"I think it was definitely a situation where it was mutually beneficial for a lot of parties if my dad was out of the picture," Madison McGhee tells PEOPLE
For 10 years, Madison McGhee believed her father died from a heart attack when she was 6 years old. But as a teen, she learned the shocking truth: He was murdered and the killer was never caught.
On July 11, 2002, John Cornelius (J.C.) McGhee was fatally shot in the head in the doorway of his home in Belmont County, Ohio, leaving behind Madison, who was raised in West Virginia by her mother.
Now Madison, 28, has decided to take the case into her own hands and search for the killer. In May of this year, she launched the podcast Ice Cold Case to dive deeper into the facts of the case with hopes of solving her father's murder. "This is the story of what happened to J.C. McGhee on July 11, 2002 according to police records — some of which may not be entirely accurate nor adequate," the description of the first episode of the podcast reads. "Twenty years later, the search for answers begins."
After J.C.'s death, police came to the conclusion that his murder stemmed from a home invasion gone wrong, but Madison isn't so sure that's the truth. She became even more skeptical after learning her father had been a drug dealer-turned-informant who had helped police arrest a number of people — including one of his nephews, who was then sentenced to life in prison, Madison says.
"I think it was definitely a situation where it was mutually beneficial for a lot of parties if my dad was out of the picture, for either fear of getting ratted out again or just this revenge plot," says Madison, who adds: "I think a lot of people had stake in this game for different reasons."
Madison's nine-episode podcast pores over the evidence of the case and includes interviews with family members and those who knew her father.
"It's been this really interesting learning experience about myself, but also who my family is, people that I didn't grow up around because I was raised with my mom," she says.
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Throughout her efforts, she was able to reconnect with her half sister Alyssa, 37, and learn what Alyssa remembered from the day their father was killed.
"When my dad died, I never saw my sister again," Madison says. "After the funeral, I never saw my sister in person until I met up with her last year to interview her for this podcast."
However, not all of Madison's family members were willing to talk about her father's death. One relative wrote a threatening message on Facebook saying, “You should stop, or I’ll make you stop.”
But that hasn't deterred Madison from releasing her podcast, narrowing down suspects and continuing her quest for justice.
"I want this to get solved," Madison says. "I'm willing to take it as far as I need to."
• With reporting by Liam Quinn
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