HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — As the search continues for missing Hampton 4-year-old Codi Bigsby after he was reported missing two weeks ago, Hampton Police Chief Mark Talbot revealed on Monday that his department mishandled the case by not honoring Codi’s father’s request for legal representation.
Talbot says Cory Bigsby, who was being questioned at the police department after reporting Codi missing the morning of January 31, ultimately made a confession in the early morning hours of February 1 following a polygraph test and a heated exchange with a lead detective hours into the interrogative process. Talbot says Bigsby originally waived his right to an attorney, but made a statement about wanting legal counsel in a follow-up interview.
“His desires should have been honored, they weren’t,” Talbot said.
The detective that violated procedure was relieved of his duties and placed on paid leave after Talbot was tipped about the issue on Friday. Talbot however said that the seven felony child neglect charges, which are not directly related to Codi’s disappearance, are “sound” and based on evidence gathered in the first hours of interrogation.
“I’m disappointed that we have done anything that may have slowed us down on our quest to bring justice to this child,” Talbot said. “That will be handled appropriately. Anybody that didn’t live up to the standards that are important to us will be held accountable.”
Talbot said a new detective will take over the case and the commonwealth’s attorney’s office will review the matter.
Talbot continued to emphasize that he believes those charges are appropriate based on the facts his department has, especially after an audit of roughly 100 hours of interrogation video was reviewed in a “Herculean task” over the weekend.
“The most important thing here … is Mr. Bigsby in jail appropriately, based on facts and evidence were obtained lawfully? Absolutely,” Talbot said. “Absolutely, there’s no question … based on the thorough audit that we’ve done I’m more certain than I was when I spoke about it previously. He’s in a jail cell for appropriate reasons and we learned that in an appropriate investigation.”
Sgt. Reggie Williams with Hampton police also said on Monday that there’s still an “immense” amount of evidence” authorities are looking through.
Talbot says he still believes his department is still capable of handling the case going forward and that the search for Codi will continue.
“This is all of our obligation. We’re all here for Codi Bigsby. I don’t know if those efforts will be fruitful, but what do you do? Do you sit and do nothing? I don’t think so,” Talbot said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell says he’s aware of the situation and his team is investigating everything. He says they will be in possession of all the interview tapes soon and will review them thoroughly.
10 On Your Side spoke to the defense attorney, Jeffrey Ambrose, on Tuesday. He said it’s a substantial civil rights violation and there are several remedies he could ask for. He explained some of those could include suppression of evidence or a change of venue request. He anticipates the case mishandling will come up at Bigsby’s bond hearing next Friday. Ambrose said this issue raises a ton of legal questions he’s looking into as he goes through the tapes and other materials. He said nothing is off the table at this point.
10 On Your Side reached out to Virginia Beach Attorney, Sonny Stallings, for some general legal guidance based on the circumstances.
“Once a defendant asks for an attorney there’s not supposed to be any more questions. If he continues to question him, and if he gets information that information is excluded and can’t be used in prosecution of the individual,” said Stallings.
BELOW: Legal perspective: Will mishandling of Cory Bigsby police interview impact missing boy case?
Stallings stated the lead detective in question likely won’t face any criminal charges for his mistake.
“Potentially he could sue him for violating his constitutional rights, but we really don’t see that for a lot of reasons. One, if the evidence doesn’t come in at trial, he really hasn’t been damaged. There’s no real damage. So, there’s really no civil punishment or criminal punishment to the detective it’s just what the department would do for violating that procedure,” said Stallings.
On Monday night, Hampton Branch NAACP President Gaylene Kanoyton released a statement about the Hampton Police Division’s error: “Innocent or guilty, every citizen is entitled to due process. The Hampton Police Department must conduct a thorough internal investigation and ensure that any officer who didn’t follow proper procedure or assisted in covering up the issue is properly disciplined immediately.”
Kanoyton commended Talbot for how it was handled.
“He owned up to it he put it out there and that’s what a police chief should be doing all the time. If there’s an error, you own up to it and you go to the public and let them know that but also look internally and do research. Don’t think everything is always right, so that lets me know he’s very particular,” said Kanoyton.
10 On Your Side asked police if anything has changed in the search for Codi, specifically is it now a recovery mission? A Hampton police official says as of now nothing has changed from their prior statements.
On Saturday, a child’s jacket and tire marks were spotted near the home in the Buckroe area where Codi was last seen. Police and forensics showed up and processed the item, though was unclear if the jacket belongs to Codi or another child in the area.
During the news conference Monday, Talbot said investigators do not believe bones found recently near Kecoughtan Road related to Codi’s disappearance. Williams later confirmed there were two calls about remains found in the area in the past two days, but both were confirmed to not be human.
Police on Thursday sent out a tweet that asked for information from anyone who had seen Codi in the past three months, which goes back to mid-November. Police previously asked for information from anyone who had seen Codi since Christmas. Police also said anyone who has home cameras near Buckroe Pointe apartments to come forward.
Meanwhile, there’s a growing tribute near the Buckroe Point neighborhood, with volunteers calling the area where the Hampton Police Division’s command center once stood “Camp Codi.”
There are balloons, flowers and a Valentine’s Day box lining the fence to the soccer fields. Someone also placed a plastic tarp over the items to protect them from the winter weather.
In a statement to 10 On Your Side, Codi’s mom said last week that she is thankful for all the support from the community.