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Beyond All Repair

Beyond All Repair

Author: WBUR

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Imagine you're accused of something horrific. You swear you didn't do it, but someone says they witnessed it: your own brother. Sophia Johnson was newly married with a baby on the way when she became the prime suspect in her mother-in-law's brutal murder. WBUR's Amory Sivertson reexamines a case unsolved, a family torn apart, and the woman who wasn't believed.
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Beyond All Repair has mostly wrapped, but if there are updates in the story or the case, Amory will jump back in here to let you know, so keep following the show! In the meantime though, I wanted to introduce you to another show. It’s from Campside Media and it’s called White Devil. It’s a series that, at first, seems to be a crime story… but there are so many layers to this. It starts with a woman who’s a member of one of the most powerful families in Belize. She’s found on a pier late at night, next to a body. It becomes the country’s biggest news story in a generation. This is the first episode of White Devil. Host Josh Dean — who you might know from The Clearing or Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen — takes us back to the beginning, in 2021, when the nation of Belize was rocked by a shocking death and the arrest of this influential woman. Most people expected that she would just… walk away. But nothing in White Devil is QUITE as it seems… Listen to White Devil wherever you get your podcasts.
Beyond All Repair has mostly wrapped, but if there are updates in the story or the case, Amory will jump back in here to let you know, so keep following the show! In the meantime though, we wanted to introduce you to another show that helped get the word out for Beyond All Repair, called Serial Killers from Spotify Studios. In 1974, 17-year-old Carla Walker was abducted from a car in Fort Worth, Texas. Days later, her body was discovered in a remote culvert a few miles away. 46 years later, an arrest was made. But was she Glen McCurley’s only victim? Listen to more episodes of Serial Killers on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
In 1986, while on a summer camp trip to the Grand Canyon, 16-year-old Jacob Wideman fatally stabbed his roommate, Eric Kane. Jacob confessed to the murder, but couldn’t explain why he did it. The crime devastated both boys’ families. For the Widemans, it was also a haunting echo from their family history. Just two years earlier, Jacob’s father, acclaimed author John Edgar Wideman, had published "Brothers and Keepers," a memoir that grappled with how his brother, Jacob’s uncle Robby Wideman, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a fatal robbery. How could another inexplicable crime happen twice in two generations? Jacob served decades behind bars for killing Eric Kane. Then in 2016, an Arizona parole board granted him house arrest. Jacob’s release outraged his victim’s family. It wasn’t long before Jacob was back before the board, fighting again for his freedom. Violation, a new podcast from The Marshall Project and WBUR, tells the story of how this horrible crime has connected two families for decades. It explores suffering and retribution, as well as power and privilege. It also pulls back the curtain on parole boards — powerful, secretive, largely political bodies that control the fates of thousands of people every year. Hosted and reported by The Marshall Project’s Beth Schwartzapfel, Violation debuts on March 22, with new episodes every Wednesday.
Why did Jacob Wideman murder Eric Kane? In 1986, the two 16-year-olds were rooming together on a summer camp trip to the Grand Canyon when Jacob fatally — and inexplicably — stabbed Eric. That night, Jacob went on the run, absconding with the camp’s rented Oldsmobile and thousands of dollars in traveler’s checks. Before long, he turned himself in and eventually confessed to the killing — although he couldn’t explain what drove him to do it. It would take years of therapy and medical treatment behind bars before Jacob could begin to understand what was going through his mind that night. It would take even longer to try to explain it to his family, to his victim’s family and to parole board members, who would decide whether he deserved to be free ever again. This debut episode of “Violation,” a podcast from WBUR and The Marshall Project, introduces the story of the crime that has bound two families together for decades. Jacob’s father, John Edgar Wideman, is an acclaimed author of many books on race, violence and criminal justice. He spoke with Violation host Beth Schwartzapfel in a rare, in-depth interview about his son’s case that listeners will hear throughout the series, including this premiere.
