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🎤 Interview: Jaime Albright
I am originally from San Jose, California. My husband, children and I reside in Atlanta, GA. I earned my Bachelor of Sociology from Kennesaw State University in 2013 and my Master of Social work from Valdosta State University in 2018. I started my career in victim advocacy in 2014 and became a trained forensic interviewer later that year. I transitioned to the field of podcasting at Tenderfoot TV four years ago.
I am passionate about providing individuals with a safe place to share their story. As content creators, I believe that we have a responsibility to reduce harm, shed light on stories of underserved populations and provide listeners with a call to action that can lead to change.
Jaime Albright is a producer for the Freeway Phantom podcast and she previously curated an edition of Sounds Like Impact called Missing, Murdered & Forgotten. The written interview was edited for clarity and condensed. Listen to hear more about the importance of mental health first aid, whether Freeway Phantom’s tip line has helped with moving the cases forward, the celebrity production partnership that helped make the show possible and Jaime’s advice to podcasters working on sensitive subjects.
One of the things I am interested in is how people get into podcasting. In looking at your background, you have a Bachelor’s in Applied Science in Sociology-Criminal Justice and a Master’s in Social Work. So what brought you to podcasting?
I have a little bit of a cheat. I was working in the field of victim advocacy and forensic interviewing, and my brother started a podcast company.
Their very first podcast was Up and Vanished, and I remember when he started it, I said, you don't know anything about victims or crime. So when he and his business partner–Payne–started Atlanta Monster, I started doing some research for them and just kind of helping where I could.
And then a few years ago, I was asked if I wanted to come on and assist with our interviews because with true crime, it is important to have that victim advocacy background when talking to people who are talking about the worst thing that ever happened to them.
In addition to podcasting, you work as a forensic interviewer. Can you explain what you do in that role?
I know you mentioned that you watch Criminal Minds or true crime television. I think that has given people a different idea of what happens when people are victimized. First it's not solved in an hour, but also in a lot of states–I'm in Georgia–the district attorney's office and advocates have realized that the multidisciplinary team approach to child abuse is the best approach.
So what that means is law enforcement is investigating, the district attorney's office is the one that's going to bring charges, and then the child is going to come to a child advocacy center, where people are trained to conduct interviews in an age appropriate manner with a child's best interest, first and foremost.
We go to specialized training and the child comes to the center and I sit in a room one-on-one with that child and I talk to them about the abuse that they may have experienced or witnessed. And then that interview is then passed along to the officer as well as the district attorney's office. And then I testify in court about the interview.
Did the skills you developed from that job help you prep for the series we are going to discuss today, Freeway Phantom?
These were adults that I was speaking with, but I do believe that forensic interviews can benefit anyone of any age, right? Because the goal in a forensic interview is to give the person a safe space to share. It doesn't mean they're going to choose to share and that's okay.
And that's how I approach my interviews with these families. Mind you, these murders took place over 50 years ago and these families, it's not that no one had ever told the story. People had told the story without ever speaking to them, so they were robbed of the opportunity to really tell their story.
I remember reaching out to one of the sisters and she was mad. I am so tired of people telling the story. I'm never going to tell my story. You guys make up stories. And I just let her vent gave her that space. Then I explained to her that, you know, I am a Black woman. I am a Black mother. I cannot imagine how she must feel that large networks have kind of told her story. If you never want to talk to me, that's okay. I also want you to know that I have a social work background. If you need any resources for counseling, let me know. I'm happy to share that with you.
And about five weeks later, she called me back and she was sobbing and she said, I thought about everything that you said, and I want to tell the true story of my sister. And for me, that wasn't a win like, yeah, she's going to talk to me. It actually helped me realize that this was 50 years of pent up trauma and she needed that space to just say, no, this is crap. The way the story has been told, we look like crazy people or bad people. And I went back and read all the articles and she was right.
And we did have families that declined. One of the family members agreed and then had a panic attack the morning of the interview. That was completely okay. We were only able to text and that family member gave me a statement that I could use in the podcast. And that was okay. I just followed up with, I hope you're doing well. And to me, that's being trauma informed.
