Criminal

Criminal

thisiscriminal.com
Criminal is a podcast about crime.
81: Unexpected Guests
Dec 15 • 36 min
Three mysteries we can’t stop thinking about. Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. If you haven’t already, please review us on iTunes! It’s an important way to help new listeners discover the show: iTunes.com/CriminalShow. Say hello on…
80: Photo, Hair, Fingerprint
Dec 1 • 28 min
In 1988, a man in Hickory, NC was sentenced to life in prison based on evidence that experts would later call “junk science.” It took him 24 years to convince someone to look at the evidence again. Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. If you…
79: Secrets and Séances
Nov 17 • 33 min
Helen Duncan was a famous medium who travelled around Britain in the 1940s performing séances. She claimed to speak to the dead, and even produce physical manifestations of their spirits. But when she seemed to know wartime secrets about the whereabouts…
78: The Botanist
Nov 3 • 23 min
In 1993, a man in Steamboat Springs, Colorado was found dead in his home. He’d been burned with a stun gun, hit with a shovel, and shot several times. The victim’s wife was the primary suspect, but she had an alibi for the estimated time of death.…
77: The Escape
Oct 20 • 28 min
In 1962, two men managed to escape the one prison in America that was supposed to be inescapable. They were never found. More than 50 years later, their 82-year-old sister is still waiting for them to come home…and one U.S. Marshal is still on the case.…
76: The Big Lick
Oct 6 • 25 min
The Tennessee Walking Horse has a natural gait that’s famously smooth. And, if trained in a certain way, it can perform a walk that’s even more spectacular. But, there’s a secret behind how, exactly, these horses are trained to do the crowd-pleasing step…
75: The Gatekeeper
Sep 22 • 26 min
“I keep saying ‘where’s the body? Kill someone,’” Marilyn Stasio told us. She reads at least 200 crime novels a year to determine which are worthy of her prestigious “Crime Column” in the New York Times Book Review. We talk with her about crime as…
74: Catastrophe
Sep 8 • 32 min
In 1993, more than 1,000 levees broke along the Mississippi River, flooding thousands of acres. In most cases the floods were seen as an “Act of God.” In one case, however, the flood was a crime: “knowingly causing a catastrophe.” This story comes to us…
73: Carry A. Nation
Aug 18 • 25 min
At the turn of the century, Carry Nation was “America’s foremost lady hellraiser” and “the apostle of reform violence.” In her own words, she was “a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.” We liked her hatchet pins so…
72: Bears, Birds, and Bones
Aug 4 • 30 min
As long as 2,500 years ago, Native Americans placed the bones of the dead in giant mounds of earth in the shape of animals. The Effigy Mounds National Monument was created to protect the mounds - and the bones inside. But in 2011, a new superintendent…
71: A Bump in the Night
Jul 21 • 20 min
Amber Dawn was 20 when she moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Enumclaw, Washington. On her very first night, she began to notice strange sounds. And they didn’t stop. Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. If you haven’t already, please…
70: The Procedure
Jul 7 • 26 min
In 1967, a very unlikely group of individuals gathered to help women quietly break the law and obtain an abortion. The first step was to call a phone number. A recording of a woman’s voice would tell you what do to next. Criminal is a proud member of…
69: Becoming Chief Brown
Jun 16 • 32 min
Shortly after David Brown was sworn in as the Dallas Chief of Police, his son shot and killed a police officer. Just before he retired as chief, 5 Dallas officers were shot and killed in what was said to be the deadliest attack for law enforcement since…
68: All the Time in the World
Jun 2 • 33 min
The “body farm” at Texas State University is a place almost no one except researchers and law enforcement are able to see, because it’s one of very few places in the world that deliberately puts out human bodies to decompose in nature. Forensic…
67: Milk Carton Kids
May 19 • 19 min
On a Sunday morning in 1982, in Des Moines, Iowa, Johnny Gosch left his house to begin his usual paper route. A short time later, his parents were awakened by a phone call – it was a neighbor — their paper hadn’t come. His would be the first face of a…
66: Bully
May 5 • 29 min
Skidmore, Missouri is a very small town. In the ’70s, there was only one bar, one grocery store, and one bully. Ken McElroy was so ruthless and intimidating that even law enforcement looked the other way. He terrorized the town for decades, until they…
65: The Kingfish
Apr 21 • 28 min
In 1928, Huey P. Long became the youngest Governor in Louisiana’s history. He bragged that he bought lawmakers like “sacks of potatoes, shuffled ‘em like a deck of cards.” By the time he was 39 years old, he’d made his way to the U.S. Senate. And just a…
64: 420
Apr 7 • 18 min
The Colorado Department of Transportation says the 420 mile markers on the state’s highways were stolen so often, they had to replace them with 419.99 mile markers. Many people know that “420” represents marijuana - hence the popularity of the mile…
