The Charley Project at CrimeCon

So Michael and I arrived home from CrimeCon late Sunday night and immediately went to bed. Yesterday I basically spent all day recovering from the weekend; it was a thrilling but EXHAUSTING weekend. Today I had some appointments and so had to drive to those (an hour to and from) and also trying (successfully) to catch up on Charley Project social media and (unsuccessfully) trying to catch up on the emails. Tomorrow I plan to sit down and slam updates in.

So! CrimeCon. I’m so glad my wonderful husband joined me on this trip; in addition to being my emotional support human in the airport, he proved indispensable at the event itself. He came up with the ideas for most of the booth materials. We had:

  • A banner
  • A cardboard trifold display board from Dollar Tree with:
    • Materials about the Charley Project
    • An “about Meaghan” page
    • Some sample cases from the Austin area
    • A sign saying we were both vaccinated but would mask up on request
  • Free Charley Project merch:
    • Stickers saying “The Charley Project” in the same font/colors as on the logo on the site itself
    • Rubber wristbands in various colors saying “Charley Project” with the site URL
    • Business cards which you’ve seen on this blog before
  • Three binders to leaf through, with printouts in clear plastic sleeves:
    • “Our Story” with info about the Charley Project and its “employees” (aka me, our cats and the dog)
    • “Charley Project Cold Case Sample Book”; I tried to select a cross-section of the database
    • “Resolved Case Sample Book”; again, I tried to select a variety of resolved cases

Mom had been under the impression that we were going on a vacation or something, and was texting me being all like “So are you going to visit the Alamo?” And I was like “lol no.” In fact I don’t think either Michael or I ever left the hotel the entire time we were there. (Fortunately it was a super snazzy hotel.) We were far too busy.

So we set up the booth right after we arrived, and we hadn’t even finished setting it up when I was approached by a woman whose sister is on Charley; she wanted to thank me. Throughout the weekend Michael manned the booth, telling people about the Charley Project and offering our wares. I went back and forth between manning the booth and mingling, talking to people at the other booths and to CrimeCon guests and speakers.

As for the other presentations that were given at CrimeCon, though I had been interested in attending some of them, I went to exactly none of them. I spent all the time meeting people and talking to them about Charley and about the work the other people were doing.

I met loads of people, some of whom knew about the Charley Project, some of whom didn’t. I met quite a few people whose relatives were on my site. And our booth was situated right next to Gina DeJesus’s booth; the Cleveland kidnap survivor (who survived a carjacking also, just last month) has started her own organization, the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults, to assist families of missing persons. I didn’t see much of Gina herself but did speak for awhile to her cousin and I think her aunt also.

While I was at CrimeCon, another speaker informed me that Sally Ann Hines, whose body was recently identified, was identified by someone who saw her on the Charley Project and recognized her as the woman in the composite sketch of the woman whose head was found in a bag in a Louisiana swamp. Someone had even written an article about how the Charley Project had helped with the identification, but no one told ME about it… until CrimeCon!

At one point, Nancy Grace walked up to my booth and basically told me she used the Charley Project as a source a lot, was very impressed by my work and wants me to call her producer to make arrangements to be on her show. And then she wrote down the producer’s number and walked back to her own booth leaving me slightly stunned in her wake. Like “did that really just happen?”

(She doesn’t look at all like she does on TV; without all that makeup and what have you, she looks like an ordinary sixty-something woman. She was also much nicer in person than on TV. I suppose that whole Judge Judy like persona is just that, a persona.)

Despite making sure to get plenty of sleep on Thursday night and Friday night, by Saturday evening I was dead on my feet, and my presentation was first on the lineup for the next morning. Not wanting to make a complete disaster of the presentation, I wound up going to bed, without any dinner, at 7:00 p.m. Saturday. I didn’t wake up again till 7:00 a.m. We had to be checked out of the hotel by 11:00 a.m. and at the airport to catch our flight home by as soon as possible after that, so we were packing up and I was trying to make myself look good for my 9:00 a.m. presentation.

I had feared I would get tongue-tied and forget everything I was supposed to say, but fortunately the presentation went awesome!

I’m not sure how many people attended because there were all these bright lights on the stage and the audience was in darkness and I couldn’t really see anyone beyond the first row, but I know over 170 people had pre-registered. And basically I told everyone about who I was, and what the Charley Project was, and brought up a few cases from it that touched my heart (Peter Kema and Garnell Moore), and brought up several examples of cases that had been solved as a direct result of the Charley Project. (And I forgot to mention Sally Hines among the examples. Phooey. She wasn’t in the PowerPoint I made in advance for the presentation, cause, well, I didn’t know about her at the time.) My presentation got loads of applause and some people have told me it was the best one they saw at CrimeCon!

I am so happy I went. I met so many awesome people and had a great opportunity to share with others about how the Charley Project can help solve cases.

Now I suppose I need to call Nancy Grace’s producer. Her TV persona isn’t what I would choose for myself, but being on her show could really be a great opportunity to further get the word out there.

Off to CrimeCon tomorrow

Michael and I are packed and ready to head off to the airport at the crack of dawn tomorrow (at least it feels that way). We will have a layover in Dallas then will arrive in Austin at 1:37 pm.

We’ve set up a display board for our booth. One of those cardboard trifold things covered in taped-on printouts. Unfortunately it is like 1.5 inches too wide for my suitcase. I’m really hoping they let me take it on the plane but if they don’t, we are bringing extra copies of the print-outs and will buy another board in Austin.

