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Secrets of a Marine’s Wife by Shanna Hogan

Gary Pinkerton talks with Shanna Hogan, NY Times Best Selling author of Picture Perfect and Secrets of a Marine's Wife, about her most recent book and what she learned about the Navy while researching it

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Gary Pinkerton hosts New York Times best-selling author Shanna Hogan to discuss her books, Picture Perfect and Secrets of a Marine’s Wife. She gives us insight into what she’s discovered about the Navy and her writing process. With the amount of research and knowledge she picked up, Shanna discusses changes in her beliefs about military communities. She gives us her process that has led to her success and ends with her appreciation of the armed services.

Announcer 0:04
Welcome to the heroic investing show. As first responders we risk our lives every day our financial security is under attack. Our pensions are in a state of emergency. A single on duty incident can alter or erase our earning potential instantly and forever. We are the heroes of society. We are self reliant and we need to take care of our own financial future. The heroic investing show is our toolkit of business and investing tactics on our mission to financial freedom.

Gary Pinkerton 0:39
Welcome to the heroic investing show, a podcast for first responders, members, the military, veterans, and anyone looking to improve their financial future and gain some freedom with their time. We teach America’s heroes how to build passive income, build their startup business and safely grow wealth through real estate and other alternative investments. We have current and prior first responders put protections systems and a team in place to help them build a life where they can focus on their passion, that service or product that they’re uniquely gifted to share with others, making the world a better place for all of us. My name is Gary Pinkerton and I co host this show with Jason Hartman. This is Episode 185. On today’s episode, we talk with Shana Hogan. Shana is a New York Times best selling American nonfiction author and a journalist and she lives in Phoenix, Arizona, she’s probably best known for the book picture perfect, which was about convicted killer Jodi arias back in 2013. Her most recent book, which is what we spend most of our time discussing today is called secrets of a Marines wife. And I found that really interesting her discussion about working with the military, specifically, in this case, Marine Corps officers at a base where she investigated young marine having taken the life eventually she figured out having taken the life of their neighbor’s wife, and having, you know, placed her in a cave and how she figured most of this out or how the investigation played out. And she was working on this case as it was unfolding. So I found it, you know, interesting, I also really appreciated her insights into what she learned from again, the officials at the base and other just local officials as she went through this process. So hope you enjoyed this one. And we’ll be back with more real estate focused items coming up here next week. Well, the rook investing listeners thanks so much for joining us yet again. We have the distinct pleasure today for having an author, journalist and true crime author accentuated that closely because it’s the first time that I think that I’ve had a true crime author on on our podcast that we have with us today Miss Shanna Hogan, and like me, she’s a dog lover. So if that’s in the background, well, they’re cute little pops. So Shana, thanks so much for joining us.

Shanna Hogan 3:04
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Gary Pinkerton 3:06
Absolutely. So Shana is pretty excited about a new book release that she has coming out. And but before we get to that, Shannon, would you please just give the audience a little bit about your background? Maybe do more justice than I did in the introduction?

Shanna Hogan 3:19
Yeah, I am. I’m an ASU graduate Journalism School graduate. And I went on to work for newspapers for several years and then went on to work at magazines, and was a magazine editor. And at the same time, I was really into true crime. And so in 2008, I started covering a case that was an Arizona case of a former Vegas show girl who had murdered and dismembered her seventh husband and they only found his torso in the desert for my magazine. That was I wrote articles about it and realized that I wanted to turn this into a book. So I spent quite a bit of time learning how to research and write the true crime genre, and ended up getting my first book deal in 2010. And have since gone on to write three more books, including my most famous one that was a New York Times bestseller picture perfect the Jodi arias story. My third book was about a Utah case called the stranger she loved. And my latest book secrets of a Marines wife.

Gary Pinkerton 4:12
I wasn’t counting to close it was that five True Crime books now

Shanna Hogan 4:14
it’s four and a half because I’ve written four books on my own. And then I collaborated on a true crime compendium of where it’s 100 True Crime cases called Big Ideas, simply explain the crime book. So I didn’t mention that one. But it’s five total.

