Donnie Douglas

Donnie Douglas


I have a new habit, and comparatively speaking I suppose, this one would slip in on the not-so-bad end of my personal spectrum.

It is not expensive nor deleterious to my health, at least physically. Mentally? My therapist, if I had one, would make that call.

The short days have given this retiree about 90 minutes of dead time in advance of happy hour and the evening’s sports lineup during which I have at least one eye on a reality crime shows; YouTube TV offers them on demand, stacked up nicely on my Home page. Bobby Flay, at least temporarily, has been removed from the nightly menu.

You have seen these documentaries, almost always murder mysteries, cold cases that warm up over the ensuing hour or two. They are popular with “Dateline,” “20/20,” and Oxygen Network, delivered in a cookie-cutter format, and I must boast, I have gotten fairly good at identifying the killer before the second commercial break.

They segue into one another so seamlessly that another begins as one ends, and just 90 seconds or so into the new one I must know how and why this lovely human being was murdered.

Some things I have gleaned from watching these murder mysteries include: the victim most likely knows the killer, and the more gruesome the killing, the closer the connection; sex and money are the most likely motives; the victims typically had led idyllic lives, at least until we find out they were cheating on the spouse; and, because of advances in crime technology, getting away with murder is harder now than it has ever been.

Recently several buddies were huddled in the pro shop, all talking at the same time while solving the world’s problems, when the subject of crime documentaries was introduced. I suggested, and most agreed, that advances in forensics, cell phones in every hand, surveillance cameras on every block, DNA science, and much more cough up clues that years ago just simply did not exist.

Most agreed that getting away with murder would be difficult, but one fellow, who will remain nameless, piped in, “I could do it.” He is a peaceful sort, but as we all know from watching these crime documentaries, sometimes the least likely suspect is whodunit. If someone turns up dead or missing, we will know where to begin the investigation.

I have witnessed these crime documentaries from both sides, having watched obviously, but also having been in front of the camera for several, including documentaries on the murder of James Jordan and the Myron Britt case. Soon enough, there will be another I was interviewed for on Oxygen network, the murder of a St. Pauls woman whose killer was found after her body was exhumed.

That assumes I said something worthy of surviving the editing process, which is likely because one thing I know is they will ask the same question in various versions until they get the answer they were expecting.

This says less about me than it does the truth that if you are the editor for 24 years of the local newspaper in Robeson County, where violent murders are sewn deeply into the fabric, you might be asked to participate in one of these documentaries. I have never hesitated despite my not-made-for-TV looks because as a journalist I always appreciated when folks would talk to us, plus I figure might as well cling to a bit of relevancy as long as I can.

My murder mystery is when the show will air, having been told sometime in the spring or early summer, so still a few months away.

When I know, you will know, and we will have a watch party. Remember, the camera adds 20 pounds.

Reach Donnie Douglas by email at [email protected]