Like you, your coworker, that person on Twitter and the woman who sits in front of you on the train, I love Serial. As I fell asleep on Wednesday night, saddened by my imminent departure from New York City, I turned to my boyfriend and reassured him that I’d feel better in the morning; Serial would be on my iPhone. And yet, even as we revel in marvelous storytelling, let us not forget these are real people, not characters, and that these horrifying events actually happened. Here are three riveting, tragic stories of true crime.

1. “The Contestant.” (Daniel Alarcón, The California Sunday Magazine, October 2014)

When 19-year-old Ruth Thalía Sayas Sánchez appeared on the Peruvian game show El Valor de la Verdad (The Valor of the Truth), she brought her mother, her father and her boyfriend. While connected to a polygraph, she revealed secrets that hurt each of them. In the chaos that followed, she disappeared.

2. “By Noon, They’d Both Be in Heaven.” (Hanna Rosin, New York, October 2014)

Insane, desperate or evil? Hanna Rosin (one of my favorite journalists) reports the disturbing case of Kelli Stapleton, who attempted to murder her violent, autistic teenage daughter.

3. “Battered, Bereaved and Behind Bars.” (Alex Campbell, BuzzFeed News, October 2014)

With links to hundreds of documents, Alex Campbell reports on legal victim-blaming: “In all but a handful of states, laws allow for one of the victims — the battered mother — to be treated as a perpetrator, guilty not of committing abuse herself but of failing to protect her children from her violent partner.” And so it was that Arlena Lindley’s partner beat her and then beat and killed her young son; in the aftermath, she was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Photo: impulsenine