KSL Podcasts, the freestanding podcast unit within Bonneville-Salt Lake City, has released the follow up to its hit podcast Cold and this time it’s leaving the true crime genre for the real-life story of an American couple that spent two years inside a notorious Venezuelan prison. Hope in Darkness: The John Holt Story – a coproduction between KSL and Wondery – follows American Josh Holt and his Venezuelan-born wife Thamara Belen Caleño who were swept up by the Venezuelan government just two weeks after they were married.
Holt, a native of Riverton, Utah, met Caleño, who lived outside of Caracas, on Facebook after he returned from his mission as he looked for a partner to help him improve his Spanish-language skills. Their relationship turned romantic and in May 2016 they were engaged. Holt traveled to Venezuela a month later for their marriage and to secure the required paperwork to allow Caleño and her two daughters to legally move to the U.S. But their plans took a dark detour on June 30, 2016 when Venezuelan military police knocked on their door. Both Holt and Caleño were arrested. They were jailed at El Helicoide, a notorious prison in the heart of Caracas known for its overcrowding, filth, and use of torture.
“A lot of people don’t realize the horrendous abuse Josh’s wife, Thamy, endured on his behalf,” says Becky Bruce, podcast host and KSL reporter. “At any time during their 23 months at El Helicoide, she could have signed a paper saying Josh was guilty and she would have gained her freedom. She never signed it, even when she was tortured.”
On the podcast, Holt and Caleño share their experiences of human rights abuses as well as the previously undisclosed details of how their release came about. It relied on a team of attorneys, family members and members of the faith community, some of whom put their own lives on hold to advocate for the couple in Washington.
“We are happy the full story of what happened to Josh and Thamy Holt is finally being told. It’s a story of survival and fortitude under deplorable conditions and of the strength of the human spirit to overcome,” says Sherly Worsley, Director Audience Development at Bonneville Salt Lake. “A podcast is a great way to give this story its full context.”
Hope in Darkness will tell the story across a dozen episodes. The first will be released May 27.
Earlier this month KSL announced its true crime podcast Cold had been optioned by PatMa Productions for potential development into a television series. Cold was focused on the December 2009 disappearance of Salt Lake-area mother-of-two Susan Powell. The series has had more than 38 million downloads since its release in November 2018.