The Secret Life
3 • Red Candles
4 • Follow the Lie
Neil chases down the first big break in Adea’s recent disappearance, but new information produces more questions than answers as several suspects emerge. A secret relationship is revealed.
The guy says that he saw what fit the description perfectly of Chris throwing her into his truck.
Angel, Adea’s Boss
I can’t believe no one has saw her. We fought on Friday. The last thing she told me was that I would never see her again.
Chris Spotz (via text message to Christianne)
NEIL-VO: Early in Ted Bundy’s serial killing spree, police released the details that they knew about the suspect so far. They showed a sketch of him, they said his name was Ted, and they said he drove a light brown Volkswagen Beetle. So naturally, several people who knew Bundy, including his girlfriend at the time, told police the person they were looking for is likely Ted Bundy. Despite at least four different tips coming in, the police never investigated him. He went on to abduct and kill at least a dozen more victims before he was ever brought to justice. So why wasn’t this very credible tip or a string of tips ever investigated? The reason is that it was buried amongst hundreds of other tips flooding into the police department from everyone from crackpots, to psychics, to well meaning do gooders. Tragically this is a very common occurrence. A crucial tip that will break a case early on is just completely ignored. That’s why when Jayden told me the first credible tip had come in for the Adea Shabani disappearance, I thought that this could be our Ted Bundy moment.
NEIL-VO: Chapter three red candles.
Jayden: I just wanted to give you an update. Just got a call from Angel. You got a call from a guy, anonymous, didn’t leave a name saying that he saw Adea, and she was being put into the bed of a pickup truck out in front of her apartment, and then the truck took off and drove south down toward Hollywood Boulevard. He gives us a description of the truck, and he even has the plate number. We ran the plate. It’s Adea’s on again off again boyfriend.
NEIL-VO: His name, Jayden tells me, is Chris Spotz.
Jayden: He’s another like acting student, and now he’s like out of work actor.
Chris Spotz: You still have my money? I want the procedure. I’ve seen all I need to see, heard all I need to hear.
NEIL-VO: Apparently Chris is a senior at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Adea was dating him and secret. His name doesn’t appear in the press about the case and it’s nowhere on Adea’s Instagram or social media. Obviously it’s essential to know just who this guy is, why his a relationship with Adea has been kept a secret, and more importantly where he is. I check in with Angel, Adea’s boss at the Mobile Hookah Lounge, who received the original tip.
Neil Strauss: Oh, and tell me about the anonymous call for a second.
Angel: Yeah. I get an anonymous call. Well, it was a private number. The guy says that he saw what fit the description perfectly of Chris throwing her into his truck, and he said into the bed of the truck. And he described the truck, which later turned out to be Chris’s truck. He also gave us the license plate, which will again later turn out to be Chris’s truck. And he said that she looked a little dizzy, or dazed, or as if she’s been drugged.
NEIL-VO: Angel tells me that he already informed the police about the anonymous call and sent them to Chris’s address.
Angel: And I called the cops immediately and I said, I just got an anonymous tip. This is what it was. This is the address that I have on file for this guy. Maybe she’s held up there, or we believe that she’s helped up there. And it was in Studio City. The cops, I mean, I think it was like two minutes or something like that, and they were on it. They responded, and they were there, and it was like maybe six or seven cop cars that came out. They went up to the building. And so we were waiting downstairs. So you can imagine just the emotions that were running through our head. We thought we felt like we got it. It’s just a matter of time the cops coming down with him in handcuffs and her, coming down with her walking down. I remember even we heard like a wrestle and like somebody was shouting or yelling, and all of us of course, like our hearts dropped. But at that point we figured out it was just people in the parking lot. And the cops came down and they said, this is not where he lives, there’s an Asian couple that lives here.
NEIL-VO: Angel goes on to tell me that he’s going to track down more possible addresses for Chris. Meanwhile, Jayden’s gone ahead and put on an alert on Chris’s license plate number. In case you didn’t know, your license plate is basically being red and recorded on a regular basis, and police, private investigators, and way too many other professionals can find out exactly where your car has been for as far back as you can possibly imagine.
NEIL-VO: So while Jayden tracks down Chris, I investigate this guy further. To start with, I speak to one of Adea’s closest friends from acting school and supposedly the last person to have spoken with Adea, Christiane. Note that although the names are very similar, Christiane is obviously a very different person than Chris Spotz, Adea’s boyfriend.
Neil Strauss: I guess the first thing is how far back to you and Adea go?
Christiane: I’ve met her on October of 2016 when we started school, we go to the same school. So basically yeah, like she became my family here.
