Did He or Didn't He? Inside a Murder Confession

August 8, 2012
Thomas Cogdell was 12 years old when he and his mother discovered his 11-year-old sister, Kaylee, dead, tied up on her bed. During the police investigation, Thomas was interrogated without his mother present for more than five hours and is seen on video telling authorities — 36 times — that he didn’t kill his sister. At one point during the interrogation, the recording stopped and remained off for more than three hours. When it came back on, Thomas confessed to the crime. What happened while the video recorder was turned off that made him change his story? Dr. Phil examines the murder confession that kept Thomas locked up in juvenile detention facilities for two years.


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Thomas Cogdell, age 12KayleeThomas, age 18Thomas' mother, MelodyThomas' grandfather, SteveThomas' attorney, DorcyFormer New York police detective turned private investigator Jay SalpeterDr. Frank Lawlis, chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board



The Interrogation

According to court documents, Thomas and his mother, Melody, found 11-year-old Kaylee tied up on her bed with two plastic bags over her head. Melody called 911, and police took both Thomas and his mother in for questioning.


See a portion of Melody’s interrogation.

Thomas was interrogated without his mother present. See him explain what happened that night.


Thomas breaks down as authorities accuse him of killing his sister.


A Different Story

According to court documents, about two hours into Thomas’ interrogation, he asked for food. Police turned off the video camera for more than three hours. When they turned it back on, Thomas’ story changed.


See the alleged confession.

Thomas, now 18, recalls what happened the day they found his sister's body and reveals who he believes killed her.


Thomas tells Dr. Phil what happened during the time the video camera was off. Was he coerced by police to falsely confess?

No Answers

Thomas’ attorney, Dorcy Corbin, took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. A judge threw out Thomas’ confession on technical grounds, and authorities chose not to re-try him. He was released after two years in various juvenile detention facilities. To this day, no one has been charged or convicted in Kaylee’s death.

Dorcy says the medical examiner told her the death was consistent with a 286-pound person laying on top of Kaylee and holding her head down. “Thomas’ DNA was not on anything,” Dorcy says. “He did not commit this murder.”

About what he whispered to his mother, Thomas says that he told her not to worry, that what he was about to say was not the truth, and that they wouldn’t be able to find any evidence to link him to the murder. He tells Dr. Phil he was confused when his mother asked him, "Why?" after he gave the false confession in her presence, especially given what he had just whispered to her.


In a Dr. Phil exclusive, Melody speaks out for the first time about the night her daughter was found dead. Plus, a former police detective shares his thoughts.

Thomas has his GED and would like to further his education. Dr. Phil has a surprise for him.


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