A friend told me about the Up and Vanished podcast recently, so I binged it this weekend. Between errands, gift wrapping, and cleaning, I had plenty of time to listen to all 24 episodes, many of which are only half an hour. Now that the podcast is over, I’m left feeling very unsettled and lacking closure.
Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for Up and Vanished.
In case you aren’t familiar, Up and Vanished (UAV) chronicles the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old teacher from south Georgia who went missing in October 2005. Her body was never recovered, and when the podcast started in 2016, no one had ever been arrested, either. It’s debatable whether the podcast helped “shake the trees,” but two suspects were arrested in 2017 for her murder and for helping to conceal her body, respectively. Knowing all of this ahead of time, I thought for sure there would be resolution to this case, unlike when I listened to Serial so many years ago.
Second-mover advantage meant that I got to zip straight through the podcast and not have to wait 2 weeks in between each episode. I got more and more excited as information about the first arrest came into play and later the second arrest as well. But as the episodes started dwindling down, I noticed we were running out of time to hear about the trial, the verdict, and most important to me – the whole truth.
Well, the podcast is over, and there isn’t even a trial date yet. While there is some slight resolution to the case (it’s a murder, not a missing person case), the podcast left me with a ton of unanswered questions, which I hate.
It brought me back to my first and only experience on jury duty. It was an armed robbery case where the defendant had already confessed to the crime in a police interview. I thought it would be a slam dunk, easy case. Surely everyone tells the truth on the stand, right?
Maybe, but I doubt it. We were met with conflicting stories, extraneous details, and a defendant who said he falsely confessed for fear of his life. While I am still confident this man was guilty, which was what our unanimous vote was, it still bothered me that all of the puzzle pieces didn’t fit together.
The Tara Grinstead case is worse in that these two seemingly random young men who she possibly hadn’t had any contact with since they graduated 3 years prior were the ones responsible for her disappearance. The lack of motive leaves me confused and irritated, and the harsh reality is that even a guilty verdict in a trial doesn’t guarantee a motive or the answers to many other questions will be revealed. And that sucks.