What Remains

By WRAL Studios

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True crime meets forensic science in the What Remains podcast from WRAL Studios. With no ID, human skeletal remains often end up at medical examiners’ offices where they sit in storage closets for years, gathering dust as evidence slowly disappears. These are some of the most difficult cold cases to crack. Unsolved murders. Missing people never identified. Families without answers. Every year in the United States there are 600,000 missing person reports and 4,400 sets of unidentified human remains are found. But matching the remains to the missing people is not an easy task.   Meet the passionate scientists and investigators dedicating their lives to the seemingly impossible: matching missing persons to unidentified human remains. In the emerging field of forensic science, they coax clues out of bone, using what remains to put a person’s identity back together. The veteran detective who devotes his career to bringing closure to families. The volunteer forensic genealogist who uses new tools like GEDmatch to narrow down an ID. The part-time web sleuth who helps shape the national missing persons database, NamUs. The forensic anthropologist using DNA testing to identify race, sex, body type and features that help coax a name from the bones. The scientists who study human decomposition at a body farm in western North Carolina. The forensic artists who build facial reconstructions from nothing but skulls. And the parents who endure years of not knowing what happened to their children. All working toward the same goals: finding a name, solving cold cases, bringing justice and closure to families. WRAL Studios presents What Remains, hosted by veteran crime reporter Amanda Lamb. 

