The Last Broadcast (1998) Script

I'd come to this project with many of the same assumptions that you have - concerning the Jersey double murders and the guilt of Jim Suerd.

His characterization is a troubled young man, responsible for a spree of horrific, ritualistic homicides in the Pine Barrens. The question in my mind was why?

Why would a man commit such crimes? After reviewing hours of archived footage generated by Steven Avkast and Locus Wheeler, the hosts of Fact or Fiction, I've been forced to change my perspective. the question now for me is what?

What really happened that night and is Jim Suerd truly responsible?

Ironically, in the course of this project, Jim Suerd has died in prison under mysterious causes.

His death will forever shroud the reconciliation of this case.

As they said on fact or fiction, you decide.


(Operator) Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?

My name is Jim Stewart Suerd.

I just hitchhiked here from from the middle of pine barrens and I can't seem to get -

I can't seem to find the people that I was in the Pine Barrens with -

And I was camping with them last night doing a project

(Operator) Are you lost?

I'm not lost. I'm just trying - I can't find the people who drove me here and -

I looked around for him and I went back to the site where we had parked and they're not at the van and they're nowhere to be found like I don't know where they are.

(Operator) Their vehicle is still there?

The vehicle's still there and I had to hitchhike to this payphone.

(Operator) How far are you from the vehicle right now?

I'm about five five, somewhere you know five-ten miles from it I don't know.

Okay, Jim. We'll send someone out.

Yeah it would be a good idea I got a really bad feeling about it.

You might want to send somebody out quickly ever bad feeling...

(radio announcer) WBRK time it is five o'clock. It's time for that afternoon drive that you love so much.

Hey, guess who made missing reports? It's those hosts from Fact or Fiction.

Missing. Ha. Bob, you know those guys gonna be showing up sometime in the next day saying, "Surprise did you miss us?"

Let's go to the phones and we'll ask you. Do you miss them?

We have found bodies. At this time we don't know who they are, or how many we have found.

We cannot assume at this time that it is the Fact or Fiction crew.

At this time, we have arrested Jim Suerd for the murders of Rein Clackin and Locus Wheeler.

Behind me is a house where Jim Suerd resided until his arrest nearly seven months ago.

Inside, amongst his dirty laundry, blood evidence was found, linking him to the grisly Fact or Fiction murders.

Today, Jim's own life hangs in the balance as jurors decide his fate.

I had heard of the Factor or Fiction murders.

They were big news for a period of one year, and then like so many things in today's fast-paced world, were forgotten.

I was intrigued by how this case, this story, was so well documented.

How, in spite of the remote location of the murders, and the rural nature of the people prosecuting Jim, that these were murders of a high tech age.

I was intrigued by the fact that the four individuals were indeed children of a digital age.

Mostly though, I wondered why the man named Jim Suerd would commit such horrendous acts of violence.


This is Johnny, and Locus and we are live in the Pine Barrens where tonight we are doing a first-ever, internet broadcast, cable, ham radio - broadcast all live, all real and we are doing it with the help of a psychic and a sound man. who has the ability to record sounds from other worlds, otherworldly sounds.

Yeah, that's right, Steven. We're here in the Pine Barrens southern New Jersey live and direct, coming right at you in your living room, first-ever web simulcast cable, cast and everybody is on the edge of their seat and I know you are, because I am and I'm sure Steven is too.

A little later we're gonna be showing you the campsite, but right now we're gonna do a little recapping, and you're gonna see some tape of the history of the legend - of the Pine Barrens and the Jersey Devil.

They actually lived their show, Fact or Fiction.

Here's this real eerie circumstances that come the play And they were actually the victims of it.

He had the opportunity.

It appears as if he had the motive.

He did lure those people up there in a in a veil of secrecy.

I would say yeah he fits the profile.

Who was Jim Suerd?

The answer proved more difficult than I imagined.

His mother had died four months before the murders, His father, five years before.

The only two people that I was able to speak with that knew him personally were his landlady, Joyce Dryer and a childhood psychologist named Dr. Dale Orstall.

I was sort of a father figure to him, I feel. Sort of a surrogate father, if you will.

He didn't talk a whole lot about his family life but one of the things I know is that his father left them when he was very young, ran off with another woman.

He had few friends if any. Very reclusive.

I remember him being quite a loner.

He seemed to stay in his room quite a bit when he wasn't at work.

And the computer seemed to be a highlight in his in his life.

With the advent of the Internet, of course he got into that years after I I was seeing him.

It wasn't even available I don't think at the time It opened up a whole new world for a guy like Jim.

Often he would be on the internet with people and as we know the horrible situation that has come up because of the internet fiasco, with him being blamed for these murders.

The internet was the first interests that would attach him to the Fact or Fiction television show.

The second interest was a bit more obscure.

Jim had this fascination for magic.

I mean a true fascination - I mean he like I told you he was very reclusive so I believe he must have spent countless hours in his room alone working on tricks.

And he used to come in and start the sessions and he had to show me a new trick and often was a simple card trick but very quickly he built skills and became very proficient in magic.

The internet and magic - both interests generally considered harmless.

Both interests that could have a sinister edge to them.

Either way, it was a combination that virtually sealed his fate in meeting Steven Avkast and Locus Wheeler, The hosts of Fact or Fiction.

Welcome to Fact or Fiction.

Welcome to Fact or Fiction. Yes we are rolling. We are on we are ready to go.

Locus you joker, you knew it all along that we were on.

Yeah welcome to our new show, well actually it's not a new show, it's got a new name.

Thanks to everybody out there who helped us come up with this great name, Fact or Fiction That's right.

