Can podcast breathe life into cold case?

by APB Staff

Police departments are always looking for new and unique ways to connect to the communities they serve, and podcasts have become a common tool to encourage that connection. But officers in Columbus, Ohio, want their jump into the podcasting game to accomplish even more than that — they’re hoping it will help them solve a 38-year-old cold case involving the death of a young girl.

The new podcast is called The 5th Floor, and it tells the story of 8-year-old Kelly Ann Prosser, who was abducted and killed in September 1982. The podcast was the brainchild of Deputy Chief Greg Bodker, and he told The Columbus Dispatch that he chose Prosser’s case as the subject because every detective and investigator who has worked on it felt a personal connection to it and badly wanted to close it.

“This little girl’s name came up with everyone I talked to, whether it be a scientist at the crime lab, an administrator, detectives,” Bodker said. “They all say it’s the one they really wanted to solve before they retired.”

Prosser was abducted while walking home from school, and her body was found in a field south of Plain City two days later. At the time, The Columbus Dispatch reported she had been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted.

“Kelly’s mom, sister and brother are still in central Ohio and still have questions,” Bodker said. “We owe it to them to try and find out some answers.”

The 5th Floor will interview detectives involved in the case, including those who were first assigned to it in 1982. There will also be interviews with Prosser’s family members as well as other industry experts, like an FBI agent who will discuss the potential profile of the killer.

Each episode of the podcast will be 30 minutes long, and the first three episodes have already been created. The current plan is for the podcast to total between four and six episodes, but any content past the three already completed is a work in progress. The end goal of the podcast is to increase public awareness of the case and attract new leads.

“The case is still being very actively worked, so the next episodes depend on where the case takes them,” Bodker said. “If there’s a suspect that we’re able to identify and that person is still alive, there’s some things we have to think about from a due process and prosecution standpoint. If they’re deceased, it might look a lot different. And if we can’t solve it, it may look even more different.”

The podcast will be led by three main hosts: Bodker, patrol officer Stephanie Lubell and officer Greg Colarich, who works in Policenet, the division’s technical services department. Bodker said the three completed episodes have taken 40 hours to record and edit, which the officers have worked on in addition to the normal requirements of their jobs. But he said he believes the content will be different than the sea of true crime podcasts that are already available — because, unlike those other podcasts, The 5th Floor won’t rely on speculation or conjecture.

“It will be episodes of fact and hearing firsthand from the people that investigated or were involved in this case,” he said. “We’re not in this to make money. Our only goal is to solve this case: a horrendous murder of a child.”

The podcast also will provide the public with additional information that was not released in the immediate aftermath of Prosser’s death. Bodker and the other officers hope that giving out these new details will spark a memory in someone or convince someone to come forward with new information that can help them make progress in the case.

“As law enforcement officers and investigators, the typical response is, ‘We’re not going to release that information,’” he said. “We want to shift that a little bit, but not wholly. It is important to keep some details for investigation and prosecution.”

The vast amounts of true crime podcasts already available has also led to the proliferation of web sleuths — people who grow so interested in cases that they start to look for more information on their own and put together amateur investigations. Bodker is aware there will be people who respond to The 5th Floor in the same way, and he welcomes it.

“All of that is valuable,” he said. “We’re just trying to get information to a broader range of people and ultimately solve this case.”

Alongside the podcast, there will also be an email address dedicated to receiving tips from listeners, as well as accounts on Twitter and Instagram that will take submissions from listeners. Tips can also be directly sent to the homicide division or anonymously by calling the Central Ohio Crime Stoppers.

The 5th Floor is something of a test to see if the public engages with the content and if it attracts any meaningful leads that can help the department solve Prosser’s case. If the podcast successfully leads to detectives receiving new information, Bodker said it’s possible they could look to make additional seasons that focus on other unsolved cases.

The 5th Floor is available for download through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Stitcher and other major podcast platforms. It has already released episodes that you can listen to now, and more episodes will be added as the case develops.


As seen in the July issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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