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.
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.
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.
My newest story is a serialized mystery that is only available on a new app called BOUND. Get it here.
LARKEY follows a retired FBI agent during his investigation into the murder of young woman found crucified on the side of a barn on Middle Bass Island. He must solve the mystery before the ice thaws and the killer can get away. And guess what? It takes place in the world of The Man from Primrose Lane!
Each chapter has beautiful artwork and you can also listen to the audiobook, which feels more like a well-produced radio play.
The first three chapters are available today. New chapters will be released every week!
Tune in to Expedition Unknown on Jan 17 (on the Travel Channel). Josh Gates and I run around Milwaukee to see if we can find the key Byron Preiss buried in Lake Park in 1982. Byron hid a dozen keys across North America and put clues to their location in a wonderful book called, The Secret, which is the subject of a documentary I directed. With any luck the documentary will be out in 2018. I have to say, adventuring with Josh Gates is as fun as it looks like on TV. One of the coolest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
Tune in this Saturday for the first of a 6-part series on the disappearance of Maura Murray, who was the subject of my book, True Crime Addict. I appear on the show and helped with research for the team. There will be some new information about the mystery revealed in the program.