This week I interviewed @murdershetoldpodcast !
- Tell me a little about yourself.
“My name is Kristen Seavey and I’m a professional actor, a true crime podcast creator, credentialed victim’s advocate and a lover of vintage.
I grew up in a small town in central Maine around a lot of antiques (my parent’s living room has an old Coca-Cola cooler they found at the dump and restored, and a Texaco gas pump, among other things), and was taught to have an appreciation for history, so this probably planted the seeds for my love of all things retro!
I also grew up watching shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Are you Afraid of the Dark, and have been interested in true crime, ghosts, and mysteries since I was a kid. I remember on school vacations and in the summer, my cousin and I would sneak upstairs at our grandmother’s house to watch back-to-back episodes of Unsolved Mysteries before returning to play. I’m pretty sure we knew that whole series by heart we watched it so many times. Same goes with Are You Afraid of the Dark? We would watch that show every day it was on, even if some episodes gave us nightmares (looking at you, Ghastly Grinner).
When I was young, I started performing doing theater (and I couldn’t get enough of it). I begged my mom to take me to every community theater in the area to do their shows. It was no surprise to anyone that when I was 18, I moved to NYC to pursue acting and go to school for theater.
As a professional actor I’ve been in indie movies, television, commercials, theater, and wayyyy to much Discovery ID. I also started writing plays as a teenager, and wrote a few plays that got produced in NYC and one of them is published. I still continue to work as an actor today. That will always be a permanent part of me, no matter what space I’m in. Another fun fact is that I’m also a lindy hop/swing dancer, and I got into podcasting around 2018.
When the pandemic hit, I came back up to Maine for what I thought would be the summer of 2020 (spoiler: it’s been much longer than that!) and wanted to start a podcast, so I started working on the concept for Murder, She Told podcast in September of 2020 and I’ve pretty much been focusing my energy on that since.”
2. How did you come up with the podcast name: Murder She Told?
“It was actually a bit of a challenge to figure out a name. It’s hard (especially in the true crime space) to come up with a name that’s not already taken. From the beginning, I also knew I wanted to build a brand, so it had to feel like it fit. I knew I wanted to have a heavy focus on cases in my home state of Maine and the surrounding New England area, and as somebody who loves vintage and retro, I knew I wanted the branding to reflect that.
I think I played with keywords, brainstormed, and slept on possible combinations for a month until one day it dawned on me that Murder, She Wrote—the beloved 1980’s tv show starring Dame Angela Lansbury as mystery writer Jessica Fletcher—was set in a fictional town in Maine called Cabot Cove. I immediately looked it up to see if somebody was using a spoken version of the title, and while there were a few using “spoke”, nobody was using “told”. I looked to see if the domain was available (and it was) and I think I said out loud “That’s it. That’s the show!” and bought the domain on the spot. When the show launched in December of 2020, I applied for a trademark and finally got my certificate back this summer.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me they grew up watching re-runs of Murder, She Wrote with their grandmother and it’s really special to see them connecting to Murder, She Told as well. (Although sometimes people do get the names mixed up!)
Everything down to the colors is carefully chosen. I wanted the vibe of the branding to tap into retro nostalgia (whether you grew up in the time period or not). When we did the logo design, I found a font I wanted that gave a 70’s/80’s vibe, and pulled the color palette straight off an old Burger King ad.
The show’s instagram (@murdershetoldpodcast) is a good example of the vibe and brand palette. I didn’t just want to share the logo over and over or straight promos for episodes, I wanted to share the episodes via fun candid photos I’m given from a family that capture their loved one, or just fill in with vintage photos from New England. I’m a sucker for a good retro candid.”
3. What made you want to start the podcast?
“As a professional storyteller, I always go as deep as I can learning about my character and digging into their life; their passions, their flaws, all the things that make them human. I wanted this same element to apply to my research and storytelling for the podcast, too. A victim’s story doesn’t start with their murder. There is SO much more to their life that you just don’t hear.
I also just wanted people to care about the victim more than just “a crazy story I heard on a podcast”. There’s just so much focus on the killers in a lot of these shows, so I wanted to create something more empathetic and ethical because these are real people who lost their lives, and real people still feel the impact of their loss today.
Also, who better to learn about the victims and dig deeper into who they were when they were alive, than the people who actually knew them? A lot of these cases didn’t get the coverage that somebody like Gabby Petito or JonBenét Ramsey did. They maybe had a couple very straightforward articles in a local paper that’s now only available in archives, and that’s it. This doesn’t give me much to work with, so, I work with a lot of families to help tell the story.