Fact or Fiction was one of those fluke successes that no television producer would ever predict.

Short on production value, talent and execution, It maintained a following of youth probably more amused by its Kitsch value than anything else.

Steven Avkast, the creator of Fact or Fiction is remembered.

Steven... I always got bad bad vibes about Steven, you know he always came in here with this you know attitude that you know he always doing is making a little cable show.

I mean, nobody ever goes anywhere with this stuff. But he had this idea he was destined for stardom and was gonna be rich, you know millions of dollars and you know he basically had that that big you know director stereotype that you think of you, know, you think of the big Hollywood directors and I mean he really just had to put it in perspective.

Steven's longtime friend, Locus Wheeler, was the co-host of the show.

Their pairing was like oil and water.

Locus, I think, he and Steven were having problems getting along sometimes but I think I I think Locus, he knew what he was doing. I mean with this he knew it was just a little cable show and I think he was just in it for the fun.

Somehow, Steven, a misguided egomaniac and Locus, a sardonic slacker, managed to keep turning out shows for the better part of 1995.

The ideas were slim.

However, they did latch onto one idea that intrigued many.

We're also doing something new. We are on IRC tonight. and we have joined... IRC is in the house.

You can say that, I'm saying it's swingin'

Well I'll have to say one idea they came up with, it was actually - well at first it was pretty cool but it got to be pretty freaky too...

They came up with this idea, you know how most TV shows will have like call ins. where people call in the phone and talk - well, they tie this into the internet through IRC chat, except, so people could like, you know ask questions on the show - but they rigged up some sort of text-to-speech converter so like whatever they typed in was actually set on the show like it was a voice.

It was this idea that provided the impetus for what would ironically give Steven the fame he so craved.

By the fall of 1995, the one joke television show was losing popularity.

By November, the show was about to self-destruct.

Everybody had this sense.

Once again, Steven in his delinquency and procrastination has made it so we are too late to find the snow angel.

At this desperate time, Steven turned to viewer suggestions, one of which would take hold in his mind.

It provided the seedling with which Steven hoped to rebuild the show's popularity. you know we had a call we have an IRC come in and it's real eerie voice I mean it drove me nuts. I almost couldn't stand this after a while because just hearing this voice like "hello, why don't you do a piece on..."

(robotic voice) Why don't you do a show about the Jersey Devil?

Steven's idea was to do a first-ever live broadcast of Fact or Fiction.

It would be broadcast simultaneously to cable television and the Internet.

The promotion's began immediately.

And with ratings dropping in an ever-increasing speed, The concept was implemented immediately.

This Jersey Devil cablecast, I knew it wasn't gonna work. I mean these guys couldn't even make a halfway decent TV Show.

Suddenly they want to jump into doing you know big time live from the Pine Barrens and have radio and Internet and this and that and, I knew it was gonna be fiasco. I didn't really think was gonna end up like it did but -

I knew it wasn't gonna look pretty.

Since the show was going to air from a remote location, Steven hastily looked for people who help.

A former employer of his, Sam woods, was approached.

This is the room of Sam woods. I used to cut his grass.

He's a filmmaker and he used to do soap operas and we're gonna ask him if he wants to direct the show...

Because I think he'd be perfect and he's a name and that would that good for us.

So I've had to talk to Locus and try to convince him about but he's going for it... and here they come so, I'm going to turn it down.

Steven... that's right.

And I'm Locus. Nice to meet you.

Well they say that up to up to 50,000 people could possibly be watching at any time, but they don't know exactly how many but but we're selling lots of t-shirts.

So that's a good sign I think.

Anyway we have this idea we want to taking this like direction where it's gonna become much bigger and it'll be really cool if you could you know help us out; if you could direct the show. I know that you used to direct soap operas.

Network soaps.

This union of cable access show and former Network soap director never made sense to anyone.

Though it was later discovered that Steven was paying Sam out of his own pocket in an act of desperation to save Fact or Fiction.

We're in business yeah... yeah this is cool.

Sam Woods, a once successful television soap director became one of the people I would question about these events.

In stark contrast to his work, meeting him was another road sign on my travel into a surreal world.

Well, this devil hunt thing never appealed to me.

We're getting into a pretty flaky area there, you know?

I think the kids were they were asking for it with that one.

Not the kind of not the kind of work I do, you know what I mean?

Not what I do.

For the internet end, Jay McDowell was enlisted.

Well, they came to me with a seedling idea they said you know we want it we want to use some of this technology you've been using for teleconferencing for video conferencing and we want to, you know, we want to turn this into a broadcasting.

They had heard some talk about it they had seen some sites that were trying to do some stuff like that, so they wanted something like that they wanted to do it a live a live thing rather than like, you know, streaming canned video.

They wanted to actually broadcast and compress it all live.

So they basically just came to me with that seedling of an idea and I had to figure out, you know, the technical aspects of how to make it happen, and make it real and you know, kind of the packaging for it what it was really gonna be in the final product.

Steven and Locus decided that they needed additional help at the actual location.

They searched vaguely for a sound man and a guide and on December 7, 1995, worlds collided.

Okay, we're at Rein's and we've come today to meet him in hopes that he'll be able to help us out on our trip to the Pine Barrens. Basically Rein is an audio whiz and supposeBly he's been able to document - supposeDly he's been able to document you know paranormal occurrences on tape. So that's what we're gonna see today.

We're also going to be meeting Jim, who does some psychic things And we'll see, you know. Hopefully these guys will fit the bill and we'll be able to go down to the Pine Barrens with them, you know. Could use the extra help.

Is that good? yeah you got enough?

I hope this damn mic works. You ready? okay.

