What Are The “Satanic Panic” Murders in Massachusetts?
A new “true crime” documentary series is about to be released on the Epix Network detailing the grisly “satanic panic” murders that took place in the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts, in the 1980s.
If the town of Fall River sounds familiar to readers of this column, it is likely for two reasons, one that my wife is from there, and two that the New England town is no stranger to true crime, being home to the infamous Lizzie Borden!
But the murders in this documentary took place decades after Miss Borden took that ax and her famous “40 whacks.”
The Borden House, which was recently sold, was always said to be haunted, and perhaps the murders left a demonic presence over the city that influenced the horrific ritual murders detailed in the documentary. The film, entitled simply “Fall River,” centers on bizarre murders of three women — Doreen Levesque, Barbara Ann Raposa, and Karen Marsden — which lead to what became known as the “satanic panic” in Fall River, Massachusetts, in the 1980s.
At the time, the police investigating the string of gruesome killings said they were part of a human sacrifice ritual being practiced by a cult. The police eventually arrested Carl Drew, who was said to be the cult leader, however according to the makers of the documentary, mystery, and controversy still swirl about the case.
Over the years, Paul Carey, the lead investigator on the case, had doubts about details that didn’t add up. Unable to shake his concerns, Carey began looking into the case again following his retirement. The sensational stories of the time were further called into question when new evidence appeared, some that lead Carey to believe that Drew may have been innocent.
After more than four decades, the film, Fall River, reexamines the case and the paranoia that surrounded it. Pulling together interviews with Carl Drew, witness accounts, and crucial evidence, the series looks to uncover what really happened more than 40 years ago. The producers of the film say that by focusing on the victims, Fall River aims to offer a voice to the three women who were killed and all but forgotten.
State Rep. Alan Silvia was a detective with the Fall River Police’s major crimes division at the time of the murders. He was involved with every aspect of the investigation, starting with when the body of the first victim, 17-year-old Doreen Levesque, was found under the bleachers at Diman Regional’s athletic fields early one October morning.
Silvia was interviewed for the documentary. He said it wasn’t a surprise to be contacted. He still gets an email about once a month from people across the country and even internationally who are interested in the case. Three years ago, he led a discussion at a well-attended event hosted by Fall River City Councilor Pam Laliberte-Lebeau covering the murders.
The four-part documentary series from Blumhouse Television will launch on Epix on May 16. It was directed by James Buddy Day, who also served as an executive producer, along with Jason Blum, Jeremy Gold, Mary Lisio, Michael Wright, and Jill Burkhart.
In a statement, Michael Wright, who is also the president of Epix, explained that “this series uncompromisingly seeks justice for the vulnerable, who fell victim to their dangerous surroundings, and closure to those that have gone for so many years without it.”
You can see the trailer for Fall River here.