Retired Shreveport homicide detective Rod Demery reflects on the career he was destined for since the age of 3, when his own mother was murdered. Vowing to ensure that no family would be denied justice the way his family was, Demery served 14 years as a detective in the violent crimes unit, with an unprecedented 100% confession and solve rate as lead investigator. Intimate first-person storytelling meets a gritty Southern backdrop in Shreveport, La. Source
Rod Demery is played by John Nicholson an excellent actor that is able to capture Demery! Nicholson’s confidence as an actor makes the transition from Real Demery to Actor Demery so smooth it is easy to forget where one ends and the other begins.
It is my policy to watch a few episodes berfore I write a review. At some point this stopped being about a review and became a personal journey.
Murder Chose Me Hit Close To My Heart and Changed Me
WARNING! THIS IS ABOUT A PERIOD OF TIME. I WILL USE THE WORDS THAT WERE USED THEN. I AM NOT GOING TO SANITIZE THE LANGUAGE! IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED STOP READING.
Murder Chose Me
Rod Demery’s mother, Barbara Sue Demery was murdered on May 8th, 1969. He was three years old. That means he was born about 1966 and I am old enough to be his mama. But! My older sisters and his mother were closer in terms of how the world was back then.
I was an accidental birth, born in Tampa with just that little a bit of difference in time and place that made a huge difference in my life.
(After I wrote this I found out Barbara Sue was born September 8th 1947. I was born September 10th 1948.)
Murder Chose Me Part one: Demery and Me Location, Location, Location
Demery returned to Shreveport after his mother’s death. Shreveport is a stone’s throw from where ALL of my relatives live/lived. Things would been unimaginable for his mother, Barbara Sue. My grandparents lived in a Sundown Town. They were called Sundown Towns because non-whites were not allowed in town after the stores closed and they closed at 5:00 or 5:30. If Barbara Sue had thrown that stone it would have hit a sign that said, “Niggers found in town at sundown will be arrested.” The towns had variations of the signs, some said, “colored folks” other signs said, “Negroes” all said the person would be arrested or shot. A few included “Indians”.
Barbara Sue and my sisters would never have gone to the same school, hung out together or ever come in contact with each other. Yet, they were the same person in many ways.
The Equal Rights Ammendment ended separate bathrooms and water fountains but was otherwise igrnored by the north and the south. There were “theaters” and “black theaters” the same with schools and jobs. I never met a black person until I was an adult and went to college in Buffalo, NY.
Thank you to John Nicholson for contacting me. I had mistakenly put Demery in New Orleans instead of Shreveport. That put them deeper into Lousiana.
Murder Chose Me spoilers below this line.
Murder Chose Me Part Two: Demery and Me: His mother and the sister that raised me.
Like Barbara Sue, my sister’s second husband (#2) didn’t get along with her kids from her first marriage. Like Barbara Sue, she left her two young children and traveled with #2. Like Barbara Sue, #2 was 20 years older. Like Barbara Sue, it was a volatile relationship. Like Barbara Sue, he accused her of cheating. He didn’t beat my sister up, but he was physical and would kick her out. Shortly before she died we had started a website to have a dialogue about women finding themselves pregnant, broke and on the street. I make jewelry and when I go to a craft show I take along angel earrings and necklaces. The proceeds go to purchasing basic supplies for women in any shelter.
Unlike Barbara Sue, my sister was fortunate and was eventually able to leave for good.
My sister’s son is a police officer.
In 1980 I was a volunteer at a women’s shelter, I saw things that made me want to shoot someone. A woman was made to stand on a hot plate. Her feet were a burned mess. Her husband kept her there by holding their son over a pot of boiling water. You are thinking prison, right? Nope. He pleaded down to simple assault paid a $35 fine and spent a total of 30 days in the county jail. It wasn’t against the law to injure your wife or child. If the couple wasn’t married punishment was basically non-existent a woman living in sin had even less value. There were no black women in that shelter. That was the 1980’s!
How is my 1980 relevant to Barbara Sue’s murder in 1969? If a woman could be raped and beaten by her husband with little or no consequence in 1980, think what it was like in 1969. The laws said that a man couldn’t rape his wife he was entitled to have sex with her. A few landmark cases finally got that changed.
It has only been in the recent past that it has been against the law to kill women and children.
SPOILER for Murder Chose Me:
Demery had been told his mother was killed during a robbery attempt. It was an unsolved murder. He decided, as you would expect, to solve his mother’s murder. He found out his mother had actually been shot to death by her husband. Demery was hit slap in the face with the kind of racism that we can hardly believe today.
Barbara Sue’s husband gunned her down, emptied a gun in her and no one cared! His trial was a formality.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember a comment someone made a long time ago about blacks and justice. “Shoot a nigger? You get into more trouble for shooting your dog.” That was back during the being of the race demonstrations when people like me noticed “separate but equal” was bull.
Barbara Sue was a disposable human being. The woman Demery met at the courthouse told him exactly how it was,
“…back in those days a man could kill his wife if he thought she was cheating. I don’t really know how to say this, but your mother was black so no one cared. That’s the way things were back then.”
It was exactly what I expected her to say.
A woman black or white was a man’s property.
Then something my oldest sister said popped into my mind. My father was a not a good man and when I asked why my mother stayed with him, she said, “It was different back then. She couldn’t just leave him.” My parents had married in 1936. She died from a brain tumor when I was a child. I didn’t understand why my mother stayed married to him. I thought she could have left after my sisters were born or after my brother was born or after I was born. I was wrong. Knowing what the clerk was going to tell him caused me to reevaluate my anger at my mother. It made me realize no matter how bad things were my mother had no options.
The Final Confrontation
Barbara Sue Demery died May 8th, 1969 at the hand of her husband Jerry.
“It wasn’t that Jerry didn’t want my mother to leave. Jerry didn’t want my mother to live.”, Rod Demery
Demery decided to question the man that killed his mother and got away with it, as a suspect and record the meeting.
In the reenactment, Demery played by Nicholson, walked down that hall and my fingers were clenched around the handle of his RCA video camera. I was ready to watch Demery slap Jerry upside the head with it.
The killer, Jerry, turned out to be a broken down old man. He was crying giving Demery his version of an apology or repentance. Jerry, “You know it wasn’t my intention. Don’t you ever think it was my…intention.”
Back to Real Demery, “I knew he was lying.”
Then something painful happened. It was so painful for me that I cried. I am crying now. I couldn’t watch the episode all the way to the end when it originally aired. I had to watch it in parts to get to the part that would have made his mother so very proud him.
In the face of everything he should have hated, Demery found kindness.
Forgiveness that somehow made both of us feel better.
It also made me think it was time to forgive my mother.
Demery’s searched for a picture of his mother he didn’t remember her face. Back then photos were a big deal unless you were rich. We weren’t. When my oldest sister passed away I received a box of family pictures. In the box were two pictures of my mother. I really had forgotten her face.
At times I sit and stare at her face trying to see my own. I am sure Demery looks at his mom searching for his face.
Demery healed himself and then inadvertently healed me.