I'm not going to show up at your door with the mic. Or record without your permission or even use something you asked me not to use. And even though they were adults, the trauma they experienced was when they were 7, 9, 12. And to me, often we're stuck with that same emotion we felt at 7, 9, or 12. So just approaching them with compassion and empathy.
Freeway Phantom tells the stories of the victims of Washington D.C.’s first serial killer. All of the victims were young Black girls. How did the production company you work for, Tenderfoot TV, come across this case?
Yes, that's an interesting story. We were looking at the hashtag #DCmissinggirls. It went viral a few years ago. Every celebrity that's black pretty much was tweeting about it. And so that's where we started and it's not where we ended up.
I started doing a deep dive into that hashtag and actually found out that it looked really good in the media to say there were girls being snatched off the streets of DC, but it wasn't the full story. So as we dug in, I was able to meet people who are advocates on the ground that laughed when I reached out.
We talked to Tina Frundt in one of the bonus episodes about this. She really said these girls oftentimes are on my caseload; they’re runaways, they’re foster children. But that story wasn't big enough. And no one cared once they knew the truth about these girls, it just kind of fizzled away.
Then I met Henderson Long, who's also someone that went along the journey with us–a local community advocate. And he said there's lots of other stories in DC that have never been told. So then we started digging into additional stories and that's how we found Freeway Phantom.
Everyone should check out the guest curation you did for Sounds Like Impact, Missing, Murdered & Forgotten. In fact, the first episode of Freeway Phantom was titled “Forgotten Girls”. I’d like for us to talk for a moment about the idea of the perfect victim. Something that came up quite a few times when I was listening was talk about how someone was an “innocent girl”, a “well-behaved quiet child” or “these were good families.”
Racial politics aside of who gets to be considered a “perfect victim”–which we will get into–why do you think that even now we are still as a society fixated on this idea that for someone to NOT be deserving of harm, that they or their families must be perfect?
Woo, you went there. Yes, this is such an issue; it is an issue across racial lines. Everything aside right, in society we respond when we think that they did not deserve for that to happen. She was so good, so smart in school, came from a good family. And I'll be honest with you: what I found was for the family members, it was so important for us to say that because they needed it said in Freeway Phantom, and they needed it said because what we read in those police reports about 10-year-old girls was horrific. That she was wearing tight clothes, that she was promiscuous, that she was sneaking out and running away. It was almost like it was a way to dismiss their value, but it happens every single day. Whenever people say, you know, Black stories don't get media attention. I always say exactly what you said.
Stories of the perfect victim. You know, like, Oh, this person looked good, they were smart, that's the person that shouldn't have happened to. Those ones get the media attention…but then the other stories, everyone brushes aside.
If they are runaways, just like what we learned in Freeway Phantom, that hashtag did not reflect what was really happening. And as soon as people found out it didn't reflect what was really happening. No one cared anymore. And in the interview that we air with Tina Frundt, who actually is a survivor of trafficking and is a Black woman fighting for all victims. She was named name dropping celebrities who reached out to her offered money and never responded once they realized these girls were runaways are found.
This is a huge issue…I don't know how we fix it. I think people respond to the stories of the perfect victim because they see themselves in them. Even if they're not perfect, they're like, they're more like me and that would shouldn't have happened to them.
Even when we talked to the investigator who said, you know, these were good families, he meant that from his heart and he is the sweetest man, like 88 years old now. He got very emotional in his interview. That is still a thing today, 54 years later…
What does this ideology mean for making progress in solving these missing and / or murder cases?
Oh, it's going to be completely detrimental. And let me tell you another thing that people aren't talking about. It's going to mean that when you go talk to that family, even if their daughter, sister, or mother was involved in something that could have led to their disappearance or murder, how do you, do you think that family is going to tell you as an investigator? podcaster?
There have been things that have come out since the podcast was out. That I didn't get in interviews because I think family members were worried about being judged and some of the information now I've been talking to the detective about. I'm just like, why do you think people didn't share this or didn't share that? Because they don't want people to think poorly of them. They don't want to think the victims deserve less attention. But this is detrimental to investigations. I work with Special Victims Unit and law enforcement, but if they're only getting 60% of the information about the victim or where she may go, or he may go, or who they might've been talking about online, those are leads that they can't follow. You know, it's really important information.
