Aaron Rasmussen Reveals How He Solved the Murder of Anna Talley at CrimeCon 2017

So, it’s been six weeks and I’m still scratching my head over the murder mystery that we all tackled at CrimeCon. With varying degrees of success, we investigated a crime scene, collected all the information we could, and confused several hotel staffers in our efforts to find the person who killed Dr. Anna Talley.

But Aaron Rasmussen was the first one who solved the mystery that stumped some of the most experienced amateur sleuths in the room.

When we announced that Aaron had solved the mystery and would receive two Gold VIP passes to CrimeCon 2018, the most frequently rage-tweeted question I received was “How in the world??” Which was exactly what I said, myself. I even attended CrimeCon with a friend who worked in the justice system for nearly a decade, and we couldn’t figure it out.

So I’m happy to bring you this exclusive interview with Aaron so we can all get answers to that very question.

CCI: What was your initial impression of the experience when you walked through the crime scene?

It was fun to have a special mystery to solve at CrimeCon. I loved that when we asked how we were supposed to submit our guess for the murderer the person ushering us through said, “If you figure it out, you will just know.” I liked the staging of the room and all the little details added, like Anna’s bracelet sitting on the nightstand. Everything could have been a clue, but, as I discovered, not everything was!

CCI: Enough small talk -- how'd you solve it?  

I figured out right away that Margo Short was a complete psychopath, as evidenced by the fact that she worked at Time Warner, the only place someone like that would be happy. Kidding aside, my method was to just start eliminating the suspects based on their alibis.

There were a few suspects that clearly couldn’t have committed murder, like the husband and nanny, because they were in a different state. So I was able to eliminate them fairly quickly. That helped me not overthink certain clues or go down any rabbit holes.

As we got a few more clues as CrimeCon wore on, many of the suspects could be eliminated based on their whereabouts and timing, such as when Ruth, the technician whose badge was at the scene, ordered room service at the same time the murder occurred.

CCI: What was your “Aha!” moment or the piece of evidence that clinched it for you?

I suspected Margo Short committed the murder, but I was certain I was correct when we got the manila envelope of evidence that showed she suffered sleeping issues and had to take medication. I noticed that Harold, the original killer, had the same issue, which made it obvious she was the copycat killer, especially since she had no other alibi, like the other suspects that I had struck from my list.

CCI: What was the most confusing piece of evidence (or most confusing aspect of the game/process overall)?

I was most confused by the feather left at the crime scene. I joked to my friend that Anna was having an affair with Ruth Hixon, the technician. I noticed that someone else had the same thought in one of the CrimeCon emails! I also wondered if the feather had something to do with the interior decorator since it wasn’t far from her business card. It was a great red herring that spun some wheels. I also wasn’t 100 percent on if Anna’s editor could have done it. He actually did, if I remember correctly, have a brief window of opportunity in his schedule, but I eventually just eliminated him because the evidence against Margo was much stronger.

CCI: Did you work with anyone else to figure it out?

I worked with my friend, who came with me to CrimeCon, but we had differing opinions on who the killer was when we only had a few possible suspects left. Also, she wanted to wait to see if her theory would be better proved through more evidence on Sunday, which never came. I didn’t want to wait that long, and I’m glad I didn’t!

CCI: Do you have any funny/sad/scary stories from your investigation? My sources report that a few people got some shade for knocking on the wrong hotel doors.

Luckily, we figured out the right door to go to, but we did worry and joked with another person who arrived after us but before we rang the buzzer. I did like coming up with strange theories with my friend like Ruth and Anne were having an affair and liked feather play. Overall, going over the clues and finding new evidence and connections was a fun way to unwind after a long day at CrimeCon.

Informant’s note: It was at this point I realized we’ll be seeing Aaron at every CrimeCon until the end of the world. And that is awesome.

CCI: How did you have TIME to solve it? Did you do it in the timeslot where lunch should’ve been?

