Pulling Back the Iron Curtain: A Discussion with Joseph P. O’Donnell

We’re going “off road” to talk again with the writer Joseph P. O’Donnell. He is the author of the successful 2022 memoir of E. Steven Sachs, “Living On the Fringe of the Mob”, which we talked about on February 5, 2023. Joseph’s latest project was to put down on paper the gripping true story told to him by Daniel Kolmann, a gifted young athlete born in 1948 in Communist-occupied Czechoslovakia. Daniel was removed from his family at age twelve and forced to live in a Russian-controlled sports camp where he was trained for six hours a day, seven days a week to be a soccer star, and allowed to see his parents only once a month. As Daniel grew up, his yearning for freedom led to a nail-biting, death-defying escape. Daniel told his exciting life story to Joseph, who captured it in “ Run for My Life”, published this past February. We will talk with Joseph about his craft and about the crimes of the Communist regime that trampled over human rights with impunity.

Behold the Monster: Jillian Lauren Exposes America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

The fascinating and fearless best-selling author Jillian Lauren joins me to discuss her upcoming true-crime book, Behold the Monster: Confronting America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer (due out July 18, 2023). Before Samuel Little died in 2020, he confessed to having murdered 93 people, mostly women, between 1970 and 2005. Jillian was determined to give a voice many of his victims and so fostered a personal relationship with him to get material for this book.

She is a candid and engaging guest. I first encountered Jillian by viewing her 2014 TEDx talk on adoption and was immediately hooked. Jillian is also the author of Everything You Ever Wanted, Pretty, and my personal favorite, Some Girls: My Life Inside a Harem, where she recounts her time in a harem as the girlfriend of the brother of the Sultan of Brunei. Jillian is married to Weezer bassist Scott Shriner. They live in Los Angeles with two adopted sons, one from Ethiopia and one from a foster-to-adopt program.

F-Bomb Warning: this episode contains expletives but we decided to keep them in the final cut as they are true to Jillian’s expressive delivery.

No Body, No Weapon, No Suspect

Meet Bill Powers, the Retired Massachusetts State Police commander of the Detective Unit for Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. Bill guides us through every step of a truly bizarre murder investigation he recounts in his book, When the Smoke Cleared, A Murder Mystery in Malden Massachusetts. Powers and his colleagues knew someone had been murdered, but who? Where was the body? Who are the suspects? What was the motive? And where was the murder weapon? Against all odds, Powers and his team put the puzzle together to bring justice for the July, 2000, brutal murder of teenage runaway Kelly Hancock and her family in Malden, MA.

Living on the Fringe of the Mob

Bonanno. Gambino. Colombo. Anyone familiar with the New York Mafia from the 1960s until the early 2000s will instantly recognize those notorious names.
E. Steven Sachs was the lone Jewish kid growing up in a rough-and-tumble Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1960s among neighbors and playmates who would become members of the NY organized crime families. Steve gives us the reality, not the romanticized Hollywood version, of being an outsider who nonetheless was intimately acquainted with and forged lifelong friendships with many New York mobsters.
The bedrock principles of these friendships were loyalty and trust, principles which Steve never broke. He was never asked to do anything illegal, nor did he ever commit any crime. He flourished in the meat packing industry for many years and at 82 years old decided to recount his riveting true story. He reached out to Joe O’Donnell, a writer whose book Deadly Codes was the basis for the star character, Gallagher, in the 2018 movie “Bent”. The result of their collaboration is the 2022 book, “Living on the Fringe of the Mob.”
Listen in as Joe and Steve tell us how they got together to create this sensational mob tell-all and what it was really like to live on the periphery of the mob.

The Power of Crowds: Bob Ruff’s Truth & Justice Podcast

The Power of Crowds: Bob Ruff’s Truth & Justice Podcast
Bob Ruff hosts Truth & Justice, the popular crowd-sourced podcast now in its twelfth season, where he and his followers seek truth and justice for the wrongly convicted.
Each season Bob asks his listeners to help him work on a new case of a potential wrongful conviction. They comb through the details in real time, hoping to discover a new angle or to re-interpret piece of evidence that the initial investigation may have missed or got wrong. Bob is adept at bringing to light new facts that just don’t add up.
Although Bob has no formal law enforcement training, he’s all in. He’s a former fire chief and arson investigator who quit his job to devote all his working hours to this podcast and to Crime Binge, a second podcast where he interviews up-and-coming true crime podcasters. Bob created Crime Binge because he believes there’s plenty of room at the table for everybody in the competitive genre of true crime podcasts and isn’t seeking to hog the limelight.
In 2018 he appeared on ABC’s award-winning newsmagazine “20/20” to discuss Sandy Melgar’s controversial conviction in Texas for killing her husband. He also appeared in 2020 in a four-part docuseries on the Oxygen channel entitled “The Forgotten West Memphis Three” which addressed a notorious cold case, the 1993 murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.
Listen in as Bob explains to Diane and Jordan how he conducts these investigations and what drove him to enter the world of true-crime podcasts.

