Detectives knocked on the front door at 8:26 p.m., carrying a search warrant signed an hour earlier. Inside the house, they encountered Casey and three men: a greasy-haired guest in his mid-thirties, who answered the door; a man in his mid-forties, cooking dinner; and a leather-skinned man in his early sixties, sitting on the couch, who said he was the boy's grandfather. Casey's red bike was out in the shed. His room had the typical 12-year-old's flourishes, with Yu-Gi-Oh! and Legend of Zelda posters and a computer desk strewn with Pokémon video-game boxes and Star Wars and SpongeBob SquarePants figurines. An overturned skateboard and two lightsaber toys lay on the floor.

After the detectives escorted the four into separate areas and started asking about the phony papers, they learned that none of them were Casey's blood relatives. One of the men told the cops they'd rescued Casey from sexual predators: "He is avoiding a special group of people that he had encounters with whenever he was very, very young."

Detective Mark Boan turned on the microcassette recorder in his shirt pocket. "Casey," he said, his voice soothing, "I can tell that there's something you want to tell me. But you're afraid. You know that I'm here, and I'll make sure that nothing else happens to you. Ever again."

Casey asked to go outside. His responses to Boan were meek—high-pitched and barely audible. "I'm happy being here. I've got a lot of things. I'm happy here," he says. "I just want to be with my family." But Casey started changing the story: that his uncle would "act gay" around him and liked to sit Casey on his lap—and that twice he woke up with his underwear down. He thought maybe he'd been sodomized while sedated with allergy pills.

Having already identified the man who'd been cooking dinner as an unregistered sex offender, detectives discovered that the youngest of the three men had also failed to register as a sex offender. Detectives questioned him further, and that's when he revealed something that turned the investigation on its head.

"If you want the truth," he says on the tape, "that young man that just walked out the door ain't 12 years old. He's 29. He was born November 22, 1977. And if you want his real name, it's Neil Havens Rodreick." What's more, he said, Rodreick had been in prison with him in Taft, Oklahoma. "Casey" was a convicted sex offender.

The officials emerged from the house to confront Boan's reedy-voiced interviewee and tell him the game was up—that they'd just learned his real identity and were about to get his photo from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Rodreick was silent, his head hung low under his baseball cap, when Boan handcuffed him.