You think you know someone | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

You think you know someone


WORLD Radio - You think you know someone

An Illinois couple learns the hard way that sometimes people aren’t quite what they seem

LES SILLARS: Welcome to Doubletake. I’m Les Sillars.

JULIANA CHAN ERIKSON: “Dear Juliana, First off, I think you have a very beautiful name. My name is Chad Schipper. I am an inmate at Menard Prison.”

This is Juliana Chan Erikson reading a letter she received last year from Chad. Menard Prison is in Illinois.

JULIANA: “My friend has signed me up as a free member on several different penpal websites. Your name struck me for some reason, so I decided to write to you.”

In 2016 Juliana was working on a magazine feature about loneliness.

JULIANA: I just thought, I want to contact prisoners, because I feel like they're the loneliest people I could think of and they have time on their hands. So I reached out to, I don't know, one of these websites like prison pen

She found a couple of inmates willing to correspond with her, wrote the article, and thought that was that. Then in 2020,

JULIANA: I got a letter in the mail from a guy named Chad, who I had not written to, and somehow found my address. And I think that's kind of scary, because I'm like, Is my address floating somewhere? In Menard prison? Like, the prison, prisoners are exchanging addresses of women that are willing to write to them. So I got this letter from Chad Schipper, he apparently was convicted of aggravated kidnapping.

LES: And so did you know what aggravated kidnapping was?

JULIANA: I, I know what kidnapping is. I don't know what aggravated kidnapping is.

But she found the letter quite charming. So Juliana wrote back. And they started to correspond.

LES: What did your family and friends say when they heard that you're writing to this guy?

JULIANA: Oh … they were very against this. I mean, most of my friends were like, get a PO box. And, like, don't give him personal information. 21:27 They told me that they were really worried that I would engage with them, and then they would fall in love with me, and that I would send them money and gifts. And then they would spring out of jail and hunt me down and kill me. And I'm like, for what?

Chad talked a lot about his family.

JULIANA: He talks about, I mean, some of the stuff is really personal. So I mean, he's, he's married, and they have six kids and his wife homeschools the kids. … I mean, he, he adores his wife.

She found his letters funny and interesting and sometimes quite touching. So she kept writing. And he kept writing back.

MUSIC: One Step Closer to the Blues

Here’s Juliana reading more excerpts.

JULIANA: Hey there, little lady. I was so excited to get your letter …

But love. True love is not a feeling. It's a choice …

So my first night ever in jail, I sit there phone in hand, arm in a sling, waiting for my wife to pick up …

But for future reference, probably don't lick your letters before sending them to me. … If you watch Seinfeld, you will know what I'm talking about …

When the light was out, it was pitch black, I would have died in that cell that night …

My cellie, who isn't so bright, just let them pull two more of his teeth. I think he has three left …

So much has happened, so strap in for this one. First of all, the judge ruled against me on visitation with my children …

He seemed like a sincere Christian.

JULIANA: And he goes on to say God has the power to rescue me from this prison. But even if he doesn't, I will still serve him.

LES: And so and so it got to the point where you could actually imagine, like, going to the same church with this guy?

JULIANA: Yes. Yes, I totally could. Because he’s got kids, I’ve got kids. And we would probably chat about whatever, you know, what was going on with our lives like I do with anyone else at church.

But eventually Juliana did what any prison penpal in her right mind should have done at the beginning.

JULIANA: I googled him. And that’s when I realized: Chad was not what he seemed.

Is anybody really what they seem? Juliana ended that relationship safely. And in researching Chad she found a couple who learned the exact same lesson she had learned. Only they learned it the hard way. That’s today on Doubletake.

Here’s Juliana.

JULIANA: I’m a city girl who lives in a high rise condo where space is measured in square feet. Larry and Connie VanOosten, however, measure their space in acres. They have a farm near Erie, Illinois. It’s near where Chad grew up.

JULIANA: A little nervous. I don't even know if I've arrived at the right place but we're gonna find out.

