This year, CrimeCon took place in “The Big Easy” between June 7-June 9 and New Orleans was the perfect place to host the convention because it’s a mysterious city full of ghost stories and tales of murder. As many attendees discovered, an aura of other-worldiness permeated the air all around us well into the witching hours as we descended upon the Hilton Riverside hotel. Opening the conference was Golden State Killer investigator, Paul Holes. His presentation at CrimeCon in Nashville last year proved so popular that the convention committee invited him to kick-start this year’s event. Paul has a good stage presence and it’s not hard to imagine him working on a case. He welcomed us to New Orleans and reminded everyone to remember the victims of violent crimes as opposed to glorifying the criminals. He pointed out that during the first CrimeCon in 2017, he was still looking for the Golden State Killer. By 2018, Joseph DeAngelo had been identified using familial DNA and since then, over 50 cold cases had been solved using the same revolutionary method of identification. Paul told us he wanted more unidentified criminals to be unmasked and stressed the importance of laws allowing familial DNA to be used in police investigations. The crowd was utterly charmed by the handsome law enforcement agent and applauded vigorously as the session ended.
David Rudolf, discussing the blow poke in the Peterson case
Between sessions, I visited Podcast Row. This is by far my favorite part of CrimeCon and consists of many podcasters convening at separate tables, offering swag, conversation, and lots of selfies with their fans. The first face I saw this year was also the first face I saw last year, that of Mike “Morf” Morford. Morf is a Zodiac killer expert whose podcast, “Criminology,” is well worth a listen. Partnering with Mike Ferguson, of “True Crime All the Time” fame, they were lucky enough to have me write season 3 of their podcast about Ted Bundy. (I wrote the entire script covering 3 episodes.) I was thrilled to run into Mike “Gibby” Gibson and Mike Ferguson, who both present “True Crime All the Time”, and Mike Browne who hosts the Canadian podcast, “Dark Poutine.” His co-host, Scott, was also kind enough to grant me a photo, for which I know he was thrilled. I met the fabulous and very gracious Warbabyyy, host of “Murderous Minors,” whom I nicknamed “Ava Cherry” for her bleach blonde hair! Justin and Aaron from “Generation Why” were as friendly as ever and posed for more than one selfie with me. Podcast Row didn’t just include podcasts. There was a taser demonstration (I’ll never get that jarring taser sound out of my head), books and publishers, a K9 presentation, and merchandise to buy including t-shirts, silver handcuff necklaces, and wine glasses. Nancy Grace was on hand for pictures with her fans along with various meet and greets to meet some of your favorite writers and presenters. Depending on how things go, you may just see me on Podcast Row next!
Some of the amazing podcasters I met on Podcast Row and Mike Patty on the bottom left, grandfather of Libby German!
Kathy and me hanging around town!
Kathy also co-hosted a CrimeCon session dedicated to Ann Rule. Investigator Sheryl McCollum started off the conversation about how Ann Rule affected her life and Leslie Rule, Ann’s daughter, told tales of Ann’s youth and how she met Ted Bundy when both volunteered for a suicide hotline. Kathy’s story was the most compelling part of the Ted Bundy legacy. She stood and very confidentally told her story of survival after being left for dead by at Florida State University’s Chi Omega sorority house. She was only twenty and had never even heard the name Ted Bundy. After Bundy murdered her sorority sisters, Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy, he came into the darkened room she shared with Karen Chandler armed with a piece of oak firewood, high on adrenaline. Kathy heard him stumble over a footlocker between their twin beds and became aware of his darkened frame leaning over her, his arm raised. She felt a “thud” on the right side of her face, but no initial pain. When her roommate stirred nearby, Bundy began hitting Karen with the firewood. “Bundy was good at killing people. Because he didn’t kill me, I was alive and making noise…he came back to my side to come and kill me.” After returning to attack Kathy again, carlights from the back parking lot lit up the small room and Bundy got “spooked,” running out of the room. “Now I felt the pain of being hit so hard in the face. I remember sitting up and rocking back and forth, screaming for someone to come help us. The next thing I remember, there was a police officer in my room, and I felt so safe.”
Kathy Kleiner tells her story to the crowd
Still picture of Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood
Ryan Smith of 48 Hours and Kathy Kleiner
The final session I was attended was an update on the Delphi, Indiana murders. On February 13, 2017, best friends Abby Williams and Libby German were found dead after being dropped off to spend time on the Monan High Bridge Trail. A short while later, neither girl was answering her phone. After a search and rescue party descended in the area, their bodies were found not far from the drop-off point the next day. Police have generated a sketch of the killer based on eyewitnesses and a short video recorded on Abby’s phone. A panel including Libby German’s sister Kelsi and grandfather, Mike Patty, and Abby’s grandparents were on stage along with a law enforcement officer working the case. Mike Patty believes that someone knows the identity of the killer and needs to come forward to help the girls receive justice. “Don’t play investigator. We want your tips.” Police insisted that the public resist the urge to investigate the crime and to trust in the process. (Tips can be sent to email@example.com based on their Wikipedia page.) Commentary was made about the recently revealed new composite sketch of the “Bridge Guy” and how much younger the suspect appears to be. He was seen by more than one witness and is thought to have brownish-red hair and police stated he does not have blue eyes. Wrapping up the session, the panel wanted people to keep their eyes opened for any information that could help lead them to the killer of two bright, energetic young women who had so much potential.
Delphi families on stage