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10 True Crime Shows to Watch This Fall

From a missing D.C. intern to evil twins to the latest take on Robert Durst, the best true-crime shows to watch out for

Sorry, Making a Murderer fans – season two of Netflix’s explosively popular true crime series still doesn’t have a release date. The documentary’s subjects, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey – whose convictions for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach were the focus of season one – are both awaiting court decisions on their requests for new trials. While Dassey’s conviction was overturned in August 2016, the State of Wisconsin is fighting to have the decision reversed and he remains in prison until there is a resolution. Meanwhile, in June, Avery’s newest attorney, Kathleen Zellner – who took the case after seeing season one – filed 1,200-plus page motion for post-conviction relief which makes all sorts of juicy allegations against police, prosecutors, and the person she says really killed Halbach and helped frame Avery and his nephew. For now, both cases hang in legal limbo and likely won’t be resolved until 2018.

Thankfully, there’s some good news! True crime is hotter than ever, especially on television. This year alone, there have been award-worthy documentaries like The Keepers on Netflix, Beware the Slenderman and Mommie Dead and Dearest on HBO, and Time: The Kalief Browder Story on Spike. True crime nostalgia has been all the rage, with five (yes, five!) cable specials dedicated to the 20-year-old murder of Jon Benet Ramsey. The crimes of the Menendez Brothers and the Unabomber have been revisited, while A&E’s Who Killed Laci Peterson? has many questioning Scott Peterson’s guilt.

Luckily for all of us, there’s more where that came from: the fall TV schedule is bursting with new true crime documentaries and scripted shows to fill your calendar for the rest of the year. Here are 10 you simply cannot miss.

true crime shows for fall strong island

Yance Ford, William Ford Jr.

Netflix

Strong Island

In 1992, William Ford Jr., a 24-year-old high school math teacher in Long Island, was fatally shot during an altercation at an autoshop. There was no mystery as to who was responsible – Mark Reilly, a 19-year-old mechanic, was arrested for manslaughter. But Reilly, who is white, claimed he shot Ford, who was Black, in self-defense – and an all-white grand jury declined to indict him for the killing. The new Netflix documentary, Strong Island, directed by Ford’s brother Yance, looks at the impact the murder had on the Ford family, and makes the case that racial bias was a deciding factor in his killer getting off scot free.

Ten years in the making, the themes explored in Strong Island are as relevant today as they were back in 1992. By all accounts, Ford was a model citizen who, nine months before his death, stopped an armed robber – and was in court the day he was killed, testifying for the prosecution. And yet the grand jury treated Reilly’s claim that he was in fear for his life as if it was a fact that overwhelmed all the other evidence. Sound familiar? 

true crime shows for fall evil twins

'Evil Twin' is a new three-part series on Investigation Discovery.

Investigation Discovery

Evil Twins

When true crime addicts are itching for a fix, they turn to Investigation Discovery, the insanely popular cable channel with a seemingly endless supply of titillating and terrifying infotainment. The fall season’s most spine-tingling debut is the three-part series Evil Twins, where each episode focuses on a deadly twin archetype: twins who kill as a duo, twins who turn on each other and finally, the timeless classic, good twin versus evil twin. The bond between identicals can manifest in some already spooky abilities, but this series will explore what happens when one or both twins have sinister intentions. Sure, making up a secret language is innocent fun – until the subject turns to murder. That psychic awareness of each other’s well-being is probably pretty reassuring, unless one twin wants the other dead. And while many twins have fooled a boyfriend or two by swapping outfits and identities, this otherwise harmless prank would be quite the opposite if only one twin was in on it – and playing for keeps. If twins already freak you out, you definitely won’t want to miss this one.

true crime shows for fall menendez brothers

Miles Gaston Villanueva as Lyle Menendez, Gus Halper as Eric Menendez

Justin Lubin/NBC

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers

The latest addition to the Law & Order franchise rips a page straight from Ryan Murphy’s playbook with an eight-episode dramatization of one of the most notorious crimes of the last quarter century: Eric and Lyle Menendez’s gruesome murder of their parents in 1989. Two relative unknowns (Gus Halper and Miles Gaston Villanueva) star as the titular homicidal duo, bolstered by a supporting cast of seasoned, talented actors in comically era-appropriate hairpieces. Edie Falco (The Sopranos, Nurse Betty) plays charismatic and controversial defense attorney Leslie Abramson, Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight) is Deputy D.A. Pam Bozanich, and Anthony Edwards (ER) presides as Judge Stanley Weisberg, bringing to life some of the most gripping courtroom testimony in true crime history: Eric and Lyle’s tearful allegations that they murdered their parents after enduring years of psychological, physical and sexual abuse. It may not have been enough to convince a jury to acquit, but whether the emotion was real or a performance, Eric and Lyle’s testimony was gut-wrenching – and could mean Emmy gold for Halper, Villanueva and Falco.

true crime shows for fall disappearance of maura murray

Art Roderick, Maggie Freleng

Scott Eisen/Oxygen Media

The Disappearance of Maura Murray

It’s easily one of the most perplexing and spooky unsolved mysteries of the last 20 years. In February 2004, 21-year-old nursing student crashes her car into a snowbank on a quiet New Hampshire highway just after dinnertime, and then vanishes without a trace. There’s no evidence of foul play – in fact, there’s very little evidence at all. She was there, and then she was gone.

