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Unresolved L.A. Crimes Sarah Koenig Should Take On For Season 2 Of 'Serial'

Morgan Greenwald |
February 12, 2015 | 12:11 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Back in November, fans of crime-solving podcast "Serial" rejoiced when it was revealed that Sarah Koenig and her investigative journalism would be back for round two with a second season. However, before Koenig and the "Serial" team can begin shooting, they have an important decision to make.

Sarah Koenig hosts the 'Serial' podcast. Flickr, Casey Fiesler (Creative Commons)
Sarah Koenig hosts the 'Serial' podcast. Flickr, Casey Fiesler (Creative Commons)

Among an audience of Penn State students, Koenig revealed many things about the podcast’s past, present and future. Most importantly, she divulged she has no idea what story next season’s podcast will follow.

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Although Koenig mentioned that she doesn’t believe the upcoming season will take on another crime story, it would be a mistake not to, given that the podcast’s first season was the fastest to reach 5 million downloads in iTunes’ history.

There are hundreds of unsolved cases begging to be investigated across the country, and many of them require looking no further than USC’s own backyard. To expedite Koenig’s search for Season 2, I've compiled some suggestions: some fascinating unsolved cases in Los Angeles that could find a culprit with "Serial"’s help.

  1. Koreatown Murder Case Offers $100,000 Reward
    On April 10, 2012, Samuel Michel was found dead inside his apartment in Koreatown with a knife in his back and stab wounds to his head. 

    According to police, Michel had been drinking with a friend at the R-Bar on Irolo and 8th Sts. the night before his murder. He left the bar around 12:45 a.m. and walked five blocks home. Around 2:40 a.m., neighbors reported loud screams and called the police. 

    Neighbors recalled seeing a man riding away from the complex on a BMX bike, but he was never identified. 

    An original reward of $50,000 for identifying a suspect in this case was increased to $100,000 in 2013. 

    I can’t think of a better case for Koenig to take a journalistic stab at. I can already picture great interviews with the friend who drank with Michel at the bar the night before he died and with the neighbors who called in the crime. Plus, a $100,000 reward could fund more seasons in the future...

  2. A 1988 Cold Case is Brought Back to Life 
    The cold case of the 1988 death of Aleta Browne is a tale of lust, infidelity and many unanswered questions.

    Browne, who had brothers and a husband in the LAPD and worked as a clerk for Police Chief Daryl Gates, was founded beaten and strangled on her bathroom floor on March 26, 1988. Three years earlier, she had begun an affair with Fred Nixon, a member of the LAPD.

    She left her husband; he went home to his wife every night. 

    Three months before Browne died, she told her lover she was pregnant.

    Investigators concluded at the time of the crime that Browne had known her killer, since there were no signs of forced entry. Naturally, police maintained Nixon as a primary suspect for a while, but eventually the case went cold. 

    In 2010, cold case investigator Robert Taylor reopened the file. The Los Angeles Times wrote a detailed piece on the reopened case, but it still remains unsolved. I believe Nixon has some explaining to do. 

  3. Orange County Conviction is Revisited
    In December 2005, Minnie Smith was murdered in her bedroom, and her husband went down for the crime.

    With a history of violence, there was little room for doubt in the prosecution's mind that Marvin Vernis Smith was guilty- after all, his wife's death gave him complete access to their $5 million fortune. 

    While there is loads of evidence pointing to Smith as the killer- for instance, stolen jewelry from the scene of the crime was later found in his car's trunk- the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in 2013 that Smith did not receive a fair trial. 

    Perhaps this is a good case for Koenig because she could focus more on the legal aspect of things instead of the investigative side. And, if the court finds that his trial was unfair, this is a case where Koenig could do her own investigation into whether or not Smith killed his wife. 

  4. A Cold Case Finds A Suspect Decades Later
    A series of slayings in South Los Angeles that began in 1985 finally found a suspect in 2010 after the killer, who the media nicknamed 'The Grim Sleeper', resurfaced after 13 years of inactivity.
    Police hold a press conference after arresting suspect Lonnie Franklin, Jr. Flickr, Antonio R Villaraigosa (Creative Commons)
    Police hold a press conference after arresting suspect Lonnie Franklin, Jr. Flickr, Antonio R Villaraigosa (Creative Commons)

    The murders primarily targeted African American women, many of whom are suspected to have been prostitutes. The Grim Sleeper sexually abused the women and shot them.

    When police obtained access to DNA analysis technology, they realized The Grim Sleeper was awake. Currently, the Grim Sleeper is linked to 10 murders. 

    In 2010, police arrested Lonnie Franklin Jr. as a suspect in the Grim Sleeper murders. Jury selection for Franklin Jr.'s trial is set to be held on June 30. 

    This case has made headlines for decades as a bloody, heinous series of murders. This case was so popular, in fact, that filmmaker Nick Broomfield wrote a documentary about it called 'Tales of the Grim Sleeper,' and concerned citizens have even devoted an entire website to keep curious people updated on the trial's process. 

    Now that there is a suspect, this would be a great case for Koenig to follow through its trial phases. It would also be interesting for Koenig to analyze the evidence against Franklin Jr., and the series of events from 1985 up to now that kept police from finding The Grim Sleeper for so long. 

  5. Give Adnan a Second Season
    Perhaps the most logical sequel would be following Adnan Syed, the star of "Serial"'s first season, through his appeal, which a Maryland court granted on February 6.

    In this verison of "Serial"'s Season 2, Koenig would follow Syed's appeals process through the courts, which could potentially lead to a new trial if the process goes well - which, if it does, might mean material for many seasons to come. Season 3: Could Jay Be Guilty? Anyone? 

Regardless of which direction Koenig goes with this new season of "Serial," we can only hope that she and her team know how to produce quickly; I'm already suffering from "Serial" withdrawals that even "Criminal Minds" can't fix. 

Contact Staff Reporter Morgan Greenwald here.



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