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Candy Montgomery: Accused Axe Murderer and True Crime Sensation

By Luisa Moreira





It's been over 40 years since the brutal killing of Betty Gore, Texas housewife and mother of two, that led to a controversial and high-profile trial in 1980. Betty was killed at the hands of her close friend, and now accused axe-murderer, Candy Montgomery who was allegedly having an affair with Betty's husband. Just like the crime, and everything surrounding Betty's death, Candy's story is far more complicated than just one woman taking an axe to another. These series of events were chronicled in the HBO 7-part docu-drama Love & Death, with Elizabeth Olsen playing the role of the seemingly typical Texas woman, and bringing new depth to the chilling story behind the crime.


OVERVIEW OF THE CRIME:


It all began when Candice (Candy) Montgomery, a 30-year-old housewife and churchgoer living in Collin County, Texas, became friends with a fellow housewife, Betty Gore. The two were known to attend service together at the First United Methodist Church of Lucas, which was what first led to their closeness, but also to their eventual mutual hatred for each other. The church is also where Candy met Allan Gore, Betty's husband, with whom she developed a mutual attraction and convinced him to have an affair with her. Yes, that's right, she had to convince him! After months of negotiating and "brainwashing" Allan that cheating on his wife was a good idea, they engaged in an extended affair which only ended after Allan decided to focus on his children and wife, who had since grown anxious about their relationship and a possible new pregnancy.


On June 13th, 1980, Candy paid a visit to Betty's home to pick up a swimsuit for Betty's daughter who was staying over at the Montgomery house. Betty then confronted Candy about the affair, to which she confessed, saying she and Allan had had sexual relations, however had decided to stop months prior. Betty's reaction: attacking Candy with an axe she had stored in her utility room. As Candy was able to defend herself, she took control of the weapon and reportedly took 41 strikes to Betty's body, 28 of which were aimed at her head. Eventually, Candy was arrested and charged with the murder of Betty. In court, she pleaded self-defence, having her lawyer argue that "after being struck twice with the axe by Betty and then gaining control of the weapon, the heavier and larger Betty refused to let Candy go." The prosecution, meanwhile, argued that Candy could have fled instead of bludgeoning Betty to death, also persisting on the bizarre number of hits she took. On Oct. 30 1980, a jury of nine women and three men acquitted Candy of Betty's murder on the grounds of self defence.

THE SERIES:

Writers Jim Atkinson and John Bloom had their book Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, that recounts the story of the crime, adapted by David E. Kelley into a 7-part series streaming on HBO called Love & Death. The series features complex and layered characters that each contribute in their own way to the unfolding of events. These interesting characters being placed in absurd circumstances heightens the show's satirical tone, and also contributes to many viewers believing the director's desire to bring lightness to a dark situation. If anything, Kelley's take on Candy's story proves to be a tale about how certain pieces paved the way for this horrible tragedy. In its essence, the series shows us that if you were to take one element of the story out, maybe the crime never would have happened.


Elizabeth Olsen, who portrays Candy, does so in a way that makes it impossible for viewers to take their eyes off the screen. Through her impeccable acting skills and her naturalism and nuance, she is able to shed light on one of the most curious aspects of the show: the fact that neither Candy Montgomery, nor any character in the show, was a psychopath or showed "serial killer tendencies". A particular scene shows Candy embracing Allan and the Gore children after learning of Betty's death, ironically showing her real remorse. Even Betty Gore (played by Lily Rabe), the woman who first instigated the violent attack, is portrayed in such a way that makes viewers empathise with her stress and anxieties as a mother suspecting her husband of being unfaithful. Perhaps the strangest part of the whole story is how such horrible events transpired within such a typical community.


THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FEMALE KILLERS:


An interesting phenomenon explored in the series is that of the psychology behind the "feminine urge to commit murder". Female serial killers are relatively rare in the United States. Even so, polls indicate that women are more likely to consume true crime media, including books, TV series, movies, and podcasts, especially those that are centred around violent crimes. Some researchers have termed this the "fear of crime" paradox, which has led to two main theories explaining women's fascination with true crime. One theory suggests that women are driven by morbid curiosity, similar to the urge we have to inspect a car crash if we were to come across one at the side of the road, while the second proposes that women use true crime as a means to of protective vigilance, learning from these stories to avoid dangerous encounters and predicaments.


Nevertheless, stories such as Montgomery's with narratives that surround female murderers tend to reinforce gender stereotypes, defending beliefs about women being driven by their emotions, and their inability to control them. Montgomery, a paragon of femininity, sang in the church choir and was known in the neighbourhood for her famous lasagna before butchering her friend to death. This specific story allows, chillingly, for fewer lessons for women about what/who to avoid. Because who would be weary of a church friend coming over to pick up a child's swimsuit?


In popular media, there is an evident contrast between the portrayal of crimes committed by men and by women. While there are numerous dramas and stories about male serial killers that focus on their monstrosity rather than exploring the reasons behind their actions, when it comes to female murderers, the emphasis is often placed on understanding the "why." When a woman is demonstrated as hurtful and murdering instead of loving and caregiving, viewers are encouraged to closely examine their circumstances, behaviours, and psychology to understand their motives. Shows like "Love & Death" delve into the motives and psychological makeup of women who commit heinous acts. In the case of Candy Montgomery, the focus is on understanding why a seemingly caring and loving person could act in such a way. The mysteries behind her actions are explored, including triggering events that may have contributed to "dissociative states", such as the defence's argument that Betty having shushed Candy amidst the axe attack sparked up childhood trauma that caused her to act in such a heinous way.



As mentioned, Love & Death is now streaming on HBO and, in my opinion, is a must-watch for true crime lovers (male or female). From its intricately detailed costumes and scenery to its combination of immensely talented actors, this docu-drama is sure to leave a mark on any viewer, and can even spark up the question: "Can we really trust our neighbours?".


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