Episode 167:

Bomb Grade

The Death of Karen Silkwood


Serial Killer Sam Little


Episode 167: Bomb Grade

Karen and Georgia cover the death of Karen Silkwood and serial killer Sam Little.

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The Death of Karen Silkwood

The Death of Karen Silkwood Notes:

Karen Gay Silkwood (February 19, 1946 – November 13, 1974) was an American chemical technician and labor union activist known for raising concerns about corporate practices related to health and safety in a nuclear facility.

She worked at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma, making plutonium pellets, and became the first woman on the union's negotiating team. After testifying to the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns, she was found to have plutonium contamination on her person and in her home. While driving to meet with a New York Times journalist and an official of her union's national office, she died in a car crash under unclear circumstances.

Her family sued Kerr-McGee for the plutonium contamination of Silkwood. The company settled out of court for US $1.38 million, while not admitting liability. Her story was chronicled in Mike Nichols's 1983 Academy Award nominated film Silkwood in which she was portrayed by Meryl Streep.

Karen Gay Silkwood was born in Longview, Texas, the daughter of Merle (née Biggs 1926–2014) and William Silkwood, and raised in Nederland, Texas. She had two sisters, Linda and Rosemary. She attended Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. In 1965, she married William Meadows, an oil pipeline worker, with whom she had three children. Following the couple's bankruptcy due to Meadows' overspending, and in the face of Meadows' refusal to end an extramarital affair, Silkwood left Meadows in 1972 and moved to Oklahoma City, where she briefly worked as a hospital clerk.

After being hired at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant near Crescent, Oklahoma, in 1972, Silkwood joined the local Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union and took part in a strike at the plant. After the strike ended, she was elected to the union's bargaining committee, the first woman to achieve that position at the Kerr-McGee plant. She was assigned to investigate health and safety issues. She discovered what she believed to be numerous violations of health regulations, including exposure of workers to contamination, faulty respiratory equipment and improper storage of samples. She believed the lack of sufficient shower facilities could increase the risk of employee contamination.

The Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union said that "the Kerr-McGee plant had manufactured faulty fuel rods, falsified product inspection records, and risked employee safety;" it threatened litigation. In the summer of 1974, Silkwood testified to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) about having been contaminated, alleging that safety standards had slipped because of a production speedup. She was appearing with other union members.

On November 5, 1974, Silkwood performed a routine self-check and found that her body contained almost 400 times the legal limit for plutonium contamination. She was decontaminated at the plant and sent home with a testing kit to collect urine and feces for further analysis. Although there was plutonium on the inner portions of the gloves which she had been using, the gloves did not have any holes. This suggests the contamination had come not from inside the glovebox, but from some other source.

The next morning, as she headed to a union negotiation meeting, Silkwood again tested positive for plutonium, although she had performed only paperwork duties that morning. She was given a more intensive decontamination. On November 7, as she entered the plant, she was found to be dangerously contaminated, even expelling contaminated air from her lungs. A health physics team accompanied her back to her home and found plutonium traces on several surfaces, especially in the bathroom and the refrigerator. When the house was later stripped and decontaminated, some of her property had to be destroyed. Silkwood, her boyfriend Drew Stephens, and her roommate Dusty Ellis, were sent to Los Alamos National Laboratory for in-depth testing to determine the extent of the contamination in their bodies.

Silkwood said she had assembled documentation for her claims, including company papers. She decided to go public with this evidence, and contacted David Burnham, a New York Times journalist, who was interested in her story. On November 13, 1974, Silkwood left a union meeting at the Hub cafe in Crescent. Another attendee of that meeting later testified that Silkwood had a binder and a packet of documents with her at the cafe. Silkwood got into her car and headed alone for Oklahoma City, about 30 miles (48 km) away, to meet with Burnham, the New York Times reporter, and Steve Wodka, an official of her union's national office. Later that evening, Silkwood's body was found in her car, which had run off the road and struck a culvert on the east side of State Highway 74, 0.11 miles (180 m) south of the intersection with West Industrial Road (35.855233° N, 97.584963° W). The car contained none of the documents she held in the union meeting at the Hub cafe. She was pronounced dead at the scene in what was believed to be an accident. The trooper at the scene remembers that he found one or two tablets of the sedative methaqualone (Quaalude) in the car, and he remembers finding marijuana. The police report indicated that she fell asleep at the wheel. The coroner found 0.35 milligrams of methaqualone per 100 milliliters of blood at the time of her death — an amount almost twice the recommended dosage for inducing drowsiness.

