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The final chapter of our three-part investigation into the abduction of 43 Mexican students in 2014 looks at how an unexpected turn in Mexico’s politics leads to a new investigation with Omar Gómez Trejo as special prosecutor. 

With the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president, Mexico’s investigation into the missing students is reopened, and Gómez Trejo gathers evidence to indict members of the previous government for manipulating evidence and forcing confessions. We hear an exclusive interview with a man who was the victim of torture and learn that a former top official in the original investigation is under indictment. 

Reveal’s Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and our partner Kate Doyle look at what current investigators are learning about the attack on the buses and what happened to the students who were taken away by local police. They visit Cristi Bautista, the mother of one of the missing students. Seven years after her son Benjamin disappeared, she continues to pray that she will one day know the truth about what happened to him.

Dig Deeper

Listen to the three-part series, After Ayotzinapa.

Read Kate Doyle’s interview with journalist John Gibler.

Explore the documents:
• On Nov. 25, 2014, 14 U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern for the 43 missing students in Mexico. Read the PDF.
• A report from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team on their examination of the Cocula garbage dump from Oct. 27 to Nov. 6, 2014. Their search for the remains of the 43 students was requested after parents of the disappeared began to doubt the official government narrative of events. Read the PDF.
• A declassified top-secret Defense Intelligence Digest, dated Nov. 25, 2014. It was produced at the request of Defense Intelligence Agency Acting Director David Shedd for information about Mexico’s response to protests and the political and security implications. Read the PDF.
• A declassified report on Mexico from U.S. Northern Command – the joint military command that oversees U.S. military relations with Mexico – produced by the Office of Defense Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in December 2015. Read the PDF.

Credits

Lead producer: Anayansi Diaz-Cortes | Reporters: Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and Kate Doyle | Editor: Taki Telonidis | Associate Producer: Jess Alvarenga | Production assistance: David Rodriguez and Bruce Gil | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Fact checker: Ariana Rosas | Episode illustrations: Dante Aguilera | Audience strategist: Kassandra Navarro | Membership manager: Missa Perron | Original score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, with help from Claire Mullen, Kathryn Styer Martínez and Steven Rascón | Guest vocalist: Thu Ho | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Al Letson

Special thanks: Special thanks: Megan DeTura, Claire Dorfman and Tom Blanton from the National Security Archive; Santiago Aguirre and Maria Luisa Aguilar from Centro Prodh; Maureen Meyer from the Washington Office on Latin America; John Gibler, Laura Starecheski and Lisa Pollak

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Al Letson:Listening to the news can feel like a journey, but the 1A podcast guides you beyond the headlines and cuts through the noise. Let’s get to the heart of the story together. Listen to the 1A podcast from NPR.
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Al Letson:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson and today we bring you the conclusion of our three-part series, After Ayotzinapa, about the disappearance of 43 Mexican college students.

We left off last week in the spring of 2016, a year and a half after the students disappeared. Omar Gómez Trejo is a man without a country. He had to flee his native Mexico after he and a group of international investigators held a press conference accusing some of the country’s most powerful officials of covering up what really happened to those students.
Omar Gómez Trej…:[foreign language].
Al Letson:The Organization of American States had formed a group of independent investigators known as the GIEI because the parents did not believe the government’s version of events. The government claimed a local gang was behind the attack, but Omar and the independent investigators found evidence of a much broader conspiracy.

