Neeli Faulkner’s interest in true-crime podcasts grew after listening to the first season of “Serial.” That production, which focused on the murder trial of Adnan Syed in Baltimore, Md., captured the nation’s attention, with over 5 million downloads in the first few months following its release.
“It was riveting,” Neeli said.
Another podcast that caught her attention was “Up and Vanished,” which was produced in Atlanta and resulted in a 12-year-old cold case being solved.
“That story is being made into a movie,” Neeli said. “I went to see their first live show in Georgia and, within weeks of returning, was inspired to develop my own podcast.”
Once a student of journalism, a field that captured her heart, Neeli instead followed family advice and pursued a career in nursing.
“My grandmother was a nurse, my sister is a nurse and I have several other family members in the medical field,” she said.
She is still working toward her nursing degree, but won’t allow herself to go into debt while paying tuition. “I only take classes when I have the money to pay for it,” she said. “I’m in no hurry.”
Her employment path also took her into the world of banking, where she climbed the ranks from teller to platform representative to financial sales associate, obtaining her license to be an annuities agent.
A job she truly hated.
“I made good money, but I have always been an artistic person,” she said. “That day-in, day-out stuff wasn’t my thing.”
After her daughter was born, Neeli went to work for the City of Anniston and was able to unleash her creative spirit. She organized community events such as the Woodstock 5K, the Noble Street Festival and the Anniston Christmas parade.
It wasn’t until she followed her heart back to the world of journalism that she found herself doing the work she loves.
Neeli and her husband, Chris Faulkner, established Reckon Recordings in order to house all the podcast projects they wish to produce. While Neeli works on her true-crime production, Chris has teamed up with a friend to develop “Chris and Crab Take on America,” discussing culture, politics and more.
“Skeptical” is the name of Neeli’s podcast. The premiere installment of the first season was released earlier this month. A new installment will be made available on such platforms as iTunes and Google Play every Tuesday afternoon until the final episode is posted in September. Neeli’s podcasts are free; there is no charge to download the series.
This first season of “Skeptical” focuses on the 1994 murder of Michael Bernos in Coosa County. Bernos’ adopted son, Daniel Blan, was eventually arrested and convicted of the crime, but two decades later, still maintains his innocence.
Hmmm . . . isn’t that what they all say?
“I understand that in the majority of cases, this is true,” Neeli said. “But I also understand that each year, with advancements in DNA technology, more and more inmates are being released after serving 10, 20 or even 30 years for crimes they didn’t commit.”
Neeli’s interest in this particular case came after reading an online petition posted by Daniel’s sister, as well as a blog by his wife. The documentation the women provided inspired Neeli to dig deeper.
In the series, she walks listeners through the Bernos murder as well as the ensuing investigation and trial. She interviewed jurors, court reporters, lawyers, the victim’s family and the defendant himself. None of the prosecuting attorneys would agree to talk.
As she was putting the finishing touches on her series, new information about the case came to light, forcing her to re-produce some of the episodes. While Neeli remains tight-lipped about the new information, she believes it has the potential, from a legal standpoint, to change the case.
All of this is quite compelling, especially to podcast fans such as Anniston resident Shane Ogle. After listening to the first episode of Neeli’s “Skeptical,” he’s intrigued enough to hear the rest. “I already had too many podcasts to listen to,” he jokingly lamented. “And now I have subscribed to one more.”
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.