Of scale contains adult themes and violence and is not intended for all audiences, listener discretion is advised.
It's sort of like stealing lives. She wanted what Jade had, she wanted what Anita had. She was trying to become them and she felt these people needed to die.
Welcome to Season eight, Episode 180 of Certain Scale, a show that reveals the worst monsters, a real.
Boy, do we have a who done it for you? This one is interesting, it's got everything mystery, intrigue or intrigue you, as my lovely girlfriend likes to say, it's also got a supernatural aura and you may even learn a thing or two about Vietnamese culture and history. You're in for a treat like Kebap or by mouth or maybe even a bond triazine.
I know I'm pronouncing all of that wrong, but you get the point. So let's get started showing the No. Recruiters, hiring managers and business owners reduce your cost per candidate by about 50 percent by partnering with CareerBuilder. Our technology helps optimize your process and connect you to qualified, diverse candidates at every stage of the hiring funnel from your job posting to automatic candidate engagement. And one click apply CareerBuilder Talent Acquisition Suite software packed with talent visit. Hiring. Career Builder.
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The human brain is amazing, being the most developed of all life on Earth makes us the best at pattern recognition, and that ability affects every aspect of our own lives, even though most of the time it's a subconscious action. Pattern recognition allows us to learn to read, write, speak or even recognize the face of a friend on an instinctual level. It helps us recognize and avoid danger and find food and shelter just like any other animal. But as human beings, we also tend to find patterns in the abstract, sometimes patterns that aren't really there.
We see faces in the clouds. Harambee and Akito and Jesus in a water stain are a dark spot we find meaning in the seemingly random nature of the world. We even try to predict the future by deciphering patterns out of randomness with the help of fortune tellers and tarot.
Historically, life is not easy for anyone, even people who are very privileged, very blessed, whatever we understand. That, however, is interesting to note that in your cards. It is not that I look at your cards and say, oh my gosh, you've been through horrible tragedy more than the average person. It's not so much that. But there is this history of like disappointment and things not going exactly the way you would like them to. And I don't know how much of that is on a tragic scale and how much of that is just, you know, shit luck in life.
But there is a bunch of that. And this is why it is good that you are tenacious, because if you keep moving forward, I think the wheel of luck and fortune will turn better in your direction.
On April of 1975, the US Army pulled out of the Vietnam War as the capital city of Saigon fell to the socialist People's Army of Vietnam in the days prior and the days and weeks following the fall of Saigon. The US military executed several operations aimed at evacuating refugees fleeing the communist government. Operation Babylift evacuated over three thousand three hundred children and the Operation Frequent Wind rescued more than 7000 Vietnamese.
Operation New Life and new arrivals saw these refugees processed in Guam before being transported to a few army bases across the United States, one of which was Camp Pendleton in Orange County, California.
All in all, Orange County slowly assimilated thousands of Vietnamese 30 years later and two thousand five. That influx of Vietnam refugees successfully transformed a stretch of strawberry fields and salvage yards in Westminster, California, into something more familiar. The area is now known as Little Saigon.
Little Saigon is in Westminster. California is the largest Vietnamese population outside of Saigon. As a result of that, there are often street signs in Little Saigon that are in Vietnamese businesses use signage in Vietnamese. It almost gives you the feeling of being in Vietnam. But you're in California.
As a result of that, there is a large presence of cultural traditions in Little Saigon. The cafes are popular karaoke bars, all kinds of ethnic foods and things like that can be easily found in Little Saigon.
It's a place where people from the Vietnamese community can gather and talk. And there's a sense of real community there.
This is Sonya.
But yesterday my name is Sonya based. I'm a chief deputy district attorney at the Santa Barbara D.A. office. A decade ago, I worked at the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
The Vietnamese in Orange County brought with them to the United States the kind of determination that only comes with the suffering and adversity that they had endured. But also they brought their culture, their food and their superstitions. One major aspect of the Vietnamese culture is what some in the U.S. might consider a novelty pastime. Fortunetelling to the Vietnamese is serious business, deeply rooted in their cultural history.
Community members will consult fortunetellers for all sorts of reasons, like making sure their businesses are properly situated for the flow of good energy to ward off evil spirits and haunted souls with rituals and spells to diagnose supernatural causes of illness, establishing lucky dates for personal undertakings, and to predict the future of wealth, health and love. In 2005, one of the most popular fortunetellers in Little Saigon was Heah Smith, who went by the name Jade, I say was because in April of that year she was found murdered in the home she shared with her daughter, Anita VO.
Anita's ex-boyfriend, Yung Tran, would visit regularly, bringing coffee and snacks in an attempt to rekindle their relationship.
Him in Anita had been dating for a period of time and very young love, and as such, she can be kind of volatile at times in the sense of it wasn't a serious romance, at least it wasn't for Anita, but there was a real friendship there. So I think that in his efforts to not only lure her back, but general friendship and caring, it would not be unusual for him to share a meal, bring over some coffee, or just talk to her on a regular basis, even if they were not, quote unquote, boyfriend and girlfriend.
So what happens is Yang Tran goes and delivers coffee and biscuits and he leaves it in the front door area of the home he never enters, likely wanting the recognition for this kind gesture, even though no one answered the door.
Young Tran left his offerings at Anita's house and went about his day.
And it's not till the following day he comes back because he still has no answer from Anita. And then he sees that his coffee and pastries are still outside. And this is what causes him to call the police because now he believes, OK, they weren't here yesterday and they didn't need the pastries and they didn't need the coffee and nobody brought it in or threw it out or anything.
So something is wrong. That's when he called the police to do a welfare check.
Young Tran found it odd that is offering was left outside untouched. And when he noticed the dog was in the backyard barking, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong.
Repeated attempts to contact Anita went unanswered. And now this. When the Westminster police arrived, they made a discovery that would terrify the tight knit community of Little Saigon.
My name is Bill Collins.
At the time of the homicide, I was working as a patrol sergeant when a call came out from a worried boyfriend.
The boyfriend had gone to his girlfriend's house and said, you know, they weren't answering the door.
The dog was in the backyard barking and that was not normal. All the lights were off in the house and there's like a red glow coming from inside the house. So it kind of hard to see. And myself and the other sergeant were peeking through that, the blinds. And we really can't tell what's going on because we only have about an inch of vision through these blinds and we can see some stuff on the ground, look like an altar was in the family room.
