‘DIEOWA’ is a Killer Podcast About True Crime in Iowa

Screenshot of DIEOWA website

Alli Theulen and Beth LeValley are dying for people to give their Iowa-centric true-crime podcast a listen.

The Hawkeye State natives and marketing professionals are hosts and creators of “DIEOWA.” The show’s tagline tells you everything you need to know about it: “99 Counties & A Murder in Every One.”

The duo met while working for Hy-Vee’s corporate marketing department and came up with the idea over a happy hour after having conversations about “Serial” and other true-crime podcasts.

“We were just like, ‘Why hasn’t anyone started an Iowa true-crime podcast,’” Theulen said.

Statista ranks true crime as the third-most-popular podcast genre in America.

During that conversation, their friend Liv Hunt threw out the name “DIEOWA,” which Theulen and LeValley fell for. Hunt, a graphic designer, would later create the “DIEOWA” logo. Although they had the perfect name, years would go by before LeValley and Theulen would launch the podcast. Each relocated from Iowa—LeValley to Seattle, Washington, and Theulen to Washington, DC—but that change in scenery helped get them going.

“It was a combo of we needed to keep in touch and because we were both in new places, we didn’t know a lot of people so we had some free time on our hands,” LeValley said.

Theulen also noted the coronavirus pandemic played a role in getting “DIEOWA” off the ground since both women were spending more time at home. They created a few test episodes and shared them with family and friends and that feedback helped them fine-tune the format.

The first episode of “DIEOWA” dropped on Jan. 26. It focuses on the death of Boone County resident Effie Bell who disappeared in March 1966 and whose body was found in the Madrid dump a few months later. Her homicide remains unsolved.

The 25-episode first season of “DIEOWA” wrapped in July, although bonus episodes will trickle out until season two starts in January. “DIEOWA” can be found on all podcast streaming services, die-owa.com, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The chosen case for each county is decided by whichever host writes that week’s episode.

They each spend about four hours researching episodes relying heavily on digitized newspaper clippings, iowacoldcases.org, books, and other sources.

The episodes focus on the details of the crime, the latest update, and an interview with TAPS, the mysterious figure who lends his professional insight into Iowa’s criminal history.

“He’s a fan favorite,” LeValley said. “He’s a friend of ours that we know and he wanted to stay anonymous so no one comes after him or so he doesn’t get in trouble with his job; he just wants to kind of live a private life.”

Theulen said the insight from TAPS helps them stand out from other true-crime podcasts.

“We have that angle from the stories and it makes us a little more credible because Beth and I are not murder experts,” she said.

Based on their current reschedule, they will hit all 99 counties within four years, but don’t plan to stop there.

“We’re open to other states if they would have us, but the name is staying the same,” Theulen said.

Each host has their own explanation for their respective fascination with true crime. Listening to “Serial” and exposure to those types of stories through other media really piqued LeValley’s interest, although she got her first taste while at Drake University in Des Moines.

“A lot of times when you’re a journalism major, you have to learn about true crimes because a lot of times when you’re an entry-level reporter, you get dropped in with crime reporting,” she said. “I think our professors encouraged us to be curious about everything and I think they also knew that was a typical path to take.”

While she also loves “Serial,” Theulen’s reason hits a little closer to home.

“My great-great-grandfather was ax murdered—not the Villisca one,” she said. “I found out like college or high school age and that story was always fascinating to me; like, why and, you know, what drove this guy to kill him and the aftermath of all that and what happened to my family because of it.”

They want to do a “DIEOWA” episode on it, but Theulen said there’s a number of conflicting stories around the case so it’s difficult to determine the most accurate way to tell the story.

Historical family traumas aside, the two enjoy making the show together, which they credit for keeping their friendship alive.

“I know that’s cheesy, but it was hard; we’re on like separate coasts and I feel like it’s kept us really close,” Theulen said.

“I would agree with that,” LeValley added. “The first half-hour of our weekly meetings, we’re just catching up with each other and we get to learn all the new friends we’ve made in our respective cities.”

The second thing they enjoyed is the positive feedback they receive when they publish episodes.

“We’re not journalists … and we’re not true-crime experts, so we weren’t sure what kind of feedback we were going to get,” LeValley said.

“But it seems, so far, Iowans and Midwesterners alike really related to it and love it and that’s just been a very, very pleasant surprise and we’re very thankful for the support.”

 

by Ty Rushing
08/13/21

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