I was fairly certain I knew who the killer was after reading the papers slid under our door on the second day, but I didn’t have the time to send in my response. By the time I compiled my answers I figured somebody else must have beat me to it, because to me it was obvious who did it. My only hope was that everyone else was too busy to take time to work out the answer and send it in. I saw some people the last morning going over the evidence and that gave me some hope.


CCI: What was your favorite/the best part of the game?

I loved when we had to figure out things beyond the crime scene walk-through. Like the trick to obtain the password to gain access to the website with the list of suspects, looking for the mystery hotel room door, and when we had new clues delivered to our room and waiting for us when we woke up (that threw off my friend’s game, because she wanted to wait to see if we got more clues the second night or third morning). I love puzzles, and putting together all the clues and moving pieces was great!

----

If you're up for the challenge, we may bring the murder mystery game back for CrimeCon 2018. But that's not the best part: early-bird registration prices are still in effect! Early registration gets you the best prices and nearly a year of anticipation until we convene in Nashville, TN May 4-6 to bust some crime and learn more about the cases that keep us awake at night. Like the murderer lingering on your patio. At this very moment.

The best place to get up-to-date information and breaking CrimeCon developments is our CrimeCon Insider email list. Sign up for the occasional email with promos, important dates, speaker and guest announcements, and more inside information from CrimeCon HQ.










 






 

Field Report: CrimeCon 2017 Recap

First, let me tell you how awesome you all are.

During a tweetchat a few weeks ago, someone asked me a curveball question: “Is there anything you don’t want to see at CrimeCon?” The only thing I didn’t want to see was disrespectful discourse and combative negativity between people who may disagree with each other or with the speakers and their presentations. As a true crime fan, you’re likely aware that we tend to defend our theories with… let’s call it “enthusiasm.” It can lead to some contentious moments.

I’m beyond proud to announce that I observed none of this at CrimeCon. To be sure, there were some polarizing true crime figureheads in the lineup. Yet, for the most part, every question asked of the speakers was well-reasoned and contributed positively to the conversation. Debates were friendly. Conversations were productive. Even your tweets and Instagram posts were welcoming and nearly devoid of negativity.

That’s how you made CrimeCon a world-class event. And I thank you sincerely. You made my little morbid heart flutter all weekend.

CrimeCon may be finished for now, but I’m still walking on air. I’ve taken some time to let the magnitude of this event sink in and, to be honest, I’m not sure how Team CrimeCon is going to top themselves in 2018, but I cannot wait to see what happens when they do.

Day One of the convention officially kicked off with a characteristically rousing introduction from X-G Production’s Jim Clemente (following a lengthy session on the Steven Avery case from Ken Kratz and Tom Fassbender that was more than many of us expected. Lots of changed minds in that room, it seemed). And somehow the day ended with Ken Kratz doing his best ballerina/breakdance in the Murder Mystery Dinner at the instruction of Carl Marino. #OnlyAtCrimeCon, I guess.

Day Two began bright and early for the VIPs with a crash course in self-defense from Leah Severson of The Bulletproof Mission. As true crime fans, we’re all a little jumpy, right? But now that we know what to do if we’re attacked, we can walk a little more confidently down all those dark alleys we frequent. The day wrapped up with a cocktail hour featuring plenty of facetime with the likes of Nancy Grace, Kirk Nurmi, Josh Mankiewicz, and tons of podcasters.

Which brings us to Day Three. The saddest of all days because it was the end of CrimeCon.

There’s not much I can say about the interrogation experience without spoilers, except that it’s not what you’re expecting. So here’s a frustratingly vague review.

X-G Productions are aces at creating unique and transformative experiences. They have a knack for teaching you things in ways that surprise you (sometimes in a wonderful way, sometimes in a terrifying way). X-G Production’s Tim Clemente introduced the session in the maximum-enthusiasm style that must run in the Clemente bloodline.

Following a couple of heart-pounding moments, the session became significantly more intense than we’d thought it would be. It tested our stamina and observation skills and made us rethink the reliability of eyewitness testimony. If the organizers are able to bring this session back in Nashville next year I urge you in the strongest possible terms not to miss it.

