On the hunt for a riveting mystery read? If this exclusive excerpt is any indication, Kit Frick’s I Killed Zoe Spanos promises to be one you won’t be able to put down.
Update: The original version of this post had an outdated publication date. That date has now been corrected to June 30.
A murder mystery, a true crime podcast, and a group of potentially shady characters with unknown motives, I Killed Zoe Spanos has all of the makings for an addictive novel.
But you’ll soon find that out. Just read the exclusive excerpt from I Killed Zoe Spanos that we have for you below!
Read an exclusive excerpt from ‘I Killed Zoe Spanos’ now
TRANSCRIPT OF MISSING ZOE
EPISODE ONE: SHE’S (NOT) A LITTLE RUNAWAY
[ELECTRONIC BACKGROUND MUSIC]
ADULT MALE VOICE: It’s not illegal to disappear.
YOUNG FEMALE VOICE: If Zoe was there, I would have known. Zoe never showed up that night.
ADULT FEMALE VOICE: Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?
SECOND ADULT MALE VOICE: My name is George Spanos, and my daughter Zoe is missing.
[END BACKGROUND MUSIC]
MARTINA GREEN: Today is Tuesday, February eleventh, and Zoe Spanos has been missing for six weeks to the day. Last Friday, the Herron Mills Village PD declared Zoe a runaway, and that’s why I’m here, talking to you. Because if you know Zoe, you know she didn’t run away.
Zoe Spanos is missing. And we’re missing Zoe.
[MISSING ZOE INSTRUMENTAL THEME]
MARTINA GREEN: Hi, I’m Martina Green, and you’re listening to the first episode of Missing Zoe, a multipart podcast series about the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a nineteen-year-old resident of Herron Mills, New York, on the night of December thirty-first or morning of January first this year.
You can probably tell from my voice that I’m not your typical true crime podcast host. I’m a junior at Jefferson High School in Herron Mills. That’s on the East End of Long Island, one of those quaint beach towns you might visit one summer for the ocean, the lobster rolls, the relaxed pace of village life. For many, Herron Mills is a destination, an escape. But for others, like Zoe and me, it’s home.
Let’s begin by taking a quick stroll through Herron Mills. Consider this your welcome tour.
ALFRED HARVEY: You might notice there’s been a bit of a commercial boom around here lately. [CHUCKLES.]
MARTINA GREEN: There’s no greater expert on the textured history of Zoe’s hometown than village historian Alfred Harvey. We spoke in his office at the Herron Mills Village Historical Society.
ALFRED HARVEY: But it retains rich elements of its agrarian past in the surrounding farmland and the farm-to-table restaurants that have cropped up. And of course the windmills.
MARTINA GREEN: And there’s a long-standing artistic history as well?
ALFRED HARVEY: Of course. The village was initially settled in the sixteen hundreds and incorporated in 1873. Artists and writers began to flock to the Hamptons, including Herron Mills, in the late nineteenth century. They came for the quiet, the rural beauty, the light. The culture of creation is part of the fabric of the landscape out here. Nowadays, when people hear “the Hamptons,” they hear wealth, celebrity, privilege. But that’s only part of the story. On the bay side, in Sag Harbor, there’s been a thriving African American community since World War Two. The Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton is home to between six and seven hundred tribal members. There’s much more to the Hamptons than exclusivity and wealth.
MARTINA GREEN: When you’re a resident of Herron Mills, you know everyone. I’ve known Zoe since I was a baby; her sister Aster is my best friend. I’m telling you this in the interest of full disclosure. I’m not an unbiased reporter, an outsider looking in. I’m not someone with a twenty-year career in journalism behind me, although I hope I will be someday. But I don’t think that’s what we need to find Zoe. I think we need an insider. Someone who knows this community, knows the people, isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions the police don’t seem interested in exploring.
ASSISTANT DETECTIVE PHILIP MASSEY: It’s not illegal to disappear.
MARTINA GREEN: I spoke to Assistant Detective Philip Massey, one of the officers on the Zoe Spanos case, over the phone.
