In 2018, podcast network Wondery released two programs that captivated the public. The first was Dirty John, a Los Angeles Times collaboration which explored the wild-but-true story of grifter John Meehan, who lied, stole, and wormed his way into the heart of wealthy interior designer Debra Newell. The second, Dr. Death, told the tale of a different con man: neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch, whose botched surgeries left patients paralysed and even dead. Now, Wondery has a new web of lies and deceit to untangle.
Hosted by reporter Matt Shaer, Over My Dead Body tells the story of a broken marriage... and a murder. When law professor Dan Markel was shot in the head at his home in Tallahassee in 2014, his ex-wife Wendi Adelson's family were immediately suspected of hiring someone to complete the crime. Yet even after a connection to the Adelson family was allegedly made via a confession from the suspected hitman, the members of the white, wealthy Adelson family were never indicted. The suspects arrested, tried and incarcerated for Markel’s murder were all people of colour.
Over My Dead Body examines whether the Adelsons’ race, privilege, and wealth allowed them to possibly get away with a horrific crime.
Shaer stumbled upon this wild story in reporting on a rabbi in New York who was one of 10 men arrested for beating up men in the Hasidic community who refused to grant their wives a divorce. Markel was tangentially related to the case (he was reportedly contacted as a legal consultant), but while this particular angle into Markel's death came up empty, Shaer discovered that Markel's murder had quite a few twists of its own.
"When we set out to start to record this podcast, we actually envisioned it as a relatively straight forward true-crime podcast," Shaer told Refinery29 over the phone. "It had that Law & Order beginning where a person dies before the credits roll, and you spend the rest of the time putting together how that person died. But what was the Wondery team's idea, and what I hope sets this one apart, was to kind of flip the structure on its head. In this podcast, the first two episodes are just about this relationship between [Markel and Adelson]. It’s about the disintegration of that relationship as told through the people who knew Dan and the two formerly married people."
Like the couple at the centre of Dirty John, Markel and Adelson's relationship starts off blissful... and quickly unravels.
"I think everybody is interested in other people's relationships even if we don't always admit it publicly," Shaer noted. "There’s something voyeuristic about it."
Markel is not around to tell his own story, but Over My Dead Body will include voices from the many people who knew the professor.
"Wondery is most successful at is allowing listeners into these lives in this really intimate way," says Shaer. "Our victim here can’t speak for himself, but we are able to use a lot of voices to make his experience vivid for listeners. I think that's why these podcasts [like Dr. Death and Dirty John] are so successful. We want to know how the people live, we want to pull back the curtain and definitely in the case of Dr. Death and Dirty John, the extreme cases. Yes, they are very violent cases, very disturbing cases but there’s also all of these lives tangled up in these cases that are fascinating."
Check out an exclusive preview of Over My Dead Body below.