A Day in the Life of a CrimeCon VIP

The sun breaks through the window of your beautiful room at the JW Marriott Indianapolis hotel. It’s CrimeCon time! Maybe you’re not accustomed to rise-and-shine at 7:30, but there are mysteries to solve, and true crime celebs to meet, and sleeping in is not an option.

Questions buzz through your head as you go about your morning routine.

Coffee. How am I going to squeeze into my schedule all the cool stuff I want to see and do?

Shower. What is this Wine & Crime event about?

Clothes. Who is the CrimeCon Informant and will I be able to spot her in the crowd?

(Probably not. I’m a true-crime-nerd-writer-ninja. But if you do, you win a prize. Maybe. Or not. It won’t be a big prize. Like a sticker. I dunno. I’ll work on the details.--CCI)

Now it's time to get the day started.

8:30 - You grab some breakfast in one of the hotel’s fine restaurants and then head to registration. You skip the line and go directly to the VIP check-in table to get your shiny CrimeCon credentials.

9:00 - Your day begins with a whopper. Out of pure curiosity, you check out The Steven Avery Experience with Making a Murderer prosecutor Ken Kratz. This is a long one; nearly four hours, so you grab another cup of coffee on your way.

12:30 - The convention officially kicks off with a welcome address from (a yet-to-be-announced speaker. Top names are still playing rock-paper-scissors for the honor. --CCI). You’re pumped up and excited to see what the day holds.

1:00 - You visit the crime scene walkthrough. Since you’re staying at the JW Marriott, you’ll participate in a murder mystery game exclusively for hotel guests over the course of the weekend. This experience will help you solve it.

2:00 - Time to head on over to the Carl Marino meet and greet, trying to control your fangirling/fanboying.

2:30 - Whew! You’re ready for a break, so you head to the VIP lounge to relax for a moment and indulge in another cup of coffee. You’re gonna need the energy!

3:00 - You know that you can always sharpen your amateur detective skills, so you attend Cold Case Research 101 and take a seat in the VIP-reserved seating area. Your host is Atlanta CSI Sheryl McCollum is head of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute. She and her team have made progress on cold cases like Natalee Holloway, the Boston Strangler, and Chandra Levy.

4:00 - Former FBI Supervisory Special Agent and criminal profiler Jim Clemente is now a writer and co-producer of one of your favorite true crime shows, Criminal Minds, so you can’t miss this session. You’ll hear his white-knuckle stories of high-speed chases through New York City and fascinating mysteries from “skid row” to the White House. You’ll have tons of questions for the Q&A.

5:00 - Of course you’ve read her entire bibliography, so you take your VIP-reserved seat in Aphrodite Jones’s session to hear the secrets behind Scott Peterson’s arrest for the brutal and heinous murder of his wife, Laci, and her unborn child Connor. She’ll also talk about the behind-the-scenes antics of Peterson’s high-profile attorneys.

5:30 - It’s Wine & Crime time! Sheryl McCollum returns to host this incredible Gold VIP event. She passes out packets containing every piece of evidence the CCIRI has gathered on a real-life cold case. You pour a glass of wine and examine the evidence. Your brain hamster is running full-speed on his little wheel. You have a theory, so you discuss it with one of the three experts in the room. Together, they have over 100 years of investigative experience, and it’s all at your disposal. (Psst! If you can’t make this one, there’s another session tomorrow and a Bloody Brunch on Sunday).

6:00 - If you didn’t get to see Jim Clemente earlier, you can now! Hang out with Jim for a live episode of his well-researched and informative podcast Real Crime Profile.

7:00 - Getting a little peckish? It’s time for dinner. The VIP murder mystery dinner will introduce you to some colorful characters (and maybe some high-profile CrimeCon guests) as you try to determine whodunit in a town where a killer could be lurking anywhere. (If you’re not hungry yet, there’s an 8:00 seating for this experience, too.)

8:00 - It’s been a long day and you rallied like a rockstar. You’re tired, but it’s the best kind of tired -- the kind that means you learned something new and you met new people. When you return to your room, you find a new clue in the ongoing murder mystery game. You puzzle over it while you wind down and begin to form a theory.

