The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

There's More To The Story

  • 50 minutes 35 seconds
    Lessons From a Mass Shooter’s Mother

    In 2014, in the college town of Isla Vista, California, a 22-year-old man murdered six people and injured 14 others before killing himself. The killer didn’t suddenly “snap” one day out of the blue; he planned the attack and spiraled into crisis in the years leading up to it. 

    The horrific incident left violence prevention experts wondering: What were the missed warning signs?

    One person who held some of the answers was the killer’s mother, Chin Rodger. She has long avoided the media, fearing that speaking publicly would only hurt the victims’ families more. But 10 years later, she’s come to see a greater purpose – that  sharing what she knows about her son’s behavior before the attack could help others identify similar warning signs and prevent further violence.

    By confronting and sharing the painful memories and evidence her son, Elliot, left behind, Rodger has contributed to the field of threat assessment – teams of people who specialize in collecting information on possible threats, connecting the dots and intervening before tragedy strikes. This week on Reveal, Rodger talks publicly for the first time with Mother Jones reporter Mark Follman.

    18 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 5 seconds
    The Racist Hoax That Changed Boston

    Note: This episode contains descriptions of violence and suicide and may not be appropriate for all listeners. 

    In 1989, Chuck Stuart called 911 on his car phone to report a shooting. 

    He said he and his wife were leaving a birthing class at a Boston hospital when a man forced him to drive into the mixed-race Mission Hill neighborhood and shot them both. Stuart’s wife, Carol, was seven months pregnant. She would die that night, hours after her son was delivered by cesarean section, and days later, her son would die, too.

    Stuart said he saw the man who did it: a Black man in a tracksuit. 

    Within hours, the killing had the city in a panic, and Boston police were tearing through Mission Hill looking for a suspect.  

    For a whole generation of Black men in Mission Hill who were subjected to frisks and strip searches, this investigation shaped their relationship with police. And it changed the way Boston viewed itself when the story took a dramatic turn and the true killer was revealed.

    This week on Reveal, in partnership with columnist Adrian Walker of The Boston Globe and the “Murder in Boston” podcast, we bring you the untold story of the Stuart murder: one that exposed truths about race and crime that few White people in power wanted to confront.  

    To hear more of The Boston Globe’s investigation, listen to the 10-part podcast “Murder in Boston.” The HBO documentary series “Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage, and Reckoning” is available to stream on Max. 

    11 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 16 seconds
    We Regret to Inform You

    Bruce Praet is a well-known name in law enforcement, especially across California. He co-founded a company called Lexipol that contracts with more than 95% of police departments in the state and offers its clients trainings and ready-made policies.

    In one of Praet’s training webinars, posted online, he offers a piece of advice that policing experts have called inhumane. It’s aimed at protecting officers and their departments from lawsuits.

    After police kill someone, they are supposed to notify the family. Praet advises officers to use that interaction as an opportunity. Instead of delivering the news of the death immediately, he suggests first asking about the person who was killed to get as much information as possible. 

    Reporter Brian Howey started looking into this advice when he was with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. He found that officers have been using this tactic across California, and the information families disclosed before they knew their relative was killed affected their lawsuits later. In this hour, Howey interviews families that have been on the receiving end of this controversial policing tactic, explaining their experience and the lasting impact. Howey travels to Santa Ana, where he meets a City Council member leading an effort to end Lexipol’s contract in his city. And in a parking lot near Fresno, Howey tracks down Praet and tries to interview him about the consequences of his advice. 

    This is an update of an episode that originally aired in November 2023. 

    4 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 49 minutes 34 seconds
    The Spy Inside Your Smartphone

    Around the globe, journalists, human rights activists, scholars and others are facing digital attacks from Pegasus, military-grade spyware originally developed to go after criminals. Some of the people targeted have been killed or are in prison.

    In this episode, Reveal partners with the Shoot the Messenger podcast to investigate one of the biggest Pegasus hacks ever uncovered: the targeting of El Faro newspaper in El Salvador.

