Criminal Podcast: I’m About to Save Your Life

Shivani Manivasagan, Staff Writer

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How do a traffic jam on the way home from work, a minor car accident, and 6 simple words result in a 25 year long blackmail scheme that results in over $100,000 exchanging hands? Such an incredulous story is reviewed in Episode 11, “I’m About to Save Your Life,” of Criminal, a non-episodic podcast series that investigates real crime stories of the past.

The victim of this quarter-century long blackmail is referred to as “Robert,” a timid but well-mannered engineer. When trying to avoid a traffic jam, he ended up driving through a neighborhood in the city of Compton, California, notorious for gang violence and high crime. Robert accidentally sideswiped a parked car, and when he stopped to assess the damages, he saw, to his terror, a group of men running toward him. What happened next was like a scene from a movie: an young man opened the driver’s side door of Robert’s car, pushed Robert into the passenger seat, and said, “I’m about to save your life.” He took control of the car and drove away into a different part of the neighborhood to escape the men. After they were safe, he added that the damaged car was his mother’s and Robert would have to pay for the damages. His name was Leon Moore.

Robert gave his address and contact information to Moore, and though the monetary compensation the latter was asking seemed slightly unreasonable, he paid him in gratitude. But it didn’t stop there. Moore continued to demand money for various reasons, and would show up with weapons at Robert’s house and threaten to kill him if he didn’t oblige. Afraid of Moore and making a scene, Robert kept giving Moore money. This blackmail continued for 25 years; after suspecting others’ lives to be in danger, Robert overcame his embarrassment at complying for so long and finally went to the police. Shortly afterwards, Robert, in his 70s, passed away.

After everything, we don’t know if Moore actually did save Robert’s life that day, or if the damages (if any) that Robert might have sustained from that mob would have been far less than the 25 years of psychological torment he endured. All we know is that just a few seconds were enough to shake Robert’s world forever.

This episode of Criminal was narrated by Phoebe Judge, whose calm voice effectively conveys a variety of stories to listeners. Conversation with Stephanie, the prosecutor who handled this case, and snippets of a police interview with Robert were also included for variety and to make the story seem more real, and unnerving. Background music served its purpose of breaking the monotony of an orated story and heightening tension. The episode clocked in at 20 minutes, which was engaging and informative, but not too long.

Criminal is a great place for anyone who is interested in crime or mystery. Episodes, free on their website, are bite-sized, usually from 20-30 minutes at a time. Since the podcast is non-episodic, one can simply pick any episode without having to deal with seasons or context; however, this makes the stories brief and not as detailed as an elaborate mystery series might be. Regardless, Criminal serves as a pleasant surprise for anyone willing to give podcasts a try.