On July 1, 2004 a farmer scouting his fields for crop damage in Isle of Wight County, Virginia made a grisly discovery when he spotted the half-naked body of Carrie Singer, a 28-year-old who was brutally beaten to death.
Residents of the isolated farmland community are still haunted by the unsolved murder nearly 14 years later. But now, one investigator is hoping a TV show will help police finally capture their killer.
Discovery Channel’s “Killing Fields” is a hit true-crime series that explores sprawling places across America hiding stories of gruesome murders.
The show, which is co-produced by Oscar-winning film director Barry Levinson of “Rain Man” and “Good Morning, Vietnam” fame, is shot in real time as investigators re-examine critical evidence from the crime scene.
Carrie Singer was found by a farmer beaten to death in 2004. (Courtesy of Discovery)
Season 3 will closely dig into Singer’s life and demise.
Lieutenant Tommy Potter is confident “Killing Fields” will help raise awareness about Singer’s untimely death, compelling someone with information to come forward.
“When the show approached us about doing this, one of the things that really intrigued us was that we have always felt that the person responsible for Carrie’s death wasn’t still here in the area,” Potter told Fox News. “So we felt this was a good way to get national exposure to this case in hopes that wherever this person’s at, maybe they shared something with somebody or told somebody about something… it just brings us one step closer to solving this case.”
For over a decade, Potter has been tormented by what could have happened to Singer right before she died.
LT Tommy Potter (left) with investigator Randy Patrick. (Courtesy of Discovery)
“All homicide cases are extremely difficult to investigate,” he explained. “Carrie’s case was even more difficult because her body had been exposed to the elements. Not only was Carrie a victim of whoever savagely beat her and killed her, but Carrie was also a victim of the elements. Carrie was left in this field for only a short time, but based on the weather and the animals, they ravaged her body. So because of that, we were never able to determine if Carrie was sexually assaulted.”
And Singer’s final days were horrifying.
“We found Carrie’s body on a Monday afternoon,” said Potter. “So we know on Friday evening before Carrie was killed, she was in a pretty violent, domestic argument with her boyfriend. She actually was the primary aggressor. She and her boyfriend had an on-again, off-again relationship.
"The night before, we know Carrie stayed at a local hotel, which is not far from her residence. She was seen there… She went to a local 7-Eleven. She withdrew money out of the ATM... And then after the withdrawal of that money, that’s when it just seems that Carrie disappeared.”
Carrie Singer's final days before her violent murder were turbulent, says investigator. (Courtesy of Discovery)
“Killing Fields” revealed that while Singer’s boyfriend Robert Dezern was initially questioned by investigators, he passed a polygraph test and was ultimately ruled out as a suspect.
“… He fully cooperated with investigators,” said Potter. “He did some things that a person who is normally guilty for this type of crime, they would not do. He kept in contact with her family. So no, it does not surprise me that he passed the polygraph. He was a suspect for a number of years, but based on the most recent investigation, we were able to eliminate him as being a suspect.”
Virginia’s Daily Press reported in 2013 Dezern, 61, died after falling off a ladder.
Potter said Singer, who previously lived in Jacksonville, Florida, had resided in Virginia with Dezern for about three months before her slaying. Her limited circle of friends and acquaintances in the area also made it difficult for investigators to discover why anyone would want her dead.
Investigator Kris Coughlin, Investigator Donald Edwards, and Officer Julian Evans during a training exercise. (Courtesy of Discovery)
“What I do know is that the killer, he definitely knew Isle of Wight County,” he said. “Where Carrie was living… it was nowhere near where her body was recovered. I don’t know if her death was a random act of violence. I don’t know if she knew her killer. But I do know that whoever did this to Carrie, they knew their way around our county. You just don’t find this field randomly.”
“Killing Fields” will also unveil how modern technology is helping police crack the mystery that has long plagued its residents.
Potter stressed his team are currently “extremely close now” to solving Singer’s murder.
“The production company that has been working with us for Discovery has been very good about letting us do our job,” said Potter. “So if it means having to put information out there for the public, utilize our crime lines here in the area — they want us to do that. They understand the investigation is first and foremost. That’s the priority. Then everything else is secondary to that.”
