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The Sunday Read: ‘Podcasters Took Up Her Sister’s Murder Investigation. Then They Turned on Her’

The Sunday Read: ‘Podcasters Took Up Her Sister’s Murder Investigation. Then They Turned on Her’

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21 Januari 2024

Liz Flatt drove to Austin, Texas, mostly out of desperation. She had tried talking with the police. She had tried working with a former F.B.I. profiler who ran a nonprofit dedicated to solving unsolved murders. She had been interviewed by journalists and at least one podcaster. She had been featured on a Netflix documentary series about a man who falsely confessed to hundreds of killings. Although she didn’t know it at the time, Flatt was at a crossroads in what she had taken to calling her journey, a path embarked on after a prayer-born decision five years earlier to try to find who killed her sister, Deborah Sue Williamson, or Debbie, in 1975. It was now 2021. She had come to Austin for a conference, CrimeCon, which formed around the same time that Flatt began her quest, at a moment now seen as an inflection point in the long history of true crime, a genre as old as storytelling but one that adapts quickly to new technologies, from the printing press to social media. Flatt met a woman who would later put her in touch with two investigators who presented at the conference that year: George Jared and Jennifer Bucholtz. They were podcasters, but Jared was also a journalist and Bucholtz an adjunct professor of forensics and criminal justice at the for-profit American Military University. Their presentation was on another cold case, the murder of Rebekah Gould in 2004, whose killer they claimed to have helped find using a technique that has quickly become a signature of the changing landscape of true crime: crowdsourcing.

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