'I did exactly what he said to do.' The true story behind Netflix's Don't Pick Up The Phone.

Content warning: This story deals with sexual abuse and may be triggering for some readers.

On an ordinary day in April 2004, 18-year-old Louise Ogborn was working the dinner shift at a McDonald's outlet in Mount Washington, Kentucky, when something extraordinary happened.

Louise, who had taken the minimum-wage position because her mother had recently lost her job, was called into the small office at the back of McDonald's and informed by assistant manager Donna Jean Summers that a customer had accused her of stealing. Donna said there was a policeman on the phone called Officer Scott, who had told her that Louise could either be strip-searched there at the restaurant or arrested, taken to jail, and then searched.

What happened to Louise Ogborn during the McDonald's hoax call?

"I just remember being distraught. I was so upset that someone would blame me for something so horrible," Louise said later in a 2007 court deposition. "I was bawling my eyes out and literally begging them to take me to the police station because I didn't do anything wrong."

The officer on the phone told Donna that the store manager as well as "McDonald's corporate" were also on the line. He told Donna to tell Louise to remove all her clothing, including her bra and underwear.

Donna did as told. So did Louise.

All the while, the CCTV camera in the small office captured everything.

CCTV footage from 2004. Image: Netflix.


"I was completely undressed. I was embarrassed," Louise said. "I was scared because they were a higher authority to me. I was scared for my own safety because I thought I was in trouble with the law."

Louise was given a black apron to cover herself and she sat huddled in a chair. Her clothes and car keys were put in a bag and taken away, so even though she wasn't physically tied up, she could not leave without walking naked through an entire restaurant of customers.

An hour passed. Donna would later testify that each time she asked the police officer on the phone when they were coming to pick Louise up, the officer "always had an answer". As the restaurant got busier and busier, Donna could no longer watch Louise. So she called her fiance Walter Wes Nix Jr. to come to McDonald's and keep an eye on the frightened girl. Walter was a father of two, coached the baseball team, and had never been in trouble with the law.


But over the next two hours, as Walter "watched" Louise, he did things that can only be constituted as evil. 

The officer on the phone told him Louise was a drug dealer, as well as a thief, and to take the apron away from her.

Walter did as asked. 

The officer told him to tell Louise to do jumping jacks, deep knee bends, dance with her arms above her head, stand on the chair, and stand on the desk, in order to see if anything "fell out" from her body. All while she was naked.

Walter complied. 

The officer told him to tell Louise to straddle his lap and kiss him so that he could smell if anything suspicious was on her breath. 

Again, Walter did as told. When Louise refused to obey, the police officer told Walter to put her across his knee and slap her on the bottom until her buttocks turned red. He did.

Then the police officer told Walter to get Louise to kneel in front of him and fellate him. Louise cried and tried to get him to stop. "No! I didn't do anything wrong. This is ridiculous," she told Walter. She testified he told her he would hit her again if she didn't give him a blow job. Seeing no other way out, Louise did as asked.

It was only then that Walter realised he'd "gone too far". He left, and a maintenance worker named Thomas Simms was asked to watch Louise instead. Thomas picked up the phone and the police officer asked him to remove Louise's apron.


Thomas knew instantly something was wrong. He refused.

The truth started to dawn on Donna too. She called the store manager, Lisa Siddons, who the caller had said was on the line, and found out Lisa was asleep. 

Realising the jig was up, the "police officer" hung up. It had all been a hoax.

Watch the trailer for Don't Pick Up The Phone. Post continues below.

Video via Netflix.

This astonishing true crime story was comprehensively covered in Kentucky's Courier Journal in 2005, and later fictionalised in the 2012 film Compliance, as well as an episode of Law and Order: SVU with Robin Williams as the voice on the phone.

Just this month, Netflix released a three-part documentary called Don't Pick Up The Phone, detailing the events at McDonald's and the investigation into catching the hoax caller. Providing interviews in the documentary series is retired police detective Buddy Stump, who was then a rookie detective, and police sergeant Victor Flaherty.

What are some notorious hoax calls made to fast-food outlets?

The detectives' investigation into the McDonald's case revealed that the same hoax caller had repeatedly called a number of fast-food outlets over a period of 12 years. The caller always identified himself as a police officer and always targeted fast-food restaurants in small towns because he knew inexperienced, young employees worked there and that they would be more prone to following orders from an authoritative figure.


Like the Mcdonald's case, sometimes the caller got the person at the other end of the line to do terrible things. There are reports of people being sexually abused, attacked, and tortured. Yet sometimes, the caller would be "called out" within minutes.

Detective Stump and Sergeant Flaherty tracked the caller down through the phone cards he used to call the outlets with - which sounds easy but was no mean feat 18 years ago. The alleged caller was a man named David Richard Stewart, a father of five who lived in Panama City Florida, and worked as a prison officer. When confronted with his crimes, Stewart denied them, but then started to "sweat profusely and shake uncontrollably."

In the Netflix documentary, Stump revealed Stewart asked, "Was anybody hurt?". Stewart also said, "Amen, it's over."

Stewart was arrested for falsely impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy and faced up to 15 years in prison. His lawyer argued he was simply not smart enough to fool that many people over that many years. The jury agreed, and Stewart was acquitted.

Whoever the hoax caller was, he has never been caught. The calls ceased after 2004.

Even though around 100 stores - including 17 McDonald's - in 32 states had been targeted by the time Louise Ogborn was strip-searched, the employees at McDonald's have said they were never made aware of the hoax calls. McDonald's has disputed this.


McDonald's assistant manager Donna called off her engagement to Walter after watching the CCTV footage and has not talked to him since. She was suspended, then fired, and indicted for unlawful imprisonment. Walter was indicted on charges of sodomy and assault.

After the horrific trauma she went through, Louise took McDonald's to court. She won her case and McDonald's paid her $6.1 million in restitution. Louise testified that the repercussions of that night were far-reaching. "I can't trust anyone. I push people out of my life because I don't want them to know what happened," she said. Following the experience she was anxious and depressed and had panic attacks and nightmares.

"Whoever made those calls is a disturbed individual - who is it? This individual, this hoax caller, is an evil sex predator, dangerous to society," Sergeant Flaherty said. "The calls have stopped for now... but have they stopped for good?"

Read more Netflix documentary stories below: 

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Feature Image: Netflix.