Ah, the holidays, a blissful period of time filled with family, friends, food…and binge-watching or listening to the latest true crime series or podcast to avoid said family, have things to talk about with said friends, and to nurse your coma induced by indulging in said food.Ever since Serial had everyone you knew asking “Do you think Adnan did it?” in 2014 and Making a Murderer had people yelling at their TV screens in frustration from the comfort of their couches, true crime has become one of the most popular genres in entertainment.We’ve all been there: Someone recommends we watch or listen to a series introducing and/or investigating a crime, we get sucked in, and then are spending the next few weeks playing armchair detective.
Then, of course, life goes on. Or a new season of your favorite podcast comes out and demands your attention.But when the podcast wraps up or the TV series ends, the real-life case still goes on, with many still in the midst of intense court battles. We’re updating you on the latest happenings with some of the biggest true crime stories covered by podcasts and shows like Serial, Making a Murderer, Up and Vanished, In the Dark and more. Are any of the accused any closer to getting out of jail? Was justice served in any of the cases? And which podcast just saw a major development—an arrest—over 35 years after the alleged crime happened?
Steven Avery, Making a Murderer
Netflix’s docu-series focused on Avery, a man who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and attempted murder and served 18 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2003. After going on to sue the county for $36 million, he was arrested and charged with the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer who was reportedly last seen on his property, an auto salvage as she was taking photos of car for sale for Auto Trade Magazine. After a two-year legal battle, Avery was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2007.Avery has denied murdering Halbach, and after the smash success of Part One, which spanned 10 years, prominent defense attorney Kathleen Zellner took on his case and filed a post-conviction motion in June 2017. But a few months later, a motion for a new trial was denied. In December 2018, Zellner filed a new motion for DNA testing of possible human bones, which were never tested during the original trial.And that same month Zellner called a recent defamation lawsuit filed by a former Manitowoc County detective against Netflix and the MaM filmmakers “an early Christmas present” in a statement provided to Rolling Stone.
Herald Times Reporter/Eric Young via AP, Poo
Brendan Dassey, Making a Murderer
He was 17 when he was convicted as an accessory to Halbach’s murder and rape though he recanted his confession; he was sentenced to life in prison with the earliest possibility of parole in 2048.But fans of the first season of the Netflix hit were shocked when it was reported in August 2016 that Brendan’s conviction was overturned by a federal judge, who ordered that Brendan be “released from custody.” The State of Wisconsin appealed the ruling, and in December 2017, his conviction was upheld in a 4-3 vote.Another blow came in June 2018, the Supreme Court decided it would not hear Brendan’s case.
Karl Merton Ferron/TNS via ZUMA Wire
Adnan Syed, Serial
Ah, the podcast that started it all. Back in 2014, everyone was asking each other “Do you think he did it?” because of Sarah Koenig’s gripping quest to find out if Syed really did murder his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999.After the podcast exposed possible ineffectiveness of counsel after his attorney did not interview several key witnesses and errors in the cellphone tower location data used during the original trial, a judge granted Syed a new trial in 2016.But Syed is still behind bars, with the Court of Special Appeals upholding a decision that Syed deserves a new trial earlier this year, and Maryland’s highest court head opening arguments in late November. They have yet to complete their review.
Tara Grinstead, Up and Vanished
The 2003 disappearance of a beloved former beauty queen and high school teacher made national news when podcast host Payne Lindsey actually helped bring new attention to the case, with two of Grinstead’s former students being arrested and charged with the crime and it played out in real-time on the podcast. (Grinstead’s body has never been found.)While the first season of the podcast ended in July 2017, Oxygen recently debuted a special, giving fans an update on the investigation: After both pleading not guilty, Ryan Duke and Bo Dukes’ respective trials are set to begin in 2019, with Bo, who was charged with helping dispose of Grinstead’s body, currently out on bail.
Kristal Anne Reisinger, Up and Vanished
For his follow-up season, Payne Lindsey chose to investigate the bizarre disappearance of another woman, a mom who was allegedly last seen at a full moon drum circle in the small and spiritual town of Crestone, Colorado.Throughout the season, Lindsey talked to her ex-boyfriend and the father of her young daughter, her landlord, her friends, as well as the group of men Kristal was hanging out with shortly before she went missing in 2016.By the end of the podcast’s second season, Lindsey had a pretty good theory of what happened, suspecting a small circle of friends, including a man named Catfish, at the very least knew something.”I definitely think Kristal’s case can be solved, I think it’s going to take some time though,” Lindsey said on the podcast.And his final words in season two? “We’ve seen a lot come to light in a short amount of time. All I can say is, good luck hiding this forever, guys. The clock is ticking.”
