Reality TV contestants, Food Network chefs and CW drama stars all get their day in court
It’s Friday, and Sarah and I are getting ready for our fall break. Don’t worry, we’ll still have a full week of issues for y’all, but as Sarah detailed yesterday, our format will be a little different while we give ourselves a little time to unwind.
But before that, the weekend. In addition to finishing a screener of Lifetime’s The Gabby Petito Story, my review of which you’ll receive Monday, I’m looking forward to Batali: The Fall of a Superstar Chef, which dropped last night on Discovery+. Per the New York Times, the film is partially based on that paper’s reporting on the alleged sexual assailant/celebrity chef, and is the first to interview alleged Batali victim Eva DeVirgilis without obscuring her identity.
It’s a vile case, and the many credible allegations against Batali are awful. As the only criminal case against him was dismissed and civil cases against him were settled out of court (with the expected confidentiality agreements), it’s good and important work, keeping the claims against him in the public eye. I don’t expect to enjoy this documentary, but I’m glad it exists.
Other weekend options to consider include Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (for pete’s sake, is that what it’s really called? Guess so!), ten episodes of what Sarah referred to yesterday as needing “a different, more elliptical structure whose inventiveness would justify rehashing the horror.” Her review is here, if you missed it:
And there’s that new episode of Serial that I still haven’t gotten to, I suppose. What about you; what true crime are you considering this weekend? — EB
While we’re talking about folks from the TV that have allegedly committed crimes, let’s round up a few real-life cases related to folks we know from the small screen. There’s enough to fill this newsletter, so buckle up. And, as always, if you appreciate our curation of true-crime news, as well as our analysis and insight, it’s always a good time to let us know with a paid subscription. Thank you for your consideration!
Why, yes, I do enjoy Best Evidence, and I believe that Sarah, Eve, and BE’s contributors deserve to be paid for their work!
Sweetie Pie’s closes shop in St. Louis as owner’s son convicted in murder-for-hire case [LA Times]
OWN docuseries Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s covered the Montgomery family, which owned a mini-chain of soul food restaurants called Sweetie Pie's. It ran from 2011 to 2018, but in its last few years, shit got complicated. I’m just going to bogart the Wikipedia here for this one:
On March 14, 2016, frequent cast member Andre Montgomery Jr. was murdered in a St. Louis shooting. Andre Jr. was Robbie Montgomery's grandson and was the subject of numerous episodes which focused on his move from Texas to the St. Louis area, struggles in school, as well as a visit to the grave of his father Andre Montgomery Sr.
On August 18, 2020, Montgomery's son Tim Norman, who was also a frequent cast member, was arrested in Mississippi and charged for his alleged role in a murder for hire plot that resulted in the death of Montgomery's grandson in 2016. It was reported that Tim, who is facing federal charges and was proven to have become the sole beneficiary to Andre Jr.'s estate in 2014, recruited a Memphis exotic dancer named Terica Ellis and others to assist in the murder plot.
In 2022, Ellis and two other co-conspirators would plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. Norman's murder trial began on September 6, 2022, and on September 16 a jury convicted Norman on two counts of murder-for-hire and one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
That’s a way more interesting series than one about a restaurant, in my opinion! Anyway, on the heels of Norman’s conviction, the restaurant at the center of the series has shuttered, ostensibly to make way for a billion dollar veterans’ hospital complex. If someone isn’t already working on an adaptation of this story, a la the Chippendales family of products, I will eat my hat. — EB
‘Riverdale’ Actor Ryan Grantham Sentenced To Life Behind Bars For Matricide; Not Eligible For Parole For 14 Years [Deadline]
I gave up on Riverdale after its first season, when I realized it was fine, but had a Hot Topic level of faux darkness that made me want to look at my phone instead of paying attention. So I don’t recall the character Grantham played — but as my better BE half, Sarah, does a podcast with an interest in Luke Perry, I feel obligated to provide this context (per the Deadline link above):
With around 30 credits on his resume, Grantham noticeably played Jeffrey Augustine on the fourth season of the CW soapy Riverdale in 2019. While appearing briefly, the character had a pivotal role in the Archie comics-based show. It was Jeffrey Augustine who killed the late Luke Perry portrayed Fred Andrews on the series in a hit and run that changed almost everything on the show. Starting his career back in 2007, Grantham also appeared in the 2010 movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as well as stints on Supernatural, iZombie and in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
[I’ll pause here for beloved BE commenter/SPNFamily member Sinnerforhire to explain Grantham’s role on Supernatural in our comments. Thank you, friend!]
