A Nanaimo cold case is getting some renewed attention thanks to a new Vancouver Island true crime podcast.
Last week mid-Island resident and former CBC producer Laura Palmer launched the first season of her Island Crime podcast. In Season 1: Where is Lisa?, Palmer investigates the disappearance of Lisa Marie Young, a 21-year-old indigenous woman who was last seen leaving a Nanaimo house party in the early hours of June 30, 2002. It quickly became one of iTunes’s Top 10 true crime podcasts in Canada.
“I was surprised that a podcast created off the side of my desk, in my hatchback, in my closet, would do as well as it did,” Palmer said. “But I think that speaks to the strength of Lisa’s story and the advocates who have been out there pushing this on social media and doing whatever they can to raise awareness.”
Palmer said Young was a friend of a friend and during her time at the CBC whenever there was a memorial march or any news related to the case, Palmer tried her best to provide coverage and “keep the story alive.” Now she’s continuing that advocacy on a new medium.
“When it came to doing a podcast, I tossed around a few ideas … but once I started talking to Lisa’s family and friends I just felt like there was a good story there and that it deserved a wider audience,” she said.
With many true crime podcasts available, Palmer said she’s distinguishing herself from the crowd with an “authentic” tone and victim-focused approach. Palmer said she likes true crime podcasts because of the characters and the first episode of Where is Lisa? consists entirely of interviews with Young’s family members to conjure an image of the kind of person Young was.
“When someone dies as young as Lisa there tends to be kind of a superficial telling of who they are: ‘They were beautiful, they were bright.’ The kinds of snippets you hear in clips on local newscasts about people,” Palmer said. “And I get why that’s so, but the podcast offers an opportunity to go longer, go more in-depth, talk to more people and really try and get a fuller picture of who someone was in life.”
Next month it will be 18 years since Young was last seen. However, the passage of nearly two decades hasn’t made it any easier for some of Palmer’s interview subjects to open up about Young’s disappearance. Palmer said the lack of closure has been hard on friends and family and she suspects there are people who still know what really happened that night.
“After all these years, is someone going to listen [to the podcast] and be motivated to come forward? I don’t know. You just don’t know,” Palmer said. “And I would say, particularly right now when everything seems to be shifting … maybe this is a time where they might want to take a chance and do something just because it feels like the right thing to do.”
Island Crime, Season 1: Where is Lisa? is available at www.islandcrime.ca. The final three episodes of Season 1 will be posted later this week.