Gary Pinkerton 4:29
Nice. And you’re coming from Phoenix, Arizona, you’re talking to us from Phoenix, Arizona, lived there your whole life. It sounds.

Shanna Hogan 4:35
I was born in Kansas, but I grew up in Phoenix. And so I went to school down here, and really, you know, went to college here too. So yeah, I’m pretty much a phoenix desert rat.

Gary Pinkerton 4:46
Awesome, awesome. Go. So well. Let’s get into the subject that may pique the interest of the audience and because it involves a military family, on a military base, and so let’s just talk about it. Tell us about your most recent

Shanna Hogan 5:00
Yeah, in the summer of 2014, a 19 year old pregnant marine wife named Aaron Corwin. She was living in Twentynine Palms on the marine base with her husband. And on June 28 2014, she went driving towards the desert to Joshua Tree National Park, and she was never seen alive again. Eight weeks later, her body was found at the bottom of an abandoned mineshaft those old mine shafts out in the California area that were once used for the California gold rush that since been abandoned and left open. Her body was found there. And the cert volunteer search and rescue teams spent quite a bit of time diving down into mines and these horrendous conditions in the middle of the summer, with temperatures at 110 to 115 degrees. You know, they started at three in the morning started searching for her. And as the case you know, as the investigators dig into the case, they discover some twists and turns and it turns out not the way you think it would be. They’ll tell you more

Gary Pinkerton 5:59
guy, obviously a murder not what we expected or not what was thought out there at Heinz, you tell us a little bit more obviously, I don’t want to get into your book and your audience, but it is a spoil

Shanna Hogan 6:10
it. Yeah, I don’t think it spoils anything, because it’s a true story. And you um, you know if you know the facts, the basic facts, and who is the person guilty. I think that that it doesn’t really spoil my book, because I, you know, delve into so many other aspects of it. And I interview so many people and tell the twists and turns and the story that happened behind the scenes. So after Aaron first went missing, you know, the first instinct from the cops and the sheriff’s department, who investigated this case was that the husband had something to do with it. He was a marine. And you know, it’s the husband always did it right. And in these type of cases. But as they start digging into our background, they discover that she had had an affair with her next door neighbor, a fellow marine named Chris Lee. And this was a guy who was quite a bit older than Aaron, he was 26, he had served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He had a six year old daughter and was married. And they started up an affair, and the entire apartment complex discovered it. And so they broke it off, and everyone thought it was over. And then as the investigators dig into where Aaron was that day, they turned to her best friend who was the only person that she couldn’t find it in about the affair and learn that Aaron was pregnant, that she thought she was pregnant with Chris’s baby, and that she had actually gone to the desert that day, specifically to meet Chris and that she thought that they were going to celebrate her pregnancy, and possibly discuss the future of their relationship. Instead, Chris had other plans.

Gary Pinkerton 7:44
Yeah. How long did it take for that portion to come out after? Yes.

Shanna Hogan 7:48
But then a couple days that stuff started to come out. Although the marine base and the sheriff’s department kept that secret from the public for quite a while. So no one really knew what was going on. Who was looking into the case. And people still started suspecting the husband but the the best friend admitted that she was there to meet chris chris Lee, and that they started interviewing him. At first he denied ever, like having an affair and said he barely knew Aaron, and that the extent of their interactions was just saying hi, and bye. As they passed by each other in the apartment complex. Then his story changed and he admitted to the affair, but he denied that he ever had sex with her and he denied that it could ever be his baby. And he denied that he was there to meet Aaron that day, he had a story that he had also gone into Joshua Tree National Park that day, the same day that Aaron went missing, but he was there to hunt coyotes in the middle of summer. Now, if you know anything about hunting or coyotes, you know that they’re nocturnal. And in the summer in the morning, and afternoon, they’re not out, you know, in any sort of situation where you could hunt them. But that’s what his story was. And so they questioned him quite extensively. But they realized that if they don’t find a body, you know, they might never convict him. They really suspected him but they needed to find that body. So they Chris goes on and he gets honorably discharged from the Marines because he was just finishing up his six year military career, and so he is honorably discharged and he leaves back to his home state of Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife and his daughter. And meanwhile, the search continues. And then when they finally find Aaron’s body at the mineshaft, they find that she had a grot around her neck that someone had strangled her before dumping her body in the mineshaft. So as soon as they find her body and identify it positively, they arrest Chris Lee and Alaska, and he’s extradited back to California. He later testified as to what happened in court, but his big defense was that he had PTSD from coming back from Afghanistan. But and that he came back depressed and disturbed. But the twist is like, it’s not the reason you would think he never actually saw any combat in Afghanistan, he never fired his weapon. And it was towards the time in Afghanistan where things were relatively under control. And he was in a pretty secure area, the marine base. And shockingly, you know, especially for people in the military, he admitted that his biggest regret in the Marines was that he never got the chance to kill someone. And so really shocking. I think that, in my personal opinion, I think he wanted to experience what it was like to take a life before he left the Marines.

