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Kali Poulton: Murder of 4-Year-Old

Kym L. Pasqualini is the founder and former CEO of Nation's Missing Children Organization and National Center for Missing Adults.

Kali Ann Poulton was abducted and brutally murdered on May 23, 1994, in Rochester, New York. Photo courtesy of NMCO.

Kali Ann Poulton was abducted and brutally murdered on May 23, 1994, in Rochester, New York. Photo courtesy of NMCO.

Kali Ann Poulton was a lovely and bubbly little 4-year-old little girl living with her mother, Judy Gifford-Tosh. Kali and her mother lived in Gleason Circle, a quaint suburban apartment complex tucked into a forest of large oak and maple trees, in Gleason Estates in Rochester, New York.

On a warm spring evening on May 23, 1994 at about 6:45, Kali begged her mother to ride her pink and white Big Wheel outside. It stayed light out longer; children were playing outside, so Judy gave in and told Kali she could go out and ride her bike as long as she rode in front of the house.

Kali was an only child. With her infectious laugh, long blonde hair, and dimples, she was the "apple of her mother's eye," and Judy was very protective.

Thrilled about her mother's decision, Kali rode happily up and down the sidewalk in front of their home. While Kali played, Judy placed inserts in magazines she would be delivering that evening. Judy worked a second job to save money to take Kali to Disney World the following summer. After her deliveries, she planned to take Kali to McDonald's and let her play in the outdoor children's playground.

Within minutes of Kali going outside, Judy finished with her task. She was ready to load everything into her car and deliver the magazines. When Judy went outside to call for Kali, there was no answer. Tears immediately filled her eyes as she intuitively knew something was wrong.

Panic set in and Judy began yelling Kali's name throughout the complex. Neighbors also began frantically searching for little Kali and her Big Wheel.

Call to 911

According to Monroe County Sheriff's Office Investigator Patrick Crough, author of "Seducers Among Our Children," about 20 minutes into the search for Kali, Judy saw her neighbor. Mark Christie, 25, moved to the complex approximately six weeks earlier with his girlfriend and eighteen-month-old son.

Mark was carrying his son to the complex playground. Judy observed Mark's high-top sneakers were untied and thought it strange. Panicked, Judy asked Mark if he had seen Kali. Mark responded "no" and continued walking.

Judy called 911, and the panic-stricken mother proceeded to tell the 911 operator that her daughter was missing. It occurred to Judy she was living every parent's nightmare; her child was missing, and no one knew where she was.

"I called 911 right away," Judy told the Daily Messenger. "The firemen and police showed up, they brought a dog, they searched the grounds, went door to door, and they found nothing."

Judy couldn't sleep that night. She spent the evening worrying Kali was out there somewhere alone, hungry, and without her mommy. Judy tried to stop herself from thinking the worst, but her instincts told her something was wrong.

She had no idea how right she was.

Detectives visit

The following day, two Monroe County Sheriff’s detectives arrived at Judy’s door.

“I was a wreck and they asked me a million questions since I was the last one to see her,” Judy told a Daily Messenger reporter.

Judy Gifford-Tosh recalls the days after Kali’s disappearance. Photo courtesy of the Daily Messenger.

Judy Gifford-Tosh recalls the days after Kali’s disappearance. Photo courtesy of the Daily Messenger.

With no sign of abduction and no leads, Judy recalled how police began to focus on her as the primary suspect in the disappearance of her precious daughter. While it’s normal for police to look at the family, it did not lessen the pain. It did not minimize her feeling that if the police had focused on searching the complex and questioning occupants, they would have solved the case faster.

Mother's Intuition

On the night of Kali's disappearance, Crough, along with investigators Thomas Passmore and Gary Caiola, asked Judy if there was anyone that she would consider a potential suspect. Judy couldn't think of anyone right away. Then she was asked if anyone had moved into the apartment complex who had shown any affection for Kali.

"There's this guy named Mark who just moved in about six weeks ago," Judy told the investigators. "He gives me the creeps." Judy described how Mark told her how beautiful Kali was on several occasions. During one of their conversations, Mark asked Judy if Kali would tell her if anyone tried to touch her. Judy responded, "Yes," and felt very disturbed by his odd question.

Police made contact with Mark immediately after speaking to Judy.

Mark Christie did have a criminal record, though nothing linked to crimes against children. He grew up in Hilton, New York, and was considered a "punk" growing up. Along with Bill Connell, several investigators interviewed Mark for several hours. Still, he denied any involvement in Kali's disappearance.