And then if you look to the right, you could see like and look like an arm hanging out, like up in the air, kind of rigid.
And my brain is tied to a body that is not a body. There's no way that looks like a mannequin or something that's fallen on the ground or something because it's pure white.
So we sat there, we're talking about that. And then I look at more I'm looking more at like I could tell, there's stuff like on the ground that look like a little bit of ransacking there.
Like maybe that is a body.
I end up kicking the door open and we go in and it's me, another sergeant and an officer. We walk in and we see this like a shrine and all the lights are off except for this red light that was in this little shrine area and that was emanating this red glow throughout the house. You know, it was some of the stuff was knocked on the ground and looked like like their bones. Or you couldn't tell if they're human bones to their bones on the ground.
The guy I was with, he went to the left, I went to the right, and both sides were entered into the kitchen. So I entered the kitchen on one side. He entered the kitchen on the other side, and we both came across a body. What they first thought to be a mannequin was actually the stark white body of a woman.
But what they couldn't see from their vantage point through the blinds was the other body, the woman's daughter, just a few feet away and half of her body was hanging into. The walkways, so half of her body was in the kitchen and the other half was hanging out into the walkway. My partner who went around found another body in the kitchen. I can't remember how far apart, maybe five to 10 feet apart, both just covered in white paint.
I remember she has to wear one of the bodies, almost look like it was positioned there on all fours, kind of like in a praying position.
And one of the females, her hand was up in the air with whatever fingers pointing up in the home, dimly lit with a faint red light, they discovered two bodies amongst scattered ash bones and belongings. With such an unusual crime scene, even for these seasoned veterans, they didn't know what was waiting for them and the rest of the house.
You didn't know what to expect. You've never seen anything like that before. And you just didn't know what was coming next. You didn't know if there are more bodies in there or the suspect was still in there.
I didn't know if we were being set up, if this thing was we just got to the point where I. OK, what else are we going to find in this house?
Is there going to be like a trip wire? So I'm going to, you know, who knows what's going to happen next? So every room we went into, we just were like, OK, when are we going to find in this room?
And fortunately, the rooms were ransacked, but we did not find any more dead bodies.
Officers found the body of Jade Smith lying in her kitchen, face down, collapsed where she was attacked. Her body appeared positioned into sort of a yoga pose with her knees tucked under her body and her arms stretched straight out. The middle finger of one hand was extended. Her head and hands were doused in white paint covering her defensive wounds. The way her hair was laying mostly on one side of her head looked like she had been scalped. Her long and illustrious career as a fortune teller had come to an end.
Officers backed out of the home and waited for the forensics team to arrive.
Heah came from Vietnam, and she was a self-made woman in the United States.
She had adopted the name of Jade Smith after she had married and ultimately divorced. Jade Smith was known in the community as a very respected fortune teller.
When I say respected is because he was consulted or Jade was consulted about all kinds of aspects of daily life that are important in the Vietnamese community business deals, store locations, types of businesses, whether they should go into it or not, where should be located, how much capital should be invested, how much should be borrowed.
There was also matters of just general reading palms and wanting to know what's in your future. There was also matters of the heart. And in that department, sometimes Smith Smith was engaged in the casting of spells that she would study come up with and ultimately deliver to those who paid for her services.
Jade was more or less renowned in certain circles, and especially in the Vietnamese community. A reputation of being a highly respected preceded her.
She was highly sought after and had quite the clientele, and she basically could pick and choose whether she wanted to work for a client or not.
Her exclusivity was evident in the way she presented herself. She just exude opulence if he felt the best way. I can describe her very classic but very opulent, elegant lady.
In addition to reputation and respect, there was also a substantial amount of money that came along with her success. She drove a Mercedes and had an affinity for designer clothing, accessories and expensive jewelry. She was also an attractive woman with beautiful skin and hair, and she had a beautiful daughter named Anita.
Her daughter Anita was equally lovely in terms of her good looks, well, manners. But Anita's ambitions different than her mother. She chose a more traditional, if you would Americanise approach to study hard. She did well in school. It was her goal to become a lawyer at some point, and she was in her undergraduate studies trying to achieve those goals. Anita is very much the typical Vietnamese American teenager doing well at school, getting a good education and dating a bed in the hopes of having a career down the line.
When the forensics team arrived, they went back into the home to do a proper analysis of the crime scene.
Anita's body was found lying in the hall base up. Her head was covered first with a t shirt and then courts of white paint. The t shirt had adhered to her face as the paint dried. You could only see the basic outline of a young woman's features, giving her an almost ethereal aura of a mannequin in distress. Both Anita and her mother, Jade, suffered many stab wounds to the neck, head and chest, even being stabbed in the hands as they tried to defend themselves.
The rest of the home was equally unsettling, especially to the non Vietnamese officers unfamiliar with the fortunetelling culture. To get a firsthand account of the scene that night, we reached out to Timothy vew.
Back in 2005, when the incident occurred, I was the homicide detective employed at the Westminster Police Department in the city of Westminster, California.
It was well past dusk when Bill Collins and his partner discovered the bodies of Jade and Anita. Timothy Vu was already at home when he got the call to investigate the scene. The home itself.
As we enter into the home, you enter into basically into the living room and in the living room, you see a large cabinet display where there's a lot of different Asian statues that are displayed in this armoire type of setting. And that made for a very unusual crime scene for us because her Jade Smith was a fortune teller. There were certain things in her home that were a little bit unusual. There were also some family ashes that had also been scattered about with some bones that appear eerie and supernatural and maybe witchcraft kind of stuff.
On top of the witchcraft stuff, there was also a strange feeling in the air that night. Somehow, some way the moon was weird that night.
And then the crime scene photos, one can see a very eerie lighting coming into the Smith home. Some of the pictures almost look like a ghost is over the house in front of the home. There's an image of what appears to be, I guess, lack of a better word, smoke or or something to that effect. We couldn't really explain why that was in that. The spooky nature of the scene immediately gave the Westminster Police Department a peculiar theory as to what happened in the Smith home soon.
However, the state of the home and the history of the burglary is in the area gave the department a more common sense theory. We thought it might be some kind of ritualistic killing when we saw the bones and the altar and the white paint. We thought it might be some kind of demonic ritual or something. I happen to come across an investigator who happened to be himself a warlock. And as I was showing him photos of the crime scene to try to get a perspective on possibly if this was an occult killing or something like witchcraft, what really threw me off initially was the pain.
