The Blotter Presents, Episode 129: Killer Inside and The Tillman Story

Plus: The Zebra Killings!

On this week’s episode of The Blotter Presents podcast, Sarah is joined by David J. Roth to discuss Netflix’s buzzy docuseries Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez. It’s a three-part show about the NFL star turned convicted killer, who — because he killed himself before his appeals had been exhausted — has had his denotation as “convicted” waver back-and-forth since his death in 2017. (So, I might have to go back and fix the online version of this at some point, I guess?) John and Sarah say that the show is “well made and yet not made the best way for the material,” before heading off into a lengthy (but engrossing, though I’m biased) tangent on the case. You can hear their full discussion here. — EB

For this week’s Cold Case, John and Sarah took a look at The Tillman Story. It’s a documentary you can watch above, about the friendly-fire death and subsequent cover-up of Pat Tillman, a beloved Bay Area NFL player who, following the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., enlisted in the Army Rangers.

If you play the movie for just a few minutes you’ll notice that it’s narrated by Josh Brolin, an excellent choice for this tale of All-American deception. The film garnered rave reviews from folks like Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers at the time of its release, and Sarah and John say it took them back into a "dumb, shitty" time in recent American history. Here’s their full conversation on the film. — EB

California’s Zebra Killings were a spree of race-motivated murders that gripped 1970’s era San Francisco. All in all, 15 people (all white) were killed (some by gun, some by machete) by men who claimed to be Nation of Islam extremists.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the case is that the San Francisco Police Department detectives assigned to the investigation were Prentice Earl Sanders and Rotea Gilford, who at the time were themselves involved in a racial discrimination suit against the department. (Sanders ended up SFPD’s chief for a brief time, before losing his job in a strange police misconduct case known as Fajitagate — there’s a great SF Weekly story about his career you can read here.)

Four men were convicted of the slayings in 1976, and two have since died in jail. The other two, 75-year-old Jessie Lee Cooks and 67-year-old Larry Craig Green, will likely die in jail, the East Bay Times reported Tuesday. That’s because Cooks has agreed to postpone his parole hearing until 2025, and because Green was denied parole for at least five years in a hearing last fall.

I’m not sure why, but unlike many other “reign of terror” true crime tales, the Zebra Killings have never really hit with the documentary or adaptation crowd. Sanders’ book on the case, The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness and Civil Rights, is currently free for Kindle Unlimited and Audible users. If you have time, give it a listen or read and let me know why you think it’s never made it to onscreen glory. It’s something that’s perplexed me for years! — EB

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Thursday on Best Evidence: Sarah’s choice, but as it’s only going to paid subscribers, you’ll have to join up both for that and to participate in Friday’s weekend open thread. Last week’s was a corker!

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