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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.

Episode 130: Deposition of Cleal Watts III

This episode contains just over an hour’s audio from the six-hour deposition of Cleal Watts III (CV No. 13-2578) in the Western District of Tennessee in August 2015. Watts told investors he was an experienced importer of gold dust, that he owned a refinery in Dallas, Texas, and that their funds would be used to purchase and refine gold dust from Africa in order to generate substantial returns in the United States. When no returns came in, Watts would delay by telling investors grandiose stories about hijackings, theft, customs issues and storage challenges, enabling him to coerce more money out of them. In the end, Watts defrauded his clients out of $5.3 million, which he spent on himself. It took three years of litigation to get answers out of Watts–and even in this deposition, his answers are vague, circuitous, and redundant, often skirting the point.
To defend himself, Watts uses the claim that he’s a dyslexic with memory problems, and he never puts anything in writing. He claims that he’s a wealthy gold merchant, but refers to bullion as “bouillon” (and keeps referring to “monies”). The straight-shooting attorney in this deposition is Anthony Pietrangelo of Pietrangelo Cook, PLC in Dallas, Texas. The lawsuit resulted in a $22 million judgement against Watts.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 129: Interrogation of Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam

This episode contains part of the interrogation of Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam, a 25 year old man Chinese accused of killing Vancouver couple Richard Jones, 68, and his wife, Dianna Mah-Jones, 64, in their home on Sept. 26, 2017. Rocky does not confess to the murder–in fact, while he’s happy to engage in a little small talk, he says nothing at all related to the crime.

His interrogator is Sgt. Leah Terpsma, who uses a gentle, sympathetic, motherly approach, bringing Rocky a chicken sandwich and eating her lunch with him. But it doesn’t work. All Rocky wants is to be given his phone so he can play video games while he waits to be taken to jail.

When the case went to trial in January 2020, Rocky’s attorney argued that his mental state was impaired due to an addiction to video games and he didn’t have the intent to commit murder. In fact, he argued that Rocky thought he was in a video game when he murdered the couple. No other motive has come to light.

Sentencing has been delayed due to COVID quarantine.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 128: Edwin Lara Crime Spree Tapes

On July 24, 2016, Edwin Lara, a public safety officer at Central Oregon Community College, beat 23-year-old Kaylee Sawyer to death during his work shift. The following day, he found a second victim.  19-year-old Aundreah Elizabeth Maes, 19, was sitting in her car in  the parking lot of a Ross store, when Lara pointed his gun at her, opened the passenger door, got into the back seat and demanded she drive him to California.

 He ordered Maes to stop at a hotel at 11:39 p.m that night, where he took a room, handcuffed Maes to the bathroom door, took a shower and then forced her into bed. He made her swallow two sleeping pills and crawled in beside her. Maes prevented him from raping her by lying that she had a sexually transmitted disease.

 Lara forced Maes back into the car at 1:26 a.m., and they drove around until 5 a.m., when they stopped at a Super 8 motel in Yreka. Outside the motel, Lara walked with Maes toward a 73-year-old motorist sitting in a parked car and shot him in the abdomen when he wouldn’t give up his vehicle. He then took his victim to  a nearby gas station, where he stole a car from a 76-year-old woman and her two teenage grandsons.

At 6:40 a.m. on July 26, 2016, he called 911 and said he was wanted for murder. He was arrested a short time later, armed and wearing a bulletproof vest. This episode contains audio of: Lara’s 911 call turning himself in, a police interview with his wife while he was on the run, and his police interrogation after the arrest.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 127: Manuel Vela Prison Interview

    In December 2017, Manuel Vela, 28, was arrested in east Bakersfield, California after “socking and choking” his pregnant girlfriend to death, carving her unborn child out of her body, and “cutting it up” by the side of a road next to a homeless shelter. Vela had faced three previous domestic violence charges, including a previous conviction against his victim, Kristina Rivera, 30. This interview was conducted shortly after Vela’s arrest by two reporters from KBAK-TV in Bakersfield.

Vela had not been evaluated by a psychiatrist when this interview took place, but he is clearly incompetent to stand trial. At first he expresses concerned about possibly incriminating himself, but right away describes him crime in graphic detail. Vela is obviously schizophrenic. He is paranoid and delusional, calls himself “the Antichrist,” claims his “Father” told him to kill his girlfriend and her baby, describes hallucinations, hearing voices, receiving commands from outer space, and other bizarre tangents.

In January 2018, Vela was found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead. The official cause of death was suicide by hanging.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 126: Confession of Robert Gladden, Jr.

On Monday August 27, 2012, the first day of the a school year, 15-year old Robert Gladden Jr. pulled a gun from his pants and opened fire in the cafeteria of Perry Hall High School in Perry Hall, Maryland. He was quickly tackled and brought to the ground by a teacher, but not before shooting and seriously injuring another student, Daniel Borowy, who survived his injuries. After his arrest, Gladden was interviewed by Baltimore County police. In this interview, Gladden has a flat affect, mumbling and rambling in a voice whose depth belies his childish appearance. He is obviously in a state of severe depression, and has been for some time.