AD MASSEY: I can’t comment specifically on the Spanos case, but in general, you’re an adult, it’s perfectly legal to leave your life behind. Start a new one. Might be hurtful or unkind, but there’s no law you have to tell anyone where you’re going.
MARTINA GREEN: Why can’t you discuss Zoe specifically? Didn’t your office close the investigation last week?
AD MASSEY: As our office stated publicly last Friday, there is strong evidence to suggest Miss Spanos willingly left Herron Mills on the night of December thirty-first last year. That’s all I can say. It’s still an open investigation.
MARTINA GREEN: The investigation may still technically remain open, but it’s clear that local police have wound down their search. Yes, Zoe is nineteen. Yes, that means she’s an adult in the eyes of law enforcement, allowed to step willingly away from her sophomore year at Brown, from her holiday at home with her family and friends, and start over somewhere new. No note. No explanation. No news, six weeks later.
But I don’t buy it, and that’s why I’m here. I’m angry, and that’s why I’m here.
So, let’s go back to late December of last year. For those of you who have been following Zoe’s case, none of this will come as new information. Everything I’m about to recap was widely reported on the news during the days and weeks that followed Zoe’s disappearance. But it’s important to start with the facts we can agree upon, the things that are known. And to examine critically the way in which law enforcement approached the case once Zoe was reported missing.
Before she disappeared, Zoe had been home from Brown for about two weeks, spending time with her family. Several Herron Mills residents saw Zoe around town.
JUDITH HODGSON: She spent a few afternoons at the library. Nothing unusual about that. Zoe always was very serious about her studies.
MARTINA GREEN: That was Judith Hodgson, reference librarian at the Herron Mills Public Library. I personally saw Zoe twice, once at the grocery store, where she was helping her mom with the shopping, and again on the day after Christmas, when Aster and I spent the afternoon together at the Spanos house. Zoe was baking cookies in the kitchen. We talked for a few minutes about the marine bio internship she’d done in California over the summer and the advanced research course she’d be taking in the spring.
PROFESSOR DAVID BRECHER: I was looking forward to working with Miss Spanos this spring. She made quite a case to get into my class. I have a firm policy about restricting admission to upperclassmen. But Miss Spanos had completed the prerequisites early, and she showed a great deal of promise.
MARTINA GREEN: Professor David Brecher spoke with me on the phone from his office at Brown. Why would Zoe campaign to get into that course if she wasn’t planning to return to school? There was nothing in Zoe’s behavior that pointed to a girl making plans to sever ties, to vanish into the night.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve, a Tuesday: Zoe left the house around nine o’clock. She told her parents that she was meeting friends at a nearby house party thrown by Jacob Trainer, a Jefferson alum from Zoe’s class. Multiple sources, including Zoe’s friend Lydia Sommer, confirm she never made it to that party.
LYDIA SOMMER: I texted her a few times that night—no response. Which wasn’t like Zoe at all.
MARTINA GREEN: Is it possible that she went to Jacob’s with someone else? That you might have missed her?
LYDIA SOMMER: No way. If Zoe was there, I would have known. Someone would have seen her. It was almost all Jefferson alum at that party. We all knew each other. Zoe never showed up that night.
MARTINA GREEN: The next morning, Mr. and Mrs. Spanos woke to the realization that Zoe had not returned home. If you read the comments on the news articles that ran in the following days or dive into the Reddit thread about Zoe’s case, you’ll see that many people were immediately critical of their parenting, but let’s remember: Zoe is nineteen and a sophomore in college. Her parents were used to her living away from home, where she’d been an A student at an Ivy League college. And as the police have been so quick to emphasize, Zoe is an adult. Her parents knew where she was going, to a party within walking distance from their home. She hadn’t had a curfew since high school. Let’s stop blaming the Spanos family. They didn’t do anything wrong.
In fact, they did exactly what they should have done. The morning of Wednesday, January first, when Zoe wasn’t responding to phone calls or texts, Mr. Spanos called nine-one-one.