Neil Strauss: Was Chris there then or no? In acting school?
Christiane: In acting school. He was a student before, like he had graduated before we started I think. I’m not sure about his timeline there, and I didn’t meet him until we did a class together. It was Shakespeare. That’s where they work together for the first time and where everything started. She started feeling like, Oh my God, this guy is interesting. He’s so knowledgeable. He’s a good actor. I never saw anything of that in him. I don’t know. I’m very, I like people that’s transparent. And I hung out with him a few times. I talked to him, everything’s fine, he’s nice, but then he was engaged.
Christiane: Obviously me, I did not agree at all with the circumstance. Like I’m like, you’re crazy. How can you trust somebody that’s engaged? Even though whatever they are telling. She said it like, you know how I like drama. I’m like yeah, but it’s too dramatic. It’s too much. I don’t even know if she really was telling me the truth because the last time on Tuesday when we talk, I told her, stop telling me things. You know, I get very attached, and I adore you, and I don’t want anything to go wrong, but you’re not listening to me, so I’m done. I’m done.
NEIL-VO: Emma, Adea’s old friend from Macedonia who you met in episode one, had more secrets and more recent information to share about Adea’s relationship with Chris.
Emma: So she told me that there is a guy from a school named Chris that is supposed to be her partner in a scene, and then they started, you know, practicing and exercising the scene before they went to the performance. They started seeing each other and then she figured that out that he has a fiance. She’s telling me, oh he is going to leave Mary, Mary is the name of your fiance, he is going gonna leave Mary and come with me, and we are going to start something. I even know that he proposed her hand and then they apply for a two bedroom apartment.
Neil Strauss: You said he proposed to her?
Neil Strauss: When was that?
Neil Strauss: Wow.
Emma: She was in Macedonia, then she came back, and then she was ignoring him. She didn’t want to continue in this game. So she’s just call me, she just called me and told me, hey Emma, I have to tell you something I’m very happy, but I don’t know how to tell you. I’m like, tell me. And she said, he proposed me and he said, the only way we can be together is to get married then we have to move together.
NEIL-VO: Speaking with Emma, it’s clear why this relationship has been kept secret. Not only does Chris have a fiance named Mary who is also in LA, but he had recently proposed to Adea. So he’s living with one fiance and cheating on her with Adea, who he has also promised to move in with. Clearly, this guy has gotten itself into a serious bind.
NEIL-VO: One of the last times Christiane spoke to Adea, she invited Adea to go to Mexico with her. This trip was for the very same weekend that Adea went missing. Maybe if Adea had actually taken this trip, we wouldn’t be looking for her today.
Christiane: And then I invited her to Mexico, and on Friday morning I texted her, are you coming with me to Mexico, I’m leaving? And I was okay. And I knew she was like, no, no, no. I fell asleep. And I said, are you okay? Did you fix things with Chris? And she said, yeah, yeah, yeah. When the fiancee is not in the picture we’re all lovey dovey. Like yeah, everything’s fine. Okay, that’s perfect. But we were here and she told me, I might go to Sacramento. And I’m like, why? Like, because I thought everything was going to … Was done. Yeah. If everything works out and I go with him to the funeral. And I even remember thinking like, this woman, man, she’s crazy, you know?
Neil Strauss: And then she did say Sacramento?
Christiane: She did say. I knew that she had to go to Sacramento, and she did mention that she was going to go probably to the funeral of his uncle.
NEIL-VO: So that appears to solve one mystery. Adea’s last text asking where she can get red candles. Adea may have wanted them for the funeral of Chris’s uncle in Sacramento. What’s strange though is that this is the first time anyone’s mentioned that Adea had any plans for the weekend. It’s also the first time I’ve heard about Sacramento and this funeral. And as far as I know, no one’s been searching for Adea outside of southern California. We’re even looking into this. It feels like so much about Adea is either being hidden for some reason, or just not looked into that it’s hurting the search for her.
Newscaster1: They hit the sidewalk this evening here in Hollywood, getting the word out about Adea Shabani.
Female Friend 1: I don’t know. I don’t know what do think I just want to find her.
Newscaster1: The 25 year old actress left her apartment here at the Duet on Wilcox in Hollywood and no one has seen her since, which is out of character.
female friend 2: This is not her. This is not her. Something is going on with her. We don’t know where she is. It’s just so sad. We just hoping she’s alive.
Newscaster1: Shabani, who was a frequent user of social media, has been off the grid.
Male Friend 1: We tried calling her, messaging her, emailing her, Facebooking her, Instagramming her, every way.
