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May 13, 2024 30 mins

Looking for clues to our Lost Sister’s identity, our Chief Investigator Mindy Shapiro visits her old New York City stomping grounds. 

If you’re affected by any of the themes in this show please reach out to DNA Doe Project, an organisation we’ve partnered with. 

The Girlfriends: Our Lost Sister is produced by Novel for iHeartPodcasts. 

For more from Novel visit novel.audio 

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:06):
Novel.

Speaker 2 (00:10):
Hey listener, In this episode, we'll be talking about acts
of violence and murder, as well as the loss of
a child. After the second break, there's one particular scene
of extremely intense emotional distress which you may find hard
to listen to, but at the same time we get
to see doctor Mindy Shapiro reconnect with her New York roots.

Speaker 1 (00:32):
If you feel.

Speaker 2 (00:33):
Impacted by any of the themes while listening, I encourage
you to check out our charity partner, DNA DOE Project.
They work with law enforcement to identify Jane and John does.
They use genetic genealogy in the hopes of reuniting the
bodies of unidentified people with their families. You can find
them at DNADO project dot org. And you guessed it.

(00:58):
You're probably going to hear a few swears too, so
sue me. I've got a dirty mouth. Before we get started.
There's something doctor Mindy Shapiro, my good friend and our
lead investigator, would like to be formally struck from the record.
At one point in season one, when she was deep

(01:19):
into her obsession with Gail's case, I described her in
a way that she was well, not real happy with a.

Speaker 3 (01:26):
Dog with the bone not.

Speaker 4 (01:31):
I'm still angry about the dog with her bone, and
I'm not going to get over it. Why would you.

Speaker 3 (01:35):
Take offense for a dog with the bone.

Speaker 4 (01:37):
It just gives me the image of this little white
terrier biting the ankle of some pants leg of some
person who's.

Speaker 5 (01:46):
Just trying to kick me off.

Speaker 4 (01:48):
That's why.

Speaker 2 (01:51):
So, Mindy, let me say this, hand on heart. I
apologize for referring to you this way, but I think
you would agree.

Speaker 1 (01:59):
Though, that you were a little obsessive.

Speaker 2 (02:02):
And don't get me wrong, that's what we love about you.
It's that very quality that makes you such a great
amateur detective. Instead, I'll just describe you as you truly are,
my unsquashable, tenacious, and relentless friend, Mindy fucking Shapiro. Doctor,
Mindy fucking Shapiro, doctor Detective, Mindy fucking Shapiro. I know

(02:27):
there's no mystery, medical or otherwise that she can't solve.

Speaker 6 (02:31):
I like a puzzle about the puzzle.

Speaker 4 (02:34):
I make puzzles.

Speaker 2 (02:35):
Wait, they don't said, but this thirty five year mystery
of our lost sister's identity. It's her biggest and most
important puzzle yet. If she's gonna bust this case wide open,
like I know she can. This New York broad is
gonna need to kick down doors and find the answers

(02:55):
no one else could. Okay, Okay, I'm sorry that was
the last dog joke.

Speaker 1 (03:01):
I promise.

Speaker 2 (03:05):
I'm Carol Fisher and from the teams at Novel and
iHeart Podcasts. You're listening to The girlfriends Our Lost Sister,
Episode two, Mindy Goes Undercover, got you.

Speaker 1 (03:51):
T t to speak with the librarian.

Speaker 5 (03:55):
I're helping you get some research.

Speaker 1 (03:58):
Gret A, welcome, Thank you, thank you.

Speaker 2 (04:03):
When I first met Mindy in Las Vegas thirty something
years ago, she'd only just moved from the East Coast,
and you could tell. I mean, she was fast talking,
fast walking, and she got shit done. And with every
minute we spend in New York investigating the case of
our lost sister, I can see that old East Coast
attitude coming back. I mean I literally witnessed her jumping

(04:26):
at turnstile on the subway for crying out loud. This
woman is sixty seven years of age. But who am
I to question our chief investigator. First up on Mindy's
tour of NYC, her and producer Anna head to the
New York Public Library.