Had it not been for the pain, I would have worked off the theory of a robbery gone wrong or something to that effect. But the pain, which was a very unique signature in the homicide scene, really threw it off for me. And so I was trying to go off the theory of do I have an occult killing to have a serial killing? And the pain is a signature. Is this a cultural type of thing? Maybe for those that are in the business of fortunetelling, voodoo witchcraft type of stuff, or do I have a situation where I have a double homicide?
If suspects are trying to basically destroy DNA evidence by point Paynton at that point in the investigation, they were all strong theories.
But Gayed had been robbed before.
Jane Smith had been the victim of a home invasion robbery some years prior, where she was tied up and robbed in her home. So we also had to entertain that maybe even the same perpetrators had come back to rob her again. Home invasion robberies are very common in that community and they were at that time. The reason for that is because Vietnamese community of the old country doesn't really have a lot of trust for banks. Again, these are folks that had money in the banks.
The communists came over, seized their assets and they lost everything. People in the community understand that this is a cultural custom. So what they do is they rob people at home.
She was already victimized from them before the initial theories that they could have come back and do it again because they got some money from her previously. But we were able to rule them out because they were in custody. The robbery gone wrong.
Angle was a strong theory considering the history of home invasion robberies within the Vietnamese community. Why not just keep your money in the bank? I guess hard learned lessons also die hard. A final theory was that a disgruntled client could have committed these murders because initially there was no sense that they had any enemies or need.
Obviously, any time when I'm investigating a homicide, my initial thought is to look at people that are closest boyfriends, scorned lovers, those type of things. And so we started investigating those avenues first. And as you know, we ruled those potential theories out. We start focusing more on how business as to possible motive to the killing.
The further the scene was processed, the more this third theory of a dissatisfied client gained traction. First and foremost, while there was a sign of a struggle, there was no sign of forced entry lending to the theory that the victims knew their attacker.
The other thing that supported the angry client theory and damaged the home invader theory was the fact that not much was actually taken, at least in terms of valuables, the Westminster police department knowing the social customs of the Vietnamese community and the possibility of.
Home invasion robberies had become pretty savvy in looking for goods and valuables in unusual places.
There was a stash of jewelry that was in the basically in the coffeemaker, which is where you basically put the the coffee grinder. She has a lot of jewelry. We later had to estimate almost about a half a million dollars worth of jewelry inside that the coffee maker, Detective Carpenter, found about, I believe, in excess of 60000 dollars in hundred dollar bills neatly wrapped inside the canister of the vacuum cleaner.
If the murders were committed by a home invader intent on robbery, they sure left a lot of loot behind. There were two dead bodies veiled in white paint, perhaps as a cultural message or just simply a way of destroying evidence. The house was ransacked, but nothing was really taken other than some miscellaneous items of moderate value and some soon to be canceled credit cards. The murder was evident, but the motive was elusive by way of forensic evidence.
There were several big clues. There were as two bloody knives that were discovered underneath a pile of clothing, inside of a bag of a plastic bag. It looked like the knives were put in the plastic bag to be disposed of. But in the ransacking, all of these other things had piled on top of the bag containing the knives. And they were, we believe, accidentally left behind. So the knives were examined for DNA and there was foreign DNA as well as DNA belonging to the victims.
So we knew that those were probably the murder weapons. However, the DNA that was not the victim's, all we knew was it was identifiable profile, but we didn't have a match. In other words, it was not known to anyone in the system. In terms of other forensic evidence. We found what appeared to be a bathmat with an imprint of a foot and that was treated with chemicals for the presence of blood. And the outline of the foot had traces of blood belonging to one of the victims.
The investigation was seemingly at a bit of a dead end. The only forensic evidence was DNA without a match and a small footprint in a bathmat. But like the DNA, the footprint was useless unless they had a suspect to compare it to. There was, however, one more detail to be discovered. This info came from the next door neighbor who claimed to have seen a man and a woman whom they didn't recognize go in and out of the house several times.
This stuck in the neighbors mind because of the strange way the couple went in and out of the home. They were using a barely open garage door, definitely suspicious.
It was basically kind of partially closed where kind of the dirt underneath the garage door to come out underneath. So initially, early on in the investigation, the neighbors saw basically this couple that was in front of the the the victim's location. And basically what I surmise is at the time that the neighbors saw this couple, it was after the homicide and it was basically as they're leaving the location, who would expect a fortune teller to have so many potential job hazards?
The more successful she became, the harder she worked, the more of a target she'd become for robbery. But with Jane's savings found intact, hidden within the home, the angry client theory was starting to look pretty good, especially with the information that there were two unknown suspects coming in and out of the house that day. You know, everything around us these days keeps getting smarter, you talk into your remote these days rather than just push the button. It's kind of insane, but it's one of the perks of living in the modern age.
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That's pretty litter dotcom promo code sword for twenty percent off pretty litter dotcom promo code sword. The bodies of prominent Vietnamese fortune teller Jade Smith and her daughter Anita were discovered inside their locked home, both of their hands and heads were covered in white paint. One of its hands was staged and her middle finger was extended. A personal touch by the murderer, perhaps a last thank you from an angry former client. The house was ransacked. Contrary to first thought.
There were actually a lot of suspects to consider that would want a fortuneteller dead. The mystery of the white paint led to the idea that it may have been a ritualistic killing rooted in a culture many on the force didn't understand. But that theory was short lived. Then there was the possibility that home invaders may have targeted her for her wealth, and the murders were an unfortunate byproduct. But there were still hundreds of thousands worth of cash and jewelry left behind.
If this was a robbery was a bad one. Finally, there was the idea that a disgruntled client could have committed the murders. Perhaps they didn't like their fortune. Jane Smith was extremely well known and held in high regard. Bottom line, she had a lot of clients that paid a premium for her experience and ability. Maybe one of them was less than satisfied. Without concrete evidence, the Westminster police were grasping at straws.
Investigators pored over notes and reports trying to find a lead to go on while they waited on something of a long shot to come through. The only real hope they had of solving this case was to not cancel the stolen credit cards and hope the killer not only kept them, but used them. They defied typical protocol, hoping it would net them the killer. It was a bit of a reach, but it was their only shot. Luckily, it paid off the credit cards.
