THE NUMEROUS SOLUTIONS OF
est. New York | c. Los Angeles
est. New York | c. Los Angeles

Field Reports

Michelle McNamara, True Crime Writer

Posted April 23rd, 2016 in Field Reports by Billy Jensen

Michelle McNamara

Michelle McNamara was dogged. Fiercely dogged. Don’t-take-no-for-an-answer, don’t-leave-any-stone-unturned dogged.

 

She was a mother and a wife, but after she took her daughter to school or put her to bed, she spent seemingly every waking moment working on her book about a series of unsolved rapes and murders that took place across California in the ’70s and ’80s. Her ultimate goal? To identify the villain, to give the real name to the unknown assailant who goes by the monikers “The Original Night Stalker” and “The East Area Rapist.” She had written about the case in Los Angeles Magazine–where she rechristened him “The Golden State Killer”–and on her site, True Crime Diary.

 

Every month or so we would meet for lunch or drinks, where she would tell me about the latest clue she had uncovered–some bit of information that had been missed all those years ago. Her eyes lit up like Christmas as she walked me down the path of how the new clue might fit into the ever-expanding jigsaw puzzle she was putting together.

 

Then we would meet the next month, where she would excitedly tell me how that piece fit into the picture… or how it sent her down one of many rabbit holes.

 

She was unearthing an intense amount of information–boxes and boxes full of documents and police reports, old phone books, news articles. The kind of stuff you just can’t google. She went digging– into dusty archives, newspaper morgues. She knocked on doors. Shoe-leather work.

 

But her most amazing skill–what set her apart from any writer I have ever seen–was getting grizzled detectives from different police departments and law enforcement agencies to talk to each other and share details about their individual cases–something they never did at the time of the crimes. If they did, they could have helped solve the case and brought this serial killer to justice. But they are doing it now, because of Michelle. It’s not always easy talking to detectives about a cold case they worked on. It’s their unfinished businesses. Imagine if someone called you up to get you to talk about a project you failed to complete 40 years ago. Now imagine telling that person no. Now imagine that person not going away until you talked to them about it. Now you have an idea of Michelle.

 

She knew more about this case than anyone, and I truly believe she would have solved it. Hell, I bet she already has solved it. I bet she has the name of the bastard in one of her thousands of pages of notes. She texted me earlier this month saying she had a real good lead on a suspect. “A lot of tiny details in his favor,” she wrote. “We’ll see. Have been here before. But God I would be so happy.”

 

I don’t know what is going to happen to the book, but If asked I would do my damndest to help get it out there. I know our mutual friend and fellow crime writer Steve Huff feels the same way.

 

After the book was finished, Michelle and I were going to start a cold case group, a sort of Los Angeles Vidocq Society, where we would invite the smartest people we knew from Hollywood, law enforcement and journalism to a dinner one night a month and review an unsolved murder case. We would then give each person a task, and at the next meeting would present their findings, which we would deliver to law enforcement before introducing the next case.

 

Michelle was really excited to do this, as was I. We were building a list of people to invite and a list of cases to work. The only thing we didn’t know was what to call this little group. The Vidocq Society was named after the French criminal-turned-detective who is credited with ushering in a new era of detective work. Michelle was ushering a new era of citizen sleuthing, and her investigation is going to illustrate what a dogged woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer could do for justice. If I can ever muster up the strength to start this group without her, I guess I now know what it will be called.

 

 

Update: 826LA–which teaches kids creative writing out of the back of the Time Travel Mart in Echo Park–has set up a page to make a donation in Michelle’s name. On top of being a great investigator, Michelle was a fantastic writer. She merged her creative writing skills with true crime facts to build a different type of crime storytelling.

 

In this age of bytes and screens, we need to get a pen and piece of paper into more kids’ hands–and some guidance from fun, talented teachers. That’s what 826LA does, so please think about donating in Michelle’s name–so we can foster the next generation of true crime writers.

