I cringe whenever a TV series or a movie features prison inmates because I’m afraid that they will add to the public’s misconception that most prisoners are violent and dangerous, which can have serious implications for criminal justice reform efforts.
The ID Channel’s six-episode series, “Valley of the Damned,” which focuses on the murders of Tom Clements, Jim Durgan, Diane Hood, Lea Porter, Pam Candelario, and Candace Hiltz in southern Colorado’s “Prison Valley,” does little to debunk that notion.
The trailer for the series begins with a local resident bemoaning the fact that “Before the prisons took over the region, we had few murders; but that has changed.”
Implication: Prisoners or parolees are committing these murders.
According to the website “Fremont County, Colorado,” Cañon and Fremont counties have 11 state correctional facilities and four federal, including a “Supermax” prison (that houses infamous criminals, among them, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols and Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev).
I decided to research the murders featured on the program, which debuted on September 10, to see if and how they were connected to the valley’s prisons/prisoners.
In fact, I found that only one of the murders was committed by a parolee.
On March 17, 2013, parolee Evan Ebel, wearing a Domino Pizza shirt–taken from 27-year old Nathan Leon, a computer technician and part-time pizza delivery person, after shooting him–went to the home of Tom Clements, chief of the Colorado Department of Corrections and shot him with a nine-milliliter handgun.
Ebel was killed three days later in a shootout with Texas law enforcement.
The case remains open; investigators believe that texts messages between Ebel and a white supremist prison gang, the 211 Crew, point to a possible conspiracy to kill Clements.
According to a Denver Post article, Ebel’s friends believe that the killing was “an act of vengeance against a system he despised.”
Spoiler alert if you intend to watch the series: listed below are the outcomes/perpetrators in the other killings
- Jim Durgan, whose body was found in the Arkansas River, had been kidnapped and shot in the head three times by his 40-year old estranged wife’s boyfriend;
- Diane Hood was murdered by her husband Brian’s mistress, Jennifer Reali;
- Pam Candelario was bludgeoned to death by husband Ralph Candelario, a Jehovah’s Witness;
- The murder of Candace Hiltz remains unsolved; although, some evidence points to the possible involvement one of the investigators on the case;
- Nineteen year old Christopher Adam Waide confessed to the strangling of 19-year old Lea Porter. whose body has never been recovered.
So, why does the ID Channel’s promo suggest that Prison Valley is no longer safe because of the prisons located there?
Perhaps, the producers wanted to capitalize on the public’s fascination with movies and TV shows about prison life.
Whatever the reason for the misleading promo, it’s deceptive.
Shame on you, ID Channel.