It’s officially springtime, and you know what that means: a fresh batch of new and returning podcasts. What’s in store for this season? Crime abroad, occult mysteries, deeper dives into well-known cases, and a closer look at the not-so-innocent lifestyles of the rich and the famous.
Motive, Season 2 (WBEZ Chicago)
Premiered February 7, 2020
In 2015, American college student Lauren Bajorek departed for what was supposed to be a fun and life-changing semester abroad in Seville, Spain. Famous for flamenco dancing and ornate Moorish-style architecture, Seville was Bajorek’s home for eight weeks.
On Bajorek’s 21st birthday, just days before she was due to return to the US, the Penn State senior plunged to her death from the balcony of her Spanish tour guide’s apartment. Was Bajorek’s death a tragic, alcohol-fueled accident? Or something much more sinister? Although Spanish police officially ruled Bajorek’s death an accident, certain facts about the case (among them that Bajorek’s body was discovered unclothed) were highly suspicious at the very least.
Questions about Bajorek’s case resurfaced three years after her death, when a group of her friends saw Gabrielle Vega’s appearance on The Megyn Kelly Today show. Vega, a Florida State University alum, alleged that a Seville-based tour guide drugged and raped her during her own study-abroad semester in 2013.
Bajorek’s friends were stunned to learn that Vega’s attacker and the man from whose balcony Bajorek fell were one in the same.
In the wake of Vega’s TV appearance, more than 30 women (including Bajorek’s friends) reached out to Vega and her lawyer share their own experiences of sexual harassment, assault, and rape at the hands of one man: the tour guide. The result of a yearlong investigation by WBEZ’s Candace Mittel-Kahn and Alexandra Salomon, Motive: Season 2 examines Bajorek’s story as well as those of the many women who shared their stories with the podcast’s producing team.
A potent and revealing eight-part investigative series, Motive’s second season provides a timely, urgent look at a serious, ongoing issue.
Obsessed With: Abducted in Plain Sight (Audioboom)
Premiered March 2, 2020
In 2019, Netflix true-crime documentary Abducted in Plain Sight took the Internet by storm. The film, which covered the Jan Broberg kidnapping case, stunned audiences with the twisted intricacies of its truth-is-stranger plot. Alien rescue missions, affairs both of Broberg’s parents had with her kidnapper, the fact that Broberg was kidnapped not once but twice by “family friend” Bob Berchtold—all of these insane details are just the tip of the iceberg in this bizarre, nearly unbelievable case. (If you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t worry: I haven’t spoiled anything!)
Even if you’ve already watched Abducted in Plain Sight, this podcast should still make your do-not-miss list. Why? In this four-part series (the first standalone from the Obsessed With Network), Obsessed With True Crime co-host Patrick Hinds sits down with Abducted in Plain Sight director Skye Borgman take a deep dive into the film that launched thousands of Reddit posts. This podcast is not just a rehashing of the documentary. Instead, Hinds and Borgman serve up exclusive content that did not make it into the film’s final cut (including a potentially pivotal side plot and never-before-aired interviews), answer burning questions, and explore behind-the-scenes stories.
Hollywood and Crime: The Dating Game Killer (Wondery)
Premiered March 5, 2020
On September 18, 1978, Rodney Alcala appeared on The Dating Game, a then-popular show in which three male contestants compete to win a date with one woman. At the time of his Dating Game appearance, Alcala was a diagnosed sociopath in the midst of an eleven-year killing spree. When he starred as Bachelor #1 on The Dating Game, Alcala was already a bicoastal killer, and his murderous exploits weren’t over yet. How did this bloody-thirsty serial killer elude authorities for over a decade? How did Alcala—who slipped under the radar by pursuing stints as a camp counselor and newspaper typesetters—deceive the employers, prison psychiatrists, and parole boards that interacted with him over the years? And how did Alcala’s turn as Bachelor #1 result in his capture? In this podcast from the producing team behind Wondery’s Hollywood & Crime, hosts Tracy Patten and Steven Lang blend absorbing celebrity intrigue and painstaking investigative technique to examine the man who eventually became known as “The Dating Game Killer.”
