I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster I was going to ride throughout the four episodes of Fall river.
The documentary series from director James Buddy Day and executive produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Television airs this Sunday, May 16 at 10 p.m. EST on the Epix cable network.
It tells the story of the Fall River “sectarian murders” of 1979-80, in which three women were killed in a supposedly ritualistic fashion. Carl Drew, a known pimp operating in the city, was portrayed as the leader of a satanic cult that controlled all the young women on the streets, and Drew was convicted of murdering one of the women and sentenced to prison. for life without parole. .
The docu-series presents a new theory that could potentially exonerate Drew, who has been in prison since his conviction in 1981. The idea that Drew may not have committed the murders is not new; Since the lawsuit hit Bristol County, Massachusetts and the country 40 years ago, many have speculated and even suggested that the real mastermind behind the murders was Robin Murphy, a 17-year-old who is also believed to be been a pimp directing prostitutes. in the streets of Fall River.
Murphy pleaded guilty to second degree murder and received a reduced sentence for testifying against Drew in the murder of Karen Marsden, 20. Murphy claimed she slit Marsden’s throat on Drew’s orders as she witnessed the murder of Drew, 17, Doreen Levesque a few months before. She said Drew then beheaded the corpse and ordered him to do other things on the body that we can’t print here, while he kicked Marsden around the head.
Murphy was released from prison in 2004, but a parole violation returned her to prison, where she is today.
Details of the murders and the lives of Drew and Murphy have been recounted over and over again, perhaps the most famous in the book Mortal remains. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the two and had decided that no matter which of them was responsible for the murders, both were heinous people and deserved to be in jail.
However, the Fall river the documentaries presented a much fuller picture of Drew and Murphy than ever before – including in-person interviews with each of them in prison – as well as the circumstances in their lives that shaped them into the people they have become at the time of the murders. .
It also gives us a fuller story of the three women who were murdered, perhaps for the first time really telling their story as people rather than just victims of murder. Levesque is more than the girl found under the stands of Diman Vocational; Marsden is not just a prostitute caught up in satanic worship. Barbara Raposa, a 19-year-old sex worker, was killed between Levesque and Marsden, although her murder was not pinned on Drew – instead, Murphy helped secure another man’s conviction, Andre Maltais, for his murder. Here, Raposa is a key part of the story as it’s not just the story of Carl Drew and his crimes, but rather the seedy Fall River underworld around this time.
By the end of all four episodes, I knew I had to believe something different from what I had previously believed and that I had to feel differently about the people involved. Drew and Murphy, while far from innocent, have become more sympathetic characters. While she certainly appears to be everything investigators said she was – cunning, manipulative, and a liar who has changed her story many times over the years – Murphy mostly comes across as someone who has struggled for years. of abuse, only to be abused and trafficked. by prosecutors seeking convictions.
The loss of Levesque, Raposa, and Marsden was felt even more deeply, having a better sense of who they were as people doing what they had to do to survive.
Fall River Police and Massachusetts State Police who investigated the murders – and whose investigation was later criticized by one of their own who was involved – leave viewers wondering if they were looking for real leads or if they were pursuing a story.
And Ronald Pina – the Bristol County District Attorney who managed to gain national attention by prosecuting the Fall River murders, the Big Dan rape case and the still unsolved New Bedford Road murders during his 12-year term – appears to be fair. seeking to win rather than find out the truth.
As a movie, Fall river certainly provides what every good real crime documentary must have these days: a case you might not have known or thought you didn’t know; a more in-depth and well-documented understanding of the people and circumstances involved; interviews with subjects you have never seen interviewed before; and a bit of a twist ending that suddenly makes the case relevant again, 40 years later.
While the reveal is not as shocking as that of Blumhouse’s previous true crime docuseries The Jinx, it will send shockwaves all over the South Coast nonetheless, as a decades-old narrative is chipped – and the real story is a lot less satanic, but a lot sadder.
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