Skip to content

Episode 127: Manuel Vela Prison Interview

    In December 2017, Manuel Vela, 28, was arrested in east Bakersfield, California after “socking and choking” his pregnant girlfriend to death, carving her unborn child out of her body, and “cutting it up” by the side of a road next to a homeless shelter. Vela had faced three previous domestic violence charges, including a previous conviction against his victim, Kristina Rivera, 30. This interview was conducted shortly after Vela’s arrest by two reporters from KBAK-TV in Bakersfield.

Vela had not been evaluated by a psychiatrist when this interview took place, but he is clearly incompetent to stand trial. At first he expresses concerned about possibly incriminating himself, but right away describes him crime in graphic detail. Vela is obviously schizophrenic. He is paranoid and delusional, calls himself “the Antichrist,” claims his “Father” told him to kill his girlfriend and her baby, describes hallucinations, hearing voices, receiving commands from outer space, and other bizarre tangents.

In January 2018, Vela was found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead. The official cause of death was suicide by hanging.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 126: Confession of Robert Gladden, Jr.

On Monday August 27, 2012, the first day of the a school year, 15-year old Robert Gladden Jr. pulled a gun from his pants and opened fire in the cafeteria of Perry Hall High School in Perry Hall, Maryland. He was quickly tackled and brought to the ground by a teacher, but not before shooting and seriously injuring another student, Daniel Borowy, who survived his injuries. After his arrest, Gladden was interviewed by Baltimore County police. In this interview, Gladden has a flat affect, mumbling and rambling in a voice whose depth belies his childish appearance. He is obviously in a state of severe depression, and has been for some time.

Gladden admits to being bullied and says the shooting was an attempt to commit suicide by cop.  He tells his questioners that he hoped this would be the last day of his life, and expresses admiration for the Columbine shooters. He says he took 21 shells with him to school that day because “I figured if I’m going to do it, I might as well kill a lot.” He confesses that he’s been struggling with unhappiness for years. “The first time I thought about killing myself, I was in fourth grade but I was so young, I figured I’d wait,” he says, adding that he hopes to get the death penalty  “so I can just die.”

The death penalty has been abolished in Maryland, but Gladden was charged as an adult, and Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. went beyond state sentencing guidelines and gave him 35 years in prison.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 125: Michelle Martinko Cold Case

On December 20, 1979, 18-year-old Michelle Marie Martinko was found stabbed to death in the family’s 1972 tan Buick in the parking lot of a Cedar Rapids mall. The high school senior had driven to the mall after her school choir banquet to shop for a new winter coat. Police found no weapon or fingerprints to identify; Michelle hadn’t been robbed or raped, and she had no enemies. However, the perpetrator cut himself during the stabbing, leaving blood on Michelle’s clothes and the gear shift knob. This blood was preserved in the police laboratory.        Forty years later, using new technology, Cedar Rapids police created profiles based on the DNA in the blood sample, then used genetic genealogical research to narrow the profile down to a small pool of suspects. One of them was a man named Jerry Burns, whose wife died by suicide in 2008, and whose cousin vanished on Dec. 19, 2013. A Cedar Rapids police officer, following Burns, retrieved a straw he used to drink a can of soda, and used it to retrieve DNA . This, it turned out, matched the DNA in the blood found on Martinko’s dress. Jerry Burns, 65, was arrested in December 2018. On February 24, 2020, he was found guilty of first degree murder.

This episode contains audio from Day 1 of the trial in February 2020. Testifying are four of Michelle Martinko’s school friends, now in their late 50s: Jane Hansen, Jeff White, Martin Miller, and Tracy Price.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 124: Murder of Rosemarie Essa

On February 24, 2005, Rosemarie Essa, driving to meet a friend, collapsed behind the wheel of her car, and hit in a passing van. She later died at the hospital, even though she had no apparent injuries. After Rosemarie’s death, her doctor husband Yazeed  hired two nannies, Marguerita Montenaz and Michele Madeline. When the cause of Rosie’s death was determined to be cyanide poisoning, Yazeed fled to Lebanon. Police discovered that he had a string of girlfriends and mistresses, including Michele Madeline (whom he had infected with herpes, as he did his wife Rosie), and family friend Marguerita Montenaz, who testifies here. The prosecution tried to paint Marguerita as an obsessed stalker who wanted to marry Yazeed and who had the motive and opportunity to poison his wife, but the argument was weak, and quickly overturned. Yazeed Essa was arrested in  Cyprus in October, 2006, and after a lengthy extradition process, he was returned to the US to stand trial. Yazeed Essa was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years in March 2010.

