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Episode 41: Paul Bernado Prison Interview

In June 2007, when he was 43, Paul Bernardo was interviewed by the Toronto Police Services Sex Crimes Unit about a number of unsolved crimes, including the disappearance of Elizabeth Bain. The crimes took place during the period in which Bernardo, along with his then-wife Karla Homolka, committed a series of sexual assaults, tortures, and murders in the Canadian city of Scarborough. Homolka signed a plea bargain for a 12 years sentence in exchange for her testimony against Bernardo (here, Bernardo complains that Homolka lied about her role in the killings and she was never polygraphed).

Before the police can get to their questions about the Bain case, they listen to Bernardo’s complaints about the way they have handled his case. The detectives are timid, tiptoeing around the subject, always polite, always trying to answer Bernardo’s concerns. He’s upset that police have said he claimed responsibility for crimes he never committed. Bernardo is agitated and rarely makes eye contact with the detectives. He speaks quickly, in a high-pitched voice, sometimes laughing incredulously, sometimes responding with sarcastic comments.

He rolls his eyes when police speak, grimacing openly when they say his complaints are out of the jurisdiction of the Toronto police service. Often, he shakes his head in disbelief and laughs incredulously. Bernardo has never been charged in the crime and Bain’s disappearance remains unsolved.

As usual, apologies for the poor sound quality.

Listen to the interview here.

Read the transcript here.

Watch the interview on YouTube here.

Episode 40: Justin Ross Harris trial testimony

This episode contains the testimony of 21-year-old Jaynie Meadows during the trial of Harris, known as Ross, for the death of his 22-month-old son Cooper. On June 18 2014, 24-year old Harris took his son to a fast food restaurant to get breakfast, then drove to his office at Home Depot, leaving Cooper strapped into a rear-facing child seat in the back of his car instead of taking him to daycare.

It was a very hot day. Around noon, Harris went to lunch with some colleagues, then picked up some light bulbs and put them in his car. Video surveillance footage shows that he did not look in the back of the SUV. Seven hours later, when he was driving home from work, he discovered Cooper’s dead body in the back of his car.

Child “hot car deaths” are not uncommon, and are generally considered to be tragic accidents–acts of negligence or, at worst, involuntary manslaughter. What made Harris’s case different was the prosecution’s argument that he killed his child deliberately because he wanted to live a carefree life. The State argued Harris was a sex addict who was visiting prostitutes and having affairs with multiple women. Harris’s numerous girlfriends and lovers testified to this fact in court, and police witnesses showed that, on the day of Cooper’s death, Harris had been sexting with at least six women, some of whom were under the age of consent. One of these women was Jaynie Meadows.

Jaynie is poised and confident as she recounts the course of her relationship with the persistent Harris, which took place mostly via text, phone, and chat apps. She testifies that she was an 18-year-old college student in 2013, when she first began engaging in online chats with Harris. Eventually, she says, she fell in love with him. “He told me he loved me every day,” she says. The prosecutor asks her to read aloud a text from Harris: “If Cooper wasn’t in the picture, I probably would have left my wife by now.”

Under cross-examination, Meadows begins to lose her poise and grows increasingly impatient with the prolonged questioning, often glaring at the defense attorney. Harris was found guilty malice murder and felony murder charges, as well as sending sexual text messages to a teenage girl and sending her nude photos.

Listen to the testimony here

Learn more about the case here

Episode 39: Julie Schenecker Police Interview

Colonel Parker Schenecker met in his wife Julie in Germany during the 1980s, where she was working as a Russian linguist. They had two children, and moved to Florida, where Julie became depressed and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

On January 27, 2011, when Parker Schenecker was overseas, daughter Calyx, 16, and son Beau, 13, were found dead by police at their home in Tampa. Julie was found drugged and semi-conscious after a suicide attempt. She was arrested on suspicion of their murder after an alleged confession. In 2014, 53-year-old Julie Schenecker went on trial for the murder of her two children. She pled not guilty by reason of insanity to two counts of first-degree murder.

On the third day of the trial, jurors were played to an audio recording of Julie Schenecker’s interview with Tampa police in which she describes how she shot her children to death.  For the first time they were able to hear Ms. Schenecker, in her own words, describe how she brutally killed her two children. The detective interviewing her is thoughtful and compassionate; and it’s very clear that Ms. Schenecker is seriously disturbed, and still under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She admits that she has been planning to kill her children for many years, but she is also unsure whether they are currently alive or dead. She was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to two concurrent life terms in prison on May 15, 2014.

