April 13, 2017 16:31 GMT by dailymail.co.uk

S-Town battle: Who gets John B. Mclemore's buried gold?

S-Town battle: Who gets John B. Mclemore's buried gold?

SPOILER ALERT! It is the explosive feud at the now at the center of the world's most talked about podcast, S-Town: The battle for John B. McLemore's rumored trove of buried gold.

It is the explosive feud at the center of the world's most talked about podcast: the battle for John B. McLemore's rumored trove of buried gold. 

On the one side is 26-year-old Tyler Goodson, a dope-smoking tattoo artist who claims he is the rightful heir to McLemore, a brilliant and allegedly wealthy malcontent who committed suicide by drinking cyanide. 

But standing in his way is the 'conniving cousin' Reta Lawrence, 63, accused of arriving on the scene within hours of McLemore's death to sweep up his land and riches in the absence of a will. 

The ensuing skirmish lands Goodson in court and provides the central intrigue for S-Town, the smash hit podcast which was downloaded by more than 16 million listeners in its first week alone. 

John B. McLemore is the central figure in the new podcast, S-Town, the most downloaded audio show in history. The seven part mini-series lays bare McLemore's battle with depression, his secret homosexual liaisons and the ugly skirmish for his property and possessions

John B. McLemore is the central figure in the new podcast, S-Town, the most downloaded audio show in history. The seven part mini-series lays bare McLemore's battle with depression, his secret homosexual liaisons and the ugly skirmish for his property and possessions

Despite his apparent scorn for his hometown Woodstock, which he called S**t Town, McLemore spent his entire life in the town with his mother, Mary Grace, 88

Despite his apparent scorn for his hometown Woodstock, which he called S**t Town, McLemore spent his entire life in the town with his mother, Mary Grace, 88

The battle for McLemore's rumored trove of buried gold is a central story line of the new blockbuster podcast 

The battle for McLemore's rumored trove of buried gold is a central story line of the new blockbuster podcast 

The tatted up McLemore first contacted American Life podcast producer Brian Reed in 2012 urging him to investigate the son of a wealthy man who allegedly boasted about getting away with murder. But the podcast soon morphed into an exploration of McLemore's bizarre life

The tatted up McLemore first contacted American Life podcast producer Brian Reed in 2012 urging him to investigate the son of a wealthy man who allegedly boasted about getting away with murder. But the podcast soon morphed into an exploration of McLemore's bizarre life

And when DailyMail.com tracked down both parties to see how things have played out, we found their simmering legal battle shows no signs of fizzling. 

'People are going to believe what they want to believe and that's fine,' Charles Lawrence, Reta's 67-year-old husband, tells DailyMail.com. 'But if you listen to the podcast you know who the white trash is.'

S-Town took shape when Brian Reed, an investigative journalist and This American Life producer, agreed to meet McLemore five years ago to examine an unsolved murder. 

Reed established that the murder never happened but developed a close friendship with the mercurial clock restorer who killed himself in June 2015 on the front porch of his rural Alabama home. 

Rather than abandoning his project, Reed began piecing together the labyrinthine mysteries of McLemore's eccentric life, from the giant hedge maze he built on his land to the rumored hoard of gold he buried beneath it.

The setting for this twisting, turning narrative is S-Town, or 'S**t town', McLemore's unflattering nickname for his tiny hometown of Woodstock, where Tyler says he is now public enemy number one. 

On the one side is McLemore's 'conniving cousin' Reta Lawrence, 63, with her husband, Charles, 69, accused of arriving on the scene within hours of the clock worker's death to sweep up his land and riches in the absence of a will

On the one side is McLemore's 'conniving cousin' Reta Lawrence, 63, with her husband, Charles, 69, accused of arriving on the scene within hours of the clock worker's death to sweep up his land and riches in the absence of a will

On the other side is 26-year-old Tyler Goodson, a dope-smoking tattoo artist who claims he is McLemore's rightful heir 

On the other side is 26-year-old Tyler Goodson, a dope-smoking tattoo artist who claims he is McLemore's rightful heir 

Goodson regarded McLemore as a father figure and insists he was promised the entire 148 acre estate, complete with the exotic flowers, orchards and the giant hedge maze the two men build together

'I've had a lot of love from around the world but people in this s**t town hate me because of this,' Goodson tells DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview. 

