Slide into the weekend with some true crime longreads
Pour yourself a beverage and settle in
How is it already Thursday? I know, it’s not quite the weekend (yet) but since Fridays are typically our discussion thread day, I wanted to be sure to set you all up with this list of longreads Sarah and I have been allowing to marinate for…a while. Some of these stories have an audio option, for those of you who prefer to listen to your longform content — I’ll note if it does in the brief. And, speaking of, did you see our rundown of new podcasts yesterday? I listened to a couple more of them last night, and so far, I don’t feel like I steered anyone too wrong. — EB
Akbar Khorramdin, 81, and his wife, Iran Mousavi, 74, were arrested in May, and have admitted that they killed their adult son, daughter, and son-in-law. In interviews, the couple has said that they killed their kids because “they disapproved of their lifestyles.” It’s a shortish but in-depth piece, not bad for the bus or while you’re on hold.
“I have no guilty conscience for any of the murders,” Mr. Khorramdin said in a television interview from detention. “I killed people who were very morally corrupt.”
Ms. Mousavi appeared no more contrite.
“We decided together, the two of us,” she said in a television interview shortly after she was arrested. “My husband suggested it and I agreed. I have a great relationship with my husband. He doesn’t beat me or curse at me.”
The Fall Of The Billionaire Gucci Master [Bloomberg]
The dek says it best: “Authorities say Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, perfected a simple internet scam and laundered millions of dollars. His past says a lot about digital swagger, and the kinds of stories that get told online.” This piece is a satisfying soup of influencer nonsense, financial crimes, and delicious grift — and, if you’re looking for a story that steers clear of violent crimes, this is a perfect pick.
Even back in 2019, there were questions about how much money Abbas really had and how exactly he’d acquired it. In Nigeria, where he was born, his Instagram presence had turned him into a celebrity adjacent to the biggest names in pop culture. He'd appeared on social media with pop idols Davido and WizKid and soccer players on English clubs like Chelsea and Man City. But Abbas’s wealth was the constant subject of rumors. In the flourishing ecosystem of Nigerian gossip blogs he was “a Nigerian big boy,” shorthand for an online fraudster, or “Yahoo Boy,” who’d struck it rich and showed it off. Abbas dismissed the talk as the jealousy of so many haters, disappointed with their own lives and determined to bring down a self-made man who’d left them all behind.
Whatever the truth, on his 37th birthday, before heading off to a party in his honor in the VIP lounge at the Dubai Burberry store, Abbas paused to acknowledge the fans who’d supported him on his journey from hustling kid to global influencer. “As I turn a year older into my 30s today, I want to celebrate all of you out there,” he wrote on Instagram. The caption accompanied a photo of Abbas in a designer blue track suit, standing in front of a giant sculpture of a Rolls-Royce hood ornament. “Those of you who mostly I have never met, spoken to or anything but have been a strong supporter of me through every situation until this point and still riding for me, I want you to know wherever you are that I celebrate and appreciate you today, today is OUR DAY!”
Kyle Rittenhouse, American Vigilante [New Yorker]
Reporter Paige Williams dives deep deep deep into the militia movements that appeared to create Rittenhouse, a man who many folks still improbably support for his slaying of two anti-police-brutality protesters during a Kenosha demonstration. And, yes, Ricky Schroder makes an appearance.
That fall, Rittenhouse, a pudgy ninth grader in dark-framed glasses, joined the Explorers program at the Grayslake Police Department, near Antioch. The police chief viewed the program as a way to “teach self-discipline, responsibility and other appropriate ‘life lessons’ ” to youths who “may have a challenging home, social, or school life.” Rittenhouse participated in a similar cadet program through the Antioch Fire Department. Jon Cokefair, the fire chief, told me, “Most of the kids that are doing this, they don’t play football, they’re not cheerleaders—this is their focus.”
Jeff Myhra, the deputy chief who ran Grayslake’s Police Explorers program, told me that participants trained with harmless replicas of service weapons. Explorers wore uniforms and often helped manage parade traffic. Rittenhouse went on police ride-alongs, a practice that may impart a false sense of competence, or authority. One brochure declared, “Like Police Officers, Explorers must be ready and willing to encounter any emergency situation such as first responders to accidents or injuries.”
You can find the audio option for this story at the top of the page, but set aside some time: it’s almost 1.5 hours long.