They suspected the government had planted and concealed evidence and coerced confessions to cover up for state and federal officials who were connected to the attacks. They concluded that the government was trying to make it look like a local crime and close the case quickly. When the independent investigators released their findings about the suspected conspiracy…
Speaker 4:[foreign language].
Al Letson:Mexican officials were furious and experts left in fear returning to their countries. They convinced Omar to leave too. Omar ends up going to Honduras and working on another human rights case for the UN, but he’s struggling. He can’t get the Ayotzinapa case out of his mind and neither can Jim Cavalero from the Organization of American States. He wants to keep the case open, but from Washington DC. So on a trip to Honduras, Jim tracks down Omar and they go out to dinner.
Omar Gómez Trej…:So I get to dinner with Jim and he says, “What are you doing here?” And I say, “Nothing. I’m sick of Honduras. I just quit my job. If I can’t stay in Mexico, I’m going to get a little piece of beach in Panama, open up a little bar.” And Jim’s like, “Are you crazy? Resign, take a little vacation, do whatever you want. But I want you in Washington by the 1st of April.” Okay.
Al Letson:Reveal’s Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and our partner, Kate Doyle, from the National Security Archive, uncover information that points to new leads in the case. But first, we pick up the story with Omar’s move to Washington and how that ends up putting him on a path back to Mexico.
Omar Gómez Trej…:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Omar, Kate and I are standing in front of a cream-colored brick building in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. We look up at the windows of a small apartment. It’s where Omar lived when he first got here in 2016.
Omar Gómez Trej…:After I left Mexico, I dragged around two suitcases, a couple of books, my camera, my Mexican wrestler mask, things that were symbolic for me.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:It was a bare-bones existence, but Omar remembers he was just excited to be working on the case again. Jim Cavalero had put together a small team that Omar joined.
Omar Gómez Trej…:And then I get to Washington and they hadn’t done anything about the case, nothing.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And so, Omar decides to dig into the case. He starts combing through the Mexican government’s case files, hundreds of reports and interviews. He’s looking for key facts, witnesses, contradictions. It takes over Omar’s life and his apartment.
Omar Gómez Trej…:My apartment was covered in papers. I would scribble things on them. I would say to my friends, “Okay, go in. Don’t look at the walls.”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:His friends think he’s kind of losing it. His head in clouds of smoke from chain-smoking. When he takes what he learned back to his coworkers at the Organization of American States, they don’t take him seriously. They tell him…
Omar Gómez Trej…:Come on, Omar, you are not a CSI. This is not your job.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:For a few months, Omar, plods along like this working pretty much alone. Then he’s invited to dinner by one of his old bosses in the Ayotzinapa case, former Guatemalan attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz. She has dinner plans with her good friend, Kate Doyle, who’s in town visiting.
Kate Doyle:And she said, “Oh, I’ve invited Omar. Remember Omar? Our secretary.” I was like, “Oh yeah, Omar. Right. Okay.”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:We learned in the last episode how Kate, who investigates human rights crimes got involved in Ayotzinapa after being contacted by the lawyers of the parents of the missing students. At this point, Kate had only met Omar once. They all had dinner at a Mexican restaurant near Omar’s home. Kate told me the story over Zoom a few months ago.
Kate Doyle:And there he was, just as nice and smart and fun. And he smoked cigarettes, which I did too at the time. And he’s loves his mescal or tequila. He’s fun to be it.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Then they talk business. Omar about how he’s been reading the Mexican government’s enormous file about Ayotzinapa.
Kate Doyle:Oh my God! What did we not talk about on this case? It all started with the intercepted text.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:The intercepted text we told you about in our last hour that the DEA tracked between members of the drug cartel, Guerreros Unidos. In the days before, during and after the attacks on the students, text messages were going back and forth between gang members in Iguala, where the students disappeared and the suburbs of Chicago where heroin was being delivered in passenger buses. Kate and Omar feel these texts could help identify the attackers.
Kate Doyle:We meet with the Justice Department. We meet with members of Congress. We meet with the State Department. We call the US attorney personally; all kinds of creative ways that we could try to push on that door to get information from the US government about what they knew.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And then, explosive news. Omar discovers that his phone had been hacked with an Israeli spyware called Pegasus. He says the Mexican government had been spying on him and the international experts when they were investigating the case.
Omar Gómez Trej…:My phone was like a switchboard for all of our calls. I spoke to victims. I spoke to sources. I spoke to everybody. So it had all our information. And all that information, the government now had about the case.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And back in Mexico, the government starts an all-out campaign to discredit the work Omar and the international experts had done; the report that exposed a giant cover-up by Mexican politicians, police and members of the military. The government goes back to touting its original explanation of the attack on the students. The so called [foreign language] or historical truth.

The parents of the missing boys don’t believe them and do everything they can to keep the case in the public eye. They march, speak to the press, and try to meet with government officials. But they’re turned down. Cristina Bautista, known as Doña Cristi lost her son, Benjamín in the attack. In April 2017, she and other families try to force a meeting with Mexico’s secretary of the interior by just showing up at his office. When they get there, she says, the building is closed off by a metal fence.
Cristi Bautista:They began to launch tear gas at us.
Protesters:[crosstalk].
Cristi Bautista:Oh, I remember very well. And when I looked around, a young protester that was with us was badly hurt, drooling, crying on the ground in pain until he fainted. Then I saw some girls that had Coca-Cola and I knew that Coke helped with the pain.

So I asked them, “Please, please, can I have your Coke?” And I ran to him and poured Coke on his face and mouth and he woke up. It was terrible. All we wanted was to demand a meeting with officials, but they greeted us with tear gas.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Omar follows the news in Mexico from DC. It’s painful to watch the case collapse without being able to do anything about it. But by summer of 2017, he’s met someone he can confide in; a young lawyer from Texas named Helen.
Omar Gómez Trej…:And we would spend entire nights talking about life, about stuff. And Helen would ask me a lot about the Ayotzinapa case. Helen became a part of a process of healing to say things, to let them go, to talk through stuff. I don’t think I had ever talked with anyone the way I talked to Helen in those days.
Helen:We met in August. We started dating in December. And within three weeks, we lived together. And two weeks after that, I don’t know. I think we’d just woken up. And I turned to him and I said, “Hey, do you want to get married?” And he said, “Yes.”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And in Mexico, things are shifting too.
Speaker 9:Viva Mexico!
Crowd:Viva!
Speaker 9:Viva Mexico!
Crowd:Viva!
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Presidential elections are coming up in 2018 and a leftist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known in Mexico as AMLO, is leading in the polls. Doña Cristi remembers going to one of AMLO’s rallies in the area where the students were attacked.
Cristi Bautista:Andrés Manuel López Obrador was on the stage, totally blocked off and security would not let us through. Then he saw us and he told security, “Let them through.” And I remember I spoke, “Andrés Manuel López Obrador, if you become president, what are you going to do for our case?” I think the question touched his heart. He teared up and said, “Because if I become president, we will find out what happened that night.”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:In July 2018, AMLO wins in a landslide.
Speaker 10:On the streets of Mexico City, a celebrated victory more than a decade in the making.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:In December, he’s sworn in.
Andres Manuel L…:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:With a new government in Mexico, Omar starts toying with the idea of moving back home. Kate remembers when he first brought it up.
Kate Doyle:He would joke to me, “Well, yeah, I’m going to become a house husband. I’m going to get a dog. I think I’ll just cook dinners and be home with an apron on.” That kind of thing.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And in early 2019, Omar and Helen moved to Mexico. She gets a job as an immigrant rights attorney. And a few months later, the new president announces he’s going to reopen the Ayotzinapa investigation.
Kate Doyle:I said, “So how’s it going, house husband?” And he’s like, “Well, it’s good. It’s good.” And I said, “So tell me what’s going on with the case and what do you think?” And he said, “Well, they’re looking for a special prosecutor. And they’ve asked a couple of people and they have said, ‘No,’ basically they don’t want to do it.”

