It’s mid-January and that means it’s time for another Unfound newsletter. How is everyone doing out there? As you can imagine, it’s a been s tough past 30 days–they’ve been kind of empty not having my mother here, especially for Christmas and New Year’s. But life goes on. There is no way my mother would’ve wanted me to lay around and be miserable and depressed and sad on account of her passing away. My mom had too much zeal in her to ever think that way. I mean, the last conversation we ever had was about Unfound–so I gotta keep working. And Unfound is going to be around for a LONG time and every day I will work on the podcast as a dedication to her.
My dad? He’s okay. Not great–probably about average for a spouse who loses his best friend after 54 years. He is trying to keep busy–he’s packed up a bunch of stuff for Goodwill. Kind of getting back to a simpler life without so much “stuff”. We’ve gone to some basketball games. We watch Jeopardy. We do crossword puzzles together. He is the cleaner, organizer, and cook. I’m the driver, the muscleman, and the food consumer . . . ahem.
Okay, so I have A LOT to talk about in this newsletter. So, let’s get to it.
UPCOMING CASES (with the usual caveats)
Jan. 15th: Tim Boshart
Also: Dori Ann Myers, Mary Lands, Juanita Nelson, Jackson Miller, Devin Bond
2018 IN RETROSPECT
2018 was a spectacular year for Unfound. For my personal life? Horrible. But for the podcast? Spectacular. Listenership increased by the conservative amount of 40%. Unfound continues to be at the top of the list of Podomatic’s most popular podcasts. Unfound is now just about always in the top 100 at Stitcher in the News & Politics section. Unfound gained about 80 Patreon supporters over the entire year, with the average Patron contributing $5/month–which is above the overall Patreon average.
And Unfound does it despite not being affiliated with any podcast networks or companies. Despite not being partnered with any advertising partners. Despite Unfound being a podcast that follows none of the accepted rules about what a person is supposed to do to have a successful program.
The thanks goes to all of you. As I’ve stated before: I just do the podcast . . . all of you are the ones who make it successful.
However, and because I am honest and transparent, Unfound fell short in some areas in 2018. Not enough of its cases were solved–with Zoe Campos being the only victim who was found. I would certainly like to see the success rate go up in 2019.
Also, Unfound was not successful in breaking in on SiriusXM. Between myself and two others, we made multiple attempts to get satellite radio’s attention. I think we went about it the right way. We have a great, comprehensive package, along with convincing reasons that SiriusXM should be in the true crime business. Yet, we weren’t successful.
Why? I think the answer is a bunch of reasons put together. But here is what I am concentrating on:
–We are not giving up. However, we are re-assessing how we are going about trying to reach SiriusXM.
–We are not taking it personal. It’s not like some other podcast WAS successful in getting on SiriusXM. The fact is nothing changed regarding true crime on SiriusXM this past year.
–We still believe we are correct, in that SiriusXM should have a true crime channel and Unfound should be on it.
So, although we are taking a break from contacting SiriusXM, we are not quitting.
Another area where Unfound didn’t quite meet my expectations in 2018 was in the general marketing of the podcast. Yes, downloads went up by 40%. Yes the Live show on Wednesday is popular and rising. Yes, Unfound continues to conduct the best, most comprehensive interviews in true crime. And yes, in 2018 Unfound continued its dedication to finding those disappearances that people have forgotten.
But I am still frustrated that after about 130 episodes in, that some people say, “I’ve been listening to true crime podcasts for 5 years and just discovered yours this past week.” THAT is not that person’s problem–I am MORE THAN HAPPY to have new listeners. If people don’t know about Unfound, it will always be my fault, not theirs.
So, that needs to be an area of improvement for 2019. If you’d like to help, you can certainly assist in my efforts by telling everyone who you think would be interested to find Unfound every Friday at 2pm ET. I would appreciate it.
I am sure you already know that Jayme is now back with her family. She escaped her captor, Jake Patterson, and flagged down a dog walker who called 911. This is as about a good an ending to this story as there could be, given that her parents were murdered during abduction. Jake Patterson is now in custody. The story as of January 15, 2019 is that all it took for him to decide to kidnap her was seeing her get off the school bus one day. This is an interesting point, given that he lived nowhere near where she did, and in fact had her locked up 70 miles from where Jayme was taken.
Why am I writing about it in this newsletter besides the fact that it is a huge news item right now?
Well, these disappearances that are eventually solved will always be important to me. I want to know what I can learn from them. And how do I apply their results to all of the cases Unfound covers. I hope you do the same. Well, what can we learn?
