Friday, January 02, 2015

Dateline's "The Man Who Wasn't There": true life domestic crime plot follows a Coen Brothers film

On January 2, 2015, NBC Dateline aired “The Man Who Wasn’t There”, a bizarre case in southern California where a man, Magdi Girgis, 51 in 2004, would be tried and convicted for hiring hit men to come into their gated community and murder his wife Ariel, to eliminate a messy divorce.  Girgis had been a respiratory therapist and could lose his license over domestic violence convictions as well as most of his assets.  The hit men tied up the teenage son Ryan to put on a show. An Orange County Register version of the story is here
Undercover police helped break the case by acting as “middlemen” to collect supposed debts, and trap Girgis into giving away evidence.  The defense tried to implicate a son’s supposed drug activity. It's also interesting that initially police thought it odd that Ryan left the house and called 911 without checking on his mother first.  Is this an example of prejudicial "family values"?

The title of the episode is curious, as a Coen Brothers black and white film in 2001 (from Good Machine) was called that.  In that film, with Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand. In that black comedy film a barber blackmails his wife’s boss and lover to start a dry cleaning business.  It’s set in Santa Rosa, CA in 1949 and there’s a bizarre sequence with an alien UFO, and, according to imdb, leg-shaving, Tailhook style.  I do recall seeing it in Minneapolis in the Uptown Theater.  I guess the plot roughly follows this “true story” on Dateline tonight.  

The episode re-aired on April 9, 2016.  

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