Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Actual Boston Crime Story That Inspired Session 9

In 1995, an up-and-coming financial VP at John Hancock Insurance in Boston came home one evening and murdered his wife, after he reportedly "burned some ziti" he was cooking for their supper. Forty-year-old Richard Rosenthal then "strangled his wife to death, carried her out to their backyard in Framingham, and dissected her body." And that was not all - "With a rock, he smashed her face beyond recognition, and placed her heart and lungs on a stake as a symbolic gesture or trophy." My first thought when I read this is that he must have had a very bad day at the office.

Rosenthal took a shower after committing the crime, then scooped up his 4-month old baby daughter (who stayed mercifully intact), and drove off from the house. He ended up at the house of some people he did not know, volunteering odd comments about "gun control". When the police were summoned, he made an incoherent confession, blathering on about how he "had an argument" and had "overcooked the ziti". He was swiftly charged with first degree murder and the case took on a weird life of its own. When he recollected his crime in the comparative tranquility of his attorney's office, Rosenthal backed away from acknowledging his guilt and claimed that he had killed his wife because he thought she was an alien. "Presumably, the alien delusion explained why he ritualistically removed her vital organs after killing her and placed them on an 18 inch stake; to assure the 'alien' was really dead."

This was the foundation of an insanity defense, which did not work. Investigation later revealed that his wife, Laura, had gone to work at least twice - in 1990 and 1993 - with a black eye. With such clear evidence of prior domestic abuse, Rosenthal's insanity defense lost all credibility and he was convicted of murder.

According to Brad Anderson, who directed the Greater Boston-based horror movie Session 9, Rosenthal's bizarre actions were the inspiration behind the crack-up of the movie's hapless villain, Gordon. Working around the clock to finish an asbestos-stripping job at an abandoned loony bin, and stressed out over the pressures of supporting a new baby, Gordon falls prey to an evil spirit. When he returns home from his first day on the job, he brings his wife roses and attempts to kiss her - only to murder her impulsively after his amorous shenanigans cause a boiling pot of spaghetti to spill over and give him a nasty burn. Implicitly, he kills the baby as well. Afterwards, poor Gordon denies the whole event and admits only to his partner, played by David Caruso, that he merely "hit Wendy". Eventually Gordon's seething guilt explodes into full-blown paranoia and he kills everyone in sight. Very scary movie, probably the most frightening movie with a Massachusetts setting that I have ever seen.

Random factoids:

Session 9 was filmed on location at the former Danvers State Mental Hospital, and some of the creepy detritus presented in the movie actually existed on site.

Paul Guilfoyle, playing the character who grants Gordon the asbestos removal contract, was born in Canton, Mass. and graduated from Boston College High School.

The character "Mike" - supposedly the egghead among the asbestos removal crew - dropped out of "Tufts Law School". There is no such thing - at least not by that name. Tufts does have something called the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, but a standard law school it ain't.

Burnt Ziti Murder (Celebrate Boston)
David Caruso and Brad Anderson on Session 9 (AboutFilm)
Session 9 (Wikipedia)

No comments:

Post a Comment