My True Crime Notebook

Thursday, February 29, 2024


I have one of those journals I got as a gift with a positive affirmation stamped on the front cover in cursive. It tells me how beautiful, smart, and talented I am and says I am going to do amazing things. But if you open the notebook, you might be surprised at what you find jotted down on the pages. 

This journal has become my true crime notebook. 

The first page has a post-it note where I’ve written “NC/SC John and Jane Does,” a note, no doubt, I wrote as it came to me and didn’t have the notebook nearby. The opening pages hold the original outline for my true crime podcast, “Missing in the Carolinas,” along with ideas for the first four episodes. I have domain name ideas for the eventual corresponding website, marketing, surveys, and merchandise items. 

I’ve jotted down notes from various episodes of true crime shows and documentaries. Most of the time my entries are brief, as I’m usually writing them down before I forget amid working on something else. 

While studying a cold case from North Carolina, I came across an archived article from August of 1984 in The Charlotte Observer with the headline, “Henry Lee Lucas ties to SC crimes (alleged).” Beside that I wrote, “Netflix documentary “The Confession Killer” about Henry Lee Lucas.” These notes turned into Episode 46: A Review of “The Confession Killer.” 

This past fall, I wrote: “Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month/November/Heddie Dawkins/High Point.” Often the pages feature a brain dump, where you can tell I’ve had a brainstorm session to try and plan content for the next few months. I’ll list out national holidays and awareness weeks and months to tie in content, such as with Ms. Dawkins, who was featured in Episode 73: Missing Senior Citizens from the Carolinas. 

While researching one case, a news brief in an old newspaper article caught my eye and I wrote: “Murder solved in Flat Rock. 16-year-old Pamela Denise Durham was shot and killed by a former Broadway performer, 64-year-old Wilton Clary. He was her voice instructor.” This turned into Episode 85: Denise Durham, Shelby Wilkie, and Marissa Carmichael. 

If I ever lost this notebook and someone outside of my family picked it up, I have a feeling they would be intrigued, and hopefully not horrified. But my true crime notebook never lets me down. When I’m having a day where I’m not sure what to write about next on my blog or need ideas for a podcast script, I can flip open the notebook, scan it, and quickly have two or three ideas. One of the last entries in it so far has the name of a serial killer in Charlotte, N.C. who murdered eleven Black women in the Carolinas before police realized what the common denominator was—many of the victims had worked with the man at a local fast food restaurant. And he was caught during the month of March, so I think I know what I’m working on next.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and host/creator of the podcast Missing in the Carolinas. She will be teaching a webinar called “Introduction to True Crime Writing” on March 14. Learn more about the webinar, which offers the option to pitch a true crime article or project idea to Renee, here.


Jodi Webb said...

I understand the feeling of wondering what people would think if they found our notebooks. I've never written a murder mystery but ideas bounce around my brain. Often I'll be somewhere with my husband and I'll whisper "This would be a great place to kill someone." Literary kill, of course.

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