Speaker 11: Nothing.
Newscaster1: The last text on that day that she disappeared, it had to deal with red candles. Not a hint at all that she might be in trouble.
NEIL-VO: Again, Adea’s friend Christiane.
Christiane: When didn’t come to school for me it was like, man, something is really, really, really wrong. I was very nervous, and I never thought it would come this far and this long time. And I don’t know.
Neil Strauss: I don’t know if it was you or not. Somebody had called Chris afterward. It wasn’t you, was it?
Christiane: I texted him on Sunday.
Neil Strauss: Okay. And what was the response?
Christiane: He responded, do you want me to read it exactly like they were?
Neil Strauss: Yeah.
Christiane: So I texted him, Hi Chris, just like that on his What’s App and on Facebook, and he answered one hour after, hey Christiane, I spoke to Marco briefly as I was on my way to church. I haven’t spoke with Adea since Friday morning. And then I said, oh my God, Chris, we can’t find her anywhere. I’m so scared. What was the last thing she told you or at what time you spoke with her? We are going to the police, her mom told me, because they are all very worried and no one has any information since Friday. Please, please if she contacts you anyway, let me know. We are all freaking out. This is not normal of Adea. And then one hour after I just stopped with Emma. I can’t believe no one has saw her. We fought on Friday. The last thing she told me was that I would never see her again.
NEIL-VO: Chapter four follow the lie.
Jayden: We pinged the boyfriend’s phone and the boyfriend’s fiance’s phone, or what we think are the phones. He has a truck, she’s got like a little SUV. The other girl friend, or the fiance. So I’ve put an alert on them, both of those cars for the plate readers, and we actually got to hit on hers. So we went and it was like in a parking lot of a hotel, and they had in fact checked in there. And so we got a bunch of surveillance video from them there, and again, he’s acting so weird like coming in, and then he would leave in one car, and then he would go back, and he’d leave and another car.
Neil Strauss: So I guess my main question is considering that this guy was the last person seen with her and he’s like behaving super suspiciously, why are they not erecting hammer taking them for questioning?
Jayden: I mean that’s a good question. He checked into the hotel, he was right there. We were on him. LAPD is working it, but they told us to lay off him. I mean, we could have either put surveillance on him right there, we could have talked to him, whatever. But they kind of said, hey, you know, leave him alone. You know me, at this point I’m trying to help.
NEIL-VO: Though the police told Jayden they had everything handled, Angel had no intention of stopping his pursuit of Chris. Since I’ve last spoken to Angel he’d actually doubled his efforts to find Chris.
Angel: So yeah. All of my staff were on it. Everybody was researching and doing whatever they can do. We were trying to find hackers. We were trying to get us something that we can find this girl. We found out his third possible location. It’s not like any of us know what to do in this case scenario. You know, we were jumping over fences, we were going through whatever garages, or whatever it is, just to kind of search the garage. Which at that point we had found out about Chris’s fiance, which was a nurse. Right away I started suspecting that the nurse probably has something to do with it. She has access to medication. She knows what to give someone. If they were gonna put them into like an induced coma, she would know what to do.
NEIL-VO: This is a really disturbing theory implicating Chris Spotz and now his fiance, and it all hinges on this one tip. There’s a lot I need to follow up on right now. I have to find out exactly where this funeral in Sacramento took place, and if Chris and Adea were actually there. And I also need to get prepared to reach out directly to Chris. But the first thing I need to do right now is what I criticized police for not doing the Ted Bundy situation. I’m going to look deeper into this very incriminating tip, but I’m also going to try to find the actual tipster and get the full story for myself firsthand.
Jayden: Based on my conversation with Angel and just kind of limited knowledge of that situation over there at the apartment, I have kind of an idea of who it might be.
NEIL-VO: Eventually, Jayden gives me the name and the address of the person who he believes left the tip, but under strictest confidentiality and the promise not to use his name or reveal his identity. An hour later, I’m outside the apartment building where the tipster lives sitting in my car and waiting for him to come outside.
Neil Strauss: Are we rolling? Hey guys. Is one of you, by the way?
Alex: That’s him.
Neil Strauss: Oh, cool. Hey.
Alex: Right there.
Neil Strauss: Oh, hey man. I’m doing a podcast about Adea, the girl who went missing.
Tipster: Oh, okay.
Neil Strauss: Yeah. I know you had called in a tip, but I just wanted to kind of verify it for the story if you had a second, if that’s okay. I don’t need to use your name by the way. Is that okay? I know you didn’t want to be named, if that’s okay. This is Alex, he works with me.