We have to stop saying, oh, but they didn't deserve this. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted. No one deserves to be murdered. It should just be unacceptable period; not unacceptable based on your education, socioeconomic status, any of those things.
Back to racial politics. So months ago I watched Black and Missing, the HBO documentary. And it seemed to me that regardless of whether we–as Black women– behave or not, there are still these assumptions that Black women and girls are runaways or are involved in sex work, even without evidence! In my view then, the “perfect victim” framing doesn’t serve us and never was meant to include us.
I wonder what are your thoughts, having worked on reporting true crime stories. Can this narrative serve us? Can it serve anyone?
No, it absolutely doesn't serve anyone. It doesn't serve us as Black women because we are in a situation now where we are again afraid to share if our loved one was involved in something that could have made them more at risk for victimization because we don't want that judgment to then mean no one investigates it. And as much as you know, we talk about it in society, I don't feel like there's enough true understanding of that impact. I think as Black women, we are trying to overcome.
We are get becoming more educated than ever before. And none of that means that if something happens to us that we are going to get the same treatment as the blonde hair blue eyed girl that goes missing, who honestly could be online on the same site someone else was online but that's never going to come to light.
And I don't know how we change that part of it. I think possibly retraining law enforcement retraining community advocates. Henderson Long is doing a wonderful job at bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community. And he actually says all the time that him being able to go into that community and not look at people through like judgment has led to people sharing information with him, that then he's able to relay to law enforcement in investigations. And this he does this completely free; he doesn't charge anyone because it's important to him and he has been a survivor of losing family members to homicide.
We need more people in the community having these conversations. We need more conversations within even the Black media because are we sharing the stories that maybe aren't going to get the top spot on that week, on this week's news, but it's still a super important story to share so that people are on the lookout for this person that went missing. It kind of seems like we get these waves where we're having all these conversations around a hashtag and then the kind of fizzles, there isn't always an action that comes afterwards. And that is frustrating.
I think every missing person should be shared, should get the same treatment. There's been a lot of talk about having maybe a special alert for if a Black or brown person goes missing. We probably need it at this point, but my concern with that is who's gonna look at that alert? We don't just want Black people looking for a missing Black person. We need everybody looking for the car. We need everybody looking for this person.
So yes, I think there are people thinking of new ideas. I love the innovation. I love the new ideas, but it should just be we all go into this database and when we go missing we all get the same media attention.
Let’s talk about the impact component. As part of doing the series, all the production companies involved decided to double the reward for information. Now the reward is up to $300,000 instead of up to $150,000. How did that decision come about?
Again, we just wanted to make an impact. If there is any chance that these families could have closure and that a reward would incentivize someone to come forward, we wanted to do that. Everyone was on board when it was suggested, we wanted to do this for the families.
Money sometimes will make people talk, and I think that it shouldn't be that way. But to be honest with you, when you think about some people's situation, if I'm in this community, talking could really impact my life. You know, I don't know if I'm in danger. I don't know if I'm going to be judged. With $300,000, maybe you could move? You could do a lot of things…and so that was our hope to make an impact to encourage and incentivize someone to speak up.
In my opinion–I'm not speaking for the company–it was like adding value, even to the girls. I don't know how to explain that, but for so long they were worth to someone $25,000 a piece. And I don't know, I just feel like they're worth a million dollars if we even solve one, right? So I wanted to also show the family and the community that these girls lived. They had value and we want to help solve these.
And you know, we've been asked, what if the killer is dead? And I've asked family members that, and they still want to know who the killer was and why.
What is one thing you want listeners of the series to take away?
I want people to take away that everyone's life has value and that we need to move away from this idea of the perfect victim; trauma doesn't go away. And these stories should be told for that reason, as well to give people that space and opportunity for community action. That is so important.
People like Henderson long and Tina brought who are doing the work on the ground. They're so important to making real change, and we need to support those organizations like Black and Missing Foundation. We can take action outside of listening to the podcast: donate to one of those organizations, volunteer with one of those organizations. We can all be part of impact and change.