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Atlanta podcasters explore (and even hope to find) the Zodiac Killer in season 2 of ‘Monster’

Payne Lindsey, Matt Frederick try to crack the case nearly 50 years later

Originally posted Thursday, January 17, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

“Atlanta Monster” about the 40-year-old Atlanta Child Murders was such a big hit last year with podcast listeners, Atlanta-based companies Tenderfoot TV and HowStuffWorks quickly created a second season focused on the Zodiac Killer, the infamous Bay Area serial killer going back five decades. 

The killer, who was tied to at least five murders and two survivors, has never been captured or concretely identified despite the fact he left all sorts of clues, especially elaborate cryptogram notes sent to newspapers. But he also kept his hands clean, with minimal physical evidence at crime scenes. 

The “Monster” podcast, which debuted earlier this month, is currently the fourth most popular podcast on iTunes, behind only “Dirty John,” “The Joe Rogan Experience” and “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.” 

Atlanta’s Payne Lindsey has already made a name for himself with two hugely popular seasons of “Up and Vanished” as well as “Atlanta Monster. He executive produced this new season and hired Matt Frederick of “Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know” fame to be the primary host of “Monster” season two.

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They have 15 episodes planned. (Five are now out.)

Here’s the first episode: 

They interviewed more than 30 people connected to the case, many who had not spoken about the Zodiac Killer publicly in decades, as well as Zodiac experts and reporters who covered it. 

Lindsey said he was familiar with the serial killer mostly from the 2007 David Fincher film “Zodiac” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo but found plenty more information about the case on the Web. There are sites dedicated to the Zodiac Killer. (One person’s theory: there is no serial killer at all.)

“We thought this was a great chance to consolidate everything we knew and create a premium listening experience in the form of a podcast,” Lindsey said. 

While the first few episodes are a faithful retelling of the past crime cases and the killer’s methods and possible thought process, Lindsey wouldn’t be satisfied with just a historical rehash. “That doesn’t interest us,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to find out who the Zodiac Killer is. Is that realistic? Is that possible? Sure! We shoot for the stars!”

Lindsey said he and Frederick “dug up a lot of new information on the Zodiac Killer that is just unreal. As many times as we have heard the Zodiac story, nobody has done this version of the story.” 

Frederick promises the fresh info will appear in later episodes so stick with it. 

And since the final episodes are not yet complete and they have a phone line open ready to take in fresh information, more could come as word gets around about “Monster.”

Plus, while the Fincher movie and others have pinpointed one possible major suspect, Lindsey said there are literally 100 other possibilities. The podcast won’t go through all of them but he said “there are a core three or so.”

Frederick admitted sniffing around a nearly 50-year-old case was difficult. Most of the folks involved are dead. And others are getting on in years and their recollections may not be as clear cut as they were decades ago. 

At the same time, the Zodiac Killer made a serious imprint. “If you were unlucky to have this person touch your life in some way,” Lindsay said, “it kind of takes over everything else. It becomes the most important thing in a terrible way. At the same time, it created a community of people who still meet up once or twice a year like a family reunion. They come together and share in their pain.” 

Lindsey and Frederick were introduced to some members of this group and once they gained a couple of people’s trust, “you get in,” Lindsey said. 

As for his second “Up and Vanished,” which came out last summer, Lindsey looked into the mysterious disappearance of 29-year-old former Denver resident Kristal Anne Reisinger, who moved to an eccentric little town called Crestone,  a character in and of itself during the podcast.

While a culprit has yet to be fingered, he said they have pinpointed a group of people who were possibly involved.

“We uncovered a lot of new information,” he said, “and there’s definitely some people in question.”

And Lindsey marvels over the on-going saga of the Tara Grinstead Georgia murder case, the source of his first season of “Up and Vanished,” which also became an Oxygen TV special.

Suspect Bo Dukes, out on bond, was charged in an alleged sexual assault on New Year’s Day in Warner Robins. He then disappeared for five days before turning himself in

“The story after the podcast is as crazy or crazier than the podcast was,” he said. “We are planning some follow-up podcasts before the trial starts.”

About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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