They have 70 acres with a farmhouse, a pool, and a workshop. A few storage sheds, grassland and lots of … empty space. It’s February when I visit and today their teenage grandkids have taken a motorized cart to the edge of their property with hunting rifles. There aren’t many trees nearby, so you can see a long way.

They welcome me inside their farmhouse.

JULIANA: Nice to finally meet you! Larry: You too, you too …

Connie and Larry live on the outskirts of town. In Erie, everybody knows everybody.

CONNIE VAN OOSTEN: I'm Connie VanOosten.

LARRY VAN OOSTEN: Hi. I’m Larry VanOosten.

Connie grew up near Chicago. After they married they moved west to the countryside.

CONNIE: We have, you know, a couple of restaurants and A gas station, grocery store, that you know, kind of keep things going.

LARRY: No stoplights.

The couple raised two kids. Larry ran a pest control business and Connie did sales for a flooring company. Years passed. Their kids married and had kids of their own. And the VanOostens retired. Now they’re grandparents who still enjoy a good laugh. Mowing the lawn. Helping neighbors and hanging out with the grandkids. Larry says he likes the remote life.

LARRY: Our location is somewhat isolated, we have a neighbor across the road. And no one really that close. I've lived in this area, most of my life. … it's a place that we both thoroughly enjoy that we feel safe and secure.

Soon after I arrived, the VanOostens took me to the second floor to see their master bedroom. The bed is right in the middle, decorated with matching pillows. It looks modern.

It's where they still sleep.

Music: Guessing Game

That surprised me … because it is the scene of a nightmare. A nightmare that began in the early morning hours of February 7th, 2017.

LARRY: I was here, asleep. And I thought I was really dreaming because I kind of felt a presence in the room and I looked up …

At around 7 in the morning, Larry opens his eyes and sees a man standing by the side of the bed. Dressed in all black: black face covering, black sunglasses, black ball cap, black gloves, black pants. And that’s when he realizes: this is no dream.

LARRY: I woke up and then when I finally figured out this is something different I yelled.

That wakes up Connie. But before either has time to react, the strange man pulls out a weapon and aims it at Larry. He’s no more than 5 feet away. He can hardly miss.

LARRY: And so somehow he moved from just over a few feet and then shot the Taser at me.

He misses.

LARRY: I thought I was shot. I mean, I had never been around one of those things before and it does have a flash and a bang.

The man tells them in a flat voice, “Lay down on the bed. Don’t look at me.” The man speaks calmly, as if he’d done this before. “Lay face down,” he says.

Even though the taser missed, the man’s presence and his commands are startling enough for Connie to call out to God.

CONNIE: My words to Him were, were, well, it was a prayer of sorts. And, Lord, please help us. Please help us.

The man’s response sends chills down their spines.

CONNIE: And that's when he said, “Where's your God now?”

Music: Strained and Slanted

The man sounded weird. Larry and Connie later realize that he has a voice modulation device strapped onto his neck. It gives his voice a less than human texture. Kind of gravelly.

Larry tries to talk to the man, telling him that God is present. God can help you, and it doesn’t have to be this way. We have a God who can forgive, he pleads. The man is curt. “Stop talking,” he says.

He then hands Connie a pair of handcuffs and tells her to cuff her husband. This time, he was pointing a semi-automatic handgun instead of a Taser. The cuffs don’t fit, so he pulls out a larger pair. Then the man cuffs Connie.

CONNIE: And then he put duct tape over our eyes and mouths and said, “Don't. You know, just stay there. Don’t move!”

It crosses Larry’s mind to rush the guy. Tackle him. Even if he has a gun. Even if he gets killed, Connie might get away.

But he hesitates.

LARRY: That's one thing that hurts me more than anything that I somehow I didn't, you know, I tried, or well, we thought of ways that we could, one of those she left the handcuffs loose one time, but then after that, he never, I never saw him …

CONNIE: He never got close to you after that. But the way he was dressed, and kind of, the, the way he was acting, we had no clue what it was. I mean, this, he looked like a terrorist.

