The call came in around 3:45 AM on the morning of February 8, 2002, for a vehicle fire in a parking lot near the 16th Street Bridge in Northside.
The blaze was so intense that firefighters didn’t realize someone had been inside until the flames subsided.
Two days later, dental records confirmed that the deceased was 33-year-old Jamie Stickle. The Uniontown native worked as a bartender at Sidekicks and other Downtown gay bars on Liberty Avenue. Those that knew her spoke of her warm and charming personality, and said she used her position to raise money for research to cure diseases such as HIV/AIDS and muscular dystrophy.
Despite what some saw as indications of foul play, such as Stickle’s blood on the handle of her Jeep Wrangler and the door of her nearby apartment, no one was ever charged in connection with her death. Furthermore, an autopsy report noted carbon monoxide present in her lungs, which could indicate that Stickle was still alive at the time the fire started.
The office of the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s ruled the manner of death as “burning,” while the cause of death remains “undetermined.”
“With respect to any investigation by Pittsburgh Police, it is ‘open’ in the sense that if any new information or evidence comes to light in this case, it will be investigated,” said Cara Cruz, Public Information Officer with Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Safety, in an email.
The case caught the interest of LA-based podcast host, Jaime Stickle, for reasons that are apparent. Stickle’s death came around the time the internet began to proliferate, and after years of intrigue and awkward mistaken identities, Stickle and her producer/husband, Jason Beeber, set out to determine what happened that early winter morning with their new podcast: The Girl With The Same Name.
The team behind the podcast received an assist from QBurgh, Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ publication. QBurgh’s archives date back to the 1980s and include edition’s of Pittsburgh’s Out and other predecessors, and their contemporaneous coverage of Stickle’s death contains detail not present in other reports of the era.
“While the big Pittsburgh papers and KDKA covered Jamie’s death, very little attention was paid to the community she was a part of and left behind,” said Beeber, senior producer of the podcast, in an email.
“The Out Magazine articles also included some key details about the crime scene that were left out of other pubs, which we later ended up verifying with other sources, but they led our investigation down a specific path of seeking evidence that indicated foul play, and would later aid in our meeting with Dr. Cyril Wecht.”
The first season will consist of 6 episodes, says Beeber. “It is our hope and anticipation that the success of the podcast will open more doors and harvest new leads and information that will be featured in a second season.”
Episode one will be released next Thursday, February 15, on major streaming platforms. Updates can be found at The Girl With The Same Name website.
He is a 2x 2023 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill award winner, in feature and business reporting. And a 3x finalist in the investigative reporting category.
He is a 2018 first prize winner in environmental reporting from the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.
In 2022 and 2021, he was awarded a grant from The Gumshoe Group to support his investigative reporting.