    In the opening story, hosts Rose Reid and Nando Vila speak with El Faro co-founder Carlos Dada and reporter Julia Gavarrete. El Faro has been lauded for its investigations into government corruption and gang violence. The newspaper is no stranger to threats and intimidation, which have increased under the administration of President Nayib Bukele.

    Reid and Vila also speak with John Scott-Railton of Citizen Lab, a Toronto-based digital watchdog group. Scott-Railton worked to identify the El Faro breach, and it was one of the most obsessive cases of spying Citizen Lab has ever seen.

    Over the course of one year, 22 members of the newspaper’s staff had their phones infected with Pegasus and were surveilled by a remote operator. Researchers suspect Bukele’s government was behind the spying, though officials have denied those allegations. The breach forced El Faro’s journalists to change the way they work and live and take extreme measures to protect sources and themselves. 

    Then Reid talks with Reveal’s Al Letson about growing efforts to hold the NSO Group, the company behind Pegasus, accountable for the massive digital attacks.

    27 April 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 15 seconds
    After the Crash

    In November 2020, Blossom Old Bull was raising three teenagers on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Her youngest son, Braven Glenn, was 17, a good student, dedicated to his basketball team. But he’d become impatient with pandemic restrictions, and his grandmother had just passed away from COVID-19.   

    One night, Glenn and his mother got in a fight, and he left the house. The next day, Old Bull got a call saying Glenn was killed in a police car chase, that he died in a head-on collision with a train. Old Bull was desperate for details about the accident, but when she went to the police station, she discovered it had shut down without any notice.  

    Mother Jones reporter Samantha Michaels follows Old Bull’s search for answers about her son’s death and discovers serious lapses in policing on the Crow and other Indian reservations. Old Bull encounters many roadblocks. She files a Freedom of Information Act request for the police report, but her request is denied. As months pass, she still doesn’t have basic information, like which officer chased her son and how he ended up on the train tracks.

    Next, Michaels traces the origins of the police force that chased Glenn. It was created by the Crow Nation’s chairman to address a lack of policing on the reservation. Before the new police force was launched, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs was responsible for policing. But its force was underfunded and understaffed, with only four or five officers patrolling an area nearly the size of Connecticut. The new department was supposed to be a solution, but there were problems from the start. Old Bull learns from a former dispatcher that officers were not properly trained and the department was in chaos.

    Nearly three years after Glenn’s death, Michaels is able to obtain information about the accident and share it with Old Bull. Through a FOIA request, Michaels receives official reports about the accident that explain how Glenn ended up on the train tracks. The reports also show how the investigation into the chase was flawed. Old Bull processes the information and grapples with a disturbing fact: The federal government denied her own FOIA request, even though she’s Glenn’s mother, but handed over documents to Michaels, a White reporter with no connection to Glenn. Days later, Michaels brokers a meeting between Old Bull and the former tribal police chief. Old Bull shares how the department’s sudden closure – and the lack of information about her son’s death – affected her family.

    20 April 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 36 seconds
    In Gaza, Every Pregnancy is Complicated

    After six months of war in Gaza, the Palestinian medical infrastructure has collapsed, leaving tens of thousands of pregnant women without a safe place to deliver. Reporters Gabrielle Berbey and Salman Ahad Khan follow one mother over the final months of her pregnancy after she’s forced to leave behind her home, work and doctor in Gaza City. 

    We begin with the reporters’ first call to Lubna Al Rayyes five weeks into the war, as she is seven months pregnant with her third child. Before the war’s start on Oct. 7, Al Rayyes ran a prestigious school in Gaza City and her husband owned a clothing store. After being forced to evacuate their home, they fled to Khan Younis, but that city soon came under attack by the Israeli military as well. After being in regular contact with Al Rayyes for more than a month, the reporters lost contact with her. 

    Berbey and Khan then track down Al Rayyes’ sister, who was able to leave Gaza and relocate to Canada because of her husband’s Canadian citizenship. Canada’s Palestinian community lobbied the government to create an asylum program for displaced people in Gaza, but the program became mired in delays. Berbey and Khan eventually reconnect with Al Rayyes, who explains what happened with her delivery.