Handcuffed, with duct tape over their eyes and lying facedown on their bed, the VanOostens keep thinking, “We’re going to die. Right here.”

CONNIE: It did seem pretty hopeless, especially when he says, “Lay facedown on the bed.” We felt that had to be the end. I mean, now. That was it.

But then he leaves the room. Larry manages to loosen the tape over his mouth a little, then he tells Connie the only thing he could think of to do.

Music: Somber Farewell

CONNIE: He said, “Are you ready? Are you ready?”

Connie and Larry are longtime Christians. He means: Are you ready to meet Jesus?

CONNIE: And he said, “I'm gonna pray now.” And that's when we pray.

Music: Somber Farewell

Half an hour later, the man comes back. But instead of shooting them, he uncuffs Connie.

CONNIE: One point when he finally came back up stairs, he took me, left Larry here and took me downstairs again. Gunpoint. Took the tape off my eyes and mouth and then took me down to the office. And then I was to give him account numbers and all that kind of thing.

He gives her a pad of paper and a pen. Connie is still frightened, but quickly realizes what this was all about. It’s a robbery. He wants to clean out their bank accounts. She writes down the numbers.

CONNIE: And then he had me clean up, he'd carried around tracked mud.

So Connie gets on her hands and knees. And with her own cleaning supplies, she removes any trace that their kidnapper was ever there. Footprints. Fingerprints. Everything she can find.

Then the intruder brings Larry downstairs. He tapes up Connie again and orders both of them into the trunk of a Chevy Caprice. Still handcuffed. But at least they’re together again. And alive. It’s about 8:00 in the morning.

LARRY: It was an old car. It was a little rusty. And yeah, there was light and dust coming in.

CONNIE: And fumes.

LARRY: And cold air.

For the next 30 minutes or so, the car navigates long rural roads. The VanOostens know the countryside: a winter landscape of fallow farmland. Red silos and large farm irrigators sitting idle, waiting for spring. But all they hear is the drone of the Caprice. Occasionally another car breezes by in the other direction.

This goes on for miles. They slow down for what they guess is a small town, then speed back up, cruising past the farmland and silos.

CONNIE: You lay there and you think, okay, is he turning? Is he you know, how far are we away? We had no idea where he, where he took us at that point.

The car finally stops in front of a house. The man pulls them out of the trunk and directs them inside. It’s mid-morning by now and the sun’s up.

CONNIE: I could see a little bit below my tape over my eyes. And it was very bright. So I felt well, lots of windows, at least.

He walks them into a closet, where he lifts one of the squares of carpet. Under that is a hardwood floor, with a padlocked trap door. He unlocks that and makes them climb down a metal ladder into a windowless basement. He loops their handcuffs through a couple of metal handles attached to one wall.

CONNIE: So we had to stand there along the wall. Handcuffed to this, this barn door handle.

On the floor beside them are lots of… snacks. Neatly stacked. Dozens of containers of single-serve pudding and applesauce. A big container of peanuts. Packs of ramen noodles. A jug of water. There’s a TV, as well as books and DVDs, also neatly stacked. Whoever had been here before was clearly a fan of Smallville, the Dukes of Hazzard and Home Improvement.

There’s also a mattress on the floor fitted with matching bed sheets and pillowcases. All of it has the makings of a storm shelter. Except for the handcuffs, which are five feet off the floor. So the two had to stand, which they did for a while.

CONNIE: At some point. It just got so hard to stand that actually I just hung on using the cuffs to just hold me up because I couldn't stand any longer. And like I say he left us like that for a long time. A long time.

Eventually the man comes back and brings Connie out briefly. He gives her her phone and tells her to call anyone expecting to see her today.

Music: Muzzled and Shackled

So she calls her daughter Amy and explains that they won’t be catching their grandson’s basketball game that night. She makes other calls: to her 89 year-old mother in law, a hair stylist, and a carpet layer.

As evening approaches, the man uncuffs Connie again and directs her to unlock Larry’s cuffs. He tells them to leave the key on the stack of books. The two of them lay on the mattress and settle in for one long restless night.

