8 Podcasts You Need to Listen to This (Early!) Spring ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story

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Is it 2022 already? While I’m still holed up at home (as a native-Floridian-turned-New-Yorker, I don’t emerge from my cozy cocoon until the mercury hits at least forty degrees—celsius, preferably), podcasts are giving me a much-needed dose of true-crime heat.

Even if you’re located in more forgiving climes, there’s nothing like curling up with a brand-new (or fresh season of a returning) podcast. Check out these nine ear warmers.

Chameleon: Wild Boys (Campside Media) – Premiered January 22

 In case you’re thinking this is one of those “what-are-they-up-to-these-days?” pods featuring the “boyz” of a certain mid-aughts MTV spin-off (Steve-O, if you’re reading this, I’m still not over the time you pierced your butt), it’s not. While the events documented in this show took place the same year Wildboyz debuted, this pod follows a decidedly different—but no less wild!—pair of male specimens.

It’s summer 2003. “Crazy in Love” is dominating the airwaves, trucker hats are all the rage, and two emaciated young men emerge from the Canadian wilderness bearing an incredible story. Tom and Will Green, ages 22 and 16 respectively, wow the residents of tiny Vernon, British Columbia with their saga of backwoods survival. In a story reminiscent of Captain Fantastic, the boys claim to have been raised entirely in the bush, their descent into Vernon marking their first-ever contact with the rest of society. The residents of Vernon “adopt” the “Bush Boys,” supplying them with food and a hotel room and gobbling up their crazy-but-true tales: the boys have never gone to school, watched TV, or possessed any form of government ID. What seems like a Robinson Crusoe-esque meet-cute soon is soon revealed to be a calculated con: the boys aren’t who they say they are. More than two decades after the fact, award-winning comedian and journalist Sam Mullins (a born-and-bred Verononite!) revisits the survivalist scam that unraveled in his hometown.

8 Podcasts You Need to Listen to This (Early!) Spring ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story 

Tenfold More Wicked: Tiger Woman (Exactly Right Media) – Premiered January 17

To avoid another case of mistaken identity, let’s just make one thing clear: we’re not talking about you, Carole Baskin. (Though did you catch that new-ish 48 Hours special The Missing Millionaire: A “Tiger King” Mystery? Mighty compelling stuff, especially all that business about the “meat grinder theory.”)

No, instead of 1990s Tampa Bay (where a young yours truly engaged in such pursuits as “gator” riding and wearing live reptiles as jewelry—I promise no lizards were harmed in the making of this Floridian childhood), we’re in a different type of la-la land entirely: Los Angeles circa 1922.

Turn the clock back a century and meet Clara Phillips, twenty-three year-old chorus girl and film extra turned murderess. Her weapon of choice? A fifteen-cent hammer.

Did you know “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is a misquote? The real line, drawn from William Congreve’s 1697 tragedy The Mourning Bride, is “Heav’n has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d /Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.” (Leave it to us at Storyva to help you become that person, the one who needlessly/annoyingly corrects your friends, especially when they misquote a 300-something year-old play.)

Garbled or not, the line’s sentiment—that of the wronged woman’s wrath—fits Phillips’s story to an absolute tee.

After learning (via the local rumor mill, of course) of her husband’s affair with nineteen year-old bank teller Alberta Meadows, Phillips began to stalk the pair. One day, after whiling away the afternoon at a Long Beach speakeasy, Phillips convinced Meadows to give her a ride. What happened next (hint: it involves a desolate stretch of road, a fifty-pound rock, and the aforementioned hammer) would haunt Angelenos for generations to come and earn Phillips the nickname “The Tiger Woman.” Now in its fourth season, Tenfold More Wicked’s latest offering tackles a shocking only-in-L.A. story employing its signature mix of deep investigative reporting and compelling narrative nonfiction storytelling.

8 Podcasts You Need to Listen to This (Early!) Spring ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story

Death in the West Season 2: Skyjack! – Premiered January 4th

Ah, yes…the Golden Age of Air Travel. When flying meant gourmet in-flight fare, well-dressed passengers (and equally fashionable flight attendants), sleek cabins, and, yes, on-board smoking. While late-70s airline deregulation may have ushered in the era of the no-frills “airbus,” one need look no further than indie darling Death in the West for a trip down memory runway.

