Friday nights rarely offer engaging quality television. The assumption (or perhaps, in some cases, the intention) is that we will all be crowding into the movie theaters to see the latest blockbuster, even as a struggling economy, a stubborn unemployment rating, and an increasingly thrifty younger generation, continue to rotate through the news cycle.
For this reason, those of us without either a sufficient amount of expendable income, or any interest in putting up with the big theaters, generally are not given many options for the small screen at this time. Fortunately, TNT has added six new episodes to the second season of Cold Justice, one of the most intelligent and compelling reality TV shows on the air today, beginning on June 20, 2014.
For the newly initiated, Friday's episode served as a remarkable example of Cold Justice's strengths with a twenty-six-year-old cold case: The murder of Alma Henderson, 41, in Bay City, Texas. On April 7, 1988, Alma went out with friends to a club and never returned. Days later, Alma was found in a motel parking lot in the back seat of her car dead from a single gunshot wound to the back of her head and with signs of sexual assault.
The case went cold due to a lack of any kind of genetic material at the crime scene, as well as a lack of suspects in general. Within minutes, however, prosecutor Kelly Siegler and crime scene investigator Yolanda McClary were off and running and had already identified three:
- TJ, who claimed to have had sex with Alma that night and then deliberately left her stranded in her stalled car.
- Cecil Kinerd, who was staying at the motel and had been accused of assaulting another woman earlier that night.
- David Wakefield, a motel security guard who claimed to have seen a thuggish individual exiting Alma's car, possibly to throw suspicion elsewhere.
After speaking with Alma's daughter, Kasy, they went to the scene of the crime and pieced it back together, from Alma's arrival at 2:30 with TJ to the 4:00 sighting of a barrel-chested man getting out of the the car by Wakefield. They then follow up with a series of phone calls, and though memories are sparse after twenty-six years, they do manage to contact TJ's roommate at the motel, who states that TJ was not acting in any way out of the ordinary that night.
They follow up by calling TJ and arranging a meeting, who they all agree is a deplorable excuse for a human being, given his complete lack of remorse for having used Alma for sex, lied to her that he was going to get his keys so he could give her battery a jump, and then completely abandoned her. Despite this, they rule him out as a suspect.
The focus then shifts to Cecil, who they immediately learn by calling his old associates, often spoke of his sexual exploits and, more prominently, his unusual fetishes. Specifically, Cecil was noted to be rather fond of "fisting," which a medical examiner proceeds to confirm would have been consistent with injuries found during Alma's autopsy.
With cases that are especially old like this one, a sign of the changing times will usually come into play. Typically, it manifests in the form of more accurate crime scene technology. This time, it is a cultural advancement.
Kelly contacts the woman who filed the sexual assault case against Cecil the night of the murder to see if she will corroborate. At the time, the unnamed victim had been pressured into dropping her case for reasons undisclosed, though Alma's daughter had previously stated that others insisted she was a prostitute -- even that she may have deserved what happened to her.
Rape shaming, unfortunately, is still a very real thing in the world, but it is losing strength as we advance culturally. Though she still wished to remain as anonymous as possible (she had even relocated a great distance to be away from anyone who even knew about the assault), she was willing to disclose the details of the assault. Not only did she acknowledge that Cecil had violated her with his fist, she also revealed that Cecil had a gun in his possession at the time of the assault, the description of which matched the murder weapon.
This is followed up by a brief meeting with David, the security guard, who travels with them back to the motel to reconstruct the crime scene and who is also ruled out as a suspect. Finally, they meet with Cecil, who not only flat out lies to them about everything from his sexual escapades to his ownership of a gun, he leaves a two-hour blank space in between when he and the anonymous victim parted ways and when he returned to his room at the motel, even though, by the investigators' estimates, the two locations were only ten minutes apart.
The evidence, though circumstantial, is also enormous. It is taken before the district attorney, who in turn agrees to present it before the grand jury.
This compelling new episode of Cold Justice will be followed by at least five more; a welcome relief for those lacking in money or patience for the big screen.