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.
Unraveled: The Long Island Serial Killer, “David and Goliath”
Over a decade ago, a string of corpses were found along New York’s Ocean Parkway, giving rise to the mystery of the Long Island serial killer. Since then, this unidentified murderer has been the subject of television specials, the series The Killing Season, and the Netflix movie Lost Girls, yet he remains at large. Now, two formidable true-crime podcasters and native Long Islanders, Alexis Linkletter (The First Degree) and Billy Jensen (The Murder Squad), join forces for a fascinating seven-part investigation that promises to upend everything you think you know about this captivating case. It all begins with an unlikely David, a duffel bag, a snuff film, and a Goliath with a badge. Prepare yourself for a thought-provoking and surprisingly personal journey. —Kristy Puchko
Hollywood Crime Scene, “Richard Ramirez, Part 1”
With the recent debut of Netflix’s Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer docuseries, Richard Ramirez and the horrendous crimes he committed are once again in the spotlight. And while director Tiller Russell took great pains not to glorify the dirtbag — instead framing the narrative around the cops who would eventually catch him — that choice did leave a few unanswered questions. Namely, how did Richie Ramirez of El Paso, Texas, land in Los Angeles and become one of the city’s most terrifying bogeymen? Host Desi Jedeikin helps fill in some of these holes in the first half of Hollywood Crime Scene’s two-parter on Ramirez. To be sure, there will never be a satisfying (or fully explanatory) “why” behind these murders (there never is), but it is telling that Ramirez suffered multiple head injuries as a child and was mentored by an uncle who did a lot of bad things. Important details like these don’t disavow Ramirez’s culpability or glorify his actions; they simply paint a fuller picture of a life gone very, very wrong. —Amy Wilkinson
The Clown and the Candyman, “The Candyman”
With this podcast, Investigation Discovery invites audiences down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theory with child predators. True-crime journalist and TV producer Jacqueline Bynon hosts, ushering listeners through the twisted tales of two notorious murderers from the 1970s: Dean Corll and John Wayne Gacy. This first entry of the eight-episode series unearths Corll’s horror story. Through interviews with police, reporters, and families of the victims, Bynon compares this case, in which grooming led to torture, assault, and murder, to others that are eerily similar. Could there have been a ring of such sinister predators? How might this tie to the modern-day investigation into the convicted sex trafficker of children Jeffrey Epstein? As she did for the TV series Children of the Snow, Bynon guides us through the harrowing details with an eye toward truth and justice. The content is not for the faint of heart; however, Bynon and her team are careful to keep things informative and avoid the exploitative. —Kristy Puchko
Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad, “Winter Distraction: Marcus Wesson With Affirmative Murder”
For the past few months, The Murder Squad has been doing one-off episodes featuring guests from other podcasts talking about crimes or cults that interest them. It’s been a cool way to find new podcasts to subscribe to. This week, Billy Jensen and Paul Holes chatted with Alvin Williams and Fran Evans from Affirmative Murder, a true-crime comedy podcast that focuses on otherwise overlooked killers from marginalized communities. The case they chose to focus on: that of cult leader and incestuous family killer Marcus Wesson.
The so-called Vampire King of Fresno, Wesson concocted his own religion, with a handwritten bible and everything, centered on the belief that Jesus was a vampire and he himself was a vampire and a god. Wesson created his own sort of family cult and is currently on death row after killing nine of his children during a standoff with police; he was also convicted of 14 sex crimes, which included the rape and molestation of his daughters, several of whom he impregnated. A grisly topic handled well by the crew. —Jenni Miller