Convinced he was lying, investigators did not want to frighten him into seeking an attorney who would never encourage a client to cooperate.

Mark maintained his innocence for the following two and one-half years. During that time, police interviewed dozens of people about Kali's disappearance. Mark was written off as a viable suspect because Judy had seen him take his child to the playground so soon after her disappearance.

Everyone discounted Mark, except investigators Passmore and Crough. Both maintained an informal relationship with Mark, and he knew he was their primary suspect in the case. They told him they were always ready to talk about reuniting Kali with her parents whenever Mark was prepared to speak.

Break in the Case

Mark and his had family moved to another apartment complex located in Wayne County, bordering Monroe. On August 9, 1996, police finally got their break in the case. Mark and his wife had an argument where Mark admitted he had killed Kali.

It was Mark's vain attempt to gain sympathy from his wife, who had threatened to leave him due to his bizarre behavior. His wife immediately fled with her son, drove to her father's home, and called 911.

This admission, however, would not be enough for a conviction because the wife's testimony could be challenged in court. New York State considers an "admission" to a spouse privileged and protected.

That day, investigator Crough was working alone. After learning Mark may still be at his residence, Crough immediately drove across the county to speak to Mark. When he arrived, Mark's mother was at the front door shouting that Mark had an attorney and not to go with Crough.

Despite his mother's protests, Mark agreed to have a cup of coffee with Crough, with an agreement that he would be transported to his attorney afterward. Mark sat uncuffed in the front seat of Crough's unmarked police car, and they began discussing Kali.

Mark said he would tell Crough everything once he spoke to his attorney. Crough replied that "any lawyer worth his weight in salt" would not allow him to talk to him about what happened.

"Her parents will never find out exactly what happened to their baby," Crough wrote in an article on Lighthouse Trail Research. "Or if she suffered."

"She didn't suffer," Mark said.

"I hope not," Crough replied.

As they drove to Rochester, Crough asked Mark if he wanted lunch. Mark said he was starving, so they went to Roncone's, an Italian restaurant in the city. Mark ordered chicken parmesan with spaghetti, while Crough ordered linguine with sausage in red sauce.

In the comfortable atmosphere of the restaurant, Mark began talking. Kali's face on missing child posters throughout the country and local and national television shows like Oprah and America's Most Wanted haunted Mark.

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Knowing Mark liked to feel in control, Crough appealed to his pride and told Mark that he had "beaten the police, fair and square." Mark immediately responded and said he didn't want to appear as if he were bragging, but eluding the police by getting rid of the Big Wheel was clever. Crough pretended to agree how amazing that he fooled the investigators.

At that point, Mark gave into his ego and asked if Crough if he wanted to know how he pulled it off.

Crough said, "Sure," and started poking at his food.

Mark told him the Big Wheel was in his house for three days after killing Kali, and the police missed it when they searched his apartment. He had cut the Big Wheel into tiny pieces and hid them in various places throughout the home. Mark knew police could not search for small items. Mark said he hid the pieces in articles of clothing, stored in drawers.

His wife didn't even know they were there. Mark got the Big Wheel out of the house by filling several duffel bags with the plastic and clothing and passed right through the police roadblock. He then drove throughout the county and got rid of the bike pieces.

Kali Poulton's body was carried out of Mark Christie's home in a laundry basket. Photo courtesy of NMCO.

Kali Poulton's body was carried out of Mark Christie's home in a laundry basket. Photo courtesy of NMCO.

Crough told Mark he was baffled by how he managed to get Kali's body out of the house before the police even arrived. Mark explained that it had been chaotic with many people around, and no one noticed him.

Allowing Mark to still feel in control, Crough told him to consider telling his story, or the public would look upon him as a monster who killed children. Crough wanted Mark to think Kali's death wasn't his fault. Minimizing the guilt of a criminal is an interrogation tactic used commonly by law enforcement officers.

Mark asked how much time he might receive in prison. Crough told him at least 25 years, but life in prison was a possibility. Mark told him it would be unfair to him if he were separated from his wife and son.

Crough responded and said it was time to get right with himself, his family, and God. Mark then responded he would like to tell Crough how he killed Kali.
First, Mark told Crough that Kali did not suffer.

"I strangled her but didn't do anything to her," Mark said.

Crough asked if he meant he didn't have sex with her.

"Yeah," Mark answered.

