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‘Crime Junkie’ host Ashley Flowers lights a fire under cold cases with new nonprofit

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 9/26/2021 Jami Ganz

She’s turning full body chills into full-on change.

A regular resident of the top of Apple Podcasts’ general and true crime charts, “Crime Junkie” creator and host Ashley Flowers this summer was able to officially leverage that popularity into her crime-fighting nonprofit.

Season of Justice identifies itself as an organization which gives “funding to law enforcement agencies and families to help solve cold cases.”

“We always knew we wanted to use the show to give back,” Flowers, CEO and founder of Indiana-based podcasting network audiochuck, told the Daily News. “We had this goal of making a difference in the true crime space and not just telling these stories but telling these stories with the end goal in mind.”

The name of the organization — which says it has so far awarded $226,534 in grant money toward 31 cases — stems from a phrase used between Flowers, 31, and Brit Prawat, her best friend and co-host, in a 2018 episode discussing the local 1988 murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley.

Audiochuck founder and "Crime Junkie" creator and host Ashley Flowers hopes her nonprofit can help crack cold cases. © Provided by New York Daily News Audiochuck founder and "Crime Junkie" creator and host Ashley Flowers hopes her nonprofit can help crack cold cases.

Audiochuck founder and "Crime Junkie" creator and host Ashley Flowers hopes her nonprofit can help crack cold cases.

“They started using the genealogy ... technology, to solve the case, this case that no one ever thought would get solved. And Brit and I said, ‘You know, this is the beginning of something. This is the season of justice,’” said Flowers. “And since then, every time one of these genealogy cases would come up or even a case just got solved after the long time, we continued to use that phrase.”

The nonprofit accepts applications for funding from both law enforcement and victims’ families — who might need billboards, fliers to “help advance their family’s case.”

“I work with so many family members, I wanted to have a resource for them as well,” said Flowers, whose fellow board members include crime victim advocate Sarah Turney, half-sister of Alissa Turney, who disappeared in 2001.

The pair became close after the 2018 “Crime Junkie” episode covering Alissa’s case, in which Michael Roy Turney — Sarah’s father and Alissa’s stepfather — was charged last year.

“It was so easy for us to realize from day one that these stories are more than stories,” said Flowers, pointing to the inaugural episode of “Crime Junkie,” which shone a light on the 2001 disappearance of Niqui McCown.

“Like two days after we put it out — we were an unknown podcast — her daughter contacted us,” recalled Flowers. “It was this great reminder of like, ‘Hey, you’re telling this story and a story that might seem old or might seem outdated, but there is still a family member behind that story who’s listening, who’s still looking for answers.’”

"Crime Junkie" © Provided by New York Daily News "Crime Junkie"

"Crime Junkie"

The process of choosing which stories to share involves the roughly 15,000 suggestions listeners submit monthly, leaving the team behind iHeartRadio’s Best Crime Podcast “Crime Junkie” to prioritize those from law enforcement and loved ones to then determine whether enough information exists to build an episode.

Back in 2019, “Crime Junkie” faced multiple allegations of plagiarism, after which certain episodes were pulled. Flowers now regularly cites sources during the episodes in addition to linking to them in descriptions.

Though the work being done is “super sensitive,” Flowers hopes to soon be able to share updates on the cases being assisted by Season of Justice’s funding.

While the nonprofit’s impact is underway, audiochuck’s flagship podcast has already had a life-changing impact.

“We literally had one girl write in — and we’re gonna do a future episode with her — and she’s like, ‘I was a die-hard fan and recently I had to stop listening because my sister was murdered,’” said Flowers, noting the woman explained she “basically took everything” learned from the show “and put it to work.

Through all the true crime content she’s absorbed, she’s learned “that everyone thinks that the bad thing doesn’t happen to them, it happens to someone else.

“But the more stories you read, the more families you talk to, you realize that no one was expecting it to happen to them and everyone feels blindsided when it does,” said Flowers. “So [be] as prepared as you can be.”

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