Smoke Screen: My Friend, the Serial Killer

Sony Music Entertainment

Smoke Screen is an investigative documentary series on people with complex motives and morals. Follow characters on the fringes of society — con artists, cult leaders, corrupt politicians — as they seduce their marks and bend communities to their will. Join us as we unravel their stories and bring justice to the people they’ve deceived. SEASON 9: My Friend, the Serial Killer In the 1970s, Steve Fishman was an intern at his local newspaper, when one day he hitched a ride back from Boston with Robert Carr III, better known as “Red.” Red seemed trustworthy enough, but he was hiding a secret: by the time he had picked up Steve, he had already killed three people—and all of his prior victims were hitchhikers themselves. Unlock all episodes of Smoke Screen, ad-free, by subscribing to The Binge. Plus, get binge access to brand new stories dropping on the first of every month. Just click ‘Subscribe’ on the top of the Smoke Screen show page on Apple Podcasts or visit to get access wherever you listen. SEASON 8: My Fugitive Dad Ashley’s Dad was her favorite person in the world. He drove fast cars and sold them for a living. He was a scratch golfer and the love of her Mum’s life. Ashley thought she knew him better than anyone. But at 38, she found out he wasn’t who he said he was. Inspired by his favorite movie the Thomas Crown Affair, he had pulled off a robbery in Cleveland then disappeared. It turns out he evaded the authorities for half a century, living in their sleepy Massachusetts town. His secret upended his family’s life, but another family’s too. Because from the moment this 20-year-old vault teller escaped with $215,000 in 1969, Deputy U.S. Marshal John Elliott made it his life’s mission to bring him to justice. After he retired, his son even took up his mantle. For this six episode podcast, host Jonathan Hirsch teams up with Ashley Randele to unravel the mystery of how her Dad got away with it, and ultimately, why he left behind everyone and everything to start over. SEASON 7: Betrayal on the Bayou For almost two decades, DEA Special Agent Chad Scott ruled the streets just North of New Orleans. He controlled a network of snitches by convincing people he arrested to work for him as informants. Chad would stop at nothing to put drug dealers behind bars. His successes won awards at the DEA, but his willingness to bend the rules earned him a terrifying reputation on the streets. Some called him the Golden Boy. Others called him the White Devil. But when one of guys on Chad's team is caught dealing drugs, Chad’s life is overturned. His right-hand men betray him and confess everything to the FBI. Investigators go over his career with a fine-toothed comb, asking the question: is Chad Scott the greatest DEA Agent in the South, or is he a criminal?  SEASON 6: Just Say You're Sorry Texas Ranger James Holland is celebrated as the ‘serial killer whisperer’, solving dozens of murders through his legendary interrogation skills. But how far does he go to get confessions? And has he put innocent people in prison along the way? Smoke Screen: Just Say You're Sorry uses shocking police tapes to reveal the psychological drama behind one murder case, and uncovers something rotten at the heart of the justice system. SEASON 5: Deadly Cure Smoke Screen: Deadly Cure is a podcast about a family on the fringe who convinced tens of thousands of people across the globe to buy a miracle liquid made of poison, the international conspiracy they ignited, and the people who fought to take them down. Produced in collaboration with Bloomberg. SEASON 4: Puppy Kingpin SEASON 3: The Sellout SEASON 2: I Am Rama SEASON 1: Fake Priest read less

Our Editor's Take

Smoke Screen is a podcast about swindlers. Every episode lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. The host of the podcast is Alex Schuman. A journalist by trade, Schuman has covered local and national politics. He also has experience as an executive producer for feature-length films.

Each season of the Smoke Screen podcast focuses on an individual running a con. The cons vary in scope and style, but they share something in common. They all cause grievous harm to their victims.

In Smoke Screen: Fake Priest, the podcast follows the trail of Father Ryan. For 30 years, he performed all the offices of a clergyman and even opened his own churches. But Father Ryan was no priest. He would move to another small town whenever people got suspicious. Over the decades, he swindled vast sums of money from unsuspecting parishioners.

In the same fashion, Schuman reveals scams of all kinds in different podcast seasons. There's Rama, a cult leader with a taste for fine things. He encouraged his followers to pursue tech careers to support his lavish lifestyle. There's also a Los Angeles council member representing a working-class Latinx neighborhood. His platform was to protect the area from encroaching gentrification. But his constituents discovered that he had been accepting bribes from developers.

Schuman also uncovers a puppy mill owner with unethical business practices. This investigation leads to the sinister side of the dog breeding business. Another probe focuses on Mark Grenon, the man who sold bleach to his parishioners as a cure for COVID-19.

At first, there's not much that ties all these people together. But Schuman finds the commonalities between them: greed and a disregard for the wellbeing of others. Smoke Screen is not afraid to expose these monsters for the benefit of its listeners.

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True CrimeTrue Crime
Society & CultureSociety & Culture

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