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The public fascination with violent crime and police procedurals has produced cultural milestones such as the HBO hit TV show “True Detective” and the podcast “Serial.”
The Discovery Channel and a TV crew are now tracking a real, active cold-case murder investigation, week after week, in a new show called Killing Fields.
The show follows a team of investigators looking into the unsolved 1997 killing of Eugenie Boisfontaine, a 34-year-old woman, outside Baton Rouge, La.
The show brings the detective who investigated the case, Rodie Sanchez, back from retirement, and pairs him with a young colleague named Aubrey St. Angelo.
Sanchez explains to the other investigators in the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Department that the unsolved case still “haunts” him – and he believes with DNA advances and another crack at the case, that the killer can be found.
“I’m going to find that sonofabitch if it’s the last thing I do,” Sanchez said.
The show touts itself as “an active homicide investigation shot in real-time.” It's directed by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Levinson, and is produced by Tom Fontana, who won Emmies for the shows "Oz" and "Homicide: Life on the Street."
The first episode of Killing Fields retraces the steps of the 1997 investigation,from interviewing the woman who found the body, to the owner of the nearby bar, and Sanchez visits old criminal informants he hadn’t talked with since his retirement. Dramatic shots show the two cops looking out over a burning field of sugar cane. At other moments, the detectives razz each other about their ages and experience.
“He’s Yellow Pages, and I’m Google,” St. Angelo tells the camera crew at one point.
In the meantime, some of the forensic evidence is re-tested back at the laboratory. Panty cuttings from the Boisfontaine remains were re-analyzed using the latest techniques available in 2015 – and some of which were never tested at all.
The first episode focuses on one potential lead. The infamous serial killer Derrick Todd Lee is currently on death row in Angola State Prison for killing several women in the late 1990s and early 2000s, who evaded capture because the FBI profile told investigators to look for a white male. One of Lee’s victims lived just three houses down from Boisfontaine, and another lived close by in the area.
The two detectives even meet with a man who says that Lee personally visited Boisfontaine’s house, and that the killer regularly fished in the area where the woman’s body was dumped.
But the first episode ends with the DNA testing ruling out Lee as a contributor to the stains on the panty cuttings – and instead identifies multiple males as the potential contributors.
“Between 1997 and 2003, there were 60 cases of missing and murdered women in the area that went unsolved,” the Discovery Channel claims. “And to be make it even more complicated, the Baton Rouge area had multiple serial killers operating at the same time with two of the victims living on the same street as Eugenie. Could these murders be connected?”
The show promises to reconstruct the crime, and follow the cold-case investigation where it leads, on Tuesday nights.