Thursday, March 28, 2013

Margaret McLean on IT'S A CRIME radio...

HALLIE EPHRON: Margaret Mclean shares her fascination with crime, courtrooms, and law enforcement by hosting radio's "It's a Crime" on KCAA NBC NEWS RADIO 1050 AM. Listeners can stream the show live from her web site Saturdays, 3-5 (ET) -- or listen to programs that have aired.

Margaret interviews attorneys, cops, investigators, forensic experts, and writers on her two hour show. The best part is how much fun she seems to having doing it.

Margaret, you've argued cases in courtrooms and written two terrific legal thrillers (UNDER OATH and UNDER FIRE). How did that prepare you to host your own radio show?

  As an attorney, I became skilled at interviewing witnesses in preparation for trial.  I had to meet with them, listen to their stories, and build trust.  I would explain courtroom procedure and how to best present their version of events on the witness stand. 

The strongest cases are built on the testimony of witnesses.  My novels draw strength from the same skill set.  For example, to build solid characters, I had to interview seasoned investigators, a Senegalese Muslim woman, and parents whose children were killed in the Charlestown code of silence murders.  In order to get them to open up, I had to build trust and make them feel comfortable.  I learned to be a good listener.

Hosting a vibrant radio show boils down to telling a story through an interviewee.  Preparation is key.  I’ll also ask if they’ve collected any evidence throughout their research.  One guest shared his exclusive Ted Bundy murder kit as it was laid out on his dining room table—ice pick and all.

HALLIE: Yikes. Bundy was a truly scary guy.

You've had some fascinating guests talking about some of the most controversial crimes and criminals. Could you share with us something surprising that you learned about...


I never knew much about the notorious 1947 Black Dahlia murder until I interviewed former L.A.P.D. Homicide Detective Steve Hodel.   Elizabeth Short’s body had been surgically bisected and displayed at the crime scene and her murder inspired the largest manhunt in Los Angeles history. 

In 1999, Steve’s father, Dr. George Hodel, died.  As Steve sifted through his father’s papers, he discovered old photographs of the Black Dahlia in sensual poses which were taken while she was alive.  Steve was chilled as if the dead Elizabeth Short had reached out to him from beyond the grave. 

He immersed himself in an intense investigation, and uncovered extensive evidence that his father was the Black Dahlia killer.  Steve also discovered that Dr. George Hodel had been a prime suspect for some time.  

In my interview with Steve, he reveals how he felt upon uncovering evidence that his father was a psychopathic killer.  He provided exclusive crime scene and personal photos and compared the artwork of Man Ray (Les Amoureaux and Minotaur) with the way the killer had posed Elizabeth Short at the crime scene.  Dr. George Hodel and Man Ray were close friends.  Steve believes his father had attempted to imitate art through murder.

Fascinating. And it segues nicely to...


MARGARET:  I hosted Anthony Amore live in my studio to discuss the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum heist and his book, STEALING REMBRANDTS: THE UNTOLD STORIES OF NOTORIOUS ART THEFTS. 

In preparation for the show, Anthony gave me a private tour of the Gardner museum and explained how in 1990, thieves disguised as Boston police officers stole thirteen pieces of art including works by Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer, and Manet.  When Mrs. Gardner opened the museum in 1903, she donated her priceless collection to the public because Boston needed a great museum. 

The empty frames hanging on the walls haunted me as I walked through Mrs. Gardner’s rooms.  I am now following the most recent developments on the FBI investigation into the Gardner heist and hope they will be returned soon. 

Before the show, I barely knew Anthony and now he has become a great friend.  In fact, Anthony recently introduced me to Jon Leiberman, who is now my co-author for an upcoming book about the trial of Whitey Bulger. 

Whitey certainly is a fascinating character. Can't wait to hear your take on him. On to...


Another guest, Karen Scioscia, author of KIDNAPPED BY THE CARTEL, shared a personal story about how her close family member, a twenty-two year old American woman, was yanked right out of her car, kidnapped, and held hostage by a cartel for eleven days.  Cartel members drugged the young woman and were about to sell her into the thriving sex trafficking trade when Karen’s family hired private security to conduct a daring rescue with guns.

