Missing Kiely Rodni - what's her friend Sami Smith hiding?
Sami Smith’s version of Kiely’s movements might be misleading.
I’m looking at an ongoing case in Truckee, California, where 16-year-old Kiely Rodri is missing. She was last seen at a party.
Her friend Sami Smith appears to be making a large effort to help the search and regularly does media interviews. I’ve seen numerous comments on social media suggesting that Sami is lying and even that she has something to do with Kiely’s disappearance.
Does she? Let’s look at the words in this interview:
Let’s break it down
Host: So at the night of the party the last time you saw her, can you tell us about… I guess… give us a rundown of the party real quick. I understand it was a large gathering.
Yeah. So it was supposed to be a senior farewell party where all the seniors and everybody from around our area like Tahoe and Truckee and Incline and Kings Beach were supposed to be there. They were invited there because ..uh.. it was supposed to be like saying goodbye to your favourite teenagers before everybody starts going off to college. Because soon enough your people are gonna start leaving and moving out and so - Kiely's a senior or she was like she graduated early so she's considered a senior, and I was a senior so every senior was initially invited to the party. And as well …uh… all grades were invited just so that they could say goodbye.
I’ve seen some people say Sami has too much detail in her story; therefore she must be lying. That’s a bad position to take. Although she uses plenty of words to say quite simple things, she’s mostly straightforward in this section.
There are a few indicators of deception, where she’s not being straightforward. She stutters at times and pauses to consider her words. If you look at what she’s talking about when this happens, I would suggest that she is sanitising the party, she’s aiming to make it sound like a well-intentioned community event rather than a drink-fuelled party.
So I had talked with Kiely and I had known she was going beforehand. We hadn't planned on going together, and we ended up not going together. She came with her best friend Mags, Mags Larsen, Magdalene, sorry that’s her first name. And so, she came with her, drove in with her and then ..um.. Mags ended up leaving about 10 minutes into the party with her boyfriend Ross. Mags’s boyfriend and … told Kiely goodbye and everything, and they were never planning on like leaving together or staying together at the party. They just went to party together because they were hanging out earlier in the day.
Again, Sami uses numerous words to describe a simple event. Again, there are pauses and stumbles, especially on why Mags left. Mags claims (elsewhere) she left due to not liking other people at the party and their aggression around drugs.
So it seems Sami is doing more work to conceal the more seedy elements of this party.
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And then um… I saw her the second she got there. And from that moment on, we were pretty much seen together all around the party. We would break off for mere moments from each other, to go and talk to other people or to go do other things, you know, but we would always come back to each other. We were uh just going around the party. We were drinking the same drinks, being teenagers throwing glow-sticks into the party.
Sami is trying to give us the impression she was with Kiely throughout the time in question, but her words don’t say that. Only they were “pretty much seen together all around the party”. And why did she use “seen together” rather than simply “together”?
From attempting to give the impression they were together, Sami spends some time speaking about when they were not together they would “talk to other people, or go do other things”. What are these “other things”? My suggestion again would be something at the seedier end of this party.
And it started to grow really big. I would say around 10 to 10:30. It just blew up like it started to get to the point where I was getting overwhelmed, and I'm a very social person. I've been to a lot of these parties. I've never been overwhelmed. I've actually been underwhelmed but this party. It was.. it was very large like it was bigger than any party we've had in Truckee all year and for a lot of years past. There were people from what we think Sacramento San Francisco I remember talking to somebody who is from San Francisco, Reno Folsom areas that were just way out of reach from it, and it was really overwhelming and ha-weird to see, but I didn't really think much of it. I just thought oh kids are around here. They have vacation homes up here. They're just coming to party because why not?
From these words, it appears the way the party grew spooked Sami. She says she was “overwhelmed” three times. Sami then tries to show us she wasn’t that phased by it, sharing with us her rational thinking and that “I didn’t really think much of it”. To be as overwhelmed as she has stated, that can’t be true.
So there is an indicator of deception here, but what is the deception? It could be something malicious, or it could be important to Sami that she appears grown-up and worldly-wise.
So then Kiely and I were going around taking shots and just drinking. We were trading drinks with each other. We were sharing drinks with each other. We would go back to her car to get some alcohol sometimes, and then we went to her car to charge her phone.
And we were talking about …um… just random stuff and then it's kind of hard to remember. And so, or no… we were talking about…um….. her texting her mom and her charging her phone and stuff. And just about the party in general. And then we had a few other friends in the car, and then we all decided to go back to the party.
Compared to what we’ve looked at so far, this section is much less fluid and straightforward. She says they had alcoholic drinks five times in short succession.
I want to know where the friends in the car came from, they haven’t been mentioned before - it’s only been Sami and Kiely until now.
Sami’s use of “and then…” in this section shows she is leaving out events or details.
Her story could become less coherent as Sami has drunk a lot by this point and her recollection isn’t that good.
Sami is keen to show that Kiely charged her phone. She mentions it twice. For some reason, the fact Kiely charged her phone is important to her.
Sami finds it hard to remember (or construct) what they spoke about in the car. What she comes up with isn’t very convincing - phone charging, texting and “the party in general”. This section worries me a little. We’ll see why after the next section, but it raises a question mark for me on why Sami wants us to know she was there when a text was sent from Kiely’s phone to Kiely’s mom.
