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Lemonade. Hi, it's Amy Donaldson, host of the letter. We're dropping a little bonus episode this weekend as a thank you for all of the support. We are truly grateful for everyone who is listening and sharing this story. It means so much. Also, we've had a lot of questions from people about what went into our decision to make a second season of the letter. And so, in an effort to give listeners some insight, our ridiculously talented, smart, and generous colleague, Dave Cawley, who some may recognize as the host of the Cold podcast, led this discussion with me and producer Andreas Martin. We share how we found out about this story and what went into deciding whether we should make another season of this podcast. And we also talk about some of the struggles we face as we examine similar issues like loss, grief, resilience, and forgiveness through completely different experiences. Enjoy and thank you again.


I'm Dave Cawley, the host of Cold. I am here with Amy Donaldson and Andreas Martin from the letter. And this is super cool, you guys, because when I listened to the letter podcast, I was under the impression this was a one and done.


You and me both.


It was the story that had a beginning and an end, and it was a great podcast. And, like, I'll tell you, I've been watching people in this Facebook true crime group discover the letter and talk about how different it is from other true crime shows. It does stand alone. But the big news here is there's a second season of the letter.


Yes, but we didn't plan on that. As you know, Andrea moved on to another project, which she published, her afghan refugee project. I moved on to a soccer project, and I have not yet published that. But, yeah, we didn't intend to. I had a source, a former prosecutor, reach out to me maybe five or six episodes into season one, and he said, hey, I have a kind of similar story. I don't know if you're going to be doing any more of these. And I said, no, we don't have any plans. And he emailed me a few details about it, and I thought it was interesting. And I thought, well, maybe we could do a bonus episode. That would be an interesting thing to say. Here's this other case where something similar happened. I just thought, we don't wanna do the same podcast over. And there's only one letter, right? So I think I mentioned it to Cheryl, and she kind of agreed with me. Cheryl's our boss. And, yeah, then just in Email communication, he emailed me back and said, you're not gonna believe this, but this is the story that inspired the snars, and the snars are one of the families from season one.


And then I was, like, more interested in talking to the family. And so I gave one of the sisters of one of the murder victims a call, and, yeah, really liked her and really thought the story was intriguing. But again, it's not the letter. And at the end of the phone call, she said, oh, by the way, we have a letter, too. And I was like, what? So that's how it all began. And Andrea, when this was going on, was in the middle of trying to do everything on her pod, she writing, producing, everything on her own podcast, and so wasn't, I don't know how you felt about it. It. I mean, the letter, season one was exhausting, and we were tired.


It was. But I have to say, when we started talking about doing a season two, I was actually surprised that I wanted to. So I thought it seemed like such a one time experience, and I made an exception. I was like, okay, I'm going to do this. It's a true crime story, but it's different. And there's this forgiveness thread and this redemption thread, and it moved so many people, and I was surprised by how I was affected by the listeners reactions to it. Like, you would hear how it would impact people, and they would start questioning their own lives, what they were doing with forgiveness in their own lives, or putting themselves in the place of these characters. And it really affected people. And I found that, as a producer, to be super rewarding.


Yeah. And I think it seemed like it.


Was really having an impact.


And that's, like, as a journalist, like, we do this work so that we have an impact on the world, right? Like, we want to affect change or inspire people or educate people. And, like, we got in real time, like, as the podcast was rolling out, people are telling us this is the specific way. It's not just, like, made me think, but, like, it's changing my life. Like, I mean, we had some even just a couple months ago, really, really profound. You know, I've spent many a day crying and, and the, and there. And it really has, like, been a lifeline to a lot of people who are struggling with, you know, grief and loss and sort of the anger that comes with that and what do you do with that? And, yeah, I think we just didn't. I think I thought I understood forgiveness before we did the letter. And I think I, we had a lot of conversations about, well, you know, what does this mean? What does that mean? And I don't know that I ever had those conversations with anyone in my life before we started trying to write about it. And you realize, like, how shallow your understanding of something is when you start doing that.


But to the true crime thing. Funny enough, before Andrea and I, we got hired at the same time and before we got jobs here, we would go for walks and she would tell me about her projects and I would tell her about mine. And I was working on the letter when I was still a print reporter. And she's like, I would never want to do a true crime, but she would give me great advice. Right. So it's kind of funny, but yeah, I resisted being in the true crime universe because I knew it wasn't, like what I was listening to. I'm like, I'm not giving people this inside view of the system or I'm not doing investigative work, so what am I giving them? I think that was sort of always, and it's been our sort of guiding light. And our struggle in the second season is like, what are we giving you that we didn't already give you?