Speaker 5 (04:45):
It's a very ostentatious library. They didn't need to make
it this PRC.

Speaker 4 (04:51):
You know, they renovated it a while ago.

Speaker 2 (04:54):
Libraries are often described as one of the last bastions
of democracy. They don't or if you have money or
what your background is, you can go there and access
the same information as anyone else who comes looking for it.
So it feels like a good place to start our
investigation to see what's already out there. Newspaper articles about

(05:16):
the torso washing up on Staten Island in nineteen eighty nine.
Any killers who are in the news at the time
missing person notices that kind of thing. Because something we
discovered in season one when we first attempted to identify
this Jane Doe, is that accessing official information about missing

(05:37):
or unidentified people is, to put it mildly, no easy task.
Hopefully you won't have experienced the pain of a loved
one vanishing without a trace, but for those who have,
who spend their lives searching through a labyrinth of police,
medical examiners, media and other systems, it's often near impossible

(05:58):
to find any answers. You'd probably think that our team
would have better luck with our resources. After all, we've
got me a relentlessly nosy person, Mindy the brain box
doctor turned sleuth, Elaine Katz, the accomplished family lawyer, and
my producer turned adopted daughter Anna who just so happens

(06:18):
to be an investigative journalist. Plus there's multiple people working
full time behind the scenes who you haven't even met.
So if we're struggling to get answers, what kind of
chance to everyday people have when a loved one goes missing,
maybe this could explain why our Jane Do has gone
unidentified for thirty five years. Mindy waste no time getting

(06:45):
the librarian's attention.

Speaker 5 (06:47):
Okay, are you ready for the query of the day?

Speaker 1 (06:51):
Right, I'm not sure?

Speaker 4 (06:53):
You better sit down. I am interested in fundamentally two things.
Is a torso watched upon the shores of Staten Island
on May twenty first, nineteen eighty nine, and I'd like
all information that I can find about that torso.

Speaker 5 (07:13):
The next thing.

Speaker 4 (07:15):
Is I would like any and all information on the
psychopathology of pillars that dismember their victims.

Speaker 2 (07:26):
The librarians on the other side of the desk shoot
a raised eyebrow in Mindy's direction.

Speaker 4 (07:31):
Right, you know, I look like clearly someone who was investigating.
Do I look like all murders in the building?

Speaker 1 (07:37):
Do I have that vague resemblance to Selena?

Speaker 4 (07:40):
No miss, thanks, that's familia.

Speaker 2 (07:44):
But unfortunately, not only does Mindy struggle to get a
compliment from these librarians, they also can't find any relevant information.
In fact, she and Anna aren't making much progress in
Manhattan at all. Maybe we're finding it hard because what
we really want, what we need is more information from

(08:06):
the time when the torso was discovered on Staten Island.
We should be able to get that kind of stuff
from the original police reports, something we're not going to
find in the library. So we decide, fuck it, Why
don't we just turn up at Staten Island Police Department
and ask for the reports ourselves?

Speaker 1 (08:28):
Well, right under the sign twenty more Yeah.

Speaker 2 (08:33):
The one hundred and twenty first Precinct in Staten Island
is a big concrete building with a long line of
steps leading up to the entrance.

Speaker 1 (08:41):
It's intimidating.

Speaker 2 (08:44):
We stagger up the stairs and we go through the
tall glass doors and immediately we look out of place.

Speaker 5 (08:51):
What's happening at.

Speaker 1 (08:54):
Typical?

Speaker 2 (08:55):
Mindy charges ahead while I hide behind producer Anna, who's
concealed her microphone and a pair of fluffy gloves.

Speaker 1 (09:02):
It's all very covert.

Speaker 2 (09:04):
When we get to the front desk, we're greeted by
this really sweet Officer's.

Speaker 4 (09:11):
Interested in if I can get some old record it's
from nineteen eighty nine.

Speaker 7 (09:15):
What kind of records?

Speaker 2 (09:16):
At first, understandably he doesn't know what to make of
this strange, multi generational group of women digging into a
cold case.

Speaker 8 (09:27):
He seems pretty suspicious.

Speaker 2 (09:29):
Luckily, we've got Mindy's New York charm to win him over.