The next morning, the intruder’s voice comes over a speaker in the basement: “Put the cuffs on.” They do. He climbs down the ladder into the basement, then directs Connie upstairs.

Being kidnapped has taken a physical toll on Connie. She has not eaten, slept or calmed down. Once Connie gets up, she immediately passes out.

After she comes to, she manages to climb up the ladder. The man gives her an oversized winter coat and a handbag. He tells her to lie down in the backseat of the Caprice. He drives to a First Savings and Trust Bank in Albany, a town alongside the Mississippi River. This time, her captor is wearing a wig, ballcap, and sunglasses.

When they get there, he orders her to go into the bank and withdraw $350,000 from her account. In the form of a check made out to a company called Store Edge LLC. The modulator gives his voice a menacing edge.

CONNIE: He said, “Do not look at me and keep your head down. And bring me back the check.”

In the car he reveals a little about his plan.

CONNIE: He told me that this was his job, that he had been in, like, a special forces.

He says he’s part of a big secret organization that goes around the Midwest kidnapping people. And robbing them.

CONNIE: Then it was his job to keep us for two weeks, take all of our money, and then he would have to kill us.

It’s near closing time when they arrive at the bank. She takes off the blindfold and walks up. A bank employee has to unlock the door to let her in.

CONNIE: And all of a sudden, I wasn't, I just wasn't feeling real well, and I asked her if I could use the restroom. …

She’s desperate for a way out. But she’s worried that the kidnapper really is part of some criminal organization. Is somebody watching her? If she tries anything, will they find out? And if they find out, what will they do to Larry?

CONNIE: As I came out, and she took me back, there was a man that walked up to the drive up window, and I'm thinking he's part of a big organization. Are these people, you know, real customers? Or are they keeping watch? You just, you just don't know.

Music: Unexplained

But she has to try something. The guy had said he was going to kill them both anyway. So while she’s sitting across from the bank clerk, she takes a chance.

CONNIE: And so I looked through my purse, and the only thing I had to write on was our church bulletin. She had a red pen on the desk, and I just wrote on there that we're being held at gunpoint, can you please help us? … I slid it across the desk, so I can be very inconspicuous. And I said, “Would you read this, please, but don't react.”

The teller nonchalantly slips the note into her papers and ducks out of the office. She goes right to the president, and the bank contacts the police. The local police call the state police. Then the FBI gets involved. While they’re waiting, the president and the teller want to help but they have no idea what to do. She should stay in the bank, they say. But Connie is too terrified. So the bank makes out a check for $350,000 to Store Edge LLC. She grabs it and goes back to the kidnapper’s car.

She gets in, and they leave.

Morrison, Illinois. Population 4,046. It’s one of those places that takes a slower pace to life. Morrison’s courthouse still has an official portrait of former President Obama in its lobby.

JOHN BOOKER: You wanna have a seat in here?

John Booker is Sheriff of Whiteside County.

BOOKER: Why don’t I go get those?

On February 8 the Whiteside County Law Enforcement Center got a call from police in nearby Albany.

BOOKER: The call came in that a lady was in the bank and had gave off a letter to the teller that her and her husband were kidnapped and they needed help.

Detectives have at least one obvious clue. They get to work tracking down the name of the business on the check. Within hours they figure out who owns Store Edge LLC.

The man lives in nearby Geneseo. Aside from a few traffic violations, he has no criminal record. He works at a local gas station and owns a number of properties in the area. Police decide to focus on a car registered in his name: an old Chevrolet Caprice.

Booker told me the detectives also discovered that the man attended Erie Christian Church. The same church the VanOostens attend. In fact, the man had once been an elder there.

The police station officers outside the VanOosten home, where they find a broken basement window, a used Taser cartridge, and blood on the floor. It turned out that the blood belonged to the kidnapper, who hurt himself when he broke into the VanOosten home.

BOOKER: This was a full fledged kidnapping. So we determined the kidnapping had taken place at their house. We now had a suspect. We're able to have a vehicle, a possible vehicle, we're looking for.

