New True Crime Series Merges Forensics, History, Society

video series provides fuller picture of famous crimes

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Understanding famous murders goes beyond the scenes of the crimes. A look at society and culture at the time, as well as the history of the area, round out the picture. True Crime: Decoding the Evidence offers several perspectives.

Dr. Richard B. Spence
One of the three presenters in Wondrium’s new series, True Crime: Decoding the Evidence, is Dr. Richard B. Spence, who brings levity to a difficult subject through his sense of humor. Photo by Wondrium

Some of the most infamous serial murders in history were committed by the Zodiac Killer, who regularly shot couples in parked cars in the Bay Area while they necked. However, the forensics of most of his murders are far from exotic. The Zodiac Killer often relied on otherwise occupied victims being in remote locations so as to increase his chances of success and decrease the likelihood of witnesses.

To understand the Zodiac murders, it requires an understanding of the area of the time—including the Civil Rights movement and hippie culture.

In the new series True Crime: Decoding the Evidence, three experts look at famous murders such as these to provide the full context that viewers deserve. Wondrium Senior Producer Ali Felix detailed how it came together.

Covering All Angles

“It’s just a different perspective on cases that are well-known,” Felix said. “[We look] at it from a social point of view and what was going on at the time, and how maybe certain social factors were driving some of these people to commit these crimes and maybe why certain suspects were targeted—certain lifestyles.”

This background helps viewers look at the crimes from new perspectives. Additionally, Felix said it was a travesty that authorities attempting to solve these murders—which include the crimes of Jack the Ripper, the Black Dahlia murderer, and the Zodiac killer—didn’t have DNA testing like we do today.

“Even though we revisited old cases and cold cases, we did it in a way that makes you think about what would’ve happened with these cases if we’d have had more forensic science and techniques available to us during those times,” Felix said. “Would we have figured out who Jack the Ripper is because of what evidence was found that was never tested—bloody clothes, certain witnesses, chalk written on the wall that was erased?”

Three Heads Are Better Than One

By approaching a series like True Crime: Decoding the Evidence as a TV series rather than as a lecture series, and speaking with several experts, Felix said that it provides viewers with several different takes on one topic. Each presenter offers unique insight into one major facet of each subject they discuss, and when those facets overlap, the series can explore each issue more fully.

“All three of them have different areas of expertise as well, so we really targeted each expert with specific questions that were within their realm of knowledge,” she said.

One of these presenters is Dr. Richard B. Spence, Professor of History at the University of Idaho. Felix said that his specific personality—including being very matter-of-fact, while also having a sense of humor—enabled him to bring levity to such a difficult subject. The video series also uses the expertise of Dr. Raychelle Burks, Associate Professor of Chemistry at American University.

“Raychelle Burks, we were super happy to be able to interview her, not only because she is extremely smart and has a unique perspective on the social aspects of the crimes, but being able to shift our focus a little bit more towards more diverse talent on-camera is always a great thing for us,” Felix said.

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray also features in True Crime: Decoding the Evidence. She has presented several Wondrium series on forensics and been involved with National Geographic and other major publications.

“Rick provided a more historical perspective; Raychelle was more historical; and Beth Murray was the most forensic, scientific expert opinion that we had,” Felix said. “We thought it would be a nice combination, that everyone would complement each other—which they did really nicely.”

True Crime: Decoding the Evidence is now available to stream on Wondrium.