'It's caused a whole lot of drama. I lost my construction job. The guy I work for knows I'm not the villain but he thinks all this excitement is bad for business.' 

Goodson regarded McLemore as a father figure and mentor, insisting he was promised his entire 148-acre estate, complete with the exotic flowers, orchards and the elaborate maze the two friends built together. 

The father-of-four spent almost every day at the reclusive McLemore's side, tending to his grounds and helping care for his elderly mother, Mary Grace. 

But there was also a dark side to their relationship, with the younger man consenting to tattoo McLemore's torso and pierce his nipples repeatedly in a nightly sadomasochistic ritual dubbed 'church'. 

Tyler was with McLemore hours before his death to mark Father's Day but he left when the two men got into an argument and never spoke to his troubled older friend again. 

'I started caring for John because he cared about me,' said Goodson, who no longer speaks to his own father.

'He saw what a piece of s**t daddy we had. He could have been a rough daddy as well but he was a good dude. 

The reclusive McLemroe, here at the entrance to his elaborate maze, committed suicide in June 2015 by drinking potassium cyanide

The reclusive McLemroe, here at the entrance to his elaborate maze, committed suicide in June 2015 by drinking potassium cyanide

DailyMail.com reveals that Tyler Goodson, who helped John build the maze, may not have been the only alleged intruder accessing the property after McLemore's death, with reports circulating about S-Town fans creeping through to catch glimpses of his house and maze

DailyMail.com reveals that Tyler Goodson, who helped John build the maze, may not have been the only alleged intruder accessing the property after McLemore's death, with reports circulating about S-Town fans creeping through to catch glimpses of his house and maze

McLemore's intricate hedge maze has adjustable gates for 64 possible solutions. S-Town producer Reed said that throughout work on the podcast he was drawn to how different McLemore was from other people. 'Being with him really felt like really being off the grid in a way that the normal rules of society don't totally matter, and he created that feeling'

McLemore's intricate hedge maze has adjustable gates for 64 possible solutions. S-Town producer Reed said that throughout work on the podcast he was drawn to how different McLemore was from other people. 'Being with him really felt like really being off the grid in a way that the normal rules of society don't totally matter, and he created that feeling'

 An online 'Save the Maze' campaign is dedicated to finding a way to preserve the labyrinth

 An online 'Save the Maze' campaign is dedicated to finding a way to preserve the labyrinth

'I was his groundskeeper. I didn't charge him because it felt like it was my responsibility. I took him leftovers every night and brought his mama a biscuit in the morning. 

'When he died it was like I was in shock. I would dream it didn't happen and think I could get up and go back over there.' 

Goodson did go back onto McLemore's property - repeatedly - allegedly taking away his laptop, papers and even his dog, Pipsqueak, and retrieving tattooing equipment and tools he claims are his.

He also scoured the earth with a metal detector and dug holes in search of buried gold. 

When Goodson took a bus, a trailer and sold two more of McLemore's vehicles by allegedly forging ownership documents, McLemore's cousin Reta, from Welaka, Florida, intervened to have him arrested. 

To date he faces five counts of first-degree theft of property, two counts of first-degree forgery, one count of third-degree trespassing and one count of second-degree possession of a forged instrument in a case scheduled for June. 

Lawrence and her retired husband Charles, 67, are incredulous at suggestions they acted improperly to cut Tyler out, regarding him as a gold digger who leached off McLemore and had no right to his legacy. 

