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REVIEW: Serial Killer: A True Crime Podcast 

The timing of the release of the Serial Killer: A True Crime Podcast, narrated by Donegal journalist Ann McElhinney and produced by Phelim McAleer her husband, coincides with the overturning of Roe v Wade by the US Supreme Court.

It tells the story of the investigation, trial, and conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of multiple murders in 2013 and whose medical clinic became known as the ‘house of horrors’ where Gosnell, was arrested in 2011 and charged with seven counts of infanticide for snipping the spines of babies born alive during illegal late-term abortions. 

Serial Killer: A True Crime Podcast chronicles how Gosnell’s  was initially the target of an undercover drugs investigation for selling fake opioid prescriptions. Episode one, 45 minutes long, introduces the listener to the back story of how Kermit Gosnell came under the spotlight for selling ‘thousands of prescriptions for thousands and thousands of pills’ of oxycontin, a highly addictive opioid painkiller, how he came under the spotlight for the death of a 41 yar old Nepali refugee, Karnamaya Mongar, before his ‘House of Horrors’ was uncovered.  

Gosnell is currently serving several life sentences for killing patients, and babies born alive after illegal late-term abortions. Yet, Gosnell remains relatively unknown compared to other serial killers in the United States. The six-part podcast by McElhinney and McAleer sheds light on this horrific case that has remained somewhat hidden from the public consciousness  – especially in Ireland.  

The podcast makes for a gripping listen. Episode One sets the scene in a manner that is familiar to Netflix type documentaries of famous murder cases. McElhinney introduces the listener slowly to the main protagonist in the story but puts more focus on those that played a key role in bringing this serial killer to justice.  

The background to the Gosnell case is the opioid epidemic in the United States which has caused over 500,000 deaths between 1999 and the present day. Gosnell’s role in this story alone ought to have made him an infamous household name, yet even this is not enough for there to be outrage and uproar about his crimes.  

Selling 80 milligram oxycontin tablets, drug dealers would make US$3,600 for one prescription of sixty pills, and up to $36,000 in one month. One of these was Kathy Taylor who brough the name of Kermit Gosnell to the attention of Detective Jim Woods in Philadelphia. Gosnell was the doctor who wrote the prescriptions, for a fee, which Taylor could then use to procure Oxycontin and sell to drug addicts and unfortunate people with pain problems. Prescriptions would be automatically renewed each month by Gosnell and estimates are that Gosnell made millions from the prescriptions, once complaining that he was writing 200 prescriptions per night, as the biggest prescriber of Oxycontin in the Philadelphia area.  

Detective Jim Wood was a man on a mission to try to fight the opioid epidemic that was a decade long in the States and he was determined to find the sources for prescriptions that dealers like Taylor were using. In the course of his investigation, posing as a dealer himself, he talks to Taylor on the phone, arranging to buy Oxy from her.  

He asks who her doctor is. ‘Gosnell’ she says. The recording of this moment by Detective Wood should send a chill through history.  

‘G-O-S-N-E-L-L’.  

This was the moment the name of one of the most lethal serial killer in US history was spelled out. Gosnell should be a household name yet he remains relatively obscure.  

From here, the first episode moves from Wood and Taylor, to Latasha Lewis, a receptionist in Gosnell’s clinic who was able to confirm that it was the doctor at the clinic who was running the show rather than any low-level employees. Over the course of the Drug Enforcement Administration interviews with Lewis, they stumbled on a story about the conditions in the clinic.  

Lewis tells of a dead cat in the doctor’s clinic that looked like it was moving – because of the fleas crawling over the dead cat in the medical clinic. Lewis told that there were abortions being carried out and that the fumes from the ‘medical waste’ from abortions was making the employees sick in the clinic.  

This led to Lewis mentioning the death of Karnamaya Mongar, from, potentially, a lethal dose of Demarol in the clinic. Wood called the Medical Examiner and was able to find a death report from a about the Nepali refugee, but no police report. The Medical Examiner, Doctor Collins, give the medical report and toxicology report pointing to high levels of Demarol or Fentanol levels that would have caused the death.  

This crime, potentially drugging a patient who had sought an abortion, to death, led to a decision to search Gosnell’s clinic and uncover his ‘house of horrors’. This is where the backstory of the investigation pauses where McElhinney concludes Episode One by elaborating the backstory of Gosnell himself.  

Born February 9th, 1941, an only child, through calls from McElhinny to Gosnell in prison, you can hear the doctor of death narrate his childhood and relationship with his parents, in a manner that brings to mind what Hannah Arendt describes as ‘the banality of evil’. This, coupled with his narcissistic claims about wishing to address inequality in the Philadelphia area is reminiscent of Arendt’s Nazi subjects in the same book. McElhinney draws out Gosnell’s internal racism, though African-American himself, and thoughts around eugenics and ‘pruning’ of the black community through abortion.  

Gosnell claims he was the doctor who delivered Will Smith, the famous actor, and that his grandmother worked for him as a recovery room nurse for two years. He wrote to Smith joking that there would be no ‘Men in Black’ if he had dropped Smith on his head when he delivered him. Smith never replied.   

Episode Two promises to take us  inside the ‘house of horrors’, the Philadelphia Women’s Medical Society Clinic where Gosnell was able to kill for almost 40 years before his crimes were exposed because of a routine drugs investigation and a curious cop determined to seek justice for one of his forgotten victims.  

McElhinney and McAleer continue to bring the story of Kermit Gosnell to the public attention. They are a husband and wife journalist team who have written books, made documentaries, movies and plays together. In 2017, they co-wrote the  New York Times best-selling book Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. In 2018, the producers released the movie Gosnell: The Trial Of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, starring Dean Cain, which crowdfunded over $2 million and was the first political movie to be screened at the Trump White House. The movie was directed by Nick Searcy and opened in over 700 theatres, grossing a total of $3.7 million at the box office.

“Serial Killer: A True Crime Podcast” is a production of the Unreported Stories Society, and is the latest effort to popularise the story of the investigation, trial, and conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of multiple murders in 2013 that many do not want to be heard. The six-episode series can be listened to at https://serialkillerpod.com/


 

Dualta Roughneen

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