true crime podcasts

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: The Sneak, CounterClock, and More

Photo: Vulture

The true-crime podcast universe is ever expanding. We’re here to make it a bit smaller and a bit more manageable. There are a lot of great shows, and each has a lot of great episodes, so we want to highlight the noteworthy and the exceptional. Each week, our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists will pick their favorites.

CounterClock, “Of Interest”

Kill Devil Hills is a small town on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where, in July 1997, Denise Johnson was murdered in her home, which was then burned down. Investigative journalist Delia D’Ambra grew up in Kill Devil Hills, and in this podcast, she’s taking a look at Denise’s unsolved murder, and all of the pieces that went unexamined, while contemplating how the case changed the way she thinks about the town where she spent her own childhood. Denise, it turns out, had a roommate, who, by sheer luck, avoided being home when Denise was murdered, and may have escaped being a victim herself. In the most recent episode, D’Ambra speaks with her about what she remembers about that night, the days that preceded Denise’s murder, unearthing some things (scary neighbors, a detail about Denise’s dog) that the police should probably have asked her about, but have yet to. This episode is teeming with information that has the potential to blow the case open; in addition to Denise’s roommate, D’Ambra talks with the ex-wife of a dude who was the first person to arrive on the scene the day of Denise’s murder, and the online forums, where Kill Devil Hills locals speculate as to what may have happened. CounterClock is a treasure trove for those who can’t get enough of cold cases getting to see the light of day. Someone knows something about Denise’s murder, and thanks to this deep dive, soon we all might. —Chanel Dubofsky

The Sneak, “The Witness”

The first episode of The Sneak, a new true-crime sports podcast from For the Win, USA Today Sports, and Wondery, begins with a Realtor calling 911 to report a brazen bank robbery. The Realtor saw a man attack a Brink’s truck driver before grabbing two bags of cash and fleeing, and then decided to give chase. When asked why he did so, he joked, “I’m in real estate, times have been tough. If a guy’s got a bag of money like that, he’s not getting away without buying a home.” He watched as the suspect discarded his disguise and ran while cradling the bag of money under his arm like a football. He pursued the suspect down a dead-end road where it was as if he vanished into thin air. And then he made an escape that host Nate Scott says was so outlandish that it is still to this day hard to believe. That getaway, and the story of the 2008 heist carried out by former college football star Anthony Curcio, went viral. But, Scott notes, that wasn’t the whole story, which the podcast promises to tell through interviews with witnesses, police … and the robber himself. —Lara Bricker

Strictly Stalking, “Stalking Back: Lenora Claire”

Lenora Claire is a casting director, curator, and documentarian. In 2011, after meeting Lenora in person at a gallery opening in Los Angeles (while he was dressed in a space suit), a stalker began sending her letters, which quickly escalated into rape and death threats, as well as trying to find her at events and places she went in her daily life. In this episode of Strictly Stalking, Claire tells hosts Jaimie Beebe and Jake Deptula about going to the police, who advised her to change her hair color and stop using the internet, how she leveraged her Hollywood connections to expose her stalker — as he continued to threaten Claire and others, including Ivanka Trump and Gwyneth Paltrow, and what happened once she eventually got a restraining order (spoiler: not much). Claire is an engaging storyteller — feisty, relentless, detailed, and strategic. Listen for her analysis of the laws that hold her and other stalking victims hostage, how she’s helping folks in similar circumstances, the difference between initiatives and laws, incels in social media, and the tricky yet effective nature of the sex-offender registry. —Chanel Dubofsky

Crime Beat, “The Horror That Lurks”

Canadian journalist Nancy Hixt remains one of the most humane true-crime podcasters out there. The veteran Global News reporter avoids sensationalism in favor of giving voice to the often-overlooked victims, many of whom she’s interviewed numerous times throughout her career — meaning they trust her to tell their story and to tell it well. This week’s episode covers the sexual assault of a woman Hixt simply refers to as “Lisa,” who was 19 when she was raped at the tanning salon where she worked. As it turns out, the perpetrator was a career criminal named Marcel Joseph Parent, and the podcast wrestles with the issues surrounding Canada’s handling of violent repeat offenders. (In one heartbreaking clip, Lisa says that this is one instance in which she wished she lived in the U.S. because Parent would have been put away for good after assaulting yet another woman.) To be sure, there are no easy answers here, and Hixt doesn’t pretend to have them. Criminal-justice reforms are long overdue — especially in the treatment of rape cases, both in Canada and the U.S. — and hopefully podcasts like Hixt’s will help move the needle. —Amy Wilkinson

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: The Sneak and CounterClock