Greene County Sheriff’s Office; Instagram
Gypsy Rose Blanchard
Hulu is set to tell the shocking story of murderer Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a young woman who brutally killed her own mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, in 2015. After Dee Dee’s dead body was found in their Springfield, Miss. home by a concerned neighbor, their family and friends slowly began to unravel the truth about what was going on behind closed doors. It was later discovered that Gypsy, who everyone believed to be disabled and very ill, murdered her mother with the help of her lover, Chris Godejohn. In reality, it was her mother’s Munchausen by proxy that lead to Gypsy’s seemingly failing health.Gypsy, now 27, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and took part in the 2017 HBO documentary, Mother Dead and Dearest. Joey King is set to play Gypsy in Hulu’s The Act, with Patricia Arquette portraying Dee Dee.
In 2017, Netflix released a seven-episode docu-series looking into what happened to Sister Cathy Cesnik, who was killed in 1969, as well as abuse allegations at Keough High School in Baltimore in the late 1960s. The man at the center of it all was Father Joseph Maskell, who died in 2001 and was at the center of the abuse allegations made in the series.After the series premiered, the police exhumed Maskell’s body and tested his DNA, which ultimately did not match a sample from the crime scene where Sister Cathy’s body was found.The Keepers lead the Archdiocese of Baltimore to address the abuse allegations against Maskell directly, as well as answer questions about Sister Cathy’s still-unsolved murder.
Jessica Chambers, Unspeakable Crime
The shocking death of a former cheerleader in 2014 was at the center of Oxygen’s special, as the 19-year-old was burned alive, with burns over 98 percent of her body. Several first responders reported she had uttered a name that sounded like “Eric” or “Derek” just before she died.But the police believed a recent acquaintance named Quinton Tellis, who was 27 at the time and the prosecutors claimed texted Jessica asking for sex, was responsible. Tellis maintains his innocence, and is currently serving a five-year sentence in Mississippi after he was convicted for burglarizing an unoccupied dwelling.The first trial ended when the jury failed to reach a verdict, with the judge declaring a mistrial. But the second trial also ended with a hung jury, with the judge once again declaring a mistrial in October 2018.
The Australian’s Hedley Thomas caused a major stir down under when he launched his investigative podcast in May 2018 that looked into the 1982 disappearance of Lyn Dawson, unearthing the relationship between her husband Chris Dawson and Joanne Curtis, his student-turned-babysitter-turned second wife. The professional rugby player-turned-schoolteacher claimed his wife and the mother of his two children had run off with a religious cult, with the 16-year-old Joanne moved in with Chris Dawson three days after Lyn Dawson was last seen.After 27 million downloads worldwide and a new spotlight on Lyn’s disappearance and likely murder, along with major allegations of sexual abuse in the Australian school systems in the late ’70s and ’80s, fans of the podcast were shocked when Chris Dawson was arrested in early December 2018 and charged with Lyn’s murder (police have never found her body).Dawson, now 70, has denied killing his first wife, though two coronial inquests concluded she had been killed by a “known person.”Just before Christmas, he was released on bail, and is due back in court in February 2019.
Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
In the Dark Season 1
The first season of APM Reports’ thorough and captivating investigative podcast focused on the kidnapping of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in 1989. But then, less than two weeks before the first episode was set to drop…the case was solved, as Danny Heinrich, who had once been questioned by police and was a person of interest in another abduction case, confessed to kidnapping and murdering Jacob, leading investigators to his remains.Still, the podcast, which included nine months of investigative reporting by host Madeleine Baran and her team examined the impact the crime had on the community, as well as the investigators’ handling of the case. “We saw ourselves as investigating the investigation,” Baran said in a 2016 interview.As for Heinrich, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison on a child pornography count in 2016, and as part of his plea bargain, which included providing the details of Jacob’s murder, he was not charged with murder.
AP Photo/Winona Times, Dale Gerstenslager
In the Dark, Season 2
Baran & Co. played whistleblower once again in their highly anticipated follow up in 2018, which focused on Curtis Flowers, a black man who has been tried for the same crime—murdering four people in Mississippi in 1996—six times. Yes, six times. And each time, he was tried by the same white district attorney. The last trial took place in 2010, and followed five previous ones, that all ended in a hung jury or were thrown out.Flowers has maintained his innocence, and In the Dark looked into the crime itself, how Flowers was accused, and how the district attorney, Doug Evans, put together his case against him. (Spoiler alert: His tactics might’ve been dubious, including several eye witnesses claiming they were coached on what to say and offered incentives to testify.)As his lawyers work on his latest appeal, Flowers remains in prison and Baran was not allowed to speak with him for the podcast, which shone a light on the inner (and somewhat questionable) workings of the justice system. After the podcast ended in the summer of 2018, Flowers’ team was working with two options: a direct appeal of his conviction in the most recent trial and the post-conviction petition, which would allow his lawyers to introduce new evidence.By November 2018, a major breakthrough came: the Supreme Court agreed to hear Flowers’ appeal, with the justices looking into whether or not Evans prevented black jurors in the case.
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