CrimeCon 2018: Event Recap

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When CrimeCon 2017 wrapped up in Indianapolis last year, many of you tweeted to ask me “How will they ever top this?”

This past weekend, many of you found out. Not only did attendance more than DOUBLE at this year’s event, the programming, content, and speakers were top-notch. We learned new information about infamous cases, heard from victims and survivors of the BUSTED Golden State Killer, and got an inside glimpse at the newest crime-fighting technologies on the market. So when it came time to recap an event jam-packed with so much must-know information, the only thing I could think to do was to give you the most superlative moments from the entire weekend.

Most Emotional Moment

Hearing Debbi Domingo describe the last bitter conversation she had with her mother Cheri before she was killed by the Golden State Killer. During a live recording of Crime Stories with Nancy Grace, Debbi and her “sister survivors” Jane Carson-Sandler, Michelle Cruz, and Margaret Wardlow recounted their horrific encounters with the Golden State Killer and the emotional aftermath he left in his wake. You may listen to the live recording here (though you’d better grab the tissues first).

Speaker You Most Wanted to Hug

Many of us knew Dianne Lake as the youngest member of the Manson Family before taking a seat at her session. Likewise, many of us probably thought we knew her story. But none of the books we’ve read or documentaries we’ve watched could have compared to the moment when Dianne’s voice cracked as she shared the story of her “rescue” from the cult at the hands of police: “I told them, ‘My name is Dianne Lake. I’m sixteen years old and I just want my mommy.’”

Most Quotable Session

Thinking Sideways Podcast always clocks some enjoyable but reverent humor during their episodes. A sense of humor is important in this line of work, especially given the dark subject matter in which we’re immersed every day. During their time in the Podcast Studio, Steve, Devin, and Joe covered the Ade Family Murders. I won’t spoil the details of the case or episode for you, but instead will leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes:

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Most Victorious Moment

Every Golden State Killer session. First, there was the beginning of the session formerly known as “A Deep Dive into the Golden State Killer Case.” Paul Hayes opened the session on Friday afternoon: “Originally, this session was titled “A Deep Dive into the Golden State Killer Case.” But then there was a development. And we changed it:"

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Cue standing ovation number one.

Following that, Paul and his co-host Billy Jensen welcomed hero detective and GSK investigator Paul Holes to the stage, followed by survivors Jane Carson-Sandler and Margaret Wardlow, and surviving family members Debbi Domingo and Michelle Cruz. Margaret, the youngest GSK victim at just thirteen years old, recalled her refusal to give in to fear: “I had been reading about this guy for weeks, I was obsessed with the case. So when he came for me, I knew that what he wanted most of all was to see the fear in me, and I refused to give it to him. If I could say anything to him right now, I would say “I wasn’t scared of you then, I haven’t been scared of you the entire time you’ve been at large, and I’m not scared of you now.”

Cue standing ovation number five.

Scariest Session

Kimberlie Massnick’s Sensory Experience. This session put us (as much as possible, without incurring a lawsuit) in the shoes of the victims of the vile serial killer John Gerard Schaefer. Using the provided blindfolds and restraints, we were forced into some very uncomfortable positions in a very uncomfortably warm room while forced to listen to a very uncomfortable letter Schaefer wrote describing the very uncomfortable things he did to his victims. The letter took about five minutes to read, during which we held our restrained hands above our heads as his victims were made to do. Halfway through, most of us had dropped our hands from exhaustion. Professor Massnick was quick to remind us that Schaefer’s victims had no such choice. It was a harrowing, eye-opening experience that helped us all keep the victims and their experience front-of-mind during the remainder of our time at CrimeCon -- and hopefully forever.

Most Stomach-Turning Moment

There were several, but perhaps the worst came during Laura Richards’s session, Murder in Slow Motion. Near the beginning of her session about the fifteen high-risk factors associated with domestic abuse and stalking, Laura played a video including 911 calls, newspaper clippings, and horrifying photos of domestic abuse victims and perpetrators that had hundreds of people in the room squirming in their seats. More than a handful of people tweeted that they had to leave the room despite the trigger warning Laura included at the beginning of her presentation.

Most Emotional Victim Tribute

On the 25th anniversary of their deaths, Truth & Justice Podcast host Bob Ruff paid homage to the West Memphis Three victims Stevie, Christopher, and Michael. Rather than focus on the perpetrators (regardless of who any of us believe that to be), Bob broke hundreds of hearts with a tear-jerking slideshow of photos and tidbits about each victim. Stevie loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Christopher was energetic and still believed in the Easter Bunny; Michael was obsessed with Cub Scouts and was wearing his uniform when he disappeared. These intimate details left a pall in the room. We honored their memories with a moment of heavy silence, then Bob focused on dispelling some common misconceptions about the case.

BONUS: Scene-Stealer

GSK investigator Paul Holes. The handsome hero set many hearts a-flutter and stole the show at every session and every room he entered. Poor fella couldn't take five steps without being swarmed by adoring fans and peppered with questions. And he took it all in stride. We were beyond thrilled that Paul could join us at CrimeCon 2018 and wish him a peaceful retirement (though somehow I doubt he's the type to languish on his laurels).

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Every session at CrimeCon 2018 was superlative. I wish that I could have attended them all or include them all here. Alas, if you’re just DYING to know what you missed, my best advice is to download the official CrimeCon app or join the Online Community to sign up for our Insider subscription. The Insider subscription gives you access to 35 hours of CC18 programming -- nearly the ENTIRE event! -- AND new original content throughout the year. We’ll upload video chats, AMAs, live Q&As with speakers and guests, and more all year long.