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Episode 80: Todd Courser Audiotape

In this audio recording, secretly taped by his aide Ben Graham on May 19 2015, Republican senator Todd Courser is a desperate man, rapidly drowning but still fighting for air. Courser admits he’s been having an extramarital affair with Republican senator Cindy Gamrat (at the time, both politicians were married with children). The affair has been discovered by an anonymous blackmailer (later revealed to be Gamrat’s husband), and Courser outlines to his dumbfounded aide a harebrained scheme to detract attention from the scandal. He plans to send out a “false flag e-mail” from a fake address alleging that he is a drug user, child molester, “bi-sexual porn addicted sex deviant”, and “gun-toting, Bible-thumping, cock-sucking freak” who has been caught having “male on male paid sex behind a Lansing nightclub”. Courser agrees that the e-mail is “over-the-top”, but tells his doubtful aide that it will “inoculate the herd” because the “real” scandal will be hidden in the ramblings of the anonymous message.

Courser is clearly at the end of his tether, but his refusal to resign makes it difficult to sympathize with him: the man’s egotism is obviously about to take him down. And it did. Both Michigan lawmakers resigned after it was revealed they had been cheating on their spouses and then using taxpayer-funded offices and staff to cover it up.

Listen to the episode here.
Police Report on Extortion Texts
House of Michigan Representatives Report on the Courser Gamrat Affair

Episode 79: Richard Kirk Police Interview

On the evening of April 14, 2014, Richard Kirk, 48, purchased and consumed an unknown amount of “Karma Kandy Orange Ginger” (marijuana-infused candy), began to hallucinate, became delusional, then turned violent. His wife Kristine called 911 and pleaded for help, telling the operator that her husband was ranting about the end of the world and asking her to kill him. Kirk shot his wife Kristine in the head at their home in Denver. When police arrived at the house, the Kirks’ two oldest two sons ran to the patrol car for help. The youngest, then 7 years old, was found in a bedroom near where his mother was lying dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Later that night, Kirk was interviewed by Denver police homicide detective Troy Bisgard, and still appeared to be out of touch with reality. The first thing he says to Bisgard is, “Are you LDS?”. Bisgard says he is not.

Kirk: You married?
Bisgard: I’m not.
Kirk: You have a mom though?
Bisgard: I do.
Kirk: You know her well?
Bisgard: I do.
Kirk: That’s what I’m trying to help everyone find.
Bisgard: Their mom?
Kirk: And the ones they love.

During the attempt at an interview, which lasts around 20 minutes, Kirk is alternately laid-back and confused. He asks Bisgard a lot of questions about his life and beliefs. Sometimes he makes existential declarations. He seems anxious and paranoid about the camera filming the interview, asking Bisgard, ““Who else is interested in the truth? You or me?” He asks investigators if he can call his wife and three sons to let them know the “blood moon” is causing his erratic behavior. He doesn’t seem to recall shooting his wife in the head.

After reading Kirk his Miranda rights, Bisgard asks, “Do you understand each of these rights that I’ve read to you?” Kirk replies, “I was kind of spaced out. Do you want to go over them again?” Bisgard does so, then he asks Kirk again if he understands. “Not exactly,” he replies.

Kirk unsuccessfully pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 78: Gypsy Blanchard Testifies

This episode presents the testimony of Gypsy Blanchard in the trial of her former boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, for the murder of her mother, Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard. In June 2016, Gypsy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for her own part in the crime, and was given a 10-year sentence.

As Gypsy explains, she met Godejohn on a Christian dating site in 2014, and they corresponded online, often using different names that referred to different aspects of their personalities. Gypsy and Godejohn decided that killing Dee Dee was the only way Gypsy could escape from her mother’s abuse. The couple planned to run away together and get married.

Dee Dee had always claimed that Gypsy, then 24, was disabled, needed a wheelchair, and  had the mind of a 7-year-old. She said Gypsy’s many ailments included leukemia, muscular dystrophy, a seizure condition, and asthma. In fact, Gypsy was perfectly healthy. She could walk, and never had cancer. Dee Dee shaved her daughter’s head and dressed her in childish clothes to help perpetuate the illusion. Dee Dee created her daughter’s imaginary condition for sympathy, attention, and charity money.

When police arrived at the Blanchard home in Big Bend, Wisconsin on June 14, 2015, they found Dee Dee, 48, lying on her bed, dead from 17 stab wounds in her back.

Gypsy Blanchard was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and resides in the Chillicothe Correctional Center in Missouri. This week, 29-year-old Godejohn’s own first-degree murder trial took place. Godejohn’s attorney has argued that since his client is autistic with a low IQ, he was unable to hatch the murder plot on his own, and was manipulated by Gypsy, to whom he was devoted. Prosecutors claimed that Godejohn willingly participated in the killing because he wanted Gypsy was his “sex slave.”

