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The Porchlight Project Solves Another Case!

The Porchlight Project
James Renner in New London.

The Case of the Bones in the Barn has been solved at last, and the answer leads to even more mysteries. For our second case, The Porchlight Project assisted the New London, Ohio Police Department to determine the identify of the young woman whose bones were found wrapped up in newspaper in an old barn, there. I was personally interested because the barn was located just a few doors down from a suspect in the Amy Mihaljevic case.

The Porchlight Project funded DNA testing and genetic genealogy, which led investigators to conclude that the bones belonged to one Hallie Armstrong, an eighteen-year-old schoolteacher who died in 1881.

Read the full story here.

New Vox Article Explores The Joseph Newton Chandler Case and the Role of DNA Sleuths

The strange case of the man who called himself Joseph Newton Chandler is one of my favorite true crime mysteries of all time – and the inspiration behind my novel, The Man from Primrose Lane. So it was a honor to be interviewed by Katya Cengel for her new piece of long-form nonfiction, which appeared on Vox.

Investigative journalist James Renner, who reported on the Chandler case and even wrote a novel loosely based on it, believes Ruff and those like her who are running from something terrible should be able to disappear.

“What right do we have to open up those doors?” he asks.

He makes an exception for rape and murder, and he is not the only one who believes the Nichols case may have involved both. Because of Robert Nichols’s various eccentricities and the time he spent in California in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when the Zodiac Killer was active there, some web sleuths and even members of law enforcement, like Elliott, who says he can’t rule it out, suspect Nichols could be the killer.

Check out the entire article here.

Arrest in Barbara Blatnik Murder!

A year ago, I put together a new nonprofit to fund new investigations into some of Ohio’s coldest cases. I’m so thrilled to announce that there has been an arrest made in our first case – the 1987 unsolved murder of Barbara Blatnik. James Zastawnik was arrested for the girl’s murder on Wednesday. Here’s a report from the Beacon Journal and USAToday.

Donna Zanath, Blatnik’s sister, said Wednesday evening that she was in shock that an arrest had been made after all this time. She credited Project Porchlight, a local effort lead by Akron author James Renner that took on her sister’s case as its first attempt to generate renewed interest in a cold case. Project Porchlight raised $6,000 for DNA testing that helped with the Blatnik case. “Without James Renner, we wouldn’t be talking right now,” she said, choking back tears.

Beacon Journal

Learn more about The Porchlight Project here. You can also donate via the website. Every little bit helps. Thank you!

Check Out My New Crime Series on ID Discovery!

BIG NEWS!

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!

New True Crime Article!

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.

Check out the Crimefeed post here.

Read the entire story here.

 

Virtually a Detective, Case 101: DELPHI

Join journalist James Renner as he travels to Delphi, Indiana, in search of a killer.

On Valentine’s Day, 2017, the bodies of Abby Williams and Libby German were found off a popular trail in the woods of Delphi. Libby had the piece of mind to photograph her attacker and capture his voice on her Snapchat app. However, he has yet to be identified.

Virtually a Detective is a new experience in true crime – not a podcast, not really a documentary, it’s a fully-immersive 3-D experience that allows the viewer to travel with James as he speaks to the friends and family of the girls, as well as detectives, culminating in a journey to the sight of the abduction.

A new episode will be released every day on Renner’s YouTube Channel.

Here are the links to the first videos you can watch, today:

The Prologue

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

Episode 9

Episode 10

Tune in!

 

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