Devin of Thinking SidEways on Coming Out of Hiding & What's Next for TS

Informant’s note: The fangirl squeal I unleashed when I finished this interview was so shrill that I’m pretty sure only my dog could hear it.

Informant’s note: The fangirl squeal I unleashed when I finished this interview was so shrill that I’m pretty sure only my dog could hear it.

One of the coolest things about CrimeCon is that we’ll have a chance to get up close and personal with our favorite true crime authors and podcasters. That is what initially sparked my own interest in CrimeCon and, if the Reddit and forum posts I’ve seen pop up are any indication, it’s a major factor for many of you.

That’s why it’s such a thrill to bring you CrimeCon-exclusive interviews with some of the upcoming guests. Recently, I spoke with Devin from Thinking Sideways to find out what we can look forward to at CrimeCon and the future of the remarkable podcast she shares with longtime friends Steve and Joe.

CC Informant: The three of you have remained somewhat famously anonymous. Why are you coming out of obscurity now?

Devin: When we first started, we were nervous to open our public lives to the internet. The internet can be a scary place. Even despite our efforts, we’ve had incidents; about eight months ago, someone tweeted a pic of my parents’ house. That’s the drive behind staying anonymous.

At the same time, we had a growing base of really great fans and we wanted to get some face time with them. So when we learned about CrimeCon, it sounded like a great, supportive space to kind of unveil Team Sideways (although we did jokingly consider renting a booth and then just never being there). It just sounded so cool that we couldn’t turn down the offer. We’re all feeling more confident with it, and we’re hoping that, being surrounded by like-minded people, nobody will have ill intent. We’re also at a point in our show and our lives where, if our identities were revealed, it wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world. Plus, we’ve finally come to terms with the fact that we’re not some clandestine government operatives that Snowden is about to crack any day now or something.

CCI: You recently picked up sponsors. Has that changed the way that you produce the podcast?

Not really. It has changed the process a bit in that we have to consciously take a break, but it hasn’t significantly altered, say, what kind of content we can produce or anything. The reception and support from our fans has been great, with very little backlash. Plus, we always strive to be accessible to everyone; we don’t swear, we give warnings when the content is about to get a little gnarly, and that’s made a difference in our ability to work with a wide variety of advertisers.

CCI: When did you realize the podcast had taken off way more than you ever expected it to?

It was surprising when we realized it. It was right when Serial came out and we’d been doing this show for a year and a half and all of a sudden there was this explosion. There was a Mashable article with a list of podcast recommendations for people going through Serial withdrawals, and we were featured on it.

Overnight, we went from about 2,000 downloads per episode to almost 300,000. Now we’re on track for 1.7 million this month, and we’re laughing at the time when we really thought we’d really made it at 1,000 downloads. It was just something we were doing as friends, and now it’s grown to this size. It keeps us on our toes; when we had a small crowd, it was easier to maybe get lazy with the research, let some technical glitches go, and just not have to worry about being as good as we are now.

CCI: What do you hope it will lead to? What’s the future of Thinking Sideways?

I don’t know, that’s a good question. We’ve been kind of dancing around that subject a while. We’re all at very different points in our lives. Steve just got married. I’m in a serious relationship. Joe is a perpetual bachelor. And also, we have these generational factors-- there are several years of age difference between the three of us. But we all care about each other a lot, and if doing the podcast ever came between that. . . No, really, we’re planning to do it forever.

CCI: How do you each prepare for an episode?

We each have our process. We’ve worked over the years to make sure we’re doing the same thing on a fundamental level because it’s what works best. We have shared docs and spreadsheets, we keep to deadlines. Then before we record, we post our outlines for each other to look over.

But when researching, we all have our own methods. Joe loves to call police stations to get information when he can, and he’ll go on Google maps and poke around these places we're talking about. I tend to dig more into online forums, going back through pages and pages of comments looking for something super obscure that may offer a new angle or theory we don’t know. I use the Wayback Machine a lot. And Steve likes to buy books-- I’m talking 20 books at a time and then he reads and reads and reads. He has more stories in his backlog than any of us because he’s constantly soaking up all this information.

CCI: What are some “third rail” cases that you just won't do?

There are a few. The big one is JonBenet Ramsey. Johnny Gosch has been a big request since the Netflix special came out. When push comes to shove, the cases we won’t do are the ones where we just don’t feel like we have anything else to contribute. We enjoy doing this because we like to dig in, look at what’s out there, develop our own theories and talk it out. Some cases have just reached maximum talk-it-outedness. Things like the Netflix documentary are terrific because they’ve brought a lot of new attention to cases like Johnny Gosch’s, but they have paid, professional researchers and massive amounts of resources. They actually CAN dig into primary resources and maybe turn up some new evidence. We can’t top that, so we want to stick to what we do best.

CC: Okay, last question: can I get a Team Sideways group hug at CrimeCon?

Yeah, duh. You just have to find us first. No, really, we’ll be there. Probably.

 

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You could be among the first people to meet Team Sideways in person! Register for CrimeCon to come face to face with your favorite true crime podcasters and writers.








 

Meet the Coolest Canines in Crime

Informant’s Note: Because I know you’re dying to ask, yes, you may pet Garmin at CrimeCon (unless she’s working)!