And he said, “I think I’m going to put my name in for it.” And I said, “Wait, wait, wait, what? You’re going to put your name in for special prosecutor, but don’t you have to be a lawyer to do that?” And he was like, “I am a lawyer.” And I said, “Wait, you’re a lawyer? I didn’t know you were a lawyer.”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Omar’s wife, Helen, is all for it.
Helen:A week later, he got the call to go in and have the interview. He came back from the interview and he’s like, “I’m never going to get this job. It went horribly. This is a disaster.” He spent the whole weekend depressed. And then at like 8:30 AM on Monday, he got the call.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:It’s a head-spinning turn. After fleeing Mexico and spending almost three years in exile for challenging the government’s original investigation into the attack on the students, Omar will soon be the chief prosecutor of a new investigation.
Al Letson:Coming into his new position, Omar is determined to uncover the facts of the attack. But soon, he finds out he’s surrounded by people who still don’t want the truth to get out. This is Reveal’s serial investigation, After Ayotzinapa.
Speaker 12:[foreign language].
Al Letson:Chapter three: All Souls.
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Al Letson:Hey, hey, hey, it’s time for another Al’s podcast pick. And this one is for Reveal listeners who speak Spanish. It’s called Radio Ambulante. Every week, they tell stories from Latin America and US Latinx communities. Moving, surprising, deeply-reported stories about love and migration, youth culture and politics, about the big questions and the unique voices that are shaping the region today.

You can find Radio Ambulante wherever you listen to podcasts. New episodes drop every Tuesday. From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. In June 2019, Omar Gómez Trejo is sworn in as the chief prosecutor for [foreign language] Ayotzinapa, the case of the 43 missing students. It’s big news in Mexico.
Speaker 13:Omar Gómez Trejo [foreign language].
Speaker 14:[foreign language].
Speaker 13:Omar Gómez Trejo [foreign language].
Al Letson:A few months into his new position, Omar reconnects with Kate Doyle and starts communicating on a regular basis with her and Anayansi Diaz-Cortes sharing his insider’s perspective on what it’s like to lead this case. In order to keep his identity secret while reporting this story, Kate and Anayansi always refer to Omar as the DJ, instead of his real name. On trips to Mexico, they meet him in person, usually at his home.
Kate Doyle:Hi, Omar?
Omar Gómez Trej…:[foreign language].
Al Letson:As special prosecutor, Omar now has the power to indict government officials who he suspects sabotaged the original investigation. He can follow up on leads that could expose who the attackers were and what they did with the students. During their visit, Omar and his wife, Helen, tell Anayansi and Kate that doing this job means adjusting almost every aspect of their daily life to keep them safe.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:There are phones in the fridge. Helen, why do you make DJ put his phone in the fridge?
Helen:Because the fridge doesn’t block the signal, but it does block the mic. That’s what Edward Snowden taught us like 10 years ago.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Is your phone in the fridge, DJ?
Omar Gómez Trej…:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“It lives there.” Omar tells me. He and Helen have gotten used to being super careful. They even make jokes about it.
Omar Gómez Trej…:[foreign language].
Helen:He likes the phone to be fresh.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And then he gets serious.
Omar Gómez Trej…:I always assume that people are listening in on me even now without a cell phone.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And the threats go way beyond eavesdropping. So they’ve installed double-thick windows and security cameras in the apartment. A police car is always parked out front. Omar says his early days as prosecutor are brutal because the prosecutor’s office, known as the [foreign language], is filled with many of the same people who had hidden the truth about the case. He says one day he was given a file with some very sensitive information about people who worked for the previous administration.
Omar Gómez Trej…:I put the file on my desk and at one point, I get up and go talk to someone in the office about something. And when I come back, the file isn’t there.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:He goes to building security and they get the surveillance video. It shows someone from his staff entering his office, picking up the folder and walking out with it.
Omar Gómez Trej…:And so I go to him, I confront him. He denies it. And my folder is sitting right there in his desk. I grab my file, go talk to his superiors, they don’t want to do anything about it. That’s when I realized I have to take much more drastic measures and I begin firing people.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:By the time he’s finished cleaning house, Omar has fired most of the people working in his department, dozens of them. The odds were stacked so high against him, Omar says, his bosses in the Mexican government had bets out that he would not last more than three months. And in that first week, Omar was put to the test.

Just days before his appointment was publicly announced, a disturbing video was posted anonymously on YouTube. And we should warn you, the next few minutes of this story contain descriptions of torture that may be difficult for some listeners to hear.
Speaker 30:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:The video’s about a minute long. It shows a man in a chair blindfolded with a plastic bag pulled tight over his head about to be electroshocked. The man is Carlos Canto. He was a middle school teacher in Iguala, the town where the students were attacked. He also owned a local bar there.