911 DISPATCHER [RECORDING]: Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?
MARTINA GREEN: It was New Year’s Day, and local police had been dealing with their share of calls throughout the night and into the morning: two separate car accidents on Grove and Ocean Avenue, noise complaints, vandalism, a stolen boat—we’re going to get back to that in a minute—littering, trespassing, you name it. If you’re going to go missing, New Year’s Eve is probably just about the worst time to do it.
Or the best time to disappear, if you believe the police.
GEORGE SPANOS [RECORDING]: My name is George Spanos, and my daughter Zoe is missing. We’re at Forty-Five Crescent Circle, Herron Mills, New York. She didn’t come home last night.
MARTINA GREEN: Nine-one-one dispatch transferred Mr. Spanos to the local police. We don’t have access to that recording, but according to TV interviews that ran in the following week, they told Mr. Spanos to check local hospitals and call around to Zoe’s friends and their parents. They told him that Zoe had probably spent the night at a friend’s house, and perhaps her phone battery had died. They told him to do his due diligence, but to try not to worry. Zoe wasn’t a minor. She was responsible and bright. What the police suggested was a perfectly plausible scenario. The most likely scenario. It made sense. But it was wrong.
The Spanoses made those calls. Zoe had not been admitted to any hospital on Long Island. No one had seen her. She had not been to Jacob Trainer’s party. She hadn’t called anyone to say she wasn’t going to make it. She hadn’t responded when three separate friends, including Lydia Sommer, checked in via phone or text between 11:35 p.m. and 1:17 a.m.
Zoe Spanos walked out of her house in Herron Mills around nine o’clock on New Year’s Eve and vanished into thin air.
On the morning of Thursday, January second, when Zoe had still not come home or contacted anyone to say she was okay, the police finally started searching. A pair of officers went door to door in the neighborhood. Zoe was declared a missing person, her photo and description shared with local news. The police worked with the Spanos family to organize a search party for the morning of January fourth, to comb the woods behind the Spanos property. But by the fourth, they had uncovered something else.
Remember that missing boat I mentioned earlier? On the morning of January first, Mrs. Catherine Hunt of Her ron Mills reported her small motorboat missing from its post at the White Sand Marina, one of two local marinas where residents can purchase docking permits.
CATHERINE HUNT: I assumed it was kids, partying in the area. It was New Year’s, after all. But then on Thursday afternoon, I heard on the news that there might be a connection between my boat and the missing girl. It was shocking.
MARTINA GREEN: When the boat had not turned up two days later—and an investigation into Zoe’s cell phone records determined that the last GPS activity on her phone could place her within a hundred-foot radius of the marina at 2:12 on the morning of January first—the police put two and two together.
But here’s where I think they got their math mixed up. The search went ahead as planned on the morning of the fourth, but with a fraction of the expected turnout. I was there. Zoe’s family was there. There were maybe thirty of us total, friends of Zoe’s home from college, neighbors, family friends. Searchers did not find anything in the woods.
At the same time, the Herron Mills PD arranged for the ocean floor to be dragged in and around the White Sand Marina. Dozens of onlookers—who should have been searching—showed up there instead.
CATHERINE HUNT: It seemed, at the time, like the divers might find something that day. The marina isn’t large. I’m sure they did a thorough job. But if she made it out of the marina, onto the open ocean . . .
MARTINA GREEN: The initial working theory was that Zoe had arrived to the marina early Wednesday morning, released Mrs. Hunt’s boat from its post or more likely found it already liberated by New Year’s revelers who had taken their party elsewhere, and that she tried to take the boat out and drowned.
The Spanos family was horrified, but police overturned that theory lightning-fast with a new one: Zoe didn’t drown. She took the boat, and she literally sailed away into the night.
AD MASSEY [RECORDING]: We’ve now concluded an initial investigation into Miss Spanos’s financial records and can report that the 2:12 data activity on her Verizon-registered cell phone was a PayPal transaction. The purchase from Miss Spanos’s account was for a one-way bus ticket from Asbury Park to Philadelphia for the evening of January first. Miss Spanos’s phone was turned off after the transaction went through, and no further activity has been registered.