I also wanted to make sure I was doing it “right”, so I took college courses to get credentialed as a victim’s advocate. I wanted to make sure I had the tools to confidently take care of people because the conversations we’re having is re-living their trauma, and there’s a really delicate way to do that that goes beyond being naturally empathetic and compassionate.
I started preparing in September of 2020, learned how to do the technical stuff and taught myself how to edit, and launched the show in December of 2020! I had no idea what to expect, but the expectations were low since I knew how hard it was to grow a show. But those low expectations have since been buried by such an incredible response.
We’re now approaching 2 years and I’m just incredibly grateful for many reasons. First, I never had any inkling it would have as many listeners worldwide tuning in. I think it speaks to the impact these stories are making on people that you don’t have to be from New England to connect with them. I’m very grateful for the people coming back to listen, the families who trust me with their story, and the people who choose to engage with empathy and consume more ethical true crime.
I’m also really grateful for the community. I’ve been lucky to connect with some incredible creators who are just really good people making great shows that care. And finally, I’m grateful for the small team helping behind the scenes. We have a great little group who believes in this show, and it really means a lot.
Murder, She Told is approaching the 2-year anniversary and now has over 60 episodes that are all deep dives on cases, even if they’re on the shorter side. We search for every tiny detail we can manage to find when working on episodes, and also have pretty cool blogs on murdershetold.com that have a lot of photos shared with us by the family that you won’t find anywhere else. This is only the beginning. I have a lot of hopes for the future for this show.
I’m really proud of the work that’s being done on Murder, She Told. I think it’s contributing to a better future for true crime, a safer space for families to tell their story, and have the victim’s lives be at the center of the story and not their killer. It also promotes advocacy that you can do at home if you want to be an active listener and not just a consumer. Things like signing a petition, or sharing a post on social media.
So, if you’re looking for a true crime podcast that features cases you’ve never heard of before doesn’t exploit victims of crime, check out Murder, She Told!”
4. Out of all of the cases you have covered so far: Is there one or two that has stuck with you? If so, why did it leave a lasting impression?
As cliché as it sounds, all of the cases I’ve worked on have a deep impact on me. We worked really intimately with the families of the victims, and I’m a natural empath, so I feel really connected to them. I want people tuning in to care about them when they listen to the episode.
However, there are 2 cases that I’m a little more involved with outside of the episodes we’ve produced, and that is Danielle Bertolini and Reeves Johnson.
Danielle was a childhood friend of mine who grew up in central Maine, and in February of 2014, she was murdered in Humboldt County, California. She was picked up in a car in the Swains Flat area of Fortuna by a man named James “Jim” Jones and was never seen again. About a year later her remains were found deep in the woods by the Eel River.
Just before Danielle went missing, another woman went missing named Sheila Franks. The common denominator? Jim Jones. Her remains weren’t found until 2019 in the same area where Danielle was found.
Her case didn’t get that much media attention, and I think it’s mostly because the area is known for its marijuana, and because Danielle had a substance abuse disorder. Jim Jones has been named as a person of interest in the case, but the case remains “unsolved.”
I wanted to highlight her life in a compassionate and complex way, and have her mother tell her story (which is so heartbreaking and poignant. Billie Jo’s interview is incredibly powerful). I wanted people to walk away from the episode and remember Danielle for her humor and curiosity, and the joy she brought to others— not just that she was a young woman with an addiction who was murdered. I wanted them to feel like they knew her as a person and care about the fact a killer has not been brought to justice. They both deserve justice. All victims of unsolved violent crimes do, no matter what their history is.
I started a petition that launched with the episode to push the Humboldt County DA to—at a minimum—reinterview people and provide a public update on the case, because there hasn’t been one since Sheila’s remains were confirmed in 2019.
To listen to this episode click here: https://www.murdershetold.com/episodes/danielle-bertolini
That petition is still live and you can sign it at change.org/danielleandsheila
The Reeves Johnson missing persons case is super unique for me because I’m actually working on the investigating team with the police. Detective Brian Cummer of the Kittery Police Dept is handling the case, and we’re working with him to help try and solve this almost 40-year-old mystery.
The timeline on this one is super complicated, but here’s the nutshell:
Reeves Johnson was a 31-year-old man living in Kittery, ME and working in Exeter NH. In February 1983 he left work, and nobody he knew ever saw him again.
In the weeks after his disappearance, despite the fact he was extremely frugal, his check book was used for large and extravagant purchases, and his account was eventually drained. His cabin in Kittery was also emptied of valuables, but there was no direct evidence of foul play and Reeves was an adult, so at the time, the police could only do so much.