Gary Pinkerton 10:40
Wow. Oh, my God.

Shanna Hogan 10:42
Yeah, crazy story, very twisted person. Not, not the typical upstanding marine that you know of?

Gary Pinkerton 10:49
Well, you would expect a pretty disturbed individual to be one who feels like the biggest regret is that they couldn’t kill people. I mean, most of the people that I’ve met in the military in my 30 years, there were a lot more humble, and, and, and more caring about, about human life and taking life of another, even though many of them had to do it. Wow. So well, thanks. Thank you for sharing that aspect of it for us. So explain if you could to the audience a little bit about how long it takes to research something like that, like our research and right, like, what what length of time for this work for you,

Shanna Hogan 11:23
you know, this story end up taking two years of my life. And, you know, I spent a full year and a half researching and writing and then another half of your fact checking and going back over things and the editing process, but takes a lot of dedication. And you interview a lot of people the story, you know, it’s about the marine base and about the marine lifestyle. But it’s more about life for the marine wives. I actually my husband’s was a former Navy officer, I met him after he was in the Navy. But I have great respect for the military. And I wanted to explore I was kind of fascinated with the lives of like, the women, the army wives, the marine wives, you know, that leave their lives, and they go to these bases, and they, you know, form a community and a connection with other marine wives. And so that’s really what I explored in this book. And so for it, I interviewed, you know, obviously, the prosecution, and the search and rescue team and stuff like that. But I also got very close with Aaron’s mother and spent a long time interviewing her. And, you know, that’s like the most painful and disturbing aspect is interviewing someone’s mom who lost a child to something as violent as murder. But in the story, I was able to interview her, not only about her daughter’s life, but also the agony she went through when she was just a missing person. And then the complete grief when she discovers that her daughter is no longer alive and had been brutally murdered in such a way. So there’s a lot of interviewing, going on a lot of getting documents, getting the interrogation videos that Chris had done with the sheriff’s department, you know, interviewing people putting it together. And then writing the story, I work really hard in the way I write, to tell these true crime stories in a very, very accurate way with using all true details, but just to have it unfold in the book, like it’s a fiction book, like it’s you’re reading a crime fiction detective novel. So it’s called narrative nonfiction. So I spend quite a bit of time, you know, picturing how I want to start the story, how I want to start each chapter, how I want things to unfold for the reader, and where I want to foreshadow and where I want to have some mystery. And I think people my readers have responded to that, because they I’ve been told my books are a page turner. And I’ve already had some people who’ve responded to that they’ve read my books in 10 hours, that this one, but they read just they couldn’t stop reading, and they set right came right through it and read it in 10 hours sitting. That is an accomplishment. I’ve never heard anybody say that about nonfiction. That has amazing now, you said you had talked to her grieving mother. And as she went through the stages, but this was all after it all. It occurred, right. You’re writing quite a bit after the event is that? Yeah, yeah. I waited till the trial was over before I approached the mom. So it was a lot of recounting like what she had gone through. But I didn’t want to be one of those opportunistic media people that, you know, was reaching out. As soon as the bodies found and stuff like that, even though I was pursuing the case interested in the case. I wanted to give them time to deal with the justice process.

Gary Pinkerton 14:35
I’m sure that was appreciated.