Investigators Kris Coughlin and Randy Patrick walk away from a burning house. (Courtesy of Discovery)
Potter insisted he’s determined to provide closure for Singer’s family in Florida. And he believes documenting her case on “Killing Fields” will help investigators serve justice quicker.
“Isle of Wight County, it is a great place to live, to work, to raise kids,” he said. “This is a small, tight-knit community. We are an oasis… We don’t have a lot of murders. When something like this happens, especially when it goes unsolved for this long, it does shake the foundation a little bit.
"People want to know if someone’s trying to take advantage of our quiet way of life here. The field had to have been known by somebody… It kind of reminds people this can happen here. This kind of gruesome crime, it can happen in our backyards.”
"Killing Fields" premieres Thursday, January 4 on Discovery.
A new entry in the blossoming true crime TV genre, Discovery's six-episode series revolves around a haunting cold case.
True crime is having a moment.
From the Serial podcast to The Jinx to Netflix’s current Making a Murderer, TV is currently captivating viewers with stories of people accused of committing horrific acts.
So Discovery Channel’s Killing Fields, premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m. comes along at the perfect moment in the pop-culture zeitgeist. The docuseries from executive producers Tom Fontana (Homicide, Oz) and Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam) follows Louisiana detective Rodie Sanchez, who comes out of retirement to reopen a cold case he began investigating 18 years ago.
In 1997, the body of Eugenie Boisfontaine was found mutilated and decomposing in a watery ditch in Iberville Parish. Sanchez was never able to solve the crime. "I’m retired, but in my mind and in my heart, I’m not," he tells his former boss Major Ronnie Hebert.
Sanchez gets the okay to reopen the case and has a team of detectives assigned to work with him. He is partnered with Aubrey St. Angelo, the son of a detective he worked with for many years. The hook of the series is that it unfolds in almost real time with the first episode beginning in August 2015. The six-episode show is currently filming, so the audience will learn things not long after the detectives do. The title refers to an area that becomes a place for dumping bodies, because the landscape and conditions of the area wash away evidence (making it nearly impossible to solve the crime).
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Fontana and Levinson probably couldn’t write a better TV character than Sanchez or create a better TV setting than Iberville Parish. The lush vegetation of this part of Louisiana comes to life, as does the parish’s dark underbelly, with its array of interesting characters that seem straight out of True Blood.
Sanchez kept Boisfontaine's picture up by his desk until he retired. Haunted by the fact that he told Boisfontaine’s mother that he would catch her killer, and that he broke that promise, he works the case old-school style, talking to informants and re-interviewing just about everybody involved. He doesn’t have time to sit at the computer and "google."
With a distinct accent, Sanchez speaks in turns of phrase right out of a Hollywood blockbuster. When he finds a killer, he remarks: "I love looking them in the frickin’ eye and saying I caught you, you no-good bastard." He laments that Boisfontaine was thrown "in the ditch like a piece of trash" and wants to "let this poor family know what happened to their daughter."
His rapport with St. Angelo is reminiscent of a buddy cop movie. "I don’t know how you did it in 1920," St. Angelo teases him and advises him to update his ring tone. "If I wanted to hear music I’d listen to a band, I don’t need to hear it on my phone," Sanchez replies.
And the case is a good one. The advancement of DNA makes catching Boisfontaine’s killer more likely — as does the fact that there’s now a centralized Louisiana database. Boisfontaine’s murder was one of a string of killings that occurred in Louisiana during that time. So there’s also the possibility that her killer is already in prison for other crimes. Sanchez cares deeply, as does the entire Iberville Parish Sherriff’s office; everyone seems highly competent and dedicated.
Still, something is missing. For one thing, and maybe this will come in later episodes, there are no interviews that bring Boisfontaine to life. Sanchez wants to be able to tell the victim's mother who killed her daughter, but the mother isn’t seen in the premiere.
But what’s really missing is something Serial, The Jinx and Making a Murderer all had: a suspect. In those other crime series, part of the thrill was watching a killer get caught or being outraged at how the justice system was failing an innocent man.
Perhaps all that is yet to come. In any case, Killing Fields at least generates anxiety and a desire to see what happens next. I'm counting on Sanchez to solve the crime.
Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel.
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