But it’s time for sleep because you have a full day again tomorrow. You’ll learn the basics of self-defense and how Generation Why produces their episodes before heading over to a live recording of Up And Vanished with Payne Lindsey. Stop to see the Midwest Search Dogs in action and grab a cuddle with Garmin. Catch another live recording -- Crime Stories with the always-entertaining Nancy Grace. After another action-packed day, you’ll relax and unwind at the VIP cocktail hour (open bar!). And possibly rub elbows with some big names in crime.

Sleep well, VIPs. I’ll see you at CrimeCon -- but you won’t see me. Probably.

--CrimeCon Informant


 

Tim & Lance: What Surprised Us Most in Our Maura Murray Investigation

Tim & Lance: What Surprised Us Most in Our Maura Murray Investigation

If you’re even casually interested in true crime, chances are good that you’ve heard the name Maura Murray. Maura’s 2004 disappearance from Route 112 in Haverhill, New Hampshire following a single-car accident has baffled law enforcement agencies and armchair detectives ever since.

In 2013, documentary filmmakers Tim Pilleri and Lance Reeinstierna sought to understand the reasons why Maura’s disappearance has held our attention for more than thirteen years. Two years later, they launched the Missing Maura Murray podcast to accompany the documentary already in progress. As an avid listener of the podcast since its first episode, I was eager to speak with Tim and Lance about the twists and turns they’ve encountered along the way.

The Crime Book Q&A with Author Cathy Scott

Informant's Note: You can enter to win a free copy of The Crime Book! Click here to enter the CrimeCon-exclusive sweepstakes. Get your entry in before midnight on April 13th and watch for the winner to be announced on April 14th!

If you're a true crime nerd and earnest bibliophile like I am, your bookshelf has probably raised a few eyebrows. Some people collect Nicholas Sparks romances, we collect serial killer memoirs and true crime mysteries. Not good, not bad, just different. 

I'm a big fan of the Big Ideas, Simply Explained series, an anthology of books that explain the basics (and more than a few details) about a breadth of topics from politics to philosophy to art history. So when I heard DK Books was adding a volume on crime, I was thrilled. When I heard it would be written in collaboration with best-selling true crime author and investigative journalist Cathy Scott, I may have nearly fainted. Cathy was kind enough to answer some questions about the upcoming edition called The Crime Book

CC Informant: This looks like the world’s most comprehensive collection of true crime stories, and it excites me because it also includes a lot of info about the science and psychology behind criminal behavior. I would imagine that you’ve absorbed a ton of knowledge about the inner workings of the criminal mind during your career. Is there a particular investigation or experience that you called upon to inform those contributions to the book?

Cathy Scott: When it came to Irish grave robbers Burke and Hare, the psychopathy and intent of their criminal behavior definitely came into play as I wrote their story. Simply put, their crimes are just plain creepy, and the cold-hearted killings they committed that were motivated by one thing—greed—illustrate the uncaring single-mindedness with these particular criminals. Setting aside the lives and families they damaged because of their deadly acts, it’s a fascinating study into what drives people to kill not once, but several times.

CCI: With a compendium of this size and this thorough, is there anything that didn’t make it into the book that you wish had?

Cathy Scott: I can’t think of one crime that’s not represented in The Crime Book. It runs the gamut—from nonviolent cons to gangland-style criminals, to white-collar offenders—with a complete representation starting with the first known homicide committed against a Neanderthal man. Simply put, you can’t make this stuff up.

CCI: I’ve been writing about crime for much less time than you have and sometimes I need a mental break. Were there any parts of the book (or specific cases from your work) that were difficult to get through? 

Cathy Scott: As a crime writer, I’ve covered a variety of misdeeds for more than two decades and have been to more homicide scenes than I care to count. And while I don’t think we should ever get used to writing about crime and the perpetrators, some touch me more than others, especially when it comes to writing about children and teenagers. The Green River Killer and the untold number of girls whose lives he took away, struck me as particularly brutal, as well as the crimes committed against a dozen girls by Fred and Rose West. While writing those stories, I occasionally stopped for a few minutes to listen to the birds outside my window and or took my dogs for short walks, just to clear my mind.

CCI: Which cases get under your skin the most in general? 

