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  • Kylie Rae Barr

The Criminal Scandal Behind Where the Crawdads Sing

Often, there is a fine line between fiction and reality. It is easy to separate the fantasy from the daily on-goings of one’s life. When it comes to crime fiction, the line can sometimes be messy. One might wonder how much of that fantasy may truly be based in reality.

Where the Crawdads Sing (2018) is described on Wikipedia as being a coming-of-age murder mystery novel. The main character, Kya, is a recluse whose family has abandoned her and whose town has turned their back on her. She lives within the marsh of North Carolina. Her life becomes intertwined with the wrong man and suddenly she’s being looked at for murder. Spoiler alert going ahead, in a surprise twist after being found not guilty and living a long life with her true love, it’s revealed that she in fact was responsible for the murder of her former lover. It’s a thrilling story with a decent movie that’s just been released. But what if it’s not all fiction?

Author Delia Owens is currently wanted in Zambia for questioning in a murder. In 1995, she and her husband were living in Zambia as conservationists trying to spare the elephants from poachers. Their story was being filmed for an ABC program called Turning Point, their episode would air in 1996. The subsequent episode from the trip would feature the filmed murder of an assumed-to be poacher. The footage showed the victim lying on the ground, having been previously shot, before being executed. There is no footage of the person who fired the shot, as they are off camera. The script of the episode refers to this victim as a trespasser but clarifies little on the details of alleged trespassing. There are many witnesses who claim that the Owenses were responsible for tormenting and torturing the alleged poachers - you can read more detail in the Atlantic article in the references below. The ABC cameraman from the incident claims it was in fact Mr. Owens who fired the shots at the victim, the attorney for the Owens family denies this claim. The victim’s body was actually never found by Zambian police, it is alleged by witnesses that the body was taken away by a helicopter and left somewhere where the animals would take care of it or dropped in a lake.

While this is just a brief overview of many details, it seemed necessary to bring up. The novel written by Delia Owens has odd parallels to the case that has followed her for ages. Is her best-selling book a manifestation of guilt or have the lines between fiction and reality just gotten too blurry? Either way, a man is dead, and a family has no answers, the same way the victim’s family in the book ends up. Did the Owenses get away with murder?

Endnote – highly recommend reading the New Yorker piece mentioned below!


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