WORCESTER (CBS) – The interrogation of then-16-year-old Nga Troung by two Worcester police officers can be hard to watch, especially when you realize the young girl had just learned her one-year-old baby boy was dead.
Newly-released video taken in the interrogation room in December, 2008 shows Worcester Police Sgt. Kevin Pageau telling Troung, “If this drags out then we’ll push to try you as an adult. I don’t really care. I told your mother I don’t care about her, and I don’t care about you.”
Troung repeatedly denies killing her son Khyle, and at one point Pageau mocks her and tells her to “cut the s–t”.
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports
Pageau’s partner in the interrogation room that day was Detective John Doherty, who at one point suggests that Troung confess because, “People will be much more understanding if you come forward and say, ‘I’m a 16-year-old girl, I lost it, this is what happened.'”
Troung’s defense attorney says this interrogation was the “most brutal” he’d ever seen in his 35 years practicing criminal law.
Fitchburg-based attorney Edward Ryan, Jr. said of the interrogators: “These two individuals decided how the crime was committed, they decided she did it and then they went about in this two-hour interrogation forcing her to agree with them.”
Eventually, after denying it 13 times, Troung finally confessed to suffocating her son.
“This was an emotionally brutal interrogation and I would submit to you that anyone in her circumstances would have pretty much confessed to anything the police wanted her to,” said Ryan. He fought to get her confession thrown out. It’s a battle he finally won this summer, after a judge saw the tape of the interrogation.
“I don’t think this was a professional confession in any sense of the word,” Ryan said. “I don’t know what TV show they think they were emulating, but this was very poor technique.”
During that interrogation, police also strongly suggested Troung was responsible for the death of her baby brother, who was less than a year old when he died. Troung’s mother had left Troung (then only eight years old) to babysit her four younger siblings at the time. Troung’s attorney says police knew that death was ruled to be a case of sudden infant death syndrome, but used it as “psychological torture” against Troung.
After the judge’s ruling, Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early had no choice but to drop the charges against Troung, now 20 years old.
“My impression when I saw the videotape was that there were some mistakes made,” Early said.
But the D.A. believes there are times during which investigators need to use a rough approach. “I mean, you’ve got criminals saying things to police, not always being honest,” he explained. “So the police are allowed to use techniques. With regards to what is allowed by the book and isn’t allowed by the book, we leave that to individual departments.”
Early says his office is now offering the Worcester Police Department specialized trainings in better ways to interrogate suspects.
For her part, Troung is now enrolled in college courses and holds down a part-time job. Her lawyer says she holds no ill will against the men who interrogated, despite the fact that her forced confession landed her in jail for close to three years.