Cathy Scott: Unsolved murders where the evidence seems to be there but the crimes are not prosecuted bother me the most, as with the murder of hip-hop rapper Tupac Shakur. I consider the victims to be underdogs. It’s the reason I’ve written about Shakur’s case for 20 years. Senseless crimes, and not necessarily violent ones, such as illegal drug sales, are also blights on society. So, I’ve always felt it important, as an author and while I was a newspaper reporter, to inform the public about what’s going on in their own communities. As the saying goes, an informed public is vital in a free society.

CCI: What’s something in (or about) the book that true crime enthusiasts may be surprised to learn?

Cathy Scott: The variety of crimes across the world and throughout the ages offers readers fresh perspectives with striking detail about notorious lawlessness, from petty to capital crimes, from the sale of the Roman Empire to the James Gang in the Wild West. What stands out the most for me with the stories in this book is how so many of the criminals got away with their crimes for an untold number of years. Also, the crimes detailed in this book have such diversity that there is something for everyone.

 

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Copies of The Crime Book will be available for purchase at CrimeCon, or you may pre-order the book via Amazon prior to its May 2 premiere date. And don't forget to enter to win a free copy in the CrimeCon-exclusive sweepstakes here!

Websleuths's Tricia Griffith Has Some Advice for Amateur Detectives

Websleuths's Tricia Griffith Has Some Advice for Amateur Detectives

When it comes to amateur investigators, some of the world's most dedicated ones can often be found on Websleuths. Websleuths is an organized and tightly moderated forum where true crime enthusiasts flex their investigative muscles and lend their insights to move the needle on unsolved crimes, cold cases, and missing persons cases. As a semi-active participant on Websleuths, I was thrilled to get some time with forum owner Tricia Griffith to find out how we can use those skills to make a difference in these cases. 

Generation Why Podcast's Aaron Shares What Bothers Him the Most

Generation Why Podcast's Aaron Shares What Bothers Him the Most

If I asked you to list your favorite true crime or unsolved mysteries podcasts, I’d bet even money that Generation Why would rank in your top five. Co-hosts Aaron and Justin began the podcast in 2012 by sharing their own insights into cold cases and other mysteries. Five years and 223 episodes later, they have emerged as a fan favorite in the true crime genre, with thousands of downloads each week.

I was lucky enough to speak with Aaron of Aaron-and-Justin fame and talk theories, how to build a podcast, and what really bothers him about many of the cases we're all familiar with.

REPORT: The 5 Coolest Things I've Learned about CrimeCon (So Far)

CrimeCon is already one of the most exciting events of the year. As the nation’s first convention for true crime fans, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience for all who attend. After lurking in the shadows of CrimeCon Headquarters for several weeks now, I've learned at least five things that I just can’t wait any longer to share with you. Total true crime geek meltdown in 3. . .  2. . . 1 . . .

The Puzzling 3-Day Mystery Game

If you’re staying at the JW Marriott Indianapolis hotel during CrimeCon, you’re in for a treat! Not only is the hotel itself amazing, but CrimeCon attendees staying there will be able to participate in a fun mystery-solving adventure. I’m still sniffing around CCHQ for more details about this, but I can report that the game will span the entire duration of CrimeCon and is being developed in conjunction with Red Herring Games, purveyor of murder mystery dinners and themed interactive events across the country. Clues may show up anywhere, but only those staying at the JW Marriott will be invited to help solve the mystery, and space is limited.

Informant’s Note: Our group rate with the JW Marriott will expire in the weeks ahead. Don’t miss your chance to get in on the fun: click here to book your room for the lowest rate.

Wine & Crime

I recently pressed CSI Sheryl McCollum to spill some details about the VIP-only experience that includes all of my favorite things: cold cases, wine, good people, and the pursuit of justice. *Cue inspiring orchestral crescendo here*

Of everything I’ve learned while sneaking around headquarters, Wine & Crime may be the event that I’m most looking forward to at CrimeCon. It’s exciting because we -- just normal, regular ol’ armchair detectives like you and me -- will get our hands on the evidence of a real cold case. And we’ll have a chance to help solve it. Check out my conversation with Sheryl McCollum here for all the juicy details (ha! Wine pun!).