We started tracking those. And what I mean by that is working with the credit card companies and credit card companies have the investigators. We explain to them what was going on. Fortunately, one particular company was really helpful in the investigation. So what we found was that a week after the homicide, someone was using Hajee Smith's credit cards at some of the business within Orange County. So I started tracking the credit card usage. And, you know, initially they were small usage.
The first usage was that TGIF and I think it was in Costa Mesa, then another purchase at a local loss and Target store, and then the purchases increasingly got larger in pricing. So I suspected that the suspects were testing these credit cards out first. And as you know, they were successful in making these transactions sales. The purchases got increasingly larger. The surveillance video from as electronic in Anaheim. I see an image of a female Asian just look like what you would envision as a murder suspect.
She looks like an average you know, a typical village woman at the fair at the time was I didn't know whether or not were the people using these credit card directly tied to the murder of the both of the victims, or were they basically given it by someone else? And now they were just more of, you know, the financial crime aspect of this investigation. But because I needed to find them to figure out how they came into possession of the credit card.
So I started focusing on that.
The Westminster PD focused on the credit cards because it was their only solid lead. A week after the purchases in Southern California, they got a break in the case.
And then about a week later, the credit card usage start popping up in Georgia. When I was able to get the image of the bank transaction in Georgia, it's the image of the same woman.
Their one and only lead took them to the East Coast, where more than just bank transactions were being made with the dead woman's credit card. The card had also been used to open a P.O. box to which the credit cards billing address was changed. There were also more test transactions made at a store in North Carolina. They were seemingly on the right track.
The reason this case was solved, in my opinion, is because the Westminster Police Department had the wisdom to understand that dating have any other clues to go on and that this may be the lifeline into solving this case.
But it wasn't quite. That's simple is the credit card company who said we have to shut these credit cards down because we're taking a loss because their client holds, the members are dead, so they want to shut the credit card down. And they told me, hey, look, if you shut this down, I'd run out of leads. I got no leads on this homicide. I need you guys to keep it open. You know, I I'm looking at double homicide and the investigators say, well, you know, if you guys cover the losses on this, we'll keep it open.
So, Detective, you went to his chief to ask for money. I remember my chief goes up to I think it was like two or 500 bucks. And I'm thinking to myself, I don't want to be disrespectful, but like, they're spending thousands of dollars and it's not going to cover this thing. So I had to go back to the investigators, said, look, my chief is only going to come in for X amount of dollars, which was not going to cover the purchases.
He says, look, I kind of closed. I said, well, why don't you do this and just do me a favor. Put in a lot of his credit cards. Please don't touch these cards. At least just let your banks or your your your accounts. No, just to call the locals and have these people stop or detain and they'll fly out.
The Westminster police were hesitant to claim success when the credit cards emerged on the opposite coast. They needed to make sure it wasn't just an identity theft, but also a killer. It seemed unlikely that the person who left the crime scene devoid of evidence would be dumb enough to use stolen credit cards. So they waited and they watched.
And fortunately, other dumb luck for us. The investigator got busy on another case and wasn't following the credit cards every day. So he calls me back about I think four days later he goes, Hey, Tim, they purchased five airline tickets flying from I think it was Raleigh, North Carolina, with the lay of the land of Georgia into Orange County over Memorial weekend, which would have been about three days after a homicide. And I told them I, hey, whatever you do, please don't reject the transaction.
Now, I know there's a time and place where the suspects are going to be. I you know, please allow it to go through. He goes, OK, so he did as a big favor. And then we checked the transaction.
Two of the five tickets were under the same names of Highsmith and Anita Vot. The police were on the right track and now knew a time and a place to find the suspects.
You know, got approval from my bosses to do this three day surveillance, 24 hour surveillance on these five individuals. I got the U.S. marshal involved and we've basically sent a team of investigator to investigators that flew back with our five group of suspects into in Orange County, California.
They flew over to Atlanta, Georgia, and boarded the connecting flight of the person traveling under the name Jada Smith. What they saw didn't quite fit their idea of someone capable of the murder they were investigating.
So the police department decided to track down whoever was flying under the name of Jaden Smith and Anita Voh. When they got to the airport, they realized that it was Tania Nelson, her oldest daughter, traveling under the name of Anita Voh, Tania Nelson traveling under the name of Jade Smith and then her younger children also with her.
Officers discovered the woman traveling under the name Jade Smith was actually Tanya Nelson. She didn't seem like a cold blooded killer. I mean, she was traveling with her four children. And we're talking about an unassuming woman. How could she have killed two women? Even with help? It seemed unlikely she was using the card and she did own the store in North Carolina that ran the test transactions. And the man who opened the P.O. box was a friend of hers, but that didn't mean she killed Jade and Anita.
So the police continued to wait and watch.
When she landed in Orange County, she went on a shopping spree at South Coast Plaza, went to Versace for your money. Some other places she bought this she bought this Shazza Roo's ugly purse. No offense to Versace, but it had to be the ugliest item in the store. Looked like it was like a little girl's Halloween costume purse.
Having bad taste does not make you a killer. But going on a shopping spree with a dead woman's credit card, any the amount of thousands of dollars does make you at least a thief and a fraud. All during their shopping spree.
They were being surveilled by police on the ground and the U.S. Marshals from the air.
And when they landed in Orange County, we had our surveillance team ready. We also had a house in which an airplane flown from Houston for the US marshal as our basically our air support. I could hear the plane just circling above us. And I thought, OK, we're going to blow up surveillance. So I had to call the airship off and said, you guys, you know, thank you, but no thank you. I think it was about day to day.
I realized, OK, we're not going to get any more benefit out of farm. And so we decided to go ahead and make the arrest of this group of people for all the fraud that they were involved in at the time. We've recovered the hotel, their stolen property that belong to our victim's suitcases, the luggage, Louis Vuitton luggage, and in China's possession was actually died in credit card belonging to RJ Smith.
Once Tonya Nelson was in custody, officers hoped they would finally get some insight into the case, but Tonya had little to say to police.
My strategy going in was if she was my first pick and she's only one of the flyers I needed to get her to tell me where she got his credit card from, how did she come in possession. So I think go after those suspect. And if they're not the murder suspect himself, lead me to who was at the crime scene. You know, I've interviewed other murder suspects before. Gang members and people killed the mom. And, you know, so she was in my first murder suspect that I've interviewed.
