Filed under: Ben Fawley

Live Blogging MyCase.com

10:05 p.m. ET

Watch this space.

Between 10:30 and 11:30 Eastern Time I’ll be blogging about the Court TV premiere of MyCase.com [MyCaseDotCom.com]. I wrote about the show, which will feature me as a representative crime blogger/cybersleuth, in this entry.

I guess I’ve live-blogged before, but I never thought of it that way. For this event I’ll try and post something new at each break. I’ll make notes on the case itself, about my experience making my part of it, and my impressions of the end-product.

I welcome any questions from readers in the comments, and will try and answer them in this post.

So, stay tuned….

10:30 p.m. ET

I started just blogging about Taylor Behl’s disappearance in September, 2005, but it was that blogging that led to my first professional writing gig, and I think it’s only fair I link some of that work — my portion of the Taylor Behl articles published by the Crime Library can be read if you go here: Taylor Behl Murder — Full Case Coverage.

Most of my blog entries, just for reference, can be accessed by clicking this link. They were originally posted to the now non-existent PlanetHuff.com/DarkSide. OK, that site isn’t exactly defunct. You can still see The Dark Side via the Wayback Machine.

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I didn’t have much contact with Janet Pelasara (Taylor Behl’s mom), at all when she was in the news, talking about her daughter’s disappearance, but I’ve been in touch with her since, and she’s a truly impressive woman who has weathered an unimaginable blow. I was glad she was willing to participate in making MyCase.com — I only wish I’d had the chance to meet her in person.

In some respects I’m just as fascinated as anyone else would be with this show, so far — I can’t recall seeing Taylor’s friend Glynnis Keogh much before, and the cops who investigated this crime are awesome. To hear one of them say the information being blogged about was “incredibly accurate” is pretty damned satisfying.

10:45 PM

My wife, Dana: “Your beard looks really red on TV.”

In the comments OPI asks what I think of the show so far.

I’m surprised at just how much I like it. Not because I thought it’d be bad — having seen one other true crime-related production from some of the same people at Optomen, I knew this would be original, have a visual style that really set it apart from other true crime shows — but because I was nervous about my part in it.

I’m also happy the cops participated so much in the taping. The folks at Optomen did a fantastic job of weaving in the separate elements making up the investigation into what happened to Taylor. The re-enactments work well, too — I particularly liked the way they used projection of text in some scenes.

10:59 PM

I have never seen that shot of Ben Fawley appearing to cry as he enters his Alford plea.

Now it sticks with me, because it crystallizes just how psychopathic this guy was. He’d screwed up his face and was speaking in a hushed, strained voice. Any casual observer would think Ben was crying.

But there wasn’t a tear to be seen. I’m sure there never was.

What may have been hard to capture in 30 minutes — heck, even an hour — was how trawling through the kind of vast online presence created by a psycho like Ben will worm into your brain. I’ve investigated and written about two killers who had particularly complex online lives — Joseph Edward Duncan and Ben Fawley. With both, there were moments when I wanted to go peel the guys out of my brain. Even their most innocuous writings would leave me queasy.

Ben’s performance in that courtroom video only crystallized that feeling from him — that he was so profoundly soulless that even across the Web he left me feeling nauseated, seasick.

I still react badly to any website containing more than its fair share of skull images.

11:11 PM

Someone e-mailed to ask if it was weird to see myself on camera in that capacity — not as a talking head on a news show, but in documentary made with real flair, cinematic style.

In a word, yes.

A few things about some of the scenes where I was on the computer. I don’t want to break “the fourth wall” or anything, but I don’t own a fly Mac like the one I used during those shots and no office of mine anywhere has ever been that stylishly furnished or neat.

That said, after just using that Mac for footage, I’d go back to Macs again in a heartbeat.

The cyber cafe was in Manhattan, and if I lived in Manhattan, I can guarantee you I would indeed be parked in that place on a regular basis doing my writing.

The day we taped there I kept getting refills on my coffee, and after a while I was holding up shooting because I kept having to use the restroom.

TV. It’s all about the glamor.

My verdict on MyCase.com?

