The Minds of Madness speaks to NBC 24 News about Sierah Joughin

TOLEDO — Sierah Joughin was killed in 2016, but her family isn't letting that impact her story.

They want to remember her for all of the good she brought into the world, rather than for the way she left it.

They started Justice for Sierah, teaching self defence and self awareness techniques.

They're also advocating to pass Sierah's Law, a violent offender database for law enforcement.

Recently, Sierah's aunt Tara Ice spoke with Bek and Tyler Allen, hosts of The Minds of Madness

They shared more details about her case, how they're working to honor her memory and educate young women about safety.

Click the source link to hear them speak to news anchor Kaily Cunningham from NBC News 24.

Match: Partners in true crime

COURTNEY SHEA - SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

When he approached her about starting a true crime podcast, she didn’t even know what a podcast was. Three years later and the couple produce the popular The Minds of Madness series out of their basement in the suburbs.

Who: Bek Allen, 41, freelance producer and co-creator of The Minds of Madness Podcast. Tyler Allen, 47, telecom specialist and co-creator of Minds of Madness Podcast.

Relationship status: Dating since 2012

Location: Brampton, Ont.

CONNECTING ON COMMON GROUND

Bek: We met about six years ago. Both of us were going through divorces and we had a mutual friend who had been sort of a support system for both of us, but separately.

Tyler: I was staying at this friend’s house while I was visiting my kids in Ontario. I answered the door and there she was. I was blown away.

Bek: And then he proceeded to follow me around for the rest of the night – getting me food, getting me wine. We connected because we were in very similar situations as parents of young kids. It was great to talk to someone who understands. I saw it as a possible good friendship. And then he said, “I would give anything to be the guy who gets to put a smile on your face every day,” and I thought, uh-oh.

Tyler: Now she’s going to tell you how at the end of the night I tried to kiss her. It turned into an awkward hug.

MAKING THE MODERN DAY BRADYS

Bek: He messaged me out of the blue a few weeks later. I was adjusting to managing a home, never having changed a filter on a furnace or anything like that. He offered to come over and fix things. It got to the point where my kids started lining up their broken toys for him. Seeing him interact with my kids was what got to me.

Tyler: I have two sons, Bek had three daughters, so it was one shy of the Brady Bunch. Our approach was to take our cues from the kids. I only moved in after Bek’s girls said, “Tyler is always here, why doesn’t he just live here?”

Bek: To anyone attempting a blended family, that’s the advice: Take it slow.

HITTING THE AIRWAVES

Tyler: I have always loved old radio – Jack Benny, Orson Wells. When I went to Bek and said I wanted to do a true crime podcast, she said …

Bek: I said this is your project. I didn’t even know what a podcast was and I deal with enough sadness in my day job, producing ads about abused pets, hungry children. I bought him a microphone for Christmas, but that was it. And then he started bringing me his scripts to look over and I just …

Tyler: The show wouldn’t be what it is if Bek hadn’t joined me. It’s been great to experience it together, even if we’re not actually together as much as people might think. She’ll be upstairs researching and writing and I’m downstairs recording. We communicate on text.

Bek: It’s an adjustment working with your spouse. I have taken on a producer role, so I’m having to give Tyler direction and critique.

Tyler: I’m pretty sure that’s not a big change in our relationship.

Strangers fund memorial for KC teen who was raped, dismembered and nearly forgotten

KANSAS CITY STAR

By ERIC ADLER

July 15, 2018

It’s been 20 years since 16-year-old Jennifer Long, cutting classes one January morning, was lured into the pickup truck of the stranger who that day would rape and murder her.

Wesley Ira Purkey, 46, a brutal ex-con high on crack, had driven into Kansas City on Jan. 22, 1998, from his home in Lansing. He spotted the shy brunette tomboy, in her jeans, a white T-shirt and green-and-black jacket, walking on the sidewalk away from East High School. He pulled alongside and asked the teen — who had her share of disruption at home — if she wanted to party. 

