I spend most of my time researching and listening to true crime related stories. I love podcasts, YouTube commentary, and documentaries on the matter. If you’re like me, you love the thrill of horror and reality. Some murders are so intricate and make you question how humans are capable of even doing things like that? Also, it makes you realize what humans are actually capable of.. Which can be scarier than the murder itself.
True crime has seen a recent jump in popularity. The more media channels talking about true crime, the more society has grown comfortable in listening to crime stories. Besides the retelling of a gruesome horror story, true crime also takes in account the investigative process and how that can be another story within itself. I think in total I’ve listened to well over 150 hours of true crime cases across all social media platforms. In this article, I want to narrow down my top 5 favorite cases that still haunt me to this day. I won’t go into detail, but I’ll provide a link if you are interested to find out more:
- Death of Kenneka Jenkins
On September 9th, 2017, a 19 year old Kenneka Jenkins was found dead inside of a kitchen freezer at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Hotel. Jenkins was at a party there the night before before she went missing early into the morning of September 9th. What makes this story bizarre is that she couldn’t have possibly placed herself in the freezer alone. Also an hour before she died, a Facebook Live posted by her friends sounds like a woman screaming and moaning for help in the background. Many people believe this could have been Jenkins final moments before being found in the freezer. Youtuber Kendall Rae, one of my personal favorites, goes into great detail about the case, police investigation, and theories behind what happened at the hotel that night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZYLOgHRa0w
- Austin Yogurt Shop Killer
This story caught my attention because of it being in Texas and the fact that I worked in a yogurt shop when I was 16 years old. In 1991, 4 girls were brutally murdered at a yogurt shop in Austin. To this day, the killer has never been found due to the evidence and DNA samples being severely destroyed. To this day, the murder has never been solved but there many possible theories and suspects laid out in this case. My favorite podcast Crime Junkie describes the entirety of this case in this episode: https://crimejunkiepodcast.com/austin-yogurt-shop-murders/
- The Murder of Kendrick Johnson
Kendrick Johnson was a 17 year old boy found dead in his high school gym. His body was found rolled up in a wrestling mat, and his face was almost unrecognizable. The story of Johnson was extremely interesting due to the Lowndes County in Georgia disregarding the case, and ruling it as an accident. After the family hired a private investigator and called for another autopsy, they found out that Johnson’s organs were removed before he was rolled into the mat. His official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the neck that seemed “non-accidental.” His family believes Johnson was murdered, and as of March 10th, 2021, the case of Kendrick Johnson is officially reopened for further investigation. Podcast Crime Junkie does a fantastic job at presenting the case through police efforts. They approach the research they have with their own theories and commentary to help you think about the case in different perspectives: https://crimejunkiepodcast.com/mysterious-death-kendrick-johnson/
- The Disappearance of Asha Degree
9 year old Asha Degree went missing in the early hours of February 14th, 2000, in Shelby, North Carolina. This story is very heartbreaking because of how often this happens, and the different possible situations surrounding her disappearance. It’s been 21 years and still no trace of Asha. The case of this disappearance is extensive including all the witness statements of seeing Asha get into a dark green car, to the amount of false claims about her murder. As the years went by, FBI and local county detectives become discouraged until they find a break in the case 18 years later. You can listen to the entire case up to date in Crime Junkie’s podcast episode about Asha Degree: https://crimejunkiepodcast.com/missing-asha-degree/
- The Strange Death of Rebecca Zahau
In the morning of July 13th, 2011, police were called to the house of Rebecca Zahau where she was seen hanging nude from her balcony. Now that alone is a strange way to find someone dead, but what police see when they enter the house is a lot more obscure. Zahau’s feet and hands were bound by rope and a message painted on the bedroom wall, where the balcony was attached to, wrote “She saved him, can he save her.” The entire investigation is thrown into many loopholes as Zahau’s past is revealed about her marriage. Police detectives suspect a suicide but close family members believe this was an act of revenge. Youtuber Kendall Rae talks more about this case on her Mile Higher Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/hu/podcast/the-suspicious-death-of-rebecca-zahau/id1332383970?i=1000508224277
One thing I like to disclose when writing or talking about true crime is that people must also realize these are real stories and experiences. I love to listen to these podcasts and YouTube stories but at the same time they are posted for important reasons: to raise awareness and seek justice. A lot true crime episodes are still active cases of people missing or finding the killer. There are families hoping to find new or important pieces of evidence that will lead to answers. These are families missing their loved ones. We must be conscious that while we listen to this for entertainment, we must also consider how we can help. Sharing these cases and talking about true crime serves as help to spread the word, rather than another scary story.