Remember, play it cool. Play it cool. is this gonna blow us this airplane sound?

Come one.

Steven, this is Rein. right yeah I'm, I'm Locus. Locus?

(weird echo sounds)

So you just taped us?

Yeah, I guess so accidentally.

So do you have a surveillance setup?

Well, for the time being I did. This used to be a sound studio.

I think maybe Jim has arrived now.

hey man, you seem to have pre-deterrmined that we met. hold on hey hey yeah Jim what's up? how are you?

Doing pretty good.

Lotus. um... Locus.

How are you? I'm Jim.

It was inevitable that this combination of the internet, a television show about paranormal happenings, and similar ages, would draw Jim Suerd to Fact or Fiction. so just to give some, a little background, you know basically we're going to be doing this webcast, cablecast in the in search of the Jersey Devil, the Leeds devil, down in the Pine Barrens. And basically why we've gotten you guys together here is because you have skills regarding audio and paranormal activity so we're hoping that you can help us in that way, and you have these psychic abilities.

Psychic abilities, I feel that I can I can really help out. I understand what you're trying to do and I really think that I can help out.

You can help us find help us find a location. you can help us tap into whatever we need.

I can pinpoint that location.

Jim came to me one day and told me how excited he was that he had met these people over the Internet. It was some show, Fact or Fiction, and he was to be their guide in the Pine Barrens and what really amazed me, I just didn't think he knew or had any knowledge of the Pine Barrens to be able to even be a guide.

But he seemed so excited about it.

This... is this good?

Do you want to hold them up or do you Just like this.

Six Spade.

Seven Spade.

Four Spade.

Five Spade Eight Club.

Eight Diamond.

I saw him probably about two or three weeks before the incident.

I ran into him at a shopping mall.

And he was very excited about his life.

He said he was studying acting.

His magic was coming together. People were appreciating it. combined with the acting, I guess he did a few gigs on a small level but it was it was going very very well.

Give him more ashes. Give him more ashes.

There's something on his arm.

What does this mean?

I don't know

Back off. Back off. Are you recording this?

Was Jim psychic?

It was not likely.

The card demonstration, and the supposed psychic fit, in which numbers appeared on his arm, were nothing more than simple tricks.

Known to any amateur magician.

To Steven and Locus, Rein Clackin and Jim Suerd were perfect for Fact or Fiction.

Youthful, eager and strange.

On December 15th 1995, Steve Avkast, Lous Wheeler, Rein Clackin and Jim Suerd headed for the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to do a live broadcast in search of the Jersey Devil.

Jim Suerd would be the only one to return.

nine-one-one what is your emergency?

My name is Jim Suerd and I just hitchhiked here from the middle of Pine Barrens. and I can't seem to get - I can't seem to find the people that I was in the Pine Barrens with with an us camping with him last night doing a project.

(operator) Are you lost?

I'm not I'm not lost I'm just trying to I can't find the people who drove me here. and you know I looked around for them and I went back to the site where we had parked and they're not at the van and they're nowhere to be found like I don't know where they are.

(operator) Their vehicle is still there?

The vehicle is still there. and I had to hitchhike to this payphone.

(operator) How far are you from the vehicle right now?

I'm about five five, somewhere, you know - five ten miles from it. I don't know.

(operator) Okay Jim, we'll send someone out.

After mr. Suerd made the call, we went to the area that he specified and did a preliminary look around, under a missing-persons investigation.

I mean I just figured that was one of the little stints to do just to try to get that extra sensationalism. so I I didn't think anything of it at first.

You know I kind of expected them to try something like that.

We have a 187. Repeat, we have a 187.

This isn't a missing person's report anymore.

912?

We're clear. Do you need emergency support?

1012 No. This guy's definitely DOA.

One body we found approximately 2.5 miles from the campsite.

The other body, we found approximately three miles from the campsite.

The body of Steven Avkast was never found.

Large amounts of blood in the snow and a hat were all that remained of this third victim.

In any murder investigation, anybody associated with the victims is a suspect. our job is to eliminate suspects based on the evidence that we sift through and that we gather, and as we sifted through and gathered this evidence there was only one suspect left at the end and that was mr. Jim Suerd.

Who led everybody to the site?

I did.

Did anybody else know where you were going to set up and camp?

Well, I was asked to uh, to find a place to camp.

And I thought that I was doing a good job at it and Rein continued to provoke me and uh and then give me a hard time about my ability to locate the place that we would camp and ultimately just good led to an argument and I ran away from the group.

Did you hit him first?

I don't know, I might have pushed him.

Sometimes I can't remember if I, you know.

I ran away from group and I found the spot I thought would be good to locate the Jersey Devil.

After we got the permission from the state of Pennsylvania to search Mr. Suerd's residence, we went to his residence and we did conduct a search for anything that we felt would help us in this case and we did find the garments that mr. Suerd was wearing that night, with the blood of the three victims on it.

Interestingly, the garments that mr. Suerd was wearing were merely lying right on his bedroom floor, along with the other dirty laundry that was there.

Even as Jim was arrested, the evidence continued to mount against him.

We could tell that the nature of the blows with the weapons that were used were consistent with the size and build of the accused.

In this case it was very clear that the attacker was using both hands with two weapons and was ambidextrous.

And the suspect in this case is ambidextrous, which is quite rare.

He was the only survivor in the place where nobody else was.

It doesn't look that good for him.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we will show that on December 15th 1995, Jim Suerd maliciously and with premeditation killed Rein Clackin and Locus Wheeler.

We will show, without doubt, how he planned this well in advance of that day.

