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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.

Episode 31: Byron Smith audiotape

     Byron David Smith, 64, was a retired State Department security engineering officer whose home in Little Falls, Minnesota had been broken into multiple times at least half a dozen times during 2012. The thieves had stolen thousands of dollars in cash, the watch his father had received after spending nearly a year as a POW in World War II, medals and ribbons Smith had earned in Vietnam, several firearms, and jewelry. Smith, who was angry that local police had not been able to prevent the break-ins, began wearing a holster with a loaded gun inside his home.

On Thanksgiving, 2012, Smith was at home when he heard people casing his property outside. He took his gun and went to sit in his basement, waiting for six hours to shoot the intruders. He turned on an audio recorder to tape the incident, intending to show he was attacked inside his home (defending your home against intruders is permitted under the state’s “Castle law”). However, the audio tape also picked up Smith’s bitter curses and angry mutterings, including him rehearsing what he was planning to say to police and attorneys after he had killed the burglars (“I realize I don’t have an appointment, but I would like to see one of the lawyers here,” he says at one point).

The intruders were two local teenagers, Haile Kifer, 18, and her cousin, Nicholas Brady, 17, who were being investigated for prior burglaries, including those at Smith’s house. When Brady appears at the top of the basement stairs, we can hear Smith shoot him twice, then we hear Brady fall downstairs and Smith firing again, shooting him in the face and killing him.

Minutes later, we hear Kifer entering the basemen. Smith shoots her at the top of the stairs. She cries out, “Oh my god!” and falls down the stairs. Smith goes to shoot her again, but his rifle jams. He picks up his revolver and fires many times into her chest, then dragged her across the floor and put her body next to that of her cousin, and killed her instantly with a shot to the head.  Following the shootings, he mutters, “I am not a bleeding heart liberal. I felt like I was cleaning up a mess – not like spilled food, not like vomit, not even like…not even like diarrhea – the worst mess possible. And I was stuck with it…in some tiny little respect…in some tiny little respect. I was doing my civic duty. If the law enforcement system couldn’t handle it, I had to do it. I had to do it. The law system couldn’t handle her and if it fell into my lap and she dropped her problem in my lap…and she threw her own problem in my face. And I had to clean it up.”

Smith waited until the following day to have a neighbor call police, saying that he did not want to bother law enforcement on Thanksgiving. When interviewed by police, he acknowledged “firing more shots than I needed to,” and and described firing “a good clean finishing shot” into Kifer’s head. This use of excessive force, coupled with the fact that Smith had clearly been lying in wait for the teens, led to his conviction for two counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, and his appeal denied.

Listen to the audio here.

Learn more about the case here.

Episode 30: Fiona Wais testimony, Steven Capobianco Trial

This episode features testimony in the trial of Steven Capobianco, 30, for the murder in Hawaii of Carly “Charli” Scott, his 27-year-old ex-girlfriend who was five months pregnant with their child when she went missing in February of 2014.  Capobianco pleaded not guilty to the charges in the trial, which took place in July of 2014.

Charli met Steven Capobianco in 2009. She fell in love, and Steven invited her to live with him, but during the two years the couple lived together, according to the prosecution, “the defendant would tell his friends that they were just roommates and he did not like to take pictures with her.”

After Steven broke up with her, Charli continued to love him, even though she knew he didn’t care about her. It was after they had broken up, and when Steven had a new girlfriend, that he got Charli pregnant.

Charli’s mother testified that on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, she went to check on her daughter at her home in Makawao, Hawaii, and noticed that one of Charli’s dogs was in the home and had urinated and defecated inside.  Charli’s other dog, Nala, was missing.

Charli had three sisters, Brooke, Fiona, and Phaedra, who all testified in the trial. Her two younger sisters, Fiona and Phaedra often stayed at the home Charli shared with Steven to spend more time with their sister. When Charli went missing, Fiona was 16 and Phaedra 13. The girls found evidence of her remains in a nearby forest, along with the burned-out shell of her car.

In her trial testimony, Fiona relates how Charli announced her pregnancy to her family, how Steven had insisted that she get an abortion, and Charli’s refusal to do so. After learning that her sister was pregnant, Fiona says that she contacted Capobianco to ask him questions. He replied by saying that, “I thought she took care of it.” Fiona told him that Charli was having the baby.

Fiona also said that Charli did not get along with their stepfather, and at the time of her disappearance, she was not allowed at her mother and stepfather’s home. Later, when Charli went missing, Fiona told the jury that Steven had said, “I have a hypothesis that Charli could have picked up a hitchhiker,” adding, “It didn’t make sense to me, because the story that I had heard repeatedly was that Steven’s car was having problems, and when they were last seen, he was driving down the road in front of Charli to make sure that his vehicle didn’t break down again.”

Listen to Fiona’s testimony here.

Read more about the case here.

Watch the trial on YouTube

Episode 29: Gypsy Willis Testimony, Martin McNeill Trial

From the outside, the MacNeills were the ideal Mormon family. They lived in a gated community in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Martin MacNeill was a doctor, lawyer, and Mormon Bishop; his homemaker wife Michele was a former fashion model and beauty queen. The couple had four natural children: Rachel, Vanessa, Alexis and Damian, and four girls adopted from the Ukraine: Giselle, Elle, Sabrina, and Ada.

