Top 10 Murders Caused By TV Shows
Practically everyone watches TV. Whether it’s political commentary, the NFL, or the Real Housewives franchise, there truly is something for everyone. And while TV can lead to some headed arguments on- and off-screen, some TV shows caused people to take their anger one step further—ending in murder.
While there are tons of lists about movies that have inspired murders, there are few about TV shows that have done the same. So, exactly which TV series have motivated people to kill? Let’s take a look.
10 American Horror Story
In August 2016, 20-year-old Australian woman Brittney Jade Dwyer murdered her grandfather, 81-year-old Robert Whitwell. Alongside Dwyer was her 22-year-old friend Bernadette Burns. Together, the two of them planned to do “whatever was necessary” in order to steal Whitwell’s life savings of $110,000. While Burns stayed in the car waiting, Dwyer walked into the house armed with a knife and rubber gloves. At the beginning of her visit, Dwyer and Whitwell looked through old family photos and videos. The nostalgia got to Dwyer, who reportedly said to Burns over text that she “could not go through with it.” Burns responded with encouragement, saying that she must, because they had “come all this way.”
Tragically, Dwyer gave in. Before leaving, she stabbed Whitwell in the chest and neck. As he bled to death on the floor, Dwyer texted Burns “It’s done.” She started washing dishes until Burns entered the home. While the two searched thoroughly, they could not find the $110,000, which Whitwell had hidden in his shed. However, they did steal $1,000, two digital cameras, and coins. Three days later, Whitwell’s body was found. Both women were arrested on August 26 and pleaded guilty.
Dwyer was allegedly motivated by the FX anthology series American Horror Story. Dwyer’s lawyer, Craig Caldicott, used her fascination with the show as a defense, saying, “The popular series explores humankind’s capacity for evil and general obsession with crime and murder.” It’s unclear what about the show specifically inspired Dwyer. (Each season has a different theme.) In November 2017, Dwyer was sentenced to life in prison with parole possible after 21 years. Burns also received life, with possibility of parole after 13 and a half years.
9 Breaking Bad
In early 2016, 50-year-old Stefano Brizzi was one of many men on the gay dating app Grindr. Through the app, he was able to lure in 59-year-old police officer Gordon Semple. The two met at Brizzi’s flat in London, where they had invited others for an adult-themed party. While in bed together, Brizzi suddenly began strangling Semple to death. In the middle of this, another invited man showed up. Over the intercom, Brizzi told the man to go home because someone “fell ill.” Seconds later, Brizzi finished brutally murdering the unsuspecting Semple.
Neighbors reported a “revolting smell” coming from Brizzi’s flat. By April 7, it had been reported to the police. When they visited his flat, they found a bathtub filled with acid and floating “globules of flesh.” Brizzi allegedly confessed to using the acid bath in an attempt to dissolve the corpse of Semple, a technique used by main character Walter White in the AMC show Breaking Bad. Jurors were told that Brizzi was “obsessed with the show.”
In his trial, Brizzi would not admit to murder, but he did admit to the attempted disposal of the body, According to prosecutors, he believed he was ordered by Satan to “kill, kill, kill.” Investigators believe that Brizzi’s ultimate goal was to eat Semple, saying that he had one of Semple’s legs on a roasting tin. Judge Nicholas Hilliard sentenced Brizzi to 24 years to life in prison for the murder, as well as a concurrent seven years for the attempted dissolving of the corpse. In February 2017, HMP Belmarsh confirmed that Brizzi was found dead in their prison, due to suicide by hanging.
8 Criminal Minds
Jeffrey Hall was a white supremacist who patrolled the US-Mexico border and spoke for the National Socialist Movement, the biggest neo-Nazi group in America. Just a few hours after hosting a neo-Nazi group meeting at his house, Hall went to his living room to take a nap on the couch. During this time, his ten-year-old son Joseph was able to take Jeffrey’s gun. Joseph used the gun to shoot his father. It has been reported that Joseph told police he watched an episode of CBS’s Criminal Minds where a young boy was not arrested for killing his abusive father. Because of this, he did not think he would be arrested himself.
According to court records, the developmentally disabled Joseph simply stated, “I shot dad.” During a police interrogation, Joseph did not seem to understand the repercussions of death, and he chose to give up his Miranda rights—a decision that was plagued in controversy due to him not being provided an attorney. Further into the investigation, it was discovered that before the murder, Jeffrey himself had brought Joseph to the US-Mexico border and taught him how to shoot.
In 2013, Joseph was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to ten years in a California juvenile detention center, which many critics felt was unreasonable. Joseph’s legal team petitioned for the Supreme Court to hear and possibly overturn his case, but in October 2015, the Supreme Court declined to do so.
