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.
CC Informant: Let’s start with an easy one. What’s your process for selecting topics?
Aaron: We have a lot of topics just top of mind, from our own interest in these cases. We also take on listener suggestions. But when we decide to cover one, we need to make sure that there’s enough information about the case to cover. Sometimes we get suggestions and it’s a story of someone who went missing, but there are only a few known details. It’s hard to fill an episode when there’s so little confirmed. We steer more towards the cases that have tons of evidence but still remain a bit of a mystery.
CCI: Which cases have captured your attention the most?
Aaron: There are a couple that I have spent a lot of time investigating: the Ira Yarmolenko case, Darlie Routier, and JonBenet Ramsey. They captured my attention because each has its own twist, in a way. Ira Yarmolenko, I almost believe, committed suicide yet two men were charged with her murder. She gave away many of her things the day of her death, and she had three different ligatures around her neck. She didn’t show any evidence of violence on her body.
In the case of Darlie Routier, two of her children had been murdered brutally while she was sleeping in the room with them. Routier claimed that an intruder broke into the home and attacked both her and her children.
What bothers me is that it’s very straightforward that she murdered her kids, but there’s still an enormous amount of support and sympathy for her. We hear it all the time: “Oh, a mother couldn’t do that to her child.” The fact is, there have been many, many mothers who have, indeed, murdered their children.
There’s a similar sentiment in the JonBenet Ramsey case. We don’t know who killed JonBenet, but there’s a huge group of people who insist that it couldn’t have been her parents or her sibling just because “they wouldn’t do something like that.” I’m not saying JonBenet was killed by her parents or sibling, but we know that some parents and some siblings absolutely do kill.
It bothers me because so many people insist that obvious and convicted murderers are innocent while there are actually innocent people in prison who are met with skepticism and rebuttal at every turn.
CCI: Are there any cases that you won’t do?
Aaron: A few for various reasons. I came very close to covering the West Memphis 3 again. I really wanted to tackle it again. My co-host doesn’t want to cover it and I ultimately decided against it because I’ve come to the middle in that case. I don’t necessarily believe the suspects are innocent, but I’m not believing they’re guilty. I’ve begun to see them as “possible” suspects. It can be a polarizing case, and I think covering it again would just ignite some controversy I’d rather avoid. Also, this case has been covered so much, and there are many cases that haven’t received nearly as much exposure and we hope to have an impact on that.
Also, cases like the Somerton Man in Australia, for example. So many people have covered it, I’m not sure what we could say that everybody doesn’t already know.
CCI: You responded to some feedback in a Reddit post stating that you could improve the consistency and structure of your episodes, to which you agreed. What have you seen change since then?
Aaron: The structure kind of keeps cycling back and forth. We started with just a discussion show, then we needed to add in some storytelling. Then we were able to work out a consistent structure. Now, I think, we’re finding a balance between the three. The episodes now have a certain format: summarize at the beginning, make sure we’re giving the relevant details like important dates and locations, and then we follow a loose outline to guide the discussion along.
CCI: What can we expect from GenWhy at CrimeCon?
Aaron: We’re looking forward to a lot of interaction with fans and guests. We thrive on that interaction. We’ve been trying to get some funds together to do some more meetups with fans. This gives us a great meetup location that’s not far from Chicago, where we get a large number of requests from listeners. We’re hoping to see many of those listeners there, and we just want to hang out with like-minded people and talk about these cases that fascinate us.
CCI: Where do you think that fascination comes from?
Aaron: True crime has almost become a new genre. I can say I’m a true crime fan in the same way I say I’m a horror fan, and in a way they’re similar. I think there’s just something about the concept of knowing how to get out alive. It’s kind of like we’re using this platform to figure out how to survive. People who are into this genre think about their surroundings while walking to the car at night, or they take note when they see some suspicious activity outside their house. Being exposed to this material is possibly one more way of trying to figure out how to survive in this world.
Aaron and Justin will be looking for people to hang out with at CrimeCon to talk theories and mysteries. Go ahead and register so they won't get lonely!