New podcast series revisits gruesome murder of WVU co-eds

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Hitchhikers at WVU, c. 1970s
Students at WVU routinely thumbed rides from Morgantown, West Virginia, at the time of the gruesome co-ed murders.

Even after half a century, new information is coming to light regarding the gruesome murders of two hitch-hiking students who disappeared from the campus of West Virginia University in 1970.

Morgantown-based Kromatic Media today announced the release of the first three podcasts in the series “Mared and Karen: The WVU Coed Murders,” which explores the kidnapping, murder, and decapitation of two West Virginia University freshmen in 1970.

According to co-producer Kendall Perkinson, the program presents the case for a wrongful conviction, offers new evidence about who really killed the coeds,and examines the crime’s social and cultural impacts on West Virginia and Appalachia.

“Fifty years later, folklore, songs, and ghost stories still circulate, and people wonder if the man who served 39 years in Mount Olive penitentiary actually killed Mared and Karen,” Perkinson said of the tragedy.

Mared and Karen is, Perkinson said, “the most complete accounting ever assembled of West Virginia’s most notorious murders. The story has all the cliché components of a modern true crime: grisly homicides, bad policing, a false confession—probably, you can decide for yourself—but this is also not your typical whodunit. It’s also about an assassination attempt, dismemberment, a psychic cult, student protests, an intersex child molester, ghost hitchhikers. But mostly, at its core, it’s about two West Virginia college girls who never made it home.”

Even after 50 years, new information is coming to light, and Perkinson says he encourages anyone with information to reach out through the website.

New episodes are being produced and release dates will be announced soon, he says.

The guides for the complex tale are author Geoffrey Cameron Fuller and digital researcher Sarah Gibbons.

Co-produced for Kromatic by Gibbons and Perkinson, the program features interviews with Nancy Burkhammer, a WVU student who was a neighbor of Malarik in 1970; George Castelle, a law clerk for the state Supreme Court in 1980 ; Ray Evans, a 1970 Dominion-News city desk editor, as well as national guardsman Rod Everly, broadcast journalist Hoppy Kercheval, criminal-defense lawyer Darrell F. Ringer, photojournalist Ron Rittenhouse, and newspaper reporter Evelyn Ryan.

The podcast also includes original music by John Smithers, Nick Larson, and Amy Stroud (produced by Nathan Snyder), Bob Shank, False Pterodactyl, Ghost House, Haggard Wolf, Humans Etcetera, Jet Set Vapor Trails, and Ordo Templi Sonica.

The episodes and extras—photographs, newspaper articles, links to the music and musicians, and other artifacts from the case—are available at Kromatic Media, and on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Podcast Addict, and Facebook.


Tales of other strange and wonderful curiosities in West Virginia