I think the main point is that we may possibly need to start considering that there are more “stranger taking stranger” disappearances than we realize. Because this is what Jayme’s disappearance was–Jake didn’t know her, had no interaction with her, not even on social media. He saw her get off the bus and the next thing he did was murder her parents and take her.
The FBI and many other agencies say this type of crime is in the minority. And I think that is certainly true. However, I am starting to believe the percentage of “stranger on stranger” crime is higher than we realize.
Take a look at what all of these long-unsolved cases that are being solved thru DNA are showing us. Virtually all of them that make headlines are . . . “stranger on stranger” crime. The most recently publiczed case–the murder of Christy Myrick–is an excellent example. You can look it up for yourself.
Now, does that mean that the percentage of “stranger on stranger” crime is going to go from 20% to 30% as more cases get solved, for example? I don’t think so. That would be a 50% change in the stats. But, it may go from 20% to 25%. (These amounts are completely hypothetical, by the way) Moreover, it may be that so many disappearances and murders are unsolved BECAUSE the crime was of the “stranger on stranger” variety.
So, it’s something I am going to continue to keep an eye on. I am just happy that Jayme is alive.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, these are some of Unfound’s disappearances that could possibly have been committed by strangers:
. . . to name a few.
THOMAS BROWN (The reason this newsletter was a bit delayed)
If you are a frequent visitor to the Unfound Podcast Discussion Group on Facebook . . . or you just kind of keep tabs on national missing persons news, you know that Thomas Brown’s remains were found around Jan. 10. And they were identified as his on Jan. 15th. Shortly after that, the private investigator working the case declared that the disappearance has become a murder investigation.
I talked to Penny over Messenger on the evening of Jan. 15th. It goes without saying that she is devastated. But if you’ve listened to the episode, Penny’s underlying belief was that Thomas had been murdered that night. So, the discovery only verified her longstanding thoughts. However, the pain still runs deep and will for a long time, if not forever.
Yet, the other part of this case now starts: Who killed Thomas Brown?
If you’ve listened to the Thomas Brown episode from June 2018, you know how Penny and many others, including myself, would answer as to who might be involved. However, I desire to make something clear: I was not the one who came up with the idea of Sheriff Lewis’ possible involvement in Thomas Brown’s disappearance. In fact, when I first spoke to Penny in April 2018–and I am sure she will tell anyone this, I was completely doubtful of any law enforcement involvement, despite her telling me within the first 10 minutes of the conversation that she couldn’t help but suspect Lewis.
I will go even further. The woman who put me in contact with Penny ALSO mentioned Sheriff Lewis as a very viable suspect. This was before I even knew one thing about Thomas’ disappearance. And as I began to learn more about the case, I discovered that hundreds of people thought the same way as Penny and this contact person. Once again, WELL before I formed my own opinion.
What I’m saying is that it’s not like I somehow got the entire county of Hemphill under a Pied Piper of Hamelin spell and led them to some theory for my own devices and ends.
Instead, Penny and others presented me with evidence. The disappearing picture of Thomas at the gas station (which I now understand has been found . . . ?). The run-in between Lewis, before he was Sheriff, and Thomas in the summer of 2015. The comment that Lewis made about Thomas running off with a gay, older man, with no proof to back it up. The statements by two prior deputies of Hemphill County who detailed Lewis’ history of a lack of professionalism as a police officer, to the point of dereliction of duty. Pyne Gregory–the deputy who was on duty that night–who had an assault charge brought against him for pointing a gun at a pizza delivery girl in the 2000’s. The resignation of all but 2 or 3 of the 11 or so deputies when Lewis was elected sheriff in 2016–why? One told me it was because they as a group didn’t want to work for a corrupt cop. I could go on.
This was all in my notes BEFORE I ever looked at the now famous/infamous videos that you can find on the Unfound YouTube Channel. The video which shows two deputies’ vehicles coming from the direction of Fronk’s shortly after the time Thomas would’ve been there. And I have under good authority that one of those vehicles is the one Sheriff Lewis usually drove.
So, we now know that Thomas disappeared from Fronk’s after getting gas–that’s what the gas receipt says. We now know he was murdered–meaning he was attacked/kidnapped/abducted/accosted shortly after the pumping of the gas was completed. Why do we know that? Because it was a one minute drive from Fronk’s to his house and he had to be home by midnight–there was only so much time for the disppearance to happen. So, in the minute-long trip, Thomas was made to disappear.
Meaning, if he was at Fronk’s at 11:35pm, he could’ve been home by 11:37pm. A very short span for a perpetatrator to something.
And at 11:41pm, two deputies vehicles come from the same direction where Thomas was in the process of disappearing.
