7 episodes

Hosted by Laura Beil (Dr. Death, Bad Batch), Sympathy Pains is a six-part series from Neon Hum Media and iHeartRadio. For 20 years, Sarah Delashmit told people around her that she had cancer, muscular dystrophy, and other illnesses. She used a wheelchair and posted selfies from a hospital bed. She told friends and coworkers she was trapped in abusive relationships, or that she was the mother of children who had died. It was all a con. Sympathy was both her great need and her powerful weapon. But unlike most scams, she didn’t want people’s money. She was after something far more valuable. 

Sympathy Pains iHeartPodcasts

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 • 1.1K Ratings

Hosted by Laura Beil (Dr. Death, Bad Batch), Sympathy Pains is a six-part series from Neon Hum Media and iHeartRadio. For 20 years, Sarah Delashmit told people around her that she had cancer, muscular dystrophy, and other illnesses. She used a wheelchair and posted selfies from a hospital bed. She told friends and coworkers she was trapped in abusive relationships, or that she was the mother of children who had died. It was all a con. Sympathy was both her great need and her powerful weapon. But unlike most scams, she didn’t want people’s money. She was after something far more valuable. 

    Episode 1: Bethany

    Episode 1: Bethany

    Sarah shows up at a Texas camp for people with disabilities in the fall of 2015 in a power wheelchair, seemingly unable to move her body. During the week of camp, counselor Bethany Turner takes care of Sarah’s every need, bathing her, and even changing her menstrual pads. After camp is over, they speak almost daily. Then one day, Bethany gets a shocking call from the camp.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 30 min
    Episode 2: Erin

    Episode 2: Erin

    This time, at a summer camp in California, Sarah Delashmit is a counselor. She becomes fast friends with Erin Johnson, a 23-year-old woman who was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. Over the next decade, Erin supports Sarah, from afar, through setback after setback: a brain tumor, an Ebola infection, and multiple children born prematurely and dying. Erin mourns Sarah’s losses as if they were her own, and ultimately faces an even greater devastation.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 37 min
    Episode 3: Liz

    Episode 3: Liz

    Liz Hickox works in financial services and volunteers for a breast cancer charity. At a bike ride for young survivors, she meets Sarah, who says she has stage 4 metastatic disease. Liz and her husband Brian welcome Sarah into their winter home in Florida and help her train for a triathlon– her single goal before she dies. After they discover the truth, they find other victims of Sarah’s scams and together vow to get her help, turning to an unlikely person: Dr. Phil.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 35 min
    Episode 4: Andrea

    Episode 4: Andrea

    Liz, Brian and Bethany confront Sarah on national television. Dr. Phil arranges psychiatric care for Sarah, after she leaves the set. Meanwhile, Andrea Smith, a stay-at-home mom in South Carolina, has been tracking Sarah across the internet for 20 years, warning non-profits not to allow her into their communities. Andrea even went to the police when Sarah was in college. Sarah’s past is about to catch up with her.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 37 min
    Episode 5: Truth

    Episode 5: Truth

    Across the country, people who have known Sarah see the Dr. Phil show and learn the scope of her lies. Victims call police, who say they cannot prosecute Sarah because “it’s not a crime to fake cancer.” Soon, federal prosecutors learn of crimes they can prosecute Sarah for. But should her mental state be considered in the search for justice?

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 38 min
    Episode 6: Justice

    Episode 6: Justice

    Laura gets a call from a relative who provides insight into Sarah's past. Sarah has her day in court. Her victims have the chance to say their piece, but still struggle to make sense of what happened to them. The judge issues a surprising sentence.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.1K Ratings

1.1K Ratings

Caitmarie05 ,

Fascinating Reporting

Laura Bail is an excellent reporter and this story is fascinating. It’s so important to expose stories like this and bring them to light. Highly recommend this podcast series.

YRJ ,

Interesting Story…

Human behavior at it’s worst…sad, intriguing and infuriating. I’m always amazed at the audacity of far how people will go to get want they want!

Girlbrain101 ,

Disturbing and Fascinating

What a scary story of a person preying on people’s kind natures. Excellently told, with a variety of different voices. Especial props for including a disabled voice on the show!

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