Sara Gruen · Crucifixion · Mario Rossi
We're spring cleaning our budget doc, so make some tea and get comfy
|Best Evidence||Mar 25||4||8|
I draw the line at five pages. That is, five pages of item ideas for Best Evidence, which is what we’re at right now. So today’s issue is one of our periodic clearing-the-decks ones, packed with links to stories that we think you’ll love. Let’s get into it. — EB
American Horror Story standby Evan Peters will play the title role in Murphy’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. When the show was announced last fall, Richard Jenkins was the only cast member named: he’ll reportedly play “Dahmer’s father Lionel, a chemist, who showed him how to safely bleach and preserve animal bones when he was a child, a technique Jeffrey later gave a sinister twist with his victims.”
No one liked the the bankruptcy plan Purdue Pharma proposed last week, which as NPR reports had the drug company paying “roughly $500 million in cash up front to settle hundreds of thousands of injury claims linked to the company's role in the deadly opioid epidemic.” After state attorneys across the U.S. said they couldn’t agree to the deal, a new plan saw the Sackler family (which owns the company) pitching in $4.2 of its estimated $11 billion in assets. Even that deal leaves many unhappy, with legal pundit Erika Kelton writing that “The Society of Actuaries estimates that the US economic impact from the opioid epidemic was $631 billion in just the years 2015 to 2018,” making that $4.2 billion a drop in the bucket.
Author Emma Southon is promoting her new book, A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which she describes as an accounting of “real-life homicides from Roman history to explore how perpetrator, victim and the act itself were regarded by ordinary people.” Despite its period subject matter, Southon says she was inspired to write it by the capture of the Golden State Killer, an a desire to use “true crime as a teaching tool for specific cultural biases.” You can find a local shop at which to buy the book here.
This is the third season of the true-crime podcast collab from FTW and USA Today, and this time the subject is NASCAR crew chief Mario Rossi, who vanished in 1983. The story doesn’t have a lot of coverage — that video above is the most prominent version of the story, and the one most crime-mulling redditors refer to. Wondery Plus subscribers get the show today; everyone else has to wait until April 8.
Friends, I have a bad feeling about this: Peyton List (who plays the “bad girl” on Cobra Kai) will play young Aileen Wuornos in a movie directed by Daniel Farrands (The Haunting of Sharon Tate; Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers — yeah, the Paul Rudd one). In a press release, production company head Jonathan Deckter says that List brings “a built-in powerhouse of fans with a combined 23M social media followers” to the project, so, yeah.
This four-part docuseries is called This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist and it drops on April 7. The release is timed to the 31st anniversary of the heist, which remains unsolved despite a $10 million reward for the capture of the suspects. If the case sounds familiar, you might be remembering “The Concert,” a 2006 Independent Lens take on the topic.
Hey, don’t forget…if this rundown of stories is something that you think other people might enjoy, it’s easy to forward this issue to anyone you’d like. And if they like it, heck, maybe they'll subscribe? That’s how this thing is supposed to work, as we understand it.
Doctoring the Evidence: True Crime 2021 [Publishers Weekly]
PW runs down three upcoming/new books that approach true crime from the medical angle, from doctors gone wrong to innovations in forensic science. And YES, there is grave robbing: in The Icepick Killer, author Sam Kean gets into “the so-called anatomy riots of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a response to the practice of grave robbing to provide cadavers for American medical schools.” According to Kean, doctors “needed cadavers to learn anatomy. Otherwise, medicine would never advance. But in practice, they mostly robbed the graves of poor people and minorities. So those people finally rose up and began rioting and attacking hospitals. Sadly, we still see the same huge disparities in medicine today.”
The criminal justice-focused Marshall Project is working with a non-profit startup called Ameelio, which (per TechCrunch) “hopes to step in and provide free communication options to inmates” by helping people send letters in the mail. That includes a small-scale pilot that allows people to send news articles in the mail to folks currently in prison (the same way your mom clicks on an “email this story” button now). Elan Kiderman, director of product at The Marshall Project, says that “It’s too early to say what this experiment will lead to, but the more we can expand channels of communication, the more we can produce journalism that directly responds to the questions and needs of people inside, the more we can learn about injustices in prisons and jails.”
Will I watch some of Oxygen’s programming from Saturday April 10 to Sunday April 18, the period it’s designating as “Serial Killer Week”? Honestly, it depends what else is on: My dislike of how gleeful its promotion of the programming block is might keep me from tuning into what Oxygen calls “the biggest event for true crime lovers this spring.” The damnable thing is that a lot of the programming interests me: there’s a new interview with Seinfeld punch line Joel Rifkin that I’m intrigued by, and Murders at the Boarding House, on the Dorothea Puente case, is up my alley. But this Shark Weekness annoys me so! Not sure what I’ll do here.
How Sara Gruen Lost Her Life [Vulture]
This is an absolutely mad story about the author of bestselling book Water for Elephants, whose “casual investigation of an old murder case bloomed into a frenzied obsession,” costing her her health and her savings. I am not going to say anything else because the whole saga is just so so bizarre. But I can’t wait to discuss it with you, so…
True Crime Gets Its Close-Up [New York Times]
The NYT rounds up several recent true-crime books, all written by women and all focused on female protagonists. So happy Women’s History Month I guess? Anyway, I just reserved all three books at my local library, and after reading these brief reviews, you might, too.
My Novel Reopened A Cold Case. My True Crime Book Puts Ghosts To Rest. [CrimeReads]
Novelist Stephanie Kane veered from fictional to real crime for her latest book, which is called Cold Case Story. According to Kane, the 1973 crime at the core of the book provided the inspiration for her first novel, but years after it was published, she actually ended up “a target of the defense,” as the suspect in a slaying said that she participated in a confession-eliciting scheme as a plot to sell more books. So now she’s returned to the case, writing up every fact she could uncover, in large part, it seems, to quell guilt she feels over fictionalizing the case in the first place. — EB
Friday on Best Evidence: Still mulling a discussion topic — if you have one you’d like us to tackle, comment or call us at 919-75-CRIME.