By Janel O’Brien
The link Between Cold Cases and True Crime Podcasts
True crime has been a consistent obsession in the United States for over a decade according to Google search data. True crime podcasts have collided with the fascination and made it a complete mania. After the wildly popular Serial podcast in October 2014, the gap began to close between the search terms “cold cases” and “true crime podcast” and officially overlapped in June of 2017.
Some cases that have been explored by podcasts have gone cold for years, or even decades. Serial was about a disappearance and murder of a Baltimore teen in 1999 and was reopened by Sarah Koenig in 2014. Thanks to the podcast, the main suspect in the case had a 2016 court hearing after being convicted of the murder back in 2000.
Serial was widely acclaimed for genuine storytelling mixed with a meticulous review of the evidence involved in the case. Podcasts have the ability to share a story in a unique way compared to other mediums, such as documentaries and television shows. With Serial’s ability to reopen the case itself, the possibilities became endless for many other unsolved cases across the country.
Can a podcast solve a murder case?
Payne Lindsey, a filmmaker inspired by Serial, decided to take on an unsolved crime of his own in a podcast he created in August of 2016, Up and Vanished. Up and Vanished tells a story of a Georgia school teacher named Tara Grinstead that disappeared in the small town of Wasilla, Georgia back in 2005. Her body was never found and her friends and family were left with no answers.
An analysis of Google search data suggests when Tara Grinstead went missing in October of 2005 there was an initial spike in searches for her near her hometown. Interest waned in the search term for Tara Grinstead for nearly 10 years until Up and Vanished started in August 2016. The height of the search terms of both Up and Vanished and Tara Grinstead hit a peak in February 2017.
In February 2017, there had been a huge development in the Tara Grinstead case. A man named Bo Dukes had been arrested for the murder of Tara Grinstead. After nearly 10 years of a case gone cold, Up and Vanished was able to garner enough attention to the case to bring forth a suspect in the case.
The murder case of Tara Grinstead is still developing. However, without the attention brought to the case from Up and Vanished, who knows if there would be any developments at all after 10 years of being cold. It will be interesting to see how this case ends, and how far other podcasts will bring cold cases in the future.