Beyond the headlines: 10 true crime podcasts that helped break cases or find new leads

True Crime July 10, 2022

True crime podcasts have a wide reach and draw national attention to cases, sometimes finding new leads, solving long-standing mysteries, and making significant breaks. We’ve rounded up 10 podcasts where the investigations uncovered new details, reopened cold cases, shared never-before-heard interviews, traced clues in real time, followed listener-submitted tips, and more.

There are 2 different cases where perpetrators recently stood trial. For a deep-dive into The Black Dahlia murders, check out “Root of Evil.” Another podcast looks at a murder case and a potential police cover-up. Tune into these podcasts and more on our round-up of investigative shows that helped break cases.

Up and Vanished Trial of Ryan Duke

Up and Vanished

Listen to ‘Up and Vanished’

In “Up and Vanished” season 1, Payne Lindsey began investigating Tara Grinstead’s case, a Georgia high school teacher who vanished in 2005. The podcast drew nationwide attention to this case that ran cold for years, and new leads broke. In 2017, The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested 2 suspects for Grinstead’s murder, and the second suspect, Ryan Duke, stood trial in May 2022. Season 4 covers Duke’s trial.

Root of Evil

Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia

Listen to ‘Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia’

Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia, was slain in 1947. Over 70 years later, it’s still an unsolved murder mystery and people believe Dr. George Hodel was the killer. Through an investigation led by Hodel’s son, this series opens up additional Hodel family stories, secrets, and revelations shared through interviews and archival audio. In 8 episodes, Hodel family members dive into their roots and learn new info about the case. This podcast is a companion listen to TNT’s I Am The Night, inspired by the Hodel family’s story, presented by TNT / Cadence13.

To Live and Die in LA podcast art

To Live and Die in LA

Listen to ‘To Live and Die in LA’

To Live and Die in LA” investigated 2 different cases in 2 seasons that uncovered new information in real time. When actress Adea Shabani went missing in 2018, private investigator Jayden Brant reached out to Rolling Stone journalist Neil Strauss to help research the case.

Season 1 of the podcast compiled a team, including producer Alex Vespestad, to try to uncover what happened, identify leads, and trail a suspect. They heard accusations from witnesses, followed evidence, and learned inconsistencies from the LAPD’s investigation.

Season 2 tried to find clues on 20-year-old student Elaine Park’s disappearance. Neil hopes this podcast will continue to bring awareness to cases like these. This podcast is presented by Tenderfoot TV and Cadence13.

S-Town podcast art

S-Town

Listen to ‘S-Town’

Serial presents “S-Town,” hosted by Brian Reed. In 2012, John from Woodstock, Alabama, (or “Shittown” as he calls it) asked “This American Life” to investigate a murder case and potential police cover-up. Brian’s investigation resulted in a 7-episode podcast. The case involved a wealthy family’s son who bragged he murdered scot free, then someone else wound up dead. In the podcast, hear about a resulting feud, a treasure hunt, and many uncovered mysteries.

In the Dark podcast art

In the Dark

Listen to ‘In the Dark’

APM Reports “In the Dark,” sharing investigative journalism from host Madeleine Baran and a team of reporters. Start each season from episode 1 to hear the full investigation unfold. Season 1 covered Jacob Wetterling’s abduction in rural Minnesota and analyzed the local sheriffs’ crime-solving accountability. In season 2, Curtis Flowers maintains his innocence and was tried 6 times for the same crime. Flowers has won every appeal, and this season explores his case.

The Teacher's Pet podcast art

The Teacher’s Pet

Listen to ‘The Teacher’s Pet’

Hedley Thomas hosts the investigative series “The Teacher’s Pet.” High school teacher Lyn and footballer Chris Dawson appeared happily married and lived near Sydney’s northern beaches. When Lyn went missing, Chris was accused of murder. The case ran cold until new evidence was uncovered 36 years later, and listeners hear about twin brothers, a teenage love affair, and a possible murder. This May, Chris stands trial and Hedley is reporting on the new, weekly podcast, “The Teacher’s Trial.”

Your Own Backyard podcast art

Your Own Backyard

Listen to ‘Your Own Backyard’

Chris Lambert’s “Your Own Backyard” examined the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristen Smart. Over the years no leads were successful and no body was found. This podcast reopened a 25-year-old cold case and hear Chris’ investigation in 10 episodes.

Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad

Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad

Listen to ‘Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad’

“Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad” have been covering cases since 2019 on their podcast. Hosted by retired cold case investigator Paul Holes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen, they dive into missing persons cases, unsolved murders, and more. The duo attempts to solve crimes with many methods including traditional detective work, technologies like DNA searches, combing social media, and following listener-submitted tips and info.

Serial podcast art

Serial

Listen to ‘Serial’

Serial” investigated true stories each season, created by Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder. Season 1 examined the disappearance of high school senior Hae Min Lee in 1999. Her body was found at a local park and her ex-boyfriend, 17-year-old Adnan Syed, was arrested after an anonymous tip. Sarah discovered new details from this case, and years later, reported several updates with the evidence presented in 2016’s court proceedings.

FRAMED: an investigative story podcast art

FRAMED: An investigative story

Listen to ‘FRAMED: An investigative story’

Wondery’s “FRAMED: An investigative story,” examines cases from all angles. Season 2 covered the Wat Promkunaram Temple shooting in 1991. 9 victims were placed in a circle and shot outside a Buddhist Temple in Waddell, Arizona. Season 1 looked at Brian Carrick’s disappearance in 2002. With just a pool of blood and clues left behind, people floated their own theories in Johnsburg, Illinois’ community. The investigative team explores who killed Brian.

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