So let's dig into that a little more because the letter season one, for somebody who hasn't listened, let's start there.




Is it what? Yeah, like, we don't want to spoil.


Obviously, the whole, you really need to listen to season one before season two. And it's not because I think you need some understanding of the system or forgiveness or anything like that, or life in Utah. I think you. There is a connection, and we're going to explore it, and it will be more meaningful if you have that, have made that journey in season one.


So briefly summarize for me then what season one is, and then we'll talk about how that in detail jumped into what season two is about.


So season one, in 1996, there were 218 year old kids, Yvette Rodier and Zach Snar. They went up to little Dell reservoir, take some pictures of the moon, and a 19 year old young man approached them and asked for directions, I believe, and ended up shooting both of them, really, for no reason. And then Zach was killed. Yvette, I think she was shot five times. I don't know that we ever noticed for sure. Yeah, but she crawled up to the road and flagged somebody down and ended up surviving. And really the story was just following them and their families afterward. And what ends up happening is that George reaches out through intermediaries to both Yvette and to size and Ron, Zach's dad, to see if they would like a letter that he had written them and really, the podcast explores what leads them to that, why they do or don't accept the letter, and then what happens after that. And so one of the things that does happen is in, I believe it's episode five, a friend of size mine their lds or at church, they're going to church and says, I'm going to talk about this murder victim friend.


I know, and I just didn't want to offend you because, you know, she knows that she's really struggled with the loss of her son. And so I said, oh, I'm not, you know, I'm really interested. I want to hear what you have to say. And it was like just a, it was a, again, sharing your stories can be really helpful. That's why we do what we do. Right. And yet it was kind of a moment where she said, I want to, I want to do something different in my life. And we didn't really even explore what that story was. We didn't worry about it because there were other things that we were focused on. And so, yeah, when I found out that this was a story, it wasn't told by anyone in the family of. In this season, you have a double homicide in 1982 at Loghaven restaurant, which, you know, is a really sort of high end restaurant. Yeah. And a wedding venue in Mill Creek Canyon, my favorite place to run with my dogs. That was my biggest challenge, Andrea telling me I couldn't write an essay on the amazing hiking and snow shoeing and skiing in Mill Creek Canyon, but stay.


Focused on the story.


It's like, Amy, no one cares about this, but it is a different canyon. If people come here and know about skiing, like, Milk Creek is not like big Cottonwood or little Cottonwood. So anyway, you know, for people who don't live here, it's one canyon over. It's handled by the same police agencies.


You know, most of the incident in the first.


Yeah. And so in this case, a 25 year old man's arrested for these two murders. And, you know, there is some, some parallels. There's a lot that's different. These are two young fathers who are killed, so they leave children. And it being an older case, I think the thing that intrigued me, besides the fact that there was a letter involved, was that I said to Andrea, I think it's kind of interesting, like the snars situation and Yvette, like, it had, it felt so new and so fresh. Like, it felt like they were sort of grappling with this just a few years before we reached out to them and these families. This was decades ago. So the kids have a different. They had kids. What was that like? That was just a lot that I really wondered, um, might be different. And, yeah, once we got into it, there were a lot of other questions that came up, and I was like, I have a different. Now we're doing this. And Andrea's like, no, stay focused.


But there were some really intriguing questions to pursue that were different from the first season, because you do have this next generation that was affected before they were young enough to understand their loss. They may not have even. They don't. Some of them don't even know or remember their fathers, but the loss is a huge impact on their lives. And so we started thinking about how you inherit the trauma from your parents. Right?




But then what happens if your parents.


Forgive or don't forgive or don't forgive?


What then do you inherit?


Yeah. Like, what is that emotional inheritance versus this thing? We all kind of acknowledge that if somebody has a bad thing happen to them, like, it kind of ripples through your family. Right. But what about the other decisions you make? And anybody who's a parent, Andrea and I both are, is, you know, the things you do impact your kids, whether you meant that to happen or not. And our parents, like, you have these experiences. So we were kind of like, let's explore this. Like, it seemed really simple at the beginning, and, yeah, it became pretty simple. Yeah. And, yeah, it's been, yeah, I keep thinking, oh, okay, now I get it. And then something will happen where I'm like, oh, I just don't. I don't. I think this is gonna keep evolving, you know? And I think it's really wonderful that we're having. We actually brought in an editor from outside KSL to help us. And one of the things she said, I think she was kind of struggling with why we were doing this, because you hear true crime, and again, everybody keeps trying to put us in this box, and Andrea and I are like, no, that's not.


