed: a bona fide suspect. It was time to go see "Johnny." He knew from his tipster where to find him: Seattle.
If Hanley was relatively new to homicide investigations, the two Seattle cops who joined him on the case were grizzled veterans.
Cloyd Steiger is a jokester who masks the grim work with gallows humor. He keeps a binder of old cases on his desk, titled "My Career in Homicide: My Day Begins When Yours Ends." He has been a Seattle cop for 32 years and could have retired long ago, but he loves the work. His first case on the homicide squad was the murder of an 8-year-old girl. He solved it.
Mike Ciesynski favors tailored suits and wears his hair closely trimmed and brushed back. He's an avid golfer. He keeps a supply of pens on his desk inscribed with gold letters that say, "Knock, knock. Remember a long time ago?" But the pens are more than a gimmick. They're stamped with his phone number.
Seattle's police headquarters is high on a hill downtown, nestled against Interstate 5. The homicide squad looks out over Puget Sound through floor-to-ceiling windows on the 7th floor. There, the cops' desks are arranged in cubicles, and a skull on a stick with the sign "DEATH" signals who will catch the next case.
Around the corner, down the hall from the interrogation rooms, is a windowless closet of an office, Room 762. There's a sign on the door: "Cold Case Squad, NO Dumping."
This is where Ciesynski works. In Seattle, a cold case is defined as any homicide left open after the retirement or departure of the original investigating officers. Ciesynski started with about 300 cases; 30 have been solved.
The Seattle cops learned that Hanley's "person of interest" was living and working in a high rise for seniors, the Four Freedoms House, in northwest Seattle. He was Jack McCullough now, having changed his name in the early 1990s when he married his fourth wife.
He was an ex-cop with a checkered past. Steiger and Ciesynski pulled John Tessier's police personnel file from Milton, Washington, and discovered he'd been a screw-up. They learned about his womanizing ways and how he dabbled in cheesecake photography. They learned he was fired from the police force after being charged with the statutory rape of a 15-year-old runaway.
They tracked down the victim, now in her 40s, and Hanley and the two Seattle cops paid her a visit at the bar where she worked the day shift. As Michelle Weinman told her story, the cops shook their heads. He'd dodged the statutory rape case, pleading guilty to reduced charges and spending a year on probation. He went by John Tessier then.
"You don't know Jack like I knew John," Weinman said.
They searched a storage container McCullough owns on 20 acres outside the tiny town of Tonasket in Okanogan County. The spot is isolated; fewer than 41,000 people live in the entire county.
Inside, the cops found thousands of photos taken by their suspect. Some showed whip-toting women wearing leather bustiers, boots, chains and dog collars. Ciesynski later tracked down a few of the models. They described McCullough as a "letch" who plied them with alcohol during the photo shoots, claiming he was working for artistic magazines.
The cops also talked to his third wife, Denise Trexler, who told them she'd found a creepy photo taped to the bottom of a drawer. It was a nude picture of Jack's 12-year-old daughter from his first marriage. Trexler said she later learned that while she was at work he was taking suggestive photos of the girl and her middle-school friends.
Investigators also discovered that McCullough's daughter, who vanished in 2005 at age 34, near San Antonio, Texas, was listed as "missing endangered." She was last seen at a motel with her boyfriend. Her body, which was found on a golf course shortly after she disappeared, was identified in June 2013. Police have opened a homicide investigation and would not comment on the case.
Hanley still feels a chill when he recalls the daughter's middle name: Marie.
The first Mrs. McCullough
If anything, Jack McCullough seemed to have mellowed since his years as John Tessier. He had been married to the same woman, Sue, for almost two decades. The couple often baby-sat the children of Sue's daughter, Janey O'Connor.
He met Sue through work: He was a driver at her father's limousine service; she was the dispatcher. For 30 years, the company shuttled airline crew members from Sea-Tac Airport to their hotels. It is no longer in business.
When he proposed to Sue in 1993, he told her he was thinking about changing his name.
"Do you want to be the fourth Mrs. Tessier or the first Mrs. McCullough?" he asked. McCullough had been his mother's maiden name, and he said he wanted to honor her.
McCullough didn't talk about his family much; when he did, Sue and Janey sensed there was a powerful sibling rivalry. And no love lost for his sisters.
Before they married, Sue received a strange phone call from McCullough's sister, Jeanne Tessier. Janey, who was a teenager at the time, listened in.
The caller warned that the man Sue planned to marry was "evil" and that her daughter wasn't safe. But she gave no details. The caller never said a word about a kidnapped child.
"She was going on and on, and my mother asked her," "What did he do that was so awful?'