The rise in true crime media defines how audiences consume mysteries. Time and technology has blended the perfect formula for spotlighting cases that normally would be unreachable in the mainstream.
Whether new content broadcasts over Netflix or iTunes, armchair detectives always latch on the latest and greatest. Recognizing current events serves critically into corresponding about mysteries.
2016 brought out real variety.
Conveniently my coverage arrives during the holidays –a guide worthy of overseeing.
Here’s my mystery media list.
The Killing Season
A&E recently premiered The Killing Season, an eight episode docu-series about the murders of sex workers in America, including the high profile cases of the Long Island Serial Killer. Rachel Mills and Josh Zeman trudged their way onto cities where crimes against one of society’s most vulnerable targets were brutalized against them. The significant aspect about these deaths are the body count in serial killings. Deserts, drainage ditches, and beaches possessed some of the graveyards of the mentioned victims.
The focal point of Mills and Zeman’s investigation shows that the murders flew under the radar mostly due to the women being disenfranchised. Sex workers benefit in this line of work because they need to support their drug addiction or job opportunities in the real workforce are scarce. Cutting the middleman of working minimum wage appears alluring for getting largely paid while escorting, for instance. A misjudgment on why women put themselves in this precarious field might answer why some police investigations feel indifferent working towards missing or murder cases of prostitutes, escorts, etc.
The biggest question of all: why do perpetrators hunt these women?
The takeaway for audiences is recognizing sex workers operate in capacities while subject to serious victimization. Their victimology profile raises high for the dangerous stakes involved, but families still care about their well being and whereabouts. The women profiled on The Killing Season were mothers, daughters, and sisters who were trying to maneuver through life like the rest of society.
A stunning development occurred yesterday: New York investigators confirmed that the remains of “Peaches” –discovered in Hempstead Lake State Park in 1997– matched to those of Jane Doe #3, found in Gilgo Beach in 2011. The torso of a black female found in Hempstead Park contained a tattoo of peaches on her breast. Back in 2011, the dismembered and skeletal remains of Jane Doe #3 were confirmed to be the mother of Baby Doe, an unidentified child also found in Gilgo Beach.
Peaches is Baby Doe’s mother.
The DNA match originally occurred during May of 2015, but the Nassau County medical examiner hadn’t updated the NamUs case file until this week. Anyhow this updated information ties into right timing, including other television coverage on LISK with ID Channel’s People Magazine Investigates.
Breakthroughs further signify why mystery media is vital.
Obscure Ohio case.
Three decades old.
Perhaps the most professionally produced podcast since Serial, Accused way onto our earbuds this fall. Amber Hunt, veteran reporter from The Cincinatti Enquirer, investigated the 1978 murder of Elizabeth Andes. Beth had recently graduated from Miami University with aspirations to enter the fashion industry. Fellow Miami alumni and boyfriend, Bob Young, lived with Beth. Just a few days after Christmas, Bob discovered Beth brutally stabbed in their home.
Oxford police pressed on Bob. His arrest and murder trial loomed in the coming months.
Going back to Amber Hunt’s examination, Accused centers on the specifics: the investigation, the evidence, the crime. Interviews with Beth’s family and friends are highlighted, along with Bob Young himself. Amber plays hypotheticals on potential suspects. The tense phone call between Amber and Beth’s former boss is one to remember.
Retired police and former prosecutors, who worked the Andes case, make the task a drag for detectives to reopen the investigation. Whose ego is going to hurt? Transparency should take center stage. Technology has evolved to test evidence. A fresh set of investigators equipped to revisit the case file should be available.
Accused topped the iTunes charts in September. True crime has received direct attention for cases otherwise unknown or unapproachable to the public. Additional media outlets accompanied their own podcasts this year: Breakdown (Atlanta-Journal Constitution), Murder On The Space Coast (Florida Today), Finding Tammy Jo (Democrat And Chronicle). The Clarion-Ledger is the exception for their online “Gone“ investigative series, which quite literally delivered justice, in more ways than one.
So for Accused, Beth’s family deserves some real answers.
Solving this 38-year-old case is still possible.
Lori Erica Ruff & Benjaman Kyle
Forensic genealogy is the future.
Typically investigators hit a wall while working some cases. Forensic genealogy has assisted police with solving complex cases by researching ancestry through database records and DNA testing. This expertise uncovered the identities behind Lori Erica Ruff and Benjaman Kyle, individuals who represented as unidentified does in unique ways.
Lori Erica Ruff became unraveled by her failing marriage while co-parenting her toddler. For reasons unknown, Lori killed herself on Christmas Eve of 2010. A bigger bombshell would shock her in-laws, the Ruff’s: Lori committed identity fraud long before tying the knot.
