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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.

Episode 70: Steven Fishman Scientology Interview

This episode contains parts 1, 2, and 6 of a seven-part interview conducted with Steven Fishman in November 1988 by false memory expert Richard Ofshe, and attorney Marc Nurik. Fishman was currently facing several criminal charges relating to a mail fraud scheme he’d set up when he was working as a financial planner for the Church of Scientology. In the interview, Fishman reveals various aspects of Scientology doctrine, his own Scientology involvement, and the church’s response to his arrest. He claims that church staff had ordered him to murder his psychologist, Uwe Geertz, and then to commit suicide.

The interviewers, Ofshe and Nurik, are smart, open minded, and speak to Fishman in his own language. They present as affable and non-threatening, asking lots of questions and appearing to follow Fishman’s lines of thought. They don’t interrupt, contradict, or interject. For his part, Fishman appears to have a fascinatingly complex, detailed and coherent worldview, yet it is completely off the wall. He describes how he became the true father of Jesus Christ, and how he eats his soups in alphabetical order “because I don’t believe in randomity.”

The court found Fishman to be sane, and he made a plea bargain, serving three years of a five-year sentence for wire fraud and money laundering. In October 2009, in connection with another fraud scheme, Fishman was sentenced to another 21 years in prison.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 69: Broken Arrow Murder Confession

This episode contains an interview conducted by Detective Eric Bentz with Michael Bever, 16, who, along with his older brother Robert, killed five members of their family on the night of July 22–23, 2015. Michael tells detective Bentz that the familicide was Robert’s idea, since he was “against society” and “wanted to kill as many people as possible” so the brothers could get their own Wikipedia page. Robert had been plotting the killings for months, according to Michael, and wanted to strike that night because he was expecting the delivery of a combined 2,250 rounds of ammunition the following day, and he didn’t his parents to know about it.

Using knives, the two home-schooled brothers killed their father, David, 52, and mother April, 44 (“mom was okay but dad was a bit too much,” says Michael), younger brothers Daniel, 12, and Christopher, 7, and little sister Victoria, 5. Another sister, Crystal, 13, was critically injured but survived, and baby Autumn Bever, 2, was unhurt. After killing their family, the Bever boys were planning to go on a cross-country killing spree to become the most notorious mass murderers in history. However, aware that Daniel had managed to call 911 before his death, the two fled to a wooded area behind their house, where they ultimately were arrested after being discovered by a police dog.

Detective Bentz is remarkably calm and even-keeled in the face of Michael’s confessions. He holds back all emotion as he tries to get Michael to feel at ease. The boy, who has a slight speech impediment and seems impressed by the detective’s authority, at first claims he didn’t kill anyone, but eventually admits he was supposed to kill his dad, Victoria, and Crystal, and confesses to stabbing his little brother and his mother. Of Robert, he says, “I did want to do it with him because he was going to do it no matter what.” Their plan was very specific, says Michael, but everything went wrong (“I didn’t like it the minute it started”).

Robert Bever and Michael Bever were both charged with five counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault and battery with intent to kill. Both were tried as adults, and both received life without parole.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 68: Dahmer Trial Testimony Excerpts

In Dahmer’s defense, Fred Berlin testified that the defendant was unable to conform his conduct at the time that he committed the crimes because he was suffering from necrophilia. Dr. Judith Becker, a professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, also diagnosed Dahmer with necrophilia. The final defense expert to testify, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Carl Wahlstrom, diagnosed Dahmer with borderline personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, necrophilia, alcohol dependence, and psychotic disorder not otherwise specified.

For the prosecution, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Resnick testified that Dahmer didn’t suffer from primary necrophilia because he preferred live sexual partners. Dr. Fred Fosdel testified that Dahmer was without mental disease or defect at the time he committed the murders, and able to differentiate between right and wrong. Dr. Park Dietz testified that he did not believe Dahmer to be suffering from any mental disease or defect at the time that he committed the crimes, stating: “Dahmer went to great lengths to be alone with his victim and to have no witnesses,” adding that that there was ample evidence that Dahmer prepared in advance for each murder.

Each attorney was allowed to speak for two hours. For the defense, Gerald Boyle argued that Dahmer’s compulsive killings were the result of a sickness he couldn’t control. Prosecutor Michael McCann, on the other hand, described Dahmer as sane and in full control of his actions. The jury agreed that Dahmer was sane and not suffering from a mental disorder at the time of each of the 15 murders for which he was tried. There was no death penalty in Wisconsin, so Dahmer was sentenced to life without parole. He was bludgeoned to death by a fellow inmate on November 28, 1994,

Episode 67: Alligator Attack 911 Compilation

1. On June 10 2012, Kaleb Langdale, 17, was swimming with friends in a river by the Gulf Coast of Florida, near Fort Myers, when a 10-foot alligator chomped down on one of his arms, then dragged him into a death roll. Kaleb knew he was about to die, so he put his foot on the gator’s mouth and tugged until his arm ripped off under the elbow, then made his way to the bank as the gator swam off with his arm. When he reached the bank, his friends called 911. The alligator was later shot and killed.