He was one of dozens of people rounded up in government sweeps in the weeks after the boys went missing. Carlos ended up confessing, but the video is proof that it was forced. When the video was released, the new government under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador set him free and helped him and his family start a new life in a different part of Mexico.

After that, he kept a low profile, never speaking to the press. Over the course of almost two years, Kate and I worked to contact him. We reached out to the UN Human Rights office in Mexico and they connected us to Carlos’s sister. After several months, she arranges for us to talk to him. And eventually, we fly to the place where he’s resettled to meet him in person.
Carlos Canto Sa…:My name is Carlos Canto Salgado. I’m 39 years old, and married with two kids. This interview is important for me because I want to tell the truth.
Kate Doyle:Carlos is tall, looks athletic. He sits on a couch in his living room and plunges into his story almost like he’s been saving it up for this moment. On October 22nd, 2014, a little under a month after the students disappeared…
Carlos Canto Sa…:It was about 3:00 AM when we heard sounds at the door. “Open! Hurry!” He’s a federal police, the navy. And they say they had an arrest order for me. I had no idea why. They stand me up, handcuff me.
Kate Doyle:They make him wait outside while they search his home and take some random things; a bag of clothes, a wad of plastic grocery bags.
Carlos Canto Sa…:One official turns to me, “This is for the little trip we are about to take you on.” [foreign language].
Kate Doyle:He says they wrap a shirt around his head, so he can’t see, push him into a car and drive off.
Carlos Canto Sa…:[foreign language].
Kate Doyle:Carlos says they lead him to a deserted place on the outskirts of town and make him sit on the ground. A marine sits down next to him and starts interrogating him.
Carlos Canto Sa…:The marine said to me, “How difficult do you want to make this?” And he asked me, “Where are the students?”

“I don’t know where the students are.” He slaps me across the face.

“Please forgive me. I don’t know where the students are. I’m a teacher. You guys are confused.”

“You want to do this the hard way?” He slaps me again. So, “I have no idea where the students are. I don’t know.”
Kate Doyle:This is when he says they take his punishment to a new level.
Carlos Canto Sa…:One official brought out a shopping bag filled up with plastic grocery bags. What do they want with the bags? They handcuff me with my arms above my head. One officer sat on my legs and the other one on my chest. Question after question. The moment I answer, “I don’t know,” I felt the first bag go over my head.

And believe me, it’s something I can’t describe what it feels like to have a bag over your head, to be deprived of air. I could not move. In complete desperation, my heart was racing at 1,000 miles per hour. I was trying to break the bag. Anything to let a bit of air in.
Kate Doyle:Carlos says when it was nearly dawn, they stop and give him some clean clothes. They put him in a car and drive to Mexico City. He was blindfolded almost the whole time he was questioned there, but later found out he was on a military base.
Carlos Canto Sa…:[foreign language].
Kate Doyle:Carlos says he was tortured multiple times and kept on denying the accusations. During one session, an officer walks up to him and takes off his blindfold.
Carlos Canto Sa…:The light hurts my eyes. He grabs his cell phone. He shows me a photo of my wife on his phone. “Do you want to see or hear what we are going to do to her? We have her right here.” They start asking me about safe houses, firearms, drugs, money, all these things I knew nothing about. Because I fear what they do to my wife, I told them, “I know about a house in such and such place.” I just made it up.
Kate Doyle:He’s allowed to clean up. And soon, some official-looking people show up, government bureaucrats. He says they hand him a document. It’s his confession. He agrees to sign it even though he’s not allowed to read it. Carlos spends the next five years of his life in prison. He’s never given a trial.
Carlos Canto Sa…:I believe in God. I think you seek him out in your darkest times. I begin to pray to ask God, “What about me? Why did you forget me?” I think I asked him with such passion that only two or three days passed when I heard someone shout, “Teacher, a video of your torture was leaked and it’s on the news.” And I’m like, “Nah, don’t mess around.”

“Yes, [Profe], a video of your torture came out and we saw a part of it.” And yes, it was true. They turned on the TV and during the news break, there it was.
Speaker 15:[foreign language] Carlos Canto [foreign language].
Carlos Canto Sa…:I felt such a sense of relief. And I gave thanks to God. Here you are.
Kate Doyle:Carlos is set free and put on a bus home. He manages to buy a cell phone to call his family. And during the bus ride, he decides to Google his name. This next part is hard to listen to.
Carlos Canto Sa…:I went online to look for the video. I said, “I want to watch it.” When I finally watch it, oof! [foreign language] I felt like everything was closing. I struggled to breathe. I think I even cry on the bus the first time I saw what they were doing to me.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:The leaked video of Carlos and his release are huge news during Omar’s early days as prosecutor, but it wasn’t the only one. In his investigation, Omar eventually gets ahold of more than 50 videos showing torture by government authorities. He wants to keep them confidential, but someone leaks a very explosive one.

It includes Tomás Zerón, the lead investigator for the previous government who’s accused of stage-managing the cover-up. He’s the architect of the so-called [foreign language], the disproved theory that the 43 boys taken away by municipal police and a local gang were shot and incinerated at a garbage dump.