At around 4 on the morning of February 8, the policemen stationed at the VanOostens see a Chevy Caprice drive slowly past the VanOosten house.

Officer: Whiteside 320, [inaudible] traffic.

Dispatcher: 3-24. Moline at Wilmont on Iowa, the silver Caprice. One occupant.

BOOKER: So then the deputy attempted to make a traffic stop on him.

Officer: Whiteside, he’s taking off.

The driver flees.

Officer: Westbound, Moline Road.

BOOKER: We got in a high speed chase with the suspect.

The Whiteside County cops speed down snow-covered Moline Road. It’s a long two lane road that takes them through downtown Erie and toward the small town of Hillsdale. The driver of the Caprice clearly knows the area, as he zooms down the snowy country roads. The police try to keep up.

Officer: Whiteside, he’s a hundred miles an hour through town.

After about 20 minutes, the Caprice zips through Port Byron, a small residential village that’s still asleep. He crosses a train track, then takes a sharp left and doubles back across the train track.

The car heads back onto another two-lane road. It picks up speed again. Then the driver spots another car coming from the other direction.

He swerves to the right, then overcorrects. This sends the Caprice careening out of control and smashing head first into a guardrail. The car that he was trying to avoid can’t stop and smashes into the Caprice.

Officer: Whiteside 3-24 we got a 10-50, two vehicles.

The police surround the Caprice, guns drawn. The driver’s injured, stunned and stuck inside.

Officer: We need EMS, Whiteside.

The cops pull him out, handcuff him, and search the car. Inside they find a gun, duct tape, a shovel, gloves, and plastic sheeting. The kind of items you buy when you’re intending to bury someone without leaving a trace.

Officer: Suspect’s in custody.

The man behind the wheel is indeed the owner of Store Edge LLC. None other than my penpal: Chad Schipper.

Dispatch: 10-4. EMS is en route. Can you advise how many injuries?

Music: Give It All Back

Chad confesses immediately to kidnapping Connie and Larry VanOosten. He takes investigators to the empty house with the secret basement. The police open the padlocked door. There, sitting on the mattress, are Connie and Larry. Alive and shaken up, but thrilled to see their rescuers.

Later, Chad’s taken to the hospital to treat his injuries. When police interrogate him, he tells them everything.

One interrogator asks him, “Chad, how do you feel right now?” Chad responds, “I feel horrible. Completely horrible.” He sounds more than happy to unburden himself.

Chad Schipper pleads guilty. But it takes more than two years of legal proceedings and delays before the VanOostens know the fate of their former captor.

Finally, on April 3, 2019.

WQAD News Announcer: The Morrison man accused of kidnapping an Erie couple and holding them for ransom at one of his rental homes, we have just learned, will now spend 60 years in prison.

Sixty years for aggravated kidnapping with a concealed identity, home invasion with a dangerous weapon, and theft.

Chad’s 42 at the time, so he’ll spend the rest of his life confined in a locked windowless room against his will. Not unlike the room he designed for the VanOostens.

As it turns out, Larry and Connie had known their kidnapper all along, ever since he was a kid in their Sunday School at Erie Christian Church. Jeff VanOosten is Larry and Connie’s son.

JEFF VAN OOSTEN: Growing up, Chad was a year ahead of me in school. He was valedictorian of his class, I was, we went to the same church.

To Jeff, Chad was the Christian kid who had it all: smarts, charm, and faith.

He was the one in Sunday school class. And when you had the races to look up Bible verses, are memorized. I mean, he knew them all.

Chad was that model Christian.

JEFF: And you're like, Man, this guy's got it figured out. I mean, I can't even stack up to this guy.

Chad Schipper grew up, got married and had six kids but struggled to make ends meet. Three years before the kidnapping, he tried his hand at financial investment services, and pursued the VanOostens as clients. Being nice church folks, Larry and Connie gave him a chance. They welcomed him into their home to listen to his pitch. They said no. He kept trying. They kept saying no.

Not everybody said no. After his sentencing, Schipper’s own parents filed a lawsuit for $444,000. They said he stole it from them when he was acting as their financial advisor.