The question is: Is that a coincidence? To put it another way, have many people been on a witch hunt since November 2016, and I am now caught up in it myself, and we are now seeing only what we want to see in those videos? Have we gone too far? Have we damaged to a good man’s reputation?
Well, allow me to pose a similar scenario. A woman disappears from Fronk’s on November 26, 2016. She was a minute from home but somehow . . . poof . . . she’s gone. Her vehicle is found the next day but no signs of her. The police are flummoxed, stumped, puzzled, and confused.
Then, a year and a half later, video appears of her abusive ex-husband’s car coming from the direction of Fronk’s just minutes after she was pumping gas there. And in that time span of 18 months, many people expressed the belief that the ex-husband was involved, yet there was no evidence that he was even in the area.
What would you think when seeing the video? You KNOW what you would think. You know where your mind would go. You know what your automatic suspicion might be. Yes, you might be wrong. But it is certainly not unusual or vengeful to contemplate a scenario where the ex-husband did something, and there is nothing wrong with expressing it publicly. It’s just an opinion.
What I am saying is, it is NOT crazy or slanderous or illegal or unethical or immoral to talk about Sheriff Lewis, once again due to a TOTALITY of the facts. Just as it is not crazy or slanderous or illegal or unethical or immoral to be publicly suspicious of an abusive ex-husband under the same scenario.
I mean, if that were to be the accepted standard–that the media could never talk about any facts related to a possible crime, then the public would never know about any criminal acts or prosecutions until the trial was finished. Is that what we in a free society want?
Maybe some people would’ve preferred me to bury the video or destroy it . . . which would be unethical and possibly even illegal if Sheriff Lewis is charged with anything regarding Thomas’ case. Because I would have willfully disposed or hid evidence that could be used at a trial. THAT is a felony.
And that would be true of any case involving cops or accountants or engineers or teachers or strippers or any other profession.
Nobody gets a break on Unfound. Everybody is treated the same.
One more thing. I still have yet to receive any communication from anyone who wants to defend Nathan Lewis’ time as sheriff.
I wrote about the resolution to her case in December’s newsletter already. But if you noticed, I re-posted her episode from June 2018 this past Saturday. Accompanying it was new commentary at the end. I will be doing this for every case that is ultimately solved–meaning that the missing person is found, alive or deceased.
I think it’s important to do this because we shouldn’t just “move on”. Instead, coming from a standpoint of learning what we can, we need to go back to what we originally thought happened, then compare that to what looks like actually happened. To see where we were right and wrong, and to see how we can do better on future cases.
Overall, from my own personal standpoint, it seems I overemphasized the call from Zoe to Ben Flores. That is something I will have to keep in mind for future reference.
A question you may have in your mind right now: Why haven’t you done an In Memoriam episode for Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman yet? They haven’t been found yet, despite a suspect being in custody. Lauria and Ashley are still out there. The podcast is called Unfound, not Unsolved. We are in the job of finding these missing people. And when Lauria and Ashley are found, I will feature them in an In Memoriam episode. I certainly hope that happens in 2019.
THE UNFOUND VOLUMES
Yes, I thought I would be MUCH further ahead on the Volumes at this point. I just haven’t been able to work on them as fast and as much as I would’ve liked in 2018. That will change in 2019. Volume 5 would’ve been out by now had it not been for all of the personal issues going on the last two months.
The good news is that many of the transcriptions for the future volumes are done–I just have to format and arrange them. So, I think . . . I think I’ll be able to get caught up and into Season 2 fairly quickly. But with me being in PA and my obligations to my father while here, I don’t have the time to work on them. That will change once I get back to FL and go back into the Unfound bunker!
You can expect Volumes 5 and 6 of the First Season to look much like the first 4 volumes. Meaning, the covers will look the same, but with different pictures and colors. And the interior will be copies of the already-familiar format as well.
Season 2? Hmmm. My plan is to make sure the Season 2 covers look much different from Season 1. What does that mean? I don’t know yet. But designing them is the easy part. Putting the interior together is the main work.
And yes, Volume 5 and 6 from Season 1, and the upcoming Volumes for Season 2, will be available at Amazon in both ebook and print form. And they will given away as “gifts” for Patreon subscribers.
Here are the links to the first 4 if you haven’t seen them yet:
IF YOU ARE ON PATREON . . .
. . . then you know I posted some news there on Jan. 15. Something that I am planning to do once I can come to a consensus as to when I want to do it, and when I want to start. I am not ready to release to the public what the big news is, so I won’t be mentioning it in this newsletter. However, if you are NOT a Patreon supporter yet, this should give you one more great reason to be an Unfound Patron. This new thing going on at Patreon will give you the listeners even more personal access to me and the behind-the-scenes stuff happening at Unfound.