Not long after Jacob Wideman murdered his summer camp roommate, Eric Kane, in 1986 — seemingly with no motive — a question emerged in the breathless news coverage of the tragedy: Was Jake a “bad seed”? It was no accident that some reporters latched onto the phrase. After all, it was plucked straight from perhaps the most famous book written by Jake’s own father, acclaimed author John Edgar Wideman, about his family’s experience with violence, trauma and incarceration. But John Wideman wasn’t writing about his son Jake when he used the phrase “bad seed” in his seminal memoir, “Brothers and Keepers.” The book was published in 1984, two years before Jake murdered Eric. Instead, John was writing about his own younger brother Robby, Jake’s uncle, who years earlier had participated in a robbery that went very wrong. A man died, and although Robby didn’t pull the trigger, he was sentenced to life in prison. “The bad seed. The good seed. Mommy’s been saying for as long as I can remember: ‘That Robby, he wakes up in the morning looking for the party,’” John Edgar Wideman writes in “Brothers and Keepers” — and reads aloud in this latest episode of “Violation,” a podcast series from The Marshall Project and WBUR. This idea from John’s book, of going “bad,” would be applied to Jake, too, although John was disdainful of the concept. “Bad Seed,” Part Two of “Violation,” tells the story of Jake’s Uncle Robby through interviews with John as well as with Jake, who remembers having epiphanies as a boy that he would somehow follow his uncle’s path. The episode also brings listeners through the harrowing weeks and months after the murder of Eric Kane, when Jake Wideman turned himself into authorities and began his long journey through the criminal justice system. Ultimately, this episode asks: What should happen to kids like Jake?
Imagine the worst day of your life, when you did the one thing you are most ashamed of. Now imagine having to convince a panel of strangers — who suspect you might be lying — how sorry you are. After years of preparing for this moment, you get only minutes to make your case. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: The rest of your life depends on whether or not the strangers believe you. This is how people seeking parole often describe the experience. Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, describes parole hearings as “a trap for the unwary,” where those who are mentally unprepared for the emotional complexities of the process can find themselves at a grave disadvantage. Every year in the United States, tens of thousands of people appear before parole boards asking to be released from prison. These boards play an outsized role in the criminal justice system — how much time someone actually spends in prison, or in some cases, whether they get out at all, is often decided not by a judge or jury, but by a parole board. And yet, few people understand how they work. Part 3 of Violation examines parole boards, largely secretive institutions that operate in many states with few rules and little oversight. These panels are supposed to be independent, but often do their work under pressure from the politicians who appoint them. In the best of circumstances, parole board members are assigned a virtually impossible task: to predict what human beings they barely know are going to do in the future. And they have people’s lives and the public’s safety in their hands. What happens at parole boards is a huge part of Jacob Wideman’s story, and his story tells us a lot about the parole system in America. After serving 25 years behind bars for killing his summer camp roommate, Eric Kane, Wideman went before a parole board in Arizona for the first time. Starting with his first hearing in 2011, he was denied parole over and over. Except for one time.
How do you build a meaningful life in prison, knowing you might never be free? What if whether you might one day be free hinges on your ability to build a meaningful life in prison? In Part 4 of “Violation," we follow Jacob Wideman’s decades-long journey through the Arizona prison system and hear how he prepared to tell his life story to the parole board. Two years after he murdered Eric Kane, Jake was transferred from county jail to the Arizona Department of Corrections to begin serving a life sentence. At 18 years old, he was thrust into a world where the only way to feel safe was through physical aggression and bravado. He had many years of practice pretending he wasn’t suffering from mental health struggles in his youth, but now, Jake had to push those struggles even further out of sight as he faced a series of challenges in prison, each more difficult than the last. “Heart test” is prison shorthand for proving yourself when you first arrive in the facility — standing up for yourself and not snitching to guards after you’ve been assaulted, for example. But the physical heart tests of Jake’s early years would give way to heart tests of a different kind: a slow and painful journey to identify and manage his mental health problems, and a search for love, even through prison bars. Eventually he would have to stitch all these experiences together to tell the parole board a compelling life story, in the hopes that they would one day find him worthy of release.