But most people turned him down. He collected a raft of rejections. By 2017 he was neck-deep in debt and desperate. So the would-be wealth manager decided to provide the VanOostens with some … unsolicited financial services. If the VanOostens wouldn’t trust him, he’d just rob them instead.

Music: Wheeler Dealer

When I first spoke with the VanOostens, I told them that I became interested in the case because Chad had written letters to me. They seemed quite taken aback. I was puzzled. Hours later, I got a phone call from a very suspicious Jeff. He wanted to know why I was interested in the case. And what was this about letters from Chad?

You see, while Chad was awaiting sentencing, the VanOostens received a series of strange letters from an “old southern belle from Georgia.”

ELOUISA MAE: Howdy you all, my name is Elouisa Mae. Now I done sent you all a letter a couple months back. I apologize, dearies, if you never received it.

She wrote that she too had once been kidnapped by another man. Who happened to go to her church. Who had several children. Who had once asked her for money.

When this kidnapper was arrested, she wrote:

ELOUISA MAE: This man who had seemed so scary to me a few minutes before, was now cryin’ in my kitchen, dearies. He was tellin’ me how sorry he was. What was he gonna do now?

And she just happened to hear about the VanOosten kidnapping on TV. But unlike the VanOostens, she felt remorse for her kidnapper and asked the judge to give him a lenient sentence. She thought the VanOostens should do the same for Chad.

ELOUISA MAE: I have stared evil straight in the face on more than one occasion, sugar childs. Chad is not evil. He did evil things, but he is not evil.

Connie read the letters with great concern for Elouisa Mae. But Larry and Jeff were immediately suspicious. They turned them over to the police. An investigation found that the letter had originated in the jail itself.

There was no Elouisa Mae. Chad made up the name and wrote the letters. And when they raided Chad’s cell, they found a detailed escape plan he was planning to mail out to a former prison mate.

He wrote, “The only way I can fight back and prove my innocence is if I’m not in jail. So I need to get out of jail and I either need to die or better yet make everyone think I’m dead.”

Those letters probably didn’t endear him to the judge. At Chad’s sentencing, the judge described him as, quote, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

So when I called and mentioned letters from Chad...

JEFF: And when I hear that, well, we've received letters from Chad too. We didn't know it was Chad, but he's writing letters to everybody.

Jeff said even though Chad’s in prison, he’s worried about what Chad will come up with next.

JEFF: You're constantly on edge, like, let's see up to now, you know, when, obviously, you had the big plan of kidnapping my parents and then and then escape plan and then he had these letters was the next part of his plan.

To Jeff, the sentence wasn’t too strict.

JEFF: He's not going to stop. So no, 60 years isn't enough.

Chad Schipper was interviewed by police detectives after his arrest.

Officer: You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions, and to have him with you during questioning. Do you understand that?

CHAD: Yes.

He’s wearing a black and white striped inmate outfit. His right arm’s in a cast.

He’s about six-foot two. Looks sort of athletic. His salt and pepper hair is receding, and he has a short beard. Blue eyes. He was soft spoken. You can barely hear him on this recording.

CHAD: I worked at a gas station before that …

He’s telling the officer about losing his job at the gas station. Then he tried out financial services. He said that when that didn’t work he fell into depression.

Watching it later, I can’t tell if he’s so subdued because of the punctured lung he suffered from the car crash, or because the jig was up.

At one point, Chad looks down and shakes his head, as if he’s disappointed in himself. Then he tries to explain himself to the investigators. He claims he didn’t want to do it. Had talked himself out of it. But he needed money so badly. The demon inside, quote, “was all about appearances.” He said it didn’t feel like he was doing it.

Six years later, life in Erie has moved on. Chad’s wife remarried. Someone bought the house and tore down the basement dungeon. The locals still talk about that crazy day and everyone here knows the families. But even they are quick to change the subject. Because this is usually where crime stories end.

Music: Tragic Turn

But for the victims of crime, the pain often continues long after the story ends. Larry and Connie are still living with the effects.

