What we lose in the Shadows (A father and daughter True Crime Podcast)

Parking Lot Predators: The Fight for Women's Safety

February 13, 2024 Jameson Keys & Caroline
Parking Lot Predators: The Fight for Women's Safety
What we lose in the Shadows (A father and daughter True Crime Podcast)
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What we lose in the Shadows (A father and daughter True Crime Podcast)
Parking Lot Predators: The Fight for Women's Safety
Feb 13, 2024
Jameson Keys & Caroline

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Have you ever felt a shiver down your spine while walking to your car in a deserted parking lot? That ripple of fear isn't unfounded, as Caroline and I explore the unsettling truth behind women's safety in these common yet potentially perilous spaces. We take you through the heart-wrenching abductions of Kelsey Smith and Mercedes Vega, whose stories are stark reminders of the dangers that can hide in the most ordinary of places. Our conversation isn't just about the darkness that exists in the shadows; it's a lantern lighting the path to vigilance and self-protection.

This episode paints a vivid portrait of the intersection between technology and personal safety, from life-saving community tips to the critical role surveillance footage played in piecing together these crimes. As we share the bravery of the families who turned their grief into action, like the Smiths championing the Kelsey Smith Law, you'll feel the weight of their fight for justice and the importance of legislative support in times of crisis. Join us as we reflect on the vulnerability many women face and discuss ways to forge a shield of awareness against the unforeseen terrors of daily life.



Contact us at: whatweloseintheshadows@gmail.com



Background music by Michael Shuller Music

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Have you ever felt a shiver down your spine while walking to your car in a deserted parking lot? That ripple of fear isn't unfounded, as Caroline and I explore the unsettling truth behind women's safety in these common yet potentially perilous spaces. We take you through the heart-wrenching abductions of Kelsey Smith and Mercedes Vega, whose stories are stark reminders of the dangers that can hide in the most ordinary of places. Our conversation isn't just about the darkness that exists in the shadows; it's a lantern lighting the path to vigilance and self-protection.

This episode paints a vivid portrait of the intersection between technology and personal safety, from life-saving community tips to the critical role surveillance footage played in piecing together these crimes. As we share the bravery of the families who turned their grief into action, like the Smiths championing the Kelsey Smith Law, you'll feel the weight of their fight for justice and the importance of legislative support in times of crisis. Join us as we reflect on the vulnerability many women face and discuss ways to forge a shield of awareness against the unforeseen terrors of daily life.



Contact us at: whatweloseintheshadows@gmail.com



Background music by Michael Shuller Music

Speaker 1:

Good morning and welcome to what we lose in the shadows.

Speaker 2:

A father, daughter true crime podcast.

Speaker 1:

My name is Jameson keys.

Speaker 2:

I'm Caroline.

Speaker 1:

Good morning Caroline. How are you?

Speaker 2:

I'm good. You always say good morning like a, like a newscaster or like a radio personality.

Speaker 1:

Well, I had a radio show back in college.

Speaker 2:

Oh, yes, you did so. That was only a few years ago. Yeah, that was only a couple years back Right?

Speaker 1:

Hey, did you hear about this story about this young girl who is actually at a ballet class and she gets the great idea that, you know, my dad's office is not too far away, and so she tries to walk over to his office and it's in a large city and unfortunately the little girl disappears.

Speaker 2:

No, I haven't heard about that.

Speaker 1:

That's because that's the subject matter in my new book, and the book is called what?

Speaker 2:

The vanishing ballerina.

Speaker 1:

That's right, and the vanishing ballerina is actually available. It's actually in preorder right now. So you can go to my website at Jamesonkeyscom or you can go to Amazon you can go to book baby and you can preorder it there or Barnes and Noble and you can order it there. So, but yeah, please check it out and look at it and maybe that'll help me get to be a best selling author. That would be fantastic.

Speaker 2:

And you'll have to read it because it's very good.

Speaker 1:

I think so, but then again a little partial, I'm not. So the vanishing ballerina available on all the major platforms.