    Beyond the collapse of the medical system, the health of Palestinians in Gaza is threatened by food shortages. Khan speaks with Tessa Roseboom, a Dutch researcher who’s been looking at how famine affects the development of babies in their mothers’ womb. We then meet Dr. Ghassan Jawad, an OB-GYN from Gaza who was forced to deliver babies in cars, shelters and even on the street as the medical system stopped functioning. Jawad had worked at Al-Shifa hospital, which was heavily damaged in a recent attack by the Israeli military. 

    13 April 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 23 seconds
    Escaping Putin’s War Machine

    As the war in Ukraine grinds into a third year, more Russian soldiers are attempting to escape frontline deployment, supported by an underground network of fellow Russians.

    Associated Press investigative reporter Erika Kinetz follows the dramatic journey of one Russian military officer who deserted the army and fled Russia, guided by an anti-war group that has helped thousands of people evade military service or desert. The name of the group, Idite Lesom, is a play on words in Russian – a reference to the covert nature of its work but also a popular idiom that means "Get lost.”

    With help from the group, the officer made the perilous journey to Kazakhstan, but only after he had a friend and fellow soldier shoot him in the leg.

    “You can only leave wounded or dead,” he tells Kinetz. “No one wants to leave dead.”

    His act of desperation reflects the horrific conditions troops face in Ukraine. But life in exile is not what this officer and other deserters had hoped for. Some have had criminal cases filed against them in Russia, where they face 10 years or more in prison. And many are also waiting for a welcome from European countries or the United States that has never arrived. Instead, they live in hiding, fearing deportation back to Russia and persecution of themselves and their families.

    For Western nations grappling with Russia’s vast and growing diaspora, Russian military defectors present particular concern: Are they spies? War criminals? Or heroes?

    Next, Reveal host Al Letson talks with Kinetz and fellow reporter Solomiia Hera about why these military defectors are not finding sanctuary in Western Europe or the U.S. and how demographics and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to accept enormous casualties in Ukraine could give Russia an edge in an emerging war of attrition.

    In the final segment, we follow a Ukrainian man who knows all too well what a war of attrition really looks like. Oleksii Yukov is a martial arts instructor and leader of a team of volunteers who collect the remains of fallen soldiers, both Ukrainian and Russian. Yukov is on a spiritual quest to give these souls a final resting place.

    “We are not fighting the dead,” Yukov says. “Our weapon is humanity and a shovel.”

    6 April 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 37 seconds
    Cashing in on Troubled Teens

    The first time Trina Edwards was locked in a psychiatric hospital for children, she was 12 years old. She was sure a foster parent would pick her up the next day. But instead, Trina would end up spending years cycling in and out of North Star Behavioral Health in Anchorage, Alaska. 

    At times, she was ready to be discharged, but Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services couldn’t find anywhere else to put her – so Trina would stay locked in at North Star, where she would experience violent restraints and periods of seclusion. Then, shortly before her 15th birthday, Trina was sent to another facility 3,000 miles away: Copper Hills Youth Center in Utah. 

    Both North Star and Copper Hills are owned by Universal Health Services, a publicly traded Fortune 500 company that is the nation’s largest psychiatric hospital chain. Trina’s experience is emblematic of a larger problem: a symbiotic relationship between failing child welfare agencies, which don’t have enough foster homes for all the kids in custody, and large for-profit companies like Universal Health Services, which have beds to fill. 

    This hour, Mother Jones reporter Julia Lurie exposes how  Universal Health Services is profiting off foster kids who get admitted to its facilities, despite government and media investigations raising alarming allegations about patient care that the company denies. 

    This is an update of an episode that originally aired in October 2023.

    30 March 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 35 seconds
    A Whistleblower in New Folsom Prison

    When Valentino Rodriguez started his job at the high-security prison in Sacramento,  California, informally known as New Folsom, he thought he was entering into a brotherhood of correctional officers. What he found was the opposite.

    Five years later, Rodriguez’s  sudden death would raise questions from the FBI and his family. KQED reporters Sukey Lewis and Julie Small trace his story in their series On Our Watch.