Sheryl McCollum’s Wine & Crime gave us a chance to help solve a real-life murder case under investigation by Mac’s Cold Case Investigative Research Institute. Participants reviewed every piece of evidence (and there was plenty of it!) and leant their ideas to seasoned investigators. The coolest part: CCIRI will put all of our suggestions into action in an attempt to bring the case to resolution. How cool is it that we may have legitimately solved a cold case at CrimeCon?!

The CrimeCon award for Most Quotable Session goes to defense attorney legend F. Lee Bailey. Bailey delivered a courtroom-worthy impassioned address about the effect mainstream media has had on court proceedings as high-profile cases become reality television. He knows a little bit about this subject since he defended a little case in 1995 that a few news outlets picked up here and there. OJ something… can’t put my finger on it. It’ll come to me.

Bailey’s presentation was peppered with some of the most creative humor I’ve heard. Just a couple of his best lines:

“He has more important things to worry about than a dwarf behind a big desk.” (I honestly don’t remember the context of this one because it caught me so off guard, but wow.)

“The thing I hate most about being 84 years old is that Darth Vader is waiting just over the hill. I’m gonna outrun that sonofabitch as long as I can.”

Fair enough, Mr. Bailey.

Next, Thinking Sideways teamed up with Websleuths’s Tricia Griffith, crime author Cathy Scott, and Defrosting Cold Cases blogger Alice de Sturler to give us a new moniker: Citizen Detectives. “Armchair Detective” is now officially retired, so sayeth the CrimeCon Informant. This panel of some of the most well-informed amateurs in the biz reminded us of the merits of our work and fired us up to keep contributing. Griffith summed it up best, I think:

“One hundred amateurs have one hundred perspectives to look at evidence with. Investigators have as many perspectives as they have investigators. Amateurs solve crimes, too. We can still help.” Applause, Tricia.

Finally, CrimeCon came to a close with another energetic address from Jim Clemente. He sent us on our way with fond memories, new friends, and a renewed passion for the pursuit of justice.

He sent us on our way on Cloud 9.

He sent us on our way as slightly different people than we were on Friday.

He sent us on our way until CrimeCon 2018! Passes go on sale Monday, June 19 at 10:00 am, so join us in lovely Nashville, Tennessee at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, May 4-6 for more of the best speakers, guests, podcasters, and citizen detectives that the world has to offer.

You thought I was getting all sentimental there for a minute, didn’t you?

 

 

CrimeCon 2017 Daily Recap: Day Two

If you thought CrimeCon couldn’t get better, guess what? The overwhelmingly positive and supportive feedback I saw today elevated CrimeCon from a true crime convention to a world-class meeting of minds dedicated to truth and justice. The overwhelming theme of the day supported that vision with real-life accounts driving home the reason we’re all here: 
Justice for victims and their families.
 
Hope you didn’t pick a fight with any of the VIPs today, because they started the day off bright and early at 8:00 am with a crash course in self defense with The Bulletproof Mission’s Leah Severson. We all know prevention is better than a cure, and Severson helped us all become a little more prepared to avoid becoming a victim. 
 
I was not prepared to break out the tissues before 10:00 am, but then I found myself in the Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist session where survivors and families of victims recounted their experience with the deranged killer. There was not a dry eye in the room as survivor Jane Carson-Sandler recounted her vivid memory of the day she and her three-year-old child were attacked by the Golden State Killer. Follow that with the poignant stories of Michelle Cruz and Debbi Domingo, who lost loved ones to GSK, and sniffles filled the entire room. 
 
TEAR-JERKING LINE
“What I remember is the yellow tape. That damn yellow tape that screams “Don’t go inside!”” -- Debbi Domingo
 
Because that wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, Jim Clemente and Francey Hakes hosted another tear-jerking session with their live production of Best Case/Worst Case featuring the harrowing stories of Jim Clemente and Bobby Chacon’s experience witnessing and responding to the devasation at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The room was pin-drop quiet as Jim recounted the moment he began sifting through rubble and his subsequent battle with lymphoma.
 