Speaker 2:

Trigger warnings for today are abduction, torture, shooting, fire, injury, sexual assault and murder.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there's a lot, so you'll have to tell me about your experience with this, but one of the worst parts of my mornings are waking up and going to walk through my parking garage. It's only 20 seconds or less to get to my car, but in that time I feel completely vulnerable. It doesn't help that carjacking has become more frequent in nearly all the states in the United States, but that's not really what scares me. Getting taken is one of my worst fears and is probably a big reason why I'm so intrigued by true crime. I've talked to so many friends and acquaintances who share my fear of getting abducted to or from their car. Like every day, they're just thinking of that in the back of their heads, typically women, and it's why women put keys in between their fingers or carry pepper spray or switch blades, just hoping that we won't be attacked or abducted. Unfortunately, it happens too often, and today I want to discuss two cases that take place in parking areas. My worst fear your worst fear.

Speaker 2:

How do you feel about that, about parking areas? Yeah, do you got a creep like a chill?

Speaker 1:

No, I think a lot of men, myself included, really didn't think about it, maybe out of stupidity or whatever you tend to think. I'm not terribly vulnerable to that right. That's crazy. No I really don't, but walking through a parking area and so on, I don't feel at all.

Speaker 2:

It gives me the eck. Every single time, Every single time like to and from the car going to work, coming home.

Speaker 1:

Right, you're often talking to me at that point.

Speaker 2:

I know, yeah, which is good and bad technically, Because like good because you could hear something, but also bad because they see me as distracted.

Speaker 1:

Right, it's crazy.

Speaker 2:

So the first case I want to share with you today is one that scared me to my core when I heard it on another podcast, and since hearing it it's been years. I've been ever vigilant in looking around my surroundings, in parking lots or parking garages, day or night. In June of 2007, kelsey Smith was a teenage girl living in Kansas City. She was in a new relationship with a boy and they were about to celebrate their six-month anniversary. She wanted to give him something special, so she went to her local target to see what kind of gift she could pick up for him. She shopped around for a while, found something that she thought he was like, and she purchased it. And as she did, she called her mother, just letting her know that she was about to be on her way home and to let her boyfriend know that she would be there soon if he showed up to pick her up. Before she got back, her boyfriend did show up and he waited with her parents, and they waited.

Speaker 2:

And they waited and unfortunately around that time that her boyfriend was showing up to her house. Maybe even a little bit before that, kelsey was attacked by a man in the parking lot. This is all captured on surveillance footage and it was overlooked for hours due to the poor quality and how far her car was from the store. He attacked her, pushed her in the car and drove away within seconds. Her parents and boyfriend all got a horrible feeling after a while and decided to go look for her. They drove over to the parking lot and found nothing. Her car was gone.

Speaker 2:

Kelsey's father, a local police officer, started making calls to see if she was in an accident or if something was going on in the area that may have impacted her. The three of them find Kelsey's car in another parking lot just across the street as they're surveying the area. When they look inside, all of her belongings, including her wallet, was in the car, but no Kelsey. After looking back at the tapes, trying to see if the perpetrator had entered the store at all, they realize he did right after Kelsey.

Speaker 1:

Oh no, he was following her even then.

Speaker 2:

Then they started looking at all the frames with Kelsey in it and, sure enough, he was right there in every single one, just far enough a way that she may not have noticed or thought it was a coincidence. And that makes me feel like you know, I know a lot of women, myself including included probably brush these things aside A man seemingly in the same aisle, every single aisle, or giving you creepy smiles or stares in public. But the next time it happens, I want every single one of you to stare directly at him. Do not smile. Give them a stare that says I know you're creeping on me and if they, and see if they continue, if they do, ask a manager to walk you out.

Speaker 1:

That's a great idea.

Speaker 2:

Yep, and some most of the managers will in locations. If you tell them like hey, this man is being really creepy, is following me, and they'll probably give you some sarcastically yeah, sure, whatever, but they'll probably walk you, yeah, if they don't call a friend to come. Because it's really, this shit really happens and we have to combat it.

Speaker 2:

Right we have to be able to feel in control of these situations when they happen and to not give any chance to these creeps to get you along you have an open invitation to call me anytime of the day or night, to. But I'm talking to everybody who's listening right, it's very important.

Speaker 1:

You recently had that when you had a teaching assignment at a local university. Right what you you were, it was late at night, you were after your assignment, you were walking back to your car and and Someone said let me walk you to your car, I know, and it creeped me out because I didn't know it, but you did a smart thing. Do you remember what she did?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, of course, what. It was me who did it. Yeah, no, I told one of my other colleagues there, like hey, like this guy's so nice he's walking in my car, like so nice to see you, just like letting them know, like you know. So if something did happen he would have that memory exactly it's a marker, right?

