Killing Eve · The Electric Chair · Deadly Cults

Also: Eve blames the Kent State massacre for the decades-later death of the Village Voice.

Killing Eve’s kills have their root in true crime. The BBC drama, which returned a few weeks ago, seems especially brutal this time around — and I don’t think I’m saying that just because we are all raw nerves these days. Perhaps part of the reason is its alleged veracity when it comes to its homicides, something that seems ridic given the show’s bonkers-level storylines.

But according to Metro, in a report that essentially reblogs BBC’s Obsessed With podcast, security consultant Gordon Corera helps the show figure out how to have characters kill people, influenced by famous homicides from history. The death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il’s oldest son, Kim Jong-nam, provided the basis for a slaying with a poisoned perfume, for example. In fact, the New York Times reported back in 2019, even Eve’s foil, Villanelle, has a real-life inspiration: Angela Simpson, whose laughter during a jailhouse interview provided the basis for the fictional assassin’s demeanor. — EB

The online home of the Syracuse Post-Standard is launching a podcast about New York State’s death penalty. The show’s called The Condemned, and it’s about the electric chair, the first one of which was constructed by a jailhouse electrician, the History channel reports, after a dentist who watched a drunk guy die “painlessly” by electrocution convinced officials that it was a “humane” way to go.

(When William Kemmler became the first prison inmate to die in the chair, by the way, it did not go well; that same dentist reportedly proclaimed, “We live in a higher civilization from this day on.” George Westinghouse, the inventor whose name remains on a multitude of appliances to this day, said, “They would have done better with an axe.”)

Oh god where was I? Oh, yeah, this podcast. It covers five of the chair’s earliest subjects, with a trailer that can be found here. It’ll be released on June 1, but if reading this bleak-ish item has whetted your appetite for chair chat, the Washington Post’s Retropod also has a great episode about the electric chair’s improbable history, you can listen to it here. — EB

How did I forget to mention that Deadly Cults is back for a second season? Hmm, not sure what I was up to in late March, when Oxygen touted the return of its so-bad-it’s-great series about homicides committed in the service of questionable faith leaders. Its new episodes started airing on April 26 and is two eps in, but this week they might have topped themselves, as the log line is “Police must determine if an online cult that believes in aliens and reptiles disguised as humans is actually at fault.” (Did someone turn V into a cult and I missed it?) That episode drops on Sunday, at 8 PM ET/PT. To catch up on Deadly Cults, move fast, as Oxygen claims it’s taking its first-season episodes offline at the end of June. — EB

The Kent State Massacre might have caused the decades-later demise of The Village Voice. I suspect that many of you reading right now are also fans of the Extra Hot Great podcast, so here is where you are probably imagining this sound clip, and I don’t blame you. But let’s do this thing.

In a lengthy article this week, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, the founders of the alt-weekly the Phoenix New Times, explained that they were compelled to start their paper as a response to how (conservative-leaning local daily) the Arizona Republic called for violence against the Ohio school’s protesters, who were demonstrating against the Vietnam war. Decades later, the pair had acquired a slew of alt-weeklies, their fortunes vastly bolstered by, a Craigslist-like online listings service appended to many of the alt-weeklies’ websites that was known by many for its listings for sex workers and their services.

(You guys all read Lost Girls, so you know Backpage, of course — it’s the listings service most of the victims of the Long Island Serial Killer used. Yeah, that one.)

In 2006, Lacey and Larkin acquired the Village Voice, arguably the most famous alt-weekly in the country. (It’s a brand that’s so strong that the company even changed its name from New Times Media to Village Voice Media.) A couple years later, the feds came knocking on Lacey and Larkin’s doors; by then Backpage was “the largest portal for sex on the internet,” Wired reports, and federal prosecutors said that the pair had conspired to make it a “hub for prostitution” and alleged that Lacey and Larkin had laundered money as part of the scheme.

Lacey and Larkin insist that they were within their First Amendment rights, and have fought the government every step of the way. The battle has been very long, and shockingly expensive, so pricey that the duo even unloaded the publication that gave its name to a wealthy Pennsylvania investor named Peter D. Barbey. You have got to check out the shade in this NYT piece on the sale. My favorite parts:

When asked about the financial resources he would devote to the paper, Mr. Barbey would not be specific but noted that his family’s wealth could be ascertained quickly through a Google search.

But this is good too:

Mr. Barbey, who lives in Berks County, Pa., and whose family has owned The Reading Eagle newspaper for generations, said he was currently shopping for an apartment in the city.

By then, the Voice had lost many of its biggest names: there was a wave of high-profile departures when Lacey and Larkin got the keys, and about 25 more left when Barbey took hold. By 2017, the paper was in even worse straits, as Barbey killed its print edition. A year later, the entire paper was dead, with its billionaire owner saying that “this is not the outcome I’d hoped for and worked towards.”

So, if Kent State hadn’t inspired Larkin and Lacey to start their first paper, make a load of money on sex worker listings, buy the nation’s oldest alt-weekly, then unload it to a likely yahoo when the whole sex worker listings thing didn’t work out, the Voice might still be alive today. Sliding doors, am I right? Anyway, Larkin and Lacey’s federal trial is set to kick off this August, but given the ages and reported ill health of both defendants (Larkin’s 71; Lacey recently said he needed his ankle monitor removed so he could speed his recovery from illness with a Hawaiian vacation), it’s likely the proceedings will be rescheduled until its safer for vulnerable folks to be out and about. — EB

Assuming my rantings haven’t scared you off, maybe you want to end your week by signing up with a paid subscription to Best Evidence? Unlike the New Times folks, we don’t have any online sex-listings cash to keep us warm, so we rely on your largesse to keep this thing going. And if you already subscribe, thank you so much. We appreciate you like crazy.

Monday on Best Evidence: We’re up to K in the A-Z of true crime, and I assume everyone was too smarty-pants to pick “killer” but guess you’ll have to wait and see.

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