 

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Michelle and I at SXSW in 2014 for our panel, Solving Murders With Social Media. 

The “Hardy Boys of Utah” Who Spent Christmas Vacation Searching For A Fugitive

Posted March 9th, 2016 in Field Reports, Investigations by Billy Jensen

My Crime Watch Daily story on the park ranger who was shot nine times and left for dead in the hills of Utah, the fugitive who escaped authorities for five years, and the Eagle Scout and his teenage brother who used their skills to track him down.

 

 

 

The Crime Watch Daily Investigation Of The Murder of Faith Hedgepeth

Posted February 17th, 2016 in Field Reports, Investigations by Billy Jensen

In a special one-hour segment of Crime Watch Daily, we investigate the still-unsolved murder of Faith Hedgepeth, and reveal a pocket-dial voicemail that could break the case wide open.

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Finding Boshek

Posted February 8th, 2016 in A Life Outside Of Crime by Billy Jensen

BoShek

 

He was the man who could have been Solo.

 

I have always been intrigued by BoShek. When Ben Kenobi enters the cantina on Mos Eisley looking for a pilot to take himself, the boy and two droids to Alderaan, his first choice is a smuggler sporting arched eyebrows, killer muttonchops, and a black and white space suit more akin to an astronaut than a fighter pilot. While we cannot hear their dialogue, it is obvious that Kenobi asks him for a ride to Alderaan–and for whatever reason, the space pilot says no.

 

Was his ship out of commission? Did he have another charter later that day?

 

Whatever the reason, BoShek turns down the offer, but smoothly motions over his shoulder to the furry beast behind him, in my mind saying something to the effect of “Sorry, I can’t help you. But why don’t you give him a try?”

 

That furry beast, Chewbacca, then brings Kenobi and Skywalker to the table, Han Solo sits down, the rest is history…and BoShek faded forever into the darkness of the Mos Eisley bar.

 

So as I sat with my daughter in the Anaheim Convention center listening to Tom Spina and Pablo Hidalga’s fantastic panel “Secrets of the Mos Eisley Cantina,” I was shocked to discover that we had no idea who the actor was who played BoShek.

 

What? BoShek even has his own action figure. But we don’t know the name of actor who played him?

 

If these two Star Wars scholars—Spina, of Tom Spina Designs, an incredible designer who had recently recreated the Cantina scene for a Volkswagen commercial, and Hidalgo, Creative Executive at Lucasfilm—did not know who BoShek was, it was pretty safe to say the internet didn’t either. But the crowd can be very powerful when tapped.

 

I make my living as an investigative journalist. I write and produce true crime stories for places like Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Magazine, and I am on the Warner Bros. syndicated show Crime Watch Daily. Many of the stories I tell are of the unsolved murder and missing persons variety. I am also one of the country’s experts on citizen detectives—individuals who team up online to solve crimes. The last time I was at a conference, I was presenting a panel called “Citizen Dicks: Solving Murders With Social Media.”

 

So as I sat with my daughter listening to Spina and Hidalgo’s panel, I felt I had found my sense of purpose in the Star Wars universe. Since Star Wars has neither had a journalist nor a detective onscreen, this could be my best chance to make a contribution.

 

I was going to find BoShek.

AMERICA’S MISSING PERSONS CRISIS: INVESTIGATING THE GAP IN THE SYSTEM

Posted December 16th, 2015 in Field Reports, Investigations by Billy Jensen

When a loved one goes missing, family members contact local police, who create a case file. When human remains are discovered, another case file is created.

 

But here is the problem: Under the current system, these two files have no way of talking to each other. The information is spread across thousands of databases across the country, and families can search for years for their loved one who may have already been found.

 

Here is my Crime Watch Daily investigation on what some call the nation’s “Silent Mass Crisis.”

 

 

 

The unsolved murder of dino dizdarevic in chester, pa

Posted November 17th, 2015 in Field Reports, Investigations by Billy Jensen

He used an app to set up a date with a man 20 miles away. He never came home.