HALLIE: I see you enjoy covering history and crime.

MARGARET: I often view my show as a personal history book.

Certain chapters of American history have always fascinated me. The radio show enables me to call on leading experts in various time periods.  It’s like having my own private professor. 

For example, Veteran journalist Don Fulsom, author of NIXON'S DARKEST SECRETS discussed his career covering Richard Nixon. He shared recently declassified documents and recordings revealing an even more troubling side of our 37th President, and how he deceived the American public. 

enlightened listeners about President Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and civil war Washington. 

Sherry Fiester, a senior crime scene investigator and blood spatter analyst, delved into a forensics analysis of the JFK assassination by providing trajectory diagrams for the website and explaining her theory of the assassination. 

Boston College History Professor and author, Alan Rogers, discussed the historical impact that the Boston Strangler murders had on Boston and Cambridge, the uncoordinated investigative techniques, and theories that Albert DeSalvo may not have been the real killer.

HALLIE: Finally, tell us who you've got coming up as guests in weeks to come on It's a Crime?

MARGARET:  This Saturday, I’ll be joined by Rick Baker, to discuss the McStay family disappearance, and Jenice Malecki, a New York based attorney and Today Show contributor, will inform us about consumer fraud and identity theft. 

On April 6th, Hallie Ephron will talk about her new novel of suspense, THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN
, and Scott Raab, writer for Esquire Magazine, will discuss the upcoming HBO documentary on the controversial Phil Spector trial

Later in the month, I’ll be featuring a panel discussion on the latest developments in the Amanda Knox case, which will include Paul Ciolino, the leading private investigator for the Knox family, and Dan Hale, attorney and author.  Casey Sherman will be joining me again to discuss his latest book, ANIMAL: THE BLOODY RISE AND FALL OF THE MOB'S MOST FEARED ASSASSIN.

Utterly fascinating. Thanks for joining us, Margaret.

For more information on upcoming shows, check itsacrimeradio.com and follow Margaret on twitter @margaretmclean_

Margaret will be checking in today, so if you have any questions about crimes she may have covered on her show, now's your chance to ask!


  1. Hey Margaret! Wow, you are really in the thick of it. I've been wondering what ever happened with the McStay family. I think they've living off the grid somewhere. Do you have a theory? Also did you watch the Pacino/Spector film? What did you think about Mamet's take on what happened? Is it too soon after a case to have an artist's rendering of events?

  2. Wow, Margaret. Your radio program sounds fascinating. Sounds like I have quite a bit of interesting listening coming up.

    The Black Dahlia case has always been so interesting. I can't imagine what it must have been like for Steve to realize that his Dad may have been the killer. Chilling.

    Thanks for stopping by to share information about the show with us. I will certainly check it out.

  3. Margaret, there's a column in today's Boston Globe, Joan Vennochi talking about lost trust in the FBI (who gave Whitey Bulger virtual carte blanche to murder). She wonders if this latest hype about how they now KNOW who stole the Gardner artwork is just that, a bunch of hype to distract us from their tarnished reputation.

    Can't wait to see what you write about Bulger...

  4. I wonder, too, what happened to the McStay family (vanished without a trace from their San Diego home three years ago). They left behind their dogs. Not a good sign.

  5. Welcome Margaret--so nice to see your smiling face at JRW this morning!

    I don't remember the Elizabeth Short case but that description is chilling. Did you get the sense that Detective Hodel had no idea about his father? What were his reactions to that theory?

  6. Lucy, you wouldn't have remembered the Black Dahlia case--she was murdered in 1947.

    What is it about murder that fascinates us all so? Even sweet, mild-mannered women (maybe especially them) cannot look away from this sort of thing. Is it because we can't imagine acting out that level of impulse?

  7. I don't think so, Karen... more likely we identify with the victim. Just because you can't look away doesn't mean you like what you see.

  8. Wow. And some people wonder why we write -- and read -- about crime. The fascinating intersection of so many personal and social issues.

