Newsletter: Play Next: Female survivors share their stories on the ‘Man in the Window’ podcast

Good morning, and welcome to the Play Next newsletter. I’m Paige Hymson, a podcast producer here at The Times.

We’re taking another behind-the-scenes look at the investigative podcast series “Man in the Window,” out now. Subscribe and listen to episodes released every Tuesday.

New episodes: Last week you learned about the fear and panic that struck California in the 1970s when a rapist began attacking women and teenage girls in their own homes. The crimes shocked investigators. In today’s episode, the spotlight shifts south, as the East Area Rapist begins killing victims near the Southern California coast. Detectives who piece together the crimes are ordered to stop digging — and two slayings are pinned on a dead man.

Throughout the series, L.A. Times reporter and host Paige St. John takes listeners inside California during the 1970s and explores how attitudes toward rape played a role in the investigation — and made things worse for the women who were attacked. The podcast underscores some of the brutal details of rape and sexual violence faced by many women. In their own voices, some of the women speak out about their experiences and describe what they went through.


Download and listen to the podcast now, and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. »


The women who survived the attacks: During St. John’s investigative reporting for this podcast, she spoke to some of the women who were assaulted. Their voices are powerful and without them, the story would not tell the complete tale. As the attacker became known variously as the Original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist, he continued to rape and terrorize women across the state. Here are some firsthand accounts from some of the women who spoke out during the podcast:

Kris MacFarlane, Rancho Cordova

She was just 15 when a man in a red ski mask repeatedly raped and assaulted her in her home. In the aftermath, she eventually turned to drugs and alcohol in an effort to numb the pain and manage her depression.

Kris MacFarlane at 15 years old.

“After the rape, from a 15-year-old’s perspective, I watched everybody’s reactions. And for the most part, it was about how they were handling it. If no one talks about it, I don’t talk about it.” — Kris MacFarlane

Beth Snelling, Visalia

In 1975, 16-year-old Beth Snelling was at home when she heard something outside. She spotted a man peeping through the window of her bedroom that night, and would soon notice him outside her window on even more nights to come. His attacks escalated from peeping in windows to violence. Beth’s father, Claude Snelling, was killed by the masked intruder while trying to protect his daughter.


A 1975 article in the Porterville Recorder describes the killing of Claude Snelling.
(Porterville Recorder)

“I woke up to someone on top of me. And then with this growly, raspy voice, saying you know you’re coming with me. Don’t scream or I’ll stab you to death.” — Beth Snelling

Phyllis Zitka, Rancho Cordova

In 1976, 23-year-old Phyllis Zitka woke to a “tap, tap, tap” on her bedroom door. The attacker was standing over her, not wearing pants. Then he raped her. She struggled with life afterward. During the investigation, she was asked embarrassing questions by the police and felt she was being shamed by the community. Police did little investigation and shut her file within days, without interviewing neighbors or waiting for the results of her rape exam. They told Zitka to call them if she figured out who her attacker was.


The man known as the East Area Rapist wore ski masks like the ones shown here in evidence.
(Federal Bureau of Investigation)

“I finally decided I didn’t do anything wrong and why should I be ashamed? And so that’s the attitude I went with and that’s the attitude I stayed with. And that helped a lot.” — Phyllis Zitka

Bonnie Colwell, Rancho Cordova

In 1970, 19-year-old Bonnie Colwell was engaged to Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the man now accused of committing 60 home invasions, 50 rapes and 13 murders during the 1970s and ’80s. Colwell broke off her engagement to DeAngelo in 1971, when he reappeared in her life with a gun at her window. You’ll hear from Colwell in next week’s episode, set to release June 25.


Bonnie Colwell posed for a portrait in May 1970 to announce her engagement to DeAngelo.
(Courtesy of Bonnie Colwell)

“Just inches from my face, probably six inches from my face…. There was a barrel of a gun pointing at me. And it was Joe.” — Bonnie Colwell

Read more about these women and their stories in Paige St. John’s “Man in the Window” series of in-depth articles and interactive crime maps.


Each week, different Times staff members will share their personal podcast recommendations with you. Here’s what Liyna Anwar, senior podcast producer for the L.A. Times, is listening to now:


“This Is Uncomfortable,” Marketplace: They say money is the last taboo, so when I heard about a podcast series that unpacks the awkwardness around money, I had to listen. Hosted by Reema Khrais, “This Is Uncomfortable” digs deep into how money touches all parts of our personal lives — whether we like it or not. From friends sharing their salaries with each other to the way we toss around the term “broke,” this podcast dives into the cringe pool head on. And even though the season just started, I’m here for the weird and poignant ride.

“Tell Them I Am,” KPCC: Sure, you could call this another short-form storytelling podcast, but it’s really so much more than that. In each episode, host Misha Euceph delicately zooms in on one defining moment from a guest’s life. It just so happens that each voice you’re hearing from is Muslim. Released each weekday of Ramadan this year, it felt quietly revolutionary to simply give space for Muslims to talk about things they’re often not asked. If you’re looking to hear about the guests’ thoughts on global terrorism or Trump’s politics, you’re in the wrong place. But if you want to hear how Tan France’s habit of being an “I told you so” kid helped birth his career, you’ll be delighted. The spotlights range from funny to tragic and everything in between — and most important, they show what’s possible when you just take a second to stop and listen.

“Articles of Interest” (special series from 99% Invisible): This spinoff show from the long-running “99% Invisible” podcast came out last fall, but I just got a chance to listen. Hosted by Avery Trufelman, it takes the same ethos of 99pi — looking at how design is hidden everywhere around us — but turns its focus specifically toward fashion. Each episode explores the history and cultural meaning behind one type of clothing: blue jeans, Hawaiian shirts, pockets, etc. The show’s very existence is a rebuke to anyone daring to call clothes and fashion trivial. It feels like listening to “stories told in cloth” and for me, feels like a love letter addressed to curiosity.

Special thanks to Camila Victoriano of the L.A. Times Studio for helping to develop this newsletter.


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Coming Up

Next time on “Man in the Window”: An exclusive interview with Bonnie Colwell, who was Joe DeAngelo’s fiancee in the early 1970s before she told him she no longer wanted to marry him. Episode 5 is available Tuesday, June 25.

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