Victims, families and America’s thirst for true-crime stories

CrimeCon — now in its third year and hosting a sold-out crowd of 3,600 (up from 1,000 its first year) — represents a major and unprecedented opportunity. Twenty years ago, if victims’ family members wanted to draw media attention to a crime in hopes of shaking loose new leads and motivating law enforcement, there were just a few options — shows like “America’s Most Wanted” and NBC’s “Dateline.” Today, there are thousands. Entire networks — namely, Oxygen and a Discovery Channel offshoot called Investigation Discovery — are devoted to round-the-clock true-crime coverage. Writers like Ann Rule and Michelle McNamara have pioneered a “citizen sleuth” approach to crime, writing books that recount an active, often highly personal participation in the investigation of a murder.