‘Father Wants Us Dead’ revisits the 1971 John List murders and the two-decade-long manhunt that followed

True Crime May 26, 2022
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Listen to ‘Father Wants Us Dead’

Fifty years ago, the suburb of Westfield, New Jersey was forever changed by the gruesome mass murder of the List family. On November 9th, 1971, John List murdered his wife, mother, and three children in one of the most disturbing cases America had ever seen. But that’s not the end of it.

The John List murders quickly turned into one of the strangest and most frustrating manhunts in the country as List eluded justice for nearly two decades. Hear this bizarre story in this new true crime podcast “Father Wants Us Dead.”

Along with being brand new, this is also The Star Ledger and NJ.com’s first-ever true crime podcast. “Father Wants Us Dead” is a multi-chapter podcast hosted by veteran reporters Jessica Remo and Rebecca Everett. The first three episodes of this podcast were released on May 10th, and new episodes will be dropped on Tuesdays. Episodes average out to around 40 minutes long.

“Father Wants Us Dead” is bizarre and unnerving from start to finish. List was a mild-mannered accountant and deeply religious man who taught Sunday School in the ritzy town of Westfield. He had moved his family to a 19-room Victorian mansion on a hill when he got a new job as the vice president of a bank in the area.

While the family was reclusive and his wife Helen an alcoholic, they seemed like ordinary neighbors (who lived in a Victorian mansion, we guess). That’s why it took nearly an entire month for anyone to notice anything suspicious. While List meticulously planned and carried out the murders of his entire family on November 9th, even taking time to put all but his mother’s body in sleeping bags in the mansion’s ballroom, this was not discovered until December 7th.

Most disturbingly, it was reported that when police entered the house that day, they found music playing over an intercom throughout the mansion (we feel like we remember this specific fact from a “My Favorite Murder” episode…).

According to a letter that List had left at the scene for his pastor, he had been laid off from his position at the bank, and the family had fallen on difficult financial times, and he also feared that his family was straying from God. He thought the only way he could save them from eternal damnation was to take their lives.

From there, John List had disappeared. For nearly 20 years he was one of the FBI’s Most Wanted; he was even suspected to be D.B. Cooper, who hijacked a plane in the Pacific Northwest around the same time List had vanished.

As Everett and Remo tell us, “Father Wants Us Dead” is a tale of pride, pain, cruelty, and evil. It’s a story about keeping up with the Joneses while simultaneously asking: can we ever really know our neighbors?

In this podcast, you’ll learn more about the doomed List family than ever before, dive into the psyche of a psychopath, and revisit one of the most maddeningly bizarre manhunts in American history. Everett and Remo speak with the people who still feel the effects of this tragedy 50 years later as they carefully unfurl myth from fact in this strange story. Don’t miss the new podcast “Father Wants Us Dead.”

Listen to ‘Father Wants Us Dead’

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