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Episode 106: Deposition of “The Apostle”

This episode contains highlights from the 2015 deposition of David E. “The Apostle” Taylor, of J.M.M.I Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri. Taylor is being questioned by attorney Colleen Ronayne as part of a divorce suit filed by Ricky Frazier, the ex-husband of one of Taylor’s “volunteers” Deborah Frazier, who has donated over a million dollars to the ministry.

Ronayne questions Taylor about his claims to have been visited personally by Jesus, and to have cured people of blindness and AIDS. She also asks about his cars (a BMW, Mercedes, Bentley, and a Range Rover), and his clothing bills ($6,000 at Louis Vuitton, $3,500 at Versace, $1,700 at Monsieur Clothing, and other designer items totaling $30,000 over a two-year period). It’s sometimes painful to listen to Taylor’s fumbling, inarticulate responses. Visibly nervous and biting his bottom lip, Taylor makes pitiful excuses for his frivolous purchases (he has to buy his belts at high-end stores because “they have a better TV appearance”). Interestingly, like Pastor Timothy Omotoso (whose case was featured in Episode 74), Taylor has a particular fondness for garish military jackets.

He claims to know almost nothing about his own finances, repeatedly telling Ronanye that she should ask Michelle Brannon, his fellow board member. He claims not to know his own office address, or the purpose of a $2.8 million dollar property in St. Louis that is listed as an asset on J.M.M.I.’s tax forms, or even the identity of one of his dependents. Every time he’s trapped in a contradiction or a lie, his response is the same: “ask Michelle.”

Listen to the episode here.

 

Episode 105: Timothy Jones Jr. Police Confession

This child murder took place on August 28, 2014 in Lexington, SC, and this time, there were multiple victims. When interviewed by FBI agent David Mackey and Lexington County sheriff’s Detective Adam Creech, Jones, a divorced dad who had sole custody of the kids, explained that his oldest child, 6-year-old Nahtahn, deliberately blew out four electrical outlets in the home. Jones, 37, said he became angry and “PTd his ass,” meaning that he made Nahtahn do physical exercises until he collapsed and died. When Jones realized what he’d done, he said “the voices started” in his head, telling him the other children were against him, and he had to kill them, too.

Jones describes how he killed daughter Merah, 8, and Elias, 7, by strangling them with his hands, then killed son Gabriel, 2, and daughter Elaine, 1, by choking them with a belt.“I was just running on fear, and I wasn’t thinking. I started following those voices in my head,” Jones says. “Logic went out the window.” He told the officers that he’s often felt himself to be mentally ill, though has never been diagnosed by a doctor. Jones speaks in a flat voice, sometimes normally, and sometimes in a high-pitched, tearful tone, beginning to wail as he gets to the end of the confession. The jury clearly felt his “crazy” presentation to be feigned, as they found him guilty of five counts of first degree murder. Jones has yet to be sentenced, but may face the death penalty.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 104: Brendt Christensen FBI interview

On the afternoon of June 9, 2017, Ms. Yingying Zhang, 26, a Chinese student at the  University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, went missing after she was offered a ride while waiting at a bus stop. She was last seen on a surveillance tape, around 2.30pm, getting into a black Saturn Astra. Police traced the Astra to Brendt Christensen, 28, a former physics grad student who was, at the time, unemployed after dropping out of a PhD program.

This episode contains part of the FBI interview with Brendt Christensen that took place on June 15, six days after Ms. Yingying’s disappearance. This is his second interview. After some pressing, he admits that he gave an Asian female a ride the previous weekend, but said he dropped her off after only a few blocks when a wrong turn caused her to panic. He also explained that he was married, that he and his wife were in an open relationship with another couple, and that she had been out of town with her boyfriend the day Ms. Yingying went missing.

After this questioning, the FBI agents took possession of Christensen’s computers and cellphone, and placed him under continuous surveillance. They also asked his girlfriend, Terra Bullis, to wear a wire. On June 29, Christensen attended a memorial walk for Ms. Yingying with his girlfriend. Later, he confessed to Terra that he had picked up Ms. Yingying, brought her back to his apartment, and held her there against her will.

