When crimes are committed, it’s often an overwhelming surge of emotion that triggers someone to do unthinkable things. Lust, betrayal, corruption, greed and grift drive the stories in these podcasts about true crime and double lives. You’ll be relieved these toxic people aren’t in your inner circle. And as I often do, I’ve added a few bonus podcasts worth sharing.
This series, hosted by investigative journalist Brendon Keefe, begins with a 911 call placed by police officer Matthew Boynton. He tells the dispatcher that he’s outside his Griffin, Ga., apartment while his wife is inside with their kids. He claims she’s threatening to commit suicide in a closet. He’s heard two gunshots and is freaking out. But what actually happened before this fateful moment? Their troubled and tumultuous relationship is filled with fights, infidelity and duress. Interviews with journalists, friends, family and police officers try to get to the bottom of it all. Were the police covering up for their colleague? What is the real story and will they get to the truth?
When Jennair Gerardot found out her husband Mark was having an affair with his boss, she stopped at nothing trying to catch the two in the act. Hosted and reported by Barbara Schroeder, she takes you through how Jennair spied on them, sent messages to his mistress and made their lives a living hell. Jennair then writes a suicide letter outlining a menacing plan for vengeance. Real audio and video documents all of it. Bad Bad Thing makes you a fly on the wall in this deadly love triangle. This true story examines how desire, betrayal and revenge drives some past the edge of disaster.
One of the all time classic podcasts features the ultimate toxic relationship gone wrong. When wealthy interior designer Debra Newell was looking for love, she found John Meehan. He seemed to have it all; this handsome, rich, smooth-talking doctor was a dream date who became a nightmare, terrorizing Newell and her family who had sensed something with this guy was off. Way off. Christopher Goffard from The Los Angeles Times takes you through the many backstories of John and how the Newell family deals with it. It’s almost too crazy to be real—so crazy it inspired an excellent TV series based on the podcast.
Also from The Los Angeles Times is It Was Simple. Betty seemed to have it all—rich husband, kids and a house in the suburbs. Her husband, Dr. Dan Broderick, was the ideal partner until he started having an affair with his secretary. They decide to divorce but it doesn’t stop the fighting and bitter feelings. Things spin out of control and Betty ends up killing both of them while they are sleeping. This series also looks into Betty’s psychological state to determine what drove her to take such extreme measures. Was she being mentally abused in the relationship? Was she acting out after suffering from the trauma of being terribly betrayed? Betty remains in prison with a tremendous fan base supporting her early release.
How far would you go for true love? That’s the question asked by Twin Flames, where finding your perfect soulmate can lead you into a cult. YouTubers and grifters Jeff and Shaleia Ayan tell their followers and fans to stop at nothing to achieve love. Even if it means stalking, harassing and committing crimes. The Ayans use their influence to convince their members to break with family and jobs in order to match with their “twin flame” or “soul mate.” Actress Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn 99) narrates how they manipulate their followers into doing horrible, toxic things in the name of love.
In 2003, two skinny, starving teenage boys were spotted roaming around a small Canadian town. Good samaritans took them in and tried to help, but the more they got to know them, the stranger their back story seemed to become. The boys are the talk of the small town. They even had nicknames, Bush Boys or the Wild Boys of Vernon. But how did they get there? Why are they only eating fruit? Where are their parents or ID? Journalist Sam Mullins peels back the layers of this story that ended up making national headlines. It gets much more interesting when Mullins brings you to the present day and where they are now. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, their story takes another turn.
Season 2 of To Live And Die In LA is crawling with toxic relationships behind the disappearance of Elaine Park, a 20-year-old woman from Glendale, Calif., who went missing in January of 2017. Author and Rolling Stone journalist Neil Strauss presents a twisty-turny true-crime-in-real-time story. Everyone in his universe seems to be involved in solving this mystery. His then-wife, Ingrid De La O and Incubus guitarist Michael Einziger and his wife Ann Marie Simpson, a concert violinist. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any wilder, listen for cameos from famous pop stars who are randomly connected to this story. It’s hard to give details to prevent spoilers, but I can promise once you start, you won’t want to stop. Season 1 is also excellent and addicting.
And in other raves…
I’m late to the party, but I’m really glad I finally discovered this gem of a series. Hosted by New Hampshire Public Radio’s Jason Moon, the podcast starts in Bear Brook national park in the ’80s. Teens on bikes find four barrels full of body parts. Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” sets the scene of what’s to come. A decades long-investigation into a serial killer follows. What makes this true-crime series unique is that it addresses genetic genealogy and other new forensic advancements on the forefront of solving old cold cases. The same technology led to an arrest in the Golden State Killer case in 2018. Even amateur investigators are now using genealogy work to find answers. It’s riveting from start to finish.
9/12 is about how the world changed forever—for better and worse—after September 11, 2001. This series isn’t a recap or a history lesson; instead, it’s a journey into what happened days and years later that you probably didn’t know—like how comedians tried to be funny again and what broke the sadness curse. How Muslim Americans dealt with racism but also never lost their pride in being American. How putting flags everywhere impacted patriotism in weird ways. There’s even a look at the origins of conspiracy theories that are still being dissected today. Each stand-alone episode is a triumph of things you thought you knew. Host Dan Tieberski (Finding Richard Simmons, The Line) is likable, well-researched and funny. Most importantly he’s skilled at interviewing people with the utmost sensitivity. 9/12 is truly one of the most original, educational and best podcasts of the last year.
Mara Davis is a media personality based in Atlanta, Ga. In addition to hosting the VoteHer podcast with Senator Jen Jordan, she also is a senior talent booker for various television networks and podcasts.