HEART-TWISTING IMAGERY OF THE DAY
Bobby Chacon describing his experience when watching the first plane hit the WTC -- from another United Airlines flight. The terror that the normally gruff Chacon expressed left a lump in my throat that’s usually reserved for kitten videos. 
 
It’s always a good time when James Renner sits in with Tim Pilleri and Lance Reeinstierna to volley their opposing opinions about what happened to UMass student Maura Murray. The live episode recorded today delivered the widely-anticipated friendly banter we've come to expect from the trio. 
 
CURIOSITY PIQUED MOMENT
“We’ve seen some of the new Maura Murray series, and it’s better than Making a Murderer.” Sign. Me. Up.
 
I don’t think I’ve ever been so self conscious as I was sitting in the front row tweeting while former Jodi Arias defense attorney Kirk Nurmi (and his fabulous head of hair) laid bare the disrupting effects - good and bad - that social media has had upon the modern justice system. The ubiquitous platforms that provide an outlet for thousands of different also have earth-moving implications for the jury selection process. 
 
LOL-WORTHY MOMENT
“He became known as the Spokane Spanker.” -- Kirk Nurmi
 
Which reminds me… 
 
The Jury Experience. I’ve never been called to jury duty, but when I am, I like to imagine it will be as engaging and fascinating as this session. After hearing witness testimony and opening/closing arguments inspired by a real-life murder trial, our jury deliberated and rendered a unanimous verdict. The case seemed cut-and-dried, airtight, and all the solid cliches we’ve come to know and love. But the audible collective gasp when Beth Karas revealed the real-life verdict reached right into my heart and twisted it around its fist.  
 
BEST FIRST IMPRESSION AWARD
Walking into the jury experience and coming face-to-face with the elaborate courtroom set that served as the mock trial backdrop. Impressed doesn’t begin to describe it.
 
On a parting note, let me tell you this story: in the course of my normal super-top-secret undercover conversations, one of you asked what my favorite part of CrimeCon has been. Let me say with no reservations that my favorite part has been how respectful, supportive, and engaging all of you have been. Even in sessions about controversial topics. Even in the face of true crime figures you don’t agree with. You’ve been a shining example to all true crime enthusiasts.
 
It’s bittersweet to think that CrimeCon 2017 is coming to an end tomorrow. But I’ll rest easy tonight - as should you - having witness the caliber of skill and character we have in the world working toward justice and resolution for victims and families.
 
 
 

CrimeCon 2017 Daily Recap: Day One

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s not often that I run out of words. Yet I’m struggling to describe the first day of CrimeCon. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun, learned so much, or met so many amazing, passionate people, and I’m overcome with amazement. I’m so grateful to be here. I’ve had a beautiful time meeting you all, and it’s only. the. first. day.

The day began with a whopper - an intensive 3.5-hour dive into the unseen evidence that led to Steven Avery’s conviction. Former FBI forensic investigator Bobby Chacon opened the session with a gentle reminder: we’re all here for the same reason - because we’re passionate about justice for victims. Considering the details portrayed in Making a Murderer and the polarizing and passionate opinions of its viewers, the packed audience was respectful and insightful during the presentation that explored some of the gruesome details left out of the Netflix docuseries juggernaut.

 OVERHEARD

  • “I walked in convinced. I walked out convinced. I won’t say of what either time.”
  • “Why wasn’t that in the series?!”
  • “I don’t know what to think now.” 

If we all weren’t fired up enough from that mind-bending session, former FBI profiler and jack-of-pretty-much-every-trade in the world Jim Clemente kicked off the official welcome address with the enthusiasm and animation that we’ve all come to expect from him. We learned about his newest venture, X-G Productions (as in “ex g-men.” Get it?!) and their mission to accurately portray law enforcement and investigations on our favorite shows like Criminal Minds and CSI (and Lie to Me, if you’re a fan from the olden days. Wish they hadn’t canceled that so quickly).

 WARMEST, FUZZIEST MOMENT

“You’re part of an historic event. Nobody else can ever say they were part of the first convention for true crime fans.”