“Back then, we smoked weed like it was going out of style,” Kimberly Terrones, Jennifer’s childhood friend, recalled. 

Jennifer climbed into the white Ford.

In the end, there would be no funeral, because there would be no body.

Inside his basement, Purkey raped Jennifer, stabbed her repeatedly when she tried to escape and then, using an electric chainsaw over two days, cut her body into pieces and burned her remains inside a fireplace, fueled by logs and diesel fuel. He eventually dumped her ashes 200 miles away in a septic pond in Clearwater, Kan., south of Wichita.

There would be no gravesite or urn. No flowers. No music, no formal service, because Jennifer’s indigent family couldn’t afford such things. For those who loved the girl, there were only memories to mark the fact that Jennifer ever existed or mattered.

“There was nothing,” Marilyn Richards, Jennifer’s stepmother, said recently. “It was like she was here one day and gone the next. It was horrible.”

Now comes the possibility of something. 

It’s not much, or grand — a $2,500 commemorative park bench that, if all goes well, will soon be placed along a walking trail in Independence. But the tribute is perhaps made more special by the fact that, two decades after Jennifer’s death, the funds came from well-wishers far from Kansas City. 

Finding little support locally, Michelle McDaniel, one of Jennifer’s close childhood friends, contacted a fledgling crime podcast in Ontario, Canada, last year, asking only whether the show would consider retelling her friend’s tale to keep her memory alive.

“I, personally, just wanted to get Jen’s story out,” said McDaniel, who, now having twin 16-year-old daughters, thought the tale might help others. She believes that if Jennifer had had a better childhood, if she hadn’t felt threatened at school, where she was a recent transfer, she might not have felt compelled to get into a car with a stranger.

“Her life was tragic. She never really had any stability,” McDaniel said. “She wasn’t here on this earth long enough to make an impact, I guess. But I think what happened to her is supposed to be her legacy, if that makes sense.”

The podcast hosts, husband and wife Tyler and Bek Allen, not only agreed to recount Jennifer’s tale in their 20th episode in March, they also included an appeal to their audience on Jennifer’s behalf.

Before starting their program in 2016, the pair had no previous experience in producing a podcast or in crime reporting. Tyler, 47, works full time in telecommunications. Bek, 41, runs her own business creating television footage to promote charitable nonprofits.

True crime was her husband’s interest. The podcast, titled “The Minds of Madness,” was to be a side job, although one that now amasses about 500,000 downloads each month.

When she agreed to begin the podcast, Bek recalled, “I said to him, ‘Listen, I’ll help you out. But if we’re going to do this, I want to do something positive with it. I really want to involve the families — to give them a voice, maybe to give some help to the people listening who might associate with some of the issues that are talked about.’” 

The Allens weren’t sure at first whether to tackle Jennifer’s story.

“Just the nature of it, just how brutally he murdered her. It was just so horrible,” Bek said. “But then I just felt like, after talking to Michelle, it just seemed like Jennifer was just kind of forgotten. The school didn’t even really do any kind of memorial for her. There was no follow-up on why she had left school that day. The family wasn’t able to afford a memorial. I just thought this is maybe going to be her one opportunity to get her memory alive again.”

Listeners responded. A YouCaring crowdfunding page, titled “Resting Peace: A Memorial for Jennifer,” has raised $4,100 from a handful of donors, including one who gave $3,000 in honor of her mother, who recently died. The donor said she could not imagine having no special place to visit and remember her.

An auction of merchandise donated by other podcasts ended on July 1 and raised another $1,000. What money doesn’t go to the bench, Bek Allen said, will be spent on gift cards for groceries or other essentials to help Jennifer’s family.

Glenda Lamont, Jennifer’s mother, did not respond to The Star’s requests to talk. But she was in contact with the Allens as the couple worked on Jennifer’s episode.

“This means the world to me,” she texted, adding that she lights a candle every year on Jennifer’s birthday, Dec. 22. “She was truly a beautiful person and I miss her every second.”