I Write About the Law. But Could I Really Help Free a Prisoner? [NY Times Magazine]
After a prison inmate named Yutico Briley contacted reporter Emily Bazelon, she started looking into his case — and discovered that his 60 year sentence for an armed robbery with scanty evidence seemed excessive, even if he was indeed guilty of the crimes of which he was accused.
But Briley didn’t dwell on hardship. In his messages, he tried to entertain me, to nurture any connection. Describing a Taylor Swift song, he wrote: “She ate that one. (That’s my terminology for saying she had nice lyrics.)” He mentioned sports teams, and we nursed a grudge against the New England Patriots and their quarterback, Tom Brady. “I think we might be in luck with our Anti-Patriots campaign. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs should have Brady on the couch this year ... lol.”
Briley was pulling me in, one 30-cent JPay message at a time. Was I writing back in pursuit of a story? I didn’t know. His conviction and sentence seemed typical of the inequality and waste of mass incarceration. There are so many people currently in prison who could share a similar experience. But from my perspective as a journalist, that wasn’t necessarily enough. It sounds cold, I realize, but Briley was stuck, and what kind of story was that?
There’s an hour-long audio version of this story, you can find it at the top of the page.
The Snitch [Atavist]
Ohhh this is a juicy one. Incarcerated criminal Scott Kimball presented himself to the FBI as a well-placed informant that could help the agency close some big cases, so the feds intervened and got him early release, all so he could work undercover. But once he got out, things started to go very wrong.
In late December 2002, Kimball phoned Ennis’s girlfriend, Jennifer Marcum. Twenty-five years old and originally from Illinois, Marcum had dropped out of high school, married and divorced, and moved to Colorado with her toddler son. Marcum had trouble supporting herself and her child on the money she earned as a fast-food worker, so she began dancing at Shotgun Willie’s, a suburban strip club. By the time Kimball called her, Marcum was desperate for a career change.
Schlaff sanctioned the first meeting between Kimball and Marcum, but Kimball soon began seeing her on his own accord. Kimball lied about himself to Marcum, telling her he owned a chain of coffee shops in Seattle. He suggested that she move there and run one of them. With her head-turning looks, he told her, she could be a great saleswoman. Marcum loved the idea. She joked about selling coffee in A cups or B cups, a reference to her breasts, which she’d augmented with implants.
Kimball eventually contacted Schlaff and asked for permission to have sex with Marcum. Schlaff said no—Marcum was a source of information, and a possible suspect, in the case the FBI was building against Ennis. “I thought it was an unusual request,” Schlaff admitted, “but since Kimball had been in custody for 14 months prior, it seemed innocent.”
There’s an audio option for the story if you scroll about five paragraphs down, it clocks in at just over an hour.
Police say that it’s the “oldest homicide case in the United States to be solved with genetic genealogy,” an unsolved homicide that counted Whitey Bulger as one of its suspects. After DNA forensics led to the arrest of the Golden State Killer, investigators applied similar techniques to crack the case. This one’s comparatively quick, and concludes in a very satisfying fashion — another good time-killer if you’re in line somewhere.
Ms. Kalitzke was a junior at Great Falls High School. Mr. Bogle was an airman from Waco, Texas, stationed nearby at Malmstrom Air Force Base. They both loved dancing and music, and he was “instantly smitten with Patty” when they met in December 1955, Sergeant Kadner said.
The teenagers were last seen at Pete’s Drive-In restaurant in Great Falls, just after 9 p.m. on Jan. 2, 1956. When they didn’t come home that night, their families assumed they had eloped, Sergeant Kadner said.
The following day, three boys hiking along the Sun River in Great Falls found Mr. Bogle’s body in an area that was known as a rendezvous spot for teenagers.
The Accidental True Crime Writer [Los Angeles Review of Books]
Reporter Chip Jacobs traces his career from daily news hack to OJ trial scribe to author of The Darkest Glare. It’s funny how things happen!
The O. J. Simpson murders would be the next crime story I’d write about, if tangentially, for the Los Angeles Times and its rival, the Los Angeles Daily News. Full-time crime reporters, as I learned, were the characters in the newsroom, often cynical, swashbuckling, and as brash as the cops with whom they interacted. I didn’t run in that herd.
It wasn’t until one day in 1998, strolling along Hollywood Boulevard, that I got stopped on the sidewalk by a guy named Jerry Schneiderman who had been both a source for stories and a bit of a fabulist.
“Did you know,” he said, “that I once had a double murderer chasing me?”
Friday on Best Evidence: Where truth and fiction meet when it comes to true crime.