Speaker 4 (09:33):
And could you just jimmy one huge phavor because I
grew up in New York. Could you say perpetrator for me?

Speaker 1 (09:39):
Perpetrator.

Speaker 2 (09:43):
But we're here on business, so we asked the officer
to check the records for anything connected to the Torso.

Speaker 1 (09:49):
When you find some baits here, let's say, how far
we go?

Speaker 2 (09:55):
But it doesn't go very far. When he types our
case number into his it draws a blank. The case
is too old and the files have likely not been digitized.
But the suite officer, he does give us something.

Speaker 3 (10:10):
Let me search for a cold case health album.

Speaker 4 (10:12):
Okay, that would be great.

Speaker 2 (10:15):
A phone number that we can call for information on
cold cases.

Speaker 3 (10:20):
You know, hopefully they'll be able to help you navigate
through this journey.

Speaker 5 (10:23):
Do you think that records?

Speaker 2 (10:26):
So it's looking like we won't quite get what we
came for, but we're not going to be leaving empty
handed either. We've got a brand new cold case number
to call and a new friend. It's dat n Island,
PD's from.

Speaker 5 (10:39):
I'm from England's.

Speaker 4 (10:40):
Okay, not live England.

Speaker 8 (10:42):
I'll never visited, but I always wanted as a teenager,
but then I grew up.

Speaker 3 (10:46):
Now I'm in my forties, I'm a grandfather.

Speaker 4 (10:49):
Wow, you're a young Congratulations muscle us.

Speaker 2 (10:57):
It seems we've garnered all the information we can and
Mindy's also got her eye on an iconic Staten Island
pizza joint for lunch. So, with stomachs rumbling, we exchange
goodbyes with our new friend and make our.

Speaker 1 (11:10):
Way out of the police station.

Speaker 7 (11:13):
We got to number that we haven't had with goal,
so tomorrow.

Speaker 6 (11:16):
We're gonna call.

Speaker 4 (11:16):
What do you mean we're calling in the car?

Speaker 5 (11:19):
All right?

Speaker 2 (11:22):
We jump in a taxi and have barely got our
seatbelts on before Mindy starts dialing. We're hoping to find
out if our Jane Doe is connected to a registered
cold case, and if there's any information that can help
us continue the story beyond nineteen ninety eight, which is
when a Laying Kats's files end.

Speaker 5 (11:42):
All right, we're calling.

Speaker 6 (11:52):
Thank you for calling the New York City Police Department.

Speaker 3 (11:55):
The party you are trying to reach is unavailable at
this time. Please goal again, goodbye.

Speaker 2 (12:04):
Of course, not that would be too easy. We keep trying, though,
But when we eventually get through, it turns out that
sweet officer point portrayer, he gave us the wrong number.
I mean, can we catch a goddamn break? We still
don't give up. Mindy is soldiering on, unperturbed. Through some digging,

(12:29):
she manages to find the correct number. But dear listener,
don't hold your breath.

Speaker 5 (12:37):
For more ation.

Speaker 4 (12:39):
Hi, my name is Mindy Shapiro, and I am calling
about a cold case from nineteen eighty nine.

Speaker 2 (12:49):
If you're exasperated just listening to this, imagine how we feel.
It's like we're constantly hitting a wall, being sent around
in circles from one agency to another. Maybe we're out
of our depth here, even with Mindy on the case.

Speaker 1 (13:05):
Maybe we need some advice.

Speaker 2 (13:07):
From someone who's actually solved a cold case, and not
just any cold case, but one that's very close to
our hearts, the murder of gailcats.

Speaker 5 (13:42):
Hi. Wo you, I'm good, thank you.

Speaker 1 (13:49):
Anna just arrived at the office of Dan Bibb.

Speaker 2 (13:51):
He's a DA prosecutor who put my ex Bob Bernbaum
away for twenty to life. He's also the guy who
helped prove instant for all that our Jane Do's torso
did not belong to Gail Katz. He's eager to know
the latest on our investigation.

Speaker 3 (14:08):
So what's been going on?

