Killer Genes: Q&A with Kelly McLear and Melissa McCarty

By Deana Korsunsky

What inspired each of you to be investigative journalists?

Kelly: My passion for crime started in the summer of 1996. I took a summer job with the Connecticut State Police. I was looking at crime scene photos, reviewing case reports and field notes, and that’s really where it started for me. Over the years, I’ve gotten really close with the families and loved ones of those left behind. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like being a parent, a loved one, a brother or a sister and what they’re going through, particularly with unsolved cases. Anything that I can do for them is what keeps me going every day. 

Melissa: My story’s a little different. When I was growing up, I had two friends of mine, including my brother’s best friend, murdered. I always loved writing and storytelling, but then the narrative shifted to “I feel like a victim and I want the power to seek justice and help people suffering like I have in the past.” I started off as a local newscaster for over a decade, and it was in telling those daily stories that I thought, “wow, there’s an impact. There’s an audience—there are people listening!” I know what goes through the minds of criminals because I grew up with them, and I know what it feels like to grieve someone you love that was murdered.  I feel like I can teeter on a really good line in the middle to tell a good story and have empathy and understanding of both. That’s just been my passion. 

How did you two connect and get the idea to start a podcast?

Kelly: In 2015, both Melissa and I worked for Crime Watch Daily, which was a nationally syndicated daily crime series. I was a story producer, and Melissa was one of our field reporters for it. And, you know, we met on a story!

Melissa: We had reporters and producers pair up, always on the road. [Kelly] was always my favorite. She’s the most honest, the most sharp, the coolest. We met at a work party, and you know, I just loved her vibe. I was kicking around this concept, and I just said there’s only one person I would partner with, and it was her! So I just took a shot. I was like, “would you do this thing with me?”

Two-time Emmy nominated investigative journalists Kelly McLear and Melissa McCarty take deep dives each week into unsolved murders, missing persons and adjudicated murder cases.

How do you plan what episodes will be about? What’s your overall writing/recording process?

Kelly: It has to be a case that both Melissa and I are passionate about. Whether it’s a solved case, or a wrongful conviction, or an unsolved murder, we have to feel a connection to the case and to the family. We have to have that trust from family and from law enforcement. Like Melissa said, we’re not just reading a script. We are ingrained in it as much as those that it happened to. You lose sleep! You start going down rabbit holes, you become part of it. I hope the audience can feel that. 

Melissa: It’s so funny you said that, because I dream about these people. I’m so deep in it and their lives! Talking to them for so many hours and days and weeks and years, when I’m actually writing it, I’m dreaming about them at night. 

What, in your opinion, makes Killer Genes stand out particularly from other crime podcasts?

Kelly: First and foremost, I think Melissa and my track records, resumes, our history in the true crime space, experience, contacts, storytelling, empathy, respect for the victims, and respect for law enforcement make us stand out. We want to take you on a journey; we want to give you a complete 360 degree view of a case from all aspects. So you’re not just going to hear me and Melissa talking. We’re going to be asking the hard questions and the sad questions. It’s not just a host reading a script about a case that just hit the local or national news. We bring you deep into it. 

Melissa: What also separates us from others is you will not find Kelly and I joking. You will not find us chatting about our day before we go into a traumatizing loss that a loved one had. We’re going to start off with that loved one talking about how their world has literally frozen in time, because of the trauma and the loss. We’re bringing you access. You want to know why a person kills? Let’s ask that killer. We’ve got access. This isn’t a joke to us. 

What do you hope listeners will take away from listening to Killer Genes?

Kelly: What I hope that people take away from listening to Killer Genes is first of all, the respect for law enforcement investigators, prosecuting attorneys, and defense attorneys that work so hard—whether it is defending a victim or defending the accused. I also think that you can never lose sight of the victims’ families and friends that have been left behind. I always say, “there’s no such thing as justice.” You know what justice would have been? This never happening in the first place. All you can be provided is answers. I also think maybe someone listening who has gone through a similar situation can think, “okay, I’m not the only one going through this.” 

Melissa: I would just add that I truly believe that the pulse of humanity, and what helps us thrive is connecting and relating. It’s this universal emotion during all the tough times. You don’t have to be the victim of a crime to learn from a story we tell you. Some of these cases were also solved by family members. That’s the fascinating resilience of humans. It is just a powerful emotion of connecting that will bring in people to listen to someone else’s story.