Even the Rich (Wondery)
Premieres March 17, 2020
Kennedy. Kardashian. Murdoch. Trump. You know the names, but do you know the real stories lurking behind these esteemed lineages? This podcast (from the producers of Dr. Death and The Shrink) serves up the whispered-about scandals, intrigues, and family secrets that these renowned dynasties lacquered exteriors. Does more money mean more problems? Or does being filthy rich give these families a free pass to get away with anything? Each week, hosts Aricia Skidmore-Williams and Brooke Siffrinn (who met parking cars for Hollywood’s elite!) put the biggest names in entertainment, politics, media, and more under a gold-plated microscope.
Wrongful Conviction: False Confessions, Season 1 (Lava for Good/PRX)
Premiered February 19, 2020
Why would someone confess to a crime he or she did not commit? That’s the question law professors and directors of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin want to answer in this new standalone podcast from Wrongful Conviction.
If Nirider and Drizin’s voices sound familiar to you, that’s because they probably are: the pair currently represents Brendan Dassey of Making a Murderer, and they were featured on the Netflix docuseries. Nirider and Drizin are experts in the field of false confessions: their Center has helped to exonerate more than 20 individuals whose convictions resulted from false confessions, and Nirider has represented Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three. In this podcast, Nirider and Drizin take listeners inside the interrogation room to explain why, from a physical and psychological perspective, false confessions happen in the first place. They then examine specific cases of theirs that involved false confessions, including the Dixmoor 5 (a case involving five Chicago teens that has been compared to the Central Park Five) and twelve year-old Arkansas boy who spontaneously confessed to killing his sister.
Premiered February 24, 2020
What happens when a police officer turns sexual predator? And how can the women whose trust he violated—along with a group of determined Italian journalists—fight back against the complex bureaucracy of an unbelieving legal system? The survivors in this story didn’t know each other, but they had something in common: they all stayed with the same Couchsurfing.com host. Online, “Leonardo” seemed very legitimate: he was a policeman (his Couchsurfing profile even featured photos of him in uniform), and former guests had left glowing reviews of his hospitality. In person, however, Leonardo (whose real name is Dino Maglio) was less than trustworthy: multiple women reported being drugged and raped during their stays with him. In this ten-part investigative series, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Natasha Del Toro (of Fusion’s Naked Truth and PBS’s America Reframed) documents the stories of women who spoke up and examines the fractured legal system that allowed Maglio to continue assaulting women for over a year after being reported to authorities.
The Officer’s Wife (VAULT Studios/11 Alive)
Premiered January 13, 2020
For another case of cops-gone-bad, look no further than VAULT Studios’ newest offering The Officer’s Wife. In April 2016, Jessica Lester, the 19 year-old wife of a Griffin, Georgia police officer, was discovered in a locked closet with a gunshot wound to the head. Miraculously, Jessica survived, though the apparently “self-inflicted” nature of her injury was deemed suspicious from the very start. For one, the gun used was Jessica’s husband’s service weapon. Also, evidence did not support the police’s conclusion that Jessica had attempted suicide. In fact, as Jessica’s neurosurgeon told The New Yorker, “It seemed most likely that someone else shot her.”
That someone else? Jessica’s now-ex-husband Matthew Boynton seemed a likely suspect. The couple had a tumultuous relationship—one characterized by Boynton’s controlling, abusive behavior—and Jessica was in the midst of exiting the marriage when she was shot. Although a number of factors pointed to Boynton’s potential guilt, his deep ties to Spalding County Police shielded him from prosecution: not only was Boynton a member of the force, his grandfather was the county sheriff.
In this six-part series, investigative journalist Brendan Keefe examines a true-crime story that raises urgent questions about the intersection between domestic violence and policing.
Infamous America Season 4: DILLINGER (Black Barrel Media)
Premiered January 15, 2020
In its newest season, Infamous America, the true-crime podcast that has tackled some of the darkest topics in American history, takes on legendary Depression-era gangster John Dillinger. From 1933-1934, Dillinger and his “Terror Gang” robbed 24 banks in the Midwest. Declared “Public Enemy No. 1” in 1934, Dillinger’s own criminal résumé included two prison escapes and the murder of an Indiana police officer. Applying the same in-depth historical research methods, engrossing narrative technique, and cinematic music that characterized previous seasons covering the Salem Witch Trials, the 1919 Chicago Black Sox, and Billy the Kid, season 4 of Infamous America peels back the layers on one of America’s most notorious criminals.
