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Crime News Movies & TV

Lifetime's Remake Of 'Death Of A Cheerleader' Is Based On An Infamous '80s Murder

The movie is based on the real-life case of cheerleader Kirsten Costas, who was stabbed to death by her jealous classmate Bernadette Protti.

By Gina Tron

An affluent varsity cheerleader stabbed to death by her less-popular classmate in a fit of rage and jealousy? It sounds like the premise of a Lifetime movie (and, well, it is!) but it’s also a story so shocking that it has to be true—mostly. Yes, cult film "Death Of A Cheerleader" is based on a true crime story — and Lifetime is now releasing a remake of the Tori Spelling classic, which is good news for anyone who missed the film the first time around.

The film "is inspired by Randall Sullivan’s Rolling Stone article of the same name about the real-life murder of a popular, affluent and beautiful Northern California high school cheerleader at the hand of a classmate,” as Lifetime described it. It's slated to air February 2 at 8/7c on Lifetime. Here's what to know before you settle on the couch with some popcorn.

The real story

Kirsten Costas, a 15-year-old teen living in the small suburban California town of Orinda, was stabbed to death by her classmate Bernadette Protti, then also 15, on June 23, 1984. 

Both were members of the swim team, but Costas was reportedly much more popular than Protti, according to the Associated Press in 1984. While Costas made the cheerleading team, Protti didn't. Rivalry was reportedly a motive.

Protti told police she killed her because "I was afraid she was going to tell people I was weird,” according to a 1985 Los Angeles Times article. It took police six months to determine that Protti was the killer. After that determination was made, she said, "Do I have to go back to Miramonte [High School]? I can't live if it is known. I would rather die," according to CNN.

She was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to a maximum of seven years behind bars and was released from prison on parole in 1992 at the age of 23. She has since reportedly changed her name.

"I lost for cheerleader and I didn't get the club I wanted and I didn't get (on the) yearbook (staff)," Protti told law enforcement during a taped confession, which was later played at the teen’s murder trial. "The things that got me mad was it hurt and I couldn't change... like looks or money or popularity or things."

The first movie

In 1994, the plot was made into a television movie entitled “A Friend to Die For” (also known as “Death of a Cheerleader”), starring Tori Spelling as the soon-to-be-murdered cheerleader and Kellie Martin as her killer.

“She would do anything to be popular... even kill,” a tagline for the movie stated, according to IMBD.

The film “became a TV movie phenomenon,” according to entertainment news site Monsters and Critics. 

The newest version

“Bridget Moretti (Aubrey Peeples) is a shy outsider from a lower middle-class background who aspires to be beautiful, popular and perfect in everything,” Lifetime states, describing the plot of the new version. “Believing that a friendship with rich and pretty Kelly Locke (Sarah Dugdale), leader of the school’s most prestigious clique, will get her all that she desires, Bridget tries to forge a friendship with her. When Kelly rejects Bridget’s attempts, it leaves her humiliated and feeling like a failure and ultimately fuels a jealous rage that will lead to murder.”

The remake promises to “explore the events leading up to and after the shocking crime that took place in this upper-middle class community.”

Martin has returned for the new Lifetime remake, this time as an FBI agent investigating the murder, according to the Daily Herald, a Chicago-based outlet.


[Photos provided by Lifetime]

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