In the video, Zerón’s in a long, dark coat with his hands in his pockets, pacing back and forth in a room with other interrogators. He’s talking to a half naked man sitting in a chair. The man’s head is covered, his hands cuffed behind his back.
 Tomás Zerón:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“Let’s get started” Zerón tells him, “tell me everything you know about the students.” And a moment later…
 Tomás Zerón:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“The first time you BS me, I will kill you.” For Omar, indicting Zerón becomes a top priority. And he systematically gathers evidence. By February 2020, Omar thinks he has what he needs for an indictment. He wants Tomás Zerón to face trial on charges that he ordered the torture of suspects to force them to confess, then put them in prison for years without trials. Finally, Omar goes before the judge with his evidence.
Omar Gómez Trej…:Yeah, it was a very symbolic day. I remember the specific moment in which after almost three hours, the judge said, “I’m granting you the arrest warrant against Tomás Zerón on for the following crimes.” I went out to lunch with my team and we had baby back ribs and two beers. And we had an arrest warrant under one arm.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:But when the day came for Omar to serve the arrest warrant, Zerón was gone. He’d fled the country. First, it was believed to Canada. Omar had Interpol put out a red notice for his arrest. And then there was word that Zerón fled again to Israel, which Kate started investigating to try and confirm.
Kate Doyle:The reason it made sense that he would be in Israel is that Tomás Zerón is the person from the previous Mexican government who purchased that spyware, Pegasus, from an Israeli firm. That spyware, Pegasus, was used by Zerón to infect the phones and surveil, not just the five international experts, but their executive secretary, Omar Gómez.

So Zerón already had an established relationship with powerful Israelis. So I called a reporter that I knew from the New York Times named Ronen Bergman, who works primarily on national security and intelligence issues from Israel. And he said he would try to track Zerón down. Within about a week or two, I got a WhatsApp text from Ronen. He asked me if I was online.

And when I said, “Yes,” all of a sudden, a photo appeared on my telephone that was of a guy standing in a very small kitchen, in a T-shirt with a scruffy face and a big goofy grin. And Ronen asked me, “Is this him?” And I really had to stare at this picture for a couple of beats because I’ve ever seen Thomas sit on with a grin on his face like that. But I said, “Yeah, that’s him.” And the photo immediately vanished from my phone. And Ronen said, “He’s here.”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:While Kate was doing her research, Omar and his team filed a formal request with the Israeli government to send Zerón back to Mexico, so he could face charges of forced disappearance, torture and obstruction of justice. That was two years ago. So far, nothing has happened.
Al Letson:As important as Tomás Zerón is to the investigation, there are many others. More than 50 people have been charged with crimes related to the missing students. These include local and state police, federal officials, and an officer in the military. In a moment, what Omar and his team are learning about the night of the attack and what was done with the students. You’re listening to Reveal.

Hey, hey, hey, it’s Al and it’s time for another Al’s podcast picks. And this week, I want to tell you about a podcast that I absolutely love. It’s called Slow Burn and it’s from Slate. Each season tells one story from American history. And this season, season six, my dude, Joel Anderson, who is an amazing journalist is back in the host chair to examine the Los Angeles riots.

So in 1991, a group of White police officers were captured on videotape violently beating Rodney King. This was the first time a lot of people in America had seen concrete visual evidence of police brutality against the Black community. And it set off a chain of events that would shake the city of Los Angeles. Subscribe to Slow Burn: The LA Riots, wherever you listen to podcasts.

From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. As special prosecutor for the new Ayotzinapa investigation, Omar Gómez Trejo has two objectives. One is to figure out who was involved in the previous government’s cover-up, people like Tomás Zerón, but more importantly, finding out what really happened on September 26th, 2014, so families can finally learn where their sons are now. In our last episode, we heard a theory from a DEA agent who was convinced the students had stumbled onto a drug smuggling operation between Iguala, Mexico and a suburb of Chicago.
Mark Giuffre:More than 2,000 kilograms of heroin came to Chicago in a one-year period of time, which is a unprecedented, mind-boggling amount.
Al Letson:Mark Giuffre was following the drug traffickers and discovered they were using passenger buses, like the ones the students commandeered, to smuggle heroin and cash. His guess, the students had taken a bus filled with hidden drugs.
Mark Giuffre:These students hijacked the wrong bus. They hijacked the wrong bus!
Al Letson:Kate Doyle and Reveal’s Anayansi Diaz-Cortes wondered what Omar thought of this theory.
Kate Doyle:So you have said the buses… Forget about the buses. Okay [crosstalk]. All right, let me just-
Al Letson:So on a visit to Omar’s home in March 2020, they decide to bring up what Mark Giuffre had told them.
Kate Doyle:… He said, “When we finally got our hands on buses that were in Aurora, Illinois carrying the drugs after they had rounded people up, after they had informants, one of them was the engineer that designed the hiding place. He brought out his blueprints and it was in the bumpers. And they went back to the buses and opened them up.” So I just thought it was interesting and important to say to you because…
Omar Gómez Trej…:That was the same way as they send money back to Mexico?
Kate Doyle:Exactly.
Omar Gómez Trej…:The same way, okay.
Kate Doyle:All right. The same hiding place.
Omar Gómez Trej…:[foreign language].
Al Letson:“Turn that off.” Omar says to Anayansi. He’s intrigued. Up to now, this idea has been more like a conspiracy theory to him and his team. Then Kate and Anayansi remind him about the text messages the DEA had intercepted between the drug smugglers. And that as part of their reporting, they’ve been trying to get the US government to release them.

