true crime podcasts

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: To Live and Die in L.A.

Photo-Illustration: 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.

To Live and Die in L.A., “Meet Elaine”

The second season of this acclaimed true-crime podcast focuses on the 2017 missing-person case of 20-year-old college student Elaine Park. Storied entertainment journalist Neil Strauss teams with three of his fellow “citizen sleuths” — including Incubus guitarist Michael Einziger — to make sense of a tragedy that literally hit them where they live. Following the trail that started with an abandoned Honda Civic outside of Malibu, these concerned citizens take strange turns that involved mounting reward money, reckless risks, and renting the room where a murder may have happened. Over the course of this four-year journey, Strauss and his then-wife Ingrid De La O pushed themselves and their marriage to a breaking point. In this first episode, these fissures are introduced, but the focus is getting to know the lost young woman behind the headlines. —Kristy Puchko

Alligator Candy, “Bit O’Honey”

Jonathan Kushner was 11 years old when he rode his bike to the local convenience store in Tampa, Florida, in October 1973. His body was found in a shallow grave days later. In Alligator Candy, David, Jonathan’s younger brother, who asked him that day to bring back some Snappy Gator gum (which included a plastic alligator toy), is looking back on his brother’s murder and its aftermath. Alligator Candy is a true-crime podcast that not only examines the crime itself, which pulverized Tampa’s view of itself as a safe community, but that also examines what grief and guilt and close calls can look like years later and how human beings cope. In this last episode of the six-part podcast, we hear from Britta McKenna, 12 at the time of Jonathan’s murder, who was in the woods that same day, about what she saw, and Kushner comes to a powerful realization as to how his brother may have felt in his last moment. —Chanel Dubofsky

Park Predators, “The Local”

Taking in the breathtaking views and fresh air of America’s national parks, it’s easy to forget the heinous crimes committed therein. With each episode of Park Predators, investigative journalist Delia D’Ambra dedicatedly unearths the dark secrets that lie beneath the forest’s canopy. Kicking off season two, she explores the 2008 disappearance of 51-year-old Tennessee resident Michael Hearon. No stranger to the land, he went missing one weekend on a back trail of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A search for clues turned up discarded clothes, bones found in a fire pit, and Hearon’s ATV, idling in a peculiar spot, but no answers. Retracing the case with the help of one of the missing man’s sons, D’Ambra ponders the possibilities: Was there an accident involving the ATV? Did Hearon stumble across something sinister? Or did he use the park to escape his life altogether? —Kristy Puchko

The Trials of Frank Carson, “Mugshots”

Los Angeles Times journalist Christopher Goffard has made a name for himself in podcasting by revealing some of the most unbelievable tales of ne’er-do-wells (Dirty John) and do-gooders (Detective Trapp). Whether his latest subject, Frank Carson, falls into that first category or the second remains to be seen — though I suspect it might be a little of both. Bold and brash, Carson spent his long career working as a defense attorney in California’s Stanislaus County, garnering plenty of critics in both the police force and the district attorney’s office along the way. When a junk collector goes missing (and is later found murdered) after supposedly poking around Carson’s property (the lawyer is an avid antiques collector), a warrant is issued for Carson’s arrest — along with the arrest of around a half dozen more, including his wife and three California highway patrolmen who have never even met Carson. The DA alleges a wide-reaching conspiracy. The evidence presented by Goffard seems to undercut that theory at nearly every turn. Will the right people be convicted? The biggest cliffhanger so far isn’t who committed the murder, but rather will justice actually prevail? —Amy Wilkinson

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This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: To Live and Die in L.A.