From the Bench: A Talk with Judge Thomas Connors

The Honorable Thomas A. Connors was appointed to the Massachusetts District Court by Governor William Weld in 1995. In 2004 he was appointed to the Superior Court Bench of Massachusetts by Governor Mitt Romney. As an attorney, he had built an impressive career in a solo practice that handled everything from real estate closings to murder cases. Judge Connors shares what prompted him to attend Boston College Law School and why he ultimately gravitated to the criminal side of law. His intellect, humor, and candor shine as he discusses the judiciary and some of the “hottest” topics in the courthouse, for example, why there is no WiFi and why (per feedback from many disgruntled jurors) the vending machines offer only “junk”. Judge Connors retired in 2020 after serving for many years as the Regional Administrative Justice in Norfolk County. He has kept busy by continuing to serve the community: in 2021 he was named to the Board of Directors for The English High School Alumni Association in Jamaica Plain, his alma mater, and to the Advisory Panel of the Technical Pathways Program, one of the Boston Public Schools’ most exciting programs to prepare students to be leaders. Judge Connors also serves on the Medfield Historical Society.

“Delivered Like Pizza”: Sex Slaves in Massachusetts

A 50-year-old East Boston woman was the mastermind behind a human trafficking operation that forced women into prostitution in Massachusetts. Ramona Hernandez and her husband, Rafael Henriquez, earned the dubious distinction of being the first individuals charged under the state’s new anti-trafficking law. The couple lured women into their net and then shipped them to Massachusetts to be victimized as prostitutes. Law enforcement likened the sex ring to a pizza delivery business: Rafael would deliver the women to customers’ homes in the greater Boston area and wait outside in his green Toyota Corolla while the 15-minute “house call” took place. Their victims were forced to service as many as 15 customers a day. Their scheme came crashing down when multiple law agencies cooperated in fielding “Operation Persistent Rain”, a months-long investigation that resulted in arrests in March 2012.

Sometimes It Gets Nutty

With all the grimness that occurs in a courthouse, it’s no wonder that sometimes comic relief is on the docket. Diane reveals to Jordan the lighter side of working in the halls of justice, including antics by court officers, a rogue lawyer’s “gymnastics”, odd encounters, and how a bit of levity can help employees cope with the gravity of their work.

A Rape of the Mind

On February 5, 2015, a bitterly cold morning in the seaside town of Bourne, Massachusetts, a murder-suicide plan was set in motion. A 31-year old Coast Guard Petty Officer, Adrian Loya, armed with an assault rifle, a pistol, and a shotgun, had driven from Virginia to shoot his way into the condominium of a colleague, Coast Guard Petty Officer Lisa Trubnikova, and her wife, Anna. Neighbors heard the sharp reports of multiple gunshots at 2 AM. First responders would be hampered by Loya’s vehicle which was set ablaze and was blocking the neighborhood’s entrance. A boombox blared movie themes from Batman and Bond movies. Hoax bombs were exploded and shook nearby buildings. Anna Trubnikova, bleeding from four wounds, desperately called for help. Her 911 call lasted over an hour as she lay on the floor next to her dead wife and Loya engaged in his elaborately staged stand-off with police.

The motive? Revenge. Loya had had a sexual encounter with Lisa two years before, an encounter he later described to a forensic psychologist as “a rape of the mind”. The full extent of Loya’s twisted mental state would soon emerge.

Up Close: Boston’s Own Hank Phillippi Ryan, Journalist & Crime-Fiction Star

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the USA Today bestselling author of 13 psychological thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, four Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. Book critics call her “a master of suspense,” “a superb and gifted storyteller”; she’s the only author to have won the Agatha in four categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction. Her newest is HER PERFECT LIFE, a chilling psychological standalone about fame, family, and revenge. It received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, calling it “a superlative thriller.” B.A. Paris says, “Shocking, suspenseful… kept me guessing until the end.” and Julie Clark says, “You will read this in one sitting!” It is now nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. Her next is THE HOUSE GUEST, coming January 2023. Hank is a founder of MWA University, host of CRIME TIME on A Mighty Blaze, and co-host of First Chapter Fun and The Back Room. She is a past president of National Sisters in Crime. Visit Hank at HankPhillippiRyan.com, Twitter @HankPRyan, Instagram @hankpryan and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthor.