5 Fascinating Aftermaths Of Famous True Crime Documentaries
Like a serial killer waiting in some dark bushes, the popularity of true crime documentaries keeps adding eyeballs to their collection. But just because the cameras stop rolling doesn't mean their eccentric subjects' stories stop being utterly batshit. Case in point …
The Tiger King Cast Is Still Insane
The Tiger King documentary was basically a Christopher Guest movie with 50% of the whimsy and 100% more animal abuse. It introduced audiences to the feral world of exotic animal husbandry, a place of mad tiger despots, their limbless servants, and the quixotic crusaders against their caged practices. But what happened to these wacky, world-weary characters when the show ended? Unlike a Siegfried and Roy magic show, they neither disappeared nor were eaten by a pet tiger.
Let's start with Joe Exotic, the living reincarnation of a 16th-century syphilitic pirate and Burt Reynolds' mustache. He's the easiest to track down because ol' Joe is still serving a 22-year prison sentence for animal abuse and the murder conspiracy of "that bitch" Carole Baskin. Not that he's not been keeping busy. Joe is still using every scrap of media attention to disparage his many enemies, appeal to Trump to overturn his conviction by invoking the "brothers from another mother" clause, and is impatiently waiting for the day that Nicolas Cage drops by for advice on how to play him in the upcoming Tiger King movie (Yes, that's real).
And what about Carole Baskin, the passionate animal rights advocate who's one tiger print shirt away from having to find a name for her fursona? Lots of the documentary was spent insinuating that Baskin had murdered and ground-up her first husband. But unlike Robert Durst, no additional investigations were forthcoming, and Baskin has spent a good deal of the aftermath condemning the documentary and denying the allegations. That is, whenever she's not openly feuding with Cardi B about her use of CGI tigers in the WAP music video.
Then there's Jeff Lowe and Doc Antle, undeniably the most malicious, manipulative, and micro-penised men in the documentary. Despite being exposed as alleged animal cruelty cult leaders, both are still just doing their thing, which is slowly expanding their pets4cash empires until every douchey dating profile contains at least one pic of someone posing with a soon-to-be-euthanized tiger cub.
But at least some minor players had a happy ending. Skeevy producer and immortal chain smoker Rick Kirkham is somehow not only still alive but got married and moved to wet and snowy Norway -- after not one but two of his domiciles were mysteriously burned to the ground. And John Finley, Joe's first husband, is also doing quite well for himself. He's now a welder, engaged to a lovely woman, and has gotten himself a new set of pearly white chompers. It's a real Cinderella story ... if Cinderella had had her fairy godmother permanently magic away a case of meth mouth.
All right, maybe I exaggerated the happy endings. But this is the world of exotic animals we're talking about. There are no winners and losers: just losers and honorary Floridians.
The Fyre Festival Bro Continues To Be In Hot Water
In 2017, the entire world watched with glee as the Fyre Festival transformed from the most hyped musical/social media event into a new circle in Dante's hell. One where the most self-absorbed influencers were forced to eat nothing but cheese sandwiches and see their Instagram Stories get overshadowed by the story of them being duped out of several thousand dollars.
But after three years and two incredibly cathartic documentaries about CEO Billy McFarland's tropical scam, he's still putting out the Fyre fires. McFarland, a twentysomething CEO slash entrepreneur slash "serial fraudster," is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for large-scale fraud. Not for disappointing more social media models than an Insta-boyfriend with shaky hands, mind, but for costing his investors over $26 million after intentionally and methodically lying about the financial success of the Fyre Media brand, which he claimed was valued at $90 million -- but only if you were cool with being paid in blowjobs from Andy King.
Of course, the most pressing question is: What happened to Ja Rule? Ja (Mr. Rule is his father) has come out of this mess pretty much unscathed. Originally named as a defendant in McFarland's trial, Ja Rule was later excused and instead given a trial by mean tweets making fun of what a dum-dum he is.
Unfortunately, the real victims of the Fyre Festival (no, not Kendall Jenner) are still the island of Great Exuma and its people. McFarlane still owes the workers from Great Exuma, who worked themselves half to death trying to take care of a thousand huffy influencers, hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages. And the pristine beach still isn't so pristine after the rich kid tent city littered thousands of pieces of styrofoam and selfie sticks snapped in sheer frustration.
The only good thing that came out of this mess was the restitution paid to angelic caterer Maryann Rolle, who lost her entire life savings to feed the already starving models at Fyre Festival. After people heard her tragic tale on the Netflix documentary Fyre, a GoFundMe managed to raise $233,700 -- which she was almost scammed out of again because people don't need a festival to be a dumpster fyre.
The Staircase Left Out A Potential Killer -- Owls
Of all the true crime docs on Netflix, The Staircase is the classiest one. Well directed, French, debonair, it slowly unveils the story of a tragic death without dramatization or sensationalism, just a beautifully unfolding narrative of a man allegedly bludgeoning his wife to death. And it's likely that level of prestige that made filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade leave out a critical question in his search for the truth: Maybe owls did it?
The story of author Michael Peterson seemed like an open book. Soaked in the blood of his dead second wife Kathleen, a Fifth Amendment pleading Peterson tried to convince police she took a tumble down the stairs -- just like that neighbor woman who also tragically accidentally died falling down the stairs and whose kids Peterson adopted out of the apparent kindness of his heart. Doing their job title, investigators soon discovered that not only did Kathleen have bludgeon marks on her head, but that Peterson was leading a sexual double life. At trial, the jury found Peterson guilty of murder.