Speaker 1:

Exactly it's a marker that that and I'm sure this this fellow had zero intentions. He wanted to make sure you got to the car.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, I mean hopefully, but even if you did, so even if he didn't, that kind of probably would have scared him off that would scare him off go.

Speaker 1:

Oh, someone else knows. Now I mean, that's a brilliant idea.

Speaker 2:

Well, what can I say? But yes, no, definitely do that too if someone's around and you kind of know them. Even if it feels silly to be like pointing out the obvious, do it, because you never know when that may need to be brought up again.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and, and the staring at you is a great thing too. I remember I was coming out of your apartment One time, in the big city, of course, and my car was parked out front and it was late, late, late, late Right, and I was making my way to the car and there was a young lady that was across the street and she had Actually not even headset, she had a whole, the whole, like a headphones headphones. She had headphones on and she was just completely oblivious to this guy that was trailing her and kind of looking around it. As he was trailing her and as he got closer he caught glimpse of me and I just I felt this urge to just stare directly at him and stare and not move and not say anything, but just kind of stare at him. Right, and this give you as scary as part was the more I stared at him.

Speaker 1:

He finally turned right around that's a hundred eight degrees and walked away so that is terrifying Is there any thought in my mind that he had something not good planned? There isn't, you know. I just I just thought, oh my god, I don't want to, I don't want this to happen, right, and the only thing I could do. I didn't want to run across the street or anything, but it did sit there and made him see me, and made him see me watch it. So sometimes that's it. That's the only thing you can do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think a lot of times like women are taught kind of to avert your eyes. Right but in these situations like you actually have to kind of like play into the weird, like dominant whatever bullshit.

Speaker 1:

You know what I mean.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and you have to really just like stare hard and and just let them know like I see you, mm-hmm, like you're not sneaking up on me yeah exactly and, yeah, very important. So with all of this information they take a somewhat clear photo of the perpetrator and Spread it to the community. Tips flood their line. Over 2000 tips come in that they sift through over the next hours and days. One woman sees the photo and Recognizes the man as her neighbor.

Speaker 1:

Oh shit.

Speaker 2:

Can you imagine the horror of having to turn in your neighbor for kidnapping a teenager? Oh, it's so creepy. But finally they narrow it down to one man. That same man, edwin Hall. The police bring him in, take his fingerprints and compare them to the prince from her abandoned car. They question him. He claims never to have met her until they let him know they found his prince in her car. Oh, Wow.

Speaker 2:

After that he cracks and he starts telling a truly terrifying story that he chose her for no reason Other than she was young and he liked her legs. He said that he decided that day he wanted to attack someone and kill them. And so we went to Target and he showed up just a few seconds before she did. And it was all a coincidence, chitaervang. He followed her around Target, keeping his distance, but pretty close, because they could see him in those frames, and he was just tracking her like an animal, so scary, bending a tractor when no one was around, and this was in broad daylight.

Speaker 1:

Oh wow, I'm thinking late at night. This was in broad daylight.

Speaker 2:

No, this was at 7 and it was summer. This was in June.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

So it literally was light outside in a busy parking lot but there was no one around. Like the parking lot was full of cars but no one was like in the vicinity. Isn't that insane?

Speaker 1:

It is insane.

Speaker 2:

So scary. During this time, the family and police were trying to get Verizon to share Kelsey's phone data Remember this is 2007. So they could locate her and her next movements. That happened after Target. After a few days they succeeded and finally received the results. Within 45 minutes later they found her body in a wooded area near Longview Lake, around 18 miles from where she had been abducted 18 miles.

Speaker 2:

She had been sexually assaulted and her cause of death was asphyxia due to strangulation. The state took Hall to court. He pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He's still in prison, thank God. At Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Kansas, kelsey's parents were really upset that Verizon wouldn't hand over their daughter's last location to police during the investigation. Kelsey did die before they even asked.

Speaker 1:

Verizon.