Some journalists have theorized that Silkwood's car was rammed from behind by another vehicle, with the intent to cause an accident that would result in her death. Skid marks from Silkwood's car were present on the road, suggesting that she was trying to get back onto the road after being pushed from behind.

Investigators also noted damage on the rear of Silkwood's vehicle that, according to Silkwood's friends and family, had not been present before the accident. As the crash was entirely a front-end collision, it did not explain the damage to the rear of her vehicle. A microscopic examination of the rear of Silkwood's car showed paint chips that could have come only from a rear impact by another vehicle. Silkwood's family claimed to know of no accidents of any kind that Silkwood had had with the car, and that the 1974 Honda Civic she was driving was new when purchased and no insurance claims were filed on that vehicle.

Questions arose over how Silkwood became contaminated over this three-day period. She said the contamination in the bathroom may have occurred when she spilled her urine sample on the morning of November 7. This was consistent with the evidence that samples she took at home had extremely high levels of contamination, while samples taken in "fresh" jars at the plant and at Los Alamos showed much lower contamination.

She thought she had been contaminated at the plant. Kerr-McGee's management said that Silkwood had contaminated herself in order to portray the company in a negative light. According to Richard L. Rashke's book, The Killing of Karen Silkwood (1981/2000), security at the plant was so lax that workers could easily smuggle out finished plutonium pellets. Rashke wrote that the soluble type of plutonium found in Silkwood's body came from a production area which she had not accessed for four months. The pellets had since been stored in the vault of the facility.

Silkwood's relatives, too, confirmed that she had taken the missing documents to the union meeting and placed them on the seat beside her. According to her family, she had received several threatening phone calls very shortly before her death. Speculation about foul play has never been substantiated.

According to the book Who Killed Karen Silkwood, the assassination scene in the movie The China Syndrome, in which the character Hector's car is run off the road, is based on a theorized version of Silkwood's death. In the film, the power plant's agents come up behind Hector's vehicle and ram him, repeatedly, from behind until a device on their front bumper engages his rear bumper and lets them lift the rear end of his vehicle off the road, thereby pushing his car over a cliff. Subsequently, police officers remove the evidence from his vehicle and hand it to the villains because their company's name is on the documents. This could be construed as an attempt by the film's producers to influence the jury in the Silkwood case. According to the book, it was for this reason that the jury was forbidden from seeing that then-new movie while they were hearing the case and deliberating.

Because of concerns about contamination, the Atomic Energy Commission and the State Medical Examiner requested analysis of Silkwood's organs by the Los Alamos Tissue Analysis Program. Much of the radioactive contamination was in her lungs, suggesting that plutonium had been inhaled. When her tissues were further examined, the highest deposits were found in the contents of her gastrointestinal tract, demonstrating that she had ingested plutonium.

Public suspicions led to a federal investigation into plant security and safety. National Public Radio reported that this investigation had found that 20 to 30 kilograms (44–66 lb) of plutonium had been misplaced at the plant.

Kerr-McGee closed its nuclear-fuel plants in 1975. The Department of Energy (DOE) reported the Cimarron plant as decontaminated and decommissioned in 1994.

PBS Frontline produced the program, Nuclear Reaction, which included aspects of the Silkwood story. Its website for the program includes "The Karen Silkwood Story", as printed in 1995 in Los Alamos Science. The PBS program covered the risks of nuclear energy and raised questions about corporate accountability and responsibility.

Silkwood's father Bill and her children filed a lawsuit against Kerr-McGee for negligence on behalf of her estate. The trial was held in 1979 and lasted ten months, the longest up to that point in Oklahoma history. Gerry Spence was the chief attorney for the estate; other key attorneys were Daniel Sheehan, Arthur Angel, and James Ikard; William Paul was the chief attorney for Kerr-McGee. The estate presented evidence that the autopsy proved Silkwood was contaminated with plutonium at her death. To prove that the contamination was sustained at the plant, evidence was given by a series of witnesses who were former employees of the facility.

The defense relied on the expert witness Dr. George Voelz, a top-level scientist at Los Alamos. Voelz said that he believed the contamination in Silkwood's body was within legal standards. The defense later proposed that Silkwood was a troublemaker, who might have poisoned herself. Following the summation arguments, Judge Frank Theis told the jury, "If you find that the damage to the person or property of Karen Silkwood resulted from the operation of this plant ... defendant Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation is liable...."