63: Rochester, 1991
Mar 17 • 28 min
Kim Dadou says she wishes she had a nickel for every person who has asked why she didn’t leave her abusive boyfriend. They stayed together for four years. And then, in the middle of the night on December 17th, 1991, Kim’s entire life changed. This episode…
62: Wildin
Mar 3 • 25 min
In 2014, 16-year-old Wildin Acosta left Olancho, Honduras and traveled toward the U.S. border. When he arrived, he turned himself in to border patrol agents. He was one of 68,541 unaccompanied minors who crossed the border into the U.S. that year.…
61: Vanish
Feb 17 • 26 min
People have faked death to escape criminal convictions, debts, and their spouses. In 2007, a man named Amir Vehabovic faked his death just to see who showed up at the funeral (answer: only his mom). It’s an appealing soap-opera fantasy, but actually…
60: Finding Sarah and Philip
Feb 3 • 22 min
In 2005, Teri Knight drove 650 miles on midwestern roads through Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois, pleading with the public to help her do what law enforcement and the FBI had not been able to: find the remains of her children Sarah and Philip Gehring. An…
59: In Plain Sight
Jan 20 • 32 min
In 1849, abolitionist and attorney Wendell Phillips wrote: “We should look in vain through the most trying times of our revolutionary history for an incident of courage and noble daring to equal that of the escape of William and Ellen Craft; and future…
58: Walnut Grove
Jan 6 • 35 min
In 2010, Michael McIntosh’s son was incarcerated at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in the small town of Walnut Grove, Mississippi. One Sunday, McIntosh went to visit his son and was turned away because, he was told, prison officials “did not…
57: Everyday Genius
Dec 16, 2016 • 21 min
To close out 2016, we’re bringing you two lighter stories of people exhibiting everyday genius under… unusual circumstances. Comedian Dave Holmes’ story begins with an upsetting phone call from the IRS. Then we meet a Baton Rouge attorney with a story of…
56: Don’t Let Me See You In The Whirl
Dec 2, 2016 • 18 min
Since 1938, a weekly African-American owned newspaper called The Evening Whirl has covered crime in St. Louis with a style all its own, using alliteration and rhyme, and often omitting the usual crime-reporting words like “accused” or “alleged.” The paper…
55: The Shell Game
Nov 18, 2016 • 18 min
The Magic Castle in Hollywood has been a private club for magicians since 1963, and its walls are lined with portraits of magicians past and present. Among them is a portrait of one of the earliest American organized crime bosses and conmen, Jefferson…
54: Melinda and Clarence
Nov 4, 2016 • 34 min
SPOILER WARNING: Please listen to Episode 53: Melinda and Judy before you listen to this one. Melinda Dawson found out on the same day in 1998 that her adoptive mother had been killed and that her husband Clarence was being charged with the murder.…
53: Melinda and Judy
Oct 21, 2016 • 27 min
When Melinda Dawson was seven years old, she learned that she was adopted under mysterious circumstances. As she got older and had children of her own, she tried to learn something about her biological parents. And when she went to the county courthouse…
52: The Checklist
Oct 7, 2016 • 25 min
SPOILER WARNING: Please listen to Episode 51: Money Tree before you listen to this one. While working on our last episode, we became curious about the nature of psychopathy — how it is defined, and what to do if someone close to you meets the criteria. We…
51: Money Tree
Sep 23, 2016 • 28 min
When Axton Betz-Hamilton was 11 years old, her parents’ identities were stolen. At that time, in the early 90s, consumer protection services for identity theft victims were basically non-existent. So the family dealt with the consequences as best they…
50: This is Criminal
Sep 9, 2016 • 39 min
To celebrate Criminal’s 50th episode, we check in with some of our most memorable guests including Fran Schindler from Episode 17: “Final Exit,” Dan Stevenson from Episode 15: “He’s Neutral,” Corporal Scott Foster from Episode 29: “Officer Talon,” and…
49: The Editor
Aug 26, 2016 • 30 min
In November of 1988, Robin Woods was sentenced to sixteen years in the notoriously harsh Maryland Correctional Institution. In prison, Robin found himself using a dictionary to work his way through a book for the first time in his life. It was a Mario…
48: Eight Years
Aug 12, 2016 • 25 min
2008 was an exciting time to be a Harry Potter fan. The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, had been released. Movies were on the way. And author Melissa Anelli was at the center of it all, running a popular fan site called The Leaky Caldron…
47: Brownie Lady
Jul 15, 2016 • 23 min
Shortly after Meridy Volz moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco, she received a phone call from a friend asking her to take over a small bakery business. Meridy agreed to run the bakery, but she only wanted to sell one thing: pot brownies. Her brownies…
46: Tiger
Jul 1, 2016 • 22 min