Speaker 2:

But Verizon and other phone companies say that it's a breach of confidentiality on there and that's why they don't want to do it, and it's two different perspectives that can cost police precious investigation times. Kelsey's parents would have been able to know where their daughter's body was a few days earlier had Verizon cooperated with the authorities. So they set out to introduce bills across the United States that require mobile service providers to disclose the location information of a device that called 911 or was in possession of someone in an emergency situation. Many states have adopted this to become law the Kelsey Smith law.

Speaker 1:

Okay, that's great.

Speaker 2:

The next one that I want to talk to you about is one that happened scarily recently. It was April 16th 2023. A young woman named Mercedes Vega was walking out of her apartment building into the connected garage in Tempe, arizona. It was a Sunday at 9 pm and the 22 year old was going to meet up with some friends at a local Dave and Busters. Two or more people jumped out behind a car and snatched her. The ME medical examiner later describes what they believed is what happened to Mercedes as torture. She was shot, had blunt force trauma to her head and bleach poured down her throat.

Speaker 1:

Bleach poured down her throat.

Speaker 2:

They were torturing her.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

It's just, it's senseless, Like there was no yeah.

Speaker 1:

And she'd done anything to that. It was completely random.

Speaker 2:

No, it was completely random, at least that's what? No, I'm pretty sure it was random, but we don't know. Wow, only a few hours later, at 1 30 am, monday morning, the 17th DPS, the Department of Public Safety, was called by a witness to a fire. It was a car that was on fire and got the attention of some people who called emergency services. The car, which was not Mercedes car, was on a highway road, interstate 10, in a city called Tonapa, which is around an hour away from Tempe. That's where they found Mercedes body on the back seat. They realized later that she died from smoke inhalation, so she was alive for a horrible beating and set on fire. Oh my God, it was horrible, I know it was horrible.

Speaker 1:

It's, yeah, I mean.

Speaker 2:

It's just, it's disgusting, it's horrible. They literally tortured her. They found a few pieces of evidence in the car bleach Gloves and lighter fluid, which makes this crime pre-meditated for sure. The owner of the car is still a mystery. I Guess the Vinn number was illegible at that point, after it had been on fire.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

Later they found Marsetti stolen car abandoned outside a restaurant in Tempe which was an hour away from where her body was found in the other car, mercedes. Mom, stepdad and countless friends remember her as a light and a kind soul who deserved a longer life than she got, and they want to see justice to those who took away their daughter and their friend. As of this recording, the police have not announced any persons of interests or suspects, so this happened last year so they found no fingerprints, no anything in her car.

Speaker 1:

Nope which one of them had to drive right mm-hmm. But, they did have gloves in the other one, yep.

Speaker 2:

So either we're wearing gloves or Maybe the police don't have like a match to the fingerprint, like maybe it's not in the System like their database, so they're waiting for a suspect. I don't know.

Speaker 1:

Are they aware of any other cases with a similar modus operandi in terms of burning and bleaching, and?

Speaker 2:

They haven't. They haven't released that information, like it wasn't in any sources. So I don't think they are. Wow it's not insane, like what the fuck, this is terrifying. I mean and this just goes to show like Both of these young women, while one was a teenager and one was a young woman, both of these people were just trying to do like everyday things, like go to Target and go meet up with their friends at 9. It wasn't late, it was at 9 right.

Speaker 2:

It's crazy because, like you know, then people tell me like, oh, you're just so paranoid, you know, you're always like looking around, or like you're always like so worried about like these things. No one's coming for you and it's like that's not how you know that right. But that's also not how it feels because, like you see all of these stories and it's like when they're random right, you don't like. Oh, so scary.

Speaker 1:

I just it's, it's it's scary enough to know that Carjackings in the United States are Astronomically high yeah, and in every city, in every city in every city, and not too long ago there was one Closer to you yes, there was so, so it's all around. So so you know, being completely unable to function and staying inside all the time is is bad, right, yeah it's terrible for your mental health right, but the other end, to be so and completely unaware that things like this are out there, is also bad, yeah.

Speaker 1:

So I think all of us, whether we feel like we're in you know danger or not I mean, like I said, I don't feel particularly vulnerable when I'm walking around because I don't think anyone's gonna snatch me, but they couldn't try to steal my car, and the statistics I've recently seen is a lot more of the car-sadging victims are being shot. Yes, they're not. They don't really even want the car and and the. The age of the average kidnap or carjacker is 15.