    This episode opens with Lewis and her reporting team meeting Rodriguez's parents and his widow, Mimy. They talk through the early days of Rodriguez's career and early milestones, like when he got an opportunity to join an elite unit investigating crimes in the prison. But it’s there where his fellow officers in the unit began to undermine and harass him.

    Eventually, consumed with stress and fed up with how he was being treated, Rodriguez reached a breaking point at work. But even after he left the prison, his experiences there still haunted him. So he went in for a meeting with the warden of New Folsom. He didn’t know it would be his last.

    After his son’s death, Valentino Rodriguez Sr. began to look for answers and found his son’s story was part of something larger.

    In the final segment, Reveal host Al Letson sits down with Lewis and Small to discuss what this correctional officer’s story shows about how the second-largest prison system in the country is failing to protect the people who live and work inside of it.

    Listen to the whole On Our Watch series here:

    23 March 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 58 seconds
    America Goes Psychedelic, Again

    Psychedelic drugs have been illegal for 50 years, but they’re trickling back into the mainstream because they show promise in helping treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health challenges.

    We begin the hour with reporter Jonathan A. Davis visiting Psychedelic Science 2023, the largest-ever conference on psychedelic drugs. It’s put on by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, an organization dedicated to legalizing MDMA (also known as ecstasy or molly) and other psychedelic drugs. Research shows that MDMA-assisted therapy can help treat depression and PTSD, and it’s moving toward approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Psychedelics were studied in the 1950s and ’60s as mental health treatments, but the war on drugs put a stop to research. Now, these drugs are gaining bipartisan support from politicians looking for solutions to the mental health crisis among veterans. 

    Then Reveal’s Michael I Schiller visits a group of veterans who are not waiting for psychedelic-assisted therapy to be approved by the federal government. They’ve joined a church founded by an Iraq War veteran who uses psychedelics as religious sacraments. Schiller accompanies them on a retreat in rural Texas, where they share the depths of their post-traumatic stress and the relief they’ve felt after psychedelic treatments. He also explores the risks involved in taking these drugs. 

    We close with an intimate audio diary from a woman in Oakland, California, who’s going through therapy with the one psychedelic drug that can be legally prescribed currently in the U.S.: ketamine. Ketamine started out as an anesthetic, but researchers found it can help with treatment-resistant depression when used in tandem with talk therapy. Ketamine can be dangerous if abused, but it also has helped people find relief from mental health issues. This story was produced by Davis

    This is an update of an episode that originally aired in October 2023.

    16 March 2024, 4:00 am
  • 50 minutes 36 seconds
    Blue State Barriers and the Messy Map of Abortion Access

    As blue states try to shore up access to abortion and reproductive care, some are facing a threat they didn’t see coming: Catholic health care mergers.

    In the first segment, Reveal’s Nina Martin takes us to New Mexico, a blue state that’s been working hard since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade to strengthen its already sweeping protections for many forms of reproductive care. But those guarantees have been threatened by a local merger between Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center, the only hospital in rural Otero County, and a Catholic health care system out of Texas, CHRISTUS Health. Like all Catholic hospitals, the newly merged hospital will be subject to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Known as ERDs, they limit or ban a number of reproductive services, including birth control, sterilization, abortion and gender-affirming care. Where will people go if they can’t get the care they need? The next closest hospital is an hour away.

    In the next segment, Martin travels to Alamogordo, where Gerald Champion is located, to try to find out how things are changing. Then she widens her lens, talking to a leading researcher on Catholic health care to see how ERDs play out in other hospitals around the country. She closes by talking to two Catholic experts about what ERDs require and how to improve transparency for patients.

    In the final segment, Reveal’s Laura C. Morel follows the story of Kelly Flynn, an abortion provider who has clinics in Florida and North Carolina, two states that had been abortion havens for women around the South before Roe fell. But now, lawmakers in North Carolina have imposed a 12-week ban on abortions, and the Florida Supreme Court is weighing a six-week ban. So Flynn has spent the last few months preparing for access to keep shrinking by quietly opening a new clinic in a state that still has relatively strong abortion protections – Virginia.

    9 March 2024, 5:00 am
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