A new true crime podcast looks to breathe new life into an Aiken County murder case that remains unsolved after more than 20 years.
"A Killing in Aiken" will explore the life and tragic murder of Janice Wessinger.
On Nov. 23, 1997, Wessinger's body was discovered in a wooded area near her home off Kedron Church Road in Aiken County.
Deputies called to the scene found that Wessinger had been raped and stabbed multiple times, according to the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. She was believed to be out for a walk the morning of Nov. 22, 1997, when she was brutally attacked.
To this day, no suspects or persons of interest have been publicly announced.
Wessinger's daughter, Tamara Herber, was 20 when her mother died.
She lived with Wessinger at the time and recalls being asleep at home the morning her mother disappeared.
"I blamed myself for many years," Herber said. "For many years after she died I was scared a lot.
"There’s been many, many days throughout this journey where I really needed my mom. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn to live my life without my mother."
In 2013, Herber said she began keeping records and wanted to share evidence and her mother's DNA with other agencies in an effort assist in solving her mother's case but her requests were denied by the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
"With any case, regardless of how old or how new it is, we put forth every effort toward that case," Capt. Eric Abdullah with the sheriff's office said. "If the evidence and leads that we've already worked have dried up and we're not making forward progress, then yes, some cases will be long term."
Wessinger's case is still an ongoing investigation as investigators continue to work leads, Abdullah said.
“It’s an active case, but it just doesn’t feel like it's active,” Herber said. "I’m tired of being told no. If this was anybody else’s family member, I’m sure they’d be in the same position that I’m in to find any avenue that I can to try to get my mom’s story told."
Several podcasts have told Wessinger's tragic story, but most are not as in-depth as Herber would like to see.
A friend introduced Herber to Gabe Travis, who runs a digital media company called TheNextYesterday based in Chicago.
Travis, a podcaster and self-described true crime junkie, said he was instantly intrigued by Wessinger's story and began working with the family to create "A Killing in Aiken."
Travis said this is the first podcast about Wessinger's murder to have complete cooperation from her family.
“We’ve got a very compelling story to tell that is way more interesting than just that headline about a brutal murder in a small town,” Travis said. “I saw that it was more than just a 45-minute, crime-of-the-week podcast. There’s just so much to it, so much that people don’t know and so many twists and turns.”
The podcast will be a seven-part limited series that Travis hopes to have completed in late August or early September.
The podcast will be available via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and various other podcast access platforms.
For the past several months, Travis and a local amateur sleuth have worked through all the documentation that Herber has saved throughout the years along with public records and interviews.
Through the podcast's investigation, details about Wessinger's life and murder have come forward that Herber wasn't aware of, Travis said.
He said the podcast plans to turn over any information it uncovers to local authorities to aid in the investigation.
"We would like to make this story seem fresh as if it just recently happened," Travis said. "If we can solve it, or if we can even get some people to remember some things that would aid in the police investigation, that would be amazing."
Although solving Wessinger's case is one of the podcast's hopes, both Travis and Herber believe the main goal of the project is to present Wessinger as a person, not just another cold case.
"Once you listen to the first two or three episodes of the podcast, we want to make you feel like you knew Janice like she was your mother, your sister or your friend; and even though you don’t know her, or anything about her, you suddenly, as a listener, care about her," Travis said.
Herber described her mother as "a wonderful person who would do anything for you."
Wessinger was a registered nurse at Aiken Regional Medical Centers. She also played piano at her church, Herber said.
Herber hopes the podcast will allow listeners to "not know her so much in death but to know the life she led" and will encourage anyone with information about Wessinger's murder to go to the authorities.
"I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, and one consistency is that there is no perfect crime," Herber said. "Somebody messes up. Somebody tells somebody. I know somebody out there knows something. We just need someone to do the right thing."
Anyone with information about Wessinger's death is encouraged to contact the Aiken County Sheriff's Office at at 803-648-6811.
Midlands CrimeStoppers accepts anonymous tips through its website www.midlandscrimestoppers.com and by phone at 888-274-6372.