In James Buddy Day‘s true crime docu-series, FALL RIVER, which takes place in 1979 in Fall River, Massachusetts three young women are killed in a streak of brutal murders that police alleged are the work of a satanic cult that was practicing human sacrifice. The cult leader, a man named Carl Drew, was captured and sent to prison for life without parole. Twenty years later, lead investigator Paul Carey started re-investigating his own case after being haunted by the inconsistencies which brought the entire story into question when new evidence surfaced. Now through exclusive interviews, including intimate conversations with Drew, this documentary series will tell the true story of a town caught in the grips of the paranoia and fear around the 1980s Satanic Panic, and will shed light on murders that were thought to have been solved.
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to interview FALL RIVER‘s director James Buddy Day where they discussed everything from Satanic cult murders, finding justice for the victims, the biases of the justice system, and more.
How did you come about the Fall River murders and what inspired you to want to make a documentary about it?
James Buddy Day: I live in the true crime world and make true crime documentaries for a living. I just kind of came across the Fall River Satanic Cult Murders in an article and I had never heard of them before, and I’ve heard about a lot of stuff. If you’re from Massachusetts, you’ve heard of this case, it’s a big deal. But if you’re not from Massachusetts, you may not have heard of it, which was something that really interested me. Then I reached out to Carl Drew and got to know him. He had a website at the time where he kind of written this proclamation of innocence and so I wrote him a letter and got talking to him and that’s how I kind of got into it. The idea that there were like this huge Satanic Cult murders that took place in this little town where Lizzie Borden is from, just that on its face got me very interested in it.
What did you find to be the hardest part about making this documentary?
James Buddy Day: Well, It took a long time. That was probably the hardest part. It took about four years. Actually, the hardest part was getting in contact with Robin. Talking to her for the better part of a year, visiting her, exchanging a lot of letters to get her to kind of trust me enough with her story. She has never really given an interview before. She’s never told many parts of her story that we featured in the documentary. So really that was the hardest part, convincing her that I did have good intentions, which I do. I didn’t want to exploit her or tell some sensational version of her story. I wanted to honestly tell her story so that people could see the trauma that she went through and how that impacted the decisions she made and why. Her story should be reframed from what it currently is.
The documentary focuses on a lot of different stories about what actually happened the night of the murder(s). What was the most interesting aspect of that?
James Buddy Day: I guess to me that’s what so interesting about it, when you sit down and you hear someone’s point of view and you hear their story it changes the way you look at everything and I think you can say that for all true crime cases. I always get frustrated, I’m a big true crime fan, I don’t just work in true crime but I watch everything and read books and listen to all the podcasts, I can’t get enough of it, but something I always find very frustrating is when you watch a series or show and it’s just one person’s perspective. It’s like just the cops telling you what happened. And I would get very frustrated because it’s like, well, that’s their versions of events, which I appreciate and find interesting, but I always want to hear the other side of the story because when you take something as complicated as a real-life crime where it has very real-world implications and trauma for people, it’s different depending on how you look at it. And that’s what I find so interesting about it. When you see true crime shows and they don’t look at it from different perspectives, it’s such a lost opportunity.
FALL RIVER really dives into the exploration of people like Carl and Robin, as well as how the prison/justice system works against people like them. I think parts of that are going to be really challenging for people, but absolutely necessary.
James Buddy Day: I’m always really interested in how the justice system treats disreputable people. I think that’s more interesting than how it treats someone who’s privileged and has lots of money and comes from a happy, well-rounded background. They always get treated well by the justice system, but that’s not very interesting (laughs). The interesting part is the dichotomy – one of the journalists says this in the documentary, poor people go to prison and it absolutely matters what resources you have, whether you’re treated fairly or not. And that’s crazy and true! It’s just bizarre, why does it matter what resources you have? The justice system should be universal and accessible to everyone. It shouldn’t matter who you are or what resources you have to defend yourself, but it totally does, you know? The way Carl and Robin were treated in the justice system and the way the trial was handled… one of the reasons they even prosecuted the way they did is because it had the Satanic label to it so it became sensational. It became a top priority for the DA’s office otherwise they wouldn’t have done much. It was young sex workers getting murdered in a town that was overrun by sex workers. They wouldn’t have otherwise given it the attention they did.
To be able to watch this documentary about a series of murders that took place 40 min from where I grew up was such a wild journey to go on. Ultimately, what do you hope people take away after watching this?
James Buddy Day: For the people in Fall River, the decision-makers, the governor, and the DA, I hope they watch it and I hope they do something to fix the injustices that were done. The victims suffered an injustice, Carl suffered injustice, Robin has suffered an injustice. She got out for a while but Robin’s been in prison for 40 years. Carl’s in prison for life without parole and I mean you saw what the trial was like, it was ridiculous (laughs). One of the main things that got him convicted was the fact that they were able to tell the jury that he had committed a murder even though there was a picture of him at a wedding that same night. He had 10 alibi witnesses and the only reason they weren’t introduced at trial is because the investigator assigned to him by the public defender’s office died. I hope the governor and the district attorney, especially… the DA Paul River could really give Carl relief if he wanted to. So I really hope the DA’s office in Fall River watches it. I hope a lot of people watch it and they write letters to Carl and Robin and they write letters, email, call the DA’s office and they’re vocal. I hope they get the justice and the victims get the justice they deserve.
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