Hoax calls from a person or people impersonating police officers were common in the United States in the 90s and early 2000s. The authorities seemingly didn’t consider them a serious offense despite their prevalence. Their attitude towards the hoax calls changed when, under the instructions of an alleged police officer, Louise Ogborn was dehumanized, tortured, and sexually assaulted.
A person accusing Ogborn of theft instructed her superiors to strip-search her and sexually humiliate her. The assault on Ogborn fueled investigations into the hoax calls – the police swiftly identified a suspect in Panama City, Florida: David Stewart.
Netflix’s true crime docuseries Don’t Pick Up the Phone looks at the bizarre hoax calls.
Stewart’s whereabouts are unknown following his acquittal
The police quickly figured out that the calls originated from Panama City, Florida. They identified that the prepaid cards used to make the calls were purchased from a local Walmart. After examining surveillance footage, they arrested David Stewart and charged him with soliciting sexual abuse, soliciting sodomy, and impersonating a law officer.
Stewart, a father of five and former correctional officer, wanted to become a police officer. He’d attended a local police academy and volunteered as a deputy in Western Florida. The police also found training manuals, police paraphernalia, and guns in his trailer.
Stewart was acquitted after a week-long trial. He left the media spotlight after the case, so it’s unclear whether he still lives in Florida. Some reports stated that David faced criminal trials in other states, including Idaho, Oklahoma, and Florida, but the cases didn’t materialize.
It was a complex case for the prosecution due to the lack of direct evidence linking Stewart to the calls. Kentucky prosecutors traced calling cards found in Steward’s home to similar incidents in Idaho and Oklahoma.
However, nobody could place David at the payphone where the phone originated, and there was no voice recording of the call to compare to Stewart’s voice. “There’s no proof in this case,” Stewart said.
“There are a lot of questions unanswered in this case. The only thing I knew for sure was my client didn’t do it,” Steve Romines, Stewart’s attorney, told NBC News.
Prosecutor Mike Mann said he was sure Stewart was the perpetrator. “I don’t think the evidence points to anyone but David Stewart,” Mann said. Interestingly, the prank calls stopped after David’s arrest in 2004. Though nobody paid for the crimes, the arrest deterred the perpetrator from carrying on with the crimes.