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Two families and an unthinkable crime at summer camp that binds them together. A new podcast from WBUR, Boston’s NPR, and The Marshall Project explores America’s opaque parole system through a 1986 murder case and asks: How much time in prison is enough? Who gets to decide? And, when someone commits a terrible crime, what does redemption look like?

Episode Date
Two Sons, Lost

Why did Jacob Wideman murder Eric Kane?

In 1986, the two 16-year-olds were rooming together on a summer camp trip to the Grand Canyon when Jacob fatally — and inexplicably — stabbed Eric.

That night, Jacob went on the run, absconding with the camp’s rented Oldsmobile and thousands of dollars in traveler’s checks. Before long, he turned himself in and eventually confessed to the killing — although he couldn’t explain what drove him to do it.

It would take years of therapy and medical treatment behind bars before Jacob could begin to understand what was going through his mind that night. It would take even longer to try to explain it to his family, to his victim’s family and to parole board members, who would decide whether he deserved to be free ever again.

This debut episode of “Violation,” a podcast from WBUR and The Marshall Project, introduces the story of the crime that has bound two families together for decades.

Jacob’s father, John Edgar Wideman, is an acclaimed author of many books on race, violence and criminal justice. He spoke with Violation host Beth Schwartzapfel in a rare, in-depth interview about his son’s case that listeners will hear throughout the series, including this premiere.

Mar 22, 2023
Introducing 'Violation'

In 1986, while on a summer camp trip to the Grand Canyon, 16-year-old Jacob Wideman fatally stabbed his roommate, Eric Kane. Jacob confessed to the murder, but couldn’t explain why he did it.

The crime devastated both boys’ families. For the Widemans, it was also a haunting echo from their family history.

Just two years earlier, Jacob’s father, acclaimed author John Edgar Wideman, had published "Brothers and Keepers," a memoir that grappled with how his brother, Jacob’s uncle Robby Wideman, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a fatal robbery. How could another inexplicable crime happen twice in two generations?

Jacob served decades behind bars for killing Eric Kane. Then in 2016, an Arizona parole board granted him house arrest. Jacob’s release outraged his victim’s family.

It wasn’t long before Jacob was back before the board, fighting again for his freedom.

Violation, a new podcast from The Marshall Project and WBUR, tells the story of how this horrible crime has connected two families for decades. It explores suffering and retribution, as well as power and privilege. It also pulls back the curtain on parole boards — powerful, secretive, largely political bodies that control the fates of thousands of people every year.

Hosted and reported by The Marshall Project’s Beth Schwartzapfel, Violation debuts on March 22, with new episodes every Wednesday.

Mar 08, 2023