JEFF: The damage is done. It's not, it's not three days. You can't look at it as three days. It's a living hell for them. My mom cannot go places, she has, she has a hard time going to watch her kids play sports and can't, you know, doesn't feel comfortable in crowds, doesn't, you know, it's a hell for them. I mean, he ruined their lives, he ruined their retirement.

If your school valedictorian, your former church elder, your model Christian hoodwinked you in the worst way, how do you trust… anyone?

That’s part of the struggle.

Erie Christian Church is a small church in a small town. Chad’s family, his parents and wife and kids, sat in the same pews every Sunday. The VanOostens had their pew, too. Things got super awkward the Sunday after the kidnapping. Their pastor started a new sermon series: “Walking with God when life goes sideways.”

He came up with that title before the kidnapping.

Jeff VanOosten’s wife Terri said that if just seeing the parents of the person who caused you pain makes you relive the trauma, how do you feel normal again? Here’s Terry.

TERRI: You don't want to see people and get a pit in your stomach. Like, why do you have to do that to yourself? You don't.

The VanOosten clan made the difficult decision to leave the church. The only church they’d known for the last 40 years.

LARRY: So we go to church in Prophetstown now …. And we've been there for last, a couple of years.

CONNIE: Both families needed a time to heal. And it just didn’t seem like we could move forward and be able to focus on God and the worship.

Terri said Chad is a lifetime manipulator.

TERRI: I’m not saying God doesn't change people. And, you know, I just think he has tricked people for a long time. And I don't think he's done.

LES: So now knowing what you know about Chad and what he'd done, you know, would you write back to him?

Juliana: Yeah, I would. I totally would.

LES: Juliana and I talked for a long time about this. Chad struck me as just such a manipulator. I can’t imagine a relationship with someone when I suspect every word out of his mouth is a lie. Including “and” and “the.”

Juliana was quite a bit more charitable.

JULIANA: Yeah. I don't know. I feel like everybody's a little bit of a manipulator in their own way. Right? Everyone has a dark side to them. And you don't really know when you're talking to anyone, whether they're giving you, like, the honest to goodness truth. … I see the letters and the letters tell me one thing. But then I learned about his crime. And that's like, another layer of him that I didn't know.

We also talked about the need for the grace of Christ. Juliana said that if people think you can just tie all this up in a bow and move on,

JULIANA: … and say that the happy ending everyone, there, everyone's a believer, and they've prayed for forgiveness, and everyone's forgiven everyone. Well, I think that's still a work in progress. And but I think I think the Van Oostens want to tell the story, not because they want to highlight that there that there are people they don't get along with, … but that that, that there can be healing that that that bad things happen to church people too.

The last time Juliana heard from Chad, he was telling her about a new job he wanted in the prison kitchen. He’d also get a better cell.

JULIANA: I did tell him while I was working on the story that I was traveling to Erie, his hometown. And, and if he wanted to talk to me about it, if there were any friends that I could connect with, and if he had a, you know, if he wanted to fess up and tell me more about his story and his side of it, and he ghosted me, he never, never wrote back.

Music: In the Jailhouse Now

LES: This episode was reported and written by Juliana Chan Erickson, and produced by the creative team at WORLD Radio. Thanks to Gayle Reinhardt for her portrayal of Elouisa Mae.

Please do follow, rate, and review us on your favorite podcast app. And if you're so inclined, share it with some friends. It really makes a big difference in helping other people find our show.

Next week on Doubletake.

Music: The Beginnings

Zuckerberg: … an embodied Internet where you're in the experience, not just looking at it. And we call this the metaverse …

Stewart: And for them the whole space is a last resort.

Les: My boundary is showing up around me. Ooo ...

Howard: When in VR, your senses are immersed in a real time feedback loop.

Lucy: Can you just step to one side, dear? Thank you.

Strasz: It’s about taking on a form and becoming it. Enough to feel like, this isn’t just an illusion, this is another reality.

Thanks for listening. I'm Les Sillars. And we'll see you next time.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...