Wealthy jetsetters weren’t the only ones taking advantage of air travel’s glamorous epoch: a new class of wild-west rebels took to the skies, the most famous of whom was the never-identified “D.B. Cooper,” whose 1971 hijacking of a Portland-to-Seattle flight and subsequent disappearance continues to flummox amateur and professional detectives alike.

If you’re reading this article, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re probably familiar with D.B. Cooper, but have you heard of Richard Floyd McCoy? In 1972—a mere two months after the D.B. Cooper incident—the Mormon Sunday-school teacher and Vietnam vet conducted his own “skyjacking” of a Denver-to-Los Angeles flight.

Death in the West, whose first season earned rave reviews from The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Uproxx, jets into a bygone era with its newest season, exploring the intersection of high-flying glamor and high-stakes true crime.

8 Podcasts You Need to Listen to This (Early!) Spring ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story

Witnessed: Friendly Fire (Campside Media/Sony) – Premieres in March

Based on the name of this podcast, you might think it takes place in Nevada (that’s Carson City, a Lake Tahoe-adjacent municipality known just as much for being the state capital as it is for its proximity to breathtaking ski resorts.)

Instead, our locale is Scott County, Tennessee, a rural community of about 22,000 souls in the eastern part of the state. Scott County, which lies in the Appalachian Mountains’ western foothills, just over the Kentucky border and about 50 miles northwest of Knoxville, is the fifth-poorest county in the state. In recent years, heroin and other opioids have come to dominate the local drug trade, but two decades ago, meth was de rigueur

For years, law enforcement in Scott County was synonymous with the Carson family: patriarch Jim served as county sheriff from 1994 to 2006, and his older brother Marion held the same role for ten years in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

In 2003, Jim’s son Marty was nine years into his tenure as a deputy with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, the last three of which he’d spent as a drug officer. Meth-lab busts were an everyday operation in Scott County, but the raid Marty and his partner Hubert “John John” Yancey undertook one November night turned out to be anything but typical.

One of the two officers would wind up dead, the fatal bullet coming from his partner’s gun.

Was this a tragic accident or cold, calculated murder?

If small-town scandal, family secrets, and police-department politics are your thing (think Mare of Easttown but in Tennessee), this is the podcast for you.

8 Podcasts You Need to Listen to This (Early!) Spring ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story

Murderville-TX (The Intercept) – Premiered February 1

Murderville, whose first season unpacked the wrongful conviction case of Devonia Inman (Inman was sentenced to life in prison for the 1998 shooting of Adel, Georgia Taco Bell manager Donna Brown), moves 781 miles west to Houston, Texas. In Murderville-TX, The Intercept investigative reporters Jordan Smith and Liliana Segura tackle a new case: that of Charles Raby, sentenced to death for the brutal 1992 stabbing death of 72 year-old grandmother Edna Franklin. Raby, 22 at the time, confessed to Franklin’s murder, but no physical evidence has ever tied him to the crime. So why was he sent to death row?

Raby’s trial occurred during a key moment in Houston history, when the city’s population grew (between 1980 and 2000, Houston’s population increased by more than twenty percent) alongside crime rates. In 1981, Houston was dubbed the “murder capital of the United States,” with a record 701 homicides (back then, its major crime rate was roughly the same as that of New York, a city nearly five times its size). By 1992, the year of Franklin’s murder, Houston’s annual homicide count had dropped to 465, but Harris County retained its aggressive approach to law enfocement: in fact, Harris County has carried out more executions than any other county in the U.S.

Raby’s case bore many of the hallmarks of ‘90s capital punishment cases: shoddy police work, faulty forensics, and prosecutors dead-set on on imposing the death penalty—at any cost. Today, Raby proclaims his innocence, so why is he still in prison? In examining a single case, Murderville-TX digs deep into the state of capital punishment in our country. 

8 Podcasts You Need to Listen to This (Early!) Spring ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story

American ISIS (Topic Studios/The Intercept/Western Sound) – Premiered July 15, 2021

You know I don’t feature behind-the-paywall content unless it is really, really good, but American ISIS, which premiered last summer (but is a new-to-me find!), is worth parting with a few clams for.

