Slender Man · Circle of Deception · Lost Hills

Also: Responding to Alec Baldwin (is that wise?)

The Allen v. Farrow folks are firing back at Alec Baldwin. As previously discussed, sometime actor Alec Baldwin recently took to Twitter to accuse filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering of malfeasance in their documentary about the child sex assault allegations against director Woody Allen.

Since then, Baldwin has quit Twitter for reasons unrelated to Allen, but that didn’t stop Dick and Ziering from responding to his claims that “They couldn’t prove their case because it didn’t happen” and “You believe you have the facts, you are certain that justice is on your side, then take the case off of fucking HBO and the internet and try it,” among other, now lost, tweets.

When told of Baldwin’s tweets by the Daily Beast, Ziering said, “How can he say that? He hasn’t seen the whole thing yet,” referring to the show’s weekly roll-out on HBO. Instead, she said Baldwin “should a) watch the series; and b) look at the role the media played in spreading spin instead of truths, in not doing any fact-checking, in excoriating someone and convicting her [Mia Farrow] without any due diligence over three decades, and then talk to us about trial by media.”

In fact, she says, “This is the first time Mia has spoken at length on camera about this issue ever,” and that “it’s Woody Allen who went public with the story … It was Woody Allen who called the first press conference. It was Woody Allen who got himself on the covers of TIME and Newsweek, and agreed to a 60 Minutes interview.” In other words, Ziering is suggesting that Allen v. Farrow is less a new story than a response to an older one — one that Allen first brought into the spotlight, but that only seemed to rouse Baldwin’s ire when the narrative wasn’t in the famous director’s hands. You can read the full interview with Dick and Ziering here. — EB

One of my favorite true-crime authors just dropped his first book. Elon Green’s Awl piece on the Doodler remains one of my most prized true-crime longreads, a pungent stew of 1970s San Francisco, orientation-based injustice, and homicide. His new book will be released today: called Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York, it occupies a similar space to the Doodler piece, but instead of the gay pickup bars of ’70s SF, Green turned his attention to the gay piano bars of 1990s New York.

Sadly, a lot of the themes remain the same. A serial killer who targeted victims from the gay community, a group so devalued by law enforcement that he operated with impunity. I haven’t read it yet (like I said, it’s not out until today), but I’d already preordered, and a glowing review of it in the New York Times made me glad I did. Here’s a snip:

Last Call is Green’s first book, and it admirably demonstrates his commitment to sidestepping easy sensationalism for the far grittier work of checking sources, poring over police reports and reinterviewing witnesses. In choosing a serial murder case that was scantly covered at the time, Green takes us far from the terrain of fashionably notorious Netflix psychopaths like Andrew Cunanan (whom Gary Indiana described in 1999 as “a diabolic icon in the circus of American celebrity”; that this now reads like a high compliment gives some indication of the culture’s ever-tightening embrace of the criminal).

Instead of focusing on the killer, Green opts to humanize his victims. This proves a thorny task when dealing with men who led pointedly secret lives. In the book’s epilogue, he explains that he was motivated by the lives that these men “wanted but couldn’t have. Here was a generation of men, more or less, for whom it was difficult to be visibly gay. To be visibly whole.”

Sound interesting? You can score your own copy here. — EB

A new podcast seeks to make you an unhappy camper. OK, I am kind of kidding, kind of not! Lost Hills is a new podcast from New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear is about a string of shootings at the campground at Malibu Creek State Park, a downtown LA-adjacent nature area that Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans might cringily recognize as the long-lost home of the Chumash tribe.

According to promotional materials for the podcast, Lost Hills “will uncover secrets kept by law enforcement, new details about the crimes, and even smoking gun evidence missed by deputies that could prove to be the determining factor in this case.” This isn’t the first true crime take on the case: Back in 2019, reporter Zach Baron penned an extremely long and thorough article on the case for GQ, writing then that the latest shooting (a fatal one) spawned “amateur sleuths, conspiracy theories, and public paranoia.” That’s a trifecta I can go for! You have plenty of time to read Baron’s report before Lost Hills drops on March 16, and you can subscribe to the podcast here. — EB

I had almost forgotten that the Slender Man stabbing story was true crime. I’m sorry! It’s been a long year, and that terrible Slender Man movie, which I think I even paid to watch (did I have nothing else going on in 2018?), kind of ruined the case for me.

But true crime it is, and the 2016 HBO doc Beware The Slenderman reminds us of the Heavenly Creaturesesque case. HBO should consider re-releasing that doc this week, as there’s a solid news hook: The Associated Press reports that 19-year-old Anissa Weier, who in 2017 was sentenced to 25-years-to-life in mental health care for her role in the attempted slaying, has requested a conditional release.

Though her initial sentence would have her in psychiatric care until she turns 37, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that a judge will consider if there is “‘clear and convincing evidence’ that Weier poses ‘a significant risk’ of bodily harm to herself or others or of seriously damaging property if conditionally released.” If not, she could be freed, with conditions including monitoring by case workers.

In an interview with 20/20 in 2019, victim Payton Leutner acknowledged that it was likely that Weier and classmate Morgan Geyser, who attacked Leutner when the three were 12 years old, would be released in her lifetime. “If they ever come near me they're going right back in,” Leutner said. “When they get out I don't think it's going to change my life at all.” That said, she told interviewer David Muir that she still sleeps with a broken pair of scissors under her pillow “just in case,” saying, “It just makes me feel safer,” to have a weapon nearby. — EB

Did you watch Circle of Deception last weekend? The Lifetime movie based on Ann Rule’s classic Practice to Deceive aired on Saturday, and it’s been a little bit buzzy since.

The case in question is a scandalous 2003 homicide on Washington State’s Whidbey Island, a murder that spawned Rule’s book, an episode of Snapped: Killer Couples, and episodes of Dateline and 20/20, the Whidbey News-Times reported back in 2016. This is the first dramatic adaption of the tale, with a cast that includes Tahmoh Penikett, who I know best as the cop from Dollhouse (geez, why am I so Whedon-y today?).

And it looks like traffic-driven sites had high enough hopes for the film that they prepared their “where are they now” posts to capitalize on mid-movie Googlers — the true-crime version of everyone’s annual “what time is the Super Bowl on?” post. In case you want to watch, I won’t spoil you with a recap of the recaps — I’ll just say that you can watch Circle of Deception here, and chase it with these Bustle and Oxygen blank-fillers on what’s happened since. — EB

Wednesday on Best Evidence: I think Sarah has a little more to say about Murder Among the Mormons.

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