People around the world are listening to a new podcast about a 26-year-old Quad-Cities murder case.
Public radio station WVIK and journalist Scott Reeder are producing the podcast "Suspect Convictions," about the ongoing prosecution of Stanley Liggins. In its first week, the podcast ranked in the top five of all U.S. podcasts on iTunes, according to itunescharts.net.
Mr. Reeder said there are more than 300,000 podcasts airing at any one time. He said the podcast's Facebook page has shown listeners from across the U.S., as well as Australia and the United Kingdom. He said he doesn't have data on how many listeners the free podcast has. [[412147183, C]]
Mr. Liggins has been convicted twice of the Sept. 17, 1990, murder of 9-year-old Jennifer Lewis, who authorities said went to buy gum and never returned home. Her burned body was found outside a Davenport elementary school.
Mr. Liggins faces charges of first-degree murder, sex abuse, kidnapping, arson and willful injury causing serious injury. In 1993, a Scott County jury convicted him of the murder, but the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the verdict. He was convicted again in 1995 by a Dubuque County jury, with an appeals court in 2013 reversing that conviction and ordering a new trial.
Mr. Liggins will stand trial for a third time this May.
One of the reporters on site the night the body was discovered, Mr. Reeder has followed the case since that day, conducting interviews and collecting documents.
"Suspect Convictions" — produced with WVIK's Lacy Scarmana — sheds light on the case, including why the two convictions were overturned. Available on iTunes, WVIK.org and SuspectConvictions.com, the podcast is expected to cover the story as pretrial motion hearings begin Feb. 20.
"It's a compelling, sad story," Mr. Reeder said. "I think Lacy has done a superb job of producing this in a very polished manner. I would describe it as good narrative journalism. We're telling a story each episode.
"One of the things that makes this podcast different, we don't know how this is going to get resolved. We don't know the ending," he said. Mr. Reeder does not say if he thinks Mr. Liggins is guilty or not, presenting both sides of the story in the podcast.
"What we've tried to do in the podcast is present as much of the facts, context of the case, as we can and have listeners draw their own conclusions," he said.
Five half-hour episodes are available so far and are airing Fridays on WVIK. Mr. Reeder also is writing a book about the case expected to be released this fall.
He said he was inspired to launch the podcast by the popularity of "Serial," a podcast begun in 2014 about the 1999 murder of a Maryland high-school student.
"I listened to it, thought this is really good, but I think the case I'm writing about is just as interesting," Mr. Reeder said. Having a defendant face murder charges for a third time, especially so many years after the crime, is "extraordinarily rare," he said.
"We have a lot of issues, 26 years after the fact," he said. "A lot of witnesses have died. And you're also asking people to remember something they may have seen or heard 26 years ago. That's a pretty hard thing to do."