If you listened to The New York Times’s 2018 podcast Caliphate (whose Canadian subject Shehroze Chaudhry was revealed to be a fraud, his tales of working as an ISIS executioner no more than high-flown fiction), you might be dubious of yet another North-American-turned-ISIS-fighter podcast, but stick with me. Award-winning journalist Trevor Aarson checked and re-checked (and re-re-checked) his info against multiple independent sources to verify that Russell Dennison, a former Catholic from the Pennsylvania suburbs, was, in fact, a Syria-based ISIS fighter.

Dennison (who, with his long red locks, resembles nothing so much as a Weasley family member) converted to Islam just before serving time in prison for selling marijuana. Upon his release, Dennison decamped to Florida, where his interest in radical Islam grew, eventually leading him to enter Syria in 2012 and join ISIS.

Aaronson, who began communicating with Dennison in August 2018, built the podcast from six months—over 30 hours— worth of secret audio recordings created by Dennison. American ISIS, which features these personal audio recordings alongside Aaronson’s interviews with people who knew Dennison, offers a rare, firsthand look at the inner workings of terrorist group and a young man’s descent into extremism.

8 Podcasts You Need to Listen to This (Early!) Spring ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story

Sweet Bobby (Tortoise Media) – Premiered October 28, 2021

Every so often, a true-crime podcast comes along that absolutely boggles my mind, causing me to rethink everything I think I know about, well, everything. For me, Sweet Bobby, Tortoise Media’s twisted tale of a years-long catfishing scam, was that podcast.

This is not—and I repeat not—your typical catfishing expedition. It’s waaay crazier than any episode of Catfish: The TV Show I’ve ever seen (or, for that matter, the original source material). I hate to be that person who writes a podcast review with nary a clue of what the podcast is actually about, but trust me on this one: the less I say about Sweet Bobby, the better—and, I believe, more satisfying—your listening experience will be.

Let’s clear up one thing: there are no dead bodies in this one (not unless you include the metaphorical skeletons-in-the-closet—there are plenty of those.)

Meet Kirat, a spunky Londoner with a glass-half-full attitude and rewarding career as a radio presenter. In 2010, Kirat meets Bobby, a handsome cardiologist, via Facebook. The two strike up a friendship, which deepens into a romantic relationship and eventually morphs into manipulative obsession. Despite never meeting in person, Bobby gains control over nearly every aspect of Kirat’s life. After close to a decade of entanglement, Kirat learns the truth about Bobby—and the massive scope of the elaborate catfishing operation she’s fallen into. If you’re looking for an excellent podcast that will make you never want to trust anybody on the Internet again, look no further than Sweet Bobby.

8 Podcasts You Need to Listen to This (Early!) Spring ‹ Storyva – True Crime Story

Torched – Premiered January 18th

One of my pandemic pastimes has been learning to snowboard. Or, rather, re-learning how to snowboard. See, I originally learned to ‘board at the tender age of fourteen. My motivation for pursuing the sport responsible, at least in part, for an estimated 600,000 injuries per year (that number includes skiing accidents as well) was not to tempt the laws of physics or become the next Torah Bright, but, rather, to impress a boy. Girls who snowboarded were cool. Guys (or, at least, this guy, a fellow snowboarder) liked cool girls. Ergo, if I learned to snowboard, I, too, would be cool.

After three broken arms and ten-plus year hiatus, I picked up the sport again during the pandemic. While I’m nowhere near Olympic level (snowboarding has been an Olympic sport since 1998), I’m decent, passable enough to make it down a blue-square (aka intermediate) slope with only a couple of falls.

My own snowboarding renaissance coincides with the Winter 2022 Olympics (kicking off in Beijing on February 4) and the release of a new podcast examining the seamier side of elite-level sports. Molly Bloom (not that Molly Bloom—that Molly Bloom, of Molly’s Game fame) spent over a decade training to be an Olympic skier. A career-ending injury led her to pivot to another (but equally death-defying) pursuit: high-stakes poker. If you’ve seen Molly’s Game, you know how that turned out (if you haven’t, get thee to a streaming service stat!) In Torched, the worlds of sport and crime collide as Bloom uncovers just how far some will go to bring home Olympic gold.

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