‘Freeway Phantom’ Podcast Puts Overdue Spotlight On Black Girl’s Unsolved Murders.
Between 1971 and 1972, six Black girls ages 12 to 18 went missing in the Washington D.C. area: Their names are Carol Spinks; Darlenia Johnson; Brenda Crockett; Nenomoshia Yates; Brenda Woodard; and Diane Williams. Each girl was found murdered and discarded alongside DC highways; local media began to call the killer “The Freeway Phantom.” That is the name of a new podcast telling the story of those murders.
“The lack of coverage, then and now, surrounding the murders of these six Black girls is shameful,” says Donald Albright, co-founder and CEO of Tenderfoot TV. “We are grateful to collaborate with iHeartPodcasts and Black Bar Mitzvah to not only tell their stories, but to further investigate these horrific crimes, and address many of the same systemic issues that persist today.”
When the story made headlines 50 years ago, the killer taunted police with a chilling note claiming responsibility and terrorized victims’ families with calls to their homes. But the killer was never brought to justice. The 10-episode Freeway Phantom podcast is produced by Tenderfoot TV, in partnership with iHeartPodcasts and Black Bar Mitzvah. It will share the stories of the six victims and explore new evidence which could crack these cold cases wide open.
Journalist and public radio veteran Celeste Headlee (NPR, PBS, TEDx) has spent the past two years sifting through boxes of documents and interviewing investigators and family members who are still haunted by these murders. One of Headlee’s most notable contributors throughout the podcast is retired DC police detective Romaine Jenkins, who spent a great deal of her career working on the Freeway Phantom murders. The series also explores racial disparities, how strategies for solving murders have evolved over time, the lack of trust between law enforcement and local communities — a theme that persists today — and the role of community action in bringing forth justice.
“This is an engrossing story, not only because of how much has changed in the way we track down serial killers, but also what has not changed,” Headlee said. “Our effort to protect the public is still hampered by racism, mistrust between communities and authorities, and a lack of cooperation among those whose job is to protect and serve. This series answers so many tough questions and asks just as many.”
The first two episodes of Freeway Phantom premiere today (February 15). The following eight episodes will be released weekly on Wednesdays. The series will be available across all podcast platforms. Ad-free listening and early access will also be available on Tenderfoot+ on Apple Podcasts.
Tenderfoot TV earlier released true crime series Monster: DC Sniper, Atlanta Monster and The MLK Tapes with iHeart.
Black Bar Mitzvah is a production company created by TV and film producer Jay Ellis (Top Gun: Maverick, Insecure) and Aaron Bergman. It earlier produced the Written Off podcast with Lemonada Media, highlighting the writings of formerly incarcerated young adults. Ellis also hosted and executive produced The Untold Story podcasts.
“What struck me when I first heard about these cases was both the tragedies that these families have had to endure for so long, and the parallels happening today with other missing Black and Brown girls throughout the country,” Ellis said. “That’s what fueled my desire for Black Bar Mitzvah telling this story - to shine a light on the stories of the victims and their families, and the inequities that continue to exist 50 years later.”