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Why you should see ‘641 Muriel Court’


Muriel Court 06641 Muriel Court is a documentary about an unsolved triple murder that occurred in Tallahassee, Florida on the night of October 22, 1965. Last year, four Florida State University students decided to probe the cold case for a 35-minute first cut they were shooting for Professor Brian Grave’s Spring semester documentary film course. The project took on a life of its own that extended well beyond the end of the semester, but the foursome vowed at the outset that if they were going to undertake the project at all, they had to follow it Muriel Court 03wherever and however long it took “because of how much the story means to a lot of people.” The result is a 61-minute documentary that has garnered Kyle Jones, Elijah Howard, Deanna Kidd and Michael Walsh rock star status on campus, considerable attention elsewhere, admission into the Fort Myers Film Festival and first place at the Muriel Court 02Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Student Documentary Competition.

Jones served as director and collaborated with Howard, Kidd and Walsh to write and produce the film. Together, they logged uncounted hours doing research, poring over documents, cold calling leads, conducting interviews, assembling storyboards and editing film footage. Brittany Muriel Court 01Drotleff and Drextson Redway did graphic design for the film.

On the night in question, the FSU Seminoles was playing a home game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Robert and Helen Sims were enjoying a Saturday night with their 12-year-old daughter, Joy, in their brick ranch house at 641 Muriel Court. Two older daughters, Jeanie (17) and Judy (16), Muriel Court 04were out babysitting. Jeanie was first to return home that night. She opened the door around 11 p.m. on a grisly scene. Her father and little sister lay dead. Her mother was barely clinging to life, and would succumb to her Muriel Court 12wounds a few days later.

Although the police questioned dozens of people and produced thousands of documents, no one was ever charged with the murders. Jones obtained many of those documents from author and long-time Sims’ researcher Henry Cabbage, who delivered reams of records to Jones in box labeled “Sims murders” on the side in black marker. The meet appropriately took place in a small, dimly-lit bar right out of a film noir movie.

Muriel Court 07Jones, Howard, Kidd and Walsh waded through the sheaths of documents Kyle obtained from Cabbage, working into the summer to produce an expanded version of the 35-minute rough cut they turned in for credit at the end of the Spring semester. And then something unexpected happened. Jones landed an interview with one of the original suspects in the case. His name is Vernon Fox, and he had a lot to say about the case. “That was a very, very interesting interview with very interesting Muriel Court 08material,” Kyle says, reflecting back on the meeting.

In addition to Fox, 641 Muriel Court contains footage of interviews with Cabbage, retired Tallahassee Democrat columnist and local historian Gerald Ensley, a funeral director by the name of Rocky Bevis (one of the first people on the scene), and State Attorney Willie Meggs, then a Tallahassee Police Department traffic officer.

Muriel Court 14“We honestly felt like we were doing some investigative journalism at some points,” Kyle told FSU News Staff Writer Miranda Lensky last October. “We even have never-before-seen material that even police might want, which makes us feel very much a part of it, which is cool.”

Jones acknowledges that the question he’s asked most is whether he and his teamed solved the crime. “We leave out any speculation and we provide the facts so that the audience can decide for Muriel Court 16themselves,” he responds. That said, he concedes that the documentary takes a clear stance on who committed the triple homicide. Hint: 25 of the 61 minute documentary is spent just talking to the prime suspects.

Muriel Court 17But whether he and his filmmaking team have solved the crimes is moot. In fact, that was never their intent. Rather, the point of the documentary was to accurately delineate the historical record of a crime that took three lives, altered innumerable others and permanently Muriel Court 15changed the city of Tallahassee, which was so safe and small town at the time that few people locked their doors (even when they went away on vacation) and had no 911 or EMS service.

Muriel Court 18“Being the first people to sit down and attempt to do what no one else has been able to do says a lot about 641 Muriel Court,” Kyle said in the FSU News interview.

The BEA competition is the world’s largest digital media and broadcast competition for students and faculty. 641 Muriel Court was awarded first place in the Long Form Video category among 175 entries.

Muriel Court 13641 Muriel Court will be screened at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 9 in the grand atrium of the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.

March 5, 2017.


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