Here is the Patreon link:
Speaking of something new, as promised, Unfound moved its Live Show from Facebook to YouTube on Jan. 2, 2019. Already the move is a success. The first show on YouTube doubled the views from Facebook. As expected, many people who don’t have Facebook accounts have now been able to tune in on Wednesday nights at 9pm ET. From a host point of view, the only tough part is YouTube doesn’t alert me when new people are logging in. So, I can’t introduce everyone at the moment they join the conversation–I really liked to do that during the Facebook versions.
Nevertheless, Unfound Live is on YouTube and that’s where it will stay. The Unfound YouTube Channel will be used a lot more in 2019 than it was in 2018. So, if you haven’t visited yet, please do!
JESSICA HAMBY’S CASE
I hope you got to listen to this past Friday’s episode. I think Jessica’s mother did a great interview and I was very happy to hear that as recently as December 2018 there were new warrants issued.
However, due to time constraints of the episode, and not really wanting to get TOO deep into the weeds, I didn’t have a chance to talk about Jessica’s case being the newest case Unfound has ever covered. It was only a few days over a year old when the episode aired.
Where I am going with this is over the last two years I’ve had several listeners ask me: Ed, why don’t you do recent cases? Like 6 months old? 4 months old? These are fair questions. And I think one of the reasons I get asked this is because The Vanished, which is a similar type of podcast, does cover recent disappearances–ones that are much less than a year old.
So, I think I should explain why Unfound doesn’t cover cases that are less than a year old. First, my vision of Unfound has always been more of a “cold case” program than a “breaking news” one. From a personal standpoint, I enjoy covering cases that the public has forgotten about. Yes, Unfound has covered cases that are on Disappeared But when I do that, I always make sure that Unfound does a much better and more complete job than the tv show does.
Nevertheless, I love going back to the 90’s and 80’s and 70’s to cover cases. And the guests–some who have never been interviewed before–absolutely do appreciate the attention their loved one gets. Families think their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and parents have been forgotten. I want them to know those cases are just as important in the 21st century as they were in the 20th. That’s very important to me. And for every recent case Unfound would cover, one of those would get passed over.
Second, just about any guest will tell you: It takes a bit of time and effort to be on Unfound. I ask a lot of questions in the conversations I have with potential guests. I ask them to really probe their memories. I don’t leave anything to chance. We go step-by-step through everything. I think I figured out at one point that the average guest spends 5 hours on the phone with me before their voice is ever heard by the listeners. And that’s the average . . . NOT the maximum. And that doesn’t count emails back and forth.
It’s very involved. Not to mention that I ask families to find information for me sometimes. They have to dig through computers and files to send me things.
What I’m saying is them spending more time with me only means a family has less time to work on fliers and searches and local media and planning out what they need to do next. And that is so important in that first year. To put it another way: I’m not here to get in the way of them investigating their loved ones disappearance. But that’s the way I would feel if I was parachuting into these cases too early.
Third, Unfound is an international program. It has listeners in Ireland and Australia and Nigeria and Sweden. All over the place. It isn’t a local program to California or Florida or any particular state, country or continent even though all but 1 case has come from North America. So, its impact, locally, at least close to the time of a disappearance, isn’t like local tv and radio.
So, instead, what I try to do is once a disappearance case becomes “cold”, is make sure the public at large–outside the area–knows something isn’t right here. I try to get “outside eyes” on the disappearance, both from an amateur and professional standpoint. My job is to put national, if not international, pressure on a case if it’s gone unsolved for too long.
Thus, from the beginning, I decided there would be the stipulation that a case needed to be a year old before Unfound got involved. Could I have picked two years? Or five years? Sure. But a year felt right. And now that I’ve been doing the podcast for over two years, a year is about the right time span because that is right around the time when local media starts to move on to other things.
Like I said, I could’ve talked about this in the summation of Jessica’s case but it didn’t seem appropriate.
Oh, you should know: Emily first talked to Jessica’s mother in October 2018 and I thank Lynn for understanding Unfound’s rules of coverage. She was very patient and ended up being a great guest. I hope Unfound’s coverage helps.
THE SMILEY FACE KILLERS
Since the last newsletter, I also had a chance to talk about the Smiley Face Killer conspiracy theory during one of my Live shows on Wednesday nights. Not sure which one it was–could’ve been the one right after Xmas . . . possibly.