She also recounted how, on the day Jennifer went missing, “I knew something was teriably (sic) wrong.”

Jennifer had turned 16 exactly one month prior to the day she went missing. That afternoon, she was scheduled to go with her stepfather to get her driver’s license. She had been excited at the prospect. When her mother didn’t see her after school, she was sure something was amiss.

“I started calling all of her friends and family and went looking for her and went to the police,” Lamont texted. 

Police seemed little concerned about a possible abduction. They reported Jennifer as a possible runaway and reasoned she would likely return. Lamont and others were never convinced.

“We put posters everywhere. It was like nobody cared,” said Holly Paige, Jennifer’s stepsister, who now lives in Atlanta. 

Lamont texted: “We could not get on the news without clearance from police so we got on her favorite radio station sent out messages. ... Lots of leads went all kinds of places but nothing solid.”

Jennifer’s disappearance, and the much later news of her gruesome death, wreaked confusion and havoc on almost all who loved her.

Terrones, of Belton, choked with emotion recently in speaking about her childhood friend.

“We were pretty much inseparable,” Terrones said. “I still hear her voice. Twenty years, I can’t talk about it without crying.”

Jennifer grew up poor in a fractured and troubled family. Drugs and alcohol ran through her life, friends said. Jennifer moved frequently, switching homes from one parent to the other. 

“We skipped school more than we were in school,” Paige said. After Purkey’s arrest, the friends heard how he took Jennifer to a convenience store to buy gin and orange juice. The detail rang true to them. Friends sometimes called Jennifer “Gin,” because “Gin and Juice” — like the Snoop Dogg rap song — was a favorite drink. 

At heart, they also knew Jennifer to be a loving and devoted friend.

“Once she got to know you, she opened up,” Terrones said. “We called her Sugar Bear or Honey Bear. She was always smiling, always happy. If somebody was sad, she would do anything she could to make them smile.”

For years, one memory of Jennifer has stayed with her.

“A few months before she came up missing, we were all partying, like kids do,” Terrones said. “And she said, ‘When I die, I want you to play “Let It Be” by the Beatles at my funeral.’”

The Beatles were their favorite group.

“I told her, ‘Stop, don’t talk like that,’” Terrones recalled. “’You’re not going anywhere.’” 

When Jennifer vanished, Terrones felt nothing but torment. A few years ago, she had the words “Let It Be” tattooed in cursive on her right wrist, alongside a bluebird, because Jennifer loved the color and blue jays. She celebrates Jennifer’s birthday every December and lights a candle marking the day she went missing. Richards, too, has a tattoo of a blue jay feather on her wrist.

“The not knowing was the worst,” Terrones said. “The wondering. Why haven’t we been able to find anything, any trace, nothing?” 

Richards concedes that when Jennifer disappeared, her life fell apart. It took years to overcome. Her marriage to Jennifer’s father had already dissolved. She moved to Florida.

“If I was creating chaos, then I wasn’t thinking about Jennifer,” Richards said. “But when I did, I would break down.”

Paige, who is Richards’ daughter, said simply: “I remember being, like, comatose. It was so devastating. I remember just laying there, just checked out mentally. It still affects me.”

Were it not for another murder, the question of Jennifer’s disappearance might never have been answered.

Nine months after Purkey killed Jennifer, he was arrested for the murder of 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales. Purkey had been working for a plumbing company and went to Bales’ Kansas City, Kan., home on a service call, for which Bales paid him $70 in advance for parts. He used the money to get high on crack and hire a prostitute.

The next day, he returned and beat the defenseless woman to death with a claw hammer. He planned to cover up the murder by burning the house to the ground. Before Purkey could set the flame, a neighbor spotted him lurking in Bales’ backyard, and he was arrested.

