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Episode 146: Pamela Smart Trial Testimony

This episode contains testimony from the March 1991 trial of Pamela Smart for conspiracy to commit the murder of her husband, Gregg. This was one of the first trials in the U.S. to allow TV cameras in the courtroom, and Pamela believes this played a significant role in her conviction.

In 1990, at age 22, Pamela began working as a media lab coordinator at a high school in Hampton, New Hampshire. She also joined Project Self-Esteem, a local drug awareness program at the school. Here, she met 15-year-old sophomore Billy Flynn, who was also a volunteer. She also met and became close to her intern, 15-year-old Cecelia Pierce. Here, Cecilia testifies that she noticed that at some point she noticed a change in Pamela and Billy ‘s relationship. She testifies that Pamela told her she “loved Bill,” and that Billy was a virgin before he had sex with Pamela.

Rather than getting a divorce, Pamela allegedly conspired with Billy and three of his friends to kill her 24-year-old husband Greg. She was convicted of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, and was sentenced to life in prison. Billy Flynn and his three friends were released from prison on parole in 2015, but Pamela remains behind bars. This episode contains testimony from Cecilia Pierce and Pamela Smart.

Listen to the episode here

Episode 145: Luis Toledo Family Murder Trial

Kevin Dredden and Yessenia Suarez both worked at American K9 in Lake Mary, Florida, a military dog-training company. Although both were married with children, both were having marital problems and in early 2013, began to confide in each other. When they were both scheduled to go on a business trip to Alabama in October 2013, Kevin and Yessenia, 28, began an affair. When they returned to Deltona, they planned to get together at a hotel along the I-4 corridor but Kevin called off the meeting because he was worried his wife would notice the money for the hotel room missing from their account.

Meanwhile, Yessenia’s husband, Luis Toledo, 38, was suspicious that his wife was having an affair when she started talking about divorce. He installed spyware on her phone, saw the messages from Dredden, and showed up at American K9 on Oct. 22, 2013, and started yelling at Suarez. Kevin said it seemed things were getting out of hand, so he walked over to try and calm things, but this made Luis, a high-ranking member of the Latin Kings, even angrier, so Kevin left. He called Yessenia later that night to see if she was alright, and he said she sounded stressed and her speech was slurred.  He got a text from Yessenia’s phone about six hours later, but police claim the text was sent by Luis Toledo after killing his wife and their two children, Thalia, 9, and Michael, 8. Their bodies have never been found.

The jury trial took place in St. Augustine, Florida in November 2018 in front of Judge Raul Zambrano. This episode features the state’s attorney questioning Kevin Dredden about his affair with Yessenia.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 144: Jessica Chambers Case

This horrible crime took place in Courtland, Mississippi, on December 6, 2014, when, as firefighters Daniel Cole, Brandy Davis, and Shane Mills testify here, cheerleader Jessica Chambers, 19, was found burning next to her car which was also on fire. She had burns on all of her body. A flammable liquid had been poured all over her, down her throat, and up her nose. Early the next morning, she died as a result of her injuries. Before she died, she was able to tell the firefighters that the person who did this to her was named “Eric” or “Derrick.”

Jessica had spent the morning with two friends, then went to her mother’s house where she took a nap. Later in the afternoon, she left after receiving a text from someone. She told her mother that she was going to get something to eat and clean out her car. At around 5:30PM, she went to a gas station about a mile-and-a-half from where her body was found. This was the last time she was seen alive.

No-one named “Eric” or “Derrick” was ever found, but texts on Jessica’s phone suggested she had told a friend, Quinton Tellis, that she was unable to meet him that night for sex. Tellis was tried twice for the crime, and both times mistrials were declared. (This audio is from the first trial, in 2017). However, in July 2015, Tellis was arrested in Louisiana for the sadistic murder of a different young lady, a Taiwanese exchange student named Ming-Chen Hsiao. He is currently in custody at the Ouachita Correctional Center in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 143: Joel Guy Jr. Trial Testimony

This episode contains the testimony of Joel Michael Guy Jr’s three half-sisters, Angela Crane, Chandise Fink, and Rene Charles, and his two sisters, Michelle Tyler and Robin White.

