20/20: Diane Downs (9 p.m., ABC) – This is one of the most upsetting true crime stories I can recall — seared into my brain thanks to a chilling Farrah Fawcett miniseries (“Small Sacrifices”) that repeatedly played (and ruined for me) the Duran Duran song “Hungry Like the Wolf.” In Oregon in 1983, Diane Downs, dating a married man with no interest in children, shot her three sleeping kids in her car and made up a story about an attempted car-jacking. Then, according to witnesses who passed her on the road, she drove about 10 miles an hour to an emergency room. Her 7-year-old daughter, Cheryl died; her 8-year-old daughter, Christie, lost so much blood she suffered a stroke;, and her 3-year-old son, Danny, was paralyzed. Diane had another daughter, Becky, who was born in prison and adopted. Becky gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey in 2000
Warning: Spoilers for The Act lie ahead.
I’m a fan of true crime the same way some people are fans of Halo Top.
After a long day, I’ll crack open nearly any true crime account and eat up the terrifying, true-to-life details with a metaphoric spoon. Whether it’s a movie, series, or podcast, I live for moment-to-moment reconstructed investigations, retrospective interviews with emotional eyewitnesses, and the big reveal of that one mistake that gets the criminal caught. Put plainly: True crime is very much my thing.
So, you can imagine my surprise when only an hour and a half into The Act, I had an overwhelming urge to turn off the TV — and then possibly throw up. This is true crime in its most brutal and most transparently self-serving form.
The Act isn’t bad television. A
The mother of a 7-year-old Colorado boy whose corpse was found encased in concrete allegedly revealed to a fellow inmate that her son died in a dog crate, according to newly released court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
On Dec. 23, Caden McWilliams’ body was found in a dog crate filled with concrete in his mother’s Denver storage unit. His mother, Elisha Pankey, turned herself in to authorities following this discovery. She has been charged with child abuse resulting in death as well as abuse of a corpse.
What’s the best true crime documentary? That’s a great question, and one any self-respecting Netflix binger has definite opinions on. We’ve selected a field of 32 contenders, and we’ll conduct voting in a bracket format (hey — is it March Madness already? Look at how timely we’re being). Today, we present the first half of our field, so be sure to sound off and let us know the best that true crime has to offer!
In the first true crime match up we have a modern classic, the 2015 documentary The Jinx defending the 1 seed. The Jinx looks at the deaths the surround Robert Durst
By now, you’ve probably caught at least part of The Act, Hulu’s new true-crime anthology series that chronicles the life of Gypsy Rose Blanchard (Joey King), the woman currently serving time for the second degree murder of her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette). Dee Dee, who raised Gypsy Rose to believe that she was mentally and physically disabled, is thought to have had Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
A little background: Dee Dee told Gypsy Rose and their community that Gypsy was fatally ill with leuekemia, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, and host of other illnesses. In truth, Gypsy was perfectly healthy. When Gypsy found out, she conspired with her online boyfriend, Nicolas Godejohn, to kill her mother, and Dee Dee was found stabbed to death in her home. (Godejohn is now in prison for a first-degree murder sentence; Gypsy is serving her own sentence for second-degree murder.)
When Michelle McNamara died in April 2016, her book about the Golden State Killer was still unfinished. Investigative journalist Billy Jensen, along with Paul Haynes and McNamara’s husband Patton Oswalt, finished what she started, and the book, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, was released in February 2018, eventually hitting number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Just two months later, the killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, implicated in at least 13 murders and 50 rapes, was identified and captured.
That anecdote alone seems worthy of a follow-up, but Billy Jensen’s new Audible original audiobook, Chase Darkness With Me, which launches April 11, is much more than that (he’s also speaking tonight, March 21st, at the Death Becomes Us festival in New York). Being a true crime enthusiast
When James Baysinger pulled the partially buried trash bag out of the ground, tore into it and found it contained bones, he said there was one word that came to mind: “Nancy.”
He carefully gathered the small pieces of bone, saying later that he took some time to determine whether they were only sticks. Sticks, when coated in dried mud, he thought, can look deceptively like a bit of skeleton.
He gathered the bits of bone into the bag, and started trudging out of the woods, up the embankment and to a nearby road where Dr. Maurice Godwin and a couple other members of his crew waited.
It took Godwin no time at all to identify who the bones belonged to: a deer.
“Your heart drops,” he said, when asked how he was feeling.
Baysinger is the creator and host of the podcast “Hide
Investigation Discovery (ID) is set to premiere its latest true crime series in The Atlanta Child Murders, about the decades-old unsolved murders, on Saturday.
Over 23 months, starting in 1979, 29 African-American children were abducted and killed in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite mounting public pressure to solve the case, decades later no one has been charged for the crimes, and the killer remains unknown. While a man named Wayne Williams, convicted of murdering two adults, has long been suspected of killing the children, The Atlanta Child Murders questions those suspicions and explores the possibility that he was a scapegoat, revisiting the case as a whole.
The Atlanta Child Murders is produced by Jupiter Entertainment and Will Packer Media for ID. Harrison Land (pictured, below), Mike Sheridan and Allison Wallach serve as executive producers for Jupiter, with Will Packer and Kelly Smith executive producing for Will
2019 has already shaped up to be a huge year for podcasting. With the announcement of the $200M acquisition of Gimlet Media by Spotify, and the release of new subscription platforms like Luminary and Brew, the simple concept of the ability to stream content like talk radio on demand on any device over the internet is finally gaining mass market appeal, more than 10 years after its inception.
To understand what market conditions are now enabling the growth of this relatively new medium, and what trends we can expect to see in the coming years as podcasting as an industry matures, we went to the RAIN Podcast Summit this month and heard from some of the biggest names in the business, like NPR, iHeartRadio, and PRX.