True Crime | St. Louis Public Radio

True Crime

Phoebe Judge, at left, at Lauren Spohrer are the co-creators of "Criminal" and "This Is Love."
Justin Cook & Liz Clayman

Since its inception in 2014, "Criminal" has never been just another true crime podcast. Where some shows spin their speculative wheels or endlessly whip listeners back and forth between evidence of innocence or guilt, "Criminal" has a reputation for pointing its microphone at the deeply human moments and stories that lurk behind the headlines — and consistently premiering a fresh, tightly crafted story two Fridays each month.

And over the years, a handful of "Criminal" episodes have brought the podcast’s co-creators, Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, to the St. Louis region for interviews and research — putting them in conversation with everyone from convicted aircraft hijacker Martin McNally to local historians and journalists.

In 2015, for instance, Judge interviewed Ferguson protestor Ed Crawford, the subject of an iconic photo taken by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Robert Cohen. A year later, the podcast team dug into the history of the Evening Whirl, a crime-focused newspaper that first began publishing in St. Louis in 1938. And in January of this year, Criminal brought new attention to a horrific massacre that occurred in southern Illinois nearly a century ago.

September 30, 2019 Michelle Oberman and Ryan Krull
Sumit Kohli (Michelle Oberman) and St. Louis Public Radio (Ryan Krull)

The discovery of a dead baby in a south St. Louis freezer this summer was one of those macabre stories that had the nation riveted. Adam Smith told KSDK that he was cleaning out the freezer after his mother’s death from cancer when he made the grisly discovery. He said the container holding the tiny corpse had been in the freezer for decades.

The story drew national attention from all the usual suspects, but then everyone moved on. Everyone, that is, except Ryan Krull. The freelance writer and faculty member at the University of Missouri-St. Louis pushed below the surface to get a tale that is, in many ways, even more sad and surprising than the initial discovery. It is the latest Riverfront Times cover story.