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Episode 140: Len Kachinsky Stalking Hearing

This episode contains the testimony of Mandy Bartelt in a court hearing against Len Kachinsky, best-known as Brandon Dassey’s attorney in the Making a Murderer Netflix docuseries. Kachinsky served for 21 years as the municipal judge of Fox Crossing before being accused of a felony stalking charge based on his treatment of Mandy Bartelt, his court manager. Kachinsky was acquitted of the felony stalking charges, but suspended from his position by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in an opinion released on July 9, 2019.  The court found that his behavior towards Mandy violated judicial ethics rules.

Kachinsky had hired Mandy in spring 2016, and the two were on good terms at the beginning of her employment. Occasionally, they talked about their personal lives and even went running together a few times. He then grew closer and closer to her and became decidedly creepy, according to Mandy’s testimony. She told Kachinsky that she wanted to keep their relationship work-related, but he continued to send emails inviting her to go running with him and referring to himself as “both the boss and a close friend.”

Mandy describes some very unsettling incidents, including: Kachinsky staring at her for 45 minutes “while tapping a pencil and making cat noises,” telling her s story about a dog being raped and repeating it a second time, mailing things to her mother, asking her to “hit the reset button” on their relationship, expressing disappointment that she had “unfriended” him on Facebook, inviting her to a “beer or wine summit … to discuss the relationship issue,” and lunging at her desk  and asking, “Are you afraid of me now?

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 139: Eichmann Trial Testimony

This episode contains testimony from Auschwitz survivor Vera Alexander during the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel in 1961. Alexander begins by giving an account of her arrest and deportation to Auschwitz as well as her arrival at the camp and the block to which she was assigned. The judge questions her about her work detail at Auschwitz and Alexander explains how she used her position to help other prisoners and describes her placement in the hospital block when she fell ill. She describes Dr. Mengele’s experimentation on twins as well as the arrival of Hungarian Jews and the orders she received not to tell them about their fate. She also describes an incident in which a woman with a child came into her block and when the child was taken away the woman committed suicide by electrocuting herself on the electrified barbed wire fence.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 138: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano Testifies

Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano used to be John Gotti’s right-hand man, in October 1991, after learning Gotti had bad-mouthed him on government wiretaps inside their Little Italy headquarters, the Ravenite Social Club, he turned himself over to the feds. As a federal prisoner and government informant, Gravano, 47, testified before the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations about the mob’s connections with boxing, in addition to many other investigations. In exchange for turning himself in to the government, Sammy got a sweetheart deal — a mere five years in prison for 19 homicides and a key role in other illicit businesses. After his release, he entered the federal witness protection program, but was convicted in 2001 for dealing ecstasy and served two more decades behind bars. He was released in 2017.

His testimony is notable for his many references to potential deals with Donald Trump, and for his articulate, intelligent and nostalgic testimony.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 137: Rayne Perrywinkle Testimony

This episode contains the testimony of Rayne Perrywinkle during the trial of Donald James Smith. On June 21, 2013, Rayne, 45, was out shopping with her 3 daughters at a Dollar General in Jacksonville. Walmart on June 21, when she got into conversation with man named Donald James Smith, who offered to take the family to buy clothes at a nearby Walmart. She said she and her daughters got into his van and rode with him to the store. When the girls started getting hungry, Smith offered to get them food at the McDonald’s inside the Walmart. He took Rayne’s youngest daughter, Cherish, 8, with her. Video surveillance showed Smith and Cherish Perrywinkle walking out of the Walmart. No-one saw Cherish again.

 Smith, a 56-year-old sex offender, raped and strangled Cherish Perrywinkle, who was found dead in a creek behind the Highland Baptist Church in Jacksonville. Smith was sentenced to death in 2018. Rayne Perrywinkle’s two surviving daughters have been adopted by a family who have since moved to Australia.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 136: Jacob Cayer Trial Testimony

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On June 7, 2016, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, after a fight with his dad, Jacob Cayer, 30, broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend, Sabrina Teague, 25, hid in the bathroom, then stabbed Sabrina’s mother, Heesun “Sunny” Teague, 63. He then lay in wait for Sabrina to return home with her new boyfriend, Joel Kennedy. When they returned, Cayer stabbed Sabrina then chased Joel to the garage, where he was stabbed. Joel then hit Cayer in the head with a shovel, ran back in the house and called 911 from a bedroom. Joel Kennedy survived; Sabrina and Sunny did not.

A police dog found Cayer hiding in the tall grass near the Teague home, and police found a backpack with zip ties, knives, rope, duct tape, gloves and a hammer near a bicycle in the yard. The motive for the killings was unclear, and Cayer’s mental health was called into question. In fact, it was four more years before he was found competent to stand trial. Last November, a judge ordered Cayer to a mental health institution and to take medication against his objections. During that hearing, a forensic psychiatrist testified that she didn’t believe Cayer understood the seriousness of the case since he seemed “gleeful” when he talked about it. In a recorded confession to investigators following the murders, Cayer admitted to being in a “wave of hell” before attacking Sabrina in her home. He said she was blackmailing his family. During direct questioning on the stand, he seems rambling and barely coherent.

A jury found Cayer guilty but not criminally responsible due to mental illness (formerly “not guilty by reason of insanity”). He was sent to a forensic psychiatric hospital “until competency is restored.”

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 135: Cindy Blitzer Testimony

When Craig Blitzer became district attorney of Rockingham County in North Carolina, he was worried about taking a pay cut because his wife Cindy had got the couple into a lot of debt. But he was reassured when he realized he could employ her as his assistant. After all, that’s what his friend Wallace Bradsher, district attorney of neighboring Person and Caswell counties, had done with his wife, putting her on salary as an assistant. When both district attorneys learned from the state ethics commission that they weren’t allowed to hire relatives, they made a deal to swap wives. Cindy Blitzer went to work for Wallace Bradsher, and Pam Bradsher went to work for Craig Blitzer. Only Cindy Blitzer was also attending nursing school full-time, which meant she did little to no work for Brasher.