It all started when Michael Sarvich watched the Disney classic The Fox and the Hound as a child. Dismayed to learn that he could not, in fact, keep a fox for a pet, he set a simple goal: when he was grown up, he would get a bloodhound dog instead.

And that’s exactly what he did. Seven years ago, Michael brought home Sophie, a bloodhound puppy, and fulfilled his lifelong dream. To keep the energetic puppy busy and entertained, Michael decided to train her as a tracking dog. After all, it’s what she was born to do. But Michael never thought Sophie would search for more than his own kids in the backyard.

After Sophie’s first day of training, her trainers excitedly informed Michael that she had extraordinary potential as a search and rescue dog. “She had demonstrated commands on her first day that took older dogs months to master," says Michael. Sophie, indeed, became a certified search and rescue dog and worked until her passing at three years old due to a kidney complication.

Today, Michael and his adopted bloodhound Garmin work with the Midwest Search Dogs group to train and deploy highly skilled search and rescue dogs. I was lucky enough to sit down with him recently to learn some more about the heroic (and perfectly smoochable!) dogs coming to meet us at CrimeCon.

 

kota

Name: Takota

Breed: Australian Shepherd

Certifications: Live area search; Human remains detection; Water remains detection

Takota (Kota for short) is a workaholic. He’s certified in nearly every function of search and rescue, and he loves his job. After the 2011 tornado that wrecked havoc on the town of Joplin, MO, Kota answered the call of duty. Arriving with his handler, MWSD President Chelsea Gill, Kota worked 12-15 hour shifts for four days, alerting authorities to victims and survivors trapped in the devastation and rubble. After more than ten years on the job, Kota is approaching retirement. I’d say he’s earned it.

 

Name: Nikhya

Breed: Australian Shepherd

In Training: Live area search; Human remains detection

Nikhya is Kota’s roommate and will replace Kota as the de facto team captain after Kota’s retirement. At two years old, Nikhya is still in puppy mode, but is quickly learning the ropes and continues to work toward certifications in other SAR disciplines. Nikhya is currently in training for live search and human remains detection.

 

Name: Lambeau

Breed: Labrador Retriever

Certifications: Live area search

In Training: Human remains detection

Lambeau is the quintessential lab. He’s highly energetic, has an extremely high activity drive, and will do absolutely anything for food. He’s affectionate, loyal, and loves to cuddle. But when it’s time to train or work, Lambeau is in the zone. His off-the-charts energy manifests in a remarkable dedication to the job. Lambeau is currently in training for human remains detection.

 

Name: Garmin

Breed: Bloodhound

Certifications: Tracking/Trailing

Garmin is a poster-perfect bloodhound. If you saw her in a movie, she’d be the classic police K9 hound, dashing through the prison gates in hot pursuit of an escaped baddie. Garmin (so named, I presume, because she knows exactly where she’s going), began training at two months old, and five years later, she’s an expert tracking dog. When she’s not working, however, Garmin is stubborn-- sometimes the only way to get her attention is to open a cheese wrapper within earshot.

What can we expect at CrimeCon?

These dogs have serious skills, and Michael is eager to show them off. I think it’s safe to say we’ll see Garmin and her friends showcase their supercanine strengths. Michael told me that Kota once found a single human tooth in a football field in under three minutes, so maybe we’ll get to see her chase down some obscure artifact hidden in some random storage cabinet of the JW Marriott.

If you’re a true crime nerd and a bleeding-heart animal lover like I am, you will NOT want to miss this session! Click here to register for CrimeCon and catch these extraordinary dogs in action!

 

Meet the CrimeCon Informant

Hello, true crime addicts! I’m your confidential CrimeCon informant; welcome to my blog.

I’m here to unlock the mysteries of CrimeCon. To take you behind the scenes and be your conduit to the convention producers and to everything they’re working on for the ultimate true crime weekend.

And from what I’ve seen so far. . . wow! We are all in for quite a treat.

CrimeCon producers brought me in and gave me full access to everything they’re working on so that I can be your eyes and ears. I’m slinking around behind the scenes to bring you regular updates on guests, podcasts, breakout sessions, a murder mystery dinner, exclusive VIP experiences-- everything you need to know before your CrimeCon weekend. I’m also going to take a closer look at some well-known (and not-so-well-known) cases featured at CrimeCon, and interviewing a number of the special guests to find out what they’re planning.

So, who am I, exactly? I'm an expertly-trained government operative with experience in clandestine surveillance and-- nah. . .  Actually, I’m just a true crime nerd who was lucky enough to have been handed over the CrimeCon keys.

In real life, I’m a Websleuth and an armchair detective active on virtually every true crime subreddit and Topix forum. My DVR is full of Dateline specials and Snapped episodes. My bookshelf is stuffed with dog-eared books with morbid titles that have raised the eyebrows of many of my visitors. I’m simply a true crime fan with inside access, and I’m sharing what I learn with you!

You’ll see me pop up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as here on the blog from time to time. But you don’t have to seek me out! Sign up to receive free CrimeCon Informant updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Stay informed, and I’ll see you at CrimeCon! (But you won’t see me!)

-CC Informant