In March 2000, Purkey pleaded guilty in Wyandotte County District Court and was handed a life sentence. Then in October 2001 — nearly four years after Jennifer’s disappearance — he admitted to raping and killing her. Having transported her across the state line, a federal crime, Purkey hoped he could serve his life sentence in what he deemed to be a more comfortable federal prison rather than a state prison.

Prosecutors instead sought the death penalty, and Purkey recanted his confession. In January 2004, he was sentenced to death nonetheless. The sentence has yet to be carried out. Purkey, 66, remains on death row in federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Lamont originally hoped that her daughter’s bench might be placed at the rose garden in Kansas City’s Loose Park. In contacting the Kansas City Parks & Recreation Department, McDaniel discovered that the popular park is already at capacity for memorial benches. 

Ultimately, she chose a spot in Independence, closer to her current home in Concordia, Mo. Jackson County Parks and Recreation said it could place a bench somewhere along the Little Blue Trace Trail in Independence, not far from the Sam & Lindsey Porter Playground. 

Like Jennifer, the Porter children were also abducted. They were killed by their father in June 2004 but were not found until 2007.

Last week, McDaniel, Terrones and Richards together visited the trail near where they think the bench will be placed. Terrones brought a bouquet of sunflowers, one of Jennifer’s favorites, which she placed beneath a river birch. She also carried six blue balloons. Together, they released them and watched them float high above the treetops. They wept and hugged one another.

When the bench is eventually placed, the Allens from Canada said they hope to attend whatever ceremony occurs.

“I think it gives us acceptance and closure and a place where she’s memorialized and her life meant something,” Richards said.

Jennifer, she said, must be thinking, “Finally, I’ve got recognition. And I’ve got a place to rest, for all my friends and loved ones to come and visit.”

Not a day goes by, Terrones said, that she doesn’t miss her friend.

“For me, she’s never gone away,” Terrones said. “I mean, over the years, it has not gotten any easier. ... But, for some reason, this is happening, you know? And I think she’s ready for me to let it be.”

https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article214429989.html#storylink=cpy

When ordinary people do bad things

THE MEDIUM

By KASSANDRA HANGDAAN

March 19, 2018

Married couple Bek and Tyler Allen share a macabre pursuit. As co-hosts of the popular crime podcast series The Minds of Madness, they research, produce, and record episodes of investigative criminal events. What’s unique about The Minds of Madness is each episode’s inquiry into the psychological state of the crime’s perpetrator. So far, the series has twenty-two episodes.

The couple both went to school for television broadcasting. Bek has worked as a freelance T.V. and video producer for 20 years strictly for charitable organizations. Tyler edited and cut sound for T.V. and film productions.

Tyler explains that his love for sound engineering, and previous professional experience, helped ease the couple’s transition into creating a podcast. He says, “My interest for true crime and sound editing made the decision to venture into starting a podcast seem somewhat doable. It was something I could do in my free time, and it didn’t require a steep learning curve.”

The series’ first episode investigated the events involving the abduction of Jody Plauche. The episode begins with sombre piano music. Then, Tyler’s rich baritone voice emerges. He calls himself a “true crime podcast fan,” and he begins to list names of popular crime podcasts that he’s listened to—Serial is one of them. After exhausting through these series, Tyler decides to try his own hand at starting his own. He admits, however, that the preparation needed for these podcasts require a lot of work.

“In the past, we started out by trying to find as much information as we could about each case online. We would scour the news, reading through articles, and looking at any footage that was available. As we’ve grown and learned, we now try to start by contacting loved ones of the victims, and begin our research there,” Bek says.

Bek adds that it’s important that the stories are told in a manner respectful of the victims. By this, she explains that the aim is to provide a conduit for family and friends of the victims to share their stories. To make the stories more interesting and captivating, Bek and Tyler have gone beyond contacting relatives. They’ve also contacted professionals in the field of forensics and psychology.

“We try to find clues as to why these horrific events happen, and how the paths of the victims and the perpetrators crossed,” Bek says.

