Podcaster takes on missing girl cold case: Bethany Markowski

Brandon Barnett, host of the podcast "Chasing Ghosts"

Brandon Barnett, host of the podcast “Chasing Ghosts” spoke at a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Cayce Lynn McDaniel, Wednesday, August 16, 2017, 21 years after her disappearance. (Photo: KENNETH CUMMINGS/The Jackson Sun)

Brandon Shields, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

ackson native Brandon Barnett started podcasting about his own journey in the music industry a couple years ago and began a transition last year into a new genre of podcast.

“I started listening to true crime podcasts and got hooked on content like ‘Serial’ and ‘Up and Vanished,’ and I saw those made a difference,” Barnett said. “’Up and Vanished’ was about a case in Georgia, and two arrests were made within months after the podcast started. That was 12 years after the case started.”

His interest in the genre and his notice of how media seemed to focus on certain cases and not others — particularly one in West Tennessee — drove him to begin his own,  “Searching for Ghosts.”

The first season of the podcast focused on Cayce Lynn McDaniel, the 14-year-old girl who went missing in Milan in August of 1996 without a known trace. The case had faded from the public eye over a couple decades; at the annual vigils dwindled to the point Cayce’s family and friends declined to try to have vigils for four years until this past August when The Vineyard Church in Milan was filled with hundreds of people to remember and pray for Cayce.

“I think the podcast definitely gave Cayce’s story exposure it hadn’t had in a while,” Barnett said. “I’ve been told through various contacts that FBI, TBI, Gibson County Sheriff and Milan Police are all active on the case again, and it’s more active now with leads and stuff than it was in 1996 when she first went missing.

“I’m not arrogant enough to go into these things with the plan of figuring out who was responsible for these, because I’m not in law enforcement. Those are the people with the resources and ability to do that, but if these efforts get people talking and convince someone who knows something to come forward and help them out, then the podcast has done its job.”

“Searching for Ghosts” is being called on for another job after Barnett announced over the weekend the topic of the second season: the Bethany Markowski case.

Markowski was 11 years old when she went missing in March of 2001. The report filed by her father, Larry, said she went missing at Old Hickory Mall while he took a nap in his truck. There’s been no trace of Bethany since then, including no footage of her on mall security cameras.

“It’s been 16 years, and her mother, Jonnie Carter, has already shown she’s willing to help with this project, because she wants to find her daughter,” Barnett said. “I’ve got four hours of interviews recorded, and she’s one of the people I’ve talked to.

“And that’s a big help this time around, where Cayce’s family wasn’t as willing to help. So I’m hoping we can get more information out there to try to figure out what happened with Bethany and where she is.”

Mother of missing girl Bethany Markowski, Jonnie Carter,

Mother of missing girl Bethany Markowski, Jonnie Carter, has become an advocate for parents of missing children. Markowski went missing from a mall in Jackson, Tenn., at age 11 in 2001. (Photo: File / The Tennessean)

Barnett said there’s no set date for the first episode of the second season.

“I plan on putting together a number of episodes first before I put the first one out there, so probably sometime in the next month,” Barnett said. “Her half-sister’s birthday is Dec. 1, and she told me it would be a great gift for the first episode to come out that day. We’ll see, though, if I can get that done.”

If you have any information on this case, please send to: leftofnashville@gmail.com
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