But she was probably by far the most cold, I guess is unaffected, I guess is about unaffected suspect. You know, you would think that if she was just a mother charged with four of her children being arrested by law enforcement in another state, that she would quickly say, hey, you know, I don't know anything by the murders, but your credit card, I got it from whoever I told her. This is what we're investigating. After she was I was getting nowhere on the phone thing and finally said, hey, we're investing homicide, you know, giving her the opportunity to come forward and come clean with where she got the credit card and her not giving up any information.
It was clear to me at that point that she was directly involved in the homicide. To what extent? I don't know.
Tanya clammed up. She wasn't saying anything of use to detectives. So Detective vew changed a strategy and brought in Tanya's husband.
She clammed up in the sense that she would talk about anything of consequences, meaning anything related remotely to the crime itself or the thoughts of she would she would politely answer some general questions. Even at one point we would have her husband in the same room with her. And we showed the crime scene photo and we clearly got a reaction from him. Both parents got kids. He saw the photos became emotional and he. Well, you would expect from a normal person that sees it is to create an emotional reaction to a schedule, reaction to it whatsoever.
I'm across the table from her and I feel at this point, because of what I was trying to do, is really get a response from her family, from him. So I got an emotional response from her, but she would lean over, please, to put his arms around her to kind of shrug. And they're just kind of it's kind of kind of like almost like a motherly type of thing, like feel like it's going to be OK.
I think it was the most bizarre scene I've seen, but it was just a clearly showed me that she was the dominant person in that relationship.
The interrogation of Tonya Nelson wasn't going anywhere. So the officers looked into her past searching for a connection to Jade and Anita.
Nelson came from a rather large Vietnamese family. She was a Vietnamese immigrant into the state's hard working family. They had to come to the states and basically start over. So there was some quite a bit of hardship from childhood to adulthood. She struggled, but she was smart. She developed into a shrewd businesswoman. She owned her own businesses.
Tonya had to overcome immigrating to the U.S. as a child, virtually penniless, and built a life where she was a business owner. But by the time she was arrested in 2005, her life had recently taken a turn for the worse. In 2000, she and her husband filed for bankruptcy after racking up more than 200000 dollars in credit card and personal loan debt. At some point, her misfortune also affected her love life.
Her husband had a younger brother who she met on trips back to Vietnam. And when that younger brother becomes more of a young man, she seduces him. They start an affair. She eventually convinces her husband, his brother, to sponsor him to come to the United States. So she has now her brother in law, love her and her husband living in the same house.
You heard that right. Tanya was having an affair with her husband's younger brother while they were all living under the same roof. Weird how this is around the time cuckolding videos became popular, but just wait, Tonya's life gets even crazier and she continues the affair.
And I think as he becomes more acclimated to the United States and matures and kind of grows up a little bit, he kind of thinks I need to get away from this relationship. She's married to my brother. And this is may not be what I want. So he decides to move to North Carolina to, in essence, get away from her. And she follows and she just tells her husband that she's going to move to North Carolina and open a shop there and she and the children will come visit and he can visit her and they don't need to divorce.
She then convinces her brother in law lover to move in with her. So she lures him back. They buy a house together. And he, I think, ultimately decided this is not a good idea. This is never going to work. So he breaks up with her and now once again moves to get away from her to the state of Georgia. This time he really means it. He does not go back to Tonya. He does not want any business relationship with her.
He gets bought out of the house and he starts to date someone else. The relationship blossoms into a marriage. And this is completely unacceptable to Tonya Nelson.
Tonya moved her life and her business across the country to chase her young lover. But when she gets there, he doesn't want her anymore.
This doesn't explain her connections to Jade Smith, but the fact that Tonya seemingly didn't make a single decision without consulting Jade made Tonya a loyal client.
There were early on loves, love spells cast. And so when when Tonya followed Lloyd into North Carolina and Lloyd then bought the house with her, she thought, see, it worked. The love spell worked because he left and he came back to me. So she thought it would happen once so happened again, she even flies high Smith to put a spell on their house so that they will not be happy and that they won't get married and it doesn't work.
He gets married and buys a house with his new wife, and Tonya Nelson is not going to allow this. She even takes her oldest son one day to Lloyd's house with a gun and she knocks on the door. He tells her to go away, his girlfriend or wife to be is there. And she orders her son to shoot him. And she's yelling at her son, shoot him, shoot him, and he just can't do that. And so she takes the gun from his hands, from her son's hands and pistol whips.
Lloyd then runs away a short time later. After that, she drives to Georgia when they and she knew there would be out of town because she was, in essence, stalking her and stalking him. And she goes in the house and she rides obscenities all over the walls. And then she opens to faucets and lets the house get flooded, causing thousands of dollars of damages and just vandalizes their whole home.
Tonya was determined to have her life go how she wanted it to. She would do anything to influence her surroundings, to create a desirable outcome. She had Jade cast love spells and curses first to win her lover back and then to punish him and his new wife.
So Smith being, I think, a good fortune teller. You know, she did what she could. But after a while she realized that, you know, this is not going to end well and Tanya just needs to let it go. By this point, Tonya has paid her thousands of dollars and she wants to get her money's worth. So I think when she flew over and did the spell, he kind of said, look, I'll do this, but that's it.
I'm not coming back here. I'm not doing that. So Highsmith had refused thereafter any other request, which there were from Tonya to continue to make things happen between her and her brother in law and husband just basically said, no, I'm not doing it. It's not going to work and you need to let it go. And you don't say no to Tonya Nelson.
By the time she was arrested, she had moved across the.
Country for a man that didn't water, in addition, she moved her business intimate moments, a marital aid business, if you know what I mean, to remove this sex toy business from California to the conservative North Carolina area and opened a shop next to a church.
Understandably, her business wasn't doing that well and her love life was failing, also on top of that, she was facing criminal charges in the state of Georgia for the vandalism of her ex lover's home.
Her life was crumbling apart and she didn't blame her own decisions. She blamed her fortuneteller for being unwilling to help. Police now had a motive, but they needed more to connect Tonya to the murders. So they sent investigators to her home and business in North Carolina.
The Westminster police sent Cameron nowadays, along with another detective across the country, in hopes of closing this case. My name is Cameron.
Now is five. I was a detective working robbery homicide in the detective division at the Westminster Police Department.
Rural North Carolina was a bit different than what the investigators were used to in Southern California, a little different than Orange County.