We will show, with video shot by the deceased, that Jim Suerd was, and is, a devious and cunning person. using the guise of psychic to perpetrate these horrible acts.

The proceedings that summer turned out to be one of the greatest spectacles of Baroake County history.

The trial attracted a strange assemblage of cult followers, ritual homicide fanatics and others seeking to satisfy their morbid curiosity.

Eventually, it became a matter of trying to keep the tabloid at bay.

An effort which was not entirely successful .

When the court case came up, the media frenzy was hysterical.

I felt like they were you -- somebody was watching me like every minute.

They were talking to everybody, everybody who had the slightest thing to do with the show.

Who knows, they probably talked to every single viewer that said they watched the show.

Reporters day in and day out and police here just taking everything they could; anything it was every videotape every prop, and I mean it was ridiculous.

I don't know what they were looking for, all they were getting was a bunch of bad television.

In an election year, what the prosecution was looking for was an open and shut case.

And in the state of New Jersey versus Jim Suerd, they found it.

Not content to leave any stone unturned they decided to utilize the very video that Steven Avkast and Locus Wheeler had shot.

The man, who would later by the press come to be known as the killer cutter, was hired to go through this video. and put together an incriminating image of Jim Suerd.

The prosecution contacted me in early January 1996.

They had a pretty good case against him, it seemed to me from what I saw.

They had blood evidence, they'd found the blood and you know this was the only guy there.

And he was the only one that knew where it was.

But they wanted to clinch this case.

They didn't want, they really wanted to get him.

They didn't want any there to be any question that he had done it.

So they can't that came to me with all this videotape, like 15 hours of videotape.

And this was video that these guys who did this cable show had shot on location.

I'd never really edited anything like I mean I'd never seen anything like this before, I mean this was like video from the crime scene.

And normally, you know, I've got, you know, hours and hours of people talking heads like, you know in some room somewhere badly shot.

This was badly shot but at least it was out in the woods, you know.

It was different.

The prosecution's video was intended to show facts.

Perhaps, not inadvertently, it also created an intimacy with the murdered three, that the defense was unhappy with.

They protested it, deeming it an unfair swaying towards a guilty verdict.

This was not enough reason for the video to be struck down and so it was used.

The first point demonstrated that Jim was indeed leading the group into very remote regions of the Pine Barrens.

Areas where there was no hope for help or aid from the civilized world. the following represents excerpts from the first section of the prosecution video.

Over 54 minutes of video showing the for wandering deeper into the pines was shot.

It is estimated that the four walked for more than two hours before Jim finally decided upon the location of their operations.

Hey guys he's starting to go to go. Let's get the stuff together.

so what's the deal Jim?

Something's come right through here.

When Jim finally found the perfect location, it was more than three miles from their van and the nearest access road.

The second point was to make evident a defendant who had an agenda an agenda.

An agenda warped enough to commit these murders.

I've been contacting the supernatural world for the last week. last couple days I've been in contact getting my spiritual self together this journey. we've we've put put ourselves out on and we are headed in the right direction, I can assure you.

I can feel it. It's a gut instinct in my body that - we're going to find the Leeds devil - and we're going to settle this case, once and for all.

I feel that know what I'm doing here and for you is perfectly authentic.

I have a feeling inside it's it's a definite feeling - we are at a place where with the Jersey Devil. We will encounter The Jersey Devil.

I know we're headed in the right direction.

Repeated phrases such as, "we're going to settle this thing once and for all" and "I know we're headed in the right direction", seemed to clearly show Jim's agenda.

It didn't take much to read into these phrases, and see an individual with a plan that was to be carried out in the desolate Pine Barrens.

As the prosecution's video progressed, Jim's personality changed... from a quiet and shy person, to one that presented the prosecution with an opportunity to show the violent nature just below the surface.

Look man, I'll see you back at camp, man!

I don't know what Jim's doing.

I think he's talking about burning something.

An agenda proven, and a potential violent streak proven, the prosecution solidified their first-degree murder case against Suerd with video taken in the barn.

Video in which the original date of the trip appeared on Suerd's arm.

The defense attempted to have this also struck from the records, claiming the video of Suerd to be that of a character he was playing.

The prosecution countered by agreeing fully with this assessment of Suerd and the events in the barn. events that had taken place a full two weeks before the trip; the best argument for premeditated murder.


The trip began at sunrise.

Steven ran a videocamera much of the time, documenting what should have been amusing but banal preparation.

Locus, do you wanna do a blurb about?

Yeah, I'll do it. yeah but I'm getting light... the backlight's killing your face.

What do you mean the backlight's killing my face?

Why don't you adjust it? What do you mean you can't? okay you ready? Okay, we're here at Rein's barn, and we're getting...

Come on, I'm trying to get at this on camera...

The trip, guided by Jim, took them into the loneliest of areas on a lonely cold Here's to you, Steven.

A stop at a gas station was the last obvious landmark, before they moved into the unidentifiable roads of the Pine Barrens. at a certain point, at Jim's request, they stopped, parked and started walking into the woods. following the psychic visions of Suerd.

He's gonna do it this is part of the show we gotta do it in a place he thinks is right.

Because if we're gonna find something yeah we could fake it, but I don't go for that.

I think we should go for real and he's off doing his thing that's why we got him here.

We knew this would be it. We knew, we all talked about. We knew we were going to be way out here.

Here he comes. Let's see what he says.

Where did you get this guy from anyway?

Psychics R US?

I think this is a pretty good idea.

Us waiting around and then him finding the spot you know and then taking the stuff over to it.

Yeah we still gonna go back to the car and get stuff, man.