The TV network Oxygen is sponsoring CrimeCon. They interviewed me via Zoom yesterday. I think they’re interviewing all the speakers.

I hope all goes well. I think it will. And if things start to go sideways Michael can help me. We are staying at the hotel where the conference is being held.

We’ve already dropped the dog off at his parents’ house for the weekend and I already miss her. But Michael’s parents love Kinsey and will take good care of her and make sure she eats her special treats for her joints.

I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

Going to CrimeCon

I am happy to announce (and I’ve been wanting to announce this happy news for ages now) that in June I am going to CrimeCon in Austin, Texas! I am one of the speakers. My speaking time is Sunday, June 6 at 9:00 but I will be around on the other days too; Michael is coming with me and we’re going to set up an information booth and meet people and stuff.

I had always wanted to go to CrimeCon since I first heard of it, but I could never afford to go before, and last year’s event was canceled cause pandemic. This year, because I’m a speaker, it doesn’t cost me anything to attend.

I am sure I will have a blast and meet lots of cool people. Maybe some of them will be you guys.

I am quoted in this article

The interview was quite awhile ago and I barely remember it, but the article has come out: Why people of color get less attention than whites when they go missing. This Cape Cod Times article talks about the issue of missing people of color and brings up several such cases from the local area, some of whom are on the Charley Project and some who haven’t been missing for long enough to be on there.

It’s quite a well-researched article, not just saying it cause they interviewed me for it.

Interview with me on Crimes of the Centuries podcast

I was interviewed awhile back for the biweekly Crimes of the Centuries podcast, and my interview appears in the most recent episode, which is called “Charley Ross: America’s First Kidnapping for Ransom.” I have not listened to the podcast before but the Charley Ross episode was a good one, covering Charley’s kidnapping and the frustration and agony that followed in detail. Give it a listen if you like.

MP of the week: Charles Lawson

This week’s featured missing person (which I didn’t change yesterday because I’ve been lazy and depressed) is Charles Jonathan Lawson, a 32-year-old man who disappeared from Tampa, Florida on February 12, 1988. He may spell his middle name “Johnathan” or just use the middle name John.

Unfortunately I don’t have any other details on this case, other than that he was last seen at his residence.

I hope everyone is in good health. Fortunately the number of positive coronavirus cases in my area and in the areas where my parents live have been pretty low, but I don’t expect it to stay that way, especially as Indiana has one of the lowest rates of public mask-wearing in the entire country.

Oh, and check out this article about Sean Wayne Evans‘s May 1984 disappearance, because it has some quotes from me. I was interviewed for it, like, months ago and didn’t even remember the interview until the article popped up in the news.

So, about Crime Junkie

Crime Junkie is a true crime podcast. I’ve never listened to it and have no intention of doing so, but they are very popular and they’ve been praised by Rolling Stone as “the best true crime podcast” out of the many in existence, and there’s talk that they may create a TV show.

Unfortunately, however, it turns out Crime Junkie has been plagiarizing other people’s hard work: other podcasters, journalists, bloggers, Wikipedia… and me too, as an informant pointed out on Twitter.

In response to being called out, including by people whose work was plagiarized, Crime Junkie went back and deleted some of the episodes. When asked about this, they refused to admit to anything at all, saying they’d only deleted the episodes because the original citations were no longer available.

The accusations broke out on Buzzfeed a week ago. The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis being the residence of one of the Crime Junkie hosts, Ashley Flowers) did an article about it yesterday. The Reluctant Habits blog has also done a good, if speculative, entry about it as well. And so on.

The response from Crime Junkie? Some kind of bull about how their research was “thorough, rigid and exhaustive” with “clear references to other sources.”

Then why are they reading other people’s work WORD FOR WORD, and not mentioning it’s an exact quote, or mentioning the other source AT ALL?

The Charley Project gets plagiarized all the time and it always upsets me because it’s wrong, it’s stealing, it’s lying, but I’m pretty used to it by now and recognize there’s no way to really stop it.

But it REALLY upsets me in cases like this because Crime Junkie is, they say, enormously popular and is making tens of thousands of dollars per episode. At one episode a week, those two women would be making a killing (no pun intended). And all of that from other people’s work. Journalists and other podcasters, and me, trying to make an honest living and contribute to society, having their hard work stolen by grifters.

Now, I talked to a friend and he thinks probably Crime Junkie isn’t nearly as popular or making as much money as Ashley Flowers and Brit Pawat claim. The Reluctant Habits blog raises the same issue, suggesting they fudged the numbers. And if Ashley and Brit really were making $50k a week, why did Ashley not quit her day job till early this year?

Regardless, they are making more than me, more than many of the people whose work they’re stealing.

Now, I don’t know if what Crime Junkie is doing is LEGALLY wrong, since you can’t copyright facts, and the Charley Project is very much “just the facts, ma’am.” But it’s definitely MORALLY wrong.

My terms of use, for Charley Project material, are very generous. Use what you like; all you have to do is cite me. It would have taken SECONDS to just say “courtesy of the Charley Project” or “we found this info in an exclusive series of Randomtown Newspaper articles by So-And-So.” To be using other people’s work, word for word, and not even mention it–that’s both lying and stealing.

Crime Junkie owes an apology to the people whose content they used without citations, and to their listeners. But they won’t even do that.