Christensen’s trial took place in June 2019. He had no had no prior criminal record and no record of disciplinary problems at the university. The FBI report on his cellphone noted that in April, he used his cellphone to access the sexual fetish website Fetlife, and visited the forum “Abduction 101.” At the trial, it was revealed that Christensen admitted he had raped, assaulted, and decapitated Ms. Yingying. Her body has still not been found. Christensen is about to be sentenced, and the prosecution is pushing for the death penalty.

Warning: audio ends abruptly.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 103: John Jonchuck Trial Testimony

This episode contains the testimony of Father Bill Swengros of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida, in the trial of John Jonchuck Jr. for the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe. Jonchuck and his wife were engaged in a custody battle over Phoebe when Jonchuck went to see his attorney and began to make bizarre statements. He claimed he was God and the creator. He then wanted her to read him the Bible in Swedish. When she refused, Jonchuck said he was going to find a minister. He called Father Bill Swengros for an appointment, then arrived at St. Paul’s and said he wanted to join the church and be baptized. Phoebe was with him; Swengros said she seemed “bright, amiable, and self confident.” He said Jonchuck did not appear to be mentally ill.

Shortly after midnight that same evening, Jonchuck drove to the Tampa Bay bridge and threw Phoebe over the edge. Despite his claims of insanity, Jonchuck was found guilty of first degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 102: Dallas Dentist Love Triangle

Dr. Kendra Hatcher, 35, a Dallas pediatric dentist, was fatally shot in the head by an unknown assailant in the parking garage of her Dallas apartment building Sept. 2, 2015. Dr. Hatcher was about to leave for Mexico for a vacation with her new boyfriend, Dr. Ricardo Paniaguia, a dermatologist. Kendra was a step up from Ricky’s ex, dental hygienist Brenda Delgado, 36, whom he’d dumped in February, seven months earlier (three months before meeting Kendra). Apparently, Brenda became “obsessed” with getting Ricky back, and was angry that he’d broken up with her by e-mail. Police learned she hired a hit man, 35-year-old Kristopher Love, to “eliminate” her rival in exchange for drugs and money. Love was sentenced to life in prison. Brenda’s dental assistant friend Crystal Cortes, the 27-year-old getaway driver, pleaded guilty in October to a lesser murder charge in exchange for a 35-year sentence. Brenda Delgado was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life.

This episode contains the testimony from June 4, 2019 of: Brenda Delgado’s friend and former room-mate Jennifer Escobar, Kendra Hatcher’s close friend Rosie Singh, and her boyfriend Ricardo Paniagua.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 101: Deposition of Father Jerome Kern

On April 15, 2014, Father Jerome Kern, a priest in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, was deposed as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit filed in Minnesota  While Kern does not admit to sexually abusing children in the deposition, he does admit to “horsing around” with young boys, and doing something he calls “Italian wrestling.” He claims that his only sexual outlet is “masturbation” to fantasies about “ladies,” though he admits he may be bisexual. He describes putting his hand on one boy’s stomach, chest, lower stomach, and inside his bathing suit while swimming, and touching another boy’s genitals on the outside of his swimsuit and touching his chest and stomach in the sauna.

At 72, Kern is (or appears to be) shaky, absent-minded, and forgetful. He says he’s tired, has problems remembering, and is unfamiliar with modern terms like “sexual abuse.” While he admits that he came to realize that it was wrong to “give hugs and horse around,” he presents himself as a man from another age who is surprised to find his good intentions have been misinterpreted. The deposition aims, in part, to discover the extent of the church’s cover-up, since the Archdiocese received reports of Kern’s inappropriate sexual misconduct with minor children as early as 1969, yet Kern remained in ministry until 2002.

In 1987, the mothers of two boys abused by Father Kern met with senior church leaders to discuss the allegations, but were brushed off. Eventually, Al Michaud, one of Father Kern’s victims,  filed a lawsuit against Kern and the Archdiocese, which was settled out of court.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 100: Alex Zaldivar murder trial

  In May 2013, Bessman Okafor and Nolan Bernard broke into a home in a quiet suburb of Ococee, Florida, after misidentifying it as a “drug house.” When it was clear they had the wrong place, the men tied up the house’s four young roommates: included Alex Zaldivar, 19, and Brienna Campos, 20, and their two friends Will and Brandon. The youngsters were threatened with guns, and robbed of their cash, laptops, cellphones, and electronics. Police quickly identified Okafor and Bernard, who were arrested and released on bond.