The jury rendered its verdict of US $505,000 in damages and US $10,000,000 in punitive damages. On appeal in federal court, the judgment was reduced to US $5,000, the estimated value of Silkwood's losses in property at her rental house, and reversing the award of punitive damages. In 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court restored the original verdict, in Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp. 464 US 238 (1984), ruling that "the NRC's exclusive authority to set safety standards did not foreclose the use of state tort remedies." Although suggesting it would appeal on other grounds, Kerr-McGee settled out of court for US $1.38 million, admitting no liability.

According to Richard L. Rashke's book, The Killing of Karen Silkwood (2000), officials investigating Silkwood's death and Kerr-McGee's operations received death threats. One of the investigators disappeared under mysterious circumstances. One of the witnesses "committed suicide" shortly before she was to testify against the Kerr-McGee Corporation about the alleged happenings at the plant. Rashke wrote that the Silkwood family's legal team were followed, threatened with violence, and physically assaulted. Rashke suggested that the 20 kg (44 lbs) of plutonium missing from the plant had been stolen by "a secret underground plutonium-smuggling ring", in which many government agencies, including the highest levels of government and international intelligence agencies CIA, MI5, Israeli Mossad, and a "shadowy group of Iranians" were involved. The book says that the United States government covered up many details about Silkwood's death, and allegedly carried out her assassination.

The 1977 song "We Almost Lost Detroit" by musician Gil Scott-Heron mentions Silkwood. The 1984 song "Opus In Cm7" by Wendy O. Williams begins with a mention of Silkwood.

The 1983 film Silkwood is an account of Silkwood's life and the events resulting from her activism, based on an original screenplay written by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen. Meryl Streep played the title role and was nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA. Cher played Karen's best friend, Dolly, and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Mike Nichols was nominated for Best Director. Ephron and Arlen were nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.

— Source: Wikipedia

Serial Killer Sam Little

Serial Killer Sam Little Notes:

Samuel Little (born June 7, 1940) is an American serial killer. In 2014, he was convicted of the murders of three women in California between 1987 and 1989. After this conviction, California authorities said that he might have killed people in nine states, starting in the 1970s. He claims to have killed as many as 90 people; investigators have linked him to at least 34 murders.

Little was born on June 7, 1940, in Reynolds, Georgia, possibly during one of his mother's prison stints. Little has claimed his mother was a "lady of the night". Soon after his birth, his family moved to Ohio. He grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and was brought up mainly by his grandmother. He attended Hawthorne Junior High School, where he had problems with discipline and achievement. In 1956, while still a high school student, Little was arrested for the first time and convicted for breaking and entering into property in Omaha, Nebraska. He was held in an institution for juvenile offenders. In the late 1960s, Little moved to Florida, where he lived with his mother. He worked as an ambulance attendant and then a cemetery worker. Having a strong physique, Little took up boxing during prison time and considered himself a prizefighter at one point. Little did not continue his education after high school, spending most of his free time on the streets, engaging in petty theft and occasionally working part-time as a day laborer.

Little was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to three years in prison for breaking into a furniture store in Lorain. He was released in 1964. He left Ohio and shuttled between different states for the following few years and made a living through robbery and theft.

By 1975, Little had been arrested 26 times in 11 states for crimes including theft, assault, attempted rape, fraud and attacks on government officials. Little spent much of his time with prostitutes and pimps. In 1982 he was arrested in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and charged with the murder of 22-year-old prostitute Melinda LaPree, who had gone missing in September that year.

A grand jury declined to indict Little for the murder of LaPree. But while under investigation Little was transferred to Florida to be brought to trial for the murder of 26-year-old Patricia Mount, whose body was found in September 1982. Prosecution witnesses identified Little in court as a person who spent time with Mount on the night before her disappearance.

Due to mistrust of witness testimonies, Little was acquitted in January 1984 of Mount's murder. Little then moved to California, where he stayed in the vicinity of San Diego.[8] In October 1984, Little was arrested for kidnapping, beating and strangling Laurie Barros, 22 years old, who survived. One month later he was found by police with another woman, in the same location as the attempted murder of Laurie. This woman was found unconscious in the backseat of Little's car, having also been beaten and strangled. He served only 2.5 years in prison for both crimes and was released in February 1987 where he immediately moved to Los Angeles, and committed upwards of 10 more murders.

