Don’t Pick Up the Phone explained: Did the hoax caller get caught?

Don’t Pick Up the Phone’ recounts the investigation into a hoax caller who convinced managers of a number of restaurants to strip-search their employees. The docuseries is now streaming on Netflix.

Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers

Plot summary

On April 9, 2004, in the small town of Mount Washington, Kentucky, Detective Buddy Stump received a call from the local McDonald’s restaurant to look into what had just happened there.

Buddy Stump witnessed sad faces all around. He was told that they had captured the event on a CCTV camera.

The video footage shows a phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer informing Donna Summers, the assistant manager of the restaurant, that one of her employees is accused of stealing a wallet from a customer who has been there.

The officer told her that the manager of McDonald’s is on the line with him, along with a corporate representative. He offers to solve the situation right away.

He describes the accused girl and asks Donna to bring her into the office. Authoritatively, the caller instructs Donna to strip-search the accused, Louise Ogborn, to the point where she is left naked in the office.

The caller, using his wits, talks Donna into bringing her fiance, Walter Nix, into this so that Donna could go back to working at the restaurant. This was an attempt to make her believe that the investigation is being carried out accordingly.

With Walter on the line, the caller moves ahead and, in a way, orders him to sexually assault Louise.

Walter, initially convinced that this is a police officer he is talking to, follows his commands until he comes to his senses and realizes that this is wrong.

Donna brought in a custodian following that, who questioned if this was a real police officer and put an end to the young girl’s misery.

Detective Buddy Stump never came across a case such as this, and when he found out that the victim is his neighbor, Louise Ogborn, he took it personally.

Stump’s investigation revealed that calls with a similar MO have been occurring since 1994. Over 69 other businesses in 32 states have fallen victim to this call, and restaurant managers have been talked into strip-searching their employees.

Apart from Buddy Stump, another detective, Victor Flaherty, was looking into the same case. Flaherty’s investigation revealed that these calls are coming from Panama City, Florida.

With the help of AT&T, he got to the Walmart store, where one of these prepaid calling card numbers was purchased. The store had footage that showed the face of the man who purchased the card.

Flaherty examined another piece of footage from another Walmart store and noticed that this man was wearing pants with braids on them, which suggests that he is a cop.

Don’t Pick Up the Phone explained in detail:

Who was identified as the caller?

The Panama City Police Department, after taking a look at the footage, clarifies that this man is not a cop. He is not wearing police pants; he is wearing a corrections officer’s uniform.

The officers went from one jail to the other, and eventually, the Head of Security at one jail identified the man in the footage to be David Stewart.

Flaherty interrogates David, who gets uncomfortable within seconds but ends up denying that he made those calls. He pleads the fifth and refuses to answer any of Flaherty’s questions, leaving the detective no choice but to back out.

Did Louise get justice?

Walter Nix got sentenced to five years for sexually abusing Louise on the orders of someone, while Donna admitted her guilt and maintained her innocence.

McDonald’s was also complicit in allowing this to continue. Ogborn went to court and sued McDonald’s for $200 million.

Ogborn’s lawyer, Ann Oldfather, forced McDonald’s to hand over information related to similar cases that have taken place at their restaurants, and there were dozens of them.

At one point, McDonald’s tried to imply that Louise is part of this hoax and is trying to get money from the company. They tried to pin it on her, though it was their responsibility to warn their employees about such calls taking place when they had knowledge about it.

The jury finally came to a decision and compensated Louise more than $6 million in the lawsuit against McDonald’s.

McDonald’s later released a statement admitting what happened with Louise was wrong. However, they stood by the fact that she was a victim of a malicious hoax perpetrated by individuals not representing them.

Was David Stewart found guilty?

David Stewart hired a really good lawyer in the form of Steve Romines. The lawyer had different opinions about Stewart, and he believed he is not guilty. According to Romines, there are so many things that are inconsistent in this case.

The detectives had David Stewart purchasing the calling card on the camera. They had him identified by the warden at the jail where he worked. Flaherty thought they had enough evidence.

The jury, though, didn’t find David guilty. The evidence the cops had was not enough. The cops didn’t have anything that was indicative or proof of David making that call.

David was let go, and no further action was brought against him in connection with any of the other hoax calls.

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