‘Proof’ podcast — Montclair producer helps tell the stories behind murders
By ERIN ROLL
For Montclair Local
Behind every murder case, there are stories: of the victim, the suspects, their respective families, the investigators. And those stories go well beyond the events of the actual crime, stretching out into the days before the murder, and the days after.
Such is the focus of “Proof,” a new true-crime podcast co-presented by Susan Simpson and Montclair’s Jacinda Davis.
“Proof” launched its debut episode on Monday, March 7, and a new weekly episode will be presented each Monday.
“It’s not just a show about a murder. It’s about an investigation,” Davis said. “The listener is there with us.”
The podcast follows Davis and Simpson as they research a given case, one that may be several decades old in some instances, and speak to relatives and friends of the people involved.
“To me, when I’m covering a case, I don’t want to tell a story about a murder for its own sake,” Simpson said.
Both have a long history of true-crime storytelling. Simpson was the host of the podcast “Undisclosed,” while Davis, an executive producer at Red Marble Media, has overseen such shows as "Evil Lives Here" for Investigation: Discovery.
Davis recalled how she got into true crime: While she was working at her university’s TV station, the station received a fax announcing that “America’s Most Wanted” was looking for interns.
Simpson, meanwhile, is a practicing attorney who lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
For the first season of “Proof,” the focus will be the 1996 shooting death of a teenage boy in Georgia.
Brian Bowling was found dead in his family’s trailer in Silver Creek from a gunshot wound to the head, resulting from a game of Russian roulette gone wrong, a friend initially claimed.
It was the investigators’ theory that Bowling’s death was in fact first-degree murder, related to gang activity, and two of Bowling’s friends were arrested and charged.
Both were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, but the question of who actually pulled the trigger, the podcast said, was left unclear.
Simpson had heard about the Bowling case while researching another case in Georgia for “Undisclosed.” The more she learned about it, the more she was fascinated by it: “I really wanted to pursue this case.”
Davis and Simpson got to know each other in 2020 when they were working on stories related to a 1990 double homicide in Michigan. The case had come in for renewed scrutiny in 2019, after evidence suggested that the person who was convicted may not have been the killer after all.
Davis was following the case for “A Killer in Question” for Investigation: Discovery, while Simpson was doing a piece for “Undisclosed,” which at that time was nearing the end of its last season. Davis and Simpson found themselves talking about the Bowling case, and they decided to team up on a new project.
The podcast episode follows Simpson and Davis as they interview people close to the case, including Bowling’s sister, aunt and uncle.
The research process involves requesting a lot of documents, they said, though a lot of the information is available because the cases are public record. And then they set out to speak to the people involved with the case, which may involve a lot of repeat visits. But 90 percent of the people they reached out to have been willing to speak.
As of March 8, Davis and Simpson said that while it was a bit too soon to gauge how the podcast would be received, there had been some very encouraging chatter about it on social media.
Davis said that there are themes of betrayal, forgiveness and figuring out how to pick up the pieces and move on with life in the wake of a tragedy. “The crime is not the centerpiece of these stories,” she said.
What is the fascination with true crime, for many podcast listeners? “Their reasons for being drawn in are very different,” Simpson said. For some, it’s the process of the investigation. “Others like just the stories,” she said.