Mandy gleaned very quickly that Investigator Todd Proctor “was the only one who seemed to ..grasp the bigger picture.”

Mandy and Liz traveled again to Hampton to talk with Stephen’s twin sister, Stephanie, which ended in a nerve-racking encounter on their drive home. Watch Mandy and Liz discuss their thoughts and reactions.

Here are some of the files that were in the Stephen Smith dropbox folder:

As Mandy and Liz were leaving Hampton, they decided to drive down Sandy Run Road. They slowed as they saw a cross on the side of the road, seconds later they looked up to see the Highway Patrol in their rearview mirror. Feeling paranoia of being followed, the Highway Patrol finally turned when they neared the main drag.

Behind the Book with Co-Author Carolyn Murnick

I spent a long time listening to “the Stephen Smith tapes” for this chapter, just as Mandy had done years ago when she first received them from Will. Mandy marked highlights of sections she found particularly dramatic or outrageous, and we found ways to weave them into the narrative. It was important to present the reader with the volume of information in the files, both to show how much was out there and also to underscore how galling and heartbreaking it was that there had been no movement on the case. I also looked at many of the crime scene photos, which were so painful and harrowing. I had some experience with that kind of content through reporting on my childhood best friend’s murder, but it’s never easy to view such traumatic images. Mandy and Liz’s harrowing run-in with Highway Patrol on Sandy Run Road was also a huge plot point in the story as well as in her personal journey so we knew we needed to give that anecdote the weight it deserved. We knew we needed to show Mandy getting to the end of her time at The Packet to tease the next phase of her career that would come in Part Two. We spent a while talking through all the frustration she felt, both with her boss and with the industry as a whole, and those went straight into the pages. The end of this chapter is one of my favorite parts of the book for how it touches on big themes of institutional sexism and the ways in which a person can do all the right things and still end up stymied. 

Carolyn Murnick

Stay tuned for more documents and photos relating to Chapter 8.

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