We're the letter.


But let's talk about that. The letter does something different than a lot of true crime shows do.




It's not Amy and Andrea gab, about the latest headline case. Right. You're looking at the long tail, long after the crime has happened, what goes on in these families, what happens to the survivors? And with the letter, season two, you're now expanding that, as you said, into generations. Right. And tracing that. And so you are, like, decades on from the crime. It's not so much Amy's trying to solve the case, but it's let's see what this does farther and farther down the line.


Yeah. The way I described it to the editor we were working with, and she's been amazing. Amazingly helpful, is that, you know, true crime is here. And then these emotional, like, you know, podcasts about how I felt about something are up here. And we try to live right in between. So we give you, like, this, you know, sort of. I call it the. Cause I'm a former sports writer. X's and O's, the plays, what happens. But what we really want to sink you into and sink and, like, have you experience is the emotion that comes out of it. But we're not gonna. We try not to tip into philosophy. Right. So it's this weird space. I really easily go to philosophy. And then we had a producer that was really wanting to be in the X's and O's. And, yeah, it can be really hard to stay in that little space in between. Andrea's amazing at, like, come back children herding cats, as we say, because it is, like, especially with a crime, there's so many rabbit holes to go down. Like, oh, did you read this document? I mean, I don't know the hours that our former producer who.


Who left and Nina and I went down. Like, you know, just. I've learned a lot about my legal process that I covered courts and crime and corrections for years, and I didn't know. So. Yeah, and then there's another connection. So that I was after I kind of figured out that we might be doing this season, my husband comes home from work one day, and I said, oh, my gosh, you're not going to believe this. I think we might be doing in season two of the letter. And he's like, really? Yeah. I said there was this double homicide in 1982 at Log Haven, and he holds up his hand and says, I know that case. I was the defense lawyer.


Because your husband is.


Ed Brass.


Ed Brass.


And, yeah, so, yeah, that was fun. I was like, oh, no, don't tell me anymore. Can we do this podcast? Because he starts telling me, like, I was like, oh, we need that quote on tape. Stop. So I let Cheryl and Andrea know, and we went in a different studio and recorded our. Our discussion about. Because, you know, being a daily news, both. We've all worked daily news.




If your spouse is involved in something, you're out. I mean, really, any.


Can't do the story.


Yeah, yeah. It's a conflict of interest. I can't cover cases that Ed's involved. You know, you can't write about things that your husband's researching. You know, like, you can't. Like, you just, if you have a personal connection, you just. Even in sports, I wouldn't cover a game my kid was playing. Right. Although I hear that has gone out the window these days. So, yeah, we just had a discussion about, what are we doing? Is this news? How does this work? What should we do? And I've heard in podcasts before where people kind of incorporate their personal connection to the story, and that's kind of what we decided to do. We kind of just split the baby. We split a lot of babies this season. We're getting really good at being King Solomon. But Andrea interviewed my husband for the initial interview and kind of got the whole, like, what is he going to give us? But he's the only surviving member of Michael's defense team. And so, Andrea, how is that interviewing Ed? I'm like, I mean, interview.


Did the age of the story. I mean, because you are looking at that multi generational aspect, you have to interview not only that first round, like the immediate family, but then on to kids. So you're getting a broader and broader group as you go into this next generation. Did that present challenges in the storytelling, trying to figure out who holds the floor at any given time?


Well, I think the larger cast of characters was really challenging for, like, an audio story. And everybody keeps telling me, I can't have so many people in my story, which always, like, I'm trying to put some more people in there. And so, yeah, that was a challenge. And honestly, this genius next to me figured out, like, solved the problem. I don't even remember. We'd been struggling. We were, I don't know, six episodes in, I was, like, having meltdowns on the regular. This isn't working. This stinks. I hate everyone. And one day she called me and said, I think I figured it out. And, like, we rearranged some things. Yeah. In fact, I had been working on something for solid five days. And she's like, you might be mad at me, but we're not gonna do. We're gonna do, you know how you wanted. I had wanted to do something. She's like, you know how you want to do that? We're gonna do that. And I was like, I'm relieved. And also, I wanna cry. But, like, the rearranging. And the one thing she helped figure out is, like, how do you tell this next generation story?


