As the call connected to a prison in the US, I was on the edge of my seat over 14,000 kilometres away in Queensland.
‘Hi Jack,’ said the woman on the other end of the line.
It was Dorice ‘Dee Dee’ Moore – a mum convicted of first-degree murder.
For four years we’d been penpals, and today was our first call.
Working as an on-air announcer and anchor in radio since 2008, I’d had the privilege to talk to people from all walks of life and learned quickly that everyone has a story.
'‘I’m innocent,’ she declared.'
Then in 2018, after learning about ‘the lottery curse’ – a belief that winning the jackpot can ruin your life – I became fascinated by the theory.
Wanting to learn more, I read every article I could find, when I happened on one about Dorice.
She was friends with $26 million lottery winner Abraham Lee Shakespeare, who was declared missing three years after his win.
Devastatingly, his body was found in 2010, buried beneath a concrete slab in the backyard of a property Dorice owned. Two years later, she was sentenced to life for his murder.
Kind Abraham had shared his win with his loved ones, even buying houses for his cousins.
I was saddened to learn his life had been tragically cut short, but was intrigued to learn more about his story and the events that led to his death.
So I wrote to Dorice to see if she’d be keen on being interviewed for a podcast I wanted to make about the ‘lottery curse’.
After writing to each other for a long time, and spending so long researching my podcast, it was surreal to hear her voice in July 2022. As I hit record, she told me her side of the story.
‘I’m innocent,’ she declared.
Dorice claimed she’d been set up to take the fall for her friend’s death.
She also suggested I chat with her legal clerk, Kimberly Boone, an inmate in the same prison.
Speaking with Kimberly almost two weeks after my first call with Dee Dee, I learned she was jailed in 2012 for 35 years for the attempted murder of her husband Robert. A court found she’d drugged him and set their home alight.
Despite these serious convictions I knew that, like me, other people would find the women’s versions of events interesting, so I decided to focus my podcast on the life of inmates instead of lottery winners.
Talking several times a week, I spent countless hours on the phone with both women.
Kimberly never said she was innocent, but argued she’d had nothing to do with starting the fire.
But our conversations were often cut short due to the varying time limitations – between 10 and 30 minutes on calls to the facility.
You have one minute remaining, a recording would play when our time was almost up.
That’s how I chose the name One Minute Remaining for my show, which launched in September 2022.
My intentions were never to prove if the person behind bars was innocent or guilty, but to simply allow them to tell their tale, and listeners could form their own opinions.
To ensure all sides of the case are covered, I include interviews with experts, including defence lawyers and psychologists, in most episodes. I also leave out personal and gruesome details of crimes, out of respect for the victims and their families.
As well as Dorice, Kimberly and other convicted murderers, I’ve also interviewed people serving time for arson and robbery.
‘Aren’t you scared of talking to crims?’ people often ask me.
‘Not really,’ I reply.
Though they’ve been found guilty of doing bad things, many of the people I’ve spoken with are trying to turn their lives around.
‘I think it’s great! You’re giving a voice to those who have otherwise been forgotten,’ said my wife Becky, 38.
One interviewee who was a perfect example of this was Evaristo Salas Junior. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison for fatally shooting a man named Jose Arreola in 1995. It was a crime he always maintained he was innocent of. And, after doing some research on the case, it was a belief I also shared.
Evaristo, now 42, was just 16 when he was sentenced in 1996.
'He was an innocent man all along.'
When I spoke to him, he admitted to being in gangs before and during prison, but said he’d never killed Jose.
And he revealed he’d turned his life around by becoming a Buddhist. Soft spoken and calm, it was hard to believe Evaristo could have committed such a heinous crime.
Many listeners agreed and rallied online, wanting Evaristo to be freed.
Of course, it takes more than a gut feeling to know the truth. Vital new evidence was brought to light in an episode of a show called Wrong Man in 2018. And in August this year, after an evidentiary hearing, Evaristo was finally exonerated.
‘He’s free!’ his sister Debbie said, with tears of joy over the phone.
He was an innocent man all along. I like to think my podcast played a hand in gaining Evaristo’s case enough traction to fight his conviction – something I never thought possible when I quit my career in radio to chat to inmates full time.
Dorice is also seeking a new trial to overturn her conviction.
Fourteen months from launching, I’ve released over 100 episodes, yet not one has been smooth sailing.
Challenges often arise with bad connections, and the odd prison lockdown, which can last for two weeks or even two months.
What I’ve learned from my podcast is that every story has two sides.
And whether an inmates’ side is true or false, one thing can always be determined in the time we have – one minute remaining – not everything is black and white.