Posted on Sun, Feb. 05, 2006
‘I can’t wait to get to prison’ AUDIO
Father of missing children defiant
By JUDY L. THOMAS
The Kansas City Star
The Independence man whose two children disappeared 20 months ago says he would rather die than reveal to authorities and his ex-wife what he did with them.“Let ’em think that they’re dead,” said Daniel Porter, in a recent telephone call from jail. “That way they don’t have to worry so much about finding them. … I’d rather die than give them the satisfaction.”
On the eve of Porter’s kidnapping trial, The Kansas City Star obtained more than eight hours of recordings of his jailhouse conversations through a Missouri Sunshine Law records request. The calls were made to a friend and to some of Porter’s relatives from early 2005 through mid-January. In the calls from the Jackson County Detention Center, Porter said the more he’s pressured to talk, the deeper he’ll dig in his heels.
“I can play the game, too,” he said. “I’ll be happy in jail.”
In the recordings, Porter talked very little about his children, spending most of the time ridiculing authorities and bad-mouthing his ex-wife, Tina Porter, the children’s mother. He revealed that he enjoyed being a jailhouse celebrity and that he had planned for at least a month to take the children.
And, he said, he expects to be found guilty.
Porter, 42, picked up his children, Sam and Lindsey, from their Independence home on June 5, 2004, for a weekend visit. The children haven’t been seen since. Testimony in Porter’s trial is scheduled to begin this week in Jackson County Circuit Court in Independence. Jury selection is expected to continue Monday.
Jackson County prosecutors have declined to comment on whether they have listened to all of Porter’s phone calls. Because of the ongoing case, they had no comment Friday on the recordings obtained by The Star. Independence police referred questions to the prosecutor.
Porter’s attorney, Tim Burdick, had no comment about any statements his client may have made over the phone.
Porter — who was aware his conversations were being monitored — was careful not to reveal what he did with his children, who were 7 and 8 when they disappeared. In call after call, Porter talked about how he had the “upper hand” in what he saw as a cat-and-mouse game with the law. He talked about investigators failing to find his children and laughed about how much money his case was costing the state.
“They’re (police) looking so stupid. When they first arrested me, they didn’t look for no scars on my hands or arms or face to see if the kids fought back as I struggled to kill them. Or if I buried them, why wouldn’t I have calluses?” he said.
In a conversation in November, Porter said that he started lying to police about the children’s whereabouts as soon as he was arrested. “The first thing they said was, ‘Where’s your kids at? If we find out that you harmed them or killed them, we can give you the death penalty.’ ”
But Porter, who worked at a Kansas City packaging plant before his arrest, said repeatedly that he would not cut any deals with prosecutors. “Mike Sanders, the prosecutor, he kept saying, ‘He holds the key to the jail. He holds the key to the jail,’ ” Porter said. “Well, here’s the deal. I hold the key to the jail two years from now, five years from now.”
In another conversation, Porter said, “Even if they made me a sweet deal saying, ‘OK, bring the kids home and we’ll let you off scot-free, no charges whatsoever, just walk out the door’... don’t believe them.”
Where are the children?
In one call, Porter said that he wanted people to believe the children were dead.
“That way, they can look for dead bodies in the woods by my house and in Trenton and down where I hunted in Princeton,” he said, referring to places where he grew up in Missouri. Then he laughed. “I heard somebody say they think I put them with the Mennonites.”
In another call, Porter learned that one of his buddies had taken Independence police to search an area near a creek where they used to hunt.
“I ain’t trippin’ on that (stuff),” Porter retorted. “They’re gonna put houses in there before too long, and they can find them then, if that’s where they think they are.”
He said that taking the children wasn’t a last-minute scheme. “I planned my big jailhouse deal a month before I got arrested,” he said, “so I knew I was gonna go to jail. I just didn’t tell noooobody.”
In another call, Porter complained about a Star article published last August that raised questions about some of his actions prior to taking the children. The article said that within hours of his arrest, Porter told authorities several times that he had killed his children.
“If I didn’t know myself, I killed them,” he said sarcastically. “No doubt about it.”
In one conversation, he said, “If they think that I killed them, why don’t they charge me for that?”
Indeed, Porter brought up the death penalty in several calls.
“My lawyer mentioned, you know, that they may even try — nobody has proof that the kids are all right — they may even try to get you for murder,” he said in a call last year. “I said, ‘Oh, great. How will that set over if maybe, say, they give me the death penalty and then two weeks after I’m dead, here comes the kids?’ They’re gonna feel pretty good then, ain’t they?”
In another conversation, he said, “Let’s say they give me 30 years to life and I get out after doing 25 years and then all of a sudden, wham! There’s the kids. ‘Oh, hi, kids!’ And so I serve 25 years for murder, let’s say that. And then I turn around and I kill both of them. They couldn’t arrest me again, could they?”