In 2016, after 30 years behind bars and seven hearings in front of the Arizona parole board, Jacob Wideman was released from prison. Being on parole is a strange hybrid between prison and freedom. You’re still technically serving your sentence, but in the community. When Jake first got out, he was on home arrest, a strict version of parole. He had to wear an ankle monitor so the state could track his whereabouts, and he couldn’t leave his house without permission. Jake also had to follow more than two dozen separate parole conditions, among them: no driving; no contact with minors, no drinking alcohol. Not following any one of the rules could land him back in prison on a moment’s notice. And the vague catchall condition, “I will follow all directives I am given, either verbal or written.” This last one would come back to haunt him. On any given day, a quarter of incarcerated people nationwide are there for breaking the rules of their parole or probation. These behaviors are called technical violations and can include things like moving to a new apartment without permission or failing to attend a drug treatment program. You may have heard the term “mass incarceration” — this idea that the U.S. locks up more people than any country in the world. But lately, scholars and activists have also been talking about “mass supervision.” There are almost two million people in U.S. prisons, but there are almost four million people on probation or parole. In Part 5 of "Violation," we examine what life is like for the millions of people on parole in the U.S., and describe what happened when Jacob Wideman was on parole. Jake didn’t know it when he was first released, but his freedom would only last nine months — and there were people on the outside working to put him back inside.
Six months after Jacob Wideman was released from prison on home arrest, he appeared before the parole board for a routine check-in hearing. His parole officer told the board that Jake was doing well: Jake’s employers and therapists gave him positive reviews, as did the director at his halfway house and the landlord at his apartment complex. But other people were coming to a different conclusion. About a week before the hearing, Jake’s parole officer had told him that he had received complaints that Jake had committed numerous violations of the terms of his parole — violations that, if he had committed them, could cost him his freedom. The officer also told him something that startled him: A private investigator could be watching him. “It brought home to me the people who didn't want me to be out were keeping an exceptionally close eye on me, and that, you know, they were willing to go to some pretty drastic lengths to try to find ways to get me put back in prison,” Jake said later in an interview from prison. Soon after that routine check-in hearing before the parole board, Jake was re-arrested. In Part 6 of "Violation," we hear interviews and testimony from Jake, his attorneys, parole officials and others as we piece together the events leading up to the parole violation that sent Jake behind bars again — possibly for life.
Two months after Jacob Wideman was arrested at work and brought back to prison — for failing to make an appointment with a psychologist on a particular day, as directed by his parole officer — he faced the Arizona parole board again. The board had to make a formal finding: Did Jake violate the conditions of his parole by not making that appointment? And, if so, should he stay in prison or be returned to the community? Parole revocation hearings tend to be routine affairs. But, as this episode shows, Jake’s hearing was far from routine. Ultimately, the parole board voted to keep Jake in prison, where he remains, possibly for life. In the final episode of Violation, we discuss what happens now and what Jake’s legal options are. And we return to thorny dilemmas about the criminal justice system: When someone commits a terrible crime, as Jake did, is there anything they can do to prove they deserve to be free again? How does the parole system help us determine what justice should be in any given case — and does it make us more safe? We also return to the question of why Jake killed Eric Kane in 1986. There’s one last piece of the puzzle that might bring a little more clarity, and Jake tries to explain it in his own words.