Next, Indianapolis Police Department Detective Toth (funny, adorable, and engaging, BTW) and his team of homicide crime scene investigators took us through a mock crime scene based on a real-life homicide right here in Indianapolis. This team investigates at least one homicide per day here in Indianapolis, and you could tell that they operate like a well-oiled machine. We saw the stuff they don’t show you on TV: hundreds of photos, detailed measurements, obsessive detail and machine-like coordination and teamwork among the team of investigators.

 EYE-OPENING MOMENT

The luminol demonstration. It makes you wonder how much blood we’re really hanging out with on a day to day basis. Hey, sleep well, by the way!

 Hotel guests and VIP badge holders have some work to do in their downtime this weekend. It turns out a featured CrimeCon speaker was MURDERED just YESTERDAY right here in the JW Marriott Indianapolis. It’s our job to bring her killer to justice. We had a chance to examine the grisly crime scene and photograph the evidence (using the techniques we learned in the CSI: Indianapolis session). Guys, this is a tough one. The only thing I know for sure is that the room service receipt must mean something.

 A few weeks ago, I overheard the CrimeCon team say that they think this mystery may go unsolved all weekend. I accepted that challenge with a firm “harumph!” but I gotta tell you, so far, I’m stumped. If you have any insights on this one, find me (I’m the one you’ve never seen before).

MOST HEAD-SCRATCHING CLUE 

The feather. What? Keep an eye out for a large duck, I guess? Help?

If you’re a podcast junkie (just mainline ‘em to me at this point), then Thinking Sideways is probably on your Must-Listen-Every-Week list. What I love about Sideways is:

  1.  Joe
  2. They cover all manner of mysteries, not just unsolved crimes
  3. Devin
  4. Steve
  5. Ostensibly
  6. Chupacabra

The chance to see them produce a live episode was eye-opening. This whole time, I thought they’d probably edited together their content, cutting out all the times when Steve veers off topic or Joe starts talking about the two weeks he spent in Tortuga or Itcheegoomee. But nope. They are seriously just. that. good. In this live episode, they discussed an Indiana mystery that’s been plaguing us Hoosiers for years (no spoilers. Watch for it to drop soon!)

 CLASSIC SIDEWAYS MOMENT

  • CHUPPIE!

Next, the ever-entertaining Jim Clemente gave us an intimate look at the real life of an investigator. Sure, what we see on Criminal Minds and NCIS is interesting and entertaining, but its resemblance to real life is minimal. Jim took us inside his work as an undercover agent investigating everything from drug trafficking to gang violence (and admitted to some pretty snappy early-70s fashion choices).

THE MOMENT I CAN'T FORGET

Jim killed a fox once. His coworkers still haven't let him live it down. Bring it up every chance you get.

Unless you were an overworked medical resident or lived on a hippie commune circa 2002, you know about the unthinkable death that beautiful mother-to-be Laci Peterson suffered at the hands of her all-American, dapper husband Scott just before Christmas. True crime author, correspondent, and television host Aphrodite Jones gave us her unique insight into the mind of this despicable killer (now serving time on San Quentin’s death row) and the callous disregard he displayed for his beautiful wife and their unborn child, Connor.

QUOTABLE LINE

“Scott Peterson was a twerp.” Amen, Ms. Jones.

Folks. I’ve been to some murder mystery dinners in my day (hey… I’m a nerd. So are you. Don’t judge.) But I have never laughed as hard as this at any of them. Or met so many funny, friendly, and outgoing people. Or fallen under such heavy suspicion in my life. Red Herring Games produced a top-notch experience here hitting on all the things that set our crime-solving nerd heart aflame: murder, mystery, gore, humor, elaborate dance moves, hilarious nicknames. The mystery dinner was produced by The Dinner Detective, purveyor of brilliant and hilarious murder mystery dinners (and now you know why!), and I’m positive not one person in that dinner had a terrible time.

 BEST MOMENT OF THE ENTIRE CONVENTION SO FAR, PROBABLY

Carl Marino and Ken Kratz as witnesses reenacting the murder in slightly modified fashion that includes pirouetting, the worm (or the slug, to be fair), and just, man, what a good sport Ken Kratz turned out to be.