I don't think he even knows that. Is he volunteering ? I don't think so.

Well, I know he's not carrying too much. But you know what he said about that... it's a vibe thing.

[Host] Tensions increases as they work further into the forsaken Pines. And then a key point in the prosecution video arrives.

Jim... are you a psychic or a psycho?

Look man! I'll see you back at camp!

Approximately one hour later, judging from the Sun, a camp is being built.

Discussions are already being had about Suerd.

Suerd is not helping.

He's keeping to himself.

For the next two hours, the video of the group is a collection of promotions for future cable shows; the camera frequently left on between takes.

This is Locus reporting from the Pine Barrens and I'm with Rein. our sound man. Gee, Rein I'm pretty parched.

I sure am, too.

Wow is that is that mulberry natural spring water?

Yes from Mueller's.

Wow, how about - I wish I could have a sparkling glass of that.

Boy I'm telling you and in a gallon jar.

Jug

[host] the mood is good.

Let's do that again.

[host] Jim does not join them, instead staying in the tent on IRC.

I don't really feel like I'm being taken very seriously, by really any of you.

I'm taking you seriously. We set up here you know.

I'm doing what what I do and I don't appreciate being laughed at.

Well it's just a stress thing.

Look we're gonna be going on in a bit. You gonna come out for the broadcast?

I think that I'll probably stay in here

Stay on IRC

At 10 p.m. in what will be the last broadcast, Fact or Fiction goes live.

This is Johnny and Locus and we are live in the Pine Barrens where tonight we are doing a first ever, internet broadcast, cable...

Jim has been on IRC for two hours and 30 minutes.

A surveillance camera records the camp to VHS tape.

It runs for 2 hours before shutting off.

At 1:00 a.m. the last tape in the series of 22 tapes shot by Locus Wheeler and Rein Clackin reaches its end.

Man, this thing's still on. What the hell's going on?

Oh, I must have left it on. we should change tapes.

Did you change tapes? Here, I'm gonna change tapes in this.

[host] There is no indication that this is done.

No other footage exists.

The tape show a group of men going through a wide range of emotions. seemingly enjoying their jaunt into the pine barrens.

The tape shows the brooding nature of one man who does not share in the frivolity.

The tapes do make clear the maladjusted nature of Jim Suerd.

Though Suerd maintained his innocence, the facts were indisputable.

Four people went into the Pine Barrens, only Jim returned .

Blood of all three was found on on Jim's shirt.

Pushing Rein showed a potential violent streak.

The angle and depth of the cuts and lacerations matched somebody of his height and weight and more importantly ambidextrous nature. the number, which closely matched the date of the murders appearing through ashes on his arm, was deemed to be a good case for premeditated murder.

The tape showing the four walking further and further into the woods, virtually guaranteed a seclusion from civilization; civilization that would make the killing easier. the defense's one victory was getting a third charge of murder, the murder of Steven Avkast, dropped.

Though a body is not necessarily needed to prove a murder, the prosecution had more than enough evidence with the two bodies that were found. on July 16th 1996 Jim Suerd was found guilty on two counts of first degree murder.

He was sentenced to two life terms to be served consecutively.

[guitar and singing] Went out with little Sadie and I shot it down, come back home, crawled into bed with a .44 pistol under my head.

I think the whole trial was a kangaroo court of sorts, a pig circus.

I mean it's there the police obviously didn't do their homework.

They're not investigating to the best of their ability, because there has to be -

There has to be some evidence indicating somebody else or something else.

[jim singing]

The case they built up against him, it was all circumstantial.

They didn't have any actual evidence that he did this but I mean he was the only one there.

They really had no one else to go on.

I don't consider having the blood of victims all over your clothes as circumstantial.

I mean that's pretty hard evidence as far as I'm concerned. You don't get blood on your clothes from a murder victim, you know, just out of the air.

I mean, you have to be there conducting those murders to get that blood on your clothes.

I don't consider that circumstantial in the least.

[Jim] and I can't explain that I can't explain why there would be blood on my shirt.

[detective] would you agree that it looks bad?

[Jim] Excuse me?

[detective] Would you agree that things don't look very good for you right now?

[Jim] I don't, I don't the way that you're telling me it doesn't look that good for me but I can't understand where this evidence came from.

The evidence of blood on Jim's shirt was a strong point for the prosecution.

DNA tests showed indisputably that it was the blood of the three that had gone into the woods with Suerd.

As I look at the images of DNA patterns and pools of blood, I wonder though if perhaps the jury anxious not to ignore DNA evidence as it happened in other trials. perhaps looked too closely.

Through the magnifying glass of the prosecution's microscope, the evidence was solid.

However a macroscopic view begged another question.

Could the master of this orgy of violence have walked away from his work with merely the equivalent of 17 I drops of blood on his shirt... and nothing else? you know, every piece of evidence they would get they'd try to tie it somehow, instead of thinking okay well gee, does this have anything to do with something else would always take a piece of evidence and go - well gee how could Jimmy have used this? and it's kind of like, after a while, it's like building up a house of cards they just kept building up building up and eventually they had enough built up to get a case against him.

[Jim] I wasn't really monitoring there conduct outside of camp.

I was doing my thing.

[detective] what were you doing?

[Jim] I was on the IRC.

[detective] In the tent?

[Jim] Yeah.

[detective] All night?

[Jim] all night

[detective] About what time did you start on IRC?

[Jim] Probably around that 8:30 When we we've interviewed some of the individuals that mr. Suerd claimed to have been talking with on IRC that evening, and we've looked at their logs as well, too - their their uh their chat logs from their from their computers, and we have determined that there was about a 45 minute gap between when mr. Suerd made one comment to when he made the next comment. and 45 minutes is an awfully long time to not be responding to other people on the Internet.