Tipster: I don’t know if I was possibly the last one that maybe seen her leave, but yeah.
NEIL-VO: He seems very nervous to speak, so I reassure him and he says he’ll be back in 20 minutes. I assume that he’s just giving me a line and he’s not going to come back at all, but eventually he returns and he pulls me into a parking garage. As he looks around nervously, he talks about everything he saw. I’ll try to repeat everything he says so you won’t hear his voice much here, but it’s very surprising.
Neil Strauss: Well she gets in the truck, and all you know is you see them leaving. She’s in the bed of the truck and it looks not like she’s messed up, or on drugs, or is scared. She’s scared of someone else who’s not in a truck and she’s hiding, like she’s sneaking out so she’s not seen. I’ll tell you the story that they told me. The story they told me was that you had seen her drugged getting forced into a car, and then he wrote down the license plate number. So you never wrote down the license plate number.
Neil Strauss: Unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that even the private investigator told me the story I just told you.
NEIL-VO: I’m going to quote exactly what the tipster says next. Within two hours, he continues, the hookah people were out here in front looking for her saying that you went missing and they wanted to get into her apartment. When I would replay it back in my head, her, the way she looked, like she was scared looking for something, it was as if she was trying to get away from the hookah people. By the hookah people he actually means Angel. After that, he continues, I never want to do associate with the Armenian Suge Knight because that’s what we used to call them. Because to me, he just weirded me out.
Neil Strauss: So I met with [redacted], he like pulled me aside and we talked for about like a good half hour.
Neil Strauss: His story was very different than what you and Angel had told me. Basically what he said was he saw her exiting the building in the back of the truck, but not like drugs or pushed into there, she was leaving the parking garage in the truck as if she was hiding from someone else. Then he said two hours later the hookah guy, as he put it, this guy showed up saying Adea is been missing and we need her computer.
Jayden: That’s kind of weird.
Neil Strauss: Very weird. Well he’s very, I mean, he’s scared of Angel. He calls him like the Armenian Suge Knight . He’s like, I avoid that guy, I avoid that guy every time I can. He’s like very scared of this guy.
Jayden: The Armenian Suge Knight. I like that, that’s pretty funny. Look, I mean I always for better or worse, I’ve always thought that Angel was weird. But that’s obviously very weird.
NEIL-VO: There’s a simple tactic I’ve learned from years of reporting, follow the lie. And so far Angel’s the only person who’s apparently lied to me. What’s even stranger is that Adea’s computer in her apartment was used after she disappeared, and who was it that was trying to get into her apartment to access that computer? Angel.
NEIL-VO: Coming up on the next episode of To Live and Die in LA.
Jayden: Forget the police. Convince me that you had nothing to do with it. And I’ll go back to the family if that’s truly what you’re worried about. How do you think it looks? I’m here so that you can convince me so that I can tell them this guy didn’t have anything to do with it. Because you look like a nice guy, just a regular guy. You’re not going around killing people.
NEIL-VO: To Live and Die in LA has been a production of Tenderfoot TV and me, Neil Strauss, in conjunction with Cadence 13. The executive producers of this podcast are myself, Donald Albright, and Payne Lindsey. Along with producers Alex Vespestad and Mike Rooney. Because this is an open case, anything you know about Adea Shabani or anyone mentioned in this podcast, we want to know. Please email us at email@example.com, or call us at (213) 204-2073. The music and score that you’ve heard in this podcast is by Makeup and Vanity Set. Our theme song is Loving and War by Flurry, and our show art and design are by Trevor Isler. You can follow us on social media at livedielapod, or you can find our website with bonus content at livediela.com. I want to extend a special thanks to Brian Fishbach, to Rich Burner, Kevin Richter, Station 16, Oren Rosenbaum at UTA, Eric Lynn at Shangrila, and the Nord Group. It helps a lot when you subscribe, rate, and review the podcasts that you enjoy and listen to. Our hope is to expose these stories so the missing can be found, and so the perpetrators can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
NEIL-VO: Thank you for listening and for your support.
Episode 3 - Three Sides to Every Story
A video surfaces from the day of Adea’s disappearance. Neil and Jayden begin to pursue the suspect from state to state.
Episode 4 - Toxic Love
Neil finds the apartment where the main suspect is believed to be staying, and prepares for a confrontation. New information surfaces, including a very disturbing video, making it possible to reconstruct the nightmarish weeks prior to Adea’s disappearance.
Episode 5 - Holy S#%T
Everything changes after an unexpected turn of events. At a loss for words, only two come to mind…
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