The reason I had a chance to discuss it is due to a missing person case that turned into a suicide/murder investigation in Pittsburgh in 2018. A young man was on his way home from a good time with friends. To get home he had to walk over one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges. Well, he never made it home. Some time later, his remains were found down river. The coroner ruled it a suicide but the man’s family disputed the finding. And who got involved? The two former detectives who have been pushing the Smiley Face Killer idea for like 10 years now.
Well, I couldn’t resist talking about it. Even more so since I am originally from the Pittsburgh area and worked on all those cases with the Trib in 2018.
I think the people who push the SFK conspiracy aren’t doing anyone any favors. Not law enforcement. Not the families. Not the public. Not the victims. Well, I should say–the only people who are benefitting from this are the people who push the conspiracy. I couldn’t be more serious about this.
Here are the facts about the US. We have a HUGE suicide problem in this country. We have a HUGE undisciplined alcohol consumption problem in this country–especially among young people. We have a HUGE drug dependence problem–especially legal drugs–in the US.
Let me cite some other facts. Despite all of this, the US is a less violent country than it was when I was born in 1970. Less murders per 100,000 people. Less rapes. Less assaults.
What hasn’t gone down as much? Missing persons reports. Why?
Well, my theory is that the reason missing persons cases haven’t gone down despite violent crime subsiding is due to addiction and suicide. Once again, just a theory. I think the rate of missing persons cases would’ve subsided had it not been for the increase in addiction and suicide.
The bizarre part is, I am just a podcast host. But these two detectives who push this theory have tons of real world, crime experience. That they ignore the social ills that could cause these young men to drown or commit suicide, and push some conspiracy instead, is disgusting. I mean it.
What’s even worse is that what then happens is these detectives end up misleading families, like the one in Pittsburgh who are genuinely trying to figure out what happened to their son. The coroner says, “Suicide.” The SFK guys say, “Nope, we don’t think so. It’s a murder,” then go on to try to convince vulnerable people of it–with the only reason being that these guys need to further their own fame and importance.
As long as people continue to push crime conspiracies of any type, we will never get to the root of why crime happens. As long as people believe there are boogeymen traveling around the US, just waiting to come upon some drunk guy, we will never examine why that young man got drunk in the first place. We’ll never understand what was in his head when he left that bar. We’ll never understand how we can keep other young men and women from meeting the same fate.
Instead, we’ll be looking for a person, a group, a cult, a gang, etc. that DOES NOT exist.
I know what you’re saying right about now, “Ed, how do YOU know they don’t exist?” Well, I’ll tell you.
Do the SFK killers get it perfect every time? They must . . . because I’ve never heard one story of a drunk guy on his way home that managed to evade people who were trying to throw him into a river or lake or canal. Have you?
So, I guess . . . I GUESS the SFK people are perfect.
The problem? People aren’t perfect. The Original Night Stalker made mistakes. The Zodiac Killer. Ted Bundy. BTK. Gary Ridgway. They ALL had victims who somehow managed to escape, although those escapes often didn’t lead to these guys getting captured.
But somehow, the SFK people have been perfect. Different states. Different cities. Different times. Different geography. And somehow, NOT ONE mistake.
THAT’S how I know it’s nothing but a figment of certain people’s imaginations.
Then you believe all these people committed suicide? No, I don’t. Some did . . . sure. I am even willing to believe a few were murder victims. But ALL of them? Or enough to start a conspriacy over? I don’t think so.
To put it another way: Why are we so surprised that drunk people can’t swim? That drunk people stumble and fall into some place they shouldn’t? That drunk people do things they wouldn’t normally do if they were sober?
Why are we so surprised that people suffering from addiction never tell anyone until it’s too late? Why are we so surprised that depressed people never share their horrors with others? Why are we so surprised that in an age of addiction and suicide that some people end up behaving in ways that NO ONE could’ve predicted?
The truth is we shouldn’t be surprised by any of it. We all know these points to be true. We all know people can be self-destructive. Yet, people still default to “conspiracy” when young people are found in bodies of water, and these people want to point to a smiley faced painted like ten miles away (an exaggeration) as proof that it must be the work of some group that has been working for ten years, but NOBODY has been able to identify one person . . . not one.
These conspiracy theories only serve to kick the can down the road as far as trying to finding out how to stop these young people from hurting themselves. These theories give the uninformed public one more reason to ignore the societal kills that are in every home, including their own. These theories cause the unaffected to think it can’t happen to them . . . as long as they avoid drunk late nights by canals, when it actually can.
The story of what is going on is so much bigger than any concocted conspiracy. Okay, gonna step down off the soapbox now. That’s all I got.