Episode Date
E10 A Murder Trial Without A Body
What is justice? For some people, it’s finding the missing remains of the person they love. For others, it’s convicting the person responsible for taking a life. Sometimes, it’s both. In this episode, we take you into the belly of the criminal justice system and show you how it tries to find resolution for families in some of the most difficult cases. We tell the story of Monica Moynan, a young mother missing and presumed dead – and why the local district attorney believes she can prosecute the ex-husband for murder without a key piece of evidence – Monica’s body. Without human remains, is there a solid case? How do you take a case like that to court when you have no definitive proof a person has even been killed?
Aug 10, 2022
E9 Missing in NC | What Happened to Cole Thomas?
Unlike most of this podcast, this is not a story about skeletal remains. In this case, no human remains have been found. Cole Thomas is officially a missing person, but his father knows in his heart his son is dead.  Imagine if your child disappeared without a trace. Given that there are so many ways of communicating and tracking people these days it’s hard to picture, but it happens. Children and adults seem to simply vanish every single day in America. In this episode we introduce you to a family whose adult son vanished in North Carolina in 2016. You’ll hear the heartbreaking story of Cole Thomas from his father, Chris, and the community advocate who is trying desperately to help this grieving father find his son – alive or dead. Chris Thomas refuses to give up, and he will go to almost any lengths to bring Cole home.
Aug 03, 2022
E8 The Art of Facial Reconstruction
When you think of an artist, drawing dead people is probably not the first thing that comes to mind, but that’s exactly what a forensic artist does. In this episode, we meet two forensic artists who piece together clues allowing them to take a human skull and turn it into a portrait of how a person looked when he or she was alive. Going from skeletal remains to a drawing or 3-D likeness of a person is part science, part art and part magic. In this episode, find out how they interpret the clues to turn a skull into a human likeness that helps solve cold cases and unsolved murders.
Jul 27, 2022
E7 Part 2 DNA Profiling | Forensic Genealogy Dream Team Solves First Case
In 2005 young boys playing near an abandoned house in Harnett County, North Carolina found skeletal remains. More than fifteen years later those remains are identified thanks to the work of The Carolina Cold Case Coalition. In this bonus episode, the coalition solves its first case, bringing closure to a family and a name to the unidentified. Learn how forensic science – in particular forensic genealogy – helped solve the case. 
Jul 20, 2022
E6 Part 1 DNA Profiling | The New Tool in Solving Cold Cases
Sitting in each state is a collection of skeletal remains, unnamed and gathering dust. These are cold cases that have proven to be uncrackable, unwilling to give up the secrets of who they are or what happened to them. Unsolved murders that refuse to be solved.  The newest crime-solving tool, forensic genealogy, came onto the scene when it helped solve two of the most highly publicized cases in the U.S.: The Golden State Killer and the Bear Brook murders. We introduce you to the rockstar behind the forensic genealogy in those cases, Barbara Rae-Venter, and how her success breathed a new kind of life into unsolved murder cases around the country. In North Carolina, one scientist is now on a mission to put a name to each of the state’s 124 unnamed boxes of bones. She and a dream team of forensic experts are starting this mission with 13 cases.  In this episode we go step-by-step through the process, explaining how DNA profiling, web research and forensic genealogy work together to help identify victims and suspects.
Jul 20, 2022
E5 Cold Case Solved | The Boy Under the Billboard
Each investigator has that one case that haunts them, the one that just won’t budge. For Detective Tim Horne, the Billboard Boy was that case. He was just a young crime scene tech when the skeletal remains of a little boy were found beneath a billboard in his jurisdiction. With no leads, the unsolved murder turned into a cold case. But Horne kept the case in a box beneath his desk where he would literally bump into it for the next 25 years. It was a daily reminder that he needed to solve it. The unidentified remains couldn’t stay unidentified forever.  When the clock starts ticking down to his retirement, he knows it’s now or never. Horne is determined to make something happen.  That’s when he turns to forensic genealogy, and the research of Barbara Rae-Venter. Famous for her work on the Golden State Killer and Bear Brook cases, Rae-Venter uses DNA profiling to provide a single piece of information that could help Horne solve the case. But can he do it before time runs out?
Jul 13, 2022
E4 Cold Case Solved | The 30-Year Mystery of Tent Girl
As a teenager, Todd Matthews had an unusual obsession. He was fascinated by the human remains found along the side of a highway in a small community in rural Kentucky. The woman had been wrapped in a tent bag, and the tale of Tent Girl became a sort of urban legend. He never let go of his obsession with the case. Later in life, while working the assembly line at an auto factory, Todd created an early web page about Tent Girl, asking for the public’s help solving the case. That site helped Matthews do what police could not – solve an unsolved murder. And in doing so, it changed the way investigators across the country handle missing person cases today. Todd Matthews went on to create The Doe Network, a nonprofit database of missing persons, unsolved murders and cold cases. His search methods helped shape NamUs, The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.  In this episode, Todd describes his first and most famous case, and how the work he started as a teenager sparked a revolution in unsolved murder investigations.
Jul 06, 2022
E3 The Body Farm
There’s this beautiful place in the mountains of North Carolina where death lives to tell a story. For people who have chosen to donate their body to science, their remains are laid out on the ground and left to decompose. Forensic anthropologists call them “human decomposition facilities,” but most people just call them “body farms.”  In this episode we’ll take you to a place few people ever get to visit while they’re alive. Guided by the director of the facility and her husband, both anthropology professors, we walk through each step of how bodies decay, and how the variables of weather, location, and even vultures can impact the state of skeletal remains. Learn how the research that comes out of observing this process can help police investigate unsolved murders and cold cases.
Jun 29, 2022
E2 What is Forensic Anthropology?
Dr. Ann Ross is surrounded by bones, literally. Everywhere you look in her osteology lab at North Carolina State University there are skeletal remains on metal tables laid out like jigsaw puzzles – a mosaic of hundreds of pieces that only she knows how to put together. Ross is a forensic anthropologist, often called on to help solve murder cases using forensic science. In this episode, we walk you through the definition of forensic anthropology with the disappearance of Laura Ackerman, a young mother of two boys. The frantic search for her leads across state lines from North Carolina to the gruesome discovery of her dismembered remains in a Texas creek filled with alligators. The clues point to her ex, Grant Hayes, and his current wife. When the skeletal remains arrive in Dr. Ross’ lab, the work of solving the case with forensic science begins. But solving this takes creativity. That’s where a pig carcass and a reciprocating saw from a hardware store come in handy.
Jun 22, 2022
E1 Forensic Science Solves The Mystery of Baby Michael
More than twenty years ago, a newborn baby was found dead inside a garbage bag on the side of the road near a military base in North Carolina. The officers working to solve his murder called him Baby Michael, named for the patron saint of police. With no leads on who the baby was, or who his mother was, the mystery turned into a cold case – another unsolved murder – but investigators never, ever quit on Baby Michael.  Meet the incredible investigators who made it their mission to identify Baby Michael and find his killer, and learn how they tapped into an innovation in forensic science to crack a 21-year old cold case.  This episode features two cold cases: Baby Michael and Ebonee Spears, a woman who vanished without a trace from Wilmington, North Carolina. One solved and one that still needs a miracle. If you have any information about Ebonee Spears, please contact the Wilmington (NC) Police Department.
Jun 22, 2022
Introducing What Remains | TRAILER
Introducing What Remains, a new podcast where true crime meets forensic science. Every year in the United States there are 600,000 missing person reports and 4,400 sets of unidentified human remains are found. But matching the remains to the missing people is not an easy task. With no ID, human skeletal remains often end up at medical examiners’ offices where they sit in storage closets for years, gathering dust as evidence slowly disappears. These are some of the most difficult cold cases to crack. Unsolved murders. Missing people never identified. Families left without answers.  What Remains follows forensic anthropolgists, genealogists, criminal investigators, facial reconstruction artists and volunteers dedicated to matching unidentified human remains to missing and murdered people. WRAL Studios, the creators of Follow The Truth present What Remains, hosted by veteran crime reporter Amanda Lamb. Episode one coming soon!
Jun 08, 2022