We usually have a crime lab and a CSI team and stuff like that available that here it was really just us. I remember just being a very modest home in a residential area that was very quiet. Nothing stood out to me. We got into the house and. House is kind of messy from what I remember, and it's hot and humid, but we went through every square inch of the house for several hours looking for for anything that connected the Snelson, California and the case per their standard operating procedure.
They wanted to fingerprint the house, but the local forensic investigators couldn't be there until the following day, so they had to do it themselves.
And my partner and I ended up fingerprinting the entire house and it looked like we just came out of a chimney. By the time we were done, because we had fingerprint powder all over us and we're sweating, it was it was interesting.
During the search, they did find something incriminating.
Throughout the course of the search, we came across jewelry that we suspected maybe tied to our victim in Orange County. We came across some Louis Vuitton bags, which we know our victim had Louis Vuitton bags and we suspected some were taken.
The jewelry and the bags would later be confirmed as the ones that were missing from Jade Smith's home. Unrelated to their investigation, they found something just as sinister. We came across some type of a ransom note that looked like it was part of some type of a kidnapping and a ski mask. And I remember there being a gun case. It's almost like a kidnapping kit. There's a ransom note in there that mentions cutting off somebody's finger, which just started to make things even stranger.
Like, what else are we investigating here? What else are we going to find?
Was she planning another crime against her ex lover and his new wife? It's unclear, but perhaps the most damning evidence was in a small day planner found in Tonya's home as the search went on.
We located a small calendar and we're going through the calendar. And on the date of our homicide, it was circled or highlighted in some fashion and said horrible sin. And I remember looking at my partner just got this. We're really on to something here. And then we located some airline tickets.
Also, this was back when airline tickets were still paper printouts and not on your phone. So there was a wealth of information on them. They put Tonya in Orange County at the time of the murder, but it also revealed something else. But we identified the guy by the name of Philip Seymour on one of those boarding buses.
Could this be a possible accomplice? The neighbor did say they saw a man and a woman at the house that day. Once they realized he lived nearby, they prepared to go and interview him first. They did record only to find that he was rather unremarkable.
He had no rap sheet. He lived in a sleepy neighborhood. He had a wife and kids.
He wasn't a usual suspect for murder. Talk my partner.
I just right off the bat tell him we're from Orange County, California. And let's just see how is his body language changes some more, answered the door. We introduced ourselves and immediately told them we are from Westminster in Orange County, California, and sort of this like solemn, kind of glazed over. Look, we just stood there and I was like, OK, it wasn't even like, why are you guys here? You know, why are you here?
All this in California. I was almost like he knew.
Felipe Zamora agreed to accompany the detectives down to the local police station for a casual interview.
I knew he was scared. I knew he was anxious by just his body language and demeanor. So our strategy was just to build a rapport with them.
At first, they conducted a friendly interview and the employee break room with the door open. Zamora wasn't under arrest and they wanted him to feel comfortable so they could keep him talking.
Know why did you come to Orange County? He obviously knew he was there. So I was like, oh, I went there to visit friends. So you give us a little and then we'd ask a little bit more of what did you do while we met up with some friends and we went to dinner. Remember where you ate for dinner or not or. No. And and then we kind of slowly ramped it up a little bit more and told him some some more details to let him know that the he knew more than you thought.
And that's what the interview kind of took, took a turn. We were wearing him out physically and mentally. All the questions were getting tougher. And his responses, he was doing a lot more searching and he got to the point where he was literally kind of just rock. Back and forth and kind of looking down, something was really bothering him and he started to mumble something to the effect of, you know, maybe do it or something to that effect.
And we at that point continue to now go, OK, what are you talking about here? And that's when he started really open up about being at the crime scene like a child.
He couldn't make eye contact when faced with the wrong he had done. Finally, the weight of his secret was lifted off his shoulders as he spilled forth as much as he could remember about the murders and robbery.
He described, you know, by even most of them use his arms, how he stabbed Kate Smith. And he knew based on that description, I had already known where the victim was stabbed. So that was consistent. We were getting more and more of a puzzle put together. You know, this went from a casual interview to, oh, my God, I just implicated himself. Well, this was a major break in solving the case. They still had one problem, I think.
And I was camera Alan called me and said, you're not going to believe this. He just confessed to the murder. And here's where the charge was. Philip Seymour confessed to a murder in another state. Legally, they didn't have any violation of the law in North Carolina by which to detain him for any length of time. So I was in a rush now to basically get an arrest warrant into the system so that they have the legal authority to hold him and arrest him in North Carolina.
It was part of the quickest arrest warrant I've ever put together in my life. I had to drive down to the judges house real quick to present the case, to the affidavit, to the to the magistrate. Fortunately, the magistrate was helpful, signed the warrant, and there's a quick drive right over to the repository because we were getting up on a six hour detention time. So he was going to walk out of the police station there and literally walked into the warrant repositories, stood over the shoulder.
The guy that was at that was typing in the warrant at the moment. He hit the button. You know, I called our investigators over there, go pull the warrant.
After a long and slow investigation, it was a race against time to actually be able to arrest Zamora, even though he admitted to the murder.
But this still didn't explain what his connections to Tonya and JD Smith were or what really happened that day.
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That's zip recruiter dot com slash monsters and stress. Just go to zip recruiter dotcom slash monsters. Zip recruiter. The smartest way to hire. Jade Smith and Anita VO were dead, brutally stabbed to death in what seemed at first like a botched robbery. The only real lead was the stolen credit cards that the Westminster P.D. luckily were able to keep open long enough to track down suspects. The use of these cards led them to Tonya Nelson and an accomplice by the name of Felipe Zamora before the plane ticket with his name on it was found in Tonya's home.
His name had never even come up in the investigation. The connections are more I had with Tanya was, well, I'll let Mrs. Best explain, according to Felipe Zamora, and that's a big according to this caveat, because he is a participant in these murders. According to some more, he was good friends with Miss Nelson because she was his wife's, quote unquote, best friend, and they consulted with Tanya and use Tanya to give them guidance when it came to financial decisions, apparently life insurance policies, things of that nature.
And they trusted and relied on. Tanya, why would they trust a woman with a failing business and a personal life in ruins for financial decisions? It's beyond me. But Mrs. Peosta has a good point. Tanya was a domineering woman that took control of their relationship, could be in love with the men that we interviewed during the course of this investigation. The theme that I had from all of this and I had a chance to interview, they all come across as being passive.
It was apparent that she was the dominating personality in those friendships or those relationships.
