originally published November 3, 2012
I’m going to slap this right up front – as I approached the end of my research on this fascinating story, I learned that it has been recently made into a film. If you totally missed this strangeness in the news a few years back, and if you really don’t want any spoilers for the film Compliance (currently in theatres), then perhaps you should skip to another article, like my love letter to bacon.
But if you want to read one about of the most messed-up pranks in recent history, then you’ll enjoy this.
It all went down on a spring day in 2004, in the little city of Mount Washington, Kentucky. Donna Summers (with an ‘s’ on the end, so it’s not that one; though I’m sure this lady also works hard for the money) showed up to work at McDonald’s. Amidst the sizzle of hashbrowns and the greasy slap of egg onto McMuffin, the phone rang. It was the police. As assistant manager, Summers took the call.
There was concern, she was told, about a thief who was in her employ. The cop’s description matched that of Louise Ogborn, who at the time was probably asking a customer if he wanted his hotcakes with or without the flavor of Styrofoam (I’m joking – there is no ‘without’ option). As there were no available officers to assist with the situation – Mount Washington is known for its rampant crime sprees – Summers was asked to search the suspect.
Ogborn was brought into the office and ordered to strip. Summers stayed on the phone with “Officer Scott”, then put Louise’s clothes into a plastic bag and brought them out to her car. Why out to her car? That’s a good question. Maybe the so-called cop felt the clothes might explode. I don’t know – it seems like this would be a good time for Donna Summers to clue in that something weird was up with this call.
An hour passed, and Summers told the cop she was needed at the counter. Kentucky’s legendary level of obesity wasn’t simply going to add to itself. She needed to do her part.
Summers was told to bring in someone she could trust to observe the suspect until the authorities showed up. Clearly not knowing any other females, Summers called in Walter Nix, her fiancé.
Here’s where shit gets weird.
Summers had some ‘Hot Stuff’ to serve to the lunch rush, so Nix took over on the phone with Pretend Officer Scott. As per instructions, Nix removed the apron with which Louise had been covering herself. Then he was told to make her dance. Not sure what the tune was, but I kind of hope it was “Love To Love You Baby,” only so I don’t have to make any more Donna Summer jokes.
Louise was then instructed to perform jumping jacks – nude jumping jacks, of course – in front of Nix, lest any stolen property be jarred loose from its hiding place and fall to the floor. After that, Nix was instructed to perform an in-depth, up-to-the-knuckle probe of Louise’s nether regions.
Look, I’m not sure what Pretend Officer Scott told these people Louise had stolen, but what kind of human brain reasons that a cop is going to instruct a private citizen to sexually assault another citizen? Either Nix was venturing off-script for his own twisted amusement or he doesn’t reroute a lot of mental energy toward the ‘thinking’ part of his brain.
Oh, but it somehow gets worse. Louise was ordered to sit on Nix’s lap and kiss him. At this point Pretend Officer Scott appears to have dropped any pretext of trying to catch a thief, and just wants to see how far Nix will go. When Louise refused to indulge in this next phase, Nix was ordered to spank her until she goes along with it. Next, Louise was instructed to give oral sex to Nix.
Once that was tidied up, Nix announced he had to go. Summers came back in – whether or not she was aware of what happened, I have no idea. But Summers was back on watch and the dinner rush was approaching. Her solution? Find another guy – yes, a guy – to come in and take over.
Thomas Simms, the maintenance man, was sitting out front, enjoying a chocolate sundae. Summers invited him back in to watch over Louise while she handed out Quarter-Pounders and free smiles to the customers at the counter. Simms, however, opted not to go along with Pretend Officer Scott’s demands. At this point – at this point – Summers started to think this might not be an actual police officer on the phone.
Pretend Officer Scott claimed to have the store manager on the other line. Summers called her manager at home, and discovered he hadn’t spoken to a cop all day; he’d been napping. Just like that, the jig was up and the caller ended the hoax.
How something like this can go on for almost four hours is almost unbelievable. ‘Disgusting’, ‘vile’, ‘twisted’… none of these words can really do the tale justice.
Nix was arrested right away on sexual assault charges, and after watching the security tape – oh yes, there was a camera in that office that captured everything – Summers called off the engagement. Looks like she had enough brains to make one correct decision that day.
The police determined that Pretend Officer Scott had called using an AT&T calling card, which they were able to trace to the Wal-Mart where it was sold. The cameras in that store had recorded the transaction, and luckily the buyer had been courteous enough to wear a jacket with his company’s logo emblazoned on it. It didn’t take long to track down David R. Stewart.
(note that this is not the same Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics. Just a lot of 80’s music coincidences in this story)
Louise quit her job and began a long battle with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She sued McDonald’s for $200 million for failing to protect her. She was awarded five million, but McDonald’s kept appealing the case, right up to the Kentucky Supreme Court. Eventually Louise settled for $1.1 million.
Summers also sued McDonald’s for failing to warn her about previous hoaxes like this that had occurred. For being astoundingly gullible and lacking common sense, Summers received a total of $400,000.
Nix plead guilty to sexual abuse and got five years. Summers had been charged with unlawful imprisonment; she got a year of probation. But what about Dave R. Stewart?
Nothing. A jury found that a lack of direct evidence meant there wasn’t enough meat on the judicial plate for a guilty conviction. He remains a suspect in several other similar cases around the country; there have been dozens of hoaxes like this, just none that have been carried quite as far as the one in Mount Washington.
The lesson here may be that managers are not allowed to strip-search employees, ever. Or, it might be that one should be wary following police instructions over the phone. Or maybe the lesson here is that there are some really stupid people in the world, and some of them are making your food.
Think about it.