When choosing a story to cover, an important criterion is that the consent of the family members affected is given. By doing so, Bek says that it becomes easier to produce a more accurate account of the event. The focus, though, is to tell stories about everyday people—who, for some reason, experienced an unprecedented moment of psychological breakdown. The couple thus tries to stay away from cases involving individuals with a history of mental illness and criminal offenses.

Currently, the series’ most popular episode involves the investigation of Tanner Barton. Barton was a college student at Marian University, who in 2012, died after a sudden collapse. The Kokomo Tribune stated that an official report described Barton as having “fallen asleep on the floor in the basement and [later] discovered dead.” The oddity of this case is that Barton had no visible injuries. Even stranger is that Jay Price, a coroner assigned to the case, ruled the death as natural. Apparently, Barton suffered from “positional asphyxia.” An occurrence in which an individual’s sleeping position prevents adequate breathing and results in death.

“This particular case has been unlike anything we’ve ever covered before. We were approached by Tanner’s mother about four months ago, and she handed over all of the case files that she had in her possession. The file included forensic photos, autopsy and toxicology reports, along with witness statements and other police reports,” Bek says. “It provided us with the ability to look at this case in a completely different light. We found gaps in the information provided, which led us to start asking questions. For the first time ever, we decided to get in touch with law enforcement working on the case, and we started doing some investigative work on our own, in an attempt to put some of the missing pieces of the puzzle together.”

Bek notes that by doing all of this, the case, which had gone cold for the past six years, began to regain traction. The most challenging part of researching this case has been reaching out to professionals. It’s been difficult, according to Bek, to make sense of the information. To add to it, the case took place in Kokomo, Indiana—adding a physical barrier for the couple, who lives in Brampton, Ontario. Despite these hurdles, Bek says that the Barton case has been the most rewarding.

The Minds of Madness has been nominated for seven categories for the Canadian Podcast Awards. The podcast ended up accruing four awards.

To Tyler, the accolades were a surprise. He says, “We knew we had some solid experience in the field of production, but we just hadn’t expected such an overwhelming response. We were shocked and humbled that so many of our peers felt that we had earned their vote.”

Brampton couple’s The Minds of Madness podcast looks into ‘ordinary people who snapped’

The Toronto Star

By MIRIAM KATAWAZI Staff Reporter

Sun., Feb. 25, 2018

During the late hours when their kids are asleep, Bek and Tyler Allen head down to their brightly lit Brampton basement to immerse themselves in the criminal mind.

The biweekly true-crime podcast they produce, research and air, The Minds of Madness, grew inside their makeshift studio, where they looking into the series of events, circumstances and state of mind of the people who commit unspeakable acts.

“The original idea behind the podcast was to cover stories about seemingly ordinary people who all of the sudden snapped,” said Bek, who works full-time producing videos for humanitarian organizations. 

The podcast, which began in December 2016, grew from 5,000 listeners to more than 500,000 over the course of a few months. They have aired 24 episodes so far and this weekend they won four Canadian Podcast Awards — for best debut, sound, theme, and news podcast — at PodCamp Toronto, a two-day annual event at Ryerson University. 

“In a genre so heavily populated, to be able to see the growth of our podcast has been wonderful,” said Tyler, who works as an IT professional during the day. 

“We try to humanize the stories we tell by listening to the people impacted by the tragedies and giving them a voice.”

The podcast includes interviews with investigators, forensics specialists, social workers, detectives, as well as family members of the victims. It covers cases from around the world, including Canada.

Tyler is the host and Bek does the research, writing and producing for the episodes. They edit together. They estimate they spend about 15-20 a week working on the podcast.

The pair focus on stories where individuals have suddenly committed horrific crimes, rather than serial killers or people whose crimes were well-planned. 

Their most popular case is one the Allens have been working on for four months — the unsolved death of 19-year-old Indiana teen Tanner Barton, a healthy college football player at Marian University, who suddenly collapsed and died at a friend’s home in 2012.

Three episodes on this case have been released so far, including the latest one on Feb. 3.

