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FBI to celebrate 100 years of fighting crime

by Bryan Painter Published: April 13, 2008
One day after the disappearance of Jamie Rose Bolin, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation used "a well-known technique.”

That's the way Michael B. Ward, the special agent in charge of the Oklahoma City division of the FBI, described it to me: "a well-known technique.”

But that's what I appreciated about the opportunity to sit down with the Bureau's local leader as the FBI nears its 100th birthday in July.

He was willing to share some insight — as much as allowed — about Oklahoma City as well as the 12 resident agencies, or branch offices, covered by the division throughout Oklahoma.

In other words, he was willing to explain what is well-known to FBI agents but intriguing to me, such as the technique in the Bolin case.

Tried and true
Ward said he wasn't a part of the Oklahoma City Division at the time of the 10-year-old's disappearance in April 2006.

But as the trial neared, he was impressed as he reviewed the steps agents had taken. That included what he described as a "tried and true investigative technique.”

The agents were working the case as a kidnapping and abduction. So they stopped traffic at an intersection near Jamie's home a day after the disappearance.

"If people get off work at the same time, maybe you can say ‘Did you see you anything the day before?'” he said.

Guess who was in one of the cars they stopped?

"They were able to identify when they came across Kevin Underwood, that ‘Hey there's something about this guy,'” Ward said.

This is where they had to be careful as they talked with him.

"We balanced Underwood's right to leave at any time with a request to talk. Ultimately we were able to establish a rapport with him and walk that tightrope,” he said.

A judge sentenced Kevin Ray Underwood to death this month for the murder of Bolin.

Ward isn't about to say that all this was the doing of the FBI. He praised the cooperation and working relationship of various law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma.

But when asked to give an example of work by the FBI's Oklahoma City division that he is proud of, Ward mentioned this case.

"I know as we were getting ready for the trial I sat and talked with our assistant special agent in charge,” he said, "and I really studied what our agents did because my concern was ‘Did we have a misstep that's going to come back to haunt us?' And we didn't.

"I thought it was an outstanding effort by a number of agents who worked that case.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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