Published by National Public Radio in the U.S., Serial focuses on the opaque details surrounding the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Baltimore-area high school student Hae Min Lee and the man convicted of killing her, Adnan Syed.
The series has been downloaded by millions of people worldwide and spawned endless online speculation and debate . It also encouraged some people on the periphery of the case to come forward with new information.
Toronto homicide detectives have been listening, too. Now they are using the widespread interest in Serial to help solve the mysterious 2011 New Year's Eve murder of Mike Pimentel in Liberty Village.
Pimentel was at a party with two other friends but the trio was separated as they were leaving. At some point, Pimentel ended up alone, got into a confrontation with an unknown man and woman, and was stabbed to death.
Earlier this month, Det. Tam Bui began posting clues from the case on Twitter in an effort to crowd source new information.
Using the hashtag #mikepimentelmurder, Bui has tweeted photos of the crime scene and an image of a woman police hope to identify so they can speak with her. He has also posted photos of three critical pieces of evidence: a hair extension, a high-heeled shoe and a set of keys with a distinctive key chain.
He tweets a new piece of evidence every Saturday, with a final clue expected on New Year's Eve.
"This could be a unique way of drawing information from the general public and more specifically people who were in Liberty Village on January 1, 2012," said Det. Jeff Tavares, who works with Bui in the homicide unit and has helped with the project.
"We were hoping that using the Serial podcast as a parallel to our investigation perhaps would spark interest in those who have been following Serial and they'll say, 'Hey, we have a real life Serial story in our neighbourhood so why don't we start following this," said Tavares in an interview with CBC's Metro Morning.
Tavares said the detectives have received "a ton of positive response" to the tweets, and a few people have even come forward with potentially helpful information, including a woman who said she owns the same pair of shoes and identified where she bought them.
Toronto police are generally very active on social media. Det.-Sgt. Brian Borg has been tweeting out clues to cold cases since November, hoping to advance multiple cases that remain unsolved.
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