Thank you for listening and joining us on this incredible journey of exploring America’s opaque parole system through a terrible murder. We’re eager to know how this journey was for you.. because your feedback will help us serve you better. So… can you take a few minutes and fill out a survey for us? It would be a HUGE help. You can get it at wbur.org/survey. Thanks. We really appreciate it.
Thank you for listening to Violation. We thought you might like to hear about another podcast — Ear Hustle, a member of Radiotopia from PRX. Ear Hustle shares stories about what life is really like in prison, both inside and after you get out. Season 12 started on Sep. 6, and the show will also be marking its 100th episode in December. You can find Ear Hustle wherever you get your podcasts and at earhustlesq.com.
In August, lawyers representing Jacob Wideman argued before a judge in Arizona that state officials treated him in a “constitutionally impermissible” way when they revoked his parole more than six years ago. Lawyers for the parole board and the state corrections department said Wideman was trying to avoid following directions and therefore could not be trusted to be free. In this update, we fill you in on the hearing and how it could set the stage for further legal action in Wideman’s case.
This “Violation” update brings listeners the latest news in Jacob Wideman’s case, including his reaction to a ruling that leaves him few paths to freedom.
An update on what's next for Violation...and a new investigation from WBUR.
Part eight of Violation explores what time means behind bars. And listeners respond to the question: Did Jake get what he deserves?
If you loved Violation, host Beth Schwartzapfel has a new recommendation for you. Hosted by Beth's esteemed colleague, Amory Sivertson, Beyond All Repair is a new murder mystery podcast from WBUR & ZSP Media — launching March 7, right here in this feed.
Imagine if, one day, you are accused of something. Something horrible, violent, heinous. Something you swear you did not do, and nothing you say can convince anyone otherwise — even the people closest to you. That’s Sophia Johnson’s story. Sophia was starting fresh: A new life, a new husband, a baby on the way. But it all unraveled on January 10, 2002, when her mother-in-law Marlyne Johnson was found bludgeoned to death in her home. Days later, Sophia was charged with the murder. To this day, Sophia swears she didn’t do it. But someone says they witnessed it — her own brother. When family betrays family, who do you believe? In this story of a sibling rivalry beyond compare, WBUR’s Amory Sivertson turns the clock back. She reexamines an unsolved case, a family torn apart, and a woman who wasn’t believed. From WBUR and ZSP Media, Beyond All Repair is a 10-part true crime investigation into a cold case. The series ends with an answer. The first two episodes of Beyond All Repair will drop on March 7, 2024. Listen and follow Beyond All Repair on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts. Listener note: This show has descriptions of violence and strong language.
Reporter Amory Sivertson has reopened a box that some members of the Correia family were hoping would stay shut forever. Amory first met the youngest Correia, Shane, in 2017 while interviewing him about his experience with homelessness. But there is another dark chapter of Shane's life: his older sister being accused of murdering her mother-in-law in 2002, when he was 13 years old. Now Shane wants to know, did his sister commit this brutal the crime? If you have questions about the case, the real people at the center of this story, or anything else about this series, we want to hear them. Email beyondallrepairpod@gmail.com with a voice message or written message. Listener note: This show has descriptions of violence and strong language. *** Consider becoming a "BEYOND" member today: This show is made at WBUR, a public radio station, which means we cannot make shows like this without public support. Join our membership program, "BEYOND" here: wbur.org/beyond
Amory learns more about Marlyne Johnson, Sophia Johnson’s late mother-in-law, and her murder is explored through footage of Sophia’s 2003 trial. Clark County Detective Rick Buckner and his team narrowed the field of suspects to siblings Sophia and Sean Correia (Shane Correia's older brother and sister). Sean testified during Sophia’s 2003 murder trial that he saw his sister standing over Marlyne’s body, holding fireplace tongs. If you have questions about the case, the real people at the center of this story, or anything else about this series, we want to hear them. Email beyondallrepairpod@gmail.com with a voice message or written message. Listener note: This show has descriptions of violence and strong language. *** Consider becoming a "BEYOND" member today: This show is made at WBUR, a public radio station, which means we cannot make shows like this without public support. Join our membership program, "BEYOND" here: wbur.org/beyond
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Comments (35)

