Last month, I attended CrimeCon for the first time in person. I was on the virtual Podcast Row at CrimeCon House Arrest in 2020 and 2021, so I knew the conference’s mission was to bring together the true crime community for a weekend filled with education, understanding, advocacy and fun.
To prepare for CrimeCon 2023, I ordered a retractable banner, a table runner, and lots of podcast swag to giveaway. I was finally going to CrimeCon to meet listeners face-to-face and, hopefully, find new ones.
I did something else to prepare for the conference. I interviewed Kathryn Turman, retired Assistant Director of the FBI Victim Services Division (VSD). During her excellent episode, she provided some heartfelt advice:
“I would like people to realize and remember that for every crime that you see on the news or on Netflix where they’ve fictionalized or done some documentary on something, there are victims and families there that bear the real cost and the real impact of these crimes long after those of us who’ve worked with them are onto the next case.”
Kathryn’s words of wisdom were especially helpful when a few weeks before I flew to Orlando, I received an email from Craig, whose friend’s 21-year-old daughter had gone missing under suspicious circumstances. He was going to CrimeCon to get in front of as many people as possible about the case. Shortly thereafter, I received another email, this one from Bethany. Her brother Bryan “Vladek” Hasel has been missing since November 2021, with no sightings or leads since that time.
Family members would be at CrimeCon to spread awareness by passing out flyers. Could they leave some at my table?
Once I arrived at CrimeCon, I was lounging in the front area of the World Center Marriott where the three-day event was held and started a conversation with the person sitting next to me. He was Joseph Petito, Gabby Petito’s father. I also met and spoke with David Robinson II, father of missing geologist Daniel Robinson, and Candice Cooley, whose son Dylan Rounds disappeared more than a year ago with no trace. I also displayed flyers for the families of Calvin Berry and Natasha Boykins. They believed their loved ones had been murdered, even though the authorities had ruled otherwise.
I didn’t know exactly what to say, but I listened to the families and friends, let them know how sorry I was for their loss, and that I cared. CrimeCon is a social event. I had a great time hanging out with podcaster friends and attendees. But there was always present a palpable tone of reverence for the missing and murdered.
This is where victims and families come to find hope and justice. When sessions end, often audience members wipe away tears shed in the dark while hearing another terrible tale of loss and injustice. There’s even a wall where we share their stories and say their names.
As a retired FBI agent, it was unusual to be among so many podcasters, TV personalities, and armchair detectives focused on analyzing and solving crimes. However, there were also plenty of other federal agents, police officers and private investigators in attendance.
So why go to CrimeCon? Because it is also a beautiful place of compassion. A space where the true crime industry comes together to make sure the families, first responders, and legal and law enforcement personnel who face the challenges of crime are supported and their sacrifices recognized.
To learn more about the conference, check out the full 2023 schedule here.
CrimeCon 2024 Nashville will take place May 31-June 2, 2024 at the Gaylord Opryland.