The reason we're here? It's you. All of you. And the difference you make.

The reason we're here? It's you. All of you. And the difference you make.

You know what? Tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll regain the power of the full vocabulary my overpriced education earned me. But right now, all I can say is. . . thank you, fellow nerds. I encountered not one ounce of negativity, disrespect, or intolerance today that can so often be found in the polarizing communities we frequent. And I appreciate you. And I appreciate the investigators and LEOs that keep us safe from the killers who still manage to capture our attention. After all, it’s people like you who ultimately keep us safe from the very real monsters under our beds.

Not that there are monsters under your bed. It’s a very nice hotel.

I’m checking just in case.

I'm pretty sure a hug from Nancy Grace contains all the purifying and healing properties of unicorn tears. Get you some of that before you leave.

I'm pretty sure a hug from Nancy Grace contains all the purifying and healing properties of unicorn tears. Get you some of that before you leave.

Nancy Grace: Amateur Crimebusters, 24-hour Social Media, and How Crimes are Solved

 Nancy Grace is an unstoppable force. But recently she met an immovable object and found herself in surgery to repair an injury resulting from a torn ACL. But from the recent conversation we shared on a crisp Spring morning just days after her surgery, I can confidently report, though, that she has no intention of slowing down.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” she says of her knee. Most crimewatchers can identify her powerful voice from a single syllable, but this morning there’s merely a hint of the indignant tension we’re accustomed to hearing. There are many adjectives in that voice, and I’ll spend the entirety of our conversation trying to identify them all.

With her relentless schedule, a little rest may have been good for her. Since her departure from HLN, she has attacked new projects with characteristic conviction. Her new podcast, Crime Stories with Nancy Grace, quickly became a staple in the true crime genre, and she recently launched a new crime-watching website: CrimeOnline.com.

“I’ve always wanted to have my own website for crime news and tips,” she explains. Her network contracts ruled it out, so when Grace left HLN, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.  “The site showcases horrific crimes, hardcore criminals, and ways to stop them. I’m just so proud of the site and it means a lot to me.”

For good reason. Crime Stories has taken a fast hold on the true crime community, breathing new life into cases like the widely-ignored disappearance of military veteran Chase Massner. Meanwhile, CrimeOnline.com spotlights crimes even we websleuths may have overlooked, and they’re doing it with dizzying speed.

“We start at 8:15 every morning to pick the day’s stories. We’re committed to being timely and responsive,” Grace emphasizes.

That agility paid off when news that Elizabeth Thomas, a 15-year-old Tennessee high school student, disappeared with her 50-year-old teacher Tad Cummins. With thousands of unconfirmed sightings and conflicting reports zipping across social media, Crime Stories became the most reliable source of information, especially when Thomas’s lawyer Jason Whatley joined as a recurring contributor.

Crime Stories kept floodlights on Cummins’s 39-day, nationwide cat-and-mouse chase right up to the day Cummins and Elizabeth were found destitute in a remote Northern California cabin. Grace credits social media with Elizabeth’s safe return.

“She was saved by a man in the middle of nowhere!” she exclaims, the first hint of her signature…  indignation? Incredulity? Optimism? “A man cut off from the world called in a tip that solved a kidnapping because someone saw Cummins on social media and showed it to him,” Grace recaps with... awe? Shock? Excitement?

With the rise of social media and dozens of ‘crowdsleuthing’ platforms, amateur crimebusters became more available, attentive, and sophisticated in their methods. Many people are dubious about the value of that trend.

Nancy Grace? She is not.

“The input of crimebusters, amateur and professional, is what solves cases,” she says with emphatic conviction punctuating each word.  “Law enforcement brought Elizabeth Thomas home because people like you have their backs.”

It’s that public engagement, she says, that created the demand for an event like CrimeCon.

“People want to reconcile the normalcy of the people they see with the horrors they see them commit,” she explains. “So when they see something they can’t reconcile, there’s a compulsion to solve the mystery and make sense of it.”

