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Friday, February 11, 2011

Small Sacrifices--The Diane Downs Story

Diane Downs

On May 19, 1983, Elizabeth Diane Frederickson Downs shot her three children: Christie,8, Cheryl, 7, and Stephen, 4. She told police that she had been carjacked. Cheryl did not survive. She also shot herself in the left arm to try to make her story believable.Downs had been having an affair with a man named Robert Knickerbocker, who had let it be known that he did not want children in his life.

On June 17, 1984, Downs was found guilty of murder, attempted murder and assault. She was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years. Christie and Stephen were adopted by Prosecutor Fred Hugi and his wife Joanne.

The 1989 made-for-TV movie stars Farrah Fawcett as Diane Downs. In the movie, the names of the children have been changed. Christie is Karen, Cheryl is Shawna, and Stephen is Robbie.

Farrah Fawcett as Diane Downs

Emily Perkins as Karen Downs (Christie Downs)
John Shea as Prosecutor Frank Joziak  (Fred Hugi)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Killer Among Friends

Missy Avila

This 1992 made-for-television movie was based on the 1985 murder of Michele "Missy" Avila by her two best friends, Karen Severson and Laura Doyle.
Karen Severson
Laura Doyle

Apparently the two girls were jealous of Avila's beauty and popularitity. Severson and Doyle were convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

In the movie the names are changed. Missy Avila is Jenny Monroe, played by Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Karen Severson is Ellen Holloway, played by Margaret Welsh. Laura Doyle is Carla Lewis, played by Angie Rae McKinney. Patty Duke plays Jenny's mother,Jean,who searches fervently for her daughter's killer.

Patty Duke as Jean Monroe

Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Jenny Monroe (Missy Avila)

Margaret Welsh as Ellen Holloway (Karen Severson)
Angie Ray McKinney as Carla Lewis (Laura Doyle)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Baby M

Mary Beth Whitehead

This is not a crime, per say, but an interesting true story of surrogacy gone wrong. In 1985, Mary Beth Whitehead agreed to be a surrogate mother for Bill and Betsy Stern by artificial insemination. On March 27th, 1986, "Baby M" was born. Mary Beth decided she wanted to keep the baby, whom she called "Sara", while the Sterns named her "Melissa". She ended up kidnapping the baby during a long custody battle. The Sterns were awarded custody of Melissa, and Betsy Stern was allowed to adopt her. However, Betsy Stern's adoption of the baby was overturned by the Supreme Court of New Jersey and Mary Beth Whitehead was allowed visitation rights. When Melissa turned 18, she terminated Mary Beth's parental rights and formalized Betsy Stern's maternity through adoption proceedings.

Betsy and Bill Stern

Baby M

Melissa Stern (around age 8)

In 1988 he case was turned into a movie, Baby M, starring JoBeth Williams as Mary Beth Whitehead, John Shea as Bill Stern and Robin Strasser as Betsy Stern.

JoBeth Williams as Mary Beth Whitehead

John Shea and Robin Strasser as Bill and Betsy Stern

This movie is very emotionally gripping. You feel for Mary Beth and you feel for the Sterns. I recently ordered a VHS copy on Amazon. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate any sites you could watch this movie online, but here is a preview of the movie.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Barbie and Ken Murders: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka
They look like a couple of normal, good looking kids, right? Wrong. They are Canadian serial killers. Karla Homolka was convicted of manslaughter in the rape-murder of two teenaged girls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Paul Bernardo was convicted of the murders and admitted to having raped numerous women. They were also responsible for the rape-murder of Karla's younger sister Tammy. Karla was given a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against her husband,  and served 12 years in prison. There was also evidence that Paul emotionally and physically abused Karla, though why she never tried to leave is a mystery.

The 2006 movie Karla tells the story from Karla's point of view and stars Laura Prepon as Karla and Misha Collins as Paul.

Laura Prepon as Karla Homolka     

Misha Collins as Paul Bernardo

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Marie Hilley Story

Audrey Marie Hilley

Audrey Marie Hilley (born Audrey Marie Frasier, June 4, 1933 - February 26, 1987) was convicted of using arsenic poisoning  to kill her husband Frank and attempting to poison her daughter Carol the same way for insurance money.

The 1991 Wife, Mother, Murderer stars Judith Light as Marie Hilley.

Judith Light as Marie Hilley/Robbie/Teri

Kellie Overbey as Carol Hilley  
David Ogden Stiers as John Homan

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Betty Broderick Story

Betty Broderick

Elisabeth Anne "Betty" Broderick née Bisceglia (born on November 7, 1947 in Eastchester, New York) is a former San Diego socialite convicted of the November 5, 1989 murder of her former husband Dan Broderick and his second wife, Linda Kolkena. After a second trial, she was convicted on December 11, 1991 of two counts of second-degree murder, and later sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. (From Wikipedia)

Linda and Dan Broderick

The 1992 made-for-tv stars Meredith Baxter as Betty Broderick, Stephen Collins as Dan Broderick, and Michelle Johnson as Linda Kolkena Broderick.

Meredith Baxter as Betty Broderick

Stephen Collins as Dan Broderick

Michelle Johnson as Linda Kolkena Broderick

And the sequel!