Most of Woodstock has come to regard McLemore's gold as an elaborate hoax with many siding against Goodson, who allegedly used the stolen lumber and materials to build a new home across town

Most of Woodstock has come to regard McLemore's gold as an elaborate hoax with many siding against Goodson, who allegedly used the stolen lumber and materials to build a new home across town

John B. McLemore's grave in the Green Pond Presbyterian Church Cemetery
McLemore's grave in the Green Pond Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

John B. McLemore's grave in the Green Pond Presbyterian Church Cemetery

They say they arrived at his home the night of his suicide solely to take care of Mary Grace, not to stake an early claim to McLemore's land or hunt for treasure. 

'We don't really think there was any gold. There might have been at one time but we think probably that was all gone,' said Mr. Lawrence, a retiree with no children. 

'My wife made a comment about finding it on the podcast that made her look bad. It was taken out of context but it was basically made as a joke. 

'In the same way she made a comment about removing John's nipple rings. But she was frustrated with the police, frustrated with someone breaking in on the property every night. 

'She was trying to make arrangements for a funeral, trying to make arrangements to take care of an 88-year-old woman. 

'And all of a sudden an undertaker tells you "I can't get the rings out", oh really? It was out of frustration. 

'There was no reward for us. We don't need money. We are responsible for Mary Grace and we are doing the best we can to make sure she's comfortable and taken care of. Other than that we have no interest in it.' 

Most of Woodstock has come to regard McLemore's gold as an elaborate hoax with many siding against Goodson, who allegedly used the stolen lumber and materials to build a new home across town. 

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Goodson, however, remains convinced the gold is still buried under McLemore's home.

Either that or it's been spirited away by a cabal of local bigwigs, including Woodstock's former town clerk, Faye Gamble, or McLemore's former lawyer, Boozer Downs.

'When he died it was f**ked up. I just assumed that he had something set up,' he told DailyMail.com.

'Once I went to his lawyer's office and that son of a b***h shoved me out the door, I knew something was wrong.

'John B didn't have a will, are you f**king kidding me? Who is gonna have a suicide note that is so elaborate it could be a book and not have a will? 

'I think there is gold. Boozer and Faye may have a portion of it. But what they got is just chump change. The rest of it is there.

'Finally I said to hell with it. I said "just let me get my damn s**t". And they wouldn't even let me do that.' 

Brian Reed, an investigative journalist and This American Life producer, met McLemore five years ago when he visited his rural Alabama home to examine an unsolved murder. Reed established that the murder never happened but developed a close friendship with McLemore

Brian Reed, an investigative journalist and This American Life producer, met McLemore five years ago when he visited his rural Alabama home to examine an unsolved murder. Reed established that the murder never happened but developed a close friendship with McLemore

The series has polarized opinion among Woodstock's 1,500 inhabitants, with many torn between their admiration for Reed's storytelling and unease at being thrust into the spotlight

The series has polarized opinion among Woodstock's 1,500 inhabitants, with many torn between their admiration for Reed's storytelling and unease at being thrust into the spotlight

S-Town has proved a global smash hit, racking up as many downloads in one week as the first season of its critically acclaimed predecessor, Serial, achieved in two months. 

The final episode poses another beguiling, unanswered question - whether McLemore's mental illness was brought about by his repeated exposure to the poisonous chemicals he used to meticulously restore clocks. 

The mercurial horologist had an international reputation through the brilliance of his work but was notorious for persisting with an outdated, dangerous method called 'fire gilding' which exposed him to dangerous levels of mercury. 

Mercury poisoning is said to have given rise to the phrase 'mad as a hatter', owing to the plight of 19th century milliners who suffered brain damage, tremors, slurred speech and even hallucinations after working repeatedly with the hazardous metal. 

Reed muses in S-Town that similar exposure could have been the underlying cause for the paranoia, depression and suicidal thoughts exhibited by McLemore in his final years, a particularity worrying hypothesis for Goodson. 

'I've been there when he was gold and silver plating and every time he would get the goddamn cyanide out. 

My lawyer is going to get someone to test me,' he told DailyMail.com. 'Since John B died I have taken on some of those nervous traits and suicidal thoughts. It may be the poisoning - or it may just be John B haunting me.' 

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