Mark proceeded to tell Crough that Kali had driven over to Mark's apartment to play with his son Alex. Mark knew Judy would have never approved of Kali going inside, so he let her in and placed her Big Wheel in his kitchen out of sight. Kali then went upstairs and started playing with his son's toys while he went into his bedroom across the hall.

Ten minutes later, Mark could hear Judy screaming out Kali's name outside. Mark claims he panicked and strangled the little girl to death. Crough knew Mark was leaving out a big part of the story. He believes Mark was molesting Kali while her mother was right outside, desperately yelling loud enough that Kali could hear her mother's voice.

Mark went on to say he then carried Kali's body downstairs and placed her on the dining room floor. He went outside with his son, who had been present during Kali's brutal murder, and that's when he ran into Judy on the playground searching for Kali.

When Mark returned to his apartment, he placed Kali in a laundry basket and covered her body with a blanket. A few minutes later, he took the basket to his car, placing Kali in the trunk.

With his son in tow, Mark drove to the Nor-Tel Company where he was employed as a security guard. He drove around back and placed the laundry basket outside the rear utility door. Mark then went around the front and entered through the main entrance. Mark explained to the two security guards that he had left something at work and came to pick it up.

Mark walked to the rear of the building, got Kali's body, and then climbed to the top of the enclosed 30,000-gallon tank filled with liquid coolant and dropped her in.

Crough asked if he had cut Kali's stomach open to prevent her from floating to the top. Mark responded that he did not, but he found a piece of heavy metal equipment and tied it to Kali's body to weigh her down.

Crough also asked Mark if he had kept the blanket or any of Kali's clothing. Mark told Crough that he got rid of everything and even left Kali's earrings in her ears.

"It never should have happened," Mark told Crough. "It was a waste."

Crough paid the bill, Mark left a two-dollar tip, and they both returned to the unmarked police car. They headed to the police station.

Mark Christie is serving time for the murder of Kali Ann Poulton in  the New York State Department of Corrections.

Mark Christie is serving time for the murder of Kali Ann Poulton in the New York State Department of Corrections.

Once they arrived at the police headquarters, Crough gave Mark the phone to call his attorney. Mark was arrested that night and charged with Kali's murder resulting in 25-years-to-life in prison. He is currently serving his time in the Sing Sing Correction Facility in Ossining, New York.

Kali's disappearance was solved with Investigator Crough's excellent police work and Judy sharing her gut instinct at the outset of the investigation. Crough has authored more books and speaks to other investigators throughout the country. Judy feels forever indebted to him for not giving up on Kali's case.

Saying Goodbye

Judy finally had answers, easing only some of the pain. Kali is buried in Monroe County, New York, marked by a beautiful black granite headstone with her picture engraved. It is decorated with wind chimes, colored stones, and other mementos.

Judy says that until Mark confessed in 1996, she was shocked because she always believed and held onto hope that Kali was still alive.

“We can’t even give words to describe our pain. She wasn’t tortured, we know. We know she died the same day she disappeared,” Judy said. “As much comfort I guess as you could get, I’d have to say we have that.”

Kali Poulton’s flower garden outside of Gleason Estates where people still visit, leaving balloons, stuffed animals, and other mementos. Photo courtesy of the Democrat Chronicle.

Kali Poulton’s flower garden outside of Gleason Estates where people still visit, leaving balloons, stuffed animals, and other mementos. Photo courtesy of the Democrat Chronicle.

Judy still visits the playground at Gleason Estates and the beautiful and ever-growing flower garden that residents and the public made for Kali. It’s the first place Judy goes each year to remember her beautiful daughter.

Judy never lets grief consume her because she says the man responsible for it isn’t worth it.

“If I took my own life, which I contemplated, then you won. You took her life. You’re not taking the rest of my life. That’s where I stand strong,” said Judy.

A survivor, Judy has never had any more children and lives with Floyd Tosh, her husband of 20 years.

Author's Note

This was one of my first cases while living in Westchester, New York. Soon after Kali's disappearance, I traveled to Rochester to meet Judy Gifford-Tosh and was met with a desperate mother searching for her beautiful little girl. It was the most heartbreaking experience.

Kali's disappearance and murder were one of my first insights into the life of a parent of a missing child. One that changed my life. One that impacted me throughout the following 28 years working in the field of missing persons. I wrote this in her memory because no one should forget the children who have died at the hands of brutal predators.

© 2021 Kym L Pasqualini

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