They say this the the signal signal dropped out so you know Jim could have walked away and I guess that that is possible...

It is possible, yes.

You don't necessarily have to be a world-class sprint runner - to cover that that amount of ground in 45 minutes.

[gun shot]

[modem dialing]

In a way I have to raise doubts of this one guy doing all that to these bodies.

The the murdered pair, they were darlings of the media.

It was one of the reasons they jumped on this whole thing so quickly and had to come up with a conclusion of what happened was just that: it was their very own.

As professionals in law enforcement, we do not feel the pressure from outside sources, be at the media or otherwise to conduct our investigations.

We conduct them to to the best of our ability at all times.

There were no other suspects to apprehend or to interview or to consider.

All the evidence pointed that Mr. Suerd was the only suspect and therefore all we had to do was gather the evidence to prove mr. Suerd's guilt. We did not have to gather evidence to gather other suspects.

On January 2nd, 1997, an event occurred that forced me to rethink the making of this documentary - the very thesis with which I had begun the journey.

Jim Suerd was found dead in his jail of undetermined causes.

On January 3rd, a package arrived at my door which I think in no way was coincidental with the death of Jim Suerd.

The acquiring of mysterious video tape has changed the mood behind the making of this documentary.

Gone is the attempt to pure objectivity with which we started.

Now we question, who gave us this tape?

And more importantly, what, if any information, does it hold that was never brought up in the trial?

Going to the authorities with this new tape is pondered but rejected.

To them the case is closed and with Jim's death, appeals are a moot point.

Nothing is ruled out. The tape could be a hoax.

I am conscious of one thing though.

My search for the truth behind the Fact or Fiction murders has in some way become part of the story.

There was this discussion on the last tape that they were going to change tapes. But whether that ever happened or not...

I don't know.

I didn't see any other tapes and from what I saw of the camera it was pretty damaged. So if there was any tape in there...

I doubt that it ever could be played.

My name is Michele Monarch.

I'm a magnetic media data recovery specialist.

The particular videotape that I was given was mangled almost beyond recognition.

I digitized sections of this particular video, placed it into the computer and am now reconstructing the actual picture frame by frame. and I have to guide the computer to complete these pictures there was some that were easily captured by the computer.

Others were unrecognizable, and I'm rebuilding them now at this time.

As the tape is reassembled by Shelly, it becomes apparent that some sections are rather viewable.

And I'll say, yeah I'm here, you know. I'm here while Locus is out hunting for the Jersey Devil.

And I'll be like, "ah, shut up"

Yeah, you can be like, "I don't see him."

No, no, we better not do that because, we've got to deliver on this show.

This is the big one here.

Okay are we ready there, Rein?

Do you want me to still be rolling on this stuff, Steven?

Do you want to state that that whole thing. I think I kind of could hear you.

I've been rolling the camera just messing around shooting camp stuff but could you - what was the deal with I don't care if he hears this or not. don't I mean this is never gonna make it anything but the cutting room floor as they would say film days. From what Sam was saying.

Sam, boy even he was ---

I don't want to be like a bitch all night.

I'm going to take a walk out into the woods and do a scout out of the location.

I also have to go the bathroom.

Get on the trumpet, do that sound.

Newark's doing its thing.

Yeah, I know the airplanes from Newark. but eah we got we got a little bit from that one machine going, but I want to see you working for the reason you're out here.

And Locus, come on, 1R 144 double X awaits you.

Do some work, man!

Sure Steven, Anything you say, big guy.

I'll be back in about ten minutes.

Hey, do me a favor and switch that machine on.

There goes a little tyrant.

here, come on I got the camera roll and do a Steven imitation for me.

Oh no I'm talking about Steven being a pussy I'm not talking about Jim being a pussy.

Jim's one psycho mother fuck-kahh..

He's scary, man.

Let me get that on camera. that thing isn't running, is it?

Of course it's running. We're supposed to record everything. give me a Jim - why don't you do that line that you said..

What did you think when he pushed you?

[garbled sound]

Iwas a little bit... I don't know was weird and kind of it freaked me out, man.

I didn't really expect him to be violent. I thought it was like see that's what I don't get, man. He's like totally like I thought he was like one of those guys like you know those peace, fucking meditation dudes or something....

[host] Following these recorded moments, a large portion of the tape is smashed.

It is a section that Shelley will attempt to restore.

The next section that is immediately viewable, happens somewhere in the middle of the tape.

The first thing that is apparent is that this is tape shot by Locus and Rein.

Steven is nowhere to be seen. They are searching for him. on her third day of restoration shelley makes another discovery.

The anonymous tape is not from one, but two cameras.

Both Rein and Locus took cameras into the forest.

Let me get the light up here.

This is fact or fiction. we can't find Steven.

Here we are in the Pine Barrens on a trip that he drug us out here for.

We did a webcast, simulcast, cast cast cable cast that really was pretty poor if you ask me.

But that doesn't matter at this point because Steven, our main host, is missing.

Johnny. Johnny. Johnny love is gone.

He's gone and we can't find him.

All I want to do is drink some beer. see this is for you Steven. Even though we don't know where you are, we just want you to know that we're being really loyal to this whole "shoot everything".

In the sixth day of her work, Shelly puts together a stunning piece of tape.

It is a moment in time that proves so much.

Footprint... I think it goes off this way.

Do you see anything over there?

He's been gone for a while.

Do you know what time it is?

It's I think it's late it's like, Two... Forty Five.