Dexter hasn’t just inspired one notorious murder but several. One recent Dexter-themed murder took place in 2014, when 17-year-old Steven Miles admitted to stabbing his girlfriend Elizabeth Thomas in the back of her head and cutting up her body. Just one year prior, care home worker Mark Howe killed his mother, Katrina Wardle, after becoming obsessed with the show. After an argument about his cannabis use, Howe waited until Wardle went to bed and then stabbed her 53 times with such hard force that the tip of his 30-centimeter (12 in) knife was bent. He proceeded to go to work before calling his sister and confessing.
In 2008, only two years after the show premiered, Mark Twitchell of Edmonton, Canada, lured two unsuspecting men into his “movie studio.” He told them he was filming a movie about a serial killer who uses swords. Instead of filming, Twitchell actually murdered one of the men, while the other was able to escape. Twitchell was arrested, and police confiscated his hard drives, which contained hundreds of hours of footage. Now incarcerated, Twitchell even attempted to get one of his friends to take back the hard drives, saying, “Way too many amazing people gave so much of themselves to make that film magic. I will see it completed if it is literally the last thing I do.”
The show also inspired several other killers, such as a man named Andrew Conley, who strangled his ten-year-old brother, and an unnamed young woman from Sweden, who plunged a knife into her stepfather and slit his throat.
6 The Jenny Jones Show
The Jenny Jones Show was one of many outrageous tabloid talk shows during their heyday in the 1990s. One of its segments was centered around secret crushes being revealed. The 1995 episode “Same Sex Secret Crushes” featured openly gay man Scott Amedure, who had a secret crush on his friend Jonathan Schmitz. Donna Riley (Amedure’s friend and Schmitz’s neighbor) was also present. Schmitz was initially hesitant, but after deciding to go on the show, he allegedly went off his antidepressants without the knowledge of his doctor in order to buy nice clothes for his appearance.
When the day of taping, March 9, 1995, came, Schmitz had become excited to meet who he believed may be his dream woman. Schmitz had actually asked Amedure and Riley ahead of time if they were the ones who set his episode up, which they denied, so he certainly did not expect them to be right there as he walked onstage. The episode never ended up airing, so only a small portion of it can be found online. In the portion that can be seen, while continuing to express his heterosexuality, Schmitz remained calm onstage.
Three days after taping, Schmitz found a note at his apartment from Amedure that was presumed to be sexual in nature. Quickly after, he left his apartment and bought a 12-gauge shotgun. While he says he spent several minutes “thinking” after loading the gun, he ultimately decided to make the drive to Amedure’s trailer park. Schmitz approached the house twice, the second time with the gun in his hand. While Amedure tried his best to protect himself by using a wicker chair as a shield and closing the door, Schwartz got himself in and proceeded to fire at Amedure’s chest. Once Amedure fell to the ground, Schmitz shot again. Right after, he drove to a gas station to turn himself in. He called 911, and when the operator asked why he shot, Schmitz sobbed “because he [expletive] me on national television.”
In 1996, Schmitz was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison. In 1999, Scott Amedure’s family sued the show. They originally won $25 million, but in 2002, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the verdict. Schmitz was granted parole in 2017.
5 The Jerry Springer Show
The Jerry Springer Show has been embraced as one of the trashiest shows on TV. The appearances usually result in on-screen verbal and physical brawls that have to be broken up by Springer’s security team. However, Ralf Jurgen-Panitz and his wife Eleanor, who starred in the 2000 episode “Secret Mistresses Confronted,” took it one step too far.
On the episode, they accused Ralf’s ex-wife, Nancy Campbell-Panitz, of daily stalking that was ruining their lives. On-air, Springer informed Nancy for the first time that Ralf and Eleanor had gotten married. As the three got into a violent altercation, viewers thought they were watching just another episode. No one expected the violence that the three would get themselves into afterward.
Soon after the episode aired in May, a friend of Nancy’s found her body, which she described as “severely beaten.” Nancy showed up to Ralf and Eleanor’s residence while their episode was airing on TV. According to Corporal Chuck Lesaltato, both Nancy and Eleanor had court orders saying they had access to the house. The fighting allegedly started again. A neighbor who heard screaming called the police, but unfortunately, it was too late. After surrendering, Ralf was charged with second-degree murder and received a life sentence.
To this day, Eleanor claims her husband is innocent. She allegedly posted about him on Prison Talk, a “prison support community” message board. In this 2009 post, she wrote that they had attempted to transfer him from a Florida prison to a German one. Because this was unsuccessful, Ralf apparently decided to slowly kill himself by not eating. At the time of the writing, Eleanor claimed that he hadn’t eaten for two weeks. In 2010, Eleanor’s attempts to transfer Ralf were documented on an episode of Prison Wives. As of this writing, there has been no update on Ralf or Eleanor.
4 Megan Wants A Millionaire
In 2009, VH1 premiered a reality dating show titled Megan Wants a Millionaire. While fans of this notorious genre expected the contestants to be crazy, “smooth operator” Ryan Alexander Jenkins took it to another level.
