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8 gripping crime documentaries to watch on Netflix this week

Did Carole Baskin kill her husband?

It is the question of every self-isolator’s hour, as we’re staying and becoming hooked to the TV screen.

Joe Exotic and the rest of his tiger-rearing pals redefined entertainment when Netflix released a tell-all about his obsession with archnemesis Carole Baskin.

The ride only got wilder once the docu-series delved into the mysterious disappearance of her multimillionaire husband Jack Lewis, but it was only a matter of time before the outlandish drama between a couple of zoo-owners reinvigorated the interest of true crime documentaries on Netflix.

Now that you’re going to be spending a whole lot of time at home, any diversion is welcomed, especially ones that are gripping enough to warrant binge after binge. Let’s face it, we can’t look away from a train wreck, so one that’s a few hours long is quite the treat, even during these bleak times. 

Besides, psychology has proven that a fascination with this genre is completely normal — unless that’s all you ever talk about. Get a glimpse into the minds of people who have committed the most fundamental of taboos with Netflix’s best offerings of true crime documentaries.

This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

Aaron Hernandez makes for an unlikely subject of a true crime documentary. The ex-New England Patriots’ rising star scored a Super Bowl touchdown when he was only 22, making him one of the most promising football talents ever. 

Yet this documentary centres around the investigation of the NFL superstar’s potential involvement in the 2013 murder of fellow footballer Odin Lloyd and another of two other victims. Hernandez’s downward spiral is apparent here, as the series focuses on his personal life, sexuality, past trauma, and the development of a debilitating brain disease, the latter of which was only discovered after his shocking suicide while serving life sentence. 

Serial Killer Ted Bundy might’ve been executed by electric chair 31 years ago after confessing to the murder of 30 people over a decade, but his unknowable nature still fascinates people today. 

The title of four-episode docu-series is somewhat a misnomer — it largely consists of Bundy’s monologues about his life — but it’s still a gripping look inside the mind of the narcissistic killer. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger also managed to secure interviews of him on death row, as well as revelations by childhood friends and his suicide attempt before his execution.

If you like weird, this one’s for you. Evil Genius opens with what has been described as the strangest bank heist ever: A pizza delivery driver named Brian Wells walks into a bank with a collar bomb around his neck. He demands a quarter of a million dollars, only manages to receive less than $9,000, and strolls out swinging his bag and cane gun “like Charlie Chaplin”. Minutes later, the bomb explodes and he dies. 

Turns out poor Wells here was on an elaborate scavenger hunt to defuse this bomb. Things only get diabolical from here; a mentally-disturbed Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong who’s previously murdered multiple boyfriends gets involved and sheds light on the mystery.

Alex Lewis was only 18 years old when he woke up from a coma with no memories of his life or the people in it — except his twin brother, Marcus. He’s since relied on him to fill in all of the gaps from his childhood, but as Alex would grow to learn, there’s more to his story than the happy family tale he’s been told. 

Childhood secrets and terrifying traumas are slowly unveiled in this feature, which Marcus had been consciously withholding for the sake of his brother. Split into three acts, the gutting documentary not only sees Alex reconstructing his real story, but also challenges viewers to consider if they’d do what Marcus did to protect a loved one.

In 2001, Michael Peterson called 911 after finding his wife, Kathleen Peterson, dead at the bottom of the stairs in their North Carolina home. The novelist was charged with first-degree murder shortly after, and with it came a trial full of twists and the strangest theories — an owl attack was even considered. 

The mystery series originally aired on French television as an eight-episode miniseries in 2004, but director and Oscars winner Jean-Xavier de Lestrade has since followed up with new episodes, documenting his lengthy legal battle and how the family man may not be who he seems to be. 

The Catholic Church has seen its fair share of scandals over the years, but no one could’ve predicted what horrors Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder in 1969 would continue to bring up today. Fifty years after her death, documentarian Ryan White delves into the mystery and the role that Father Maskell — the Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School’s chaplain — may have played in it. 

The shocking revelations that followed the reopening of this cold case include not only Maskell’s sexual abuse to women, but also the corruption between the Catholic Church and the government. White’s outreach to the 40 women in this true crime documentary has also since inspired many other victims to come forward with their tale.  

Henry Lee Lucas joined the ranks of America’s most notorious serial killers after confessing to as many as 600 murders. Law enforcers might’ve lapped up his claims to close open cases on their hands, but modern DNA testing has proven that he’d lied about plenty of them.

His outlandish claims came courtesy of the cigarettes and burgers detectives plied him with during investigation, after which he claimed he lied “to show law enforcement doesn’t do its job”. The hazardous effects of police misconduct aside, the true-crime story examines Lucas’ narcissistic and sinister mind. 

The wildest crime documentaries always seem to be feline-related. This three-part series revolves around one of Canada’s most infamous crimes by Luka Magnotta, a troubled individual from an abusive household who started out by posting disturbing videos of violence towards kittens. He went on to murder a computer engineering student from China, releasing not only videos of the process online, but also dismembering and mailing body parts to government establishments and schools. 

Now serving life in prison, the documentary reveals how Magnotta became the subject of an international manhunt, his thirst for notoriety and fame, and his downward spiral with mental illness.

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