True Crime Tales | 10 Cases Buried in the Archive

Everything is bigger in Texas…


…and crime is no exception.

From frontier lawlessness to modern mayhem, the state’s history has piqued curiosity around the world in some part due to its tales of wrongdoing—and the often titillating media attention that inevitably follows. True crime may boast a current surge in popularity, but public interest in the subject is nothing new. As local stories make international headlines, however, one begins to wonder when reporting becomes storytelling, and storytelling becomes sensationalism. 

What follows are ten singular tales of murder, scandal, and tragedy set in the Lone Star State.  All are crimes with victims deserving of respectful consideration. The selection of cases represents less a particular crime’s importance, but rather the range of the Archive’s film and video collection and how such materials capture aberrant behavior. We seek not to sensationalize these events, but rather use them to examine the compelling but often contentious intersections between true crime and media.

Combining local television coverage with newsreels, government films, home movies, and more, TRUE CRIME TALES not only uncovers the facts of each crime but also highlights the processes of police investigation and the criminal justice system. Featuring multiple cases of past police misconduct, the exhibit also considers questions of law enforcement accountability and community relations. In every instance, TRUE CRIME TALES explores how Texans produce and consume crime stories. What cases capture our attention and how do crimes become legends?