Listen to the interview here.

Find out more about the case here.

Episode 38: Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Trial Testimony

This is testimony from Day 6 (March 14, 2016) of the Hulk Hogan trial, in which former wrestling star Hulk Hogan sued the gossip website Gawker and its founder Nick Denton for publishing a sex tape of him with his best friend’s wife, Heather Clem.

On the stand, being slowly eviscerated by Hogan’s attorney Douglas Mirell, is 41-year-old Gawker’s editor in chief A. J. Daulerio. Despite his smart jacket and tie, Daulerio looks sleep-deprived and bored, and occasionally comes across as arrogant and supercilious. At the beginning of the proceedings, Mirell refers to testimony from a deposition in which Daulerio admits that he “enjoyed watching the video… because I found it very amusing,” and he was “proud” to have published it. When Mirell asks if he can imagine a situation in which a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy, Daulerio replies, “If they were a child.” “Under what age?” asks Mirell. “Four,” Daulerio answers. “No 4-year-old sex tapes, OK,” Mirell says. Daulerio later contends that he was being sarcastic.

But the Florida jury was not amused, and after a two week trial, they awarded Hogan $140 million in damages over the tape, and ordered Dauleria to pay a $100,000 personal fine for posting the tape on the internet. The trial led to Gawker’s downfall, and Daulerio’s bankruptcy.

Listen to the trial testimony here.

Watch the clip on Youtube.

Episode 37: Casey Anthony Police Interview

Casey Anthony’s interview with an Orange County sheriff’s sergeant and two detectives was conducted on July 16, 2008, in a conference room at Universal Studios. The interview concerns Casey’s infant daughter, Caylee, who was last seen June 16, 2008, but was not reported missing until a month later. Casey claimed she worked at Universal Studios and led the officers there, only to eventually confess that she had not, in fact, worked there for some time.

Casey claimed that Caylee had been kidnapped by her nanny, the fictional Zenaida Fernandez Gonzales, but the detectives do not believe her. They plead with Anthony to tell the truth about what happened to Caylee. “None of us are sitting here believing what you’re saying because everything that’s coming out of your mouth is a lie,” Detective Yuri Melich tells Anthony. “Everything. And unless we start getting the truth, we’re going to announce two possibilities with Caylee: Either you gave Caylee to someone that you don’t want anyone to find out because you think you’re a bad mom. Or something happened to Caylee and Caylee’s buried somewhere or in a trash can somewhere, and you had something to do with it. Either way, right now it’s not a very pretty picture to be painting.”

Asked later whether Fernandez Gonzales accepted money, Anthony says, “I would not have sold my daughter. If I wanted to really just get rid of her, I would have left her with my parents and I would’ve left. I would’ve moved out. I would’ve given my mom custody.” When asked what Anthony wants her mother to give the media as a message to Caylee, Anthony breaks down as she says to tell her daughter “that Mommy loves her very much, and she’s the most important thing in this entire world to me, and to be brave. I truly, truly love that little girl, and miss her so much.”

Later that day, after authorities failed to find Zenaida Fernandez Gonzales in a database of Florida driver’s licenses, Casey Anthony was arrested on suspicion of giving police false information, obstructing an investigation and child neglect. The skeletal remains of Caylee Anthony were found in December 2008, not far from the Anthony home. Casey was  charged with seven counts in Caylee’s death, including first-degree murder. She could have faced the death penalty, but was found not guilty, and released.

Listen to the interview here.

Read the transcript here.

Episode 36: Charles Manson Parole Hearing

This morning, Charles Manson’s existential parole finally ran out.

In 1971, Charles Manson was found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people – including the actress Sharon Tate – all of which were carried out by members of the group at his instruction. Manson also received first-degree murder convictions for two other deaths. He was originally sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when California invalidated the state’s death penalty statute in 1972. His sentence was commuted to life. From Vacaville, he was transferred to California State Prison in Corcoran, where this hearing took place.