After finally getting to see the whole thing, I’m enormously proud to have been any part of it at all. I know it may seem like I’m supposed to say such a thing, but I’ve never been the kind of guy who would just say what he’s supposed to if I didn’t feel it. If I’d thought the show stank, I wouldn’t be writing about it after that last update.

Instead, I think documentary-style shows that fall into the true crime genre need to be more like MyCase.com. The show took a truly unique angle of the story and told it with style and with incredible pacing. They managed to find a way to tape me that I didn’t wince as I watched my part of the show tonight. And I was ready to wince.

If there were a series like this I’d watch it every time it was on, and wouldn’t care whether I was a part of it or not.

NOTES

Answering some comments…

What was this like for me? Well, you’d never know by watching that half-hour that this show was pretty much nearly 2 years in the making. My part was done 10-11 months ago, too — I’m not shaving my head anymore, I wear a full beard now. I look different, so there’s something peculiar in seeing myself captured at a particular point in time.

On the whole, it was exciting and humbling. Exciting to travel and talk about this thing I do with smart people who got it (they obviously did, based on the way they presented my portions of the show). Humbling in part because you’d never know that while I was in NYC to tape MyCase.com my back kept trying to go out, and I had to navigate around that the entire time. That was my body reminding me I was an out-of-shape dude nearing 40 and didn’t have any reason to start getting cocky now.

Would I do more? In a heartbeat. But I’d also want some other folks who do what I do to be a part of it. Frankly, I love the idea of being the person who talks to them, something like that. Generally, though — if I could do something like this show and also continue writing — I’d be a pretty happy blogger, indeed.

Will I be on every week?

At the moment I don’t know of any plans for such a thing. If you want that, just write Court TV and tell them you loved the show and want to see more.

If there do end up being plans for some more shows, I’ll let readers know as soon as I’m able.

OPI asked in the comments if this case changed my life. Here’s my answer (which is also in the comments section):

Yes. It did change my life. Internally, as much as anything. It really brought home to me how truly complex people can be — young people like Taylor, psychos like Ben.

My writing about Taylor got me my first paid freelance writing work, and I’d not even tried to get the gig — it fell in my lap. That was life-changing. As popular as my blog was becoming at that time, I’d still only considered writing for a living in passing.

I think my understanding of what I was doing changed. I realized just how serious it was, for one thing. Taylor’s youth and the pain in her mother’s eyes whenever I saw Janet on TV brought that home. I also realized that there might be times I was the first to come up with something. That was a responsibility I’d been aware of, but Taylor’s disappearance and the blogging I did in relation to it really slammed the point home. One has to really think about the information they’ve discovered and use some judgment when you make it public.

MyCaseDotCom.com

Back to your regularly scheduled crime blogging shortly…

But first — I did want to be sure readers knew that the Court TV special I’m a part of (wrote about it here) now has an associated website:

MyCaseDotCom.com.

There’s a page on the case being covered in the special: the disappearance of Taylor Behl. There’s also a page about me, the contradictory guy: Cyber Detective Steve Huff (I’ve never referred to myself as such, but I’m certainly cool with it).

Go check it out!

A note — any readers who catch the promo being run on Court TV for this special, please let me know if you happen to get it with your DVR.

Remember: MyCase.com airs at 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, November 7, 2007, on Court TV.

I’ll be live-blogging the event from the start of the show through 11:30 as well, so stick around the site for that.

NOTE, NOVEMBER 3

Yes, it is my birthday and I am taking it easy. I did want to show you this, though — it’s a raw clip from MyCase.com:

Huge thanks to Lynne Hoppe for letting me know it was available! The same clip can be seen here.

By the way — Lynne has posted a question in the comments below. Respond with your thoughts on the matter if you’re inclined.

True Crime Genre News: MyCase.com

On November 7, 2007 at 10:30 p.m. ET, Court TV will air a fascinating new true crime special :

MyCase.com (link: MyCaseDotCom.com).

I will be your guide for some portions of the show. We’ll explore how the clues to a crime can sometimes be found on the Web. We’ll follow a digital pathway littered with broken relationships, obsessions, lies, and alibis. We will follow a cyber-trail of evidence that led to a tragic conclusion: murder.

Check out this link: “Upcoming Series on Court TV.

At the bottom of that page is the following:

MyCase.com – NEW!

