True Crime Podcast
The Cleaning of John Doe’s true crime podcast continues. The Beginning pt.2 will complete the story of Vanessa and Ethan’s beginning as crime scene cleaners and take you on their very first clean-up.
This ‘sure to be addicting’ true crime podcast will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. Get the inside story to real crime scenes like it has never been done before in a true crime podcast!
True Crime Podcast The Beginning pt. 2 Ep. 3
I know I left you guys hanging last week, and I’m sorry. So, today I’m going to finish the story and then tell you about our very first clean-up.
The telecommunications company I worked for sublet some office space from another company. Since it was all in one small building, all of the buildings mail went to one central mail box. The mail hub was located near the front office of the building.
It was a normal day like any other. I arrived to work, I opened up my office, turned on all the lights and computers and went to check the mail. The office manager of the company we sublet from occupied the front office.
As was usual, I was going to give the customary morning salutations when I was introduced to a new element of this routine. The girl that was there was joined by a super cute guy who was to be her replacement. Looks like work just got a little better. His name was Ethan. We exchanged introductions and pleasantries when I saw the ring on his finger. Damn. Oh, well. Still nice to look at.
As the days went on, we exchanged small talk but it quickly grew into a mild friendship. One of the things I learned is that despite the ring, he was divorced. He had married too young, had a baby and unfortunately things didn’t work out so well. He was a good guy but it was more baggage than I wanted to get involved with.
Although, I didn’t work at the company we sublet from, but being in such close proximity to the people in the office for so long, I grew to know everyone. Some became friends, others remained acquaintances. One day, I was approached by Patty, whom I considered a friend. She said that Ethan needed some help. The lease on his apartment was up and he was having difficulty finding a new place. He had been living in a motel for the last few days and he needed a real place to stay. Well, I happened to have a spare bedroom that he could use. So, I offered my place to him and he accepted.
Seeing as how I lived over an hour from the office, we decided to carpool but I got off work at 1 so I had to hang around until he got off at 5. It was nice having company on the long drive, and it gave us a lot of time to talk.
When we arrived at my house, I showed him where his room was and offered to make some dinner. I didn’t have much but I threw some stuff together and fired up the stove. I was standing at the stove and he was at the dining room table. As we continued talking, he pointed to the stove and told me it was on fire! I turned and saw that I had absentmindedly put the wooden spoon down right next to the burner and it had caught on fire. Despite the fact that I had put out the flames quickly, my face felt like it was burning – with embarrassment.
Anyway, I’m sure you can see where this is going and, it took a couple of weeks, but it did go there. We became a thing and we eventually moved in together. So much for the baggage, huh?
In most stories, this would be the end. The rest is history and all that. But this was just the beginning. I had no way of knowing that this relationship was to be the foundation I needed to finally achieve the goal I had pretty much written off at this point.
Time went on and, life happened. We got pregnant. It was planned but it still provided its own set of challenges. One of the main ones being the long drive to work every day. It seemed like I had to pee every 5 minutes. I was an experienced skydiver and off-roader and now I got car sick. Oh, boy, did pregnancy suck some times. Luckily, it was be permanent – although I questioned that times.
Because I was hanging around every day after work waiting for Ethan to get off, I had taken a second part-time job to kill some time in the afternoons. It didn’t pay a lot but it kept me occupied. Well, soon after seeing the pink lines, I was informed that the owner of my main job was going to be selling the business. This meant I would not only be out of a job, but my income would be reduced by roughly 70%! Obviously I had not been skydiving but we now owned a house together and we had a mortgage and bills! Ethan’s 9-5 wasn’t enough to support us on his own and when the baby arrived, I would not be working at all.
One evening we were sitting in the living room and I was freaking out about money and the pregnancy hormones did not help. I was almost to tears. I had never been in this position before – ever. Having a partner, a baby on the way who would depend on me for survival, the flow of money about to be severed – it was all new for me and I wasn’t sure how to cope with it. I was on the brink of apathy when Ethan said the magic words, “Why don’t we do the crime scene cleaning thing?” “The crime scene cleaning thing” was something that I had written off. It was too much and I didn’t want to give up my cushy job…which was about to be a no issue. Could it actually be? Could I just start a business from nothing? How would it work? How do we start? These were all questions that flashed in my mind. We talked about it for a little longer. We came up with a name on the spot and the rusty gears in my head had been oiled and once again began to turn. And turn they did, faster and faster.
I freshened up my research on the crime scene cleaning industry to get an idea of what we were really getting into. How was the competition? Was there competition? Was I getting in over my head? These questions and more were what I sought to answer. What I discovered was disheartening. At first.
I found that competition did exist and it was quite heavy in our proposed service area. However, it wasn’t that there was competition that was disheartening – it was the competition itself. And not in the way you might think.
What I saw of the competition painted a very poor picture of the crime scene cleaning industry. One fellow cleaner had posted a video he had taken on a decomp of him and his crew racing maggots they discovered on scene. Another cleaner had a video of him lying on the bed of a deceased woman whom he was speaking about very derogatorily – for some reason he saw it fit to call her a bitch. And where these guys weren’t posting videos, there were others who didn’t need to in order to see how awful they were. Complaints about them taking advantage of families, outrageous bills and even multiple lawsuits abounded.
I am and always have been an honest and caring person – it’s my nature. So, when confronted with a seemingly all-around dishonest and uncaring industry, where compassion and care should be needed most – I began to question if this was really something I wanted to get into. I had come too far and the universe had aligned too well for me to turn back at this point. I decided that, yes, I did want to do this. But I would not only raise the bar, I would set the standard for the industry, and to hell with the competition. (Just as a note, I did discover later that, despite the poor representation of the industry, there were some good companies out there. I wouldn’t lump them in with the other guys, but I was still determined to excel in this business).