In March, Jenkins was sent home from the show. Days after, he spontaneously married former swimsuit model Jasmine Fiore. Weeks later, however, the marriage was allegedly annulled. On August 15, Fiore’s body was found stuffed into a suitcase and thrown into a trash bin. Soon after, the Orange County district attorney’s office pressed murder charges on Jenkins. They revealed that Fiore’s teeth and fingers were removed. She was in such damaged condition that she could only be identified by the serial number on her breast implants. A huge manhunt for Jenkins ensued in British Columbia, but on August 23, he was found dead due to suicide by hanging in a Canada motel room.
A suicide note titled “My Last Will and Testament,” written on August 20, was found on his hard drive. Sergeant Bill Kohanek of the Buena Park Police Department explained, “The letter was basically a description of his thoughts about Jasmine. Most were about how much he loved and cherished her, and some were about how frustrated she made him.” It is possible that part of his anger came from just recently losing on Megan Wants a Millionaire. Following the murder and suicide, VH1 cancelled the remainder of the season, which had only aired three episodes. Jenkins had also filmed and been paid for another VH1 show titled I Love Money 3, but its airing was also completely scrapped due to this crime.
3 My Sister Sam
Actress Rebecca Schaeffer’s career took off due to her starring role as Patti Russell on the 1980s Primetime Emmy-nominated CBS sitcom My Sister Sam. For years, obsessed fan Robert John Bardo had been writing Schaeffer fan mail, and on a couple occasions, he even attempted to get inside the My Sister Sam set. Eventually, Bardo hired a private investigator to locate Schaeffer’s address. With this information, Bardo showed up to Schaeffer’s apartment, where she opened the door, signed an autograph for him, and then asked him to leave.
Not long after, Bardo knocked again. Schaeffer, believing that the knock was from someone set to deliver a script, opened the door. Tragically, Bardo shot and killed her with a .357 magnum pistol. Neighbors immediately called the authorities, who rushed her to the hospital, but she was pronounced dead on arrival.
Bardo was arrested the next day in Tuscon. When his trial came along, he was prosecuted by Marcia Clark, of eventual O.J. Simpson trial fame. Superior Court Judge Dino Fulgoni, who heard the case without a jury, sentenced Bardo to life without parole.
2 The Voice
Singer-songwriter Christina Grimmie originally gained fame by posting covers on YouTube. At the time of this writing, her YouTube channel has 3.9 million subscribers. She started releasing successful pop albums and even opened for Selena Gomez’s tour in 2013. However, her career really took off when she auditioned for Season 6 of The Voice in 2014. All four superstar judges turned around for her rendition of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.” Christina ultimately came in at third place and signed to Island Records after the season finale.
While countless adoring fans discovered Grimmie on The Voice, so did 27-year-old Kevin James Loibl of St. Petersburg, Florida. Loibl was infatuated with Grimmie, reportedly telling Best Buy coworkers that he was going to marry her. Eventually, Loibl’s love turned to rage. On June 10, 2016, after a concert at The Plaza Live in Orlando, Florida, Grimmie was fatally shot by Loibl during a fan meet and greet. Grimmie’s brother Marcus immediately tackled Loibl, but he was able to break free and fatally shoot himself.
One would assume that nothing could go wrong at a 6:45 AM news interview about real estate. While this is a reasonable notion, it was proved wrong in August 2015, when WDBJ (Roanoke, Virginia) reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were fatally shot on-air. The suspect, identified as 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan II, also filmed a video of the shooting from his angle, which he later posted to his social media profiles. It was quickly revealed that Flanagan had been a reporter at the same news station during the year 2013. He reported under the name Bryce Williams.
Immediately after firing 14 shots, Flanagan fled the scene and headed for the Roanoke airport. Once getting there, he drove off in a rented Chevrolet Sonic. However, due to an intense manhunt, he was quickly found. When police behind him turned on their lights and sirens, Flanagan swerved off the highway onto the median. When officers opened his car door, they found him with a self-inflicted gunshot. He was sent to the hospital and pronounced dead at 1:30 PM.
Court documents reveal that Flanagan had been planning this attack for two years. A 23-page screed written by Flanagan was discovered, where he wrote: “I’ve been a human powder keg for a while . . . just waiting to go BOOM!!!!” While on the run, Flanagan posted tweets accusing Parker and Ward of racism. Whether these allegations are true or not, we know that this murder broke many hearts—including those of Ward’s fiancee and Parker’s boyfriend, who both also worked at the station. The shocked staff of WDBJ watched this murder unfold live, along with the rest of the world.
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Read about more crimes inspired by movies and TV on 10 Movies That Inspired Real-Life Crimes and 10 Real-Life Murderers Who Were Influenced By Dexter Morgan.