 Everything seemed fine when the Guy family sat down together for 2016 Thanksgiving dinner at their home in Knoxville, Tennessee. However, one week later, the family’s reclusive 28-year-old son Joel Jr. apparently stabbed and dismembered his parents, 61-year old Joel Guy Sr. and 55-year old Lisa Guy. He had planned to dissolve their remains in acid, but was injured during the murder of his father, and left the partially dissolved remains in the house as he left to take care of his injury. Before he got back, however, police performed a welfare check (since Lisa had failed to show up for work). In the family’s home, they found a notebook detailing the plot in a backpack, along with two torsos and various dismembered limbs dissolving in plastic bins (described by prosecutors as a “diabolical stew of human remains”) as well as the father’s severed hands on the floor, and the mother’s head in a pot on the stove.

Both parents were about to retire and to stop providing money to their son, who had never worked, and he would receive a $500,000 life insurance policy if both parents were dead or missing. The perpetrator had planned to frame his father for the crime. Guy was convicted Oct. 2 of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and given five life sentences.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 142: Erin Andrews Stalking Trial

In 2016, the TV sports journalist Erin Andrews brought a $75 million lawsuit against a stalker, Michael David Barrett, and the managing company of the Nashville Marriot, where she stayed in 2009. Erin, who at the time was a college football reporter for ESPN, was followed by Michael Barrett, who asked hotel staff what room Erin was staying in, and asked to be put in the room next to hers. In a taped deposition, Barrett said, “I heard the door slam close next to me and saw it was her leaving her room. I took [her door’s] peephole out, altered it, put it back in and left shortly after. I used a hacksaw to cut off the threads, so it was basically a plug, and put it back in. I went back to the room, and, unfortunately for both of us, I could hear that the shower was on in her room when I walked by. I waited until the shower went off. Then I pulled out the plug [on her door] and waited for the opportunity. I waited for a matter of 10 seconds. I waited for her to be visible.”

Barrett was sentenced to more than two years in prison for the offense. Here, Erin tearfully explains that for the last seven years she’s been forced to relive the memory daily. She said that many people believed it was a publicity stunt that enhanced her career, rather than damaging it.

The civil trial took place in Nashville, Tennessee, and the jury unanimously awarded Erin $55 million dollars in compensation for her suffering.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 141: Jeffrey Willis / Rebecca Bletsch Murder Trial

This episode contains the testimony of Jeffrey Willis in October 2017 during his trial for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch, who was shot and killed on June 29, 2014 as she was jogging in rural Muskegon County, Michigan. He is also questions about the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa, who vanished from an Exxon gas station where she was working the late shift in Norton Shores, Michigan, on April 26, 2013. Willis denies knowing either Rebecca Bletsch or Jessica Heeringa. Nonetheless, he was found guilty of the murder of Rebecca Bletsch, and received life without parole.

After Willis’s conviction, his cousin, Kevin Blum, pleaded guilty to lying to detectives during the Rebecca Bletsch investigation. He also admitted to having been an accessory after the fact by helping Willis dispose of Jessica Heeringa’s body; for this, he was sentenced on January 9, 2018 to time served plus five years’ probation. Willis was found guilty of Jessica’s murder in May, 2018, and sentenced to another life term.  He was also charged with the attempted kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl in 2016, as well as making child pornography by filming his neighbor’s unsuspecting 14-year-old daughters.

Willis comes out with all kinds of excuses for his behavior, but he is clearly lying–and doing a very bad job. He comes across as deceptive, narcissistic, self-involved and unsympathetic. His defense attorney tries to make him look like an ordinary guy with a difficult marriage and an interest in porn, but it’s too much of a stretch, and no-one found it credible.

Listen to the episode here.

 

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.