Three weeks after his disappearance, his parents did a stakeout of the post office where he had a PO box hoping Reeves would come pick up his final check, and an unknown man with a key to the mailbox came in and stole the check.
His mother confronted him, and the man said Reeves was in Portsmouth NH and then fled. She snapped a photo of him before he left the post office, but when she developed the film, she realized he’d put his hand up and blocked his face completely.
There has been no trace of Reeves since 1983. The investigation was dormant until October 2021 when Detective Cummer (who is just a truly lovely person) decided to reopen the case.
In November 2021 we were given complete access to the case files, and permission by the family and police chief to use them. We produced an episode with the family, and helped get Reeves’ name circulating again and that photo out there. Prior to October 2021, Reeves Johnson was virtually unknown to everyone except his family and Detective Cummer.
Since then, we’ve collaborated to announce a $6,000 reward, hosted a community event, gotten a bunch of press on the case, organized a street team to hand out flyers, and I did a talk on the case at the True Crime Podcast Festival in Texas. We’re also currently brainstorming how to keep his name out there and trying to connect with the right people.
I think these two cases come to mind just because I’ve spent so much time initiating things outside of the podcast to push for answers. All of my unsolved episodes have calls to action that people listening at home can do (sharing it etc.) but these two I’ve put more time into outside advocacy. I wish I could do this with all of them. One day I’d love to be able to.
There are so many other unsolved cases I can think of that have a deep impact on me. The unsolved ones really have my heart. I will never stop fighting for those cases, especially the ones that don’t get as much attention from media. Even though I know not everyone likes hearing stories that don’t have an ending, I feel like I’m helping make a difference by keeping these cases out in the spotlight to hopefully get it one step closer to having that ending it desperately deserves.”
To listen to this episode, click here: https://www.murdershetold.com/reevesjohnson
5. How come someone contribute or donate to your podcast?
“There are so many free (and easy!) ways to support any podcast you love. Trust me when I say the indie creators are especially grateful.
Sharing the show or an episode on social media and telling a friend is a great way to support. Word of mouth referral is really important. You can also leave a nice review on Apple Podcasts, or ratings on many platforms. (As somebody with a words of affirmation love language, these are super meaningful).
If you wanted to be extra generous and support the show with a donation, I have links to Paypal and Buy Me a Coffee at murdershetold.com/support. Running a podcast in this capacity gets pretty expensive, and everything gifted from listeners goes back into the show and really helps me offset these costs. Eventually we’ll have ads to help with this too and hopefully a low cost “ad-free” patron support platform. All of this supports my goal of one day being able to financially give back, and also be able to pay a team and keep this show up and running. It’s a full-time job (more like overtime job), and I don’t think people realize that sometimes.
There are also a few affiliate links such as Amazon where Murder, She Told gets a tiny commission when you shop through the link (at no extra cost). That’s another free way to support the show. Finally, if anyone wants to submit a case, send in feedback or say hi, there’s a contact form on the website or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I read every email and also try to personally answer them as well (though I do admit I’m a bit behind right now).”
To support the pod info is here: https://www.murdershetold.com/support
6. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share?
“I’m going to be in Atlanta doing a live show on December 3rd with a few other amazing podcasts that I’m super excited about! I’ll also be returning to the True Crime Podcast Festival next August in Austin, TX. Hopefully a few more live shows with friends will pop up in between!
Other than that, we’re working hard behind the scenes on a few super cool projects. We’ve gone pretty deep on a lot of the longer-term ones we’ve been working on. A Lot of courthouse and records dives, and unique things that haven’t been done on the show before.
Totally unrelated, but I’ll leave you with this: The public has the power to help solve certain cold cases, and never underestimate the power of social sharing. There are a lot of cases that don’t have DNA waiting to be matched, and need people to come forward. You didn’t know Reeves, weren’t alive in 1983, and you’re not from the Kittery/Portsmouth area? That’s okay! Somebody you’re connected with on Facebook or Instagram might be, or might know somebody who was. Those tiny connections are things (in cases like Reeves) we are hoping for; That somebody will see Reeves’ poster and contact us to say “Hey! I knew him really well. How can I help you?”
Also, if you have information on a case, never assume the police also have that information. You might be holding onto something that seems meaningless or trivial that could be the key they need to get an arrest.”
You can find Murder, She Told on any podcast platform and on Instagram @murdershetoldpodcast.
Learn more at murdershetold.com.
Murder, She Told is created and hosted by Kristen Seavey (@KristenSeavey)
If you would to learn, here is some additional resources:
Facebook: Murder, she told
Tik tok: @murdershetold