I’d like a good adaptation of the Green River Killer story, please. I promise that this desire doesn’t come out of the blue: my news peg here is that on Monday, the DNA Doe Project announced that it had confirmed the identity of remains found near the site of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as Wendy Stephens. According to the genetic genealogy nonprofit, the remains were one of four unidentified victims of Gary Leon Ridgway (aka the Green River Killer), who killed at least 49 women and girls in the 1980s and 1990s.
According to the Seattle Times, Stephens, who disappeared in 1983, is believed to be one of Ridgway’s youngest victims, killed after she ran away from home at age 14. Her body was unearthed after the caretaker of the Highline Baseball Field says his dog discovered her bones in “an area just outside center field.” According to court records, Ridgway remembered the slaying, saying that “he killed her during the day and wanted to make certain she was dead because he had attempted to kill another woman nearby, but she had escaped.”
This is usually the part of the item where I mention notable true crime properties that have covered the case, but a look at Wikipedia suggests that while there are a lot of third-tier properties on the case, there’s not a lot of quality on the ground there. Which is odd because the case is recent enough that research is simple, the ’80s and ’90s are a hot topic these days (likely because the folks making programming decisions came up in those decades), and Ted Bundy reportedly helped investigators track Ridgway down.
What I’d really like is a prestige dramatic adaptation of the investigation — and with the Stephens identification, we arguably have a contemporary cold open before the credits send us to the past. I’m thinking a Fincher-quality series on premium cable, with ample acknowledgement of a culture that deprioritizes certain types of female victims. I’m sure you already have some ideas of who to cast. — EB
It’s time to for you to tell Sarah what to do. Every month, paid Best Evidence subscribers get a book review from Ms. Bunting, and this time the choice…isn’t easy. Options include:
Appropriate Adult, a Beeb two-parter about Fred and Rosemary West (sort of)
Savage Grace, about Barbara Baekeland and a “famous scandal from the 1970s,” starring Julianne Moore and Freckles Redmayne
The Lost Boys of Bucks County, about July 2017 disappearances in PA; the miniseries is from ID, so, crapshoot
Capone (not the weird-ass thing Margaret survived last year; the 1975 one with Ben Gazzara)
and The Hot One, Carolyn Murnick’s crimoir from 2018
She’ll announce your pick when the poll closes, and you know what to do to ensure you get to read her final take on whatever you assign her…
Speaking of Sarah, did you see her Primetimer piece on The Lady And The Dale? Here’s a snip:
HBO's eminently watchable new docuseries The Lady and The Dale tells the extraordinary story of Elizabeth Carmichael, the entrepreneur behind the three-wheeled "Dale" automobile that became a brief marketing sensation in the mid-1970s. The car itself would be subject enough for a stand-alone doc, but there's much more to this story.
Over four smartly-constructed episodes, Lady chronicles Carmichael's rise to fame, her subsequent fall from grace, and the many other twists and turns her life took, including before the mid-1970s — when she was known by her dead name, Jerry Dean Michael, and went on the lam with her family to escape a 1961 counterfeiting charge. It's also about Carmichael's life after she went on the lam, again, until an Unsolved Mysteries segment got her caught. Finally, it's about father-and-son "journalism" team Dick and Tucker Carlson's toxic preoccupation with gender binarism, and their shared history of "trying" trans people in the court of public opinion.
Well THAT is a lot to unpack. You can read Sarah’s full coverage here, and watch The Lady And The Dale on HBO starting January 31st.
Oh son of a rat, am I going to have to subscribe to Apple+ TV now? Deadline reports that Hillel Levin and James Keene’s fantastic true-crime book, In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption, will likely become a series on the streaming platform.
The book, which you might have forgotten — I almost did, it’s from 2010 — is Keene’s memoir on his jailhouse deal to bring a suspected child killer to justice. A football star turned drug dealer, Keene was serving a ten-year prison sentence when the DA who ensured his conviction offered him a deal: get fellow inmate Larry Hall to confess to two of the 19 murders he was suspected of, Keene could go free.
The six-hour series, also called In With the Devil, would star Taron Egerton (Kingsmen) as Keene and Paul Walter Hauser (Cobra Kai’s “Stingray”) as Hall. Novelist Dennis Lehane will pen the script, and Michael R. Roskam (he’s Belgian and his English-language credits are slim) will direct. If you’re tired of shows about men who kill women on which women have no creative or leadership roles, come sit by me…but at present, it appears that Apple is only “nearing a series order” for the show. Maybe they can push for a woman near the top of the credit list before they strike a deal? A girl can dream. — EB
At only two months old, the Red Justice Project is climbing the podcast charts. It’s success, perhaps, is based on the underserved community it focuses on: “Every week, we tell you a story of an Indigenous person who has been murdered or gone missing,” the show says via Facebook, with original reporting and interviews with witnesses and survivors. The show is 12 episodes in, and has already generated downloads across 25 states, hosts Chelsea Locklear and Brittany Hunt tell the Robesonian.
“Our podcast is unique in that it is an Indigenous-led podcast that tells Indigenous stories as well,” Hunt says, and its success. “A lot of cases we tell are cases that have not gotten a lot of national media attention because indigenous people tend to not get as much attention as people from other demographics.”
Ethically, that’s rotten — but Lockyear suggests that editorially/business-wise, that lack of attention might also be a misstep. The success of their podcast, Lockyear says, “shows that people actually care, that people want to know what happened.” You can catch up on the Red Justice Project here. — EB
Scott Peterson is probably going to get retried. Peterson was convicted in 2004 of the slaying of his pregnant wife, Laci, in a case that captivated the nation. I’m not just saying that because I live in the Bay Area, where the case was tried — in other words, this is not me arguing that of course everyone has heard of Too Short just because his songs were the region’s soundtrack for much of the ’80s and ’90s. (But The Ghetto still slaps, y’all.)
Local crime reporters tell me that they expect that by March 12, they expect a local judge to decide if Peterson will get a full new trial in the case (a decision separate from a penalty-side hearing expected in late April). According to the Peterson’s team, which includes celebrity defender/restaurant owner Mark Geragos, there’s a slew of new evidence that will prove his innocence.
In the meantime, KRON 4 reports, when asked by a judge, Peterson said that he’d prefer to remain in San Quentin’s death row than to be transferred to the (arguably cushier) San Mateo County jail, as would be typical if a new trial is in the offing. This intrigues me — do you think this is a decision made by COVID-19 concerns?
If, like me, you needed a refresher on the Peterson case, here’s a reading list of past coverage to get you going:
So, that was then. As a follow-up, I have two TV recommendations for you.
Scott Peterson: A Deadly Game This Court TV doc is peak early-aughts Court TV, but gives a great overview of the case.
The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story This TV movie about the case is not great cinema, but I’ll fight anyone who claims that MAGA shithead Dean Cain wasn’t perfectly cast. Since then, his most notable work has likely been this stupid show about catching Bigfoot, so don’t worry about this movie ruining your fond memories of Lois And Clark: he’s already handled that for you.
Now, looking to the future:
Are there any other Scott Peterson-related properties you’d recommend, either for the uninitiated or those (like me) who’ve forgotten so much of the case? If so, please drop them in the comments. — EB
Friday on Best Evidence: I promise, we’ll give you something to talk about.