Because if I start you off with 13 people, you're just gonna be like, I can't keep track of anyone. And, yeah. And I want you to kind of understand there's, like, these threads and they all matter, but if you give everyone the huge thing at the beginning, huge ball of yarn, it just looks like a mess. So we had to make it into something that was. You could follow the threads. Yeah. In fact, even some of the moments we were like, the reason we feel like there's three endings is because there's too much. These are heavy things. Right. Heavy topics, and so you need to sit in them.


Long story short, we decided to give the next generation their own episode, and it doesn't happen till late in the podcast, but you've been hearing about them all along, being described as children by their parents, and then you finally get to meet them as adults. And it sort of brings us up to the present because they are still dealing with this.




Like, it doesn't end.


And really, I think that's the moral of the story for everyone. Even as we've, as I told you, we've been letting them, like, we played then I played them the trailer a couple weeks ago and the first episodes. And, yeah, to hear your story told, like, in a podcast like this is an experience. I don't know many people who would have it, but it's been hard and great for them. Like, they're. And, you know, interestingly so, there are five kids who lost their dads on that day, three in one family, two in the other, and one of the. The oldest son of Jordan Rasmussen, who was 32 when he was killed. He initially didn't want to participate and just decided to participate. The very week that we were listening to the episode on the kids, and I called everyone all excited, like, you're gonna believe this. It's amazing. It's gonna be so much better. And also, we had to redo the episode. But, yeah, I had felt like something was missing. It just honestly was like I found the missing piece of the puzzle. And I have felt that way a few times. And it's been, yeah, people have been so generous, and I think that it's gonna be.


I think it'll be different and a deeper experience in a lot of ways. I think, especially if you went through season one, I think you will have the kind of experience we had, which is sort of this deepening of this understanding of grief and healing and how you rebuild your lives and what your decisions do or don't do. There's not a single experience. But, yeah, it's. It's been, um. It's a. It is an emotional journey. I will say that.


And I would say it's a different kind of mystery. Like, it, like, when we're thinking about the, the differences with classic true crime, the mystery is not like, who did it or where's the body? But it's more like, how do people come to these decisions? And then what is the impact, like, decades later?


Yeah. And I think the thing that's interesting about this, too, is, like, I don't, I felt like the, like, Mark Moffat was amazing in season one, and the attorney that represented George, they play a really vital role, but in this case, like, they're having an experience that not a lot of people have in working in the system. The attorneys. Yeah. And so. Yeah. And for some people, when one of the attorneys has that experience. Yeah. It's kind of disorienting. They're like, wait a second. This is not how it's supposed to go.


It kind of changes their worldview.


Yeah. And I think, yeah. Like, everyone's like, these things are supposed to be like, black and white.


The attorneys are, like, fixed in their views on the death penalty or anything.


Yeah. Criminal justice. Yeah. Or why, or what do people deserve? Or does this, does the system actually rehabilitate people? Like, all these questions are things that most of these guys come out of law school feeling one way or the other. Right. And that's all gets mixed up.


It challenges everybody.


Yeah. And I'm excited. One of the bonus episodes that we're gonna have is some, my husband's perspective on some of these types of moments in court and just how, how really rare they are.


Okay, you say bonus episodes before we talk bonus. Where do people find it?


Anywhere they get their podcasts. Apple, Spotify. Yeah. I think Amazon.


All those.


Everything. Yeah. And you can go to the letter There will be stories there and the audio.


And free to catch up on the letter season one.


You can do that right now.


You can binge it.


Yep. You have to pay for a membership with lemonade. They're our national distributor distributing partner. And so they have a membership that's like $5 a month. And that allows you to get the bonus episodes.


Okay. And what will the bonus episodes look like? Are they coming out alongside?


Yeah. So every time an episode drops, a bonus episode will also drop. And so the bonus episode for this first, uh, week is, um, a little insight and, uh, some details that I really wanted to put in the podcast, but it would have made it. We would have had introduced another couple people and. And sort of the business aspect of this murder that is super complicated. And so we chose not to put it in the first episode, but this friend of Jordan's, one of the murder victims, had some pretty interesting details and insight into Jordan. So that's that episode. And of course, I overwrote it. Erin was like, you don't have to do all this for bonus. And I'm like, people who take my, who get my bonus episodes are basically getting another episode, but to the point.


If somebody's listening to the letter, season two, episode one, and they're really compelled, they can buy that subscription.


You can have more detail to lemonade.


And go deeper, and you'll get that every week.


