Nurture or Nature?
By: Robert Crain, writing for the Associated Press
VALENCIA, California—The Valencia County Sheriff ’s Department is now considering Timmy Presser as their lead suspect in the Valencia Vintage double homicide following the revelation that there were no visitors to the vineyard in the week leading up to the deaths of John and Grace Presser, suspected child abusers and habitual recluses who died from simultaneous allergic reactions to sesame seeds. The seeds, we can now confirm, were mixed into the vegan chili that the family was having for dinner that night, but only in the bowls used by John and Grace—pointing to a targeted attack against the two individuals. We were lucky enough to get an interview with Det. Jim Childan, one of the lead investigators on this case, who was able to shed some light on what’s been going on behind the scenes.
[Editor’s note: this transcript of the interview has been shortened to fit the space allotted. We did our best to preserve the integrity of the content, and made sure we did not leave out any important information.]
INTERVIEWER: First off, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to this interview.
CHILDAN: Well, as you know, we usually don’t discuss specifics of a case until after an arrest has been made and the case has gone to trial. It’s standard police procedure, after all. But in this case, our chief thought it was important to get ahead of the media curve, to make sure there is no unjust reaction against individuals in the community going forward.
INTERVIEWER: Why is that a concern?
CHILDAN: Mostly because our lead suspect is a six-year-old child. There have been many instances of children who have been demonized in the public eye once they’ve been accused of crimes. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen here, both in the case of Timmy Presser as well as anyone else who might be involved in the future. In fact, given the circumstances of this case, there’s a very good chance the case will be dismissed once it reaches court; however, that’s not going to stop us from conducting this investigation until every loose thread is tied up.
INTERVIEWER: Could you please explain why the case would be dismissed?
CHILDAN: Well, the facts are currently revealing a narrative of almost constant abuse to us at the Valencia County Sheriff ’s Department, and I think if we can say beyond a reasonable doubt that Timmy did put those sesame seeds in his parents’ bowls, then it was almost certainly in self-defense. But that’s neither my call nor yours to make; that’s for a judge and jury to decide.
INTERVIEWER: Fair enough. Is there anything you can tell us about how it happened?
CHILDAN: Our forensic scientists and lab technicians have worked around the clock this last week to determine an accurate series of events; in conjunction, of course, with what little testimony we could get from Timmy and Samantha. From what we can tell, Mrs. Presser finished cooking the chili around 5.45 PM, and divided the meal into separate portions for the entire family. She then left the bowls unattended by the windowsill while she went to call everyone to come and eat; it’s at that point that we believe Timmy reached through the low window and dropped a handful of sesame seeds into the two largest bowls.
INTERVIEWER: Can you say if Timmy has an alibi?
CHILDAN: He said that he was playing outside with his “friends,” the small flock of neighborhood crows, and he said that’s the reason why he took so long to come back inside. When asked the question if he had gone up to the windowsill, he didn’t respond in either the affirmative or the negative. I can’t say any more than that.
INTERVIEWER: It sounds like this took a bit of cunning; can you say if Timmy is even capable, mentally, of concocting such a plan?
CHILDAN: That’s one of the angles we’re still investigating, because our experts have generally said that Timmy is in a bit of a grey area in the development of his brain…it’s possible he could have planned it, but not fully understood the consequences. That’s another reason why he’ll probably receive a light sentence if this goes to court, but beyond that the only thing I’ll say is that he definitely knew that his entire family was deathly allergic to legumes.
INTERVIEWER: How is that?
CHILDAN: Well, about a year and a half ago the family was having a picnic in one of their vineyards, and it just so happened that some lima beans had been left in their picnicking spot by some wild birds. Somehow, Mrs. Presser came into contact with the beans, and the oil on their skin sent her into anaphylactic shock.
INTERVIEWER: And because of that incident, you claim that Timmy was aware of his family’s allergies?
CHILDAN: It’s definitely plausible, but to be honest we’re just looking to find any way to show that Timmy did this—not out of some maligned spite for the kid, but because if he didn’t then that means there was someone else present that we haven’t been able to find.
INTERVIEWER: I think that’s enough for now. Thank you for your time, Det. Childan. To read the full interview, please visit us online at valenciareporter.org.