Michelle Carter · Rebranding Escape

Plus: What's on your cold-case wish list?

Expect the Conrad and Michelle news cycle to pick up again today. Thursday morning, Michelle Carter -- who has served seven of her 15-month sentence in the suicide of Conrad Roy III -- appeared before the Massachusetts state parole board to seek her release from Dartmouth’s Bristol County House of Correction. The hearing for Carter, who has reportedly been “a model inmate,” was closed to the public, and was attended by members of Roy’s family, the Boston Herald reports.

As of send time, the parole board hasn’t released their decision -- but it’s safe to assume that whatever they decide, it’ll reignite the questions raised about the case in HBO docuseries I Love You Now Die (which we discuss on The Blotter Presents here), but will probably fail move the needle on Lifetime’s rotten Conrad & Michelle: If Words Could Kill, which we discussed here. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to say if they will review Carter’s case, which her defense team has elevated to the land’s highest court on the grounds that texts sent by Carter to Roy are protected by the First Amendment. -- EB

Do you get the Escape network? It’s apparently Scripps-owned multicast network available in 103.5 million homes…who knows, maybe yours! According to Deadline, the station has served women aged 25 to 54 with true-crime programming for an unspecified period of time, but that now it’s rebranding as Court TV Mystery as of September 30.

As part of the rebrand, the network -- which will be a companion station to Court TV, as you likely guessed from its new name -- will sport a cozy and familiar lineup, including The First 48, Forensic Files, American Greed, FBI Files, Crime Watch Daily, and Unsolved Mysteries.

In related news, Jonathan Katz, the CEO of the company that owns Escape and which relaunched Court TV earlier this year, also says that the newly-revived network “has started producing true-crime documentaries and docu-series that leverage the 100,000 hours of footage in the original network’s library.” According to Katz, “This compelling content will premiere on Court TV then have a home on Court TV Mystery, giving the millions of consumers who are hungry for the real-life drama of true-crime programming more opportunities to watch and enjoy it.” In other words, Court TV Mystery will be rerun central for Court TV’s upcycled content. -- EB

Why hasn’t this been adapted yet: Parents of a prodigy face charges over the alleged abandonment of their adopted daughter. Indiana parents Michael and Kristine Barnett are no strangers to the spotlight, as their son, Jacob, has made numerous headlines as a “boy genius” who, at age 15, moved with his family to Canada to pursue a graduate degree in physics.

But when the family moved, they left their 11-year-old daughter behind, officials now say, renting an apartment for her and telling the child to tell anyone who asked that she was actually 22. I am not making this up.

According to this comprehensive explainer from Lafayette Journal & Courier reporter Nate Chute, the Barnetts adopted their daughter in 2010, two years after she came to the U.S. as part of an adoption program. Doctors who saw her in 2010 estimated that she was eight years old at the time, and diagnosed her with spondyloepiphyseal, a form of dwarfism. In a follow-up appointment in 2012, the same hospital revised that estimate to 11, but later that year her parents changed her age to 22, with Michael Barnett telling authorities in 2019 “that his wife told their daughter to say she was 22 if anyone asked and to explain that she looked young for her age.” In 2014, the daughter was evicted from the rental apartment, and in 2016 she left the country. Her current whereabouts are unknown.

Michael and Kristine turned themselves in earlier this week, and in a Facebook post, a woman believed to be Kristine said that the charges against her are false (and called the Washington Post for reportedly using the wrong mug shot). Obviously, there are a lot of directions one could go with this story. How would you like to see something like this adapted? It could be a lot of fun, don’t you think? -- EB

If you’re not a Twitter user, we’ll take your cold-case solution with list right here. The question on which cold case you’d like to see magically solved was posed by writer Elon Green, who names the Highway of Tears slayings as his pick. All the other usual suspects appear in his replies -- which, unlike almost any other Twitter conversation in the history of the platform, I recommend reading -- including the sidebar by the LA Daily Mirror, which asks if any case has inspired as “many 'daddy did it' claims” as the Zodiac.

Well, Daily Mirror, if you listened to The Blotter Presents you’d know that nearly every dad of a Zodiac-aged era, including Sarah’s and my own, had the glasses from that infamous suspect sketch; it seems inevitable that folks will assume that their estranged, bespectacled pop was the man in the mask. -- EB

While we’re talking about Indiana… The video of an Indianapolis cop who punched a student made global headlines, with even networks like Fox approaching the tale from a straightforward suspect-and-victim standpoint. But, as you know, the mission of the Blotter empire is to examine how true crime is told and sold -- and a look at how Indiananapolis’s top prosecutor is attempting to sell the case is quite interesting.

The Toll is a newsletter from the Indianapolis Star that covers crime in a fairly unusual (for a resource-starved daily) way, because it’s much more than a police blotter -- it goes way past inside baseball to examine not just the root causes of crime in the area, but deconstructs the political forces at play with a clear-eyed and skeptical approach one rarely sees in crime coverage these days.

In this case, they pull apart the arguments around the case presented by Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, who even as he announced that charges would be filed against officer Robert Lawson in the alleged attack on the child, attempted to explain away the officer’s actions. Lawson was likely “frustrated” by the child’s aunt, potentially leading to the incident that was caught on video. Never before in my career have I heard a prosecutor offer a defense for a suspect during a press conference in which they are announcing charges against the suspect. Never. The way The Toll’s writers, reporters James Briggs and Ryan Martin, unpack this bizarre behavior is pretty remarkable. You can see what I’m talking about here, and subscribe to The Toll here. -- EB

Friday on Best Evidence: I’ve been collecting some true-crime longreads for your weekend!

What is this thing? This should help.

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