In 1986, Jacob Wideman fatally stabbed Eric Kane, his roommate on a summer camp trip to the Grand Canyon. Both were 16 years old. Jacob confessed to the murder, but couldn’t explain why he did it.
The crime devastated both boys’ families. For the Widemans, it was also a haunting echo from their history.
Just two years earlier, Jacob’s father and acclaimed author John Edgar Wideman had published “Brothers and Keepers.” The elder Wideman’s memoir grappled with how his own brother — Jacob’s uncle Robby Wideman — was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a fatal robbery. How could another inexplicable crime happen twice in two generations?
Jacob served decades behind bars for killing Eric Kane. Then in 2016, an Arizona parole board granted him house arrest. Kane’s family was outraged.
It wasn’t long before Jacob was back before the board, fighting again for his freedom.
“Violation,” a new podcast from The Marshall Project and WBUR, tells the story of how this horrible crime has connected two families for decades. It explores suffering and retribution, as well as power and privilege. The series also pulls back the curtain on parole boards — powerful, secretive, largely political bodies that control the fates of thousands of people every year.
Hosted and reported by The Marshall Project’s Beth Schwartzapfel, “Violation” debuts on March 22. Listen to new episodes each Wednesday, wherever you get your podcasts. The series will also be available on The Marshall Project’s site and on Here & Now from NPR and WBUR.
ABC15 Arizona’s Dave Biscobing: In 1986, as a teen at summer camp, Jacob Wideman murdered fellow camper Eric Kane. As Eric slept, Wideman stabbed him twice in the chest.
Beth Schwartzapfel: One 16-year-old stabbing another to death in his sleep while on a trip to the Grand Canyon.
Jacob Wideman: I woke up and saw those things and, you know, did what I did.
Beth Schwartzapfel: In 2016, after decades behind bars, Jacob Wideman had a shot at freedom.
Sandra Lines: I believe it’s time for mercy and clemency.
Beth Schwartzapfel: At 46, Jacob took his first steps into the free world as an adult. But his victim’s family was outraged.
Sandy Kane: I was devastated.
Kathryn Blades Ptak: I think the case felt different from the start.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Nine months after his release, Jacob Wideman was back in prison. Was it a slip up or something else?
Patty Garin: I mean, come on, that’s a setup.
Sandra Lines: To go out there, put a G.P.S. on the guy and track his every move. That’s almost sick.
Beth Schwartzapfel: And there’s something else about this case. Jacob Wideman’s father…
Elizabeth Kiss: He is one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation.
Beth Schwartzapfel: The Rhodes Scholar’s writing tackles race and justice and trauma.
Andy Kahan: John Edgar Wideman’s impressive body of work includes “Philadelphia Fire,” “Brothers and Keepers,” “Fatheralong”…
Beth Schwartzapfel: My shelves are full of John’s books. None of them includes the whole shocking story about his son, Jacob. I’m Beth Schwartzapfel and this is “Violation”, a new podcast about who pulls the levers of power in the justice system.
Jacob Wideman: My name is Jacob Edgar Wideman, and my ADC number is 070…
Beth Schwartzapfel: When someone commits a terrible crime. How much time in prison is enough? And who gets to decide?
Chris Hansen: What’s next for Jacob Wideman? How long can they keep him on supervised release?
Dave Biscobing: Indefinitely.
Jacob Wideman: I will continue to say, until I’m not able to say it anymore, that I did not violate any of the conditions of my parole.
Sandy Kane: I am convinced that this guy, he will go and do it again. I have no doubt about it. And I’m scared.
John Edgar Wideman: How much responsibility does one take for one’s life? And when and how? But believe me, I’ve asked that question of myself many times, and I’ll ask it until the day I die. Why wouldn’t I?
Beth Schwartzapfel: “Violation,” from WBUR and The Marshall Project, coming in March 2023 on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.