Manson was 62 at this 1997 parole hearing, the last one he attended. He stopped showing up because he knew the hearings were a charade, and he would never be released. His paranoid rant is eloquently phrased, but the phrases are disconnected and make sense only to him. Like the sermon of a hypocritical preacher, his rhythms are hypnotic but they have no foundation. “You can’t get into the real estate,” he says and one point, “because Pasadena is a submarine that’s run by Gerry Hoover, who’s over in the chapel, who comes from Columbia with the drug cartel saying he got money with two girls and he’s taking that pussy…”

The Parole Commissioner, Steve Baker, reads sections of a report from a psychiatrist who interviewed Manson, Dr. Wayne O. Evans, who wrote, “As usual, inmate Manson spoke in metaphor and allegory,and on occasion had to be reminded to be more linear and concrete. He has a clinical history of exercising control, manipulation, and power over his associates and followers, fueled by narcissistic rage for real or imagined slights … he exhibits some signs of schizoaffective personality disorder; once in a while he does revert to magical thinking and flights of fancy, but more in allegory and metaphor than in a delusional system. … He has considerable artistic ability, and should be encouraged to pursue such controlled outlets for this expression.”

Manson responds, “Whoever did that did a really good job, didn’t he? Yeah, that was a real nice report. I thought the guy had a lot of good things down there, pretty much. I’m a lot of those things. He’s making me look a little better than I really am, but whatever it takes is where I have to roll.”

R.I.P, Charlie.

Listen to the parole hearing here.

More information about the Manson case here

Episode 35: Paige Birgfeld Murder Trial

When Paige Birgfeld went missing from her home in Grand Valley, Colorado on June 28 2007, police were faced with a baffling number of suspects. The 34-year-old twice-divorced mother-of-three was also known as “Carrie.” She had worked as a stripper in Las Vegas in the past, and currently owned  an escort agency called Models, Inc. She advertised on Craigslist, among other locations, sometimes answering her business cellphone pretending to be a secretary in an attempt to convince men she had several women available. Sometimes she did, but often it was just Paige.

It took police seven years to comb through the alibis of the various suspects in the case, on of whom was her neighbor, Joseph Carruth, who testifies here.

Carruth explains that he met Birgfeld at a pool party that she had for her son’s soccer team, on which Carruth’s son also played. Carruth admits that he was attracted to Birgfeld and called her that night and asked for a date, but she politely turned him down. A couple of months later, Carruth called an escort service for a massage, and recognized Birgfeld when “Carrie” arrived. Birgfeld later told her ex-husband, with whom she was in the process of reuniting, that she didn’t recognize Carruth at first, but he recognized her.

Carruth told investigators she asked him to consider “dancing for her at bachelorette parties,” and he said he would think about it. The two played phone-tag the following day, which was the day Birgfeld disappeared. Eventually, another of her clients, 63-year-old Lester Jones, was convicted of her murder.

Listen to the calm, placid, polite voice of the judge in the case, Brian Flynn. Also of note is Kara Smith, Lester Jones’s young defense attorney who tries to make Carruth into a viable suspect, and, in his defense, the unruffled D.A., Dan Rubinstein.

Listen to Carruth’s testimony here.

Learn more about the case here.

Episode 34: Michael Dunn Police Interview

Around 7:30 p.m. on Nov 23 2012, Michael Dunn, 47, and his girlfriend Rhonda Rauer, stopped a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, on their way back from Dunn’s son’s wedding. They had left early (they had left their new puppy in a crate in their hotel room) and stopped to pick up a bottle of wine and a bag of chips. They pulled up next to an SUV containing four teenage boys who were playing rap music at high volume. Dunn asked the boys to turn their music down, and one of them lowered the volume, but than another boy, Jordan Davis, turned it up again to a level which Dunn would later describe in court as “ridiculously loud.” Dunn objected and Jordan Davis cursed at him and, according to Dunn, threatened to kill him.

As Dunn describes in this police interview, Davis opened his car door and pointed what appeared to be a shotgun at him. Dunn, who had a concealed weapons permit, said he feared for his life. He took a handgun out of his glove compartment and started firing at Davis. As the SUV backed up to evade his gunshots, Dunn opened his car door and continued firing at the SUV.

When Rhonda Rauer returned to the car, Dunn put his foot on the gas and sped away. The couple drove back to their hotel, where they walked the dog and ordered pizza. The next morning, Rouer saw a news report about the shooting including the fact that Jordan Davis had died. The couple still did not call the police, but canceled their plans and drove home. In this interview, Dunn claims he called a neighbor who works in law enforcement to arrange to speak to him about the shooting. However, records showed that the neighbor actually called him, and Rouer later testified in court that the shooting was never mentioned during the call. When Dunn arrived home, police were waiting for him, and he was arrested–and eye witness at the garage had made a note of his license place.