In fact, Reveal is in a lawsuit with the government over this. After their meeting, Omar follows up on this lead and petitions the DEA, from his end, for the same information. Beyond figuring out who was involved in attacking the buses and why, Omar and his team launch a new series of searches looking for the remains of the students. Anayansi explains.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:In order to do searches, Omar has to cultivate sources first; people who know what happened to the students. He has leads from the enormous case file he read when he was living in Washington. And he interviews people with ties to the drug cartel who are in prison. In his first year as special prosecutor, he goes on a couple dozen searches.
Kate Doyle:It must have been so frustrating to carry out 20 [ICO] searches with no results.
Omar Gómez Trej…:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“It can be really frustrating,” Omar tells Kate. You leave in the morning with high hopes. Then mid-sentence, he switches to English.
Omar Gómez Trej…:Probably today is the day, is not day. And you’re going back to your house, to your office to say, “We’ll just keep looking.”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Then he tells us about this day in November 2019. It started off like most mornings with Omar waking up before 5:00 AM greeting his bodyguards then sliding into his bulletproof SUV. But instead of going to the office, they head toward Iguala and pick up one of the sources he’s been talking to. This man was allegedly involved in the attack.
Omar Gómez Trej…:And the source from there takes us to La Barranca La Carnicería. Do you know what Barranca de La Carnicería is in English? It’s the Butcher’s Ravine. It gives you chills, right? It’s on the way to the Cocula garbage dump. But there’s a detour about a kilometer below, which is through a ravine. So the source guides us there. And then he says, “Hey, [Fiscal] here, over here.” And then the forensic expert and says, “Yes, that’s a human bone.”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:The source says, “Don’t look for graves. The remains were just scattered under the trees and bushes.” A few months later, six pieces of bone are carefully packed into a diplomatic briefcase and Omar boards a plane to Innsbruck, Austria. He hand delivers them to the scientist at the same DNA lab that identified the first student in 2014, Alexander Mora Venancio.
Omar Gómez Trej…:For me, it’s very hard to take a diplomatic pouch with a bunch of remains that could be the students or could be anybody else. They were on the plane with me. In a way, the trip was encouraging because we could potentially identify more people.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:But the results take weeks upon weeks. And the waiting is tough on Omar. Then after three months…
Helen:Hello. Hello. Today is Friday, June 19th, 2020. It’s 10:00 PM.
Omar Gómez Trej…:10:00 PM.
Helen:And we’re out here on the back terrace drinking some wine. What happened today, [foreign language]?
Omar Gómez Trej…:Today we receive information from the Innsbruck University that one of the DNA profiles match with one of the students. I’m very emotional now, very touchy because this represents the new era of the investigation of this case.
Helen:Can you talk a little bit about what it means too that you have identified one of the students, but…
Omar Gómez Trej…:I’m not ready. I can’t talk about it and I’m not ready yet.
Helen:We’re not ready for that one yet. Okay. Yeah. I’m really proud of you.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Days later, Omar’s meeting with the family of Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre. He’s the student whose remains were just identified. Luz María’s Christian’s mother.
 Luz María:And they started to tell us that they found a bone fragment. Well, two little pieces of bone.
Omar Gómez Trej…:You’re notifying the family of about this little bone saying it was found in such and such a place with so-and-so characteristics. And all this work was done.
 Luz María:It was part of his right foot. I was out of it in a bad, bad, bad place. And then I snapped out of it and said, “It’s a very small fragment. A human being can live without a foot.” And he tells me that’s true. It’s like they were telling me that he was dead.
Omar Gómez Trej…:What do you say to that? Nothing.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Eventually, over 100 pieces of bone are found at the Butcher’s Ravine. And another student is identified, Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz. That brings the total number of students identified to three. Parents tell us they have faith in Omar’s investigation, but they’re frustrated too. It’s all taking too long.

And at the end of the day, most of them still don’t have answers. All this time, I can’t help but think about Doña Cristi who lost her son, Benjamín. We talk on the phone from time to time. And last year, she invited us to visit her. Kate and I rent a van and drive eight hours from Mexico City to her village.
Kate Doyle:I’ve got a tiny bit of signal here.
Speaker 19:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:[foreign language]. We’re so deep in the mountains, there’s no GPS signal. You feel like you’re driving into the clouds. The dirt road ends at Alpuyecancingo de las Montañas. [foreign language]. Doña Cristi.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:We arrive as Doña Cristi’s in the kitchen talking to her mother in her native Nahuatl, a language spoken across Mexico.
Cristi Bautista:[crosstalk].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:This week is [foreign language], all Souls’ known as [foreign language] or Day of the Dead. In these parts, it’s a deeply spiritual and sacred celebration.
Speaker 20:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Doña Cristi’s daughters, Laura and Mairani, are preparing the altar. They’re hanging sugar reds in the shape of donkeys, deer and angels on the altar. They explain to me that they’re for their [foreign language], they’re dead. And they’ll carry the [foreign language] or offering back to the other side.