2. In August 2015, Rachael Lilienthal, 37, was swimming away from a crowded beach area near Wekiva Island, Florida, when an alligator clamped its jaws on her right arm and thrashed her around. A couple in a canoe hit the gator with their oars, and it swam off, but when they helped Rachael into their canoe, they saw that her arm had been bitten off just above the elbow. The alligator was shot and killed.

3. On June 2, 2018, Jordan Broderick, 15, was floating on a raft in a river in Florida’s Ocala Forest when a 9-foot alligator began stalking her. Jordan made her way to the shore, but the gator followed her, where it was joined by others. The terrified girl took refuge up a tree while her mother called 911. When the police arrived, they shot and killed the main alligator, and helped the girl, who was unhurt, to safety.

4. On June 8, 2018, at the Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, a man called 911 after two loose, anxious pit bulls ran into the parking lot. He recognized them as two of the three dogs belonging to “an oriental lady” he’d seen earlier. The pit bulls led him to the back of the park, where he saw the third dog barking and bleeding, with a large gash in its side, and a 12-foot alligator lurking nearby. “I think an alligator got this lady,” said the caller. He was right. Shizuka Matsuki, 47, who may have been trying to save her dog, had been dragged off by the gator. When it was shot and cut open, Matzuki’s arm was found in its stomach.

Listen to the episode here.

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Episode 66: Kevin Underwood Confession

On April 12, 2006, a ten-year-old girl named Jamie Bolin went missing from her home  in an apartment complex in Purcell, Oklahoma. Five days later, her naked and mutilated body was found in a plastic storage container in the apartment of her downstairs neighbor, 29-year-old Kevin Ray Underwood. After his arrest, Underwood was interviewed by two Oklahoma FBI agents.

His confession is disturbing not only for its bizarre content, but for the nonchalant way in which he recounts the crime. “It started off with cannibalism-the thought of eating someone was appealing to me. It kept evolving from there,” he admits, going on to explain in considerable detail how he attempted to carry out this plan on Jamie Bolin, whom he had decided was a convenient victim.

The FBI interrogators do a fine job of remaining unperturbed while drawing Underwood out and encouraging him to make it clear that he was in his right mind when he committed the crime–he knew right from wrong, and was thinking about how to avoid detection. But, as his confession reveals, his plan went wrong from the first, and his confession belies his claim that he “didn’t, believe in violence, or hurting anyone.”

His plan was to abduct a child, and “while they were still alive and gagged, I was going to drape them over the bathtub and cut off their head, and then hang them and let the body all drain out. I was gonna keep the body around for a couple of days, I was going to set the head on my desk so it could watch me, and keep the corpse in my bed, sleeping with it, having sex with it for a day or two, and then I was going to start butchering them and cooking them.” When asked whether he bought any special equipment for the job, Underwood replies, “Just the barbeque skewers, some meat tenderizer, and a hacksaw to cut open the head to get to the brain, because I wanted to eat the brain and the heart and some of the organs.”

The confession is notable for Underwood’s robotic delivery (he was later diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome), his lack of remorse and empathy, his apparent inability to comprehend the horror or his crime, and, finally, his loud vomiting at the end. On February 29, 2008, Underwood was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. He is currently on Oklahoma’s Death Row.

Listen to the episode here.

Interview Transcript.

Transcript of online chats

Episode 65: Raghunandan Yandamuri Confession

On October 22, 2012, 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna was found stabbed to death in her  apartment just outside Philadelphia. Three days later, the body of her 10-month old granddaughter, Saanvi, was found in a bag in the steam room of the apartment complex gym.

On October 25, Raghunandan Yandamuri, 29, an information technology worker who knew the Venna family and lived in the same building, was arrested in connection with the murders.  Two days before the crime, Yandamuri and his wife had attended a party at the Venna family apartment. They had met Chenchu and Venkata Venna, Saanvi’s parents, who mentioned that, since they both work during the day, their daughter would be staying with her grandmother.  Yandamuri held the baby during the party and discussed the gold jewelry she was wearing. On October 26, he was interrogated by police for several hours, and eventually confessed to the murders. Yandamuri says he went to the family’s apartment with the intention of kidnapping Saanvi for a $50,000 ransom, since he believed the family to be wealthy. He fatally stabbed 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna when she confronted him. He claims that he didn’t intend to kill the grandmother, but when he had Saanvi in his arms, Satyavathi lunged at him and he fell backward, cutting her throat with his knife. Yandamuri says he planned on taking good care of the baby, but also on holding her until her parents paid him.