Listen to the testimony here.

Episode 123: Ezra McCandless Case

Ezra McCandless (born Monica Carlson), 20, chose a new “gender neutral” name because she sometimes identified as a boy. At the time of the crime, she had three suitors: on/off boyfriend Jason Mengel, 35; Alex Woodworth, who called her his “boy,” and John Hansen, who (according to McCandless) sexually assaulted her. When the crime occurred, Ezra had moved out of Jason Mengel’s home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and their relationship had ended–partly because Jason had learned Ezra was having a sexual relationship with Alex Woodworth, whom (she said) liked to be aggressive and choke her during sex. Ezra wanted to get back with Jason. On March 22, 2018, she broke up with Alex, and he reacted badly. They went for a drive to “continue the discussion in a public place.” The car got stuck on a muddy road, and after trying to free themselves, the two got into a fight. Ezra claims Alex tried to sexually assault her. She stabbed him 16 times, then carved the word “boy” into her arm and went to a nearby farmhouse to get help. The prosecution claimed the attack was “an attempt to recaputure the relationship she wanted with Jason Mengel.”

During the trial, McCandless changed her plea from ‘not guilty by reason of mental disease’ to a ‘not guilty’ plea. She was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 122: Nicole Nachtman Trial

Nicole Nachtman was, by all accounts, a disappointment to her mother, Myriam, and stepfather Bob. The defense argued that Nicole’s mother had inflicted years of psychological, verbal and physical abuse on her daughter, including forcing her to get liposuction and Lasik surgery. Nicole was emotionally stunted and lived in fear, taking refuge in online games and animated cartoons. Her mother punished Nicole for the slightest infraction, so Nicole was naturally terrified when she realized she was too late to get housing at FSU when returning to college for her second year.

Nicole apparently returned home in August 2015 when Myriam, 56, was out of town on a work-related trip and shot her 67-year-old stepfather in the back of the head. She then dragged his body into a bedroom and locked the door. She cleaned up her stepfather’s blood, but left droplets and smudges throughout the house, along with her own thumbprint stamped in blood on a wall. When Myriam returned home, Nicole was lying in wait, and shot her mother three times. A next-door neighbor testified he heard the gunshots and a scream, then saw a shadowy figure dashing between their homes.

Nicole then returned to FSU (she had, as she later found out, been given overflow housing) and asked her roommates to say she’d been there for two days. She was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, rejecting defense arguments that she was insane at the time of the crimes, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This episode contains the testimony of Nicole’s half-brother, Joseph Carey; neighbor Alaina Roe; her father Ronald Nachtman, and her only friend, Laura Hessemer.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 121: Robert Durst Arrest and Interview

On March 14, 2015 (the day after the final installment of the six-part documentary series The Jinx aired on HBO), Robert Durst, 73, was arrested by the FBI in connection with the murder of his former girlfriend, the writer Susan Berman. He was staying in a hotel in New Orleans and found to be in possession of a false Texas ID, stacks of $100 bills, bags of marijuana, a .38-caliber revolver, a map folded to show Louisiana and Cuba, a latex mask, and a wig. In his interview with Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, Durst confesses that he took meth during his interviews on The Jinx, and says he has smoked pot almost every day of his life.
Lewin asks Durst about the disappearance of his wife Kathy Durst in New York in 1982, his acquittal on murder charges in the 2001 dismemberment killing of a neighbor Galveston, Texas, and the killing of Susan Berman in Los Angeles as she was about to speak with prosecutors investigating Kathy’s death.
During the interview, Lewin talks a lot. He gushes over Durst, telling him he’s brilliant and the most interesting suspect he’s ever investigated. He coaxes and flatters, quoting Durst’s lines from The Jinx, even doing impressions of him. It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether his flattery and enthusiasm is an attempt to get Durst to trust him, or whether it’s genuine. Either way, it gets him nowhere. Durst is cordial and receptive, but never lowers his guard.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 120: Kellen Winslow Jane Doe 1