Speaker 8 (14:10):
So we're trying to identify this torso, which is maybe
a fool's.

Speaker 3 (14:15):
Errand I don't think it is. I remember we notified
the precinct or whoever was in charge, that this is
now an open case again because it's not Gail Katz.
What happened to the investigation after that? I have no idea.
You know, in ninety eight, did missing persons really want

(14:36):
to deal with a nineteen eighty nine torso that washed up?
I donhuh? I mean, could it have fallen through the cracks? Yes?
How is it dealing with the m's office?

Speaker 2 (14:52):
Dan is talking about the Medical Examiner's office. You already
know that Mindy has put in a freedom of information
request to them, so is Gail's sister Elaine, and they're
not the only ones.

Speaker 1 (15:04):
All the way back.

Speaker 2 (15:05):
In the first series of The Girlfriends, Madeline parr Our,
assistant producer and research Queen, reached out asking for any
documents relating to the Torso.

Speaker 9 (15:16):
Fifth of December twenty twenty two. Hither, I'm a journalist
from the UK and I'm wondering if you might be
able to help me find out some information about a
body that was discovered in nineteen eighty.

Speaker 2 (15:27):
We get a response saying they're going to look into
it for us, which is great news, and then a
few weeks go by we haven't heard anything, so we
decide to check in.

Speaker 9 (15:37):
Fourth of January twenty twenty three. Hi, I hope you've
had a lovely holidays and a happy new year. I'm
just wondering if you've got anywhere with tracking down those records.

Speaker 2 (15:48):
Months go by, still nothing. Eventually we just get plane
pissed off.

Speaker 9 (15:55):
Ninth of January twenty twenty four, did happy New Year again?
I'm writing to let you know that it has now
been over a year since my initial request was sent
to you on the fifth of December twenty twenty two,
and we are yet to receive any progress a tool
on these records.

Speaker 1 (16:13):
Nothing's worked.

Speaker 2 (16:15):
We've always been met with a wall of silence, and
to be honest, we're starting to take it pretty personally.

Speaker 3 (16:24):
I mean, why wouldn't they just tell you you could
appeal to their foil officer and then you could chew.
But why wouldn't they just tell you that instead of
stringing it off for a year.

Speaker 2 (16:36):
We don't want to get to the point of suing
the Medical Examiner's office. We just want them to respond
to us. We want to know what information they have
on the Torso after nineteen ninety eight, which is a
year she was exzumed from Gail Catch's grave. We want
to know where she went and crucially, if she was
ever identified. Our mission isn't about pointing the finger or

(17:00):
assigning blame. What we want to do is fill in
the gaps of our lost sister's journey, to find out
her name, to give her back her own story, not
just make her a footnote in Gail Kata's case. And
above all, we hope that in uncovering this mystery. We
can bring closure to a lane and possibly to our

(17:20):
Jane Doe's family, wherever they may be. But maybe it's
time for a more direct approach. Next up, doctor Detective
Mindy Shapiro heads to the Medical Examiner's office to get
some goddamn answers. At the age of sixteen, I was

(18:09):
busy swooning over boys. In fact, that was the first
year I fell in love, the first and a long
run of terrible boyfriends. But Mindy, well, she was far
too ambitious to be distracted by something as silly as boys.

Speaker 1 (18:26):
At sixteen, she.

Speaker 2 (18:27):
Was busy lining herself up to get into a good
medical college, which meant internships. And where, you might ask,
did she intern in the summer of nineteen seventy three
the Manhattan Medical Examiner's Office. You just can't make this
shit up. I would get on.

Speaker 6 (18:46):
The bus from my parents' apartment to the Medical Examiner's office,
and I'd watched them do autopsy, and then one week
I worked in the lab with the stomach contents.

Speaker 4 (18:59):
One week I worked in the bones, and it was
like Wayne Heart.

Speaker 1 (19:06):
Does something delivers.

Speaker 2 (19:11):
And now, about fifty years later, Mindy's back at her
old office, she wants to find out where our Jane
Doe went after she was exhumed from Gail Kata's grave.

Speaker 4 (19:31):
Hi, it's doctor Shapiro and I'd like to speak with
the deputy medical Examiner.

