EXCLUSIVE | From Westley Allan Dodd to Jared Bridegan true-crime podcasters reveal their most disturbing cases
Warning: This article contains a recollection of crime and can be triggering to some readers. Discretion advised.
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The murders of four University of Idaho students have shaken the collective conscience of the community. In the early morning hours of November 13, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, and Ethan Chapin were stabbed to death in an off-campus three-story rented home. Law enforcement has yet to identify the suspect(s) in the case. Authorities have said that the gory scene where the students were killed was the “worst they’ve ever seen."
Over the years, true crime has become one of the most popular genres of podcasts, and the reason is not difficult to imagine. True crime gives us an insight into culture and norms, and our values and anxieties. It gives us an idea about why people may act in a certain way and lets us explore the darker sides of our world from a safe distance.
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In the aftermath of the Idaho murders, MEAWW spoke to some true crime podcasters to learn about the three cases they found the hardest to cover, given how shocking and brutal they were.
Serial killer Westley Allan Dodd
Thomas Wiborg-Thune, the host of 'The Serial Killer Podcast', opened up about his show and the case he found the hardest to cover. "I have always loved podcasts and especially true crime. Back in 2016, I was searching for podcasts dedicated to serial killers. There were none. So I thought I would make one myself," he told MEAWW, adding, "One serial killer that gave me the chills is Westley Allan Dodd. Truly the stuff of nightmares."
"My podcast is solely dedicated to serial killers, so finding topics is quite easy. I try to vary between famous serial killer superstars episodes and episodes about more obscure, unknown serial killers," he added.
An American convicted serial killer and sex offender Westley Allan Dodd sexually assaulted and murdered three young boys in Vancouver, Washington in 1989. He was arrested after he failed to abduct a six-year-old boy at a movie theatre. Over 15 years, Dodd molested dozens of children, starting from when he was just 13. In a diary that police recovered, the serial killer had detailed his plans to kidnap, torture, and sexually abuse children. He also described the murders he had committed.
Dodd's victims were three little boys - Cole Neer, William Neer, and Lee Iseli. According to Gary C King’s true crime book 'Driven to Kill', one entry in Dodd’s diary read, “I’ve now asked Satan to provide me a 6-10-year-old boy to make love to, su** and fu**, play with, photograph, kill and do my exploratory surgery on.”
Dodd also wrote about his plan to kidnap and kill a child from David Douglas Park in Vancouver. "If I can get it home, I’ll have more time for various types of rape, rather than just one quickie before murder," he wrote. Dodd was executed in January 1993 in the first legal hanging in nearly 30 years.
The murder of Jared Bridegan
'Southern Fried True Crime' is a podcast by Erica Kelley, who says she is a "native Tennessean exploring true crime in the South" who loves "history, gossip, and crime", according to the website. Erica's researcher, Haley Gray, told MEAWW that the most brutal case she had ever covered or researched was the murder of Jared Bridegan.
"I always like to pick topics where I can educate the audience. So if the case involves domestic violence, I include relevant information including statistics, reasons why victims stay, red flags to look for, etc," Erica told MEAWW, adding, "I recently worked on a topic that’s very close to my heart, on Jared Bridegan, and it was so disturbing, so brutal, that it made me want to keep fighting."
Jared Bridegan, a Microsoft executive and 33-year-old father of four, was shot dead earlier im 2022 on the side of a Florida road as his two-year-old daughter sat inside an SUV. He was shot multiple times on February 16 in what police believe could have been a targeted attack. Bridegan's murder in front of his toddler shook the community. The murder remains unsolved as of now. A GoFundMe page describes Bridegan as "an amazing husband, father, brother, and son."
The murder of Emmett Till
Korina Biemesderfer, who runs the podcast 'Morning Cup of Murder', opened up about the difficulty in covering crimes against children. "When my son started preschool I realized that I had, for the first time since he was born, time on my hands. I knew I wanted to do something that was just for me and, when I started thinking of all the things that interested me, true crime was at the top of the list. I had been into true crime since I was a kid and had recently gotten into listening to podcasts. So, it really just seemed like the perfect combination. The more it went on the happier I got with my decision. It has helped me have an identity outside of "mom" and has given me a job that I absolutely love," she told MEAWW.
"Cases that involve children are hard to explore," she said, adding, "As a mom, those cases are the hardest. There's only been one case that made me cry mid-recording though -- the murder of Emmett Till. I had to stop and collect myself."
Emmett Till, 14, was lynched after North Carolina's Carolyn Bryant Donham reportedly accused him of whistling at her in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi, in 1955. Donham is now in her 80s. Till was abducted, tortured, and gunned down a week later, and dumped into the Tallahatchie River. His swollen and mutilated body was found three days later. Donham’s husband, Roy Bryant, and half-brother, JW Milam, were arrested for his lynching. However, they were later acquitted. Although the two of them later admitted guilt, they could not be prosecuted due to double-jeopardy laws.
The unserved arrest warrant for Donham was found in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse in June. This prompted Till's family and activists to renew their protests and seek justice once again.