14 True Crime Podcasts to Occupy Your Time

If your COVID experience has been anything like mine, it's been filled with plenty of time ~at home~. For an extravert like me, this has been a bit of a challenge! I used to spend almost all my time either with people, or studying somewhere surrounded by activity. Then, with pretty much every aspect of life moved online, I started to get exhausted from looking at screens all day every day. To fill some of the COVID silence and give my eyes a screen break, I turned to podcasts, and more specifically true crime ones. If you like watching Criminal Minds, Forensic Files, or Unsolved Mysteries, these are the perfect way to occupy your time without spending yet another hour staring at a screen. Each of these are single-case podcasts, meaning an entire seaon is dedicated to a single case or set of connected cases. I prefer this format to something like My Favorite Murder, a cult favorite that features one or two cases per episode. The single case format gives a lot more depth, and leaves you feeling like a part of the investigation. Without further adieu, here are 14 true crime podcasts that have helped me get through the past few months.

  1. 1. The Clearing

    The Clearing features April Balascio and host Josh Dean as they chronicle the story of April's journey to reckon with her past and the actions of her father. In 2009, April called a detective to say she thought her father, Edward Wayne Edwards, was responsible for multiple unsolved murders. The podcast takes you through her upbringing, her father's mind, and the consequences of his actions years later.

  2. 2. Bear Brook

    Bear Brook investigates a decades long cold case involving the discovery of human remains in oil barrels hidden in the woods of New Jersey. The case grows more complicated over time, until eventually dots you never could have guessed begin to connect. This is one of the first single-case podcasts I listened to, and it was fascinating and heartbreaking all at once. 

  3. 3. Tom Brown's Body

    This one is one of my absolute favorites, simply because the narrator, Skip Hollandsworth has such an incredible voice. The only way I can describe it is akin to the comfort and familiarity of watching Tom Hanks on screen. The podcast unpacks the case of small town Texas teenager Tom Brown, who went missing the night before Thanksgiving in 2016. The investigation divides the town, and every episode seems to cover something more bizarre than the one before. If you listen to one podcast on this list, make it this one. 

  4. 4. Serial: Season 1

    School supplies on desk

    Serial is a true crime classic, and Season 1 features the case of Adnon Syed, convicted of killing his girlfriend Hae Min Lee when he was in high school. Host  Sarah Koenig dives into every aspect of the case, making a strong argument for Syed's innocence. Serial unpacks so many different topics, both light and heavy, from high school dating to the racial and cultural dynamics of the case and more. HBO also made a docuseries about the case, based on the work of the podcast. Listening to the podcast then watching the series brings a really great level of depth and understanding to the case.

  5. 5. Your Own Backyard

    Cal Poly student Kristin Smart went missing one Labor Day weekend and was never seen again. Despite a seemingly clear suspect, the case remains unsolved. The family works with host Chris Lambert to find answers about what happened to their daughter. As a college student, this one is a little eerie to listen to. But, nonetheless, it's worth hearing about Kristin's experiences on campus and what mistakes were made in her case.

  6. 6. Bardstown

    The small town of Bardstown, Kentucky has had five unsolved murders since 2013, including the ambush of a local police officer. In a small, country town, that many brutal unsolved cases is practically heard of. This podcast unpacks the major players in the cases, how the victims connect, and attempts to uncover a big conspiracy in a small town.

  7. 7. Hell and Gone: Seasons 1, 2 & 3

    Hell and Gone is a well produced podcast, with each season covering a different case. In Season 1 the host, Catherine Townsend, moves back to her home community in the Ozarks to investigate the unsolved murder of college student Rebekah Gould. The podcast retraces her steps, inquires about her relationships, and features personal interviews with her family members. Season 2 focuses on another Arkansas case, that of Janie Ward. Janie mysteriously died at a cabin party in the woods, with witnesses abounding but no real clarity. This season features an interrogation of the police investigation and explains how investigative errors have prevented the family from gaining closure about their daughter's death. Finally, Season 3 pivots to the Malibu, California disappearance of Mitrice Richardson, who went missing after being released from a local jail. Mitrice's case is complicated and confusing, but Townsend takes the listener through the events step by step. 

  8. 8. The Orange Tree

    In 2005, college student Jennifer Cave was killed in the Orange Tree Condo complex. This podcast, hosted by two students at Jennifer's former school the University of Texas, investigates her case and the key players that emerged in the police investigation. Jennifer's case is, to put it mildly, both strange and heartbreaking. The podcasts shows listeners how the events of one weird evening snowballed to change so many lives forever.

  9. 9. Dirty John

    Hollywood sign

    Dirty John centers on conman John Meehan, who swindles his way into the life of Debra Newell and her family. However, as the Newell family grows suspicious of John, he becomes increasingly threatening and dangerous. This podcast is less about a single criminal event, and more about the story of this family's fight to survive their encounters with John.

  10. 10. Over My Dead Body

    a man and a woman sit on a park bench looking frustrated

    Over My Dead Body chronicles how the marriage of power-couple Dan and Wendi ended in divorce, deceit, and (you guessed it) murder. Their picture-perfect marriage hid an ugly reality, and the involvement of money and meddling family members only makes the story stranger. Season 2 of this podcast was actually the basis for Netflix-hit Tiger King, but Season 1 fits more neatly into the true crime category.

  11. 11. Two Face: Season 1

    woman looking at the trees in front of the sun

    The storyline of Two Face is pretty similar to that of The Clearing, in that it features the daughter of a serial killer as she unpacks her childhood memories and comes to terms with the damage her father caused. Melissa Moore is brutally honest about reconciling the father she knew with the man he actually was. By the end of it, I know I was completely invested in Melissa's journey, and shocked by her strength and vulnerability. 

  12. 12. In the Dark

    orange full moon and clouds

    In the Dark centers on a case close to our midwestern roots: the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling of Minnesota. The podcast takes a deep dive into the police investigation, particularly how it missed the mark. The Wetterling case revolutionized how police handle child abductions, but In the Dark shows how a search closer to home might have saved his life.

  13. 13. The Vanishing of Vivienne Cameron

    This podcast actually centers on an Australian case involving the disappearance of a young mother. It tells the story of her life as the wife of a powerful community member, her less-than-perfect marriage, and ultimately the mystery of her disappearance. Vivenne vanished one day without a trace, leaving her two young boys behind. The circumstances of her disappearance are shady to say the least, and this podcast dives into each and every possibility.

  14. 14. Cold

    Cold is the podcast I'm currently listening to, and it is truly insane. It follows the story of Susan Powell in her marriage to Josh Powell. The podcast features personal journal entries that chronicle Susan's unhappy and unhealthy marriage, before she disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Even without hard evidence, there was little question her husband was behind it. Then, in a tragic turn, Josh seeks to further escape his past when his sons, who were young when Susan went missing, begin to threaten his biggest secret. This one is a long haul, sixteen episodes, but well worth the listen.

Needless to say, this is not a list of happy, feel good podcasts for a pick me up. But, these podcasts tell stories that would otherwise be forgotten. They showcase the pain of criminal investigations, and how everyday stories become extraordinary overnight. If you're looking to jump into true crime, or even an avid listener seeking some new stories, I recommend any of the ones on this list.