Discovery show, Dark Minds, looks at LC Valley murders | Crime
"The Phantom of the Civic Theatre," a new episode of the Investigation Discovery Channel's " Dark Minds " true-crime show, will air on Wednesday. The show will air at 9:00 p.m. (PDT), and will feature several missing persons and murder cases in the Lewis-Clark Valley.
It has been rumored for years that one man was responsible for the disappearance of 12-year-old Christina White. She was last seen in Asotin on April 28, 1979 after she went to a home in the 500 block of 2nd Street to get a wet towel to cool off and use the phone to call her mother.
The "person of interest" is also mentioned in the murder of 22-year-old Kristen David, who disappeared on June 26, 1981 while riding her bike from Moscow to Lewiston on her way to work at the former Twin City Foods plant. Her torso and leg, which were in a plastic bag, were found floating downriver from Red Wolf Crossing Bridge by fishermen eight days later. Other body parts were found the following day in plastic bags.
Then on September 1, 1982, three people disappeared from in or near the Lewiston Civic Theatre - 21-year-old Kristina Nelson and her step sister, 18-year-old Jacqueline (Brandy) Miller, and 35-year-old Steven Pearsall. The bodies of Nelson and Miller were discovered on March 19, 1984 by a teenage boy who was collecting cans along the highway near Kendrick. Pearsall's body was never found.
Police have believed that all of the cases could be connected to one killer, but there has never been enough evidence to prove it, and at least two local law enforcement officials have named a former Asotin County man as a "person of interest." That man now lives in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina.
"Dark Minds" features true crime author and serial-killer expert M. William Phelps and criminal profiler John Kelly. Together with "Raven," a murderer serving multiple life sentences, they reopen cold cases believed to be the work of serial killers.
The crew was in the Lewis-Clark Valley conducting interviews and filming this past October for Wednesday's show. Phelps told Big Country News Connection while he can’t give away what the viewers will see, they did try to review all of the available evidence and approach it in a different manner than has already been done.
"What my main goal is with any “Dark Minds” case is always to bring it to a national audience. Give it to the people," Phelps says. He adds that this case, maybe more than any other he has investigated throughout the series, will benefit greatly from a national audience viewing it.
"New leads will come from viewers - there’s no doubt in my mind about that. Beyond the local areas of the case, no one has really heard of it; so just the idea that hundreds of thousands of people will be introduced to it through “Dark Minds” will reignite interest, dust off any cobwebs and get people talking," Phelps says.
Phelps says there may be a few surprises - especially about the main person of interest - even for those locals who know the case intimately. "My belief with any “Dark Minds” case is that the most important thing I can do is present it. That’s when the “new” leads truly begin to come in - after the episode airs," he says.
For example, with last week's show about the Israel Keyes case, Phelps has received hundreds of emails, phone calls, and Facebook messages, some of which include promising information. "I suspect with “The Phantom of the Civic Theatre” episode, someone will come out of the woodwork that knew the main person of interest (or another suspect totally off the radar) and maybe, just maybe, provide law enforcement with that one piece of information putting it all together. The most important thing we can do is get word out about the episode so people watch."
The "Dark Minds" crew conducted several interviews last fall, including with law enforcement sources. "And have to say that one of my favorite interviews from this entire new season of “Dark Minds” was with Asotin County Sheriff’s Department Detective Jackie Nichols. She’s a tough cop. Very tenacious and straightforward. I think with Jackie on this case, we can expect to see a result somewhere down the road," Phelps says. He also interviewed Alan Johnson with the Lewiston Police Department, who he says had some "rather eye-opening comments regarding the case and the main person of interest."
Phelps says the most important part of his work on any case he covers is the interviews with victims’ family members. "Victim Jacqueline “Brandi” Miller’s mother, Geri Ryan’s interview, was heartbreaking. All the years that have passed and the pain is no less than the day it all happened. Geri believes she knows what happened and she holds nothing back in revealing it. Equally so, my interview with victim Steven Pearsall’s mother will shed some light on the pain that family has experienced and quash any suspicion of Steven’s potential involvement as a suspect."
Phelps interviewed everyone in their natural setting, and spent a week in the region talking to locals. "Asking questions, beating down leads, not to mention several months back in my office focusing on the case with a very passionate production team working behind the scenes."
The "person of interest" was not interviewed, nor is he mentioned in the upcoming "Dark Minds" episode, Phelps says. "Regarding this specific person of interest, a man we don’t name on the episode because of legal reasons. What I wanted to do was set aside what everyone else had done in the case where he was concerned and try to focus on the idea that anyone could be responsible. If I fall into what everyone else believes, I am not doing my job as a journalist. We try to exclude persons of interest - in a way, that’s our main focus going in."
That said, however, Phelps says everyone he spoke to kept bringing him back into the conversation. "And then when I looked at him closely, death - the death of young women, mind you - was all around him, since the time he was a teenager! That’s hard to ignore."
And, Phelps adds that there will be "an interesting piece of new information revealed regarding something he did as a young man that truly provided us with what we believe is the developing profile of a vicious serial killer."
Phelps says there was one person he interviewed that viewers will find especially interesting. "I might implore viewers to pay particular interest to an interview I conduct with victim Kristina Nelson’s cousin, Gloria Bobertz, a woman who knows this case perhaps better than most. In her own right, Gloria is a crack investigator. If I was a person of interest in this case, I would not want Gloria on my back - because Gloria will not stop until she sees justice served."
If anyone has any information that could help investigators, they are urged to contact the Lewiston Police Department at 208-746-0171, the Asotin County Sheriff's Office at 509-243-4717, or independent investigator Gloria Bobertz at firstname.lastname@example.org.