5 Podcasts About Baffling Missing Persons Cases

Getting the word out could lead to a break in the case
Getting the word out could lead to a break in the case

Welcome to True Crime Tuesday where we review, recommend and generally obsess over everything crime-related.

There are plenty of documentaries, podcasts and books out there about cases that were ultimately solved. We’ll binge watch a series, fascinated by the techniques investigators used to analyze evidence and zero in on a murderers. But what about the cases that don’t have evidence to analyze, leads to pursue, or even a body for the family to bury? When someone vanishes seemingly without a trace, it’s even harder for police to solve the crime—if there is a crime to solve at all.

Investigators believe one of the greatest resource they have in solving cold cases is the public. Sometimes all it takes is a witness with a little bit of new information to break the case wide open. That’s why podcasts about missing persons cases actually have the potential to make a difference. True crime has exploded in popularity because of the shocking narratives and well-put-together plot lines, but we have to remember there are people living these stories and they don’t always get the neat and tidy ending we see on TV. There’s no guarantee cold cases will ever be solved, but if we keep talking about them, we can help keep the investigation alive.

In the Dark
The disappearance of Jacob Wetterling was unsolved for 27 years before Danny Heinrich finally confessed and led police to his remains which were buried only a few miles away from where he disappeared. Produced by American Public Media and hosted by Madeline Baran, the first episode of In the Dark was scheduled to be released on September 13, 2016. On September 6, Heinrich admitted to kidnapping and killing Wetterling in 1989. The developments were completely unexpected and prompted Baran to re-edit the first couple episodes and move up the release date.

In the Dark is less about the actual disappearance of Wetterling and more about the investigation and how it impacted the surrounding community. It looks into systemic failures in the way the Sheriff’s office handled the investigation and the establishment of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, a law that requires states to implement a sex offender and crimes against children registry. The podcast won a Peabody Award for its “immaculate storytelling talent and journalistic precision” that revealed how important the early days of an investigation are. Season 2 is set to be released some time this spring.

Up and Vanished
Tara Grinstead’s case is the largest case file in Georgia’s history. She was 30 years old when she disappeared from her home in Ocilla. Although it took over a decade of active investigation, a tip last year led to the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke and Bo Dukes (no relation) her murder. Prior to the arrest, filmmaker Payne Lindsey started the podcast Up and Vanished to investigate Tara’s disappearance.

Lindsey covers the night of her disappearance and interviews experts, Tara’s friends and family and even possible suspects over 2 years until an arrest is finally made. He continues with updates as new information comes out about what really happened to Tara. The case is still ongoing with a trial date pending so Up and Vanished is an interesting look at an in-depth investigation, what finally led to an arrest and where the case will go from here.

Missing Maura Murray
In 2004, 21-year-old Maura Murray left her university campus after emailing her professors saying she was going to be away for a week due to a death in the family. Her car was found abandoned after a crash on Route 112 in New Hampshire. At first, police believed she may have disappeared voluntarily because there was no evidence of foul play and she hadn’t told any friends or family about travel plans. She has been missing for almost 14 years now with no real breaks in the case surfacing despite media attention from 20/20, and a documentary on Oxygen.

The podcast Missing Maura Murray was started in 2015 by filmmakers Lance Reenstierna and Tim Pilleri. They investigated what was going on in Murray’s life before her disappearance and all the available evidence covering the entire case in detail and possible theories, including what the Murray family has to say about Maura’s disappearance. The podcast is ongoing and they have covered a number of other missing persons cases beyond Maura’s.

The Vanished
Some missing persons cases leave investigators baffled. All the evidence leads to a dead end, there are no witnesses, and is no body and no suspects. The Vanished podcast chooses to cover cases that don’t get the attention of other higher profile cases. Regardless of the age, gender and race of the victim, the podcast presents all the available information in hopes that someone who can add something new to the investigation will hear it. The Vanished reminds us that thousands of people go missing every year and not all of them are crazy stories worthy of a 10-part Netflix documentary. Every missing person deserves to be found and their families deserve closure and the chance to move on with their lives.

Some notable stories covered by The Vanished include Ireland’s vanishing triangle, the disappearances of Jessica Heeringa, Amos Mortier, and Emma Filipoff, and the case of serial killer Larry DeWayne Hall.

Vanished
Not to be confused with The Vanished, Vanished is a podcast investigating the mysterious disappearance of 29-year-old Tara Calico. In 1988, she went out for a bike ride and never returned. A year later, a Polaroid photo of a young woman and a boy, both bound with their hands behind their backs and duct tape over their mouths, was found in a parking lot. Tara’s mother was convinced the girl in the photo was her daughter but scientific analysis has been inconclusive.

In Vanished, host Melinda Esquibel, a former classmate of Tara’s and a filmmaker turned amateur investigator, examines old case files and the cold case that Investigation Discovery counts as one of their top 10 unsolved cases of all time.

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on AmongMen.com, 29secrets.com, therichest.com, and ELLECanada.com.  When she isn’t writing about relationships, and the best TV shows and books you should really already know about, she is working on her novel. She hopes to have it published by 2025. You can follow her on Twitter @Courtooo.

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