Be the Jury

There are a couple of reasons why I accepted the mission of the CrimeCon Informant. One was because, well, obviously, I’m a borderline-obsessed true crime enthusiast. The other was because I’ve been impressed time and again with the producers’ dedication to showing different sides of many stories. That dedication has manifested in several ways. Not only are the producers giving airtime to decidedly controversial figures whose stories (good or bad) have been drowned out by public opinion, they’re giving us an opportunity to experience the legal process from some perspectives that we may not have considered.

In The Jury Experience session, you’ll become a member of a jury and hear an abbreviated presentation based on a real case. After deliberations, you’ll hand down your verdict and learn whether you reached the same conclusion as the real-life jury who heard the case. How cool is that?! I’ve never been called for jury duty, but until that day comes, I’m just going to assume it’ll be as fun as this session.

The Lead Investigator Experience

Don’t think you’d fare well as a juror? Try on another hat! In the Lead Investigator Experience, you’ll make your way through a meticulously-staged crime scene. You’ll sort through a scene where anything may be a clue that will lead you to the perpetrator. From the information I’ve gathered, you’ll need to bring your investigating A-game to this one. It won’t be easy!

Payne Lindsey

Okay, confession time: I’m a podcast junkie. Thinking Sideways, Generation Why, Missing Maura Murray, True Crime Garage, the whole gang; if I’m in my car, that’s what’s coming out of my speakers. Sometimes I create errands to run just so I can get in a few minutes of podcast time. And while I’m delightfully giddy at the idea of hanging out with Team Sideways, the one bringing the really good stuff is Payne Lindsey of Up and Vanished.

If you haven’t obsessively analyzed every minute of his podcast like I have, allow me to explain. Payne Lindsey created Up and Vanished with the intent to investigate one cold case per season. He began with the disappearance of beauty queen & history teacher Tara Grinstead, who vanished from her Ocilla, Georgia home in 2005. Her case went cold almost immediately and remained so for twelve years. Until Payne Lindsey came along.

Payne hit the streets of Ocilla to see what he could dig up. He produced twelve episodes of Up and Vanished before the pressure of his investigation helped crack through the frozen tundra surrounding Tara’s case. On February 23, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that they had arrested a suspect in Tara’s disappearance based on information from an anonymous tipster. The suspect confessed, and a week later, the GBI brought his named accomplice into custody, as well.

This is the pinnacle for every true crime podcaster and enthusiast. Using the resources at his disposal, Payne sat out to simply put pressure on the case and stir up some new leads. In doing so, he helped crack a case in six months that had investigators stumped for twelve years.

Whew. That’s a heavy credential. Payne will likely be one of the only amateur investigators at CrimeCon who can claim it. I am beyond excited to watch the events of this case unfold and to hear Payne speak of this incredible experience during CrimeCon.

Can you see now why I couldn’t keep this stuff to myself anymore? There’s so much to see and experience, just in these five small pieces of CrimeCon! One last Informant’s tip for you: if you’re not registered yet, stop reading this and go register and reserve your room now. With fewer than 100 days until CrimeCon, we're filling up fast.

--CC Informant

 

BONUS: The JW Marriott Hotel

I can’t believe I almost forgot this. Have you guys seen this place?? This isn’t the conference room at the Days Inn, guys. I’m an unapologetic hotel snob, and this hotel exceeds even my highest expectations. The JW Marriott is stunningly beautiful and ranked #5 on Conde Nast Traveler’s list of the best hotels in the U.S. It is 33 stories of pure luxury, boasting one of the largest hotel ballrooms in the world, and I can’t wait to see what the CrimeCon team fills it with! Whatever it is, I’ll be there lurking somewhere in the crowd. Will you?

Former Defense Attorney Kirk Nurmi Adds a Unique Perspective to CrimeCon

Anyone who describes himself as “happily disbarred” is someone I want to have a conversation with. Former defense attorney Kirk Nurmi took his leave from the profession following his embattled experience defending accused murderer Jodi Arias. Arias admitted to stabbing and shooting her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in his Mesa, Arizona home in 2008. Arias claimed she killed Alexander in self-defense. The case captured the attention of hundreds of thousands of people, myself included.

That being said, once the guilty verdict was handed down at the second trial, the case fell off my radar. So when I sat down to do some research before speaking to Mr. Nurmi, I was pleased to learn that he’s moved on from a very public case that must have been one of the most challenging of his career.

