By Gregory Crofton
A grisly crime documentary that’s well-orchestrated and thoroughly reported cannot be categorized as entertainment. It’s something else.
It can be a tribute to the victims. It can be the complete story that only time has allowed to emerge. (Did the police screw up?) It can be a lesson of how dark people can become, how damaging sexual assaults are, and if possible, what warning signs to look for. It can provide salacious details that lead to thoughts like, “Thank God my family has not gone through anything like this.” And it can provoke serious discussion about issues like the death penalty.
“THE CHESHIRE MURDERS,” which premiered last night on HBO, does all of these things. If you’re ready to sit down for two hours of solemnity and fascination then make the effort to watch it.
The triple homicide documented in the film took place in Connecticut in 2007. Two parolees beat William Petit unconscious with a bat, tied him up, then murdered and sexually assaulted his two girls, 11 and 16, and their mother during a home invasion. Thankfully husband-and-wife filmmakers David Heilbroner and Kate Davis investigate multiple angles of the story and that allows viewers to extract some meaning from the horrific crimes.
Petit survived the attack. After campaigning publicly for the two defendants to be put to death, he set up a website in honor of his lost family members. Donations can be made at the Petit Family Foundation. It works, according to the site, to help “do as many good actions as possible to counteract the evil that truly exists in the world today.”