According to Zamora, they had a very subservient relationship. Tania Nelson would boss him and his wife around and they would do as she said. Tania Nelson is definitely the dominant personality. There's no question about that.
I do think that he could have been afraid of her as well. He was a very unique and sort of tender individual when you talk to him.
OK, so Tanya knows a woman with a husband that she both bosses around and somehow she convinces him to travel to California with her in a plot to murder. Jane Smith, I think is important to understand that Tanya appeared to pick men in her life who were kind of weak, kind of more on the shy side, not particularly domineering.
That's evident in her first marriage is evident in her second marriage. Tanya had asked him to go with her to Orange County so that she could go see Jane Smith, who looked to Mr. Zamora. Its knowledge was Tanya's fortune teller. Well, at first she just asked him to go and he doesn't want to go. He doesn't really feel like he has a reason to go. But Tanya knows that Felipe Zamora is either secretly homosexual or at least bisexual. So she uses that lure to tell Felipe Samura, if you come with me to Orange County to go see Smith, I will arrange it so that you can have homosexual sex with men.
So that is enough to now lure some more to want to go with Nelson to Orange County to go Sehar Smith, because there's something in it for him. Tanya convinces Zamora to go to Orange County, whether under the promise that she'll get him laid. I'm guessing he didn't take a lot of convincing.
As Zamora continues to spill the proverbial beans, he walks the police through the events of that day.
According to Zamora, on the 21st, they had already met up the day before and had lunch. And this was supposed to be the day where he was going to do some kind of reading for Tanya. And so Tanya used to go into the office with her and she knows that Anita knows that the two of them, meaning Tanya Nelson and Felipe Zamora, are visiting with Smith. So she asks her to call Anita over so she could say she Tanya could say good bye to her.
Tanya was a loyal client of Jades for years.
She didn't think twice about calling her daughter home to visit with a long time friend.
So once Anita gets home, then they make the excuse of opening a bottle of champagne to toss their good fortune to be there in the kitchen.
And, you know, she says, grab a nice and you know, the daughter comes running down the hallway. He admits to stabbing Jane Smith and then basically as a witness to Nelson, stabbing Anita. Right when she enters the kitchen, and it wasn't really until he was in the kitchen with the victims and Tony Nelson that the murder unfolds and he now is an active participant and he makes it sound like she made him do it. But he was never really able to explain, like, how did she make you do it?
You know, when it's shadow hanging over your head, the attack didn't kill them instantly, but the wounds were severe and numerous and they died in mere minutes amidst Zamora's confession to murder. The strangest thing he claimed was that he didn't know of Tonya's plan until it was already underway, according to some more.
He says he doesn't know anything about to go down until Anita is screaming and Tanya is commanding him to kill Jaden Smith. And he does as he's told.
Imagine being an unwitting accomplice to a murder plot. Would you just join in like a teenager suffering from peer pressure? I doubt it. But Zamora did. He panicked when Tanya attacked Anita and Jade started screaming and he did what he was told he shot up.
I mean, the plan was already underway and he didn't want to get caught. So joining in was the logical thing to do. Right.
And it's that point that once both of them are dead, that Tanya then commands him to kill the dog and Philip Zamora refuses to kill the dog, as he said in trial, quote unquote, I am not a murderer.
What kind of person kills a dog? Only a monster would kill a dog. The people people are fair game as a more a stand up guy you are.
And then they start the clean up and ransacking.
Well, they went to Walmart and got some paint and white paint is the cheapest. So that's what they bought and then went back to the house and pour the paint on the bodies.
Anita was face up and Zamora couldn't bear to have her staring back at him. So he covered her face with a t shirt and poured paint over the head and hands of Anita and Jade. The details he was sharing with investigators were adding up with the little evidence they found at the scene.
Foreign DNA on at least one of the knives belonged to Phillip Samura. I do not believe that there was DNA that belonged to Tonya Nelson on the knives, and there's a reason for that. He says that Tonya's washed her knife as she was wearing gloves. Some more, on the other hand, was not wearing gloves. And so when he used knives to kill Jade, those are the knives that we believe were found in the bag.
Tonya took care of herself, not him.
Unlike some Maura's DNA, which is found on the knives that he used and through other places, it's not considering that they were both ransacking the house.
Forget even the murders, but ransacking the house that Tonya did not leave the amount of DNA that Philip Seymour did. There is some corroboration to the fact that she might have been wearing gloves. In addition to that, she was particularly meticulous about covering her own tracks in terms of washing, allegedly washing the knife. And we know she took a shower. So someone who is taking a shower and washing knives is probably the kind of person who would wear gloves.
Remember the footprint in the bath mat? You may have had a mental image of a shoe print, but no, this was the print of a bare foot and a small one at that. Tonya took a shower after the murders. Maybe it was part of her master plan and meticulous nature, or maybe she just couldn't leave the house covered in blood.
Ultimately, that footprint was matched to Tonya Nelson. Yes, is a footprint of her foot stepping on a bath mat with water and any of those blood?
Zamora confessed his unwilling participation in the murders of Jade Smith and Anita Voh and was able to tie Tonya to the crime scene. But his last minute participation didn't give him any understanding as to why the only person that she put any trust in was Todd Smith.
And she felt betrayed. Tonya Nelson killed because. She chose to blame the fortune teller for all of the bad decisions that she had made in her life, she blamed her for her love life failure. She blamed her for her business failure. She blamed her for her economical failures and that everything that had gone bad, Antonya Nelson's life was as a result of her reliance on Smith. And that's why she killed her. And that's why she killed her daughter.
And that's why she used her Louis Vuitton bags and used her name because she was green with envy about what everyone else had that she felt was owed to her. And she saw Highsmith as the person who had taken that happiness and success from her.
But why kill Anita Vot? Wasn't she innocent in all of this?
She couldn't afford to have Anita, who knew her and knew that she was visiting survive. So that could not happen. But I think ultimately she really wanted to hurt Jada Smith. And there's nothing more awful than for a parent to have their child hurt, if not killed in front of them.
Her judgment is basically fight for life and being killed by Philip Seymour in the kitchen. She may be witnessing the murder of her daughter just feet away from her in the adjoining hallway. And so, you know, that's really the last image that Smith would have of her life in her daughter's life.
That's the part that's so sad here.
