If you are rivetedImmediately Google Blackbird (currently up to its fifth episode) and whether or not it’s a true story — you’ve come to the right place.
Jimmy Keene, who was arrested for drug trafficking and sentenced to 10 years behind bars, was actually offered freedom in exchange for a confession from suspected serial killer Larry Hall. Full details can be found in Keen’s book (co-authored with Hillel Levin) or in this transcript of the CNN report. Below, you’ll find key details, including accounts and quotes that may appear in the yet-to-be-aired episodes of the show.
Warning: Although Blackbird is based on a true story, if you want to avoid spoilers, don’t scroll down.
Who Was The Real Jimmy Keene?
A charismatic golden boy who grew up to be a popular jock in high school? The real James Keene fits the description.
Keene grew up in Kankakee, Illinois, raised by his father, “Big Jim”, a local police officer. Keane had his own nickname on the football field – “the killer” for taking players out every game. “Everybody knew who I was with my athletic ability,” Keene told CNN. “I was voted the most popular boy in school.”
What crime did Jimmy Keene commit?
Despite his popularity, there was one thing Keen didn’t have: money. To keep up with his rich classmates, Keen started selling drugs. By the time he was 20 years old, he was reportedly earning $1 million a year. Not only was she able to support her father, who was financially broke, she was more famous than ever, hosting huge parties and living in a mansion. “It’s hard to walk away from that kind of money, especially from a 20-year-old,” Keene said.
But in 1996, the DEA and FBI came knocking. “I heard the front door creak and I thought it was just the wind,” Keene said. “It was November. You know boom, all the doors were flying off the hinges. Then they came flying in a straight line with their guns drawn and their black uniforms. “Move, we’re going to blow your heads off. We will do it. Just move once, blah, blah, blah.'”
Keen was reportedly sentenced to 10 years in prison after refusing to give up other drug dealers.
Who was the real Larry Hall?
Larry Dewayne Hall was born in 1962 in Wabash, Indiana. He actually had an identical twin brother named Gary, the more “dominant, outgoing twin,” Gary told CNN. On the other hand, Larry Hall told CNN in an interview, “I know when I was born my mother told me I was blue, I wasn’t getting enough oxygen or something.”
The brothers grew up near the cemetery where their father worked. At the age of 12, Gary and Larry also started working there. Best friends, the brothers became Civil War reenactors as a hobby, which led to Larry raising mutton.
What crime did Larry Hall commit?
In 1994, Larry Hall was convicted of kidnapping 15-year-old Jessica Roach, who was last seen in 1993 while riding her new bicycle near her home in rural Georgetown, Illinois. He was found dead six weeks later.
In a police interview, Hall admitted to murdering Roach, Tricia Reitler, and two other women, but recanted his statement to investigator Gary Miller (named Brian Miller, played by Greg Kinnear on the show) claiming that he was only imagining things.
Still, federal prosecutor Larry Beaumont Hall found Jessica Roach guilty of kidnapping. “In the federal system, if you’re guilty of kidnapping and that kidnapping results in death, then under the sentencing guidelines it’s a mandatory life sentence,” Beaumont said.
Did Jimmy Keane really try to be friends with Larry Hall?
While Jessica Roach’s case is closed, the disappearance of 19-year-old Tricia Reitler remains unsolved. The prosecutor came up with a plan to give the Beaumont parents some peace.
In 1998, 10 months into his sentence, Jimmy Keane was visited by Beaumont, the prosecutor who sent Keane to prison. Beaumont made a shocking offer to Keene: transfer to a maximum security prison, befriend serial killer Larry Hall and find out where Tricia Reitler is buried. In return?
“If you can get a solid confession out of him and still help us find the missing bodies, we’re willing to completely clear your record,” Beaumont said, according to Keene.
It was a life-threatening operation, and Keene hesitated to accept. But then his stepmother told him that his father had a stroke. Still, Keane had cold feet on the way to the prison in Missouri. “I looked at the U.S. Marshal and said, ‘Listen.’ I said: “How do we know that Bomon will keep his word?” They all assured me that he would. I said, “I’m not sure I can do that.”
But there was no turning back.
Did Keene succeed?
Keene managed to become friends with Hall. The descriptions of his exchanges with Hall are fascinating.
“I made it a point to bump our shoulders, and when we gently bumped shoulders, I turned around and said, ‘Excuse me.’
“I just reached out and slapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Thank you so much. I appreciate it from a cool guy like you”.”
Kin looked carefully at Xol from his cell across the hall.
So I went up to him and said, “Hey, I’m here.” I said you are in this area.
And he says: “Yes, I am there.” And he takes his eyes off his head.
I said, “Okay, that’s great.” I said, “You are right with me.” I said, “You know what? I told you that you’re a cool guy and I’m glad you’re with me,” and all that and more. And he basically suggested that I would like to have breakfast with him and his friends sometime.
Keene slammed a “real big fan boy” for changing the channel from a show Hall was watching. Trusting Keene, Hall told her the truth about what happened to Tricia Reitler, confessing to strangling her to death and burying her in the woods.
Still needing an exact location, Keene thought he had hit the jackpot when he found Hall with a map covered in red dots over Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Dozens of wooden hawk lines stood at the edges of the map. “They control the dead,” according to Keane.
Believing that he had everything to gain his freedom, Keene revealed his true opinion of Hall in an insulting manner. Hall, “Beaumont sent you, didn’t he? Beaumont sent him, didn’t he?” According to Keene. In addition to blowing the cover, Keen was sent to solitary confinement for the outburst. The map and the hawks disappeared.
Despite collecting details on Tricia Reitler and several other murders, Keene was unable to locate her body. Fortunately, Beaumont decided to see that Keene received credit for time served. “I had him take a polygraph test to verify that what he told us was true, and he passed. And he made a legitimate effort to do what we sent him there to do,” Beaumont said.
Where is everyone now?
After becoming a free man, Keene was able to spend five more years with his father, Big Jim, before he passed away.
Hall continues to serve life in prison, but has never been charged with a crime against anyone other than Jessica Roach.
After Keane’s 2010 book With the Devil was published, the renewed focus on Hall saw the cold cases reopened, and Larry’s brother, Gary, put pressure on Hall to stop defending him.
“I went with the Indianapolis detectives to try to get my brother to confess,” Gary said.
Larry Hall confessed to 15 serial murders, but later recanted. Hall now suspects there are about 40 victims. Tricia Reitler’s family is still waiting for answers.
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