Here, Dunn claims that he mentioned to Rouer several times that he men had a shotgun, but in court, Rouer testified that Dunn never mentioned a shotgun either that night or the next day. No weapons were found in the SUV. After an initial mistrial, Dunn was found guilty of first degree murder on October 1, 2014, and sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 90 years.

Listen to the interview here.

More information about the case.

Episode 33: UFO hotline phone call

On December 12, 1987, a man in Climax Springs, Missouri  called the 24-hour hotline of the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC)to describe his encounter with a UFO and its occupants, who were staring at him “like a zebra in a zoo.” His call is taken by Robert Gribble, founder of the National UFO reporting center, who interviews him about the encounter for half an hour.

Gribble operated NUFORC for twenty years, gaining credible UFO reports from all over the world until 1994, when a fellow researcher took over the data collection responsibility. According to Robert Barrow, a member of the NUFORC team who reviewed the recordings,  “There’s something about the recorded voice, disembodied from a visualized talking head. Often the raw, unadulterated self-narrative of one’s UFO experience reinforces the incident’s integrity, and frequently voice inflections and choice of words can betray a hoax or delusion. But make no mistake, sounds hold our attention as we use our minds in an attempt to comprehend the unseen, if not the unknown.”

Listen to the recording here

More information about the NUFORC recordings

Episode 32: Barney Hill Hypnosis Tape

On September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill, along with dachshund Delsey, were returning home to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, traveling south on US Route 3. At approximately 10:15 pm they noted a “bright star” which appeared to move erratically. They continued to watch it as it apparently paced them and got closer and closer. Barney stopped the car, and the couple looked at the object through binoculars. They saw a spinning, flattened circular disk with multicolored lights on the rim. About two miles north of North Woodstock, the object descended and hovered about 100 feet in the air in front of the Hill’s car. A blue-white fluorescent glow shone through its windows.

Barney stopped the car and got out. He could see several uniformed, human-like figures and grew frightened, jumping in the car, and driving down the road. Suddenly, the Hills both heard an irregular beeping sound, felt a tingling sensation and became drowsy. The next thing they remembered was a second series of beeps, and they were driving through Plymouth, New Hampshire. It was two hours later, and they had no memory of what had happened to them. However, they both reported feeling clammy and dirty.

Betty and Barney Hill came to believe they had been abducted by aliens. Around two years after the incident, they began to visit Dr. Benjamin Simon, a Boston psychiatrist and hypnotherapist. Dr. Simon began hypnotizing the Hills on January 4, 1964. He hypnotized Betty, 41, and Barney, 39, several times each, and the sessions lasted until June 6, 1964 (over 9 hours of recordings were made). Simon conducted the sessions separately, so Betty and Barney could not overhear one another’s recollections, which turned out to be remarkably similar. At the end of each session he reinstated amnesia.

Dr. Simon admitted privately, in correspondence, that he did not not believe the Hills were abducted. Instead, he felt that they were re-living a dream that Betty had experienced right after the incident, and which she had discussed with her husband. He believed the dream had been transferred to Barney, an example of  folie à deux whereby a delusion or hallucination is transmitted from one person to another.

When Barney first describes the aliens he saw inside the UFO, he says, “One person looks friendly to me. … And he’s smiling.”  And when the doctor asks, “What was his face like?” Barney replies, “It was round.  I think of—I think of—a red-headed Irishman.  … I think I know why.  Because Irish are usually hostile to Negroes.  And when I see a friendly Irish person, I react to him by thinking—I will be friendly.  And I think this one that is looking over his shoulder is friendlyHe looks like a German Nazi.  He’s a Nazi … a black scarf around his neck, dangling over his left shoulder.”

Dr. Simon felt that the abduction narrative reflected the Hills’ anxiety as the result of being in a very early interracial marriage in a predominantly white part of the country. He thought Barney may have suffered from a persecution complex. He said, “my interest in UFOs was almost entirely on the phenomena of Barney’s developing racial paranoia which seemed to me to have been the best representation on the matter I had seen.”

Listen to the hypnosis session here.

More about the case.