Murdered or missing? Diehard Grateful Dead fans’ tragedies are investigated on new episodes of ‘Dead and Gone’

True Crime April 6, 2022
Listen to ‘Dead and Gone’

It’s 1985 and Deadheads are tailgating outside the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. Through the clouds of pot smoke, diehard fans, ticket holders, and troves of ticketless hopefuls hoping to score a sought-after ticket to the show float around the parking lot. Is tonight’s electric set going to last for four hours? Your average Deadhead carpooled to the venue, hitchhiking from state-to-state to catch the whole leg of the tour. Kinship was formed by Grateful Dead fans rooted in their love for the rock group, and people pregamed outside the venue, passing around mushrooms and other drugs. Perhaps there would be a sing-along or two.

But what happens when Deadheads live up to their nickname and turn up, well, dead? Tenderfoot TV, Double Elvis, and Cadence13’s “Dead and Gone” investigates the murders and unexplained accidents that affected Grateful Dead fans, and how their untimely deaths might connect to other tragedies in the Deadhead community. There have been too many disappearances, deaths, and violent acts to go unnoticed. But how can we differentiate between pure coincidence and an active Grateful Dead-related killer on the loose? Listeners will learn more about the forgotten cases and hear new details throughout the podcast, now in its second season.

Hosts Payne Lindsey and Jake Brennan will guide us through the rumors and investigate these strange cases. We recommend streaming this podcast from episode 1 each season with all episodes running under 45 minutes on average.

When Mary Gioia and Greg Kniffin were beaten and shot in 1985 after attending a Grateful Dead concert, their bodies were found. In season 1, we learned that suspect Ralph Thomas was identified, convicted, and received the death penalty. Rumors have since spun that law enforcement convicted the wrong guy. Friends and other Deadheads all have their own theories connected to the deaths, and speculate what happened. The podcast investigates the dark side of the Grateful Dead that contrasts with its seemingly harmless ethos of “peace, love, and happiness,” manifesting as true crime in the Deadheads’ community over the past 5 decades.

Season 2’s first episode summarizes season 1 and continues the investigation by exploring additional missing and murdered fans, starting in the 1980s up to 2004 with Jeremy Alex’s story. This case was briefly mentioned in season 1 before focusing on Mary and Greg’s case. In addition to a long list of deaths and the band’s mythology, we hear about fans buddying up with strangers and drug dealers to catch the entire tour.

During these carpools, dozens of people went missing either while following the Grateful Dead on the road, or they were last seen leaving one of their concerts. A car en route to a show was found with unidentified dead bodies, and one was holding Grateful Dead tickets. Season 2 will discuss fans’ cases including Adam Katz, a 19-year-old Deadhead killed outside the Brendan Byrne Arena (now known as New Jersey’s Meadowlands Arena). Later this season, we’ll also hear Jennifer Wilmer and Bridget Pendell-Williams’ cases.

This series interviews Deadheads, and in season 2, Payne and Jake are joined by Dean Budnick, Editor-in-Chief of Relix and author of Might As Well, Todd Matthews, internet sleuth and advisor for the NamUs.gov (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) database project, Dennis McNally, official historian and publicist for the Grateful Dead, and Billy Jensen, a true crime journalist and podcast host of “The First Degree” and “Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad.”

Payne also hosts the true crime series “Up and Vanished.” Jake creates and hosts a variety of music-related podcasts including “Disgraceland” and “Blood on the Tracks.”

Check out new episodes of “Dead and Gone,” wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Listen to ‘Dead and Gone’

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