Crime TV

Crime TV show covers cheerleader rapes in small town near Fort Worth

Crime TV show covers cheerleader rapes in small town near Fort Worth

river oaks cheerleaders
Cheerleaders were targeted by a rapist and murderer. YouTube

Cheerleaders in the small town of River Oaks who were targeted by a rapist and murderer are featured in a new crime series on Investigation Discovery TV.

Called Murder Under the Friday Night Lights, the series comprises six episodes focusing on crimes that have all taken place around high school football. The series debuts on January 4 and will air on ID on Tuesdays at 9 pm.

A release describes the series thusly:

"Featuring cases from across the country, accounts from those who knew these crimes intimately, and gripping archival footage, Murder Under the Friday Night Lights, showcases how a tragedy that happens off the field can have ramifications far beyond the championship game.

From a football player in a small Texas town terrorizing his team’s cheerleaders to a promising football star gunned down before he could start his freshman season at University of Oregon, this new series gives viewers a first-hand account of tragic crimes that have not only turned the lives of the high school football players on these teams upside down - but have torn entire communities apart.

Over the course of six episodes, Murder Under the Friday Night Lights, showcases exactly what happens when football is the lifeblood of the town... and real blood is spilled."

Locales that are featured include cases in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, California, and Texas.

The first episode covers the rapes and murder of cheerleaders at Castleberry High School in River Oaks, which took place in the early 1980s.

Called "The Cheerleader Murders," it documents the acts of a serial rapist, who stalked and attacked multiple high school cheerleaders, before graduating to the murder of cheerleader Retha Stratton.

"Detectives discover that the monster behind these horrific crimes is much closer to home than anyone could have possibly guessed," says the release.

A well-known local is eventually charged and gets convicted for the murder and one rape. But to the great disappointment of the victims, prosecutors don't pursue him for a majority of the rapes he perpetrated. The jury sentences him to only 25 years for the murder and 20 years for the rape, to run concurrently.

In the episode, Joey Robertson, a former Texas state prosecutor, notes that it's the minimum sentence and people are put away for longer sentences for stealing a car.

"Football is big in Texas, there's no getting around it," he says. "And sometimes football players seem to get the benefit of the doubt from the jury who want to cut them a break. We want to give them a chance. It seems to matter that they are football players, when really it shouldn't."

At the end, they note that the rapist was released from prison six times between 1992 and 2018, but violated his parole every time and was sent back.

Yet another Texas town is featured in an episode called "Where is Tom Brown?" which airs on January 11, about a high school football player who went missing in the town of Canadian, in the Texas Panhandle, the night before Thanksgiving in 2016.

"Baffling clues and community pressure pit the local sheriff against a brash private investigator until some very unusual suspects emerge," says the show's description.

Texas is a giving state when it comes to providing fodder for TV crime shows — most recently Fruitcake Fraud, a documentary about an embezzlement at Corsicana fruitcake maker Collin Street Bakery.