“We were approached to cover the case in October and it’s got to the point now that we are helping with the investigation,” said Rebecca Foster, who uses the name Bek Allen on the show. 

“We try to give insight into the fact that these are real people in these stories and families are still trying to pick up the pieces. We want to make the people listening empathize and relate.”

The listeners are very engaged and often become invested in the characters, she said. Sometimes the hosts receive questions asking for more info about the people involved.

Foster said that often, people don’t hear about the human elements behind the crime stories in the news. Their podcast offers the details and human aspects to the stories, she added. 

“To be able to create something together and to see thousands of people listening to it means a lot to us,” Tyler said. “We try to spend not too much time on the gruesome details of crime and glorify them but more on the story of the people involved and the states of their minds.”

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/02/25/brampton-couples-the-minds-of-madness-podcast-looks-into-ordinary-people-who-snapped.html

This outrageously popular GTA-made podcast is your next true crime obsession

Toronto Life

By WILL SLOAN

March 13, 2018

Tyler Allen is a die-hard fan of true crime podcasts: he claims to have listened to every episode ever made in the genre, with Serial, Undisclosed and Truth and Justice among his favourites. So, in December 2016, he decided to launch his own: The Minds of Madness, a series about ordinary people doing unthinkable things. Tyler’s wife, Bek, does interviews and detailed research for the show, which the couple run out of their Brampton basement. The show may still be a hobby (by day, Tyler is an IT professional and Bek produces videos for humanitarian organizations), but it has earned a rabid cult following, with 3.5 million total listens.

Over the past year, the show’s reporting has grown increasingly ambitious—the show has even helped reopen long-forgotten cases like that of Tanner Barton, a college football player who died under mysterious circumstances. For listeners who don’t know where to start, we asked the Allens to pick five of their favourite episodes.

Gary and Jody Plauche

Episodes 1 and 2
The first episode tells the story of Gary Plauche, a father who killed a karate instructor who abducted and abused his son, Jody. The vigilante killing took place in 1984 at an airport in front of television crews, but Gary only got a seven-year suspended sentence, five years’ probation and 300 hours of community service—he never spent any time in jail. “We were talking about episodes that would interest us as parents,” says Tyler. (The couple have five kids.) “The whole father-seeking-revenge-for-son angle was certainly something that grabbed us.” They were shocked when Jody himself praised the episode (he’s now a counsellor and advocate for abuse survivors), and did an interview for the show’s second episode.

Theresa Allore

Episodes 8 and 9
Theresa Allore was a young woman who disappeared from her college campus in Quebec in 1978. Her case had been dormant for 40 years when her brother contacted the Allens. Their episode helped revive interest in the case, and Allore’s brother submitted the episodes as evidence in the police investigation. “For the first time, I actually felt like we were in this position where we could potentially do good things with the podcast,” says Bek. “We could not only bring light to cold cases and maybe help get things moving again, but also bring back attention to stories that may have been forgotten.”

Chester Abbotsbury

Episodes 10 and 11
In the 1990s, Tyler worked with a man who later served five years for manslaughter in an act of self-defence. They reconnected via Facebook, where Tyler said, “Listen, there are a lot of people on my friend list who know you, and they’re going to know that this is your story.” They decided to use a pseudonym, Chester Abbotsbury, to avoid having his name come up in online searches. But “Abbotsbury” realized many of their mutual friends would find out it was him anyway, and gave the Allens permission to reveal his identity to people they knew. He told Tyler, “If anybody’s going to find out my story, this is the way I want them to learn it. Tell everybody you did an episode on me.”

Marcus Feisel

Episodes 12 and 13
Marcus Feisel’s case struck a deep chord with the Allens. He was a three-year-old, developmentally disabled child who died because of gross mistreatment by his foster parents. “We probably won’t do another case that involves a child being murdered,” says Bek. It’s simply too gruesome. “Being a parent is something that I think about when we research every single story, because in every single story, that’s somebody’s child that’s been taken away.”