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.”