CLAYTON -- By Rebecca Putterman
As a kid, Jason Linder was an avid reader of the Encyclopedia Brown series, the children’s mystery novels featuring Leroy Brown, the boy detective.
Although he joined the Clayton Police Department in 2004 after serving with the Kinston Police for four years, it wasn’t until 2009 that Linder became a detective himself, joining the investigative services division in Clayton.
“I just knew I liked things that involved solving a mystery,” Linder said of his long-time fascination with detective work.
On Monday, Linder was named the Clayton Police Department’s Officer of the Year, which is based on nominations from his own colleagues. Linder said he thinks he received the award because of his detective work on the Paul Canally case, in which a former Archer Lodge teacher was charged with multiple child sex crimes involving seven young male victims.
Linder keeps two photos of Canally pinned up at his desk, serving as a constant reminder that there could be more victims out there who haven’t come forward.
“I think about it everyday. It’s closed as far as the records management system, but it’ll always be open, because there’s too many (victims) out there. I think about it everyday because I know what the victims are living with,” Linder said.
One of the photos pinned to his desk was taken on the day of Canally’s arrest.
“To me in that photo there, he’s reliving everything he’s ever done,” Linder said.
Standing up for victims
The Canally case was one of the more high-profile cases Linder had ever investigated, but it’s also unique, he said.
“This case is a little different, because your victims are young boys and their lives have been altered,” Linder said. “Listening to their stories was difficult.”
As the Canally case unfolded and Linder brought in more and more potential victims to interview, he took the time to read up on young male sexual assault, so he could better understand the emotional state of the victims he was working with.
For Linder, it’s the victims of the crimes he investigates that keeps him committed to his job. When he gets called out to investigate a crime, he said, it’s his job to speak for the victim.
“When you get called out, they expect you to right a wrong,” Linder said. “That victim is relying on you. The only thing they know is to call the police.”
According to Police Chief Glen Allen, Linder is known to work long hours to assist victims and follow up on his assigned cases. Linder said he has no choice but to work long hours, especially at the start of a case.
“You want to obtain as much information as possible. If that means staying out longer to get the job done, then you have to,” Linder said.
As a detective, his job is to collect as much evidence as he can to prosecute the suspect in a case. He describes his job as dealing with a lot of paperwork – court orders, search warrants, phone records, computer files. The Canally investigation, which sits out on his desk, is almost a foot thick.
But once the investigation is over, that’s not the end of Linder’s work. Whether the defendant seeks a plea bargain or goes to trial, Linder has to be there. It gives him satisfaction to see a case come to a close, he said.
One of his other more high-profile cases last year involved an armed robbery at the Walgreens on Robertson Street and a carjacking.
“I just keep up with it. It gave me satisfaction with the Walgreens armed robbery, I was there for Rhaim’s sentencing,” Linder said, referring to Rhaim Moises Santiago, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the crime.
After eight years with the police department, Linder says he doesn’t see himself leaving Clayton anytime soon.
“I like working on the local level, I love being a detective,” he said. “I’m just waiting for that next case to come across my desk.”