Former Renton Reporter columnist and KIRO radio host/reporter Carolyn Ossorio “Pippimamma” has left the world of breaking news to dive into true crime stories. Her and another former KIRO radio reporter, Kim Shepard, recently debuted their podcast “Scene of the Crime.” In the first season, the two hosts discuss and report on crimes in the Pacific Northwest, especially Snohomish and King counties.
On the drive to where the hosts record, MagicMix Studio, just outside of Renton and Issaquah, the mossy winter trees arching over Coal Creek Parkway feel eerie. Even eerier are the secrets of the woods in Washington detailed in their podcast.
Ossorio said that it’s nice to have parts of the community supporting each other, talking about MagicMix Studios, a full-service recording studio that opened in late 2018 at a stunning property in Coal Creek. Shäna Daum is one of the owners and has 24 years of experience with mixing, production and sound. She wired the whole studio and monitors levels for the podcaster as they record.
Major true crime podcasts usually range from very produced and researched, to hosts just turning on a microphone and talking off the cuff about a crime. Shepard said the advantage of “Scene of the Crime” is it’s in the middle of those extremes— it’s not overseen by major producers, but it’s structured and uses interviews and independent research from the hosts.
On a recent Friday, Ossorio and Shepard were preparing to record a new episode, which is now available called “Coins for the Ferryman.” Before the episode, the hosts interviewed a former officer involved with the case (That man is Cloyd Steiger, who also recently published a book about a lesser-known Renton serial killer that the podcast may cover in its second season,) used the previous reporting to expand the story, wrote an outline for the episode and discussed ethical concerns about the story.
For the ferryman episode, they went through something those involved in journalism will be familiar with, working on how to sensitively tell the story of a murder.
“We’re basically talking about people’s worst day, and just trying to figure out where our line is,” Ossorio said. “But we don’t want to sanitize to the point where it’s not the real story. (Our) purpose is to do what we love, which is storytelling. But we’re always having these conversations.”
But once Daum hit record, the hosts told the story with the ease and confidence of experienced radio reporters. But at the same time, they make references off the cuff to their personal lives, wonder aloud why the killer made their choices and offer listeners an informed conversation.
Both hosts strongly value family, Ossorio discussed her family often in her old Renton Reporter column, and Shepard said she left radio to spend more time with her family.
When Ossorio left KIRO, she knew she was interested in doing a true-crime podcast after listening to the podcast “Cold,” which she said strongly influenced her decision. She then got to listen to other true crime podcasts, she said she told her husband it was for research because she felt a little embarrassed about her love for it.
“I enjoy the storytelling and I understand the audience; women are our audience and they love true crime. And we love it too,” Ossorio said.
She wanted a co-host and approached Shepard. Ossorio has been impressed with Shepard because of her smarts, authenticity and honesty about the importance of family. Ossorio also said she felt strongly that she wanted a woman co-host and wanted them to be relatable to the audience. Research over the years has shown women as a large part of the true-crime community, from reading to listening.
Shepard was ready— she had been playing with podcasting for some time. She helped a local nonprofit launch one and teaching a podcasting internship with Trail Youth in North Bend. Shepard always loved the audio format and radio, she was the kid with a double-deck cassette recording creating radio plays from her family and worked in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver before her seven years at KIRO.
“I enjoy doing (the podcast) and being able to do it while spending time with my family is a dream,” Shepard said.
The hosts switch off each episode researching and reporting on crime. The freedom of podcasting is also the gamble of it — there’s no formula established in the industry yet for what drives subscribers. This means the hosts get to produce the podcast in a way they want and wait to see if others want it, too. So far, the feedback has been largely positive, Ossorio said.
Talking about these murders years later also gives the cases more details and information, like in their first episode, “Curse of the Fairy Cabin.” Shepard and Ossorio have established connections with the law enforcement involved with these cases from their radio days, something that is invaluable now for this series. Being able to talk about a case in past-tense helps them get little details you would’ve missed the first time. That source-connection advantage is part of why they are still trying to decide whether to expand beyond the Pacific Northwest in the second season.
After several episodes, the mission of the podcast is storytelling. But they also want to make sure they are remembering and honoring the victims of the crime. They also want to tell a story that keeps history from repeating itself, making potential victims more aware of the danger in the cabin. Or bunker. Or even across the street.
“We are giving them more than just true crime, and that’s what we hope,” Ossorio said.
The first four episodes were released Jan. 13. The rest of the episodes for the first season are released weekly.
More information on where to listen, subscribe, review and share is available at sceneofthecrimepodcast.com.