To Live and Die in LA is a podcast by Neil Strauss investigating the 2017 disappearance of Elaine Park, a 20 year old girl from my hometown, La Crescenta, CA. Strauss quit his job and dedicated his life to helping find Elaine, or at least find answers for this missing girl, even though he never met her. The podcast investigates different leads and theories, some followed by the police, others not. Strauss brought to light lots of evidence that had been overlooked by the police – most notably Elaine’s volatile relationship with her mom. The police interviewed Elaine’s mom, but never believed her to be a suspect while Strauss’s podcast all but says Elaine’s mom killed her. Though he has significant evidence, which has all been brought to the police, she is still not considered a suspect.
Elaine’s mother’s life, because of this podcast, has been ruined.. Everyone in our community has become invested in this case again because of this podcast and now believes her to be the murder. There are Facebook groups and forums that blame Elaine’s mom and the whole community knows not to talk to her or associate with her. Rumors have been spread that she lost her job in the community and does not even shop locally anymore. Though there is evidence for her involvement, Strauss has no police background. He is an author and knows how to write a good story. If the evidence was significant enough, the mother would be on the police’s radar, but she is not. Strauss’s podcast has completely ruined this woman’s life and I cannot imagine as a mother how hard it must be to not only lose your child, but also be blamed for her death.
Struss often relied on other listeners of his podcast to bring forward evidence. This was an extremely effective way as he got first hand accounts of everything. He also relied on those same Facebook forums for new evidence and often asked for the help of the public. Through Facebook, he was able to compile thousands of pictures and found exactly when Elaine’s car was abandoned in Malibu. This would not have been possible without the help of the common citizen participating.
Citizen journalism can be an extremely effective tool. A 25 year old missing person case was recently solved with a similar podcast when they interviewed new witnesses and suspects who could not be located previously. This podcast was called “Your Own Backyard” and ultimately helped bring answers to Kristen Smart’s family.
I am sure this was Neil Strauss’s intention in creating this podcast. He wanted to bring answers. But because his podcast came to no solution, listeners were left jumping to their own conclusions – most concluding that Elaine’s mother likely killed her. This is extremely dangerous and led to the ruin of a woman’s life. A woman who could very well likely be innocent.
Citizen journalism can be an effective way to solve crime, however it can also be extremely detrimental. Podcasts like Strauss’s have raised awareness for what happened, which may eventually lead to a conviction or at least answers for a heartbroken family and community, but as of right now, this podcast has done more damage than good.
8 thoughts on “A Podcast That Ruined a Life”
True Crime podcasts have become extremely popular lately and even if this podcast started out with good intentions, it seems that views and listens have become more important than the effects these podcasts can have on people’s lives. I can’t imagine how Elaine’s mother must feel after losing her daughter and then being blamed for her disappearance.
This scenario is interesting, given the multiple sides to it. Just from reading this, I do not know whether the police’s reasoning not to investigate the mom, but I’m gonna go under the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. I do not how through Strauss’ podcast was, that is, if he even bothered to try to interview the mom, or look for alternative suspects, but the post seems to indicate that he fixated on her early on, and amplified his portrayal of her through ‘suspense’ and ‘mystery’. From that, I guess my critique of Strauss was that he could’ve been more objective with his podcast , but having seen crime documentaries, I do there is only so much one be objective before appearing biased. Additionally, the podcast helped in that it managed to result the location of the victim’s car. I believe also, it also it falls on the people, for taking this information at face value, and jumping to conclusions. I guess it just demonstrates that we as humans are fallible to fall into the ‘mystery’ trope.
See, I don’t know if I like Neil Strauss personally, but facts are facts. I know being a parent cannot be easy, but there must have been something that wasn’t right if their relationship was as volatile as it’s been said it was. I know that people who do not know you at all will act like they know you and there are power in numbers so I can see how the mother’s life must have been ‘ruined’ all while losing her daughter should already have been enough of a loss. I don’t think I am siding with anyone because I don’t know enough of the story or relationship or even the so called evidence. I feel bad because there must be some reason that the police/court does not find the mother to be a suspect. However, from watching numerous crime documentaries, I don’t think the police/investigators are always the most reliable or accurate. I hope the real truth can be uncovered soon!
I noticed the level of distrust between the police and the public has been declining over the years. And this is one example of how detrimental it is to a family. The missing daughter, the mother being rejected by her community, also “lost”, and the upsetting neighborhood. No one will ever get closure. Insufficient funding, resources, or negligence in law enforcement has serious consequences as they fulfill irreplaceable critical functions in society.
This post really highlights how quickly people can jump to a conclusion and run with it, whether it is true or not. It shows how the community of listeners really stuck with the idea that Elaine’s mother was responsible, but it has not been proven nor confirmed by law enforcement. This also shows the power that the internet exhibits, this woman was deemed a criminal simply because the podcast host and listeners believe her to be. We often collectively fail to realize that these crime stories and podcasts we hear are about real people with real lives that are affected by these labels. Elaine’s mother is now stuck with this label and forced to change the way she lives even though there is a possibility that it may no even be true.
As someone who enjoys listening to true crime podcasts, I find podcasts that focus their episodes on speculation to be difficult to listen to. If the host on the podcast is painting a perfect picture of their opinion on what happened to the victim, it can become a convincing narrative that is fabricated. This is worrisome for the victim and their loved ones because it can tarnish their image for their entire life. However, like the post mentions, there are times where podcasts can be helpful in solving cold cases such as Kristen Smart’s disappearance. When the community comes together and works as a team to fill in the factual details we can get answers to mysteries faster and give the victim and their family justice.
It was interesting to see how much our current society seems to find these types of cases intriguing and that they are so influenced by it that they seem to want to partake in the “hunt’ for answers of unsolved cases. While the person behind the podcast made it with probably either good intentions or looking for glory of solving a case it seems the situation got out of hand for the mother of the victim Elaine. Since Strauss has pointed some facts about the relationship between the mother and daughter (victim) trying to label her as the culprit seems to have grown within his community bringing repercussions to the accused. Without having a solid lead to her doing the crime it seems a stretch to her being accused but now since there’s no tying of the knot people point fingers and with the methods information is passed to these days it is easier than ever. The life of Elaine’s mother seemed to have came crashing down and even if later the real culprit is caught the time, broken image and feelings that the mother had to go through will not come back from one day to the next.
I found this topic to be super intriguing and one that showcased not only how quick to judge our society has become but also how clear-cut our decisions are becoming on issues that have so much more involved than one solution. There are rarely any cases in life and crime with such black-and-white solutions, yet everyone is fighting to find these kinds of answers. With the addition of ideas like cancel culture and how much access the internet has brought to our fingertips, it’s easy for us to blame one person and move on to the next case. But when we don’t take the time to delve deeper into the situation and hear all sides, we end up hurting someone in the process. This really shows the power of our actions and how divided our society has become in terms of understanding the multifaceted aspects of our lives.