A killer first episode: American Crime Debuts on ABC

Michael Kalendra ’16
EE Staff Writer

From the screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave comes a show about a murder in Modesto, California, where war veteran Matt Skokie was killed in a home invasion.  During the home invasion, his wife, Gwen, was brutally attacked. The show chronicles the events that lead to finding out who did it and how the legal system will solve the case, despite the apparent issues seen through the victim’s and suspects’ families’ eyes.

The show was filmed in Austin, Texas, which substitutes for the California Central Valley city of Modesto. The first episode had Elvis Modesto and Caitlin Gerard as the first cast members in the show.  Other cast members were added along the way since February 14, 2014, such as Richard Cabral, Johnny Ortiz, Benito Martinez, and W. Earl Brown. The show debuted March 5, 2015.

The argument with the victim’s parents, played by Timothy Hutton (Russ) and Caitlin Gerard  (Aubry), shows how destructive crime can be to a family.  The family was already apart because Russ had been in and out of rehab and away from his kids for twenty years. His return, in which he acted concerned even after all those years, was terrible.  They were interviewed before, which was very impacting, as Aubry said that she didn’t have money to raise her kids and Russ  didn’t like that she answered the questions with happiness.   Aubry said that she was happy she had been there for her kids and that she had made it through. Towards the end, she says that the killer, played by Elvis Nolasco, should be shown to her so she can see and understand him mentally.

The next interview was with Russ and he repeated that he was close with his son for the twenty years, but he was told that his son was a drug dealer which devastated him.   Aubrey asked if it took 12 years for a killer to be executed and the detective gave no answer.  This was unhelpful, as the only lead in the start of the case was the killer’s getaway car brand.

The other perspective of the story was that of a Spanish father (Benito Martinez) and his son, Jonny Ortiz, as both were brought in for questioning.  The son said that the killer had given him $50 to use his car and that they communicated through a cell phone.  Johnny’s phone was searched after he had erased the messages from both his friends and the killer to prevent his father becoming involved in his life. Johnny was arrested and the scene ended with his father fighting for his son as he was pulled away in handcuffs. The killer’s life was seen from his dirty apartment with his girlfriend. The scene ended with the killer being locked away in a police truck to be transferred to a new prison after he gave Aubry an uncaring look while walking by after she had requested to see him.

The show was intense, with rapid-fire action scenes. The depression of the family over their loss could be seen through their feelings and the incompetence of the law. The slow buildup of the investigation and heavy atmosphere of the show paralleled the killer’s life and  actions.  The loss and hate mixed with desire for justice was great. Overall, the series premiere was outstanding and there will hopefully be more “killer’’ episodes to come.




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