A trial date was set for September 11, 2013, and the four young victims were listed as witnesses. One day before the trial, Okafor and Bernard returned to the house in the middle of the night and woke up the sleeping inhabitants, Alex Zaldivar, Brienna Campos, and her 23-year-old brother Remington, who were lined up and shot in the head. Alex was killed, but Brienna and Remington survived. A jury found the gunman, Bessman Okafor, guilty of Alex Zaldivar’s murder and the attempted murder of his two roommates, and recommended the death penalty by a vote of 11-1. But the case was overturned because the jury was not unanimous, and Okafor is waiting for retrial.

This episode contains State witnesses from Okafor’s murder trial in August 2015: Amy Scott, a neighbor to whom Remington and Brienna ran for help; officer Daniel Schilling, who investigated the crime, and victim Brienna Campos.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 99: Jessica Bashara Testifies

On January 25, 2012, in the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, successful marketing executive Jane Bashara, 56, was found strangled to death in a Mercedes-Benz SUV in a Detroit alleyway.  In March 2012, a mentally impaired handyman named Joe Gentz was arrested and charged with first degree murder after telling police that Jane’s husband, Bob Bashara, 57, had paid him $2,000 and an old Cadillac to murder Jane. Investigators also discovered that Mr. Bashara owned an underground sex dungeon in the basement behind a building he owned, where he took women for S&M sex games, and where he was known as “Master Bob.”
In September 2015, Bob Bashara was tried for the murder of his wife. His daughter Jessica, 23, testified that she was unaware of any problems between her parents, who had been married for 26 years, although she knew her father thought her mother was too critical of him. She also mentioned catching her father using a pornographic S&M website. “He told me that he was on pornographic websites because he had been experiencing erectile dysfunction and he wanted to know if the problem was with him or my mother,” says Jessica. Bob Bashara was sentenced to life without parole.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 98: Claudia Hoerig Trial Testimony

In March 2007, the body of Air Force Reserve Major Karl Hoerig was found in his home in Ohio, with two gunshot wounds in his back, and another in his head.  His wife of two years, Claudia Hoerig, had fled to Brazil. For various reasons, she wasn’t extradited until January 2018, at which point she confessed to the murder, but said it was an act of self-defense, and the marriage had been abusive. She said she got a gun to kill herself, and Karl told her to do it in the basement so she wouldn’t make a mess. At that point, said Claudia, she decided to shoot him instead.

During a discussion of the Hoerig’s relationship prior to Karl’s death, Claudia Hoerig’s attorney directed the conversation to the couple’s sexual habits. Ms. Hoerig claims that her husband “was not able to perform without Viagra or without bondage, or without something weird or me pretending to be dead.” She says that it wasn’t until after they were married that Karl revealed his fetishes.

Claudia Hoerig was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 97: Robert Mondrian Powell Police Interrogation

When telling lies, people are apparently either overly vague, or too specific. In his responses during this interrogation, Robert Mondrian-Powell, 59, is both extremely indirect and annoyingly particular. This polite and well-spoken gentleman explains that he was homeless when he met Elvira Segura, 67, a retired librarian whose decomposed body was found by police in the bathroom of her Las Cruces home a month before this interview took place.
Mondrian-Powell tells police that Ms. Segura let him live in her home in exchange for doing handyman work around the house. Police closed in on Ms. Segura’s former tenant after neighbors told them he recently held a yard sale, disposing of many of Ms. Segura’s possessions, then took off in her car. His description of the problems Ms. Segura was having with her headphones and her computer are pointlessly detailed, as Mondrian-Powell seems to realize he’s been caught, and is stalling for time.
But after 40 minutes of rambling about electric wiring and circuit breakers, Mondrian-Powell suddenly confesses to murdering Ms. Segura in a domestic fight. He describes smashing her head into the ground, causing her to bleed, and then shooting her in the neck.
However, the District Attorney’s Office made a mess of the prosecution. Mondrian-Powell was held in jail for 20 months while eight different members of the prosecution team took turns working on the case before the judge decided that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated, and he was released without charge.

Listen to the episode here.