It is not true-crime reporting I have issues with; it is the readers of true crime stories who appear disproportionately a few fruit loops short of a nutritious breakfast
By Nate Thayer
June 2, 2015
I am not a crime reporter–unless you include mass murder by government and war crimes by tin-pot despots.
However, last week I wrote a long investigative piece on a high-profile murder whodunit here in my hometown of Washington, D.C.
I became interested because the torture, stabbing, and, after being doused in gasoline while tied up by duct tape and held hostage for 19 hours, the quadruple murder of millionaire businessman and Washington socialite Savvas Savopoulos and his wife, 10-year-old son, and housekeeper took place right smack dab where I grew up (and where several of my immediate family now live)
And, in addition, the one arrested (out of others still on the lam) suspect lives smack dab where I currently reside.
So this perked my interest, and sensing an uncomfortable creeping threat inside my perimeter, I decided to do my own due diligence to try to figure out what exactly happened and who was responsible.
The story had dominated Washington news headlines for more than a week, and led national headlines for a couple of days. But few facts emerged which provided comforting answers or closure to the whodunit. Or why they done it. Or whether these bozos might do it again etc.
So I spent a number of days researching the evidence. I came up with some intriguing, yet to be made public, new details, including a number of odd facts which suggest that the recently hired personal assistant and “driver”–an aspiring professional race car driver– of the murdered businessman has many questions to answer. Included among them was his connections to the one suspect who has been arrested (although police are clear he had accomplices), and why he repeatedly lied to police about his activities in the hours before the murders, which include him dropping off $40,000 at the Savopoulos residence (while they were being held hostage) immediately before they were murdered.
And then I wrote a story.
I think I regret that. I am sufficiently spooked that I expect it will be the last true crime murder whodunit story I intend to cover.
Not because it was not interesting or fruitful. Rather, because it brought out an alarming number of amateur sleuths and apparently unstable readers who appear to have very committed opinions on these topics.
I have been inundated with incoming emails, tweets, comments on my blog, and a running commentary and goofball analysis on various crime blogs and other online forums by every two-cent Sherlock Holmes, absent the charm and wits, with entirely too much time on their hands.
Some of these folks became alarmingly insistent.
There is, for reference, the running commentary on amateur crime fighter blogs. I became aware of them when I noted that more than 500 people had come to read my story on my blog nate-thayer.com via several of these sites.
Their comments seemed to be dominated by posts like this:
“I just have to express my surprise and disappointment that the Thayer blog has been approved as a credible source for reference here. Among other things, it seems to me to be primarily a vehicle to collect donations so he can self publish the book he claims to have been writing for the last fifteen years, or maybe twenty-five, it’s a little confusing to me.
Anyhow, he says: “Support Publication of Sympathy for the Devil”…Blah, blah, blah….So there you have it. Another internet shyster, imo.”
And this: “Daron Wint’s dad said that his son lived with him and his wife for a while. Before he threatened to kill them. (Dunno how long or where.) So did this Nate guy make up that Daron Wint and Jordan Wallace lived at the complex at the same time? Or was he just guessing? And did he also make up that the complex is adjacent to the church where the car was set on fire? And did he make up that LE said they were aware of the connection? Just trying to determine what it means that Websleuths has accepted the blog for discussion if it is actually inaccurate.”
And some fellow named “corundogs” chimed in: “This is not new information…and IMO, this Nate guy got ALL of his information from this website.”
And someone named “popsicle” added this: “I find it hard to believe this guy is a real journalist. The Porsche is blue and wasn’t in the garage. His original story said Daron Wint’s prints were on the pizza crust. He is the only one saying anything about connections…. and then he only mentions that Jordan Wallace’s father use to live near where Daron Wint’s father lives. ummm ok then” and “He made up the fact about the red Porsche in the garage that the money was in.”
And then one “i.b. nora” added: “So, this Nate Thayer guy, who claims to be some award-winning journalist, says:
‘By Nate Thayer
May 28, 2015
(No reproduction or quotation in full or in part without express written permission from the author)
And yet, his entire article consists of the reproduction of material stolen from other journalists, ideas stolen from various crime discussions, and photos stolen from Jordan Wallace’s own original collection of personal photos. Think about it. These photos are automatically copyrighted and Thayer really has no right to reproduce them without permission. They do not, imo, fall under Fair Use rules. It is especially bothersome since, in turn he seems to be accusing Wallace of some involvement in the crime. Anyways, I don’t think his blog is credible for our discussion.”
