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As Ohio true crime podcast wraps up, new hope for solving a cold case

Two photos side-by-side collage style. Both are from the 70s and look it. On the left is a white man, lips parted, looking at the camera with a neutral expression. On the right is a white woman, looking at the camera with a closed-lip smile.
Bill Sproat and Mary Petry were murdered the same night 53 years ago. Now, new information is coming to light in their case.

The Ideastream Public Media and Ohio Newsroom podcast Mary and Bill: An Ohio Cold Case came out Wednesday.

The podcast has followed an unsolved double murder of Ohio college students Mary Petry and Bill Sproat, that happened near Ohio State University’s campus in Columbus in 1970. The two were found dead in Bill’s off-campus apartment, the door unlocked, a radio playing.

Ideastream Public Media senior producer Justin Glanville joined the Ohio Newsroom to discuss what he found in the four years he spent reporting, researching and creating the podcast.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

On the biggest new developments

“There is really great DNA evidence in this case, and there’s actually more DNA evidence than they even originally thought. The evidence in this case has been really well preserved and just a couple weeks ago, lab technicians were in that evidence box getting more DNA from the suspected perpetrator. And as we know, when you’ve got DNA in this day and age, there’s a really good chance, especially if that’s high quality DNA, that the case can be solved.”

On the power of revisiting old cases

“We sometimes think of true crime as kind of dark and as wallowing in darkness. But I’m coming out of this feeling really good about it. By looking into the darkness and really talking about it, and partnering with both Pat and Martha, who are the surviving sisters of Mary and Bill, it’s felt very therapeutic and they share the same thing too in the last episode.

On the power of advocacy in cold cases

“Police departments right now have been having a lot of trouble just staying staffed up. There are a lot of cold cases out there. Because of all that, it’s not that police aren’t trying to solve these cases or that they don’t have an intention to solve them and it’s not even that they aren’t looking into them from time to time. But the fact that the two sisters have been so involved and gotten increasingly involved over the four years I’ve been working on this project has been instrumental in refocusing the police on this case.

I don’t want to spoil the details for folks who want to seek out the podcast but something huge happened that I think is a turning point in this case just a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t think that would have happened if it hadn’t been for the two sisters pushing it along.”

Clare Roth is the managing editor of The Ohio Newsroom. She coordinates coverage of the entire state, focusing particularly on news deserts.