HOW THE SUCKY STORY STARTS One night in June 2000, Keary Renner answered the door of her Easton, Pennsylvania residence to find Michelle Hetzel angry and asking the whereabouts of their mutual friend -- and mutual on- and off-girlfriend -- Devon Guzman, 19. According to Michelle, Devon was two hours overdue for their date and not answering her pager. Michelle insisted that they file a missing persons report; Keary resisted. The two women then took Michelle's car to initiate a search for Devon, eventually locating her vehicle at Delaware Canal State Park. Devon's corpse was discovered in the backseat posed to resemble a suicide. A small kitchen knife and syringe were found on the body; the county coroner noted a "massive gaping laceration" to her throat.
HOW EINSTEIN BLEW IT Police initially fingered Keary for the murder following her account of a violent row with Devon earlier that night. But evidence soon mounted against Michelle: Investigators detected traces of blood in her washing machine wherein lay jeans with a syringe cap in the pocket; a search of her car (a part of the crime scene) yielded more bloody clothes. Later, police found a bandage in her garbage suggestive of use for a human bite wound.
THE LENGTHS TO WHICH THIS GENIUS WENT It was Michelle who got the ball rolling by urging Keary to consider the tardy Devon a missing person; the search was also her idea, yet she waited in the car as Keary discovered Devon's body. Oh, and the case's big break came when an area man told police that he hosted and supplied alcohol to the three underage women. After one such get-together, he stated, Devon and Keary left behind a jealous Michelle; Michelle then propositioned the man for a sex-for-murder swap.
WAIT SRSLY? The story gets screwy from here. Though each woman was in love with Devon -- and occasionally with each other -- Keary and Michelle had husbands. Keary wed a military man stationed abroad in order to make Devon jealous and to monopolize her affections. Michelle, not to be outdone, attempted the same by marrying her foster mother's son, pushover science nerd Brandon Bloss. But she was still seeing Devon though Devon lived with Keary.
WHY THE MURDERING? See, when Michelle first roused Keary to search for their missing girlfriend, she'd already helped to kill Devon. Things had come to a head after a secret tryst in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, where Devon and Michelle had exchanged rings and pledges to shed their respective partners upon return. But back in Pennsylvania, it was no dice for Michelle as her love Devon continued living with Keary and her sham husband continued to fume over the infidelities, confrontations, and the fact that he was left to bankroll his harried wife's attempts to wrest Devon away from Keary.
THE VERDICT Defensive wounds on Devon's hands pointed to a struggle; the bloody bandage led authorities to a bite wound on Brandon's arm consistent with Devon's dentition. Prosecution posited that, after having departed Michelle and Brandon's home with Keary, Devon returned to be confronted by the jealous couple. The throat-slashing is thought to have been carried out by Brandon; a neighbor reported that Brandon spent the next day using a hose in their backyard. The syringe and its cap were traced to Michelle's former workplace, a doctor's office. Each was sentenced to life with no parole.
MURDER TONY SEZ "Ugh this case has enough head-spinning teen drama to confuse authorities, yet it's still an offensively inept homicide. I dig a love triangle (or quadrangle) cuz chances are that somebody is in bed with you by night's end. But it doesn't work if each participant is jealous and possessive. That's way dumb, so it follows that brainiac Michelle wasn't an adept schemer. Same for Brandon, a guy easily duped, cuckholded, and manipulated to murder (partly) on a total jerk's behalf; if he's prone to all that, he's sure to suck at disposing of evidence. Leave it to the pros, ladies."
MIKE MURDER SEZ "Quality murder is carried out dispassionately or, failing that, with a considered plan to offset what is generally a heated enterprise. Lovelorn, hormonal teenagers aren't predisposed to discretion, so murder is a tall order. My main beef is the shoddy suicide staging. This is never done right. For one thing, no one has ever slashed their own throat to the spine. The least these greenhorns could have done was put her in the driver's seat. Dumb."
RATING 1/2 BUNDY