Shanna Hogan 14:37
Yeah, it was one of the reasons why I think she trusted me and opened up to me,

Gary Pinkerton 14:40
Shana, what is your opinion of the military or communities, the communities that you were talked about? Living on the basis as did your opinions change? Or did you form any new stuff that you hadn’t expected? And that

Shanna Hogan 14:55
that’s a good question. If anything, it made my respect for the military even stronger. And I’ll explain why in a minute. But I did learn some interesting things like I now I’m a teacher at issues. Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. And I teach 18 and 19 year old freshmen, the basics of journalism. So I deal with a lot of 18 and 19 year olds, who are just starting out their lives and their, you know, figuring out who they are figuring out what they want to do with their lives. But in the military, a lot of these 18 and 19 year olds are going in, and there’s, you’re getting married and starting families. And, you know, I think that that’s something that is to be respected, for sure. But they’re taking on very adult responsibilities while they’re still figuring out their lives. So mistakes are bound to be made. And I did hear a lot about affairs kind of being rampid, in the Marines in the military, but also about the respect and support that marine wives and families have for each other, how they really work as a community. And the reason I came out of it with more respect, is that one bad guy in the Marines took Aaron’s life, but the rest of the Marines spent weeks searching for this girl searching for her body and trying to get justice for her family. The entire marine base, you know, her flyer, her missing persons poster was posted all over the marine base. But they also had, you know, on the Fourth of July, annual get together, they had a special ceremony for her for Aaron, you know, people were very much concerned, they were worried that it was going to be one of their own. But I don’t think the fact that it was one of their own tainted, you know, the entire bunch in any way, because the way that they all came together.

Gary Pinkerton16:40
They were not they were not. Yeah, they weren’t trying to surround and protect the individual from the authorities or from at all right, yeah, that’s amazing. I agree with you a lot of your observations. That’s what I experienced, too, with my time in the military. And on my ships, you know, there were always 1819 year old kids, that were doing very mature things because they had access to money. And they were around adults. And they were they were doing other mature things like putting their their life in harm’s way. And certainly things like being preyed upon for getting brand new cars, and a lot of credit issues were out there. But I think in general, these people are a lot more mature than their peers from high school. Yeah,

Shanna Hogan 17:20
absolutely. I think the same thing, like they’re taking on very adult responsibilities, but they’re handling it with much maturity, and, like you said, risking their lives in the same way. So it’s a special segment of the young adult population that can do that. Yeah,

Gary Pinkerton 17:35
I certainly appreciate you shining the light on that one of the things that, you know, the services are different. In the Navy, in the Marine Corps, all parts of the naval service, you know, we do things from ships, and like your husband did, and, you know, the Marines very much like the Navy, we’re built on our structure, I guess, our support structure, our home life, is all based around actually deploying frequently, you know, at least once every time you’re in a tour. And so that really creates and living a lot overseas creates this very, very strong community at home where, where the spouses are taking care of each other. And we’re the units that remain back with them, take care of them. And so it really builds that cohesion. And we found a lot of problems, I think, in 10 years that we were war in the in the Middle East, where we we asked the other services to do the same thing, the Air Force and the army to do back to back deployments, but they didn’t have an innate structure, their forces that generally stand up for a given battle, and then, you know, go back down to garrison, kind of, especially in the army. So there’s a lot of problems and there were a lot higher suicide rates, there are a lot higher divorce rates, early on, at least as they tried to cope with not having that built in support structure behind it. So I was really, you know, happy to hear that you kind of sense the same thing and the marine base there.

Shanna Hogan 18:52
That’s really interesting. I didn’t know that about the other branches, because, like I said, I’ve only explored the Marines and my husband’s part in the Navy. But yeah, that’s really interesting.

Gary Pinkerton 19:00
It’s just a little bit different. They obviously do deploy, but before the most recent 10 to 12 years, it was not a core of that cohesive unit. That is the community. And I think it is now I don’t know if it’ll stay I hope it will, because it’s we’re much more mobile for us nowadays, going to foreign countries and spending some time there away from your loved ones. And hoping everything, you know, stays together is becoming I think, a permanent way the future. So hopefully it all stays, but we did certainly have some growing pains earlier on. So maybe pick one of your other books that is maybe significantly different than that one that the audience would want to, you know, you would recommend maybe in first responders and military would would best relate to.