Speaker 2:

Since I'd, so so they're getting younger and more violent.

Speaker 1:

I just don't understand the whole thing. So you know it's. It's up to all of us to remain vigilant, not only just for our own personal Protection, but for each other around us. We should be really aware of the other surroundings.

Speaker 1:

I totally something looks funky or you see something like that, that guy that was following that girl, mm-hmm, do something. Yeah, I'm not saying that you have to stand up and, you know, try to fight this person, but maybe all is is for him or her, or whoever, to be aware that I see you, you know, so maybe that's something we can all do too, you know, and you're you're not wrong to be. No, I don't think you're being paranoid, you know.

Speaker 2:

I mean. Paranoia often comes like with reason.

Speaker 1:

Sure, you know what I mean.

Speaker 2:

Like but the other thing in that situation is going straight to the person and being like hey, like I'm pretty sure this man is following you, right, and then you both look at the man Right, like that. I don't think they would do anything with that. Or Alternatively, pull out your phone. Pull out your phone and record them. Sure people say, oh, like I didn't give my consent to be recorded. If you're in a public space, you're allowed to record anyone right.

Speaker 2:

Pull out your phone and record them and then go up to the person be like, hey, I think this guy is following you on the On the video they were.

Speaker 1:

They were trying to come up with some sort of a thing for your phone like an app that would, if you press a button or if the phone was dropped Dramatically or damaged in such a way, kind of like a shock thing on your watch that it would sound a siren and Take pictures of everything around you.

Speaker 2:

I thought that was your friends thing.

Speaker 1:

Well, I heard that, but I've never seen it. You know, I've never seen it used anywhere. I've never seen it. If there is such a thing out there and it is functional, my god, I Understand people would want to make a lot of money off of that, but that's something that Make available to every woman in the United States literally or everywhere, just any woman, everywhere, right yeah.

Speaker 1:

Because that that does so many things. It if there's a siren, if there's a photographic component of it, and if it dials like the police or dials someone close to you. I think that would be like the invention of the decade.

Speaker 2:

Definitely, definitely maybe the century, maybe like honestly. But another thing that I do that is perhaps more Creepy to some, but if I think that someone's like staring at me and I'm alone in public, I will literally snap a picture of them and send it to someone and be like hey, this guy I think is actually like staring at me, and sometimes the person's like looking at me like I'm crazy and I'm like you may be uncomfortable and I do not care, I have no shame. I'm like no, because if something happens Then that friend is gonna be like actually send me this picture with this guy. You know what I mean. Like, I mean honestly. Sometimes it feels weird, but don't second guess yourself. If you think that someone's being creepy, take steps necessary to you know, make yourself feel more comfortable.

Speaker 1:

Listen, and they may be, it can maybe completely innocent, but I'd rather, I'd rather be embarrassed and say, look, I'm really sorry, or just don't, then to not yeah right, yeah, and if, if a guy comes up to you all angry, remember, remember just be like Sorry, walk away.

Speaker 2:

You don't all anyone like an intense explanation, really, like you're trying to protect yourself, sure, and of story, absolutely, and you're not gonna see that person again. So you know what I mean. Like, at least not most likely, right anyways. So those with information about Mercedes case can share anonymously for a cash reward by calling 480 witness or 480 testigo for Spanish.

Speaker 1:

Which she was, the Mercedes? Was she sexually assaulted? No, yeah, or they haven't released it so, but the kind of the markers there were. They poured bleach down her throat, they burned her, and what else did they do? I mean they shot her, they shot her, they shot her, they poured bleach down her throat. And they to the head. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So and she was to snatch out of her own apartment garage. Wow, it's terrifying in Tempe, Arizona right another alternative way if you want to Leave a tip with Maricopa County Police Department is at 6 0, 2, 8, 7, 6, 3, 8 5, 5. Follow the show on whatever streaming site you're listening on and remember.

Speaker 1:

All of the source material will be available in the show notes and.

Speaker 2:

Follow us on Instagram at what we lose in the shadows and let us know if you want to hear a specific case.

Speaker 1:

Or if you just want to give us some feedback.

Speaker 2:

Okay, join us in the shadows next Tuesday. Bye.

Parking Lot Safety and Awareness
Abduction and Tragic Murders
Investigation Into Brutal Murder Case