Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

'Dead of Night' revisits hunt for a serial rapist-murderer in Baltimore

Two Baltimore reporters are among those featured in an Investigation Discovery program airing tonight that revisits the hunt for a serial rapist-murderer.

Luke Broadwater, who now covers City Hall for The Sun, and Stephen Janis, of The Real News, covered the story, which started in 2003 and continued throughout that decade, as reporters for the Baltimore Examiner. Their reporting is credited in tonight’s “Dead of Night” episode with playing a key role in one of the victims who survived a vicious attack coming forward to help police and ultimately tesitfy against her assailant.

In 2011, William Vincent Brown, of Gwynn Oak, was sentenced to 50 years in prison in connection with three of the crimes committed in 2003.

You can read Sun accounts of the crimes and trial here and here. And here’s a link to a Broadwater-Janis piece from the Examiner in 2008.

This is a gruesome saga. It took reconstructive surgery to save the ears of the first victim after she was found in Leakin Park, according to court testimony.

“Her ear was chewed off,” Baltimore City Police Sergeant Kelvin Sewell says in the show. “Normal people don’t do that.”

The show opens with this disclaimer: “The following program contains dramatic recreations. Certain situations, dialog, names and locations have been dramatized or changed.”

I have problems with non-fiction programs that take such license with facts. I am not sure what I can or cannot believe.

But that said, I was locked into the production once it moved past some of the more noir-ish and neo-Gothic descriptions of Baltimore after dark and settled into the police story with Broadwater, Janis, Baltimore detectives, relatives of a 15-year-old murder victim, and the story of the woman who survived.

(Even though the survivor is identifed in the show, I am not identifying her, because The Sun does not identify victims of sex crimes.)

Beyond the search for the killer, I like the fact that the film shows the civic good that journalism can do, as evidenced by the work of Broadwater and Janis. The producers also tell a powerful story of survival and resilience, while also caprturing the ongoing pain relatives of victims can suffer.

“Dead of Night” airs at 10 tonight on the Investigation Discovery channel (ID), which can be seen on channel 111 on Comcast in Baltimore City.



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