We are so excited to share our conversation with none other than “True Crime Guy” Mike Morford. If you listen to true crime podcasts, or are interested in the Zodiac Killer and/or Golden State Killer cases, it’s likely you’ve heard his name and voice. Mike, known as “Morf” to friends and listeners, is co-host of Criminology podcast, one-third of the hosting team at 3 Men and a Mystery podcast, and hosts The Murder in My Family podcast. He is webmaster at www.zodiackillersite.com, worked on the television series The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer (2017) and The Golden State Killer: It’s Not Over (2018), and consults for television shows. Oh, yeah, he has also authored a couple books with Criminology co-host Mike Ferguson, AND has been a speaker at a little annual gathering called CrimeCon.
Don’t know about you, but WE are impressed.
We reached out to Morf a few months ago…don’t even remember what the initial reason was, but all of a sudden the words, “hey would you be willing to do an interview” suddenly appeared in our outgoing Twitter message. When the “yes” came back, we picked our jaws up off the floor and said, “cool, let’s touch base and get a date set.”
Still stunned, we set that date and Kris lost a LOT of sleep about the interview because, you know, we’re a small set up, we have never interviewed anyone via Skype, this is MIKE MORFORD. We are FANS of MIKE MORFORD. We listen to ALL of MIKE MORFORD’S podcasts. This interview HAD TO WORK. OMGsquared.
Other than a wee bit of an issue with sound (which Morf came in and saved the day…THANK YOU AGAIN!) there was nothing to worry about. Morf is truly an awesome guy. For all his success – and very busy schedule – we found him to be gracious, fun, funny, and who knew he loves coffee that much. The moment we started talking to him the nervous jitters (not coffee related) disappeared and we settled in for a nice conversation about a subject we’re all totally obsessed with.
Morf shares how he started on this journey into true crime (it all started with Unsolved Mysteries and a high school report on the Zodiac Killer) and what is was like to leave a career he’d had for 20 years to devote himself to follow his passion: researching and reporting about unsolved cases in the hopes of getting them solved. In 2017 he and Mike Ferguson teamed up to create the wildly popular podcast Criminology based on their shared fascination with the Zodiac Killer. Season two focused on the Golden State Killer (not season one, Kris. TSK), and Ted Bundy was the subject of their third season. They have since changed up the show’s format to extended weekly episodes, each focusing on a single case.
In 2018, Morf started his own show, The Murder in My Family, in which he interviews friends and family of victims, many of whom have cases that are still unsolved. Morf gives voice to people who have been struggling – some for decades – to get justice for their murdered loved ones. Morf’s compassion and respect for his guests creates an environment where these men and women can share their stories with hope that someone listening can provide a clue that breaks the case.
Recently, Morf teamed up with John Lordan and Gray Hughes for 3 Men and a Mystery. This show harkens back to the single case per season format, and each host has their own area of expertise that they bring to the table every episode. The first season, Road To Justice, dives deep into the 1999 murders of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett.
We talk about how important DNA has become in solving rape and murder cases – especially ones that have been cold for decades and how vital resources like GEDmatch are in tracking these killers and rapists down. GEDmatch is the DNA site which allows law enforcement to use data uploaded by registered, consenting users to help solve crimes through familial matches. Other heritage sites, such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe are private and do not allow the government to access data to find criminals. Understandably, privacy rights are a hot issue, but Morf helps explain how GEDmatch works, how important it is to opt back in if you already registered on the site, and what to do if you want to upload your DNA results to their database.
We also delve into the life of podcasting in general. The best advice from all of us? Don’t quit your day job. At least not right away. Start off with a subject you’re passionate about, have fun, work hard and hope for a bit of luck. Morf also talked a bit about CrimeCon 2019 and how amazing the people in the true crime community are. We agree. Based on our interaction with podcasters and fans of true crime podcasts, there is a top-level sense of humanity and compassion these people have for each other and the victims of violent crime. You need help with almost anything? Ask a true crime fan. You commit a crime or are generally a huge jerk? You’re toast in the TC community. Pretty sure the key word here is JUSTICE. True crime fans definitely exude a driving need for things to be made right. Or, as right as can possibly get when talking about death and violence.
It was truly a pleasure to talk to Morf about his podcasting true crime life and we can’t imagine him doing anything other than what he does. He has had the opportunity to talk with and interview all kinds of people in high profile cases, and has been involved in reporting on cases that have been solved recently (GSK for one). Of course, The Big One would be to finally identify the Zodiac Killer, but since there are over 200,000 unsolved murders in the United States alone, Morf will be busy doing what he does best: bringing as many stories to listeners in the hopes of solving the unsolved.
