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California city pays nearly $900,000 for 'psychological torture' inflicted by police to get false confession

Tony Saavedra, The Orange County Register on

Published in News & Features

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Within hours after Thomas Perez Jr. called police to report his father missing, he found himself in a tiny interrogation room confronted by Fontana detectives determined to extract a confession that he killed his dad.

Perez had told police that his father, 71-year-old Thomas Perez Sr., went out for a walk with the family dog at about 10 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2018. The dog returned within minutes without Perez’s father. Investigators didn’t believe his story, and over the next 17 hours they grilled him to try to get to the “truth.”

According to court records, detectives told Perez that his father was dead, that they had recovered his body and it now “wore a toe tag at the morgue.” They said they had evidence that Perez killed his father and that he should just admit it, records show.

Perez insisted he didn’t remember killing anyone, but detectives allegedly told him that the human mind often tries to suppress troubling memories.

At one point during the interrogation, the investigators even threatened to have his pet Labrador Retriever, Margosha, euthanized as a stray, and brought the dog into the room so he could say goodbye. “OK? Your dog’s now gone, forget about it,” said an investigator.

“How can you sit there, how can you sit there and say you don’t know what happened, and your dog is sitting there looking at you, knowing that you killed your dad?” a detective said. “Look at your dog. She knows, because she was walking through all the blood.”


Finally, after curling up with the dog on the floor, Perez broke down and confessed. He said he had stabbed his father multiple times with a pair of scissors during an altercation in which his father hit Perez over the head with a beer bottle.

Suicide attempt

He was so distraught that he even tried to hang himself with the drawstring from his shorts after being left alone in the interrogation room. Perez was arrested, handcuffed and transported to a mental hospital for 72-hour observation.

But later that day, the truth derailed the detectives’ theory and their prized confession.


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