The Grantham case is a strange and sad one that appears to be rooted in mental illness: According to CTV, which covered his initial sentencing hearings in June, the 24-year-old British Columbia man “told the court he thought about shooting and killing his mother for days leading up to her death on March 31, 2020.”
The court also heard he was contemplating a killing spree and had a printed map of Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, with a plan to execute Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"I was in a rush and he was the only person I could think of, the most important person in Canada. Like, I could do something to make an impact," he told police at the time of his arrest, according to an agreed statement of facts.
The Crown prosecutor also outlined that Grantham was thinking about committing mass murders on the Lions Gate Bridge between Vancouver and North Vancouver, and at his university campus in Burnaby. He also considered suicide after fleeing his home, heading south and then east, the court heard. Instead he made the two-hour drive from Hope to Vancouver, where he turned himself in to police.
At his sentencing in a Vancouver courtroom this week, Justice Kathleen Ker ruled that Grantham receive “life in prison with no parole eligibility for 14 years,” CTV reports. "I won't sugar coat it, this will be hard," the judge told the actor. "As you go forward, continue on your path of treatment, remain true to the commitment you told me (during the sentencing hearing) about bettering yourself." — EB
Complaint alleges DeMario Jackson, once the center of a ‘Bachelor’ scandal, raped two women [LA Times]
You likely know DeMario Jackson from The Bachelorette’s Rachel Lindsay season, when he was bounced on the second episode after a woman claiming to be his girlfriend showed up on set. Here’s a reminder:
Then he joined Bachelor in Paradise, and a second scandal ensued: production was suspended after Warner Brothers mounted “a thorough investigation” into “allegations of misconduct.”
The production company kept mum on those allegations, but Jackson and fellow cast member Corinne Olympios didn’t: per a 2017 Business Insider report, “a sexual encounter between DeMario Jackson ("The Bachelorette" season 13) and Corinne Olympios ("The Bachelor" season 21) occurred when she was too drunk to give proper consent and the show's cameras were rolling.” A week later, production resumed after WB said the investigation did “not support any charge of misconduct by a cast member … [or] that the safety of any cast member was ever in jeopardy.”
LA Times reporter Amy Kaufman, the author of 2018’s Bachelor Nation, tweets that eight months after that, a woman who met Jackson on a dating app says he raped her. That woman is one of two alleged victims who filed a lawsuit against Jackson in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Both had reported their alleged assaults to the police, and both saw their cases dropped. From the LA Times, regarding Jane Doe 1’s case:
LAPD Det. Esther MyaPe, who handled Doe 1 and 2’s cases, did not respond to The Times’ request for comment on this story. According to a declination memo provided to The Times by the L.A. district attorney’s office, the case was reviewed and the DA declined to prosecute Jackson in April 2021 on two counts of sexual assault “due to insufficiency of the evidence.”
And Jane Doe 2:
After her examination, Doe 2 said, she met with the LAPD. Detectives asked her to “perform a ruse where we would call him, they would give me specific questions and they would try to get him to admit what happened,” she recalled.
Afterward, Doe 2 said, detectives were encouraged by how well the phone call had gone. But the investigation was later dropped. Like Doe 1, Doe 2 began reaching out to lawyers. Three declined to take her case before she reached Davidson, who had recently heard from Doe 1.
Speaking with TMZ, Jackson said that the latest allegations have cost him “10 deals worth $25,000” and that “brands he's worked with for years” — apparently, even after the BiP scandal — were “quickly severing ties.” The suit, which was filed Tuesday, alleges sexual assault, false imprisonment and emotional distress.
According to his attorney, who sent a statement to USA Today, "This complaint is riddled with inconsistencies, miss truths and actual impossibilities with respect to what could have happened during COVID lockdown.” Jane Doe 1’s allegations involve events from 2018, Jane Doe 2 claims Jackson raped her at “his private home” in July of 2020. — EB
Monday on Best Evidence: Gabby Petito and the Zodiac.