In the Dark (podcast)

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'In the Dark'
Presentation
Hosted by Madeline Baran
Genre
  • Investigative journalism
  • True crime
Language English
Updates Weekly
Production
Audio format MP3
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 10
Publication
Original release September 7, 2016 – present
Cited for 2017 Peabody Award
Cited as "Transcending the [crime story] genre and advancing its scope of possibility"
Provider American Public Media
Website InTheDarkPodcast.org

In the Dark is a podcast produced by American Public Media. Hosted and narrated by Madeline Baran, the series features investigative journalism and in-depth reportage from APM Reports, the investigative reporting and documentary unit of APM.[1] The 10-episode first season, which explored the kidnapping/murder of Jacob Wetterling, was released between September and December 2016. Season 2, which will explore a different case, is scheduled to be released in Spring 2018.

Series overview[edit | edit source]

Season 1 of In the Dark explored the case of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy from St. Joseph, Minnesota who was kidnapped and murdered on the night of October 22, 1989. Wetterling's case went unsolved for 27 years until his remains were discovered in a pasture near Paynesville, Minnesota on September 1, 2016. The location was revealed by Danny Heinrich, a long-time person of interest in the abduction of another boy, Jared Scheierl, in the nearby town of Cold Spring. On September 6, 2016, Heinrich admitted to kidnapping and murdering Wetterling as well as the abduction and sexual assault of Scheierl.[2] Heinrich would be sentenced on November 21, 2016 to a 20-year prison term for a federal child pornography charge.[3]

Production on In the Dark had been underway for 9 months and was in its final stages (it was scheduled to premiere on September 13, 2016) by the time Wetterling's remains were discovered and Heinrich confessed to the crime. The developments, which host/lead reporter Madeline Baran and the APM Reports team were not expecting ahead of time,[4] prompted them to re-edit and re-record the first two episodes (at least the first of which was already finished) and move up their release to September 7, one day after Heinrich's court appearance.[5]

The edits to the first two episodes of In the Dark turned out to be minimal, for by then, the reporting team's focus wasn't so much about who may have been responsible for Jacob Wetterling's disappearance but more about the investigation of the crime and its effects on the community. The team focused on systemic failures in the Wetterling investigation, in particular how the Stearns County Sheriff's Office handled not only the case but other similar cases. (The department's lack of transparency was partial inspiration for the series' title.)[1] The broader impact of the case was also explored, including the impact on the immediate Stearns County area (Jacob's parents, Jerry and Patty Wetterling, are extensively featured) as well as its national implications, including the establishment of a federal law, named in Jacob's honor, that requires states to implement and contribute to registries that track sex offenders and crimes against children. As Madeline Baran admitted to Esquire, with In the Dark, as opposed to other true crime podcasts such as Serial, "We [APM Reports] didn't see ourselves as playing the role of detective in the case. We saw ourselves as investigating the investigation."[4]

Season 2 of In the Dark, slated to be released in the spring of 2018, will not re-explore the Jacob Wetterling case. APM has been rather coy about exactly what will be covered, only indicating on the program's website that Season 2 "will expose long-hidden actions by powerful people that have caused great harm."[6]

Episode summary[edit | edit source]

No.TitleLength (minutes:seconds)Original air date
1"The Crime"34:46September 7, 2016 (2016-09-07)
A look at the Jacob Wetterling abduction itself, as well as early actions by the Stearns County Sheriff's Office that would hobble their investigation for decades to come.
2"The Circle"38:29September 7, 2016 (2016-09-07)
How investigators, rather than start in small circles, allowed the case to grow into a statewide and eventually national concern.
3"The One Who Got Away"44:49September 13, 2016 (2016-09-13)
Jared Scheierl recalls his January 1989 assault by Danny Heinrich, as well as his efforts to investigate his own case (which Heinrich wouldn't confess to until decades later).[7]
4"The Circus"36:34September 20, 2016 (2016-09-20)
The Wetterling case gains national attention, as everyone from national journalists to talk show hosts to psychics get involved. Meanwhile, investigators entertain farfetched vagaries.
5"Person of Interest"47:30September 27, 2016 (2016-09-27)
Twenty-one years after Jacob's disappearance, police declare local music teacher Dan Rassier a person of interest; their actions produce no evidence, yet ruin Rassier's reputation.[7]
6"Stranger Danger"36:47October 4, 2016 (2016-10-04)
A look at how the Wetterling case, and other high-profile cases before and after it, created a national sense of worry over "pedophiles lurking around every corner," which results in the establishing of sex offender registries that Patty Wetterling believes may have gone too far.
7"This Quiet Place"40:34October 11, 2016 (2016-10-11)
How a "lack of introspection and accountability" led to several unsolved cases in the Stearns County Sheriff's Office backlog, including cases that occurred long before Jacob's disappearance and that where state investigators solved by asking questions the Sheriff's Office did not.
8"What's Going On Down There?"46:06October 18, 2016 (2016-10-18)
A focus on accountability (or lack therof) in the Stearns County Sheriff's Office in particular and other sheriff's offices nationally, as it is revealed that Stearns County has a very low clearance rate in investigating serious cases such as murder.
9"The Truth"42:00October 25, 2016 (2016-10-25)
A profile of Danny Heinrich and how the wrong moves of the Stearns County Sheriff's Office allowed him to go free — and commit other crimes.
10"Update: Sentencing, A Demand, No Closure"36:36December 2, 2016 (2016-12-02)
In this follow-up, Madeline Baran recounts the sentencing hearing for Danny Heinrich, speaks one more time with Jerry & Patty Wetterling, and reports on Dan Rassier's plans to sue the Stearns County Sheriff's Office over his wrongful implication in the Wetterling case.

Awards[edit | edit source]

In the Dark was honored in Spring 2017 with a Peabody Award, with the award's governing body applauding the program for its "immaculate storytelling talent and journalistic precision" in its investigation into the investigation of the Jacob Wetterling case as well as its "deftly incisive" way of telling the human side of the case and its broader policy implications.[8]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]