Meanwhile, Doña Cristi is shelling corn to make atole, a corn-based drink. We talk about the family. I learned that Laura helped raise her little brother, Benjamín , when her mom went to the US to work for a few years. The family needed the money for basic things like firewood and grain.
Laura:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“It was hell,” Laura says.
Laura:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:[Benja] cried a lot as a baby and she had to console him.
Laura:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:As he grew up, he was different from most boys in the village. He was self-confident and fashionable.
Mairani:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Mairani says he was the only kid in town who dared to wear pink. And he was a super talented dancer. When Laura got married, Benja walked her to the church.
Speaker 23:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:In this video, you see them dancing together, Benja in a pink, buttoned-down shirt.
Laura:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“He always hugged me,” Laura tells us. Even though she’s not a hugger and never hugged him back.
Laura:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Now, she wishes she could hug him.
Laura:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:The altar is ready. It’s time to put on it the food and photos of loved ones who have passed away.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Doña Cristi is directing her daughters, telling them where the food and drinks should go. She begins to move a nearby photo of Benjamín toward the altar.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Laura’s eyes pierce Doña Cristi with rage and pain. And barely audible, she responds.
Laura:[foreign language]?
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Are you saying my brother is dead?
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Cristi pulls back apologetically, “No, I was just saying, I thought he should be there to remember him.” But she pulls the photo away. Later, Laura tells us…
Laura:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:He’s alive. He’s going to return.
Laura:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:I can tell her younger sister, Mairani, doesn’t see things that way, but she doesn’t say anything. [crosstalk]. It’s midnight, when the dead are supposed to come to feast. “The dogs know,” Cristi and her daughters tell me.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:They can see the spirits and they’re welcoming them.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:The next day, before we leave, Kate and I sit down with Doña Cristi in Benjamín’s room and struggle to pose our questions. How do you ask a mother about her missing child? If I learned anything from the families in these two years, it’s that waiting for a loved one who has vanished can feel like dying slowly.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:I try to ask without hurting her, after all these years, how do you go on? [foreign language].
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“Whatever happens, I need the truth.” Despite all this time, she’s going to keep looking for him. She tells me…
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Still, like other mothers I’ve spoken to, she finds ways to keep the memory of Benjamín alive. She tells Kate and me about a dream she had.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:In a grand city, there’s this house with an open door. And she walks in. A woman in a [foreign language], a shawl, greets her.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“I want to ask you for a favor. In the middle of the room, there’s someone sleeping who’s covered with a blanket.” She tells me, “They left me to take care of him.”
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:He lost his memory. Can you watch him?
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Yes. Who is it?
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Then he gets up. My son.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language]. Then he say, “Mommy, [foreign language].”
Anayansi Diaz-C…:You found me look at how they hit me.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:That’s why I’m pretending I can’t remember.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:“But I heard your voice, Mommy.” And I just hugged him.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And I tell him, “Benja, let’s go.” But when I turn back to him…
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Anayansi Diaz-C…:I woke up and didn’t see him. But for a moment, I felt joy. I got to see my son.
Cristi Bautista:[foreign language].
Al Letson:This coming year, Omar Gómez Trejo’s investigation could reveal new information about who was behind the attack and what happened to the missing boys. Trials are set to begin for some of the people accused of taking part in the ambush, disappearances and government cover-up. The case for sending Tomás Zerón back to Mexico is now in the hands of Israeli prosecutors.

Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris has publicly pledged to help Omar’s team get new information about the drug smugglers who are hiding heroin on buses between Iguala and the US. As for the remains of the students, searches are happening every two weeks. To see cell phone videos of the attack and documents related to the investigation, visit revealnews.org/disappeared.

Our partners at Adonde Media are developing a Spanish language version of the series. To hear a trailer and sign up to receive episodes in your inbox, visit adondemedia.com/ayotzinapa or search [foreign language] Ayotzinapa on your podcast app. Our lead producer is Anayansi Diaz-Cortes. Kate Doyle with the National Security Archive is our partner and co-producer for this series. Taki Telonidis edited the show.

We have production help from Reveal’s David Rodriguez and Bruce Gil. Thanks to Tom Blaton, Megan DeTura and Claire Dorfman from the National Security Archive, and to Laura Starecheski, Lisa Pollak, John Gibler and Ariana Rosas.

Special thanks to Santiago Aguirre, Maria Luisa Aguilar from Centro Prodh and Maureen Meyer from the Washington Office on Latin America. Victoria Baranetsky is our general counsel. Our production manager is Amy Mostafa. Original score and sound design by the dynamic duo, [Jay Breezy], Mr. Jim Briggs and Fernando, my man yo, Arruda.

They had help from Claire [C Note] Mullen, Kathryn Styer Martinez, Steven Rascón and Jess Alvarenga. Our digital producer is Sarah Mirk. Our CEO is Kaizar Campwala. Sumi Aggarwal is our editor in chief. Our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado Lightning.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Inasmuch Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Al Letson and remember, there is always more to the story.
Speaker 12:[foreign language].
Al Letson:If you like what we do and you want to help, well, it’s pretty simple. Just write us a review on Apple Podcasts. It’s easy and only takes a few seconds. Just open the Apple Podcasts app on your phone, search for Reveal, then scroll down to where you see, Write a review.

And there, tell them how much you love the host. Your review makes it easier for listeners to find us and well, it really does make a difference. And if you do it, you will get a personal thank you from me, right now. Thank… Not him. You. Yes, you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right.
Speaker 40:From PRX.

Anayansi Diaz-Cortes

Anayansi Diaz-Cortes is a reporter and producer for Reveal. Her work has been featured everywhere from All Things Considered to  Radio Ambulante and  This American Life. She is a recipient of the Overseas Press Club Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and the Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation award. She was the creator and lead producer for KCRW’s Sonic Trace, a storytelling project that was part of AIR’s Localore initiative. Previously, she produced for Radio Diaries and has done extensive reporting in both the U.S. and Mexico. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Kate Doyle

Kate Doyle is a senior analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive. She directs several major research projects, including the Mexico Project, which collects U.S. and Mexican government documents on the countries’ shared histories. Since 1992, Doyle has worked with Latin American human rights groups, truth commissions, prosecutors and judges to obtain government files from secret archives that shed light on state violence.

