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In January 1981, Verna Johnson-Roehler and her young son, Doug, drowned while boating thirty miles off the coast of Malibu. Verna’s husband, Fred Roehler, was the sole survivor and only witness.

Initially, the deaths were ruled accidental. But a phone call from a Malibu neighbor changed everything. Was Fred a monster, masquerading as the perfect Malibu dad? Or was an innocent man convicted by his gossiping neighbors?

Lost Hills is a true crime podcast hosted by Dana Goodyear (The New Yorker) and produced by Western Sound and Pushkin Industries. Show artwork: Hot Panorama, 2021, copyright Francesca Gabbiani

Email the show: losthills@western-sound.com

Most Recent Episode

Actor Rob Lowe on Growing Up in “the MILF Capital of the World”

Rob Lowe moved to Malibu in 1976, when he was 12. The Malibu of his youth was crazy. In this Season 2 bonus episode, Lowe takes us on a trippy…

Episode 10: Lifelines

Fred’s daughters share a trove of correspondence, and wrestle with unanswered questions about Jeanne’s death. The fight for Fred’s release continues. And a trip to Bird Rock brings resolution, at…

Episode 9: Prejudicial Effect

Fred’s trial is the longest and most expensive in Santa Barbara history, and the dory plays a starring role. Stan Roden, the DA, wants to send Fred to the gas…

Episode 8: Three Freds

Fred hires a high-powered defense attorney and a team of private eyes, and starts pushing back on the detectives’ narrative. He’s got an explanation for everything: his real-estate holdings, his…

Episode 7: Love or Money

After Fred’s arrest, detectives start looking into his finances. How does a civilian employee of the Navy afford a beachfront home, on a gated road in Malibu, and a brand-new…

Episode 6: Cold Pricklies

The sheriff’s department orders a new set of autopsies on Verna and Doug, to be conducted in secret. Now, there’s enough evidence to arrest Fred. Meanwhile, detectives talk to his…

Episode 5: Who Would You Take?

Shortly after Jeanne’s death, Fred starts seeing Verna, one of Jeanne’s closest friends. It’s a whirlwind romance, and soon they’re merging families. The timeline of their relationship stokes Malibu gossip,…

Episode 4: The Shallow End, Part 2

It’s 1976 and Jeanne is in thrall to Lifespring, a self-improvement group, or, some would say, a cult. She is manifesting her future—without Fred. This alternative reality never arrives. Instead,…

Episode 3: The Shallow End, Part 1

Fred’s first wife, Jeanne, a flight attendant for United Airlines, is glamorous, outgoing, the life of the party. But there are tensions in the marriage and they’re mounting. Jeanne tells…

Episode 1: Mr. Malibu

Fred, Verna, and their four young children are the happiest-looking family in Malibu. It’s a Brady Bunch story, a blended family living by the beach. But when they take their…

Episode 2: Quiet No Longer

The Ventura County Medical Examiner determines Verna and Doug’s deaths to be accidental drownings, so Fred moves forward with funeral plans. But the cremations are halted after a family friend…

Introducing Lost Hills Season Two

In January 1981, Verna Johnson-Roehler and her young son, Doug, drowned while boating thirty miles off the coast of Malibu. Verna’s husband, Fred Roehler, was the sole survivor and only…

The Host