I spent the remainder of my pregnancy frantically working away and getting everything in place that we needed to in order to get this thing off the ground. I spent day and night scouring the web and learning everything I could about how to build a website. I asked a programmer friend of mine if he could help and he offered to build me a basic website that I could expand on (Thanks, Scott!). And expand I did. With a logo and content provided by Ethan, I put everything together. I had applied for my state license and when it showed up in the mail, it was the first major milestone for us. We were official! We had everything in place, we were licensed by the State…the only thing left was to get some business.
Shortly after launching the website, someone reached out to me inquiring about a job. Well, as flattered as I was, we hadn’t even done a single job yet. How was I supposed to keep someone else busy? I let him talk a bit and he told me he was pretty good friends with some of the people at the Coroner’s department. What an incredible gift from the universe this was! I told him we couldn’t really keep him busy at the moment but we’d love to keep his info. We actually ended up meeting with him and made a concerted effort to befriend this golden goose. And it paid off.
One day, this guy called me up and told me that there had been a decomp not a mile from our house! He gave me the address and I was immediately confronted with, “How the hell do I approach this with the family?” I was trying to raise the bar, not become some “ambulance chaser.” I decided that I would write a nice letter and drop it off at the house. It would only be a seed, but it was a big one and I hoped it would sprout quickly. And it did.
A couple of days later, it was Mother’s Day. Although I wasn’t officially a mother yet, Ethan treated me to a nice breakfast in bed and flowers. He had made plans for us to spend the day doing Mother’s Day-type things when the phone rang. With our newly formed company, we had to be on-call 24/7, holiday or not. I couldn’t let it go to voicemail so I answered it. It was a man informing me he had received my letter and he needed our services. I began jumping up and down and pointing to the phone very excitedly. Ethan had no idea what was going on, but he could see it was good news.
I told the man that we would be there shortly and we’d help take care of it for him. When we hung up, I filled Ethan in on the call and he joined me in my excitement. We had to go!
It’s funny how when you start a new venture, as you go through and gain experience, you discover things you don’t have or ways you could do things better and that’s part of how you grow as a business. We had our first taste of this when we realized immediately that we didn’t have a truck! We had a little Scion XB. We had acquired all the tools and protective gear but if we needed to haul anything away from the job, we’d need a truck. Well, we made the XB work and we went to the job.
I met with the client and was immediately faced with what I feel is the hardest part of this job – the grief. This poor guy had been out of town for work when his wife passed away. She had been dead for 3 days when he returned home only to find her corpse decomposing on their bed.
I told him he didn’t have to go into the house and that we would find it and take care of it. We hauled our equipment in and donned our PPE. The odor throughout the house was strong, but not overwhelming – at least not to me. I had gone through the training and had had first-hand experience with this odor. Ethan had not. So, I turned to him and whispered to him, “Are you doing ok?” He said he was fine and that it wasn’t as bad as he was expecting.
We photographed the scene and then I got to work with Ethan observing and helping where needed. I was sure that he was suppressing his disgust just to get through this job but afterwards, he would never glove up again. I kept asking if he was ok and he kept assuring me he was fine.
We got lucky with our first job in that the deceased had died on a mattress and it was a tempurpedic. This means that there were no springs to cut out or anything like that. It was simply a matter of cutting and removing the contaminated foam.
Once the mattress was done and all contaminants had been disinfected and removed, we vacuumed up the flies and then it hit us that the odor was better but still fairly present. We needed to handle that. I had been trained to use ozone at this point only…we didn’t have an ozone machine.
I had developed a professional relationship with a fellow crime scene cleaner in a neighboring area. I knew she had kids and would probably be spending Mother’s Day with them. I also knew she would answer her phone. So, I called her and explained my situation. She offered to loan us her ozone machine and I was thrilled! I sent Ethan to drive down to her and pick it up while I wrapped up at the job.
The layout of the house was such that one had to pass by the garage in order to enter the front door. So, as I was loading up equipment, I saw this poor man sitting in a chair in the garage staring at nothing as we worked. It was heartbreaking. But, I couldn’t get involved. We are trained not to for a multitude of reasons. I did my best to work quickly and leave him to his grief and healing, but this type of work is meticulous and needs to be done with care and precision so as to fully decontaminate the scene – we can only work so fast.
Ethan showed up with the ozone machine shortly after I had loaded everything up. He had borrowed my mom’s truck to pick it up and it was fortunate because we had to remove the mattress. I don’t know if you’ve ever moved a king-size tempurpedic mattress before, but it’s pretty heavy and awkward. Even more so with a large portion of the center cut out and you’re only 4’8”! We managed to get it out and into the truck without looking like complete amateurs and I set-up the ozone machine.
I informed the customer that he needed to stay out of the house for a few days and he said he was fine on staying in a hotel for a bit. After all, his mattress had just been cut up and hauled away, so he had planned to do that anyway.
3 days later, while Ethan was at work, I went to pick up the ozone machine and only then realized how heavy it was. I was bolted to a hand truck and weighed what I felt was about 800 pounds. Somehow, I managed to maneuver this heavy-ass monster of an ozone machine into the bed of the truck all by my lonesome. Don’t ask me how because I have no idea, but I did it. As I drove away and headed to return the machine, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. We had done it. We had successfully completed our first job in a new industry with our own company. There was still a lot of work to be done from this point, but I knew we could make it. And make it we did.
Other True Crime Podcast Episodes
True Crime Podcast: Episode 1
True Crime Podcast: Episode 2
True Crime Podcast: Episode 4
True Crime Podcast: Episode 5
True Crime Podcast: Episode 6
True Crime Podcast: Episode 7
True Crime Podcast: Episode 8