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True Crime Documentaries To Binge This Holiday Season
From the Hillside Strangler serial killings to the Sally McNeil case, many of these documentaries take another look at the cultural influences — and shortcomings — surrounding the crimes.
The holidays are upon us once again. The often much anticipated, and for some, greatly dreaded holidays.
We at Oxygen.com feel that true crime always has a place in one’s holiday heart. True crime docuseries work well in the background as you deck your home out in everything jolly. And they work equally well with helping one zone out if you’re planning on staying in and cozying up by the fire this year.
Whether you need background noise or are seeking a good series to binge, there are many true crime docuseries from this year, which shone a light on crimes of the past, reexamining them with a more modern eye. They revealed injustice and mistakes in cases, and gave humanity to victims and their families in the process. Progressing toward a deeper and more nuanced understanding of complex cases is certainly something to celebrate.
Here are some of the most binge-worthy true-crime docuseries of 2022:
1. Crime Scene: Texas Killing Fields
This Netflix docuseries investigates an area known as the "Texas Killing Fields,” a region that has become a burial ground for missing girls and women. It focuses primarily on the deaths of three young murdered women discovered in the area in the 1980s, as well as a fourth in 1991: Laura Miller, Heidi Fye, Donna Prudhomme and Audrey Lee Cook. However, the docuseries notes there are even more slayings in the area.
The docuseries — executively produced by Joe Berlinger and directed by Jessica Dimmock — reveals that since the early 1970s, thirty murder victims have been found within the “Killing Fields” region. The series reexamines mistakes in the cases and the dehumanization of the victims.
2. Killer Sally
Netflix’s “Killer Sally” revisits the 1995 Valentine’s Day killing of Sally McNeil’s husband Ray McNeil, a national bodybuilding champion. Sally had claimed that she shot him in self-defense after he choked her during a steroid-induced rage.
In the three-part docuseries, Sally and her two children allege that McNeil regularly abused her and that she was in fear for her life.
The docuseries examines how Sally was portrayed by the media in the 1990s, which was during a time when “bad girls” were at the forefront of tabloid headlines. Most notably, it dives into how the fictional identity “Killer Sally” soured her chances of being believed as a credible intimate partner violence victim. Director Nanette Burstein suggested in an interview with Oxygen.com that the ex-Marine who regularly posed with bullets did not fit the mold of a so-called “perfect victim.”
3. Sherri Papini: Lies, Lies And More Lies
Oxygen's new doc "Sherri Papini: Lies, Lies And More Lies" reexamines the shocking Sherri Papini case. The mother of two made national headlines in 2016 when she claimed she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women while out for a jog. When she was located three weeks after vanishing, she had a chain around her waist, had endured weight loss and had wounds on her body — now known to be self-inflicted.
Sherri admitted that the kidnapping was a hoax earlier this year, confessing that she had been staying with an ex the entire time she pretended to be missing. The ex, who apparently believed that he was rescuing Papini from her abusive husband, hit her to assist her with the kidnapping story.
The documentary, which premieres Dec. 17 at 9/8c on Oxygen, includes just-released investigative footage and previously unseen interviews with Papini. It also reveals interviews with investigators, journalists and community members affected by Papini’s untruths.
4. Casey Anthony: Where The Truth Lies
The three-episode Peacock documentary “Casey Anthony: Where The Truth Lies” reexamines the media frenzy surrounding the murder of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony.
The child’s mother, Casey Anthony, became a notorious household name after standing trial in 2011. The toddler's skeletal remains were found near Casey’s family home in Orlando, Florida six months after she vanished. Casey’s trial became a national obsession, with nearly 40 million Americans tuning into at least part of the trial.
The docuseries reexamines the case and shows what Casey's life has been like post-acquittal. It also features interviews with Casey, who speaks candidly about the case.
Showtime’s four-part docuseries "Spector," dived into disgraced music icon Phil Spector and the murder he committed. Spector, who was largely regarded for creating hits for 1960s legends like The Ronettes and The Beatles, shot actress Lana Clarkson, 40, to death inside the foyer of his French Chateau-style mansion in 2003.
He was also known for his troubled marriage to Ronnie Spector, star vocalist of The Ronettes. In her 1990 memoir “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness,” Ronnie depicted her former husband as vindictive and violent. The docuseries has been credited for offering a deeper, more complex understanding of the Spector case and humanizing the victims.
6. Sins Of Our Mother
This Netflix docuseries gave gripping and shocking insight into the Lori Vallow case with its new interviews and footage of the family. The complicated case involved several deaths and murder accusations. Most infamously, Vallow has been accused of killing her two children Tylee Ryan, 16, and Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7. The two siblings were discovered in 2020 on an Idaho property owned by Vallow’s fifth husband, doomsday religious author Chad Daybell. This docuseries features in-depth interviews with Vallow’s son Colby Ryan.
The trial against Vallow and Daybell, both of whom pleaded not guilty, is currently pending a trial date.
7. The Hillside Strangler: Devil In Disguise
This four-part Peacock docuseries offers a new, in-depth peek inside the minds of the adoptive cousins behind the "Hillside Stranglings" spree. Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono impersonated off-duty police officers to lure victims, making them feel safe enough to get close to them.
The case remains one of the most infamous crimes to ever strike fear in Los Angeles residents. Within just the span of a few months in the late 1970s, the nude bodies of murdered women were discovered in the hills surrounding the iconic California city.
The docuseries shows how many of the victims were sex workers, and because of sexism and societal judgment of sex workers, the public response to the killings was initially muted.
8. D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?
This Netflix series explores several people that have been linked to the infamous D.B. Cooper case. While the case is decades old, it continues to bewilder people. In fact, it remains the only unsolved hijacking in American history — and that has meant the hijacker’s identity remains a source of wonder.
On Nov. 24, 1971, a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper bought a one-way ticket on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. Cooper, wearing dark sunglasses, a black necktie and a raincoat, took his seat, ordered a bourbon and soda. He then slipped a flight attendant a note informing her he had a bomb in his briefcase, demanding $200,000 in twenty-dollar bills and four parachutes. Upon landing in Seattle, he got his ransom demands, let off the passengers and instructed the plane to take off once more, heading south toward Mexico. Shortly after taking off a second time, while over a wooded area of Washington state along the Columbia River, the mystery man strapped on a parachute and jumped out with his newly acquired cash. No one ever saw him again.
The docuseries dives into theories about the case. It’s a great one to binge so you can have material to discuss with your D.B. Cooper-obsessed uncle at the holiday table!