Now 27, Gypsy still appears much younger, and speaks in a high-pitched, childish voice. On Friday, Godejohn was found guilty of first degree murder, and awaits sentencing.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 77: William Kennedy Smith Rape Trial

On Dec 11 1991, William Kennedy Smith was acquitted of rape after a trial in Palm Beach, Florida. Smith was represented by defense attorney Roy Black, who pulled no punches in his questioning of the accuser, Patricia Bowman, and her friend Ann Mercer.

The incident began on the evening of March 29, 1991, when Smith, 30 years old, went to the Au Bar in Palm Beach, Florida, with his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, and his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy. Smith met Patricia Bowman, a 29, and her friend Anne Mercer at the bar. The five then went to a nearby house owned by the Kennedy family. When Smith and Bowman went outside for a walk along the beach, Bowman alleged that Smith raped her; Smith testified that they had consensual sex.

In the first excerpt, prosecutor Moira Lasch asks Patricia Bowman to describe the alleged rape. Bowman is then cross-examined by Roy Black. The second excerpt is from Black’s  cross-examination of Anne Mercer. In the third clip, Black questions Senator Ted Kennedy. The final clip is Moira Lasch cross-examining William Kennedy Smith.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 76: Pastor Timothy Omotoso Trial

Pastor Timothy Omotoso is currently on trial in the High Court in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (though proceedings are on hold until December). Omotoso is a charismatic Nigerian televangelist with a taste for garish jackets who, until his recent arrest, led the popular Jesus Dominion International congregation. Omotoso, 60, along his two co-defendants, Lusanda Sulani‚ 36‚ and Zukiswa Sitho‚ 28‚ is facing a string of charges including rape, racketeering and sexual assault.

Testifying here against Omotoso is Cheryl Zondi, 22, who describes how Omotoso began sexually abusing her when she was 14, and a member of his “Grace Galaxy” singing group. Zondi spent a grueling 3 days on the stand facing intensive cross-examination from Omotoso’s defense lawyer, Peter Daubermann. She is asked the kinds of intimate and probing questions that would be considered inappropriate if asked in a U.S. courtroom. For example, Daubermann repeatedly asks Zondi whether Omotoso pushed his penis against her vaginal lips, or whether it actually penetrated her vagina- and, if so, by how many centimeters?

Under the circumstances, Miss Zondi is remarkably brave, composed, and articulate.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 75: Bernhard Goetz Confession

On December 22, 1984, Bernhard Goetz was riding a New York City Subway when he was confronted by four teenagers who asked him for money. Rather than being robbed and “beaten to a pulp,” Goetz pulled out a gun he was carrying and shot the boys. All four were seriously wounded.

After the shooting, Goetz jumped out of the train on to the tracks, ran south through a subway tunnel, and went home to gather some belongings. He then rented a car and drove north to Bennington, Vermont, where he burned his blue jacket and dismantled the revolver, scattering the pieces in the woods north of town. He drove around New England for several days, registering at motels under various names and paying in cash.

Nine days later, Goetz returned to New York and turned himself in to the police. During a two-hour interview  Goetz was charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, and several firearms offenses. At the trial which followed, Goetz’s confession was used by the prosecution in the case against him.

In his confession, Goetz comes across as confused, angry, defensive, and distraught. He justifies his actions by describing an incident in which he was mugged in the past; he was injured, and the assailant went unpunished. His diatribe against the legal system and the City of New York City is eloquent and passionate, and won him many supporters in court. Goetz calls the justice system a “joke, a sham, and a disgrace.” He says he has no desire to be seen as a hero or a vigilante, but at the same time, he’s unapologetic about his actions, telling police that, “my intention was to murder them, to hurt them, to make them suffer as much as possible… If I had more bullets, I would have shot ’em all again and again. My problem was I ran out of bullets.” Goetz’s defense team described the electronics engineer as a nebbishy weakling who turned on the bullies, refusing to have sand kicked in his face. The strategy worked. The jury found Goetz not guilty of all charges except for one count of carrying an unlicensed firearm, for which he served eight months of a one-year sentence.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 74: Lee Rodarte Police Interview

On the evening of August 2, 2017, waitress Savannah Gold, 21, failed to show up for her shift at the Bonefish Grill in Jacksonville, Florida. Her unlocked car with a flat tire was found in the restaurant parking lot, her purse untouched inside. Her family received text messages from her phone, saying she had met someone and was running away with him. But the texts sounded uncharacteristic of Savannah, and police began to look closely at chef Lee Rodarte, 28, who had unexplained cuts on his body.

