Dark Web Hit Men · Richard Schmidt

Plus: A bunch of legal stuff!

As noted in our Labor Day weekend open thread, I spent a good chunk of time catching up on print copies of Wired magazine. I subscribed to the pub to get consistent digital access, but must confess that I let the print version pile up: though they’re a shadow of the fat, glossy magazines the company put out during the dot com boom, the present-day threats of tech dystopia make them a tough choice when there’s also a Vogue on the table.

Nevertheless, I persisted, and as I did I found some good stuff for you guys. Here are two great true crime longreads from the past couple months I never would have stumbled upon were it not for the joys of newsprint. -- EB

A Viral Crime, Genetic Evidence, and a Perplexed Jury About 20 years ago, Dr. Richard Schmidt was imprisoned after a woman with whom he was having an affair alleged that she intentionally injected her with tainted blood, infecting her with HIV. The forensic test used to convict him, however, has since fallen into question. Schmidt’s defense attorneys have repeatedly appealed his 50 year sentence, most recently in 2005. He will be eligible for parole in 2023. You can read the full story here.

‘If You Want to Kill Someone, We Are the Right Guys’ Stephen Allwine, an IT guy for a religious sect called the Worldwide Church of God, dumped tens of thousands in bitcoin to Besa Mafia, a dark web platform that claimed it would arrange assassination for hire. The intended victim was Allwine’s wife, a beloved dog trainer to whom he had been married for over a decade. While Besa Mafia never came through for Allwine (or, it appears, many others that paid them), reporter Mara Hvistendahl posits that they’re still to blame for the deaths of any of the targets, as the site plants seeds for homicides that eventually become more than online wishes. You can read the full story here.


Live event alert: Sarah will be live-tweeting A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story Thursday evening at 7 ET. If you want to watch along (or pre-watch), you can do so in the embedded video above, and you can follow her reactions on Twitter here. Hope you can join us!


Things have heated up between true crime podcasts Sword and Scale and Obscura. As mentioned yesterday, while speaking with The Verge, Obscura host Justin Drown said that after he made critical remarks about Sword and Scale host Mike Boudet to the Tampa Bay Times, Apple’s podcast platform was flooded with negative reviews for Obscura. Now, reports The Verge, Boudet’s lawyer has sent Drown a cease-and-desist letter (you can read it here) demanding that Drown “retract all defamatory statements” related to “false and fabricated” claims against Boudet.

“Our clients have not engaged in any review manipulation directed towards your podcast, nor to anyone else, ever,” the letter says. “Our clients did not direct, approve, condone, or compensate any person, entity, or service to create reviews on your podcast.” The letter demands that Drown remove mentions of The Verge’s podcast review piece (which you can read here) from his social media accounts, and that Drown contact The Verge and tell them to remove a paragraph from the piece that mentions Boudet. According to The Verge, “Drown has not made this request, and we have not changed our story.” You can read our previous coverage of Mike Boudet here. -- EB


A California judge has ruled that a man who claims to be Charles Manson’s grandson must take a DNA test. Back in March of 2018, 43-year-old Jason Freeman triumphed in a bizarre court battle over the remains of Charles Manson, which had been kept in a Bakersfield, CA, morgue since his death in November of 2017. Freeman, who is the the son of Charles Jay White (the child of Manson and his first wife), told the AP at the time that he would cremate his grandfather’s body and put to rest “this so-called monster, this historical figure that shouldn't have been blown up as big as it was for all these years.”

That said, the fight for Manson’s estate has staggered on, as memorabilia collector and Manson correspondent Michael Channels has continued to assert that Freeman isn’t actually Manson’s son, as Freeman’s father only won a paternity suit against Manson by default, Channels claims, when Manson failed to appear at a 1986 hearing. To resolve the issue, LA Superior Court judge Stanley Mosk ruled last week that Freeman must take a DNA test to prove he’s Manson’s heir. Speaking with the Daily Mail, Freeman says “if the DNA test was a match nothing changes. If it’s not a match, it does not take away the fact that this man I knew all my life was my grandfather.”

It does. however, take away a lot of the legal standing Freeman has to what is arguably a quite lucrative name, brand, and trademark, which is perhaps why Freeman has been so reluctant to take the swab. You can see the backstory on the estate fight here, and read Mosk’s ruling here. The next hearing in the case is planned for October, with results of the test expected to be revealed at that time. Insert Jerry Springer joke here. -- EB


One last legal beef then I’ll let you go -- this time, about Crime Junkie. I’ve already made my concerns about Crime Junkie as scapegoat for greater issues of failed attribution known here, so consider all that said. Now. here’s the latest: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where reporter Cathy Frye (the journo who sounded the alarm on plagiarism allegations against the pod) once worked, has filed a cease-and-desist letter against the show.

According to the Democrat-Gazette, the letter went to host Ashley Flowers, and asked her to “fully and unequivocally credit ADG's Copyright and Cathy Frye's reporting at the beginning of the Podcast,” a reference to Frye’s series “Caught In The Web,” which Flowers allegedly used details from without credit in a recent Crime Junkie episode.

Writing for Hot Pod, Caroline Crampton wonders if there’s a way back for Crime Junkie following these allegations. If “a podcaster chooses to apologise for any previous infractions, comply with any retrospective requests for credit, pay any penalties incurred, and tighten up their process going forward, how will that be received by their audience and the wider community,” she wonders.

Meanwhile, it might be that podcast’s rep has taken a hit: According to the Democrat-Gazette -- which just maaaaaybe should consider recusing itself from coverage given the dog they clearly have in this fight -- Crime Junkie has lost its top position on the podcast charts. However, the ticket sales for upcoming live Crime Junkie events appear to be going strong, with half of the events apparently filled to capacity. -- EB


Thursday on Best Evidence: Would you turn off a true crime show if you thought it was, literally, too shaky?


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