MARTINA GREEN: We’re hearing a clip of AD Massey from Channel Four news, which aired on the night of January seventh. That’s right, listeners. The police actually think Zoe Spanos attempted to motorboat across the Atlantic to the Jersey shore, to board a bus to Philadelphia. And that she succeeded.
Maybe it’s possible, for an experienced boater, which Zoe was not. The police have latched onto the fact that Zoe was majoring in marine biology like it’s some kind of proof she was an expert in all things nautical. News flash: College-level research knowledge of the giant squid does not equal experience with boating or aquatic navigation.
Maybe it would have been a plausible escape route for a desperate person. But here’s the thing: While the purchase is indisputable, the fine folks at Greyhound Lines cannot confirm that Zoe actually got on that bus. This clip is also from Channel Four, from the evening of January ninth.
GREYHOUND SPOKESPERSON [FEMALE]: We have no record that the ticket purchased by Zoe Spanos was scanned. Our scanner was working and in use, and we’ve turned our records over to the police. It is highly unlikely that Zoe Spanos boarded the 317 line on the night of January first.
MARTINA GREEN: If Zoe’s phone was turned off following that PayPal transaction, how did she navigate Mrs. Hunt’s motorboat to New Jersey? The police theory would require a good deal of advanced planning on Zoe’s part. It would also require a good deal of stupidity and desperation, neither of which describe Zoe at all.
So, what do we know about Zoe?
Fact one: Zoe had access to her parents’ car. If she wanted to get to Asbury Park, or Philadelphia for that matter, she could have driven herself there.
Fact two: Zoe also had access to the LIRR. If she was concerned about being charged with grand theft auto, she could have easily hopped on a train.
Fact three: If Zoe was really trying to run away, leave no trace, why would she create an obvious digital trail with the PayPal transaction? She had access to plenty of cash, yet did not withdraw any from her bank account before she disappeared. Additionally, none of Zoe’s accounts have been accessed since.
Fact four: Zoe had no reason to run away from her life. This has been the sticking point for police, the motive they can’t produce. But they don’t need to produce a motive, because Zoe’s supposed choice to run away isn’t a crime.
Over the course of the past six weeks, police have proposed an unlikely string of theories: that Zoe didn’t make it all the way to Asbury Park, drowned somewhere out in the Atlantic. (Which would actually seem the most logical scenario, if you believe that Zoe would have attempted to make the boat trip in the first place, which I firmly do not.) That Zoe made it to Asbury Park but then rerouted. That she met up with friends with a car. That she purchased the bus ticket to deliberately lead us off track. What friends in New Jersey? And where is the boat?
As of last Friday, search efforts in Asbury Park, Philadelphia, and along Zoe’s supposed oceanic route have officially wound down. From what we can tell in Herron Mills, they unofficially wound down a lot sooner than that. We’ve been told there’s no way to clearly trace her path. That without communication from Zoe, who clearly does not want to be found, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack.
So, I’m here to ask the questions the police won’t. Because Zoe Spanos had no reason to run away, and certainly not in the way the police think she did. I’m here to propose that there’s no connection between Zoe and that missing boat. Yes, she—or her phone—was in the vicinity of the marina that night. She— or someone who had access to her phone—purchased that bus ticket. But that’s where the connection between Zoe and the boat ends.
Something happened to Zoe Spanos on New Year’s Eve, and someone knows what it was. Someone knows where Zoe is.
Zoe, I hope you’re alive. I hope you’re still out there. There are a lot of people at home who are missing you. And no matter what the police think, I, Martina Green, am going to try my hardest to uncover the truth and bring you home.
[CODA TO MISSING ZOE INSTRUMENTAL THEME]
About ‘I Killed Zoe Spanos’ by Kit Frick
For fans of Sadie and Serial, this gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.
What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…
When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.
Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?
Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Kit Frick weaves a thrilling story of psychological suspense that twists and turns until the final page.
I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick will be available on June 30, 2020. You can preorder your copy now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or your local independent bookstore. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” shelf!
For every pre-order of I Killed Zoe Spanos, author Kit Frick will personally donate $2 to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, supporting their mission to fight against child abduction, abuse, and exploitation. Learn more here.