She Turned to Podcasters Over Sister's Killing. It Ended Badly

The 'New York Times' looks at how families can be retraumatized by online sleuthing
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2023 12:27 PM CST
Updated Dec 10, 2023 3:15 PM CST
She Turned to Podcasters Over Sister's Killing. It Ended Badly
   (Getty / ChatkarenStudio)

Liz Flatt was 8 when her sister, Debbie Sue Williamson, was murdered in 1975. The cold case continued to haunt her into adulthood, so in 2016, she decided to make a new push to get the crime solved. The years that followed brought her to CrimeCon, where she met George Jared and Jennifer Bucholtz, investigators who crowdsourced cold cases and chronicled their progress on podcasts. The pair agreed to take up Williamson's case, but the relationship between Flatt and the true crime influencers eventually went sour in a very public way. The New York Times Magazine looks into where things took a turn, and how the lucrative true crime genre's use of crowdsourcing on social media sites like Facebook can retraumatize families looking for answers.

"I was very honest with her from the beginning," Jared tells Sarah Viren of the Times. "If you can just generate a lot of media attention, it will force the hand of law enforcement. But here's the side effect of that: You are going to lose control of what's said about this case." As the story explains in detail, Flatt and the podcasters eventually disagreed over to what extent her sister's case files should be shared. They ended up booting her from their Facebook group on the case and publicly accused her of sabotaging the investigation. Flatt says she feels victimized by the process (as does the relative of another high-profile murder victim), opening the question of what online communities of crime solvers owe to victims' families. Read the full story, which notes Williamson's murder remains unsolved. (Or read more true crime stories.)

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