ANNISTON, Ala. -- When he arrived here three years ago, Robert David Madrid brought with him an easy charm and a voluminous résumé. It boasted an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, a master's degree from Georgetown University, a medical degree from Harvard and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The icing was his membership in the high-IQ society, Mensa.
Perhaps it should have raised more questions when a professional of such ilk landed in an old foundry town that once proclaimed itself the "world soil-pipe capital." But Madrid came here with a sure bet -- a job as a partner in an investigations firm founded by an old friend. Capt. Bobby Wayne Parker, now a retired Anniston police officer who first met Madrid in 1984 on a golf course in Northern Virginia, squired his young partner around town, introducing him as a hot new investigator and forensics expert to lawyers who might hire them in the future.
Robert Madrid said he had a medical degree from Harvard and belonged to Mensa.
(Steve Gates For The Washington Post)
Before long, Madrid was commanding as much as $175 an hour as a forensic witness for attorneys representing accused murderers, and reading and interpreting medical records for the defense.
From the outside, it seemed a comfortable, stable life Madrid had created in a short time, moving his new wife, her three children and their infant daughter into a house on Glenwood Terrace, its parkway shaded by tall oaks and distinct for its 1910-era streetlights. But underneath, all was not as it seemed.
In February, a squad of sheriff's cars pulled up in front of Madrid's house and officers swarmed the place. They confiscated two computers and some personal papers and took Madrid down to the Talladega County jail. Not long after, Madrid, 41, stood in front of a dull beige wall as a deputy snapped his arrest mug.
Suddenly, the life he had crafted was crashing around him.
Selina Volz answered the singles ad that Bob Madrid placed on America Online in the summer of 2000. They met for the first time at a bagel shop in Salt Lake City, where they were both living. During their courtship, he told her he was a medical doctor and a millionaire, she said. He had also had a talk show on a local radio station, KIQN, which has since gone out of business. "He was very appealing to a single mother with three young children."
She was flattered to be romanced by such an accomplished and wealthy suitor.
After he proposed, she took her engagement ring -- an antique Madrid told her he bought in Jerusalem -- to have it appraised. She was stunned by what the jeweler told her. It was a fake.
Other things didn't add up either. Madrid would talk about his past, and when he repeated stories later to acquaintances, Selina noticed that the facts would be noticeably different.
"I knew there was a problem, but you try to make it work. I was trapped. I didn't want another failed marriage," she recalled in an interview. "He always had an explanation."
The newlyweds ran a pet-grooming business that she says his parents helped finance. She says Madrid answered the telephones while she washed and clipped the animals. They did that for a year.
Then Madrid, restless, called his old friend Parker in Anniston, a town of 25,000 in northeast Alabama.
He was planning to take "early retirement," Madrid told Parker. Would he have any work for him in his detective agency?