In this episode, Wallace Bradsher acts as his own attorney and questions Cindy Blitzer about how much she knew (or claimed to know) about the $48,000 she received in unearned pay. Cindy Blitzer avoided criminal charges because her husband made a plea deal with the state on a misdemeanor charge (he also had to pay back the $48,000). Wallace Bradsher was sentenced to four months in prison and stripped of his law license.

Episode 134: Brent Wolgamott Testimony

This episode contains the testimony of college student and former male escort Brent Wolgamott in the trial of author Michael Peterson for the alleged murder of his wife Kathleen (the case featured in Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s excellent documentary miniseries The Staircase), whom, he claimed, had fallen down a staircase in the couple’s home. The prosecution brought in Wolgamott (“Brad from Raleigh”) to testify in the belief that his testimony would support their argument that the Petersons’ marriage was far from happy, and that Kathleen had discovered Michael’s alleged secret “gay life” and wanted a divorce. Wolgamott testifies that he never met Peterson, and in their emails, he had praised his wife and his marriage.

Peterson was convicted of the murder in 2003, and after eight years in prison, was granted a new trial. On February 24, 2017, Peterson submitted an Alford plea to the reduced charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to time already served and freed.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 133: three 911 calls

The first call was placed in January 7, 2007 by Dylon Peterson, 25, who tells the dispatcher that he has just killed  two people. Peterson, who is drunk, seems incoherent, has a bizarre affect, and gives no explanation for his act. He was homeless at the time, and had been staying with a friend, Nick Nagle, whom he’d met at a culinary arts class in Vancouver. While Nick and his father were out of town, Dylon stabbed to death Nick’s younger brother Mathew, 15, and his mother Sandra Torell, 45. He was sentenced to 57 years for murder. His motive remains unclear.

The second set of calls relate to a crime that took place in Irving, Texas, on  New Year’s Day, 2008. Taxi driver Yaser Abdel Said, 58, felt that his daughters Amina and Sarah had dishonored his family by refusing to adhere to the standards of traditional Egyptian cultural behavior. That day, he lured them into his taxi cab on the pretense of taking them out to eat, and fatally shot them in the cab. Before she died, Sarah Said made a brief, desperate call to 911 asking for help. By the time the police located the cab, the sisters were dead, and Yaser Said had disappeared, along with his handgun and all of his savings. He has not been found.

The third pair of calls relate to an attempted kidnapping that took place in Simi Valley, California, in March 2007. A 9-year-old girl was playing alone outside her home when she was grabbed by the hair and forced into a vehicle. Two neighbors saw the incident, describing the kidnapper as a middle-aged Latino man. He drove the girl around the city, trying unsuccessfully to molest her, then dropped her off about a block from her family’s apartment. The girl suffered minor scratches and bruises but was not seriously injured. The man was never identified.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 132: Darryl La Ray Johnson Sentencing Hearing

Darryl La Ray Johnson, 32, of Great Falls, Idaho, pleaded guilty on March 1 2017 to possession of marijuana. In May, he went to court for a sentencing hearing after spending five months in jail. At the beginning of the hearing, he fires his attorney at the hearing and asked to represent himself. He goes on to argue that an Idaho judge has no jurisdiction over him because he’s a “Moorish American national.” Johnson is referring to a religious sect formed in the 1920s on the belief that African-Americans came to America from Morocco and they’re related to the ancient Canaanites and Moabites of the Bible. Adherents claim Moors were America’s indigenous inhabitants and are thereby entitled to self-governance.

This claim (lack of jurisdiction) has been used numerous times by different groups under what is known as the “sovereign citizen movement.” According to this claim, indigenous individuals are not subject to government statute. However, the legal arguments claiming individuals are “sovereign” have been rejected by the courts. Judge Pickett threatens to place Johnson in contempt of court after he continually interrupts Pickett and the prosecutor. The judge comes close to losing his temper two or three times, but overall remains admirably cool and calm, given Johnson’s refusal to abide by the courtroom rules. He gives Johnson more than one chance to request the services of an attorney or go on probation. But Johnson never quits, and ends up with a prison term.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 131: Cross Examination of Erik Sackett

In October 2017, Erik Sackett, 39, of Vernon County, Wisconsin, began dating single mom Erin Somvilai, who had a history of depression, drug use, and mental illness (she’d already attempted suicide three times). Erin was in love with Erik, but he was mainly interested in sex, and in February 2018, he got involved with another woman. He tried to distance himself from Erin, even though he continued to have sex with her. Erin was distraught, and her life began to spiral downwards.

On June 3 2018, Erin visited Erik and left him a bottle of brandy, a photo and a note. She returned again later that day, only to find Erik in bed with his new girlfriend. Upset, she left and began texting Erik and threatening to kill herself. Erik went to find her and took her to Runge Hollow Lake to calm her down, and the two of them went swimming. After Erik left her, Erin went missing, and police began searching the area. Erin’s body was found in her car in Runge Hollow Lake in Vernon County, Wisconsin, near his Erik’s cabin.

Erik Sackett was the main suspect in Erin’s death but his attorney Christopher Zachar raised the possibility that Erin committed suicide (the doctor who performed the autopsy said he couldn’t it rule out). Zachar also told jurors of another suspect looked at by police–Dr. David Onsrud, a physician who employed Erin to take care of his son. Onsrud admitted that he paid roughly $15,000 for Erin to tie him up as part of a fetish.

Sackett was acquitted of the crime. Erin Somvilai’s death remains undetermined.

Listen to the episode here.