Retired Special Agent with the FBI, George Q. Fong (the Q is important if you search for him online) spoke to a rapt audience of writers and readers at the Orange County Sisters-in-Crime meeting in October, telling his remarkable story of 27 years in the Service.
In 1983, Fong aced the entrance exam and interview and was sworn in as a Special Agent. At age 23, newly-married, and self-admittedly small for an agent (at 122 pounds) he entered 4 months of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, learning legal/constitutional law, defense tactics, firearms, and interview/interrogation.
Proud to have gained 13 pounds in training, Fong was further pleased to be assigned to the Seattle Field Office. “The farther away you are from the mother ship the better,” he said.
He was immediately thrust into white collar cases, then kidnapping and bank robbing.
As a rookie agent he participated in the week-long standoff with a Neo-Nazi group at Whidbey Island, getting his first up-close experience with a hand grenade.
The following year Fong was transferred to the Los Angeles office where he worked 11 years undercover, targeting large scale drug operations. He built a special van to transport drugs for the Cartel, but delivered them instead to the FBI.
Another transfer sent him to Sacramento where he was part of the team investigating the high-profile murder of 4 victims by Cary Stayner in Yosemite Valley. It was the facts and details of this case that so captivated the SinC audience.
In a series of slides, Fong told the story, first introducing three women; a mother, her daughter and her daughter’s best friend, enjoying the snow and having a fun vacation. Their disappearance was reported by a maid at the Cedar Lodge where they stayed.
It was first thought to be an accident and a large scale search & rescue operation went into action, but as clues surfaced, the task force comprised of state, local and federal agents determined foul play. Everyone in the area was interviewed (including the true killer) with no concrete leads.
Then the mother’s wallet was reported found miles away. More interviews – even a sweep of sex offenders in the area – netted zero. According to Fong, “Yosemite is a majestic place but has its dark side. Because of the open land and expansiveness, many sex registrants are hiding there.”
Eventually a hunter called to report a burned-out car. Investigators quickly arrived and cordoned off the area. It turned out to be the mother’s rental car. Her burned body and that of her daughter’s friend were discovered in the trunk. A large-scale canvass of the area brought no new clues. No one even mentioned seeing the fire.
Sometime later authorities received an envelope with a drawing of a familiar viewpoint turnout marked with the words, “We had fun here.” Investigators hurried to the scene and located many items including the body of the daughter hidden under loose brush.
Suspects were identified, some even confessing to the murders but in the end, law enforcement wasn’t comfortable in their statements. To that end, the investigation went back to the beginning, looking for more evidence, more suspects.
It took sixteen months and the murder of a fourth woman to get an arrest. Stayner had been sloppy this time, leaving multiple pieces of evidence in the area. After being pressured about discrepancies in his story, he eventually confessed to all four murders, describing with pride each grisly step he took.
“Cary Stayner is currently on death row,” Fong concluded
This case, and many more like it, eventually took its toll on George Fong and his family. “After 27 years with the FBI, I retired. I am currently the Director of Security for ESPN. As I like to say in my new position, No one dies, no one gets kidnapped. It’s a wonderful job.”
Fong is also a faculty member at the Book Passage Mystery Writers conference in Corte Madera, California. His mystery/thriller, FRAGMENTED, loosely based on a kidnapping case he worked in Seattle, will be released soon.