Opening Statement

Photo: Elaine Furst

Welcome to a new blog devoted to true-crime entertainment — starting with my favorite TV series, Forensic Files.

Since it began in 1996, Forensic Files has rendered me helpless to hit the off button, even during four-hour marathons of episodes I’ve already seen three times.

But why? I have only a marginal interest in the likes of mitochondrial DNA and medium-velocity blood splatter — the scientific content that is the reason for the show’s existence.

The first reason I like the show is structure. The writers and editors tell the story in a compact way in 30 minutes, without the pre-commercial teasers and other repetition that network true-crime shows use to pad themselves into an hour or two.

Next, it fascinates me that people who look and act like PTA moms and dads — the kind of folks who would feel guilty about grabbing the last cupcake in the office break-room — can dial down their consciences enough to murder their spouses and make their own children half-orphans.

I guess the series’ No. 1 attraction is the biographical element of the stories. The late narrator Peter Thomas told the show’s tales compassionately yet without exploiting the victims or manipulating viewers’ emotions.

But what about what happens after the closing music? The sentence-long epilogues that the producers have started adding to the closing credits are great — but I want more. I need more.

What happened to Pearl Cruz, the 15-year-old whose father used her as an accomplice to murder a beloved teacher (“Transaction Failed”)? How is Deborah Pignataro — who survived her husband’s attempt to kill her via massive doses of arsenic (“Bad Medicine”) — getting along today?

And I have a few legal questions, too. How did Ron Gillette, who murdered his wife by pressing her face into a plastic bag (“Strong Impressions”), get out of jail after only 15 years? Why did Clay Daniels — before he made headlines by plotting with his wife, Molly Daniels, to fake his own death (“Grave Danger”) — receive a sentence of only 30 days for molesting his 7-year-old cousin?

With this blog, I hope to answer those types of questions and invite queries and perspective from other fans of Forensic Files and, in time, explore true-crime movies and books as well. Please come along with me for our own investigation.RR

The first True Crime Truant post: Q&A with former JAG attorney Mark F. Renner, who defended Ron Gillette.


6 thoughts on “Opening Statement”

  1. Susan, thanks! A lot of the episodes are available on YouTube, so you can watch at your leisure.

  2. I like this opening statement a lot. My wife Mary and I are fans of shows like this, particularly those that are sophisticated and in narrative structure in the way you describe. Is the show also on Netflix, so they can be watched sequentially …. ?

    1. Thanks, Larry! Yes, there are two seasons, 80 episodes in all, available to stream on Netflix. Not sure whether they’re in sequence, but each episode is self-contained, so the the order in which you watch them makes no difference.

  3. As an educator of high school and college students, I find that any outlet, be it television, film, book or blog which is historically or factually based has the potential to motivate readers, instigating further study and scrutiny. True Crime has that appeal. All I need to do is mention some bizarre murder or crime scene in class and I am inundated with requests for more information. In addition, shows like Forensic Files stimulate discussion about prison reform, race, gender, and domestic violence, subjects I welcome in my classes. I am grateful for outlets such as this which keeps the dialogue current and relevant. Dano Cammarota

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