BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) " A pair of former Livingston Parish sheriff's detectives have found their own niche in the niche market of true crime podcasts.
The genre is one saturated with stories from reporters and professional podcasters, but rarely from detectives themselves.
Woody Overton and Jim Rathmann started the Real Life Real Crime podcast last year. Each show opens with a reading of the Miranda rights, and what follows are details from crime scenes themselves and information learned directly from perpetrators and victims. The pair have decades of law enforcement experience in Louisiana.
The show is nearing one million downloads, has a 5-star rating in the Apple podcast store and has more than 12,000 "lifers" in a private Facebook group.
'I don't think we ever expected it to get that big. We just didn't know,' Rathmann said. 'Podcasts weren't something we knew much about but, once it caught on, we loved it too.'
Neither Rathmann nor Overton works in law enforcement directly anymore, and though they do consulting and provide expert testimony in the law enforcement field, they're not bound by any law enforcement protocols when they discuss or analyze the cases they present on each episode.
'When I was a detective I could be working an armed robbery and have 15 other cases coming across my desk that day,' Rathmann said. 'You may be fielding calls for a burglary a month ago while you're telling a family about their homicide case, whereas here we can really focus on one case and pick and choose what we work on.'
While Overton still lives in Louisiana, Rathmann is based in Orlando, Florida, making the podcasting schedule and technical elements sometimes difficult. There can be lags or poor audio quality neither has the expertise to deal with, but at times fans have sent in tips on how to improve the sound and suggest tweaks they could make in production.
They both see the loyal and strong fandom as one that is almost part of the production itself, and in some ways it has been.
Though many of the episodes surround Livingston Parish crimes Overton and Rathmann worked themselves, last fall they took a deep dive into the case of Courtney Coco " a 19-year-old from Alexandria who was last seen in Louisiana on a night in 2004 with friends but was found dead in an abandoned building near Houston days later. The case was worked by Louisiana and Texas authorities.
After weeks of poring over case files and following up on tips from podcast listeners, the two believe they've found the killer and have presented the case to local authorities.
'Tips from the fans spread like wildfire and we had hundreds and hundreds of them,' Overton said. 'I think for almost seven weeks straight that's all Jim and I did was follow those and we solved it, and it was by using the fans.'
An Alexandria Police Department spokesman did not directly confirm last week whether the agency had received case files from Rathmann and Overton, but said investigators were aware of the podcast and have been following up on the case with the Rapides Parish DA's Office.
Since the Courtney Coco series, both Rathmann and Overton say they've received hundreds of requests from across the country from desperate families hoping the pair can bring justice in their own loved one's cases.
Their next long-term project will explore a Livingston Parish cold-case killing, though they haven't yet announced the details. They hope to use the same crowd-sourcing model from the Coco case to determine a suspect.
'It can be emotionally draining but that's okay because you've got to put everything you've got into it,' Rathmann said. 'The reason Woody and I work so well is Woody is great at going out and talking with someone and getting information whereas I'm good at taking the files and reading them one side to the other. Every time a new tip comes in you get excited because this could be the one tip that's going to solve the case for you.'
The two will soon start a series of live podcast events in Livingston Parish and Baton Rouge. The first shows were on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25 at Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center. Tickets sold out within hours.
Another, larger, event is set for Feb. 15 at The Basin Music Hall in Baton Rouge. Both events will be formatted like a podcast episode, talking about a case they haven't yet detailed in Real Life Real Crime, with questions and input from audience members.
They hope that if the podcast's success keeps growing they can take it on fulltime, and will have the freedom to travel and work cases from the growing list of requests they've received from across the country.
'We're growing almost 100 people a day on some days (in the Facebook group),' Overton said. 'The true crime fans are fanatics. I mean I didn't know there was that big of a base for it because evidently nobody else out there is doing what we do, but we love it.'