These two women, relatively young and their lives were cut short, you know, so this was not a circumstance where she was simply going to leave no witness, because if you're going to leave no witness, you know, you wouldn't attack Anita first for Jay to hear and know that her only child is being murdered. Feet away from her and she's helpless. So I believe that that was done by design, by Tanya Nelson to obtain the ultimate revenge.
She was actually quite a diabolical character with her act of ultimate revenge complete, Tanya felt untouchable. She did it and it looked like she was going to get away with it. To her confidence was her downfall.
Tanya was overconfident. And she thought at the time of the murders that she was going to end up a rich woman. She was going to get the loot wherever it was. She was going to be able to get her revenge and. And never have to use a credit card, I don't think the credit cards are ever part of the plan. What happened by her not finding the loot? Had to drive her absolutely insane, if you believe even half of what Zamora's says, they were in that house for hours.
Trying to find. Where the money was, where the jewels were, I mean, they even took Hause Louis Vuitton bags as luggage on their way back to North Carolina. I mean, she took everything she could from that house because I think she was so sure she was going to leave there a rich woman. And I think when she got back home, everything started to unravel. She didn't have. What she came for, other than revenge, and if she was ever going to get out of her situation, she's going to have to use those credit cards.
And so she got more and more desperate and maybe a little bit emboldened because. It worked at first, she was able to get the cash advances, she was able to do some purchases and the police were not there. So she got sloppy.
Had it not been for Tony Nelson's greed that got a car, they might still be outstanding suspects only from the standpoint that even though that we have DNA evidence that would eventually lead them to the scene. But if the DNA is not in the system, it would link them to any hook in the system.
The evidence was there connecting both Zamora and Tanya to the murders, but they never would have been caught if she hadn't been so sure she'd gotten away with it, that she brazenly used the credit cards on multiple shopping sprees.
That mistake would be her ultimate downfall.
It was intense. It was stranger than fiction. The characters appear right out of central casting at times. I mean, you couldn't make this up, Tanya, after the guilt phase of the trial became hysterical, yelling at the jury. There were days she did chose not to come out of herself. She was difficult with her lawyers, wouldn't behave and follow the court's instructions and directions. And I think the day of the closing arguments, we had the power go out right before we started closing arguments.
So the whole courtroom went dark and it just had that whole eerie feeling that went along with all of this supernatural stuff. But ultimately, the power came back on. We did our jobs and the jury found her guilty as charged. And then all the allegations true and recommended the death penalty for her because of Zamora's cooperation with the investigation, the death penalty was taken off the table. Instead, the maximum sentence he could get would be 25 years to life.
Well, it got him off death row and it allowed one sentence rather than two in California, if you. I know he he killed one and she killed the other, but they both aided and abetted each other in the murders so he could have potentially been found guilty of the two murders, one where he's the slayer and one which he aided and abetted. But we opted on to 25 years rather than 50 years life. He ultimately received an additional two years for being less than forthcoming during his testimony at trial.
He try to minimize you know, I think I alluded to the I'm not a murderer because I won't kill a dog. But, you know, I did everything because she told me to and I had no idea any of this was going to happen until it happened. And yes, I did it, but only because I was commanded to. And there were some some truths and some half truths and some lies. And so, you know, if he was less than forthcoming, our deal was that he would receive additional time.
And so I recommended he receive an additional two years. The judge agreed and he received an additional two years on the plea bargain, which I believe made a sentence. Twenty seven years to life, even with Zamora's cooperation, he will be in prison until he's at least 68 years old. Tanya will spend the rest of her life on death row and likely never be executed. California hasn't executed a prisoner since 2006, and it doesn't look like they're going to start now.
It's very seldom that we see somebody with as much potential as Tanya Nelson and LDAP in death row. I mean, you have a mother of four, you have a shrewd businesswoman. She was smart, definitely capable. So it's a true shame that there was so much evil there. Evil indeed. Killing Jane Smith was one thing, but also killing her daughter for revenge is as evil as it gets. But her decisions also deprived her children of growing up with a mother who cared about them, who paid attention to them, and not some crazy love affair.
And so from that perspective, I find the ripples of of her evil deeds really go far. It's not just what happened to a fortune teller in Westminster, it goes much deeper than that, and that's what evil people do. Evil people do some evil things. Tanya never made a decision without advice from Jada Smith. She put her faith in Jade and her ability to see patterns in the seemingly random world. But when Jade recognized the patterns in Tonya's behavior that no amount of divination would help her, she cut her off.
And at a time when Tonya felt she needed her advice the most, Tonya felt betrayed by the person she trusted, her confidant. It's ironic that the one thing that Tonya really needed to do in her life, the one thing that Gayed forced her to do when she cut her off to take responsibility for her own actions and her future and stop relying on Jades predictions was what led her to her murderous revenge and ultimately to being sentenced to death. We can only hope that Hodgett Smith is resting in peace, but if she isn't.
Then let's hope she's haunting the fuck out of Tanya Nelson's prison cell. That does it for another episode of Swinscoe, we hope you've enjoyed it. Please consider signing up for plus it's only five dollars a month and you get all kinds of bonus content, including eighty six exclusive commercial free episodes. Find out more at Soad and scale dotcom slash plus. Hey, Mike, this is Becky from KC. I try to return to certain scale the first time since you left and suddenly I'd forgotten about the shit show of twenty twenty as I heard your sexier voice.
I'm so excited that you're back. Thank you for what you do. Your show has helped me to finally understand the inside of my family and to always be aware of my surroundings.
I mean, now I don't say and I just know that every day is next to me. Starbucks is a rapist. But I love your clever humor. Your show has gotten me through numerous days of boring ass jobs for that and forever grateful. Here's my best friend. On is your emergency. My boy had a gun and he told you, you press this trigger. Oh, my God. Please calm down. What is your name? My name is Barbara Rogers.
A woman who claims her boyfriend wanted her to kill him because of problems with an online cult. Pleaded not guilty today in the Poconos. Sherry Schriner was an ordinary woman who believed the world was ending and that she had the key to salvation. She created an army of warriors to fight beside her and the spiritual battle between God and Satan, which ultimately resulted in murder suicide and mind control.
How does a poor woman in a cow town with practically nothing to inspire mankind to stand up against the strongholds of Satan to the point where he is burning out of the sky? What would it take for a regular person, someone like you or me, to turn into a maniacal cult leader with no regard for human life? We did it. We got it from caste. This is the Opportunist, a podcast about regular people, the term sinister simply by embracing opportunity.
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