The suspicious disappearance of Maura Murray has confounded her loved ones and police since that night, with very few solid leads in the years since. Thirteen years later, the details have blurred together with those of countless others who’ve gone missing since, and Maura’s name likely won’t ring many bells – but the cult-like fascination of those who do know it suggests the cold case could be poised to become the next hot true crime obsession.

There’s a growing interest in the case online, where armchair detectives swap theories ranging from random abduction to suicide, parse every last known detail of Maura’s activity, behavior and relationships, and crowd-source their once solitary investigative efforts. (Johnny Depp is even producing a TV movie based on one man’s obsession with solving the case.) The second installment of Oxygen’s series The Disappearance of won’t have many answers, but the multi-episode arc will hopefully attract the attention necessary to unravel the mystery once and for all. 

true crime shows for fall lost wife of robert durst

Daniel Gillies as Robert Durst and Katharine McPhee as Kathie Durst

Sergei Bachlakov/Lifetime

The Lost Wife of Robert Durst

Just forget about the fact that Andrew Jarecki (The Jinx) already made a scripted film (All Good Things) about kooky real estate scion Robert Durst’s marriage to his first wife, Kathleen McCormack, who disappeared in 1982. Ryan Gosling aside, it wasn’t that good – besides, a Lifetime miniseries is what this bizarre and tragic story deserves. This is especially true now that McCormack’s story finally has its coda: in April, a New York judge officially declared the one-time medical student dead.

The Lost Wife of Robert Durst stars Katharine McPhee (American Idol, Smash) and Daniel Gillies (The Vampire Diaries) as the ill-fated couple, who married in 1973 and were on the verge of splitting when McCormack vanished from their weekend home in Westchester County, New York. Durst had long been the sole suspect in his wife’s disappearance but was never charged with the crime (in fact, in 1990, he filed for divorce claiming “spousal abandonment”). But at least one friend has alleged that Durst admitted to killing McCormack – and, of course, Durst has been implicated or suspected in two other murders. In the final scene of Jarecki’s documentary, The Jinx, Durst muttered a confession while taking a pee break, not realizing he was still wearing a hot mic. Will Lifetime’s miniseries fast-forward a few decades for a very dramatic reenactment? Watch to find out.

true crime shows for fall elizabeth smart

Sergei Bachlakov/Lifetime

I Am Elizabeth Smart

It’s been 15 years since Elizabeth Smart, then just 14 years old, was kidnapped from her Utah home by crazed religious extremists and held captive for nine months in 2002. Smart’s kidnappers, Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, kept her locked in chains, drugged, raped and starved her, and forced her to participate in bizarre rituals before she was finally rescued. There has been plenty of ink spilled about the horrifying details, not to mention one less-than-accurate TV movie – but I Am Elizabeth Smart is the first depiction of Smart’s ordeal to have her full blessing and participation. Two years in the making, the movie stars Deirdre Lovejoy, Skeet Ulrich and Alana Boden in the key roles, winning praise from critics and survivors for its authentic depiction rape, sexual assault and trauma. Most importantly, Smart has given the film the endorsement which matters the most, calling it “the best worst movie I have ever seen.”

true crime shows for fall mindhunters fbi

Patrick Harbron/Netflix

Mind Hunter: Inside FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit

Based on the book by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, and produced by acclaimed director David Fincher (Fight ClubGone Girl), this new Netflix drama series is about two FBI agents who use psychological profiling techniques to hunt down serial criminals. (Fincher also directs the first two episodes, so expect Mind Hunter to have his dark, slick visual aesthetic.) Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany lead the cast as Holden Ford and Bill Tench, characters inspired by Douglas and his fellow FBI profiler, Robert Ressler, who coined the term “serial killer.” Psychological profiling is a popular theme in police procedurals – Criminal Minds, for examplebut this series is set in the late 1970s, when it was still a new and controversial technique being used by the FBI. The show revolves around the two FBI agents, who interview imprisoned serial murderers in order to better understand the minds of the killers they’re still trying to catch. Beware before you binge – this series may cause nightmares.

true crime shows for fall cold blooded clutter family murders

The Clutter family were brutally murdered in their home in 1959.

AP

Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders

Over two nights, Sundance will air this four-hour documentary about the infamous quadruple murder that inspired the first non-fiction novel – Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Through firsthand interviews with surviving family members, law enforcement, and community members, the film offers a fresh look at the November 1959 murder of the Clutter family in Kansas. Cold Blooded parses the evidence which led police to arrest Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who were subsequently convicted and executed. Capote was not the only person haunted by the brutality of the crime – it struck fear into the heart of small-town America, where it was believed that things like this just don’t happen. More than half a century later, this immersive documentary is the first to explore the lasting impact the Clutter family murders had on the nation’s innocence.

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