Gladden admits to being bullied and says the shooting was an attempt to commit suicide by cop.  He tells his questioners that he hoped this would be the last day of his life, and expresses admiration for the Columbine shooters. He says he took 21 shells with him to school that day because “I figured if I’m going to do it, I might as well kill a lot.” He confesses that he’s been struggling with unhappiness for years. “The first time I thought about killing myself, I was in fourth grade but I was so young, I figured I’d wait,” he says, adding that he hopes to get the death penalty  “so I can just die.”

The death penalty has been abolished in Maryland, but Gladden was charged as an adult, and Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. went beyond state sentencing guidelines and gave him 35 years in prison.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 125: Michelle Martinko Cold Case

On December 20, 1979, 18-year-old Michelle Marie Martinko was found stabbed to death in the family’s 1972 tan Buick in the parking lot of a Cedar Rapids mall. The high school senior had driven to the mall after her school choir banquet to shop for a new winter coat. Police found no weapon or fingerprints to identify; Michelle hadn’t been robbed or raped, and she had no enemies. However, the perpetrator cut himself during the stabbing, leaving blood on Michelle’s clothes and the gear shift knob. This blood was preserved in the police laboratory.        Forty years later, using new technology, Cedar Rapids police created profiles based on the DNA in the blood sample, then used genetic genealogical research to narrow the profile down to a small pool of suspects. One of them was a man named Jerry Burns, whose wife died by suicide in 2008, and whose cousin vanished on Dec. 19, 2013. A Cedar Rapids police officer, following Burns, retrieved a straw he used to drink a can of soda, and used it to retrieve DNA . This, it turned out, matched the DNA in the blood found on Martinko’s dress. Jerry Burns, 65, was arrested in December 2018. On February 24, 2020, he was found guilty of first degree murder.

This episode contains audio from Day 1 of the trial in February 2020. Testifying are four of Michelle Martinko’s school friends, now in their late 50s: Jane Hansen, Jeff White, Martin Miller, and Tracy Price.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 124: Murder of Rosemarie Essa

On February 24, 2005, Rosemarie Essa, driving to meet a friend, collapsed behind the wheel of her car, and hit in a passing van. She later died at the hospital, even though she had no apparent injuries. After Rosemarie’s death, her doctor husband Yazeed  hired two nannies, Marguerita Montenaz and Michele Madeline. When the cause of Rosie’s death was determined to be cyanide poisoning, Yazeed fled to Lebanon. Police discovered that he had a string of girlfriends and mistresses, including Michele Madeline (whom he had infected with herpes, as he did his wife Rosie), and family friend Marguerita Montenaz, who testifies here. The prosecution tried to paint Marguerita as an obsessed stalker who wanted to marry Yazeed and who had the motive and opportunity to poison his wife, but the argument was weak, and quickly overturned. Yazeed Essa was arrested in  Cyprus in October, 2006, and after a lengthy extradition process, he was returned to the US to stand trial. Yazeed Essa was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years in March 2010.

Listen to the testimony here.

Episode 123: Ezra McCandless Case

Ezra McCandless (born Monica Carlson), 20, chose a new “gender neutral” name because she sometimes identified as a boy. At the time of the crime, she had three suitors: on/off boyfriend Jason Mengel, 35; Alex Woodworth, who called her his “boy,” and John Hansen, who (according to McCandless) sexually assaulted her. When the crime occurred, Ezra had moved out of Jason Mengel’s home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and their relationship had ended–partly because Jason had learned Ezra was having a sexual relationship with Alex Woodworth, whom (she said) liked to be aggressive and choke her during sex. Ezra wanted to get back with Jason. On March 22, 2018, she broke up with Alex, and he reacted badly. They went for a drive to “continue the discussion in a public place.” The car got stuck on a muddy road, and after trying to free themselves, the two got into a fight. Ezra claims Alex tried to sexually assault her. She stabbed him 16 times, then carved the word “boy” into her arm and went to a nearby farmhouse to get help. The prosecution claimed the attack was “an attempt to recaputure the relationship she wanted with Jason Mengel.”

During the trial, McCandless changed her plea from ‘not guilty by reason of mental disease’ to a ‘not guilty’ plea. She was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 122: Nicole Nachtman Trial

Nicole Nachtman was, by all accounts, a disappointment to her mother, Myriam, and stepfather Bob. The defense argued that Nicole’s mother had inflicted years of psychological, verbal and physical abuse on her daughter, including forcing her to get liposuction and Lasik surgery. Nicole was emotionally stunted and lived in fear, taking refuge in online games and animated cartoons. Her mother punished Nicole for the slightest infraction, so Nicole was naturally terrified when she realized she was too late to get housing at FSU when returning to college for her second year.

Nicole apparently returned home in August 2015 when Myriam, 56, was out of town on a work-related trip and shot her 67-year-old stepfather in the back of the head. She then dragged his body into a bedroom and locked the door. She cleaned up her stepfather’s blood, but left droplets and smudges throughout the house, along with her own thumbprint stamped in blood on a wall. When Myriam returned home, Nicole was lying in wait, and shot her mother three times. A next-door neighbor testified he heard the gunshots and a scream, then saw a shadowy figure dashing between their homes.

Nicole then returned to FSU (she had, as she later found out, been given overflow housing) and asked her roommates to say she’d been there for two days. She was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, rejecting defense arguments that she was insane at the time of the crimes, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This episode contains the testimony of Nicole’s half-brother, Joseph Carey; neighbor Alaina Roe; her father Ronald Nachtman, and her only friend, Laura Hessemer.

Listen to the episode here.