There are more tigers in captivity in America than wild tigers in the entire world. The exact number of captive tigers in this country isn’t known, because many of them live in people’s backyards or unaccredited zoos, and the legality of their ownership…
45: Just Mercy
Jun 17, 2016 • 27 min
As a law student, Bryan Stevenson was sent to a maximum security prison to meet a man on death row. The man told Stevenson he’d never met an African-American lawyer, and the two of them talked for hours. It was a day that changed Stevenson’s life. He’s…
44: One Eyed Joe
Jun 3, 2016 • 30 min
Not only was John Frankford a famous horse thief, he was also a notoriously good escape artist. People thought no jail was strong enough to keep him, but then in 1895 he was sentenced to Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. At Eastern State,…
43: 39 Shots
May 20, 2016 • 32 min
In 1979, a group of labor organizers protested outside a Ku Klux Klan screening of the 1915 white supremacist film, The Birth of a Nation. Nelson Johnson and Signe Waller-Foxworth remember shouting at armed Klansmen and burning a confederate flag, until…
42: The Finger
May 6, 2016 • 18 min
People have been giving each other “the finger” since Ancient Greece. The first documented use is said to be a photograph from 1886 in which the pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters extends his middle finger to the camera (ostensibly to the rival New York…
41: Open Case
Apr 15, 2016 • 25 min
Since 1965, there’s been an unsolved murder in Houston, Texas. The main suspect managed to disappear and police were never able to find him. The case is still considered open. In 1997, a couple of accountants decided to look into the murders, and were…
40: Pappy
Apr 1, 2016 • 26 min
When it comes to the bourbon Pappy Van Winkle, it doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have — you can’t get it unless you’re exceptionally lucky or willing to break the law. The Pappy frenzy has law enforcement, bartenders, and even the Van…
39: Either/Or
Mar 18, 2016 • 28 min
In 1983, three men were prepared to plead guilty to a violent sexual assault in Anderson, South Carolina. Defense attorneys did not want their clients to go before a jury, and arranged a plea deal. This left the sentencing in the hands of the judge, who…
38: Jolly Jane
Mar 4, 2016 • 27 min
Jane Toppan was born in Massachusetts in 1857. She attended the Cambridge Nursing School, and established a successful private nursing career in Boston. Said to be cheerful, funny and excellent with her patients, nothing about “Jolly Jane” suggested she…
37: Hastings
Feb 19, 2016 • 21 min
In 2010, an eighth-grader brought a loaded gun to a middle school in Hastings, Minnesota. We speak with two students and the principal about the minutes and hours in lockdown. Read Jake Bullington’s essay, “Yeah, I’m Afraid of Guns.” Criminal is a proud…
36: Perfect Specimen
Feb 5, 2016 • 24 min
The 500-year-old Treaty Oak in Austin, Texas was once called “the most perfect specimen of a North American tree.” But in 1989, Austin’s city forester realized that the Treaty Oak didn’t look so good, and began to wonder whether someone had intentionally…
35: Pen & Paper
Jan 22, 2016 • 19 min
As a young woman in the 60s, Andy Austin talked her way into a job as a courtroom sketch artist in Chicago. She spent 43 years sketching everyone from disgraced governors to John Wayne Gacy, and says she only made someone look bad on purpose once. See…
34: The Stay
Jan 8, 2016 • 30 min
Michael Ross was the first person in Connecticut to be sentenced to death since 1960. He claimed that he wanted to die in order to atone for what he had done. One journalist spent twenty years trying to figure out whether or not his remorse was real.Learn…
33: Deep Dive
Dec 18, 2015 • 23 min
Sgt. David Mascarenas is the Dive Supervisor for the Los Angeles Police Department. He’s been diving his whole life, and prides himself on never refusing a dive, no matter how treacherous. At least until the summer of 2013, when a murder investigation led…
32: It Looked Like Fire
Dec 11, 2015 • 19 min
Ed Crawford had never been to a protest until he heard about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Robert Cohen, a staff photographer with the St. Louis Post Dispatch, ended up taking a photograph of Ed that would be seen around the world,…
31: American Dream
Nov 27, 2015 • 23 min
When we’re kids, we have ideas of what we want to be when we grow up — movie star, doctor, astronaut. But what if we dream of being like Butch Cassidy, Jesse James, or John Dillinger? And what happens when you’re not a kid anymore but you’re still…
30: The Agreement
Nov 13, 2015 • 22 min
In 2005, Danny Egipciaco had the opportunity to participate in a robbery of a drug supplier’s stash house. He was told he’d take home between $100K-200K. In the end, the robbery never happened, so why has Danny spent the last ten years at Fort Dix…
29: Officer Talon
Oct 30, 2015 • 24 min
Corporal Scott Foster of the Hillsborough, NC Police Department worked closely with his K-9 partner, Talon, for many years. They located weapons and narcotics, tracked suspects through dark woods, and went home together after work. But when Talon was…
28: P.D.I.D.
