Motive, the investigative podcast series from WBEZ Chicago, will span three continents as the show launches a second season with an expose about a college student whose semester abroad ended in her death from what once seemed like a terrible accident but mounting evidence suggests a criminal act may’ve taken place.
The story begins in Seville, Spain where Lauren Bajorek was studying. But that came to a tragic end on a summer night in 2015 when she went out to celebrate her 21st birthday with her friends, but never came home. It was discovered she’d fallen off the balcony of her Spanish tour guide’s apartment. Bajorek’s death was deemed an accident and the case was closed.
But three years later in April 2018, Bajorek’s friends were watching a segment on NBC-TV’s “Megyn Kelly Today” show which featured Gabrielle Vega, a young woman who claimed that her Spanish tour guide drugged and raped her while she was studying abroad in Spain. It was the same tour guide whose balcony Bajorek had fallen from years earlier.
In the days following the TV segment, more than 30 women contacted Vega and her lawyer. They said they too were subject to sexual comments or harassment and, in some cases, to being drugged and raped by this same tour guide. And while a criminal investigation has since been opened in Spain, no one has been arrested or prosecuted.
The story, and the many unanswered questions, inspired WBEZ journalists Candace Mittel-Kahn and Alexandra Salomon to embark on a year-long investigation for the Motive podcast. They ended up speaking with dozens of women on three continents.
“Women are finally coming forward to talk about something they didn’t think they’d ever have to talk about and the impact it’s had on their lives,” said Mittel-Kahn, who serves as host and producer of the podcast. “Over eight episodes we explore not only the reasons why some of these women stayed silent for almost a decade, but also what’s next in Spain’s criminal investigation into these accusations now that their silence has been broken.”
WBEZ first launched Motive last year with a first season that was based on reporting by the Chicago Sun-Timesto chronicle the story of Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez, who was wrongfully convicted for murder when he was just a 13-year-old boy.
“This new season of Motiveonce again takes listeners inside a single, real-life story to answer a broader question: ‘How could this have happened?’” said Kevin Dawson, Managing Director of Content Development for WBEZ and executive producer of the podcast. “This time our story is set in Spain to look at the tragic outcome of Lauren Bajorek’s study abroad trip, but goes further to add insights to an important and timely conversation about sexual violence against women.”