Podcasts have been around for years, but only recently have they started to gain major popularity. The range of podcast topics are endless--from comedy, to politics, to crime, the podcast scene covers a wide variety of topics to keep it’s target audiences intrigued and wanting more.
However, if you're a lover of CSI and chilling Netflix crime specials, a new podcast, “The First Degree”, has taken all the things we love about crime, murder, and mystery, and put a new spin on it.
True crime stories are being told by real people who were one degree away from the crime itself. This appealing take on crime is different because others focus on the detectives, lawyers, and police involved in a case. “The First Degree” refers to friends, neighbors, and family members to discuss the events leading up to the crime, their relationship with the perpetrator, and details of the crime itself.
The podcast is run by Jac Vanek, one of the three from the Lady Gang Podcast, true crime TV producer Alexis Linkletter, and investigative journalist Billy Jensen. Linkletter has taken part in shows such as “Snapped,” “She Made Me Do It,” and “CNN’s Unmasking a Killer.” Billy Jensen has written articles for The Rolling Stone, NY Magazine, and the Times.
“The point of ‘The First Degree’ is that everyone in their lives is one degree away from a violent crime, and those are the people we are bringing on the show each week,” said Jensen. “These cases can touch people in so many ways but you never know the person sitting next to you, in the cubicle sitting next to you, the person in the other car listening to this, they may be a killer at some point.”
With only four episodes out so far, “The First Degree” dives into crimes their guests were only one degree away from. However, it also discusses crimes the hosts themselves were connected to. In approximately one hour there is a lot to discuss and unpack.
The first episode dives into the story of millionaire Ryan Jenkins, who becomes a reality TV star and then commits a murder. The podcast airs footage of Jenkins talking with his ex lover Megan from his first reality show, as well as her best friend and an acquaintance of Jenkins.
The episode takes a look at Jenkins’ personal history before he committed the heinous crime of murdering his wife. To Megan he was caring, affectionate, and sympathetic, while to others (such as Megan's best friend) he was manipulative and seemed a bit “off.” Discussing his upbringing in television, his money, and initially what drove him to brutally murder his wife with people who knew him personally tells a unique story while shining light on the facts and his actions.
Another episode exposes the sad story of one of the hosts. Linkletter’s first degree experience was with her old best friend Chunga, who commited a murderous crime.
In an effort to steal drugs from another student, Mathew (who Linkletter also knew), Chunga attempted to murder him and succeeded in murdering his 70-year-old grandma. Not only do the hosts tell the disgusting and shocking story, but they shine light on the opioid epidemic and drug problem that played a large role in this case--something that is far too often overlooked by police investigators.
“It’s interesting because when you hear a lot of these podcasts or watch these true crime shows you're always hearing from a detective or something after the fact,” said Vanek. “We don't get that many insights into people before these gruesome acts happen and seeing into their personal lives because, we’re still human.”