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Have you listened to any good podcasts lately? If not, have we got the year-end list for you.
Yup, 2020 was another year teeming with new podcasts to check out — and with a global pandemic keeping us distanced and at home, we all may need some fresh entertainment and storytelling to get us through the holidays. While so many new podcasts arrived spanning countless genres, it certainly felt like good number of the medium's best new fare this year revolved around true crime.
From a deep dive into the brutal 2017 murders of two Indiana teens to the sordid criminal career of Woody Harrelson's father, there are plenty of twisty mysteries to solve, wild stories to be discovered, and important voices to be heard. Here, Oxygen.com has rounded up 12 of the very best in 2020 true crime podcasting.
1. Martinis and Murder
This podcast has everything a true crime aficionado could want in 2020: murder and alcohol. Hosts Daryn Carp and John Thrasher chat about mysterious murders and other crimes while Matt the Bartender whips up accompanying cocktails that usually have some connection to the case. If you like poring over case details, theorizing about how murders went down, and enjoying a tasty adult beverage, look no further. And an extra of this podcast: there are more than 350 episodes, so you won't run out of listening pleasure any time soon.
2. Paper Ghosts
iHeartRadio podcast “Paper Ghosts” investigates the case of three girls and one young woman who mysteriously vanished decades ago in rural Connecticut. Janice Pockett, 7, Debra Spickler, 13, and Lisa Joy White, 13, were abducted in the late '60s and early '70s. They've never been found. Susan LaRosa was 20 when she vanished from the same area in 1975. The podcast’s host, M. William Phelps, has a personal connection to the area, which he discusses as he dives deep into the cases. He interviews key figures, including people who knew Susan LaRosa’s husband, to try to determine if the cases are connected and, if so, where the evidence points to.
Listen to "Paper Ghosts" here.
3. Case Closed
"Case Closed," Macmillan Publishers’ true crime podcast, has dedicated its newest season to the shocking case of an Amish murder. Ohio man Eli Weaver, who is Amish, enlisted one of his many mistresses to kill his wife Barbara Weaver in 2009. He had convinced his married lover, Barbara Raber, to kill his wife by shooting her as she slept in her bed—with her five children sleeping not far away. The shocking murder marked the third time that an Amish man was ever suspected of killing his spouse in America. It was also the first major crime in the Amish community of Apple Creek, Ohio. The podcast explores not only the details of this unprecedented murder, but also Eli’s online dating obsession — he referred to himself as “Amish Stud” — as well as his complicated relationship with his Amish culture.
4. The Lost Kids
In UCP Audio's podcast series “The Lost Kids,” host Josh Bloch investigates the mysterious 2004 disappearance of Daniel Yuen. He was sent from his home in New Jersey to CEDU, a behavioral modification school for “troubled teens” located in San Bernardino, California. Yuen had run away from the school only 10 days after his enrollment. Bloch discovers that runaways were common at the school, as well as other tough-love programs. He shines a light on the “troubled teen” business model in general and explains the program's ties to one of America's most dangerous cults.
5. Son of a Hitman
This Spotify podcast explores the sordid criminal career of Woody Harrelson's father, a convicted murderer who worked as a hitman-for-hire. Journalist and documentary producer Jason Cavanagh hosts the series, which dives deep into Charles Harrelson’s life and many supposed crimes. While Woody Harrelson, the “Natural Born Killers” and “No Country For Old Men” star, isn't involved in the podcast, his brothers Brett and Jordan do participate as they discuss the three Texas murder trials Charles was involved in. He was acquitted of the 1968 murder of a man named Alan Berg before being convicted of the 1968 murder-for-hire of Sam Degelia Jr., though he only served five years for it. Then, he was convicted of the 1979 assassination of federal judge John H. Wood Jr., which was dubbed the “Crime of the Century” at the time.
6. Last Podcast on the Left
The popular “Last Podcast on the Left’ sticks out for knocking serial killers down a few (and at times, many) pegs. The show simultaneously makes listeners laugh while also educating them about true crime cases. While serial killer-centric shows typically focuses on the murders committed, “Last Podcast on the Left” takes a different approach. The podcasters — Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel and Henry Zebrowski — do indeed address the slayings, but they dive into those details while also comedically illuminating how socially inept the killers usually turn out to be. In doing so, they aim to take away some of the power that serial killers wield over society and popular culture. For example, their two-part episode on Israel Keyes focuses on his grating laugh and love of nu-metal. While Keyes has been depicted in other media as a frightening apex predator, the trio characterize him as a pathetic dweeb desperate to be considered evil.
7. LISK: Long Island Serial Killer
In May 2010, the disappearance of sex worker Shannan Gilbert led investigators in Suffolk County, New York to the grisly discovery of nine other sets of human remains. In “LISK: Long Island Serial Killer,” listeners hear from family members, friends, police and government officials, and others whose lives were affected by those apparent serial killings. The deeply researched and sympathetic podcast, hosted by Chris Mass and inspired by the New York Times best-selling book "Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery," focuses on the victim's stories and examines why it took so long for the murders of those often ignored or discarded by society to be taken seriously.
8. Down the Hill
This wildly popular podcast from HLN looks at the brutal February 2017 murders of teenagers Abby Williams and Libby German in Delphi, Indiana. Over nine chapters, HLN’s Barbara MacDonald and Drew Iden look at the unsolved case, which made national headlines when it was revealed that young Libby managed to capture an image of the suspect and an audio recording of his voice on her phone—saying the cryptic phrase, “Down the hill.” The podcast includes interviews with the families and friends of the girls, some of whom have never spoken to the media.
This seven-part podcast features a mother's deeply personal investigation into the 2016 shooting death of her 22-year-old son, Courtney Copeland, 22, in Chicago. The night he died, Copeland had been joking with friends on social media before, just one minute later, he placed an emergency call to 911 to report that he had been shot. He ended up collapsing outside a police precinct and was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Frustrated by what she saw as an insufficient police response, Copeland's mother, Shapearl Wells, embarks on her own quest for answers in a podcast that not only seeks the truth of her son's death, but explores the specter of racial injustice in police investigations.
10. Uncover: The Satanic Panic
Allegations of ritual abuse at the McMartin Preschool in Southern California in the 1980s led to widespread panic about the treatment of children by teachers across North America. False allegations about Satanic cults preying on children spread rapidly, with absolutely no evidence. In the latest season of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Uncover” podcast series, host Lisa Bryn Rundle looks at the history of this moral hysteria and zeroes in on what happened when it reached the prairie town of Martensville, Saskatchewan—and how the people affected by the phenomenon are still asking questions 30 years later.
11. Forgotten Women of Juarez
In the border town of Ciudad Juárez, the most populous city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, hundreds of women have gone missing over the past several years; some have been found with bizarre symbols carved into bodies, while others have their wrists bound. But who is responsible? A border-crossing serial killer, organ traffickers, or a dangerous cult? In the iHeartRadio podcast, journalists Mónica Ortiz Uribe and Oz Woloshyn take a deep dive into the femicides that have been going on since the 1990s while paying tribute to some of the victims.
12. Someone Knows Something
The latest season of the CBC’s popular podcast looks at the case of Donald Izzett Jr., and the crusade of his mother, Debra Skelley, who has been searching for him for 25 years. Izzett was 19 years old when he went missing during a road trip in 1995. His friend said that during a trip he’d been dropped off in New Orleans; Skelley says she believes he was murdered. The six-episode podcast, hosted by filmmaker and writer David Ridge, looks at the twists and turns in the unfolding investigation, and truly shows the determination Skelley has to uncover what happened to her son— ultimately showing listeners that she’s nothing less than a force of nature.
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