Clean Slate: The List Family Murders Podcast
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Clean Slate: The List Family Murders

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In Episode 250

For weeks before he killed his family, 46-year old John List put on a suit and left every day for workBut John was unemployed.  He was adequately skilled in his career as an accountant, but he had been repeatedly let go from jobs because of his odd, off-putting personality.  

So, John was spending his days at the train station. He would pass the time reading and return home for dinner as if all was well. He was too proud to tell his wife and his children that he had lost his job. But he knew they were going to find out. The mortgage was not being paid and the foreclosure process had begun. He would soon be exposed as a failure. 

On November 9, 1971, after the children left for school, John shot his wife and his mother to death in the family home.  Then he waited for his children to come home, picking them off one by one.  

Decades later, John List would say that he killed his family to spare them from poverty and send them to heaven.  But, if that was true, why did he disappear after killing them and start a new life with a clean slate? According to a psychiatrist who did extensive interviews with him, John List was angry, repressed, and without empathy.  Like many family annihilators, List only saw others for what they could do for him.  His family members were not people with their own thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams, but merely accessories to a life he no longer wished to live. 

Join us at the quiet end today for Clean Slate: The List Family Murders.  We’re taking a look at List’s childhood, his marriage, and, of course, the life he continued to live after committing five murders. 

1:32:12
Aug 22 2019
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    Avatar Tammy Christy says:

    First, I want to say how much I love your Podcast. the two of you just have a chemistry and flow when you tell a story. Also, I am not a big beer drinker, but when Dick describes a beer it makes me want to try them all.

    I have heard the John List murders story many times, but I recently saw the episode on Forensic Files (for at least the 3rd time) and am amazed with the bust created for age progression. I couldn’t believe they could even choose the glasses they thought he would wear.

    Keep up the great work. you make my work day much more enjoyable when I can listen to your podcast.

    Avatar Alana Bush says:

    Hi Jill and Dick,
    I first saw this case on American Justice. The book I read, then, explained that the investigators did go to the Lutheran church for help in tracking John List and the church refused, citing privacy for all their members, as they weren’t sure if this would help esp if List abandoned the church, despite his longtime belief. (Lutheran religion is very strict and regulated, far more than most other religions. Doesn’t lend itself to introspection.) Agree with Jill that List expressed profound rage through the murder of his family. The 8 bullets shot into the last son arriving home confirms this. A thoroughly unlikeable man who used his religion for his own dark motivations. (He was embezzling his mother’s money.) This case launched America’s Most Wanted into the stratosphere in its 2nd year. It was lagging in the ratings the 1st year. I wasn’t a fan, but admired John Walsh for the steps he took to redirect his rage over the murder of his son, which was yet unsolved then. Thanks for another excellent episode.

    Avatar Jane Squire says:

    It is in fact required of priests in the Roman Catholic Church that, if they learn in the confessional that someone is intending to cause harm to another person, they take whatever steps are necessary to avert the harm. A priest who learns through confession that someone has committed a crime is not obligated to turn that person in, but if someone confesses plans to commit harm, the priest must stop them. Sorry to keep pinging you. 🙂

    Avatar Jane Squire says:

    I especially like the episodes that include Jill asking Dick to expatiate on medical conditions. Thanks for this!

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