Every single week. And sometimes it's going to be more. It'll be an extra interview that we did with someone about issues that are raised. Like, you did this with cold. When you're telling a narrative style podcast, you can't, like, take it aside and talk ten minutes about why jobs prison, like Utah correctional industries, how come prisoners only make a dollar or, you know, $0.70 or whatever it is. And, like, is that a good thing or a bad thing? And how does the state make all this money? And, you know, you know, the ethics of prisoner labor and, and really the safety of prisoner labor. Right. Like, if I have a company, do I want to?


All the things I wouldn't let Amy talk about.


I know. Basically, basically, if you listen, if you pay for the bonus content, you get the podcasts. I would have done.


Well, I understand now, though, why the both of you have seemed to very hair on fire for the last little while. You've had a lot to do.


Well. And I will say Andrea's like, we're the same about bonus content in our, as, you know, in our profession, sometimes bonus content is just like, I have this extra interview. Like, I've, I've listened to bonus, and it's like an unedited interview between a police officer and a suspect. And I'm like, I do not want to listen to. I mean, there are people who do an hour and 40 minutes. You know, I've had to sit through those for a story. So I feel like it should enhance. Like, you should get some details or some, some stories or some understanding or some insight that we, if we were just doing a straight journalism podcast, we might have included. But because we're telling a story we can't include. And so that's really what we're trying to do in the bonus episodes. Yeah. And I think we have some really, really great stuff if we can pull it off.


Well, I'm super excited for you both. It's. I've had a chance to listen to part of the season in rough draft form, so I got to relisten now to hear the finished product.


Yeah, because some of your suggestions are in there.


Well, that's very kind.


I know Dave said some of them.


Have been bad, so throw.


Dave said, you should rewrite this entire thing. And I was like, why is he here? Can we find.


Half the time I'm like, dang, he's right.


I know. These two cannot talk. No.


Give as good as you get.


Right? I know. I'll never forget, though, like, when you looked at me. Cause I was doing it. And this is another kind of inside journalism thing. When you cover crime, you really. There is this idea that to make people care about something that happens, they have to understand who is happening to. And probably that's with policy. I felt that way about all my journalism. Like, it's not the issue, it's the people. But really, for me, it's like, it's just. I can't. Not like, I can't. I couldn't be a journalist if I couldn't do it. And so. But Dave leans across the table to me when I was, like, arguing, arguing. No, don't. They're like, this doesn't make sense. And I was like, let me do what I want. I hate you all. And Dave said, amy, listen to me. I did what you want to do, and it's not the right thing to do, and it's not the right thing for the people that you're writing about. Right. Because our effort to try to make you understand sometimes it's too much. Right. And so, yeah, I mean, I think that's the thing that has been hard about narrative storytelling, especially in audio, is it's such a.


A difficult shift from regular journalism. Like, it's just you can't. I mean, we'll even say things like, oh, this is our reporter instinct here. Like, when we want attribution for things. And Cheryl's like, I don't want. I don't want all this stuff in there. Because we want to tell you where we got the information. Right. That's what you would do as a journalist. Yeah, it's hard, but, yeah, I have loved these families. They're super generous with their time and their experiences. They're just amazing people, all of them. It is very affirming. I don't know if you feel the same way, but I felt like, yeah, I love working on this project, especially when there's so much crummy stuff happening.


Well, you're about to embark on a journey and we will come back together in a few weeks and see how it's going.




And do an update and hopefully you'll be a little less.


See if I managed to actually do my hair for that video. Hair and makeup by Amy's in a hurry.


We're still finishing the podcast, so it actually is a mystery to us how it's going to end.


Yeah. Yeah. You want to say when should we come back? When we figure out an ending. We will schedule another interview, but I.


Can'T spoil the ending. I don't know.


That's it. Yeah. As I said, it's right there. And you don't want to be in here right now. Andrew doesn't even want to be in proximity to this.


Well, we'll do it again in a few weeks. And congratulations to you both.


Thank you.




If you like the letter, please take a minute to rate and review us. I know every podcast asks that, but it really does help make the show more visible to others who may enjoy it too. Thanks. This bonus episode of the letter, season two, Ripple Effect, was written by Amy Donaldson, produced and edited by Josh Tilton and me, Aaron Mason. Mixed and mastered by Trent Sell. Special thanks to cold host Dave Cawley for the conversation. Our main theme was composed by Allison Layton Brown with lemonade media executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Whittles Wax, for workhouse media executive producer Paul Anderson and for KSL podcasts, executive producer Cheryl Worsley. Follow us on social media at theletterpodcast or for even more extras, check out our website, dot. The letter is a production of KSL podcasts and Lemonade Media in association with Workhouse Media.