Speaker 6 (19:37):
Oh thank you.

Speaker 1 (19:47):
To get us in the door.

Speaker 2 (19:48):
And because we're getting kind of desperate here, we've decided
to act like Mindy is simply stopping by to see
an old colleague.

Speaker 4 (19:55):
I worked here a billion years ago, and the entries
goods never change.

Speaker 2 (20:04):
Mindy's asking to meet with the deputy medical Examiner, not
the chief. We decided that be too suspicious, and it
seems to be working. The receptionist gets on the phone
and says that the deputy is in a meeting but
will be free in just thirty minutes.

Speaker 7 (20:19):
Oh well wait, we've been waiting for over a year already,
so what's another thirty minutes.

Speaker 1 (20:32):
But it's nerve wracking.

Speaker 2 (20:33):
For the first time, we're coming face to face with
the people who've been avoiding us for so long. And
it's not just that so much has happened under this roof.
It was in this very same building where Elaine was
first told that the torso was not her sister Gail.
After all, it's a lot for Mindy to take in.

Speaker 5 (20:55):
Yeah, yeah, I'm just persons and processing in anticipating.

Speaker 2 (21:08):
Then the strange silence is punctured by a woman a
little waist down the hall, screaming.

Speaker 5 (21:16):
Piece somebody, identify somebody.

Speaker 1 (21:20):
She has just identified the body of her son. Oh.

Speaker 2 (21:31):
After a tense minute, the whales draw closer. The woman
with someone we assumed to be her husband, burst into
the lobby. We're not going to play any tape of her,
out of respect for such an intimate moment. But all
I can say is it's the rawest expression of grief
that you can possibly imagine.

Speaker 1 (21:53):
This experience is one that.

Speaker 2 (21:55):
No mother, including this one, should ever have to go through.
And yet here's she is, in the lobby of an
office building on what should be a normal Wednesday afternoon,
screaming into the void. That's not my son. My son
had a home, my son had a family. He told

(22:16):
me he was safe. Anna, Mindy and the security guards
are all sitting in silence, trying not to intrude on
the woman's grief or make her feel self conscious, but
they also feel this pull to just jump up and

(22:36):
give her a hug.

Speaker 1 (22:43):
What do you do?

Speaker 2 (22:43):
When face was something so unimaginably awful, how do you
even begin to help? Before they can try a different
tac the woman and her husband leave, her cries spilling
out into the faceless Manhattan street.

Speaker 5 (23:01):
And that's why we're doing this. It's horrible.

Speaker 3 (23:08):
It's horrible.

Speaker 7 (23:17):
You know.

Speaker 5 (23:19):
It's hard enough for me watching you with like your Facebook.

Speaker 8 (23:25):
But this is all normal for you. But it's not normal,
you know it. Yes, it is. It is very very normal.

Speaker 4 (23:39):
And they are experiences that you hope you never have
m or if you have them, you only want them
once and then you.

Speaker 5 (23:51):
Don't talk about them. And what makes them tell is
that we don't.

Speaker 4 (24:02):
They're just not discussed.

Speaker 2 (24:08):
Yeah, as much as that was a tough thing to
bear witness to, it just brings it all home.

Speaker 1 (24:22):
Our Jane Doe.

Speaker 2 (24:22):
Get of a mother out there who hasn't even been
gifted the opportunity as brutal as it is to know
the truth about what happened to her daughter, bereft of
the opportunity to wail and scream in public, to show
the depths of her pain to the world and make
them look. Five minutes pass and the deputy medical examiner

(24:58):
walks out of some heavy double doors. Anna and Mindy
had rehearsed what they were going to say to her,
but the tones changed. Now they're more desperate for answers
than ever, so they're pleading with her.

Speaker 4 (25:11):
I'm a physician, I retired, and I'm here on actually
an act.

Speaker 2 (25:18):
Of mercy for a friend of mine who.

Speaker 5 (25:21):
Has had a remote tragedy.

Speaker 4 (25:23):
Nineteen eighty nine, and I'm trying to.

Speaker 5 (25:26):
Get some closure the case for her.

