James Renner is an award-winning journalist, and author of True Crime Addict, the definitive book on the Maura Murray disappearance. He also hosts the podcast, The Philosophy of Crime. In 2019, he founded The Porchlight Project which raises money for new DNA testing and genetic genealogy for Ohio cold cases. In May, 2020, James Zastawnik was arrested for the murder of Barbara Blatnik, thanks to the work of genealogists funded by the Porchlight Project.
This last year, I’ve been working hard to put together a new non-profit that can provide financial help and media attention to the families of the missing and murdered, focusing on cold cases in Ohio. I’m excited to announce that The Porchlight Project is here and our first case is the 1987 unsolved murder of Barbara Blatnik.
My new, little novel MUSE is officially out via Cemetery Dance. The story is set in 1960s New England, and follows a private investigator hired by a teenage girl to steal a box from the estate of H.P. Lovecraft. Signed hardbacks are limited to 750 copies. You can order yours here.
Do lie detectors really work? How do psychopaths convince other people to commit murder? What’s the deal with familial DNA? I explore these questions and more in Season Two of The Philosophy of Crime. All 6 episodes are now available everywhere you can find podcasts. Check it out!
2019 TOUR ANNOUNCED! This June, I’ll be on the road in the eastern U.S. for my “Confessions of a True Crime Addict” tour. It’s a mix of stand up and scary tales about my adventures in true crime journalism. Get your tickets before they sell out!
My new novel, MUSE, comes out May 14 but you can pre-order a copy, today at this link! This story is limited to only 750 signed copies and Cemetery Dance has done a wonderful job with it.
Here’s a hint of what it’s about:The enclosed was transcribed from ten mini-cassette tapes that were recovered from the offices of Boston attorney William J. Latch following his disappearance on June 19, 2014.
These tapes are part of the evidentiary record in the civil case of Latch V. Weymouth Life & Casualty.
William J. Latch was declared dead by the State of Massachusetts in April 2015 after Magistrate Gavin FitzGerald reviewed these tapes, privately, in his chambers. Weymouth Life & Casualty was therein ordered to release Latch’s survivor’s benefits to his children.
A very excellent, three-part docu series on the Amy Mihaljevic cold case is now available to view on demand via ID Discovery (it’s actually the first part of a new series called The Lake Erie Murders). They cover the case and some suspects in great detail. There are some things revealed that even I didn’t know about.
ID Discovery has graciously given me my first crime series, LAKE ERIE’S COLDEST CASES, which debuts at the end of the month only on IDGO. Each episode explores a new unsolved case I’ve researched in the Cleveland area (one of them is solved as I’m covering it!).
And it gets better! This online series is a companion project to a new TV series that will run on ID Discovery, called THE LAKE ERIE MURDERS. The first three episodes explore the unsolved abduction/murder of Amy Mihaljevic. Tune in on December 30 to see what we’ve uncovered!
I have a new long-form true crime article, published by ID Discovery’s Crimefeed. It’s a deep-dive into the story of Colleen Fitzpatrick and Margaret Press, the two women who figured out a new way to use DNA to catch bad guys.
They called the dead man Joseph Newton Chandler but that wasn’t his name. He lived alone in an efficiency in a nondescript apartment complex in Eastlake, Ohio, a workaday suburb of Cleveland. He rarely ventured far from home and the closest thing he had to a friend was a former coworker at a chemical factory he once listed as an emergency contact on his employment forms.
One day in July, 2002, Chandler purchased a handgun, a 38 caliber Charter Arms revolver. The old man returned home. He locked his door and windows, turned off the AC. Then he stepped into to his bathroom, faced the mirror, and put the barrel of the gun in his mouth. The last thing to enter his mind, other than that bullet, may have been the dark secret he was leaving behind.