When I spoke to him, Nurmi was enjoying a beautiful sunny day on the veranda of his Arizona home with his beloved chihuahua nearby. There was an ease in his voice that was almost unrecognizable from that of the impassioned defense attorney whom millions watched defend a client that he, himself, could barely pretend to like. It makes me wonder: if Jodi Arias had never come into his life, would Nurmi still describe himself as “happily disbarred,” or would he have continued in his chosen profession?

He considers his words carefully before replying.

“I really don’t know,” he admits. “I absolutely still enjoy the law as a concept, I like discussing and learning about the law. I enjoy the intellectual pursuit. But I don’t miss the work.”

One can hardly blame him. From pretrial to final verdict, the case dragged on for an exhausting five years. During that time, Nurmi attempted to recuse himself from Arias's defense more than once, citing his client’s unreasonable demands and refusal to cooperate with the legal process. For her part, Arias seemed more than agreeable to it, as well, but the judge denied the change in representation.

“Once I had a sense of where this case was going, I was willing to give up the job, simply to get away from Ms. Arias,” Nurmi divulged in his tell-all book Trapped with Ms. Arias, published in 2015. “And when I could not get away, I realized that I was truly trapped in her case, which also meant I was trapped with her,” Nurmi wrote.

His book goes on to cite what Nurmi describes as Arias’s “deeply disturbed” behavior during the course of the trial as another reason why he sought to leave her defense team.

By the time the trial was over, it was no secret that there was no love lost between Nurmi and his client. Many commentators and legal peers maligned his endeavor to write the book, but Nurmi stands by his decision.

“I thought it was a proportionate and ethical response to her criticisms of my performance while defending her, and the defamation she spread once it was over,” Nurmi explains with that same lilt of contentment in his voice. “This case may be the one from my career that most people remember, but it doesn’t overshadow the other good work that I’ve done for my clients in the past. They know that I worked hard for them and if this case obscures that for outside observers, that doesn’t concern me.”

With the rise of social media running parallel to the timeline of the trial, Nurmi was among the first generation of defense attorneys to experience the wrath of an inflamed public as they watched the events unfold. Undoubtedly, those platforms most made his already difficult job even harder. But he seems to take it in stride as we discuss whether social media is a more positive or negative influence in cases like that of Jodi Arias.

“I don’t know that it’s one any more than the other,” he considers. “People have a right to know what’s happening in the courtroom, and maybe it helps create a better understanding of the process itself.” On the other hand, sometimes it throws a wrench in that process. “As these trials become more of a reality TV staple, there are implications for jury selection, witness credibility, and the purity of the process as a whole.”

Those who stayed glued to their televisions during the embattled trial may sneer at Nurmi’s decidedly content and comfortable demeanor. They may -- and do -- publicly accuse him of defending an admitted murderer or demonstrating indifference or insensitivity to the slain Alexander’s family. He hopes to dispel that image during his time at CrimeCon.

“I look forward to bringing a perspective to the discussion that’s often overlooked,” he says. “Many times, defense attorneys are ridiculed and despised or they’re seen as colluding with their client. People think that by defending them, we condone their actions or deny their guilt. It was clear that Ms. Arias killed Mr. Alexander. My job wasn’t to prove that she didn’t. My job was to represent for her the Constitutional rights that we all enjoy in this country, including accused criminals. That’s the job I did, and I did it successfully.”

With that job finished, Nurmi has turned a significant corner in his life. He dropped 75 pounds and was diagnosed with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in late 2015. Now in remission, healthier, and happier, he enjoys his quiet life as an author and professional speaker. But he isn’t ready to rest on his laurels yet.

“Sometime in the future, I’d like to work with people who are experiencing what I experienced. There’s a lot of burnout and dissatisfaction in the legal profession. If I can help others deal with that and find happiness -- on the job or not -- then that’s something I’d like to do.”

Maybe old habits die hard. Or maybe, like Kirk Nurmi, they just evolve.


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Kirk Nurmi will discuss his extensive experience at CrimeCon, including his representation of Jodi Arias. Register now to be part of what's sure to be a lively and informative discussion at CrimeCon 2017.