(As far as what we can expect from her CrimeCon keynote address, she promises only “Lots of interaction and a lot of boot stompin’” in characteristic frankness. To be fair, did we expect anything less?)

Grace’s vision for Crime Online is to see it grow into a platform inviting ordinary wannabe detectives like you and me to crowdsource information that helps resolve cases. She reminds me that everyone has a stake in justice.

“Crime touches everyone,” she softens, more… contemplative? Melancholy? “You don’t have to be poor, or a minority, or educated or uneducated; it’s an equal opportunity offender. One pull of a trigger can change everything.”

The raw emotion that rattles her born-and-raised Georgia timbre betrays the tragedy pinned under it. Grace was nineteen years old when her fiance Keith was gunned down in his vehicle. She cites his murder as the impetus that compelled her to a career in the justice system. She’s not shy to speak about the horror that followed Keith’s death, but one can tell that it never gets easier.

“Human life - my own and anyone I interacted with - meant nothing to me after that,” she admits. “I wanted to know why. But it doesn’t matter why. What matters is that it happened. What matters is what we’re willing to do about it. That’s what pulled me back.”

So she became an attorney. Then a prosecutor. Then a broadcaster. Wherever she can best do the work she’s called to do, that’s where she goes. And though her judgments are sometimes... let’s say “impassioned” and her fervor unstoppable, they bring along a razor-sharp eye and keen insight.

That’s not to say that passion and fervor haven’t garnered negative attention along the way, but of the things she has time to care about, the haters don’t rank.

“I hope I’ve done good work,” Grace says with sincerity (that one is easy to pinpoint). “My detractors don’t think so, but if I took every mean thing people have said about me to heart, I couldn’t do my job. Nobody could. No dream would ever come true, no task would be finished because we’re afraid of opinions.”

Tragedy. Horror. Injustice. Vitriol. One can imagine that decades in the cold shadow of humanity’s cruelty might deaden what hadn’t already frozen over. Joy. Hope. Optimism. Empathy. The first things to go when darkness smothers day.

“If I think about it too much, it’s the devil on my back,” Grace begins. “If I didn’t have the twins…” She lets the thought fall away with an audible shudder before stillness spills into the space between words. “They are my real joy. They help me look past the evil I see in the world.”

She switches gears and singsongs through adorable twins-related anecdotes: pre-dawn cuddle time; the art of arranging stuffed animals; field trips; soccer practice. Oh, and the omnipresent and admittedly obsessive urge to protect them from what horrors bubble to the surface even still.

“I’m not a helicopter mom, I’m a straightjacket mom,” she admits, officially ousting William Shatner as arguably the most self-aware public figure in the developed world. She goes on to explain the origin of her knee injury, which involves climbing over a fence to keep an eye on her daughter’s soccer practice while she jogged.

“My superhero cape did not unfurl.”

 In all fairness, it probably needed a break, too.

CrimeCon Experience Series: 29 Minutes to Live

Sometime last year, a new form of entertainment quietly slipped into cities across the country: interactive problem-solving experiences. It was arguably the only good thing to come out of the year that took David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, and Muhammad Ali from us. Not that I’m bitter.

 “Interactive problem-solving” sounds very boring unless you know the morbid twist: that you could find yourself handcuffed to a wall, desperately looking for ways to break free and escape the room. Or you could be thrust into a bank heist and find yourself trying to make your getaway before the police arrive. And normally you have to do all of this in under an hour.

 But at CrimeCon, you have 29 minutes.

 In the 29 Minutes to Live Escape Room experience, you’ll join a group of seven other individuals in a locked room filled with mysterious clues: possibly cryptic notes, scribbles on walls, and other seemingly useless and random pieces of information. And there, hidden away, is a bomb. And your time is ticking away.

You know all those keen observational and deductive reasoning skills you’ve picked up from Criminal Minds, CSI, or The X-Files? (Yes, I know, but it’s back now so it counts.) Those times when you’ve picked up on clues before the characters have? Or when you’ve missed clues that were rather obvious?