Rein and Locus were alive and speaking the time to one another and they were supposed to be being killed and they're alive and they're saying the time on the video.

To me that proves that Jim absolutely was not killing them at that time.

Jim is an innocent man and this was not investigated in any way shape or form.

It was overlooked. So many details were overlooked.

Also if he's an innocent man, there's a killer on the loose.

Shelly's work slowly gives voices to the dead.

Ghosts caught on video.

[garbled sound]

[garbled sound] why is he acting so weird?

[garbled sound] I feel weird about it.

[garbled] I feel weird about it. why didn't. you try to stop him going into the woods.

The processing of the tape is quickly becoming more difficult for Shelley.

Now only bits and pieces tell the story of what happened in the woods.

On February 5th, Shelley presents a section of videotape that is nothing short of horrifying.

It intensifies the question of who the killer is.


On February 7th Shelley finds what she thinks is the same moment in time from Locus's camera.

It cannot however be viewed.

She remains hopeful as she begins the process of trying to reconstruct a lost video.

The computer needs me to direct it. It doesn't know how to reconstruct a circle. maybe it would have an opening at the side and I have to teach it to continue the circle.

I'm a guiding factor.

While Shelley begins the process of attempting to restore video, I will attempt to find a truth within the film I have already shot.

In sitting there waiting for these video edits to render, I did wonder about certain aspects of the case...

Sometimes I wonder, am i doing the right thing?

Did this guy do it?

It seemed to me, from all what I saw, that you know it was pretty likely that he did it.

I mean you had the blood evidence and stuff like that, But there was that the one guy that they never found his body.

What happened to him? I mean, could he have done it? I don't know.

It is an obvious question.

A question I had presented to all the people interviewed.

The tape restoration is showing Locus and Rein searching for Steven, which only makes the question more relevant.

What happened to Steven Avkast?

By process of elimination, I proceed.

We did find some blood and of course the infamous Johnny hat that was found.

We were never able to find any more remains. of that person so we don't know if he's dead or alive.

They never found Steven's body, Johnny - but they found his hat.

So, I mean, I don't know. it's just weird that the only thing left of him is... a hat?

All right I'll be back in about ten minutes. okay man, I'll be on that before we get back we don't think that Mr. Avkast would be able to set up mr. Suerd because the amount of blood that we found Of Mr. Avkast is so great that he would have bled to death trying to set Mr. Suerd up.

There goes the little tyrant. oh whoa check it out. Shine that over there.

Oh Wow, what's that?

I don't know, man.

Looks like a light.

Yo, it's Steven's light. Yo Steve!

Steven!!!

[host] In finding that Jim's alibi holds up, we have to attempt to answer the question raised: who killed these people?

The likely suspect would appear to be Steven.

As I watch these frames though, I see no recognition in Locus's face.

I see Locus, a man larger than Steven, turn tail and run.

As does Rein.

Steven Avkast, being the culprit of the horrendous massacre that took place in the minutes that follow this tape is impossible to believe.

Aong with the amount of blood that belongs to Steve Avkast, this makes me believe that he also was murdered in the Pine Barrens.

I am now also of the belief that the killer was somehow something more horrendous than possible to imagine.

what could have killed three healthy men?

What would have left no footprints?

What would have torn the men into forty seven pieces,leaving no evidence of a struggle?

We could tell by what was a left in the infliction of the wound that it was a serrated type weapon, that much we know. there were noknife fragments or any evidence of the actual weapon used other than the cuts themselves well

We're a rural County, we have people who are not greatly educated.

Rumors and folklore are common.

I put no credence in anything of that nature.

I just go by the facts that the police are able to ascertain.

A monster?

Yeah, I think this person's a monster. I don't believe fact or fiction. I don't believe the fiction.

I think this is a person and I'm gonna find out who it is.

I'm gonna reconstruct and do my job to recover what has been lost -- the facts. it is as though the Jersey Devil is a monster reborn in a digital age.

Reborn on the Internet. a demon captured on IRC logs, mangled video, whispers in the dark.

It is to these that I look. it's totally anonymous I mean you can't trace a call You don't know if it's man, woman, old, young. you don't know anything you don't know where it's from.

I mean in one way I don't know why the cops didn't try to do anything you know and try to figure out Well who made that idea? Who came up with that suggestion?

[robot voice] Why don't you do a show about the Jersey Devil? we have this show Fact or Fiction.

It's a paranormal variety show. you know we have guests come on, That kind of thing. Well, things have kind of been a little slow over at station, the station so we thought what we would do is we'd we'd make a little excursion there was a suggestion, via IRC,..... and also to the mail bag.

Yeah.

That guy, D something. Whatever his name was.

One thing about IRC really hard is that -

It really is hard to trace it because, I mean, it's not like like you know the phone number they're calling from.

I mean this could have been like Shanghai where they were writing this message from.

You just don't know.

That's part of the beauty and part of the evil of it.

[Modem sounds]

it is amazing to be so near yet so far from the possibility of knowing who the killer is.

D something. we thought what we would do is we'd we'd make a little excursion. there was a suggestion, via IRC, to - and also from that mail bag. yeah that guy D something whatever his name was. it's just not practical to keep logs to that stuff. I get so much email, so much it would just clog up my system. I erased it as we went along. I mean, once a job once a point got finished I killed the email, got rid of it. it was it was like a to-do list.

I check it off, I get rid of this stuff.

So, once things weren't pertinent anymore, I just get rid of them.

So I don't have anything of it really.

I mean there there were like a couple of emails that we had at the very end there But there's nothing illuminating there.


it gets harder and harder to stick with your original gut feeling.