Art 34

Tried 3 episodes, and couldn’t finish. Only worried about the guy who stabbed a person in cold blood and his family because of “racism”. He may be where he is bc of the killing another person thing, not racism. Also goes at the victims family. Mitigates the killers crime and victim blames because of skin color. Nothing more. Disgusting.

Jun 29th
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Yvonne villanueca

I couldn’t finish this podcast because it seems like you are coddling the killer and almost attacking the victim’s family every chance you get. I wonder how you would feel if this had happened to you. They lost their son and all you can do is criticize them. That’s why we have so many criminals because they are not treated as such. Pray to God this doesn’t happen to you. You must live in a sanctuary state or city. Guess you all haven’t learned from their failed policies.

Jun 20th
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Greg P

Great podcast. Great journalism. hope to hear more from you.

Jun 14th
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Megan

so disappointed in the detective and his tunnel vision. did not expect this from the guy who did great work on the Jefferson case. dude probably resents Sophia because she did not confess for him, to something she did not do. cannot believe this one time this hero cop decided to be an incompetent %^&*. cannot believe he chose to listen to a thieving lying druggie.

Jun 13th
Reply (1)

AliQ

This is as far as I could handle listening. Not sure if this podcast is about the inefficiency and incompetence in parole boards, or a sob song for someone who has used every last social hot button excuse for his actions. Further , the podcast runs off into a direction of mooning over a mediocre at best “celebrated author” who also leans on a fantastical version of a hard knocks life as a crutch. And really ? REALLY? “Dr. “ DeSoto? Why not a podcast on ALL of her conflicts of interest?

Jun 3rd
Reply (1)

reza Kalantari

very good 👍

May 21st
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Nick March Hare

This was a very engaging, interesting, confusing, and fun series! Thank you very much for your hard work putting it together for us the listener.

May 11th
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Megan

the injustice here is not that some inmates do have to serve their full sentences, and do not get out early. it is that murderers and rapists get paroled. the consequences are more severe than one of these parole board jokers losing his/her job. the lives of murder victims are devalued, and potential future victims' lives are gambled with. just abolish the damn thing for certain crimes.

May 7th
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Megan

I can see why the murdered boy's parents did not want to participate in this podcast, much less speak to this reporter. it is pretty clear what they would have been walking into if they had. I am uncomfortable with being led to reframe the perpetrator as the victim. there better be a damn good reason for this path, besides being intellectually or otherwise enamored with the murderers father.

May 7th
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Megan

if we are going to talk about a human life as if it is a "debt", well some debts cannot be repayed.

May 7th
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Tony Lovell

The team putting together this podcast is very talented. It's a shame that they found such a terrible story to follow. It is impossible to believe any single vantage point. Some might think this makes for an interesting story, but I just find it maddening.

May 2nd
Reply

Selina Jahan Sathi

⭕𝗪𝗔𝗧𝗖𝗛➤𝗗𝗢𝗪𝗡𝗟𝗢𝗔𝗗➤𝗛𝗘𝗥𝗘➤👉https://www.justhd.online

Apr 19th
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Tony Lovell

Shawn (sp?) is the less credible of the two. His story is constantly evolving, and he always creates an "out" for himself. He says in one moment that he saw his sister with murder weapon; b hand, and THEN, there's also a shadow he's never before provably mentioned. a shadow - in a glass A-Frame - in the middle of the day.

Apr 18th
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Tony Lovell

I feel this jumped the shark in EP7.

Apr 11th
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Tony Lovell

Re: the detective saying she sounded phony in her interview. I found her phone conversation with her brother, when she was less on guard. supremely believable. Her brother is either simply insane, or he did this by himself.

Apr 8th
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Erin Lovett

💔

Apr 3rd
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Erin Lovett

SO. GOOD. really well done si far I can't wait to hear all of it. and the theme song🩷

Apr 2nd
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Rebecca Butcher

Interesting podcast. I began practicing DBT several years ago and it has completely changed my life. I think it would have amazing effects if everyone could learn it. Glad to know Jake is using it. I hope more prison therapists teach it.

Mar 27th
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jsjsjsjsjskek jsnskemsk

Wow, this sounds gripping and https://carliftserviceindubai.ae/ heartbreaking. Can't wait to listen to the whole story unfold.

Mar 15th
Reply

Timmy Beasley

definitely one of the most interesting well done and different Ture crime podcast I have heard in a Long time. ready for the next episode!!

Mar 11th
Reply (1)
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