Down the Hill: The Delphi Murders (HLN/WarnerMedia)
Premiered February 5, 2020
As of press time, HLN’s newest offering holds the #5 on Apple Podcasts’ True Crime chart. For a standalone podcast that premiered just a little over a month ago, that’s pretty impressive—and understandable, given Down the Hill’s subject matter, deep research and reporting, and firsthand access to never-before-seen content. Down the Hill covers the 2017 double murder of Abigail Williams and Liberty German, two Indiana teenagers whose case remains unsolved despite video and audio evidence of the girls’ suspected killer. Down the Hill (whose title comes from the words spoken by the suspected killer that were captured on Liberty’s cell phone) is worth your listen even if you’re already familiar with the case. The podcast features exclusive interviews with the victims’ family members and friends, many of whom have never spoken to the media until now. What’s more, hosts Drew Iden and Barbara McDonald had the opportunity to walk through the crime scene with the girls’ loved ones and law enforcement. Overall, what sets Down the Hill apart from other media coverage of the Delphi case is that it aims to give a voice to those most affected by this horrible crime.
Cool Mules (CANADALAND Media)
Premiered March 2, 2020
What if a crime is committed in the name of journalism? Does having a certain level of “coolness”—more specifically, the social currency held by employees of a certain youth-focus media company—allow one to break the law?
From 2014 to 2016, Yaroslav Pastukhov (who went by “Slava P.”) lived a millennial hipster’s fantasy. The Toronto-based journalist was a music editor for VICE Media’s Noisey, and his social clout afforded him the opportunity to hob-nob with artists, celebrities, and models. Slava wasn’t entirely satisfied with music journalism, however. He wanted to “pivot” into something bigger—something befitting a media company known for its boundary-breaking, “immersionist” approach to journalism. His new subject? International drug smuggling.
Substances were par for the course in Slava’s line of work, and, through various contacts he’d made during his time at Vice, he joined forces with a pair of drug traffickers who promised a lucrative opportunity. Slava assembled a team of “drug mules” (among them models, musicians, media personalities, and a former Vice intern) and set up an operation smuggling cocaine-lined luggage into Australia. What happens next is probably not the splashy, glamorous drug-smuggling story Slava hoped for—but that doesn’t make this tale of gonzo-journalism-gone-wrong any less interesting.
Were Slava’s actions simply the misguided result of working at a company that celebrates edginess and “pays” its employees “in coolness”? Or was Slava a manipulative mastermind?
In this six-part podcast, host Kasia Mychajlowycz painstaking unpacks a crime that seems custom-built for the millennial generation.
Uncover Season 6: Satanic Panic (CBC)
Premiered February 4, 2020
Is the subject matter of Uncover’s sixth season a clever reference to “666,” the so-called “Number of the Beast”? Or just mere coincidence? Either way, the newest installment of CBC’s long-running podcast is a close look at a fear-driven cultural phenomenon that gripped North America during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Although there were various “Satanic Panic” around the United States and Canada, Uncover zooms into one particularly fascinating—and frightening case: the Martensville Nightmare. In 1992, a Martensville, Sasktachewan mother accused a daycare owner of sexually abusing her son. From this single accusation bloomed more than dozen others, and soon this prairie town was engulfed by a massive wave of paranoia. Season 6 of Uncover investigates how the Satanic Panic unfolded in one particular community—and how it continues to impact lives nearly 30 years later.
Supernatural with Ashley Flowers (Parcast Network)
Premiered March 11, 2020
Whether or not you’re familiar with Ashley Flowers of Crime Junkie fame (with over 30 million downloads, the audiochuck production is one of the biggest hits in true-crime podcasting history), you won’t want to miss Flowers’ newest collaboration with Parcast.
True crime is all about parsing the facts—what’s true, what’s not, and how to spot the difference between the two. But what about occurrences—crimes or otherwise—whose origins defy conventional explanation? From alien abductions and mysterious disappearances to unexplained crimes and baffling circumstances, Supernatural promises Flowers’ characteristic deep reporting with an X-Files-style twist.