So- what’s your favorite scary movie? Almost everybody has one. I can say with certainty that my sister’s favorite is The Exorcist. I’ve got a shortlist that includes IT, A Nightmare on Elm Street (the first one), the first installment of Scream, and A Quiet Place. I could name more, but you get the point. Now, my sister and her friends used to “play” exorcist with one another- hence, the whole LaToya Ammons situation from Episode 21. That’s about as close to reenacting a horror film that I’ve seen anyone do.
In the movie Scream, there was a true to life film geek named Randy. This dude was so serious about his horror that he laid out the rules to surviving a scary movie. 1. Stay a virgin 2. No booze or drugs and 3. Never, EVER say, “I’ll be right back”. It’s a good thing that none of us lived through a horror movie, huh?
Unfortunately for some Pocatello, ID students, they would be the unwitting stars of one such nightmare. Today, we discuss “The Scream Murders”.
We’re jumping in the way back and heading to Pocatello. The year is 2006. That year had a few brilliant horror movies released- Slither, The Hills Have Eyes, the third installment of the Final Destination series, and Scary Movie 4. Anyway, this city is in the top 50 small cities in the US. About a third of the population is of the Mormon faith.
September 22, 2006, started like any other Friday at Pocatello High School. Kids were scurrying to classes while making plans for the weekend. Cassie Stoddart was at her locker when her friends Torrie Adamcik and Brian Draper showed up at her locker. These two were Mormons and aspiring filmmakers. Most of the time they documented the day’s events with a camcorder. Today was no different- this morning, they aimed the camera at Cassie and told her to say “Hi”.
Cassie was an exceptional student, artist, and musician. She literally was the definition of the girl next door. As a junior in high school, she had aspirations to study law in college. She was cute and friendly to everyone. She had recently begun dating Matt Beckham. They’d been together a whole 5 months! Well, to parents that’s recent. To teens in love, that’s FOREVER.
That evening, Cassie’s aunt and uncle Frank and Allison Contreras, planned to go out of town for the weekend. They trusted Cassie to house sit for them while they traveled. Cassie and Matt planned to Netflix and chill. Well, maybe Blockbuster and chill? I don’t know- it seems like Netflix has been around forever. Point is, the couple would spend the evening watching movies until Matt’s 10:00 curfew.
At 6 pm, Matt arrived at the Contreras’ dream house. The couple watched a movie- I’ve heard that it was Kill Bill. About an hour later, Torrie and Brian showed up to watch the movie with them. They stuck around for about an hour. They decided they wanted to go to the movies- film geeks.
Now, Matt and Cassie are finally alone again. Matt’s curfew was slowly creeping up on them but before they could really savor the moment- the power goes out. This seems like something straight out of a horror flick. The lights go out. Boyfriend leaves to investigate the problem. Girlfriend is slaughtered by deranged psychopath. Repeat for two hours until we get to final girl against monster.
In this situation, Matt finds the circuit breaker has tripped and resets it. He returns upstairs to find his girlfriend in one piece. Needless to say, this spooked Cassie. She tells Matt that she is now afraid to stay in the house alone. Matt calls his mom and asks if he could stay with Cassie since she was afraid. His mom probably didn’t have to think about it much before she said no. In fact, she came to pick him up shortly after that call. Call it mother’s intuition, but she knew that nothing good could come from them spending the night together.
And now Cassie was all alone in the house her aunt and uncle loved so much. She laid down on the couch and watched TV. Suddenly, the power again goes out. Cassie was afraid to move- she didn’t want to go to the basement to reset the breaker, so she closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep.
Have you ever been asleep and felt like someone was in the room with you? Like you’re being watched? Then you wake up and it’s your creepy boyfriend standing in the shadows staring at you? No? Only me?
Well, Cassie got that feeling. She jumped up off the couch and came face-to-face, not with her boyfriend, but with a shadowy figure with a ghoulish mask on. Who knows how it went down after that. It seems as if she fought for her life but was overpowered. When the ordeal was over, Cassie’s lifeless body was left on the floor. She had been stabbed 29 times- nine of those wounds would have been considered fatal.
I can’t imagine what those last moments must have been like for her. She had to be so afraid and confused. This grotesque figure had ambushed her and extinguished one of Pocatello, Idaho’s brightest stars. She would lay there, alone, until her family returned from their weekend getaway.
On Sunday, when her uncle and his family returned, their 13-year-old daughter rushed into the house to see her cousin Cassie. Instead of being greeted by Cassie’s smiling face, she was confronted with the horrific sight of Cassie’s mangled remains. Upon entering the home, her uncle couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed to call the police. His beautiful niece was dead.
Word quickly spread about the murder. Of course, law enforcement wanted to talk to everyone who was in contact with Cassie over the weekend. Cassie’s mom had called Matt on the phone and asked what he had done to her daughter. Real-life is just like every scary movie, the boyfriend is always the first suspect. The police interviewed Matt. They wanted to know everything that had happened during his visit with Cassie, when was the last he talked to her, and where he was in the days following the murder. Matt was very cooperative and even agreed to a polygraph exam. He explained that on Friday he and Cassie watched a movie, Torrie and Brian stopped by for about an hour, and he left shortly after 10 pm. Cassie was very much alive when he left, and when he got in his mom’s car he wasn’t covered in blood. He said he had been trying to catch up with her the next day, but she didn’t answer her phone. He asked Torrie to take him over to the house, but Torrie said he didn’t have enough gas in his car. The polygraph exam determined he was telling the truth.