  9. Margaret's been trying all morning to POST buther iPad isn't cooperating... so here's one. More to follow:

    To Rosemary:
    Thank you for your comment! I'm worried the McStay family may have met with foul play. It seems strange that an entire family would disappear like that and leave their dogs behind.

    I'm looking forward to the interview with Rick Baker this Saturday to see if there are any updates. I'm also disappointed with HBO and how they think they can undercut the American justice system. The jurors on the Phil Spector trial sat through 5 months of trial testimony and sifted through evidence as they deliberated for 30 hours to come up with a guilty verdict. HBO would prefer to try cases in the court of public opinion.
    -- Margaret

  10. To Kristopher --
    Steve Hodel had a stronger relationship with his father before he died. Dr. George Hodel wasn't the best role model. He was sexually deviant and threw wild parties in LA and at his home.

    Steve told me that when he saw the photos of the Black Dahlia, he almost let it go. He struggled with the decision to pursue his own investigation into the unsolved murder.

    Steve's investigation also led him to believe that his father was a serial killer. The Black Dahlia wasn't the only one. I'm going to have Steve back on soon because the hour flew by and I had so many more questions.

    I hope you can tune in!
    -- Margaret

  11. To Hallie:
    I read Joan Vennochi's column and disagree that the latest press conference about the Gardner heist is a bunch of hype. I don't think it's fair to compare the current FBI and U.S. Attorney's Offices in Boston with the corrupt administrations of the Bulger era.

    There are plenty of reasons why law enforcement would choose not to name the thieves. The thieves may have other criminal matters pending and are providing information about the stolen paintings to the FBI as a bargaining tool. I don't know any specifics, but neither does Joan Vennochi.

    I am looking forward to the Bulger trial and learning more about the government corruption during that era. I think more skeletons will come out of the closet.
    - Margaret

  12. To Lucy --
    Steve had no idea. In fact, he worked in homicide for LAPD and did not know that his father had been a prime suspect at one point.

    The investigation into Dr. George Hodel had been covered up because he was a very powerful man with connections in law enforcement and Hollywood. When the detectives were hot on George's trail, he fled the country and lived elsewhere for years until it was safe to return.

    George was proud that his son received so many rewards for his outstanding detective work. It's a bizarre story.
    - Margaret

  13. Karen in Ohio:
    The case received so much hype at the time due to the gruesome crime scene and it was unsolved. Also, instead of calling it "The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Short," it was called "The Black Dahlia" case due to the big dahlia Elizabeth Short wore in her hair for another photo. Movies have been made about it as well.
    - Margaret

  14. Margaret, I am very pleased to discover your radio show here -- and that it is streamed live from your webpage. Looking forward to your interview with Rick Baker this Saturday!

    Hallie, I agree with you that our identity with the victim is the source of our fascination with this sort of crime. It's not that I enjoy crime stories, it's that I crave understanding and I want the impossible – resolution.

    My fascination started after my friend and I were stalked by the man, thought to be a serial killer, killed her after leaving my backyard and patio. Not long after, several of our neighbors including our congresswoman were killed by a Jared Laughner at the grocery store down the road. Prior incidents that I've never mentioned here have added to my fascination.

    It was my friend's murder that took my attention away from everything else. Not one day since, does it fail to haunt me. I can't look outside without remembering him looking back. I cannot walk Kendall to the wash by our house without remembering his face behind me when I turned to see him. I cannot go to church where my friend was a lay minister without thinking about her being murdered. I can't go to bed without seeing him outside. I am still trying to forgive the people who did not believe me, that he was not just taking a shortcut through my yard.

    He is in prison, now. He pled guilty – but not before passing along his slimy look and saying nasty things to the women, our neighbors, in the courtroom. Because he plead guilty he received the sentence of life without possibility of parole. I wouldn't want anything less, or more, but I pray every day that he does not get out. He had escaped jail in the past.

    Hallie, thank you for this.

  15. Late late late...hard day at the office. Margaret, you are SUCH a star! xxo

  16. What a refreshingly new radio format! Urge all to listen and check out podcasts on previous shows, especially one on The Black Dahlia. This is not your ordinary talk's much better! And can't wait for Margaret's coverage of the Bulger trial. Congrads Margaret!

    P. White