By JACKIE MOE
True-crime podcast listeners will indulge in Crime Beat for its gripping storytelling, mysterious nature and investigative twists and turns. Orange County crime junkies will enjoy it for all of that, plus its local angles that make the stories hit closer to home.
The Crime Beat podcast digs into captivating crime stories with raw interviews with criminal masterminds, crime victims and active detectives. Its first season “Stealing Nixon’s Millions” recounts the steps of the 1972 south OC bank heist — U.S. history’s largest bank heist to be exact — with intimate interviews and commentary from the thieves themselves. Creator and narrator Keith Sharon, an award-winning Southern California News Group reporter, also co-wrote the 2019 screenplay “Finding Steve McQueen,” which was based on the heist.
Currently in its second season titled “Mom vs. Murderer,” the series explores the 1994 murder of Cal State Fullerton honor student Cathy Torrez. Keith takes his listeners behind the scenes of the investigation with old interviews and new story lines that have yet to be published.
With the mission to explore a different crime every season, Keith shares his inspiration and what he hopes to achieve through this medium.
What elements of a crime story do you look for when deciding whether or not to pursue a podcast discussion?
I’m always looking for a great ending, so the answer, for me is easy: I’m looking for a resolution. I don’t enjoy the podcasts in which the last episode ends with: “We’ll never know what happened …” I want the hero to ride off into the sunset, satisfied.
What was the initial inspiration of creating the Crime Beat podcast?
I’m a fan of “Serial,” “S-Town,” “In the Dark” and “Accused,” so I wanted to do what they had done — create a compelling crime story that kept audiences coming back week after week.
What challenges did you experience in creating the first season of Crime Beat?
At first, I thought it would be really cool to record my interviews in a bar. There would be ambience … and that was the stupidest decision I could possibly make. Background noise is horrible in interview situations. I learned that quickly.
What is the process of creating a chapter-based podcast?
There are three distinct phases: gathering sound, writing and recording narration. Each of these parts has to be equally good, or the podcast falls apart. The interviews have to be compelling. The writing has to be dynamic. And the voice has to be someone you want to spend time with.
When it comes to storytelling, how does the podcasting medium feel different from reporting/writing?
As you prepare the script, you have to remember that you’re a storyteller. You’re talking to someone who is in their car or on the treadmill. It’s more a direct voice than writing for a publication.
Why do you think people are so compelled to listen to crime stories?
I think people like to try to figure out what’s happening as they hear the details. It’s almost participatory.
Do you have any “podcast heroes” or particular hosts that you listen to that have influenced Crime Beat?
I thank them at the end of every episode. Amy Wilson and Amber Hunt on Accused, Sarah Koenig on Serial, Brian Reed on S-Town, Chris Goffard on Dirty John, Madeleine Baran on In the Dark, Nate DiMeo on The Memory Palace and Phoebe Judge on Criminal.
What do you hope to achieve with this podcast?
Crime Beat Season 2: Mom Vs. Murderer is the story of Cathy Torrez, a Cal State Fullerton student who was found stabbed to death in the trunk of her own car. I want to show the extraordinary lengths her mother (Mary Bennett) went to in her attempt to get justice.
Anything else you would like to add?
Sometimes, criminals get what’s coming to them. And grieving moms can become heroic.
Episodes can be found on Apple, Stitcher, Acast, Spotify or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.