In today’s look at where true crime meets the daily news, we look at the latest in the serial slaying case from the book and movie Lost Girls; we see who the Ryan Murphy machine has named to play Jose and Kitty Menendez in the upcoming Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story; and we learn why we’re unlikely to see a second season of Bad Vegan.
Rex Heuermann Faces Fourth Murder Charge in Gilgo Beach Serial Killings [New York Times gift link]
Rex Heuermann’s defense attorney, Michael Brown, has persistently argued that the age and quality of the DNA evidence used to arrest his client was fairly weak, and that Heuermann—who has claimed innocence—will be exonerated in the so-called “Lost Girls” case.1
But according to reporter Corey Kilgannon, Brown’s tune changed slightly on Tuesday, when prosecutors not only announced that they now had sufficient forensic evidence to charge him in the death of a fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, but “filed an extensive outline of an updated, ratcheted-up case.”
According to prosecutors, they’d sent hairs previously used to connect Heuermann with the case for nuclear DNA testing, which is widely believed to be more conclusive than the mitochondrial DNA testing previously performed.
The DoJ’s National Institute of Justice has a good explainer on how the two types of testing differ, but anyone of a certain age who’s been pregnant is likely nodding along right now. That’s because, at least at the healthcare provider I used 24 (!) years ago, they’d offer you mitochondrial DNA analysis if you didn’t have a family history of issues that could impact the development of a child; folks with a history were encouraged to shell out for the fancier, far pricier nuclear option.
I urge you to click through to read Kilgannon’s full story, as it provides far more details on items found during the search of Heuermann’s residence. It’s a good preview of what we’ll likely see in court — that is, if Brown has not convinced Heuermann to take a plea at that point.
While prosecutors would likely love a plea deal, because tbh it’s just way less work, I can only assume that the scrum of documentarians, podcasters, journalists, and aspiring adaptors (read: at least one person who works for Ryan Murphy) is hoping Heuermann goes to trial.
And as I think about the women who Heuermann allegedly killed — that’s Megan Waterman, Amber Costello, Melissa Barthelemy, and Maureen Brainard-Barnes — and how ignored they were for so long, I wonder what their survivors would prefer. Would a trial, and its inevitable coverage, bring them more pain than a deal in which Heuermann just goes to prison forever?
Nicholas Chavez and Cooper Koch had previously been announced as the folks to play, respectively, Lyle and Erik Menendez; this is season two of the controversial Netflix drama that kicked off with Dahmer in 2022. What stopped me in my tracks here is that Kitty Menendez was 47 when she died, and Sevigny is 49. Maybe it’s true what they say about people of the previous generation looking older than we Xes (and beyond) do.
Jose, by comparison, was 45; Bardem is — unsurprisingly — 54. If I’m gonna keep going with numbers in this item, Lyle and Eric are now 56 and 53, respectively. And if you don’t feel old as hell after all that, please tell me your secret. This casting seems fine, though I’d argue that Bardem is too big for that room (I’d be making the same point about Sevigny if she weren’t already a Murphy repertory regular.) We don’t have a release date, yet, but expect a non-fiction counterpart: per Deadline, “In addition to the scripted series on the Menendez brothers, Netflix has a feature doc on the duo in the works, brought to life with exclusive access to the subjects.”
Bad Vegan, Part Two? [Grub Street]
If the first season of true crime/cult behavior/dining docuseries Bad Vegan left you hungry for more, ha ha, this story from New York magazine’s Allen Salkin will make you feel like the dessert cart passed you by.
OK, I’ll stop with the cutesy food-writing shenanigans, but this longread into how central figure Sarma Melngailis appears to be the only person who didn’t come away from the Netflix bombshell with an enriched bank account is a reminder of how impersonally the true crime machine can consume and spit you out.
If you’re looking for a pairing that includes allegations of incompetence and bad money management (but no criminal claims, at least at this point), please click over to the LA Times’s “Inside Matthew Kenney’s crumbling raw food empire.” Kenney, who was once Melngailis’s partner in business and life, appears to have his own money problems these days.
I don’t know Melngailis, but I’ve interviewed Kenney and he’s an engaging, personable guy…if someone pitched a reality show in which the two re-paired (business-wise) and attempted to rehab both their reputations and relaunch their restaurants, would you watch? I sure would, perhaps even more eagerly than I would the abortive BV:S2.