Oct 9, 2015 • 22 min
Patti Hammond Shaw is a transgender woman. She’s legally female on her birth certificate and driver’s license, and has been since 1993. But when she was arrested in 2009, male officers strip-searched her in front of male detainees, and held her overnight…
27: No Place Like Home
Sep 25, 2015 • 27 min
In the early 90s, a wealthy magazine publisher was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 18 months in a minimum security prison in Louisiana. But white collar criminals weren’t the only people living there, and the other people inside had basically been…
26: Angie
Sep 11, 2015 • 26 min
In July of 2002, Philadelphia Homicide Detective Pat Mangold was called to the scene of a gruesome murder on the Schuylkill River. When he wasn’t able to determine the victim’s identity, he expected the case to remain unsolved. But then, out of the blue,…
25: The Portrait
Aug 28, 2015 • 27 min
More than eighty years ago, a North Carolina family of nine posed for a Christmas portrait. Two weeks later, all but one of them had been shot dead. (See the portrait here.) Thanks to Elephant Micah and Sarah Bryan for collaborating with us this month.…
24: Pearl Bryan
Aug 7, 2015 • 21 min
In February of 1896, a little boy discovered a woman’s headless body in a farmer’s field in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. No one knew who she was, or what had happened. Newspapers carried headlines like “Hunt for the Head” and “Headless Horror.” Quickly, the…
23: Triassic Park
Jul 17, 2015 • 22 min
The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona has the largest collection of petrified wood in the world. The beautiful wood is more than 200 million years old, and visitors to the park often take a little piece home with them as a souvenir. But stealing…
22: Ex Libris
Jun 26, 2015 • 24 min
Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of rare books have been disappearing across America since the late 90s, and haven’t resurfaced in the marketplace. They’ve just vanished, never to be seen again. But unlike most thieves, this thief is motivated by…
21: Bloodlines
Jun 5, 2015 • 23 min
Julius Robinson had killed for revenge before, and so when his sister was brutally murdered in her sleep last year, he says he planned to “get” the killer. He felt like his family expected him to get revenge, because that’s what he’d always done, both in…
20: Gil From London
May 15, 2015 • 27 min
Karen Miller met a man named Gil Harper on Facebook. They started flirting. The flirtation grew more serious. Eventually, they planned to meet in real life. Gil would travel from London to meet Karen for her birthday. With his arrival just a few days…
19: Mother’s Little Helper
Apr 24, 2015 • 21 min
Sandie Alger is a 71-year-old woman with a very long rap sheet. She was in and out of prison throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and upped her game each time she got out. Prison, she says, is where you move “up the criminal ladder, just like the corporate…
18: 695BGK
Apr 3, 2015 • 24 min
Police officer John Edwards was patrolling a quiet neighborhood in Bellaire, Texas when he saw an SUV driven by two young African-American men. It was just before 2am on December 31, 2008. Edwards followed the SUV and ran the license plate number. When…
17: Final Exit
Mar 13, 2015 • 26 min
No one disputes that it’s against the law to take another person’s life, but is it against the law to sit with someone and watch while they commit suicide? We meet an elderly woman who sneaks around the country as an “exit guide.” To learn more about…
16: Poster Boy
Feb 20, 2015 • 19 min
On July 17th, 1889, the residents of Clayton County, Iowa woke up to news of the worst crime in their history. A Civil War veteran and his young wife had been murdered in their bed in a grisly attack. Their two children escaped to raise the alarm. But…
15: He’s Neutral
Jan 30, 2015 • 18 min