Criticism of ex-wife
Porter indicated that his main defense would be to show that his ex-wife was an unfit mother. He constantly criticized her, saying that she “wanted to wear the jeans” in the family and spent too much money.
“So why would I want my kids with a woman that has no money and don’t know how to spend it?” he said. Later, he said, “I told the guard the other day I should get life in prison or the death penalty just for marrying her.”
The trial, Porter said, was going to be “like an ugly divorce. … She thinks the kids are hers. Well, the kids are mine, too. She didn’t have nothing to do with the kids.”
Tina Porter said Friday that she was a good mother and loved her children.
“I want him to take the stand and prove that I’m the unfit mother he thinks I am. I just want him to think about what he’s saying. He knows that wasn’t how our marriage was. I want to know how he can sleep with himself at night. He’s got to live with it every day,” she said.
Life in jail
Porter apparently likes jail life. He spoke often about his prowess at Monopoly and how he had befriended an inmate who is being held on multiple murder charges. “Man, I’m eating this up,” he said. “Being able to sleep extra, take a nap in the middle of the day if I want, play cards.”
He said fellow inmates and his defense attorney can’t figure out why he’s so cheerful.
“My lawyer sees me happy all the time, and he keeps saying, ‘I think we’re gonna have to plead you insanity,’ ” he said.
Most inmates, Porter noted, are “worried to death” about what’s going to happen to them.
“I’m living better in here than I did part of the time growing up. And it’s free,” he said.
In another call, Porter said that he ruled the roost in what he referred to as “the psycho module.”
“The guards call me Al Pacino and the Godfather in here,” he said, “because of the way I run things. I got some pull, buddy. I can’t wait to get to prison and get started all over, because it’s gonna be like a new school.”
And in another call, Porter noted that the case had been televised on “Inside Edition” and “America’s Most Wanted.” “They call me a movie star around here,” he said. “Everybody recognizes me. But everybody’s on my side. Ain’t one person here thinks that I killed them.”
Porter said, however, that he’d been in a couple of fights and had sought medical treatment after one scuffle. One fight erupted, he said, after an inmate asked about Sam and Lindsey.
“I had a new guy yesterday tell me, ‘Where’s your kids?’ ” Porter said. “And I said, ‘Hey, you don’t be talking about me and my kids.’ And I bust my hand on the Plexiglas.”
Porter said he ran into the inmate later and told him, “I’ll tell you what. We’ll be all right as long as you don’t talk about my kids.” Then, he said, the punches started flying.
Porter at one point said that no one knows how his story will end. “This case ain’t gonna be closed until the kids come home,” he said. “So, it could be tomorrow, it could be 10 years.”
But Porter admitted that, while he had confidence in his public defender, he wasn’t optimistic.
“I heard he only lost one case, and that was 15 years ago,” Porter said. “But he ain’t gonna win mine. I’m not gonna walk scot-free.”
The story until now…
■ On June 5, 2004, Daniel Porter picked up his children, Sam and Lindsey, from the Independence home of his estranged wife, Tina Porter, for a weekend visit. The children, who were 7 and 8 at the time, haven’t been seen since.
■ Porter was charged with two counts of parental kidnapping and two counts of parental kidnapping with intent to terrorize. He has refused to say what he did with the children.
■ In August 2004, federal authorities charged Porter with being a felon in possession of four firearms after weapons were recovered in the Missouri River. Porter pleaded guilty in federal court to those charges and last May was sentenced to 10 years.
■ Jury selection began Friday for Porter’s trial on the kidnapping charges. If convicted, he faces nearly 40 years in prison.
■ Go to
KansasCity.com to hear excerpts of the jailhouse tapes and read more stories on the investigation by Judy L. Thomas.
The Star obtained recordings of Dan Porter’s phone calls through a Missouri Sunshine Law open-records request. The calls were made from a pay phone at the Jackson County Detention Center from early 2005 through mid-January. Because the county deemed the recordings public records, it released them to the newspaper.
Tim Burdick, Porter’s attorney, said that he thought The Star misused the Sunshine Law in acquiring the tapes.
“It (the law) is to allow them to look into the government to make sure it is not misleading the people,” Burdick said. “It is to make sure the public’s best interest is being served.”
Burdick acknowledged that Porter has no expectation of privacy while on the phone when it comes to jailhouse security. But he argued Porter does have an expectation of privacy when it comes to media using those discussions to serve its own purpose.
An attorney representing The Star disagreed.
“All we did was make a request for access to records which we believe to be public under Missouri law,” Jon Haden said. “Jackson County granted that request. We see nothing improper about either the request or the county’s response.”
The Star’s Kevin Hoffmann contributed to this report. To reach Judy L. Thomas, call (816) 234-4334 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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