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New Podcast Explores Teen Sandy Beal's Mysterious Death, Which Was Ruled A Suicide

Journalist and podcast host Melissa Jeltsen tells Oxygen.com that she hopes "What Happened To Sandy Beal" opens up a conversation about gender and policing.

By Gina Tron
What Happened to Sandy Beal Iheartradio

A new podcast dives into the mysterious 1977 death of Maryland teenager Sandy Beal, who was found shot to death in her car.

Her death was ruled a suicide but her family suspected a coverup. They want to know if someone killed the popular and ambitious 18-year-old who had big dreams of becoming a police officer.

That is at the heart of a new iHeartRadio original podcast, “What Happened to Sandy Beal?” which premiered Wednesday.

Journalist Melissa Jeltsen, who often covers stories related to intimate partner violence and violence against women, told Oxygen.com on Wednesday that Beal’s mother Joanne Beal reached out to her in a letter asking for help. This set the podcast, of which she is the host and brain behind, in motion.

“Joanne's letter was heartbreaking and infuriating. I was struck by how long the family had been waiting for answers — 45 years now — and how profoundly their lives had been impacted by the lack of clarity around Sandy's death,” she said.

In the podcast, Jeltsen notes that she immediately knew that there was something important about Beal’s death.

“I was also drawn to Sandy's story - that of a young woman, eager to pursue a job in law enforcement, at a time when very few women took that career path,” she told Oxygen.com. “I wanted to better understand what it would have been like for her to break into the male-dominated world of policing, and what obstacles she might have stumbled on along the way.”

For the past year, Jeltsen says she has immersed myself in Beal’s life, “trying to get a sense of the type of person she was.” 

“From what I can gather, she was ambitious and loving and generous, a responsible teen with a soft spot for her youngest brother,” she said. “She was a planner. And she was also pretty tough.”

She told Oxygen.com that there are many “strange details” in the police report regarding the teen’s death.

Why, for instance, was cardboard shoved under all four tires of her car, suggesting she was trying to get her car out of the mud, if she was in fact intending to die by suicide?” she asked. “Why that specific location - a known police hangout? And there are many other factors that the family saw as red flags -- including her close relationships with local police officers.”

She said she hopes that the podcast can serve as a “jumping off point” to start a conversation about both policing and gender. 

“It's an overdue conversation, and I hope that this podcast will inspire women to share their own stories,” Jeltsen said.