This is probably my most ambitious and tricky podcast episode. I spoke with convict Bobby Caldwell in a Michigan prison.
After suffering for years with depression, Bobby made headlines around the world when he accidentally shot and killed his partner Monica Anderson, 28, in a botched and drunken suicide attempt. He says that because he didn’t want to put her family through more pain, he pleaded
guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a maximum of 17 years, of which he’s served six. Monica left behind two children, one of whom is Bobby’s son. Friends remember her for her outgoing, vivacious nature and her baking abilities – she even competed in a cake festival and dreamed of opening her own cake business.
Bobby came to my attention through his own podcast, Notes from the Pen, which he records via phone calls with his friend Freddie on the outside. It’s a fascinating and unique look behind the bars, giving us an insight into daily life, social hierarchies and Bobby’s evolving thoughts on life and what happened that fateful day. His mother, Mama C, gives updates on his Twitter page.
This episode was also complicated for journalistic reasons – when some people hear that the bullets from Bobby’s gun travelled up the stairs and hit Monica in the side of her back, they’re sceptical about whether it was an accident. We’ve all seen enough documentaries and films about that kind of thing. I racked my brain for days about whether or not to bring that up.
The authorities who examined the case believe he was negligent – which he admits – but did not intend to shoot her. I’m not a judge, and even the slightest hint of an opinion from me about intent would be totally irresponsible on my part and extremely damaging to Bobby, who is paying an awful price for what, by all accounts, was a terrible accident.
At the same time, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a journalist, if I didn’t at least broach the fact that some people might not believe him. You as a listener would be screaming at me from behind your screens about such a large elephant in the room. I think asking him about it also gave him a chance to explain and defend himself – it’s something that really bothers him, quite understandably.
Despite this being such a serious topic, I wanted to start with a lighter note, so that we could get to know each other a little before delving into the worst night of his life, so we do talk now about privacy, defecation and masturbation in a state prison.
If you found this interesting, you might be interested in my episodes with music journalist James McMahon on obsessive compulsive disorder, female wrestler Rhia O'Reilly on the #SpeakingOut movement and Dr. Tessa Dunlop talking about why it's difficult to bear a willy.