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.
Exit Scam, “The Co-Founder”
After Gerald Cotten died suddenly on a trip to India in 2018, investors who used the bitcoin exchange he founded, Quadriga, discovered they were unable to withdraw their funds. His widow and sole heir couldn’t find the passwords to his accounts, which doesn’t sound like the biggest deal, right? Except cryptocurrency passwords go far beyond two-factor identification when it comes to locking down your stuff — once they’re gone, they’re gone, unless you’ve written them on a sticky note somewhere or tattooed them on you or installed a dead man’s switch, which would release the info to a trusted source upon your death. And, sure, it seems morbid to anticipate your own death in such a way that you’d set up your digital assets to be transferred in case of your sudden demise, but techies know better, never mind powerful cryptocurrency geeks rich in Bitcoin. (Honestly, you should figure out whom you want to take over your Facebook account now and thank me later!) Of course, the missing passwords are just the tip of the proverbial scammy iceberg here — Cotten’s “cold wallets” were empty, but his widow was rich, and his dogs had their own trust fund. And then there’s the mysterious co-founder with a history of cybercrime!
Let me be the first to assure you that you don’t have to understand or care about bitcoin to listen to Exit Scam, a new podcast about the founder of Canada’s largest bitcoin exchange and his sudden death in 2018. In fact, Exit Scam is a fun primer on the technology and its history, in addition to being a gobsmacking tale of (possible!) cybercrime and why you should always, always, always write down your passwords somewhere. Or, you know, not invest in bitcoin unless you’re willing to lose everything and/or be scammed. (Full disclosure: Exit Scam producer Lane Brown is a former New York Magazine editor.) — Jenni Miller
The Riddle of Emmon Bodfish, “The Riddle”
True-crime fans know Paul Holes as a key investigator on the Golden State Killer case and as the co-host of the unsolved-homicides podcast Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad. Now, the heralded cold-case investigator takes listeners back to 1999, when he was the crime-scene analyst on the fatal bludgeoning of Emmon Bodfish, a trans man who lived in the quiet, wealthy neighborhood of Orinda, California. With a solemn tone, Holes details the grisly scene and its curious clues, which include passages from 17 years’ worth of Bodfish’s journals. Over 11 episodes — all available now on Audible Plus — the journey to catch a killer leads Holes down a winding path of stolen art, insect evidence, a coveted inheritance, pagan rituals, and a touching struggle for identity. With episodes that range from 15 to 35 minutes, this mystery’s unraveling is not only riveting but also easy to binge. — Kristy Puchko
Murder in Alliance, “The Accomplice”
David Thorne has been in prison for more than 20 years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, 26-year-old Yvonne Layne. The problem is that when Layne was killed in her home in Alliance, Ohio, Thorne was three counties away. In Murder in Alliance, host and producer Maggie Freleng (Unjust and Unsolved, The Disappearance of Maura Murray) and Jason Baldwin (wrongly convicted as part of the West Memphis Three) scrutinize David’s case. In the latest episode, we meet Joe Wilkes, who went to the police three months after Layne’s death claiming that Thorne hired him to murder her. Wilkes’s interview with the police, which went on for more than a day and at the end of which he was asked if they had coerced him in any way into confessing, is compelling and resulted in his arrest and that of Thorne. Consider the details, Freleng advises listeners. There are tons of them, many inconsistent with what we know about the crime scene, and people mentioned in the confession who were never called as witnesses in the ensuing trial. It all leads back to the questions of whether or not Wilkes was actually hired by Thorne, and if Thorne has been sitting in prison all this time for no reason. —Chanel Dubofsky
Tenfold More Wicked Presents: Wicked Words, “Dr. Katherine Ramsland: BTK Killer Dennis Rader”
If it somehow wasn’t self-evident from the name, Wicked Words is a new spinoff (bonus?) series from Tenfold More Wicked podcaster Kate Winkler Dawson. Whereas her original concept weaves a narrative yarn incorporating eyewitness and expert accounts throughout, this new concept turns the mic over fully to the men and women who’ve gone deep on the dark topic of the week. The premiere centers on the work of Dr. Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychologist who not only wrote a book about murderer Dennis Rader (Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer), but spent years interviewing him in order to do so. She, of course, has some pretty interesting (and at times, even humorous) observations to make about this serial killer — and serial killers in general. Listening is kind of like sitting in on the most interesting Psych 101 class ever. — Amy Wilkinson
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- Adnan Syed’s Charges Dropped by Baltimore Prosecutors
- This Month in True-Crime Podcasts: Run, Bambi, Run and More