And another: “I think I will start a blog saying I was nominated for a Pulitzer, too.”
And from one rfk: “I’m sorry, but I need some confirmation other than that blog. It’s about as factually trustworthy as NG. I’d like to know where Nate Thayer got the information.”
Then, I started getting tweet bombed: “Nate Thayer, why are you trying to ruin Jordan Wallace’s life?” Where did you get your information that he lived near Daron Wint? And who leaked you information from LE that the two are connected?”
Then the Tweeter emailed me:
On Sat, May 30, 2015 at 3:09 PM, Courtney XXXXX (email address redacted) wrote:
I’m Courtney. I’m a researcher.
I’m following the Savopoulos case very closely. There’s been a lot of bad reporting floating around. Your piece is not that, but it does seem to make strong inferences regarding Jordan in an effort to make it look like Fast & Furious Goes Bad or something.
There is a reason he has not been detained or even listed as a POI and as you point out, video and cell pings put him in Chantilly when the house burned.
Maybe he’s involved and maybe he isn’t. LE is not talking and the players are avoiding the media.
Did you speak to anyone who does not stand to gain publicity/money out of this?
Did anyone directly involved with investigation of this case know about this article ahead of time and encourage your angle?
Would love to hear back.
I responded: On May 30, 2015, at 3:46 PM, Nate Thayer <email@example.com> wrote:
Hi Courtney: We don’t know each other and I was taken a back by your unfounded allegations I was “sensationalizing the story” and trying to “set” myself “up with Fox News later”.
If you would bother to Google me, you would see I have been doing this for 30 years and “don’t fast and furious” anything. I did not say he was involved. I said he lied to police and raised suspicions of his actions during the period of the crime and afterwards.
You also said my story had nothing new in it. In fact, it is the first story to show Daron Wint and Jordan Wallace had links to each other. It also pinpointed the drop off and torching of the Porsche at the property adjacent to their former homes.
Of course I spoke to many people–more than 40–and none of them “stood to gain money or publicity”. Quite the contrary–no one wanted to talk publicly. And yes several people from LE knew about this article. Everything I wrote regarding the investigation was confirmed by law enforcement. No one encouraged me to write anything. That is not my job. My job is to get the facts straight. Which I did.
What exactly is your interest in this case. Are you a journalist? Do you have a horse in this race?
I would appreciate holding off on the ad hominem attacks. One can add to a discussion without accusing others of bad motives or unprofessional conduct.
In retrospect, I really should not have responded, but I did, because it is the polite thing to do. My response did not go down well with Courtney.
Courtney, within a few hours, seems to have launched an online Jihad, bombarding several online forums including the below mentioned websleuths.com true crime website. To websleuths.com credit, they responded by taking down some of the more goofy and defamatory postings. But that didn’t stop some from posting on other online forums, tweeting, and ratcheting up her threatening messages to my personal email–all using aliases to hide her identity.
On Sat, May 30, 2015 at 10:15 PM, Courtney XXXXX wrote:
It’s interesting that you just recently formed a profile on Websleuths and immediately posted a link to your own piece there.
It is also interesting that you got it approved for use on the site as that is not the standard procedure there. I’ve been reading there for years and this is a first.
Your story contains no new information….It is highly sensationalist and absolutely suggests Jordan Wallace is in on this up to his ears. Why are you ok with casting such horrendous aspersions on a 28-year-old kid when it is absolutely possible his lies had nothing to do with this case? Did LE tell you specifically otherwise? No.
This is a huge case. You can literally ruin lives in your haste here and given the nature of your previous work, I’m stunned at the choice you made to do so….Speaking to 40 people is not the same as getting verifiable information from 40 people. The “new” driving coach is an example of one who stands to gain from being associated with this case. Surely you do not dispute this.
Think about it. I contend that the vast majority of your piece was written on the basis of what you read on the web board and the timing of your activities there lends much credence to that contention. That you are not transparent about it is extremely disturbing. What about other stories? Is this normal? You’ve won a Peabody. You’ve been nominated for a Pulitzer. So what gives?… I am shocked, honestly.
My interest in this case is that it be reported accurately, with as few additional lives destroyed as possible. My interest is in fairness. My interest is in revealing truth. I stated earlier, I am a researcher.
I do not make ad hominem attacks. I do not enjoy conflict. I am mind-blown that the writer of that piece turned out to be someone I would otherwise most certainly have admired.
