By: Annie Mullican
On my long, nearly eleven-hour drive home for Thanksgiving (and what felt like the even-longer drive back after break) I did the usual: I queued up some interesting True Crime Podcasts – usually I listen to 1hr – 1.5 hour stories that begin and end in that episode. But on the way home, I ran out of my usual Podcast – Casefile True Crime (out of Australia). So with eight hours to spare, I took a shot in the dark and picked one called Up & Vanished by Tenderfoot TV out of Atlanta. This podcast was a full season – with twelve episodes and the story was one that I had never heard of. Within the first thirty minutes I was hooked. By the time I got to episode five I realized that the action in the podcast was happening almost simultaneously to it being reported. This was unlike the usual podcasts I listened to – and as I kept up with the season I realized – Up & Vanished was drawing out potential suspects – some who reached out to the producer on their own or willingly responded to interviews – against their counsel’s advisement! It was drawing out witnesses who never spoke to police. It was generating the interest in this two-year long case.
Leading up to episode eleven, the podcast was getting call-ins from potential suspects, cleared suspects, people from the town who had not come forward to the police. In episode ten, the podcast producers and staff along with law enforcement, another reporter from a nearby town, family and friends of the victim went on a search. By the time I got home, I was googling the case, I was on Reddit, looking up people’s names on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Wow, I thought, this Podcast isn’t just telling a story… it’s about to solve this case. With a little more research I discovered that Up and Vanished’s 2017 season resulted in two arrests in the murder of the missing woman the Podcast was following. This case had been cold for twelve years. It was amazing to me that a Podcast solved a twelve-year-old cold case, and some further research revealed to me that podcasts all over are helping solve cases by generating reward money, interest in the case, recovering memories, and providing law enforcement with tools to chase down tips.
The most notable example was the Up and Vanished podcast that led to two arrests in 2017. A 2018 article talked about a police force that created a True Crime Podcast in the hopes of catching an elusive fugitive. The producer of the podcast, and the Police Department’s Press Information Officer stated that they decided to do the podcast in the hopes that it would tell the story in a different way, and because they feel that the format of a podcast fits the True Crime narrative, it’s “episodic nature” as she calls it.
Further, an Australian article noted that Crime Stoppers tips have doubled between 2012 and 2017 and that they feel those tips are largely due to podcasts featuring cold cases. Queensland Crime Stoppers General Manager Jim Crowley stated that True Crime podcasts help us let out our “inner detective.” He stated that Crime Stoppers welcomes these tips from listeners because any small tip could solve a crime. He also stated that people have become so involved as to research crimes themselves, and of course, he discourages this.
Podcasts are immensely popular, and I love to listen to True Crime – cold cases, lengthy appeals, wrongful convictions, and the like. I, myself, feel like I learn what it considered strange behavior and suspicious activity. It helps me in my personal life feel more prepared and also discern when to report such activities, if I were ever in a position to do so. I can only imagine how intriguing a podcast would be if it followed a mystery in my own town, and how helpful that podcast would be in alerting activity, and refreshing memories that may be that small tip that solves a case. Most importantly, in my opinion, these podcasts remind the public that coming forward with valuable information is important. Maybe these vulnerable, yet valuable people feel more comfortable talking to a podcast producer than police. Regardless, these podcasts are contributing to solving cases, and even if they aren’t always solving them, they are generating awareness about missing persons, and potential murder victims, and that is what counts.
Melissa Locker, How Up and Vanished Podcast Helped Solve Cold Murder Case, ROLLINGSTONE (Mar. 17, 2017), https://season2.upandvanished.com/story/https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/how-up-and-vanished-podcast-helped-solve-cold-murder-case-123748.
 Amy McCosker, “True Crime Podcast are Reporting Information to Police to Help Solve Crimes” (Oct. 7, 2018), https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-08/true-crime-podcasts-help-solve-real-crimes/10346474.
 Locker, supra note 1.
 Brittany Martin, Local Police Department Hopes a Podcast Will Help Catch a Fugitive, (Sept. 21, 2018).
 McCosker, supra note 3.
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