Little was arrested on September 5, 2012, at a homeless shelter in Louisville, Kentucky, after authorities used DNA testing to establish that he was involved in the murder of Carol Elford, killed on July 13, 1987; Guadalupe Apodaca, killed on September 3, 1987; and Audrey Nelson, killed on August 14, 1989. All three women were killed and later found on the streets of Los Angeles.

Little was extradited to Los Angeles, where he was charged on January 7, 2013. A few months later, the police said that Little was being investigated for involvement in dozens of murders committed in the 1980s, which until then had been undisclosed. In connection with the new circumstances in the state of Mississippi, the case of the murder of LaPree was reopened, in which Little was acquitted in 1984. In total, Little was tested for involvement in 60 murders of women committed in the territory of many US states.

The trial of Samuel Little for the murders of Elford, Nelson and Apodaca began in September 2014. The prosecution presented the DNA testing results as well as testimony of witnesses who were attacked by the accused at different times throughout his criminal career. On September 25, 2014, Little was found guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. On the day of the verdict, Little continued to insist on his innocence. As of 2016, Little was serving a sentence at the California State Prison, Los Angeles County.

On November 9, 2018, Little confessed to the 1996 fatal strangulation of Melissa Thomas. On November 13, 2018, Little was charged with the 1994 murder of Denise Christie Brothers in Odessa, Texas, after having confessed the crime to a Texas Ranger in May 2018. Little pleaded guilty to the murder on December 13 and received another life sentence. The Ector County, Texas District Attorney and Wise County Sheriff's Office also announced on November 13 that Little had confessed to dozens of murders and may have committed more than 90 across 14 states between 1970 and 2005. On November 15, 2018, the Russell County, Alabama District Attorney announced that Little had earlier that month confessed to the 1979 murder of 23-year-old Brenda Alexander whose body was found in Phenix City. On November 16, 2018, Macon, Georgia sheriffs announced that Little had credibly confessed to the 1977 strangling murder of an unidentified woman and the 1982 strangling murder of 18-year-old Fredonia Smith. In the fall of 2018, Little confessed to Louisiana State Police the 1982 murder of 55-year-old Dorothy Richards and the 1996 murder of 40-year-old Daisy McGuire; both of their bodies were found in Houma, Louisiana. On November 19, 2018, Harrison County, Mississippi sheriff Troy Peterson said that Little had confessed to strangling 36-year-old Julia Critchfield in the Gulfport area in 1978 and dumping her body off a cliff. On November 20, 2018, Lee County, Mississippi law enforcement officials announced that Little had admitted to killing 46-year-old Nancy Carol Stevens in Tupelo in 2005 and that the case would be presented to a grand jury in January 2019. On November 21, 2018, Richland County, South Carolina authorities announced that Little had confessed to murdering 19-year-old Evelyn Weston whose body was found near Fort Jackson in 1978. Little also confessed to having killed 20-year-old Rosie Hill in Marion County, Florida, in 1982.

On November 27, 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that a Violent Criminal Apprehension Program team had confirmed 34 of Little's confessions and was working to match the remainder of Little's confessions to known murders or suspicious deaths. Little began making the confessions in exchange for a transfer out of the Los Angeles County prison in which he was being held. One included his confession to a previous cold case homicide in Prince George's County, Maryland, previously one of only two homicide cases in that county with unidentified victims.

In December 2018, Little was indicted for strangling Linda Sue Boards, 23, to death in May 1981 in Warren County, Kentucky. Her body was found on May 15, 1981 near U.S. Route 68. One of Little's victims was identified in December 2018 as Martha Cunningham of Knox County, Tennessee who was 34 years old when Little murdered her in 1975.

— Source: Wikipedia

Fucking Hoorays!


New therapist I’m connecting with now only after 3 sessions. I’m getting into house remodeling a little bit and get to pick out tiles and shit, which also means I get to be bossy — and I can do it without feeling guilty because I’m paying for it. Also, I binged watched PEN15, it’s a Hulu original show that is like Strangers with Candy meets Degrassi. It's such a beautiful show and so well-done, and it's just a weird show in such a great way. 


I’ve been watching a bunch of Miss Marple episodes, she’s a nosey nellie who is a smart at Sherlock Holmes. It’s really delightful. It’s that thing getting me through at night sometimes, it’s so comforting. The casts are amazing and the directing is amazing — I love this show.