This is the time to put all of that insight into action. Look around, find the clues, and get crackin’. Because you and your group have 29 minutes to defuse the bomb before your family has to go down to the morgue to ID your charred, mangled body.

Not really. But you will have an excellent excuse to watch more investigative fiction television!

What you’ll learn:

  • How to evaluate your surroundings to determine what’s a clue and what isn’t
  • Staying calm in the face of death
  • How to work well with people you may not know
  • How to defuse a bomb
  • No, really, don’t try that at home. Or anywhere.

 Sessions available:

  • Friday, 1:00-7:00p
  • Saturday, 9:00a-7:00p
  • Sunday, 9:00a-1:00p

CrimeCon Experience Series: The Interrogation Room

This session is mandatory.

Okay, it’s not really, but it is one session you should definitely try to fit into your schedule. There will be audience participation, interactive activities, and live demonstrations. Of what? You’ll have to show up and see.

When we see police interrogating suspects on our favorite tv shows, we sort of know what to expect: the large two-way mirror; the cold metal table under a blinding, bare light in an otherwise poorly-lit room; the screams that can only be the results of broken pinkies.

But it probably comes as no surprise to us diehards that real-life police interrogations are not exactly like this. We’ve seen security footage from real witness and suspect interrogations and know they can look quite normal and calm. Sometimes they even look easy. They rarely are.

Many of us believe that we’re smart enough that we wouldn’t crumble under pressure. But are we? Really? When you’re in questioning with the police, you’re dealing with the pros. They’ve spent years perfecting the techniques that draw out the crucial information they need, whether you know you’re giving it to them or not.

In the Interrogation Experience, you’ll witness a live interrogation exhibiting the most effective and high-pressure ways that law enforcement gets perps to spill the details. The best part of this session is that it will be performed and led by real-life profiler Jim Clemente and his crew from X-G Productions (psst! They’re the team the consults on Criminal Minds!).

How long do you think you would last before you cracked? Show up and find out!

What you’ll learn:

  • Different types of interrogation techniques
  • How to "read between the lines" of the interrogators' questions
  • The pressure and stress of an interrogation

Sessions available:

  • Sunday, 9:30-10:45
  • Sunday, 11:30a-12:45p

CrimeCon Experience Series: Jury Selection

Every prosecutor will tell you that trials are usually won or lost in jury selection. Every true crime buff has opinions about the cases that capture their attention. And we’ve all felt the outrage of an obviously unjust verdict. It’s easy to believe that we, ourselves, would have rendered the “correct” judgment in embattled and high-profile cases. But only twelve people know what happens behind the doors of deliberations.

 In the CrimeCon Jury Experience, you’ll have a chance to put your ruling-rendering instincts to the test. You’ll discover the critical importance of selecting the best jurors for the case, the nuances of “reasonable doubt,” and the weight of the prosecution’s burden of proof.

 Let me describe the setting for your jury experience: it’s a courtroom. No, really. The room is decked out exactly like a courtroom from your legal procedural show favorites. The massive courtroom set will put you right into the mindset of a prospective juror.

 After breaking into nice, jury-sized groups, complete with a designated foreperson, the trial begins. In-character actors (they’re really good, too, guys) will present the evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments drawn from a real-life murder trial.

 After hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense, your jury group will deliberate and render a verdict. But the real fun comes when we all see if your jury’s verdict matches all of the others. And what about the original trial--did you rule the same way the original jury did?

 After the trial, Beth Karas (Editor-at-Large, LawNewz), will talk to jury members about the case and their verdict and lead a conversation about the real-life inspiration for the case everyone just heard.

 The best news is that this is a high capacity event, so there should be room for everyone who wants to participate!

 What you’ll learn:

  • How jury constitution affects the way evidence is heard and evaluated;
  • The role that the prosecution’s burden of proof plays in jury deliberations;
  • The sliding scale of reasonable doubt;
  • How hard it is to get 12 people to agree to anything.

 Sessions available:

  • Saturday, 9:00-10:45
  • Saturday, 12:00-1:45
  • Saturday, 3:00-4:45