The next people on the list for interviews were Torrie and Brian. They were questioned separately, but both of their stories were consistent. They were with Matt and Cassie for about an hour. They realized that no one else would stop by, so they left and went to the movies. They both had the ticket stubs to prove what movie they had seen. They hadn’t spoken to Cassie again, but they hung out with Matt on Saturday. Matt wanted to go check on Cassie, but Torrie only had enough gas to get him through the school week. With no evidence to hold them on, the police cut them loose.
Just like in the movie “Scream”, the town was on edge knowing that a killer was lurking among them. Everyone had their ideas about who that murderer could be. They pointed lots of fingers at Matt. Others thought it had to be a deranged stranger just passing through. Still others thought it was Torrie or Brian. Everyone had an idea- some thought of who could have done this to Cassie. Just like in the movie Scream, they would find out that the killer is closer than you think.
After the medical examiner autopsied the body, he determined that Cassie had likely died on Friday night. Like previously stated, someone had stabbed her 29 times in what was a frenzied attack. The M.E. also determined that there were TWO weapons used in the attack. That’s right, some wounds were made with a serrated knife, the others with a smooth knife. This shows law enforcement that there is a strong possibility that there were two assailants involved in this crime.
The investigators went back to their suspects. Matt’s mother was his alibi. She would have noticed blood on his clothing when she picked him up Friday night. We would like to hope that she wouldn’t cover for her son had he done something heinous. But Torrie and Brian? Their alibis were each other. There was no one else who could confirm their whereabouts for the evening in question. The police brought them in again for another round of interviews. They, again, were questioned separately. This time, investigators about the plot of the movie they had seen. Neither of them could remember the plot. When asked about actors in the movie, neither could answer. This is highly suspicious because these two were well known film geeks.
Ask me today about a movie I was so intrigued by that I paid money to see it in a theater. Tell me to describe Avengers: Endgame to you- I’ll be able to tell you damn near frame by frame what went on in that movie and how it ties to the greater Marvel storyline. I’m passionate about sci-fi/ fantasy films. I dissect them. I relate them to the world we are living in. They are almost always representative of some current event, even if they are showing how we overcome a failure of present society. I remember the key plot points because if there is EVER a part two (and in the world we inhabit, there is ALWAYS a part two) I know that these things become more important. In fact, even the sequel to Scream built upon the rules established in the first movie.
These aspiring filmmakers couldn’t remember a film they had watched only days earlier. That’s an enormous problem. That caused the police to want to look into them a little further. And the more they dug, the more they found out about the boys. Torrie and Brian wanted to direct films, but they were very interested in a certain genre. That genre? Horror.
Other students from Pocatello High offered similar observations of the boys’ personalities. Torrie and Brian regularly depicted acts of violence as their camera rolled. They rarely picked up on the discomfort of others as they acted out scenes from their favorite scary movies. Their peers had little doubt that they were capable of murder.
Investigators believed Brian and Torrie were responsible for Cassie’s horrible death. After several interviews, they discovered how right they were.
Brian cracked first. He told the police he was present when Cassie was killed, but didn’t take part in the murder. Law enforcement, aware that there were at least two perpetrators, allowed him to keep talking. He said he and Torrie agreed to prank Cassie and Matt. While at the house earlier that evening, he unlocked a back door. After leaving to “go to the movies”, they returned to the home. Donning their disguises, they hid in the basement. They accessed the circuit breakers, shutting the power out. When Matt came downstairs to reset the breaker, they saw him. They also heard Matt leave when his mom came to pick him up. They knew Cassie was alone.
According to Brian, the plan was to scare the crap out of Cassie. He said Torrie deviated by actually attacking her. After killing her, they disposed of the evidence. Brian was willing to lead officers to the site they had buried the weapons. And so, they went on a little field trip.
Brian led the officers to a site in Black Rock Canyon. He said they’d find the weapons there, but the police found so much more. There were masks, gloves, clothes, knives, and- A VIDEO TAPE! Our film geeks just couldn’t help themselves. They recorded their thoughts before and after Cassie’s death.
After viewing these videos, investigators now had irrefutable evidence that Torrie Adamcik and Brian Draper committed murder. Not only that, but they planned the act days in advance. They chose Cassie to die in the first act of their horror movie. They intended for there to be more victims- including Matt.
Booked just five days after slaying Cassie, the villains faced first degree murder charges. In the coming months, the young men went to trial separately. During trial, Brian stated the Columbine shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris inspired him and Torrie. The movie “Scream” also influenced them. In 2007, both were convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole. They both appealed the decision, only to have their sentences upheld.
In 2010, the Stoddart family filed a civil lawsuit against the Idaho School District. They claimed that the school was negligent and should have known that Draper and Adamcik posed a threat to others. Both the civil court and the State Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying the actions of the killers were not foreseeable.
Over the years, a remorseful Brian has acknowledged the pain he caused and accepts his sentence. Torrie and his parents continue to downplay his involvement, despite evidence that points directly at him. In one video, even he looks surprised when his mother and father insist he is innocent.
The Supreme Court issued a ruling that mandatory life sentences without parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. This requires states to re-examine hundreds of cases- including Adamcik and Draper in Idaho. For now, both are still held at the Idaho State Correctional Facility.
That there’s no motive for the would-be crime spree of two 16-year-olds is not at all surprising. In the movie “Scream”, the antagonists admit that having no motive is scarier.