Shanna Hogan 19:44
Yeah, I think that it would probably be my third book, The stranger she loved. And that was a really interesting case, but completely different than the story. The story is about a older Mormon doctor named Martin macneill, Dr. Martin macneill, who was not only a doctor, but a seemed to be well respected, had been married to his wife of former beauty queen for 30 years, they had four children. And then they had they had adopted four more children. So it was a family of 10. At the time of his wife’s death, he worked at a developmental center, working with people with mental handicaps. And he seemed like a very good guy, like I said, and then, and he had adult children at that point. And then when his wife turned 50, he convinced her to get plastic surgery to get a full facelift even though she didn’t really need it. And he took her to an out of city doctor found a practice that was a new practice that he used his time as a doctor to kind of manipulate the plastic surgeon to convince him to give him extra medication. So he ended up getting like several different types of central nervous system depressant. So they call them CNS depressants, which are Valium, several forms of pain pills, and then Ambien the sleep aid, and so she was recovering from the plastic surgery seemed to be doing okay. And then one morning, about six days after the plastic surgery, she was found drowned in her bathtub, partially clothed. She was discovered by her six year old adopted daughter, ADA. And so it set off like at first what looked like a completely natural death, it seemed and what I call it in the book, The almost perfect murder. Prosecutors called it that as well. It seemed like the almost perfect murder, they closed the case. But the family starts to suspect Martin, especially the adult daughters starts to suspect Martin had done something to the mother, and that he caused her death. After the wife died, he moved in his mistress to the house and pretended that she was the nanny. And she was a terrible nanny. She didn’t look after the kids or cook or clean or anything like that. They ended up sending one of the daughters, the adopted daughters back to the Ukraine and taking her passport and committing fraud to try and get the house so that they adult daughters would not have any sort of rights over the house. So as all this stuff is going on, they convince investigators to give the case another look. And when they do they discover that this doctor was not what he seemed to be He not only was not a good guy, he was never a doctor. He had faked his medical transcripts to get into medical school had only done half of the work had a history of Miss diagnosing patients, because he was never qualified, had been suspected of murdering some of the patients had been suspected of murdering his own brother had been talked about euthanizing patients throughout over the years and they discovered this complete web of lies. And so that book is called the stranger she loved. And it came out in 2015. It’s now available in paperback, audio book, Kindle, all those different things. And it’s one of the weirdest, craziest stories I’ve ever written. And he’s the evil most evil man I’ve ever had a chance to write about. 

Gary Pinkerton 22:53
I hope he’s in prison.

Shanna Hogan 22:54
Actually, he is in prison. He was convicted and sentenced to serve what would ultimately be a life sentence. But the twist that happens after my book is published that’s not even covered in my book is that he went on to commit suicide in the prison system. He had always started suicide and tried to commit suicide right after the verdict, but then waited almost two years after he was in prison and commit suicide and kind of an ingenious way. He got a plastic bag from somewhere and then went out to the prison green yard they had like a greenhouse, where they grew vegetables on the prison yard. And he just connected the natural gas line, put it under the plastic bag and killed himself and was on the prison yard. Got personally been covered in my book. But just another twist of a story that was just the craziest story I’ve ever written.

Gary Pinkerton 23:45
Oh my gosh. Wow. Well, thanks for sharing that and walking us through that one. I almost want to read that one first. And then you also have of course, your most famous, as you mentioned at the beginning that you’re Jody rice story. And Jodi Arias, George area’s excuse me, and I’m sure many are very familiar with that young photographer and that story. So, you know, I took a look at your web pages. It’s an awesome page. It’s very informative, and it’s just it’s your name.com right? So shannah.com other ways in which would be best for them to reach out to you or is that the best way just

Shanna Hogan 24:19
yeah, Shana Hogan, sh a and na Hogan Ito ga n.com. My email addresses on there so wants to write me directly. It’s my [email protected] And so if you have any interesting stories you think I might be interested in covering as a book or an article. I encourage your listeners to reach out.

Gary Pinkerton 24:39
That’s awesome. Well, thank you Santa so much for spending some time with this audience.

Shanna Hogan 24:43
Thank you so much. It was great.

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