Speaker 2 (25:30):
Basically in nineteen eighty five, Mindy runs through the whole
complicated story once again, and at first it seemed like
we might finally be getting some answers.

Speaker 4 (25:41):
You have like case number yes, yes, the Emmy case
numbers eighty nine, five, six three, whereas yeah, think it's.

Speaker 6 (25:51):
The oh, okay, we have someone like our anthropologists probably
be able to I'm running.

Speaker 4 (25:58):
At three o'clock.

Speaker 6 (26:00):
If you want to leave your contact information with me. Otherwise,
I mean we'll be out of a meeting probably at
like four o'clock.

Speaker 4 (26:05):
I can't promise anything's going to happen if you do.

Speaker 2 (26:07):
Wait.

Speaker 1 (26:08):
Mindy and Anna sit back down to wait again.

Speaker 2 (26:12):
But when the deputy pushes through the doors after her
three pm meeting, her expressions changed.

Speaker 1 (26:18):
She's still smiling, but now it's guarded.

Speaker 5 (26:21):
The director of anthropology is in the meeting with me,
so I just briefly mentioned to him.

Speaker 4 (26:25):
He's aware of it and they.

Speaker 1 (26:27):
Were planning on reaching out to you.

Speaker 5 (26:28):
Oh, they're just finding out answers to your It's called love.

Speaker 3 (26:32):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (26:32):
Yeah, someone is aware of it and has an anthropologists
have been working on it.

Speaker 3 (26:37):
But someone will be in touch with me.

Speaker 2 (26:38):
Thank you.

Speaker 8 (26:38):
That Phil's good.

Speaker 5 (26:40):
Thank you.

Speaker 2 (26:41):
Thanks. Anna and Mindy are getting the distinct impression that
they've overstayed their welcome, so they high tail it out
of the Medical Examiner's office.

Speaker 4 (26:50):
Well we waited. We got some very interesting experience out
of this.

Speaker 8 (26:55):
Oh my god, I need a drink.

Speaker 4 (26:58):
I'll buy you a drink and can go down here.

Speaker 2 (27:05):
Spoiler alert, dear listener, we did not hear back about
the files.

Speaker 1 (27:10):
So what next. Well, if you're looking to track.

Speaker 2 (27:14):
Down a body, the next best place to go is
probably a cemetery. And if you're looking to track down
an unidentified body in New York, then you're best head
to the city's largest public burial ground, Heart Island. Coming
up next time on the girlfriends Our Lost Sister.

Speaker 1 (27:36):
Oh my god, wait, Oh my god.

Speaker 9 (27:38):
Wait, look at what it says next to it.

Speaker 1 (27:40):
Look at the day what I can't believe this.

Speaker 2 (27:57):
The girlfriends Our Lost Sister is produced by Novel for
iHeart Podcasts. For more from Novel, visit novel dot Audio.
The show is hosted by me Carol Fisher, and our
chief investigator is Mindy Shapiro. To find me on social media,
search Carol A. Fisher, That's Carol with an E. The

(28:18):
season is written and produced by Anna Sinfield and Lee Meyer.
Our assistant producer is Madeline Parr. The editor is Joe Wheeler.
Max O'Brien is our executive producer. Our fact checker is
Dania Suleiman. Production management from Shurie Houston and Charlotte woolf
Sound design, mixing and scoring by Nicholas Alexander, Additional engineering

(28:41):
by Daniel Kempson. Music supervision by Anna Sinfield and Nicholas Alexander.
Original music composed and performed by Luisa Gerstein and produced
by Louisa Gerstein and Nicholas Alexander. The series artwork was
designed by Christina Limpool. Story development by Annason Filad. Willard
Foxton is creative director of Development. Our executive producers at

(29:05):
iHeart Podcasts are Katrina Norvel and Nikki Etour. Special thanks
to Ali Canter, Carrie Lieberman, and Will Pearson at iHeart
podcast as well as Carly Frankel and the whole team
at w MEE and especial shout out to Vince Hayward,
who's my life partner in True Crime, for taking on
the role of girlfriend's confidante and lead tech support novel

(30:00):
He
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