Apple TV+ has just come out with another stellar series, ‘Black Bird’, starring Taron Egerton and Paul Walter Hauser in the lead. Based on a true story, the thrilling crime drama is based on the 2010 autobiographical novel ‘In with the Devil: a Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption’ by James Keene.
The six episode series follows Jimmy Keene’s character (played by Egerton) who gets arrested by the authorities after the FBI lays waste to his drug dealing empire.
However, less than a year in, he gets a way to an early release in the form of a dangerous task that sees him transfer to a maximum security prison for the criminally insane. He’s to befriend and oust a confession from potential serial killer Larry Hall (Hauser), who is suspected of kidnapping and murdering no less than 13 women.
There are however, a lot of curious questions arising after watching the first two enthralling episodes. Who was this dangerous serial killer? Did Keene succeed to confirm his crimes and get freedom? Where are the two now? Let’s look at the facts.
The story comes from the life of James Keene who penned it all in the aforementioned book. He was a brilliant athlete in high school — playing football in Kankakee, Illinois — but started dealing drugs at the young age of 17, eventually moving to Chicago to widen his business.
He thrived in his dealings until 1996, when the Drug Enforcement Agency and local authorities busted Keene during a drug sting led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Beaumont.
After pleading guilty and hoping he’d get out soon on good behaviour, Keene was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Within the year however, Beaumont presented the former drug dealer with an option to be released early if he managed to get Hall to confess.
Now, Hall came into the limelight in 1993 after he death of a 15-year-old girl, Jessica Roach. According to information in the public domain, Hall grew up in Wabash, Indiana with a twin brother Gary. The twins were labelled quite odd due to their peculiar behaviour.
Beaumont took Hall in after Roach’s death, based on various investigative pointers (especially his tendency to stalk young women in his van and harass them) and witness statements, eventually getting a confession out of him.
Following this, Hall was taken to trial and a jury found him guilty of kidnapping and murder. Unfortunately, the ruling was overturned. His defense attorneys stated that a personality disorder made him easy to intimidate and his confession was forced.
They also claimed that the authorities misconstrued his words as Hall mentioned having dreams about murdering women not confessing to actually killing them.
Hall was imprisoned while on appeal and this is when Beaumont sent in Keene to get a confession out of him before the appeal went through. Timing was limited as a failure of procuring a confession would mean that Hall would walk away unscathed.
Initially hesitant to enter the maximum-security prison in Springfield, Missouri, Keene agreed as he wanted to get out due to his father’s deteriorating health.
He took his time to gain Hall’s confidence and started bringing up the alleged murders. He was successful in getting a confession about Roach and gradually eased his way into information about Hall’s other victims, including a 19-year-old girl named Tricia Reitler and 20-year-old Laurie Depies.
Keene thought he’d hit the jackpot when he chanced upon Hall playing with black birds made out of wood (inspiring the show’s title). What made this encounter interesting was the birds being scattered over a map of Wisconsin and Indiana.
Hall, in his own way confirmed the suspicion when he mentioned to Keene that the birds were little falcons who watched over the dead. Almost certain that he’d gotten a concrete information, Keene verbally abused Hall, berating him for his horrendous deeds.
The reason for this outburst was Keene believing that the mission was over and he’d be taken out of prison at the earliest. Unfortunately, due to some communication error, the FBI didn’t receive the message on time and Keene was put in solitary confinement.
He was released days later but by then, the map was gone, making the location of Hall’s victims a mystery once again.
Despite Keene blowing his cover, he was released from prison in 1999 and got to spend five years with his ailing father who passed in 2004. His criminal record was wiped clean.
Since then, he has become an author, sharing his experiences with the world and also turned to working in real estate.
Meanwhile, Hall did confess to a lot of the murders he was charged with but without proper evidence or discovery of bodies, he could not be charged for all of them.
However, his conviction for Roach’s kidnapping still stands and he’s serving a life sentence for it.