Anaheim investigator Julissa Trapp’s co-workers call her “the cape” — a small woman, she once flapped around a suspect’s shoulders like the garment as he tried to shake her off. She’s tough, resourceful and fiercely dedicated to her job — and she’s also the subject of a new five-part podcast from Christopher Goffard, the writer and host of Dirty John. It’s simply titled Detective Trapp. The podcast is part of a partnership with Wondery and The Los Angeles Times.
Unlike true-crime podcasts that focus in on the killer, Detective Trapp homes in on a cop — and draws an intensely human portrait of its titular subject. Trapp — the child of Mexican immigrants — has dreamed of being a cop since she could walk, spending her teenager years at Anaheim Police Department as part of their Police Explorer program. She was a cadet at age 20 and was sworn in at 21. An aspiring homicide cop, she worked doggedly toward joining those ranks — working sex crimes, gangs and family crimes — until she finally became the only woman in the homicide department.
Early on in the podcast, we see Trapp meet her husband, a fellow cop and wannabe gourmet chef — and follow her as she poses as a sex worker to take down Johns. We also hear about her struggles to have children, and the four swallow tattoos her under collarbone she got to commemorate the children she lost.
All this background preps us for the case that holds the whole podcast together: the 2014 murder of a young woman found in a trash-sorting plant. She ends up being only one victim of a pair of suspected serial killers with a penchant for sex workers. Trapp manages to track down the men in question with a single fingerprint — and her knowledge of the seedier areas in Anaheim. She ends up heading up a 75-person investigation, finally facing off with one of the alleged killers in a 13-hour interview that showcases her exemplar skills as a cop. The whole interview isn’t included on the podcast of course, but we do get a good look at Trapp’s tactics, which include buddying up the man to get info — they chat about being devoted fans of Barry Manilow (“Fanilows”), among other things.
True crime stories are always thrilling — in a morbid and sometimes worrisome way — but Trapp herself is the most compelling part of this podcast. We learn how she morphs into “British Julie” when she’s pissed at a beat cop who underestimates her prowess. We hear her address a school group, warning them that she might get excited and drop some unsavory language. She promises the mother of a victim that she’ll find the man who killed her — and hangs rosaries next to the pictures of the women slain by a possible serial killer.
While Dirty John centered on an expert con man, Detective Trapp is the polar opposite: an examination of a woman determined to get justice, whatever the method.