Brampton, Ont. couple's true-crime podcast helps with reopening of Indiana cold case
Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 26, 2018 11:34AM EDT
The work of a Brampton, Ont. couple has helped with the reopening of an investigation into the sudden death of a 22-year-old college football player in Indiana and is turning heads in the true-crime podcasting world.
Minds of Madness is a collection of 22 episodes so far that is amassing about half a million downloads a month.
Co-creators Bek and Tyler Allen have no experience in crime, investigations or forensics but they both studied radio and TV broadcasting. Tyler says he got into listening to true-crime podcasts three years ago and figured he had the skills to give it a go.
“As a child, I was really fascinated by old-time radio. Then I got into audio books,” said Tyler, who joined his wife on CTV's Your Morning Monday. He has the baritone, deliberate pacing and intonation of classic radio announcers. Tyler asked his wife for a microphone for Christmas 2016. When the podcast got off the ground, Bek jumped in to handle research.
Since then, they’ve have covered high-profile cases, including Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock, Vincent Li, the man found not criminally responsible for the 2008 killing and decapitation of a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus, and Gary Plauche, a father who killed a karate instructor who abducted and abused his son in 1984. The fatal shooting happened in front of TV news crews at an airport in Baton Rouge, La., but Plauche served no jail time.
Minds of Madness also covers less well known cases, including that of Theresa Allore, a young woman whose disappearance from her college campus in Quebec in 1978 is still unsolved, and Marcus Fiesel, a three-year-old developmentally disabled child who died due to gross mistreatment by his foster parents in Ohio.
The most popular instalments so far are three looking into the death of Tanner Barton, a Marion University student who died after a sudden collapse at a friend’s house almost six years ago. Barton’s mother approached the Allens, asking them to take on her son’s cold case. She handed over autopsy records, case files, and crime scene photos.
“I just started looking through the files and, with my limited understanding, things just weren’t making sense and I started asking questions,” Bek said on Your Morning Monday. She reached out to specialists to get explanations and she started to see missing pieces.
“It was the first time a couple of things were kind of noticed and I started communicating with the detective.”
She says at first the detective was skeptical of her, especially after other media attention in the U.S.
“But then this little unknown Canadian, you know, was gently inquiring. He started responding and we starting corresponding, you know, every day, to the point I got the detective and the mother talking again. They hadn’t talked in three years.”
Since the podcast, the investigators have called back all the witnesses they interviewed six years ago, are talking to new witnesses, and have forensically analyzed Barton’s phone for the first time, recovering deleted photos and texts.
The Allens are now working on a third cold case. They say the original concept for the show was to tell the stories of ordinary people who snap but now their mission has shifted to giving a voice to the voiceless.
What is perhaps most remarkable about this venture is the time they put into researching, recording and editing the podcasts since they have five kids and full-time jobs - she’s a freelance video producer for charities and he works in IT. They labour on their hobby in the evenings and into the early hours – Tyler in the basement studio and Bek upstairs doing research and talking on the phone.
The couple says a recent 30-minute episode took 17 hours to edit. Research, interviewing and writing took days more.
Tyler says he never thought the podcast would have the effect it has.
“When I first started, it was just me in the basement doing our own stories. I was writing my own scripts and basically going online and finding out information and retelling stories that were already done and solved. Then once Bek got involved, she started bringing in the families and working with them. As the show grew, we had more access to professionals and forensic specialists. It’s been incredible.”
The show’s following has grown to the point they have about 20 people helping out. The couple says there is interest from a Toronto production company to turn the podcast into a TV show.
Minds of Madness recently won four Canadian Podcast Awards for best debut, sound, theme, and news podcast at PodCamp Toronto, a two-day conference at Ryerson University. The couple was nominated in seven categories.
The podcast also gets high ratings from listeners, including 4.5 out of five stars on Apple Podcasts and a perfect five stars on its Facebook page.
“Tyler has the best voice in podcasts! Actual news reports sprinkled in with commentary and interviews. Emphasis is placed on solutions and the humanity of the people involved,” wrote one reviewer.
“This podcast is making my one-hour drive feel like 5 minutes. The combo of the narrator and the music drag you right into the story,” said another.