Dan Stevenson has lived in Oakland’s Eastlake neighborhood for 40 years. He says crime has been an issue for as long as he can remember, but he isn’t one to call the police on drug dealers or sex workers. He’s a pretty “live and let live” kind of guy. Or…
14: The Fifth Suspect
Jan 9, 2015 • 22 min
In June 2014, authorities released information about a massive child pornography ring being conducted in North Carolina. Four suspects had already been arrested, and the police were asking the public for help finding a fifth suspect. But they didn’t need…
13: The Big Sleep
Dec 19, 2014 • 18 min
Raymond Chandler is often called the greatest American crime novelist, famous for murder mysteries like “The Big Sleep” and “Farewell, My Lovely.” He’s the subject of several biographies, and his correspondence and manuscripts are archived at Oxford. But…
12: Break The Internet
Nov 26, 2014 • 18 min
In 1999, most of America’s tech hysteria centered around Y2K. But at that same time, a teenager in Canada was messing around in chat rooms, meeting hackers, and learning tricks. At 15, he decided to put his knowledge to the test. To push up against the…
11: I’m About To Save Your Life
Oct 30, 2014 • 21 min
In 1977, a mild-mannered aeronautical engineer sideswiped a parked car in Compton, CA. When he stopped his car to survey the damage, a man opened the driver-side door, shoved him over, and started driving. He said, “I’m about to save your life.”
10: Dear Sheila
Sep 26, 2014 • 18 min
Working as a reporter for a TV station in New Hampshire, Kevin Flynnwas covering the capture and arrest of a female serial killer namedSheila LaBarre. As he grew more and more obsessed with LaBarre’sstory, Flynn decided to write her a letter. She wrote…
9: That Crime Of The Month
Aug 29, 2014 • 13 min
What does it mean when a woman commits a crime and attributes her actions to PMS? We revisit the first use of the “PMS defense,” in this country, back in 1981. What have we learned about the science of PMS since then? Last year, the American Psychiatric…
8: Can’t Rock This Boat
Jul 29, 2014 • 19 min
In March 1964, a 35-year-old African American woman named Johnnie MaeChappell was walking along the side of the road in Jacksonville,Florida. Four white men were driving around listening to the local raceriots on the radio. They had a gun on the…
7: J.R.R. Ziemba
Jun 30, 2014 • 19 min
Crime victims are often put under the same scrutiny as the accused. Not only for their version of events, but sometimes for how they look and talk, too. We meet a man whose trial hurt worse than his assault.
6: We Lost Them
May 23, 2014 • 16 min
On April 13, 2014, former KKK member Frazier Glenn Cross pulled into a Jewish Community Center and ambushed a grandfather and grandson, killing both. He then killed another woman a short distance away. What does the family left behind do when they are…
5: Dropping Like Flies
Apr 24, 2014 • 23 min
Every year for the past few years, tens of thousand of flytraps have gone missing – from the wild, from gardens, from nurseries. And, really, nobody knows where they go. What’s cropped up in rural North Carolina is essentially a Venus Flytrap crime ring —…
4: Call Your Mom
Mar 28, 2014 • 16 min
There are plenty of things we don’t share with our mothers. Dark, sad things. Unless of course, you’re both in the business of death.
3: The Buck Stops Here
Feb 28, 2014 • 19 min
With the advent of the Inkjet printer, counterfeiting money became as simple as a trip to Staples. By the year 2000, there were 72 million of these homemade dollars in circulation. The real question is… who was behind them all?
2: Pants On Fire
Feb 14, 2014 • 15 min
For nearly a century we’ve been trying to read someone’s truthfulness by the way they act. Be it through machine, or our own intuition. The police have tried. The FBI has tried. The CIA has tried. But the fact is… most of their efforts just don’t work.Are…
1: Animal Instincts
Jan 29, 2014 • 21 min
In 2001, a woman was found dead in a pool of her own blood. Her husband was convicted of her murder. But a curious neighbor had a different theory… one that brings new meaning to man vs. beast.