This episode contains the testimony of Jane Doe 1 in the rape trial of Kellen Winslow Jr., a former NFL tight end, in San Diego County Superior Court in early November. Jane Doe, who remained nameless and was not shown on camera, was a 54-year-old homeless woman from Encinitas, California. Walking by the 101 highway one day, she was picked up by a  large black man with tattoos who drove a black Hummer and identified himself as “Dominique.” She testifies that he drove her to a parking lot close to a shopping center and raped her violently, causing extra pain due to his “gigantic penis.”

    However, Jane Doe 1 is not the best witness. She seems disturbed and moody, and her testimony is full of contradictions and misstatements. She often answers the same question in opposite ways while on the stand. She isn’t consistent with her testimony from the pretrial hearing. At one point she claims she hasn’t had a drink in 30 years. The defense soon points to a lengthy list of arrests for public intoxication.
But the prosecution charged Winslow with raping not just Doe No. 1, but also a 59-year-old homeless woman, as well as a then-17-year-old at a 2003 party. Winslow was 19 at the time. There are also indecent acts where he allegedly exposed himself to an elderly female neighbor who was in her yard gardening and a 77-year-old in a health club hot tub while Winslow was out on bail and awaiting trial.

    With incontrovertible evidence accumulating against him, Winslow finally accepted a plea deal that spared him from the possibility of a life prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to raping an unconscious teen in 2003 and to the sexual battery of Jane Doe 1, while the San Diego County Superior Court agreed to dismiss other felony charges including kidnapping, sodomy, forced oral copulation and two charges of forcible rape.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 119: Granville Ritchie Case

This episode contains the testimony of Eboni Wiley in the trial of Granville Ritchie, 40, for the rape and murder of Wiley’s neighbor, 9-year-old Felecia Williams, in Tampa, Florida. Ms. Wiley previously testified that Mr. Ritchie, who said his name was “Trevor,” had picked her up in the street a few days earlier. Since then, the two had done drugs and had sex together a few times, and Ms. Wiley had put his number in her phone, referring to him as “my husband.” Ms. Wiley was friends with the Williams family, her neighbors, whose 9-year-old daughter Felecia was known as “Sugar Plum.”
On May 16, 2014, Ritchie picked up Ms. Wiley, who had Sugar Plum with her. The three traveled to Ritchie’s home, where Ms. Wiley and Ritchie did drugs. At around 4:50 pm, Ms. Wiley left the apartment to get food for Sugar Plum, returning an hour later to be met at the door Ritchie, who was shirtless, sweating, and upset. He told Ms. Wiley that Sugar Plum had run away, and to conceal their negligence, they should tell police that they were having sex in the shower at the time, and that Ritchie’s mother was in the apartment with them.

Ritchie concealed the body in a suitcase and dragged out of the residence later that night. Sugar Plum’s body was found and nude, floating face-down in the water. She had been fatally strangled, and had received blunt force trauma to the head before death, authorities said. She had also been sexually assaulted.

Wiley was charged with providing false information to law enforcement during a missing person investigation. Ritchie was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 118: Wendi Adelson Police Interview

This episode contains three hours of the eight hours with attorney Wendi Adelson spent with Tallahassee police immediately after the death of her husband, FSU law professor Dan Markel (see episode 113). After being informed of her husband’s death, Wendi spoke with law enforcement officers for almost eight hours (without asking for counsel). The police have not charged her with anything, but she admits that she feels as if she’s being treated as a suspect.

As noted in episode 113, Sigfredo Garcia, whose girlfriend dated Wendi’s sister Charlie Adelson, has since been convicted of Dan Markel’s murder, which, according to the prosecution, Markel’s murder resulted from the “desperate desire” of the Adelson family to relocate Wendi Adelson and her two sons from Tallahassee, where Markel lived, to South Florida, where the Adelsons live.

Over the course of questioning, Ms. Adelson appears shocked, distressed, heartbroken, and confused. At times, she is also chatty and relaxed.

Listen to the episode here.