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'Out of the Shadows'

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SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS: The logo for Shane Waters’ investigative podcast “Out of the Shadows,” shows Waters, left, and co-host Gemma Hoskins, right. Hoskins was also featured on the Netflix show “The Keepers.”
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DIGGING DEEP: Local investigative podcaster Shane Waters looks into cold case murders to try to find answers for victims’ families. His podcast, “Out of the Shadows,” is hosted with Gemma Hoskins, who appeared on the Netflix show “The Keepers.”

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

Shane Waters spends his time studying murders that others have long given up on solving.

His cold-case investigative podcast, “Out of the Shadows,” takes on a serial killer Waters believes is responsible for killing six women in the ‘80s, and a Baltimore priest, believed to be a serial sexual abuser, who is the subject of the Netflix series “The Keepers.”

Throughout it all, Waters’ focus is on the victims, the survivors and their families.

Waters, who was born in Muncie, recently moved to Marion from Indianapolis.

His podcast has helped identify the victims in a decades-old series of six murders known as the Redhead Murders and has sparked new investigations into all six cases.

Five of the six women brutally killed along interstate highways in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and West Virginia were unidentified until Waters’ podcast brought renewed attention to the case and families of missing women were able to connect the dots between the Jane Doe murder victims and their long-lost family members.

Since Waters’ podcast aired, three of the victims have been identified, leaving just two still unknown.

“Something that we know about Jane Doe cases is that when you don’t have family members pushing for you, they kind of get forgotten about. So that’s what happened to these women, in large part their communities forget about them, and so did the detective agencies that were in charge of their cases,” Waters said.

The fact that the victims were unidentified and that so little was known about them intrigued Waters from the start.

When a fellow true crime podcaster told him about the murders, he almost threw the idea out because he only had 15 minutes worth of material, total, about the cases. But that fact ended up being the thing that drove him and co-host Gemma Hoskins to find out what happened to these forgotten women.

“That kind of broke both Gemma’s and my heart ... I realized that this is six people, and if they don’t have a story, then I need to find one for them,” Waters said.

“One of the reasons they may have been forgotten about is police believe they could have been prostitutes at truck stops,” he added.

He’s worked to make sure each victim, identified or not, is remembered, placing red wooden crosses at each of the locations the women were found.

Connecting with family members of victims is important to Waters’ work.

“There’s several times where I think to myself that I’m not strong enough to push through this. … I go out to places and talk to family members and friends, so in a way, I form an emotional attachment. A lot of times I question if that’s the right thing to do because it is so difficult many times, but I always know it is the right thing because it helps those family members know someone cares,” Waters said.

Waters believes one person committed all six murders and he and students in a sociology class at a Kentucky high school have created a profile of the person they believe did it. They’ve shared this information with law enforcement.

Waters is also pushing, on the legislative side of things, for a law to be passed in Indiana requiring the use of the national missing persons database.

Indiana does not require law enforcement to use NAMUS (The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) when they have a missing persons case. The database can help law enforcement match up unidentified remains with missing persons reports when cases cross county or state lines.

Tina Farmer, one of the women identified in the Redhead Murders, was reported missing in Indiana and her remains were left unidentified for decades in Tennessee.

“Tina Farmer had a daughter that died a year ago from cancer, and she was a baby when her mom disappeared. She always wondered if her mom just got up and left her, just abandoned her, but now we know that she was murdered shortly after she disappeared. That is something that she would have had an answer to if the database would have been utilized for Indiana,” Waters said.

The series Waters is working on now with co-host Hoskins delves further into the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun and schoolteacher whose 1969 murder is still unsolved. The Netflix series “The Keepers” features Hoskins and looks into allegations of sexual abuse by a priest at the school where Cesnik was teaching, examining the theory that Cesnik was killed for what she knew about the abuse.

Episodes of the Sister Cathy series are released weekly, and Waters said they are learning new things every week with in-depth interviews with people who knew Sister Cathy.

With the renewed focus on the Catholic sexual abuse crisis, his podcast has attracted a lot of listeners who were victims of sexual abuse in the church.

Waters tries to be a resource for victims. His business card even has contact information for the National Sexual Assault hotline and SNAP, the survivors network of those abused by priests.

“We know that a lot of people who follow ‘The Keepers’ and follow our podcast are survivors (of sexual abuse), we want them to know that it’s an outlet for them … We want people to utilize them as a resource.”