But in private, Martin MacNeill was not happy with Michele, talked about wanting a divorce, watched pornography and had extramarital affairs. When, after 30 years of marriage, Michele, 50, died while at home recovering from a facelift, her family was suspicious. Their suspicious increased when MacNeill began openly dating his children’s nanny, Gypsy Willis.

During her testimony at Martin MacNeill’s murder trial in 2013, Gypsy calmly describes meeting the doctor at a dating site in 2005, when she was a nursing student. They went to lunch, and MacNeill seemed reserved. He told her he was married and had a great life, but he was looking for extramarital excitement, she says, “and that is what I was. It was very passionate and very sexual. It was so fun—this beautiful, handsome doctor taking time out of his life for me.”

After the lunch, they stayed in touch; instant messaging progressed to texting, their relationship eventually shifting from lunch dates to lovers around January 2006. She claims to have been genuinely shocked when Michele MacNeill died, but went along with Martin’s plan to move her into his family’s life gradually, as nanny to the younger children. Gypsy says Martin proposed to her just three months after his wife’s death, although they were never married. She also read excerpts from letters she and MacNeill exchanged while both were in prison on identity-theft charges.

These charges were just one of the dark secrets that emerged during the trial. MacNeill had stolen his 16-year-old adopted daughter Giselle’s identity documents and given them to Gypsy. He was also found guilty of sexually molesting Alexis on two occasions. It also turned out that MacNeill had falsified university transcripts to enter medical school, and that the couple’s youngest adopted daughter Ada was, in fact, the child of their daughter Vanessa, who was a heroin addict. In 2010, their 24-year old son Damian committed suicide.

Gypsy Willis was sentenced to three years of probation. Martin MacNeill was sentenced to life without parole, and committed suicide in Utah State Prison in April 2017, at the age of 60.

Listen to Gypsy’s testimony here

Watch on Youtube here

MacNeill Trial Documents

Episode 28: Interview with Jens Soring

This is an interview by Noreen Turyn of WSET-TV in Lynchburg, Virginia with Jens Söring on March 26, 2011. Söring came to the U.S. from Germany as a child. When a student at the University of Virginia, he fell in love with a fellow student, a beautiful but troubled girl named Elizabeth Heysom. On the morning of March 30, 1985, the bodies of Elizabeth’s parents Derek and Nancy Haysom, were found brutally slashed, stabbed, and almost decapitated in their home in Bedford County, Virginia. When police supected Elizabeth and Jens of involvement, they fled the country, spending almost a year traveling around the world until they ran out of money. Eventually, they were arrested in London on charges of check fraud. At first, Söring confessed to committing the murders, but when he learned he would not be extradited to Germany, as he had assumed, but would remain in the U.S., he recanted his story.

According to Söring, Elizabeth admitted to him that she had killed her parents and was terrified of being executed for the crime. Jens says he promised her that, if they were ever arrested, he would take responsibility for the crime, since he believed he would be extradited to Germany, where there is no death penalty. Since his recantation, Söring has insisted on his innocence; he has many supporters, and has written books about his case.

 

This interview took place at  Buckingham Correctional Center, in Virginia. Elizabeth Haysom is currently also serving a 90-year prison sentence for two counts of accessory to murder.

Listen to the interview here.

Watch the interview on Youtube here; check out Jans Söring’s website and a New Yorker article about the case from November 9, 2015 by Nathan Heller.

Episode 27: Squeaky Fromme Competency Hearing

Lynette Alice “Squeaky” Fromme was a member of the Manson family. On the morning of September 5, 1975, Fromme went to Sacramento’s Capitol Park, where President Gerald Ford would be speaking, dressed in a red robe and armed with a semi-automatic pistol that she pointed at the President. The pistol’s magazine was loaded with four rounds, but there was no cartridge in the chamber. She was immediately restrained by a Secret Service agent, and arrested.

On the afternoon of Sunday, September 21, 1975 Fromme was interviewed on tape at the Sacramento County Jail by Dr. James Richmond to evaluate if she was mentally competent to give up counsel and represent herself at trial.  Dr. Richmond’s determination read:

Miss Fromme acknowledged having experimented with LSD and marijuana in prior years. She said that newspaper accounts of how heavily she had used drugs were patently false. She estimated that she had used LSD approximately 30 or less times, and she stated that she had never experienced any severe psychiatric disturbance from such use. She said that she had used marijuana lightly, perhaps one joint per week, in no steady pattern. She said that the effects from it were even lighter than from the LSD. She denied any residual memory or intellectual deficit from the use of either … 

As the examination continued she loosened up emotionally, showing a range of emotional expression in keeping with the present situation. She smiled appropriately periodically. She displayed no overt anxiety or depression, and there were no signs of a psychotic thought disorder. She was attentive, comprehended my questions without difficulty except for occasional words with which she was not familiar, and her responses were quick, pertinent, and appeared candid. Her statements were consistently rational. She appeared to be a most sensitive and intuitive person, acutely tuned in to social issues …

Fromme was not allowed to represent herself in court, and, as a result, she refused to cooperate with her own defense. After a lengthy trial, she was sentenced to life imprisonment, and released on parole on August 14, 2009, after serving nearly 34 years.

Listen to the psychiatric evaluation here.