Taki Telonidis is an interim executive producer for Reveal. Previously, he was the media producer for the Western Folklife Center, where he created more than 100 radio features for NPR’s "All Things Considered," "Weekend Edition" and other news magazines. He has produced and directed three public television specials, including "Healing the Warrior’s Heart," a one-hour documentary that explores how the ancient spiritual traditions of our nation’s first warriors, Native Americans, are helping today’s veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Telonidis also was senior content editor for NPR’s "State of the Re:Union." Before moving to the West, he worked for NPR in Washington, where he was senior producer of "Weekend All Things Considered" between 1994 and 1998. His television and radio work has garnered a George Foster Peabody Award, three Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards and the Overseas Press Club Award for breaking news. Telonidis is based in Salt Lake City.

Jess Alvarenga (they/she) is an associate producer for Reveal. They are an audio producer and documentary filmmaker from the American South. Meeting at the intersection of art and journalism, they use storytelling as a way to document and reimagine immigrant narratives, particularly those of the Central American diaspora. In 2017, Alvarenga was awarded an individual artist grant from the Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston for their work on the city’s Central American population. They have a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.

David Rodriguez is a community engagement producer for Reveal. Before joining Reveal, Rodriguez's work as an engagement assistant producer at Southern California Public Radio helped develop a report on how newsrooms can improve their reporting on the 2020 Census, which won the 2019 Gather Award in Engaged Journalism. 

Rodriguez has reported stories on immigration at the Investigative Reporting Workshop in American University. He is an alum of NPR's Next Generation Radio and San Francisco State University. He previously completed internships with KPCC's podcast team, where he helped produce The Big One: Your Survival Guide, and with Reveal, where he created a database tracking how much money and time the United States government has spent buying land along the U.S.-Mexico border. He is based in Los Angeles.

Amy Mostafa (she/they) is the production manager for Reveal. She is a UC Berkeley School of Journalism alum, where she focused on audio and data journalism as a Dean's Merit Fellow and an ISF Scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on NPR, KALW and KALX. Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She has most recently reported on housing and aging in the Bay Area. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Sarah Mirk (she/her) is a digital engagement producer for Reveal. Since 2017, she has worked as an editor at The Nib, an online daily comics publication focused on political cartoons, graphic journalism, essays and memoirs about current affairs. She works with artists to create nonfiction comics on a variety of complex topics, from personal narratives about queer identities to examinations of overlooked history. Before that, Mirk was the online editor of national feminist media outlet Bitch, a podcast host and a local news reporter. She is also the author of several books, including “Year of Zines,” a collection of 100 handmade zines, and “Guantanamo Voices,” a collection of illustrated oral histories of the world’s most infamous prison. Mirk is based in Portland, Oregon.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is a sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. As a multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the original music, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. He has held four O-1 visas for individuals with extraordinary abilities. His work has been recognized with Peabody, duPont-Columbia, Edward R. Murrow, Gerald Loeb, Third Coast and Association of Music Producers awards, as well as Emmy and Pulitzer nominations. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio for media and TV ads, and co-founded a film-scoring boutique called the Manhattan Composers Collective. He worked with clients such as Marvel, MasterClass and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck+Company, BUCK and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles, such as SFJAZZ Monday Night Band, Art&Sax quartet, Krychek, Dark Inc. and the New York Arabic Orchestra. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 Percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker,” Wondery’s “Detective Trapp,” MSNBC’s “Why Is This Happening?” and NBC’s “Born to Rule,” to name a few. Arruda also has a wide catalog of composed music for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which has premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. The original music he makes with Jim Briggs for Reveal can be found on Bandcamp.

Claire Mullen worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until September 2017. is an associate sound designer and audio engineer for Reveal. Before joining Reveal, she was an assistant producer at Radio Ambulante and worked with KALW, KQED, the Association of Independents in Radio and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She studied humanities and media studies at Scripps College.

Kathryn Styer Martínez

Kathryn Styer Martínez (she/ella) is a production assistant for Reveal. She studies audio and photojournalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She is also a Greater Good Science Center reporting fellow, focusing on Latino well-being.

Martínez was the 2020-21 Toni Randolph reporting fellow at Minnesota Public Radio, the 2019-20 New Economy Reporting Project fellow and the former director of KGPC-LP FM, Peralta Community Radio. Her work has appeared in El Tecolote, The Oaklandside, MPR News, National Public Radio, Outside Online, Talk Poverty, New Life Quarterly and Making Contact.

She earned bachelor’s degrees in Raza studies and political science from San Francisco State University.

Steven Rascón (he/they) is a production assistant for Reveal. He is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Fellowship. His focus is investigative reporting and audio documentary. He has written for online, magazines and radio. His reporting on underreported fentanyl overdoses in Los Angeles' LGBTQ community aired on KCRW and KQED. Rascón is passionate about telling diverse stories for radio through community engagement. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts and creative writing.

Kevin Sullivan is the executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Sullivan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Al Letson is a playwright, performer, screenwriter, journalist, and the host of Reveal. Soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work has garnered Letson national recognition and devoted fans.