 

His friends used the same app to track his movements and guide police to the neighborhood where he was headed.

 

This is a story I produced for Crime Watch Daily on the unsolved murder of Dino Dizdarevic. I want to see some justice from the people in Chester, PA.

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Dino’s boyfriend told me he was wearing this jacket that night, and it is missing. Finding the jacket could lead to some answers.

 

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How A Citizen Detective Artist Helped Solve The Mystery Of Caledonia Doe

Posted November 12th, 2015 in Field Reports, Investigations by Billy Jensen
Caledonia Jane Doe,” or “Cali Doe,” was murdered in New York and remained unidentified for years. Here is the story I did for Crime Watch Daily on the unemployed accountant who helped give Cali Doe her true name back.

 

Click here to view the clues of the case and learn how you can help solve her murder. 

How A Detective And A Sports Blogger Worked Together To Solve A Crime

Posted October 4th, 2015 in Field Reports, Investigations by Billy Jensen

Twitter Detectives

It was by all accounts a brutal beating.

 

On September 11, 2014, 28-year old Zachary Hesse and his 27-year old boyfriend Andrew Haught were going out for pizza on a Thursday night in Philadelphia’s trendy Center City neighborhood. They walked past a group of about a dozen well-dressed males and females. Clean cut, preppy types. The women in dresses. The men in oxfords and polos, one in a loud orange vest.

 

There was bumping. According to testimony in the criminal case that followed, words were exchanged. “Is that your fucking boyfriend?!” one of the people in the large group yelled. “Yeah he is my fucking boyfriend. Do you have a problem with that?” replied Hesse. “So you’re a dirty, fucking faggot?” said one of the men. “Maybe I am a dirty, fucking faggot,” said Hesse.

 

Then it went haywire. The assailants allegedly yelled, “You dirty faggot!” as punches and kicks rained down on the two men. At one point, Hesse claimed his hands were held while a woman in a white dress scratched his face, yelling, “Fuck you faggot!”

 

Haught eventually passed out in a pool of his own blood.

 

Hesse and Haught spent the night at Hahnemann Hospital, Haught in surgery with two broken cheekbones, getting his jaw wired shut and patching up the deep lacerations on his face.

 

Police analyzed a video surveillance tape of the individuals they believed were part of the attack, but could not identify them. So they released the tape to the public. The case then morphed into one of the best examples to date of crowdsourcing leading to an arrest. And it was the Twitter relationship between a snarky sports blogger and a police detective that was one of the main keys to the tale…. Read the rest of the tale at Vocativ.

 

 

Urban Outfitters’ Kent State Sweatshirt: Blood Splatter Oversight or Statement?

Posted September 14th, 2014 in Field Reports by Billy Jensen

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Kent State Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters is selling what they are calling a “Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt” with what appears to be blood splatter splashed on the front. It is part of their vintage collection, which features one-of-a-kind items. Reads the description: “Washed soft and perfectly broken in, this vintage Kent State sweatshirt is cut in a loose, slouchy fit. Excellent vintage condition. We only have one, so get it or regret it!” Is this the beginning of a series, with a UT Austin sweatshirt not far behind?

Al Jazeera story on citizen sleuths

Posted June 11th, 2014 in Field Reports by Billy Jensen

Al Jazeera America just published a story about online citizen detectives. It covers animal crush cases, websleuths.com, Animal Beta Project, NAMus and a bunch of other things. Here is one of my quotes quotes from the story.

 

“Currently, there is no national database of cold murder cases, but Jensen is developing one, which he said will provide basic information for the 200,000 unsolved murders in the U.S. “Right now, many of these cases are sitting in a box in a warehouse gathering dust,” he said. “Why not let the public give it a shot? The people who committed the crime have gotten away with it. They’re ghosts. But the crowd can help. And it doesn’t need to be a witch hunt. The crowd can dig up the information, and funnel it through a detective who can follow up.”

 

Read the whole thing here.