When questioned, Rodarte admitted that he had a sexual relationship with Savannah, though he broke it off because she was using drugs heavily, and because his girlfriend discovered the affair. When police pulled the security surveillance video from the parking lot of the shopping center in which the Bonefish Grill is located, they saw an apparent struggle between Rodarte and Gold inside his car the night she disappeared. On the video, Rodarte’s car was seen shaking, and the rear door opening and closing. After a few minutes, Rodarte walked over to Savannah’s car, took an object out of it and put it in his. He then returned to her car and punctured the front left tire of her vehicle. He returned to his vehicle and after a few minutes, he drove away, with Savannah still in the car.

After the police finished interrogating Rodarte, who denied any knowledge of Savannah’s whereabouts, they left the room. Once alone, Rodarte was caught on tape sobbing and saying “I’m sorry, Savannah.” Later, he confessed to the murder, and told investigators that he had thrown the waitress’s body in a nearby lake. Despite his confession, Lee Rodarte has pleaded not guilty. His trial will begin in February 2019.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 73: Ted Bundy Phone Call

This is audio from a phone call made by Ted Bundy to prison psychologist Dr. Al Carlisle before Bundy was known to be a serial killer. Bundy was in Utah State Prison after his 1975 arrest for the kidnap and attempted murder of Carol DaRonch (he soon became a suspect in a progressively longer list of unsolved homicides – or “transactions”, as Bundy refers to them here – in multiple states). Dr. Carlisle spent about 20 hours evaluating Bundy to determine whether he posed a danger for future violence. Carlisle concluded that Bundy was hard to get to know, precise, objective and somewhat impersonal when discussing himself. He lied easily, compartmentalized, and had a lot of anger. Carlisle concluded that Bundy had the capacity to commit serious crimes.

Bundy left Utah when Colorado authorities charged him with the murder of Caryn Campbell, and he was transferred to Aspen in January 1977.  On June 7, he was taken to the courthouse for a preliminary hearing, and since he was representing himself, he wasn’t required to wear handcuffs or leg shackles. During a recess, he asked to visit the courthouse’s law library to research his case. While there, he opened a window and jumped from the second story. He was arrested again six days later.

Despite his negative evaluation, Carlisle clearly established a rapport with Bundy, who, in this call, seems casual and friendly but evasive and impersonal. On Dec 30 1977, Bundy escaped again and committed further assaults, including three murders, before his ultimate recapture in Florida in 1978.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 72: Jake Evans 911 Call

On October 4, 2012, 17-year-old Jake Evans called 911 from his home in Aledo, Texas, and informed the operator that he’d just shot and killed his sister and mother. She asks if he’s sure they’re dead. The boy replies, “Yes… It’s weird, I wasn’t even really angry with them. It just kind of happened. I’ve been kind of planning on killing for a while now… This is probably selfish of me to say, but to me, I felt like they were suffocating me in a way. Obviously, you know, I’m pretty – I guess – evil.”

Other than the fact that his mother and sister were “suffocating” him, Evans has no explanation for the murders, which he committed when his father was out of town and his two older sisters were out. The home-schooled Jake, who was apparently a shy, quiet boy, reloaded his revolver at least once during the shootings. His family lived on two acres in a gated community and his mother was a public school teacher. In a written confession, he wrote that he intended to kill not only his mom and younger sister, but also his older sisters and grandparents. In April 2015, Evans was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Listen to the 911 call here.

Transcript of the 911 call

Episode 71: Leon Jacob Sentencing Hearing

In 2017, failed doctor Leon Jacob, 40, and his veterinarian girlfriend, Valerie Daniels, 48, were convicted of planning the double murder of their ex-partners. But the “hit man” whom Jacob hired was in fact an undercover officer working for the Houston Police Department. The “hit man” was paid after showing the Jacob gruesome, staged photos of Verikas bound and gagged, and Mack McDaniel, covered in fake blood, pictured as a slain corpse. A short time after her arrest, Valerie McDaniel killed herself by jumping off the balcony of her apartment.

The trial revealed that Leon Jacob had an extensive history of obsessive behavior and violence towards women. He was shown to have stalked and abused numerous women, including his ex-wife Annie. He was sentenced to life in prison for two counts of solicitation of capital murder. In this extract from the penalty hearing, Megan Verikas describes the lasting effects of Jacob’s abusive behavior. Jacob is represented by the “legendary” Houston defense attorney George Parnham, 78, who defended  both Andrea Yates and Clara Harris. He is slow, hard of hearing, out of touch, and deeply annoying.

Listen to the episode here.