Rebecca Zahau · Scott Peterson · Bruce McArthur
Plus: A questionable way to celebrate Mother's Day
The Rebecca Zahau mystery might remain a mystery. Just days after true-crime author Caitlin Rother’s book on the case, Death on Ocean Boulevard, was released, a hearing has been set to keep records of the 10-year-old case under wraps.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that last July, Zahau’s sister, mother and brother-in-law filed a California Public Records Act suit against San Diego County and Sheriff Bill Gore demanding access to investigative records, in hopes that they can “glean info that could force a reopening of the case.”
Thomas Deák of the County Counsel’s Office argues, however, that the CPRA doesn’t cover records like those from the Zahau case, and has thus far rebuffed the family’s requests, and now a judge will make the final call this July.
And there’s an additional wrinkle in the story, one that’s perhaps relevant to our interests: Keith Greer, the attorney for the Zahau family, says he’s “writing a book in concert with Rebecca’s family once the investigation is reopened by the sheriff or another agency,” one that will “will include additional facts, evidence and behind the scenes events that the public and Ms. Rother were not privy to.” As of publication time, he has “no co-writer, agent or publisher yet.” — EB
The news cycle is heating up for Scott Peterson. The Modesto man was convicted in the death of his pregnant wife, Laci, in 2004, prompting a slew of true crime coverage and a decade plus of speculation on the circumstances of the case.
Peterson returned to court last week, via Zoom from San Quentin State Prison, just one in a series of hearings to help a San Mateo judge decide if a retrial is in order. That spurred a reexamination of the case on 48 Hours this past weekend, with lengthy interviews with sister-in-law Janey Peterson — who’s made it her life’s work to exonerate Scott — and former Modesto police detective Jon Buehler, who maintains that Peterson killed his wife over the Christmas holidays in 2002, then dumped her body in the SF Bay.
As much as I’d love to recommend you get your Peterson refresh from Dean Cain/Lifetime via the video of The Perfect Husband posted above, I must grudgingly admit that CBS has done a bang-up job of running down the arguments for and against another look at the case. You can watch “Scott Peterson: Case in Question” here, or if you’re like me you’ll just read the full transcript here. — EB
Three podcasts that got me to Sacramento and back. The drive from SF to Sac isn’t anything thrilling, and it’s just long enough that you can start to feel trapped in the car. (Still, worth it to get away for a few days!) Since I was traveling with my husband, I wanted to pull out some stuff neither of us had listened to, which was tougher than it seems. What I came up with are two are new(ish) shows, and a third that’s old in every sense of the word. All are recommended! — EB
The Lazarus Heist: This BBC podcast on the 2014 Sony Pictures hack still doesn’t make me want to watch The Interview, but so far it’s doing a solid job of explaining why the Guardians of Peace went after the studio in the first place. So far, we’re only three episodes in, so this is an easy one to catch up with.
Final Days on Earth: This podcast is hosted and produced by Claire St. Amant, a journalist who’s produced over 20 episodes of 48 Hours and multiple segments for 60 Minutes. She’s been covering the subject of this podcast — missing college freshman Dammion Heard — since the case began in 2014, and says that when a recruiter approached her to host a true-crime pod back in 2018, his was the case she said she wanted to cover. It’s meticulously reported, which means that if you’re in the mood for a show that allows your mind to freely wander, this isn’t it. But if your powers of concentration are high, this 12-episode podcast (we’re four episodes in) is worth a listen.
The Perfect Scam: I stumbled across The Perfect Scam when I went to the AARP’s website (to send my sister a mean link, ha ha, aging!) and am mad that no one told me about this before now. It’s from the AARP Fraud Watch Network, so don’t expect any sympathy for the cons and scams detailed in the show — but do expect loads of interviews from scam-ees, some of which (I am sad to say) might elicit a snicker from the more jaded among us. This is a really fun and fascinating show, especially if you’re into con-related trickery — and now I finally understand what a “reverse mortgage” is.
A doc on Canadian serial killer Bruce McArthur has made it to Canada. The ways of TV distribution are often ass-backwards, and here’s a good example of that: Catching a Serial Killer: Bruce McArthur is a look at a killer who found his victims in Toronto’s gay village, and was produced last summer in Toronto and produced by a local production company.
Despite those Canadian roots — per the Toronto Star it’s the first “super deep dive” into this intensely local case [“I’m sorry: what? Uncover: The Village was 1) well regarded, 2) high profile, and 3) from the CBC, so I’m not sure what the H the Star is on about here” — SDB] — it aired first in the U.S. as part of Oxygen’s Serial Killers Week last month (it’s streamable here). It didn’t make it to Canadian screens until April 30, just after an investigation revealed that Toronto police allegedly botched multiple missing persons cases for LGBTQ+ victims.
According to showrunner James Buddy Day, the doc also highlights those police failings, saying that its “a stark reminder that not everyone is policed equally, unfortunately…The idea that the victims were marginalized, to the fact that the police really just gave up looking for them until they found their bodies is a pretty compelling story and it deserves to be told.” — EB
Oh, Oxygen. Look, no one claimed that Oxygen is the bastion of good taste, but this programming promo just might take the Mother’s Day cake.
“Almost everyone can agree that a mother-child relationship can be complicated,” yikes. Why not just say “Maybe your relationship with your mom is complicated because she is secretly a murderer” and call it a day, Oxygen! Do you think they’ll do family annihilators on Father’s Day?
I honestly think they’d get better search relevance and service utility if they planned and promoted a programming block of shows you can watch with your mom for purposes of bonding/conversation avoidance. But what do I know? It’s not like my mom is a murderer. (Or is she?) — EB
Wednesday on Best Evidence: Baseball and pills.