Premieres Wednesday, November 7 at 10:30pm E/P

The internet provides a startling new look into the mind of a criminal. Profiles are posted on personal web sites, motives revealed in online blogs, and premeditated plans detailed on email. There’s a new type of investigator following the trail: the Cyber-sleuth. They will show us that, online, we are closer than we realize to clues and insight into criminal minds. TV-14

Optomen’s blurb for the show (working title: Crime.com) says it well: “The clues to crimes of passion are embedded in a vast digital matrix.” (Emphasis added.)

I can’t be cool about this anymore.

I’m as excited as I’ve been about anything I’ve done since I began crime-blogging! (Yes, that’s an exclamation point, and I meant it. Here’s another –>!)

I first chatted with folks from Optomen’s home office in the United Kingdom back in 2005, but only learned of the concept for this show in 2006. I’ve been sitting on it and everything to do with it ever since. Funny enough, when it was finally cool for me tell everyone, I was initially stuck as to what to say.

The best thing to say is watch it. I turn 40 just 4 days before the special airs, so if you watch it and get the word out, you can consider that your “Lordy, lordy, Steve is 40” b-day present.

I don’t want to give too much away, but these links might give you a few hints about the story explored in the premiere of MyCase.com: link 1, link 2.

And yes, I will be posting reminders, and perhaps more links, in days to come.

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One of Optomen’s recent true-crime-related productions was Most Evil.

Most Evil is one of the most original, visually stunning documentary-style productions I’ve ever seen. It explores Dr. Michael Stone’s “Scale of Evil,” and killers Stone felt ranked near the top of his scale.

When I realized I was working with the same company and some of the same people responsible for a series as brilliant as Most Evil, it became harder than ever to keep quiet about MyCase.com. But for a blabbermouth like me, I did OK. Close friends and family knew, but that was about it.

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While I’m at it, I have to refer you to some awesome news for a fellow crime blogger, Laura James of CLEWS, The Historic True Crime Blog.

Sarah Weinman mentions Laura’s news here at her own site, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind. Laura has been too modest to say much about it outside of telling fellow bloggers and authors. Just go read.

It was early 2005 when this lawyer-lady from Michigan e-mailed me wondering if we were the only two people on the Web calling ourselves crime bloggers, and I wrote back saying I didn’t know, but she was the first person to write me with a clue as to what “crime-blogging” was. The Trenchcoat was actually doing it well ahead of the rest of us, but he wasn’t calling it a “crime blog.”

Since then, Laura’s blog has become a favorite for anyone with a deep and intellectual interest in the history of crime. It remains one of the classiest destinations on the Web for true crime aficionados. Congratulations, Laura.

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I’m now a contributor (along with Jules Hammer and Michelle Gray) at The True Crime Blogroll. If you want regular updates about events involving true crime authors who also blog, like Gregg Olsen, Ron Franscell, and Corey Mitchell, owner of In Cold Blog (where some of your favorite crime bloggers are contributors along with some the brightest stars in the genre as a whole), then you need to check out The True Crime Blogroll every chance you get.

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I’m recording a segment today that will be aired Sunday night, October 27, 2007 at 10:00 p.m. ET on The Lineup on Fox News, hosted by Kimberly Guilfoyle. We’ll be talking about signal true crime cases from the past, like the Manson Family murders. Also on the panel will be Dr. William July. Be sure to check it out.

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One more time, with gusto:

  • WHAT: MyCase.com
  • WHEN: 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, November 7, 2007
  • WHERE: Court TV
  • WHO: produced by Optomen TV (USA)

Thank you in advance for watching, setting your DVRs, sending a link to this entry out to friends. Thanks also for reading this entry even if you already received a MySpace bulletin about this or got an e-mail I sent out to a number of people.

And seriously — thanks for reading my various blog incarnations over the last 2+ years and sticking around even when blog A went kerflooey and blog B didn’t get an update for months. I’m never able to adequately express my gratitude to people who read my writing, especially the many screen names that pop up in comments over and over with their own insights, ideas, tips, and tricks. I’ve been this close to not doing this anymore many times, and you all have always kept me at it. Your patience with your peripatetic host is greatly appreciated.