An Australian woman who has been accused of stabbing her grandfather and then letting him bleed to death in his kitchen as she washed the dishes claims that American Horror Story inspired her to commit the crime.
At a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, Brittany Jane Dwyer’s attorney said that the hit TV series is to blame for his young client’s horrific act, which took place in August 2016.
“That aspect of it is very troubling,” lawyer Craig Caldicott said (according to the New York Post), citing the show’s influence and her young age as reasons for the jury to grant his client leniency. “The popular series explores humankind’s capacity for evil and general obsession with crime and murder.”
Justice Kevin Nicholson said Dwyer’s age – she was 19 when she committed the murder – was the only mitigating factor for sentencing, given how graphic and heartless the crime was.
On the day of the murder, Dwyer and her friend Bernadette Burns drove from their home in Queensland to Adelaide, where her elderly grandfather Robert Whitwell resided.
According to court documents released Monday, Dwyer and Burns arrived at Whitwell’s home around 11 a.m., and Burns waited in a car outside the home as Dwyer sat with her grandfather and looked at photographs and videos of her and her brother as children. At one point, Dwyer reportedly texted Burns saying that she couldn’t go through with the plan – only to have Burns reply that she had to because “they had come all this way.”
So as Whitwell walked Dwyer to the front door after her visit, she pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the neck and chest. The court documents report that Whitwell asked his granddaughter why she stabbed him, but she did not respond.
Instead, she followed Whitwell to the kitchen, where he searched for a bandage and eventually bled to death. Dwyer did the dishes as he lay dying on the kitchen floor.
The pair’s original plan was to steal Whitwell’s life savings, but the two young women were only able to turn up $1,000 in cash, missing the $110,000 worth of savings that Whitwell had hidden in his shed. Whitwell’s body was found three days later, and both Dwyer and Burns pleaded guilty to murder.
On Wednesday, Dwyer’s brother, Ryan Whitwell Dwyer, asked for his sister and Burns to receive the maximum penalty.
“My grandfather Robert Whitwell was a proud and giving family man, always went above and beyond for anyone in need,” he said in a victim impact statement read aloud in the court. “The upset and anguish that you have both cast upon [the] Whitwell and Dwyer families is unforgivable.”