A masquerade in the making.
Thanks to Colleen Fitzpatrick, this gifted genealogist uncovered Lori’s true identity. The Seattle Times revealed Lori’s real name, along with the interesting investigation behind her story. The monumental breakthrough inspired my own op-ed on the mystery.
Benjaman Kyle’s story unfolded through a 911 call.
A Burger King employee in Georgia spotted an unconscious, naked man lying near a dumpster. Police were called and the man was subsequently treated at a hospital. Through his recovery, nurses really took to heart on the man suffering from amnesia. The mild mannered and soft spoken male began going by the name Benjaman Kyle. Since August 2004, Benjaman could not be properly identified through the helping aid of friends, FBI agents, and even Dr. Phil.
Meanwhile, the same forensic genealogist from Lori’s case caught wind of Benjaman’s case. Colleen Fitzpatrick eventually dived into the mystery. Eleven long years down the road eventually led towards Benjaman Kyle finally being notified on his true identity. The New Republic recently published a fascinating long-form article about his journey, including Benjaman’s real name being publicly revealed for the first time. Without giving out any spoilers, I highly recommend you read the article.
Literally grab a snack or two to digest the details.
I stand by my first sentence: forensic genealogy is the future. Lori and Benjaman’s cases were very popular since armchair detectives wondered who these does were for years. The method which cracked their cases is capable of being achieved onto others piling police stations nationwide. Forensic genealogy is suitable to solve even serious crimes committed by high profile killers like The Original Night Stalker and The Zodiac Killer. These serial killers left their DNA behind during the commission of their crimes; samples might be available for testing.
The question into whether all cold cases are solvable remains left to be said. There are not enough Colleen Fitzpatrick’s in the world assisting investigators. Hopefuls aspired by forensic genealogy will want to dabble in this humbling yet intricate field as an alternative into solving mysteries. The unique aspects of researching family trees and combining DNA makeup personally interests me.
The disappearance of a Minnesota boy shocked the nation in 1989.
The night of October 22, Jacob Wetterling accompanied his brother and friend to a nearby video rental store. The walk back home brought the three boys towards a sexual predator. Jacob was abducted while the perpetrator demanded the other two to beat it.
Jacob went missing for 27 years.
Then in 2015, his case rushed back in the airwaves when Danny Heinrich was arrested for possessing child porn. Heinrich very much resembled the sketch of the man suspected to have taken Jacob Wetterling. People felt goosebumps for something seemingly credible and concrete. Heinrich led investigators to Jacob’s burial remains on September 1, 2016.
APM Reports released In The Dark right after the breaking news. The podcast about Wetterling’s disappearance discusses everything you did and didn’t know pertaining the police investigation, media attention, and details into Heinrich’s murder confession.
The resolution caused a splash. For one thing the public acknowledged that cold cases are still capable of being solved. Back in 1989, people were shocked at the news because missing children weren’t regularly reported in the media. The residents of Sterling County –where Jacob lived– were the type to leave doors unlocked, feeling relatively safe and untouchable before one of their own was taken.
Despite gender, race, and socioeconomic background, anyone is susceptible for this.
The years after Jacob Wetterling’s abduction brought the child disappearances of Jaycee Lee Dugard, Gina DeJesus, Jessica Lunsford, and Kyron Harmon onto the spotlight –some led a happy ending, some in tragedy, and some still in the shadows.
Resolution won’t always occur for families. A plight of this matter must require tremendous patience and support. Positive action can be directed by raising awareness on missing people or combating criminals from hurting people. The Wetterling Act serves as a perfect example, along with parents penning books in their kid’s dedication. On the contrast, the heartbreak can weigh too heavy. Families break up, suspicion is cast on relatives, a parent dies without answers.
Parents must teach their children how to protect themselves. Make sure responsible people look after your kids. Get to know your kid’s routine. Instill safety tips to avoid danger. If Jacob Wetterling’s case impacts just one person, then it has already served for the greater good.
Other honorable mentions:
Stranglers – True crime podcast retracing the Boston murders of 13 women during the 1960’s.
True Crime Addict – Investigative journalist, James Renner, tackles the cold case of Maura Murray while coming to grips on his own downward spiral.
Disappeared – After three years off the air, the beloved series returned with new missing person cases.
Adnan’s Story – The insider look behind the case that made Serial famous.
Reply All’s “On The Inside” episodes 64-67 – A prisoner’s blog grabs attention but the crime that imprisoned him receives a secondhand look.