On October 8, 2014, Yandamuri was found guilty of the murders, and sentenced to death. However, on February 13, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on executions in the state.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 64: Dellen Millard Police Interview

In November 2012, wealthy businessman Wayne Millard, 71, was found shot dead in his Ontario home. His son, Dellen, 30, a fun-loving party guy who inherited his father’s multi-million dollar aviation business, was interviewed by the police about the incident. Although he seemed unusually emotionless during the interview, the death was ruled a suicide.

On May 6, 2013, Dellen Millard and his friend Mark Smich answered an ad placed by a man named Tim Bosma, 32, who wanted to sell his pickup truck. The three men went for a drive, and Bosma never returned. When his remains were found on an incinerator on Millard’s farm. Millard and Smich were arrested, and on June 17, 2016, they were sentenced to life in prison. In 2017, the two men were also convicted of the murder of Laura Babcock, Dellen Millard’s ex-girlfriend, who went missing in July 2012. Her body was never found.

Two years after Wayne Millard’s death was ruled a suicide, Dellen Millard was charged with his father’s murder.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 63: Loyta Sloley 911 calls

At 8:15 a.m. on January 27, 2009, Loyta Sloley, 34, an Orlando hospital technician, calls in sick. Speaking quietly and in an odd tone of voice, she tells her supervisor that she’s dropping off her son at school. Her supervisor knows Ms. Sloley is having trouble with her ex-boyfriend, James Clayton, and she calls 911 to say Sloley may have been kidnapped. The 911 dispatcher, Alan Ballard, does not enter the call into the system for 23 minutes, and when he does, it is as a “suspicious incident” rather than a kidnapping.

Around 8.45am, Ballard calls Ms. Sloley’s father, who first says nothing is wrong. He then calls back to say Clayton was drunk that weekend and threatened to “kill them all.” About 9:45 a.m., the dispatcher manages to reach Loyta Sloley, who confirms she’s being held against her will. Ballard pressures her to give her location by saying the search is “taking up police resources.” He adds, “You’re going to be in some serious trouble if you don’t cooperate.” Sloley tells him she doesn’t need help. Clayton then comes to the phone, and is chastised by Ballard. Then the line goes dead.

By 11:30 a.m., police had traced signals from Ms. Sloley’s phone to a Marriott hotel, and learn that she and Clayton had checked in 2 1/2 hours earlier. When they knocked down the door to their room, they find Ms. Sloley dead from four gunshot wounds to the body, and Clayton dead from a single shot to the head. The 911 dispatcher, Alan Ballard, was dismissed from his job.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 62: Larry Nassar Police Interview

In the years leading up to his indictment for criminal sexual conduct and federal child pornography charges, sports medicine physician Larry Nassar fell under increasing suspicion. As the doctor for the USA Gymnastics team, Nassar had always been known as a well-connected and talented physician, but there had also been rumors about his unusual medical “procedures.”

In 2014, Michigan State University launched a Title IX investigation into Nassar after a recent graduate reported that she had visited his clinic for hip pain, and he had massaged her breasts and vaginal area and had a visible erection. Nassar was interviewed for over two hours by campus police, who wanted to press charges, but the prosecutor denied the request, and the university closed the investigation in July 2014 after three months. It dismissed the woman’s claim, concluding that she hadn’t understood the “nuanced difference” between sexual assault and an appropriate medical procedure.

   In September 2015, Nassar abruptly “retired” from USA Gymnastics. This episode contains his next interview with campus police, in August 2016. “Has there been another complaint?” Nassar asks the detective, who confirms that another complaint has indeed been filed.

Nassar, who swings between bravado and fits of nerves, is an unimpressive figure. He admits that patients have questioned his “special technique,” but he’s brought his laptop with him, to show the detective his lectures on his “procedures”. He says, “this is how I make my living, this is what I do. I have helped scores of people”, but also says he’s sorry that he missed signs that patients were uncomfortable. He fails to explain why he might have had an erection during his medical “procedures”, other than to say, “If there was arousal it’s, it’s, it’s you know what I mean? It would be because of, whatever, I don’t know.”

“Well, what do you mean, ‘whatever’?” asks the detective.

“When you’re a guy sometimes you get an erection,” is all Nassar can say in reply.

Listen to the episode here.