Woman launches podcast to help solve her father's murder

EXCLUSIVE: Ohio woman launches podcast to try and solve mysterious murder of her father at his home

  • Madison McGhee’s father John was fatally shot in rural Ohio in July 2002
  • The case went unsolved so she launched a podcast in pursuit of the truth

A woman has launched a podcast to investigate her father’s unsolved murder more than 20 years after his death, in the hopes of finding out who shot him – and why.

In 2002, Madison McGhee’s father, John Cornelius McGhee, 45, was shot and killed in the doorway of his home in Bridgeport, Ohio, a small town in Belmont County on the border with West Virginia.

According to an incident report from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office it was a home invasion gone wrong.

But McGhee says that theory is laden with inconsistencies – and ignores that her father, also known as JC, was a former drug dealer turned confidential informant for local law enforcement. 

So far, McGhee has released six episodes of the podcast Ice Cold Case, which unravels the different theories and potential characters behind her father’s sudden death.

John Cornelius McGhee, 45 at the time, was shot and killed in the doorway of his home in Bridgeport, Ohio

Madison McGhee (pictured), 26, has launched a podcast investigating her father’s unsolved murder more than 20 years after his death in the hopes of finding out who shot him and why

The fatal incident happened shortly after 6am on July 11, 2002, between two neighboring houses in Bridgeport, Ohio. Pictured is an excerpt from a local newspaper at the time

The fatal incident happened shortly after 6am on July 11, 2002, between two neighboring houses in Bridgeport, a town of around 2,000 people in rural Ohio, according sheriff’s office incident reports seen by DailyMail.com.

McGhee’s father lived in one of those houses and that day was there with his elder daughter and McGhee’s stepsister Alyssa, who was sleeping at the time.

Next door lived JC’s sister Pearl. Her son Omar had been there that morning with his girlfriend Kim.

After the event, Pearl, Omar and Kim told deputies a group of around four men dressed in black arrived at Pearl’s house in at least three cars and armed with shotguns and pistols before bursting into her home and demanding drugs or money.

Amid the chaos, the house was ransacked, Pearl and Kim were tied up with telephone cord, covered in blankets and the men doused them in alcohol before threatening to set them alight.

According to those reports, Omar was able to escape and fled to a nearby auto shop. It was at point that at least one of the men moved next door to JC’s house and fatally shot him in the head in the doorway.

JC’s daughter Alyssa told deputies she was woken up at the time by the sound of a gunshot.  

Alyssa then found her father bloody in the doorway of the house and called 911.

Minutes later, Omar used the phone in the auto shop to call 911 to report that his ‘neighbor’ was being robbed and that ‘they got my mom and my girl’, presumably referring to Pearl and Kim, according to a dispatch transcript.

The transcript of a 911 call made by Omar at around 6.30am on July 11, 2002, minutes after Madison McGhee’s father, John McGhee, was fatally shot in the head

Details in sheriff’s office’s account are limited but according to the report a coroner found that JC was killed with a bullet to the head from a pistol

‘It was a kill shot,’ McGhee told DailyMail.com. ‘A coordinated hit.’

McGhee, who was just six-years-old at the time, had been living with her mother in Charleston, South Carolina, and was told by family that her father had died from a heart attack.

Some ten years later, aged 16, she went to Bridgeport with her mother and met her cousin Omar. 

It was after that meeting that McGhee’s mom told her that her dad had actually been killed.   

At the time she was about to graduate high school and thinking about a career in TV production.

‘I went to school with the idea that production was something I was passionate about but there was this poke in the back of my mind that I could make something about my dad’s murder,’ she said.

‘I think that that voice just got louder and louder as I got older.’

McGhee was six-years-old at the time her father’s death and initially told he died of a heart attack. It was not until ten years later that she discovered he had been murdered

Then came Covid, and with nothing much else to do, she started to dig and recorded her conversations with the people she spoke with along the way.

Throughout her podcast McGhee probes various theories as to why those men were present that day and why her father was shot. 

Along the way she introduces characters in her father’s often murky life, including his ex-girlfriend, Daneen Schrader, and her new boyfriend at the time, Butchy.

According to sheriff’s office’s documents, Daneen gave birth to JC’s son, but as an informant JC had also been involved in Butchy’s recent indictment.

During the podcast McGhee also suggests her father was in the midst of a custody battle for the child.

‘My dad was due in court the day after he was murdered for the custody of Daneen’s son, who was also my dad’s son and my half brother,’ she said.

And according to some, Butchy was an acquittance of Omar. ‘I have heard that they were friendly,’ said McGhee. ‘That’s just through talking with people who are around at the time.’ 

In the hours after the shooting on July 11, Belmont County sheriff’s deputies interviewed JC’s ex-girlified Daneen Schrader, with whom he was engaged in an ongoing child custody battle

Although there is now no leading theory, in the weeks after the killing in July 2002, Belmont County Sheriff’s department and prosecutors singled out one man – Daryl Smith, according to sheriff’s department logs.

He was thought to have been present at the time based on information given by Kim, Omar and Pearl, who all identified him among a series of photos.

Belmont County sheriff’s department and the prosecutor’s office were sure enough that Smith was involved that they took his case to a Grand Jury, which threw it out at the last minute, according to McGhee.

In each episode of the podcast, McGhee pieces together more pieces of the puzzle, meshing together the varies theories in the hopes of landing on a narrative that ties up all the loose ends.

Although the podcast was scheduled for eight episodes, McGhee has said it will have to go on.  

‘Putting this all out is helpful because information will come in, and the bigger this gets, the more information will funnel through,’ she said.

‘But I need proof. I need someone to come forward and say I was there and this is what happened. That is going to be really difficult, but I’m not giving up until that happens.’

The first episodes of Ice Cold Case are available to listen for free.

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