Because of the media, you know. The attention that the whole case is getting, how one-sided, lopsided the whole thing is. and you start to think, maybe Maybe he did do it. Maybe there's a side of Jim that I don't know that that was capable of such atrocity.

As this journey nears its end, I begin to fully understand the essence of what this is about. the media upon which these events were recorded. the media that should have been able to provide a truth more pure than ever before, has somehow become the story.

This has become more than a search for the truth behind the Fact or Fiction murders. it has become an indictment of truth and how it is viewed through the lens of the media.

[Steven] Pretty exciting moment here because the fact or fiction logo is on screen which means one thing. that we are now actually getting our feed live to the cable company

[host] Reality television, the news, The 60-second clip of truth, have made even the strongest of doubters wonder...

Are you a psychic or a psycho?

Look man I'll see you back at camp.

What did you say to him? wait what do you mean he's gonna be where we can't go -- Where the hell is the camp? this is the whole fucking thing where the hell is the camp?

We can't lose him. well, we're losing him. go find a man I'm not gonna go anywhere near him fucking asshole, man.

just cut the damn camera already.

What is the truth? The editing process - it's like sifting that stuff out ultimately, I mean not necessarily with these legal videos, but with a documentary film, I mean ultimately it's what the filmmaker perceives as the truth.

I mean, don't you think - that's what you're trying to do right?

The mistakes that were discovered on this journey were stunning. shoddy police work and a judgmental video presented the world with a person guilty before ever being tried.

I know Jim is not guilty.

I know that the truth is still at large, potentially closer than anyone can realize. it is as though the real killer planned a media event so amazingly cunning that it could be thought of as scripted.

A kill ready for primetime, so to speak.

Perhaps the demon we call the Jersey Devil did kill them in the Pine Barrens.

But if so, the Jersey Devil is the electronic image, the sound The communication to the masses, Somehow twisted into a surrealist electronic world.

I always asked the question last: Do you Jim did it?

And with the exception of authorities directly accountable to the answer, I have felt that the answer given has been - it doesn't matter.

The truth is what time has made of this event. it has been good for business. Often murder is. so many involved benefited from this event.

The inevitable book deal is being replaced with a career in the business of image control.

And most of the people interviewed are ready to embrace it.

I guess a grim irony here, as these post-its can attest, the fact that when we have some real dead bodies, then the sharks start circling.

Strange that an incident like that would be a prelude to a new phase in my career.

It's interesting, after the court case was over with all the publicity and everything surrounding it, you know, I started getting the phone calls for a couple job leads. I mean, you know, so in one way, This might have helped me out of here.

[host] How long will it take to process the entire tape? it's not my intention to process the whole tape.

I don't need to do that. it could take hours, it could take days.

I need to process a particular piece of tape that could potentially reveal a killer.

Shelley continues to extrapolate information from a frame While I will reenact the events of December 15 1995 This is one of the stops that the guys made on the way to the pine barrens.

I know this because of the extensive documentary footage that they had taken take of this place.

I don't know what good this will do.

I think it's just to keep myself clear on wha happened.

You know the order of events.

Strangely the weather is almost identical to the way it was that day.


I'm now travelling an access route that I know Steven and Locus had taken. for the Jersey Devil Project.

We're in the midst of the Pine Barrens at this point. and what I'm hoping to do is see if I can't do a recreation of the campsite, Perhaps the murder scene.

Hopefully traversing this won't be too big of a problem.

I'm using this video camera just as a matter of convenience.

Using film out here with prove to be logistically too difficult.

Hopefully we can get you some good footage and really try demonstrate -

The intrepid nature of Steven and Locus.


I feel with some more work that I will find the killer.

I will see the face of the killer.

[Music]

This site is a very close approximation of the one used by Steven and Locus on the night of the Jersey Devil episode.

They'd chosen a clearing similar to this one as base camp for the telecast.

When they ventured onto the Pine Barrens with their cameras, they would never return alive again.

The documentary footage that generated on that evening proves irrevocably, that Jim Suerd was not responsible for their murders.

That Locus and Rein Clackin were actually alive at the time they were ostensibly killed. and that the police case was shoddy at best. what is the Jersey Devil? it's a man wandering into the Pine Barrens never to be seen again.

It's a mangled animal found on one of these access roads.

Or perhaps it's something that rests within our psyche and we'll never truly understand.

I've been on this project for months now and haven't come to a clear definition of what actually happened or who was responsible.

All I know is that it's a mystery and it may permanently remain so.

What is the Jersey Devil?


I'm now outside of Shelley's studio.

All the media. all the interviews the truth comes down to this one frame.


I've determined that this is no time to be distracted or set aside in the course of the events that I've set into motion.

My next step will be going to the Pine Barrens for a reenactment of the murders of Steven Avkast and Locus Wheeler and Rein Clackin.

I'm as strong in my resolve as before and improving that Jim Suerd was not responsible for these murders.

That he had neither the intellect nor the logical capacity to carry them through.

I think that the replayment of our events here will be quite compelling in the demonstration of Suerd's innocence.


This site is a close approximation of the one chosen by Steven Locus as the site of their Fact or Fiction Jersey Devil broadcast. They'd...

This site is a close approximation of the one chosen by Steven and Locus as the site of their Fact or Fiction Jersey Devil Broadcast.

They'd chosen a clearing similar to this one... as base camp and ventured into the pine barrens with their cameras... this site.... is a close approximation of the one chosen by Steven and Locus as the site of their Fact or Fiction Jersey Devil Broadcast,.. they'c chosen a similar....

[ repeats and repeats]

this site is a close approximation....

[crickets and frogs, forest sounds]


you