And, of course, I am now curious as to whether Websleuths approved it based on your bio rather than based on the piece itself. That said, I do not own or have anything to do with the place other than to read but for years, they’ve maintained a high bar when it comes to allowable material. Not so much here.
Finally, in the interest of straight news piece you might have wanted to include the fact that, based on public records which you have likely seen, Jordan Wallace is not even black.
This missive gave me the creeps. So I did a little bit of due diligence to ascertain the real identity of the author of the missives (who had been using an acronym and no last name or details of their other particulars). What I found was not comforting.
It included that my new pen pal has been convicted of at least 23 crimes, most of them suggesting she had a habit of stalking, to put it mildly, people she has some sort of disagreement with. These disturbing criminal charges and convictions include ‘Forging Public Records’, ‘Felony Forgery’, ‘Unlawful change of Name’, multiple charges of ‘Assault and Battery’, multiple charges of ‘Annoying Ringing by Phone’, multiple charges of ‘Annoying Phone Calls’, and multiple charges of ‘Trespassing’.
So I sent Courtney a response to her unsolicited email:
Get a grip on yourself and take a deep breath, please.
I “recently formed a profile” and “immediately posted” a profile on websleuths because my website page received more than 150 visitors from the site since yesterday and I saw there were discussions on my article–so I posted it. One has to form a profile to post on the site. Why do you find that interesting? It is pretty normal.
I asked for and got nothing approved by the websleuths site, now or ever…..I have no idea what dark conspiracies are twirling around in your hostile mind, but I am not involved in them nor do I wish to be….You have accused me of being “dishonest” “sensationalist’ and covertly attempting to “set” myself “up with Fox News later” in recent hours. You have accused me of lying, of making up information in my professional capacity as a reporter, and stealing information from other sources.
And you have done that impugning my name while you hide using aliases yourself.
Not everything, Ms (real name redacted), is a dark conspiracy with ulterior motives. Your day long barrage of missives are simply riddled with factual inaccuracies and darkly defamatory….I am dismayed by your zealous campaign contacting me and impugning my name and reputation publicly without foundation and maliciously.
I find you disturbing, threatening, maliciously attempting to defame my professional reputation, and am under the impression you are stalking me.
Unlike your ad hominem attacks which have come out of nowhere after I erred and answered your question you sent to me on Twitter earlier, I have reason to believe that you have a history that suggests my fears are well founded.
Given you have been criminally charged–by my count at least 23 times in recent years–for such disturbing offenses as FORGING PUBLIC RECORDS, FELONY FORGERY, UNLAWFUL CHANGE OF NAME, multiple charges of ASSAULT & BATTERY, multiple charges of PHONE: ANNOYING RINGING, multiple charges of ANNOYING PHONE CALLS, and multiple charges of TRESPASSING, I am concerned for my safety and professional reputation after your day long campaign of defaming me and stalking me under your real name and aliases.
Please cease and desist immediately.
My new pal Courtney responded, albeit in a very brief message:
On Sun, May 31, 2015 at 12:30 AM, Courtney XXXXX wrote:
You emailed me.
And this explains a lot about you.
I did not respond. But Courtney, a few hours later, added an addendum to her last rather non-committal missive:
On Mon, June 1, 2015 at 12:28 PM, Courtney XXXXX wrote:
“I have spoken with my attorney and 2 members of LE on this matter. All parties are in agreement that it is you who is a threat to me, and it is you who is behaving in an entirely aggressive, libelous manner.
You have been stalking me. The evidence is in your own words. I read your blog page. Nothing more. Aside from being a liar, you are prone to speaking of things you know absolutely nothing about. This is not acceptable when the safety and security of other people are involved.
If you engage in this behavior even once more, I will take legal action against you. And i will not hesitate.
The criminal in this scenario is you, Mr. Thayer.
I will not be bullied or abused. I will not be your victim.
i will also not live in fear.
You owe me an apology. As I suspect your ego is too big for that, you other option is to make sure you do absolutely nothing to case negative aspersions on my name and character. I will definitely take legal action should you continue.
In other words, you CEASE AND DESIST IMMEDIATELY.
Courtney (and she includes, for the first time, her real last name)”
Oh, dear. That just won’t do.
I am pretty sure my career as a true crime reporter has peaked.
Not because I have a problem with writing about true crime, rather because those who read stories about true crime appear to be, collectively, disproportionately a few fruit loops short of a nutritious breakfast.
Life is too short, even when you expect to die a natural death.