Why Did You Kill Me?
Mom tracks daughter's killer; violence, language, drugs
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Why Did You Kill Me?
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Why Did You Kill Me? Is a true-crime documentary about a mother who uses the social media app MySpace to find and entrap gang members who played a role in her innocent daughter's murder. The filmmakers go to lengths to present viewpoints of all the players, including police and the perpetrators themselves. Meth addiction and illegal drug dealing are part of the story. Language includes frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "sucks."
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What's the Story?
WHY DID YOU KILL ME? focuses on events one night in 2006 in California, when Crystal Theobald was 24, a lovely, decent young woman who stepped into her brother's SUV, drove a few blocks from the family home, and was shot in the head for no apparent reason. Her mother, Belinda, knew in her bones it was gang-related, but as a former meth addict who went to prison for possession, she had little use for the police investigating the case. Her sons also had records, and one was in a gang. This sordid family past muddied the investigation for the police but sent Belinda and her determined young niece Jaimie to track down the gang members they believed were responsible by posing as a beautiful girl named Angel on MySpace. Jaimie decided to make at least one member who she believed was on the scene the night Crystal was killed fall in love with her alter-ego, represented online with a demure picture of the beautiful Crystal herself. The ruse takes an emotional toll on the sympathetic Jaimie but it gets startling results, identifying persons of interest and leading the police to hunt down and interrogate gang members who were at the scene of the crime and could describe the night's horrific and senseless events. When Jaimie quits the Angel impersonation to preserve her mental health, Belinda takes over, with her rage, sorrow, and desire for revenge motivating factors. Belinda admits to the camera that she felt responsible for her daughter's death to some degree, a moment the film handles beautifully. When the killer is apprehended and Belinda takes responsibility for her role, she asks the state to take the death penalty off the table in a moment of compassion. The film also interviews gang members, who, without excusing the bad acts they committed, try to explain how they became gang members. Family members weigh in with another side of the story of economic deprivation and lack of education and opportunity, which makes it clear that gang members are also victims of social and financial circumstances.
Is It Any Good?
True-crime fans will find a lot to discuss and ponder. Why Did You Kill Me? takes a complex set of facts -- a random murder; California gangs and the socio-economic hardships that create them; a blameless victim from a family with its own history of felons and drug abusers -- and demonstrates the ingenuity of relatives who track down the killer when the trail goes cold for the police. Given all the tangents, director Frederick Munk wrangles this unwieldy story into a cogent and dramatically absorbing narrative. Lay "detectives" using the internet and social media to perform their own productive crime investigations have been chronicled in other movies, but this one shows that dogged determination can take highly motivated people to places the police might not go. Without being preachy, the documentary raises reasonable questions about the inevitability of gang violence where society provides few alternative, law-abiding paths to struggling young people.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why Belinda and the rest of her family weren't interested in helping the police find Crystal's murderer. How did information about Belinda and her sons' felony convictions alter your opinion of the Theobald family and the possible reasons for Crystal's murder?
The Theobalds used "catfishing," or posing as someone else on the internet, to catch a murderer. What does their method tell you about how easy it would be for someone with criminal intentions to catfish innocent people online? Have you ever befriended a stranger online? Would you do it again after seeing this movie?
Belinda believed that no one, not even the police, cared as much as she did about finding her daughter's killer. Do you think her zeal and efforts demonstrated that caring can sometimes out-sleuth professional police work? Why or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: April 14, 2021
- Director: Frederick Munk
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Documentary
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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