But in 2009, Peterson's attorney started pointing the prosecution towards another possible killer: a Barred Owl. Native to the Petersons' home in Durham, North Carolina, these Barred Owls are aggressive buggers known to attack humans. And not only did Kathleen's head wounds match those of a talon attack, but she was also found clutching her hair and three tiny feathers. A theory so weird and hard to slot into this somber story, Netflix had no choice but to add it as an obscure webisode to placate true crime aficionados.
Not that the owl theory matters much. Due to an intentionally false testimony, Peterson was able to enter a special plea freeing him from prison after only eight years. And his attorney is in no rush to "risk my client's life or future on that argument." Because, you know, it sounds goddamn ridiculous. After release, Peterson moved in with his children and is quietly living his life and writing another book. Which might be the most damning piece of evidence yet, because why isn't he instead Richard Kimbling his way through Durham's forested hills looking for the one-taloned owl who killed his wife?
The Making A Murderer Guys Are Still Claiming They're Not Murderers
There is no greater ongoing true crime story than Making A Murderer, about the murky legalities surrounding the conviction of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for the murder and mutilation of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach, a photographer last seen at Avery's before winding up in small pieces. There's so much story to tell; the docuseries has gotten multiple seasons with 2 Fast 2 Murderous and a third season about to be released. And much like the insatiable need for more true crime docs, the subjects are desperately trying to make sure that their story isn't over yet.
If Making A Murderer achieved anything, it was to create an army of internet sleuths all convinced that Avery and Dassey are innocent of the heinous crimes that befell Halbach. Who hasn't become an avowed Making A Murder-ino is the American court system, which firmly upholds its decision to keep both men behind bars for the rest of their lives. But Avery's luck has turned before, so his sassy attorney Kathleen Zellner is employing a robust legal strategy of "letting it ride." She has kept the pressure on the courts to allow for multiple appeals and has gotten real Hardy Boys with surprise discoveries, the most important of which are the claim that bone fragments of Halbach were found in another location and the very dubious confession of another prison inmate. However, none of these very documentable twists have been deemed admissible, and the latest in this sad story (whichever team you're on) is that Avery has contracted a mild form of COVID-19, which somehow his attorney managed to spin in his legal favor Saul Goodman-style.
Even more heartbreaking is the epilog of Brendan Dassey, the cow-eyed summer child of potential murder accomplices. Dassey almost tasted freedom when in 2017, a federal judge recognized that his confession was so obviously coerced by police they were one step away from putting their hand up his ass to ventriloquist the confession for him. However, that hope was quickly snatched away when the Wisconsin D.A. office successfully appealed the decision. Dassey then sent an open letter to the new Wisconsin governor Tony Evers begging him for clemency, a letter signed by hundreds of "national legal and psychological experts, former police officials and prosecutors and clemency experts," according to The New York Times. The clemency was not granted.
So there, plenty of emotional fodder for the next season of Making A Murderer. And who knows what season three will achieve for this saga of American justice. Like, a fourth season, probably.
The Jinx's Robert Durst Is Finally Getting A Murder Trial (After The Pandemic)
Few true crime docs have ever had such a satisfying ending as The Jinx - The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which tells the tale of real estate heir and rejected Coen Brothers character Robert 'Bobby' Durst. The finale revealed so much damning evidence it resulted in the further prosecution of Durst for the alleged murder of his friend and alleged co-conspirator, Susan Berman, to allegedly keep her from exposing his alleged murder of his wife, Kathleen McCormack.
And we're going to have to keep using the word "alleged" for a little while longer, as the greatest plague of the 21st century is currently keeping Durst out of jail. In 2015, a day before the HBO show's finale, Durst was arrested for murder in the first degree largely in part due to the revelations uncovered in The Jinx. Specifically, it was his gassy self-confession on a hot mic and the confrontation that the killer's note telling the authorities where to find Berman's body matched his handwriting (and poor spelling) to the letter.
Durst's expensive crack team of lawyers has strategies for both, however. For the confession, the defense will (justifiably) point out that his words were heavily edited by The Jinx filmmakers, cherry-picking and placing out of order the sentences "What the hell did I do?" and "Killed them all, of course," out of a bevy of geriatric self-ramblings. As for the "cadaver note," his legal team has opted for the of … just admitting their idiot client did it and hoping no one cares.
This "whoopsy daisy" legal strategy has worked for Durst before, when he was found not guilty of the murder of Morris Black despite shooting him in the head, dismembering his body, and dumping it in garbage bins like he was doing method research for a starring role in a Galveston community theater production of American Psycho. Not that it matters all that much. In the meantime, a veritable orgy of evidence and testimonies have come to light, including several credible witnesses admitting that Durst has literally confessed the murders to them.
The burpy trial of the century was set to take place in March of 2020, but Durst once again bumbled into a lucky break when COVID hit, and his trial was postponed to March 2021. But the odds of him ever seeing the inside of a cell are slim at best. Durst isn't just being bailed out by a general health crisis, but a personal one as well. Over the past five years, his trial has been postponed several times to deal with the now 77-year-old man's many ailments, including esophageal cancer. The (sigh) alleged murderer is so frail that the day after the finale of The Jinx, an incarcerated Durst said his doctors had given him a life expectancy of five years. That was five years ago. So while the documentary did prove that you can't outrun your past, with enough money, it turns out you can outlive it.
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Top Image: HBO / Netflix