Former Shreveport detective tells victims' stories on TV
By SARAH CRAWFORD
Apr. 08, 2018
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — One year ago, a new true crime show highlighting murder cases solved by former Shreveport Police Department Detective Rod Demery premiered on Investigation Discovery.
At the time, Demery told The Times that he hoped the show, "Murder Chose Me," would help humanize local murder victims to viewers and bring the Shreveport community together in a positive way.
Now, with the show's second season premiering last Wednesday on cable channel Investigation Discovery, Demery said he never could have imagined the kind of response he would receive both locally and internationally.
"There are probably 85 million subscribers to ID, and it's shown in 250 countries around the world; when someone would send me an email from Guyana, South America, or South Africa, it's amazing," he said, adding that viewers often noted they were praying for the Shreveport families featured in an episode.
"It has its unique way of making the world a lot smaller. People from Bangladesh praying for someone in Shreveport is just amazing to me."
Demery was employed by the Shreveport Police Department for 14 years. Since retiring from the department in 2016, he has continued working in Shreveport at the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office, where he does homicide screenings.
It was after he left the police department that Demery was approached with the opportunity to develop "Murder Chose Me."
The show tells the stories of murder cases Demery worked — through dramatic re-enactments, interviews with real-life participants and Demery's narration. Filming on both 10-episode seasons was completed in Shreveport and Knoxville, Tennessee.
"I get it's a TV show, and people like TV and entertainment," Demery said. "But the reality is it's more of a ministry — when you can bring people together, humanizing people and knowing there's a bigger purpose, is what it's all about for me."
The Season 2 premiere episode, "Bloodbath in the Bottoms," will focus on a triple shooting in April 2008 that resulted in the deaths of Kendra Hill, 27, and Christopher Hastlette, 23.
Revisiting the details of past cases to re-create them for the show has been an emotional experience for Demery.
"All of the cases were kind of personal," Demery said. "I developed relationships with most of the survivors and maintain them."
While Demery would often compartmentalize his feelings during a homicide investigation, he said, he's realized just how personal the cases became to him when he's had to go back over them for the show.
"Working the cases is a methodical thing," he said. "Looking at it in retrospect, it's a lot more emotional."
As the son of a murder victim and the brother of a convicted murderer, Demery possessed a unique perspective each time he investigated a homicide in Shreveport.
"As a surviving victim when my mother was murdered, I totally understand people when I would go out and investigate a crime, because I know what they're feeling," he said. "Several years later, my brother actually committed a murder, and he went to prison for it.
"So when I talk to a suspect, I can relate to that suspect, because I'm able to separate the crime from the criminal and realize at some point he was somebody's big brother or little brother or whatever the case may be."
Growing up, Demery never knew much about his mother, Barbara Sue, or the circumstances surrounding her death in May 1969. He was only 3 years old when she died.
"My grandparents didn't talk a lot about it for whatever reason," he said. "That was my grandmother's daughter, and I suspect there was a lot of hurt there, and I think it was probably a way she thought she could shelter me from certain things that she didn't think I was ready to know."
When he was older, Demery set out to find out what happened, traveling to the site of his mother's murder in Sweeny, Texas. That investigation was the topic of the "Murder Chose Me" Season 1 finale.
Years after their mother's death, Demery's brother, Patrick, was convicted of a murder in southern California, he said. Patrick has been in a California prison for 24 years.
"Growing up as a kid without a parent, and the disappointment with my brother, the only way that I really ever found a comfort was when you comfort someone else," Demery said. "Since the show started, I realized that when people do that for each other, you see a huge difference. Comfort brings comfort. It's therapeutic — it's spiritual."