How Access to DNA Caught a Monster: An Abridged Version
The biggest case broken wide open using DNA was the 2018 arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, known as the Golden State Killer. Criminology season two was in full swing when the announcement of DeAngelo’s arrest came and Morf was the one who broke the news on Twitter. DeAngelo began his crime spree in the Sacramento area back in the 70’s. He is associated with over 100 burglaries, 50 rapes, and 13 brutal murders. At one time he was known as the East Area Rapist in Northern California and the Original Night Stalker in Southern California but that nickname became confusing with Nightstalker Richard Ramirez on the loose, so that moniker was shortened to EAR/ONS.
DeAngelo’s DNA was left at crime scenes but because he was active all through California, that evidence wasn’t linked until Contra Costa cold case investigator Paul Holes started talking to key people to compare DNA results in similar cases from agencies throughout California. It was author Michelle McNamara who came up with the name “Golden State Killer” in her writings for the Los Angeles Times and crime blog, truecimediary.com. When McNamara teamed up with Holes in researching her book about the Golden State Killer (I’ll Be Gone in The Dark), missing pieces started to fall into place. Sadly, McNamara died before her book was completed, but in eerie foreshadowing, she had written that she believed the answers to the identity of this brutal rapist and murderer were hidden behind the privacy walls of DNA websites. Holes eventually connected with a genealogy specialist who – using GEDmatch – was able to compare familial DNA with crime scene DNA evidence. Joseph DeAngelo – ironically, an ex police officer from Auburn, CA – came up on the shortlist in a long process of working back through the family tree of matches. After a fairly lengthy stakeout, a current DNA sample from DeAngelo was obtained and with it the identity of the EAR/ONS Golden State Killer was finally established. A name and face surfaced 32 years after 18 year old Janelle Cruz – DeAngelo’s last known victim – was killed in her home near Culver Dr. and Irvine Blvd. in Irvine, California*. Without GEDmatch and access to DNA data, DeAngelo would still be cooking pot-roast, yelling at neighbors and being a general angry asshole. His rape victims (the youngest was Margaret Wardlow, age 13 in 1977) and families of his murder victims would still have no answers. Law enforcement’s access to DNA – again, data that was voluntarily uploaded with the full knowledge it was NOT private – helped put a face and a name to a shadowy, deadly, evil, old monster.
*The location and age of Janelle Cruz is personally important to us. Not because we knew her, but because we – in a frighteningly poignant way – COULD have known her. She was our age and lived only 15 minutes from us. While we were preparing for the end of a school year (and Kris’ graduation), Janelle’s dreams and future were brutally destroyed when she was murdered in her bedroom. If you sit in the patio at the local Starbucks on the corner of Culver and Irvine, you can look across the street at the playground/park that DeAngelo is thought to have walked through to access Janelle’s neighborhood.
Please check out these links for more information:
- To follow Mike Morford go to zodiackillersite.com, @CriminologyPod, @MurderInMyFam, @3menandamystery. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To listen to Mike’s podcasts, go to Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and search for: Criminology, 3 Men and a Mystery, and The Murder in My Family.
- To follow Criminology podcast on Facebook, go here.
- For information about the television show, Hunt for the Zodiac Killer, on History Channel, go here.
- For information about the television show, The Golden State Killer: It’s Not Over, on Investigation Discovery Channel, go here.
- For the books Morf co-wrote with Mike Ferguson, go here: The Case of the Zodiac Killer and The Case of the Golden State Killer
Check out our “Mike Morford” episode on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Libsyn, Pocket Cast, Stitcher or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Then all you need to do is 1) subscribe 2) download and 3) listen! AND!!! 4) If you enjoy what you hear, please leave a rating and a review (pretty please?). The more subscribers and reviews we get, the more opportunities we get to grow this podcast and bring you richer content.
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© The Mugly Truth 2019 and © The Mugly Truth Podcast 2019. All rights reserved.
Intro and outro music, “Clever as a Fox” by Espresso Music through premiumbeats.com.
All photos courtesy of Mike Morford and respective entities: Criminology podcast, The Murder in My Family podcast, 3 Men and a Mystery podcast. The Case of the Golden State Killer and The Case of the Zodiac Killer courtesy of Mike Morford and Mike Ferguson of Criminology podcast.
AUTHOR’S CORRECTION: This post was originally published with the incorrect spelling of Joseph DeAngelo’s last name as D’Angelo.