And we were around in there for a bit, I had asked her for a ride home, and we were in the car because my ride was leaving, and I wanted to stay at the party longer. And so then we ended up splitting up in the party because I had to find another ride when we got back into the party after leaving the car so that we could…um … I'm sorry,
This section doesn’t flow at all and jumps backwards in time. Often, when someone is telling a fabricated story, they have to go backwards in time to add in a detail that will make the fabrication work. Again, maybe she’s rambling now as she was drunk, but I suspect that the events at this time are not being truthfully recounted.
And look at the logic in the progression
- I had asked her (Kiely) for a ride home (when we were in the car)
- My ride was leaving and I wanted to stay
- So we split up because I had to find another rider
Did Kiely say no to the request for a ride? Sami doesn’t say why, if she’d asked Kiely for a ride, she had to find an alternative ride.
From these words, there is a high probability that something happened on this visit to the car, possibly involving the mysterious people who “appeared” in the car.
The scene described in the car and events after it are Sami’s least believable words yet. Did they fall out? Or were they not really as interlinked at this party as Sami suggests?
Shanie Jones wants to ask you on your last call, did she let you know who the quote unquote friend was that was driving her home?
Yes, so this is a common misconception. She was not being driven home, and she was not driving so …okay. At the end of the party when she called… when I saw her. I - She was supposed to give me a ride home because I'd asked her to give me a ride home because I wanted to stay later. I then realised later in the party that I believe she was drunk or.. and I knew she was drunk, and so I did not want her to be driving me home. Um Because I .. you know, I know about drunk drivers and all that and so I Yeah, and I figured she would be staying there or she would find a ride home because she's a smart girl. She's smart enough to know. She's She's smart.
Now we learn why Sami needed to arrange another ride. In the previous section, she left out the fact that she decided Kiely wasn’t fit to drive. Yet more evidence that Sami is downplaying the drunkenness of the party.
I’m interested in why Sami says first that at then end of the party “when she called” and then changes it to “when I saw her”. It could be slip, but the tone of this section interests me. Did Sami and Kiely clash about something? They spent the last part of the party apart, and Sami shows no concern for Kiely here. I’d expect to hear that she advised her drunk friend not to drive, but she doesn’t say that happened. She also doesn’t seem to care much if she sleeps at the party or gets another ride arranged. It gives me a sense of abandonment.
She’s quite definite that Kiely wasn’t driving. She doesn’t appear to hold any thought that Kiely, in a very drunken state, may have foolishly decided to drive home after all.
In the car
And so um then uh I found her as I was leaving the party, I was making sure to find her to tell her that I had another ride home and that I loved her and I wanted to say bye and for her to have fun at the party. And then when I left the party, we were on… we were pretty much on 89 with my ride. And um she called me as I was in the car in the passenger seat and she was like Hey, where are you? Do you still need a ride home? And I was like No, I'm okay like I'm in the car right now. I'm drivi- eh like getting driven home now. But Kiely did not have a set ride home. And she.. I was under the impression that she would either sleep there or find another ride home. And it was not known that anybody was going to give her a ride home. She was not when she called me, she was not in a car. I could hear the party and people many people talking in the background.
I’ll come right out and say it here. This didn’t happen. I’m pretty sure Sami drove herself back from the party. Why? She is at great pains to show us she was a passenger with “with my ride”, “I was in the passenger seat” and “getting driven home right now”. Sami is overplaying the descriptions of being driven here.
The biggest giveaway is, of course, when she says, “I’m driving” and then stops and “corrects” herself to “getting driven home”.
Logically, this doesn’t hang with the rest of the story either. As Sami tells it, she split up from Kiely to find a ride, then she met Kiely “making sure to find her to tell her that I had another ride home”. Then, according to Sami, Kiely calls shorty after that to say “Where are you? Do you still need a ride home?”
For someone who is good at details, Sami doesn’t say who she took this ride home with. She does talk about being at, and leaving the party in singular pronouns “I was leaving the party” and “I left the party” but switches to “we” only once for the ride saying “We were pretty much on the 89”.
Once I’ve looked at someone’s words, I look at what they don’t say. I’ve already noted the lack of concern about how Kiely would get home or if she would be alright.
I’ve looked at a lot in addition to the sections I’ve analysed here, and Sami doesn’t ever make the kind of slips I’d associated with someone who is hiding knowledge of what has happened. She doesn’t refer to Kiely in the past tense, and she doesn’t show any indications that she thinks the search will be fruitless.
Sami is being deceptive
- She is sanitising the party.
- She’s overplaying her closeness to Kiely. I don’t think they were much more than people who knew each other.
- She’s hiding events later on in the party.
- I believe she could be hiding the fact she drove home from the party.
However, she’s not hiding anything that suggests she knows what has happened to Kiely or where she is now. I have a couple of questions about why she is keen to show Kiely was charging her phone and her ride home from the party, but they are questions, not conclusions.
I wasn’t there, I don’t KNOW what happened, but from these words I’d say that while Sami is happy to be the centre of attention around this missing person.
I don’t think Sami was directly involved in what ever happened to Kiely that evening but I do think it’s possible she is withholding information about certain elements of the party.
Update: I’ve produced a video version of this post which includes some new thoughts around what happened in the car, why the girls fell out and why Sami may feel guilty.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.